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

Cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid McConnell Says

After instituting a $1.5 trillion tax cut and after signing off on a $675 billion Defense budget, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said yesterday, Tuesday, October 16, 2016;

“The only way to lower the record-high federal deficit would be to cut entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.”

More McConnell: “It’s disappointing but it’s not a Republican problem.” The deficit, grew 17 percent to $779 billion in fiscal year 2018. “It is a bipartisan problem and a problem of the unwillingness to address the real drivers of the debt by doing anything to adjust those programs to the demographics of America in the future.”

The deficit has increased 77 percent since McConnell became majority leader in 2015.

A new Treasury Department analysis on Monday revealed that corporate tax cuts had a significant impact on the deficit this year. Federal revenue rose by 0.04 percent in 2018 which is a nearly 100 percent decrease from the previous year’s 1.5 percent. In fiscal year 2018, tax receipts on corporate income fell to $205 billion from $297 billion in 2017.

Still, McConnell insisted the change had nothing to do with a lack of revenue due to the tax break or increased spending resulting from new programs since 2015. Instead he insists the deficit increase is due to entitlement and welfare programs. Now he does the old switcheroo from the yearly deficit to the national debt.

McConnell said, the debt is very “disturbing and is driven by the three big entitlement programs that are very popular, Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid. There has been a bipartisan reluctance to tackle entitlement changes because of the popularity of those programs. Hopefully, at some point here, we’ll get serious about this.”

What McConnell does not tell you is 8 years out those tax decreases will go away for much of the population and many will see tax increases. McConnell and Republicans needed a way to keep the 60% of the total tax break going to the 1% of the Household Taxpayers making greater than $500,000 annually since this tax break was passed under Reconciliation rules (Democrats could not block it without 60 votes). Robert Reich has called this a Trojan Horse tax break.

Recently, Mitch McConnell has been considering his legacy. I think it would be adequate to paraphrase it as: “I saved the 2018 tax break for the 1 percenters. To hell with the rest of you.”

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On the rise of German militarism

On the rise of German militarism

The long-term rise of Japanese militarism that culminated in the Pacific War in World War 2 was painstakingly documented in Meirion and Susie Harries’ excellent “Soldiers of the Sun,” a template that ought to give pause to Americans today.  Briefly, the Meigi consitution required that there be a military cabinet secretary. If that secretary resigned, the government fell. Once the military realized the leverage they had, they used it repeatedly and for ever larger reasons, until they controlled the government. They used it as militaries tend to do, seeing “poor little Japan” beset by enemies on all sides.  But vanquishing one enemy simply moved the border. There was always a border, and there was always a nervous and potentially hostile state on the other side of it. The sequence kept playing out until finally there was a sleeping giant on the other side of the border, a giant who was awakened, and then angrily squashed them like bugs.

But no comparable historical account has apparently been done with regard to the similar ascent of the German military. In fact, the received wisdom is on the order of, “How could such a refined culture that gave rise to Goethe, Bach, and Beethoven have turned into a military totalitarian state?” As it turns out, the ascent was gradual but inexorable result of a system built on a military version of the Hastert rule.  A great book is out there, I suspect, but since it isn’t let me give my poor attempt at a sketch.

What brings me to this conclusion is a little-known (at least to probably 99% of Americans) event during World War 1.

But first, some background….

 

 

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The Political Economy of the Working Class

The Political Economy of the Working Class

The political economy of the working class is pluralist.

The political economy of the working class is pragmatic.

The political economy of the working class is critical.

Karl Marx chronicled and contributed to the political economy of the working class. He did not invent, conclude or supersede it. In  his Inaugural Address to the International Working Men’s Association, Marx celebrated the first victory of the political economy of the working class, the passage, in 1847, of the Ten Hours’ Bill:

This struggle about the legal restriction of the hours of labor raged the more fiercely since, apart from frightened avarice, it told indeed upon the great contest between the blind rule of the supply and demand laws which form the political economy of the middle class, and social production controlled by social foresight, which forms the political economy of the working class. Hence the Ten Hours’ Bill was not only a great practical success; it was the victory of a principle; it was the first time that in broad daylight the political economy of the middle class succumbed to the political economy of the working class.

This passage tells us what we most need to know about the political economy of the working class. It is founded upon “social production controlled by social foresight” in opposition to “the blind rule of supply and demand laws.” The “most notorious organs of science” had predicted and “proved” that “any legal restriction of the hours of labor must sound the death knell of British industry” and, of course, they were subsequently proved absolutely wrong. Not ‘merely’ wrong, but the exact opposite of apposite.

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Senate Dems put Republicans on the Spot Over Junk Healthcare Plans

Last March, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin sponsored a bill (Fair Care Act) to block President Trump’s plan to allow insurers to sell short term or what is frequently called junk plans. Senator Baldwin bill would reverse all of what the Republicans attempted to do with short term plans by reinstating protections for pre-exiting conditions, maintaining the community benefit costing of the plans, blocking life-time cost limits, etc.

Senator Tammy Baldwin:

“As someone who was branded as a child with the words, ‘pre-existing condition,’ I want to make sure that no parent, foster parent or grandparent has to choose between helping their child get better or going bankrupt,” said Senator Baldwin. “Republicans pushed repeal, but promised they would protect people with pre-existing conditions. The Fair Care Act is an opportunity for lawmakers to keep their word on guaranteed protections for pre-existing conditions.”

The bill is more symbolic than anything as it will not get past Senate Republicans. Senator Baldwin was using it as a way of emphasizing the hypocrisy of Republicans promising constituents at home support of healthcare-for-all regardless of pre-existing conditions and then not supporting pre-exiting condition as we know it to be in healthcare while in Congress. As an example, the Republican AHCA which failed by one vote (McCain) would have established subsidized Risk Pools and insurance companies could have charged higher premiums for pre-exising conditions.

More on this beyond the 13 minute Risk Pool Part YouTube clip by Charles Gaba at ACA Signups which is an update to Why Republican Short Term Healthcare Plans “Suck”. In this version, Charles explores in depth what will happen when the Mandate is eliminated and people either drop out on healthcare altogether or go to short term plans. Charles also ads a solution to subsidies stopping at 400% FPL.

I am hoping you took the 13 minutes to view Charles Gaba review of the impact of the mandate elimination and short term plans implementation plus his solution to the needed relief for those beyond 400% FPL. In the end, we are back to where we were at pre-ACA.

Moving on to Tammy Baldwin’s Fair Care Act and the vote. Under the purview of the Congressional Review Act, which gives Congress the ability to reverse federal regulations within a certain time window; Senator Baldwin was able to introduce a resolution to unwind the Trump administration’s expansion (Executive Order) of short-term insurance plans. Senator Baldwin had the 30 votes needed to force a vote reversing the Executive Order on short term plans. Normally this vote would have never seen the light of day; but this time, McConnell could not stop it.

October 10, 2018 the Senate voted on Senator Baldwin’s S.2494 – Fair Care Act. Forty-nine Democrats and one Republican voted for Baldwin’s resolution, while fifty Senate Republicans voted for an expansion of junk insurance plans that can deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and do not have to provide essential health services like prescription drugs, emergency room visits and maternity care. Senator Susan Collins was the lone Republican voting with Democrats. It failed in the Senate.

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U.S. Saudi Trade

U.S. Saudi Trade

Donald Trump appears to be reluctant to investigate the murder of Jamal Khashoggibecause of an alleged trade deal?

Donald Trump has said US investigators are looking into how Jamal Khashoggi vanished at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, but made clear that whatever the outcome, the US would not forgo lucrative arms deals with Riyadh. The president’s announcement raised concerns of a cover-up of evidence implicating Saudi Arabia’s powerful crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, in plans to silence the dissident journalist…Any sense that the administration might seek to impose serious consequences on Saudi Arabia was dispelled by the president. Asked at an impromptu press conference in the Oval Office whether the US would cut arms sales if the Saudi government was found to be responsible for Khashoggi’s disappearance, the president demurred, saying the US could lose its share of the huge Saudi arms market to Russia or China. In the Oval Office Trump pointed out that the disappearance took place in Turkey and that Khashoggi was not a US citizen.

He may not be a citizen but he did hold a green card and worked for the Washington Post. Credit to the Republicans in Congress for pressing on the appropriate investigation of this matter. My only comment today will be to challenge Trump’s argument that our trade with Saudi Arabia is more important than sanctioning the Saudi government for this murder likely ordered by Mohammed bin Salman. The Census Bureau reports on both our imports from Saudi Arabia and our exports to them. Over the last decade, imports have varied from less than $17 billion per year to over $55 billion. These imports are predominantly been oil of course. Exports have never reached $20 billion per year so we have run persistent and sometimes large deficits with the Saudis. In Trumpian “logic” – aren’t we losing to them? To be fair, we choose to import Saudi oil but then again, the kingdom is not the only supplier of this commodity. But Trump is telling us that we may have yuuuge exports of military goods:

I know they’re [Senators] talking about different kinds of sanctions, but they’re [Saudi Arabia] spending $110 billion on military equipment and on things that create jobs, like jobs and others for this country. I don’t like the concept of stopping an investment of $110 billion into the United States.

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Trump Administration Proposes Limiting Protests Near White House

The Trump administration has proposed changes to limit demonstrations near the White House and National Mall. The limits include closing 80% of the White House sidewalk, placing limits on spontaneous demonstrations, and imposing a “First Amendment fee” for protests (gotta make up for the deficits he created).

✓ The public has until October 15 to comment on the plans.

✓ Under current policy, the National Park Service charges fees for special events (e.g., concerts and weddings), but not for First Amendment demonstrations (e.g., marches and protests).

✓ The American Civil Liberties Union, NAACP, Hispanic Federation, National Coalition Against Censorship, National Women’s Law Center, Human Rights Campaign, Sierra Club and a number of other organizations oppose the change.

Trump clearly wants to limit protesting outside of and near the White House; but, it would not cover protests coming from inside the White House.

Donald Trump continued his tirade against the Federal Reserve in a late Wednesday television appearance, laying into the central bank’s policy decisions and suggesting it is to blame for Wednesday’s sharp market decline. Saying he is “not happy” with the Fed, Trump explained why he was not happy with the Fed in a broad based economic review of Fed policy of continuing increases in Fed Rates to stave off the threat of inflation.

“The problem I have is with the Fed. The Fed is going wild. I mean, I don’t know what their problem is that they are raising interest rates and it’s ridiculous. The problem [causing the market drop] in my opinion is the Treasury and the Fed. The Fed is going loco and there’s no reason for them to do it. I’m not happy about it.”

Earlier Wednesday, Trump suggested; “They are so tight. I think the Fed has gone crazy.”

To date, this has not been a wage driven inflationary spiral as YOY hourly income increases in nonsupervisory has been stuck at 2.7%. Trump does not appear to grasp that his and Republican policies have created the an inflationary spiral which the Fed is trying to slow and which constituents will suffer from soon enough.

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Sour Grapes

As I write, Brett Kavanaugh is not yet a Supreme Court Justice. I assume he will be one soon. I am going to argue that this is the best of the bad possible outcomes.

Yes this is making the best of a bad situation and pathetic motivated reasoning. Yes Collins’s speech drove me into an almost insufferable panic and despair (don’t ask me ask, my soon to be ex-wife if I don’t get a hold of myself [by blogging]). Consider this post emergency marriage therapy (or my bothering you by my recognition of her 8th amendment rights).

First it is clear that a very large fraction of the US public believe that Kavanaugh is a criminal and think it is very wrong for him to serve on the Supreme Court. In polls this seems to be a plurality not an absolute majority.

Also, on Thursday, he demonstrated that he is a raging partisan who aims to use his robe to punish his political adversaries. I think this was already clear to anyone who paid attention, but it is now clear to many people who looked the other way. They include lifelong Republican Justice John Paul Stevens a retired justice who argued against confirmation of a new one. This is unprecedented. The ABA reopened their evaluation of Kavanaugh when it was too late to influence the Senate. I am pretty sure that is unprecedented too. 2,400 law professors signed a viral petition arguing against confirmation of someone who was likely to be incredibly powerful. I suspect this is unprecedented event 3.

This means that the perceived legitimacy of the Supreme Court is in great danger (as it was in 2000 and as it was when the Warren Court decided to take the Constitution seriously). I’d also say that Justice Kavanaugh will attract attention to the misdeeds (torts not crimes) undoubtably committed by Justice Thomas and his felonious denial of those facts under oath. He was never a legitimate Justice, and that will no longer be over looked.

5-4 decisions with Kavanaugh and Thomas in the majority will be perceived to be illigitimate by a very large fraction of the population (I guess eventually reaching a majority but maybe just a plurality). This is exactly what Chief Justice John Roberts fears most — and can prevent any time he wishes. 5-4 decisions with Kavanaugh in the minority will not destroy the perceived legitimacy of the Court or endanger the constitutional order. I hope Justice Roberts (who clearly votes based on the outcome he prefers and can rationalize anything) will act accordingly.

Also packing the court is a very extreme act which would definitely endanger the Republic. It was done — in the 1860s. The congress that changed the number of justices also impeached President Andrew Johnson and refused to seat representatives and senators elected in Confederate states. This followed the Civil War — after killing each other for 5 years Americans were prepared to change the number of justices if necessary.

It was threatened by F. Roosevelt leading to “a switch in time saves nine” a sudden shift from declaring the New Deal unconstitutional to accepting it, because the alternative was a packed court. I may have made a mistake above. I guess Roberts fears court packing even more than he fears perceived illigitimacy — the two are so closely linked it would be hard to tell even with ESP.

One point is that he can avoid both by voting with the Democrats.

Another is that desperate times call for desperate measures. Court packing is preferable to submission to an undemocratic oligarchy and armed revolution and the GOP may leave us only those three choices.

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“Lock Her Up!!!”

“Lock Her Up!!!”

For several years now we have all grown accustomed to the fact that President Trump likes to go to rallies of his supporters where they relentlessly chant the subject head of this post.  It has always referred to his opponent in the presidential election of 2016, the person who got about 3 million more votes than he did, even as he managed to win in the determining electoral college.  While I recognize that Hillary Clinton has many flaws, she has been investigated more times than I can count for many alleged offenses, some of which I suspect she is guilty of, even as some of them were pretty minor (see financial shenanigans back in Arkansas).  She also was subjected to many Congressional investigations by several committees for many alleged offenses, including her notorious getting emails in her home like her three predecessors did, although none of them were ever so investigated. She even had 8, really 8, investigations of her role in the Benghazi fiasco, these costing taxpayers many millions of dollars.  The final one involved her  sitting for 11 hours straight while a GOP led committee interrogated her, ending up with them looking like a bunch of exhausted foolish idiots while she looked  cool as a cucumber. The final bottom line is that none  of those investigations led to even an indictment for anything.

A peculiar sideshow on this is that among the more bizarre investigations of her, costing millions of US taxpayer dollars, was that in 1998 by the Starr group of the chance that she had been responsible for the death of Vincent Foster, who committed suicide on the GW Parkway.  The person advocating this investigation of a conspiracy theoty and engaging in it, only to find a big fat nothing, was none other than Brett Kavanaugh, apparently about to be confirmed to be the  next lifetime member of the US Supreme Court.

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Dumb and Dumber

Two bits of news from Twitter.

The GRU employed 305 morons who have been identified as GRU operatives, because they registered their cars at a GRU office address to intimidate the traffic police. In theory automombile registries are not available to the public. In Russia everything is available for a price.

Click the link and read the thread.

Yep they are a bunch of corrupt buffoons who probably didn’t manage anything except for hacking the DNC, John Podesta and Smartech. What is Smartech ?
It’s the internet company that the Bush administration used to evade the Presidential Records Act hiding 22,000,000 e-mails which should have been preserved (“but her e-mails”). Unlike Clinton.com, it definitely was hacked by the Russians . Projection it’s always projection. Always.

It was also used by Senator Graham whose sudden switch from Trump critic to Trump fan has lead many people to assume he is being blackmailed. It was also use by Senators Corker and Flake before their mysterious retirements (and Flake’s incomprehensible Kavanaugh related decisions — damn I was trying to not name he who can not be named).

Click this link. It’s just a thread on twitter, but it has links to sources. Also I knew many of the facts (from various sources some of them reliable) but didn’t know about Flake and Corker.

So the corrupt idiots seem to have managed to get kompromat on 3% of the US Senate — probably enough to decide who will be on the Supreme Court.

I have one question which I urgently want answered. Did Susan Collins use Smartech ? I won’t care in 100 minutes when she announces her final vote on Kavanaugh, but I want to know now.

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