Wednesday, November 21, 2018

One year later, an analysis of the U.S. economy shows just how destructive the GOP tax scam was

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly (L) and Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn walk across the South Lawn upon return to the White House on February 1, 2018 in Washington, DC. .The two returned to Washington with US President Donald Trump after addressing the 2018 House and Senate Republican Member Conference. / AFP PHOTO / Mandel NGAN        (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
And I'm like, "Adults in the room? I'm a fucking sociopath!"
The reason that Ronald Reagan’s support of trickle-down economics was so frustrating to most Americans was that it was so obviously a money-grab ploy by the wealthiest entities and individuals in our country. George Bush Sr. gave it the name “voodoo economics,” in part because George Bush Sr. is basically a racist, but he’s not stupid. Reagan’s popularity with the unpopular Republican Party (sound familiar?) led to everyone—Bush Sr. included—adopting full-throated support for the circling-the-drain economic policy of big tax cuts for the wealthy and big business, supported by massive cuts to social programs and education. When Donald Trump and the Republican Party attempted to sell this same failure of an idea last fall, the American people said No, thank you.

The Republicans proceeded with it anyway, promising that big corporations would do what they had never done: put those tax savings back into infrastructure and expansion and jobs! In fact, corporate executives promised Trump’s administration that they would definitely NOT do it. 

Guess what? The corporations didn’t do it!
JPMorgan Chase analysts estimate that in the first half of 2018, about $270 billion in corporate profits previously held overseas were repatriated to the United States and spent as a result of changes to the tax code. Some 46 percent of that, JPMorgan Chase analysts said, was spent on $124 billion in stock buybacks.
The flow of repatriated corporate cash is just one tributary in what has become a flood of payouts to shareholders, both as buybacks and dividends. Such payouts are expected to hit almost $1.3 trillion this year, up 28 percent from 2017, according to estimates from Goldman Sachs analysts.
What Republicans banked on was that corporations would make initial big splashes, including corporate statements that attempted to mislead the public by conflating deals already in place, negotiated between unions and executives, with the tax breaks. In many cases, those businesses are slashing jobs, continuing forward with the plans they had in place before Trump and the Republican Party robbed the nation’s coffers. Report after report has come out showing that big business is indeed making economic “history”… with record-setting corporate buybacks. 

This says nothing about the now infamous “revenue-neutral” assertions made by Republican leadership, which have turned out to be the opposite of true. Tax revenue is at an all-time low, and our deficit is going to run through one trillion dollars in the next few minutes. If the Republican Party had been able to hold on to the House this November, you can be assured they would have moved to cut down restructure Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security. But just to highlight how our country’s debt growth is bothersome, the New York Times gave this explanation.
It’s highly unusual for deficits and borrowing needs to grow this much during periods of prosperity. A broad variety of analysts attribute the widening deficit to the tax cuts (along with increased military and other domestic spending ushered in through a bill Mr. Trump signed earlier this year).
But of course, it’s not “highly unusual” at all. This is what happens when a bunch of “fiscally conservative” swamp creatures inherit an economy that was stewarded out of the abyss by a Democratic-run Congress and executive branch. They plunder it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

How Blue States Help Red(neck) States

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
20 November 18
onald Trump and Republicans in Congress love to demonize government handouts, which, in fact, their own supporters depend on and are increasingly financed by taxpayers in blue states.

The federal program Temporary Assistance for Needy Families – what we used to call “welfare” – provides cash assistance to fewer than 1 percent of Americans.

But the Trump administration is proposing to lump many social programs under a new agency with the word “welfare” in its title.

A recent White House report on imposing work requirements, for example, put Medicaid, food assistance, and housing aid into a rebranded program called “noncash welfare.”

Defined this broadly, a large chunk of America relies on welfare. Add in disability benefits, unemployment insurance, and medical benefits, such so-called “welfare” amounts to 17 percent of the average American’s income.

Welfare has become especially unpopular in “red” states that vote Republican and support Trump.

But these same states are often the biggest beneficiaries of government assistance.

Include price supports for agriculture, subsidies for land management and forestry, and defense contractors, and you find that a large portion of the economies of red states depend on federal dollars.

Here’s the irony. Residents of “blue” states send more tax money to Washington than they get back in federal help, while residents of “red” states send less money to Washington than they get back in federal help.

In 2015, for example, New Jersey got back only 74 cents in federal spending for  every tax dollar it sent to Washington. New York got back 81 cents, Connecticut: 82 cents, and Massachusetts: 83 cents.

But when you turn to the red states, it’s the opposite. Mississippi received $2.13 for every tax dollar it sent to Washington. West Virginia: $2.07. Kentucky: $1.90. And South Carolina: $1.71.

Taking the Trump administration’s expansive view of the meaning of welfare to its logical conclusion to include all those benefiting from federal spending, blue states are sending welfare to red states – the same red states that say they don’t like welfare.

Under Trump’s new tax law, blue states will be giving even more welfare handouts to red states. That’s because the law set new limits to the amount of state and local taxes people can deduct from their federal taxable incomes. And since people in blue states pay much more state and local taxes than people in red states, blue-staters will be paying that much more in federal taxes.

Which means an even bigger transfer from blue state residents to all those red state Republican voters, whose party despises handouts.

Now, I should add that some of us here in blue states don’t mind giving red states a bigger helping hand. The vast majority of Americans also oppose cuts to programs that aid the poor, elderly and sick. Because most Americans figure we’re all in this together, and those of us who can do so ought to help out those in need.

We don’t regard it as welfare handouts. We call it social insurance. Indeed, social insurance is needed and used by almost all of us, when you include Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment insurance.  And even programs relied upon mostly by the poor end up helping a large portion of us because roughly one-third of all Americans are poor at some point in their lives.

So remember, attacks on so-called welfare are just another means of attacking the things most of us need, and dividing the country into us and them.

In reality, voters in red states are as dependent on the federal government as voters in blue states, and, truth be told, even more dependent.

Monday, November 19, 2018

The photo that set him off...

Just a sampling of some of the incoming freshman for the 116th Congress. Suck it, GOP.
I belong to several groups on social media that reminisces our time in the military.

They are apolitical, but sometimes stupidity seeps in. Trump, in a political stunt, deployed thousands of troops along the border. Their base of operations is Joint Base San Antonio, which is where I used to serve.

My brothers and sisters out there are miserable.  No mess tent. No electricity. No mission.  They literally have nothing to do.  They are going to miss Thanksgiving with their families.  The Pentagon admitted it has been a waste of time, resources, and money (Est. $200 million). It’s been a major drain on morale, and Trump has essentially forgotten about them now that he lost the election.

One soldier posted a picture of what #MAGAmorons think they are doing---a bunch of fully armed soldiers in a trench with M-16s trained on a target, but he superimposed it with reality: servicemen in mud picking up garbage.  Well, that started it...

Most people jumped in and agreed it was all stupid, but a few—especially one guy--went nuts. He said Trump was trying to protect the real 'merica from the influx of Muslims and Mexicans. In response, I posted the picture above and reminded him that they aren’t coming, but are already here, and oh—they are his leaders now.

(And something to the effect of “suck it”.)

Boy, oh boy. ALL CAPS came at me: SOCIALIST this, INVADERS that… on and on. It inspired me to use this photo in a few more GOP safe spaces, and I always get the same reaction of ranting and raving. I don’t think there's any other photo that I’ve posted that had such a visceral reaction. It encapsulates all their fears at once: women in power, minorities in power, the changing face of America, and the obvious fact that their long-term strategy of appealing to bigotry is starting to fail.

And it’s just going to get worse for my conservative friends.

Thanks to Trump, the GOP-gerrymandering ploy to pack suburbs in their districts backfired: college-educated women denounced Trump and voted Democrat. The GOP has done so much self-inflicted damage that I don’t see how they are going to win them back anytime soon.

Demographics are also not on the GOP’s side. The nation is getting younger and darker, and they are voting.  An entire horrified generation of activists has been created after witnessing inaction with  mass shootings, racist attacks, justifications for sexual assaults, and depraved policies that allow things like children being thrown in cages. Movements were created that made electoral contests all over the nation in play (OK, UT, VA, GA, AL, etc.) I reminded my friend that his home state of Texas will have more Hispanics than whites in a five years—with about a million turning voting age by next presidential election.

My point is—the picture above is not the anomaly that the GOP is hoping it is. It’s the new reality. They are right to be afraid. (Or should I say wrong to be afraid?)

And it keeps getting worse:  it’s not just diversity that the new freshman are bringing, it’s a rejection of the old guard’s appeasement policies. This new group knows a thing or two about fighting, and they are aiming for a bold, new progressive agenda. Some of it may seem far-fetched now, but give it a few years. America is changing, and a progressive revolution is coming.

This is our time, or as I put it so eloquently to my friend…… “suck it”.
Damn I just LOVE her!!!!!!

Just remembered that back in January, the GOP was really looking forward to this election. Lots of stories from rightwing media, like this pathetic piece from RedState, that the GOP will have all these pickups because the Democrats didn’t stand and clap at Trump’s State of the Union address. Yup, they sure called it...that was the big issue this election.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Republicans secretly worried that the nation is onto their plan about tax cuts and Social Security

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, WV - FEBRUARY 01:  U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) (R) and Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (L) hold a news briefing during the 2018 House & Senate Republican Member Conference February 1, 2018 at the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. Congressional Republicans gather at their annual retreat, hosted by the Congressional Institute, to discuss legislative agenda for the year.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
How did their secret possibly get out?

The polling done at the beginning of September and just now obtained by Bloomberg finds that voters by a 2 to 1 margin, 61 percent to 30 percent, say that the law passed late last year benefits "large corporations and rich Americans" over "middle class families." But here's the part that's really special from the internal memo accompanying the survey.
The RNC study says Americans worry the tax law will lead to cuts in Social Security and Medicare, concluding that "most voters believe that the GOP wants to cut back on these programs in order to provide tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy." It attributes that finding to "a fairly disciplined Democrat attack against the recent tax cuts."
Gee, how could voters have ever gotten that idea?

It couldn't have come from, oh, say House Speaker Paul Ryan who had pivoted to "entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit," even before the tax bill passed. Or after the bill had passed and they'd moved onto the spending bill that kept government open when he said  "entitlement reform" is necessary to deal with the debt.

Or maybe it's because Mitch McConnell is out there talking about how "disturbed" he is by the national debt and saying Congress has to "address the real drivers of the debt […] we're talking about Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid."

How could voters possibly think that Republicans are using the tax cuts as an excuse to destroy Social Security and Medicare?

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Trump slips up in interview, admits he installed Whitaker to halt Mueller probe

TOPSHOT - US President Donald Trump smiles during the State of the Union address in the chamber of the US House of Representatives on January 30, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee / POOL / AFP)        (Photo credit should read WIN MCNAMEE/AFP/Getty Images)
Smug and stupid is a bad combination.
In the wave of wordwash and nervous spew contained in his “freewheeling” interview with the right wing sludge generator known as the Daily Caller, Donald Trump reminds us that if he keeps talking, eventually he’ll say something that reveals what he’s actually thinking. In this case, that moment slipped by almost unnoticed.

H/T to Sonam Sheth and Business Insider:

President Donald Trump on Wednesday indicated during an interview that he tapped former US attorney Matthew Whitaker to replace then Attorney General Jeff Sessions in order to rein in the Russia investigation.
Here is the relevant portion of the transcript:

THE DAILY CALLER: Sure. Could you tell us where your thinking is currently on the attorney general position? I know you’re happy with Matthew Whitaker, do you have any names? Chris Christie —
POTUS: Matthew Whitaker is a very respected man. He’s — and he’s, very importantly, he’s respected within DOJ. I heard he got a very good decision, I haven’t seen it. Kellyanne, did I hear that?
POTUS: A 20-page?
THE DAILY CALLER: It just came out right before this, sir.
POTUS: Well, I heard it was a very strong opinion. Uh, which is good. But [Whitaker] is just somebody that’s very respected.
I knew him only as he pertained, you know, as he was with Jeff Sessions.
And, you know, look, as far as I’m concerned this is an investigation that should have never been brought. It should have never been had.
It’s something that should have never been brought. It’s an illegal investigation. And you know, it’s very interesting because when you talk about not Senate confirmed, well, Mueller’s not Senate confirmed.
But the interviewer didn’t ask him about the Mueller investigation. Never brought it up. Trump was being asked about potential attorney general nominees, then suddenly Whitaker pops into his head, and we immediately go to his rationale for shutting down the Mueller probe into Trump’s collusion with Russia.

As pointed out by Sheth, this has happened before. When Trump gave an interview to Lester Holt of NBC News, he let slip the fact that he had fired James Comey to thwart the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia. That admission now forms one of the central points of the Mueller investigation into Trump’s obstruction of justice.

"What is so unusual about Trump is that he publicly forecasts his motivation in a way that is self-defeating and self-incriminating," Elie Honig, a former prosecutor from the Southern District of New York who specialized in organized-crime cases, told INSIDER.
Jeffrey Cramer, a longtime former federal prosecutor who spent 12 years at the DOJ, echoed that assessment.
"The president's knee-jerk pivot to talking about the Russia investigation when asked about Whitaker's qualification is what poker players call a 'tell,'" Cramer told INSIDER.
Donald Trump isn’t nearly as smart as he thinks he is.

Just keep talking, buddy!

Friday, November 16, 2018

Conman Matt Whitaker Hawked Time Travel, Bigfoot Dolls and Toilets For 'Well Endowed' Men

Remember when P.T. Barnum charged rubes a quarter to see the “egress” and they paid it over, not knowing what the word meant? Caveat emptor and all that? Barnum was a rank amateur, now we have Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker to play for us the finer arias in the con game concerto, of which he and Trump are both virtuosos. Dan Friedman, Mother Jones:
In November 2014, a Miami Beach-based firm, World Patent Marketing, announced the “marketing launch” of a “MASCULINE TOILET,” which boasted a specially designed bowl to help “well-endowed men” avoid unwanted contact with porcelain or water. “The average male genitalia is between 5″ and 6″,” the firm’s press release said. “However, this invention is designed for those of us who measure longer than that.”
The special toilet was not the firm’s only notable offering. It marketed a slew of oddball inventions, including a “theoretical time travel commodity tied directly to price of Bitcoin.” Called Time Travel X and marketed as “a technology, an investment vehicle and a community of users,” the cryptocurrency never materialized. The firm also pitched Sasquatch dolls, promoting them with a video claiming that “DNA evidence collected in 2013 proves that Bigfoot does exist.”
High credibility outfit, huh? With this introduction to World Patent Marketing’s compendium of treasures, it will come to you as no surprise that it was shut down after the Federal Trade Commission fined it $26Mil for having “bilked thousands of consumers out of millions of dollars” in fees it charged, based on the pie-in-the-sky illusion that there were big patent deals to be made. And who profited directly from this scam, but Matthew Whitaker.
The company’s advisory board, which included a former presidential candidate in the Central Africa Republic and an Israeli-born mixed martial artist, gave it a patina of legitimacy. And between 2014 and 2016, as World Patent Marketing was hawking an array of dubious products and allegedly fleecing aspiring inventors, the company paid Whitaker at least $9,375.
Whitaker was no passive board member. He defended the firm against critics, solicited new business, appeared in at least one promotional video for the company, and he seems to have acted at times as outside counsel for the firm. Unlike other advisory board members, he has not returned the payments he received from World Patent Marketing.
This raises the touchy issue of whether a man who was on the advisory board for a bogus company who was busted, should be the nation’s top law enforcement official.
In a report on the site, [ripoffreport dot com] a writer claimed to have duped the firm into offering to help him get a patent for a fake idea: a fried chicken and waffle sandwich. “You cannot make a patent on a sandwich, yet they approved it,” the person wrote.
Now why would people be upset with this? Yet when they were, here’s what Whitaker did:
In an August 2015 email, Whitaker invoked his status as a former US attorney to threaten a man who was planning to file a Better Business Bureau complaint against the company. “There could be serious civil and criminal consequences for you,” Whitaker wrote in the email, first reported by the Miami New Times.
So he’s a goombah as well as a fraudster — what a skills set for an attorney general!
The FTC’s investigation, which did not name Whitaker, concluded that World Patent Marketing suppressed complaints about the company through “threats, intimidation and gag clauses.”
Trump must have jizzed when he heard this. Shades of Roy Cohn. A killer at last, it’s about time.

In any event, Democratic Reps. Elijah Cummings, Jerrold Nadler, Frank Pallone and Adam Schiff sent a document request to Whitaker, because “serious questions are now arising about your fitness to serve in this position of trust.”  For his part, Whitaker says, “As a former US Attorney, I would only align myself with a first class organization.”

Right. That’s why you want to go to work for Donald Trump.

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[cross-posted to PolitiZoom]

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Pretty Good Election for Legalized Marijuana

Marijuana plant. (photo: Seth McConnell/Denver Post)
Marijuana plant. (photo: Seth McConnell/Denver Post)

By German Lopez, Vox
07 November 18

Full legalization won in Michigan, and medical legalization in Missouri and Utah.

arijuana legalization had a very good election night.

The big news came from Michigan, which became the first state in the Midwest to legalize cannabis for recreational purposes. And it appears to have won by a fairly big margin: With 87 percent of precincts reporting, the “yes” vote got 56 percent of the vote — topping the “no” vote by 12 percentage points.

There were also a couple of medical marijuana victories in Missouri and Utah. Both states went Republican in state races (particularly the Senate), yet they still showed solid support for legalizing medical pot. The winning measure in Missouri got 66 percent of the vote, and the initiative in Utah is so far, with 95 percent of precincts reporting, at 53 percent.

The one bit of bad news for legal marijuana came from North Dakota, where voters rejected an initiative that would have legalized cannabis for recreational purposes. That measure got less than 41 percent support.

But the North Dakota loss was widely expected. North Dakota is very conservative; it was always very unlikely to fully legalize pot before, say, liberal New York and New Jersey. The measure’s chances were likely lowered further because it was very unusual: It would have legalized selling pot without any regulations, leaving it to the state’s lawmakers to quickly enact rules instead. Typically, marijuana legalization measures at least set up a regulatory framework for sales.

In short, marijuana legalization got three major wins and an expected loss on Tuesday.

Beyond the midterm elections, 2018 has been a big year for marijuana legalization. This year, California opened the world’s biggest legal marijuana market, Vermont legalized marijuana possession (becoming the first state to do so through its legislature), and Canada became the world’s first wealthy nation to fully legalize pot.

After Election Day, 10 states have legalized marijuana for recreational and medical uses, and 22 others have legalized only for medical purposes.