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Updated: 2018-02-18T20:14:04Z

 



The President's Address to the Nation on Russian Cyber Aggression

2018-02-18T20:14:04Z

As prepared for delivery by the president (provided the president is not named Donald Trump), February 19, 2018. My fellow Americans, I have requested this time tonight to speak to you regarding a matter of the greatest national urgency. As...

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As prepared for delivery by the president (provided the president is not named Donald Trump), February 19, 2018.

My fellow Americans, I have requested this time tonight to speak to you regarding a matter of the greatest national urgency. As your commander in chief, I have no greater responsibility and no more solemn obligation than the preservation of the security of the United States of America, the safety of our people, and the vibrancy of our democracy.

Tonight, it is my duty to report to you that our institutions of self-government, our way of life, and even our freedom itself are under threat by ongoing acts of cyber aggression carried out by the Russian Federation. Fifteen months after the controversial and closely contested election of 2016, the Russian government, its agents, and its proxies acting under direct orders from President Vladimir Putin have continued to wage an electronic war of disinformation and disorder against the United States and many of our close allies.

Let me be clear: this constitutes the gravest risk to American national security since Soviet nuclear missiles stood ready to launch just 90 miles from Florida.

That's why this evening, I will discuss the steps your government is taking and will take to punish these Russian assaults on American sovereignty and to counter and deter future threats from the Kremlin and its cyber warriors. Just as important, I want to outline for you and to the Russian people alike how our two nations can step back from the brink of conflict, and instead restore a relationship of mutual respect and enduring peace.

As you will recall, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on January 6, 2017 released an unclassified version of its report on Russian hacking for President Obama. The DNI, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the National Security Agency (NSA) concluded with "high confidence" that Putin had ordered a campaign to influence the 2016 U.S. election. The intelligence community's assessment found, and I quote:

Continue reading at Daily Kos.




There's No Mystery to Achieving Transparent Pricing and Lower Costs for U.S. Health Care

2018-02-09T20:12:49Z

Health industry stocks plunged on Tuesday with word that corporate powerhouses Amazon, J.P. Morgan, and Berkshire Hathaway were partnering to create a new, nonprofit company to "focus on technological solutions to provide coverage for U.S. employees at a lower cost."...

Health industry stocks plunged on Tuesday with word that corporate powerhouses Amazon, J.P. Morgan, and Berkshire Hathaway were partnering to create a new, nonprofit company to "focus on technological solutions to provide coverage for U.S. employees at a lower cost." But if Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, and Jamie Dimon were less than clear about precisely what their new venture will do, their bottom-line objective to help corporate employers like themselves dramatically reduce the cost of their workers' health care is straightforward. With a combined market capitalization of $1.5 trillion and 1 million employees, their potential savings are enormous. CNBC sources claimed that "this effort can cut J.P. Morgan's annual $1.25 billion medical expense by up to 20 percent."

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Whether the new entity will use its combined buying power to drive down the cost of treatments; negotiate drug prices; or pioneer a technology platform for real-time cost comparisons, insurance customization, and health record management (i.e. "Amazon Health Services" or "AHS") is still to be determined. As Amazon founder and CEO Bezos put it:

"The healthcare system is complex, and we enter into this challenge open-eyed about the degree of difficulty. Hard as it might be, reducing healthcare's burden on the economy while improving outcomes for employees and their families would be worth the effort. Success is going to require talented experts, a beginner's mind, and a long-term orientation."

Or as Buffett, the Berkshire Hathaway chairman and CEO explained:

"The ballooning costs of healthcare act as a hungry tapeworm on the American economy. Our group does not come to this problem with answers. But we also do not accept it as inevitable. Rather, we share the belief that putting our collective resources behind the country's best talent can, in time, check the rise in health costs while concurrently enhancing patient satisfaction and outcomes." [Emphasis mine.]

But with all due respect to the Oracle of Omaha, there is already an answer to this problem, one which America's economic competitors discovered years ago and still share today. Whether in the nationalized system of the UK, the single-payer systems of Canada's provinces, the mandated health savings accounts in Singapore, or the universal coverage regimes nevertheless dependent on private insurers in France, Germany, Switzerland, and Japan, the solution for cost control and price transparency is the same. Whether negotiated directly or through a national association of insurers, the government sets the prices for prescription drugs, tests, treatments, hospital stays, and pretty much everything else.

Continue reading at Daily Kos.




"Equal Sovereignty" of the States in the Age of Trump

2018-01-23T19:47:25Z

Less than a week into the new year, the Trump administration kicked off 2018 with one of the most cynical and craven acts of political favoritism in recent American history. On January 4, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke unveiled the Draft...

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Less than a week into the new year, the Trump administration kicked off 2018 with one of the most cynical and craven acts of political favoritism in recent American history. On January 4, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke unveiled the Draft Five Year Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program. That massive gift to Donald Trump's backers in the oil and gas industry would open virtually the entire coastal United States to energy exploration and drilling. Then just five days later, Zinke delivered another reward for loyalty, this time to Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott. The Sunshine State, home to 29 electoral votes, Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, and Scott's likely 2018 Senate bid, would get an exemption from the unpopular drilling expansion.

Zinke made no secret as to the reason why Florida was to be so blessed. "The governor," Zinke admitted. "You have a tremendous governor that is straightforward, easy to work for, says exactly what he means. And I can tell you Florida is well-served." Of course, his official statement tried to provide the thin veneer of a reasonable rationale for the administration's naked partisanship:

"I support the governor's position that Florida is unique and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver (so) I am removing Florida from consideration for any new oil and gas platforms."

Needless to say, other coastal states--most of them governed by Democrats--were having none of it. Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff noted that California "like Florida, has hundreds of miles of beautiful coastline and a governor who wants to keep it that way. Or is that not enough for blue states?" His Golden State colleague Ted Lieu warned that Zinke's Tallahassee Take-Back "violates the legal standard of arbitrary and capricious agency action." And as CBS News reported, that's not the only reason the Trump's Panhandle Payoff might violate federal law:

Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington state said Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's decision to give Florida a last-minute exemption while ignoring at least 10 other states that made similar requests may violate requirements of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, which governs drilling in U.S. coastal waters.

But you don't have to take the word of these Democrats that something's rotten in the state of Florida when it comes to Trump's coastal drilling policy. Just ask Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. After all, in his 2013 opinion striking down sections of the Voting Rights Act, Roberts invented a novel theory of "equal sovereignty" prohibiting "disparate treatment of states." And as the President and his Republican allies in Congress seek new ways to punish blue states while rewarding red ones, Ruth Bader-Ginsburg's warning that Roberts' fictional constitutional construct "is capable of much mischief" may come to pass in ways neither anticipated.

Continue reading at Daily Kos.




Republicans' Lesson for Democrats: Next President Must "Look Backwards" at GOP Crimes

2018-01-18T18:49:22Z

If nothing else, Republicans over the past few weeks have delivered an important civics lesson to the American people in general--and Democrats in particular. Facing a growing mountain of irrefutable evidence that the incompetent, out-of-his-depth GOP president of the United...

If nothing else, Republicans over the past few weeks have delivered an important civics lesson to the American people in general--and Democrats in particular. Facing a growing mountain of irrefutable evidence that the incompetent, out-of-his-depth GOP president of the United States has been enmeshed in a network of ties to Russian business and government interests that put American institutions and democracy itself at risk, the GOP rallied not to the nation's defense, but Donald Trump's.

The signs of the expanding counterattack are everywhere. For weeks, special counsel Robert Mueller and senior career personnel at the Justice Department and FBI have been under assault from Republicans in both Houses. Calls to investigate Mueller and "purge" the FBI were followed by the specter of GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham and Chuck Grassley referring Russia dossier author Christopher Steele for charges over unspecified lies made to unnamed government investigators. (The transcript of the Fusion GPS Senate testimony released by California Democrat Dianne Feinstein suggests both why Grassley broke his promise to publish it and the smear campaign underway against Steele.) Meanwhile, the Trump White House and its allies are ramping up their attacks on Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of State who left government service in 2013. The Republicans' misdirection campaign includes the assignment by FBI agents to probe the 2010 Uranium One non-scandal, supposed "pay to play" influence peddling by the Clinton Foundation, and, of course, "her emails."

The message from the GOP's best and brightest is unmistakable. For starters, it turns out Republicans are just fine with a president who leads from behind, provided the president is Vladimir Putin and the behind is Donald Trump's. Just as important, Republicans are only to happy to advocate "the criminalization of politics," just as long as the politician in question is, like Hillary Clinton, a Democrat. And in their quest to deflect attention from real crimes to imagined ones, Republicans won't hesitate to "look backwards" at past Democratic administrations to rev up their base and hijack media attention.

Let that be a lesson for Democrats.

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In 2009, Republican politicians and the conservative commentariat warned the newly inaugurated President Barack Obama not to prosecute the architects of the Bush administration's regime of detainee torture. Despite the clear violations of U.S. and international law committed by the authors of America's so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques," right-wingers screamed that any investigation of President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and the likes of Condi Rice, John Yoo, David Addington, and Jose Rodriguez would constitute "presidential poison" and "the criminalization of conservatism." Dick Cheney took to the airwaves to dare the Justice Department to come after him and his henchmen. With the country he inherited teetering on the brink of economic catastrophe, President Obama and Attorney General Holder backed down in the face of the GOP's scorched earth threats. Obama would not "look backwards" at American torture under President Bush and thus risk "the criminalization of policy differences."

And to be sure, what the United States had done was torture.

Continue reading at Daily Kos.




How to Hatch a Republican Leader

2018-01-18T18:43:41Z

"If you had gone into a chemical laboratory to concoct a politician whose background and manner would sound liberal alarms," Washington Free Beacon editor-in-chief and Bill Kristol son-in-law Matthew Continetti pondered in 2009, "You probably would have come up with...

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"If you had gone into a chemical laboratory to concoct a politician whose background and manner would sound liberal alarms," Washington Free Beacon editor-in-chief and Bill Kristol son-in-law Matthew Continetti pondered in 2009, "You probably would have come up with someone like Sarah Palin." While the Quitta from Wasilla made Continetti's theory laughable at the time, he has been vindicated by history, at least in part. As it turned out, Sarah Palin was the gateway drug to Donald Trump.

Imagine instead you went into that same lab to formulate an elder statesman for the Republican Party. But during the process, impurities like crystal meth, Appalachian coal or cheap Russian vodka somehow got into your recipe. Soon, your would-be GOP giant of the Senate began claiming Congress had no right to interfere in the president's policy towards Iran, only to completely reverse course when the White House changed hands. Then the incoherent babbling only got worse. Your conservative creation would co-sponsor health care reform legislation calling for an individual health insurance mandate, only to then declare a "holy war" to stop the mandate he now called "unconstitutional." The Frankenstein senator would call on President Obama to nominate Judge Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court and promise, "I will do my best to help him" before then writing an op-ed demanding Garland's blockade. Next, the out-of-control octogenarian would declare "we don't have money anymore" to pay for a health care program he helped create for nine million children while muttering that "it was standard practice not to pay for things" when he supported a much larger, unfunded prescription drug benefit for the GOP's elderly base. Finally, the crazed conservative creature would emerge fully formed at the White House to give the wildly unpopular Donald Trump a nationally-televised tongue bath:

Well, Mr. President, I have to say that you're living up to everything I thought you would. You're one heck of a leader, and we're all benefiting from it...

And I have to say, that this is one of the great privileges of my life to stand here on the White House lawn with the President of the United States, who I love and appreciate so much, and with these wonderful colleagues and Cabinet members who stand behind us...

And we're going to keep fighting, and we're going to make this the greatest presidency that we've seen, not only in generations, but maybe ever.

Only then does it dawn on you. Your creation isn't just the Wise Old Man of the Party of Lincoln. He's the perfect symbol for the rhetorical rot, political perversion and moral decay of the Republican Party. He's retiring Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch.

Continue reading at Daily Kos.




The Difference Between 2018 and the 2010 Midterms? The Truth

2018-01-04T19:23:33Z

As the new year begins, press, pundits and politicians alike are saying 2018 could be the year of the "blue wave." Led by a historically unpopular first-year president and still smarting from embarrassing losses in Virginia and Alabama, many Republicans...

As the new year begins, press, pundits and politicians alike are saying 2018 could be the year of the "blue wave." Led by a historically unpopular first-year president and still smarting from embarrassing losses in Virginia and Alabama, many Republicans are talking out loud about "bloodbath" in next November's midterm elections. While Democrats are fielding challengers to incumbent Republicans in almost every congressional district, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is privately warning his colleagues the GOP could lose control of both the House and Senate. Retiring Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent simply urged his fellow Republicans to "be prepared for the worst."

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They have good reason to be afraid. Very afraid. Together, McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) presided over a series of legislative fiascos. Both their greatest failure (the effort to repeal Obamacare) and their greatest success (the year-end corporate tax cut package) were wildly unpopular. In the aftermath of their efforts to take health insurance away from between 13 and 32 million Americans, the Affordable Care Act now enjoys majority support. The massive, $1.5 trillion tax cut windfall for wealthy (also known as "Trump's Golden Showers") does little for working Americans even as it delivers 82 percent of its benefits in 2027 to the richest 1 percent of taxpayers. It's no wonder why in recent polling Democrats lead the generic congressional ballot by 10 to 18 points. On top of it all, the rapid-fire fabrications and the staggering incompetence of the president, the unprecedented corruption of his administration and the five Russia scandals* still under investigation by special prosecutor Robert Mueller have many wondering if the true loyalties of the Oval Office occupant lie with his bank accounts--and the Kremlin.

Republicans have one more reason to feel mildly nauseous heading into the 2018 midterms. After all, just 8 short years ago, the shoe was on the other foot. By November 2010, the GOP's "Red Tide" washed away the Democrats' majority in the House, as Republicans picked up a staggering 63 seats. McConnell's minions added six Republican senators in the 2010 midterms and would take over the chamber four years later. And Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and the Republican Party did it all without one great advantage Democrats hold today.

The truth.

That's right. In a colossal media failure perhaps exceeded only by the Iraq war and the election of Donald Trump itself, the GOP swept to power in 2010 despite misleading the nation on almost every major campaign issue of consequence. After all, Obamacare, signed into law on March 23, 2010, did not increase the national debt, represent a "government takeover of health care" which contained "death panels" or "stick it to seniors" with a "raid a Medicare." And far from being "Taxed Enough Already," Americans in 2009 and 2010 received the largest two-year tax cut in American history.

To fully understand the 2010 triumph of the most successful disinformation campaign in U.S. up to that time, it helps to start with not-so-immaculate conception of that great right-wing hissy fit, the tea party.


Continue reading at Daily Kos.




The 'We Told You So' President

2017-12-26T19:49:09Z

As 2017 draws to a close, President Donald Trump and his amen corner are bragging about his "year of solid policy accomplishments." Despite approval ratings only slightly higher than the Ebola virus, Trump took to Twitter to soak up praise...

As 2017 draws to a close, President Donald Trump and his amen corner are bragging about his "year of solid policy accomplishments." Despite approval ratings only slightly higher than the Ebola virus, Trump took to Twitter to soak up praise from Maria Bartiromo, who gushed that "Year One has been excellent from an economic standpoint." Echoing Byron York of the Washington Examiner, former Sarah Palin bath water drinker Rich Lowry proclaimed, "Trump's first year is starting to look like a big win." While Lowry rejoiced in "the welcome ascension of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court" and that "Trump's deregulation has been in full gear," the occupant of the Oval Office boasted in all caps, "DOW RISES 5000 POINTS ON THE YEAR FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER - MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!" With Congressional Republicans on the verge of passing the massive $1.5 trillion tax cut windfall for the wealthy, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders crowed on Dec. 17, "Amazing how much safer & more prosperous America is after only one year of President @realDonaldTrump." Ignoring the 800-pound bear in the room, Sanders asked:

Of course, that Donald Trump would try to appropriate the credit for whatever went well during his first year was entirely predictable. As it turns out, many of us predicted the very things--like the strong economy and the defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria--for which Trump would claim paternity. But that's not all. His successes, his failures, the promises he kept and, more importantly, the promises he broke pretty much went according to script. There's no mystery as to why. Candidate Trump's narcissism, braggadocio, and pathological lying weren't going to end when he planted himself in the Oval Office.

Take, for example, the claims of the supposed conqueror of the Islamic State.

Continue reading at Daily Kos.




GOP Turns to Decades-Old Lies to Sell New Tax Scam

2017-12-12T03:42:48Z

"You can fool some of the people all of the time, and that's our target market." That perversion of Abraham Lincoln's timeless adage might as well be the slogan of the modern Republican Party, especially when the topic is taxes....

"You can fool some of the people all of the time, and that's our target market." That perversion of Abraham Lincoln's timeless adage might as well be the slogan of the modern Republican Party, especially when the topic is taxes. After all, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Joint Committee on Taxation, (JCT), the Wharton School, the Tax Policy Center and a host of think tanks have concluded that the GOP tax bill will produce between $1 trillion and $1.5 trillion in additional debt over the next decade. But if "tax cut pay for themselves" is a cynical myth designed to force deep spending cuts in the future, so too is the notion that the "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act" (TCJA) produces either tax relief or jobs for lower- to middle-income Americans. It's no wonder that Republicans from Maine Sen. Susan Collins to House Speaker Paul Ryan have been struggling to manufacture lists of conservative economists to vouch for their voodoo.

But more appalling than the grotesque GOP disinformation campaign itself is the Republican regurgitation of decades-old lies to sell it. The GOP's best and brightest have been peddling the same fiscal fantasies since supply-side snake oil salesman Arthur Laffer first sketched his magical Curve on a cocktail napkin for Team Reagan in the 1970s. The passage of time has not made the GOP falsehoods any more true.

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Consider, for example, Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary, McConnell declared himself "totally confident" that the TCJA passed by the Senate will not add to the deficit, adding:

"I think it's going to be a revenue producer."

Now, there's no need to stop me if you think you've heard this one before; you have. That's because back in 2010, then-Minority Leader McConnell used the same talking point to defend the extension of the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 for the richest Americans. Defending that windfall for the wealthy that would drain $70 billion annually from the United States Treasury, the No.2 Senate Republican Jon Kyl of Arizona proclaimed, "You should never have to offset the cost of a deliberate decision to reduce tax rates on Americans." McConnell rushed to Kyl's defense, announcing that his fiscal fraud was in fact now Republican orthodoxy:

"There's no evidence whatsoever that the Bush tax cuts actually diminished revenue. They increased revenue because of the vibrancy of these tax cuts in the economy. So I think what Senator Kyl was expressing was the view of virtually every Republican on that subject."

But then as now, Republican agreement on that view doesn't make it a fact. History tells us so. And that history starts, it turns out, with Ronald Reagan's arrival in the White House in 1981.

Continue reading at Daily Kos.




Trump's Golden Showers

2017-12-04T18:39:36Z

Donald Trump and his Republican allies have two definitions of the term, "golden showers." The first concerns a notorious--and as-yet unsubstantiated--claim from the so-called Russian dossier: Decorum prohibits elaborating further here. The second meaning of the term, however, describes any... Donald Trump and his Republican allies have two definitions of the term, "golden showers." The first concerns a notorious--and as-yet unsubstantiated--claim from the so-called Russian dossier: Decorum prohibits elaborating further here. The second meaning of the term, however, describes any public policy--usually involving taxes--which overwhelmingly delivers its benefits to the very richest people in America. The plutocratic pleasure from this right-wing fetish is all the more ecstatic if raining cash on the gilded-class can be sold under the guise of winnings for workers. So it is with the supposed "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act" (TCJA) Republicans in both houses of Congress have been trying to rush largely unseen to President Trump's desk. This $1.5 trillion, 10-year liquid gold waterfall for the wealthy doesn't trickle down to average Americans. Instead, its new income tax brackets, elimination of the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), steep reductions in corporate taxes, bonanza for "pass-through" businesses and abolition of the estate tax guarantee the richest investors and financially-favored families will take all--or, at least, almost all. Now, you wouldn't know any of this from the myth-making generated by the Trump White House and the usual suspects among right-wing economists. As Lawrence Summers and Brad Delong among others explained, GOP claims that "the Republican bills could boost GDP 3% to 4% long term" and "American annual household income could increase by an average of $4,000" are belied by history, the clear consensus of economists. After all, the strong 3.3 percent GDP number for the third quarter and low unemployment shows the Obama expansion has continued uninterrupted. Ten years after the start of the 2007 recession, actual U.S. economic output has finally reached its full potential. With interest rates low, corporate profits high and U.S. firms sitting on stacks of cash, capital stocks are simply not an issue. Nevertheless, Republicans want to slash the statutory corporate tax rate from 35 to 20 percent. (It is worth noting that President Obama repeatedly proposed lowering it to 28 percent; Republicans in Congress balked.) Thanks to a wide range of tax breaks they already enjoy, American businesses face an effective tax rate of 18.6 percent, a figure comparable to most U.S. economic competitors. That's why, as Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, "Major companies including Cisco Systems Inc., Pfizer Inc. and Coca-Cola Co. say they'll turn over most gains from proposed corporate tax cuts to their shareholders, undercutting President Donald Trump's promise that his plan will create jobs and boost wages for the middle class." That doesn't square with Trump's promise this week in Missouri that "our focus is on helping the folks who work in the mailrooms and the machine shops of America." Instead of hiring more workers or raising their pay, many companies say they'll first increase dividends or buy back their own shares. Robert Bradway, chief executive of Amgen Inc., said in an Oct. 25 earnings call that the company has been "actively returning capital in the form of growing dividend and buyback and I'd expect us to continue that." Executives including Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey, Pfizer Chief Financial Officer Frank D'Amelio and Cisco CFO Kelly Kramer have recently made similar statements. "We'll be able to get much more aggressive on the share buyback" after a tax cut, Kramer said in a Nov. 16 interview. John Shin, a foreign exchange strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, explained those[...]



GOP Tax plan is the Worst Jobs Bill Ever

2017-11-28T19:26:52Z

With apologies to Benjamin Disraeli, there are three kinds of lies Republicans are telling about their tax plan: lies, damned lies, and f**king lies. Constraints of space and time preclude listing them all, but here is a handful of the... With apologies to Benjamin Disraeli, there are three kinds of lies Republicans are telling about their tax plan: lies, damned lies, and f**king lies. Constraints of space and time preclude listing them all, but here is a handful of the GOP's most farfetched falsehoods. For example, earlier this month House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) repeatedly promised "it's a tax cut for everybody ... every single person, every rate payer, every bracket person gets a rate cut." When the Washington Post Fact Checker published a Four Pinocchio beat-down of this bunk, Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) beat a hasty retreat. Despite the hemorrhage of red ink produced by the Reagan and Bush tax cuts, Trump White House economic adviser Gary Cohn bragged, We think we can pay for the entire tax cut through growth over the cycle," a point echoed by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on November 13. The 10-year, $1.5 trillion windfall for the wealthy will "not only ... pay for itself," Mnuchin boasted, "but it will pay down debt" as well. Unfortunately, analyses from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), the Wharton School, the Tax Policy Center (TPC) and even the conservative friendly Tax Foundation (TF) concluded otherwise. And even without seeing the president's past tax returns, we know that Donald Trump was lying through his teeth when he said the GOP tax plan was "going to cost me a fortune" and that his own finances were "going to get killed in this bill." So, neither the House nor the Senate versions of the GOP's "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act" (TCJA) does a very good job of actually delivering tax cuts, except to corporations and the wealthiest people in America. But as it turns out, the TCJA doesn't do much to create jobs, either. Of course, you'd never know it listening to Paul Ryan. On November 3, the speaker's website issued this update: "BREAKING: Analysis Finds House Tax Plan Would Create 890,000 New Jobs." Citing the analysis by the reliably right-leaning Tax Foundation, Team Ryan crowed that over the ensuing decade, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act would result in "890,000 more full-time equivalent jobs, 3.5 percent increase in size of the U.S. Economy [and] 2.7 percent higher wages for workers. (The Tax Foundation's assessment of the Senate bill put the employment gain at 925,000 over 10 years.) On November 7, Ryan excitedly tweeted the jobs number again, this time conveniently rounding up: Nearly 1 million new, full-time jobs will be created by the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act. See how many jobs will be created in your state. Then on November 16, the same day the House of Representatives narrowly passed his Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Speaker Ryan took to the floor to declare: "Let me just break it down in simple numbers. The nonpartisan tax foundation ran the numbers. They said with this bill, we'll get faster growth, about 3.5 percent faster economic growth, 890,000 new jobs. They estimate that in New York state alone, 57,834 new jobs. Wisconsin: 17,999 new jobs. California: 101,422 new jobs. Texas: 74,037 new jobs." Now, if you are experiencing a queasy sensation (or feeling, as James Comey might describe it, "mildly nauseous") because that jobs number seems pathetically low, that's because it is. Continue reading at Daily Kos. [...]



Abortion Rights and Free Speech Wrongs

2017-11-21T18:59:46Z

The United States Supreme Court this week announced it would soon hear a major case that could redefine the legal landscape at the critical juncture where abortion rights meet free speech. In National Institute of Life and Family Advocates v....

The United States Supreme Court this week announced it would soon hear a major case that could redefine the legal landscape at the critical juncture where abortion rights meet free speech. In National Institute of Life and Family Advocates v. Becerra, the plaintiffs are challenging a California statute regulating so-called "crisis pregnancy centers."

After concluding that the Golden State's 200 pregnancy resource centers used "intentionally deceptive advertising and counseling practices that often confuse, misinform, and even intimidate women from making fully-informed, time-sensitive decisions about critical health care," the New York Times reported, the legislature in Sacramento required these anti-abortion counseling services to post a notice letting clients know that "free or low cost abortion, contraception and prenatal care are available to low-income women through public programs, and to provide a phone number for more information." In addition, the California Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency Act (FACT Act) mandates that all unlicensed centers disclose their lack of accreditation from the state. And that, attorneys for 110 CPCs operated by the faith-based Christian ministry of National Institute of Life and Family Advocates argue, amounts to unconstitutional "compelled speech."

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As it turns out, the claim that California law violates their First Amendment rights is more than a little ironic. After all, across the nation hundreds of new state abortion restrictions doubtless supported by the plaintiffs run roughshod over the freedom of speech by physicians and abortion clinics. That is, while California is mandating that crisis pregnancy centers simply tell women the truth about their services, GOP-led states are demanding that doctors lie to their patients about supposed "fetal pain," mythical "abortion regret," nonexistent side-effects, and so much more.

Continue reading at Daily Kos.




Vergangenheits-bewältigung in America

2017-12-24T04:44:21Z

This year represents the 25th anniversary of one of the great enduring memes of modern American culture and politics. In his thundering speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention, former Nixon hatchet man and Adolf Hitler admirer-turned GOP presidential candidate... This year represents the 25th anniversary of one of the great enduring memes of modern American culture and politics. In his thundering speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention, former Nixon hatchet man and Adolf Hitler admirer-turned GOP presidential candidate Pat Buchanan darkly warned of a "cultural war" already underway, one he deemed a "struggle for the soul of America." After Buchanan concluded by proclaiming that "block by block ... we must take back our cities, and take back our culture, and take back our country," the late humorist Molly Ivins joked: Many people did not care for Buchanan's speech. It probably sounded better in the original German. And so it was that Buchanan's kulturekampf spawned a generation of tongue-in-cheek declarations that various right-wing policies, programs and politicians--including Donald Trump--"sounded better in the original German." (For examples of such assessments of Mein Drumpf, see here, here and here.) In some cases, the translation was literal. As Scott Horton documented in Harper's in 2007, long before the Bush administration began using "enhanced interrogation techniques" as a euphemism for its regime of detainee torture, the Gestapo in 1937 introduced the original German verschärfte Vernehmung (which means "enhanced interrogation techniques") into its lexicon of savagery. But all snark aside, recent developments in the United States show the urgent need for an Americanized version of a German term central to the understanding of Deutschland and Europe since 1945. Vergangenheitsbewältigung (pronunciation here), variously defined as "coming to terms with" or "overcoming" or simply "confronting" the past, describes the ongoing, painful process by which Germans grapple with the inescapable, horrific crimes committed by Adolf Hitler and the nation's Nazi Third Reich. But while the symbols, likenesses, and ideology of the perpetrators of the conquest of Europe and Holocaust are beyond the pale in Germany, in the United States a much different approach guides Americans' attitudes toward our original sin--and world-historic crime--of slavery and the Civil War fought to eradicate it. Here, many whitewash the obvious cause of that war, traffic in antebellum nostalgia, and venerate statues erected to the traitors who in the service of perpetual human bondage killed hundreds of thousands of Americans. So, when the president of the United States calls for protecting "our great statues/heritage" and his chief of staff--a four-star American general at that--calls Robert E. Lee "honorable" and chalks up his blood-drenched treachery to a mere "lack of compromise," something about America's present is very, very wrong, indeed. That point was driven home to me during and after my recent trip to Berlin. With just a couple of days to explore, it was impossible to make a dent in the city's overflowing culture, art and history. Nevertheless, we tried, visiting the Pergamon Museum of antiquities, the German History Museum and even the kitschy DDR Museum. We saw the Reichstag, gutted in the February 1933 blaze which was used by Hitler to outlaw the Communist Party and assume "emergency" powers, now preserved as a reminder to future generations. We walked quietly through the Topography of Terror exhibition, set on the grounds of the former Gestapo and SS headquarters. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is not far away; neither is the Jewish Berlin Museum. You can also see the horrible and hallo[...]



GOP Tax Plan Delivers Double Dose of Pain to Blue States

2017-11-03T18:10:34Z

Thursday's release of the House GOP tax plan will be greeted with a flurry of "hot takes" about its "winners and losers." So, for everyone's sake, let's keep this simple. Unsurprisingly, the biggest winners from what the President called a...

Thursday's release of the House GOP tax plan will be greeted with a flurry of "hot takes" about its "winners and losers." So, for everyone's sake, let's keep this simple. Unsurprisingly, the biggest winners from what the President called a "big, beautiful Christmas present" are people named Trump and those like them. Just as predictable, the real losers are the tens of millions of Americans who live in blue states generally governed by Democrats.

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As I've documented previously, Donald Trump's 2015 boast that his tax plan would "cost me a fortune" was a lie from the moment it passed his lips. We know the abolition of the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) will be a huge windfall for Trump; it accounted for 82 percent of his $38 million tax bill in 2005, the only year for which we've seen even partial IRS records. Slashing the tax rate to 25 percent for "pass-through" businesses is another payday for the Trump Organization, which happens to be comprised of 500 of them. And the phase-out of the estate tax after six years means the Trump heirs will get to keep all the candy--and billions of dollars--after Donald Sr. passes from the scene.

But if Donald Trump is smiling about his winnings, he and most Republicans in Congress are downright gleeful at the blue state bashing their tax bill will deliver. Halving the cap on the mortgage interest deduction from million-dollars homes to just $500,000 means taxpayers in high-cost housing markets generally found in affluent Democratic states like California, New York and Massachusetts will get hammered. Perhaps even more damaging, ending the federal deduction for state and local taxes means Republicans on Capitol Hill will force fiscal austerity on high-tax, high-service Democratic states.

Writing in New York Magazine, Ed Kilgore explained the brutal math for blue state homeowners:

According to the most recent (2012-2014) available data, here are the locales where over 30 percent of new mortgages are over $500,000: Marin, C.A. (47 percent), New York, N.Y. (46 percent), San Francisco, C.A. (46 percent), San Mateo, C.A. (43 percent), Falls Church City, V.A. (37 percent), Santa Clara, C.A. (36 percent), and Arlington, V.A. (32 percent). That's Manhattan plus metropolitan San Francisco and Washington. But the damage to blue state budgets will be even greater if the pernicious GOP scheme to end the state and local tax deduction (SALT) comes to fruition. Even exempting property taxes up to $10,000 still means states from Oregon and California to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut will be pressured to cut taxes, reduce spending or both.

Continue reading at Daily Kos.




For the Party of Lincoln, Everything is "Worse Than Dred Scott"

2017-10-31T17:40:50Z

On Dec. 12, Alabamans will go to the polls in a special election to determine the replacement for Sen. Jeff Sessions, who is now Donald Trump's hatchet man at the Justice Department. Despite Republican control of every statewide office, there...

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On Dec. 12, Alabamans will go to the polls in a special election to determine the replacement for Sen. Jeff Sessions, who is now Donald Trump's hatchet man at the Justice Department. Despite Republican control of every statewide office, there is a remote chance the "Heart of Dixie" may send a Democrat to the Senate for the first time in 25 years. This possible pick-up for the blue team has less to do with a resurgence of the Democratic Party there and the strong performance of its candidate, Doug Jones, than with the growing unease over the GOP's extremist nominee, Roy Moore. As Andy Campbell reported, "Nobody really likes Roy Moore--not even Alabama Republicans."

It's no surprise why, as one anonymous pastor put it, "Nobody feels good about Roy Moore." After all, the former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court was twice removed from his post for flouting the law of the land, first over the display of a Ten Commandments monument in his court house and in 2016 for refusing to enforce the marriage equality ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. A vocal opponent of removing segregationist language from the Alabama Constitution, Moore, like former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, reached out to the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens. In 2005, Moore proclaimed "homosexual conduct should be illegal." Last December, he professed his "personal belief" that Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States. While brandishing his gun during a rally may have endeared him to some GOP primary voters, revelations that Moore did not pay taxes on $500,000 in back pay from his Foundation for Moral Law probably did not.

Nevertheless, a growing number of Senate Republicans, including the GOP's No. 2 man John Cornyn of Texas, have endorsed Roy Moore. The Republican National Committee (RNC) and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) have announced a fundraising pact with Moore and the Alabama GOP. In part, they doubtless did so because of--not despite--one of the very worst things Judge Moore ever uttered. After all, in November Moore denounced the Supreme Court's ruling establishing marriage equality for LGBT Americans as the law of the land as "even worse" than the 1857 Dred Scott abomination upholding slavery and denying citizenship rights to blacks. As it turns out, Roy Moore has plenty of company among Republicans comparing same-sex marriage, Obamacare, habeas corpus rights for terror detainees, the national debt, abortion, and almost everything else they hate to slavery and therefore "even worse than Dred Scott."

Continue reading at Daily Kos.




Trump Administration Unveils the "Fetal 14th Amendment"

2017-10-23T03:53:58Z

While most eyes this week were on the carnage in Las Vegas, the catastrophe in Puerto Rico, or the dangerous provocations towards Pyongyang and Tehran, the Trump administration was hard at work deconstructing the 14th Amendment to the United States...

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While most eyes this week were on the carnage in Las Vegas, the catastrophe in Puerto Rico, or the dangerous provocations towards Pyongyang and Tehran, the Trump administration was hard at work deconstructing the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. While that bulwark of American civil rights promises "due process of law" and "equal protection of the laws" to "all persons born or naturalized in the United States," Donald Trump has declared that some persons are more equal than others.

For starters, two years after Justice Kennedy ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that the constitutionally-protected right to marry extends to LGBTQ Americans, Attorney General Jeff Sessions began turning back the clock at the Justice Department. DOJ's "Federal Law Protections for Religious Liberty" signaled that the faith-based sensitivities of some religious people should literally trump the marriage rights, workplace protections, and other 14th Amendment guarantees for gay and lesbian Americans. By signing an executive order allowing any business to deny contraceptive coverage to its female employees, Donald Trump codified that when it comes to health care, women are left out of the 14th's American freedoms, too.

But this week, Trump's Department of Health and Human Services proposed extending the 14th Amendment to a new group. And as Dr. Jen Gunter pointed out, these would-be beneficiaries aren't persons at all.

In the draft of its "Strategic Plan, FY2018 - FY2022" now under review, HHS has unilaterally adopted what might be called the "Fetal Fourteenth."

Organizational Structure

HHS accomplishes its mission through programs and initiatives that cover a wide spectrum of activities, serving and protecting Americans at every stage of life, beginning at conception. Eleven operating divisions, including eight agencies in the U.S. Public Health Service and three human services agencies, administer HHS's programs. While HHS is a domestic agency working to protect and promote the health and well-being of the American people, the interconnectedness of our world requires that HHS engage globally to fulfill its mission. In addition, staff divisions provide leadership, direction, and policy guidance to the Department. [Emphasis added.]

If this seems like an unprecedented, unwarranted, and unconstitutional redefinition of the 14th Amendment by the president of the United States, that's because it is. But the strategy of declaring fetal personhood by fiat is nothing new under the conservative sun. Republican platforms and politicians have been proposing it for years.

Continue reading at Daily Kos.