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 Detroit: "I even opposed bailing out GM and Chrysler. I welcome the rebound of that company with an open heart, but I still think that most Americans know that it would have still been better[...]
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 pledges to raise defense spending while protecting Social Security and Medicare from any cuts, Trump is on a path to generate $15 trillion more in new debt for a total of $35 trillion over t[...]
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," Boehner sounded the alarm that ""Going over part of the fiscal cliff and raising taxes on job creators is no solution at all." Previously, Boehner peddled the GOP's job creators myth this[...]
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 the Office of the Pardon Attorney. President Obama should simply repeat the same words he offered in defense of not prosecuting the architects of the Bush administration's regime of detaine[...]
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 "Better Way" with Trump's tax plan. Ryan's plan to end the deductibility of state and local taxes means those of you living in high-tax/high-service blue states will get battered even more. Bu[...]
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 GOP budgets nor Speaker Ryan's "Better Way" policy blueprint mention Social Security privatization. (The "Better Way" doesn't mention it at all.) But that doesn't mean the transformation of[...]
2016-10-27T18:29:11ZFormer Boston Red Sox pitching great Curt Schilling announced this week that he might run against Democratic Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren in 2018. Schilling, previously best known as a bankrupt businessman and collector of Nazi memorabilia who was fired by ESPN...
(image)Former Boston Red Sox pitching great Curt Schilling announced this week that he might run against Democratic Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren in 2018. Schilling, previously best known as a bankrupt businessman and collector of Nazi memorabilia who was fired by ESPN despite famously bleeding from wherever in the 2004 American League playoffs, took to the cable news shows to ask why Jews vote for Democrats. As he phrased the question to Jake Tapper of CNN:
"I would like to ask you something as a person who is practicing the Jewish faith and have since you were young, I don't understand, maybe this is the amateur, non-politician in me, I don't understand how people of Jewish faith can back the Democratic Party, which over the last 50 years have been so clearly anti Israel, so clearly anti-Jewish Israel that I don't know what else need to be done, said or happen -- the Democratic Party is aligned with Israel only because we have agreements in place that make them have to be."
Leaving aside Schilling's complete ignorance of the past 50 years, his offensive question deserves a response. The long answer to the question of why Jewish voters overwhelmingly .. The long answer to the question of why Jewish voters overwhelmingly prefer Democrats, as I explained back in February, is because the party closely aligns with their views across almost all issues domestic and foreign, including Israel. The short answer? Jews vote Democratic because people like Curt Schilling are Republicans.
For the background, here's "Why Jewish Voters Still Won't Support Republicans in 2016."
2016-10-27T18:21:30ZThe third and final presidential debate between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump provide a teachable moment on the subject of abortion. Make that many teachable moments. When moderator Chris Wallace asked the candidates their views on so-called "partial...
(image)The third and final presidential debate between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump provide a teachable moment on the subject of abortion.
Make that many teachable moments. When moderator Chris Wallace asked the candidates their views on so-called "partial birth" abortion bans, Trump declared it's "not acceptable" that women "can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month on the final day." But that simply does not happen. Over 90 percent of abortions in the U.S. occur within the first 13 weeks of pregnancy; only about 1 percent are performed after 21 weeks. The extremely rare intact dilation and extraction procedure rebranded by ant-abortion activists as "partial birth" was used only in urgent circumstances to preserve the life and health of the mother or in the face of catastrophic and fatal fetal deformities. After Trump's bogus horror stories, many American women came forward to tell their own stories of crisis, tragedy and heartbreak.
But if many voters recoiled at Donald Trump's fictional description of butchery, they would be mistaken if they believe the GOP nominee's views made him an anomaly in his party. By now, the rejection of the "health of the mother" exception isn't just a standard feature of Republican anti-abortion crusade at the state and federal level. As it turns out, House Speaker Paul Ryan called it "a loophole wide enough to drive a Mack truck through."
2016-10-24T17:04:31ZIn less than three weeks, Americans will head to the polls to pick their next President. With the start of the open enrollment period for Obamacare, millions of them will also soon be selecting health care coverage for 2017. By... In less than three weeks, Americans will head to the polls to pick their next President. With the start of the open enrollment period for Obamacare, millions of them will also soon be selecting health care coverage for 2017. By most measures, the Affordable Care Act which made health insurance possible for some 25 million Americans has been an overwhelming success. Over 10 million people have purchased private insurance through the Obamacare marketplaces, with about three-quarters receiving subsidies to help cover the cost. States which chose to expand Medicaid have, as predicted, extended coverage to millions more of their residents, slashed their costs for uncompensated care for the uninsured and improved the financial stability of their hospitals. At less than 9 percent, America's uninsured rate is at the lowest level on record. And the ACA hasn't just remained under budget even as the rate of health care cost growth has slowed. Obamacare, it turns out, has helped reduce income inequality. But that doesn't mean Obama's Affordable Care Act is not facing serious challenges. Most of Obamacare's health insurance co-ops have failed as actuarial misjudgment and Republican sabotage of the ACA's "risk corridors" program left them exposed by billions of dollars the federal government had promised to provide. The withdrawal of major carriers and minor players from some states has left over a million Obamacare subscribers needing to select a new insurance plan for 2017. As a result, many counties (especially in rural areas) are down to a single insurer offering exchange plans, the very kind of market consolidation the GAO and American Medical Association warned about years before the passage of the ACA. Combined with the insurers' ever-narrowing network of providers and the rapid pace of hospital mergers and acquisitions, higher deductibles and pre-subsidy premiums are making affordable care unaffordable for many. There is no mystery regarding the diagnosis and prescription for the ailing American health care system. Ultimately, the United States must treat health care less like a market and more like a utility. As we'll see below, that means doing the very thing every major economy outside the U.S. does to control health care costs: set rates. But in the near-term, the President and Congress can take three steps to help American consumers and stabilize the Obamacare exchanges: Establish a "public option" for health insurance Increase the insurance subsidies provided to individuals and families Redesign the ACA's risk corridor to along the lines of Medicare Luckily, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) like President Obama supports all three. Well, not exactly. As it turns out, the very measures President Barack Obama recently outlined in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) to improve Obamacare are ones Ryan has long advocated to gut Medicare as we know it. You read that right. The same Paul Ryan whose "Better Way" plan would take away health insurance from 20 million Americans wants to use many of the same elements of Obamacare to privatize Medicare for tens of millions of future elderly and disabled. To understand this glaring contradiction of the heart of Paul Ryan's thinking, it's necessary to revisit his years-long effort to ration Medicare. As he's learned since he first proposed to privatize and cut Medicare, the politics of his voucher scheme are even worse than its math. In April 2009, twenty-four months before all but four House Republicans voted for Ryan's plan to ratio[...]
2016-10-20T17:43:03ZIt is an article of conservative faith that federal spending under President Obama is "out of control." As the 2016 GOP Platform states in an amazing revision of recent history: The Administration's policies systematically crippled economic growth and job creation,... It is an article of conservative faith that federal spending under President Obama is "out of control." As the 2016 GOP Platform states in an amazing revision of recent history: The Administration's policies systematically crippled economic growth and job creation, driving up government costs and driving down revenues. When Congressional Republicans tried to reverse course, the Administration manufactured fiscal crises -- phony government shutdowns -- to demand excessive spending. As the data and history show, every claim in those two sentences is flat-out wrong. (As an aside, don't overlook the 800-pound donkey in the room: the economy almost always performs better under Democratic presidents.) And just last week, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office once again demolished the last one. Taking inflation into account, federal spending has actually declined under Barack Obama. Of course, that truth is not apparent from the recent headlines. While the Wall Street Journal predictably warned "U.S. budget deficit rose in fiscal year 2016, first time in five years," the Associated Press led with this cautionary note: The government ran a $587 billion budget deficit for the just-completed fiscal year, a 34 percent spike over last year after significant improvement from the record deficits of President Barack Obama's first years in office. Friday's deficit news, while sobering, does not appear bad enough to jolt a gridlocked Washington into action to stem the flow of red ink. But there's good reason that action isn't called for now. Even with outlays exceeding tax revenue by $600 billion, deficits of 3 percent of GDP and persistent low interest rates on U.S. Treasury bonds, Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research explained, "It's totally manageable. There's literally nothing there to worry about." (It's also worth noting that the larger deficit in FY 2016 was largely the predictable result of the December 2015 deal on so-called "tax extenders" which will drain $650 billion in revenue over the next decade.") In its report on monthly spending in September, CBO delivered its preliminary assessment that FY 2016 outlays would rise to $3.86 trillion dollars, up from $3.69 trillion in 2015. Revenues, meanwhile, are expected to reach $3.27 trillion, compared to $3.25 trillion last year. But taking inflation into account by using constant FY 2009 dollars (see OMB historical table 1.3) shows a different picture. At, $3.42 trillion, inflation-adjusted FY 2016 spending will still be lower than on Barack Obama's first inauguration day. As I noted previously: On January 7, 2009, CNN reported on the latest long-term budget forecast from the CBO. Two weeks before President Bush ambled out of the Oval Office, CNN explained "the U.S. budget deficit in 2009 is projected to spike to a record $1.2 trillion, or 8.3% of gross domestic product." With the recession in full swing and the massive TARP program passed the previous fall, CBO predicted in January 2009 that federal spending would spike to $3.543 trillion dollars while tax revenue would plummet to an anemic to $2,357 trillion. As it turned out, the final deficit figure for the 2009 fiscal year which ended on September 30, 2009 reached $1.413 trillion because of worse-than-expected tax collections ($2,105 trillion.) If you're looking for a big spender, look no further than George W. Bush. Several other points in recent CBO data are worth highlighting. Simply put, Washington does n[...]
2016-10-17T17:46:28ZOn July 28, 2008, the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility jointly published the results of a year-long investigation into the hiring practices at the Bush DOJ. As the AP reported, "A new Justice... On July 28, 2008, the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility jointly published the results of a year-long investigation into the hiring practices at the Bush DOJ. As the AP reported, "A new Justice Department report concludes that politics illegally influenced the hiring of career prosecutors and immigration judges, and largely lays the blame on top aides to former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales." Unsurprisingly, the report singled out Gonzales' White House liaison Monica Goodling for "violating federal law and Justice Department policy by discriminating against job applicants who weren't Republican or conservative loyalists." That finding was unsurprising because Ms. Goodling had already admitted as much. During her May 23, 2007 testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, she acknowledged that "on some occasions" in the hiring of career prosecutors "I crossed the line of the civil service rules." Admitting that she illicitly screened out civil service job applicants who happened to be Democrats, Goodling clarified for all why she sought immunity from the Committee in the first place: "I do acknowledge that I may have gone too far in asking political questions of applicants for career positions, and I may have taken inappropriate political considerations into account on some occasions, and I regret those mistakes." But during his questioning, Indiana Republican Rep. Mike Pence ignored Goodling's confession to make a different point about the Bush administration's purge of U.S. attorneys then under investigation. "I'm listening very intently. I'm studying this case, and I want to explore this issue of illegal behavior with you. Because it seems to me, so much of this, and even something of what we've heard today in this otherwise cordial hearing, is about the criminalization of politics. In a very real sense, it seems to be about the attempted criminalization of things that are vital to our constitutional system of government, namely the taking into consideration of politics in the appointment of political officials within the government." [Emphasis mine.] "I am troubled," Pence concluded, "about the fact that we seem to be moving ever further down the road of the criminalization of politics." Alas, that was then, and this is now. And now, Mike Pence and his running mate Donald Trump are in danger of being on the receiving end of a November 8th beat down at the hands of Democrat Hillary Clinton. And that means Trump, Pence and the "lock her up" crowd calling for her arrest and prosecution are demanding the criminalization of politics they once claimed to detest--and much, much worse. During their second debate last week, The Donald promised Secretary Clinton that under President Trump, "you'd be in jail." Referring to now-concluded the FBI investigation of Clinton's private email server, a probe which produced no charges, Trump promised: "If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation, because there has never been so many lies, so much deception. There has never been anything like it, and we're going to have a special prosecutor." Now, most observers took Trump's pledge for what it is: a threat to America's democratic institutions. (For example, see here, here, here and here.) In the modern United States, the very notion of imprisoning political opponents had been beyond the pale. But from seeing it as[...]
2016-10-05T16:16:56ZThe revelation that Donald Trump may have paid no federal income taxes over the past two decades is a dagger aimed at the heart of his presidential candidacy. For starters, his reported $915 million loss in 1995--his second billion-dollar implosion... The revelation that Donald Trump may have paid no federal income taxes over the past two decades is a dagger aimed at the heart of his presidential candidacy. For starters, his reported $915 million loss in 1995--his second billion-dollar implosion in five years--makes a mockery of Trump's repeated boasts that he is a "tremendously successful" businessman. Worse still, his past and planned future windfalls at the expense of the United States Treasury show The Donald is a "big-league" beneficiary of the rigged system pretends to protest. As the parasite posing as populist put it in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland: A number of these reforms that I will outline tonight will be opposed by some of our nation's most powerful special interests. That is because these interests have rigged our political and economic system for their exclusive benefit. As Matthew Yglesias explained in Vox, "You don't need 'genius' to pull off Trump's tax avoidance -- you just need to be rich." Rich, that is, and in the real estate business. The key, as tax expert David Cay Johnston documented Monday, is the manipulation of "net operating losses" on top of the "already liberal tax breaks Congress gives big real-estate owners." Trump dumped the real costs of all this on investors who saw gold in his brand name, but who lost everything even as he was paid tens of millions of tax-free dollars... NOLs are incredibly valuable. These tax losses can be used to offset salaries, business profits, and income from, say, a television show or making neckties in China. Thanks to his $916 million of NOLs, Trump could earn much over 18 years in salaries, profits, and interest, but pay no income taxes. Without Donald Trump's tax returns, there is still much we do not know about the shell game that enabled the reality TV star to stiff Uncle Sam. Still, the most grotesque aspect of Trump's schemes may be that most of them are probably perfectly legal. (Most, but not all. Trump's use of the unlicensed charitable Trump Foundation to pay off legal costs generated by his for-profit businesses almost certainly violate laws on "self-dealing." And Trump apparently used his Foundation to skirt taxes on his appearance and speaker fees by having payments made directly to his "charity.") But the self-proclaimed "blue-collar billionaire" supposedly devoted to "the forgotten Americans" isn't content to rest with the gains--ill-gotten and otherwise--he has withheld from the IRS. Donald Trump has promised that as President, he would implement a new set of windfalls for himself and his children. Over the past year, Trump has released not one, but three tax plans. In each, the top income tax rate is lowered. (In its current incarnation, that top marginal rate would drop from 39.8 to 33 percent.) But even bigger winnings for the Trump Organization will come from his proposed reduction in business taxes. As he summed it up during his disastrous debate against Hillary Clinton last week: Under my plan, I'll be reducing taxes tremendously, from 35 percent to 15 percent for companies, small and big businesses. As Trump spokesman Steven Cheung confirmed on Sunday, that same 15 percent rate will also apply to so-called "pass-through" businesses which pay taxes on revenue as personal income. Businesses, that is, like Donald Trump's. That one change to the tax code wouldn't just drain an estimated $1.5 trillion from federa[...]
2016-09-26T16:40:50ZWashington is experiencing a bipartisan furor over the spiraling price hikes of EpiPen, the life-saving Epinephrine injector tens of thousands of American allergy sufferers depend on in case of emergency. On Wednesday, Democrat Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Republican Jason Chaffetz... Washington is experiencing a bipartisan furor over the spiraling price hikes of EpiPen, the life-saving Epinephrine injector tens of thousands of American allergy sufferers depend on in case of emergency. On Wednesday, Democrat Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Republican Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee blasted Mylan CEO Heather Bresch over her firm's 550 percent price increase from $94 for a two-pack in January 2007 to $609 in May 2016. Bresch, whose father happens to be West Virginia Democratic Senator Jim Manchin and whose mother Gayle Manchin apparently used her perch as the head of the National Association of State Boards of Education to push schools to stock EpiPen, continues to face questions over how much government health insurance programs pay for the allergy treatment. But largely lost in all the talk of generic alternatives, a lower-cost Mylan offering, rebates and profit-margins is this inescapable truth. EpiPen isn't the exception to the rule of American drug pricing; it is the rule. Alone among major, modern economies, the United States government does not currently have the power to regulate drug prices in its $350 billion a year prescription market. The question isn't whether the U.S. should join most of its G20 partners in setting rates for pharmaceuticals, but when it will happen, how it will work and who will do it. And on that last question, the past 25 years have obviously shown that it won't be the Republican Party and its presidential nominee, Donald Trump. Obvious, that is, unless you're Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post. Cillizza, whose young son suffers from a peanut allergy, offered his prescription for addressing the EpiPen disgrace. As he explained this week in "The Mylan EpiPen pricing controversy is why people hate Washington," the answer is not to get even, but to get mad: Very few people have a father who is a U.S. senator. Or a mom who runs a national group overseeing boards of education. And very few people have children who make $19 million a year. The Manchins have all three. And that makes lots of people mad. And convinced that the entire system -- elected officials, lobbyists, trade association heads, etc. -- is morally bankrupt. And that the only solution is a full-scale removal of the establishment by someone -- Trump -- who represents everything that the establishment isn't: straight shooting, blunt talking and, yes, willing to offend... It affirms everything people already believe about How Washington Works -- that it's a rigged deal, and they are on the outside looking in because that's the way the elites in D.C. want it. Understand that feeling, and you understand Trump's appeal. Now, Cillizza could have gone on to document, as the worried readers of PharmExec learned in 2015, that Democrat Hillary Clinton has a 25-year track record of trying to rein in prescription drug costs. Cillizza, whose column is ironically titled "The Fix," might have mentioned that Democrats sought to empower the federal government to negotiate Medicare drug prices, only to be blocked President Bush and his Republican majorities in Congress. And Mr. Fix could have reported that Donald Trump's business career is defined by cheating investors, partners, contractors and customers. Oh, and one other thing. Donald Trump has already shown he has no idea what he's talking about when it co[...]