Sunday, November 19, 2017

All you need to know about politics and the GOP Tax Cut in one chart


Saturday, November 18, 2017

24 Year Old Oklahoma State Dem Chair: Not true that if others' have rights, you can't have yours.

Came across a brief reference tonight in Bradcast about the recent flipped seat in Oklahoma. The intriguing part for me is that their Democratic State Party Chair is a woman and only 24 years old (elected in June) with fresh ideas and a new perspective. I can’t paraphrase it as well as she said it and I need to go bed, but I wanted to share it, because it is so refreshing...not the same old, same old...This is the rejuvenation of the Democratic party. These are the voices that need to be heard and appreciated, IMHO.

She was interviewed for Elle magazine. These are the last 3 paragraphs. (I put the sentences in bold).

We have to use every tool we have. We need to use Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter to reach, like, me, and we need to recognize that there are voters who can only be reached by phone calls and door-to-door visits.
But I don't think we have to temper our message or water down progressivism to appeal to older voters. Voters want good health care and they want good housing and good education. They may say, in rural Oklahoma, that they're less concerned with black lives, but there are black rural voters that need to be reached and engaged too. They may say they don't care about abortion, but plenty of women are getting abortions and even more are getting access to birth control under our current laws.
The Republican narrative is that those groups of people can't have their rights because if they get their rights, you can't have yours. They tell people there are only so many rights to go around, only so much privilege to go around. But that's not the case. Our narrative needs to be that everyone needs to be treated with respect and dignity and be able to lead successful, happy lives, because that's better for everybody. We're failing there, in rural America, because these people are under the false impression that others' success comes at their expense. It's our job to show them otherwise.

Friday, November 17, 2017

CEO pens viral piece exposing the Republican tax cut as a lie to the middle class

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 14:  Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) arrives for a press conference following a weekly meeting of the House Republican caucus November 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. Republicans plan to bring their version of a tax reform bill to the House floor for a vote on Thursday of this week.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
David Mendels is the former CEO of Brightcove as well as Adobe executive. Writing on LinkedIn Mr. Mendels broke down the lie that is the GOP tax cut plan. Specifically, Mendels attacked Trump senior economic adviser Gary Cohn and Speaker Paul Ryan’s assertions that this tax cut is about helping the middle class by easing their burdens and creating wage increases across the board. The latter mythology has been spread by GOP officials for weeks, including this amazing claim:

Sarah Sanders @PressSec
The average American family would get a $4,000 raise under the President’s tax cut plan. So how could any member of Congress be against it?

Mendels uses this outrageous claim as his jumping off point to explain the very simple ways in which companies decide on who they will hire and how much they will pay them, and it turns out that tax cuts DO NOT figure into those equations ever.

Starting with the hiring and expansion of hiring in a company, Mendels explains that tax cuts affect one’s profits but the consumers’ demand is what dictates how many people he might hire.
We had clear metrics we followed in most areas--for every additional $ in sales growth we committed to, we could hire a roughly fixed ratio of addition sales reps.  For every increase in call volume, we would hire a roughly fixed ratio of customer service reps. For new product ideas, we would expect management to sign up for significant and specific revenue goals. It is a simple but true concept, customers drive business growth, not tax rates, not mythical “job creators.”  Tax rates impact profitability, but are only very indirectly tied to hiring.
After mentioning how misleading a statement like Huckabee Sanders’ was (i.e. “average” in regards to wage increases being a meaningless metric), Mendels gives the simple fact of business and the wages businesses pay.
Again, simple concept: the market for labor determines what CEOs/management/investors pay employees. Tax rates are not a factor. If I want to hire an engineer with experience in machine learning, the demand in the market right now is tremendous and the supply of people with that experience is limited. Salaries are going through the roof. If I want to hire a young person out of college for a junior sales or customer service job, it is a buyer’s market and wages are moderate.  Neither of those realities change if my tax rate changes.
Finally, Mendel goes directly at what CEOs would do if they were to receive a profit windfall from a corporate tax cut. Exactly what you imagine they would do.
First of all, Occam’s Razor suggests that cutting corporate taxes will benefit the owners of corporations--the investor class. It it is pretty simple and obvious concept.  The leap of faith required to argue the the goal is not that, but to benefit the working class, is such a stretch that it really can not be taken seriously. We know this because we have already tested this proposition and seen the results.  Broadly in the US economy, we have seen a massive increase in corporate profits at the same time as we have seen stagnant wages. That increase in corporate profits has lead to a record stock market and a dramatic increase in wealth for investors, not to significant increases in wages for working people. A tax cut for corporations will increase their profitability. Why we should believe that this increase in profitability will lead to wage increases when we have already seen that increases in profitability over the last 10 years did not, but rather went to stock buybacks and dividend increases that benefitted the investors?
Mendel says when he was the CEO he would have been very happy if his company saw a rise in profits, but that would not move him or his board toward new hiring and wage philosophies. Mendels makes a pledge to donate any money he makes on a GOP tax cut toward groups fighting to bring more equality to our country.

Unfortunately, people like Gary Cohn don’t seem to care about people in our country.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Patriotism, Taxes, and Trump

Former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich. (photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star)
Former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich. (photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star)

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Website
13 November 17
elling the Trump-Republican tax plan should be awkward for an administration that has made patriotism its central theme.

That’s because patriotism isn’t mostly about saluting the flag and standing during the national anthem.

It’s about taking a fair share of the burden of keeping America going.

But the tax plan gives American corporations a $2 trillion tax break, at a time when they’re enjoying record profits and stashing unprecedented amounts of cash in offshore tax shelters.

And it gives America’s wealthiest citizens trillions more, when the richest 1 percent now hold a record 38.6 percent of the nation’s total wealth, up from 33.7 percent a decade ago.

The reason Republicans give for enacting the plan is “supply-side” trickle-down nonsense. The real reason is payback to the GOP’s mega-donors.

A few Republicans are starting to admit this. Last week, Gary Cohn, Trump’s lead economic advisor, conceded in an interview that “the most excited group out there are big CEOs, about our tax plan.”

Republican Rep. Chris Collins admitted that “my donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again.’”

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham warned that if Republicans failed to pass tax reform, “the financial contributions will stop.”

Republican mega-donors view the tax payback as they do any other investment. When they bankrolled Trump and the GOP, they expected a good return.

The biggest likely beneficiaries are busily investing an additional $43 million to pressure specific members of Congress to pass it, according to The Wall Street Journal.

They include the 45Committee, founded by billionaire casino oligarch Sheldon Adelson and Joe Ricketts, owner of the Chicago Cubs; and the Koch Brothers’ groups, Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners.

They’re not doing this out of love of America. They’re doing it out of love of money.

How do you think they got so wealthy in the first place?

As more of the nation’s wealth has shifted to the top over the past three decades, major recipients have poured some of it into politics – buying themselves tax cuts, special subsidies, bailouts, lenient antitrust enforcement, favorable bankruptcy rules, extended intellectual property protection, and other laws that add to their wealth.

All of which have given them more clout to get additional legal changes that enlarge their wealth even more.

Forty years ago, the estate tax was paid by 139,000 estates, according to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center. By 2000, it was paid by 52,000. This year it will be paid by just 5,500 estates. Under the House tax plan, it will be eliminated altogether.

Why do Americans pay more for pharmaceuticals than the citizens of every other advanced economy? Because Big Pharma has altered the laws in its favor. Why do we pay more for internet service than most other nations? Big cable’s political clout.

Why can payday lenders get away with payday robbery? The political heft of big banks.

Multiply these examples across the economy and you get a huge hidden upward redistribution from the paychecks of average working people and the poor to top executives and investors. (I explain this in detail in the documentary “Saving Capitalism,” airing next week on Netflix.)

All this is terrible for the American economy.

More and better jobs depend on increasing demand for goods and services. This must come from the middle class and poor because the rich spend a far smaller share of their after-tax income.

Yet the middle class and poor have steadily lost purchasing power. Partly as a result, a relatively low share of the nation’s working-age population is employed today and the wages of the typical worker have been stuck in the mud.

The Republican tax plan will make all this worse by burdening the middle class and the poor even more.

A slew of analyses, including Congress’s own Joint Committee on Taxation, show that the GOP plan will raise taxes on many middle-class families.

It will also require cuts in government programs that middle and lower-income Americans depend on, such as Medicare and Medicaid.

And the plan will almost certainly explode the national debt, eventually causing many middle class and poor families to pay higher interest on their auto loans, mortgages, and credit cards.

I don’t care whether the top executives of big corporations, Wall Street moguls, and heirs to vast fortunes salute the flag and stand for the national anthem.

But they enjoy all the advantages of being American. Most couldn’t have got to where they are in any other country.

They have a patriotic duty to take on a fair share of the burden of keeping America going. And Trump and his enablers in Congress have a patriotic responsibility to make them.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

'They Want to Know if Trump's Crazy': Inside the Secret Back-Channel North Korea Talks

Soldiers at the birthplace compound of Kim Il-sung, North Korea's founder and grandfather of the current leader, Kim Jong-un, in Pyongyang, the capital. (photo: How Hwee Young/EPA)
Soldiers at the birthplace compound of Kim Il-sung, North Korea's founder and grandfather of the current leader, Kim Jong-un, in Pyongyang, the capital. (photo: How Hwee Young/EPA)

By Susan B. Glasser, Politico
hey want to know if he’s crazy,” said Suzanne DiMaggio, “or if this is just an act.”

“They” is North Korean officials. And “he” is Donald Trump. Four times over the past year, in Geneva, Pyongyang, Oslo and Moscow, DiMaggio has secretly met with North Koreans to talk about the country’s nuclear program. But what they really want to talk about, DiMaggio said in an extensive new interview for The Global Politico, is America’s volatile president.

The North Koreans have asked her not only if Trump is nuts, DiMaggio said, but what and how to think about everything from his public undercutting of his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible campaign collusion with Russia.

“They really want to know what is his end game,” said DiMaggio, a scholar at New America who specializes in talking with rogue regimes and has spent the past two years in these secret discussions with the North Koreans. She believes they were ready after Trump’s surprise election to discuss a new round of official talks with the U.S. to defuse the standoff over their nuclear weapons—but that Trump’s escalating rhetoric and Twitter rants such as his weekend taunting of North Korea’s “short and fat” Kim Jong Un may have foreclosed that option. “They follow the news very closely; they watch CNN 24/7; they read his tweets and other things.”

Among issues the North Koreans have raised with her in recent months, DiMaggio said, were everything from Trump’s tweet urging Tillerson to give up on diplomacy with North Korea (“Is this a good cop/bad cop that he’s doing with Tillerson?”) to Trump’s decision this fall to decertify Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal forged by his predecessor, Barack Obama. That, DiMaggio said, “has sent a clear signal to the North Koreans: Why should they enter a deal with us, if we’re not going to stick with it?”

“They question his erratic behavior, and also his mounting problems here at home, with the investigation being conducted by Robert Mueller, and they are asking, ‘Why should we begin negotiations with the Trump administration, when Donald Trump may not be president much longer?’”

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Top Democrats Stage Anti-Trump Revolt at Bonn Climate Summit

Former Vice President Al Gore and other American political figures arrive to take part in the climate conference in Bonn, Germany, on Nov. 11, 2017. (photo: Martin Meissner/AP)
Former Vice President Al Gore and other American political figures arrive to take part in the climate conference in Bonn, Germany, on Nov. 11, 2017. (photo: Martin Meissner/AP)

By David Siders and Emily Holden, Politico
12 November 17

“I want to make it clear: The federal government is not just the president of the United States," Sen. Ben Cardin says.

handful of Democratic governors and scores of other lawmakers and mayors are mounting an insurgency at the United Nations climate conference here, orchestrating a highly choreographed campaign to persuade world leaders that President Donald Trump doesn’t speak for the United States on climate change.

Several Democratic U.S. senators began meeting last week with officials from other countries, seeking to minimize Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.

Meanwhile, the governors of California, Virginia, Oregon and Washington — along with mayors from throughout the nation — were expected to touch off a blitz of public appearances at the conference as the meeting enters its final week.

“We are still in!” Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland told cheering activists Saturday at a pavilion set up just outside the official meeting zone, a de facto headquarters for the opposition. “I want to make it clear: The federal government is not just the president of the United States.”

The Democrats’ diplomacy — part lobbying, part public relations — comes amid widespread international concern about Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Paris accord. War-torn Syria announced last week that it would join the agreement, leaving the United States — if it goes through with its withdrawal — as the only country in the world outside of the pact.

On Saturday, Democratic politicians, climate activists and like-minded business interests sought to present the United States as a country divorced from its president. Speakers repeated the slogan, “We are still in,” a message splayed across an electronic ticker and on buttons at the unofficial U.S. pavilion. The pavilion’s estimated $235,000 cost was being covered by a coalition including former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer.

Steyer, who is spending millions of dollars on a national television ad campaign calling for Trump’s impeachment, was expected to outline his case for Trump’s ouster in a speech here Sunday.

While pavilion organizers plied guests with big-name speakers and free beer and wine, a subtler campaign was unfolding inside the conference halls. Starting late last week, a small delegation of U.S. senators, including Cardin, Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) — began meeting with officials from other countries in an effort to assuage nerves about Trump. Schatz said he and other lawmakers met with delegations from India and Japan and were planning to meet with representatives of the European Union, Mexico, Indonesia and Canada.

The senators argued Trump could not quickly undo eight years of Obama-era climate policies or significantly affect state-level efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“I think that there’s an understanding of the American system of government, which is sometimes cumbersome and slow, and frustratingly so, but in this instance it works in favor of climate action,” said Schatz. “Whatever the president’s rhetoric, he can’t prevent us from moving forward on clean energy.”

Following a meeting with Mexican officials, Markey said Saturday, “Obviously, I think it’s important for them to understand that there are 30 states that have renewable electricity standards, that the fuel economy standards are still the federal law, that the appliance efficiency standards are still federal law.”

Democrats trying to thwart attacks on climate action have bureaucracy, the courts and a narrowly divided Congress that often gets stuck in legislative stalemates, on their side. Although Republicans control Congress and the White House, they need 60 votes to proceed to most legislation.

The Trump administration is moving to undo President Barack Obama’s climate standards — including carbon limits for the roughly one-third of emissions that come from the power sector. Those regulatory rollbacks could take years and will have to stand up to legal review, but in the meantime, the federal government will not move forward to curb greenhouse gases.

Markey promised Democrats will fight to maintain fuel economy standards and will block any effort to cut back wind and solar tax credits. He told a crowd on Saturday that Trump has “assembled a Cabinet of big oil all-stars” but that, “On our side, we have 100 years of science and nearly 100 percent of the scientists in the planet. And inside the United States, we have city after city, state after state, standing up to take action.”

Diplomats are paying close attention to American representatives pledging to keep fighting climate change, said Jens Mattias Clausen, a Copenhagen-based climate change adviser for Greenpeace who is attending the talks.

The most important thing those representatives can do is “show the rest of the world that even if the Trump administration refuses to face reality here and continues with this very isolationist style that the rest of the U.S. is actually ready to step up and help with the commitments that they have,” Clausen said. In terms of specific numbers they can offer “the more concrete it gets…the better,” he added.

Brown and Bloomberg are leading a group called America’s Pledge, which aims to release more specific reduction commitments from states and localities next year. On Saturday, they released a report asserting the combined economic power of every state and city that has committed to the Paris agreement would outmatch every country except for China and the U.S.

Yet even their own report acknowledged, as previous studies have, that non-federal efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are not sufficient to meet the United States’ commitments under the Paris agreement given Trump’s stated policies. And local and state climate efforts are fraught with their own, internal disagreements about how aggressively sub-national governments should pursue climate policies on their own. On Saturday, California Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown had a speech interrupted for an extended period by activists protesting California’s cap-and-trade program and its permissiveness of hydraulic fracturing.

“You have a positive message insofar as what individual states and individuals are doing” about climate change,” Mairead McGuinness, a member of the European Parliament, told Brown at a forum last week.

However, she said, “Sometimes when we make a step forward, there are forces that as McGuinness added, “One of the comments we hear from EU citizens is that, why should we act when others are not?”

For all of the Democrats’ efforts, Trump looms large over the conference, and the power of the White House is not lost on the international community. Trump, who has called climate change a hoax, is publicly promoting coal production. He has said he is withdrawing from the Paris agreement because it puts the United States at a “big economic disadvantage.”

Last week’s elections in the United States provided a rare, positive talking point for Democrats trying to combat Trump’s message in Bonn. The Democrats’ sweep in in the off-year contests, they said, presaged a return to Democratic power in Washington and re-engagement in climate talks abroad.

“Tuesday’s election marked that Trump is alone and isolated,” said Garrett Blad, executive director of the SustainUS, a youth advocacy group. “It’s going to be our job back home — 2018 is going to be a huge year with the elections — to make sure that states … are moving forward with the most aggressive action that we can.”

When Bloomberg mentioned Saturday that the official U.S. delegation to the conference under Trump was preparing to host a controversial panel on Monday on the use of fossil fuels, the crowd booed.

“The Trump administration did send a delegation here to Bonn, and it might be the first climate conference where — this is not a joke, folks — coal is being promoted as an example of sustainability,” Bloomberg said.

He added, “It will also likely be the last. The world is moving on, and so is the United States.”

Former Vice President Al Gore, a major draw for climate activists at the conference, told POLITICO in an interview Saturday that commitments made by states, cities and businesses all “adds up to a very impressive reduction in U.S. emissions.”

He added, “I mean, [Trump] can prohibit EPA employees from talking to the public, and he can remove the word ‘climate’ from all the government websites. But he can’t stop the technological and business revolution that’s gaining speed around the world and especially in the U.S.”

Monday, November 13, 2017

If Prayers Stopped Bullets

Donald Trump. (photo: Getty)
Donald Trump. (photo: Getty)

By Charles Pierce, Esquire
08 November 17

Republicans have nothing more to offer you.

s expected, the nominal leadership of the Republican Party has responded to the massacre in Sutherland Springs, Texas, with the kind of steady, rational leadership that can turn the ship of state into an artificial reef at the bottom of the bay.

First, the president*—who’s confounded the oddsmakers by being in Asia nearly a week without starting World War III—replied to a very good question from NBC’s Ali Vitali with a very bad answer.
When asked by NBC News about gun control in the aftermath of the deadly shooting at a Texas church over the weekend, Trump said it wasn't the right place or time to ask the question before explaining that such measures would have made "no difference" on Sunday. "You’re bringing up a situation that probably shouldn’t be discussed too much right now," he said during a joint press conference with South Korean President Moon Jae-in…Trump, who advocated for stricter vetting policies in the hours after a terror attack on New York City last week, said "we could let a little time go by" before talking about gun control, "but it's okay if you feel that that's an appropriate question, even though we're in the heart of South Korea."
I don’t know what the hell that means. Would Vitali’s question be more appropriate if they were all sitting by the side of the road on Wando, or in a GI bar in Itaewon? Bad answer. Could he come up with a worse one?

Why, yes. He could. However did you guess?
The president went on to applaud "that very brave person who happened to have a gun or a rifle in his truck" and shot the killer. "If he didn't have a gun," Trump alleged, "instead of having 26 dead, you would've had hundreds more dead. So that's the way I feel about it. Not gonna help."
It is the opinion of the president* of the United States that 26 people murdered in a church is proof that the system works. A year, it’s been. Only a year.

However, the lameness of the president*’s response was challenged strongly by Speaker Paul Ryan, the zombie-eyed granny starver from the state of Wisconsin. From The Hill:
“It’s disappointing. It’s sad, and this is what you’ll get from the far secular left. People who do not have faith, don’t understand faith, I guess I’d have to say,” Ryan told Fox News’s Laura Ingraham on “The Ingraham Angle” when asked about the criticism. And it is the right thing to do, is to pray in moments like this because you know what? Prayer works.”
This kind of platitudinous slop is all the conservative movement has left as far as a political philosophy goes. Certainly, one can pray, for example, that the congressional majority regains some semblance of a clue and passes some sort of common sense gun regulations, but organizing to beat some of the NRA’s servants in that body seems to me to be a better use of people’s time. Besides, we probably should remind the Speaker of the shebeen’s favorite passage from the Epistle of St. James: faith without works is dead.