Archive for the ‘Mitch McConnell’ 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.


When Truthful Words Mislead

November 2, 2016

“President Obama has been a disaster. He has presided over the worst economic recovery in history. Hillary Clinton means more of the same for another 4 years.” So, elect Republicans, including Donald Trump in order to elect real change”. Hmmm.

Do these words sound familiar? They should. The first paragraph represents one of the primary campaign threads the GOP is using. But do these words represents truthful statements?

Surprisingly, the answer is yes, these words are truthful. They simply, however, are misleading and not relevant.

First, one has to recall that it was during the last Republican Administration (2000 to 2008) when large tax cuts (promised by Replicants if elected in 2016) were introduced and subsequently (1) the Federal Budget went from an annual surplus to an annual deficit, and after 7 lack luster years of uneven growth (under “W”), (2) the country’s economic growth crashed into a severe recession (approaching the depths of a depression).

Second, the recession was not limited to the US economy. Rather, the broken US bubble dragged most of the rest of the world (including China) into similar recessions. Those countries which responded with “stimulus” policies, stabilized and then experienced economic growth, and those which chose austerity, saw contraction or at best anemic growth.

Third, the average GDP growth rate for George W Bush’s 8 years was 1.8% ending in the largest economic contraction since the 1929 crash. During President Obama’s Administration, GDP growth has averaged about 1.8% with no period over 3%. Rather than feast and bust GDP growth, Obama years have been marked but steady but unspectacular growth. More importantly, one must realize that the GOP controlled Congress resisted all of President Obama’s calls for stimulus from 2010 until now. With a world report card visible to everyone, blaming the lower level of GDP growth on President Obama is grossly misleading.

Ironically, the steady but slow GDP growth might just as easily be seen as a sign of the US economy’s inherent economic strength, which without stimulus is still one of the best in the world. The push-pull Congressional-Presidential relationship is currently not suited for a comprehensive domestic growth policy.

President Obama’s presidency has experienced its share of setbacks, many self inflicted. Truthful but clearly misleading statements, however, do no one a service. Republican leaders know the difference and have intentionally created “truthful but misleading” statements for the purpose of distracting voters and convincing them to expect better results than are likely.

Truthful but misleading is not a Donald Trump phenomena. Trump prefers overtly untruthful and misleading statements since they require less time to think up. People, however, like Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell both know better and occupy leadership positions where Americans have been conditioned to expect “non-misleading” statements. Both elected officials occupy key Congressional positions and Ryan is second in line to succeed the President should it be necessary.  They know better but are content not to do better.


They Still Don’t Get It

June 15, 2016

The GOP leadership along with a dozen or so “at risk” Republican Senators had a very bad week, especially since the shootings in Orlando. While many GOP “big wigs” have squirmed on how to distance themselves from their support of Donald Trump, the majority of Republican leaders have not hinted that the Republican Party has a basic disconnect with the majority of Americans.

So many Republicans are on record supporting, with no exceptions, the NRA “on controls on guns” that avoiding some blame for the 49 Orlando dead takes a linguistic virtuoso. Expressing sympathy much less empathy for the dead gays who were at the Pulse bar last Saturday is even harder. And finding ways to side step Donald Trump’s patently un-American proposal to ban all Muslims from America has exposed many GOP candidates to the hint that they may not be so tough on terrorist, an apparent “no-no” in the Republican ranks.  Voters are seeing this too.

Mitch McConnell’s admonition, “stay on message” apparently wasn’t received by Trump, or at least understood for what it really means. McConnell was attempting to tell Trump, “believe what you will but say only what is written on paper”.

When Trump went off reservation this weekend attacking Hillary Clinton and President Obama for not saying the words “radical Islam”, Trump drew the spotlight away from the economy (read jobs) or any of the pet GOP policies like tax cuts (for the wealthy), religious freedom (legal discrimination against gays and women), and the Supreme Court (appointing conservative nominees).

As time is progressing, voters are beginning to understand the consequences a GOP Presidency will bring, even well beyond the fitness a Donald Trump might be as President.

With over 4 months until the November elections, there is plenty of time for a anti-GOP landslide to form. Not only will Trump be defeated but it is becoming more likely there will be huge GOP Congressional losses too.

When Small Thinkers Lead The GOP

June 6, 2016

Over the weekend, presumptive GOP Presidential candidate Donald Trump stirred up another hornets nest. Trump called for Judge Gonzalo Curriel, who is presiding over the “Trump University” fraud trial, to recuse himself. Asked why, Trump said because he was Mexican and with Trump’s promises to build a wall between the US and Mexico, Trump felt the Judge was not being “fair”. Hmmm.

Defendants call for Judges to recuse themselves all the time. So what’s the big deal?

Most defendants call for recusals within the trappings of courts and legal procedures, not the spotlight of television interviews. But, the choice of venues is not the main issue.

Trump’s already well established prejudices against Mexicans (and probably Hispanics in general) and Muslims make his statements against Judge Curriel not news. Trump was just being Trump.

The real news is the spotlight which is now showing how small and “not ready for prime time” that GOP House and Senate leaders really are.

Senate Leader Mitch McConnell is narrowly focused upon maintaining GOP control of the Senate and will make whatever deals and concessions necessary to build large enough coalition of loyal voting Republicans. As a consequence, the GOP is willing to panders to a diverse collections of factions and themes, like the NRA (guns without restrictions), evangelicals (forcing their views on others), tax cuts (which benefit the wealthy who do not need the cuts), neoconservatives (who brought us the Iraq invasion and occupation), and privatization of Social Security and Medicare (safety net for senior citizens).

House Speaker Paul Ryan while less obvious in his deference to these groups, never the less has found it necessary to also pander albeit in a more thoughtful way. Ryan speaks of building a strong economy but proposes solutions, including repealing Obamacare, which could devastate the most vulnerable while rewarding those best off.

For McConnell and Ryan, their legislative agendas should be enough to mortally wound the GOP Presidential standard bearer. The refusal to allow the Senate to act upon President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee was just another manifestation of a Party totally adrift from custom, the Constitution, or the best interests of the majority of Americans. It’s all about now.   Hmmm.

Following months of rejecting the Trump candidacy (in favor of some other candidate representing some minority faction within the GOP), McConnell and Ryan have both endorsed Trump and vow to support his election as President. In doing so, McConnell and Ryan have made clear that they are not about thoughtful governance. Instead they are about expedience and letting the future take care of itself. For the average American, this should be a lonely message.

Trump has placed both McConnell and Ryan in a difficult position.  Regardless of what they really think, both have made calculations that unless Trump does well in the general election, the GOP will do poorly in general.

Trump has found little value in pandering to each of the GOP minority factions and has delighted in antagonizing Hispanics, Muslims and women. When McConnell and Ryan announced their Trump endorsement, over arching principles, what little of them existed, went out with the bathwater.

Most analysts have observed that the success of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump signal a desire by a large and growing segment of Americans to see government do more about income inequality (more better paying jobs). The 2008 and 2012 GOP Platforms could not be more out of step with US demographics and only fantasy towards narrowing income inequality. Sweeping Platform changes are sorely needed for the 2016 Platform but it appears it will be same old, same old.

I guess that’s what you get with small thinkers.

And Now There Are 80

April 18, 2016

The Department of Defense has announced the return to two Yemeni “detainees” to Saudi Arabia from the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility. With their release, Guantanamo headcount drops 80. This number includes another 23 who have been cleared for release pending completion of the nitty gritty such as which country will actually receive them. Hmmm, 57 in a prison with a capacity for upwards of 700.

Anyone who worries about the foibles of big government need look no further than the fiasco of Guantanamo. Originally establish to house and process al Qaeda members and sympathizers, the Guantanamo detention facility vacuumed up a motley collection of nasty terrorists, questionable persons guilty of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and a healthy dose of totally innocent souls turned in for the promised ransom payment.

Once housed in Guantanamo, the unfortunate detainees and the US authorities began to realize there was no recognized legal procedure to process the detainees.

So if anyone is wondering how so many Americans can be Donald Trump supporters, Guantanamo is one reason. Congress, read the GOP leadership, has made keeping Guantanamo operating when any security or business analysis leads one to closing it and transferring the remaining inmates to super max prisons State side. Why?

The reason given (said with a straight face) is “to protect” Americans. Guantanamo is full of “crazy bastards” who are bent on killing us, Lindsay Graham says. You are immediately struck with the question “does he really believe that” or is this just another political smoke screen?

Bringing the Guantanamo detainees to US prisons would probably open the possibility of civil rights court actions since these prisoners have not been charged (a Constitutional guarantee for a speedy trial). And for most there is a reasonable chance they would be released.

But there is a bigger recognition that is being overlooked. There is no shortage of terrorists or persons willing to attack Americans and American interests around the world. No one should ever allege that the Guantanamo detainees are the worst of the worst. What about all those ISIS thugs who decapitated their prisoners? Are they somehow a grade less on the scale of worst of the worst.

Closing Guantanamo makes sense from a financial position, from a consistency with our laws and traditions, and demonstrating that Republicans and Democrats can make worthwhile decisions together.

The Republican intransigence is just one more proof to Trump supporters (and many others) that the GOP can’t govern.

Trump Versus Clinton?

March 16, 2016

Yesterday’s primaries in Florida, Ohio, Illinois, North Carolina, and Missouri may have revealed the Democrat and Republican standard bearers for the November general election. Based upon stronger than forecasted performances, it looks like it will be Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Two New Yorkers, two centrists (most issues), and two candidates who will have to overcome large negative approval numbers. Hmmm.

Clinton’s candidacy has attracted  a broad coalition of Democrats and Independents and most importantly large pluralities among ethnic and racial minority groups.

Trump, now being called a “populist”, has attracted a loyal following who find the rest of the Republican Party (and Hillary too) simply lacking in skills, interest, or motivation to implement policies that will improve their lot in life. Trump’s supporters and potential supporters can be found in both parties, largely but not exclusively with blue collar workers.

There remains the possibility that either or both Trump and Clinton might not receive their party’s nomination, but after yesterday’s primaries, the odds favor their success.

  • Here’s some events to look for:
  • Clinton and Sanders will campaign together with indications Sanders would have input into a Clinton Administration.
  • Conservatives are absolutely perplexed. They are appalled at Trump and do not trust his conservative credentials. Even worse, conservatives are apoplectic about Hillary and feel a certain rage about her getting the upper hand. As a consequence, many republicans won’t vote.
  • Trump will go into overdrive to steer the campaign conversation to Hillary’s character and trustworthiness. His scorched-earth approach will harden his “unfavorables” and deepen social conservative unease.
  • Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell will be sorely tested. While both are accomplished politicians and more than able to endorse Trump while privately disgusted, they face the problem of what type of a platform to support, a standard fiscal and social conservative one, or one that is more silent on social issues.
  • Trump will need some magic with Hispanic voters. His double downed positions on deporting the 12 million or so undocumented immigrants, while philosophically consistent with an anti-immigrant policy is totally impractical to image how deportation could happen. Unless he backs away from this extreme position (which appeals mainly to ultra-conservatives who won’t vote for him anyways), his chance of gaining Hispanic voters is a pipe dream.
  • The FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email server will most likely end with a cloud of uncertainty. The FBI may go silent and the Justice Department, through authorized leaks, will say it has long been policy to remain “non-partisan” during major elections. If Hillary is elected, the Justice Department will permanently end the investigation and if she loses, the Justice Department will end it because there is no further interest in stopping her candidacy.
  • Thanks to Mitch McConnell and his refusal to consider a Supreme Court nominee, there will be a growing number of Congress members whose seats are at risk if Democrat victory appears likely. Voter adverse reaction will not be limited to Congressional candidates. Look for Trump to speak out and urge Republicans to cease being obstructionists. Trump will act this way in an attempt to build an image of consensus builder.
  • At he end of this Presidential campaign, expect a sizable number of Tea Party and Conservatives to announce the formation of a new Party. The new party will openly hold the rest of the Republican Party hostage seeking full control, The rump Republican Party will seek Independents to join, and Congressional control will lie in whether they are successful.

I wonder whether this speculation will be enough to keep the 7/24 news media busy?

Democracy At Work

February 14, 2016

A classic lesson on whether a nations or group of people are ready for a democratic form of government can be found in Egypt’s recent past. Former President Hosni Mubarak was turned out of office following Egypt’s Arab Spring. The US Government had just issued calls for Egypt to embrace democratic reforms. An election followed.

A “free and open” election led to the Muslim Brotherhood narrowly gaining a majority in parliament and Mohamed Morsi elected President. The dust had hardly settled before Morsi announced there would be a new Constitution written. As you might easily guess, the new Constitution would enshrine most of the Muslim Brotherhood’s beliefs and greatly restrict the rights of others. Hmmm.

Over two hundred years ago, Americas founding fathers struggled with similar problems. How could a nation have democracy and still provide a home for people of differing views. In a strict democracy, majority rules. With one more vote than the opposition, a new law applies to everyone. Hmmm.

Our founding fathers mulled this quandary and decided that our Government should contain checks and balances on each branch of government (executive, legislature, and judiciary), and extra protections for minority views.  While one vote majority must be observed if there is to be a democracy, a process where minority views are heard and respected (Bill of Rights) was necessary.

The Federal Judiciary was a critical part of this protection. Justices in the Federal Court system were to be appointed by the executive and confirmed by Congress. Confirmation has traditionally been based upon competency, experience, and independence of views. Republican Presidents appointed Republican jurists while Democrat Presidents appointed Democrats.

For most matters which come before Federal Courts, the matter of law can be seen from a conservative or a progressive viewpoint. More interestingly, most matters are decided by a plurality of the court with no indication of Democrat or Republican affiliation.

For the Supreme Court, the appointment process begins with a Presidential nomination. Law associations including major universities and the ABA issue opinions on the qualifications and readiness of the appointee to serve. The Senate Judiciary Committee reviews the available information and holds hearings to further vet the appointee. Finally the committee issues and opinion and the whole Senate votes.

Over the years there have been controversial nominees and some nominees have withdrawn their names during the confirmation process. A few have been rejected by the Senate for specific reasons. Most, however, have been confirmed regardless of whether the Congress is of the same party as the President.

Justice Antonin Scalia died over the weekend. Before his body was even cold, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and most all the GOP Presidential Primary Candidates all issued statements rejecting President Obama’s (Constitutional) right to nominate a replacement Justice. Hmmm.

These are all individuals who incessantly call for this or that to be rejected because the law or regulation was not “constitutional”. These individuals regularly complain that President Obama has overreached his “Constitutional Authority”. But at this time, with almost one full year remaining in President Obama’s term, most of the GOP want to ignore his right to nominate and Congress’ duty to confirm.

America has long practiced a special form of democracy. Inherent in America’s take was an unwritten principle of “fairness” and “playing by the rules ( based upon past practices)”. No one should argue that past practices cannot change, times change and so must our government practices evolve.  Change, however, should not have the smell of “unfairness”.

The Muslim Brotherhood sought to use a narrow majority to completely change the rules denying all sorts of rights to the minority. In a way, the GOP is doing the same if it follows through with its threats on appointing a Scalia replacement.