Nel's New Day

April 25, 2021

Biden’s Economy Disappoints GOP

With lies and no evidence, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said President Joe Biden is taking “destabilizing” actions, his foreign policy has been a “disaster,” and he has tossed a “wet blanket” on the economy. He accused Biden of “wanting to raise taxes in a large amount” although Biden’s taxes will drastically drop for anyone making under $75,000.

The U.S. economy seems to be humming along: stock markets rising, the weekly number of unemployment claims is almost half what they were a few months ago, and March saw almost one million new jobs, the largest increase in seven months. The thought of Biden’s stable economy greatly disappoints most Republicans. Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) ran his losing campaign by claiming Biden’s election would cause a huge economic crash.

“If he gets in, you will have a depression the likes of which you’ve never seen. Your 401(k)s will go to hell and it’ll be a very, very sad day for this country.”

Republicans guaranteed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) would be a disaster. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), leaving Congress next year, warned about “too much liquidity going into the system.” The checks went out last month, immediately after the GOP congressional members voted en masse against ARPA and then had to lie about supporting the law all along. Retail sales are up, and the unemployment rate is dropping. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, a DDT appointee, dismissed the GOP’s dire warnings  about runaway inflation.

Republicans trying to sabotage any Democratic success and help for people howled about Biden’s proposal of an infrastructure law paid by the corporate tax increase to seven percent lower before DDT’s tampering. They claim the tax increase will “hurt the American family and millions of struggling small businesses.” Yet reducing the corporate tax rate in 2017 didn’t lower prices, and Biden’s plan raises capital gains tax only on people earning more than $1 million a year.

The American Families Plan provides for national paid leave, reduction in childcare costs, and free prekindergarten and community college. With free childcare costs, mothers can afford to find employment. Increasing taxes for the wealthy and big businesses also provides lead-free water, transit, education, and other infrastructure as well as decent jobs. Republicans know that Biden’s success means their possible failure in the 2022 and 2024 elections.

The International Monetary Fund predicts Biden’s economy will have its best year since 1984 after the first quarter indicated an annual increase of six percent or possibly higher by the end of the year. DDT gained no new jobs during his full four years; Biden added 1.3 million jobs since the election. DDT’s sole economic metric was the stock market: the Dow Jones has gone up almost 17 percent since Biden’s presidency was announced on November 7, 2020, greater than DDT’s 10.5 percent gain in the same time period four years ago.

Republicans spread the same doom and gloom after the election of Bill Clinton in 1992. John Kasich, a former GOP congressman and Ohio governor, said about Clinton’s agenda:

“This plan will not work. If it was to work, then I’d have to become a Democrat.”

Clinton’s plan worked, but Kasich stayed a Republican. Republicans predicted George W. Bush’s tax cuts would bring historic economic gains; his second term ended with the worst recession in many decades. Republicans predicted disaster for President Obama’s Recovery Act; Indiana’s Mike Pence claimed in 2009, it “won’t work to put Americans back to work.” He continued:

“It won’t create jobs. The only thing it will stimulate is more government and more debt. It will probably do more harm than good.”

President Obama’s plan brought the U.S. out of the Great Recession, rescued jobs, and introduced a decade of sustained growth.

In 2017, Republicans and DDT lost big when their regressive tax plan failed to improve private-sector hiring, bring higher wages, and greatly increase business investments. Corporations used financial gains from tax cuts to buy stocks in their companies, purchase other companies, fire employees, and stash money overseas. Lack of revenue from less consumer spending by lower- and middle-class people couldn’t replace losses from the tax cuts, and business investment abruptly dropped.

Why Republican presidents’ economies fail:

Republican presidents are slow to respond to recessions and other crises.

Democratic presidents are more pragmatic and listen to evidence about deficit reduction and government support.

Republican presidents believe only in tax cuts for the wealthy that do nothing for economic growth.

According to Neil Barron in the conservative Hill, Biden’s ARPA reverses 30 years of failed trickle-down economics widening income and wealth inequality to trickle-up economics. It creates demand for products and services to generate economic growth by increasing spending ability for consumers who will spend money. Biden’s “jobs” (aka infrastructure) plan invests in families, education, clean water and energy, housing, healthcare, etc. The strategy follows economic success after World War II when the top tax rate was 70 to 90 percent. Funding the world’s biggest middle class, investment went not only to the GOP mandate of roads and bridges but also to education, health, and research. The 1950s brought three of the four biggest decreases in U.S. unemployment and two years of the nation’s fastest economic growth—under a Republican president.

For the last half century, the GOP trickle-down tax cuts for the wealthy brought negative or flat economic growth, higher unemployment, and stifled consumption by moving income from consumers to rich savers. In over a half century, Republicans contributed more to federal deficits: Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush raised the deficit from $70 billion to $175 billion (almost double today with inflation), but Democrat Bill Clinton cut it to zero. George W. Bush took the deficit back to $1.2 billion with tax cuts and war; Democrat Barack Obama rescued the nation from the Great Recession and halved the deficit to $600 billion before DDT ran it up to $1 trillion—before COVID-19.

Barron writes:

“Spending $100 billion [in infrastructure] would add roughly 1 million full-time American jobs. And each $100 invested in infrastructure would boost productivity and private sector output by $13 to $17, generating more wage growth and economic benefits across more income classes. Every dollar invested in infrastructure under the AJP is expected to return $1.50, which is among the highest rates of return for federal government spending. And by 2024, the AJP would grow GDP by 3.8 percent and add 13.5 million jobs, compared with just 2.2 percent GDP growth and 11.4 million jobs if it doesn’t become law.”

Graham complains about “destabilizing,” but evidence shows a different picture. In the three months since Biden’s inauguration, fewer households say they can’t pay their rent and don’t have enough to eat in the past week. In December, 1 in 7 adults reported they sometimes or often didn’t have enough to eat; now that number is 1 in 11—the lowest percentage since April 2020 when the survey began.

In Biden’s first three months, 200 million doses of vaccines were administered although a large number of Republicans, including 47 percent of white males, refuse to be vaccinated. The United States is experiencing a greater feeling of optimism although the wealthy are still doing better. The economy may largely depend on the pandemic: GOP counties and states may suffer the most if Republicans continue to refuse vaccinations. Most Southern states, like tourism-dependent North Carolina, lag behind the national average in vaccinations.

Bloomberg’s positive view of Biden’s economic dynamism comes from companies’ readiness to increase efficiency and employees ready to return to work. The pandemic changed business practices—stronger productivity with increased online marketing and automation. In the last quarter of 2020, businesses increased spending on equipment by 25.4 percent after reducing this spending for over a year. For two decades, the GDP increased at two percent average, lower than 3.3 percent than the previous two decades. A faster growth in the future will help the government’s debt because of increased revenue.

A major difference between Biden’s and DDT’s economic strategies is DDT’s reliance on the Federal Reserve. In the past decade, Congress counted on the Fed’s cheap-money policies for economic health, causing more wealth inequality: the stock market kept rising, but people couldn’t find jobs. Richer people worked from home, but poorer people couldn’t find jobs. Fifty million people in the world moved from middle- to lower-class. With GOP presidents, Republicans gave some support for the poor to be re-elected and then declared austerity with Democratic presidents.

In 2010, GOP lawmakers called for cuts before the economy healed. With interest rates almost at bottom, the Fed made large-scale bond purchases, hoping to save the economy. The slow solution finally dropping the unemployment rate after a decade to a half-century low. In 2007, the bottom half of the population had 2.1 percent of U.S. assets, and the top one percent had 29.7 percent. By 2020, the bottom half dropped to 1.8 percent while the top one percent owned 31 percent of the wealth. The pandemic made the situation worse.  

January 31, 2021

Redditors Treat Investing like Gaming

When the Dow drops by over two percent in one day, in this case 633.87 points, the cause is usually political. Last Wednesday, however, the reason came from a group of people who thought they were ganging up on hedge fund investors. The situation started last December when big investors did their usual “short selling,” betting companies will lose the value of their stock. An investor tells the broker to borrow the stocks and sell them at the current price, hoping the price will drop. After the company’s loss, the investor rebuys an equal number of stocks at the lower price, returns the borrowed stocks, and pockets the different in price as profit. The short seller only gets into financial trouble if the stock price goes up.

On Reddit, however, a large group of small investors tried to show big investors they weren’t in control. They used a free app allowing purchase of small amounts of stock, Robinhood, to purchase shares of GameStop, causing the stock prices to skyrocket. GameStop, a retailer with 5,000 stores selling video games, struggled even before the coronavirus increased online competition. Wall Street, convinced the company was due for bankruptcy, bought its outstanding stock “short.” In retaliation, Redditors planned a “short squeeze” to buy all the stocks at once, driving up the price. As the shorts got worried, they bought back the stock on its way up and drove the price up. Others decided to short the stock. Overvalued at $40, the stock was exorbitantly priced at $300 and so forth. Melvin Capital competitors had to bail out the hedge fund, which had a $3.75 billion loss.  

Although their losses sound like retribution, many ordinary day traders also got in financial trouble while some financial firms benefited if they actually owned stock early on. Asset manager Blackrock, with 13 percent of GameStop, gained about $2.4 billion from $173.6 million worth of stocks in about a month. Norway’s government also owned 2.6 percent of GameStop. 

The problem for Redditors is when to sell. The price won’t stay at today’s price of $325 forever, and people may lose bigtime. And while they think they are scheming against Wall Street, they are doing exactly the same thing as hedge fund investors. The stock market has nothing to do with investing in companies—just in stripping its resources.

Vice has a detailed description of the GameStop event. 

The GameStop saga didn’t end with people purchasing the stocks. By Thursday, Robinhood decided to stop selling stocks from both the video game retailer and other companies caught up in the decision. It also raised margin requirements for some of the securities, forcing users to front more of their own money for purchases and benefiting investors with more ready cash. TD Ameritrade and Charles Schwab did the same thing. Short-sellers bought shares to hedge their positions, sending the stock market up by over 300 by the end of Thursday.

A Robinhood customer filed a class-action lawsuit against the app with almost 31,000 users for banning sales of GameStop shares, claiming the action rigged the market against its customers and benefited those who weren’t—especially the huge hedge fund investors.

After a backlash, Robinhood announced “limited buys” of GameStop and other drastically shorted stocks, raising $1 billion overnight to comply with federally mandated capital requirements. GameStop shares increased almost 65 percent Friday, up $308 since the beginning of the year from $17 per share, going as high during the day as $414. Yet pessimism about economic problems and anxiety about the trade volatility dropped the Dow another 621 points, another two percent down. The week’s loss was 1,000 points.

Before Robinhood reinstated trading, the amateur traders pushed negative reviews about the app, leading to Google’s one-star rating early Friday morning based on 275,000 reviews. By noon, however, the rating went up to four stars after 100,000 reviews mysteriously disappeared, supposedly deleted by Google.  

The melodrama continues on Monday. After saying on Friday that he was not pressured to restrict the sales of stock, the head of Robinhood is again restricting these sales, narrowing a list of 50, however to only eight: GameStop, AMC Entertainment, BlackBerry, Koss, Express, Nokia, Genius Brands International and Naked Brand Group. For example, users can buy only one share and up to five options contracts. They are permitted ten each of AMC stock. Robinhood said the limits were subject to changes throughout the day.

Last week, the central Wall Street clearinghouse required a ten-fold increase in the firm’s deposit requirements last week. The clearinghouse also required an increase in Robinhood’s margin, the funds in a client’s account when they borrow to buy a security. Huge collapses in share prices, highly possible with the risks taken in buying GameStop and other heavily shorted securities, leave Robinhood on the hook. Margin shares could have placed further strain on Robinhood’s balance sheet, potentially leaving the broker on the hook in the event of a massive collapse in GameStop’s share price.

Jaime Rogozinski, possibly the founder of the Reddit community, called the insanity of GameStop’s shift in share prices “a train wreck happening in real time.” Keith Gill, the trader kicking off the scheme called r/WallStreetBets, said “he didn’t expect this.” Jim Cramer, Wall Street commentator on CNBC, referred to it as “insane.” Video game industry analyst Michael Pachters said it was a Ponzi scheme, a fraud appearing to make money only when propped up by funding from new investors. Critics described Robinhood as a dangerous “gamified” stock trading.

While the news may appear to affect only those involved, it shows “how social media can upend everyday life,” according to tech writer Ian Sherr. He explained:

“Twitter has changed the worlds of news and politics. YouTube and Instagram have transformed the fashion, beauty and entertainment industries. Now Reddit is taking on Wall Street… And TikTokers banded together in attempts to confuse President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign.”

Other stocks targeted by Reddit communities include the once-popular Blackberry and the struggling movie chain AMC. Nasdaq, the stock market index focusing on tech companies, threatened to stop trading on stocks manipulated by social media.

The gambling of Redditors and hedge fund investors exacerbates the problem of growing inequality in the U.S. and the economic problems of the vast majority of its population. Billionaires’ assets have gone up 38.6 percent in less than a year. The $1.1 trillion they acquired is equivalent to over $3,400 for every person in the United States. And billionaires make this money because they own most of corporate stock.

People who try to cover for the huge inequality claim these wealthy people have fortunes because of their exceptional talents. For example, Elon Musk, Testa’s CEO, was worth $24.6 billion last March; last week he had $179.2 billion. Yet his increase came from business-supported government policies and a plutocracy in which very few accumulate most of a nation’s assets. In addition to DDT’s gift to the wealthy of huge tax cuts, the Feds contributed to their riches with low interest rate policies to “grow” the economy. Last year, the Dow Jones, Nasdaq, and S&P 500 hit record highs. New financial instruments help rich people get more money; i.e., special acquisition companies (SPACs) to buy shares in companies wanting to cash out or expand. The result is greater demand for shares and higher windfalls for the top executives who had done nothing special.

Even the misnamed Robinhood is making big bucks from Redditors’ “games” from “third party” financial companies paying Robinhood for each client trade. One of them, Citadel Securities, belongs to hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin, who bailed out Melvin Capital by taking a big ownership share in the hedge fund loser. Other Wall Street players—Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, and other big banks—make money off Redditors with its “dark pools,” hidden exchanges serving the big institutional investors without the need to specifically or timely report their trading. The relationship between Robinhood and its investment firms may face an investigation.

The whole Reddit/Wall Street/GameStop debacle is destined to end badly. Bored and frustrated by low interest rates, participants treat investing like entertainment, behaving like a mob at a sports event. The winner will be Robinhood and other zero-cost brokerages who gamble on the ignorant traders.  A few investors will sell before an inevitable crash, but more will lose everything from greed. Last summer, a 20-year-old student killed himself because he thought he had lost $730,000 on an option. In fact, he was $16,000 in the red.   

Financial markets are meant to move capital from savers to firms needing capital. The sideshow of GameStop does nothing to benefit the company while destroying faith in the markets’ functions. Hopefully, the COVID-19 vaccine will allow Redditors to find other amusement. Meanwhile, GameStop is the one without benefits: the company plans to close almost ten percent of their stores this year.

December 26, 2020

Unity of Kwanzaa, Divisiveness of DDT

Saturday, the first day of the seven-day Kwanzaa, a non-religious holiday to honor Black peoples’ ancestral roots, does not have a religious purpose. Everyone could follow its principles, those of working together to benefit all in a form of Democratic socialism, instead of tearing society apart. Kwanzaa for each day:

  • Unity: striving for and maintaining unity in the family, community, nation and race.
  • Self-determination: defining, naming, creating and speaking for oneself.
  • Collective work and responsibility: uplifting the community by solving problems together.
  • Cooperative economics: economically uplifting the community by working together to build and maintain businesses.
  • Purpose: returning the community to its greatness.
  • Creativity: leaving the community more beautiful and beneficial.
  • Faith: believing in the people, parents, teachers, leader, and the struggle’s victory.

People can thank Democratic socialism for vaccinations against COVID-19. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) takes credit for the vaccine in a short time, but it comes from decades of medical research and development along with public-sector funding. Distribution comes from public funding—Democratic socialism in health departments. To those who claim God will prevent them from getting sick or dying, He doesn’t seem to be doing a good job these days.  

People who refer to Democratic socialism as the “radical left” and fight for almost nonexistent government involvement ignore the ways they benefit from the philosophy in the United States: police, fire departments, libraries, Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, education, unemployment, workers’ compensation, food stamps, welfare to those in need such as farmers and oil companies, the military, transportation, roads and highways, parks and recreation, Federal Reserve Bank, courts, prisons, water and sewer, utilities in some areas—the basis for everyone’s everyday life.  

According to Democratic socialism, both economy and society should be run democratically to meet public needs, not to make profits for a very few. Corporate bureaucracies with business executives and wealthy stockholders should not control society by making decisions for the few and taking all the profits, leaving workers with unlivable low wages. Regulations and tax incentives can encourage companies to act in the public interest.

The Cares Act, passed in March to help people suffering from COVID-19 intended to help small businesses gave tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars to big businesses. The new, not-yet-signed stimulus bill makes forgiven loans tax deductible—unlike charitable contributions—and creates a commission to oversee safety in horse racing. Republicans gave $6.3 billion in tax breaks to wealthy corporate backers but couldn’t manage another 25 percent to the bill for $2,000 checks. Seven months of COVID-19 gave U.S. billionaires an additional $931 billion, almost as much as the stimulus bill costs taxpayers.

Over two months ago, the top 1 percent of people in the U.S. owned 30.4 percent of all the nation’s household wealth while the bottom 50 percent had 1.9 percent of the assets. The wealthiest 10 percent have over 88 percent of all corporate equity and mutual fund shares, yet people look at the changes in stock markets to judge the economic health of the U.S. Under largely GOP control, these figures of income inequality, although currently skyrocketing, continue the increasing inequality during the past four decades. Income follows the same pattern.

Fair elections are another part of democracy. DDT claimed he would be working while at Mar-a-Lago, but Saturday he spent his time tweeting attacks against the recent election, ranting against the Supreme Court, the DOJ, the FBI, the New York Times, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), GOP senators, and the U.S., which he called a third world nation.  DDT also called President-elect Joe Biden a “fake president.” Saying the election would be rigged if he lost, DDT has kept that promise to lie about election fraud. Now he claims he has “absolute proof” about non-existent widespread fraud and whines that no one will pay attention to it. There’s no evidence of any widespread fraud.

Another DDT lie comes from his mischaracterization of a year-old report from Inspector General Michael Horowitz. The IG found no evidence of political bias in the investigation into Russian interference during the 2016 campaign, only criticizing the handling of four FISA applications putting DDT’s adviser Carter Page under surveillance for 17 “significant inaccuracies and omissions.” DDT maintained:

“The details of the report are far worse than anything I would have even imagined…This was an overthrow of government, this was an attempted overthrow and a lot of people were in on it and they got caught. They got caught red-handed.”

Frank Figliuzzi, former assistant director for counterintelligence at the FBI,who worked under Robert Mueller at the bureau, said DDT had never seen the report and is “lying about it.”

DDT may not have been re-elected, but his incessant lies about election fraud makes Russia very, very happy, according to its state media. After its president, Vladimir Putin, recognized Joe Biden as the U.S. president-elect, the media expressed sympathy that “our candidate”—“poor, poor Trump”—will be leaving the Oval Office. The bright side of DDT’s loss to Russia, however, comes from DDT’s successful destruction of the U.S. political system. Russian political expert, Alexei Martynov, said, “They burned the reputation of U.S. institutions during these elections.” Evgeny Popov, the host of Russia’s 60 Minutes, added, “Let’s be glad about that,” and Deputy of the Russian Duma Alexei Zhuravlyov concluded, “The worse for them, the better for us.” Popov pointed at the map to show how the U.S. is 50-50 divided—badly polarized.

According to the Russians, U.S. Republicans are disturbed because Biden is putting minorities into top-level positions. Dmitry Mikheev, who claims to be familiar with conservatives, said, “The whites aren’t being allowed in there. [The GOP] got scared.” Popov agreed, “And the head of the Department of Defense is Black. What is this? That must have been the red line.” Co-host Olga Skabeeva used racial slurs on Russian 60 Minutes, fitting the Russian tactic of sowing discord as described in Robert Mueller’s report from U.S. intelligence and supported by the Senate report. The GOP’s delight in DDT’s insulting minorities and vilifying immigrants works better than Russian disinformation as calls for division and violence comes from inside the White House.

Death defines DDT’s legacy—killing civilians in the Middle East, gutting environmental regulations, endorsing domestic violence, promoting rampant hunger, allowing hundreds of thousands of people to die from COVID-19, and executing more federal prisoners than any other person in the Oval Office since the 19th century. One execution, however, may not happen. The DOJ illegally scheduled the execution of Lisa Montgomery, the only woman on federal death row, during a stay of execution, and a judge vacated her latest execution date for January 12. This month, Montgomery’s lawyers contracted COVID-19 while visiting their client and asked for additional time to file a clemency petition. The execution can’t be scheduled until January 1, 2021, and a death-row inmate must be notified at least 20 days before the execution—in this case, January 21—which is the day after Biden’s inauguration. Two other federal inmates scheduled to be executed in January are positive for coronavirus, and their attorneys are also seeking delays. Biden “opposes the death penalty now and in the future.”

After a 17-year hiatus, DDT’s DOJ executed ten federal prisoners in 2020, the total killed by Grover Cleveland in 1896. One of the executed men wasn’t present at any murder, and jury members now question the capital punishment. Three of the ten have been during DDT’s lame-duck session, the first series of federal executions in this time period since the 19th century. Until 2020, only three other federal inmates were executed since the reinstatement of the penalty in 1988, and no federal inmates were executed since 2003. State executions are at a 37-year low, only seven in five southern states during 2020 and all before July 8. State death sentences dropped to 18, the fewest since the Supreme Court struck down capital punishments statutes in 1972.

DDT also plans to cover up for the Saudi Arabian murders of U.S. residents—the three U.S. servicemen killed by a Saudi officer at Pensacola Naval Air Station a year ago and the Washington Post journalist killed at the Saudi embassy in Turkey over two years ago. Eight other service members were wounded in the Pensacola attack. The service member’s families have never heard from the White House and are still waiting for the attack’s solution and the Saudi royal family to take care of them, as DDT promised. He is considering legal immunity for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from a federal lawsuit for targeting a former intelligence officer for assassination, leading to the dismissal of these other cases against MBS as well as Saudi’s involvement in 3,000 people killed in the U.S. on 9/11/01. Such action removes any legal actions in other murders of U.S. residents. With the Saudi officer murderer having “significant” ties to al-Qaeda, the killings mark the first successful deadly terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11. In justifying his obsequious attitude toward the Saudis, DDT says, “We do a lot of business with them.” By that, he may mean personal business with his companies.

COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are due to hit 20 million by the end of the year; deaths will rise to 350,000. DDT never mentions them.

November 30, 2020

Dems Back; GOP Reverses to Cry Austerity

Filed under: Budget — trp2011 @ 1:07 AM
Tags: , , , , , ,

During President Obama’s two terms, Republicans bitterly complained about the national debt, giving that as a reason to vote Republican. While bragging about his wonderful economy, Dictator Donald Trump brags about his “best ever” economy but pushes the U.S. into greater debt, especially with a massive tax cut for his wealthy friend and huge corporations before he completely mismanaged a pandemic and forcing expensive stimulus bills.

Today’s “letter” from Heather Cox Richardson explains the history of Republicans’ faulty policy of tax cuts driving the U.S. into a fiscal hole while in power and then moving to austerity the instant Democrats have any power:

 

“One story jumped out at me today. The Hill reported that as soon as a Democrat is back in the White House, Republicans intend to retrench and be careful about how the country spends money, although during Trump’s term, even before the pandemic, they spent huge sums without worrying about it.

This is a pattern. Since President Ronald Reagan’s presidency in the 1980s, Republicans have insisted that tax cuts will pay for themselves by stimulating economic growth, thus increasing tax revenues as everyone gets richer. At the same time, they have dramatically increased military spending without ever suggesting a way to pay for it. Then they complain about the debt and insist that the only way to get our finances back into whack is to cut domestic spending.

There are two important metrics involved in figuring out our national expenses. One is the deficit, which is the difference between the money the government spends every year and the money it takes in. The other is the debt, which is the total amount the government owes.

Until the late twentieth century, the government took on large debt during the Civil War, WWI, WWII and during the Great Depression, when Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt initiated a new kind of government that regulated business, provided a basic social safety net, and promoted infrastructure. But leaders of both parties believed that deficits should reflect emergencies and that debt should be held at a low percentage of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, used to estimate the growth of the economy. It was to pay down the national debt that the Republican Party created national taxation, including the income tax, during the Civil War, and that Republican Dwight Eisenhower kept the top income tax bracket at 91% during his administration. Eisenhower was the last Republican president to balance a budget.

After the Great Depression, taxes and the social welfare programs they funded created what economists call the “great compression” when economic inequality in America shrank.

But the stagflation of the 1970s drove white families into higher tax brackets without giving them more buying power at the same time that politicians eager to end business regulation and social welfare programs told them that their tax dollars were going to the civil rights protesters that featured so prominently on the evening news. In 1980, they voted for a president who promised to cut the taxes that he insisted were going to “welfare queens” and to put money back in their pockets.

Ronald Reagan promised that cutting taxes would actually produce more revenue. As business leaders—the supply side—had more money, they would invest in businesses which would hire more workers, at better wages. Rather than focusing on the demand side of the equation—the workers—as governments had done since FDR fought the Depression with the New Deal, Reagan said he could jump-start the economy by putting money into the supply side. The man who would become his own vice president, George H.W. Bush, called this idea “voodoo economics,” but who would complain about a plan that enabled Americans to have the government programs they had come to depend on, without having to pay for them?

Unfortunately, it actually was voodoo economics. In 1981, Congress cut $35 billion from the next year’s budget and cut the top income tax rates from 70% to 50%, as well as cutting capital gains and estate taxes. At Reagan’s urging, it also added $17 billion in new defense spending. In the next five years, it would increase defense spending by 40%. As that money (and more, from the deregulation of savings and loan banks, and from lower interest rates) boosted the economy, it seemed that supply-side economics worked.

An up-and-coming Republican spokesman named Grover Norquist insisted that voters did not want to be taxed to pay down deficits, and it was clear they didn’t have to be. When Democrats called for higher taxes and defense cuts to balance the deficit, Republicans accused them of being anti-business and soft on communism.

But the booming economy was paid for by extensive borrowing. During Reagan’s years in office, the federal debt tripled from $994 billion to $2.8 trillion, and America went from being a creditor nation to a debtor nation. Republican leaders insisted that the Democrats were responsible for the rising debt because they would not make sufficient cuts in domestic spending, but in fact increased defense spending meant the administration itself never submitted a balanced budget.

When he took office, George H.W. Bush tried to take on the national debt, which was costing Americans $200 billion a year in interest payments. In 1990, facing a $171 billion deficit for the next year, Bush agreed to raise taxes if Democrats agreed to steep spending cuts. Republicans led by Georgia Representative Newt Gingrich signed onto the deal in private, but in public began to force those willing to raise taxes, people they called RINOs—Republicans in Name Only—out of their party. The belief that economic growth depended on cutting taxes had become the test of Republican purity.

In 1993, to deal with budget deficits, President Bill Clinton convinced Congress to raise tax rates on incomes over $250,000—affecting about 1% of Americans—to 39.6%, increase the highest corporate tax rate by 1%, and increase the gas tax. Not a single Republican voted for the measure, but under it, the economy boomed and the annual deficits began to shrink. In 1997, Clinton expanded domestic programs and cut the capital gains tax rate, but even still, in 1998, the government was producing a budget surplus.

Even before he took office, President George W. Bush prepared a $1.6 trillion tax cut to wipe that surplus out. Norquist explained to a reporter that so long as there was money to spend, it would go to social welfare legislation, and the Republicans were determined to starve the government, not feed it. Bush did not get the full cut he wanted, but in June 2001 Congress passed a bill cutting $1.3 trillion over ten years.

Immediately after 9-11, Congress appropriated $358 billion for security before Bush dramatically increased military spending—by $48 billion—while slashing domestic spending. When the administration launched more tax cuts the following year, Bush’s Treasury Secretary, Paul O’Neill, worried about a fiscal crisis. Vice President Dick Cheney disagreed: “Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter.” Bush took the country into war in Afghanistan and Iraq but, for the first time in U.S. history, did not raise taxes to pay for the military actions. Instead, Congress cut taxes again. By 2009, the Congressional Research Service estimated the cost of those wars at $1 trillion.  President Barack Obama took office in early 2009 with the Great Recession in full swing. Deficit spending to restart the economy put the deficit at more than $1.4 trillion that year. As the economy recovered, deficits dropped to $585 billion.

Under Trump, though, they rose dramatically again despite the fact he inherited a growing economy. In 2017, he pushed through a tax cut which increased the 2019 deficit to $984 billion. It was projected to be $1.02 trillion in 2020—a 74% increase in four years of a strong economy—when the coronavirus hit. This meant that interest payments on the federal debt—before coronavirus—were estimated to cost $382 billion, 8.2% of total government spending. [Comparison of deficits for Obama’s last three years with DDT’s first three years. DDT’s tax cuts aren’t paying for themselves.] 

The pandemic, of course, required a huge relief package. The CARES bill appropriated $2.2 trillion, making this year’s deficit projected to be at least $3.7 trillion.

Measured against GDP, our accumulated debt is now higher than at any time except in 1946, during World War II. In June 2020, it was $20.3 trillion.

Economists are of two minds (at least!) about the economic effects of deficits and the federal debt, but there is one very clear political meaning to them. This pattern of government spending and taxation since 1981 has moved wealth upward dramatically. In 1979, the top 1% of Americans held 20.5% of the nation’s wealth. In 1989 the top 1% held 35.7%.

By 2017, the top 1% owned 40% of the country’s wealth, more than the bottom 90% combined. The top 20% in 2017 owned 90% of the wealth, leaving just 10% for the remaining 80%. The bottom 20% of Americans have no wealth; they are in debt.

When Republicans today say they are going to turn their attention back to the deficits and the debt, what they are saying is that they intend to continue to cut taxes. Then they will blame the Democrats for being fiscally irresponsible when they call for the infrastructure and social welfare spending that used to keep the American economic playing field somewhat level.

[Note: As you can see, the U.S. is moving forward on the same circular pattern. Republicans make a horrible mess, and Democrats get elected. Democrats clean up the mess. The minute the country gets in better shape, the Republicans make another mess. And so on.

July 4, 2020

The U.S., a Failing State

A definition for 2020 is clear sight or “accurate discernment, judgment, or assessment hindsight.” The year 2020 clearly shows the United States as a failing state, defined by Rebecca Gordon as “a political entity whose government has ceased to perform most or all of its basic functions. Such a condition can result from civil war, untrammeled corruption, natural disaster, or some combination of those and more.” The Fund for Peace has four criteria:

  1. “Loss of control of its territory, or of the monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force therein
  2. Erosion of legitimate authority to make collective decisions
  3. Inability to provide public services
  4. Inability to interact with other states as a full member of the international community”

1. Loss of control: The administration of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is replacing the rule of law with the wishes of one man who threatens his citizens with military force, ordering law enforcement to attack legal peaceful protesters to show his power. DDT encouraged his rally audience to “knock the crap out of hecklers” and congratulated a GOP congressman for physically attacking a reporter. DDT sees white supremacists who commit violence as “very fine people” and encourages to physically menace legislators debating Michigan’s stay-at-home policies. 

2. Erosion of legitimate authority: The growing suppression of voting increasingly removes collective decisions and replaces them with control by the wealthy. The Supreme Court elimination of the 1965 Voting Rights Act accelerated unequal access to the polls in 25 states during the past decade with voter ID mandates and restrictions on early voting, number and placement of polling places, and vote-by-mail. DDT failed to find voting fraud with a now defunct presidential commission and now spreads lies about vote by mail. DDT’s goal is to undermine confidence in elections to cover himself if he loses in November. For months, people have asked what can be done if DDT loses but stays in the White House. Today, DDT’s Supreme Court majority temporarily froze a decision from a lower court: people in Alabama are stopped from safely voting in its July 14th primary through requesting mail-in ballots. 

3. Failure to Provide Public Services: Just this year, DDT failed to stop COVID-19, causing a tripling of the unemployment rate and pushed a disastrous recession that could destroy the nation’s economy. Six months after an awareness of the disease in China, the government lacks enough equipment and supplies to care for millions of infected people. DDT insisted on reopening businesses and created a massive surge in the virus. He favors his friends and donors by giving them contracts. For example, Fillakit, a new contractor, took $7.3 million for plastic tubes for making soda bottles instead of the ordered test tubes. The contaminated product doesn’t fit the racks for lab analysis. Without masks and in the open air, employees used snow shovels to put the unsterilized tubes into plastic bins. In the early onslaught of COVID-19 in the U.S., the White House knew the CDC distributed contaminated tests to states.  As the number of infections and deaths hit a new peak, DDT has gone to court to remove healthcare for 23 million people in the U.S. Without the preexisting condition requirement, the millions of people contracting COVID-19 cannot be covered for any issues attributed to the virus.

4. Inability to interact with other states: Since his inauguration, DDT consistently cozied up to world dictators and alienated countries of the free world. He pulled the U.S. out of successful and hopeful treaties such as denuclearization of Iran and a world-wide climate agreement. He threatened to drop NATO and placed sanctions on cooperative countries of the International Criminal Court. He even pulled out of the World Health Organization in the midst of a pandemic. This past week, DDT turned his back on global cooperation in buying the entire three-month stock of remdesivir—a medication that might lessen stays in the hospital for people with COVID-19—so no one else could have any at a cost of $1.56 billion.

Today, the U.S., with 4.25 percent of the world’s population, has 26 percent of the over 11 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and over 25 percent of the world’s deaths, and cases are rising in 36 states. Dr. Anthony Fauci told Congress this past week the new COVID-19 cases, over 55,000 for each of the past four days, may rise to 100,000 a day. The count for today, July 3: 2,890,588 infections; 132,101 deaths. Statistics would show more infections and deaths if the reporting was honest.

The increasing numbers of deaths within jails and prisons brings to light the unnecessary and cruel incarceration in the U.S. along with the massive disconnect in healthcare services between the well-off and the marginalized communities. Homelessness suffers from the same health disaster in the greatest income inequality since the Gilded Age from tax cuts for the rich and the destruction of public services including education and infrastructure. In the U.S., 63 million people lack clean drinking water. As the virus expanded during the first three months of 2020, over $6.5 trillion in household wealth in the global economy equivalent to the combined economies of France and the UK; since March 18, U.S. billionaires have gained 20 percent in wealth–$584 billion.

Federal officials failed to protect healthcare workers by closing many of the over 4,100 coronavirus-related workplace safety complaints without taking action. At least 35 healthcare workers died after OSHA received safety complaints about their workplaces. Other than 275 fatality ongoing probes and 1,300 open healthcare complaints, the remainder of the complaints are listed “closed” in OSHA’s database. Its only citation was a $3,900 fine for a Georgia nursing home.

The man in the Oval Office declared himself a wartime president against COVID-19 and then surrendered. This week he said people will just have to “live with it” about millions of people contracting the disease, hundreds of thousands of people dying from it, and the economy crashing. DDT also claimed “not one governor needed anything” when VP Mike Pence’s questions. Yet across the nation, governors have asked Pence for help with viral spikes in their states.

Instead of trying to solve the COVID-19 disaster, DDT’s HHS Secretary Alex Azar is campaigning in election battleground states and pushing for reopening businesses. Last Sunday, Alex Azar called the virus a catastrophe but laid responsibility for handling it anyplace except the federal government.

A serious loss for democracy is this week’s decision from the Supreme Court, putting the Christian church in charge of the nation. Forcing taxpayers in Montana to pay for religious education, the high court violated the separation of church and state in the First Amendment. This ruling adds to DDT’s order that evangelicals can discriminate against women, LGBTQ people, Catholics, Muslims, atheists, differently abled, etc. in other areas such as fostering children. Private schools became popular in the mid-20th century to oppose racial integration.

The Supreme Court also conceals information about DDT by taking an appeal from a lower court decision making grand jury materials from the Mueller report available to members of Congress. Even if the Supreme Court were to affirm the lower ruling—which is unlikely—the decision won’t come down until after the election. DDT will be protected from public knowledge about Russian interference in his 2016 win until after his next election.

Acting as DDT’s fixer, AG Bill Barr is picking off U.S. attorneys general, and Richard Donoghue, representing the Eastern District of New York, is the most recent one. The Brooklyn post investigated, among other people close to DDT, Tom Barrack who chaired his inaugural committee. Donoghue was also in charge of all DOJ investigations about Ukraine. Now he’s headed for Washington, and a good friend of Barr will likely replace him. On Memorial Day weekend, Barr also removed Joseph Brown, U.S. Attorney for eastern Texas, who had been blocked in his attempts to criminally charge Walmart for its part in an opioid case, and replaced Brown with Stephen Cox, one of the Washington officials who blocked the charges. 

Some state governors collaborate with DDT in making the U.S. a failed state. Although Texas Gov. Greg Abbott now requires wearing masks in public, less than two months ago his state attorney, Ken Paxton, threatened cities such as Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio with lawsuits if they require masks and sheltering in place. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who wants to preserve the economy by letting older people die, still insists, without evidence, the state reopen because infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci “doesn’t know what he’s talking about” and “has been wrong every time in every issue.” Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts threatened cities with not giving them federal virus relief funding if they require people to wear masks in government buildings.  Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey blocked cities and counties from restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19 until June 17. All three of these states have serious spikes in the disease.

The United States is becoming a failed state, and Republicans work hard for it to happen.  

November 3, 2019

DDT Owns This Economy

Once again, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) got his way with the Federal Reserve: it dropped interest rates by another quarter point at a time when the economy is supposedly strong. The reduction of the interest rate by three-fourths of a percent in just three months at a time when the country is not in an economic crisis is not only almost unheard of but also a source of more disaster. Interest rates are lowered to fight a recession, and the United States has lost the ability to do that by dropping the rates.

The good news, other than a rising stock market, is unemployment at a half-century low and inflation at its two-percent target. The bad news is the trade wars causing stock market volatility, investment insecurity, farm losses, shrinking manufacturing jobs, and rising consumer prices as well as slowing global economy. Spending on both structures and equipment was deeply negative from July through September, Commerce reported, and manufacturing is currently in a technical recession, at its lowest since the 2007-2009 recession. 

Eleven years ago, the Fed rate was .25 percent, and the cheap money promoted a borrowing frenzy. By now U.S. companies have borrowed $15.5 trillion, two thirds of the U.S. GDP, and used the money to increase stock prices, buybacks, and acquisitions. Any rise in interest rates will cause a financial crisis, similar to that 11 years ago. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), half of corporate debt outside small businesses is high risk or junk rated with a higher chance of default than investment grade debt. Even worse, $660 billion of leveraged debt is in collateralized loan obligations sold to investors and financial situations, threatening a rise in delinquencies and defaults. Selling this debt will accelerate a downward spiral.

The Fed’s meeting this past week, the second in three weeks, was to address the repo (repurchase agreement operations) market’s problems. In the repo market, banks, funds, and other large companies borrow money for a day and use short-term government bonds as collateral: Fed plan to buy $60 billion a month of these bonds through April 2020. After the last recession, the Fed bought long-term bonds and mortgage-backed bonds to prevent a worse economic collapse. The current repos are intended to make it appear that banks are complying with regulations.

Signs of the U.S. weakening economy:

U.S. business hiring has fallen to a seven-year low, and employer are not increasing wages because of slower growth of sales and profits. 

Consumer confidence in the United States has declined for three months in a row. 

Defaults on “subprime” auto loans are at the fastest pace since 2008. 

The percentage of “subprime” auto loans at least 60 days delinquent is now higher than at any time during the last recession. 

Retail vacancies at U.S. shopping malls are at the highest level since the last recession, up to almost ten percent. 

The Cass Freight Index has fallen for ten straight months

U.S. rail carload volumes are at the lowest level in three years

September orders for Class 8 heavy duty trucks were down 71 percent.  

September home sales in the United States declined by another 2.2 percent

New home prices have fallen to the lowest level in almost three years and the same median price as in 2014. 

Forty-four percent of people in the U.S. report that they don’t make enough money to cover their monthly expenses

In a recent survey, over two-thirds of all U.S. households, 69 percent, are taking steps to prepare for a recession. Recession fears can cause consumers to spend less, which can exacerbate the possibility of a recession.

September was the worst month for U.S. manufacturing in a decade as manufacturers laid off employees, and October was even worse.

 In September, 4,200 truck drivers lost their jobs after 5,100 were dropped in August while hundreds of trucking companies are going bankrupt.

Other figures from last spring that haven’t improved include continuing jobless claims at the fastest pace in ten years, retail layoffs at 92 percent higher than the year before, and economic numbers are at the worst start since 2008.  

More problems with the economy from Robert Reich:

Wages are still almost static with only $2,000 more than in 1979—even after DDT promised everyone $4,000 in tax cuts last year.

The low unemployment rate comes from people giving up searches for jobs; the labor-force participation rate is the lowest since the late 1970s.

Almost 4 million people are stuck in part-time jobs and can’t find full-time jobs. Their lack of rights and benefits adds to increased economic insecurity.  

More college graduates are overqualified for their current jobs with ten percent underemployed, much higher than 20 years ago, while college costs have skyrocketed and left students in massive debt.

Health care increases with average family premiums up 55 percent since 2008, three times more than inflation. Prescription drug prices went up 11 percent in the first half of 2019.

Almost 39 million American households pay more than they can afford on housing, and over 25 percent of the renters spend over half their income on housing.  

Consumer debt, excluding mortgages, has climbed to $4 trillion, the highest ever even after adjusting for inflation.

With the DDT-GOP tax cut, 83 percent of the gains go to the wealthiest one percent of people in the U.S.

The bottom half of all U.S. households, as measured by wealth, still have 32 percent less wealth, adjusted for inflation, than in 2003, and the top one percent has more than twice as much.

The federal government is also permitting the expansion of risky mortgages. The almost $7 trillion in mortgage-related debt by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the FHA is one-third more than before the housing crisis over a decade ago, and a large increase in loan defaults can cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars. A growing number of homeowners face debt payments almost half their monthly income, and about 30 percent of Fannie Mae guaranteed loans last year were higher than this level, up 14 percent from 2016. At 57-percent loans over the high-risk level, FHA is up in this category by 38 percent from two years ago.  Two Freddie Mac officials said that they had been pushed into loans with a higher risk of default. DDT’s officials are trying to privatize Fannie and Freddie which can disrupt the housing market and make buying homes more expensive. At this time, most of the loans are packaged into securities and sold to investors. In 2017, FHA guaranteed 10.9 percent of all single-family mortgage debt, more than half to borrowers with extremely high levels of debt and over triple the rate ten years earlier at the beginning of the recession. 

Another sign that the U.S. is moving toward a recession is the slow growth of the nation’s economy, 1.9 percent annualized pace in the most recent quarter and over one-third less than the 3 percent that DDT promised from his 2017 tax law. Consumer spending has continued, but business investment contracted for six straight months, falling 3 percent in the third quarter, the biggest drop since 2015. Spending on both structures and equipment was deeply negative from July through September, and manufacturing is currently in a technical recession. Economic uncertainty has led to this drop in investment.

DDT promised to erase the federal debt in eight years, but the 2019 fiscal year deficit hit $984 billion—just $16 billion short of $1 trillion, a 26-percent increase from the previous year and up 50 percent since he was inaugurated. The loss comes from DDT’s massive spending increases, especially for the military and a border wall, and tax cuts for the wealthy and big business. Bush’s bad policies, wars, and tax cuts led to a ballooning of the debt which President Obama curbed before DDT’s election. DDT’s shortfall is the same as for 2012 when unemployment was twice the current rate and the economy was coming out of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression over 80 years ago. 

The debt-to-GDP ratio of 105 percent for the last quarter, up from last year and the first year to be this high since 1945, the end of World War II. That figure comes from the $22.719 trillion U.S. debt as of September 30, 2019 divided by the $21.526 trillion nominal GDP. The World Bank states that any debt greater than 77 percent is past the “tipping point,” when it can’t be repaid. DDT promised to cut the debt, but instead of vastly increased it by giving trillions of dollars to the wealthy and corporations. With these disasters, DDT plans another tax cut to enhance his reelection campaign.

DDT plans to use this economy for his reelection campaigning.

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.

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?

 

September 5, 2016

Successful Labor Days Need the Middle Class

Filed under: Unions — trp2011 @ 10:30 PM
Tags: , , ,

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, became a “holiday” 122 years ago in 1894, a few days after government killed 30 striking workers in Chicago. Labor unions slowly developed in the decades before Labor Day but didn’t rapidly grow until the Great Depression and the New Deal of the 1930s. By the 1950s, unions had begun to achieve its goal of the 40-hour workweek, overtime pay, minimum wage, safer workplaces, Social Security, and the prevention of child labor. Medicare was added in the 1960s. Unions were responsible for the growth of a healthy middle class that provided a strong infrastructure, public services, and educational system.

Republican presidents and leadership from 1968 through 1992 led to the decline of union and the stagnation of wages. A half century ago, almost one-third of U.S. workers belonged to a union; now it’s below ten percent and would be far less if it weren’t for the 35 percent of government workers who belong to unions. The refusal of the South, always the most impoverished region of the U.S., kept the percentage of union membership down. Even at the peak of unions during the 1960s, the South had only half the share of union workers as in the Northeast, Midwest, and West.

During the past few decades the economy in the nation has grown to double what it was in the late 1970s. In contrast to the late 1940s when income went up for everyone in the United States, 90 percent of workers earn about the same now as in the early 70s with the top ten percent seeing a sharp rise in real incomes. People in the top ten percent turned their wealth into power used to break labor unions, halve the taxes that they pay, eliminate safety nets, deregulate Wall Street, and increase costs. George W. Bush’s recession made the income inequality worse as shown by this graphic.

income inequality

As the U.S. comes close to the end of President Obama’s last term, there are glimmers of hope for the 90 percent. A Gallup Poll, usually very conservative, indicates that 50 percent of the people think that they are better off than eight years ago. The percentage of people—across all ethnic groups—who say they are “thriving,” 55.4 percent, is over double that of people in 2008. Donald Trump’s pitch to get votes from black voters is “what do you have to lose.” Many blacks respond with losses of civil rights, employment, income, and education under a Trump presidency.

Since 2010, businesses have added 15.1 million jobs, and that time period is the longest streak of total job growth on record. The unemployment rate has been cut in half since Bush’s recession. President Obama has finished the Fair Pay & Safe Workplaces Executive Order to hold accountable the federal contractors who repeatedly violate worker safety and labor laws. One in five U.S. workers are employed by these contractors. The Labor Department extended overtime protections to 12.5 million additional workers by increasing the overtime salary threshold $47,476. Graduate students at private universities may now unionize.

Unions are often defeated by business because employers have almost unrestricted union-busting. The Labor Department has closed a loophole, created in 1959, that allowed businesses to hire anti-union consultants, “persuaders,” without reporting this practice.

When union membership falls, wages fall for everyone. The 32.9 million full-time nonunion private-sector women and 40.2 million full-time private-sector men suffered a $133 billion loss in annual wages because of weakened unions. If unions were as strong in 2016 as they were in 1979, nonunion men with a high school diploma would earn an average of $3,016 more a year. Workers in unions earn, on average, 27 percent more than their nonunion counterparts. Unions close the pay gap for women, and black workers see outsized gains from union representation. At the same time while unions have declined, the pay gap between CEOs and workers has gone from 20:1 in 1965 to up to 331:1 today.

President Eisenhower bragged about unions in the 1950s, but every GOP president since then has been anti-union. Donald Trump pointed out that the economy is better with Democratic presidents in 2004 and said that Hillary Clinton would make a good president. He repeated the same thing in a recent interview, omitting the part about Clinton.

Now the GOP is pushing the myth of the “sharing economy.” People are forced to rent out rooms in their homes or drive their own cars for pay in the new “Uber” philosophy. Conservatives blame poor people on their moral failure.

On this Labor Day, plan ahead. Vote for people who support unions and a strong middle class.

Trump Watch: Donald Trump is definitely not in favor of unions. He blocks them in his businesses and refuses to pay overtime and some of his contractors although he signed contracts with them.

During the weekend, Trump had several “interesting” conversations with reporters. His surrogates and staff spent the weekend trying to figure out what his position actually is after his anti-immigrant speech last Wednesday, and they’re wrong again. Asked today about his immigration policy, he refused to rule out amnesty for undocumented immigrants in the U.S. Last week, he said they all had to leave the country; today he said, “I’m not ruling out anything. We’re going to make that decision into the future. OK?”

Approached the about the fine for his illegal foundation contribution to Florida AG Pam Bondi, Donald Trump repeated several times that he had never spoken to her. Marc Reichelderfer, Bondi’s reelection consultant, had said in June that Bondi personally asked for the donation. Later he indicated that he didn’t talk to Bondi about dropping the fraud investigation against Trump University. She dropped the case after she got $25,000 from the Trump Foundation.

In discussing debate strategy with reporters today, Trump said that he didn’t plan much preparation and definitely no mock debates:

“I’ve seen people do so much prep work when they get out there, they can’t speak. I’ve seen that.”

Asked if he would definitely debate, Trump said, “As of this moment, yeah.” He added that only “hurricanes and natural disasters” would stop him from debating Hillary Clinton. Trump commended that he had done the other debates, forgetting that he had skipped one of the GOP debates and backed out of one when he challenged Bernie Sanders.

Trump also declined to say whether he believes President Obama was born in the United States. “I don’t talk about it,” he said. Despite his desperate attempt to woo black voters, he has never apologized for his birther campaign or said he believes in the legitimacy of President Obama’s birth certificate.

Trump showed his inability to be diplomatic when he said that he’ll order Air Force One to leave if countries don’t roll out the red carpet. His statement came from an incident in China when there was no stairway prepared for President Obama to exit his airplane in China last Saturday. The president instead used an exit customarily used for high-security trips. He suggested his Chinese hosts might have found the size of the US delegation “a little overwhelming.” One difference of opinion between the two countries might be China’s concern about “America’s unwavering support for upholding human rights.”

Saudi Arabia was another issue on which Trump keeps changing his mind. He slammed Hillary Clinton for taking money from Saudi Arabia for the charitable Clinton Foundation, but it was recently discovered that he has made millions of dollars from that country which bought the 45th floor of Trump World Tower for $4.5 million. Since 2001 he has been paid $85,585 a year for building amenities. Osama Bin Laden’s half brother also lived in the Tower for four months in 1986. Trump recently told Sean Hannity that he would not take money from the Saudis, but last year he bragged that Saudi Arabia spends “$40 million, $50 million” for his apartments. “I like them very much,” Trump said.

After endorsing the GOP presidential candidate for the past 9 elections, Virginia’s Richmond Times-Dispatch has endorsed Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson Saturday. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) said that Donald Trump’s candidacy might turn Arizona blue in this election.

Hillary Clinton is ahead in the polls on Labor Day. History shows that the losing presidential candidate at that time is the losing candidate in November. We can only hope, but we’ll make that decision nine weeks from tomorrow.

September 7, 2015

Good News, Bad News from Labor Day, 2015

Republicans love to blame the Democrats for destroying the coal industry, but conservatives are the people who decimated the economy in the South through their eradication of the unions. For a century, union organizers were shot, beaten, and stabbed in their fight to get reasonable pay and safe conditions underground, but now the last union mine in Kentucky has been closed. Younger workers took their wages for granted, and now not one working miner belongs to a union, the only protection that mine workers have had.

Conservatives curse the unions but fail to realize that they are responsible for the rise of the middle class.

union_density_middleclass 2

union_density_inequality 1

High income inequality has correlated with low union membership for over 100 years in the U.S. As union membership shrinks, money and power shift upwards. Data from 2010 show that all workers make more money in a pro-union state.

workers do better

Today is Labor Day, established as a federal holiday 121 years ago to celebrate labor. Oregon declared it a holiday 17 years earlier. If you have today off, thank unions. If you are working today, thank unions for other benefits such as shorter work weeks, weekends off, expanded health care through employer-provided health insurance, and the end of child labor except within religious groups. Unions also brought paid vacation, breaks, sick leave, Social Security, overtime pay, worker’s compensation, and more. If you don’t have these benefits, thank the Republicans.

In some states, union attacks brought “right-to-work” laws, which block collective bargaining for higher wages, better benefits, and protections. The “freedom” created by these laws gives corporations and the wealthy the “right-to-underpay” and “right-to-cheat” employees. In Wisconsin, the latest state to adopt this law, “right-to-work” will cause workers and families to annually lose between $3.89 billion and $4.82 billion. Workers in “right-to-work” states make $1,560 less per year than in states without the law. Women in union jobs earn $212 per week—30.9 percent—more than women in non-union jobs. The gender wage gap is also smaller for women in unions, 88.7 cents for every dollar a man makes compared to 78 cents for all workers. Men in union jobs make $173 more per week than non-union workers.

President Obama celebrated this year’s Labor Day by mandating all 300,000 government contractor employees be granted seven paid sick days per year starting in 2017. That leaves another 44 million workers without paid sick leave because the United States is the only developed nation without a paid sick leave policy. The president’s executive order adds to other orders that move toward higher minimum wage and equal pay for men and women.

Other good news comes from the job market. Republicans swore to bring jobs back when they were elected in masses, but they’ve done nothing to help workers. GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said he would reduce the unemployment rate to 6 percent by 2016 if he were elected in 2012. Right now, it’s 5.1 percent after 66 consecutive months of private sector job growth—13 million jobs—during President Obama’s six and a half years in office. Many of these jobs came from the health care job growth after Republicans called the ACA the “job killing health care law.”

The bad news comes from the loss of wages for everyone except the top echelon. Oregon is an example of this: in the past 35 years, the bottom income bracket has lost 30 percent of income in the state while the top 1 percent gained 88 percent of the income. Republicans refuse to increase the federal minimum wage, one-third lower when adjusted for inflation than in the 1960s. They also consider the Keystone Pipeline bill a “jobs bill” although it employs only 4,200 people for one year while wiping out other permanent jobs by taking over and destroying land. The GOP’s “Hire More Heroes Act” to employ veterans doesn’t count veterans as employees so that companies with more than 50 employees can avoid the ACA mandate to provide health care. Up to one million workers would lose health insurance with the redefinition of “full-time employment” as 40 hours a week in the GOP’s “Save American Workers Act.”

Another piece of bad news is the growing divergence between salary and productivity. During the 25 years prior to 1973, wages and productivity grew together, but between 1973 and 2014, hourly wages went up 8.7, adjusted for inflation, and productivity increased by 72.2 percent. The change is a major reason for the rapidly growing income inequality during the past 40 years as payment for employees went to owners of capital. Workers generate the income but don’t get an increase in hourly pay. The last four years has been worse as worker productivity increased by 21 percent while wages rose only 2 percent.

wages by bracket

Republicans claim to support a “trickle-down” economy but instead push an economy that is “gush-up.” Unregulated free-market capitalism is a “winner-take-all” wealth over the common good, and billionaires buy politicians and design education and health systems to control the bottom 99 percent of people in the United States. The average CEO earns 204 times what average workers earn, and two-thirds of the poor in the United States—68 percent—have jobs.

Hedge fund billionaires are not required to pay their fair share of taxes receive awards yet are praised. For example, John Paulson, noted for “Outstanding Contributions to Society,” got $3.7 billion by conspiring with Goldman Sachs to create risky subprime mortgages. He used other people’s money to bet against his sure-to-fail financial instruments. As U.S. wealth grew from $52 trillion to over $83 trillion between 2007 and 2014, six million more children were forced onto food stamps. Forty percent of households are food-insecure while 40 percent of the food in the United States is wasted.

Despite the decreasing unemployment rate, taxpayers fund the movement of many jobs overseas while technology eliminates others. Kodak once employed 145,000 people to do the same photo processing that Instagram does with 15 workers. Three-fourths of faculty at colleges and universities are now “adjunct” instructors, paid a pittance for part-time work. One-fourth of these teachers, almost 20 percent of college and university faculty, are forced into food stamp or other public assistance programs to survive.

Republicans claim that they want to return to the 1950s, and economically this would benefit almost everyone. In 1956, the GOP platform supported an increase in the minimum wage, an expansion of Social security, adequate coverage for the unemployed, better housing, and health care for all. “Government must have a heart as well as a head” and “America does not prosper unless all Americans prosper” were included in the GOP belief system. According to the GOP platform, “President Eisenhower’s administration brought the highest employment, highest wages, and the highest standard of living ever experience in any country.”

Today’s GOP portrays people on unemployment as leeches, but the GOP of 1956 called for “providing assistance to improve the economic conditions of areas faced with persistent and substantial unemployment.” Republicans in the 1950s also wanted to strengthen “the rights of labor unions” and protect “the right of workers to organize into unions and to bargain collectively.”

In 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower looked forward to today’s GOP when he wrote:

“Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are…a few…Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”

He may have been right.

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