Nel's New Day

April 15, 2019

Tax Day: ‘Cuts,’ Returns

Today is the deadline for paying 2018 taxes, and the amount of taxes that people pay has consumed conversation for over a year, ever since DDT and other Republicans gave the wealthy and big business a huge tax break that cost the United States $1.5 trillion. When Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) delivered his rally speeches, he promised that people would get an additional $4,000, but over 80 percent of taxpayers didn’t get this generous bonus. Instead 10,260,263 paid more taxes last year after DDT’s 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act, and raises for most people were under $1,000. The law eliminated personal and dependent exemptions, caps on state and local deductions, employee business expenses deductions, etc. The cap of $10,000 on state and local tax deductions was onerous for many people, especially those who have lived in their home for a long time or have high state income tax, although DDT claimed that only the wealthy were hurt.

Researchers found that “half the tax cuts went to the richest five percent, with about a quarter going to the richest one percent. Those among the top five percent got bigger tax cuts not just in dollar terms but even when measured as a share of their total income.” Households making between $500,000 and $1 million had their after-tax income rise by an average of 5.2 percent. Households making less than $50,000 experience only a 0.6 percent increase. In even greater income inequality, W-2 wages fell 2.0 percent in 2018. Bonuses fell $0.22 for 2018, and the average bonus for 2018 was just $0.01 higher than in 2017. Most bonuses came from recruiting because of low unemployment instead of production from company tax cuts.

Big benefits went to Fortune 500 companies: at least 60 profitable corporations will pay nothing—some of them getting back extra money from the government. That number is double from previous years. Instead of paying $16.4 billion in taxes on their $79 billion of pretax income, the companies got rebates of $4.3 billion—a GOP gift of over $20 billion used to buy up stock and sock away in hidden offshore accounts. A few corporations with this advantage: Amazon, Chevron. Deere, Delta Air Lines, General Motors, Halliburton, Honeywell International, Molson Coors, and Prudential Financial. Another 51 companies with zero or minus taxes.

Jamie Dimon, J.P. Morgan’s CEO, bragged to shareholders that tax cuts for the bank add “$3.7 billion to net income.” But the increase “will be erased” so that shareholders won’t expect to get higher profits. The justification for the company’s spending $55 billion in stock buybacks? You have to buy back your own stock at “tangible book value.” And then at “two times tangible book value.” So buy back stock at any price, according to Dimonomics.

DDT surely gained millions—perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars—from DDT’s tax cuts for the wealth as did people he chose for his officials. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testified in support of $6.7 billion in education cuts at a congressional hearing, but she saved at least $10 million in taxes for 2018. Amway, her family’s company structured as an S-corporation, dropped its taxes from 39.6 percent to 29.6 percent in what Republicans called a small business cut. The education cut comes from the tax cuts’ failure to continue revenue for the government; instead revenue is plummeting. DeVos’ $10 million in taxes would have supported work-study funding for 5,600 students, Nevada’s entire share of the 21st Century Community Learning Center after school program, or funding for Full Service Community Schools academic and social services at schools in 20 communities—programs that DeVos wants to eliminate because of no revenue. DDT wants to make his tax cuts for the wealthy permanent with a conservative addition to the deficit of $1 trillion over a decade.

In their effort to convince people that they are paying lower taxes, Republicans have decided to make the withholding form so complicated that they can just say that people aren’t being ripped off. Past forms asked for the number of allowances based on exemptions. The new form requires annual dollar amounts for nonwage income, such as interest and dividends; itemized and other deductions; income tax credits expected for the tax year; and total annual taxable wages for all lower-paying jobs in the household for people with multiple jobs. The new form references 12 IRS publications for its completion and looks like the 1040 for final taxes instead of a simple W-4. The former year’s 1099, pay stubs, or 1040 returns are necessary for making the withholding calculations.

People are required to tell the “primary” employee about all their other income as well as that of their family and will probably need training to fill it out. Productivity will shrink and privacy goes out the window. And states may also require a new withholding form instead of the current W-4. Remember when Republicans said that people could fill out their tax return information on a postcard? It’s not happening.

Polling indicates that only 17 percent of people think that they got any tax cut even if they did. This perception comes from most taxpayers getting only a small cut. Only one-third of people approve of the legislation that DDT saw as his signature legislative achievement. Economic growth, a talking point around tax cuts, is slightly worse than in 2015, and job growth has slowed. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said about the tax cut when it was passed:

“If we can’t sell this to the American people, we ought to go into another line of work.”

The 77-year-old man is up for re-election next year. He may have the chance for “another line of work.”

Presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)’s tax reform proposal, “Real Corporate Profits Tax,” might force a modicum of honesty on huge corporations. She recommends that companies reporting more than $100 million in worldwide profits pay seven percent on every dollar above the first $100 million claimed in profits to their investors. After CEO’s like Dimon brag about their tremendous profits, companies currently convince the IRS that they make no profits and thus pay no taxes. J.P. Morgan made over $131 billion in 2018 but paid less than $10 million in taxes. Warren maintains that raising the corporate tax rate does no good because the tax code is “so littered” with loopholes. She estimates that charging 1,200 companies subject to this tax would give “smaller” businesses “a fighting chance.” Companies paying no taxes would pay some taxes—Amazon would pay $698 million in taxes and Occidental Petroleum, $280 million. Last year, Amazon got a tax refund of $129 million plus paying no taxes.

For people who complain about costs of Social Security and healthcare, consider another destination for tax money. Of every dollar in taxes, 24 cents go to the military. Of those 24 cents, only 5 cents go to our troops while 12 cents go to corporate military contractors. The average taxpayer gave $1,704 to Pentagon contractors last year but only $683 for military pay, housing, and other benefits except $833 to military health care. The average U.S. taxpayer gave $225 to Lockheed’s executives and shareholders. Its CEO Marillyn Hewson got over $20 million for 2017, but the top pay for a four-star general or admiral is $189,600. The lowest-rank enlisted soldiers make just $20,172. Boeing got $100 from the average taxpayer, the same amount as all of education received.

And a shout out to DDT’s tax returns. Writing that concerns from Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin “lack merit,” House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard E. Neal (D-MA) has given IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig a firm deadline of April 23 to turn over six years of DDT’s tax returns. Two days later, DDT’s personal lawyer wrote the Treasury Department to stop the tax returns from being handed over to House Democrats.

DDT’s tax preparer Mazars USA told House Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings (D-MD) that it would turn over ten years of DDT’s tax returns if the company received a subpoena. In an attempt to hide the returns, DDT’s lawyers have threatened the firm with legal action if it follows the law. The letter accused Cummings of wanting the returns only for political reasons, basically accusing a member of Congress of being a liar.  calling it a politically motivated scheme to take down the president. Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Mark Meadows (R-NC), members of the Oversight Committee, also accused Democrats of requesting DDT tax returns “solely to embarrass President Trump.”

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders passed along the DDT party line of smears and threats about Democrats requesting DDT’s his tax returns when she claimed that Democrats aren’t “smart enough” to look through his returns and that they are on a “dangerous, dangerous road.” DDT was tried twice for civil tax fraud, criticized by judges in both cases, and faced his own tax lawyer testifying against him.

Protesters brought an inflatable figure to the steps of the IRS when they asked for DDT to release his tax returns. The group uses the figure because DDT is “too chicken” to release his tax returns. The first “chicken bearing a resemblance to DDT was 23 feet tall and complete with golden hair pompadour and preening gestures. It arrived at a Chinese mall less than a month before DDT’s inauguration in preparation for the Year of the Rooster in the Chinese lunar calendar.

Questions: If there is nothing wrong with DDT’s tax returns, why would he be embarrassed? If there is something wrong, why isn’t a look at them not warranted?

 

February 27, 2019

U.S. House Keeps Busy Despite Jim Jordan’s Complaints

For people who have been watching the situation with former fixer Michael Cohen for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), his testimony today before the House Oversight Committee held few surprises. Points from today:

  • Republican committee members did not try to refute anything he said; they just tried to smear him.
  • The GOP smears against Cohen—that he’s a “pathological liar”—can also be said about DDT, the man who Republicans were defending.
  • Cohen said that he had tried to cover for DDT during the past ten years in the same way that Republicans are doing now.
  • With this comment about protection, he added, “The more people that suffer Donald Trump, as I did blindly, are going to suffer the same consequences that I did.”
  • Reporters following DDT in Vietnam for his meeting with North Korea president Kim Jong-Un were banned from his presence after asking questions about the Cohen testimony.

Pieces of Cohen’s testimony that many people already assumed:

  • DDT is a “racist,” “conman,” and “cheat.”
  • Cohen quoted DDT as saying that black people were “too stupid” to vote for him and during a drive through a poor section of Chicago said that “only black people could live that way.” Cohen added, “The country has seen Mr. Trump court white supremacists and bigots. You have heard him call poorer countries ‘shitholes.’ “In private, he is even worse.”
  • Cohen has checks (which he produced), evidence “as part of a criminal conspiracy of financial fraud,” directed by his son and the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization Allen Weisselberg, to quiet a former adult film actor.
  • DDT told Cohen to lie about his affair with the actor to his wife, Melania.
  • Cohen said he presided over “several” “catch-and-kill” arrangements between David Pecker and DDT for the National Enquirer to purchase exclusive rights for stories damaging to DDT and then suppress the stories.
  • DDT inflated his wealth to appear on lists of rich people rich lists and falsely reduce it to avoid paying taxes.
  • To a question from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Cohen said that DDT’s tax returns would be helpful in showing how DDT sharply reduced his tax costs by undervaluing his parents’ real estate holdings.
  • Cohen believes that DDT’s tax returns were not being audited in 2016 although that’s what DDT claimed.
  • DDT told Cohen that he didn’t release his tax returns because he might get audited and face big taxes and penalties.
  • Roger Stone communicated with WikiLeaks for the release of hacked Democratic party emails during the 2016 presidential election.
  • DDT knew about the June 2017 Trump Tower meeting among members of his campaign with a Russian lawyer connected to the Kremlin to get “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.
  • DDT used his charity’s money to pay for portrait of himself after driving up the price to impress people.

Cohen finished his testimony by saying:

“Given my experience working for Mr. Trump, I fear that if he loses the election in 2020 that there will never be a peaceful transition of power.”

Cohen’s described DDT as a mobster-like president, who told Cohen to shortchange suppliers, keep schools from releasing his student grades by threatening them, and deal with negative media about DDT’s Vietnam War draft dodging. Cohen said he had probably threatened a person because of DDT’s instructions at least 500 times. “Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not make his country great,” said Cohen. “He ran to market himself and build his wealth and power.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) is under investigation by the Florida Bar because of a tweet that appears to be an attempt to intimidate DDT’s former fixer Michael Cohen the day before he started his open testimony before the House Judiciary Committee. Gaetz’s tweet:

“Hey @MichaelCohen212 – Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she’ll remain faithful when you’re in prison. She’s about to learn a lot…”

Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY), a former DA and federal prosecutor, asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate Gaetz’s tweet because it “clearly defines witness tampering and intimidation.” Her request that could lead to an official investigation and possibly a reprimand, censure or fine. An expulsion would require a two-thirds majority of the House. Asked about why he wrote the tweet, Gaeta said, “The tweet speaks for itself.” Later he deleted the tweet and apologized for sending it.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) attacked Oversight Chair Elijah Cummings (D-MD) during the hearing, falsely accusing him of using his first hearing to start removing DDT from office. Cummings ended the session by talking about the committee’s earlier hearings. The first hearing was on January 29, 2019 concerned the skyrocketing price of prescription drugs; Cummings noted that a young man had died because of these escalating costs. He also told Jordan that they had a hearing on H.R. 1, which was about voter suppression and executive branch ethics. That one was on February 6, 2019. “We can do more than one thing,” Cummings said. “And we have got to get back to normal.” The GOP House was notable for not having hearings before votes.

Credibly accused of ignoring sexual abuse of athletes while he was assistant coach at Ohio State University, Jordan’s accusations of Cohen’s lying and lack of remorse rang hollow to many watchers. Jordan claimed that Cummings had “stacked the deck against the truth” and ranted about Hillary Clinton conspiracies, calling Cohen’s lawyer Lanny Davis a “Clinton operative.” Then he raged about Democrats doing what Tom Steyer tells them and that Steyer had organized a town hall in Cummings’ Maryland district.

Asked if he believed Cohen, Cummings referenced his history with the law when he said he found him “credible” and that it “appears” that DDT committed a crime. Cummings added, “I think that there are still a number of shoes to drop.”

The House has been far busier than Republicans might like. This week, representatives passed a resolution to overturn DDT’s emergency declaration that takes money for various sources to build his wall without congressional approval. Thirteen Republicans voted with Democrats in the 245-182 vote. According to law, the Senate will be required to vote on the House resolution within 18 days, a March 18 deadline. Three GOP senators—Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Thom Tillis (NC)— have indicated they will vote for the House bill, and others are questioning the sensibility of the national emergency, especially if a future president is a Democrat. Two more GOP votes are needed for a simple majority if all Democrats and independents vote in favor of it. A veto from DDT for any bill passed requires two-thirds support in each congressional chamber.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), ranking member of the Committee on Rules, read a complaint about the lack of time for representatives to review the 70-word bill although Republicans passed the $1.5 trillion, 1,097-page tax bill a few hours after it was completed.

The House also passed a bipartisan bill requiring all gun sellers to conduct background checks on firearm sales by a 240-190. With five GOP co-sponsors, the bill received eight GOP votes and lost two Democrat votes. It expands background checks on private sales, including those at gun shows, on the internet, and through classified ads. The bill is the first significant gun control vote since the Senate failed to pass similar bipartisan legislation in 2013. Another bill is due for a vote that would extend the review period on gun sales.

Yesterday, the House Oversight Committee voted to subpoena the departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services for documents about the separation of families at the southern border. Cummings said that the documents submitted to the committee were not sufficient and failed to answer committee questions. Two Republicans, Justin Amash (MI) and Chip Roy (TX), voted with Democrats for the subpoenas. Again Jordan attacked Cummings, saying: “You just wanted to be first.” Cummings pointed out that the request was the same as the bipartisan request from eight months ago.

Other House actions:

The House is doing a lot to make Jim Jordan angry.

October 22, 2015

GOP Grills Clinton for 11 Hours, Loses

Hillary Clinton testified before the Benghazi select committee for eleven hours today. I missed the first eight hours, but just watching the last three hours was exhausting. I cannot imagine what it was like for the Democratic presidential candidate, who calmly answered all questions except when the questioning attacked her staff and Admiral Mike Mullins. There were no revelations, no new information over the past eight committees, but the committee was an embarrassment for the Republicans who insisted on continuing despite admission that it was designed to destroy Clinton’s presidential hopes. Jonathan Allen encapsulated the 11 hours well:

“Republicans will kick themselves for dragging Hillary Clinton before the House Benghazi committee Thursday.

“It was a defining moment for Clinton’s presidential aspirations. She handled the GOP’s questions with aplomb and without the patina of partisanship that has characterized the committee since its conception. That would have been bad enough for the Republicans’ hopes of seizing the White House in 2017. But she did much more than that. She answered questions that Republicans have been hanging out there in hopes of sowing doubts among voters.

“Does she believe in American exceptionalism? Yes.

“Can she be non-partisan, serious, and policy-minded? Yes.

“Is her mental acuity superior to pretty much anyone you know? Yes.

“Is she human? Yes.

“Does she have the energy to be president? Yes.

“Conservative commentators were disgusted with the failure of the committee’s GOP lawmakers to land a single punch on Clinton. The worst thing she acknowledged was that Ambassador Chris Stevens didn’t go outside the chain of command to email her directly about what was happening in Libya. Strategically, the big error for the GOP is having entangled the email investigation with the Benghazi probe. Because the latter is tainted with partisanship, so, too, is the former.

“All in all, it was an embarrassment for Republicans and one that, improbably, made Clinton look more presidential.

“Clinton’s opening statement—delivered on the heels of bickering between Chair Trey Gowdy and top Democrat Elijah Cummings over whether the committee is partisan in nature—was essentially a eulogy for the Americans who died in Benghazi in 2012.

“In it, she referred to Ambassador Stevens’s mother saying he had “sand in his shoes” to describe his dedication to on-the-ground diplomacy in dangerous places.

” ‘Before I left office,’ Clinton said, ‘I launched reforms to better protect our people in the field.’

“For the rest of the hearing, she hewed close to the line that she would cooperate in trying to uncover anything that would help keep Americans abroad secure in the future. She also told emotional stories about the night of the Benghazi attacks, recounting how the ambassador and two others tried to crawl out of a smoke-filled building at the Benghazi facility. Two of them didn’t make it out. She described the tense hours when State Department officials couldn’t locate Stevens, and how Libyans poured into the streets in a show of support for him after he was killed. Clinton said she found it “deeply distressing” that she was being blamed for Stevens’s death.

“Throughout the hearing, she kept her composure, even when Gowdy became agitated, when Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) fired questions at her in a condescending tone, and when Rep Peter Roskam (R-IL) yelled at her for compiling a list of her accomplishments in Libya.

“Roskam accused her of trying to ‘turn progress in Libya into a political win for Hillary Rodham Clinton’ and then shifting her attention away from the country.

“Clinton calmly called it a “political statement” that had nothing to do with the matter at hand.

“The biggest problem for the GOP is that there’s nothing more to learn about what happened in Benghazi. Four Americans were killed by terrorists. Clinton didn’t know the attack was coming. And she was the administration official most engaged in the immediate response.

“The Republican tack could be broken down into a couple of main points: Roskam argued that Clinton was the chief force behind US Libya policy, while Gowdy and Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) tried to prove that she was taking more advice from Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal than from Stevens.

“It’s true that Clinton was the main architect of US Libya policy. She put together the international coalition that took out Muammar Qaddafi, and she convinced the president it was the right thing to do. But she also noted that it was the president’s call. Republicans proved what she’s written in her book and what many journalists reported at the time.

“If the Republican presidential nominee can plausibly claim that he or she was against the Libya war—and some cannot—Roskam’s line of questioning could be useful in the general election. But it wasn’t revealing.

“Blumenthal is a red herring — a political hanger-on who emailed Clinton a lot with borrowed intelligence. He’s never been to Libya and didn’t have any firsthand information about the security there. The references to his emails only seemed to underscore how little the hearing had to do with the actual situation on the ground in Libya or the administration’s security posture in Benghazi.

“Pompeo grilled Clinton on whether Stevens had her email address, her home address, or her phone number. Her home address can be found on Google. It would not have been hard to reach her in an emergency, and, in fact, she was alerted very quickly when the Benghazi compound was attacked.

“After Roskam accused Clinton of using Libya as a tool for her political advancement, Clinton batted him aside.

” ‘For the witness to be right is a failure of the committee,’ Lawrence O’Donnell, a former staff director for the Senate Finance Committee, said on MSNBC.

“One veteran Republican strategist told me she stopped watching the hearing because ‘the questioning is so bad.’

“Clinton’s team couldn’t have dreamed for a better exposition of her strengths and the weakness of her Republican provocateurs.”

USA Today, owned by conservative Rupert Murdoch of Fox fame, admitted that Clinton came out of the hearing “largely unscathed.”

Unable to find anything else wrong with Clinton’s testimony, conservative press noted that she “stumbled” because of a serious coughing fit. The two-minute episode was after she had been speaking for ten hours, and she overcame the problem and continued for over another hour.

CNN tried to manufacture “fireworks” between Clinton and the committee, but the real fireworks came among the members. Clinton’s testimony was almost entirely level and calm.

When committee chair, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), was asked if the 11 hours revealed anything new, he hemmed and hawed before he indicated that there was probably nothing new. As bad as things have been for him in the past, Gowdy is in for more attacks after his bad performance today. Having sworn that the only purpose of the committee is to find the truth and denying that the committee is a “prosecution,” he compared the investigation to a criminal trial. He further said, “I can’t end a trial simply because the defense won’t cooperate.”

Claiming that the committee had nothing to do with Clinton’s emails, Gowdy asked about nothing else. Even worse was when Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) asked that the full transcript of Sidney Blumenthal be released, a reasonable request because that was Gowdy’s focus. Until now, Gowdy has leaked only selected parts of this transcript. An attempt to put Cummings down for wanting the transcript failed, and he may be forced to release the non-damning results of committee hearings.

A history of the $20 million that U.S. taxpayers have paid for investigations into Benghazi is available here, including the five House committees, two Senate committees, and a nonpartisan, independent Accountability Review Board—all finding that there was no gross negligence. This website constantly updates the costs of the current Benghazi select committee.

Hillary Clinton will be interviewed on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show tomorrow, October 23.

June 15, 2013

GOP Legislators Won’t Do Their Job

All month the media has bombarded people with sound bites about the National Security Agency surveillance. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) tried to make citizens aware of this for two years; Edward Snowden managed to do it in two minutes. Quick to blame President Obama—again—several GOP legislators in Congress have bitterly complained about being left out of the loop.

Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, organized briefings to better inform the senators. The most recent was last Thursday afternoon with NSA Director Keith Alexander, the FBI, Justice Department, FISA Court, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who denied in a Senate committee hearing only three months ago that there was no surveillance of the U.S. people. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) recessed the Senate for an hour so that everyone could attend this important briefing. Over half the senators left early on Thursday to catch their planes home. Only 47 of them attended the briefing.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) claimed that the administration is abusing the law through the NSA surveillance activities and expressed surprise at the extent of the surveillance, probably because he failed to attend any of the hearings during the last three years about NSA’s activities. Even more hypocritical, he has called himself the “author of the PATRIOT Act,” the law that makes all this surveillance legal and helped renew it in 2011.

Section 215 of his PATRIOT Act approves an FBI request for NSA to view millions of records from Verizon customers. It also allows the FBI to obtain any records from libraries without court orders. In a Connecticut case, FBI agents demanded “any and all subscriber information, billing information and access logs of any person or entity” that had used computers between 4 p.m. and 4:45 p.m. on February 15, 2005, in any of the 27 libraries whose computer systems were managed by the Library Connection, a nonprofit co-op of library databases. If the librarian told anyone about the letter that the FBI gave him, he could go to jail for five years. No court order was necessary.

Because he discussed the letter with three other librarians, all four of them were bound by the gag order, according to their attorney. They challenged the letter’s constitutionality and the gag order but couldn’t even attend the hearings because government lawyers declared that their presence posed a threat to national security. A year later when the PATRIOT Act was renewed, a federal court ruled that the letter was indeed unconstitutional, but the government appealed the ruling.

Congressional legislators have also decided that it’s not their job to answer questions about Obamacare. They respond to such concerns from their constituents as Medicare, Social Security, and immigration, but they don’t like Obamacare so they won’t bother to provide any assistance. Some said they would flat-out refuse to give any answers while others, such as Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) said he would refer them to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) said, “We know how to forward a phone call.”

House leaders have organized a group known as HOAP—the House ObamaCare Accountability Project—to organize a messaging strategy against the law that will trickle down to constituents. August recess will probably provide the kick-off for this sabotage when some Congressional members may hold town halls.

A recent poll about Obamacare found “a majority [54 percent] of Americans still oppose the nation’s new health care measure, three years after it became law.” Sound bites ignore the section of the poll showing that more than one-fourth of those who oppose think it doesn’t go far enough. Adding the 44 percent of those who support the law and the 16 percent of those who think it doesn’t go far enough means that people against it are actually in the minority of 35 percent. Half the people polled are unfamiliar with the law. All they know is what far-right conservatives and media have told them.

In looking at polls about the unpopularity of Congress, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) claims that Congress has always been unpopular. He’s wrong. Forty years ago, confidence in Congress was 42 percent, a far cry from today’s 10 percent.

confidence in congress

 

Steve Benen wrote, “I tend to think 10% confidence is a little on the high end. Indeed, I’m wondering what those satisfied folks are thinking.” The 112th Congress was the worst seen since the 1700s, and the GOP obstructionism is making the 113th Congress just as bad only six months into its two-year session. It can become much worse as the GOP threatens to intentionally crash the economy this fall in the next debt-ceiling crisis.

The solution to improving the Congress would be for the GOP to pass the immigration reform bill, stop the deliberately harmful sequester, reduce gun violence ever so slightly, perhaps debate a bill or two that could create jobs, and rein in Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) from his incessant manufactured “scandals.”

Conservatives, however, are sure to follow this recent advice from the Heritage Foundation, formerly a think tank and now a policy-making group:

“We urge you to avoid bringing any legislation to the House Floor that could expose or highlight major schisms within the conference. Legislation such as the Internet sales tax or the farm bill which contains nearly $800 billion in food stamp spending, would give the press a reason to shift their attention away from the failures of the Obama administration.”

[Note: The $800 billion covers ten years; using that amount makes it look much larger.]

Charlie Cook followed that up with a National Journal piece late Thursday:

“Republicans would be much wiser to pursue a third option: Dig up as much damaging information as they can about the Obama administration and leak it to reporters they know will write tough stories that won’t be traced back to the source. That way, the public won’t see the GOP as being obsessed with attacking the other side and playing gotcha at the expense of the big issues facing the country—the ones voters really care about.

“Meanwhile, everyone in Washington will watch polls for signs of blood in the water, indications that the controversies or scandals—depending upon your perspective—are taking a political toll on Obama’s job-approval numbers.”

Meanwhile, 70 GOP representatives, led by Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ), have set out to lower Congress’s popularity, and the Tea Party is cheering them on. Their goal is to make Boehner follow the “Hastert rule”: only bills with majority GOP support are allowed on the House floor.

There actually is no “Hastert Rule.” Its author, GOP strategist John Feehery, said that it is “situational advice, never a hard-and-fast rule.” He sees insistence on this “rule” as counterproductive for conservatives, encouraging ideological rigidity and eliminating any compromise with Democrats, meaning that Boehner must work with the opposing political party to pass any bills other than renaming post offices.

After Issa’s letter to Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), scolding him for demanding the release of full transcripts of the IRS investigation, the Democrats on Issa’s House Oversight Committee responded. They set Monday as the deadline for Isssa to explain why he refuses to release these transcripts of witness testimony or they will release the transcripts themselves. Issa’s problem is that the transcripts will most likely indicate no evidence of White House involvement in the process of selecting IRS audits.

Issa is most likely looking forward to the August town hall meetings where he has total control. Recess will make little difference in the Congressional level of activity; it just means that they cannot do any harm.

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