Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

A Wake-Up Call for Students

Guest Author: Alan Collinge, StudentLoanJustice.Org,Both Alan and I have written various posts on the student loan crisis. Alan has been featured on Angry Bear Blog from time to time.

If you are in college and looking for something worthy to fight for today; as a student, you should consider the student loan issue. Student loans and how they are administered are the national injustice of our time reaching threatening proportions and impacting the livelihood of young adults going forward. While at first glance, the problem appears complicated, confusing, and overwhelming; it is actually quite simple and its debt genesis hearkens back to the creation of this country. This problem transcends partisan and cultural divides and could serve to bring together those on the left and right on campus.

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and others were in debt up to their eyeballs to British banks and merchants. They came to understand how a lending system could be used against the citizens. Of course it was not just the Founders who were being exploited, many early settlers were indebted to English banks as well. John Adams famously remarked;

“There are two ways to enslave and conquer a country. One is by the sword. The other is by debt”

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When the Founders created the Constitution, they made it a point to reflect on bankruptcy rights prominently. Few people realize that a uniform bankruptcy system is called for before the power to raise an army or a navy, ahead of the power to coin currency, and even ahead of the power to declare war in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution.
Obviously, bankruptcy rights were very important to these men.

Free men are not forced into any type of behavior by the government that We The People established and ordained. The government is to serve the people – not to force them into servitude and obedience. The people are sovereign, as the people came before the government and the Constitution that gave rise to the government.

Adam Smith, the founder of free market economics provided the basis for western economic theory, was compelled to advocate for bankruptcy protection as a means to encourage entrepreneurship, risk taking, and also a means to compel good faith in a lending relationship.

When an individual or firm goes bankrupt, a legal process is instigated to discharge debts that cannot be repaid. In former times such debtors might have been put into a debtors’ prison and languished there for years. The process weighs assets against liabilities and allows the debts to be discharged at some fraction of their nominal value, leaving the debtor free of the burden, albeit subject to rules of financial behaviour and with a blemish on their credit record which can last for years.

Student loans violate longstanding economic principles and as such the beliefs of the Founders. Today, Congress has placed conditions on student loan bankruptcy so severe; that of 169,000 people with student loans who filed for bankruptcy in 2014, fewer than 20 received relief. When our legislators first restricted the right to student loan bankruptcy in the 70’s, some members warned that such a move had dire constitutional implications, but their concerns went unheeded. As one University of Connecticut expert Philip Schuhman testified to Congress:

” students should not be singled out for special and discriminatory treatment. I have the further very literal feeling that this is almost a denial of their right to equal protection of the law. Nor do I think any evidence has been presented that these people, these young people just beginning their years on the whole should be singled out for special, and as I view it, discriminatory treatment. I suggest to you that this may at least in spirit be a denial of their right to equal protection with the virtual pole star of our constitutional ambit.”

Today, student loans are the only type of loan in this country from which bankruptcy rights have been removed leading to consequences so severe as to result in a form of peonage. Despite peonage being made illegal after the civil war in 1867, it still flourished in the form of sharecropping with former slaves and poor farmers farming plots of land owned by others. Sharecroppers supposedly received a percentage of the profits from sale of grown crops. The sharecroppers were forced to take out relatively large loans just to get by and meet daily expenses, buy seed, rent land, and pay the interest rates imposed on them by landlords.

Also in the past African Americans could be accused of falsely owing money or trivial sums, given sham trials and quickly sold off by the courts into a privatized system of debt slavery to pay back debt. The peonage contracts contained enslaving terms and conditions, allowing the employer to trade, confine, whip and beat workers as long as the debt was deemed unpaid, which could practically last forever.

While not as severe as peonage, students in default are denied access to federal programs and unemployment benefits. Social Security and employment wages can be garnished leading to diminished lifetime earnings and poverty. All of these conditions have a severe impact upon the overall economy as younger workers do not achieve their full earning potential.

The student loan industry is willfully predatory and profitable for the banks who lobbied intensely for the removal of bankruptcy protections and work hard to keep their monetary advantage. As Mr. Potter would say; “The bank always get paid” and this comes no matter what the terms or conditions of the loan are.

(run75441) In my own discussion with a former University of Michigan lobbyist who was regaling me after I dared to make a statement to Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow about what her stance and actions were with regard to student loans. “There is IBR and Repaye which are programs allowing payment back on student loans based upon income.” These programs are mostly failing because of one rule requiring the yearly application to the program rather than an automatic re-up into the program. The re-up is required to report income a factor which is automatically done for Medicare via computer systems. The manual yearly application for the programs was bound to be a failure just by this alone.

It was not just the banks cashing in on the removal of consumer protections. In 2012, the federal government booked over $50 billion in profit on the lending system and this has increased in more recent years. What is disturbing is White House Budget data showing a profit being made on defaults. Think about this: where a credit card company is thrilled to get back a dime on the dollar for their defaulted accounts; the federal government is actually getting back more than a dollar in return. This is a defining hallmark of a predatory lending system and unfortunately for the students, the Department of Education sits on top of it all doing everything it can to perpetuate this situation. Department of Education lawyers fight tooth-and-nail behind the scenes to deny legitimate bankruptcy. This form of government enforced peonage spans many presidents and Congresses and both political parties going back to the seventies.

In 1998, when Congress made bankruptcy permanently unavailable for the overwhelming majority of borrowers, the nation owed roughly $100 Billion in student loans. Today that has exploded to $1.5 Trillion. By the end of this year, nearly one in four borrowers will have defaulted on their loans. People’s lives are being devastated. Families are being torn apart, particularly where cosigners are put on the hook for their kid’s exploded loans. People are fleeing the country, and some are even committing suicide as a result of their student loan debt.

If you think you don’t need to worry because there are forgiveness programs in place, you are wrong. With 57% already kicked out of them income based repayment programs are failing misrably. Assuming the programs are not ended by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, I estimate only 10% will be successful and have their loans forgiven and still potentially taxed as income. The rest will be disqualified from the program and left owing far more than when they graduated.

Alan Collinge is the Founder of Student Loan Justice Org and author of “The Student Loan Scam” (Beacon Press).

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New State Laws Passed in California

Election Tax Returns

In an effort to force our present president when running for re-election and future presidential candidates to release income tax returns, California passed SB249 Disclose Act. California became the first state to require presidential candidates to release their tax returns in order to appear on the state ballot.

Lawmakers sent Gov. Jerry Brown AB249 Friday requiring candidates to publicly share five years of returns.

This comes after President Trump’s refused to release his tax returns during the 2016 campaign. His actions sparked similar legislation in dozens of other states. The documents reveal income sources, tax exemptions, charitable donations and potential financial conflicts of interest.

Until Trump, every major presidential candidates has released their returns for decades.

Criminal Background Checks

In new legislation, California employers could not initially ask during the interview process if potential employees have a criminal history. AB1008 Employment Discrimination: Conviction History bill was sent to Gov. Jerry Brown. The California Assembly on Friday gave final approval to a bill that supporters say would mean more ex-felons could get jobs and stay out of trouble.

Democratic Assemblyman Kevin McCarty of Sacramento says AB1008 would allow employers to ask about criminal histories later in the process. It requires businesses with five or more employees to inquire into and consider convictions only after the applicant has received a conditional job offer.

California joins nine other states with similar restrictions on asking about criminal history. There was no spoken opposition as the Assembly agreed with Senate restrictions on a 41-25 vote.

Campaign Advertising

California voters would know more about who’s paying for campaign advertising under AB249 just sent to Gov. Jerry Brown. AB 249 California Disclose Act requires ballot measure and independent expenditure committees to display the names of the top three donors.

AB249 also requires a clear disclosure of donors behind campaign committees having misleading names. The California Clean Money Campaign sponsoring the legislation said: “no other state disclosure laws reveals to voters more information about donors who increasingly hide behind a series of bland sounding political committees and groups to remove any identity of their contributions supporting candidates or new laws.”

Supporters say the bill will help voters make better decisions based on greater information.

Republicans say the bill should require labor unions to disclose individual members who contribute. Only the union would be listed under the bill and not its members.

The Assembly gave final approval on a 55-12 vote.

State Sanctuary Bill

California approved SB54 California Values Act, a “sanctuary state” bill Saturday that would limit how local and state police can interact with federal immigration agents. The bill is intended to provide more immigrant protections in the state which are already among the toughest in the nation.

It will now be considered by Gov. Jerry Brown, who announced his support after the top state Senate leader agreed to water down the bill and preserve authority for jail and prison officials to cooperate with immigration officers in many cases.

It looks like some states are doing something to counter big money, Republican values, and Trump.

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Trump Cutting Deals with Democrats

In Cutting Deals With Trump, Are Democrats Walking Into a Trap?

Over the weekend the mainstream press published a flurry of articles about Donald Trump, the pragmatic independent outsider who has no loyalty to any party and will work with anyone to Get Things Done. This excited reaction was in response to the president’s agreement to raise the debt ceiling and fund disaster relief with the help of Democrats. But that’s nothing compared to the delirium that broke out after he had dinner with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer on Wednesday night and the Democrats announced that they had reached agreement to legalize the Dreamers without funding his Big Beautiful Wall.

That would be a big win for the good guys, to be sure. Of course, when it comes to Trump, trusting him on a handshake has rarely turned out to be a wise decision for anyone, so we’ll have to see. Heather Digby Parton

Dan, picked this up on Truthout and sent it to me. Guess I am not the only one who likes to check-out the horse’s mouth for the truth.

Everyday which goes by secures healthcare in the US even though Trump and Repubs have threatened the CSRs and had previously blocked the Risk Corridor Program causing premiums to increase, insurance companies to leave the exchanges, and Coops to go bankrupt. Their actions confuses people as they see premiums increase and believe it is because of the ACA. The increase is still compensated for by an increased subsidy to cover the premium increase. This part is not mentioned and people blame the ACA, which is the objective of Republicans and Trump. Even so and at particular cost risk is the individuals market with those making >400% FPL who are not covered by any subsidy.

A flurry of activity by Republicans could still endanger The ACA using Reconciliation requiring 51 votes. McCain is in on the Graham – Cassidy bill.

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Republicans Think They Can Pull It Off with the ACA and the Budget

On September 7, I pointed out Republicans are preparing Another Assault on the PPACA/ACA in 2017. Republican senators Lindsey Graham S.C. and Bill Cassidy LA are making a last stand in an effort to repeal and replace the ACA by “proposing legislation doing away with many of the subsidies and mandates of the 2010 law. Instead, the Graham – Cassidy Bill would provide block grants to the states to help individuals pay for health coverage.

Graham taking it out of context what Obama said on keeping company healthcare insurance, rolls out his own version of the same except it is mocking Obama. “You can keep the ACA;” however, Republican legislation would make it virtually impossible for dozens of states to continue operating Obamacare without large amounts of state funding. In the short term, the law is designed to penalize states who embraced the ACA and reward states not expanding Medicaid. The legislation stops all of the ACA by repealing the subsidies and substituting their own budgetary subsidies as required under Reconciliation. As Slate’s Jordan Weissmann says, “it’s a bit like walking into somebody’s house, lighting the whole ground floor on fire and telling them, Hey, you can keep living here — if you like it.” It is political revenge being vent on constituents the same as Republicans blocking the Risk Corridor Programs and Trump’s threats to block CSR subsidies applied to premiums by healthcare insurance companies. Some detail on the Republican plan and the impact:

• The new plan favors poorer, older, and less populated parts of the country utilizing its own formula for block grants instead of using the ACA formula to fund the grants. The Graham – Cassidy plan shifts spending to the large states which expanded Medicaid (California and New York) to less populated states refusing to expand Medicaid (Mississippi and Alabama). Some non-expansion states like North Carolina and Florida would also will see less funding as much of the population benefited from premium subsidies. As a whole, the Republican Graham-Cassidy plan punishes states getting more of their residents insured through the ACA.

• The 2% inflation planned increases of block grants would be far less than the inflationary cost of healthcare or insurance. The impact either leaves states to back fill or constituents to make up the difference. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities states the block grants would result in a 34 percent spending cut in comparison to the ACA by 2026. Nine states; California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and Virginia would see their federal health-care funding cut in half under the block grant system when compared to the funding received from Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion and increased subsidy spending.

• Graham – Cassidy also implements a capita cap which cuts Medicaid expansion state funding by $180 billion over 10 years. The resulting cuts would increase each year reaching $41 billion annually by 2026. A 9 percent cut to total federal Medicaid spending for seniors, people with disabilities, families with children, and other adults (outside of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion) comes into play by 2026. The per capita spending cuts are expected to grow from a 26% cut to Medicaid funding in 2026 to 35% in 2036 according to CBO calculations.

• States will may also be able to eliminate such benefits as maternity and mental healthcare from their plans, impose annual and lifetime limits, and dramatically raise deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs. According to the CBO, states having approximately 50% of the population would take up these damaging waivers. As if this is not enough, Graham and Cassidy are also considering the “Cruz amendment,” which allows insurers to sharply increase premiums to people with pre-existing conditions or deny them coverage altogether. Now whether or not these addition benefit eliminations are budget related and qualify under Reconciliation is something I would wonder about as they do not appear to be budget related.

There is enough time for Republicans to change the ACA and also achieve a new budget going in 2018 (October 1) with Reconciliation instructions for Tax Reform. The Republicans might burn some midnight oil and have short weekends; but, it can be done if they wish to further deny President Obama a legacy and support Trump’s skewed views on race and Obama.

As far as McCain? “Sen. John McCain told the Hill on September 6th, he would support a plan offered by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) to repeal the Affordable Care Act. And McCain later released a statement clarifying his support for the bill in concept, but hasn’t seen a final product.

“While I support the concept of the Graham-Cassidy proposal, I want to see the final legislation and understand its impact on the state of Arizona before taking a position,”

As far as Pelosi and Schumer offering up a solution to the national debt and making it easy for Trump to offer hurricane Harvey Relief. The Democrat relief gesture was humane; however, McConnell says he has a counter measure to the maneuver by Democrats to renegotiate the National Debt in December. Republicans are planning to stick it to Democrats and “all” constituents with a repeal of the ACA and by killing a large percentage of the subsidies. In the end if the repeal does happen, Pelosi and Schumer’s kind hearted display of bi-partisanship will be recognized as the dumbest move Democrats have ever made. They should have waited a week or so to extend the help.

Dan’s comment in an email: “We will see soon enough…I hope you are not prescient.” I hope I am wrong. It is too close to call.

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The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, Uglier, etc. News

The Good: Miami Florida Mayor Tomas Regalado Wants to Discuss Climate Change:

To Donald Trump, “’This is the time to talk about climate change. This is the time that the president and the [Environmental Protection Agency] and whoever makes decision needs to talk about climate change,’ Regalado told the Miami Herald. ‘This is a truly, truly poster child for what is to come.’

‘I don’t want to be political, but the fact of the matter is that this is a lesson that we need protection from nature,’ he added. ‘So, I think this is a lesson for the people to say you know what? We have to be prepared.’”

At the state level, Florida Department of Environmental Protection employees were forbidden form using or discussing the terms “climate change or global warming” as reported in the Miami Herald in 2015. The unofficial policy was put in place when Governor Rick Scott took office in 2011. Scott is not convinced climate changed is caused by human activity.

The Bad: EPA Head Scott Pruitt to CNN, “Not Now”

I guess discussing climate change while hurricane Irma rips through Caribbean islands on its way to Florida is “‘very, very insensitive’ to Floridians.

‘Here’s the issue, to have any kind of focus on the cause and effect of the storm; versus helping people, or actually facing the effect of the storm, is misplaced’ according to Pruitt.

‘[T]o discuss the cause and effect of these storms, there’s the… place (and time) to do that, and it’s not now,’” EPA’s Scott Pruitt said.

The same nonsensical reasoning we hear about gun control except for being a different topic. Republicans never want to discuss what may be the root causes at the time of occurrence as they fear the response. Their real reasoning might be construed as Republicans not giving a damn.

The Ugly: Rush Abandons Palm Beach home after Down Playing Irma

Claiming the danger of hurricane Irma was a giant conspiracy, Conservative Republican Mouthpiece Rush Limbaugh abandons his home in Palm Beach.

As the Go-To Guy on hurricane advice and not a meteorologist, Rush expounds on the fallacies of climate change. “’Because you have people in all of these government areas who believe man is causing climate change, and they’re hell-bent on proving it, they’re hell-bent on demonstrating it, they’re hell-bent on persuading people of it,’

He added later: ‘Another thing I’ve found, folks, these storms, once they actually hit, are never as strong as they’re reported.’

Rush says he will be broadcasting his show as normal. ‘My point to you is, folks, that even though we are all here, we at the EIB Network are all in the crosshairs, we have that bull’s-eye painted, we’re going to be devoted the usual 125% of this program to you.’”

Rush’s hurricane show promoted as an “epic battle between two big winds,” three days later, Rush abandoned his home post for places unknown (security reasons as the hurricane might follow him) stating he would take up broadcasting his show later.

Uglier: GOP is Mad Trump Struck a Deal for Hurricane Relief

President Donald Trump ignored seething Republicans and made good on his deal with Democrats, signing legislation that links $15.3 billion in disaster aid to an increase in the U.S. borrowing limit.

The law is a first installment in replenishing depleted federal emergency coffers. Trump signed it Friday as Hurricane Irma approached Florida and as Texas picks up the pieces after the devastation of Harvey. All 90 votes in opposition were cast by Republicans, some of whom hissed and booed administration officials who went to Capitol Hill to defend the package.

Conservative Republicans were upset that Trump cut the disaster-and-debt deal with Democratic leaders with no offsetting budget cuts.”

No turning over a new leaf here either. GOP Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina complained of increasing debt. I wonder how he would feel if Irma went up the east coast rather than the west coast of Florida?

The Ugliest: God Did It!

Never mind pollution being the culprit in causing environmental issues and a warming of the earth. “’God sent the incredibly destructive and devastating Hurricane’s Harvey and Irma as divine punishment for our collective sins and to teach us ‘humility’” according to Kirk Cameron.

The Fake News or Alternative Facts Version: Tucker Carlson Reporting

“The analysis, conducted by Media Matters, shows that hosts and guests on Fox News and InfoWars propagated thinly-veiled stories about looters in Houston despite the city’s police department itself stating that “looting [was] almost non existent” during Harvey. The city reported 14 arrests on August 30 — a low number, the analysis notes, for a metropolitan area of more than six million people.

Nevertheless, Fox News pundit Tucker Carlson had Republican congressional candidate Dan Bongino, a former police officer, on his show on August 30 to discuss the issue.

The Dumb: Sorry, I had to Include this One!

Two conservative House Republicans from North Carolina (the capitol of redistricting and gerrymandering) signed a brief asking for the end of political gerrymandering. They now say they signed the amicus brief by accident. The Raleigh News and Observer reported on Friday.

Republican Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), both conservative House members, signed a high-profile amicus brief for a Supreme Court case out of Wisconsin, urging the court to rule against gerrymandering.”

It was all a misunderstanding according to their staff!

Good Night!

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Another Assault on the PPACA/ACA Coming in 2017

The Present

If you thought it was over, it is not. Now that Schumer/Pelosi have removed the debt limit issue in front of Republicans with a Trump agreement, one more impediment to assaulting healthcare has been cleared away. John, I have cancer and have healthcare, McCain has come out to support a bill proposed by Senators Lindsay Graham and Bill Cassidy to repeal Obamacare. Maybe Trump knew and maybe he did not know; but, he did a nice pivot with Schumer and Pelosi with Ryan and McConnell shocked by his abandonment of Republican partisan values. A good friend of Graham, John McCain, who has a guarantee of healthcare anyway he wants it through federal government insurance or the VA, has thrown his support to Graham on healthcare.

The Graham-Cassidy legislation would essentially dismantle much of Obamacare’s federal infrastructure, turning over federal dollars to the states to do with what they wish, though that flexibility at the state level would come at a sharp cost. Judith Solomon, vice president for health policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, told Politico on August 1 that she estimated it would result in 16 percent less federal spending in 2020 versus the Obamacare status quo’s spending on Medicaid expansion and market subsidies.

The Recent Heroics

Who can forget the noble, cancerous Senator from Arizona with a scar above his left eye marching into the Senate to make a deciding vote? Such bravado . . . Unfortunately, it was all about getting even with Trump and supposedly Senate Order for McCain.

“We don’t answer to Trump no matter how much he stomps his foot. We answer to the American people regardless of how much our decisions will impact them. We must be diligent in discharging our responsibility to serve as a check on his power and screw them in our own way. And we should value our identity as members of Congress more than our partisan affiliation.”

That last sentence is priceless. Value your identity as a senator, a step above the citizenry so we do not engage in partisan affiliation. The Republican persona has been about party affiliation “uber alles.” Amongst themselves the Republicans are split along partisan lines and no longer represent the citizenry they lay claim too. McCain is about using a proper order in screwing the constituents in favor of partisanship.

Some History and Procedure

It was Aaron Burr in 1806 who recommended “the Previous Question” Motion (call for a vote or end debate) be discontinued as senators were gentlemen and knew when to end debate and when to move on to the next question. The motion was rarely used. Of course, that was then and today is today. So what happened? The “Previous Question” motion was eliminated and being gentlemen in the Senate without party affiliation died with it as the age of the filibuster came to be. This is want McCain alludes to in his Senate Order comment. It is so far in the Senate past an few senators would understand Aaron Burr’s comment.

Under today’s rule, the Republicans will have to repeal portions of the ACA using Reconciliation; which requires a majority of 51 votes, can only impact budgeting, and not create a deficit 10 years out (think the sunset of the 2001/2003 tax breaks). Unless there is a special session called by Ryan, the House is in session for 12 days in September and this year’s budget ends this month. There can only be one Reconciliation per budget year.

Pessimism

Trump seized the moment to solve the potential debt limit crisis approaching EOM September. It also appears he has resolved some other issues politically with the support of the Democrats and has moved one step closer to his goals of killing the ACA and Tax Reform. The issues remaining on the table are:

1. Revising the ACA in 2017 before EOM September using Reconciliation.
2. Create a 2018 Budget with Reconciliation Rules for Tax Reform.
3. 12 congressional days to accomplish these two tasks.

Democrats gave up an impediment to Republicans, the passage of the debt limit, too early in the remainder of the 2017 budget year. McCain is on board for revising the ACA, the ultra conservatives will support it as it has block grants to states, and it will create the budget surpluses needed to do tax reform. To get Tax Reform in 2018, they need surpluses, which the revision of the ACA will provide and a new budget with Reconciliation Rules.

Can Republicans get both of these tems accomplished in 12 days? I am sure McConnell and Ryan will increase the rowing tempo of the drum this close to the goal. If Republicans pull it off, Democrats are going to look mighty dumb in helping them along.

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Whats In the News . . .

Quite a few things going on requiring some type of commentary. Trump can certainly get people going in different directions away from him. It is important to recognize these issues without losing sight of what Trump has done in stealing an election. Just a few things I have noticed in the news.

DACA

“But today, that shadow has been cast over some of our best and brightest young people once again. To target these young people is wrong – because they have done nothing wrong. It is self-defeating – because they want to start new businesses, staff our labs, serve in our military, and otherwise contribute to the country we love. And it is cruel. What if our kid’s science teacher, or our friendly neighbor turns out to be a Dreamer? Where are we supposed to send her? To a country she doesn’t know or remember, with a language she may not even speak?

Let’s be clear: the action taken today isn’t required legally. It’s a political decision, and a moral question. Whatever concerns or complaints Americans may have about immigration in general, we shouldn’t threaten the future of this group of young people who are here through no fault of their own, who pose no threat, who are not taking away anything from the rest of us. They are that pitcher on our kid’s softball team, that first responder who helps out his community after a disaster, that cadet in ROTC who wants nothing more than to wear the uniform of the country that gave him a chance. Kicking them out won’t lower the unemployment rate, or lighten anyone’s taxes, or raise anybody’s wages.” former President Barack Obama.

Some at Angry Bear fear immigrants and minorities citing commentary and statistics to support their beliefs of a threat to the nation, its economy, and citizenry. While there is a relatively small minority of immigrants who may pose such a threat, the majority of immigrants like many of our forefathers have done over the years assimilated into society.

Pack Your Bags

President Trump’s “Department of Homeland Security urges DACA recipients to use the time remaining on their work authorizations to prepare for and arrange their departure from the United States – including proactively seeking travel documentation – or to apply for other immigration benefits for which they may be eligible,”

“As I’ve said before, we (President Trump) will resolve the DACA issue with heart and compassion – but through the lawful democratic process,”

Such heart and compassion shown to a bunch of young adults and children. Maybe Trump will change his mind before some leave. I would not bet on it. If they did leave early, I am sure they would not be allowed back into the states resulting from Trump’s heart and compassion. Corpocracy at its finest . . .

Growing list of Departures

Javier Palomarez , the president and CEO of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce announced his departure from Trump’s National Diversity Council.

“As a nation of immigrants, we have a moral responsibility to support and defend ‘Dreamers,’ who arrived to this country — at the average age of six — through no fault of their own,”

His departure comes after Trump rescinded DACA.

Javier joins a group of others who have left Trump’s committees due to the administration’s stance on DACA, Charlottesville comments, Paris Accords withdrawal, increased Uber charges, etc. Daniel Kammen climate Science Envoy for the State Department, the entire Arts and Humanities Panel, Elon Musk business and manufacturing advisory, Bob Igor business and manufacturing advisory, Travis Kalanick business and manufacturing advisory, Kenneth Frazier business and manufacturing advisory, Kevin Plank business and manufacturing advisory, Brian Krzanich business and manufacturing advisory advisory, Richard Trumka business and manufacturing advisory, Inge Thulin business and manufacturing advisory, Scott Paul business business and manufacturing advisory, and Denise Morrison on the business and manufacturing advisory committees also.

Gotta be getting pretty lonesome there in the WH.

Wiretapping

“The U.S. Justice Department said it had no evidence to support the unsubstantiated claim made in March by President Donald Trump that his predecessor, Barack Obama, had ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential campaign.

There has never been any evidence to support Trump’s assertion on Twitter that “Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory,” despite continued insistence from some conservative websites and commentators.

But in a court filing late on Friday, the Justice Department added itself to the list of entities debunking the allegation.”

Easy enough, President Trump lied and the DOJ under Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions quietly confirmed it.

Wardrobes

Melania versus Michelle cost of clothes. As the article says, “See how they measure up.”

Other Things

Not much being said about Mueller investigating the Russian Connection and Trump. People are getting out-of-town in Florida and other places due to category 5 hurricane Irma. North Korea has not blown anything up yet and Trump can not use them as a distraction or an excuse to blow them up.

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Laugh at Sessions and Suddenly You Are in Federal Court?

Fairooz was detained after audibly laughing after Sen. Richard Shelby told senators at Sessions’ confirmation hearing that the then-Alabama senator had a record of “treating all Americans equally under the law.”

That is laughable as Sessions is flying under the radar having learned you can not be so overt about racism and prejudice.

Mind you, Desiree Fairooz did say something after Congressional Security start to remove her from the room. “Support civil rights, stop Sessions” and yelled “Why am I being taken out of here? This man is evil.”

Nonviolent civil disobedience is little more than a misdemeanor. For Sessions you go to Federal Court, then they ask her to plea bargain?

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Tax Cuts for the 1% Coming Out of Your 401K

If you have been in a 401K like I have over the decades, you know this has been helpful in reducing tax on your income. If you do not know this, you do now. The GOP is making eyes on your 401k contributions with the intent of removing the upfront deduction which lowers your taxable income. The GOP would like to go to a Roth type of 401k. Either way, I would be ok.

The problem I have with this idea is it is being presented as a way to help holders of a 401K today. It is not. The entire exercise here is provide enough offsetting revenue to provide a major tax cut for those making >$500,000 annually which number ~1.5 million households of the 154 million tax paying households. Why would the GOP want to do this? A tax cut would have to be passed through Reconciliation as Dems would filibuster to block it and that would require a super-majority vote (which was not the intent of the founders[that is a different story]). Reconciliation also requires no deficits be created at 10 years otherwise the act sunsets the same as the 2001/2003 tax breaks did in 2014(?).

I do not know who Prof. James Choi is; but, I do know who Andrew Biggs is as he would make appearances here to challenge Bruce Webb and Dale Coberly on Social Security. Those discussions were a great way to learn about Social Security. The points Bruce had made in support of Social Security can be found at Social Security Defender or by doing a search at Angry Bear. Andrew Biggs felt the need to privatize Social Security claiming it was bankrupt.

Both Andrew and (I assume) the Professor are in favor of the transition to Roth Accounts, taxing income before 401ks, and also in funding tax cuts for those making > $500,000. The rest of this article can be found here; The GOP is looking for ways to pay for tax cuts. Your 401(k) may bear the cost.

“Some others say removing the up-front payroll deduction on 401(k)s would not have a big effect on participation. Many savers in the plans don’t understand the differences in the tax consequences between the 401(k) and Roth-based accounts, according to one study.

James Choi, a professor of finance at the Yale School of Management who has done research on the subject:

‘The evidence suggests that there will be relatively little impact on 401(k) participation and contribution rates if we switched to a Roth-only system, in large part,’ Choi said, ‘people don’t understand how 401(k) taxation works.’

He cited one survey in which only 49 percent knew that making before-tax 401(k) contributions decreases taxable income in the year of the contribution. Only 46 percent responded that making Roth 401(k) contributions does not affect taxable income in the year of the contribution, Choi said.

One possible advantage of paying the tax up front is that you meet the obligation based on your current tax rate instead of owing based on a future rate that could be higher by the time you retire.

Andrew Biggs, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington-based think tank favoring free markets, said the biggest issue for 401(k)s is signing people up.

‘Some people may like paying upfront with the tax-free withdrawals, while others might like the tax savings today,” Biggs said. “But this isn’t as big a deal as something like automatically enrolling people in 401(k)s. That’s a major effect, while the tax treatment is more around the margins.’”

I would say an issue with 401ks is a lack of company contributions and a lack of company contributions without regard for employee contributions. It should also be a defined benefit plan and not a defined contribution plan with matching employer contribution. One other thing to consider if you have a stream of income to sustain yourself at 70-1/2 years of age. Consider rolling your 401K into a Roth to preserve the equity you gained from compounding; otherwise, you will lose much of it over the years in taxes.

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GAO Report finds Rural Postal Service Remains Essential

From time to time, Mark Jamison or myself would feature articles from the Save the Post Office blog as authored by Steve Hutkins, a literature professor who teaches “place studies” at the Gallatin School of New York University. Mark Jamison a retired Postmaster for a small town in North Carolina would often write there also. This particular post was featured in October of 2016. Where FedeEx, UPS, DHL or other services do not go, the US Postman still does play an important role in rural communities.

West Plains Daily Quill: A top watchdog study completed at the request of U.S. Senators Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, found that the Postal Service remains essential to rural communities, regardless of whether those communities have access to rural broadband services.

Senator Clair McCaskill had this to say:

“This study shows what we already know to be true—that the Postal Service remains essential to Missouri’s rural communities, regardless of their access to other technologies,” said McCaskill, a former Missouri State Auditor and senior member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Postal Service.

“There’s simply no substitute for the vital service our post offices provide— even as we continue to make important advances in rural broadband—and we’ve got to preserve and improve that service for the folks who rely on it most.”

Senator Heidi Heitkamp added to McCaskill’s comments:

“For North Dakotans in rural communities—whether they have access to high-speed internet or not —reliable mail service is a key ingredient to a successful business and staying connected,” said Heitkamp. “But too often, that high-quality service is not delivered—and that’s exactly what Senator McCaskill and I are working to improve. Today, we received the results of a Government Accountability Office study we requested which affirmed what folks in rural states have long known—that communities and businesses in rural areas depend on mail service regardless of their internet connection. By providing more clarity, we can make sure dependable mail service is prioritized in the rural communities where it is needed the most.”

The Government Accountability Office report examined the relationship between broadband access and use of the Postal Service in rural and urban communities. The report found that rural households without broadband access continue to rely on the Postal Service for more transaction and correspondence mail—and value this service for a variety of reasons, including fewer retail alternatives and a high level of trust in USPS services. The study also found that when rural households get broadband access, they do not reduce their use of the Postal Service. Read more. The GAO report Information on How Broadband Affects Postal Use and the Communications Options for Rural Residents is attached.

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