Nel's New Day

October 30, 2017

Russia, Puerto Rico, Budget

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 12, 2013

When Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) ran for U.S. vice-president only a few months ago, he said that a Romney/Ryan win would vindicate their plans to rape raping the country of all resources and shred the entire safety net. Instead, Barack Obama won re-election by more than 50 percent of the popular vote—the first time since FDR in 1944, the Senate netted two additional Democratic seats over 2010, and the House gained a majority of Democratic votes, leaving it in Republican hands only because of state gerrymandering.

Either Ryan has a short memory or he doesn’t believe what he said, because he has proposed another budget, more restrictive and farther to the right than the last one. Its $4.6 trillion cuts during the next decade come mostly from eliminating health care with its subsidized insurance exchanges and Medicaid expansions, turning Medicare into a voucher program with private insurers for anyone under 55, and doing away with Wall Street regulatory plans.

The voucher system defense by the Ryan Plan author is a semantic maze. On Fox News, Ryan told Chris Wallace: “[I]t’s not a voucher. It’s premium support. Those are very different. A voucher is you go to your mailbox, you get a check and you go buy something. That’s not what we are saying.” In fact, seniors would get a government subsidy instead of a guaranteed Medicare benefit. Ryan coined the word “voucher” for his plan before pollsters told him not to use that term. He also told Wallace that the GOP won the right to do this because it won the senior vote.

At the same time, the GOP plan cuts the top income tax rate to 25 percent from 39.6 percent. This 14.6 percent cut is over double Romney’s proposed 7 percent cut, that wiped out $5 trillion of revenue. The only way to cover these losses is to increase taxes for the bottom 99 percent of the nation’s population.

Big Oil’s donations to Paul Ryan to get him re-elected have paid off. The budget plan retains the tax breaks for these companies ranked as the most profitable companies in 2012. Tax breaks haven’t increased jobs: four of the Big Five dumped 15,200 jobs between 2006 and 2011. It won’t increase oil production: they produced 3 percent less oil in 2012 compared to 2011. They aren’t paying their fair share of taxes. Three of the companies averaged a 16-percent tax rate in 2011. Their revenues bought back their own stock to enrich top executives, boards of directors, and biggest.

Although Ryan claims that his plan will help the economy and the unemployment rate, Ezra Klein said:

“Ryan’s budget … won’t create jobs this year and will likely cost jobs in the years to come by putting the economy on a steep austerity ramp. There’s no housing policy for the millions of families in foreclosure and no way to read Ryan’s budget without assuming massive cuts to student-loans programs. As for medical costs, fully 59 percent of Ryan’s savings come from new cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare or other health-care programs–and that omits the $800 billion in Medicare cuts he keeps from Obamacare. The nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that cuts on the order of what Ryan is proposing will mean around 35 million people lose their health-care coverage.”

Ryan’s goal isn’t actually to reduce deficits and debt. If it were, he would not eradicate revenue. As Klein said,

“The problem is that these ideas are not, on their own, popular. In fact, they’re deeply unpopular, and considered quite radical. That’s why Newt Gingrich rejected Ryan’s initial budget as “right-wing social engineering” — it is, in a very serious sense, an effort to use policy reform re-engineer the relationship individuals have with their governments, their communities, and their families. But presented on their own, Ryan’s plans scare people.”

In addition to the full repeal of President Obama’s health care law, it asks for limits on medical malpractice liabilities, transfers safety net programs—including food stamps—to states, and lowers the corporate tax rate to 25 percent. The big five oil companies–BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Shell–made a combined record profit of $118 billion in 2012 on top of a record profit of $137 billion in 2011. These companies also have a total of nearly $72 billion in cash reserves. Ryan’s tax cut would give the companies an additional $2.3 billion annually.

The House budget plan also authorizes the 1,700-mile Keystone XL oil pipeline, estimating that it will create 20,000 new jobs. In reality, TransCanada projects that the construction will create a maximum of 3,900 jobs, only 10 percent hired locally, and only 35 jobs existing after two years.

In arguing that he is concerned about “the well-being of the American people,” Ryan ignored the fact that the oil provided by Keystone XL is already in the U.S., mostly in the Midwest. Redirecting it will raise prices in the Midwest. In addition, the oil from Keystone XL isn’t for the U.S.: the pipeline lets Canadian oil producers export the crude oil in the Gulf of Mexico, saving their own country the environmental risks. The crude will be refined in Port Arthur and then shipped out of the country at great—and tax-free—profit for oil companies.

Earlier this year, Congress passed a law that they approve a budget by the April deadline. If they fail, their salaries will be held in escrow until a budget is passed or the current Congress ends at the beginning of 2015. Fortunately for them, the two chambers don’t have to agree in order for Congressional members to get their wages: each chamber can pass its own budget plan without the other one agreeing.

Ryan’s plan does increase spending in one area—defense. And he does have a novel way of making money for the country: he wants to sell off public lands because ”too much public land” is a serious problem.

Derek Thompson wrote: 

“Paul Ryan’s new budget is quite long, but its thesis can be stated briefly. If you cut spending on the poor to the bone and radically change the U.S. government’s promises to help needy people pay for health care, it is remarkably easy to balance the budget.”

The GOP’s plan is based on “massive, unrealistic” spending cuts, according to Michael Linden, Director of Tax and Budget Policy at Center for American Progress. Medicaid would face $1 trillion cuts in the first decade, while education and workforce training programs would get cut in half and transportation funding would be reduced by nearly 25 percent. The plan would also require deep cuts in other vital domestic programs.

Instead of trying to help the people in the United States through building the economy and decreasing the unemployment rate, Paul Ryan has one goal, and he has admitted it when he introduced his budget plan:

“This to us is something that we’re not going to give up on, because we’re not going to give up on destroying the health care system for the American people.”

He should have added that he won’t give up until he destroys the United States.

June 24, 2012

Norquist Ties to Keep Pledgers in Line

For a brief time, the Congressional Republicans seemed to be regaining a piece of their sanity. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told ABC News that Republicans should eliminate loopholes in the tax code even if they aren’t replaced by additional tax cuts. “When you eliminate a deduction, it’s OK with me to use some of that money to get us out of debt. That’s where I disagree with the pledge,” he said. He went so far as to say that Republicans should be flexible. Maybe he had been listening to former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY), co-chair of President Obama’s Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform in 2010, who said, “You can’t cut spending your way out of this hole.”

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) argued so forcefully that Republicans must abandon that pledge if they are serious about tackling the spiraling national debt that he persuaded 34 Senate Republicans to cancel billions of dollars in annual tax credits for ethanol blenders. “Grover, you’re stupid, forget it, we’re going to vote the right way,” Coburn said.

Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR) proposed a 5-percent surtax on all income over $1 million annually. And there’s more.

“I’m not saying I’m even committed now to a tax increase, but I think anybody who doesn’t indicate their willingness to look at revenues–expiration of tax loopholes, tax credits, increase in contribution to Social Security, which is a tax, and otherwise–would be disingenuous and irresponsible.” – Rep. Tim Johnson (R-IL) who claimed he didn’t sign the pledge but actually did

“I have learned, never sign a damn pledge.” – Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN)

“Grover Norquist has no credibility, so I don’t respond to him. He doesn’t deserve being responded to.” – Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)

“Have we really reached the point where one person’s demand for ideological purity is paralyzing Congress to the point that even a discussion of tax reform is viewed as breaking a no-tax pledge?” – Rep. Frank Wolff (R-VA)

“I informed the organization I don’t consider [the earlier pledge] binding. I don’t care to be associated with it. It’s too constraining.” – Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE)

“The only pledge I take anymore is to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. That’s the pledge every member takes when he gets sworn in and that’s the pledge you ougtta be concerned about.” – Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) noting that he signed the pledge only once when he first ran for Congress in 1998

“Grover Norquist is not in my district. I represent the state of Wyoming and its people.” – Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY)

“I’m no longer signing any pledges to anybody. I’m not going to sign it next year.” – Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI)

“My driver’s license expires, the milk in my refrigerator expires, the only thing that doesn’t expire is Grover Norquist’s pledge–and that’s nuts.” – Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-OH)

“I’m married to Camille Andrews, not Grover Norquist. I promised her to be faithful until death do us part, and I mean it. I did not promise him to oppose tax increases until death do us part.” – Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ)

“We shouldn’t be bound by something that could be interpreted different ways if what we’re trying to accomplish is broad-based tax reform.” – Sen. John Thune (R-SD)

All these rejections of Norquist’s pledge looked hopeful until he had a private audience with his minions last Wednesday. After visiting Graham, he said, “Graham will never vote for a tax increase.” About Coburn, Norquist said, “He had a moment of weakness where he thought you had to raise taxes to get spending restraint. He now knows that’s not true.” Norquist has lost Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), the only Democrat Senator to sign the pledge, but he probably doesn’t much care. Nelson is not running for re-election.

Norquist went to the Hill to “educate” Congressmen. “We believe that if you make the taxes simpler and can actually lower the taxes, the government takes in more money,” freshman Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) said after the meeting. I guess that’s “Grover-speak.”

Signing the Norquist pledge smacks of treason. All members of Congress sign an oath to protect the Constitution. Article I, Section 8 states:

“The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes”

The Norquist pledge states:

I, ____, pledge to the taxpayers of the (____ district of the) state of _____ and to the American people that I will: ONE, oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rate for individuals and business; and TWO, oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.

Instead of providing for the “general welfare” as required by the Constitution, conservatives sign a pledge resulting in a policy of “sink or swim” for everyone in the country—except the wealthy. As any parent knows, two-year-olds say “No!” to everything no matter what it is. Multi-dimensional adults use a thoughtful approach.

Both taxes and government spending are the lowest they have been in 60 years. Yet Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are determined to raise taxes on the poor and middle class while drastically cutting taxes for the top 1% of income earners with each plan adding trillions to the nation’s debt. The Norquist Pledge of “No!” means protecting the corporate interest. That’s the summer’s fight—right after the Supreme Court ruling on health care.

April 5, 2012

Ryan Incorporates Rand Philosophy in Budget Plan

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 2:43 PM
Tags: , ,

Just in time for April Fool’s Day, the House Republicans passed Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget, designed to destroy the country and kill off people. These are the highlights of this bill:

Boost the Defense Budget: The defense spending increase to $554 billion  is $8 billion more than the bipartisan Congressional vote last August.

Cut Taxes $3 Billion for Corporations and the Wealthy: The bill would lower the top income tax rate to 25 percent and allow corporations to return overseas profits at no cost. Those with yearly incomes over $1 million would receive an average 12.5 percent tax cut, six times higher than the 1.9 percent cut for middle-income people.

Charge Seniors More for Health Care: The guaranteed Medicare benefit would be transformed into a “premium support” system in 2023 with no way to keep Medicare costs from skyrocketing. The budget also has a per capita cost cap of GDP growth plus 0.5 percent with no explanation of how this would be enforced. According to CBO, new beneficiaries could pay up to $1,200 more by 2030 and more than $5,900 more by 2050. Eligibility age would also be increased to 67.

Take Medicaid Coverage from Elderly and Disabled: Instead of the existing matching-grant financing structure of Medicaid, states would receive block grants that fail to keep up with actual health spending. States are already suffering budget disasters; they would be forced to “reduce eligibility for Medicaid and CHIP, coverage of fewer services, lower payments to providers, or increased cost sharing by beneficiaries—all of which would reduce access to care.” Block grants would reduce Medicaid spending by $810 billion over 10 years, decreasing Medicaid spending by more than 35 percent over the decade requiring enrollment reduction by almost 20 percent.

Repeal Obamacare’s Mandated Health Insurance: With this repeal comes the loss of health insurance exchanges and subsidies for lower-income Americans, expansion of the Medicaid program, and tax credits for small businesses that provide health insurance. The result would be more than 30 million people losing coverage. The budget would also eliminate the health care act’s consumer protection.

Cut $134 Billion in SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp Program

Cut at least $463 Billion in Mandatory Programs such as Farm Programs and Federal Employee Retirement 

Cut at least $291 Billion in Low-Income Discretionary Programs such as Head Start, Child Care, K-12 Education, Job Training, Pell Grants, and Services for the Elderly

Michael Linden lists the six most important failures of the new House budget plan.

  • Undermine the middle class: the plan ends the Medicare guarantee of decent health insurance in retirement; slashes critical middle-class investments, such as education and infrastructure by 45 percent and 24 percent, respectively; provides not a single new measure to help the nearly 13 million unemployed get back into a decent job; and requires the middle class to pay higher taxes.
  • Rig the system even more heavily in favor of the richest 1 percent: the plan protects existing tax breaks for those at the top of the income spectrum while giving them huge new tax cuts.
  • End the Medicare guarantee and raise health care costs for seniors: the plan would provides a “death spiral” for Medicare that means higher costs for seniors.
  • Undercut the economic recovery: the plan not only fails to propose not even a single new idea for spurring job creation but also forces an immediate swerve into severe austerity which, as shown by Europe’s recent debacle, will badly hurt the economy.
  • Deviate dramatically from a balanced approach to deficit reduction: the entire burden of deficit reduction lands on the middle class and the poor while giving the rich additional tax breaks at the same time, and the numbers don’t even add up to real deficit reduction. (Ryan didn’t allow the Congressional Budget Office to evaluate the budget’s actual policy proposals.)
  • Renege on last year’s bipartisan budget agreement: last summer’s Budget Control Act, passed by Congress with wide bipartisan majorities, included an agreement on overall “discretionary” spending levels—the money that Congress appropriates each year—for the coming fiscal year. Ryan reneged on that agreement whereas President Obama adhered to the enacted law when he presented his proposed budget for FY 2013 earlier this year.

Even the Republicans doubt the validity of the budget bill. Juan Williams pointed out that Ryan claims his budget offsets the tax dollars lost to the tax cuts for upper-income Americans by eliminating tax loopholes, tax shelters, and many tax deductions estimated at an incredible $4.6 trillion over 10 years. By lowering the tax brackets, Ryan will have to find a stunning $4 trillion in cuts to loopholes and deductions to avoid adding to deficit spending. But he did not identify one such cut. According to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, a family earning more than $1 million before taxes receives an average of $447,259 from tax breaks. But a family earning $10,000 or less gets an average of only $427.

One no-voter, Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-IA), explained the situation, “Congress needs to actually negotiate a deal that can be passed by both chambers, rather than follow the same path that has led to the stalemate for the past year.”

Meanwhile Ryan, on the short-list for Republican presidential vice-president nominee, and the vast majority of House Republicans  follow the Ayn Rand philosophy: reward the rich and kill off the lower class.

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