2016-10-20T17:43:03ZIt is an article of conservative faith that federal spending under President Obama is "out of control." As the 2016 GOP Platform states in an amazing revision of recent history: The Administration's policies systematically crippled economic growth and job creation,... It is an article of conservative faith that federal spending under President Obama is "out of control." As the 2016 GOP Platform states in an amazing revision of recent history: The Administration's policies systematically crippled economic growth and job creation, driving up government costs and driving down revenues. When Congressional Republicans tried to reverse course, the Administration manufactured fiscal crises -- phony government shutdowns -- to demand excessive spending. As the data and history show, every claim in those two sentences is flat-out wrong. (As an aside, don't overlook the 800-pound donkey in the room: the economy almost always performs better under Democratic presidents.) And just last week, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office once again demolished the last one. Taking inflation into account, federal spending has actually declined under Barack Obama. Of course, that truth is not apparent from the recent headlines. While the Wall Street Journal predictably warned "U.S. budget deficit rose in fiscal year 2016, first time in five years," the Associated Press led with this cautionary note: The government ran a $587 billion budget deficit for the just-completed fiscal year, a 34 percent spike over last year after significant improvement from the record deficits of President Barack Obama's first years in office. Friday's deficit news, while sobering, does not appear bad enough to jolt a gridlocked Washington into action to stem the flow of red ink. But there's good reason that action isn't called for now. Even with outlays exceeding tax revenue by $600 billion, deficits of 3 percent of GDP and persistent low interest rates on U.S. Treasury bonds, Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research explained, "It's totally manageable. There's literally nothing there to worry about." (It's also worth noting that the larger deficit in FY 2016 was largely the predictable result of the December 2015 deal on so-called "tax extenders" which will drain $650 billion in revenue over the next decade.") In its report on monthly spending in September, CBO delivered its preliminary assessment that FY 2016 outlays would rise to $3.86 trillion dollars, up from $3.69 trillion in 2015. Revenues, meanwhile, are expected to reach $3.27 trillion, compared to $3.25 trillion last year. But taking inflation into account by using constant FY 2009 dollars (see OMB historical table 1.3) shows a different picture. At, $3.42 trillion, inflation-adjusted FY 2016 spending will still be lower than on Barack Obama's first inauguration day. As I noted previously: On January 7, 2009, CNN reported on the latest long-term budget forecast from the CBO. Two weeks before President Bush ambled out of the Oval Office, CNN explained "the U.S. budget deficit in 2009 is projected to spike to a record $1.2 trillion, or 8.3% of gross domestic product." With the recession in full swing and the massive TARP program passed the previous fall, CBO predicted in January 2009 that federal spending would spike to $3.543 trillion dollars while tax revenue would plummet to an anemic to $2,357 trillion. As it turned out, the final deficit figure for the 2009 fiscal year which ended on September 30, 2009 reached $1.413 trillion because of worse-than-expected tax collections ($2,105 trillion.) If you're looking for a big spender, look no further than George W. Bush. Several other points in recent CBO data are worth highlighting. Simply put, Washington does not have a near-term spending problem. As a share of the U.S. economy, non-defense discretionary spending (that is, everything outside of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, the Pentagon and interest on the national debt) is already at its lowest level in 50 years. As CBO has repeatedly shown,Obamac[...]
2016-10-17T17:46:28ZOn July 28, 2008, the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility jointly published the results of a year-long investigation into the hiring practices at the Bush DOJ. As the AP reported, "A new Justice... On July 28, 2008, the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility jointly published the results of a year-long investigation into the hiring practices at the Bush DOJ. As the AP reported, "A new Justice Department report concludes that politics illegally influenced the hiring of career prosecutors and immigration judges, and largely lays the blame on top aides to former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales." Unsurprisingly, the report singled out Gonzales' White House liaison Monica Goodling for "violating federal law and Justice Department policy by discriminating against job applicants who weren't Republican or conservative loyalists." That finding was unsurprising because Ms. Goodling had already admitted as much. During her May 23, 2007 testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, she acknowledged that "on some occasions" in the hiring of career prosecutors "I crossed the line of the civil service rules." Admitting that she illicitly screened out civil service job applicants who happened to be Democrats, Goodling clarified for all why she sought immunity from the Committee in the first place: "I do acknowledge that I may have gone too far in asking political questions of applicants for career positions, and I may have taken inappropriate political considerations into account on some occasions, and I regret those mistakes." But during his questioning, Indiana Republican Rep. Mike Pence ignored Goodling's confession to make a different point about the Bush administration's purge of U.S. attorneys then under investigation. "I'm listening very intently. I'm studying this case, and I want to explore this issue of illegal behavior with you. Because it seems to me, so much of this, and even something of what we've heard today in this otherwise cordial hearing, is about the criminalization of politics. In a very real sense, it seems to be about the attempted criminalization of things that are vital to our constitutional system of government, namely the taking into consideration of politics in the appointment of political officials within the government." [Emphasis mine.] "I am troubled," Pence concluded, "about the fact that we seem to be moving ever further down the road of the criminalization of politics." Alas, that was then, and this is now. And now, Mike Pence and his running mate Donald Trump are in danger of being on the receiving end of a November 8th beat down at the hands of Democrat Hillary Clinton. And that means Trump, Pence and the "lock her up" crowd calling for her arrest and prosecution are demanding the criminalization of politics they once claimed to detest--and much, much worse. During their second debate last week, The Donald promised Secretary Clinton that under President Trump, "you'd be in jail." Referring to now-concluded the FBI investigation of Clinton's private email server, a probe which produced no charges, Trump promised: "If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation, because there has never been so many lies, so much deception. There has never been anything like it, and we're going to have a special prosecutor." Now, most observers took Trump's pledge for what it is: a threat to America's democratic institutions. (For example, see here, here, here and here.) In the modern United States, the very notion of imprisoning political opponents had been beyond the pale. But from seeing it as "abhorrent," "absurd" and "terrifying", as even former Republican Justice Department appointees summed it up, Trumps' running mate Mike Pence called it a highlight of last Sunday's face-off: "I thought that was one of the better moments of the debate. I'm old enough to remember a day when a presid[...]
2016-10-05T16:16:56ZThe revelation that Donald Trump may have paid no federal income taxes over the past two decades is a dagger aimed at the heart of his presidential candidacy. For starters, his reported $915 million loss in 1995--his second billion-dollar implosion... The revelation that Donald Trump may have paid no federal income taxes over the past two decades is a dagger aimed at the heart of his presidential candidacy. For starters, his reported $915 million loss in 1995--his second billion-dollar implosion in five years--makes a mockery of Trump's repeated boasts that he is a "tremendously successful" businessman. Worse still, his past and planned future windfalls at the expense of the United States Treasury show The Donald is a "big-league" beneficiary of the rigged system pretends to protest. As the parasite posing as populist put it in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland: A number of these reforms that I will outline tonight will be opposed by some of our nation's most powerful special interests. That is because these interests have rigged our political and economic system for their exclusive benefit. As Matthew Yglesias explained in Vox, "You don't need 'genius' to pull off Trump's tax avoidance -- you just need to be rich." Rich, that is, and in the real estate business. The key, as tax expert David Cay Johnston documented Monday, is the manipulation of "net operating losses" on top of the "already liberal tax breaks Congress gives big real-estate owners." Trump dumped the real costs of all this on investors who saw gold in his brand name, but who lost everything even as he was paid tens of millions of tax-free dollars... NOLs are incredibly valuable. These tax losses can be used to offset salaries, business profits, and income from, say, a television show or making neckties in China. Thanks to his $916 million of NOLs, Trump could earn much over 18 years in salaries, profits, and interest, but pay no income taxes. Without Donald Trump's tax returns, there is still much we do not know about the shell game that enabled the reality TV star to stiff Uncle Sam. Still, the most grotesque aspect of Trump's schemes may be that most of them are probably perfectly legal. (Most, but not all. Trump's use of the unlicensed charitable Trump Foundation to pay off legal costs generated by his for-profit businesses almost certainly violate laws on "self-dealing." And Trump apparently used his Foundation to skirt taxes on his appearance and speaker fees by having payments made directly to his "charity.") But the self-proclaimed "blue-collar billionaire" supposedly devoted to "the forgotten Americans" isn't content to rest with the gains--ill-gotten and otherwise--he has withheld from the IRS. Donald Trump has promised that as President, he would implement a new set of windfalls for himself and his children. Over the past year, Trump has released not one, but three tax plans. In each, the top income tax rate is lowered. (In its current incarnation, that top marginal rate would drop from 39.8 to 33 percent.) But even bigger winnings for the Trump Organization will come from his proposed reduction in business taxes. As he summed it up during his disastrous debate against Hillary Clinton last week: Under my plan, I'll be reducing taxes tremendously, from 35 percent to 15 percent for companies, small and big businesses. As Trump spokesman Steven Cheung confirmed on Sunday, that same 15 percent rate will also apply to so-called "pass-through" businesses which pay taxes on revenue as personal income. Businesses, that is, like Donald Trump's. That one change to the tax code wouldn't just drain an estimated $1.5 trillion from federal coffers over the next decade. That pass-through payday for plutocrats would also redirect millions of dollars from Uncle Sam to Donald J. Trump and family--every year. As Trump's tax attorneys explained in his campaign's March 2016 required financial disclosure: "You hold interests as the sole o[...]
2016-09-26T16:40:50ZWashington is experiencing a bipartisan furor over the spiraling price hikes of EpiPen, the life-saving Epinephrine injector tens of thousands of American allergy sufferers depend on in case of emergency. On Wednesday, Democrat Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Republican Jason Chaffetz... Washington is experiencing a bipartisan furor over the spiraling price hikes of EpiPen, the life-saving Epinephrine injector tens of thousands of American allergy sufferers depend on in case of emergency. On Wednesday, Democrat Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Republican Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee blasted Mylan CEO Heather Bresch over her firm's 550 percent price increase from $94 for a two-pack in January 2007 to $609 in May 2016. Bresch, whose father happens to be West Virginia Democratic Senator Jim Manchin and whose mother Gayle Manchin apparently used her perch as the head of the National Association of State Boards of Education to push schools to stock EpiPen, continues to face questions over how much government health insurance programs pay for the allergy treatment. But largely lost in all the talk of generic alternatives, a lower-cost Mylan offering, rebates and profit-margins is this inescapable truth. EpiPen isn't the exception to the rule of American drug pricing; it is the rule. Alone among major, modern economies, the United States government does not currently have the power to regulate drug prices in its $350 billion a year prescription market. The question isn't whether the U.S. should join most of its G20 partners in setting rates for pharmaceuticals, but when it will happen, how it will work and who will do it. And on that last question, the past 25 years have obviously shown that it won't be the Republican Party and its presidential nominee, Donald Trump. Obvious, that is, unless you're Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post. Cillizza, whose young son suffers from a peanut allergy, offered his prescription for addressing the EpiPen disgrace. As he explained this week in "The Mylan EpiPen pricing controversy is why people hate Washington," the answer is not to get even, but to get mad: Very few people have a father who is a U.S. senator. Or a mom who runs a national group overseeing boards of education. And very few people have children who make $19 million a year. The Manchins have all three. And that makes lots of people mad. And convinced that the entire system -- elected officials, lobbyists, trade association heads, etc. -- is morally bankrupt. And that the only solution is a full-scale removal of the establishment by someone -- Trump -- who represents everything that the establishment isn't: straight shooting, blunt talking and, yes, willing to offend... It affirms everything people already believe about How Washington Works -- that it's a rigged deal, and they are on the outside looking in because that's the way the elites in D.C. want it. Understand that feeling, and you understand Trump's appeal. Now, Cillizza could have gone on to document, as the worried readers of PharmExec learned in 2015, that Democrat Hillary Clinton has a 25-year track record of trying to rein in prescription drug costs. Cillizza, whose column is ironically titled "The Fix," might have mentioned that Democrats sought to empower the federal government to negotiate Medicare drug prices, only to be blocked President Bush and his Republican majorities in Congress. And Mr. Fix could have reported that Donald Trump's business career is defined by cheating investors, partners, contractors and customers. Oh, and one other thing. Donald Trump has already shown he has no idea what he's talking about when it comes to prescription drug prices. During the GOP primaries, Trump (like Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie) called for enabling Medicare to negotiate drug prices. Ending that prohibition enshrined in President Bush's 2003 Medicare Part D prescription drug program, Trump boasted, would produce YUG[...]
2016-09-26T15:59:07ZSpeaking a shale industry conference in Pittsburgh last week, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump made a bold promise. "My entire economic plan," Trump boasted, "will create 25 million new jobs over the next 10 years, assuming an average growth rate... Speaking a shale industry conference in Pittsburgh last week, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump made a bold promise. "My entire economic plan," Trump boasted, "will create 25 million new jobs over the next 10 years, assuming an average growth rate of 3.5 percent, and I believe we can reach beyond actually 4 percent growth." Leaving aside the jobs number for a moment, there are a few problems with Trump's GDP pledge. For starters, less than a year ago the reality TV star was promising to deliver not four, but six percent economic growth. Making matters worse, no President since LBJ has averaged four percent GDP expansion. Unveiling his third tax plan in less than a year, Donald Trump last week declared, "I believe it's time to establish a national goal of reaching four percent economic growth." But he didn't stop there: "My great economists don't want know say this, but I think we can do better than that. Now, they're upset. They'll be very upset. But I think we can do and maybe substantially btter than that." And just how much better is "substantially better?" On September 28, 2015, Trump provided an answer. As the Wall Street Journal reported: Donald Trump boasted Monday that his newly unveiled tax plan could supercharge the U.S. economy, pushing annual economic growth as high as 6%, as he upped the ante with Republican presidential rivals over the growth benefits from their competing proposals... Asked about the economic growth he expected his plan to generate, Mr. Trump responded: "We are looking at a 3% but we think it could be 5 [percent] or even 6 [percent]. We are going to have growth that will be tremendous." That kind of growth would be tremendous. But Trump's scheme is ridiculous for the same reason Jeb Bush's "Four Percent Fraud" was as well. As I noted when Jeb promised four percent annual growth because "it's a nice round number": As it turns out, since Ike was in the White House only two presidents--Democrats John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson--averaged at least 4 percent GDP growth over their tenures. And no President named Bush ever reached that mark even once in 12 years... After all, four percent GDP growth isn't just higher than the post-World II U.S. average; it is a figure that has been reached only 27 times in that period. And in that span, two of the worst performers in the White House were Jeb's father and brother. Since 2000, GDP growth has averaged a little less than 2 percent a year. Since the Great Recession of 2008 hit, labor productivity has expanded by less than 1 percent a year. As Neil Irwin explained in the New York Times last week, that means Trump can't get there from here. Our aging population and his planned crackdown on immigration mean a return to the boom days of 1950 to 1973 simply isn't in the cards: Add it all up, and is Mr. Trump's promise of 25 million new jobs over the next decade and 3.5 percent annual economic growth possible? Only if a burst of innovation arrives that makes every worker's labor go further, and if millions of new immigrants arrive from overseas or the ratio of American adults who want to work rises far higher than it has ever been. Absent all that, the math just doesn't work. Unencumbered by either truth or history, Donald Trump made a vow about his economic blueprint to his audience last week: [It] will be completely paid for in combination with proposed budget savings. It will be deficit neutral. If we reach four percent growth, it will reduce the deficit, it will be accomplished through a complete overhaul of our tax regulatory, energy and trade policies. Of course, Trump's gambit is far from deficit neutral. His massive tax cuts for the rich [...]
2016-09-22T21:29:02ZDavid Farenthold of the Washington Post on Tuesday broke a huge story about the rampant wrong-doing at the Trump Foundation. Donald Trump, Farenthold revealed, "spent more than a quarter-million dollars from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits that involved the... David Farenthold of the Washington Post on Tuesday broke a huge story about the rampant wrong-doing at the Trump Foundation. Donald Trump, Farenthold revealed, "spent more than a quarter-million dollars from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits that involved the billionaire's for-profit businesses." But if the Republican nominee's "self-dealing" as president of the Trump Foundation likely violated the law, the real estate magnate is trying to perpetrate a much larger scam to enrich himself at the expense of American taxpayers. And this other Trump con, a trillion-dollar shell game with the U.S. tax code, is completely legal. Here's how the scheme works. Last week, Donald Trump unveiled the third version of his tax plan in under a year and the second in just the last six weeks. The biggest change from August was the decision to seemingly abandon his proposed 15 percent corporate tax rate for "partnerships, limited liability companies and other businesses known as pass-throughs." But as the New York Times documented on September 16, that announcement represented "Conflicting Policy From Trump: To Keep, and Remove, Tax Cut." A few hours after Donald J. Trump publicly backed away from a $1 trillion tax cut for small businesses, campaign aides on Thursday privately assured a leading small-business group that Mr. Trump in fact remained committed to the proposal -- winning the group's endorsement. The campaign then told the Tax Foundation, a conservative-leaning Washington think tank it asked to price the plan, that Mr. Trump had indeed decided to eliminate the tax cut. Call it the trillion-dollar lie: Both assertions cannot be true. [Emphasis mine.] But Trump's misdirection wouldn't just cost the United States Treasury an estimated $1.5 trillion over the next decade. Keeping that pass-through payday for plutocrats would also redirect millions of dollars from Uncle Sam to Donald J. Trump and family--every year. As Trump's tax attorneys explained in his campaign's March 2016 required financial disclosure: "You hold interests as the sole or principal owner in approximately 500 separate entities. These entities are referred to and do business as The Trump Organization. ... Because you operate these businesses almost exclusively through sole proprietorships and/or closely held partnerships, your personal federal income tax returns are inordinately large and complex for an individual." And that would mean really YUGE savings for The Donald if his "now you see it, now you don't" tax cut is still on for January 20, 2017. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) recently explained, "Pass-through income is claimed by business entities that aren't subject to the corporate income tax, which currently has a top statutory rate of 35 percent (though most corporations pay an effective tax rate considerably lower than 35 percent). Pass-through income is business income that "passes through" the business and is instead reported on the individual tax returns of the business owners and taxed at the owners' tax rates." But as CBPP also documented, "'pass-throughs' are not synonymous with 'small businesses' and "pass-through income is highly concentrated at the top:" Mr. Trump, who has proposed a 15 percent corporate tax rate, proposes a pass-through rate of 15 percent as well. The Trump pass-through proposal would be an expensive tax cut that would flow primarily to the wealthiest Americans. That's because more than two-thirds of pass-through business income flows to the highest-income 1 percent of tax filers. Many businesses, such as law firms, and groups of wealthy investors choose to be t[...]
2016-09-21T16:13:09ZIn late 2007 and 2008, the United States and the global economy were devastated by the subprime crisis. That financial calamity was so named due to the hundreds of thousands of foreclosed upon homeowners who were unqualified for the loans...
(image)In late 2007 and 2008, the United States and the global economy were devastated by the subprime crisis. That financial calamity was so named due to the hundreds of thousands of foreclosed upon homeowners who were unqualified for the loans they received from mortgage originators around the country. The disaster did not result from the borrowers' deceit or government policy to spur home ownership among lower income Americans, but from an entire financial sector that was incentivized to loan them money whether they could pay it back or not. Banks and private mortgage firms offered the loans because companies like Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and Goldman Sachs could "securitize" and sell the bundled mortgages insured by derivatives provided by, among others, AIG. It all worked for everyone, as long as the rating agencies like Fitch and Moody's gave them AAA ratings. And as long as housing prices kept going up. But when the bubble burst, trillions of dollars of wealth were wiped out and millions of Americans were left underwater.
Now, as the country prepares to go the polls, Americans are running the risk of a new--and completely avoidable--subprime crisis of a different kind. On November 8, voters will choose to "loan" the White House and the all the power that goes with it to either Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican Donald Trump. The tightening polls show a growing possibility that Americans will mortgage their futures to the reality TV star, despite 62 percent of respondents (including 23 percent of Republicans) saying Trump is not "qualified to serve as president."
But the bad risk Trump represents isn't limited to his temperament, intellect and judgment (or lack thereof). It's not just that his serial bankruptcies and dubious business practices can and do get him laughed out of bankers' offices. As it turns out, his repeated promises to pay for expanded defense spending, his maternity leave program, Medicare prescription drugs, Social Security and more by cutting "waste, fraud and abuse" doesn't pass either the giggle test or basic math. Worse still, a growing consensus of economists warn that Trump's mammoth tax cut windfall for the wealthy and balanced budget boasts would necessarily produce the next recession--or much worse.
2016-09-19T16:54:51ZThe article below ("The Othering of the President") originally appeared on February 23, 2015 in response to Rudy Giuliani's obscene claim that "I do not believe that the president loves America." But with Donald Trump's presidential campaign trying replace its... The article below ("The Othering of the President") originally appeared on February 23, 2015 in response to Rudy Giuliani's obscene claim that "I do not believe that the president loves America." But with Donald Trump's presidential campaign trying replace its old Birther slander with a new one (that the Birther movement itself was started by the Clinton team in 2008), it seemed time for a quick review of what happens when a major political party makes casual racism a centerpiece of its electoral strategy. As GOP strategist Alex Castellanos, a man whose previous claims to fame was to declare that "Hillary=France" and tell voters it's OK to call Hillary Clinton a "bitch," put it Sunday: "There is an otherness to this president." Back in October 2008, then Republican presidential candidate John McCain had one of the finest moments of his career. When angry Minnesota town hall questioners claimed Democrat Barack Obama was "an Arab" who could not be trusted, Senator McCain was quick to respond. After first lecturing the crowd that "I have to tell you, Sen. Obama is a decent person and a person you don't have to be scared of as president of the United States," McCain made clear he was having none of their hate-mongering : "No, ma'am. He's a decent family man [and] citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that's what this campaign's all about. He's not [an Arab]." Sadly, that was probably the last time a major Republican figure publicly and emphatically denounced his party's transparent attempts to portray Barack Obama as "the other," a somehow dangerous and demonic figure skulking outside the pale of American society. Six years into his presidency, President Obama still routinely faces slanders calling his faith, his citizenship and even his patriotism into question. And with their silence, GOP presidential candidates and Congressional leaders past and present are complicit in the conservative campaign to cater to what RFK aptly called "the dark side of the American character." This week, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani offered just the latest case in point. Giuliani, the 2007 GOP White House front runner who would fall 1,156 delegates short of the 1,191 needed to secure the nomination, had this to say at a Wall Street event also attended by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker: "I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn't love you. And he doesn't love me. He wasn't brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country." But given the chance to repudiate Rudy's slur, Walker decided to punt. The current leader of the GOP pack for 2016 instead proclaimed: "The mayor can speak for himself. I'm not going to comment on what the President thinks or not. He can speak for himself as well. "I'll tell you, I love America," he continued. "There are plenty of people, Democrat, Republican, independent, and in between who love this country. I think we should talk about ways we love this country and that we feel passionately about America." Of course, what Walker is really passionate about is winning over the hard-core conservatives who dominate the early Republican primary states. Targeting the same audience, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal on Thursday followed suit in throwing some red meat to the reddest of red staters: "Gov. Jindal Refuses to Condemn Mayor Giuliani." Leave aside for the moment that going back to his debut on the national stage in 2004, Senator, candidate and President Obama has repea[...]
2016-09-12T22:29:10ZIn 1993, the late New York Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan published his famous paper, titled "Defining Deviancy Down." Lamenting the rising rates of crime, homelessness, and family breakdown among other American pathologies, the social scientist and member of the...
(image)In 1993, the late New York Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan published his famous paper, titled "Defining Deviancy Down." Lamenting the rising rates of crime, homelessness, and family breakdown among other American pathologies, the social scientist and member of the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations warned, "We have been re-defining deviancy so as to exempt much conduct previously stigmatized, and also quietly raising the 'normal' level in categories where behavior is now abnormal by any earlier standard." Whether due to the best of intentions, sheer opportunism or a gradual process of normalization, Americans and their institutions had come to "mainstream" behaviors once viewed as far beyond the pale of the acceptable.
More than two decades later, it appears the United States is far along in the process of defining down the deviancy of Donald Trump. Now, a man whose naked racism, cynical xenophobia, rapid-fire dissembling, shady business practices, staggering public policy ignorance, and dangerously nonsensical proposals would have once disqualified him from serious consideration as a major party nominee has a very real chance to become the 45th president of the United States.
Recent headlines tell the tale. During the past week alone, CNN reporter Dana Bash declared that the "onus" is on Hillary Clinton in the upcoming presidential debates as "the expectations are higher for her because she's a seasoned politician." Echoing Meet the Press host Chuck Todd's abdication of his journalistic duties during the passage of Obamacare, Fox News host and upcoming debate moderator Chris Wallace announced that fact-checking the candidates is "not my job." (In Wednesday's "Commander-in-Chief" Forum, NBC's Matt Lauer proved his point.) While former CNN anchor Soledad O'Brien fretted that the Donald's campaign had "normalized" white supremacy on air and in the national discourse, his campaign manager Kellyanne Conway claimed that "Mr. Trump deserves credit" for his ersatz outreach to those he calls "the blacks." To paraphrase George W. Bush, Trump is benefitting from the low expectations of soft bigotry.
But that's not all. As Paul Krugman, Daniel Drezner, Brian Beutler and Paul Waldman among others protested, "Trump's history of corruption is mind-boggling. So why is Clinton supposedly the corrupt one?" After all, a cascade of stories from the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the AP, and ABC News raising doubts about the Clinton Foundation, Hillary's emails and her ethics at the State Department produced, as Drezner summed it up, "nothingburgers." While the asymmetric coverage of Clinton is now in its third decade, Waldman pointed out, "Trump is still being let off the hook."
2016-09-10T17:18:00ZIt was one of the defining moments of the 2012 presidential campaign. "Our Navy is smaller now than at any time since 1917," Republican Mitt Romney charged during the third and final debate, adding, "Air Force is older and smaller... It was one of the defining moments of the 2012 presidential campaign. "Our Navy is smaller now than at any time since 1917," Republican Mitt Romney charged during the third and final debate, adding, "Air Force is older and smaller than at any time since it was founded in 1947." President Obama responded with overwhelming force--and deadly accuracy: "We also have fewer horses and bayonets. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines... And so the question is not a game of Battleship, where we're counting slips. It's what are our capabilities. And so when I sit down with the Secretary of the Navy and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, we determine how are we going to be best able to meet all of our defense needs in a way that also keeps faith with our troops." Now, four years after Obama blasted the BSS Romney out of the water, would-be Commander-in-Chief Donald Trump has decided to resurrect the same discredited argument about defense spending and military preparedness. As Trump put it in his address to the Union League on September 7: History shows that when America is not prepared is when the danger is greatest. We want to deter, avoid and prevent conflict through our unquestioned military strength. Under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, defense spending is on track to fall to its lowest level as a share of the economy since the end of World War II. We currently have the smallest Army since 1940. The Navy is among the smallest it has been since 1915. And the Air Force is the smallest it has been since 1947. Trump proceeded to offer a laundry list of examples of supposed reductions in strength, much as Mitt Romney did four years ago. In January 2012, Governor Romney charged, "President Obama has put us on course toward a 'hollow' force." The Obama administration's cuts have left us with a military inventory largely composed of weapons designed forty to fifty years ago. The average age of our tanker aircraft is 47 years, of strategic bombers 34 years. While the weapons in our arsenal remain formidable, they are well along on the path to obsolescence. Along with the aging process, there has been a precipitous decline in sheer numbers. The U.S. Navy has only 284 ships today, the lowest level since 1916. Given current trends, the number will decline, and the additional contemplated cuts will cause it to decline even further. Our naval planners indicate we need 328 ships to fulfill the Navy's role of global presence and power projection in defense of American security. Our Air Force, which had 82 fighter squadrons at the end of the Cold War, has been reduced to 39 today. Unsurprisingly, Politifact rated Romney's gambit a "Pants on Fire" lie. It's no mystery as to why: Counting the number of ships or aircraft is not a good measurement of defense strength because their capabilities have increased dramatically in recent decades. Romney's comparison "doesn't pass 'the giggle test,' " said William W. Stueck, a historian at the University of Georgia. Now, accusing Democrats of gutting America's national defense is a tried if untrue Republican talking point. During his 2015 announcement speech, failed presidential candidate Marco Rubio (R-FL) similarly slandered the Obama administration, claiming the President: "...wasted no time stripping parts from the engine of American Strength. He enacted hundreds of billions in defense cuts that left our Army on track to be at pre-World War II levels, our Navy at pre-WWI levels, and our Air Force with the smalles[...]
2016-09-08T16:19:48ZFor the second straight week, Republican nominee Donald Trump has continued his much-hyped "outreach" effort to black voters. But as the recent polling suggests, Trump is failing to convince African-Americans that he will "build the future" of the Party of... For the second straight week, Republican nominee Donald Trump has continued his much-hyped "outreach" effort to black voters. But as the recent polling suggests, Trump is failing to convince African-Americans that he will "build the future" of the Party of Lincoln "on his legacy." That's in large part because in words and in deeds, Donald Trump is less like Abraham Lincoln and more like Jefferson Davis. And five years after he first made denying the citizenship of the first African-American President of the United States, Donald Trump has refused to apologize for the strategic slander that catapulted him to the forefront of the GOP White House wannabes. Now, the man who in 2011 and 2012 wouldn't shut up about Barack Obama's birth certificate has nothing to say on the subject. As Aaron Blake documented in the Washington Post: "I don't talk about it, because if I talk about that, your whole thing will be about that," Trump said Monday. "So I don't talk about it." He doesn't say it's a non-issue. He says it's an issue he'd rather not talk about. That's an answer he's been giving for a while now. Here's Trump in May: "I don't talk about it anymore, because whenever I talk about it, it becomes a story." And here's what he told CNN back in June: "I don't talk about it. You know why I don't talk about it? Because once I talk about it, that's all they want to write about. So I don't ever talk about it." There's mystery as to why. "Having already built his political brand around Birtherism, he knew he didn't need to delve into it again in order to get the political benefits of it from Republicans," the reliably Republican Hot Air explained on Monday. "Better to ignore it and deny the media a reason to hassle him about it, knowing that his right-wing fans would quietly reward him for what he said about it in the past." The polling numbers bear that out. A year ago, PPP found that 61 percent of Trump supporters believed Obama was not born in the United States. Sixty-six percent thought he was a Muslim. By May, a new PPP survey put the numbers at 59 and 67 percent. And in an August NBC News/Survey Monkey poll, seventy-two percent of registered Republicans still doubted the President's place of birth. Forty-one percent disagreed outright with the statement, "Barack Obama was born in the United States." For his most devoted followers, Donald Trump's racist Obama birth certificate fraud is a feature, not a bug. Frustrated that contemporaneous newspaper announcements and his "short-form" birth certificate were not sufficient to quell the myth-making on the right, President Obama on April 27, 2011 released the "long-form" document. Coming just four days before he ordered the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan, Obama rightly declared, "we do not have time for this kind of silliness." But it wasn't just Donald Trump who made that silliness the centerpiece of his political strategy. To keep them in the good graces of the worst elements of the reactionary right, the GOP's best and brightest needed to keep that fraud alive, too. Consider, for example, 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. When Governor Romney wasn't accusing the President of the United States of being "extraordinarily foreign," he was providing aid and comfort to conservative fabulists claiming they could prove it. After all, Mitt Romney didn't just refuse to repudiate his Obama birth certificate fraud Donald Trump. Truth be damned, Romney suggested, instead arguing that cobbling together a majority--an[...]
2016-09-01T16:11:28ZRepublican presidential nominee Donald Trump has tied into a pretzel over immigration; on Wednesday night in Arizona he will try to extricate himself. But for all of the talk about a new, "humane" approach with its "baby steps" towards the... Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has tied into a pretzel over immigration; on Wednesday night in Arizona he will try to extricate himself. But for all of the talk about a new, "humane" approach with its "baby steps" towards the ejection of the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States, nothing about Trump's position on his signature issue has changed. We know this not just because his campaign manager, campaign spokesperson and son told us so. When it comes to building his wall, deporting the "bad dudes" and removing millions of our friends and neighbors, Donald Trump has repeatedly promised to get it done "so fast your head will spin." Consider, for example, the fate of the 11 million, 85 percent of whom have been here for at least five years. During a September 10, 2015 conference call with Alabama Republicans, The Donald made it clear that President Trump would get rid of them all--and fast. As CBS News reported, Trump boasted, "I think it's a process that can take 18 months to two years if properly handled." But that wasn't all: Trump also said that he wouldn't build the wall along the Southern border he has proposed until all the undocumented immigrants are out. "I will get them out so fast that your head would spin, long before I even can start the wall," Trump said. "They will be out of here. You know we have tremendous problems of crime." [Emphasis mine.] You read that right. Donald Trump promised to kick out 15,000 people every day for two years. How he would do identify, locate, round up, house and transport millions of people residing here is a mystery. (As his campaign now insists, just don't call it a "deportation force.") As we fast forward to August 2016, candidate Trump has softened his language, if not his intent. Last week, The Donald differentiated between the "bad dudes" and the rest of the undocumented immigrants now in the U.S. Expelling the latter group, he insisted, "We want to do it in a very humane manner." As for those bad dudes who committed crimes either before or after arriving in America: "The first thing we're going to do, if and when I win, is we're going to get rid of all of the bad ones. We've got gang members, we have killers, we have a lot of bad people that have to get out of this country. We're going to get them out. The police know who they are. They're known by law enforcement who they are . . . They're going to be out of this country so fast your head will spin. We have existing laws that allow you to do that." [Emphasis mine.] As for Trump's big, beautiful wall--the one that Mexico will supposedly pay for--the timeline is a short one. How quickly will President Trump build it? As he boasted in Ohio last week: "We're going to build a wall folks, don't worry, we're going to build a wall. That wall will go up so fast your head will spin." [Emphasis mine] Nevertheless, you can expect much of the media to report on Donald Trump's "presidential" visit to Mexico and his supposed pivot on immigration. While nothing will have actually changed, that new narrative will unfold so fast it will make your head spin. [...]
2016-08-29T16:28:29ZWhen it comes to its electoral strategy, it's not often that a presidential campaign gives the game away so easily. This week, new Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway did it twice. Last Sunday, she personally confirmed that Donald Trump's laughable... When it comes to its electoral strategy, it's not often that a presidential campaign gives the game away so easily. This week, new Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway did it twice. Last Sunday, she personally confirmed that Donald Trump's laughable outreach to black voters wasn't intended for African-Americans at all. "I live in a white community," Conway explained, "I'm white. I was very moved by his comment." Just three days later, she insisted her losing candidate was actually winning, all thanks to what she branded "the hidden Trump voter in the country." Claiming their numbers are "very significant," Ms. Conway suggested the campaign's "Undercover Trump Voter" project would help these appalled or ashamed suburban whites overcome the social stigma of publicly backing the irredeemably racist Republican nominee: "Donald Trump performs consistently better in online polling where a human being is not talking to another human being about what he or she may do in the election. It's because it's become socially desirable, if you're a college educated person in the United States of America, to say that you're against Donald Trump." These supposed undercover Trump voters, in other words, are simply too embarrassed to acknowledge they support The Donald. But while they feel compelled to lie to pollsters now, on November 8th their secret ballots will power Trump to a shocking upset victory. If this formula sounds vaguely familiar, it should. That's because back in the early 1990's political scientists, pundits and the press proclaimed the existence of the "Bradley Effect" in which some white voters would lie to survey takers (and even themselves) about supporting a black candidate only to mark the ballot for his or her white opponent on Election Day. The Trump campaign, it now appears, is counting on the reverse dynamic to save it in November. As you may recall, the Bradley Effect got its name from Tom Bradley, the former Mayor of Los Angeles. In his 1982 California gubernatorial race, he consistently led Republican George Deukmejian. As former Virginia Governor Douglas Wilder explained four years ago: On the eve of the election, polls anointed him a prohibitive favorite. But on Election Day, Bradley lost to his white opponent, Republican George Deukmejian." Post-election analysis showed that white voters had cast ballots for Bradley in far smaller numbers than polling suggested. Meanwhile, the votes of the avowed "undecideds" fell in a cascading wave for Deukmejian. This almost happened to me. Voter surveys immediately before my 1989 election as Virginia governor showed me leading my Republican opponent by almost 10 points. Some showed an even larger lead. Like David Dinkins in New York City, Wilder only eeked out a victory by half a percentage point. But unlike Bradley, Wilder was prepared. "My campaign knew better, however," he pointed out in 2012. "Our internal polls always showed the race to be a statistical dead heat." Four years later, Donald Trump and his water carriers are hoping for a repeat of the Bradley experience, but in reverse. Just one day before Trump's campaign manager Conway unveiled her magic unicorn theory of The Donald's path to victory, campaign CEO Stephen Bannon's friends at Breitbart ran this headline: "EXCLUSIVE: Former Tom Bradley Aide Says Secret Trump Voters Similar to 'Bradley Effect.'" A cheerful Emerson College Professor Gregory Payne tells Breitbart News that after witnessing the ac[...]
2016-08-24T16:25:21ZAnd now some helpful advice for Republicans pretending to diagnose Hillary Clinton by video: it won't go well for you. Back in the spring of 2005, Senate Majority Leader and physician Bill Frist (R-TN) told his assembled colleagues that he... And now some helpful advice for Republicans pretending to diagnose Hillary Clinton by video: it won't go well for you. Back in the spring of 2005, Senate Majority Leader and physician Bill Frist (R-TN) told his assembled colleagues that he disagreed with Terri Schiavo's doctors that she had suffered massive, irreversible and permanent brain damage. "I question it based on a review of the video footage which I spent an hour or so looking at last night in my office," he said in a lengthy speech in which he quoted medical texts and standards. "She certainly seems to respond to visual stimuli." Frist, who just four months earlier tried to defend the notion that HIV/AIDS could be transmitted by tears and sweat, was rightly mocked at the time. Ultimately, Schiavo's autopsy confirmed her doctors' assessment, leaving Bill Frist's presidential ambitions in a permanent vegetative state. But the Republicans now preposterously claiming that Secretary Clinton is suffering from seizures, Parkinson's disease, dysphasia, aneurysms, stroke, brain cancer and radiation poisoning don't need to go back to March 2005 to relive their humiliation. As it turns out, a quick review of the events of October 22, 2015 is more than sufficient to dispel GOP myth-making about Clinton's health. That was the day, after all, in which Clinton showed plenty of "mental and physical stamina" in smacking down the GOP-controlled House Benghazi Committee. But you don't have to take the word of Clinton allies after her 11 hour testimony that "the woman has amazing endurance" and "she answered every question with the grace and a commanding knowledge of a true leader." Headlines like "Conservative Pundits Were Not Impressed with the GOP's Disastrous Benghazi Hearing" and "Benghazi Bust" and "The Conservative Reviews Are In: Benghazi Hearing a Bust summed up the frustration, exasperation and desperation who watched a patient, prepared and powerful Clinton outperform and outsmart Rep. Trey Gowdy's (R-SC) daylong inquisition. As right-wing columnist Byron York lamented: There's a reason Benghazi Committee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy offered Hillary Clinton the chance to testify in a private, closed hearing. And there's a reason Clinton wanted to appear in an open setting, with the whole world watching. Writing in Bloomberg News, Sahil Kapur reported, "Some of Hillary Clinton's top critics say she won the day." Dick Cheney hagiographer and 9/11 fabulist Stephen Hayes criticized the work of Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), grumbling that his "second round of questioning was snarky in tone and ineffective in substance." New York Post columnist and former Reagan speechwriter John Podhoretz tweeted his outrage over Clinton's clear triumph: Why doesn't Pompeo just go over and swear her in for president now--if he goes on like this he'll practically get her elected— John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) October 22, 2015 Matt Lewis, whose Daily Caller recently published a piece titled "We Ran Hillary Clinton's Symptoms Through WebMD And The Diagnosis Isn't Pretty," reached a different conclusion after the Democrat shredded Gowdy's Committee on October 22. "Unless something happens," Lewis tweeted at 12:18 PM that day, "it's starting to look like Hillary Clinton won't merely survive this hearing -- she will have come out on top." Just two minutes later, he moaned that: Ever since the McCarthy gaffe, everything has worked out for Hillary (debate, Biden, & now this hearin[...]
2016-08-23T16:50:10ZOver the past few days, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump received the equivalent of a Little League participation trophy. Some in the press lavished praise on the "new Trump" for offering an ersatz apology to no one in particular for... Over the past few days, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump received the equivalent of a Little League participation trophy. Some in the press lavished praise on the "new Trump" for offering an ersatz apology to no one in particular for nothing specific. Then the man who has the lowest approval ratings from African-American voters in modern political history earned kudos for his "outreach" to black voters. Former New York Mayor and Trump water carrier Rudy Giuliani called his addresses "the best" that "any Republican, at the least, has ever given." But the target of Donald Trump's speeches to virtually all-white audiences in lily white towns like West Bend, Wisconsin and Dimondale, Michigan wasn't the African-American electorate that will doubtless deliver at least 90 percent of its vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton. No, Trump as ever was sending a message to white folks. To that handful of suburban voters desperate for any sign that his incendiary and racist rhetoric hadn't already placed him beyond the pale, The Donald was trying to present the façade of newly-found empathy. Far more important, Trump cynically recited a litany of sick stereotypes and pretend pathologies of African-Americans to stoke the burning racial resentment of his snow white base. Why else would Donald Trump bash black voters he was supposedly trying to embrace? In the 93 percent white town of Dimondale, Trump spoke at and about overwhelmingly black Detroit almost an hour and a half away: "You're living in poverty. Your schools are no good. You have no jobs. 58% of your youth in unemployed. What the hell do you have to lose?" Philip Gourevitch summed up Trump's pitch to African-American voters, "I look at you & see an unimaginable nightmare--so abominable & desperate that you might as well vote for me." As Trump's comments to Fox News host Jeanine Pirro on Saturday showed, Gourevitch wasn't exaggerating: "It's just a like a total catastrophe, the unemployment rates, everything is bad, no healthcare, no education, no anything, and poverty is unbelievable." Now, there are just two problems for the man who has long boasted that "I have a great relationship with the blacks." For starters, as Philip Bump pointed out in the Washington Post, virtually noting Trump said was true: Black Americans are not "living in poverty" as a general rule. A quarter of the black population is, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, about the same as the percentage of Hispanics. In Michigan, the figure is slightly higher. Most black Americans don't live in poverty, just as most white Americans don't. Fifty years ago, 41 percent of African-Americans lived in poverty. Now, "the black poverty rate is too high but most blacks, more than 72%, do not live in poverty," ThinkProgress explained, adding, "The black unemployment rate is too high but 92% of blacks in the labor force have jobs." But there's another fallacy in Trump's tall tale of African-American despair and hopelessness. As a recent survey from the Pew Research Center revealed (see chart above), blacks are the most upbeat of any American demographic group about the progress the United States has made over the past 50 years. About eight-in-ten (81%) Trump backers say that things have gotten worse for people like them compared with 50 years ago. Just 19% of Clinton supporters say the same. A 59% majority of Clinton supporters say life is better for p[...]