2017-01-15T19:33:16ZHouse and Senate Republicans this week took the first step this week towards the repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. But without a replacement program in place, the GOP is nevertheless prepared...
(image)House and Senate Republicans this week took the first step this week towards the repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. But without a replacement program in place, the GOP is nevertheless prepared to withdraw health insurance from up to 30 million Americans and jeopardize coverage for over 20 million more. While millions will face the prospect of financial ruin, Republicans will condemn tens of thousands of the newly uninsured to needless deaths--every year. Meanwhile, many hospitals, physicians and insurers will be trapped in a market "death spiral" Republicans alone will be responsible for creating. If President Trump, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan succeed, theirs will be the greatest act of political spite in American history.
The question is why. This isn't about a "better way" to enable health care for all; Republicans don't have any way, period. The demolition of the ACA isn't about "freedom" or "choice," either; by providing coverage and protecting Americans from the worst depredations of the insurance industry, Obamacare enhances personal freedom. (For those decrying insurance mandates, think again about your payroll taxes which help buy you a retirement pension and old-age health care.) And to be sure, the GOP isn't upholding the sanctity of the "free market"; the ACA has brought millions of new customers to private insurers, private hospitals, private physicians and private pharmaceutical firms.
The answer is simple, sinister and no different now than when Bill Clinton first took the oath of office 24 years ago. As I first explained on "The Real Reason for the GOP's All-Out War on Obamacare" on August 11, 2013, Republicans have never feared that Democratic health care reform would fail, but that it would succeed.
2017-01-09T17:47:44ZOn March 23, 2010--the very day President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into low--then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced his party's objective would be to "repeal and replace" Obamacare. But now, almost 7 years later, McConnell and... On March 23, 2010--the very day President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into low--then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced his party's objective would be to "repeal and replace" Obamacare. But now, almost 7 years later, McConnell and Congressional Republicans finding it extremely hard to do either. And soon the task for Majority Leader McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan and President-elect Donald Trump will get about a trillion dollars harder. Developments over just past few weeks show why. For starters, a complete repeal of Obamacare now would leave an estimated 23 million more Americans without health insurance. Delaying it by up to four years past the 2020 election--as some Republicans are now contemplating--would be even worse, with a staggering 30 million people losing coverage as the individual market would enter a real "death spiral." With the repeal of the ACA's consumer protections like the ban on insurers' refusing to issue policies to those with pre-existing conditions, roughly 52 million Americans (27 percent of those under age 65) could find themselves at risk. As a result, millions currently insured under Obamacare would face the prospect of postponed care and possible financial ruin. The GOP's body count would be a gruesome one, too: tens of thousands of those left uninsured would needlessly die each year. It should come as no surprise that Donald Trump's own supporters, a group that will be disproportionately hit by the Obamacare repeal, are increasingly worried that the 45th President will effectively become a one-man death panel. And it's no wonder that organizations of doctors, hospitals and insurers have issued warnings about euthanizing the ACA without a replacement plan in place. But Republicans don't have an Obamacare replacement plan. Even as Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY) introduced a resolution Wednesday calling the elimination of the ACA's spending and revenue-raising provisions, Speaker Ryan could only promise the GOP would not "pull the rug out from anybody" so that "so that no one is left out in the cold, so that no one is worse off." Trump spokesperson Kellyanne Conway was more specific about the GOP's nonexistent plan, pledging "we don't want anyone who currently has insurance not to have insurance." But those guarantees will cost money. And as it turns out, the Republicans have already promised the $1 trillion in savings from cancelled Obamacare outlays for something and someone else: a massive tax cut windfall for the wealthy. Congressional Republicans have been playing this shell game since before the Affordable Care Act became the law of the land. From its earliest estimates in 2009, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has always forecast that Obamacare would reduce the national debt. The math has always been straight-forward. The ten-year cost of Obamacare (for Medicaid expansion, insurance subsidies, etc.) has always been less than revenue generated by new taxes imposed by the ACA and the significant savings extracted from Medicare insurers and providers. (See the chart at the top of the page.) That's why CBO in June 2015 explained that repealing Obamacare would add "at least $137 billion or as much as $353 billion" in new deficits over the ensuing decade. As Sarah Kliff summed it up at the time: "No matter how CBO scores it, Obamacare reduces the deficit." (It was that inconvenient truth which prompted then House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) Eric Cantor in 2011 to denounce the agency's supposed "budget gimmickry." Former Speaker and 2012 GOP White House hopeful Newt Gingrich went even further, declaring "if you are serious about real health reform, you must abolish the Congressional Bud[...]
2017-01-04T02:27:21ZLooking back on it now, the result of the election is even more unfathomable than when media outlets first called the race. Thanks to a strong economy, the two-term Democratic president enjoyed an approval rating well over 50 percent--with good...
(image)Looking back on it now, the result of the election is even more unfathomable than when media outlets first called the race.
Thanks to a strong economy, the two-term Democratic president enjoyed an approval rating well over 50 percent--with good reason. Despite near-total Republican opposition to his health care and stimulus plans and dire GOP warnings about "job-crushing" tax increases that would "kill the current recovery," the Democrat presided over the creation of millions of new jobs and a falling unemployment rate which dropped below 5 percent. Though U.S. troops were still in the field protecting Muslim populations, Republican attacks that the American military had "deteriorated badly" and had two Army divisions "not ready for duty, sir" were simply untrue. At a time of relative peace and prosperity, the president's obvious successor and the clear choice of the Democratic establishment should have won a comfortable victory.
But it didn't work out that way. The Democrat's mistake-filled campaign could not escape an immovable media narrative that the candidate was inauthentic, aloof, calculating, and corrupt. Despite the impossible math behind his massive tax cuts for the rich, the CEO-turned-Republican nominee was instead portrayed as the guy voters wanted to have a beer with. And despite America's clear popular vote victory for the Democrat, mere thousands of votes across key states enabled the GOP's man to win the Electoral College and so become president of the United States. Nevertheless, in the run-up to their inauguration, the president-elect insisted he had a mandate to govern as he sees fit. As his running mate put it:
"[He] ran on a particular platform that was very carefully developed. It's his program, it's his agenda, and we have no intention at all of backing off of it. It's why we got elected."
And in 2001, Democrats let George W. Bush pretty much get away with all of it.
Sixteen years later, their response to Donald Trump must be "not this time and never again."
2016-12-31T18:19:09ZAs his Inauguration Day nears, President-elect Donald Trump is trying to assemble the wealthiest and least vetted Cabinet in modern American history. The nominees possess combined riches of $10 billion, ironically the same figure Trump claims for himself. Like the... As his Inauguration Day nears, President-elect Donald Trump is trying to assemble the wealthiest and least vetted Cabinet in modern American history. The nominees possess combined riches of $10 billion, ironically the same figure Trump claims for himself. Like the 45th President, many have not yet released their tax returns or completed reviews by the FBI and the Office of Government Ethics. That's why Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) warned his Republican counterpart Mitch McConnell (R-KY) that Democrats will not "green light" Trump's Cabinet picks if they "are holding back tax returns, critical financial information, and are behind on their ethics certification." In response, McConnell spokesman Don Stewart declared: "Surely they won't object to treating the incoming president's nominees with the same courtesy and seriousness with which the Senate acted on President Obama's nominees. Our committees and chairmen are fully capable of reviewing the incoming Cabinet nominations with the same rules and procedures as the same committees did with President Obama's nominations." I couldn't agree more. Here are four Republican rules for Obama nominees that Democrats should now apply with the same courtesy and seriousness to Donald Trump's would-be Cabinet. Call them the Daschle Test, the Clinton Test, the Hagel Test and the Lynch Test. The Daschle Test. You may remember former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's vital role in securing the passage of the Affordable Care Act as President Obama's Secretary of Health and Human Services. If so, your memory is faulty. On February 3, 2009, Daschle withdrew as HHS nominee after admitting he paid back taxes and interest in 2007 after "failing to report $15,000 in charitable donations, unreported car service and more than $80,000 in unreported income from consulting." Conservatives had been quick to pounce on Daschle's $134,000 tax bill and his consulting work for companies in the health care field. South Carolina Senator Jim Demint said Obama was "losing credibility" by backing Daschle. As Mrs. Dan Senor, also known as Campbell Brown of CNN put it: "Mr. President, your picks to help run the federal government don't have to be perfect, but is it too much to ask that they pay like everyone else, to keep that same government functioning? And more importantly, that they don't wait until everyone, including you, is watching?" Several newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, Boston Globe and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, had called for Daschle to withdraw. Even the New York Times got into the act, declaring in an editorial: "Mr. Daschle is another in a long line of politicians who move cozily between government and industry. We don't know that his industry ties would influence his judgments on health issues, but they could potentially throw a cloud over health care reform." By the Daschle standard, Donald Trump's pick to head HHS should be in a world of trouble. After all, Georgia Rep. Tom Price, Trump's choice to dismantle Obamacare, gut Medicaid and privatize Medicare, "has spent the past four years trading more than $300,000 in shares of health-industry stocks while sponsoring legislation that would ostensibly impact the value of those shares." As New York magazine reported: Since 2012, Price bought and sold stock in roughly 40 pharmaceutical, health-care, and biomedical companies, according to The Wall Street Journal's review of the trades he filed with Congress. During that same period, he sat on the House panel that oversees Medicare, and sponsored or co-sponsored 44 bills affecting the health-care sector. Among Price's sketchier investments was a purchase of between $50,000 and $100,[...]
2016-12-19T19:51:40ZAs more details surfaced this week about the extent of Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election, its winner Donald Trump shocked intelligence leaders from both parties with his announcement that he only receives briefings once a week. "I'm,...
(image)As more details surfaced this week about the extent of Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election, its winner Donald Trump shocked intelligence leaders from both parties with his announcement that he only receives briefings once a week. "I'm, like, a smart person," Trump declared last Sunday, "I don't have to be told the same thing and the same words every single day for the next eight years."
After Trump brushed off as "ridiculous" what former acting CIA director Michael Morrell called "the political equivalent of 9/11," a stunned Michael Hayden responded "to have the president-elect of the United States simply reject the fact-based narrative that the intelligence community puts together because it conflicts with his a priori assumptions--wow." For his part, former Obama CIA chief Leon Panetta warned Trump that in the event of a future attack by any enemy of the United States "the responsibility for that attack would fall on the president."
Especially if the greatest threat to U.S. national security comes from the president himself. To sum up the clear and present danger Trump poses, what follows is a Presidential Daily Brief (or PDB) for Dec. 18, 2016. This PDB is one incoming National Security Adviser General Michael Flynn will never share with his boss. To paraphrase one of Flynn's predecessors, it should be titled "Trump Determined to Strike in U.S."
OVERVIEW: TRUMP DETERMINED TO STRIKE IN U.S.
Clandestine, foreign government, and media reports indicate Donald Trump since at least 2011 has wanted to conduct attacks in the U.S. Trump implied in media interviews between 2011 and 2016 that the current president was not born in the United States, and that his adherents would follow his example to "bring the fight to America."
After a U.S. humor strike on his media base in America on April 30, 2011, Trump told followers he wanted to retaliate in Washington, according to a [REDACTED] service.
We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from opposition leaders such as [REDACTED] saying that Trump knew in advance of Russian plans for cyberattacks on the Democratic Party intended to gain the release of Clinton campaign emails.
Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings of the public good and the public Treasury. These include plans to undermine core U.S. democratic institutions including voting rights, press freedom, and religious liberty, as well as the privatization of fundamental government services in ways likely to jeopardize Americans' standard of living. The Trump jihad against the pillars of Americans foreign policy--summarized as "appease Russia, provoke China, and attack Iran"--poses a double threat to U.S. national security and its allies in both Europe and the Pacific.
2016-12-19T19:41:08ZSo far, the defining trait of the incoming Trump administration is its staffing with extremists dedicated to destroying the agencies they are supposed to head. Friday was no exception, as President-elect Trump made the latest addition to his Kamikaze Cabinet... So far, the defining trait of the incoming Trump administration is its staffing with extremists dedicated to destroying the agencies they are supposed to head. Friday was no exception, as President-elect Trump made the latest addition to his Kamikaze Cabinet by selecting South Carolina Republican Congressman Mick Mulvaney to direct the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Rep. Mulvaney, after all, didn't just pledge to vote against any increase in the nation's debt ceiling. As it turns out, the Freedom Caucus fanatic has rejected the inescapable truth that the United States of America would default by failing to do so. And with President Trump forecast to bleed $15 trillion in new red ink over the next decade, Mick Mulvaney as the Director of Default Denial risks an American--and a global--economic catastrophe. You don't have to take my word. Just ask the best and brightest of the Republican Party. As you'll recall, the U.S. debt limit places a cap on Uncle Sam's borrowing authority. From 1980 to 2010, presidents and Congressional majorities from both parties routinely raised the debt ceiling to enable the Treasury to borrow more money to pay the bills the federal government had already incurred. This was the case when Ronald Reagan tripled the national debt during his 8 years in office. After 17 debt ceiling hikes during Reagan's tenure, George W. Bush required 7 more as he nearly doubled the U.S. national debt again. Failure to raise the debt ceiling would immediately jeopardize the full faith and credit of the United States and thus trigger a sovereign default. That's why Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) warned, "Yes, you can't not raise the debt ceiling. Default is the unworkable solution." As the new Speaker John Boehner put it six years ago: "That would be a financial disaster, not only for our country but for the worldwide economy. Remember, the American people on Election Day said, 'we want to cut spending and we want to create jobs.' And you can't create jobs if you default on the federal debt." Nevertheless, when the GOP took over the House of Representatives after the 2010 midterm elections, Republicans decided to extort President Obama by taking the debt ceiling hostage. And some, like Rep. Mick Mulvaney, went a step further. As The Hill reported in December 2010: Rep.-elect Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), who defeated current House Budget Chairman John Spratt (D-S.C.) in November, said he would vote against any attempt to raise the nation's debt ceiling. "I have heard people say that if we don't do it it will be the end of the world," he said. "I have yet to meet someone who can articulate the negative consequences." Mulvaney said that 2011 spending needs to be reduced to 2008 discretionary levels, and argued that the demise of the omnibus offers that opportunity. Mulvaney was simply lying, as the statements of the GOP leadership made clear. But as the debt ceiling crisis reached the point of no return in the summer of 2011, warning lights worldwide were flashing red. With the prospect of Washington having to immediately cut federal spending by a staggering 44 percent, the Bipartisan Policy Center warned "On an annualized basis, the cut in spending alone is a 10 percent cut in GDP." The IMF sounded the alarm, too, pleading with Congress that "the debt ceiling should be raised as soon as possible to avoid damage to the economy and world financial markets." President Obama's Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner ("Failure to increase the limit would be deeply irresponsible") and chief economist, Austan Goolsbee ("If we get to the point where you've damaged the full faith and credit of the United States, that would[...]
2016-12-12T22:25:50ZThe ink from President Obama's signature on the Affordable Care Act wasn't even dry when then Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell unveiled the Republican mantra for the upcoming midterm elections. As he put it on March 23, 2010, "I think... The ink from President Obama's signature on the Affordable Care Act wasn't even dry when then Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell unveiled the Republican mantra for the upcoming midterm elections. As he put it on March 23, 2010, "I think the slogan will be "repeal and replace", "repeal and replace." Now, almost seven years later, McConnell and his Republican allies are finding out just how difficult their simplistic Obamacare proposition will really be. With Donald Trump weeks away from defiling the Oval Office, Congressional Republicans are no closer to a replacement plan for the roughly 25 million people they will soon add to the ranks of the uninsured. "Repeal and replace" has become "repeal and delay." Meanwhile, worried House and Senate Republicans are getting an earful from almost every corner of the American health care industry. Having an already asked a federal judge to postpone action on the House GOP lawsuit challenging cost-sharing payments for 7 million Americans, Republicans have received dire warnings from health insurers about the death spiral their individual market will experience if no Obamacare replacement is immediately forthcoming. Hospitals have also alerted President-elect Trump and Congress that many of them will face financial ruin as millions of newly uninsured Americans once again require uncompensated care. While American Medical Association (AMA) President Andrew Gorman declared "a core principle is that any new reform proposal should not cause individuals currently covered to become uninsured," new assessments this week from ACASignups.net and the Urban Institute forecast that will be the fate for up to 29 million people who obtained coverage thanks to Obamacare. It's no wonder even Republican voters are losing their appetite for repeal. Oh, and one other thing. Recent research suggests that the Republican repeal of President Obama's landmark health care law will result in tens of thousands of Americans needlessly dying every year. This discussion of the American health care system's body count isn't a new one. In a 2002 study, the Institute of Medicine estimated that 18,000 Americans died in 2000 because they lacked health insurance. In January 2008, a study by the Urban Institute ("Uninsured and Dying Because of It") didn't just conclude that "the absence of health insurance creates a range of consequences, including lower quality of life, increased morbidity and mortality, and higher financial burdens." The national death toll, it found, was rising: "137,000 people died from 2000 through 2006 because they lacked health insurance, including 22,000 people in 2006." By 2012, Families USA ("Dying for Coverage: The Deadly Consequences of Being Uninsured") concluded that "uninsured adults are at least 25 percent more likely to die prematurely than adults who have private insurance" and found that "26,100 people between the ages of 25 and 64 who died prematurely due to a lack of health insurance in 2010." A 2009 analysis by Harvard Medical School and Cambridge Medical Alliance was gloomier still, warning "uninsured, working-age Americans have 40 percent higher death risk than privately insured counterparts." All told, the Harvard study lamented, each year "nearly 45,000 annual deaths are associated with lack of health insurance." That kind of horrifying data, along with a dramatic shift of health costs to individuals and families as employers curtailed or dropped coverage, helped propel the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010. (Nevertheless, that didn't stop Republicans from George W. Bush, Tom Delay and Mitch McConnell to Mitt Romney and P[...]
2016-12-06T18:27:20ZFor much of the past week, President-elect Donald Trump boasted about saving 1,000 jobs at the Carrier air conditioning plant in Indianapolis, Indiana. Representing only about half of the positions candidate Trump promised to protect from relocation to Mexico, the... For much of the past week, President-elect Donald Trump boasted about saving 1,000 jobs at the Carrier air conditioning plant in Indianapolis, Indiana. Representing only about half of the positions candidate Trump promised to protect from relocation to Mexico, the murky Carrier deal appears to be a one-off bargain combining the carrot of state tax breaks with the potential stick of retaliation against the manufacturer's parent company, defense contracting giant United Technologies. For UTX, it was a small price to pay for some favorable PR. For its part, the Obama administration begrudgingly gave credit where credit is due, with press secretary Josh Earnest acknowledging, "This is good news and, obviously, we'd welcome that good news." As it turns out, the Obama White House has good reason for its lack of enthusiasm. For starters, as economist Justin Wolfers pointed out, "Every savvy CEO will now threaten to ship jobs to Mexico, and demand a payment to stay." And such corporate extortion won't even require a warning to set up shop South of the Border. "You can go to different parts of the United States and then ultimately you'd do full-circle -- you'll come back to Michigan because those guys are going to want their jobs back even if it [their pay] is less," Trump told the Detroit News on August 12, 2015. "We can do the rotation in the United States -- it doesn't have to be in Mexico." But adding insult to injury is the overlooked record of the current occupant of the Oval Office. After all, Barack Obama didn't just preside over the addition of 800,000 new manufacturing jobs since 2010. Thanks to his stimulus program and auto rescue which Donald Trump, Mike Pence and virtually the entire GOP opposed, President Obama deserves much of the credit for the tens of thousands of jobs produced during the economic turnaround of the Hoosier State. Of course, you'd never know that based on what the good people of Indiana say, or how they vote. To be sure, Indiana is a traditionally red state. Until Barack Obama narrowly defeated John McCain there in 2008 (see chart at top), Hoosiers voted for Republicans for President in every election since 1964. But eight years ago, Indiana was in desperate need of some hope and change. The great recession that began in late 2007 was hammering the state. By Election Day 2008, the Indiana unemployment rate of 7.6 percent was already well above the national average. On Inauguration Day just two months later, the jobless rate hit 9 percent. The hemorrhaging didn't stop until a year after that, when the unemployment rate peaked at a staggering 10.9 percent. Then, things started to change for the state that calls itself "the Crossroads of America." Among those "things" was the February 2009 Obama stimulus package, which in addition to tax relief for 95 percent of working Americans brought $8.8 billion in ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) funding to Indiana. (Though he opposed the $800 billion program, then Rep. Mike Pence nevertheless requested funds for his district because they would "provide real and long-term economic and livability benefits.") In 2008 and 2009, then Senator and President Barack Obama made four trips to Elkhart, Indiana, to highlight his efforts to reduce an unemployment rate that topped a horrific 20 percent. Then that spring, President Obama followed up on George W. Bush's 2008 loans to Chrysler and GM to launch an $82 billion rescue of the American auto industry. That move, too, was opposed by Donald Trump and his future running mate Mike Pence. As Pence boasted in a 2010 speech in D[...]
2016-11-29T19:13:08Z"Reagan," Vice President Dick Cheney said in 2002, "proved deficits don't matter." Unless, Cheney felt no need to mention, the occupant of the Oval Office is a Democrat. After all, Ronald Reagan had tripled the national debt in 8 short... "Reagan," Vice President Dick Cheney said in 2002, "proved deficits don't matter." Unless, Cheney felt no need to mention, the occupant of the Oval Office is a Democrat. After all, Ronald Reagan had tripled the national debt in 8 short years and George W. Bush had nearly doubled it again by the time he ambled out of office on January 20, 2009. But when Barack Obama took the oath of office during the worst American economic crisis since the Great Depression, Uncle Sam's annual budget deficits and the cumulative national debt suddenly mattered to Republicans a great deal. After both parties had routinely raised the debt ceiling 40 times between 1980 and 2010, Congressional Republicans demanded draconian spending cuts as a condition of increasing the federal government's ability to borrow more money for expenses it had already incurred. Despite Speaker John Boehner's warning that failure to hike the debt ceiling "would be a financial disaster, not only for our country but for the worldwide economy," his House Republicans nearly did just that. Just the possibility of the previously unimaginable nightmare of a sovereign default by the United States triggered plummeting consumer confidence and job creation numbers. It's no wonder rating agency S&P summed up its Tea Party downgrade with this red alert: "That a country even has such voices, albeit a minority, is something notable. This kind of rhetoric is not common amongst AAA sovereigns." But now, that minority will control Congress and the White House, too. And with President-elect Donald Trump, like Reagan and Bush before him, promising to dramatically reduce taxes, increase defense spending and balance the budget, those supposed Republican deficit hawks and default deniers are singing a different tune. Debt ceiling not high enough? No problem. As Politico reported in "GOP leaders look to dodge spending, debt ceiling clash," during President Obama's lame duck period Congress will pass only a short-term, continuing resolution because "letting President-elect Donald Trump and a Republican Congress handle government funding is easier politically and gives the GOP more control over final budget outcomes:" Republican leaders are also eager to de-link the need to increase the debt ceiling from funding the government. Privately, House Republicans say that with Trump in control of the Treasury Department next year, they will not have to worry about government funding and debt ceiling deadlines colliding, as Obama repeatedly faced...The Trump administration can use "extraordinary measures," as the Obama administration did, to extend the debt-ceiling deadline for months, possibly until the fall. That would give Trump and GOP congressional leaders time to work out a spending deal without a debt crisis hanging over their heads. Congress voted in the fall of 2015 to "suspend" the debt ceiling - currently at about $20 trillion - until March 2017. "It will be Trump's Treasury now, we won't have to worry about that," said a House GOP aide close to the issue. "We can control that." It will be "Trump's Treasury," all right, and one which despite years of Republican tough talk will have to raise the debt ceiling repeatedly. On top of the current $20 trillion in debt, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) forecast an additional $8.5 trillion in accumulated deficits between 2017 and 2016. Whether he sticks to his tax plan or opts for Paul Ryan's "Better Way" blueprint to deliver a massive windfall for the wealthy, President Trump's Treasury will hemorrhage another $6 trillion. Ignoring for the moment his[...]
2016-11-28T04:06:17ZThroughout his unlikely journey to the White House, Donald Trump declared himself to be a "blue-collar billionaire" who as President would be the "voice" of the "forgotten man." Rolling out the first of the three versions of his tax plan... Throughout his unlikely journey to the White House, Donald Trump declared himself to be a "blue-collar billionaire" who as President would be the "voice" of the "forgotten man." Rolling out the first of the three versions of his tax plan last December, the real estate tycoon and reality TV star boasted, "it's going to cost me a fortune -- which is actually true." Of course, it's not true. Dodging his traveling press pool, President-elect Trump on November 15 headed off to the tony 21 Club in Manhattan. There, to a standing ovation, he told the well-heeled diners the truth: "We'll get your taxes down, don't worry." Theirs, and his. The man who apparently hasn't paid Uncle Sam a penny in 20 years has proposed a tax cut scheme that will enrich him, his businesses and his children for years to come. Whether based on The Donald's own outline or House Speaker Paul Ryan's "Better Way" budget blueprint, the Trump Tax Cuts of 2017 will drain roughly $6 trillion from the United States Treasury over the next 10 years. Unfortunately for those forgotten men and women who supported him, decades of evidence show that Trump's massive supply-side windfall for the wealthy won't make him "the greatest jobs president that God ever created." What the 45th President and his Republican allies will accomplish, however, is the greatest expansion in income inequality since Ronald Reagan ambled into the White House. To better understand why, it's worth looking back at recent history. During the depth of the great recession, President Obama as promised delivered tax relief to 95 percent of working Americans. A major component of his $800 billion stimulus program of 2009, Obama's was the largest two-year tax cut in modern American history. (Nevertheless, as a 2010 CBS/New York Times poll of Tea Party supporters found, "only 2 percent think taxes have been decreased, 46 percent say taxes are the same, and a whopping 44 percent say they believe taxes have gone up.") In 2011 and 2012, working Americans benefitted from a payroll tax holiday that trimmed two percent from their payments to Medicare and Social Security. But with the economic recovery under way, a just-reelected President Obama in late 2012 pushed for an end to the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. As the so-called "fiscal cliff" (that is, the triple-whammy of the expiration of all of the Bush tax cuts, the end of the payroll tax holiday and the beginning of budget "sequestration) approached on January 1, 2013, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) warned the overall impact could be devastating to the economy. But as I noted at the time, CBO was confident that higher taxes on the rich would have virtually no impact at all: Letting upper-income tax rates return to their slightly higher Clinton-era rates (as President Obama has proposed) will play no part in that instant austerity. While extending the Bush rates for all Americans carries a $330 billion overall price tag for Uncle Sam next year, the CBO calculated that $42 billion goes to the top taxpayers. But as the chart above shows, eliminating that Treasury-draining windfall for the wealthy (by raising rates for the top-two tax brackets, indexing the AMT and raising capital gains, dividend and estate taxes), would slice only 0.1% from economic growth next year. For their parts, then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) clung to their party's tall tales on upper-class tax rates. While McConnell warned Democrats are "seeking is the Europeanization of the U.S. economy[...]
2016-11-23T00:09:54ZWith his choice for Attorney General facing a growing backlash on Capitol Hill, President-elect Donald Trump is circling the wagons in defense of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions. On Sunday, Team Trump issued a press release declaring, "Civil rights and law...
(image)With his choice for Attorney General facing a growing backlash on Capitol Hill, President-elect Donald Trump is circling the wagons in defense of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions. On Sunday, Team Trump issued a press release declaring, "Civil rights and law enforcement groups are strongly supporting Sen. Jeff Sessions for Attorney General." Near the top of the list of those seeking to deflect charges of racism and anti-gay and anti-immigrant bias is former Bush Attorney General John Ashcroft. The one-time Missouri Governor and Senator denounced the criticism of Sessions this way:
"The political 'drive-by-assassins' who have trotted out the 30-year-old fabrication of racism are utterly devoid of the truth. When attackers resort to 30-year-old falsehoods it is clear evidence of their lack of substantive objection.
"Jeff is devoted to the proposition that equity before the law and in our society is at the heart and soul of what it means to be American. Nothing so completely rivals the injustice of racism more profoundly than the reckless labelling of persons who are not.
"Jeff Sessions has earned the trust of America with over three decades of fair and equitable service to the entirety of our culture. He deserves our commendation and support, not conjured, baseless attacks."
Now, it's no surprise that Trump would turn to a past Republican Attorney General to testify on behalf of the man who would be the next one. But with John Ashcroft, President-elect Trump has also turned to yet another unreconstructed Neo-Confederate to make the case.
You read that right. As Josh Marshall explained in "John Ashcroft's Rebel Yell" for Slate in December 2000:
2016-11-17T17:09:45ZBefore he leaves office on January 20, 2017, President Obama should take two unpleasant, unfortunate but absolutely necessary steps. First, Obama should pardon his former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton because she's violated no laws yet nevertheless faces the likely... Before he leaves office on January 20, 2017, President Obama should take two unpleasant, unfortunate but absolutely necessary steps. First, Obama should pardon his former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton because she's violated no laws yet nevertheless faces the likely prospect of indefinite investigation and possible prosecution. Then the 44th President should also pardon the 43rd, because George W. Bush admitted his crimes yet never faced any legal consequences at all. And the President should provide relief to Clinton and make an example of Bush for the very reason Republicans cited back in 2009: to prevent the "criminalization of politics." Oh, and there's one other consideration. President-elect Trump has already promised that the United States will once again engage in committing war crimes, including waterboarding, killing terror suspects' families and "much worse." Now, that's not all he promised. During their second debate, 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. In fact, as Ari Melber pointed out, misuse of his executive power by "interfering with" the Federal Bureau of Investigation "was literally one of the articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon." Throwing red meat to their rabid followers, Trump's allies have a different reading of history and the law. Running mate Mike Pence called the prosecution promise a highlight of the second face-off between his man and Hillary Clinton: "I thought that was one of the better moments of the debate. I'm old enough to remember a day when a president of the United States erased 18½ minutes and they ran him out of town. She used high technology to erase 33,000 emails." Even with election over, the Republicans' never-ending thirst for payback remains unquenched. Campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, who had brushed off Trump's October threat as a "quip," announced last Wednesday that we'll learn Clinton's fate at his hands "all in good time." House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) declared last week, "It would be totally remiss of us to dismiss [the email investigation] because she's not going to be president." Meanwhile, would-be Trump Secretary of State Rudy Giuliani argued, "you don't want to disrupt the nation with what might look like a vindictive prosecution, even though it might not be" before adding, "on the other hand, you want equal justice under the law." As for President-elect Donald Trump himself, he told CBS 60 Minutes on Sunday, "I'm going to think about it." For his part, President Barack Obama shouldn't think about it for very long. He should pardon Hillary Clinton despite the fact that she hasn't asked for it, almost certainly doesn't want it and despite Obama's past insistence that clemency will only be given to those formally apply to[...]
2016-11-15T00:02:24ZSo a former reality TV star won the 2016 presidential election on Tuesday. While deeply disturbing, that victory by Donald Trump was somehow altogether fitting. After all, as research from Harvard revealed, throughout the 2016 election cycle "policy issues [were]... So a former reality TV star won the 2016 presidential election on Tuesday. While deeply disturbing, that victory by Donald Trump was somehow altogether fitting. After all, as research from Harvard revealed, throughout the 2016 election cycle "policy issues [were] nearly absent in presidential campaign 'coverage.'" Even during the four weeks surrounding the parties' nominating conventions, policy stories represented only 8 percent of media coverage surveyed (13 percent for Trump and only a paltry four percent for Hillary Clinton). Instead, scandals, gaffes, unexpected revelations, horse race coverage and other "medialities" represented over two-thirds of the reporting from the 10 media sources studied. Ultimately, the "policy free" 2016 election was a lot like the first season of CBS reality game show Survivor; the surprise winner was Richard Hatch, an off-putting, conniving white guy few viewers liked and even fewer trusted. Now that Clinton has been voted off the island, the question remains: just what did Trump's triumphant supporters actually win on Tuesday? Aside from the Supreme Court, certainly not the grand prizes The Donald promised those "economically anxious" working class whites. Public opposition, lack of Congressional support and the already-reduced flow of undocumented immigrants over the Mexican border mean his "big, beautiful" wall will almost certainly never be built. Ditto for Trump's pledge to deport the 11 million already here in "18 months to two years if properly handled;" 70 percent of exit poll voters backed a path to their legal status. While President Trump may get support in Congress for blocking any new Syrian refugees from coming into the country, his larger (and draconian) Muslim ban is probably dead on arrival. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) are free-traders who will act to prevent the catastrophic trade war that Trump's steep tariff barriers against China and Mexico would necessarily trigger. As political scientist Brendan Nyhan noted in June, polling and previous research suggest that many Trump supporters simply "discounted" many of his most self-evidently impossible proposals. "In this way," Nyhan explained, "a voter who prefers a more modest move rightward might rationally prefer R even though R's position is further from the voter than a more moderate party on the left." The same dynamic may be unexpectedly boosting Mr. Trump. For voters who want a change from the status quo on issues like trade and immigration, supporting him may be perfectly rational -- even when his promises may not be. The flip-side, though, is that some of Donald Trump's fans are about to find out that many of their rewards will be things they never expected--or wanted. So, if you'll indulge me as I play game show host for a bit, Trump voters, let me tell you what you've won! You've won a massive tax cut for the very richest people in America! That's right; President-elect Trump has promised to reward the "forgotten" men and women of America with a $6.2 trillion, 10-year tax cut that delivers over half of its windfall to the top one percent of earners. The top 0.1 percent would grab almost a quarter of the winnings and save an average of $1.2 million a year. But that's not all! Thanks to changing personal exemptions and other budget cuts, many taxpayers will see their after-tax incomes decline. That's especially true if Speaker Ryan gets his "B[...]
2016-11-12T17:07:01ZLess than 72 hours after Tuesday's shocking election result, Donald Trump's transition team is hard at work transforming American government. A rogue's gallery of extremist right-wing has-beens and never-should-be's is being lined up for Trump Cabinet slots. With the success...
(image)Less than 72 hours after Tuesday's shocking election result, Donald Trump's transition team is hard at work transforming American government. A rogue's gallery of extremist right-wing has-beens and never-should-be's is being lined up for Trump Cabinet slots. With the success of Mitch McConnell's unprecedented blockade of Obama Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, a list of 21 conservative darlings has been prepared to erase women's reproductive rights and resurrect the long-ago discarded notion of businesses' "right to contract." Over the next six months, McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan vow, Obamacare will be a thing of the past, while a budget-busting, $6 trillion tax cut windfall for the wealthy is the future. To abort any opposition in advance, Republicans like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker are already calling for the "nuclear option" to eliminate the Senate filibuster for President-elect Trump's legislation and nominees.
So what should Democrats do to stop Donald Trump's agenda? In a word, everything. More specifically, Democrats are free to do everything and anything Republicans did over the past 8 years in their never-before-seen obstruction of Barack Obama. After all, if the media are going to continue to charge that "both sides do it," liberals might as well finally make the claim true.
2016-11-05T22:46:35ZRepublican presidential nominee Donald Trump has lied about almost everything in this election. But among his most insidious falsehoods is this. Hillary Clinton, Trump declared in Florida two weeks ago, "is going to cut your Social Security and your Medicare."... Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has lied about almost everything in this election. But among his most insidious falsehoods is this. Hillary Clinton, Trump declared in Florida two weeks ago, "is going to cut your Social Security and your Medicare." As he put it a rally in Pennsylvania last month: She wants to knock the hell out of your Social Security. She wants to knock the hell out of your Medicare and Medicaid. And I am going to save them. Now, there are two big problems with The Donald's deception. For starters, Hillary Clinton and the Democratic platform alike have both insisted on no benefit cuts to Medicare and Social Security. In fact, in their final debate Trump called Clinton "such a nasty woman" after she explained "My Social Security payroll contribution will go up as will Donald's, assuming he can't figure out how to get out of it." But just as embarrassing to Trump is the actual truth that his Republican Party has demanded reductions to both programs for tens of millions of American seniors. Earlier this year, Trump gave the game away with this straight-forward assessment. "There's no way a Republican is going to beat a Democrat," the reality TV star warned, "when the Republican is saying, 'We're going to cut your Social Security' and the Democrat is saying, 'We're going to keep it and give you more.'" But then the GOP's delegates got to Cleveland and decided something else. In their platform which mentions "abortion" 37 times and "Social Security" just five, the Republicans declared: We reject the old maxim that Social Security is the "Third Rail" of American politics, deadly for anyone who would change it. The Democratic Party still treats it that way, even though everyone knows that its current course will lead to a financial and social disaster. Younger Americans have lost all faith in the program and expect little return for what they are paying into it. As the party of America's future, we accept the responsibility to preserve and modernize a system of retirement security forged in an old industrial era beyond the memory of most Americans. Current retirees and those close to retirement can be assured of their benefits. Of the many reforms being proposed, all options should be considered to preserve Social Security. As Republicans, we oppose tax increases and believe in the power of markets to create wealth and to help secure the future of our Social Security system. Saving Social Security is more than a challenge. It is our moral obligation to those who trusted in the government's word. [Emphasis mine.] Now, Social Security and Medicare combined account for roughly 40 percent of all federal spending. As the New York Times reported in June, the programs' trustees reported that: Social Security trust funds for old-age benefits and disability insurance, taken together, could be depleted in 2034, the same year projected in last year's report. Tax collections would then be sufficient to pay about three-fourths of promised benefits through 2090. But with their platform, Republicans have ruled out new revenue for Social Security by either raising payroll taxes or lifting the current income cap for taxable earnings at $118,500. That means to "save Social Security" the GOP would either insist on slashing benefits or "believe in the power of markets." And that is just a non-threatening way of saying "privatization." Now, neither the latest [...]