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A pastor said ‘more sexual predators are women.’ No data support that.

A woman walks past signs before the start of a ‘Women For Moore’ rally in support of Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Judge Roy Moore on November 17 in Montgomery, Alabama. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Over the weekend, Franklin Raddish, a pastor at Capitol Hill Independent Baptist Ministries, told an Alabama newspaper the accusations against Roy Moore are part of a “war on men” — and that “more women are sexual predators than men.”

"Women are chasing young boys up and down the road, but we don’t hear about that because it’s not PC,” he said, according to AL.com.

He did not provide evidence.

Raddish is among a group of pastors who have publicly defended Moore after several Alabama women said the former state judge, who is now running for the U.S. Senate in a Dec. 12 special election, made unwanted advances toward them as teenagers.

Jackson Katz, co-founder of Mentors in Violence Prevention, a campus rape prevention program, said Raddish’s comments don’t reflect reality.

“The overwhelming majority of sexual harassment and assault is men against women,” he said. “Some is done men against men, and a much smaller part is women against men.”

Raddish declined an interview with the Washington Post on Monday. A representative of Capitol Hill Independent Baptist Ministries, which describes itself on its website as a "King James Bible-believing ministry," referred a reporter back to Raddish.

Women are arrested in less than ten percent of sex crime cases, according to FBI crime numbers, and they face charges in less than one percent of "forcible rape" cases.

The most high-profile examples of women committing sex crimes tend to involve educators, such as former Florida middle school teacher Debra LaFave, who attracted national headlines in 2005 when she admitted to initiating sex acts with a 14-year-old student and was placed on two years of house arrest.

Public health surveys, though, spotlight other forms of sexual aggression the justice system might miss.

Approximately 44 percent of women and 23 percent of men say they have ever experienced some kind of sexual violence, according to a 2014 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That could include unwanted touching or feeling pushed into a sexual encounter.

Women mostly reported male perpetrators. But in some cases, men said women had largely committed the predation: 68.6 percent of those who reported sexual victimization that did not involve penetration said the perpetrator had been a woman, the CDC numbers show. And of the men who said they had been made to penetrate someone against their will, 79.2 percent said the incident happened with a woman.

Most sexual harassment claims filed to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, meanwhile, come from women.

Last year, men filed 16.6 percent of 6,758 complaints, according to the agency’s data. That’s slightly down from 17.1 percent in 2015. (The agency doesn’t specify the gender of accused harassers in its public data.)

Researchers note that both sexual assault and harassment are significantly under-reported.

Less than a third of rape victims ever report the crime, according to the Rape Abuse Incest National Network, a group that supports victims. Men, especially, are unlikely to tell authorities about attacks or unwanted encounters.

Lisa Dario, a criminologist at Florida Atlantic University who has studied how victims of both genders react after a sexual assault, said men might not know rape can happen to them and therefore stay quiet after an attack.

“No one wants to talk about it, men or women,” she said.

Read more:

The TED talks empire has been grappling with sexual harassment, records show
The depressing truth about sexual harassment in America
Trump’s White House froze an equal-pay rule. Women are fighting to save it.

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Did President Trump’s ancestors migrate to the United States because of a changing climate?

Donald Trump’s grandfather, Friedrich Trump. Trump left Germany for the United States in 1885, when a changing climate was one of the factors encouraging migration, according to researchers. (Wikimedia Commons)

The number of migrants across the world is at a record high — 244 million people left their homes in 2015, according to the United Nations. They were driven by war, dire economic straits, and for some, worsening environmental conditions brought on by climate change.

There’s a growing body of evidence linking migration and climate change, from Pacific island nations being subsumed by the rising ocean, to the drought-wracked Horn of Africa. In a speech this spring, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres warned that “as regions become unlivable, more and more people will be forced to move from degraded lands to cities and to other nations.”

A recent report from Oxfam found that more than 20 million people a year have been displaced by extreme weather events since 2008, mostly in developing countries.

But linking migration to climate change is tricky because the environment is just one of many pressure points, many all happening at the same time. Take the case of northeastern Nigeria, where nearly 2 million people are displaced. Climate change is clearly a factor: Lake Chad, the region’s main water source, has been drying up as the Sahel Desert expands southward.

But at the same time, the Islamic insurgence of Boko Haram has run a brutal terrorism campaign. Rural poverty and food insecurity were already major problems. Economic opportunities are better in the south. So what combination of factors is causing people to leave home?

For any given instance of migration, how can we know the impact of climate change, if at all?

A new study may help with that question, by looking at a very different wave of migration with 150 years of hindsight. Researchers at Germany’s University of Freiburg analyzed 19th-century migration from central Europe to North America, and discovered new evidence suggesting climate change played a major role in spurring mass movements of people.


[Trump revealed: An American journey of ambition, ego, money and power]

Through the 1800s, about 5 million people immigrated to North America from what is now southwest Germany, including President Trump’s grandfather, Friedrich, who moved to the United States in 1885. The study, published Tuesday in the peer-reviewed journal Climate of the Past, found that up to 30 percent of those people moved because of climate disruptions.

That figure is much higher than researchers expected, said lead author Rüdiger Glaser. Research on historic migrations has tended to overlook climate change.

“I was surprised, to be honest,” Glaser said. “The 19th century is a period with remarkable changes in the climate, economy, and politics. This is like a case study of learning how system change works.”

The findings reveal a historical precedent for a pattern that is increasingly familiar: unusual weather, followed by crop failures, followed by economic instability, followed by a mass exodus.

The study’s window of time, from 1812 to 1887, was a transitional period in climate history following the so-called Little Ice Age, when global temperatures were much cooler than today.

As temperatures began to heat up in response to what we now recognize as manmade global warming, it was a time of tumultuous year-to-year variability. Years of drought were suddenly punctuated by crop-killing cold snaps. So while the “climate change” people experienced then was different from what we’re living through now, its impact on food systems was similar.

Researchers identified a handful of emigration peaks throughout the century, then matched those to historical records of weather, harvests and prices for local staple grains such as barley, oats, and rye.  

That correlation was compelling on its own, Glaser said. But, of course, there’s more to the story: the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, increasing industrialization and global trade, and other forms of political and economic upheaval. So Glaser and his colleagues built a statistical model that could account for the influence those other factors exerted on emigration.

In some years, the environment was a dominant factor, such as 1816, when the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia sent up a cloud of volcanic ash that put a chill on European crop production and spurred thousands to flee.

In other years, other factors were more important, such as the practice followed by some municipalities in the 1850s of paying  their poorest citizens to move out. But overall, it was clear that millions of people might have stayed put if not for adverse climate conditions, the study found.

The upshot, Glaser said, is that researchers should make better use of historical records to look for clues about how climate migrants might behave in the future. That’s going to be even more important as global warming continues to send more people on the move.

 

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Why Americans — including hunters — are souring on big-game hunting

A two-month-old unnamed male baby elephant is pictured at the Africam Safari Zoo in Puebla, Mexico, July 19, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

President Trump on Sunday called elephant trophy hunting a "horror show" and signaled his skepticism of claims that that practice is good for elephant conservation.

The data generally support the President’s beliefs: elephant populations in Africa have declined sharply and steadily since the turn of the 20th century. Trophy hunting brings in very little money relative to other forms of tourism, and corruption and instability mean that in some countries, very little of that money actually makes its way toward conservation efforts.

One reason why trophy hunting is of questionable value when it comes to large African animals is that there are few of those animals left in the wild today. And when you’re dealing with small, dwindling populations, every individual member of a species counts.

Below, for instance, are the populations of the "Big Five" African game animals — Cape buffalo, elephant, lion, rhinoceros and leopard.

Population estimates range from a robust 900,000 or so for Cape buffalo, down to perhaps 25,000 for black and white rhinos. African leopards are so elusive that the number of them left in the wild is currently unknown.

It’s particularly instructive to compare populations of the Big Five with the populations of the five most commonly hunted animals in the United States. According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, those animals are deer (white tail and mule), wild turkey, squirrel, rabbit and pheasant.

I’ve added those animals to the chart below, resizing the bubbles for the African species populations to scale.

There are roughly 100 times as many deer in the United States as there are elephants in Africa. Grey squirrels are America’s third most-hunted species (yes, really), which makes sense if you consider that with 766 million acres of forest with an average squirrel density of at least 1 squirrel per acre, there are somewhere in the ballpark of 800 million grey squirrels residing in the U.S., not counting the throngs of them populating suburbs and urban areas.

The United States is also home to 14.5 million pheasants, 6.7 million wild turkeys, and an unknown but enormous and increasing number of wild rabbits.

There’s a big difference, in other words, between bagging one of America’s 32 million deer, and one of Africa’s 25 thousand rhinos. And Americans seem to get this: a 2015 Marist survey found that while 41 percent of Americans had a favorable opinion of hunting animals for sport, only 11 percent said that hunting of big game like lions and elephants was "acceptable." In fact, fully 62 percent said that such big-game sport hunting should be made illegal.

Attitudes among American hunters have also evolved considerably, with "sport" hunting falling out of favor relative to hunting for meat. For instance, in 2008 33 percent of U.S. hunters said they hunted primarily "for the sport or recreation," while 22 percent hunted "for the meat." By 2017 those numbers had essentially reversed, with 27 percent favoring sport hunting and 39 percent favoring hunting for meat.

Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, says that "the number of people interested in killing elephants and lions is small, and diminishing because of increasing social pressure." He points to a number of watershed moments in recent years contributing to that shift, like the killing of Cecil the Lion in 2015, and the shutting down of the Ringling Brothers’ circus earlier this year.

When it comes to trophy hunting, Pacelle says, "you basically just have the hardcore industry people and the wildlife management profession who defend it. There’s very little support among regular people for this."

He points out that there are wild elephant populations in approximately 50 countries in Africa and Asia. But only five of those countries allow elephant trophy hunting. "If trophy hunting were such a valuable tool, you would see a wider application of that tool," he said.

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Will your taxes go up or down? The five biggest questions on the GOP plan

The No. 1 question I get from readers lately is: How likely is the Republican tax plan to become law?

Compass Point, a research firm, puts the odds of the tax-cut bill making it to President Trump’s desk at 65 percent. Goldman Sachs, the investment bank that has a lot of alums in the White House, is telling clients the odds are now at 80 percent.

“The tax reform debate is moving forward faster than we or most other observers expected,” wrote Goldman’s economics team.

The likelihood of tax cuts actually happening in 2018 got a major boost last week after the House of Representatives passed its version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, but it’s not a slam dunk from here. In sports terms, the GOP has just completed a solid first quarter. There’s a lot more game to play.

Up next are the Senate Republicans, the same group that killed the Affordable Care Act that the House repealed in July. They plan to vote on their version of the tax bill shortly after Thanksgiving. Trump wants the final bill on his desk before Christmas, but even Goldman Sachs thinks that’s unlikely. There are simply too many differences between the two chambers’ legislation. Finding a compromise in conference committee is going to take time — if it’s even possible.

“The conference committee is going to age all of us terribly," joked Isaac Boltansky, director of policy research at Compass Point.

Trump wants a tax-cut bill — it’s the centerpiece of his economic agenda. Here are the five key hurdles that remain for passage.

Should this just be a tax bill? Or a tax and health-care bill?

As part of their legislation, Senate Republicans are trying to repeal the “individual mandate” that requires nearly all Americans to buy health insurance or pay a penalty in their tax bill. Repealing it frees up about $300 billion in savings that can be used to make corporate tax cuts permanent (the money could also be used to make tax cuts for families permanent, but the Senate bill does not do that). But axing the individual mandate would also leave 13 million Americans without health insurance and a lot of people earning incomes of $10,000 to $30,000 worse off, according to calculations from Congress’s nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation.

A number of Washington insiders think it was a mistake to insert health care into the Senate tax bill. The House bill does not include this provision, so it creates a major difference that has to be reconciled. It also might not even pass the Senate. Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine) said they don’t like this approach. The bill can afford to lose only two Republican votes. Trump initially pushed the Senate to include the mandate repeal, but the White House has since backed off, indicating the president wants a tax bill above all else.

“There are two ways to read inclusion of individual mandate (in the Senate bill): It was either desperation, which might be part of it, or it showed their commitment to do just about anything to get it done,” said Boltansky. He predicts the Senate will drop it.

Does the bill do enough for the middle class?

Trump and Republican leaders are selling this tax bill as a big benefit for the middle class. But the Joint Committee on Taxation, the official number cruncher on tax bills, has taken a look at what would happen to the middle class under the GOP legislation. It’s not so rosy. In the House bill, nearly 10 percent of people earning $50,000 to $75,000 a year would have to pay more in taxes by 2021. Four years later, 27 percent of the middle class — over 7 million families — would be paying more.

The Senate bill looked better, until Republicans added the repeal of the individual mandate. The JCT score of the latest Senate bill shows that by 2027, most families that earn under $75,000 a year would pay more in taxes, while people earning more than $100,000 would keep their tax cut. The results are playing right into a key Democratic talking point that the bill does a lot for the rich but little to nothing for the poor and middle class.

Collins has indicated she wants more breaks for the middle class. One of the biggest issues is that major tax savings for the middle class end in 2023 in the House bill and in 2026 in the Senate bill, while the tax cuts for large corporations would remain forever.

Is the GOP doing enough for small businesses?

The heart of the Republican plans is lowering taxes for businesses. But serious concerns have been raised about whether too much of the bounty would go to big businesses (C-corporations) and not enough would be done for small businesses. One of the strongest opponents of the House GOP tax bill was the National Federation of Independent Businesses, a key small business lobby that has traditionally backed Republicans. NFIB ultimately ended up supporting the final House version, but its initial opposition was a wake-up call.

Over in the Senate, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said he’s “no” on the current bill because he doesn’t think it does enough for “pass-through" businesses (S-Corps, LLCs, partnerships, etc), which “pass through” their business income to the owner’s individual tax rate. The House bill spends more money trying to help pass-through businesses (see chart below), according to JCT’s cost analysis. Overall, the House bill spends 74 percent of the money on tax cuts for businesses, while the Senate bill marks 53 percent for business tax cuts and the rest for individuals.

But the details matter: Are all the benefits going to a handful of super wealthy pass-through companies like hedge funds and law firms, or are mom-and-pops benefiting, too? The House and Senate have very different provisions right now for pass-through businesses. As business owners learn more about the bills, they are likely to speak out.

House versus Senate bill pie charts

Source: Joint Committee on Taxation scores.

How much higher will America’s $20 trillion debt get?

For years Republicans railed against America’s growing debt. It topped $20 trillion earlier this year. But the GOP tax plan would add another nearly $1.5 trillion to the debt over the next decade, according to JCT and the Congressional Budget Office. A few Republican senators, most notably Bob Corker (Tenn.) and Jeff Flake (Ariz.), have expressed concerns about the bill’s price tag. The original idea was to lower taxes but pay for them by eliminating a lot of tax loopholes. That didn’t happen. Corker and Flake are critics of the president and might be willing to take a bold stance against the bill.

The White House argues that people shouldn’t be paying attention to the $1.5 trillion figure (even though it’s the calculation from the official, nonpartisan scorekeepers).

“The idea this blows a hole in the deficit is just incorrect,” said economist Kevin Hassett, head of Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers, on Friday. Hassett claims the tax cuts will unleash so much growth that they will pay for themselves. But that didn’t happen under Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush, and no mainstream economists think that will happen now.

The bill could die in conference committee.

In addition to some key hurdles above, the House and Senate also differ on how they deal with the state and local deduction (SALT) provision in the current tax policy. About a third of taxpayers– many of whom earn more than $100,00 in annual income — itemize their deductions, including deductions for property taxes and the taxes they pay to their states and municipalities. Republican lawmakers from high-tax states, such as New York, New Jersey and California, balked at the initial plan to do away with all SALT deductions. The House bill includes a compromise to keep some of the deductions (mostly for property taxes). But the Senate bill is a full SALT elimination. This could be a major sticking point among the many line-by-line differences between the bills.

Perhaps the easiest compromise would be not to cut the corporate tax rate so much. At the moment, both the House and Senate reduce the top rate for big businesses from 35 percent to 20 percent. The average tax rate now for S&P 500 companies is just over 25 percent, according to research firm S&P Global. Collins has floated the idea of only lowering to 21 percent. Some on Wall Street now think it might end up being more like 22 percent or 23 percent if Republicans need more money to give breaks to small businesses and/or the middle class. But these are tough negotiations, and the lobbyists will be watching.

So far, the Republican tax proposals remain deeply unpopular. Even Fox News tweeted out a Quinnipiac poll last week showing that a majority of Republicans — 52 percent — disapprove of this legislation. Those aren’t good numbers.

But GOP strategists and insiders argue that the bill is a core Republican philosophy: Lowering taxes unleashes growth. There’s a belief in the GOP ranks that once the bill is passed, the economy will do so well that voters will change their minds.

“As important as health care was to Republicans — they promise to repeal Obamacare — it’s not quite the same thing as ta cuts, which is supposed to be the Republicans’ specialty and their core competency. It built the modern party,” says James Pethokoukis of the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute. “I don’t think a lot of Republicans want to be the one who kills this 30-year dream of more tax reform.”

But veterans of the Reagan era, like Peter Davis of Davis Research, like to remind people that the 1986 tax reform measure “almost died at least a dozen times.” Similar battles await this time around. In 1986, Reagan’s popularity was around 60 percent for most of the year, according to Gallup. He could rally Congress in a way that Trump has struggled to do, especially with the president’s approval rating back below 40 percent. Given the bigger political picture, Davis is more bearish about a final bill getting done.

The president has called for Congress to send him the ultimate “Christmas present.” Those who have seen this process play out before say it would be better described as a “Christmas miracle.” The optimists say it’s likely to get done in January or February. The pessimists think the GOP is a lot more fractured than people realize, even on taxes.

Read more:

The House just passed its big tax bill. Here’s what is in it.

In political gamble, GOP gives permanent tax cuts to corporations, but not people

More than 400 millionaires tell Congress: Don’t cut our taxes

 

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The business lobby’s chance to do what’s right for the country

The Business Roundtable, which represents the chief executives of the largest American companies, has always fancied itself as the business lobby that rises above the grubby pursuit of narrow self-interest, that eschews partisanship and hard-edge ideology, that understands that what is good for America is good for business. Its new motto, “More than Leaders. Leadership,” is meant to reflect that high purpose.

It is also worth noting that no organization has been more responsible for getting tax reform to the top of the congressional agenda than the Business Roundtable. That’s not because its CEO members want to cut tax rates for themselves and their rich friends — actually, they have been clear they don’t favor cuts in individual taxes. Rather, it is because they believe the corporate tax code, with its high statutory rate of 35 percent, its taxation of foreign profits and its endless list of arcane loopholes and preferences, makes their companies less competitive and less profitable and encourages them to move jobs, technology and investment overseas. And they are right about a lot of that.

Now, with recent passage of the tax bill in the House and approval by the Senate’s Finance Committee on the strength of only Republican votes, the Roundtable stands on the verge of getting the corporate tax reform that it has lobbied for for nearly two decades — and, with it, roughly speaking, a $50 billion cut in corporate taxes each year. But their provisions come as part of an unsavory package that would:

• Eventually add more than $200 billion a year to a federal budget deficit that the Roundtable itself has warned is reaching dangerous levels.

• Further expand the current tax giveaway enjoyed by owners of law and accounting firms, real estate partnerships, private investment funds and large family-owned firms that masquerade as “small businesses.”

• Deliver significant income tax cuts to most high-income households while raising taxes for a sizable number of middle- and working-class families and failing to expand the earned income tax credit for the poor, as long advocated by the Roundtable.

• Reduce or eliminate the federal tax on inherited wealth, including billions of dollars in unrealized capital gains that have never been taxed.

• And, most significantly, sabotage Obamacare in a way that will lead to dramatic increases in premiums on health insurance exchanges and add millions of Americans to the rolls of the uninsured.

The question Roundtable and other business leaders must now ask themselves: What price is worth paying to achieve corporate tax reform?

The economic cost will come in the form of runaway federal debt that, at some point, will drive up interest rates to higher levels that will offset any economic growth that results from increased investment in research, product development and new equipment.

Or perhaps, instead, some future Republican Congress decides to pay for this massive tax cut by reducing spending on education, infrastructure, basic research and public health. Investment in such public goods boosts economic growth no less than private investment, so cutting it would also significantly offset the growth-inducing effects of corporate tax reform.

In other words, the Roundtable and other proponents have oversold the economic benefits from corporate tax reform, which Democrats have acknowledged is needed. In the short term, it is more likely that corporations will use their tax cuts to buy back shares and increase dividends than to make productivity-enhancing investments. If there were good investments to be made, companies would have already made them, using the record amounts of profits they are already earning or with money borrowed at today’s record-low rates.

Under the existing tax code, with its tax credit for research and development, accelerated depreciation and full interest deduction, the effective tax on new investment is already at or below zero for most corporations. Additional cuts in taxes on capital will wind up mostly rewarding old investments rather than inducing new ones. The major economic boost from the Republican bills is that new investment is more likely to be made at home rather than abroad.

In the end, any boost to wages and incomes for most households that comes from cutting business taxes is almost sure to be less than promised. Note that most of the rosy scenarios put forward by the Roundtable and the White House talk about “average” incomes, as if the gains from economic growth will be evenly divided. In reality, we know that gains from growth in recent years have been badly skewed to those at the top. If there are any wage gains trickling down to the typical household, they are likely to be in the hundreds, not thousands, of dollars a year.

But the bigger question facing the Roundtable is the political price it will pay for its unqualified support for a tax bill that violates its ethos that what’s good for the country is good for business.

By offering its full-throated endorsement to a tax bill that worsens already troublesome income inequality, robs the Treasury of funds badly needed for public investment, shifts the tax burden from Republican states to Democratic ones and knocks the foundation out from under Obamacare, the Roundtable would be giving a big middle finger to Democrats. Democrats will surely return the favor if and when they return to power in two or four years — an outcome even more likely with passage of this unpopular legislation.

It will further poison the political atmosphere in Washington, polarize voters along partisan lines and strengthen the hand of ideological hard-liners in both parties. Government will become even more dysfunctional, which in the long run will surely be a greater threat to corporate profits and economic growth than the current corporate tax code.

Earlier this year, the chairman and several members of the Roundtable, at considerable political risk, resigned from a pair of White House advisory boards in the wake of President Trump’s comments about racial violence in Charlottesville. By doing so, they reinforced social and political norms that are essential to democratic capitalism and were rightly praised for it.

This tax legislation represents a similar threat and a similar opportunity. By withdrawing their support until significant changes are made to provisions unrelated to the corporate tax, corporate leaders are in a unique position to help the economy, help the country and help themselves.

More than leaders. Leadership.

Read more:

No, the economy wouldn’t be better off if everyone moved to San Francisco

It took the worst of Trump to bring out the best in Corporate America

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The Trump administration says we have to kill elephants to help save them. The data says otherwise.

Supporters of trophy hunting say that permit fees from the practice, which can run into the tens of thousands of dollars in the case of large game like elephants, can be put toward conservation efforts that help bolster the populations of endangered animals.

In part, that’s the logic behind the Trump administration’s reversal of an Obama-era ban on importing African elephant trophies from Zimbabwe.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has made a finding that the killing of African elephant trophy animals in Zimbabwe, on or after January 21, 2016, and on or before December 31, 2018, will enhance the survival of the African elephant,” according to a notice posted Friday in the federal register.

But if the logic of killing elephants to save them strikes you as questionable, you’re not alone.

As of 2014 the African elephant population stood at an estimated 374,000, according the Global Elephant Census, a massive and costly effort to measure the continent’s remaining savanna elephant population. That’s down from an estimated 10 million elephants at the turn of the 20th century, and from 600,000 of the animals as recently as 1989.

The more detailed population trend data from the census showed that populations had been on a rebound from 1995 to about 2007. But since then, elephant populations have been declining by a rate of about eight percent annually, or 30,000 elephants each year.

“These dramatic declines in elephant populations are almost certainly due to poaching for ivory,” according to the census. "Elephant poaching has increased substantially over the past 5–10 years, especially in eastern and western Africa."

It’s theoretically possible, of course, that population declines would be even worse without the legally sanctioned killings of hundreds of elephants a year. But there are also a number of very good reasons to suspect that trophy hunting does not bring any great benefit to Africa’s elephant populations.

For starters, the hunting of elephants brings in very little revenue. A 2017 report by Economists at Large, an economic analysis firm based in Australia, found that in eight African countries trophy hunting amounted to less than 1 percent of total tourism revenue and 0.03 percent of the countries’ total GDP. A 2015 National Geographic report found that only minimal amounts of revenue from game hunting actually trickled down to the communities managing elephant populations. Government corruption is a big factor in this, with authorities keeping hunting fees for themselves and seizing wildlife lands to profit from hunting and poaching.

Zimbabwe, in particular, has been rife with bad wildlife management practices, which is why the Obama administration banned elephant trophy imports from the country in the first place.

“For decades, Zimbabwe has been run by a dictator who has targeted and killed his political opponents, and operated the country’s wildlife management program as something of a live auction,” said Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society of the United States in a blog post. “Government officials allegedly have been involved in both poaching of elephants and illegal export of ivory tusks. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe even celebrated his birthday last year by feasting on an elephant.”

Before the Obama administration’s ban, animals hunted in Zimbabwe accounted for nearly half of all elephant trophy imports to the United States, according to Fish and Wildlife Service data analyzed by the Humane Society. After the ban was put in place, elephant trophy imports fell dramatically.

In Zimbabwe alone, from 2005 to 2014, American hunters imported an average of nearly 200 elephant trophies each year. As of 2016, that number had fallen to just three. If the number returns to historic averages after the Trump administration’s rule change, roughly 200 additional elephants would potentially be killed each year by American hunters in Zimbabwe.

The ban’s reversal comes at a particularly inauspicious time for Zimbabwe, just two days after the military took control of the country, accusing the government of corruption. “This fact in and of itself highlights the absurdity and illegal nature of the FWS decision to find that Zimbabwe is capable of ensuring that elephant conservation and trophy hunting are properly managed,” wrote the Humane Society’s Pacelle.

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Productivity still matters for worker paychecks

Median pay growth has been abysmal over recent decades: It rose only 12 percent between 1973 and 2015 while productivity rose by 73 percent. This stark fact highlighted in Figure 1 has led some to ask the question: Does productivity growth still benefit typical American workers?

Harold Meyerson, for example, wrote in American Prospect in 2014 that “for the vast majority of American workers, the link between their productivity and their compensation no longer exists.” The Economist wrote in 2013 that “unless you are rich, GDP growth isn’t doing much to raise your income anymore.” Jared Bernstein wrote in 2015 that “Faster productivity growth would be great. I’m just not at all sure we can count on it to lift middle-class incomes.”

It’s clear that over the last 40 years, the productivity growth we experienced was not enough on its own to generate substantial pay growth for typical Americans. But this does not necessarily mean that productivity no longer affects pay, and the distinction matters for policy. It could indeed be the case that typical workers’ pay is not much affected by productivity growth and instead determined by other factors. This would imply that policy seeking to raise living standards should focus primarily on equity issues rather than productivity, at least in the short term. On the other hand it could be the case that productivity growth acts to lift typical workers’ pay even as other factors — like declining worker bargaining power, technological change or globalization — are acting to suppress it. Under this view, even in the presence of these other factors contributing to inequality, typical workers would be better off with higher productivity growth than without it.

Our recent research addresses the question of whether incremental increases in productivity translate into pay increases, recognizing that many other things affect pay.  We rely on the natural experiment provided by the fact that productivity growth fluctuates through time. If productivity growth translates into pay, then we should see periods of higher productivity growth coinciding with periods of higher pay growth. If not, the two should be unrelated.

The data supports the first conclusion: Increases in productivity largely translate into increases in pay, holding all else equal. In times of higher productivity growth the typical American worker has seen higher pay growth, as shown in Figure 2 (for both the median worker and the average production/nonsupervisory worker). The relationship holds strongly across a number of empirical tests: There is a large and statistically significant link between productivity growth and growth in median and production/nonsupervisory compensation. Our estimates suggest that a one percent increase in productivity growth is associated with two-thirds to one percent higher median pay growth and half to two-thirds of a percent higher pay growth for production/nonsupervisory workers. (For more details on these results, see our paper “Productivity and Pay: Is the link broken?” presented last week at the Peterson Institute for International Economics’ conference on Policy Implications of Sustained Low Productivity Growth).

This may seem counterintuitive: If productivity growth largely translates into a rise in typical workers’ pay, then why is it that productivity has grown so much more than pay over the last four decades? Our finding implies that even as productivity growth has been acting to push workers’ pay up, other factors have acted to push workers’ pay down. On net, the overall pay growth for median workers has been close to zero. If productivity growth had been lower over the last 40 years, typical workers are likely to have done even worse.

Understanding what has caused this divergence between productivity and the typical worker’s pay is of central importance. One explanation for this divergence and the concomitant rise in inequality is technological progress. Yet since more rapid technological progress should cause faster productivity growth, if technological progress has indeed caused rising inequality we should see periods of faster productivity growth coincide with faster growth in inequality. We don’t see this; in fact, inequality tended to rise faster during the productivity slowdowns of 1973-1996 and 2003-2015 than during the productivity booms of 1948-1973 and 1996-2003. This should give us pause before accepting explanations of the divergence between pay and productivity based purely on technology.

Our research on this issue was partly inspired by the influential work of Larry Mishel and Josh Bivens at the Economic Policy Institute, who have highlighted the divergent trends in productivity and pay. They have responded to our paper in a blog, discussing points of agreement and disagreement. We and they agree that productivity growth is necessary to raise typical workers’ pay. Similarly, we and they agree on the importance of policies directed at reducing inequality.  The productivity growth we saw in the last 40 years was not in itself enough to raise living standards substantially for the median worker. And we tend to agree more than we disagree about the probable causes of the productivity-pay divergence.

Bivens and Mishel argue that we overstate the impact of productivity on pay because of the way we carry out our analysis. First they propose that we include the level of unemployment in our analysis (not just the change in unemployment). We are inclined to agree with their criticism here. There is a strong case for using the level of unemployment as a key indicator of labor market tightness. However, redoing our analysis in this way has only a small impact on our results.

Second, they argue that our results are not robust on the removal of the period of booming pay and productivity growth in the late 1990s and early 2000s. We have confirmed their statistical conclusion. It is true that removing this period meaningfully attenuates but far from eliminates the relation between pay and productivity growth.  However, this finding seems to us unsurprising and does not cause us to doubt our conclusions. The late 1990s/early 2000s represented the only period of persistently high productivity growth in the post 1973 period. So removing it diminishes the power of our natural experiment by limiting the variation in productivity growth.

Martin Sandbu at the Financial Times has also highlighted our work in a recent column. He raises two critiques of our analysis. First, he notes that we find a weaker relationship between productivity and pay before 1973 than since 1973. We agree with him that this is something of a puzzle. As we discuss in our paper, the extremely low variation in rates of productivity and pay growth during the late 1950s and early 1960s goes some way to explaining it, as it would tend to exacerbate the impact of noise and bias our estimates downward. In addition, including the level of unemployment in our regressions substantially raises the pre-1973 estimates and thus reduces the puzzle.

Second, Sandbu notes that our estimated relationships are often below one-for-one. This is correct. For the median worker our estimates are close to one and not statistically significantly different from one, while for production and nonsupervisory workers, our estimates are consistently between half and two-thirds, and often significantly different from both one and zero. As we note in our paper, this apparent difference bears further investigation. At the same time, given measurement error in productivity growth, one would expect the strength of the estimated relationship to be biased downward. The fact that our estimates for the median worker are close to one and for production and nonsupervisory workers are large, positive and significantly different from zero implies to us that productivity growth is doing much more to raise typical pay than an initial look at the productivity-pay divergence in Figure 1 would suggest.

Overall, the slow growth in typical workers’ pay over the last four decades and the large and persistent rise in inequality are extremely concerning on grounds of both welfare and equity. As policymakers and analysts seek to understand and reverse these trends, our analysis demonstrates that productivity growth still matters.

If productivity accelerates for reasons relating to technology or policy, the likely impact will be greater pay growth for the typical worker. This does not mean that policy should ignore questions of redistribution or labor market intervention: The evidence of the past four decades demonstrates that productivity growth alone is not necessarily enough to raise living standards. However, it does mean that policy should not focus on these issues to the exclusion of productivity growth. Strategies that focus both on productivity growth and labor market or redistributive policies are likely to have the greatest impact on the living standards of middle-income Americans.

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The Republican tax plan looks a lot like the Republican health-care plan

(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

There’s an easy way to tell the Republican tax plan from the Republican health-care plan.

The first one would cut the corporate tax rate to help mostly wealthy investors, and pay for some of that by cutting health-care spending for the poor and the middle class. The second one, on the other hand, would cut health-care spending for the poor and the middle class to pay for the capital-gains tax cuts it would give to mostly wealthy investors. See the difference?

Now, there are a lot of ways to think about the GOP’s latest tax bill, but the simplest one is this: It would temporarily cut taxes for the middle class the next 10 years (while actually raising them on a number of the working class), before turning into a permanent tax hike on them to help pay for its permanent cuts to corporate taxes. In all, the budget scorekeepers at the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimate that the Republican plan would, on average, force households making $75,000 to start paying higher taxes by 2027 at the latest. Households making between $10,000 and $30,000 would actually face higher tax bills beginning in 2021.

Even that, though, wouldn’t be enough to eventually offset the full cost of its big business tax cuts — which, to comply with Senate rules, it’d have to for Republicans to be able to pass it on a party-line vote — so they’d also get rid of Obamacare’s penalty for people who don’t buy health insurance. This, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), would counterintuitively save the government $338 billion over the next 10 years for the reason that fewer people would be pushed to find out that they qualify for subsidized, or even free, health-care coverage. The result is that 13 million fewer people would have insurance, and, because the remaining pool of customers would be somewhat sicker, policies would cost 10 percent more.

This is a strange type of populism. The working class and the middle class might, just might, get lower taxes for a little while but would definitely get higher insurance premiums, to the point, as even Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) admits, that some of them would be worse off than they are now. Corporations, though, would get to keep their big tax cuts now and forever.

This is a bet on two things. The first is that whoever’s in charge of the government in 2026 won’t actually let these middle-class tax cuts expire. That, after all, was the case in 2013, when Democrats agreed to renew the George W. Bush tax cuts for everybody but the top 1 percent. And it very well might happen again. The Republican plan, you see, would sunset almost all of its individual tax changes, both cuts and revenue raisers, in 10 year’s time. The only exception is it would still have tax brackets increase slower than they do now, so that people would more easily get pushed into higher ones. Regardless, it isn’t hard to imagine a future Democratic president extending the twice-as-big standard deduction and child tax credit but letting all the various tax breaks for the rich — the lower top individual rate, the lower pass-through rate and higher estate tax threshold — turn into legislative pumpkins.

The second is the belief that permanent corporate tax cuts, and only permanent corporate tax cuts, would cause such an explosion of growth that they would, as President Trump’s top economic adviser Gary Cohn put it, “trickle down” to workers. It’s a theory Republicans have taken to such an extreme that former Clinton treasury secretary and Obama economic adviser Lawrence H. Summers says he would be “hard pressed to give it a passing grade” if a “PhD student submitted” it.

There’s a real question, you see, about how much of the benefits of a corporate tax cut goes to capital vs. how much goes to labor. That’s because it isn’t entirely clear to what degree the tax falls on profits from old investments (which hurts shareholders) or on profits that would have gone into new investments (which, by lowering the stock of capital, and, as a result, productivity, hurts worker wages).

There is a mainstream consensus, though: Corporate tax cuts don’t help workers that much. The CBO thinks about 25 percent of the benefits go to labor; the JCT says the same; the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimates that 20 percent do; and the Treasury Department’s Office of Tax Analysis thinks that 18.5 percent do. The Trump administration, meanwhile, claims that somewhere between 300 percent and 675 percent do. This estimate is worth about as much as a degree from Trump University.

It’s based on an idea that isn’t true, and one that wouldn’t even matter if it was. What do I mean by that? Well, the Trump team thinks that the United States is just like Ireland. That cutting the corporate tax rate would cause a flood of foreign money to pour into the country to pay for the type of factories and machines that would make workers better off. This is believable only as long as you don’t listen to anything CEOs have to say. Indeed, just the other day, only a handful of them raised their hands at the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council when asked whether the Trump tax cuts would make them increase their capital expenditures. “Why aren’t the other hands up?” Cohn asked. The answer, of course, is that U.S. companies, with their record-setting profits, are not capital-constrained right now. If they see a good investment opportunity, they’re already making it. They’d just use a tax cut, then, to pay out more money to shareholders. That, at least, is what they’ve been publicly saying the past few months.

But even if a corporate tax cut really did cause an investment boom of unprecedented proportions, it would cause one funded by foreign money — and that matters. As Paul Krugman points out, we’d have to pay those overseas investors back, so we wouldn’t get the full benefit of whatever extra growth there was. We might not even get most of it. In other words, it would help our GDP stats a lot more than our workers. That’s certainly been the case in Ireland.

Republicans have left no doubt what their priorities are. Because of the Senate rules, they had to decide between making their middle-class tax cuts permanent or their corporate ones, and they chose the latter. They have some obviously overstated theories about why this makes economic sense, which they may have truly convinced themselves of, but the more cynical motive is at least as important: Their donors are demanding this. Republicans have gone so far as to openly admit this. “The financial contributions will stop,” Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said, if they don’t cut corporate taxes. “My donors are basically saying, ‘Get this done or don’t ever call me again,’" concurred Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.). This is the real reason Republicans think the word “reform” means cutting health care for the poor to pay for tax cuts for the rich.

It is difficult to get a politician to help anyone other than the top 1 percent when his salary depends on him not doing so.

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Black men sentenced to more time for committing the exact same crime as a white person, study finds

A man wears a “Black Lives Matter” T-shirt as he demonstrates outside the Capitol in April 2015.

Black men who commit the same crimes as white men receive federal prison sentences that are, on average, nearly 20 percent longer, according to a new report on sentencing disparities from the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC).

These disparities were observed “after controlling for a wide variety of sentencing factors,” including age, education, citizenship, weapon possession and prior criminal history.

The black/white sentencing disparities have been increasing in recent years, the report found, particularly following the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Booker in 2005. Booker gave federal judges significantly more discretion on sentencing by making it easier to impose harsher or more lenient sentences than the USSC’s sentencing guidelines called for.

Before that decision, federal judges were generally required to abide by those sentencing guidelines.

According to the Sentencing Commission’s report, the black/white sentencing disparities are being driven in large part by “non-government sponsored departures and variances” — in plain English, sentencing choices made by judges at their own discretion.

Judges are less likely to voluntarily revise sentences downward for black offenders than for white ones, in other words. And even when judges do reduce black offenders’ sentences, they do so by smaller amounts than for white offenders.

That finding suggests that giving judges more discretion in sentencing, as the Booker decision did in 2005, allows more racial bias to seep into the process. But Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, a group working to reduce bias in the criminal justice system, says there’s more to it than that. He says that decisions by federal prosecutors — whether to seek a charge carrying a mandatory minimum sentence, for instance — are also driving the disparities.

“What we see is that the charging decisions of prosecutors are key,” he said via email. “Whether done consciously or not, prosecutors are more likely to charge African Americans with such charges than whites.”

A 2014 University of Michigan Law School study, for instance, found that all other factors being equal, black offenders were 75 percent more likely to face a charge carrying a mandatory minimum sentence than a white offender who committed the same crime.

“It’s possible that if a prosecutor now recognizes that a judge is not constrained by the [pre-Booker] guidelines,” Mauer said, “he or she may charge a case as a mandatory sentence to ensure that a certain amount of prison time is imposed, with no possible override by the judge.”

The United States currently houses the world’s largest prison population, with an incarceration rate of roughly 666 inmates per 100,000 people. Among whites, the rate is 450 inmates per 100,000 people. The incarceration rate for blacks is over five times higher, at 2,306 inmates per 100,000 people.

The USSC report indicates that sentencing decisions are a big driver of those numbers. And according to the University of Michigan study, at the federal level alone simply eliminating the sentencing disparity would reduce the number of black men in federal prisons by about 9 percent and save taxpayers at least $230 million a year.

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Senate tax bill cuts taxes of wealthy and hikes taxes of families earning under $75,000 over a decade

The tax bill Senate Republicans are championing would give large tax cuts to millionaires while raising taxes on American families earning $10,000 to $75,000 over the next decade, according to an analysis released Thursday by the Joint Committee on Taxation, Congress’ official nonpartisan analysts.

President Trump and Republican lawmakers have been heralding their bill as a win for hard-working Americans, but the JCT report casts serious doubt on that claim. Tax hikes for households earning $10,000 to $30,000 would start in 2021 and grow sharply from there. By the year 2027, Americans earning $30,000 to $75,000 a year would also be forced to pay more in taxes even though people earning over $100,000 continue to get substantial tax cuts.

Most of the hit to the poor and working-class is likely comes from the Senate Republicans’ push to mix health care and tax changes. The decision to include a repeal of the individual mandate would lead to 13 million more uninsured, the Congressional Budget Office has said. Senate Republicans also made most of the individual income tax provisions expire at the end of 2025. Wealthier Americans would still benefit from a permanent cut in the corporate tax rate, which will likely boost the incomes of people who own companies or investments.

According to the JCT, the average tax rate for people working full-time minimum-wage jobs and those earning $20,000 to $30,000 would go from 3.7 percent to 4.2 percent. Meanwhile millionaires’ average tax rate would fall from 32.4 percent to 30.9 percent. Senate GOP JCT score

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