Mar 15, 2017

The mental opportunity cost of taking Trump's bait

MSNBC

It's Day 55 of the Trump presidency, and we still take the bait. MSNBC's Rachel Maddow tweeted before her show last night: "BREAKING: We've got Trump tax returns," implying a cache. It turned out to be two pages, and the White House preempted her by releasing the info first:

  • The White House statement: "You know you are desperate for ratings when you ... push a story about two pages of tax returns from over a decade ago. ... [In 2005,] Trump paid $38 million ... on an income of more than $150 million," an effective rate of 25 percent (more than Romney).
  • Maddow to Lawrence O'Donnell: "I don't think there's any reason to ... expect that this will be the only Trump tax document that ever comes to light. ... [T]he more we learn about this, the closer we're going get to the truth about whether or not his foreign entanglements explain more about what just happened in our election."
  • The story raced onto the front pages of The Times, The Post and USA Today. The Boston Globe's lead story: "Trump releases 2005 tax returns." Um, no.
  • A quick column by CNBC executive editor Jay Yarow pointed out that the fracas amounted to "a nice victory" for Trump: "[T]his story has created the appearance that Trump does in fact make a lot of money, and he pays millions in taxes."
  • N.Y. Times' Michael Grynbaum: "On Twitter, journalists complained that Ms. Maddow had overhyped."

What was the mental opportunity cost?

  • A more consequential MSNBC headline — "GOP SKEPTICISM OF HEALTH PLAN GROWS AFTER CBO REPORT" — got shorter shrift. The two-column lead of today's WashPost is "Trump allies call Ryan's bill 'a trap,'" by Bob Costa and Phil Rucker: "A simmering rebellion of conservative populists loyal to President Trump is further endangering the GOP health-care push." (Wall Street Journal lead story: "GOP Plan Hits Snag With Own Senators.")
  • Over on CNN, we learn that Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said FBI Director Comey promised on March 2 to tell him TODAY whether the FBI is investigating ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.
  • The Fed is expected to raise interest rates today (statement at 2 p.m.; Yellen presser 2:30 p.m.).
  • "Trump's revised travel ban will be scrutinized in federal courtrooms across the country — the day before it is supposed to go into effect."
  • And driving the non-Fed day ... "Polls open in Dutch election that is barometer of populism" — AP/The Hague: "Polling booths opened ... in Dutch parliamentary elections that are being closely watched as a [sign] of the strength of far-right populism ahead of national votes in France and Germany later this year."

We only have so many hours and brain cells. They're a terrible thing to waste.

Go deeper

Minneapolis unrest as hundreds protest death of George Floyd

Tear gas is fired as police clash with protesters demonstrating against the death of George Floyd outside the 3rd Precinct Police Precinct in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Tuesday. Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Minneapolis police used tear gas during clashes with protesters demanding justice Tuesday night for George Floyd, an African American who died in police custody, according to multiple news reports.

Driving the news: The FBI is investigating Floyd's death after video emerged of a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on his neck for several minutes, ignoring protests that he couldn't breathe. Hundreds of protesters attended the demonstration at the intersection where Floyd died, per the Guardian.

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced plans Tuesday to make wearing face coverings mandatory statewide for most people over the age of 10 when inside public places like retailers, on public transportation and government buildings. He announced the measure, effective Friday, as coronavirus case numbers increased to 39,342.

By the numbers: More than 98,900 people have died from COVID-19 and over 1.6 million have tested positive in the U.S. Over 384,900 Americans have recovered and more than 14.9 million tests have been conducted.

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

Japan is preparing a second coronavirus stimulus package worth $1.1 trillion, or about 40% of the country's gross domestic product, Reuters first reported Tuesday night.

Zoom in: The new measure will be funded by government bonds and will include "a raft of loan guarantees and private sector contributions," per Bloomberg.