What Is Reform?

Posted November 20, 2017 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Donald Trump, GOP, Koch Brothers, Mitch McConnell, paul ryan, Politics, Republican Party, tax reform, Uncategorized

Candidate Donald Trump and the GOP in general campaigned on the pledge to overhaul the Federal Tax Code and “reform it”. Hmmm.

Both the House and the Senate have unveiled their visions of tax reform and for the clear eyed, one should not be surprised with the comment, “what tax reform”? Tax cut, maybe, but reform, hardly.

What’s the problem?

  1. Republicans were never concerned with “reform”, rather it was tax cuts that drove this campaign pledge.

  2. Republicans had already mortgaged their collective souls to the super rich (like Charles and David Koch, and Robert Mercer), so cuts favorable to the super wealthy were a done deal.

  3. Small business owners who have predominantly voted Republican were next in line. These “pass through” tax payers needed a lower corporate tax rate so they would not have to pay the appropriate individual income tax rate.

  4. Big corporations were interested in more government welfare but were more concerned about not losing their current “effective” tax rate (18%).

  5. The Middle Class were asking “what’s in it for me” and both Congressional Houses presented plans which were murky to say the least. Against Trump boasts, “biggest Middle Class tax cut ever”, the Middle Class has been hard pressed to see anything in it for them.

  6. The Senate, not content with a weak tax cut offering, included a provision to repeal the “individual mandate” of Obamacare which has only served to make voters more suspicious of the tax reform bill’s real intent.

OK, what’s the real problems?

  1. Tax code reform has never been the real intent of Republicans. GOP focus has been on rewarding their supporters.

  2. Tax code reform is extremely complicated and impacts all aspects of our $13 trillion economy.

  3. The underlying threat to the US economy lies in income inequality, per capita healthcare costs, and funding for so-called entitlement programs. Republicans do not care about income inequality, are agnostic about healthcare costs, and want to sharply reduce if not eliminate entitlements (read – Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security).

  4. Rather than debate tax reform in the open and attempt to reach a bi-partisan compromise, the GOP has chosen to implement rules which would allow the GOP to pass “tax reform” with the current Republican majorities. What policy changes within the compromised GOP could carry the day?

  5. The path Republicans have selected makes a joke of their past chest pounding anxious cries over the Federal Debt. The Senate and House proposals will add $1-1.5 trillion (at a minimum) to the Federal Debt and could add much more.

  6. The notion that corporations will take tax savings and use that money to invest and add jobs is totally laughable. Even more laughable is that corporations will use the extra savings to increase workers wages and benefits. This dog won’t hunt.

  7. The GOP plans come from “supply side” economic theory which in the two recent previous times the US has tried it (Ronald Reagan and George W Bush) has not performed as advertised. If the GOP really was looking to spend $1.5 trillion to stimulate the economy, a coordinated infrastructure government spending program would have far greater chances of increasing GDP, raising employment, and increasing wages.

  8. At the very base of the GOP house of lies (bad assumptions or beliefs), is that on a world basis, the US economy is doing quite well. Thinking that somehow the rest of the world could grow GDP at an average 2% and the US, magically, could grow at 4-6% is worse than drawing to an inside straight. These are different times than the post WWII period and long term growth must by the nature of things grow more modestly if it is to grow at all. The US needs to focus on how, as a nation, the country can grow productivity, make products and services others want, and share these earnings more fairly with other Americans.

Americans, especially voters must come to see that the current GOP leadership views tax reforms as tax cuts, and tax cuts mean “free lunches” and “free lunches don’t exist.

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Did It Start With Bill?

Posted November 17, 2017 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Donald Trump, Uncategorized

Tags: , , ,

Sexual abuse and the country’s awakening to it prevalence, seems center stage in American’s minds.   With each revelation, there are cries of “how could this have happened” and the call for immediate “resignation” from what ever occupation the abuser might now occupy.

Harvey Weinstein has become the abuser poster child, characterizing the male who forces sexual demands upon women, while Kevin Spacey has become the avatar for abusers of other men and boys.

Whether it was “cat calls” at construction sites, or wandering hands at office parties, most everyone with a heartbeat must admit that men have been trying to seduce women forever. (This, however, does not make sexual harassment or similar behaviors ok.) The hidden truth has been some men are just better at it than others and have continually been excused.

The age old defense has been denial on the basis of “he said, she said”, or if that excuse did not work, then claim “it was a consensual”.

Lost in this rhetoric has been calling out “abuse of power” and the “absence of respect” for the other person. And now the public discussion dam has broken and victims feel a new freedom to out their past abuser. Probably, this is a constructive happening, but we must remember that social norms are always changing and it is often not constructive to judge past behaviors with today’s standards.

Case in point. In 2016, America elected a past abuser as President. The Access Hollywood video said it all and yet the phrase “that was locker room talk” seemed to carry the day. Americans in sufficient numbers elected Donald Trump. Curiously, evangelicals decided Trump’s abortion position gave him a pass for past crude and abusive behavior towards women. Hmmm.

Whenever Candidate Trump was confronted with questions about women or any other immoral behavior, Trump was quick to point his finger at former President Bill Clinton. Trump alleged Clinton was the worst woman abuser in White House history, if not in American general history. Hmmm.

Calls for Clinton to withdraw his Presidential candidacy over Jennifer Flowers were ignored with claims Flowers was somehow a morally defective person. Ultimately the House of Representatives’ impeached William Jefferson Clinton (with a vote along party lines) during the Monica Lewinsky affair. Clinton supporters argued that impeachment was unjustified because the affair was consensual and did not rise to Constitutional impeachment standards.

Subsequently, Newt Gingrich, Speaker of the House, lost his leadership role when it was revealed Gingrich was involved in an extra-marital affair at the same time he was lambasting President Clinton’s morality. Hmmm.

There is no doubt, however, that President Clinton and the Democrat Party lost a chance to take the high road had the President resigned. While it could be argued that impeachment was unjustified, abuse of power and setting an unacceptable personal standard was clear. Strangely, history records that President Clinton did not resign, nor was he convicted of impeachment, and finished his Presidential term with relatively high public opinion poll numbers.

So fast forward to Judge Roy Moore and Senator Al Franken. Moore has been accused by over 8 separate women of attempted sexual abuse and inappropriate behavior when these women were in their teens and twenties and Moore was in his thirties. One would think that “today”, Moore would recognize the compromised position these revelations put him in and he would withdraw from the upcoming election. One might think that but that person does not know Judge Roy Moore. Judge Moore is set on remaining a candidate.

Senator Franklen, on the other hand, has so far only one accuser and no suggestion that sexual relations was his intent. The Senator voluntarily posed for an inappropriate, to be sure, picture, but poor taste is probably the best terminology for an incident which took place over 10 years ago.

The question that ought to be asked is “fitness for office”. Do these harassment examples make the case that the individual is “unfit” for office? Critics have alleged that former President Clinton who denied all the allegations was a pathological lair and that alone should have disqualified him. President Trump many would say follows in these same footprints.  Judge Moore, however, has a record of ignoring the Constitution and disrespecting the Supreme Court, and the dubious honor of twice being removed from public office. These alone should be sufficient for State officials to have disqualified his candidacy.

Senator Franken represents a quite different challenge. Franken was in an earlier life an entertainer who was frequently seeing satire in everyday life. The transition from the life of a comic to that of a US Senator is not the norm. By all accounts, Senator Franken has been a perfectly above boards Senator and has conducted himself appropriately.
In a narrowly split US Senate, there undoubtably will be calls for him to resign.

But against what standard of conduct should Franken be measured? As former President Jimmy Carter once said, “I’m a sinner because I had lust in my heart”. And President Clinton said, “I never had sex with that woman”. Most political observers would rate Clinton’s Presidency higher than Jimmy Carters based upon domestic and foreign policy results.

So, go figure.

Wrong Side Of History

Posted November 15, 2017 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Donald Trump, GOP, Politics, Republican Party, Uncategorized

Tags: ,

It is difficult to imagine an Administration which has gotten so many obvious situations incorrectly. President Trump and those he has appointed to various Cabinet posts appear set on choosing the positions both factually wrong and on the wrong side of history. But for a “showman”, there is only the showman’s position that counts.

The President has spent the past week in Asia presumably charting a new trade path (remember that the US has walked away from the Trans Pacific Pact). The President has announced his demand for bilateral negotiations, in other words, US-Japan, South Korea-US, Vietnam-US, etc, and with the pre-condition that any trade must be fair and reciprocal. Sounds good but is it wise?

With 2.5-3 billion consumers between India and China, the Southeast Asian area has many more customers than what 300 million Americans would represent. And China is just as happy filling these consumers’ needs.  Who cares about the US anyway?

So, let’s look at South Korea. US-South Korea trade is unbalanced in favor of South Korea. Doesn’t the President have a point that South Korea should be importing more US TVs and automobiles, say in line with what the US imports from South Korea?

One would think reciprocal trade is a worthy goal.  But we can’t expect another country to buy goods and services which are more expensive than what that country can offer.  Trade policies, however, must contemplate other ramifications.  US recognized long ago that stable allies represented an important part of our defenses against communist and non-democratic opponents. Stable nations at the very minimum are marked by full or rising employment and a growing GDP. Accordingly, in trade discussions in the past, the US has insisted upon “market access” and respect of “intellectual property”, not just parity of trade.  US policy reasoned that if goods and services were cost competitive, than they would have a chance to compete.

In practice trade around the world (including the US) always has a political component. Farmers, steel and auto workers, and general manufacturers are voters too. If a government is callous to which imports these groups believe are taking their jobs, that government will fall. So, trade policy can never be an exact science but must reflect more complex thinking around all the issues influencing a country’s national interest. Hmmm.

It would be short sighted to jump to the conclusion that President Trump and his advisors are simply incompetent. Rather, one should consider that the President is attempting to serve the needs of a different and narrower constituency, namely the wealthy and owners of businesses which could benefit from Trump’s thumb on the scales of fairness.

Just as in most other countries, the promise of jobs is the strongest vote getter. Now add to that jobs rhetoric, other words to distract from science and logic, and suddenly the way is clear for special interests to be preferentially served.

What is even more astonishing is that rank and file Republicans who have been traditionally hard core “free traders” and “pragmatic (laissez-faire) marketeers” are standing on the sidelines. When the President spouts off about putting coal miners back to work in the mines, no one from his party stands up and says, “Mr President, you are making a mistake, you are leading in the wrong direction”.

Consequently, the entire Republican Party is complicit in President Trump’s foreign or domestic policies. Regardless of whether it is healthcare, tax reform, immigration, or trade, President Trump is marching on the wrong side of history and the rest of the Republican Party is waddling right after him.

Give Me More, Just Not Roy Moore

Posted November 12, 2017 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Donald Trump, GOP, Politics, Republican Party, Uncategorized

Tags: ,

Louis C K, he is not. Judge Roy Moore, a Republican candidate for the US Senate, underscores the depths that parts of the GOP have sunk and the extremes, Republicans are willing to go to solidify their Titanic position. In a few weeks, Alabama voters will choose their next US Senator in a special election to replace Jeff Sessions. Odds are that Alabama voters would prefer more of a Jeff Sessions-type if they had a choice, not Roy Moore.

Judge Roy Moore has forged a career based upon warped views of Christianity and the US Constitution. Moore was Donald Trump-ish before Donald Trump became a public bigot and then President. Moore gained notoriety displaying the 10 Commandments on his Court House grounds and then up his game by refusing to marry same sex couples despite orders from the Supreme Court.  Consequently, he was removed from office twice.

Does this life record sound like material a US Senator is made of?

Wait, there’s more.

Judge Moore has been accused by four women, much younger than him, of inappropriate sexual behavior which occurred 40 years ago. With a few weeks to go before the election, Moore joins other celebrities in being ensnared in sexual harassment claims.  Moore, most notably joins President Trump (remember the Access Hollywood video), being outed in the homestretch of an election campaign. How does someone get this far in the election process?

Moore supporters are rushing forward screaming “accusations do not mean guilt”. One supporter likened Moore’s alleged association involving a fourteen year old girl as analogous to the christian biblical story of Joseph and Mary who were of similar age difference.

Imagine, this is not a denial but a statement of mitigation, if not glorification.

Louis C K has been accused of outrageous behavior, socially unacceptable in normal company, sexually predatory at the other extreme. What separates Louis C K, is he has not sugar coated his accusers’ claims. He confirmed the accusations and apologized for this behavior.

Owning up and apologizing seem to be qualities public personalities are lacking these days. This absence of candor, belies a Jekyll and Hyde personality that access to power will dangerously expose.

The citizens of Alabama have the right to elect whomever they wish. All the rest of us can hope that Alabamians have all the information they should have, and decide “Give me more, just not Judge Roy Moore.

Education and Ethics

Posted November 10, 2017 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: , , , ,

Recently there was another “hack”, this time on a Bermudan law office, Appleby. The trove of newly released information carry the title, “Paradise Papers”. In addition to Wilbur Ross, the Queen of England, and Bono, the papers also contained some surprising information on Texas Christian University and Indiana University. The New York Times reports that the two universities joined together and set up an investment vehicle (an off shore corporation) whose purpose was to invest and grow these universities’ endowments. So what’s the concern?

Most US university endowment earnings are tax advantaged (501 (3) c) already. Investing off shore would offer no additional tax advantage. Hmmm.

The “Paradise Papers”, however, revealed that TCU and IU’s new corporation invested in higher yielding shares of fossil energy concerns.  This type of investment has been the target of global warming activists.  Perfectly legal but perceived as similar to investing in tobacco companies. Hmmm.

Sounds like a way to avoid the spotlight on campus while still growing their endowments.

Off shore corporations, in certain countries, like Bermuda, can enjoy anonymity and become opaque to home country tax authorities. Those intent on avoiding home country taxes can find these opaque locations very helpful in avoiding taxes otherwise due.  There is no indication that these universities has that intent.

So what’s the message these Universities should hear?

How about, “universities are in the education business first and foremost, and teaching ethics by how the university lives every day is a key part of the curriculum”.

When major universities “hide” information, the lesson they are teaching is everything is ok if there is not a law forbidding it.

No wonder so many public officials believe they can seek personal wealth accumulation while simultaneously pretending to serve the public’s interest. No wonder so many business executives can act as if there is but one stakeholder that they must listen to, and that employees, communities, and customers are the predicate. No wonder so many big name universities find it proper to advertise one set of beliefs on campus and choose a different set for managing their endowments.

Education and Ethics, there can be no education without clear and strong ethics.

Politically Correct And Stupid

Posted November 9, 2017 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: LGBT, Uncategorized

Tags: , ,

Danica Roem became the first transgender person to win a Virginia State House seat. Congratulations, of course, but what are the headlines in most news reports all about?

Is the conventional wisdom that transgender persons are in some way incapable of holding an elected office? Or is the subtext, that the Virginians are too opposed to transgender persons that elections to higher offices are near impossible?

Headlines such as “first woman”, “first black”, first black female”, etc are well known and have proven unremarkable in predicting the future. There have been, for example, African Americans elected to office who were very successful, as well as a few who were removed for criminal activity pretty much in the same proportions as non-African Americans.

IMO, these “first” headlines reflect a weakness in the news organizations’ intellectual level.   The “first” word is praise in “politically correct circles” but could be motivated by a naked attempt to attract more readers. Would news organizations do that?

Hillary Clinton’s campaign has been criticized for its emphasis on important but non-core issue.  When election day arrived, Clinton was perceived as having not connected with many voters. We know the outcome of that missed opportunity.

Many Americans do not understand homosexuality and transgender choices are even less understood. Danica Room will be successful in office by what she brings and what she does, not because she is transgender.

Outside of office, Danica certainly can provide advice and support for others experiencing this transition. I wonder whether these news organizations will write about that?

Reading Election Tea Leaves

Posted November 8, 2017 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: affordable care act, congress, Donald Trump, federal debt, GOP, Politics, Republican Party, Uncategorized

Today is the morning after. Yesterday an off year election was held which featured two high profile governorships at stake. Democrats won both (Virginia and New Jersey) and surprisingly across the country, Democrats picked up previously Republican held offices. What was behind this Democrat resurgence?

Money was not a factor even though there was plenty of money spent. Performance in office did not seem to be a factor either, both governor’s races were open since the incumbents were term limited and could not run. So what provided the spark for Democrats?

Some pundits are saying yesterday’s races represented a repudiation of President Trump and his policies. Interestingly, Republican spokespersons disagreed and claimed instead that voters were dissatisfied with the lack of legislative action on the President’s campaign promises.

In other words, had Congress passed the Affordable Care Act “repeal and replace”, and pushed through a huge Middle Class tax reform, then voters would have rewarded the Party with victories. Hmmm.

Reality, however, is more likely different. According to news reports, women played a big role in Republican candidates’ defeat. Women came out to vote and did so in what might be record numbers. Overall voter turn out was unusually high for an off year election across the country.

Rather than conclude Republicans lost key elections because the White House and the Republican controlled Congress did not accomplish what they promised in 2016, it might be wiser to think Republicans lost because of the mean spirited, wrong headed ways the President and Republican controlled Congress conducted themselves.

Trying to cheapen healthcare many women depend upon, backing away from the Paris Climate agreement potential leaving a more severely damaged world for our children, and attempting to pass a tax cut which blatantly passes out billions to the very wealthy and puts the tab on our children and their children charge account (the Federal Debt) has not been missed by a growing number of voters.

Voters, especially women voters, see what’s going on, and are beginning to recognize that  the outlook is not promising in the Trump/GOP teapot.