Archive for the ‘Donald Trump’ category

What Is Reform?

November 20, 2017

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?

November 17, 2017

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

November 15, 2017

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

November 12, 2017

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.

Reading Election Tea Leaves

November 8, 2017

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.

Want To Be A Sucker?

November 7, 2017

How can any sensible person turn away from lower taxes? Freedom Partners Action Fund, an organ of the Koch Brothers network, is spending real money on television ads which appeal directly to “middle class” families and implore them to contact their Congress Member and demand Congress pass the pending tax cut bill. Is this Democracy in action or a side show “shill operation”?

Would you believe these ads are both?

The Koch Brothers have the money (political spending is an exercise of free speech the Supreme Court has said) so it would seem this is democracy in action. On the other hand, Freedom Partners Action Fund does not reveal how much the Kochs or other wealthy Americans will receive in tax cuts. Current estimates indicate, as expect, the sun will really shine on the very rich.

It would appear that tax cuts will offer “crumbs” to some Americans and a full course, top shelf repast to the top 1%. So, in addition to fairness, the “shill” is betting that many Americans will be “suckers” and not recognize this tax cut bill does not pay for itself.  Remember the consequences of those who think there are “free lunches”. Hmmm.

The US already has an unbalanced budget and a Federal Debt approaching $20 trillion. This tax plan is minimally estimated to add another $1-2 trillion. Republicans, however, are undaunted and promise to cut other government spending, for example entitlements. Hmmm.

Cutting entitlements like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security won’t impact the Kochs or for that matter other top 1% earners. Entitlement benefits impact the other end of the wealth spectrum including the “average American”.

It would appear that Freedom Partners Action Fund, Congress, and the Trump Administration are playing the average American as a sucker. Hmmm.

The Other Side Of The Coin

November 3, 2017

House Republicans have just released their proposed tax code rewrite. Experts are rushing to digest the proposal and perform the difficult task of assessing how this Republican bill will impact Americans. Wait, wait… if you are wealthy, you do not need to worry. This Republican plan will treat you well and provide opportunities for clever tax advisors to find new ways to save you tax payments.

The bill provides most (but not all) the gifts the rich have been expecting. The top bracket of 39.5% remains although the income threshold has been raised to $1,000,000 allegedly in deference to the “gift to the wealthy” optics.  Carried interest, estate tax elimination, and reduction of corporate taxes (35% to 20%) for private owner businesses will provide the wealthy with plenty of tax relief opportunities while the tax burden is shifted to lower income Americans.  And, for those unfortunate Americans earning $500,000 to $999,999, you will just have to pay in a lower bracket.

The deal is not set yet. Republicans from high tax States will argue for sweeteners in the restoration of State and local tax deductions and full credit for mortgage interest. Lobbyists representing all sorts of industries will go into full court press to preserve other deductions and credits. It is entirely possible that this attempt at tax code changes will stall or fail outright.

But it is entirely possible that this proposal or something substantially the same will pass. What then?

For sure it is maddening that very wealthy people like the Koch Brothers and Robert Mercer will pay less taxes.  It is maddening that as a consequence, the tax burden will shift to less wealthy people (like the Middle Class), or the cost of this tax cut will flow to the national debt, or both.

But that is not the real damage that this tax code change will bring.

A coin has two sides. On one side, heads, is the smiling faces of Americans paying less in taxes. The other side, tails, however, means there will be less government revenue to cover already approved government spending. Let there be no mistake, with lower tax revenues there must be less government spending sooner or later.

Republicans will be quick to assert that there are all sorts of waste and corruption in government spending. Why, Republicans will point out that there are able bodied Americans drawing social security disability benefits who could be working. And look at Medicaid excesses associated with the Affordable Care Act. And, with their faces now reddened, Republicans will bluster about spending in all sorts of other areas. Surely, cutting wasted money can be made.

Maybe. The problem usually boils down to which programs are viewed as wasted spending and what justification makes those expenditures “wasted”.

For example, Republicans have attacked the Affordable Care Act (train wreck, a jobs disaster) even though there were some 20 million more Americans insured with Obamacare than before. And, what have Republicans offered? Their best proposals offer less coverage and insure 10-15 million fewer Americans.

So, when it comes time to submit “post tax cut” Federal Budgets, what makes anyone think Republicans won’t feel that reducing programs which benefit all but the rich will be perfect targets?

The theme which comes up time and again is that there are no free lunches. Republicans are breathlessly trying to sell this tax code change as great for the middle class and the key to unlocking our economy, and best of all, there will be no cost to average Americans.

Really?