Russian Voodoo

For the past few days the news media has been gaga over Attorney General Jeff Sessions apparent mis-information about his contacts with the Russian US Ambassador. To the extent that Sessions may in the future have intervened in any Justice Department investigations over Russian State sponsored interference with the recent Presidential election, his recusal from participating in these investigations is a positive step forward.

Whether recusal is enough is unclear but anyone who thinks a Session’s resignation is a do or die issue is most likely naive about who might be nominated to replace him.
Answering remaining questions about the extent of Russian activity ought be pursued by Congress and the FBI, and optimally by an independent prosecutor. With what is know today, the independent prosecutor is not going to happen.

Progressives need not waste much time worry about this issue. Of course the Russians interfered and almost assuredly Russian intermediates were in touch with the Trump campaign (and likely in contact with the Clinton campaign, in both cases gathering information). While this is undesirable intervention in the US political process, don’t be so naive to think that the CIA and NSA have not done the same type of things with both Russia and China.

The hacking of the DNC server and transfer of the DNC emails to Wikileaks (for further distribution) was preventable (shame on DNC), but we must recognize that this leak could have happened just as easily by a disgruntled DNC employee if it had not been the Russians. So, let it go and let the professional spies “get even” in ways the Russians would understand.

Does this mean the Russian interference was not important and out of bounds?

No, Russia’s actions, particularly the distribution via Wikileaks, took advantage of a US strength… freedom of speech (the press). Who thinks it is a good idea to suppress free speech?

It is times such as these where Americans ought to be focused less on what is not being blasted in the headlines and more what is cooking in the back rooms of Congress and the White House. While the press is hyperventilating over Russia, the Republican Congressional leaders and the Trump Administration are busily working on changes to healthcare and the tax code. Both issue could have far more dramatic impact upon Americans than the Russian interference.

Progressives should be alert for two issues. (1) The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) has aspects which are not acceptable to all parties. Some (but not all) individuals have ended up with healthcare insurance which come with large deductibles and co-pays. Some employers (but not all) have incurred added expense because they were mandated to provide healthcare insurance to their employees. And some (but not all) individuals were forced to buy healthcare insurance coverage when they did not want to spend their money that way.  To claim ACA is perfect and no modifications are needed is short sighted.

The more fundamental issue which needs to be discussed is what type of healthcare Americans should expect. Obamacare increased the number of Americans receiving coverage by 20 million. Should a replacement insure less?

(A rich discussion over the obscene cost of US healthcare is long overdue but there is virtually no chance that the GOP has the stomach for such a discussion.)

(2) Tax code reform, the second important issue, has been built as a way to “jump start” the economy. President Trump has hailed the cuts as huge, massive. What is almost for sure is that large corporations and wealthy individuals will receive massive windfall gains from lower marginal tax rates. Whether there will be meaningful crumbs for the rest of Americans is an open question.

There is undoubtably a fairness component of tax reform. Progressive tax rates have long been viewed as “fairer” than a straight flat tax. Eliminating the top marginal rate doesn’t take much thinking to realize someone very rich is getting a big break. But even more sinister is the budget pressure a tax cut will create. The Trump/GOP crowd will cry, “we can’t afford” this or that (of course the opposite will be true of planes, ships, and tanks).

So, once again a wise person must keep one eye and ear on the future and not on the brouhaha of the day.

The Trump Administration tactics are about control through deception and confusion. Regrettably, this Administration’s goals are heavily influenced by policies which enrich the already wealthy while singing a populous tune to unemployed, disillusioned, or outrightly hate mongering.

Hmmm.

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