Nel's New Day

June 15, 2019

Week 125, Part III – Democrats Move Ahead amid Corruption

While the U.S. House passes bills that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) ignores, it also pursues the facts that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) tries to hide. One success—if DDT’s fixer AG Bill Barr doesn’t pull out again—is obtaining evidence related to DDT’s obstruction of justice from Robert Mueller’s investigation in exchange for not suing Barr for contempt. Or Barr could be stalling. The House did take a vote permitting the Judiciary Committee to take witnesses to court who refuse to comply with subpoenas.

DDT tries to use executive privilege for refusing all information to the House, but Hope Hicks, former White House Communications Director and one of five subpoenaed DDT aides, will testify before the House Judiciary Committee. A transcript of the closed hearing will be released to the public. Hicks left the White House two days after she told Robert Mueller’s investigation that she testified that she told “white lies” for DDT.

The House Oversight and Reform Committee voted to hold Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt for defying subpoenas related to their addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

The House Intelligence Committee has now subpoenaed Michael Flynn and Rick Gates for documents and testimony about the Mueller report as part of connection with Russia and other foreign powers, including financial dealings and possibility of compromise.

Fox contributor Sidney Powell, conspiracy theorist regarding Mueller’s investigation, is Flynn’s new lawyer. Among her right-wing conspiracies on social media are Flynn as the victim of the “Obama Deep State” and the surveillance of the DDT campaign by the FBI “to protect Hillary Clinton.” She also retweeted a false post about a Mueller probe witness having a stroke because of prosecutors’ treatment. Her goals are the dismissal of Flynn’s case and a presidential pardon for him.

House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff (D-CA) has floated the idea of a subpoena for FBI Director Christopher Wray regarding any active counterintelligence investigations connected to DDT and Russia. Schiff wants to know if the FBI’s investigation, opened in June 2016, has concluded or continues. Congressional leaders, required to be briefed about sensitive intelligence issues, have had no information about Russia and the DDT campaign since DDT fired former FBI Director James Comey in 2017. GOP-invited witness Andrew McCarthy, a former US attorney and Fox contributor, described the danger of DDT’s campaign officials meeting in the Trump Tower in June 2016 when a Russian lawyer offered dirt on Hillary Clinton.

DDT may go back to court after a judge ordered the release of more memos from former FBI director James Comey about his meetings with DDT. The ruling requires that names of countries and world leaders be unredacted in conversations about DDT’s concerns about former national security adviser Michael Flynn and his scheduling of calls from world leaders. CNN’s lawsuit is now two years old.

While DDT tries to suppress political and financial material by telling everyone to ignore House subpoenas, he also wants to erase factual testimony from federal agencies. Last week he attempted to block a State Department employee from testifying about national security risks caused by the climate crisis. The employee testified, but his statements were excluded from the House record because the government research doesn’t fit DDT’s personal views.

Sen. David Purdue (R-GA) may call for his chamber to give up part of their August recess. Staying in Washington, however, has no value if McConnell won’t bring bills to the floor.

DDT will declare nuclear waste safer because of its new classification. Rick Perry’s Department of Energy is reclassifying high-level radioactive material to a lower standard, probably to bury the material in Washington, South Carolina, and Idaho shallow pits. Cleanup will be faster as the process moves dangerous waste to a new location. The federal agency plans “to cut out state input.”

If DDT has his way, the Office of Personnel Management that oversees government recruiting, hiring, pay, health insurance and other benefits, and performance management will close. The agency also oversees benefits for retirees and protects employee rights in federal agencies. DDT needs a senate vote for his restructuring. Democrats are opposed, and Republicans are lukewarm doing away with the agency. Created in 1978, the OPM, if disbanded, would be the first elimination of a major agency since the World War II era.

Chicken farmers have joined truckers and other former DDT supporters to be frustrated by DDT’s financial destruction. Farmers who thought that President Obama wasn’t policing meat companies who cheated and defrauded them voted for DDT. Much to their dismay, DDT sided with big meat companies—one magnate giving his campaign $2 million—over small farmers by erasing regulations protecting the little guys and giving four companies the ability to fix prices and crush competition. Georgia’s Sonny Perdue, Agriculture Secretary, dissolved the office for policing meat companies, and preexisting rules are no longer enforced. Top recipients from the annual $4+ million for lobbying are Georgia’s Jack Kingston who led the agriculture appropriations committee until this year and Arkansas member Steve Womack. Fines for breaking rules are under ten percent from five years ago.

DDT also hurt the truckers with the GOP “tax cuts”: they may each pay thousands of dollars more to the federal government because the new law cut out expense exemptions for per diam costs—about $15,000—for the 3.5 million truckers on the road. GOP congressional leaders have minimized the millions of additional dollars that truckers must pay. Only owner-operators, a very small percentage in the profession, escape because their profits are taxed at a far lower personal rate than the former corporate income. DDT loves trucks but not their drivers. 

Even leading tax cut architect Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), who pushed through tax cuts for the wealthy and big business with the promise that they would pay for themselves, admits 18 months later that he was wrong. The obsession during President Obama’s first term to balance the budget has morphed into a deficit increase of almost 40 percent—during a healthy economy.    

DDT’s solution to problems with the economy is to threaten departure from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce after it criticized his tariffs and threats and accused them of defending businesses with organizations in China and Mexico. In an unplanned telephone interview with CNBC, he also lambasted the Federal Reserve Board for having raised interest rates and claimed that China let its currency to be weakened to mitigate the effects of U.S. tariffs.

Deadbeat DDT and Congress owe $7 million to Washington, D.C. for DDT’s inauguration ceremony as he gears up for an expensive campaign rally there on July 4. DDT also wants to hire a second fireworks company to provide a backdrop behind his speech at the Lincoln Memorial. DDT stiffed at least another ten cities for hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide public safety costs for his rallies going back three years. Another 60 cities have policies keeping them from billing politicians for police costs, and others chose not to bill him. A Spokane city council member asked, “Let’s be honest, when does Trump ever pay his bills?” DDT’s campaign had $40.8 million last March and doesn’t report any debts to municipal governments or police departments in FEC filings. Cities hosting DDT rallies also recorded an additional 2.3 assaults on the day of the rallies but didn’t have this problem with Hillary Clinton’s rallies. Counties hosting DDT campaign rallies saw a 226 percent increase in reported hate crimes, compared to those that don’t host his events.

Washington, D.C. residents have filed to have DDT’s liquor license in his Washington hotel revoked because applicants must be of “good character and generally fit for the responsibilities of licensure.”

DDT is known for making up conversations with anonymous people, but his quote that “without Donald Trump maybe there would be no NATO” was unfortunately attributed to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who knew nothing about the statement. DDT also thinks that the moon “is a part” of Mars. In still another fantasy, DDT claims that “there are those that say we have one of the finest Cabinets.”  

Mars may be out of the picture, but DDT still wants his “Space Force.” The House Armed Services Committee may add a bipartisan amendment to the 2020 fiscal authorization bill.

DDT is back from England, but this photograph of him commemorating the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, in Portsmouth, southern England, on June 5, 2019, says far more than a thousand words. 

The May deficit of $208 billion is 42 percent higher than the same month in 2018, making the cumulative deficit for the first eight months of fiscal 2019 at $739—just $40 billion short of the full 2018 deficit. The disaster came after the GOP/DDT tax act, projecting an additional $1.9 trillion over a decade. The year 2019 will reach over $1 trillion. Corporate income taxes are down $10 billion, and custom duties are up about $20 billion from massive tariffs paid by consumers.

In the past 30 years, one percent of people in the U.S. gained $21 trillion in wealth compared to a loss of $900 billion for the bottom 50 percent—the worst inequality since the 1920s. The top one percent has $30 trillion in assets, and the bottom have less than zero amount.

February 13, 2019

Tax Cuts Go to Wealthiest, Others Angry

Almost 14 months ago, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) promised people would pay $4,000 less on their taxes this year and “have a nice, simple form.” Neither is true. An additional ten percent of tax filers will owe the IRS money since the “tax reform,” and average refunds were 8.4 percent smaller, down to $1,865 because of the same “tax reform.” And that’s from a week ago. In addition, filing taxes is as complicated as in the past. IRS refunds sent out are also down about 24 percent because of the shutdown.

People hoping to pay for their cars will be disappointed. Seven million people are at least 90 days behind on their car loans, a record and a red flag for the economy. Auto loans are the first payment that people make; delinquencies show serious economic problems for low-income and working-class people in the U.S. The nation suffers from more than a million more “troubled borrowers” now than in 2010 when unemployment hit ten percent and the car loan delinquency rate peaked. After George W. Bush’s recession, the government restricted mortgages so that people could make the monthly payments, but car financers could continue predatory practices because they have few restrictions . Subprime borrowers with low credit scores, increasing from 28 percent of the market in 2009 to 39 percent in 2015, may pay interest rates between 14.5 and 20 percent.

Howard Gleckman, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center, wrote about people plan buying big purchases or paying off large debts with their refunds. Some are so desperate that they pay extra to get advance lending on their refunds. Last year, 102 million taxpayers received an average of $2,778 in tax refunds, and most people spent this money, helping the U.S. economy. Lower refunds mean less spending and a shrinking economy. If people use their refunds for necessities, problems are worse than a slowing economy.

Fox & Friends told their watchers to stop whining about owing money to the government because they should have taken out more withholding—for a tax cut. The government’s guidelines did provide for less withdrawals from wages to get people to vote for Republicans in the midterm elections, a ploy that failed for many House members. But the reference to everyone’s “fatter paychecks” by Fox & Friends’ hosts applies primarily to higher income earners: most people didn’t see a significant increase in their paychecks.

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), lead author of the tax bill, told taxpayers to be grateful for much smaller or no refunds because they have nothing to do with their overall tax bill. He falsely claimed that 90 percent of the middle class got a $2,100 average tax cut. Another tax cut backer, Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH), tried to convince people that refunds are less because most people “owed less income tax.” The Tax Policy Center estimated that earners in the bottom 20 percent might each see a total of $60 less tax for the year, and the next 20 percent might expect a $380 total cut. The top 0.1 percent of people in the U.S. saved an average of more than $190,000—each.

Meanwhile, the government ran a $14 billion deficit in December—just one month—as we lost revenues because of the “tax reform” law. The U.S. has run into the red by $319 since the beginning of the fiscal year in October, up 41 percent from the $225 deficit of the same time period last fiscal year. Corporate taxes fell 17 percent, and those from individuals dropped by 4 percent. We’re not spending more: we just aren’t collecting money partly because of the tax cuts for the wealthy and big businesses, ending in a larger deficit for the previous fiscal year—almost $900 billion added to the debt. Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said that “nobody cares” about the debt.

DDT’s supporters are learning that the Democratic position on the failure of tax cuts was right and that Republicans lied. Most of the people aren’t getting any extra $4,000, businesses haven’t changed their capital investment and hiring, and tax breaks for the wealthy and big businesses aren’t paying for themselves. In addition, the economic growth is slowing instead of building. The GOP promised that corporate tax breaks wouldn’t go into stock buybacks; they did, which is the only reason that the stock market has not gone much below its level a year ago.

Instead of putting their tax breaks into higher wages for employees, companies in the S&P 500 spent almost $800 billion of their tax windfall on buybacks for the 2018 fiscal year that started nearly three months before the tax “reform” bill passed into law. The Dow Jones spiked until it went back to the same level as the beginning of 2018. The 2019 buyback projection is about $900 billion, almost all one third of all corporate cash spending and up 25 percent from 2017.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) co-authored an op-ed for the New York Times with former presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) that criticized the tax law and suggested the prohibition of a public company from buy back shares “unless it invests in workers and communities first, including things like paying all workers at least $15 an hour, providing seven days of paid sick leave, and offering decent pensions and more reliable health benefits.” They also suggested other ways to require companies to invest in workers, including a change in tax rates on dividends.

A divided Congress with a Republican president can’t pass these laws, but the ideas have generated discussion. Lloyd Blankfein, former head of Goldman Sachs, tweeted that money doesn’t vanish with stock buybacks, that money “gets reinvested in higher growth businesses that boost the economy and jobs.” Sanders retorted that Blankfein was right in his claim that money “doesn’t vanish” but it Mr. Sanders quickly responded on Twitter that Mr. Blankfein was correct that the money buybacks “doesn’t vanish” but it “increases the wealth of billionaires” like Blankfein.

Republican leaders who financially benefit from the buybacks lambasted the buyback proposals as “socialism.”  The GOP case against “socialism” ignores the difference between pure socialism and “Democratic socialism.” Republicans plan to use the term as a one-word meme slamming Democrats during the 2020 election campaign after they failed with “witch hunt.” Today, the White House blared the headline, “Not one more person should suffer under socialism.” Republicans’ definition for socialism may be anything that doesn’t benefit themselves. [In the chart to the left, you could add flood protection, sports coliseum, “freedom of religion,” a 40-hour work week, child labor laws, Social Security, Medicare–the list is quite long.]

Axios chief financial correspondent Felix Salmon asserts that the tax cuts will never pay for themselves and no one ever believed that they would. The increase in the national debt is faster than pessimists predicted at the time the GOP pushed through the cuts, and the CBO estimates that the annual deficit will top $1 trillion beginning in 2022. It’s almost there now. DDT campaigned with the promise that he would immediately eliminate the deficit, but in two years, he’s increased the national debt from under $20 trillion to $22 trillion. Salmon added that the nation is “awash in debt” with trillions in student loans, credit card debts, and car loans. Asked about the debt, DDT said that he’ll “get rid of” the entire debt “fairly quickly,” “over a period of eight years,” “paying off that debt like water.”

DDT plans to unleash predatory payday lenders on the majority of people receive less in tax refunds by gutting rules from President Obama’s era that shield people from “easy” loans with interests over 400 percent. If people borrow the money for the two weeks between paychecks, they pay $75 for a $500 loan. Over 60 percent of 12 million borrowers took out seven or more consecutive, digging themselves deeper and deeper into debt, and a majority of borrowers paid more in interest than the money borrowed.

In charge of making these changes is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which Budget Director Mick Mulvaney destroyed before he moved on to help DDT spike the national debt and works at failing as acting chief of staff. Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, described the result of the change in rules for payday loans:

“This decision will put already struggling families in a cycle of debt and leave them in an even worse financial position. This administration has moved the CFPB away from protecting consumers to protecting the very companies abusing them.”

Almost 80 percent of people in the U.S. live from one paycheck to the next, and wages remain stagnant when inflation is taken into consideration, even dropping in the second quarter of 2018. Almost all the gains in the country go to the top—chief executives of big companies, financiers, and creators in the digital world. If the average wages go up at all this year, it will be due to the 18 states that raised the minimum wage although the increases in almost half these states were $.20 or lower—about 2 percent.  The GOP system makes the vast majority of people in the United States more and more desperate.

September 22, 2018

DDT: Week 87 – A Very Bad Time

Paul Manafort flipped, Michael Cohen is testifying to investigator Robert Mueller, and Supreme Court justice nominee is in trouble after a sexual misconduct accusation. These events led to the longest hiatus of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) angry tweets since his inauguration. Friday, however, he went on the attack against Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused Kavanaugh with an ugly tweet insinuating that the attack was not “as bad as she says,” otherwise her “loving parents” would have “notified the Law Enforcement Authorities [sic].” Even gullible Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) was appalled at his message.

The past week has been hard on DDT in other ways. On Monday, he declared that he would release classified information that could damage the national security of the U.S. and alienate allies. He didn’t review the documents, but his action would be a conflict-of-interest because they related to investigations of close associates personally affect him. Faced with opposition from saner heads—including his own officials in FBI and DOJ—DDT doubled down after he “watched commentators that I respect begging the president of the United States to release them …. the great Lou Dobbs, the great Sean Hannity, the wonderful, great Jeanine Pirro.” Other people who had also not seen the classified materials. DDT also invented people, including anonymous Democrats, who supported the release of the materials and claimed that the investigation into the Russian scandal has been “discredited.”

Early Friday, DDT, impatient with the normal declassification system, ordered that documents be released “on an expedited basis.” He said if they were not immediately released that “I can always declassify if it proves necessary.”  Later that day, DDT backed down on his four-day-old order, saying that the DOJ and foreign allies have called on him to not release the documents. Once again, he claimed he wanted “transparency,” something not available in the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings for Supreme Court justice.

DDT is also caught between his old BFF Vladimir Putin and his new BFF Kim Jong-Un. Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, accused Russia of “cheating” on international sanctions against North Korea by illegally helping the country acquire oil and coal. Russian ambassador Vassily Nebenzia denied Haley’s charges. State Department Secretary had earlier accused Russia of undermining North Korea sanctions.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in visited Kim in North Korea last week and developed a closeness that may disturb DDT’s relationship with Kim. Kim and Moon announced inter-Korean agreements from easing military tensions to more family reunions, and Kim said he would visit South Korea, the first North Korean leader to do so. Their growing positive relationship may not help the U.S. though, because Kim declared that the U.S. must cake “corresponding measures” before North Korea would dismantle its nuclear facilities. China would support South Korea, especially after DDT’s recent bullying tactics with tariffs, creating a greater rift with the U.S. DDT should support Moon to preserve peace, but he rarely does the appropriate thing, especially if DDT gets jealous.

DDT keeps threatening social media for its “liberal” bent, but a report by Data & Society shows that YouTube lends itself to far-right views because it has a monetary interest in keeping these influencers on the site. Data from 62 political influencers on 81 different channels, the “Alternative Influence Network,” push reactionary right-wing ideas to promote their “authenticity” and build an audience. The lack of any rebuttal makes them able to successful communicate their message. For example, YouTube allowed the conspiracy theory that student survivors from the school shooting in Parkland (FL) were “crisis actors.” Although YouTube has made some attempts to curb misinformation suffers from its need for advertising revenue.

Despite DDT’s attempts to downplay the disasters of the flooding in the southeastern made him look like a buffoon. He did say that the storm was “one of the wettest we’ve ever seen, from the standpoint of water,” but his first question in North Carolina was “How is Lake Norman doing?” Told it was fine, he said, “I love that area. I can’t tell you why, but I love that area.” Probably because his Trump National Golf Club is in that area.

Wearing gloves, DDT handed out a few box lunches with hot dogs, chips, and fruit to people who had been waiting for over an hour. Pointing to a boat that had crashed into a victim’s property, DDT said, “At least you got a nice boat out of the deal.” In South Carolina, DDT said, “I think the most exciting part is the rebuild.” In the same manner as when he threw paper towels at victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and greeted Houstonians attacked by Hurricane Harvey, he told the people “have a good time” when he left. In a case of supreme irony, DDT retweeted a message from FEMA: “During disasters, it’s critical to avoid spreading false information.” DDT told 5,000+ lies during his first 601 days.

DDT’s position that nuclear and coal-fired power is the best answer to providing energy to homes and businesses, especially during crises. He had planned to use a law from the Truman era to force grid operators to buy electricity from nuclear and coal plants. Shortly before Tropical Storm Florence’s landfall, Duke Energy shut down two nuclear reactors. Floodwaters had not reached the nuclear plants, but they were shut down until roads were accessible for the possibility of evacuation.

Coal ash from the L.V. Sutton Power Station (left), eight miles northwest of Wilmington (NC), has overflowed into Cape Fear River spreading hazardous heavy metals harmful to human health on its way to the ocean. Floodwaters breached a dam at Sutton Lake in several places; the lake overtopped, and water flowed into other part of the plant. The rising river is expected to crest today after the state experienced a record for most rain recorded during any tropical storm or hurricane by almost one foot. Florence has killed at least 43 people and will cost as much as $50 billion, perhaps more because of DDT’s tariffs.

Always the businessman, DDT told Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell that Spain should built a wall across the Sahara Desert to restrict immigrants coming into the country. A wall across 3,000 miles of hostile desert would cut through five North African countries and do nothing to protect Spain’s 4,000 miles of coastline. According to Borrell, Spain has had about 20,000 immigrants thus far into a nation with a population of over 40 million. DDT is also fuming because the recent spending bill that the House passed does not include his own wall against Mexico.

DDT continues to show ignorance about his powers. About the former FBI director, “I should have fired Comey the day I won the primaries.” Then he added, “I should have fired him right after the convention”

The Washington-based transparency group Property of the People has published resumes of 2,700 political appointees in DDT’s administration and listed their woeful inadequacies. One was a former Chicago-area utility worker and bouncer, another a sales representative for a motorized scooter company in South Florida. One woman’s accomplishment was that she “recognized that Donald J. Trump would be the next president of the U.S.” Details indicate that the vast number of DDT’s choices worked for directly for businesses or as lobbyists before they assumed positions that are supposed to protect people from these businesses. The resumes are available here.

DDT promised to do away with the deficit, but it’s $895 billion for the first 11 months of fiscal year 2018—a 32.8 percent increase over those months of 2017 with not one peep out of most Republicans. Projections are $1 trillion for this fiscal year—and that’s without DDT’s space patrol, wall, infrastructure, help for Tropical Storm Florence, and the $200 billion a year loss from the GOP’s tax bill. DDT’s deficit is double that of the annual average of President Obama’s last three years. DDT is following the same system that drove his businesses in bankruptcy—debt, debt, and more debt.

DDT is no longer bragging about his high approval with black people in the U.S.: it is now three percent.

August 25, 2018

DDT: Week 83 – Outside the Courts

Frantic from his loss of loyal followers, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) attacked the DOJ and the FBI by threatening to fire his appointee AG Jeff Sessions and take over both agencies which are legally separate from presidential control. DDT sent out a long list of enemies that he wants investigation, starting with Hillary Clinton, and cited the 63 months of prison for Realty Winner for disclosing classified information about Russian hacking as an example of how easy these investigations could be. One useful investigation would involve DDT’s disclosing classified information to two Russians in the Oval Office of value to the Kremlin.

This file handout photo taken on May 10, 2017 from Russian Foreign Ministry shows shows DDT speaking with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) and Russian Ambassador to the US, Sergei Kislyak in the White House. 
HO/AFP/Getty Images

These weekend tweets came after DDT fomented racial divide in South Africa to distract from the news that he is an “unindicted co-conspirator.” Before looking into false reports from Fox’s Tucker Carlson and white supremacists, DDT tweeted that he had directed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to investigate “the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers.” Until 1994, blacks, comprising 90 percent of the population, were barred from owning more than 15 percent of the nation’s land, allowing whites to own 90 percent of the land. Despite the 1994 South African policy allowing the government to buy white-owned farms for redistribution to black citizens when the seller is willing to cooperate,  whites still own 72 percent of the farmland. As for the false claim of “white genocide,” the numbers of white farmers’ murders dropped to below 50 a year, the lowest that it has been in over 20 years.  Murder rates in the country’s predominantly white suburbs are far lower than in the mainly black townships.

White supremacist leaders such as David Duke and Richard Spencer have expressed their gratitude to DDT for giving credibility to their lies. “White genocide” has been used for years to inspire violence; Dylann Roof cited this reason for murdering nine people at a prayer service in a black church.

DDT managed more destructive behavior in the past week:

In June, the United States was safe from North Korea’s nukes, according to DDT who referred to the skeptical media coverage as “almost treasonous.”  In August Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) gave lack of progress as the reason for calling off negotiations with North Korea. Since then, North Korea continues to build nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, and China increased cross-border trade with North Korea after DDT laid tariffs on U.S. imports from China.

DDT has gone full Zionist by cutting $200 million from Palestinian humanitarian aid at a time with Egypt and the UN are trying to stabilize Gaza. Forty percent of Palestinians living in Gaza are unemployed. Because of the U.S.-backed Israeli blockade, everyone in Gaza lives with only a few hours of electricity per day and constant food and medicine shortages. Last January, DDT froze $65 million for a UN agency that provides aid to Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza as well as Jordan and Lebanon. DDT still promises that his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, will broker peace in the Middle East—perhaps through blackmail.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos hopes to use education money for lower-income students, the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants, for buying guns. Justification would be to “improve school conditions.” DeVos wants to arm teachers; one reason was to defend schools from grizzly bear attacks.

Conserving oil no longer has any value, according to DDT’s new policy. His proposal increases consumption by 500,000 barrels a day. Another EPA plan weakens regulations of coal-fired power plants by giving states authority to set standards for cutting emissions with incentives for keeping inefficient coal-fired plans with no pollution controls. DDT’s “Affordable Clean Energy rule” will kill up to 1,400 people every year by 2030, according to the EPA. Employment for coal is declining because of increased automation, cheaper natural gas, and healthier wind and solar power are healthier. DDT’s new EPA czar, Andrew Wheeler, is a former coal lobbyist.

The oil and gas industry claims that climate change doesn’t cause sea levels to rise, but it wants $12 billion from taxpayers to fix their problems in Texas including “floating gates” and “steel levees” for the coastline home to most of Texas’ 30 refineries. Texas has already spent almost $4 billion of that money to protect only oil refineries.

DDT may consider a plan from Blackwater founder and war criminal Erik Prince, brother of Secretary of State Betsy DeVos, to privatize the 17-year-long Afghanistan war by replacing U.S. soldiers with mercenaries, “private military contractors who would work for a special U.S. envoy for the war who would report directly to the president.” Although privatization never saves money, Prince claims it will. In an 85-7 vote, the Senate approved $675 billion for the military, over half the discretionary funds spent in a year. Under DDT, the U.S. drops an average of one bomb every 12 minutes; in his first year, he dropped almost half the number of bombs that President Obama did during the eight years of his two terms.

At a conference on cyberbullying, First Lady Melania Trump said that “children are more aware of benefits and pitfalls of social media than most adults.” In the past few days, DDT cyberbullied his former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman (“dog,” “wacky,” “vicious,” “nasty,” “a loser” “hated,” “crazed, crying lowlife”); John Dean (“rat”); the media (“sick,” “fake,” “disgusting,” “enemy of the people”); Brennan (“loudmouth, partisan, political hack,” “limited intellectually”); his own attorney general (“BLANK Jeff Sessions”); Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-CT (“Loser!”); Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-NY (“haywire”); New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (“incompetent,” “really dumb,” “having a total meltdown”); Ohio Gov. John Kasich (“very unpopular,” “failed”); and those investigating DDT (“creep,” “McCarthyism at its WORST!” “zero credibility,” “corrupt,” “a fraud,” “lowlife”).

While overshadowing the First Lady’s work against cyberbullying, DDT held an event to “salute the heroes” of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that he consistently called CBC. About a Latino Border Patrol agent and dog handler in the audience who had arrested a smuggler trying to bring 78 people to the U.S., DDT said, “And he speaks perfect English.” He said that Democrats, who he called the “opposition,” “don’t mind crime” and claimed that between 88 percent and 93 percent of people support the work of ICE. Almost half the people view ICE unfavorably.

Acting ICE Director Ronald Vitiello said that his agency had a plan to reunite the thousands of migrant children with their families that was ruined by the federal courts. The government still can’t find families for about 700 children, including 40 who are four years old or younger with the deadline a month and more past.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke lied when he said he would never sell public lands. A huge public backlash stopped him from selling 1,610 acres that had been part of the Grand Staircase national monument. After he shrank the national monument by 860,000 acres, he decided to put it on the market for private owners. One 120-acre is adjacent to land owned by Utah state Rep. Mike Noel (R).

Wildfire is covering hundreds of miles in California, and DDT’s solutions are to keep the water from going into the ocean and get rid of the trees. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue want to cut down all the trees, or what Zinke calls “robust fuels reduction and pre-suppression techniques.” The new farm bill, as yet in Congress, cuts out environmental review and permits logging for any reason. The House version of the bill that passed on June 21 would fast track road construction and commercial logging in national forests and exempt projects from environmental review.

The stock market is rolling for the top 20 percent, but the purchasing power of salaries has reverted to a 1974 level as the costs of living increase when workers get a small bonus from the massive tax cuts for the wealthy and big business. Pew Research Drew Desilver listed the peak of average hourly earnings at 45 years ago. Earnings for the lowest-paid quarter of workers are far worse than the past, with only a 4.3 percent increase since 2000 while the top tenth of earners have a 15.7 percent increase. The economy may be booming, but the vast majority of people in the United States are suffering.

DDT brags about “his” economy, but he fails to mention the current budget deficit—already 21 percent over that in 2017 with little hope for the future. President Obama’s deficits came from George W. Bush’s recession, but DDT’s disaster comes at a time of growing economy, the result of greater military spending and excessive tax cuts for the wealthy and big business. When Congress returns in September, the Republicans want another trillion-dollar tax cut, and the proposed “U.S. Space Force” can add hundreds of billions to the Pentagon budget. DDT also his wall that will cost $70 billion. Nobody is addressing the highly expensive natural and man-made disasters occurring more and more—or the ballooning interest on the national debt. The highly unpopular tariffs may also slow the economy.

As Republicans campaign, ObamaCare is more popular than the GOP tax law, according to Fox network poll, with the healthcare law at a 51 percent approval rating and the tax cuts at 40 percent approval.

DDT’s latest Gallup poll is 39 percent approval—the same as his average since he was inaugurated. Among Republicans, his approval is 82 percent, down seven points from last week. And next week may bring more disasters for DDT.

June 27, 2018

Democracy in the United States – Gone?

With Justice Anthony Kennedy’s resignation from the Supreme Court and the GOP stolen seat for Neil Gorsuch, no one will have to wonder about decisions from the Supreme Court: they will always favor Christian and business conservatism. Gone are any careful deliberations about the constitutionality of the cases. The five conservative justices will legislate from the bench according to their united radically right-wing ideology. An appointment from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) can ban legalized abortions and contraception, reverse LGBTQ rights, promote discrimination against minorities and women, and increase capital punishment and solitary confinement.

Despite Kennedy’s conservative leanings and his decision to appoint George W. Bush as president in 2000, Kennedy was the swing vote to legalize marriage equality and preserve—to some extent—Roe v. Wade.  On the other hand, he overturned DC’s handgun ban, allowed unlimited finance restrictions, and set in place the destruction of equal voting right. Recently he supported discrimination against Muslims and Christian opposition to abortions and birth control. The week of his resignation after 30 years in the U.S. Supreme Court, Kennedy contributed to the taint of the “Robert Court.”

Despite Republicans ranting against legislating from the bench, the conservative justices made conservative law today in deciding against public-sector unions. The decision of Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees permits workers to take union protection for free despite the fact that the small fees they paid has no political influence. The takers, including Mark Janus, won. Even conservative Antonin Scalia, who died before he could hear the case, wrote in 1991 that public sector unions could compel agency fees. Forcing unions to help nonmembers who do not pay them, “mandated by government decree,” would be constitutionally problematic. [Left: Janus was the name for a two-faced god of transition.]

For 41 years, public sector unions could levy fair-share fees to pay for workers interests.  The only intention of the five conservative justices is to break the union in their goal to protect large businesses and hurt working people. The loser in this case is the future for women and young people in the nation because union workers have greater wages—up to 20 percent more. The winner is the group of foundations funded by rightwing billionaires such as the Koch Brothers and the DeVos family who want to make money from privatizing the public sector. Their actions cost people more because privatization always costs taxpayers more money. Therefore people have lower wages while paying more money for everything.

The restrictions in Janus follows the courts’ history of blocking worker freedom. Nineteenth-century courts ruled that workers’ collective action infringed on employers’ freedom of commerce guaranteed by antitrust laws. The Supreme Court’s ruling in Lochner v. New York (1905) decided that labor protections such as maximum-hour laws violated workers’ freedom of contract. The Depression of the 1930s encouraged courts to give labor protections, but the GOP soon gained success in destroying these rights, actions that greatly expanded since their success in electing Ronald Reagan.

Although the Janus ruling may feel like doom, Shaun Richman, a veteran union organizer, warned that the ruling might require public employers to allow multiple unions competing for workers instead of negotiating with just one. If unions go to great lengths to show that they are the best worker advocates, the results could be more union militancy and power.

“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,”  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said two years ago when President Obama nominated a Supreme Court justice eleven months before the next president would be inaugurated. His position was that no nominee should be considered in an election year, and he refused a hearing for the nominee. For over a year, the Supreme Court was sometimes tied because of only eight justices voting on rulings. The next Congress is only six months away, but McConnell has abandoned his former belief. “We will vote to confirm Justice Kennedy’s successor this fall,” he said on the Senate floor with no idea of who that nominee will be.

Much has been said about the standard of whether a nominee will overturn Roe v. Wade, but McConnell’s standard is an approval by the NRA. In an interview with Fox, he said that he “can’t imagine that a Republican majority in the United States Senate would want to confirm, in a lame duck session, a nominee opposed by the National Rifle Association [and] the National Federation of Independent Businesses.” McConnell also told a crowd at a campaign rally:

“One of my proudest moments was when I looked at Barack Obama in the eye and I said, ‘Mr. President, you will not fill this Supreme Court vacancy.’”

The United States, which claims to be a democracy, now has a bogus president, a bogus Supreme Court justice, and a senate leader who decides which nominees can be confirmed.

Two days ago, the Supreme Court sent a gerrymandering case from North Carolina back to a trial court for further examination. Emboldened by other recent Supreme Court non-decisions on gerrymandering, North Carolina Republicans are asking SCOTUS to use the 2017 map plan that would inordinately favor the GOP.

DDT is fortunate that the media is not concentrating on some of the worst news for the United States because of DDT’s horrific policy separating children and families, his Russian scandals, and the recent disasters of the Supreme Court. During the time of President Obama, conservatives railed against the growing national debt after the president saved the U.S. economy that tanked from George W. Bush’s decreased taxes, $5 trillion wars, and the corruption of subprime mortgages. The last budget from President Obama, the one for 2017, increased the national debt by only $672 billion, a lot of money but much less than the projected deficit from DDT’s first budget in 2018. DDT’s first deficit is $1.233 trillion—almost twice that from President Obama—and his next year is about the same. DDT blamed President Obama for doubling the national debt after he took over Bush’s excesses, but now DDT is doubling President Obama’s debt.

Continuing deficits from tax cuts for the rich and big companies will come with increased dependence on foreign investors that weakens the world power of the U.S. Usually drastic debt increases result because of war and poor economy; the U.S. has neither at this time. After President Obama made progress in decreasing the deficit, however, Republicans’s huge tax cuts moved the nation to higher debt levels and erased its ability to respond to emergencies. Instead of addressing the problem, the GOP wants to make permanent the temporary taxes for individuals after 2026 to create even greater debt. Also contributing to greater debt and decline in the economy is DDT’s trade war with China, Mexico, Canada and Europe.

The GOP solution for the debt in the coming year will be to shred the safety net and established programs that people have paid into for decades. DDT ran on a campaign of preserving Medicare and Social Security, but the 2019 budget proposed by the GOP House now have drastically cuts many programs, including Medicare and Social Security, in order to pay for its tax cuts. Presenting these priorities that hurt the GOP voting block of older U.S. citizens is a brave move less than five months before Republicans try to keep the House majority in the midterm general elections. Republicans knew that the tax cuts could drive up the deficit, but they are now crying that the biggest domestic problem are debts and deficits. The GOP budget, called “A Brighter American Future,” goes back to House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) desire of privatizing Medicare which supposedly reduces Medicare by $537 billion over the next decade. Considering that privatization always costs more than government programs, that’s a big slice out of health care for its recipients.

A new law that permits additional Medicare benefits for people with multiple chronic illnesses is a move toward privatization. These benefits may include home improvements such as wheelchair ramps, transportation to doctor’s offices, home delivery of hot meals, and other social and medical services. The catch is that only people with MedAdvantage programs, contracted with private companies, will have this “advantage.” Those who subscribe to traditional Medicare won’t have them available because Congress waived the requirement that all plans offer the same benefits for those with chronic illnesses.

Ryan is blaming God for taking benefits for people:

“Catholic social teaching … cautions us against allowing the state too great a reach into civil society. This is about saving souls, not dollars.”

Ryan’s college education was provided by his survivor’s benefits from the “state” after his father died. At the same time Ryan began “dreaming” about destroying Medicaid when he was “drinking out of kegs.” He plans to spend his last six months taking more money from people like him and ordered his team to provide reconciliation instructions to fast-track the budget without Democratic votes in the Senate—probably in the lame-duck session after the elections.

This June, the Supreme Court ended with a bang.

March 29, 2018

Did Your Pay Check Go Up?

Filed under: taxes — trp2011 @ 8:45 PM
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Republicans will be running for re-election this year on their signature legislation of the first two years—a tax cut for the wealthy and big business. How’s that working out?

CNBC’s All American Economic Survey from last week found one-third of respondents with more money in their paychecks from the law that will crank up the deficit by $1.5 trillion. Over half—52 percent—found no difference. Of the one-third with more money, under 40 percent—that’s about 13 percent of the respondents–said that the increase improved their finances “a great deal” or “a fair amount.” The remainder of the one-third said that the increase helps a small amount or not at all.

Corporations, however, are having a great time with all their extra money. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) defended her vote to pass the bill by saying:

“The purpose of lowering the corporate rate is to encourage job creation here. It is not to encourage stock buybacks.”

Immediately after the bill was signed into law, a few corporations announced $1,000 bonuses. (That gives workers less than $.28 per day.) Raises are planned by 13.2 percent of companies, and tax savings for 44 percent of businesses will go to acquisitions and new equipment, including robots to replace workers. The rest goes for stock buybacks and dividends, causing the stock market to go up almost 2,000 points before it dropped almost 3,000 points. Workers may have seen little extra money in their paychecks, but the average banker bonus on Wall Street last year was $184,220, the highest since before the financial crisis.

By the beginning of March, just two and a half months after the bill became law, retail companies gave employees bonuses about $3 million while spending $200 billion for stock buybacks, inflating the value of shares by reducing their supply. Executive pay is tied to stock performance, accounting for 82 percent of their pay in 2015. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) said in a Senate floor speech:

“Stock buybacks are windfalls that drive up the value of investment portfolios for CEOs and high-flyers, and they’re coming in at a rate 30 times greater than worker bonuses—30 to one! They’re on pace to double the amount from the first quarter of last year.”

The richest 10 percent of stock owners owned 84 percent of all stock in 2016 while one in four jobs pays below the federal poverty level.

Almost 37 percent of households in the nation are “liquid asset poor,” lacking enough savings to support their families for three months at the federal poverty level if they lose their jobs. The cost of houses has gone up 4.1 percent to $8,000 since last year while the median household income has increased by only 2 percent. Despite workers searching for temporary employment and jobs to supplement their other jobs, 40 percent of households have difficulty paying bills. And the tax cuts have given a pittance—if anything—to these people, less than $60 to families earning under $25,000.

DDT told workers in Ohio that they would receive between $2,000 and $4,000 from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and that more than 300 companies delivered bonuses, raises, or 401(k) investments to over three million people. DDT’s chief economic adviser Gary Cohn announced that with another $1,000, a family “can renovate their kitchen, they can buy a new car, they can take a family vacation.” Twitter took on Cohn’s statements; the most accurate one stated, “To Cohn’s credit, he’d be right if this were the 1930’s.”

Republican legislators did well with the new tax law. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) got $500,000 from the Koch brothers and another $500,000 from just five wealthy donors for his tax bill. The bill also gave Ryan a $19,000 tax break with his bill, far more than the $78 that Ryan bragged that a school worker received. The new law threatens affordable health insurance and Social Security, costing people far more than any extra they now receive.

Over 12,000 retail stores are expected to close in 2018, up from the 9,000 that closed in 2017. Two-dozen major chains including Walgreens, Gap, and Gymboree are planning to close over 3,600 stores this year. Last year 50 retail chains filed for bankruptcy. Among 25 major retailers likely to file for bankruptcy are Sears, Bon-Ton Stores, Bebe Stores, Destination Maternity Corp., and Stein Mart. Almost one-fourth of U.S. malls, approximately 310 of 1,300 shopping malls, may lose its anchor tenants, causing other retail stores to flee.

Even the bonuses come with strings such as longevity of service, and they are attached to firings and store closures, like those at AT&T, Lowe’s, Walmart, Pepsi, Carrier, Kimberly Clark, etc.

The new GOP tax law causes huge problems for almost every state. Some blue states are examining the reclassification of state property and income state taxes as charitable contributions because that’s the biggest hit for places such as California, New York, and New Jersey. But almost all 41 states with personal income tax use either federal adjusted gross income or federal taxable income as their starting points for the state income tax. The federal shift can cause big swings in state revenue, causing losses of tax income. The almost-double standard deduction and giveaway to pass-through entities blows up the deficit on both the federal and state levels, and states will hurt even more with cuts in entitlement and safety net funding. Plus states’ responsibility for 80 percent of infrastructure funding will cause more problems. The federal government is taking taxes to give to the wealthy and big corporations leaving states in serious debt to take up the losses. And almost every state must meet a balanced-budget requirement, meaning no deficit from one year to the next the way that the federal government operates. One solution is to “decouple” from the federal code which means trickle-down complexity.

The tax bill was based on lies, such as the one that the tax cuts will pay for themselves and not raise the deficit. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin made the claim that his department had run the numbers and found no deficit, but he even lied about the existence of this study. Then Republicans will use the deficit to take away the safety net, including Social Security and Medicare.

Not happy with everything that they have given to the wealthy and large corporations, Republicans are planning another tax cut bill. In the first one they passed last year, cuts for individuals expire in ten years; now the GOP plans to force a vote to make them permanent. If Democrats oppose the bill, the GOP will call them opponents of the middle class.

The GOP plan to corner Democrats with Tax Cut Bill II may turn on them. Making the taxes permanent will add at least another $1.5 trillion to the deficit in the decade after 2025 while reminding people that the GOP favored corporations over them by making taxes permanent for businesses. Another problem for Republicans is that they need at least nine Democrats this time around because of different Senate rules, and they still won’t let Democrats be involved in talks about the bill.

To pass the tax cut law, Republicans promised that everyone would get $1,000 or $2,000 or $4,000 during the next year depending on who was talking and when. People are beginning to figure out that the Republicans lied. The next arguments might not get swallowed as easily. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) said, “The proof is in the paycheck. That’s a message we can run on.” It might be easier to use this for an election argument if the paycheck showed more money.

Republicans are still planning to take Social Security and Medicare to pay for the deficit caused by tax cuts for the wealthy and big business. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said last week, “The name of the game in debt and deficits is entitlements.” The GOP needs older voters who may not vote for candidates who take their living expenses and health care.

November 30, 2017

History Shows Disaster of Tax Bill

Over a century ago, George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This saying applies to the disastrous tax bill moving through Congress. “The terrible, horrible, no good, very bad” tax raises for the poor and middle class (to paraphrase the title of Judith Viorst’s children’s classic) has passed the House, and another one, probably worse, has moved from committee to the Senate floor after GOP senators were bought off by bribes. Historian Robert S. McElvaine wrote this perspective from the past to illustrate the nation’s future: “I’m a Depression historian. The GOP tax bill is straight out of 1929.” The piece is subtitled “Republicans are again sprinting toward an economic cliff.”

“There are two ideas of government,” William Jennings Bryan declared in his 1896 “Cross of Gold” speech. “There are those who believe that if you will only legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea, however, has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous their prosperity will find its way up through every class which rests upon them.”

That was more than three decades before the collapse of the economy in 1929. The crash followed a decade of Republican control of the federal government during which trickle-down policies, including massive tax cuts for the rich, produced the greatest concentration of income in the accounts of the richest 0.01 percent at any time between World War I and 2007 (when trickle-down economics, tax cuts for the hyper-rich, and deregulation again resulted in another economic collapse).

Yet the plain fact that the trickle-down approach has never worked leaves Republicans unfazed. The GOP has been singing from the Market-is-God hymnal for well over a century, telling us that deregulation, tax cuts for the rich, and the concentration of ever more wealth in the bloated accounts of the richest people will result in prosperity for the rest of us. The party is now trying to pass a scam that throws a few crumbs to the middle class (temporarily — millions of middle-class Americans will soon see a tax hike if the bill is enacted) while heaping benefits on the super-rich, multiplying the national debt and endangering the American economy.

In 1926, Calvin Coolidge’s treasury secretary, Andrew Mellon, one of the world’s richest men, pushed through a massive tax cut that would substantially contribute to the causes of the Great Depression. Republican Sen. George Norris of Nebraska said that Mellon himself would reap from the tax bill “a larger personal reduction [in taxes] than the aggregate of practically all the taxpayers in the state of Nebraska.” The same is true now of Donald Trump, the Koch Brothers, Sheldon Adelson and other fabulously rich people.

During the 1920s, Republicans almost literally worshiped business. “The business of America,” Coolidge proclaimed, “is business.” Coolidge also remarked that, “The man who builds a factory builds a temple,” and “the man who works there worships there.” That faith in the Market as God has been the Republican religion ever since. A few months after he became president in 1981, Ronald Reagan praised Coolidge for cutting “taxes four times” and said “we had probably the greatest growth in prosperity that we’ve ever known.” Reagan said nothing about what happened to “Coolidge Prosperity” a few months after he left office.

In 1932, in the depths of the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt called for “bold, persistent experimentation” and said: “It is common sense to take a method and try it; if it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.” The contrasting position of Republicans then and now is: Take the method and try it. If it fails, deny its failure and try it again. And again. And again.

When Bill Clinton proposed a modest increase in the top marginal tax rate in his 1993 budget, every Republican voted against it. Trickle-down economists proclaimed that it would lead to economic disaster. But the tax increase on the wealthy was followed by one of the greatest periods of prosperity in American history and resulted in a budget surplus. When the Republicans came back into power in 2001, the administration of George W. Bush pushed the opposite policies, which had invariably produced calamity in the past. Predictably, that happened again in 2008.

Just how disastrous would the proposed reincarnation of the failed Republican trickle-down policies of the past be for the American people and the future of the nation? A few ways:

  • Repealing the estate tax, or, as Republicans have dubbed it, the “death tax.” But the estate tax is not a tax on the dead; it is a tax on their heirs. Repeal would reverse an important aspect of the American Revolution and establish an American hereditary aristocracy. If your estate is not above $11 million, your benefits from this portion of the GOP’s tax cut will be a nice round number: zero.
  • Eliminating deductions for state and local taxes. The GOP has called these deductions favoritism for people who live in high-tax states. In fact, ending deductibility of state and local taxes would tax income that has already been taxed away from a taxpayer. It is, quite simply, double taxation.
  • Repealing the Alternative Minimum Tax, which assures that wealthy people who hire accountants to find all the obscure ways to avoid taxes cannot escape taxation altogether. Repealing it would save Trump millions.
  • Extending the “pass-through” provision to noncorporate businesses, including some 500 entities Trump owns. It would allow the owners of these businesses to pay taxes at 25 percent, instead of 39.9 percent. This provision would allow Wall Street fund managers, among other very wealthy people, to pay a lower tax rate than many middle-class Americans pay.
  • Ending the deductibility of large medical expenses.
  • Taxing waived tuition for college students, ending deductibility for student loan payments, and even disallowing teachers from deducting what they spend on school supplies for their students.
  • Ending the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, which would cause 13 million Americans to lose health insurance and result in much higher premiums for those who do get insurance through the exchanges. The Congressional Budget Office has indicated that, if enacted, the Republican tax bill may force deep cuts in Medicare through a generally unknown budget rule that its deficits would trigger.

The analysis of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that people making less than $100,000 a year (approximately 80 percent of American households) will have their taxes increased while the millionaires and billionaires will make off like bandits.

In the 1920s, Republicans were in full control of the federal government and used that power to pursue their objective to “make the well-to-do prosperous.” It didn’t “leak through on those below.” In that decade, the mass-production American economy became dependent on mass consumption. For it to work, the masses need a sufficient share of the national income to be able to consume what is being produced.

Republican policies in the ’20s instead pushed to concentrate more of the income at the top. Nine decades later, Republicans are rushing to do it again — and they are sprinting toward an economic cliff. Another round of Government of the People, by the Republicans, for the super-rich will be catastrophic. The American people must call a halt before it’s too late.

Thank you, Mr. McElvaine

The deliberate $1.5 trillion deficit, tacked on to the massive deficits from George W. Bush’s wars and tax cuts, hobbles future generations. Instead of cutting back the deficit, the GOP is following the lead of a man who bragged that “I’m the king of debt.” DDT said, “I’m great with debt. Nobody knows debt better than me. I’ve made a fortune by using debt, and if things don’t work out … you go back and you say, ‘Hey, guess what? The economy crashed. I’m going to give you back half.’” The king of debt made money cheating workers and retired people by refusing to pay them and declaring bankruptcies while he took all the cream for himself. He plans to continue the practice for all the people in the United States, for example anyone with Treasury bonds who will get only half of their investment back if he gets his way.

DDT claims he will “make America great again,” but he is turning the nation into a place where people are leaving instructions to send their ashes to Republicans who vote to literally kill them. Zoey Salsbury has created a popular website for people who may die without healthcare or Medicare. (The tax bill cuts $25 billion from that healthcare program). She provides information about how to mail cremains to the congressional member of choice, suggesting that packages be sent to legislators’ district offices because the Capitol may block them, and offers assistance in writing wills to for this process.

DDT is gaining his own vision of the United States, a place where he can take at least $1 billion for his personal gain from the bottom half of the population.

October 30, 2017

Russia, Puerto Rico, Budget

Luckily for the Republicans, Dictator Donald Trump is leaving the country Friday. His Asia trip removes him from tweeting about what he will give away in the tax reform legislation. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said that it’s an advantage that DDT is a half world away and then tried to explain his comment away by saying that he was joking. At home, however, the problems continue.

The first charges from Robert Mueller’s investigations led today’s media. Twelve counts against DDT’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort include conspiracy against the United States, tax evasion, and money laundering related to his work for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine. His longtime deputy, Rick Gates, is also charged. DDT responded with anger to charges against Manafort but said nothing about a greater danger to him, his campaign advisor George Papadopoulos’s confession to colluding with Russia and agreeing to provide more information about the situation. Roger Stone’s tweets were so far over the top that Twitter suspended his account. A detailed timeline of the DDT/Russia affair.

DDT is now lying about having any connection with Cambridge Analytica, a shady British data firm providing data for his campaign, that asked WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange for help in “finding” Hillary Clinton’s missing emails. The desired distraction is the Uranium One deal during Hillary Clinton’s time as Secretary of State by accusing her of allowing Russia to buy a Canadian company. The agreement, which was not controlled by Clinton, does not allow removal of U.S. uranium from either Canada or U.S. without U.S. permission. False allegations about bribery connections come from Breitbart author Peter Schweizer in Clinton Cash.

Another attempted distraction is an attempt to blame a dossier about DDT’s lewd and illegal behavior on Hillary Clinton for a dossier on him. Facts about the 35-page research document prepared by former British spy Christopher Steele:

  • The conservative Washington Free Beacon funded the project before DDT became the GOP candidate when Clinton’s campaign and the DNC, through Democratic lawyer Marc Elias of the law firm Perkins Coie, took over. (Mother Jones reported this information a year ago, but DDT pretends it’s new.)
  • Former FBI director briefed DDT about the contents of the dossier after his election.
  • Unverified ones are under investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller.
  • U.S. intelligence agencies stated that the dossier was not their source and confirmed additional information, including Russian interference in U.S. elections through email hacking and disinformation campaigns.

GOP Republicans want to save money by stopping Mueller’s investigation despite their expensive three-year investigation into Clinton’s Benghazi and emails, bringing the cost of “getting” Clinton over $100 million. Earlier, Kenneth Starr’s investigation into “Whitewater” cost $70 million, and Bill Clinton’s impeachment cost about $60 million. Only the DOJ can block these funds for Mueller’s investigation, however, unless Congress passes a separate law.

Fox and Friends concentrated on where the lettuce should go in a cheeseburger, and Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders talked about reporters going out for beers and having to pay taxes.

DDT bragged about his “success” in Puerto Rico, calling it a “10,” but 39 days after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, 77 percent of Puerto Rico is still without electricity. Without energy to power wastewater disposal and clean water delivery systems, their pumps won’t work, and sewage builds up while residents can’t get clean drinking water. People suffer from dehydration and become infected from low-quality water sources. Without electricity, people can’t know where to get supplies.

No one knows how to use the gigantic government hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, and only 33 of its 250 beds were being used a week ago. Many of those who know about the facility can’t get to the port because of impassable roads or fuel. A donation from Tesla has provided a solar power system for a children’s hospital in San Juan, but doctors in other facilities have only the light from cellphones to perform surgery.

DDT prided himself on the low death rate in Puerto Rico, but over 900 bodies have been scheduled for cremation on the island since Hurricane Maria hit. Officials will not know whether they are directly connected to the disaster. These deaths were marked as being from “natural causes,” but many of them died from failing dialysis and oxygen machines after the island had no electricity. Bodies must be sent to the Institute of Forensic Sciences in San Juan for an autopsy to be included in the official death count.

The scandal of Whitefish Energy rebuilding the island’s power grid continues after Gov. Ricardo Rossello finally pulled the plug on a $300 million contract awarded by the island’s power. The board ignored mutual aid from larger experienced power companies which provided workers from U.S. public utility companies after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma this year and instead chose the two-person, two-year-old non-utility Whitefish Energy, located in the small Montana hometown of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. He claims that he had nothing to do with the choice, but his son had worked for the company.

Whitefish’s previous experience was to replace 4.8 miles of transmission line in Arizona for $1.3 million; Puerto Rico has 2,400 miles of critically important transmission lines and tens of thousands of miles of distribution lines across the island. The company relies on subcontractors; they have paid $462 per hour for a supervisor and $319 for a lineman. Each person is daily paid $332.41 for accommodations and $79.82 for food.

According to the contract, Puerto Rico was not allowed to “audit or review the cost and profit elements,” and the government was prohibited from making “any claim against Contractor related to delayed completion of work.” The “contractor will not be subject to compliance with any performance specification during the duration of this reconstruction work.” Although the Whitefish contract states that FEMA approved the deal, the disaster agency said it was not involved in the selection of the company and has “significant concerns” about the decision. The fishy agreement may have been worse than the fraud during the clean-up after Hurricane Katrina in 2006.

Financing for Whitefish comes from the Texas-based private-equity firm HBC Investments, founded by Joe Colonnetta. He and his wife, Kimberly, donated over $80,000 to DDT and RNC campaigns and have associations with Ben Carson, DDT’s secretary of housing and urban development, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, according to photos on her Facebook page.

Last week, Congress passed a disastrous budget with a House vote of 216-212 (20 GOP representatives voting no) and a Senate vote of 51-49 (Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky only GOP saying no) for the next decade:

  • A $1.5 trillion deficit to finance tax cuts with almost 80 percent of them going to the top 1 percent.
  • Cuts to all non-Medicare health programs of $1.3 trillion, almost 30 percent.
  • Cuts of $473 billion to Medicare.
  • Cuts of $653 (13 percent) to mandatory programs in the “income security” spending category including food stamps; Supplemental Security Income (SSI, an anti-poverty program that gives cash to seniors and disabled people); the earned income tax credit (EITC) for people too poor to pay taxes; and unemployment insurance; both military and civilian federal employee pensions.
  • “Mystery” cuts of $800 billion from “non-defense discretionary spending”—funding for the FBI, the National Institutes of Health and other biomedical research, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the State Department and Environmental Protection Agency and Treasury Department, etc. More specific cuts include slashing medical research and gutting State and the EPA especially.
  • GOP’s plan to eliminate deductions for state and local taxes adversely affecting one-third of households. (Without that change the deficit would be $2.4 trillion. A proposed tax credit for property taxes would increase the deficit by $700 billion.)
  • Cuts of 93 percent for federal programs that aid survivors of sexual and domestic violence from $460 million to $30 million, the equivalent of a few weekends for DDT at Mar-a-Lago.

Florida GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz said that House Republicans were “asked to vote for a budget that nobody believes in so that we have the chance to vote for a tax bill that nobody’s read.”

Republicans are willing to fund tax cuts for the wealthy with a deficit but demand an offset to pay for healthcare for nine million children in poverty. CHIP ended on October 1, but Republicans won’t renew it until Democrats agree to cut the Affordable Care public health fund, reduce the grace period for enrollees who fail to make the premium payments, repeal the law’s Independent Payment Advisory Board, and make cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. The same people are working to cut off abortions at six weeks because they “love children.”

DDT is demanding the tax cuts (for wealthy) bill on his desk by Thanksgiving—about a dozen work days for the House—but keeps killing ideas on making money for the wealthy. This week he promised to allow people to continue deducting $18,000 for their 401(k) retirement accounts instead of $2,400 but withdrew the statement after the House included the change in the bill. The government will get the taxes no matter what, but the GOP wants it this year, costing $2 trillion in the next decade. The bill will supposedly be released in two days.

Republicans further voted against DDT’s base by forbidding class action consumer lawsuits against banks or credit card companies. VP Mike Pence broke the tie in the Senate. More advantage for the wealthy!

January 13, 2017

So How’s That Obamacare Repeal Going?

Why did people hate the Affordable Care Act, a law that helped people have better health care and live longer? Conservative leadership fed lies to their constituents—like this one from House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) at a town-hall event this week–because they feared a Democratic plan would be popular. Ryan’s mistake was taking a question from a man who owns a small business in a red state, worked for the Reagan and Bush campaigns, and opposed the ACA. That was before the ACA saved his life after his life-threatening cancer was treated, thanks to “Obamacare.” Jeff Jeans said, “I want to thank President Obama from the bottom of my heart because I would be dead if it weren’t for him.”

Ryan’s response? The flat-out lie that the ACA is a “death spiral” because people won’t buy insurance when it gets too expensive.  If Ryan were right, enrollment numbers would be dropping. But instead they’re skyrocketing. The proportion of young adults is steady, proving that the mix of people enrolling this year is less likely to be sicker and more expensive. And this is happening despite the uncertainty about the future of health care for the people in the United States, thanks to the unhealthy obsession in the GOP Congress about a repeal.  Lies are failing with the public, however, because 75 percent object to repealing if there isn’t even a replacement.

Today, the U.S. House began their process of destroying health care for the millions and millions of people in the United States. A vote of 227-198 with only nine GOP defectors approved the budget resolution that the Senate passed in the dark of night earlier this week. The bill doesn’t specifically address the ACA, but the passed “budget reconciliation” is needed to kill off the ACA because of the danger from a Senate filibuster.

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) warned that their action could send insurance markets into a collapse. Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) tweeted, “Most massive budget in U.S. history passed 227-198. It adds more than $9 TRILLION to the debt over the next decade.” House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) argued that the House had to pass the bill because they had campaigned on it.

The Senate vote allowed non-binding amendments showing the chamber’s position. These are positions that the GOP Senate oppose:

Protect people with pre-existing conditions: 52 million people in the U.S.—25 percent of non-elderly people—have pre-existing conditions. Before ACA, they were frequently denied any coverage. Only two Republicans voted in support of keeping these conditions in a health care plan.

Let young adults stay on their parents’ plan: Over six million young people 26 years old and younger have gained health insurance since this plan went into effect in 2010. Surveys show 85-percent approval of this provision. Again only two Republicans support this condition.

Maintain access to contraceptive coverage: The ACA has caused spending on contraceptive health care to drop 20 percent. Only two Republicans vote in favor of this amendment.

Ensure Medicaid expansion stays in place: 11 million low-income people benefited from this provision in 2015, and thousands of jobs were created for direct care workers.  Republicans unanimously defeated this amendment.

Protect children on Medicaid or CHIP: GOP Senators blocked this amendment.

Protect veterans’ health care: Republicans blocked an amendment to make it harder to restrict veterans’ access to VA health care.

Republicans demonstrated that they oppose insurance that requires pre-existing conditions, puts children up through age 26 on the parents’ policy, provides free contraceptive care, helps low-income people and children, and protects veterans. These are the leaders who want to take people’s health care: Vice President-elect Mike Pence with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. John Barrasso (AP Photo/Cliff Owen).

health-care-killers

The public opposition to ACA repeal began when more and more people understood that the congressional goal was to take away health care without any new plan. Sen Bob Corker warned that repeal without replacement would be “not very appealing.” Even ultra-conservative Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) asked for a replacement “game plan.” Passing the repeal/replacement also requires 60 votes in the Senate because of the filibuster.

The derailing of the grand repeal plan began just four days after the GOP Congress took over the country. That’s when Republicans determined that the GOP project to Make America Sick Again would cost more than four times than the extremely expensive Iraq War while it kills millions of private sector jobs. Republicans had a solution: hide the cost of their repeal. Page 25 of the new rules package passed by GOP House members stated that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) should estimate the cost over $5 trillion—except Obamacare. Unfortunately, that plan didn’t work either: the word got out that what the GOP calls an “appropriate” level of public debt is actually an unnecessary anti-job debt spike.

Add to that problem Ryan’s decision to defund Planned Parenthood through a bill to repeal Obamacare, and the bill riled more conservatives. Two moderate female GOP senators opposed this suggestion, and the program is highly popular throughout the nation.

Some of the most conservative senators—Rand Paul (R-KY), Bob Corker (R-TN), and Tom Cotton (R-AR) for example—are reluctant to vote for the repeal because of the increasing deficit. Paul wants an immediate repeal but isn’t happy about the $10 trillion dollars added to the deficit. Even ultra-conservative Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chairman of the Health Committee, declared that it’s not smart to repeal without a replacement.  Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and John McCain (R-AZ) don’t like Repeal without Replace. Six dubious senators will put the 48 Democrats opposing the repeal to a majority of the chamber. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) might join them because she, like Collins, doesn’t like the idea of defunding Planned Parenthood.

The repeal is rapidly coming to a head because GOP leadership wants to force the development of legislation by January 27. Wanting to postpone the deadline until March 3 are at least five GOP senators: Bill Cassidy (LA ), Susan Collins (ME), Bob Corker (TN), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Rob Portman (OH).

Congressional Republicans are also facing opposition from GOP governors. John Kasich (OH) and Rick Snyder (MI) have already complained about the loss of Medicaid. Kasich said the hospitals need Medicaid that “has worked very well in this state.” He said that the program covers 700,000 of his residents; Snyder agreed when talking about his 642,000 people in Michigan. Other GOP governors opposing the repeal thus far are Charlie Baker (MA),  Asa Hutchinson (AR), and Brian Sandoval (NV).

Kasich eloquently expressed his concern:

“Let’s just say they just got rid of it, didn’t replace it with anything.” What happens to the 700,000 people [in Ohio]? What happens to drug treatment? What happens to mental health counseling? What happens to these people who have very high cholesterol and are victims from a heart attack? What happens to them?”

The GOP desire to balance the federal budget occurs only with Democratic presidents. Republican legislators showed no longing for “fiscal responsibility” during the Reagan/Bush years. Under Clinton, their need for zero deficit returned, but unfortunately for them, Clinton showed a surplus by the end of his two terms. In the two following Bush/Cheney terms, Republicans asserted that “deficits don’t matter.” They ran up trillions of costs for two wars, two tax-cut packages, Medicare expansion, and the Wall Street bailout.

During the two terms of Democratic President Obama, conservatives screamed about the ballooning deficit set in place by his predecessor. The GOP even lowered the credit rating of the United States and then closed down the country because of their demand for a balanced budget. With a prospective GOP president, the majority of GOP Congressional legislators started to repeal a law vastly increasing the deficit, a law that keeps people alive. Their plans would put the public debt to at least $29.1 trillion by 2016, according to the budget resolution they passed.

People are already losing jobs because of the GOP’s declaration that they will “repeal Obamacare.” The loss of health care for millions of people is already sending shock waves throughout the $3 trillion-a-year health system. Hospitals estimate that the repeal will cost them $165 billion within five years and trigger “an unprecedented public health crisis” if sick people can’t get care. The Advisory Board Company, providing services to health care firms, has already laid off 200 people partly because hospitals vastly decreased spending after the election.

With much lower health coverage, hospitals and health providers could find themselves on the hook for up to $1.1 trillion for uncompensated care in the next decade, causing the collapse of finances in hospitals serving needy populations. Their only solution would be to curtail services and reduce workforce, impacting health care access even for the insured. Illinois alone would suffer a loss of 95,000 jobs and $13.1 billion. Forty percent of the state’s hospitals are already in the red or close to it.

The question is whether the GOP can get over its gridlock and lack of bipartisanship to pass a “repeal and replace” law. I wouldn’t bet on it.

April 3, 2015

‘Give Peace a Chance’

Two huge stories have overwhelmed the news during this past week: the attempts in the United States to permit discrimination against anyone in the United States because of expressed religious belief, and the framework agreement between world powers and Iran to curb Iran’s nuclear program for the next decade in exchange for lifting economic sanctions. Iran must reduce the number of its centrifuges that can be used to enrich uranium into a bomb by more than two-thirds and redesigning a power plant to keep it from producing weapons-grade plutonium as well as eliminating much of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium. In the agreement, Iran consents to regular international nuclear inspections. President Obama said that “this framework would cut off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon.”U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the deal would contribute to peace and stability in the region.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claims the agreement is a “threat to Israel’s existence.” His government released a statement that Iran has made no concessions despite its agreement that it will give up 97 percent of its enriched uranium stockpile and sharply reduce the number of centrifuges.

Israel’s media disagrees with Netanyahu. In Haaretz, Israel’s oldest newspaper, journalist Barak Ravid wrote that the agreement “is not a bad deal” and concluded, “Israel will have a hard time fighting this agreement, or portraying it as bad.” The article states that the agreement preserves Israel’s security interests.

Without the agreement, Iran could possibly produce a nuclear bomb in three to four months. With the agreement, Iran will be required to scale down three production facilities for at least a decade and turn these into scientific and medical research. The country is blocked from building any new facilities for 15 years. The 25-year international inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities, supply chain for nuclear materials, and uranium mines will be the most intensive in the history of the world. Any violation will immediately bring back the sanctions against the country.

Iranian citizens have celebrated their country’s agreement with the P5+1—the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany—while hardliners are furious. Moderate Iranian politicians have lost their power for not being sufficiently anti-American. Any easing of hostilities between Iran and the United States is, according to hardliners, a matter of treason. Basically, the Iranian conservatives in Iran take the same position as the conservatives in the United States.

Most Republicans in Congress have worked hard to destroy any possibility of an agreement with Iran. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) invited Netanyahu to address Congress to sway not only legislators but also the people of the United States. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) convinced 46 other senators to sign an open letter to Iran in the hopes of scuttling any diplomatic efforts. Following the announcement of the agreement, right-wingers have made egregious statements about the framework:

  • Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL): The deal is worse than Neville Chamberlain’s talk with Hitler before World War II.
  • Israeli columnist for Politico Ari Shavit: The Iran agreement is just like the Iraq War—which is the country’s bloodiest conflicts of the twenty-first century.
  • American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s video: The visual shows the Statue of Liberty’s arm falling off in response to the agreement.
  • Bloomberg’s Eli Lake: “The Iranian-Swedish con man is gloating,” in reference to one of the agreement’s proponents, Trita Parsia who moved from Iran to Sweden as a child and lived most of his life in the United States.
  • Laura Ingraham:If only the secular Left put as much trust & faith in the people of Indiana as they do in the rulers in Iran.”
  • Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL): Upset about the lack of support for the United States, he would “absolutely” defy American allies by scrapping an Iran deal.
  • Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI): The presidential candidate would cancel any Iranian deal, sight unseen, that comes from the Obama administration. (He doesn’t need to read anything to reject it!)

As Jonathan Chait wrote, the conservatives hate this agreement because they hate all agreements since World War II.

The Yalta agreement stopping the war against the Soviets after the Allies defeated Germany in World War II formed the basis for Sen. Joe McCarthy’s (R-WI) paranoid ravings. Conservatives who tried to amend the constitution with the “Bricker Amendment,” limiting the president’s ability to agree to foreign treaties, were blocked by President Eisenhower.

The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), a pact to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to states that had not yet obtained them, was denounced by the National Review as “immoral, foolish, and probably most impractical, a policy that makes nonsense of our defensive alliance in Europe, that favors our enemies and slights our allies.” The NPT is now used to prevent Iran from obtaining nukes.

President Richard Nixon’s opening to China was compared by conservatives to Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler.

Nixon’s policy of detente with the Soviet Union was described by conservatives as “one of the greater triumphs of the Soviet propaganda machine.”

The Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) was “profoundly unwise,” according to conservatives. Ronald Reagan opposed it in his campaign and then abided by it before signing the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, to massive dismay from the right-wingers who compared Reagan to Chamberlain negotiating with Hitler.

In his speech announcing the agreement with Iran, President Obama said:

“When you hear the inevitable critics of the deal sound off, ask them a simple question: do you really think that this verifiable deal, if fully implemented backed by the world’s powers, is a worse option than the risk of another war in the Middle East?”

The United States started the Iraq War with conservatives spreading fear about nuclear weapons. Netanyahu was a major instigator of this war when he told Congress in 2002 that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction.”

John Bolton, booster and co-architect of the war in Iraq, represents most conservatives in Congress with his recent NYT op-ed, “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran.” Thirteen years ago, he was “confident that Saddam Hussein has hidden weapons of mass destruction and production facilities in Iraq” and “the Iraqi people would be unique in history if they didn’t welcome the overthrow of this dictatorial regime.” He was 100 percent wrong, and he knew it at the time.

Robert Gates, defense secretary for George W. Bush and Barack Obama after CIA director under George H.W. Bush, said bombing Iran could prove a “catastrophe.” Meir Dagan, leader of Israel’s external spy service from 2002 to 2011, warned that an attack on Iran “would mean regional war, and in that case you would have given Iran the best possible reason to continue the nuclear program.” He added, “The regional challenge that Israel would face would be impossible.”

Since 9/11, jihadists have killed 26 Americans on U.S. soil, 13 of them killed by another soldier at Fort Hood, while right-wing extremists have killed 39. During the same time, an average of over 30,000 people died from guns each year—an approximate total of 450,000 people. Many of the same people who fight to keep unfettered ownership of guns spread fear about Iran with hopes to bomb the country.

About 1 million people died in Iraq during the ten years after the U.S. declared war on the country; 220,000 died in Afghanistan, and 80,000 died in Pakistan. During just the Bush years, 4.5 million Iraqis—one in six—were displaced, and only five percent went back to their homes by 2009. The 1-2 million widows and 5 million orphans leave half the people in Iraq tragically impacted by deaths.

Two years ago, the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was estimated to go as high as $6 trillion dollars–$75,000 for every household in America. At that time, more than half the 1,560,000 discharged military service members had gotten medical treatment and been granted benefits for the rest of their lives. All the financing for the wars was done by borrowing, which has run up interest that taxpayers must fund. At the same time, Bush’s tax cuts cost the country about $2.1 trillion in lost revenue during the first nine years.

People in the United States don’t feel any safer when conservatives win elections by spreading fear. The conservatives claimed that war in Iraq would cost taxpayers about $200 billion. Between tax cuts that didn’t improve the economy and war costs, the tab is closing in on $10 trillion and sure to rise even without bombing Iran. That’s $10 trillion that could have dropped the deficit. A war in Iran will cost even more. In the words of John Lennon, quoted in another context by presidential contender in his coming-out speech, “Give peace a chance.”

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