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

In case you thought Trump was imploding . . .

by New Deal democrat

In case you thought Trump was imploding . . .

For those of you who may be cocooned in the liberal blogosphere, I’m afraid I must administer a cold slap in the face.

Here is the graph of Gallup’s Economic Confidence Survey from its inception nearly 10 years ago.  Notice that spike to new highs right at the end?

Let’s zoom in for a closer look, as in the last 3 months:

Comments (17) | |

GOP Senators fight facts: won’t hear Coretta Scott King’s views of Attorney General nominee Sessions

by Linda Beale

GOP Senators fight facts: won’t hear Coretta Scott King’s views of Attorney General nominee Sessions

GOP obstructionism is back again in full form.  This time, instead of voting over and over again to eliminate affordable health care (Obamacare) for the 20 million Americans now covered by the health reform act or declaring that they will not perform their duty to even hold a committee meeting on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, they are declaring their unwillingness to listen to anything that doesn’t suit them about Trump’s band of misfits for cabinet posts.  They are, in other words, declaring themselves fit only for a world of “alternative facts” (i.e., lies) and “rose-tinted glasses” for looking at Trump nominees like Jeff Sessions.

During Black History Month, Republican Sen. McConnell squelched Democratic Sen. Warren‘s speech on Jeff Sessions and called for a roll-call vote to rebuke her under a quaint Senate rule against casting aspersions on fellow Senators for discussing Sen. Sessions’ (dis)qualifications for the office of Attorney General to which he has been nominated by the Trump administration.  What was Senator Warren’s so-called sin?  Reading portions of a letter that Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow wrote to the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1986 to oppose his nomination to be a federal judge.  See, e.g., Mitch McConnell gives Elizabeth Warren’s 2020 presidential campaign an in-kind contribution, Washington Post (Feb. 8, 2017).

This appears to be one more blatant example of the two-facedness of the Republicans in Congress.  It was fine for Republicans in the House and Senate to malign President Obama (a former member of the Senate and thus a colleague as well) by calling him names and casting aspersions on his citizenship (Trump’s invention of the so-called “birther” movement)!  But hearing what a highly respected fighter in the civil rights struggle wrote about Senator Sessions’ attempts to curtail the voting rights of Black voters through harassment and intimidation was too much for Republicans!

Comments (14) | |

Trump’s Cabinet Picks Are A Sorry Lot

Lifted from ataxingmatter from Jan 18:

by Linda Beale

Trump’s Cabinet Picks Are A Sorry Lot

As the Friday inauguration date draws near, most ordinary Americans who read, stay informed, pay attention to history and events, and engage in critical thinking are, understandably, aghast at the poor job Mr. Trump has done so far in putting together a workable Cabinet of high-level appointees with the expertise, experience and values that can lead the country.

We Americans share many values.  Among them has always been a view that those who are better off should help those who are less well off. We’ve done that in many ways, beginning with private charity (supported by our tax code) but going much beyond the soup kitchens and church support for a sick parishioner to include a progressive income tax, taxation of the estates of the wealthiest among us upon their deaths (since they were generally almost tax free in life), and the provision of many necessary services through public institutions.  The latter includes things that are important to the everyday life of all of us as well as the opportunities for better lives for those of us not born with a silver (or, in Trump’s case, golden) spoon:

  • a public right to decent health care, made real by the expectation that hospitals (whether for profit or nonprofit) will care for those who enter their emergency rooms in medical emergencies, even if the patients cannot afford to pay the going price for the service needed, and made more substantive by the passage of the Affordable Care Act which provided coverage for pre-existing conditions, allowed young people to remain on their parent’s insurance, and made market exchanges available to provide better to understand choices while providing a federal subsidy for those who otherwise couldn’t afford insurance;
  • public education from kindergarten through college, supported by federal and state funding, with reasonable rules that protect our children, such as not allowing private carrying of guns within protective zones around schools, and –in many states–rules that ensure that public support reaches poor districts as well as wealthy ones;
  • protection of the environment, from national monuments and parks to restrictions on dangerous fracking and oil drilling in sensitive areas (consider the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge), from ensuring that communities have clean water to drink through regulation of corporate waste to ensuring that children have safe homes through regulation of lead paint, from protecting the nation’s waterways so that individual owners and polluters cannot hoard or harm nationally important resources to protecting creatures large and small that represent the genetic diversity of this Earth
  • regulation of commercial enterprises, to ensure that they do not exploit their workers, through fair labor laws and hiring laws and workplace rules that prevent employers from being able to force individuals to work in dangerous conditions or without appropriate rest and meal breaks
  • regulation of financial enterprises, to ensure that those sophisticated ‘quants’ don’t take advantage of less sophisticated customers, to prevent discriminatory practices that disadvantage people of color, to ensure open and fair reporting of financial positions
  • regulation of the foods and drugs that enter our marketplace, to protect Americans, our children and our pets from the kind of pollution of food products that occurred when China’s unregulated marketplace allowed melamine (plastic) to be substituted for protein in pet foods that were exported abroad or the indiscriminate use of toxic pesticides without informing consumers so that we can make good decisions about products that we buy; and on and on

Trump’s appointees for many of the important Cabinet positions seem to be primarily wealthy crony capitalists with radical ideologies that are in direct conflict with the agency missions. Consider just the following three:

Comments (5) | |

Trump Administration Plays Havoc with Voice of America

by Linda Beale

Trump Administration Plays Havoc with Voice of America

Did you know that the Republicans inserted a change to the administration of the Voice of America (VOA) network in the December military authorization ‘must pass’ bill?  The VOA has always been administered by a bipartisan broadcasting board of governors–distinguished nonpartisan media experts.  The change was to have the $800 million budget Voice of America run by a CEO appointed by and directly responsible to the President of the United States.

Trump has now appointed  (maybe temporarily) two twenty-something Trump political operatives to oversee the VOA.  Matthew Schuck is a 2012 graduate from the nondescript Montgomery College who got his start with the Heritage Foundation and then the (alt) right-wing site Daily Surge and worked for the Trump campaign in Wisconsin. The other, Matt Ciepielowski, does not have even that modicum of (mis)understanding of journalistic standards: he is a 2012 graduate of Quinnipiac University and a Republican political strategist who worked for the right-wing Americans for Prosperity organization before he became the NH state director for the Trump campaign.  He also has ties to Ron Paul (Texas libertarian). See, e.g., Trump moves to put his own stamp on Voice of America, (Jan. 23, 2017); Donald Trump sends two aides to Voice of America studios, raising fears he’s going to politicize the outlet, (Jan. 24, 2017).

In other words, it appears that the Trump enterprise in the White House wants to convert the Voice Of America into a propaganda arm for Trump’s “alternative facts” reality show in the White House, just as Sean Spicer, the Press Secretary, has served as a spouter of misinformation and what Trump’s “beliefs” are rather than what the actual facts are.  Compare Kellyanne Conway’s statement that we shouldn’t listen to what Trump says but should “look at what’s in his heart”.  See e.g., Aaron Blake, Kellyanne Conway’s laughable ‘look at what’s in his heart’ defense of Donald Trump, Washington Post (Jan. 9, 2017). Just ways of claiming that lies and distortions don’t matter and allowing Trump political operatives to say whatever they want.


The Voice of America director Amanda Bennett did pull a tweet on Spicer’s erroneous statement reiterating Trump’s “biggest inauguration ever” claim.  Her claim is that stories aren’t “balanced” unless they have a response from the Trump administration. That’s hooey.  Having to have Trump’s version of alternative facts embedded in every VOA story converts the story from news to propaganda.

This is sounding more and more like a tin pot dictatorship.  As Stuart Stevens tweeted (noted in the Politico article cited above): “Irony is that VOA’s reason for existing was to provide truth to those who lived where the government controlled the press.” (emphasis added)

And this matters for tax policy.  Ask yourself.  How can we have any kind of legitimate discussion or legislation on tax when the Trump administration distorts information and presents “alternative facts” that suit the 70-year-old narcissist in the White House, whether or not they have anything to do with the evidence or issues at hand?

Comments (7) | |

PPACA Repeal and How to Make Reconciliation Work for You.

In this post, I am going to expand upon the impact of the new House Rules H. RES. 5 upon the Repeal of the PPACA. As I explained here Paul Ryan deliberately changed the House Rules and the Republicans following party line approved them with the exception of 3 who voted with the Democrats. The House Rules went from just this:

“The Director of the Congressional Budget Office shall, to the extent practicable, prepare an estimate of whether a bill or joint resolution reported by a committee (other than the Committee on Appropriations), or amendment thereto or conference report thereon, would cause, relative to current law, a net increase in direct spending in excess of $5,000,000,000 in any of the 4 consecutive 10 fiscal year periods beginning with the first fiscal year that is 10 fiscal years after the current fiscal year.”

plus this additional statement:

“This subsection shall not apply to any bill or joint resolution, or amendment thereto or conference report thereon—

(A) repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and title I and subtitle B of title II of the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010;

(B) reforming the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010.”

neatly hidden away on pages 25 and 26 of 115th Congress House H. RES. 5.

Ok, so the Republicans are up to their old craftiness of slipping it to the Democrats when they want to block something the Democrats have done in the past. There is reason to why Congressman wants to block the CBO from reporting on this. It deals with making it more difficult 10 years down the road to change the repeal.

If you remember, Bush’s tax cuts were passed using Reconciliation and the CBO did a cost analysis showing it would create a deficit. Using Reconciliation to pass a bill, the legislation passed and creating a deficit must expire in 10 years. Bush’s tax cuts did create a deficit and a big one much of which was reversed by Obama.

For sure, Congressman Paul Ryan knows the repeal of the PPACA will create a deficit and Republicans know the repeal will create a large deficit. To make sure no one else knows, Mr. Ryan has blocked the CBO from analyzing it before repeal. Also unbeknownst to many, if the CBO does not do its typical independent analysis of the costs (if any) created by the PPACA repeal and how much it increases the deficit, there is no requirement for the legislation to expire after 10 years. Republicans would have repealed the PPACA as they have wanted to do since 2010, and would have blocked it from ever coming back after 10 years.

Crafty little weasel that Mr. Paul Ryan!. Then too Mr. Rand Paul is ready to sell you his healthcare policy (Obamacare Replacement Act) which does cover pre-existing conditions up to a guaranteed two years. After two years, and miss a payment or your healthcare insurance lapses and the healthcare insurance company can charge you the going rate just like the good-old-days. Also keep in mind, “Americans will never learn how devastating the PPACA repeal will be to Medicare’s long term solvency that was extended a couple of decades because of the Affordable Care Act’s execution.”

Where are the Democrats in all of this?

GOP Prohibits CBO From Reporting How Much ACA Repeal Blows Up the Deficit RMuse, Politicus usa January 11, 2017

Tags: Comments (9) | |

Constitutional Crisis ?

To Recap what everyone knows now (in case anyone reads this months from now)

On January 27th Donald Trump signed an executive order suspending the refugee admission program for 120 days and blocking US entry for citizens of 7 countries for 30 days.
The order was written without input from the Justice, Homeland Security, State and Defence departments. As written it banned entry for legal permanent residents (with green cards) who were travelling abroad when it was issued. It also banned entry for people who were on airplanes flying to the USA when it was signed.

On January 28th dozens (to hundreds ?) of people were detained in Airports. Tens of thousands of ordinary Americans went to the airports to protest the new policy (there is hope). Also hundreds of lawyers spontaneously went to airports to attempt to represent (pro bono) the people who were detained and at risk of being put on planes returning to the foreign point of departure.

Early January 29, some aspects of the execution of the executive order was temporarily stayed by a judge

Judge Ann Donnelly of the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn granted a request from the American Civil Liberties Union to stop the deportations after determining that the risk of injury to those detained by being returned to their home countries necessitated the decision.

3:00 AM January 29th, the Associated Press reported — something. It is not clear to me if the recent event is a constitutional crisis or just an absurd lie alternative fact.

The Ap reported

Stephen Miller, a senior adviser to the White House, said that nothing in the judge’s order “in anyway impedes or prevents the implementation of the president’s executive order which remains in full, complete and total effect.”

If Miller meant what he said, he has declared that the Trump administration will order the executive branch to ignore the stay (that is the only way the order could remain in “total effect”. If so, there would no longer be rule of law in the USA. There would only be Trump’s orders and the decision by people in uniforms whether to obey them.

I am fairly confident that the US is still a nation of laws. I think that Miller’s statement is a simple blatant lie not the declaration of a coup. I think he is sayign that the Judges order would have no effect even if it were obeyed. I am pretty sure Miller is insisting that Donnelly didn’t order what Donnelly ordered.

In contrast the more official response by the DHS noted that the stay applies only to people in the USA or in the air at the time it was granted.

Also the DHS didn’t mention legal permanent residents. It is very clear that the DHS can’t block their entry to the USA. In fact, it is known that the DHS argued this immediately and was over-ruled by White House staff. The application of the order to legal permanent residents is very clearly blatantly illegal. Arguably, the executive order is completely illegal, but to ignore green cards is very clearly illegal.

Comments (69) | |