Nel's New Day

February 8, 2019

DDT: Week 107 – Temper Tantrums, Threats

A wild week—Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) delivered his usual lies in the State of the Union speech and the House committees began its investigative hearings. Tweets from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) have the stench of fear, with a recent example of a tirade about how investigations of his scandals not being “allowed” finished by how “Dems and their committees are … even stealing people who work at White House.” An unnamed staffer guided a CNN reporter to Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), chair of the Intelligence Committee, for an explanation. Schiff has hired former National Security Council members, who DDT had dumped, to work in the investigation into DDT’s finances and foreign connections. In an inverse act, Kashyap Patel, former staffer for former House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes (R-CA), to join the National Security Council.

Acting AG Matt Whitaker joined Republicans in responding with the same fear as DDT. Whitaker rudely responded to Democrats in the House Judiciary Committee hearing today, even telling the chair that his time for questioning was up. Whitaker said, “I’m here voluntarily,” but he might not be so fortunate at his next hearing. He refused to answer questions while disrespecting House Democrats. GOP committee members repeated conspiracy theories including the lie about the FBI tipping off CNN for the Roger Stone arrest. After he pounded the table and yelled at chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) tried to shut down Eric Swalwell (D-CA) when he questioned Whitaker about taking donations from foreign groups. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) attacked Whitaker for the redactions in a memo from Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein to Robert Mueller about the investigation. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) asked Whitaker to get DOJ employees to be loyal to DDT, despite the oath that they take to be loyal to the U.S. Constitution. Vox has a good rundown of the event.

Because the Senate still has a GOP majority, Richard Burr (R-NC), chair of its Intelligence Committee, is dragging his heels in any investigation of Russia collusion, but DDT still had to lie when he said that the committee had finished its investigation and had found “NO COLLUSION.”

The shutdown came about—and may return—because Congress has not provided a budget that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) will sign. At the same time, however, DDT has failed to comply with the law. It is his legal obligation to send a budget to Congress by the first Monday in February—February 4, 2019–which he has not done.

Yesterday was National Black HIV Awareness Day, and Tuesday DDT announced that he will end the HIV epidemic by 2030. Here’s the male white crowd who plan to carry out the plan.

The Supreme Court released both conservative and not-quite-so-conservative opinions. Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberal wing in striking down Louisiana’s restrictive anti-abortion law—at least for now—but moved to the conservative side in refusing a Muslim any religious support during his execution in Alabama. The Supreme Court had already found the Louisiana law unconstitutional when the same one was passed in Texas, but DDT has added two conservative justices since 2016 when Roberts had dissented from overturning the Texas law. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), up for reelection next year, is taking criticism when she supported Brett Kavanaugh for the high court because she believed his promise that he would not overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade, legalizing some abortions.

AMI, owner of the National Enquirer which helped elect DDT with its suppression of news, may have lost its immunity from Robert Mueller. If the publishing company cooperates and avoids committing crimes, it won’t face prosecution for paying off a woman who had an affair with DDT. Upset about news published in the WaPo, AMI tried to extort Jeff Bezos, the newspaper owner, by threatening to publish more embarrassing material about his sexual affair.

Instead of being coerced, Bezos published the extortion message and his response in which he defined the extortion terms:

“In the AMI letters I’m making public, you will see the precise details of their extortionate proposal: They will publish the personal photos unless Gavin de Becker and I make the specific false public statement to the press that we ‘have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces.’”

Bezos’ documents can be read in entirety here. The National Enquirer’s final paragraph in the blackmail note reads:

“If [Jeff Bezos] agrees to cease and desist such defamatory behavior [meaning reporting in the Washington Post], we are willing to engage in constructive conversations regarding the texts and photos which we have in our possession. Dylan Howard stands ready to discuss the matter at your convenience.”

Bezos indicated that the reason for National Enquirer’s may be WaPo’s coverage of the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. “For reasons still to be better understood, the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve,” wrote the world’s richest person.

DDT has refused to submit a requested report from Congress regarding White House findings on whether Saudi Arabia’s crown prince is personally responsible for the torture and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. U.S. intelligence determined that the premeditated murder was almost certainly from orders by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, but DDT said he would retain relationships with Saudi Arabia even if the rulers were responsible for the killing. Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs, has claimed that the killing was a “rogue operation.” A bipartisan Senate group is considering asking the White House to lay sanctions against anyone considered “responsible.” A bill might include a refusal to sell Saudi Arabia certain military arms.

ICE may have hit a new low. Ordered last summer by the Supreme Court to give specific hearing dates, ICE agents issued “dummy” dates with threats that people would be deported if they didn’t attend. Immigrants crossed the country to comply with the orders only to find that the fake scheduled hearings didn’t exist. Chaos ensured as the photo to the left shows. Court administrators tried to help the immigrants by double-checking addresses and promising that they would soon receive hearing notices.

Because DDT has pulled out of a nuclear treaty with Russia, Vladimir Putin ordered Russia’s military to develop new ground-launched hypersonic missiles with an intermediate range and to convert previously sea-based cruise missiles for ground launch.

U.S. Central Command (Centcom) Commander Gen. Joseph Votel, the top U.S. general in charge of military operations in the Middle East, testified that he was not consulted before DDT’s announcement of all 2,000 troop withdrawal from Syria. He also testified that taking pressure off ISIS will permit it to regroup and have “renewed vigor.”

The GOP and DDT’s tax cuts for the wealthy and big business may raise the deficit trillions of dollars, but many DDT’s supporters are discovering that it doesn’t help them. Here’s one of the angry responses:

“The @GOP tax bill cost my family THOUSANDS of dollars this year on our return due to changes, thereby hitting us with the LARGEST tax increase of our lives. We are middle-class homeowners, and you raised our taxes. Infuriating!”

IRS accounting deception to keep people unaware of how little tax cuts would help them—at least until after the midterm elections—may have added to their frustration. Instead of telling people that the tax “reform” wouldn’t give much relief to most people, the IRS changed withholding guidelines that would give more money back to workers in each paycheck by reducing the amount of taxes withheld throughout 2018. In the past, people tended to get refunds, but the new system means much smaller refunds or even the requirement to send more money to the IRS. Discovering that corporations are getting even more of a break than they were promised will undoubtedly result in more rage, especially if they find out that companies get a much larger tax break fi they move their profits overseas—about half as much tax responsibility.

Maybe some people have already learned their lesson: over three-fourths of registered voters want the wealthiest people in the U.S. to pay higher taxes. Even a Fox poll shows that 70 percent of people want increased taxes for those earning more than $10 million.

Other polls are also not favorable for DDT. He went into the Oval Office with a growing economy, but two years later, 56 percent of people in the U.S. believe that the economy is slowing down or worse. Seventeen percent think that the economy is in a recession or depression. Sixty-seven percent of Americans believe interest rates will go up in the next six months, including 20 percent who believe they will go up “a lot.” Likewise, a majority (61 percent) see inflation rising in the near future, including 17 percent who say it will increase a lot.

September 30, 2018

U.S. House: On Recess But Not Forgotten

The House of Representatives may be in recess to campaign for the next six weeks, but GOP members are still up mischief. Their vote to pass another round of tax cuts just before the November midterms gives an additional $3 trillion to the wealthiest people in the U.S. The vote of 220-191 included three Democrats; last year’s tax bill had no Democratic support. Part of the House tax plan costs come from the “Universal Savings Accounts” that has no limit for participation and permits withdrawal of funds before retirement. The shift of savings from taxable accounts primarily benefits the wealthy, the top one-percent of the population who can shift, on average, $9.5 million into tax-free accounts. The average 60 percent of people has $16,000 to shift.

After the last tax cuts, Republicans began to threaten slashing or even eliminating Medicare and Social Security because of the escalating deficit; this will cement that deal. The Republicans can’t campaign on the last tax cut: people believe the law benefits “large corporations and rich Americans” over “middle-class families” by a 2-to-1 margin, 61 percent to 30 percent. With 42 percent of people reporting that they are less likely to vote for a candidate who supports the GOP tax plan, compared to 36 percent in favor of those candidates, only 1,039 GOP TV campaign spots, under 12 percent of all GOP TV ads this year, mentioned the new tax bill. That bill was the only GOP accomplishment.

The House has departed at the same time that the Violence against Women Act lapses. Two weeks ago, the spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) reported negotiations with the Senate, but nothing has come of her promise. Even if the House took action, the GOP senate might oppose it. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the most unhinged supporter of Kavanaugh, is one of six GOP white men on judiciary committee who voted against VAWA in 2013. Graham’s state has the highest rate of women killed by men in 2014, twice the national U.S. average, with 92 percent of the female murder victims knowing their killer and 62 percent having been in an intimate relationship with the murderer. The leniency of court sentencing allowing the attackers back out on the street in a short time is one factor for South Carolina’s high rate of violence against women.

In addition to attempts to starve people by highly restricting food stamps, the farm bill awaiting House members’ return contains three climate and fiscal disasters for the United States:

  • Stop localities from regulating pesticides: This interactive map shows some of the places in danger.
  • Permit wealthy farmers to get crop subsidies: The new bill allows people making over $900,000 annually could give a loophole to exempt partnership, joint ventures, and other corporate farms.
  • Eliminate funding for the Conservation Stewardship Program: Gone would be offsets for some farmer costs such as crop coverings to keep soil and fertilizer in place over the winter, buffer strips that prevent severe soil erosion from storms, and hedgerows as habitat for wild bees and other beneficial insects.

Dark horse Rep. Beto O’Rourke (R-TX) is closing the gap between him and incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in the race for Cruz’s position. While the senate was forced to stay in session most of August, O’Rourke was crossing the state, going to all 99 counties, and again Cruz is stuck in Washington, D.C. while the House is in recess. In the last debate, O’Rourke pointed out his opponent’s absences:

“Within months of being sworn to service, your senator Ted Cruz was not in Texas. He was in Iowa. He visited every single one of the 99 counties of Iowa. He went to New Hampshire, South Carolina. He went to the Republican presidential primary states instead of being here. He shut down your government for 16 days in 2013. Too many people were getting too much health care in the United States of America.”

O’Rourke told the crowd that Cruz missed one-fourth of the vote in 2015 and one-half the votes in 2016 and finished by saying, “Tell me, who can miss half the days at work and be rehired for the same job going forward?” Cruz was so positive that the senate would vote on Kavanaugh over the weekend that he canceled a debate with O’Rourke today. After the week’s hiatus before a vote, Cruz tried to reinstate the debate, but O’Rourke said that he was already booked. Donations were double for O’Rourke than Cruz as of June 30, another bad sign. Cruz’s campaign was based on ridiculing O’Rourke, but every attempt backfired.

Not satisfied with just smearing his opponent, Beto O’Rourke, Sen. Ted Cruz is scamming older people to get campaign funds. Sean Owen wrote that his 88-year-old grandmother received what appears to be a summons from Travis County but is asking for donations to Cruz. He has a pattern of scamming people to get elected. To get people to the Iowa caucuses in 2012, Cruz sent mailers headed “VOTING VIOLATION” with a warning about “low expected voter turnout.” It purported to print the person’s voting scores, not available to the public in that state, and included a chart with false voting “grade” and “score” for the recipient and neighbors. The warning ended with the ominous statement: “A follow-up notice may be issued following Monday’s caucuses.””

Incumbent candidate Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and his wife have been indicted on 60 charges related to fraudulent use of $250,000 in campaign funds in 200 incidences of lavish vacations and dinners, conspiracy, wire fraud, and filing false campaign-finance reports.  Included in the information are at least five of Hunter’s “personal relationships” with photographic evidence. Hunter has denied the charges while he runs racist, anti-Muslim advertising against his opponent. He describes himself as a Christian conservative and committed family man.

New York voters may also get another chance to elect a potential criminal: Rep. Chris Collins, charged with insider trading, decided he will run for re-election this fall after claiming that he wouldn’t. He has an 80 percent chance of winning in the conservative district, according to fivethirtyeight.com.

DDT slammed the DOJ for indicting these two representatives before the mid-term elections. Long live the swamp!

Fearing rough competition to his race to become Florida’s governor, former Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) quit four months early to campaign—over 16 percent of the term that his voters expected him to serve. He might use the time to speak at more white supremacist conferences after the four times he addressed ones organized by the David Horowitz Freedom Center audiences. The organizer has said that blacks owe their freedom to whites and that the nation’s “only serious race war” is against white people. He told them that he admires “an organization that shoots straight … and is standing up for the right thing.” DeSantis started campaigning for the general election with the use of “monkey this up” when talking about his black opponent, Andrew Gillum. Tony Ledbetter, Volusia County GOP chair and paid employer for DeSantis’ campaign, posted a demand to move “animals … from our country.” Speakers at Horowitz conferences have made more disgusting comments about minorities, especially blacks. DeSantis resigned as administrator for a racist and Islamophobic Facebook group laden with conspiracy theories immediately after his affiliation was made public. Virginia GOP Senate candidate Corey Stewart remained as administrator.

Thanks to the laxness of the FEC, Rep. Mia Love (R-UT) violated election rules by keeping money raised for her primary campaign although she faced no challenge. Questioned about her actions, Love said she would keep the money and reclassify it later.

Taxpayers are still ponying up the money to pay for congressional members’ sexual assault settlements because Congress cannot agree on a law to stop it. Congressional workplace misconduct has cost taxpayers almost $15.2 million from 1997 to 2014. Does the Supreme Court have this arrangement to pay victims of sexual assault?

One wealthy donor is fed up with Republicans. Les Wexner, owner and CEO of L-Brands in Ohio, said he is “no longer a Republican” and spoke warmly about President Obama and his theme of bipartisan civility. Wexner said, “I was struck by the genuineness of the man; his candor, humility and empathy for others.” A year ago, Wexner had told his employees that he felt “dirty” and “ashamed” because of DDT’s response to violence at the Unite the Right rally that killed a person in Charlottesville (VA).

In the NYT, Timothy Egan wrote about the bargain that the GOP made with DDT:

“Republicans would get tax cuts for the well-connected and a right-wing majority on the Supreme Court, and in turn would overlook every assault on decency, truth, our oldest allies and most venerable principles. They expected Trump to govern by grudges, lie eight times a day, call women dogs, act as a useful idiot for foreign adversaries, make himself a laughingstock to the world….

“A lifetime of Republican pieties, put forth by the bow-tied best and brightest, has gone up in a poof. Free trade? It’s been swamped by America First. Balanced budgets, living within our means? Get to love the trillion-dollar deficit, courtesy of those tax cuts.”

GOP congressional members are willing to sell out every Republican value in a sycophancy to DDT including a belief in their party over country.

September 3, 2018

DDT Not a ‘Jobs President’

Today is Labor Day, a day to celebrate workers, and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT)—aka the “jobs president”—honored the hard-working people of the nation by attacking Richard Trumka, leader of the nation’s biggest union federation. Trumka dared to point out how DDT had “done more to hurt workers than to help” them and disagreed with DDT’s strategy on renegotiating the NAFTA trade pact because he might lose Canada.

  • How DDT has hurt U.S. workers:
  • Eliminating overtime pay for workers by dropping the salary threshold to the same one from 40 years ago.
  • Attempting to give tips for waitpeople to their employers.
  • Classifying workers as “independent contractors,” permitting employers to deny them benefits.
  • Failing to pass legislation for infrastructure improvement.
  • Signing an executive order that allows investment brokers to cheat people in their retirement funds.
  • Blocking workers from the courts with mandatory arbitration clauses in employment contracts.
  • Delaying and rolling back regulations to protect workers from job injuries.
  • Refusing to shield workers from exposure to cancer-causing chemicals and metals like beryllium.
  • Allowing employees to keep faulty records about on-the-job injuries.
  • Blocking a requirement to report pay data by race, ethnicity, and gender, allowing larger racial and gender pay gaps.
  • Creating barriers for home care workers who want to support their union.
  • Proposing a family leave plan that forces workers to have less Social Security benefits when they retire.
  • Forgiving employers who violate wage and hour laws.
  • Limiting workers’ ability to decide with whom they want to form a union.
  • Making it harder for workers to bargain with the companies that influence their working conditions.
  • Disbanding labor-management forums for federal workers.
  • Endangering workers and first responders at chemical facilities.
  • Undermining the quality and pay of apprenticeship programs.
  • Limiting workers’ right to sue.
  • Reducing transparency in anti-union attacks.
  • Making it harder for workers to save for retirement.
  • Discriminating against LGBTQ workers.
  • Enacting tax cuts that overwhelmingly favor the wealthy over the average worker.
  • Pushing immigration policies that hurt all workers.
  • Appointing anti-worker members to the National Labor Relations Board and the Department of Labor. Undercutting key worker protection agencies by nominating anti-worker leaders
  • Stacking the Supreme Court with anti-worker justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
  • Specifics about DDT’s anti-worker agenda.

How DDT has helped U.S. workers:

Last week DDT canceled a scheduled Congress-approved 2.1 percent pay raise for 1.8 million civilian federal employees at a time that the 2018 inflation is projected at 2.9 percent. These people include Secret Service, firefighters, and border patrol agents. One-third of them are veterans, many of them disabled. He claimed the purpose of the $3 billion savings was to “put our Nation on a fiscally sustainable course” because of “national emergency or serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare.” At the same time, however, he has figured out how to give an additional $100 billion to the wealthiest after he and Congress passed $2 trillion tax cuts for the richest and plan another tax cuts this fall for the richest in the nation. Before a second tax cut, the new tax loophole for “passthrough” businesses that benefits the Trump Organization will cost $47 billion in just one year, and the tax cut for wealthy, multimillion-dollar estates costs another $8 billion.

DDT also plans another way to use his power to give the wealthy another $100 billion in tax cuts by indexing capital gains to inflation, an action that he could take without congressional action. Winners are 63 percent to the top 0.01 percent of the population, 86 percent to the top one percent, and 95 percent to the top five percent. They pay most of the capital gains taxes, meaning that this action does nothing for economic growth. Indexing capital gains worsens inequality adds to budget deficits, and opens up new tax shelters for the wealthy.   [capital gains visual]

Legislative and judicial obstruction has caused union membership to fall to under 11 percent in 2017, dropping from 25 percent in the 1970s. Yet wages have been flat during that fall. Yet union support has increased to 62 percent approval, the highest in over a decade. Wages rose as union membership was strong, but Ronald Reagan’s control of the NLRB after he broke the air controllers’ union vastly increased the amount of resources delegated to the top 1 percent. [visual union]

Labor Day under DDT’s rule:

“Real wages have fallen over the last year, despite an economy nearing full employment. Good jobs are still being shipped abroad. Our trade deficit with China climbed to its highest level on record in 2017. The $4,000 raise promised to workers out of the tax bill is nowhere to be seen. As Americans for Tax Fairness has documented, only 4 percent of workers received any increase from the tax cuts, while, as predicted, corporate CEOs used the cut for a record-breaking $700 billion in stock buybacks, lining their pockets and those of investors. Earlier this year, a careful analysis of government data showed that 43 percent of Americans couldn’t afford a basic monthly budget for housing, food, transportation, child care, health care, and a monthly smartphone bill.”

Since the 1930s, union workers have earned about 20 percent more than non-union colleagues. More than that, however, a recent study shows that more unions meant more income equality because they increased the wages of the lowest-skilled. The chart to the left shows the correlation between the drop in union membership and the drop in middle-class income. Instead of working to raise their wage by demanding unions for all, however, those not in the union try to tear down unions. And the wealthiest and biggest businesses want an even larger share of the pie so they work to kill unions as they did in the Supreme Court Janus decision.

Riding on their victory in Janus, the conservative Illinois organization Liberty Justice Center has threatened to sue Oregon state and local government officials if they don’t immediately stop collecting union dues and agency fees. Oregon’s AG Ellen Rosenblum differs from the organization’s claim that unions cannot college any union dues until all employees agree to their membership. She had already sent an advisory after the Supreme Court ruling that public unions could not agency fees from a nonmember’s wages without the members’ becoming union members.

Employers and business-loving conservatives don’t provide benefits out of the goodness of their hearts. Most people don’t recognize what unions have accomplished for all workers in the United States.

 

Not everyone has these benefits, but all these workers’ rights can be lost in the current DDT downward trajectory:

  • Weekends, breaks (including lunch), 8-hour workday, 40-hour week, minimum wage, overtime pay, equal pay.
  • Child labor laws.
  • Safety standards and regulations.
  • Ways to fight discrimination (including age), wrongful termination, Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • Paid vacation, sick leave, worker’s compensation, unemployment insurance, pensions.
  • Social Security, Medicare.
  • Employee Polygraph Protection Act.
  • Military leave.
  • Privacy rights.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) said on a Sunday talk show that Republicans should concentrate on the “good things” that DDT has done such as tax cuts and eradicating regulations—both benefiting only the extremely wealthy and big business. Reductions in union membership have a direct correlation with the increase of income to the top one percent.

ObamaCare is more popular than the GOP tax law, according to a new Fox News poll, with a 51 percent approval rating compared to the 40 percent approval for the tax cuts benefiting the wealthy and big business. DDT complains that Google has a majority of negative stories about him. If he wants positive media, he should do something that’s positive instead of negative actions against everyone except the top five percent in the United States.

 

 

When people say that they don’t need unions because their job gives them all these advantages, they are either unaware of situations where that doesn’t happen or just focus on themselves. In 1946, German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller wrote about the Nazi purges of groups, one by one, while people ignored the responsibility:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

DDT and the Republicans have come for the trade unionists. Are you next?

March 29, 2018

Did Your Pay Check Go Up?

Filed under: taxes — trp2011 @ 8:45 PM
Tags: ,

Republicans will be running for re-election this year on their signature legislation of the first two years—a tax cut for the wealthy and big business. How’s that working out?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 27, 2017

December – GOP Breaking Point

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 11:23 PM
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

With 15 days of work left before their holiday hiatus at the end of December, Congress may face a far more difficult task than in September unless they shuffle everything down the pike, as they did two months ago. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and the Republicans have more than a full plate for its few working days.

Government shutdown: The lights in the government go off on December 8 without further action on the spending bill. Spending caps cause trouble for this bill, so House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) may float another short-term bill, something that the Republicans lambasted Democrats for doing before the GOP was in power. The 2011 Budget Control Act set 2018 caps which will automatically go into effect in January without a deal to raise them. No legislation has been written, and the Senate needs at least 60 votes, meaning at least eight Democrats.

Without a change in the law, defense programs get only $549 billion, and nondefense programs are limited to $516. DDT and the GOP haws want over $600 billion for defense, and Democrats want the same increase in nondefense spending.

CHIP: The Children’s Health Insurance Program for nine million children and 370,000 pregnant women in poverty expired at the end of September, and funding may end up in the December spending bill. The program is running out of money for the first time since it was created two decades ago.  The expenditure of $15 billion for CHIP is vital for preventative health care, but families are already receiving notice that their children can no longer have this coverage.

DACA: The deadline for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, allowing some undocumented immigrants brought into the country as children to work and attend school without fear of deportation, isn’t until March, but Democrats may force the issue as part of the spending bill.

Tax cuts: At least 50 GOP senators must sign off on a bill that increasingly gouges people the poorer they are. Then the bill has to go to the House which either signs off on it or creates its own version and then sends it back to the Senate for approval. At least eight GOP senators don’t like the bill, each for his own reason, but they may end up caving in because donors are insisting that the GOP Congress do SOMETHING! Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) wants to repeal with healthcare individual mandate, and Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) oppose that part of it because the loss of the mandate may destabilize health care markets. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) refuses to vote in favor of the bill unless he gets more perks for his personal small business. Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) are leading the charge in opposing the $1.5 trillion increase in the deficit.

To keep the vote for tax cuts to a simple majority, the increase in deficit can be no more than $1.5 billion. As senators consider tweaks to keep some of the reluctant GOP senators in line, the deficit goes up, requiring that other cuts be made. One suggestion is to just eliminate all the cuts for individuals—not businesses—in the bill’s final year.

The popularity of the tax cut bill is going down and may shrink even more with the Congressional Budget Office report that poor people are hurt even worse than previously thought. People making less than $30,000 a year could be worse off by 2019, and those earning $40,000 will be losers by 2021. By 2027, most people earning less than $75,000 are worse off. In addition, the increase in health insurance premiums will take four million people off any plans by 2019 and 13 million by 2027. The rest of the people, 38 percent of the population, will keep getting tax cuts. The chart below indicates the amount that the government will reap from different salary groups—for example, the group of people making under $10,000 will pay an additional $1,540,000,000 whereas those making over $1 million a year will gain $34,100,000,000. The negative sign before the amount means less revenue for the government and shows that the poor pay for the rich.

FISA: Without a bill, this surveillance program expires at the end of the year, but bipartisan opposition to a “clean” renewal of warrantless spying comes from those who believe in privacy. At this time, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act permits the government to collect emails and texts from foreign spies, terrorists, and other overseas foreign targets without warrants. Proposals have been cleared by the House Judiciary Committee and Senate Intelligence Committee, but neither has gone to a floor vote. The conservative House Freedom Caucus has pledged opposition because it violates the Fourth Amendment.

Flood Insurance: The House has passed its version of reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Program, renewing it for five years, updating federal flood mapping requirements, and bolstering a new private flood insurance market. The Senate, however, has made no plans to address the House bill. The NFIP is $25 billion in debt.

Emergency disaster aid: The $44 billion package for Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands is too small, according to some Republicans from Texas, although it’s added to another $50 billion. Conservatives will demand that cuts elsewhere pay for the $44 billion. The budget from DDT goes only to these places for hurricane relief; DDT has offered not one cent to the Western states ravaged by wildfires.

Iran: The 60-day deadline after DDT’s October statement that the nation is not in compliance with the agreement comes in December. Leading Republican senators want to keep the deal but pass legislation to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons after the deal expires. DDT will need to waive sanctions to keep the nuclear pact intact.

All these decisions are set against the background of ethics proceedings for continuing sexual assault and harassment accusations and a December 12 election to determine whether Roy Moore joins the Senate. Rep. Al Green (D-TX) has promised to force a vote to impeach DDT before the end of 2017.

In The New Yorker, Ryan Lizza writes that December is the make or break time for DDT:

“Year one is when Presidents usually make their mark[.] By the second year, a President’s legislative agenda becomes complicated by the hesitancy of members of Congress to take risky votes as midterm elections approach, particularly if a President is unpopular. The math is stark: on average, modern Presidents have historically lost thirty House seats and four Senate seats in their first midterm elections. Trump’s first year has been different. He has a record low approval rating. He is mired in scandal. [And] he looks like a President in his eighth year rather than one in his first. … He is unique among modern Presidents in that he has no significant legislative accomplishments to show for ten months after taking office.”

What’s missing from this list of must-dos? Restricting bump stocks or closing the domestic violence loopholes in the gun laws.

November 20, 2017

Tax cuts: The GOP Has to Do Something!

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 11:16 PM
Tags: , ,

The U.S. public can give thanks this week because Congress can’t do any damage to us; they’ve all gone home for thanksgiving.  They’ll be back next week, however, when the Senate takes up the House bill that raises taxes on everyone except the wealthy and corporations. Even the conservative publication Forbes thinks that congressional tax “reform” is crazy: it has published a piece called “GOP Tax Bill Is the End Of All Economic Sanity In Washington.”

“There’s no economic justification whatsoever for a tax cut at this time. U.S. GDP is growing, unemployment is close to 4 percent (below what is commonly considered “full employment”), corporate profits are at record levels and stock markets are soaring. It makes no sense to add any federal government-induced stimulus to all this private sector-caused economic activity, let alone a tax cut as big as this one. This is actually the ideal time for Washington to be doing the opposite….

“The GOP’s insanity is compounded by its moving ahead without having any idea of what this policy will actually do to the economy. The debates in the Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees and on the House floor all took place before the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis and, if it really exists, the constantly-promised-but-never-seen report from the Treasury on the economics of this tax bill.”

On CNN, Budget Director Mick Mulvaney promised that “the president is not going to sign a bill that raises taxes on the middle class, period.” Yet this is what the Senate tax bill does.

 

Information about tax cuts keeps trickling out with these disasters after this post on Nels New Day. Gone are tax credits for plug-in motor vehicles, deductions for medical expenses and moving expenses, write-offs for tax preparation, most tax benefits for college in student loans and tuition waivers for graduate students, deductions for theft or loss of valuables—even in wildfires. Although low-income housing keeps its small subsidy, the bill ends the tax-free status of bonds for financing and repair, which has the same affect as dropping the subsidy. Affected by this loss are all private enterprises serving the public interest such as airports and waste disposal facilities.

A huge drawback to the GOP tax bill is that it continues to move manufacturing offshore. The bill allows manufacturers to pay nothing to the U.S. for its products. CEOs won’t bring foreign profits into the U.S. when their taxes are based on the country where factories are located. The GOP fantasy is that these companies will invest in U.S. jobs. They have not done this in the past, and they have blatantly said they won’t do it with the proposed tax bill. The 15 corporations benefitting most from the 2004 tax holiday cut over 20,000 jobs and reduced their research spending.

A basic GOP premise of tax cuts is to punish blue states and reward red states that already get back more than they pay in federal taxes. The punitive measures come from curtailing or eliminating the deductibility of state and local taxes and dropping the home mortgage interest deduction. Congress also refuses to provide any assistance for the billions of dollars lost to wildfires in the West while giving tens of billions to Texas and Florida for help after hurricane damage. Puerto Rico, which can’t help Republicans win a presidency, will get funding but only through loans.

Republicans claim that dropping health insurance mandates from the Senate bill, but people who get subsidies will continue to buy the insurance. There will be no savings for the government.

Other losses in deductions:

  • Alimony: No longer deductible for decrees after 2017.
  • College boosters: No longer deductible if for eligibility in buying seats at games or preferences such as prime parking places.
  • Employee achievement awards.
  • Employer-provided housing: A cap of $50,000 salary.
  • Home sale gains: Qualification requires the home to be the primary home for five of the past eight years instead of two of the past five years.
  • Office day care center.
  • Rare disease research.
  • Stadium bonds (DDT promised to do this to the NFL).

Winners:

REUTERS/Mike Segar TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY – RTSO7UI

  • Businesses because they receive three-fourths of the benefits.
  • Owners of jets and golf coursesThe savings on each of these are minimal compared to lost benefits, but it should keep Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) satisfied.
  • Churches that can campaign for political candidates.
  • Anti-abortion activists because people can name fetuses as beneficiaries of 529 college savings plans. The tax bill defines “child in utero” in personhood terms as “a member of the species of homo sapiens at any state of development, who is carried in the womb.” Law already covers the 529 accounts, but the bill throws the door open to making all abortion illegal.
  • Inheritors for 5,500 estates that drops not only tax on the estate but also on any capital gains on inherited taxes until they are sold.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) tries to convince the people that the new plan is “fair” and “simple” because taxes can be filed on a postcard. Yet the card has no instructions on the card to explain what should be put in a line—i.e., what is a savings plan?—and even asks for the Social Security number to be put on the back of a card that gets put into the mail, available for anyone to see it. And people pay more taxes.

VP Mike Pence sounded sincere when he lied to a Wall Street CEO gathering. He claimed that workers could keep more of their money (false) and companies are incentivized to bring jobs back to the United States (false). Instead of eliminating loopholes, the tax bill leaves them only for the wealthy. According to Ivanka Trump, people can use their tax cuts to hire a tutor to teach their children the Mandarin Chinese language. Gary Cohn, DDT’s multi-millionaire economic advisor, cheerfully claimed that people can use their $1,000 in tax cuts for remodeling the kitchen or buying a new car.

Bruce Bartlett, an expert in supply-side economics serving under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush, said, “There has never been a tax cut in American history in which taxes were raised on the poor to benefit the wealthy. I don’t know of any other country that has done anything remotely like this.” After 1986 tax cuts, wages fell for ten years. Most Republicans have no answer for the failure of tax cuts although Mulvaney tried to explain that the world is different now.

When Bill Clinton raised taxes on top earners from 31 percent to 39.6 percent in 1993, the economy boomed. It created 23 million jobs and grew the economy for 32 straight quarters, at that time the longest expansion in history.

According to a Quinnipiac poll, only 25 percent of people like the GOP tax plan, and only 16 percent think it will reduce their taxes. Thirty-five percent expect their taxes to increase. Only 24 percent say it will help the middle class the most, while 61 percent think that the wealthy benefits most.

This photo shows the GOP position toward tax cuts that take money away from most of the people to benefit the wealthy. The “King of Foreclosure” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and his ultra-wealthy wife admire new bills with his name emblazoned on it.

The Republicans have only one reason to destroy the U.S. economy with their tax cuts: get their donors back. If they don’t pass something, nobody will fund their campaigns. In their reality, better to pander to donors than help the hundreds of millions of people in the United States.

The Senate tax bill has differences from the House bill that may cause trouble when Congress returns next week. Three defectors to the tax bill will sink it. Here’s a partial score card of concerned senators:

  • Susan Collins (ME): She opposes dropping the health care mandate, the “biggest mistake,” because it causes insurance premiums to drastically rise.
  • Ron Johnson (WI): A conservative, he owns a small business and wants more perks for it. His demand will increase the deficit and take the amount into an area 60 instead of 50 votes.
  • Bob Corker (TN) and Jeff Flake (AZ): They don’t like the $1.5 trillion—or more—deficit.
  • Lisa Murkowski (AK): She also doesn’t like dropping the individual mandate but said that “one should not assume this is a precondition for my support for the tax bill.” She likes the Arctic oil drilling in the bill.
  • Rand Paul (KY): He might back out without the repeal of the individual mandate.

It’s all a crap shoot; in the meantime we have Thanksgiving.

November 3, 2017

Tax Cuts: Who Matters to Republicans in Congress

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 11:26 PM
Tags: , ,

The big GOP tax plan was to be released on November 1, but problems delayed it–perhaps because it wasn’t written and because Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) insisted it be called “The Cut Cut Cut Act.” As Stephen Colbert pointed out, at least he didn’t spell the bill with three Ks. So far, the name has been DDT’s only contribution to the tax “reform” bill; all the other disasters come directly from GOP legislators. Most Republicans and all Democrats were left out of the process that had $5.5 trillion in tax cuts over the next decade while adding $1.5 trillion to the deficit. The proposed bill emerged on November 2 to more publicity than the fast-developing investigation into DDT’s connection to Russia.

As always, DDT was largely ignorant about the nuts and bolts, but he loved the idea of filing taxes on post-card sized papers. DDT was so excited that he kissed the form, but like other relationships, it rapidly disappeared. House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) said that people won’t be filing taxes on the card. DDT will need to go back to his love affair with the flag.

At the very end of 429-page document is a roll-back of a 1954 law that prevents the endorsement of political candidates in tax-exempt houses of worship, but the GOP pride of the bill is a permanent corporate tax rate reduction from 35 percent to 20 percent to benefit companies’ owners. Stockholders will become wealthier without taking any action. Only half the people own stock, and most households own very little. Households in the top 1 percent get 36 percent of their income from financial assets, and the 400 wealthiest households get almost 75 percent of their income from capital gains and dividends. The bottom half of the population will enrich the top half, especially the top 1 percent.

Lowering corporate tax rates also leads to increasing CEO pay and stock buybacks. Profits were not used in either investment or increasing wages and hiring. George W. Bush’s “repatriation” of stashed offshore profits went to shareholder payouts. Today’s enormous deficit comes from Bush’s tax cuts and war—which DDT plans. The corporate cut will cost almost $7 trillion in the next two decades with only $1.4 trillion offset from individual taxpayers.

When Bill Clinton raised taxes on top earners from 31 percent to 39.6 percent in 1993, the economy boomed. It created 23 million jobs and grew the economy for 32 straight quarters, at that time the longest expansion in history.

Winners:

  • The maximum rate for small business is lowered to 25 percent, giving a huge advantage to real estate companies, hedge funds, and private equity funds.
  • Eighty-five percent of this tax cut goes to the top 1 percent of earners because true small businesses don’t make enough to be taxed more than 25 percent.
  • The repeal of the estate tax over $11 million saves the wealthy $170 billion and comprises about 11 percent of the cuts. Estates grow when stock prices increase because of a drop in corporate tax.
  • Taxes owed on $2.6 trillion in profits are cut from 35 percent to 12 percent.
  • Fully three-fourths of tax cuts are directed at businesses and large estates.
  • The top 1 percent, those earning at least $733,000 a year, will each annually receive $130,000.

Losers:

  • The special low tax rate for lobbyists, corporate lawyers and wealthy business owners isn’t available for people who work for a salary or hourly wage.
  • Education, job training, and social services lose $200 billion.
  • The loss of jobs comes from wealthy corporations encouraged to outsource jobs in the U.S. and shift profits offshore through slashed tax rates on foreign profits.
  • The slightly expanded child tax credit from $1,000 to $1,600 expires after five years, followed by increases in taxes, whereas the 20-percent corporate rate is permanent.
  • Even Republicans who tend to “spin” advantages of their bills can’t promise that taxes won’t be increased on middle-class families.
  • Deductions for mortgage interest on new homes stops at $500,000 instead of $1 million. Two heavy hitters, the National Association of Home Builders and the National Association of REALTORS, oppose this provision.
  • Deductions for property taxes ends at $10,000.
  • State income taxes won’t be deducted, causing double taxation.
  • Raising the “standard deduction” $11,300 to $24,000 for married couples while eliminating personal exemptions hurts families with multiple children.
  • Itemized deductions on charitable contributions will continue, but others disappear: property and casualty losses, student loans, the adoption tax credit, teachers’ $250 out-of-pocket expenses for the classroom, alimony payments, and medical expenses. Because the medical deduction doesn’t start until costs over ten percent of income, poor people are the biggest losers, especially because they can no longer deduct nursing home costs.
  • People with disabilities will face more barriers: small businesses will no longer receive a credit for making their businesses more accessible or hiring disabled people.
  • People who earn less than $23,700 a year might expect a tax cut of only $80 a year.
  • About 13 million filers making under $100,000 will have tax increases, a number that will grow as benefits are phased out.
  • The repeal of credits for drug companies to develop new treatments hurts people with rare diseases.
  • Other repealed credits are for electric vehicles and rehabilitation of old or historic buildings, that created 2.4 million jobs and returned $1.20 for every taxpayer dollar.
  • Over one-third of taxpayers have incomes below their standard deduction and personal exemptions.
  • DDT has also pulled any DACA solution from the bill.

Flaws in GOP tax cuts:

  • Giving unearned benefits to people who own or inherit financial assets is not good for growth or productivity. Allowing companies to write off the full value of new capital investments instead of spreading it over years gives a one-time jolt without future growth. The deficit of $1.5 trillion could fund all federal education spending, job training, the threatened Environmental Protection Agency and the State Department, homeless assistance, and welfare many times over.
  • The supply-side economics giving cuts to businesses to create jobs may have worked during the Reagan administration when the highest tax rate was 70 percent—twice what they are now. Now corporations won’t add jobs for products until there is a demand, and giving the bulk of the tax cuts to the wealthy doesn’t create that demand.
  • The growth can also be hurt by an increase in U.S. debt because investors get concerned when the debt-to-GDP-ratio is over 100 percent. That concerns translates into higher interest rates on bonds. The increased debt also takes money from building infrastructure and other job-creation uses.
  • The more than $100 billion in tax cuts to the top 1 percent of earners could fund food stamps (SNAP) and other federal nutrition programs.

The biggest debate about the tax bill may be dropping the corporate tax rate. Although less than half of the people think that taxes on businesses are too high, 60 percent of them want to lower corporate taxes. The going current rate for these taxes may be 35 percent, but most of them don’t pay more than 15 percent. Some examples of corporate tax cheats.

 

DDT blatantly threatened Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and economic adviser Gary Cohn for any glitches in passing the tax cuts. Before he left on his 12-day trip to Asia, DDT said that they will be staying back from the trip to Asia to remain vigilant and making sure the tax cuts pass. So if I have any problems, I will be blaming Mnuchin and Cohn. Believe me, they’ll be hearing from me.” He gave the same spiel about former HHS Secretary Tom Price who is not longer with the administration. Cohn’s arguments will be interesting; he’s already told people that they can use their $1,000 savings to remodel their kitchens or buy new cars.

“Conservative leaders would have slammed this Big-Government Budget under Pres. Obama. Now, they demand Republicans in Congress vote for it,” tweeted Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI). “2011-2016: Principles! 2017: End justifies the means.” The “ends” are getting back donations that dried up after the GOP continually failed to pass any major bills.

A huge winner from the bill is the man who can sign it into law. John Cassidy described how DDT can benefit in three ways:

  • The proposed bill eliminates the individual alternative minimum tax (AMT) legislated to stop the very rich from abusing loopholes. In 2005, DDT paid $31 million because of the tax on his income of $152.7 million. Without the AMT, he would have paid $7.1 million—five percent of his taxable income at an 80-percent reduction.
  • The proposed flat rate for pass-through income would benefit DDT in his hundreds of unincorporated businesses. His $67.4 million in income from these businesses in 2005 would have been subject to the 39.6 percent rate, but his unexplained losses have probably disappeared by now. The proposed bill drops his tax rate to 25 percent.
  • Abolishing the estate tax would eliminate a possible $800 million that his heirs would have to pay from his potential $2 billion of unsheltered assets. When DDT promised people a “big, beautiful Christmas present,” he meant that the gift would be for himself.

Republicans are still tweaking the tax bill. One idea is repealing the individual mandate to purchase health care. The other cuts $81 billion from tax breaks for individual taxpayers by changing the way that the bill measures inflation and move taxpayers into higher-tax brackets more quickly. Again, the proposal would hurt middle-class taxpayers and leave the wealthy to collect their money. Kevin Brady said that more changes would come next week.

Kansas proved that the GOP tax plan won’t work. Children paid for that disaster in the state; they will pay for the disaster in the United States if the bill passes.

October 8, 2017

DDT Needs Caretaker

A weekend means interviews on Sunday “news” shows and obnoxious tweets from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). This weekend, DDT declared war on Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), claiming that Corker didn’t have the guts to run for re-election because DDT had refused an endorsement for Corker and turned him down to be Secretary of State after he begged DDT. He also blamed Corker for supporting the Iran deal that keeps Iranians from building nuclear weapons. Both Corker and other sources have said that DDT is lying in his claims about Corker.

DDT’s tantrum came after Corker said that DDT treats his office like “a reality show” with his threats possibly moving the U.S. “on the path to World War III.” Corker said that he is alarmed by a president who acts “like he’s doing The Apprentice or something.” DDT is ignoring his need for Corker’s votes to pass his tax cut legislation and “decertify” the Iranian deal. Corker’s committee also is in control of confirmation hearings for DDT’s ambassadorial appointments. After DDT’s virulent remarks about him, Corker topped off his own tweets with this one:

“It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.”

On Fox News Sunday, Corker repeated his earlier statement that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is one of three officials helping to “separate our country from chaos.” DDT’s racist comments about neo-Nazis at Charlottesville (VA) earlier caused Corker to say that DDT “has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.” Corker said:

“As long as there are people like that around him who are able to talk him down when he gets spun up, you know, calm him down and continue to work with him before a decision gets made, I think we’ll be fine.”

Corker also said that his personal concerns about DDT were shared by almost every GOP senator.

FEMA director, William “Brock” Long, has decided to ignore pleas for help from San Juan (Puerto Rico) Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz because he considers them “political.” She tweeted, “Power collapses in San Juan hospital with 2 patients being transferred out. Have requested support from @FEMA_Brock. NOTHING!” Long said on a morning talk show, “We filtered out the mayor a long time ago.” DDT is still congratulating himself on the wonderful job that he is doing with Puerto Rico and said that he was just having “fun” throwing those “beautiful soft towels.”

Luckily for the people of Puerto Rico, Mexico has joined Germany in sending help to the U.S territory. In spite of two major earthquakes last month, Mexico will send aid to Puerto Rico including water and electricity experts to mitigate damage and help restore the island’s power supply as well as mosquito repellent and 30 tons of bottled water.

While people in Puerto Rico are suffering and dying from lack of food, water, electricity, etc., the U.S. House put its priority on  limiting abortion access. It passed a bill, likely unconstitutional and definitely disproportionately affecting low-income women, that bans abortions after 20 weeks and imprisoning doctors performing the procedure for up to five years. The vote was 237 to 189, with two Democrats supporting it and three Republicans voting nay.

The IRS has given Equifax, the company that allowed the records of 143 million people to be stolen, a $7.5 million contract. The no-bid contract, posted the last day of the fiscal year on September 30, is to verify taxpayer identities and help prevent fraud under a no-bid contract.  During a committee hearing, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) asked former Equifax CEO Richard Smith, “Why in the world should you get a no-bid contract right now?”

Photos of Smith at the hearing have shown Rich Uncle Pennybags, the Monopoly mascot, seated behind Smith as he testified about the computer breach. He rushed off after she tried to give him a bag of “Get out of jail free” cards after the hearing in a protest of plans that allow banks and financial institutions to take advantage of consumers.

DDT’s third Muslim ban is going to court.

DDT’s need for a majority vote has bled down to the DOJ’s violating federal law. The National Voter Registration Act of 1993, states that voter registration maintenance “shall not result in the removal of the name of any person from the official list of voters registered to vote in an election for Federal office by reason of the person’s failure to vote.” Yet AG Jeff Sessions is supporting purging voter registrations because of irregular voting patterns. Ohio, for example, removed 1.2 million voters for infrequent voting. Sessions has not decided that this action is appropriate, despite federal law.

DDT’s magical tax cut plan, labeled as the “middle-class miracle,” has an evaluation from the Tax Policy Center (TPC). According to its study, the plan mostly benefits the rich, raises taxes on some middle-class people, and lowers federal revenue by $2.4 trillion within a decade. Republicans are not happy, but they haven’t offered any evidence of any tax relief to the middle class. The pattern is the same as the GOP plan for healthcare “reform” when Republicans were confused by facts about tens of millions few people having insurance. A chief GOP criticism was that there was no “dynamic” score, meaning one that made up information about an improved economy.

DDT’s latest nominee, this one for the second most powerful EPA position as safety chief, is an employee of the chemical industry. As such, Michael Dourson declared that children are less sensitive to chemical toxicity. His position includes overseeing pesticides and setting safety levels for some of the most dangerous chemicals in use.

Conservationists have had a run of successes in court, a recent one in Washington. A state board overturned two important permits for an immense refinery turning natural gas into methanol because an environmental impact study had not considered greenhouse gas emissions. The product would then be shipped to China to make plastics. The failed project was designated for Kalama (WA), less than an hour north of Portland (OR). This past week a federal judge in San Francisco ordered the reinstatement of a restriction on harmful methane emissions from gas and oil drilling on federal lands after the Interior Department tried to remove it with the excuse that it was a burden to the industry. Judge Elizabeth Laporte ruled that the department had no “reasoned explanation” for allowing energy companies to not capture the polluting methane that wastes about $330 million a year—enough to power five million homes for that year. Before the rule went into effect, a methane cloud the size of Delaware hung over the Four Corners region of New Mexico, Utah, Arizona and Colorado from the oil and gas industry.

Only 24 percent of people think that the U.S. is going in the right directions. The change among Republicans has been the most drastic: only 44 percent support the direction, compared to 60 percent just three months ago. Other areas in which people have a high percentage of disapproval toward DDT are handling race relations, foreign policy, and immigration—all with over 60 percent disapproval.

That drop in support may be the reason that DDT sent Mike Pence to Indianapolis today to attend the game between the Colts and the San Francisco 49ers. The sole purpose of the “reality show” was pandering to DDT’s base with  was a photo shoot when Pence walked out after some of the athletes knelt during the national anthem. Pence was so sure he would be leaving that he didn’t bother to take any reporters with him. A Pence aide said that he might be leaving early. The photo sent to the press of the vice-president in a suit with his hand over his heart was actually taken in 2014 when Pence was governor of Indiana. To attend the game, Pence flew from Las Vegas before he immediately returned to a fund-raiser in Los Angeles. (Your taxes at work!)

Norman Ornstein, resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, tweeted:

“Manipulation of faux patriotism took new turn today with VP Pence. Preplanned early exit from Colts game after 49ers kneeled, then tweets.”

Constantly accused of disrespecting the flag, kneeling athletes are protesting police racial brutality and injustice. Anyone questioning this brutality should watch the highly graphic video of a Utah police officer fatally shooting a black man in the back after he was stopped for not having a light on his bicycle. The DA exonerated the police officer who killed Patrick Harmon because the officer said he was afraid.

September 16, 2017

DDT: Week Thirty-four – Loss of Supporters and More

People have been asking what Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) could do to make his supporters turn on him. Now we know: make friends with Democrats. After two weeks of supporting (sort of) “Chuck and Nancy,” as he calls Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), DDT supporters have started to burn their hats. [visual] The last straw for them was his possible protection of hard-working people who were involuntarily brought to the United States and had undergone “extreme” vetting.

Last week people discovered about the hacking of records for 143 million people from consumer credit reporting agency Equifax. Since then, it’s been discovered that three senior executives sold shares for almost $1.8 million after the hack. They said that they didn’t know about the hacking. The company was aware of the flawed security system over two months before the hacking and didn’t make the public aware for a month after the event. The revelation caused a 13-percent drop in the value of the shares. Equifax was hired a year ago for $10 million to “help the SSA manage risk and mitigate fraud for the mySocialSecurity system, a personalized portal for customers to access some of SSA’s services such as the online statement.” DDT can take pride in having the most disastrous hacking thus far in history.

DDT bragged he had the biggest hurricane in history—until someone mentioned climate change. He changed his statement to “we’ve had bigger storms than this,” ignoring history because both Harvey and Irma broke several records.

After the nation’s worst deluge in Hurricane Harvey and the strongest hurricane ever in the Atlantic with Irma, DDT identified the nation’s real emergency—the need for tax cuts. Perhaps he imagined that people across the nation cried out for swift action in helping billionaires and corporations. DDT’s desperate tweet to Congress:

“With Irma and Harvey devastation, Tax Cuts and Tax Reform is needed more than ever before. Go Congress, go!”

Bush/Cheney used the excuse of tax cuts for all problems—high gas prices, uninsured people, sluggish economy, strong economy, etc. DDT will be trying to persuade everyone that tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations will build new homes, operate shelters, and clean up chemical spills that huge companies left in flood areas.

After new DDT friends Sen. “Chuck” Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. “Nancy” Pelosi (D-CA) met with him at a private White House dinner, they reported that he would accept protection for DACA recipients, giving work permits to people involuntarily brought into the U.S., without a demand for the wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Republicans were incensed, and Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that DDT didn’t make that agreement. The following day, DDT “clarified” his agreement with Chuck and Nancy:

6:11 am (Twitter): “No deal was made last night on DACA. Massive border security would have to be agreed to in exchange for consent. Would be subject to vote.”

8:26 am (reporters): “[T]he wall will come later.”

11:06 am (reporters): “Very important is the wall. We have to be sure the wall isn’t obstructed because without the wall I wouldn’t do anything… It doesn’t have to be here but they can’t obstruct the wall if it’s in a budget or anything else.”

4:18 pm (reporters): “[I]f the Democrats aren’t going to approve it [money for the wall], then we’re not going to do what they want… DACA now and the wall very soon, but the wall will happen.”

DDT’s response to the tragic attack in London this past week before anyone knew the source:

“These are sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard. Must be proactive!”

He either released classified information about the attack or was just blathering as usual. No matter which, he again alienated the UK; their officials called DDT’s tweet “unhelpful.”

DDT’s MO for the past months has been alienating democratic allies and sucking up to autocratic dictators. This week he hosted Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, currently the subject of a DOJ corruption probe regarding misappropriations of billions of dollars from a government fund he controlled. In exchange, Razak and his large contingent dropped their money at the DDT-leased Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. Without occupancy currying DDT’s favor, the hotel would increase its 56-percent vacancy rate in an area that has almost 50 percent less. At least he gets $18,750 per night for the “Trump Townhouse” suite. Being elected has made money for DDT. Unfortunately, it’s unconstitutional.

Attempts to discover government expenditures at DDT’s property began with only one short report, the federal payment of $1,092 for a room at Mar-a-Lago for two nights during DDT’s visit in March with “National Security Council as the occupant.”

Michael Flynn, DDT’s former national security advisor, may have lobbied on behalf of foreign countries to build 40 nuclear reactors across the Middle East while paid by the White House. Backers said that the Gulf Arab states would fully fund the project. Flynn also failed to report payments from Russian entities. Flynn’s son, Michael Jr., is also being investigated by Robert Mueller as part of the Russian interference in the 2016 election. A man who showed up at a Washington pizza place with a rifle because Jr. had spread the lie that it was a front for Hillary Clinton’s sex trafficking. He also smeared Clinton aide Huma Abedin with the lie that she was connected to the Muslim brotherhood and pushed the falsehood that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is a closet gay man who abuses cocaine. DDT fired Flynn Jr. before his father was shown the door. Mueller is also targeting Paul Manafort’s son-in-law, Jeffrey Yohai.

The Office of Government Ethics briefly permitted Russia—and anyone else—to anonymously donate to legal defense funds for White House staffers. Public outcry forced OGE to reinstate the ban.

U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber, a Ronald Reagan appointee, blocked DDT’s rules to keep funding from so-called “sanctuary” cities in a nationwide preliminary injunction against the DOJ. AG Jeff Sessions had said that a grant to local law enforcement for training and supplies applies only “to cities and states that comply with federal law, allow federal immigration access to detention facilities, and provide 48-hours notice before they release an illegal alien wanted by federal authorities.”

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is again opposing DDT after his vote against the ACA “repeal and replace”—this time objecting to DDT’s ban on transgender military members. In backing the bipartisan bill to block DDT’s ban, McCain explained its rationale:

“When less than one percent of Americans are volunteering to join the military, we should welcome all those who are willing and able to serve our country. Any member of the military who meets the medical and readiness standards should be allowed to serve — including those who are transgender.”

One reason for selling off public land is to make money for the government. Auctioning off oil drilling rights on approximately 7,000 acres of a bird habitat to avoid endangered species garnered the government $14,837. That pays for 0.005 percent of one DDT’s trip to Mar-a-Lago. “America” is for sale.

DDT’s DOJ is reversing a program to improve trust between law enforcement and communities. Sessions, who supports DDT’s pardon of Joe Arpaio, wants to “fulfill my commitment to respect local control and accountability.” The purpose of the rescinded program was to determine any systemic problems in troubled police departments. Sessions has already told federal prosecutors to charge defendants with the most serious crimes possible given military equipment to state and local police.

It has come to light that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, worth about one-half billion dollars, wanted taxpayers to pick up the tab for his honeymoon transportation by letting him take a government jet to Scotland, France, and Italy. Mnuchin has been called the “foreclosure king,” even foreclosing on a 90-year-old widow who owned his company $.27. He and Louise Linton weren’t permitted the plane that would have cost $25,000 an hour, and they are being investigated for using a government plane to watch the eclipse in Kentucky. DDT explained about his request that his administrative officials “had to give up a lot to take these jobs.”

Senators unanimously passed a resolution condemning white supremacy and asking DDT to “address the growing prevalence of those hate groups in the United States.” The resolution also asks AG Jeff Sessions and DHS to investigate “all acts of violence, intimidation and domestic terrorism” by white supremacists, white nationalists or associated groups and prevent them “from fomenting and facilitating additional violence.” The House passed the joint resolution with a voice vote. DDT signed the resolution after he had a talk with the only GOP black senator, Tim Scott (R-SC). (Two of the GOP House members are black.) According to DDT, he told Scott:

“[Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and I] had a great talk yesterday. I think especially in light of the advent of Antifa, if you look at what’s going on there. You have some pretty bad dudes on the other side also, and essentially that’s what I said.”

DDT’s use of “other side” for people opposing the neo-Nazis whenever he talks about Charlottesville (VA) begs the question: does he identify with the white supremacists against the “other side”? Called a “white supremacist” by ESPN host Jemele Hill, DDT trashed the network and called for an apology from Hill. At least DDT didn’t go as far as Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) who said that the white supremacists at Charlottesville (VA) were actors hired by liberals to make neo-Nazis look bad.

And there’s more—later!

September 2, 2017

DDT: Week Thirty-two – More Destruction Than Harvey

The cruelty of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) knows no bounds. He campaigned on protecting children brough involuntarily into the United States without documentation, but he threatens to rescind the DACA program that allows them work permits, throwing 800,000 people and their families into turmoil. Even if he keeps the program, he will have tormented millions of people before he announces his decision. DDT told recipients that he would “deal DACA with heart,” to “rest easy.” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), facing a strong opponent in 2018 and suffering from town hall criticism, now supports DACA despite his long time opposition to the program.

DDT ignored the suffering of people in Hurricane Harvey to tout his new tax plan. His speech in Springfield (MO) had no details, but he praised its simplicity, corporate tax cuts (already lower in actuality than most countries), “tax relief for middle class families” (which it won’t do), and “the American model” while brings back money from overseas by extremely low taxes). The last “repatriation” of overseas profits during George W. Bush’s first term resulted in accelerated mergers, increased dividends, and wealthier company executives—but no jobs. DDT told House representatives to write the bill and knows nothing except the wealthy—including DDT—will benefit. The GOP’s only goal is cutting taxes for the wealthy and corporations while slashing all programs for almost all people in the U.S.

Only nine percent of people said corporations paid too much in taxes, while 67 percent said they paid too little. A Bloomberg poll found that under five percent of Americans believe tax policy is the “most important issue facing the country” — less than half the percentage that picked climate change. And that was before Hurricane Harvey.

With daughter Ivanka’s advice, DDT has dumped a rule requiring businesses with over 100 employees report salaries for different genders and races. Without this rule, people will lack an evidence-based foundation to address pay discrimination.

About 4.2 million workers, most of them women and people of color, lose overtime pay after a Texas judge overturned a labor rule doubling the 2004 time-and-a-half overtime salary threshold to $47,476 a year. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta and DDT promised to protect U.S. workers, but Acosta indicated that he won’t support the $47,476 threshold.

Acosta has filed a proposal in court to postpone the “judiciary rule” for an additional 18 months so that brokers can cheat clients. If the court agrees, brokers can give advice that benefits only themselves, costing retirement savers billions of dollars annually in high fees and commissions.

Local law enforcement will be re-militarized with free bayonets, grenade launchers, tanks, weaponized aircraft, explosives, and other martial equipment which the DOJ found “inflamed tensions” and violated constitutional rights. Police officers will all look like the armed guards from the counterterrorism squad protecting the South Hampton wealthy listening to Bach at the musical festival and other galas, including a benefit for the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. No terrorism threat but the heavily armed guards may draw attacks to these events like bees to honey.

Montana is a model of sanity in militarized law enforcement. Democratic Governor Steve Bullock signed a Republican-sponsored bill, passed with bipartisan support, that blocks state and local police departments from obtaining the militarized equipment. Police can request other kinds of military surplus after they notify the public within 14 days of doing so.

One place that needs protection is Jewish-themed locations.  Over two-dozen anti-Semitic incidents occurred throughout the nation in the two weeks after white supremacists marched on Charlottesville and DDT gave license to anti-Semitism.

In his continued effort to sabotage the Affordable Care Act, DDT cut funding for its outreach by 90 percent. Funding for “navigators,” organizations helping people sign up for health insurance, is also cut by 41 percent.

The State Department closed the San Francisco Russian consulate and trade annexes in Washington and New York. An official said that Washington’s goal is to improve relations with Moscow. Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov has promised “retaliation.” All non-immigrants in Russia had been suspended between August 23 and September 1, and visa operations at U.S. consulates are suspended indefinitely. Black smoke coming from the SF location on a 105-degree day indicates destruction of something.

“A Renewed Call to Action,” a 2014 White House report on sexual violence, was taken off the government website, just as materials about climate change and LGBT rights were removed after DDT’s inauguration. A copy is still available here.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wants to use diplomacy with North Korea, and DDT had wanted one-on-one talks with Kim Jong-Un. This week, however, DDT tweeted, “Talking is not the answer!” Either the entire U.S. is headed for a huge disaster, or, as Tillerson has said, DDT speaks for himself. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis must believe that: he told reporters after DDT’s tweets that “[w]e’re never out of diplomatic solutions.”

Reports that Mueller’s investigation has help from the IRS’s Criminal Investigations unit that focuses “exclusively on financial crime, including tax evasion and money laundering” led DDT to continue his smear of former FBI Director James Comey. Less than 40 minutes after Fox & Friends discussed the topic, DDT tweeted that Comey “exonerated Hillary Clinton long before the investigation was over” in a “rigged system.” People knowledgeable about Comey’s investigation refuted DDT’s accusation. The tweet about being too soft on Clinton follows the letter accusing Comey of being too hard on Clinton in DDT’s excuse to fire Comey.

In response to an article on a previous letter firing Comey that White House counsel considered too “problematic,” Rick Gage responded, “I feel like we are in the middle of a Tom Clancy novel, except that Mr. Clancy respects fiction too much to write something this absurd.” Robert Mueller reportedly has a draft of that letter.

DDT is violating the Hatch Act stopping all executive employees except president and vice-president from campaign activities. Ben Carson was introduced as “the secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development” at DDT’s campaign rally in Phoenix. Then DDT read a speech campaigning against Sen. Claire McCaskill written by executive employees. Presidential ad-libbing is acceptable, but executive branch employees’ writing campaign speeches is not.

More leaks from DDT-world describe his losing his temper with anyone around him because of his failures regarding Hurricane Harvey and Charlottesville (VA) response highlighted by the media. DDT was furious at the lack of loyalty after Gary Cohn’s criticism about DDT’s support for white supremacists and about Tillerson’s disagreement with DDT. The small—and sometimes disinterested crowd—at the Phoenix rally also raised DDT’s ire. DDT proudly announced he was speaking to a packed house in Phoenix, but other photos—the ones that were not photoshopped indicated differently.

New chief of staff, 67-year-old John Kelly, has received much of DDT’s fury. Kelly told staff members that he had not had this treatment in his 35 years of serving the nation and would not tolerate it. DDT did the same thing to Paul Manafort when he tried to control him and hates John Kelly’s management of him because of its structure. DDT loyalists call Kelly “the church lady” because of his rule enforcement and position as gatekeeper with no more drop-ins. Kelly hasn’t prevented DDT’s Fox binge-watching, but he has fired Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka, and Anthony Scaramucci who gave DDT printouts from conservative media. Others are on their way out. Telephone calls now go through the White House switchboard, and Kelly listens in—which doesn’t go well with DDT. All reports, memos, and news articles are supposedly vetted before DDT gets them.

Roger Stone, a former DDT advisor said, that “Kelly is trying to treat the president like a mushroom. Keeping him in the dark […] is not going to work.” [A television pundit also pointed out that mushrooms are fed sh*t.]

DDT’s lies about his “wall” are building confusion. He claims it will make the nation safer from the Mexican “criminals” but that illegal border crossings have been stopped by 78 to 81 percent. He’s wrong on all counts: Mexico won’t pay for the wall, it won’t stop drugs from coming into the U.S., and DDT made up his statistics. Why does DDT want a wall if he’s already blocking the crossings?

According to Washington Post fact checkers last week, DDT made 1,057 false or misleading claims in his first seven months, about five a day. He repeatedly takes credit for events or decisions made before his inauguration, such as his claim about the extra money pouring into the military at his “strategy” speech this past week. One of his big lies is that President Obama wire tapped the Trump Tower. The DOJ just debunked that lie, stating that there is no evidence to support DDT’s claim.

DDT’s approval rating among people aged 18-29 has reached a new low of 20 percent, according to Gallup which also put him at 34 percent approval generally. Newsweek called the “least popular president ever,” and Time said “that he could become the least popular president in modern history.”

Today DDT tried a do-over in Harvey territory by shaking hands, kissing children, passing out meals, and talking to people. Then he talked about how happy the people were and how “beautiful” the disaster was. “It’s been a wonderful thing,” he said. “Have a good time, everybody!” he told people at the shelter in the convention center. Nothing about the 44+ people who died, the 136,000+ houses destroyed, the places still underwater, the lack of food and water, the danger from polluted Superfund sites, etc. It’s three days until DDT will probably destroy the lives of hundreds of thousands of DACA immigrants.

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