Nel's New Day

April 18, 2017

DDT’s Missing Tax Returns, More IRS Info

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 7:24 PM
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Your federal income tax payment is due today, April 18. Technically, April 15 is the legal deadline, but not when that date is on a weekend. Then the date is pushed back because of Emancipation Day, the anniversary of freeing slaves and celebrated only in Washington, D.C. on April 16 every year. Its public employees had April 17 off because the 16th was on a weekend so taxes were then due on April 18. Taxpayers in Maine and Massachusetts don’t have to pay state taxes until tomorrow because of Patriots’ Day, a legal holiday celebrated on the third Monday in April, but their federal taxes are still due today.

April 15 was still a day of protest. In the past, Tea Party members led small groups to oppose payment of taxes for all the government benefits that they receive. This year, opposition came from people representing the 74 percent of the population who want Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) to release his tax returns. DDT may have ignored North Korea in his weekend tweets, but he addressed the marches in 200 cities and at least 48 states with at least 120,000 people. The number was probably much higher than that because several cities undercounted its crowds. Seattle and Washington, D.C. each numbered at least 25,000. DDT’s response was that he didn’t need to release his returns because he had already won the election, trying to cover up the continuing ramifications of his massive financial connections including collusion with Russia. He called the marches “small” and accusing the protesters of being “paid.”

The myths of small crowds and paid protesters began with the National Women’s March and the airport protests over Trump’s first Muslim ban during his first two weeks in office and continued for every gathering. Last February, Breitbart started the lie that George Soros is funding the protest movement.

Even hundreds of protesters marched at Mar-a-Lago where DDT vacationed for the seventh of 13 weekends since his inauguration brought out hundreds of people. His trips have cost taxpayers more than President Obama’s trips over his entire eight years, and Palm County (FL) alone has been charged $2 million for his trips. They chanted “Pay! Your! Taxes!” and waved signs calling him “Chicken in Chief” because of DDT’s shift in 40 years by refusing to release his returns. “Chicken Don” symbols replaced the women’s march pussy hats.

Debbie Wehking, a 66-year-old a school principal from Miami, said:

 “He needs to show us his tax returns so that we can tell who’s influencing his decisions, who he owes money to, who he’s doing business with — really so we can figure out whether he needs to be impeached.”

DDT was forced to take a longer route to his golf club to avoid the crowds. In Washington, D.C. a sign stated, “My taxes pay for your golf.” His claim that he cannot release his tax returns no longer holds any water because this is a new return. Also, presidents and vice presidents are automatically audited every year but still made public. In another opaque movement, DDT will no longer release White House visitor logs.

Republicans like Oregon’s representative Greg Walden claim that DDT should have his privacy. Others say that it doesn’t matter or that no one cares contradicted by the marches. Over one million people have already signed this petition.

Last year, individuals paid 49 percent of all federal tax revenues with businesses paying only nine percent of the $3 trillion. Worker and employer payroll taxes, commonly called Social Security and Medicare, account for another 33 percent, and another 3 percent comes from excise taxes with the last five percent labeled as “other.” Business taxes were down from an average of 14 percent last year, and huge corporations like GE and PG&E may pay absolutely nothing. Up to 118 individual breaks benefit companies and the wealthy by almost $1.15 trillion, and 80 corporate breaks net them $185.2 billion.

Technically, the federal corporate income tax is 35 percent, which the GOP wants to drop by over 50 percent. Yet the average taxation for 258 profitable Fortune 500 firms over eight years was 21.2 percent, and 100 of them paid zero taxes in at least one of those years. For example, major polluter North Carolina-based Duke Energy netted $18.2 billion in those eight years and paid no taxes for seven of them while getting $482 billion rebates. That makes their tax rate a minus 2.6 percent.

At least 23 percent of income taxes go to the military, not counting veterans benefits, debt from earlier wars, etc. Yet only 22 percent for this amount is for pay and benefits; almost half of military taxes go to multinational corporations making billions in profits. Domestic needs such as education and the safety net get far less money. [visual] For example, in 2015 taxpayers gave just one corporation, Lockheed Martin, $36 billion, 80 percent of its entire revenues. That money was six times the amount for all foreign aid in 2016.

How government spends your taxes:

  • Defense: 15 percent, not counting veterans benefits and almost 50 percent higher than 20 years ago. [visual]
  • Health care: 13 percent.
  • Interest payments: 6 percent, because of the $20 trillion in national debt largely caused since the George W. Bush tax cuts and wars.
  • Income security: 13 percent, including retirement and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families at its lowest level since 1998.
  • Benefits for veterans: 5 percent for 22 million veterans.
  • Education: 3 percent.
  • Social security: 24 percent.
  • Medicare: 15 percent.
  • Foreign aid: under 1 percent.
  • Other: Under 5 percent, including crop subsidies, space travel, highway repairs, and national parks.

Republicans want to eliminate many of the programs above, but they would be hurting their own constituents. GOP-managed states, aka red states, typically get more federal money back than they send to Washington. Nine of the 11 states that get more than $2 back for every dollar sent to Washington, D.C. are red, and eight of the ten states most dependent on federal funding are red. South Carolina, the queen of federal welfare, gets the most money: for every $1 that the state pays in federal taxes, it receives $7.87. One legislator said, “If you shut down 25 percent of all the federal dollars coming into South Carolina, the economy of South Carolina would collapse.” The federal $59.4 billion sent to South Carolina in 2014 was nine times the state’s annual General Fund budget. South Carolina was ranked the eighth most dependent state in Social Security payments. The state also has the ninth highest level of poverty with almost 28 percent of its children living in poverty along with a horrible health care system, bad public schools, climate-changing coal fired plants with no regulations, lower drinking water standards and other ways to damage its residents.

Only one of the least-dependent ten states, those receiving less money from the federal government that it sends, is red. In short, the lower the financial benefit of federal government in a state, the more likely it is to vote for federal government.

The practice of sending more federal money to Southern states than the government receives is an inheritance from the 20th century when that region voted Democrat, and senior members of Congress sent federal money to their states with contracts, projects, and installations. The other part of the equation is the extreme poverty in those areas. The need for a “safety net” in red states requires hundreds of billions of dollars annually to help the neediest because their own states won’t provide aid.

GOP-controlled red states belie the fantasy that cutting taxes drives growth. Blue states accomplish growth from investments in education, infrastructure, urban quality of life, and human services. These states have nine of the 10 top-ranked universities in the country, the highest median household income in nine of ten states, the greatest generation of technological innovation, and the highest average life expectancy. Despite globalization, local conditions of education, research and development, and promotion of idea exchange and talent development are vital. North Dakota’s oil helped its economy, but it looks more like Saudi Arabia than Silicon Valley. Hubs of “blueness” like Austin (TX) can exist in red states, but are forced to fight against government repression of wage rules and public investments.

Possibilities for blue states? A Bluexit (“Bloo-ksit”) along the lines of Brexit, the British exit from the European Union. If red states want only the U.S. military, paper currency, and the national anthem determined at the federal level, blue states can keep its resources to build up its cities and states.

Happy Tax Day!

October 3, 2016

Trump Supporters Love Him for His Dishonesty

Donald Trump’s tax returns have been a recurring discussion for almost a year, but the conversation hit a new high after last week’s debate. After Hillary Clinton brought up her opponent’s refusal to disclose his tax returns, he made the flippant statement, “That makes me smart.” The Washington Post reporter attending the debate heard the comment, “That’s offensive. I pay taxes.”

Even more outrage was expressed after it was learned that Trump may avoid paying taxes for almost two decades on earnings of $50 million a year because he declared a loss of almost $1 billion on his 1995 income tax returns. No one admits to providing the New York Times with this information, but no denials of accuracy have been issued by Trump and his associates at that time although Trump said that this information was “illegally obtained.”

Surrogates have praise Trump for not paying any federal income taxes. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani called him a genius for this avoidance although Giuliani has said some other very odd things. The mayor of New York at the time of the 9/11 attacks said that terrorists had not attacked the United States until Barack Obama became president. Giuliani also slammed Hillary Clinton for her husband’s affairs and then covered for his own and those of Trump by saying “everyone does it.” How can a genius lose almost $1 billion in such a short time?

New Jersey Chris Christie described the release of Trump’s tax return as “actually a very, very good story” for the Trump campaign. In an on-going lawsuit about the political closure of the George Washington Bridge, both prosecutors and lawyers for the defendants claim that Christie approved the action during the closure, and a defendant has sworn under oath that Christie was told at the time that the bridge was ordered closed.

Republicans have long described people who don’t pay taxes as parasites and worse. For example, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) described people who didn’t pay taxes as “takers” as compared to the “makers,” and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney talked about the “47 percent.” Trump is a member of Ryan’s “takers.”

A far more serious problem than Trump not paying taxes, however, is the revelation of Trump as a failure as a businessman during the booming economy of the 1990s through mismanaging three Atlantic City casinos, investing in an airline company, and purchasing Manhattan’s Plaza Hotel. He’s running on his boast that he’s brilliant in business and creating jobs and then declares a loss of $916 million—about $1.5 billion in today’s dollars. Either the jobs that Trump claims to have created disappeared, or he refused to pay the people he hired.

In his declared loss of $916 million,Trump also destroyed investors when share holders lost almost the entire value as shares dropped from $35.50 to 17 cents. The only winner was Trump, who could use “net operating losses” to cancel out any taxable income for the next 18 years. With a good—and expensive—lawyer, Trump can also stiff everyone he owes by declaring bankruptcy and “reorganizing” his debts. Trump bought buildings and businesses with borrowed money and then deducted interest paid on the debt and took depreciation deductions while his real estate appreciated in value. He’s right that the system is rigged, and it’s rigged in his favor.

The question swirling the internet is how Trump managed to lose $916 million in 1995, a year when the average loss among millionaires was $614,000. One theory is that he didn’t lose the money. John Hempton, an Australian hedge fund manager and former expert on tax avoidance for the Australian Treasury, theorized that Trump “parked” the debt from his bankruptcies in a dummy party offshore where it was neither collected nor officially forgiven. No one has denied this theory either.

There’s support for Hempton’s theory in how little Trump actually lost in the early 1990s. An analysis of financial reports from Trump’s businesses shows far less than the $916 million that he supposedly lost. Trump lost about $13 million from THCR (Trump Hotels, Casinos, Resorts) in a few years. He also sold the Plaza Hotel to Saudi and Asian investors for $325 after buying it for $400 million, but he may not have had any loss in the sale. The purchasers assumed $440 million in debt in addition to the purchase price, making Trump’s total closer to $765 million. In addition, banks wrote down Trump’s loan in order to make sure the sale went through. All this for a hotel that Trump never owned because he put no money down on it. The loans against the Plaza paid for Eastern Air Lines Shuttle and the construction of the Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City.

Another fact detracting from the people’s belief in Trump’s business acumen is that he lost $800 million last year, reducing his assets to $3.7 billion. To all of us, that sounds like a lot of money, but he lost almost 20 percent of all his assets in one year. People who admire him should consider what would happen to their own lives if they lost 20 percent of their own assets in one year.

People who want Trump’s business model for the United States don’t understand that his system doesn’t work for a country that borrows money from other countries. The end result could be that all those other countries will then own the U.S.

“We are going to protect our steel industries.” That’s what Trump told an audience today, but he bought steel and aluminum in two of his three construction projects from China during the past four years. At other times, he skipped the steel and bought less-expensive concrete from companies linked to the Luchese and Genovese crime families. These projects were not for public companies so his decision was made to line the pockets of himself and his family. Buying from China is nothing new for Trump: that’s where all the suits and ties for Trump’s Signature line are made. He also lied about not being able to buy this clothing in the U.S.

Trump also faces grim problems regarding the Trump Foundation. It was bad enough when facts emerged that he was using the charitable group, with donations totally for other people, as a personal slush fund to bail him out of lawsuits and purchase personal items. Surrogates had no defense for Trump’s actions because they immediately pivoted to talking about the Clinton Foundation—that has no illegal issues—when asked about the Trump’s foundation.

The most recent concern is that the foundation never got New York registration and annual auditing to allow it to operate as a large (over $25,000 a year) foundation. The Trump Foundation took in at least $1.67 million through his website. Trump has been told to stop soliciting donations for the Trump Foundation.

In another illegal action, a Trump-controlled company secretly conducted business in Communist Cuba during a time of strict U.S. trade bans. The $68,000 spent in 1998 was prohibited without U.S. approval although the company, with Trump’s knowledge, funneled the money through a U.S. consulting firm that tried to make the expenses legal by linking it after the fact to charity. Just after this foray into Cuba, Trump told Cuban-Americans that he promised to maintain the embargo and never spend any money in Cuba while Fidel Castro.

Every time Trump opens his mouth, he says something offensive. Today the man who dodged the draft with a possible temporary bone spur charged that soldiers who suffer from PTSD aren’t “strong” and “can’t handle it.” This harsh rhetoric from Trump pairs with his statement that prisoners of war aren’t heroes because, as he put it, “I like people who weren’t captured.” He’s also bragged that attending an expensive prep school gave him “more training militarily than a lot of the guys that go into the military.”

A letter defending Trump published in a large Oregon newspaper today presented these claims of superiority over Clinton as facts: he’s created multiple companies and hired tens of thousands of workers; he supports the military; and he’s fact-checked when Clinton isn’t. One word about the letter, in Trump’s terminology:  WRONG.

People who write letters should research their subject matter. In the area of business, the author avoids all the facts about Trump’s fraud, bankruptcy for personal benefit, support for overseas companies by buying from them, theft from his own charity, financial destruction of people who invest in his companies, and lies about his success. Trump has shown no support for the military by denigrating members of the military and refusing to give them donations that he pretended to solicit for people in the armed services. In the matter of fact-checking, the letter’s author skips over all the fact-checking of Clinton that has shown her to be the most truthful candidate in the last decade.

This article covers many of Trump’s scandals, but his supporters will never read it.They  live in a bubble that allows them to justify all his illegal actions and maintain their fantasy image of a strong man who will protect his followers. They’re wrong, but they can’t face the truth.

September 8, 2016

‘Special Treatment’ for Hillary Clinton

Last night’s precursor of the presidential debates shows the importance of a good moderator. Matt Lauer isn’t one. He started by grilling Hillary Clinton on her emails—taking up a full one-third of her time—that he could have used for issues such as military strategy, leadership goals, policy positions, etc. When he finally got around to the subject of the townhall—national security and veterans issues—he hurried her through her answers by interrupting her, something he didn’t do once to Trump. She was limited in discussing policy while Trump was permitted to lie without confrontation and then spend much of his time in generalities such as defining his qualifications to be commander-in-chief as having “good judgment” and “common sense.” MSNBC should be embarrassed about this debacle; it felt much like a performance on the Fox network.

Trump’s major position in protecting the country is that it has bad generals, “reduced to rubble” to be specific. Trump’s plan to defeat ISIS: he already has a plan. But then he said he’ll tell his top generals to create a plan. Which is it? And he’ll do it in 30 days. George W. Bush said “Mission Accomplished” 40 days after he invaded Iraq, and the U.S. is still in a quagmire there. Trump is also under the misguided impression that he can change all the generals to those who agree with him, but he doesn’t appoint them. He may nominate them, but the Senate has to approve his appointments.

Russian president, Vladimir Putin, is better than Obama, Trump said, because Putin’s approval ratings are higher. Throughout the townhall Trump had nothing bad to say about Putin and nothing good to say about the U.S. president. Lauer also failed to point out that dictators typically have high approval ratings.

Trump claims that he’s studying policy but excuses himself from knowing anything by saying, “I’m campaigning, I’m running a business, I’ve got a lot of hats right now.” Trump doesn’t want to remove women from the military, but he blames the high number of sexual assaults in the military on the fact that men and women are serving again. Trump is unaware that 53 percent of these assaults in 2012 were of men and almost entirely by men. Over half the assaults in 2015 were still of men. Lauer appeared totally unaware of this information.

Lauer’s introductory question to Trump was what he had done to be commander-in-chief. He answered, “Well, I’ve built a great company. I’ve been all over the world.” Then he proceeded to lie about opposing the Iraq War from the beginning and the U.S. intervention in Libya that overturned late dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Lauer failed to point out that Trump initially supported the Iraq War and called on the U.S. to intervene—leaving the audience with the idea that Trump was being truthful. By the finish, Lauer had failed to ask Trump about his dodging the draft, ridiculing POW Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), smearing a Gold Star family, comparing experience in prep school to serving in the military, calling on Russia to hack Clinton’s email server, and bragging about getting a Purple Heart because a soldier gave Trump his medal. Nor did Lauer ask about the affect that a Muslim ban would have on potential ISIS terrorism in the U.S. This in a discussion about national security and veterans affairs in front of an audience of veterans.

In the past, journalists believed that the truth had value. Now their position is that political candidates lie however they want with no questioning. Chris Wallace, moderator of the October 19 presidential debate, said, “I do not believe it is my job to be a truth squad.” Lauer also showed his inability to handle Trump. Although he told the candidates to not be negative, Trump spent over half his time attacking Clinton and President Obama—perhaps because he doesn’t know anything about being a commander-in-chief. Lauer also failed to gather any specifics from Trump.

Trump has spent several months saying that he can’t release his tax returns because he’s being audited, despite his statement that the years 2002-2008 are no longer being audited. (Of course, no one knows for sure that any of his tax returns are being audited.) Then he switched to saying that it would be “irresponsible” to do that. The most recent statement before last night was that “I think people don’t care. I don’t think anybody cares, except some members of the press.” Actually, the man who follows polls so closely should know that 74 percent of the people think he should release them—including 62 percent of the Republicans. Even his running mate, Mike Pence wants him to make the returns public.

Last night, Trump tried a different tack. He’ll release them “immediately” if Clinton makes public personal emails that were deleted years ago. He also said that no one in business would delete emails although that’s exactly what his business did several years ago when he brought a lawsuit ten years ago.

“If we would have taken the oil, you wouldn’t have ISIS,” Trump said last night. He suggested that the way to defeat ISIS is to “take the oil.” Asked how to do that, he said:

“Well, you—you just, you would leave a certain group behind. And you would take various sections where they have the oil. People don’t know this about Iraq, but they have among the largest oil reserves in the world.”

So Trump’s plan is to pillage a country of all resources after the U.S. idea has invaded it.

Trump has long valued Russia and Putin over the United States and President Obama, but he went over the edge in a townhall meeting on national security when he talked about his experiences at the his first classified briefing—after he talked about the dangers of Clinton’s emails. He said he was shocked by the way that the briefers disdained his political opponent and the current president and finished by saying, “Our leaders did not follow what they were recommending.” With this massive breach of ethics, concerns about giving Trump classified information were accurate. This is the first time that a presidential candidate has politicized these briefings.

Members of the Trump campaign staff also leaked information about the briefing. For example, it was reported that retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn interrupted the proceedings so much that Chris Christie, also invited by Trump, told him to shut up.

clinton-smileRNC Chair Reince Priebus couldn’t fault Clinton for her statements in last night’s townhall so he complained about—yes!—her not smiling. She answered, “Actually, that’s just what taking the office of President seriously looks like.” Priebus was also wrong: she did smile as this photo shows.

The male moderator at a townhall doesn’t allow the female candidate to address the issues and constantly interrupts her while telling her to hurry up. Then he gives the male candidate easy questions and fails to correct most of the candidate’s lies. The moderator also orders the female not to attack her opponent while asking the male candidate to “keep his attacks to a minimum.” The moderator didn’t limit the male candidate’s constant attacks in any way. And finally the leader of the Republican party complains because she won’t “smile” while talking about serious issues. Might this be called sexism?

Trump may have had a pitiful performance last night in the townhalls, but Gary Johnson, the Libertarian who disaffected Republicans consider as an alternative had a worse morning. When he was asked on Morning Joe about Aleppo, Johnson answered, “What is Aleppo”? The U.S. public may not need to know about Aleppo, but the President of the United States needs to know that Aleppo is the “epicenter” of the Syrian refugee crisis, as Mike Barnicle explained to Johnson. All of Hillary Clinton’s opponents are pathetic, and almost all the “journalists” focus on how she is perceived as not “likable.”

The bar is so low for Donald Trump that he’s admired if he doesn’t drool on his shoes—to quote Democrat Eugene Robinson and Republican Nicole Wallace. That means that Hillary Clinton definitely gets special treatment the way people claim—it’s just that she cannot achieve their high standards no matter the extent of her knowledge and preparation. Trump would have disappeared a year ago, if expectations for him were only one-fourth what they are for Hillary Clinton.

June 3, 2016

Trump, Worse Than What Clinton Said

Hillary Clinton’s speech yesterday about Donald Trump was brilliant, but some of the ideas in Hillary Clinton’s takedown Donald Trump yesterday came directly from Mitt Romney’s speech about Trump just three months ago. “[Trump’s] domestic policies would lead to recession. His foreign policies would make America and the world less safe. He has neither the temperament nor the judgment to be president and his personal qualities would mean that America would cease to be a shining city on a hill,” Romney said. Trump said Clinton lied about what he said, but here is a fact-check on everything she said.

Trump is the man that GOP voters say they support because they think that Hillary Clinton is “unlikeable,” a workaholic, and too friendly. A complaint, not supported, is that she lied about the email and Benghazi issues, yet Trump lies about literally everything–an average of every 41 seconds. Trump charged thousands of dollars for enrollment at “Trump University,” a multilevel marketing scheme instead of a university. No college degree—just information about real estate investing. “Students” were told to ask for credit line increases to pay the $35,000 for the “Trump Gold Elite” package and promised that going into this debt would increase their credit score. Some supposedly experienced real estate investors had never worked in real estate; some had declared bankruptcy in the past; and others just disappeared before the end of the “education.” Documents show the con of the “university” recruiters.

Trump’s lawsuit gained fame after his racist statements about its judge, Gonzalo Curiel. At first Trump called him a Mexican but then toned down his rhetoric to say that he is of “Mexican heritage.” Even so, Trump accused the judge of having a “conflict of interest” because of Trump’s claim that “I’m building a wall.” According to Trump, all judges of Hispanic descent should recuse themselves because of his racist remarks.

Curiel was actually born in Chicago and has been on the hit list of a Mexican drug cartel. Trump also referred to Curiel as a “hater” and “a very biased and unfair judge,” despite Curiel’s courtesy to Trump in postponing his trial until November 28, after the general election. Trump used President Obama’s appointment of Curiel in other attacks on him, but the judge started his judicial career as a GOP appointment by California’s governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006.

Although some GOP Latinos are hoping for a shift in Trump’s racist campaign, Ruth Guerra, the RNC’s Hispanic media communications director, left her job for a super PAC because of her inability to defend Trump. Conservative strategist Ana Navarro said, “If you’re a Hispanic holding your breath and hoping for Donald Trump to get better in his outreach to Latinos, you’re going to die of asphyxia.” In a news conference this week, Trump singled out two Hispanic network television reporters for criticism, calling ABC’s Tom Llamas a “sleaze” and CNN’s Jim Acosta “a real beauty.” Trump started his campaign by calling Mexican immigrants “rapists,” “criminals,” and “killers.” Last month he attacked New Mexico’s GOP Gov. Susanna Martinez, the only female Hispanic governor in the nation, for being  lazy and ineffectual. Today, 84 percent of Hispanics have an unfavorable view of Trump compared to only 50 percent who held the same view of Mitt Romney four years ago.

In an even more bizarre twist today, Trump pointed to a supporter in the Redding (CA) audience and said, “Look at my African-American over here.”

Hispanics aren’t the only people on Trump’s hit list. A few of his terms for women are “bimbo, dog, and fat pig” as shown in this anti-Trump ad released by a GOP PAC last March. Clinton has been falsely accused of calling Monica Lewinsky, but she her only description of Lewinsky was a “narcissistic loonie toon.”

Trump’s involvement in at least 3,500 state and federal legal actions shows that litigation is his favorite method of “negotiation”:

  • Trump as plaintiff – 1,900 cases;
  • Trump as defendant  – 1,450 times;
  • Bankruptcies or other big business court filings – 150 times;
  • Casinos – 1,700 times;
  • Personal injuries – 700 times;
  • Real estate disputes plus government and taxes – 465 times;
  • Trump University, Miss Universe, and libel suits – 55 times;
  • Dismissed or discontinued cases – 500;
  • Trump wins – 450 cases;
  • Settled – 175 cases;
  • New cases filed since Trump formally announced his candidacy – 70.

Trump refuses to release his tax returns, but he could be into debt for as much $1 billion to the German Deutsche Bank that has been long-time fighting the U.S. regarding regulations. The bank had to pay $2.5 billion fine for rigging interest rates and reached multiple settlements for price fixing metals. His ambiguous financial statement lists 16 loans from 11 different creditors, five unpaid ones worth $50 million or more. His income may be dropping: bookings for his hotels have dropped by 60 percent. Trump has pledged to repeal the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

Trump’s claim that he raised $6 million for veterans, including his own $1 million donation, after refusing to participate in a Fox debate failed to show donations to these groups until the Washington Post asked about the money this past week. His excuse was that he was demanding tax information from the groups—the same information that he won’t provide to the U.S. public. He didn’t raise that $6 million, he hadn’t donated $1 million, and he didn’t donate the money to veterans.

Trump’s over 500 businesses listed in a personal financial disclosure form filed with the FEC creates a massive conflict of interest for Trump. Unelected officials working in the executive branch cannot collect income from outside businesses and participate in government decisions affecting private financial interests, but congressional members, federal judges, the vice-president, and the president are exempt from this restriction. Many Trump businesses are in countries that oppose the candidate’s personal foreign policy such as Dubai, Qatar, and China, and he operates businesses in Azerbaijan, Brazil, Egypt, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Israel, Philippines, South Africa and Turkey.

Trump said that his children would run the Trump business affairs if he is elected. But the closeness of the three to Trump could still represent a conflict of interest, and Trump is known for frequently reversing his declarations, calling them a “suggestion” rather than an intent. Trump has already used his victory speeches for infomercials regarding his water, wine, and steaks. An elected Trump could turn the White House into a Wal-Mart, as Timothy O’Brien wrote in Bloomberg. 

Yesterday, Trump completed his takeover of the GOP after House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) quietly announced in his small-town newspaper that he would be voting for Trump as president.  Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman wrote, “Speaker Paul Ryan endorses nominee who wants to ban Muslims from the country. The hostile takeover of the GOP is now complete.” Washington Post called it “a sad day for Ryan—and for America.” GOP politicians who  can’t bring themselves to praise him come up with such statements as “it is what it is” (Marco Rubio), “he will help turn the House GOP’s agenda into laws” (Ryan). Former House majority leader Eric Cantor, said, “He’s a businessman . . . [but] he’s been on so many sides of every issue that you never know.” Wikipedia gives a list of “endorsements,” but many of these people are just resigned to vote for Trump. Yet many of the worst GOP leaders have expressed ambivalence about Trump support. Pundits have come up with a new term for these non-endorsers—SINOs or Supporters in Name Only.

As bad as the GOP leaders are in their support of Trump, voters following him are worse. Victor Vizcarra, 45, is representative of this mindless mindset looking for excitement when he said he chose Trump after Sanders because a Clinton administration would be “boring.” He continued:

 “A dark side of me wants to see what happens if Trump is in. There is going to be some kind of change, and even if it’s like a Nazi-type change, people are so drama-filled. They want to see stuff like that happen. It’s like reality TV. You don’t want to just see everybody be happy with each other. You want to see someone fighting somebody.”

And maybe a few nuclear explosions! People who want to think that Vizcarra is an anomaly are wrong. More and more, voters want to send their rage-filled message and experience the rush of craziness in “reality” shows like as Survival. They don’t care that their frantic search for entertainment in politics will lead the U.S. into the abyss.

Marty Kaplan wrote:

“Hillary Clinton has a presidential temperament. Her script promises stability. If the choice in November is between “’The Apprentice’ Goes to Washington” and “The Progressive Who Gets Things Done Show,” which one will the audience vote to watch?”

The answer could be really scary.

October 8, 2012

Romney’s Tax Returns Reveal Very Little Truth

Mitt Romney released one year’s tax return, the 2011 filing, a couple of weeks ago. We do know that he paid $1,935,708 in taxes, 14.1 percent, on $13,969,951 in mostly investment income. If he had taken all his deductions, he would have paid between 9 and 10 percent. Earlier, however, he promised that he would pay at least 13 percent; therefore, he didn’t declare his charitable donations as tax deductions.

According to Romney’s position, this action should disqualify Romney from being president. “I don’t pay more than are legally due and frankly if I had paid more than are legally due I don’t think I’d be qualified to become president. I’d think people would want me to follow the law and pay only what the tax code requires,” Romney said when asked in the past about how much he has paid in taxes.

Of course, he can deduct those charitable donations later. If he decides to file an amended return later to declare deductions on these deductions, people will probably not be aware of this.

The tax returns do show that Romney pays a far lower tax rate overseas than he does in this country, 2.4 percent in foreign taxes in 2011 on the $3.5 million he earned abroad. The Wall Street Journal reported that his offshore IRA investments also helped him avoid a little-known tax called the unrelated business income tax that would cost him up to 35 percent. With his wife, Ann, he has an offshore fund is designed to “accommodate qualified non-U.S. investors and U.S. tax-exempt investors,” in other words a tax haven.

What we don’t know is how much he has paid before 2010. We also don’t know how he mis-estimated his 2011 income by $7 million. When he was asked earlier this year about his income, he said he made about $20 million in 2011; the tax return was under $14 million.

We also don’t know how he manages to have at least $82 million in his tax-deferred IRA because tax rules limit contributions into this type of account to $30,000 a year. One way he could have done this is to claim that the stock of his Bain company deals had a very small value, the same thing he could do with gifts to his sons. If he did this, he would suffer serious penalties, but one year’s return cannot reveal the truth because of the lack of transparency in his financial affairs.

Also missing in his returns are foreign bank account reports from his current overseas investments in Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Switzerland, and Luxembourg. The question is whether these were filed on all offshore accounts by the legal deadlines each year and raises the question of whether he was given amnesty in the past for not paying taxes on his Swiss bank accounts. Although we know that many of Romney’s IRA investments are based in foreign countries, we don’t know how much. He valued one account in the Cayman Islands at between $5 million and $25 million. That’s a big range.

Basically, we don’t know what he has lied about on his income tax returns. Considering how fact-challenged he is in his political positions, it would not be a surprise that he would falsify the tax returns.

One piece that Romney’s tax returns reveals is that his trust, which he claims to know nothing about, invested in Cnooc, a Chinese-owned company that tried to buy the American company Unocal in 2005. The purchase was blocked because the merger represented a National Security risk. Possibly in retaliation, the Chinese allowed Cnooc to invest in a 2009 deal with Iran to develop the huge North Pars gas field for an LNG export project, seven months before Romney’s “blind trust” investment. In the U.S., the deal was viewed as part of a worrying effort by China to secure energy interests.

Although the owner of a blind trust supposedly has no knowledge or influence over investments, Romney has said that this is just an “age-old ruse” because he can stipulate investments for this trust. The blind trust made two more investments in Cnooc and then sold all the shares, for a profit of about $11,000, in August of 2011. This was the same time that Romney accused President Obama of not being tough enough on Chinese “cheaters.” Romney’s investment in Cnooc also raises questions about his tough stance against Iran.

The tax returns show that Romney saved at least $850,000 because of his retirement package with Bain Capital that decreased his overall tax bill by a third. Because his capital gains income of $5.5 million flowed through his retirement, he received his payments as “carried interest,” a special tax category for those who actively manage investment funds. The year before, his carried interest was $7.5 million. Taxes on carried interest are 15 percent instead of the standard 35 percent for his income range.

American workers have to pay full taxes on their wages because they don’t have significant investment income. They make far less than Romney while paying proportionately a higher percentage of taxes. Because Romney has revealed only two years of taxes, no one knows how much money he has evaded paying the government.

The real bottom line is that conservatives protecting Romney claim that he shouldn’t be criticized because he’s just following the tax law. In that case, why are they lambasting all those people who don’t pay federal taxes because they make such little money: those people are just following the law.

August 17, 2012

Does Romney Lie about His Tax Returns?

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 6:47 PM
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“Every year, I’ve paid at least 13 percent,” Mitt Romney said reluctantly yesterday after being pressed about his tax rate. At the same time, he won’t release his tax returns.

The interesting part about what he said is what he didn’t say. Nowhere did he use the word “federal” or “income tax.” Journalists asked for his tax rate, and he gave them a number. He also says, “I pay a lot of taxes” and “I pay all the taxes that the law requires.” People pay lots of taxes other than federal income taxes: sales tax, property tax, vehicle tax, capital gains tax, state income tax, etc. Were all these lumped into the 13 percent figure that he gave? Almost every news story about the 13 percent uses the word “federal”; Romney must be very pleased.

Even if the 13 percent is for federal taxes, there are many questions that won’t be answered without a look at the tax returns. How did he get over $1 million in his IRA? What deductions did he take? What offshore tax strategies does he use? Did he disclose his Swiss bank account during all these years? Was he one of the people who took advantage of the IRS’s amnesty for undeclared offshore financial accounts? Why did he use a “tax shelter” in his Houston real estate investment?

Romney calls the concern about his tax returns “small-minded.” He may feel that’s true because  he has what most of the people in the country would consider unlimited funds. It brings up the question—again—of what “ammunition” (to use Ann Romney’s word) would people find in his tax return.

What many people realize is that Romney cannot be trusted to tell the truth. He has consistently lied throughout this entire campaign every time he changes his position to get more voters. He also consistently lies about President Obama’s record, most recently the accusation that the president lied about the U.S. having more coal jobs now than when George W. Bush was president. Romney called on the president to tell the truth; we should call on Romney to do the same thing.

In 2008, Bush’s last year in office, there were 12,445-14,428 underground coal jobs and between 5316-6312 surface jobs throughout the year. The number rose slightly each year until the year 2011 showed 16,290 underground coal jobs and 6046 surface jobs throughout the year. This definitely shows an increase. Romney lies.

The Medicare debate since Romney selected Ryan as his running mate has brought out a number of Romney’s lies. Romney’s health plan eliminates all new benefits for seniors under the Affordable Care Act, bringing negative changes for “current seniors and those 55 and older,” in opposition to what Romney claimed. His claim that his plan will keep Medicare solvent is a bold-faced lie as is his claim that the president’s plan will cause Medicare to go bankrupt. The purpose of President Obama’s Medicare plan is to save money through greater efficiency, something that conservatives used to try to do. Another Romney Medicare lie is that it is a bipartisan effort with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR). Wyden has pointed out himself that this is a blatant lie.

Romney has consistently claimed that President Obama promised “he’d get the unemployment down to under 5.6 percent today if we pass that $1 trillion stimulus package.” First, the stimulus was $200 billion less than Romney’s claim, and second the president never claimed that.

Another false Romney claim is that he won’t raise taxes on small businesses the way that President Obama has done. Once again, Romney should do some fact checking: the president has repeatedly cut taxes for small businesses—some say 18 times—and his tax plan has no effect on 97 percent of small businesses, just those that net over $250,000.

If, by some miracle, Romney is telling the truth, there’s still a huge problem. Why should someone who has over $250 million and earns over $20 million pay 13 percent federal taxes when people who make far, far less pay a much higher percentage? And why should anyone elect someone who would then be able to pay less than 1 percent in federal taxes if he and his party control the country? Ask conservatives that!

July 17, 2012

Republican Politicians Attack Obama

The Mitt Romney campaign is on the ropes and going crazy. The most recent issue is not just a gaffe; it’s a horrible mistake that won’t go away. No one who watches television can have missed the whole whooplaw about Romney’s refusal to release more than the past two years of income tax returns and his attempt to explain that he quit Bain Capital before the company sent jobs to China—except for those jobs in which they cut up aborted fetuses and burned them. I chuckle every time I hear Romney say, “I’ve put out as much as I’ve put out.”

George Will got it right when he said, “The cost of not releasing the returns are clear. Therefore, [Romney] must have calculated that there are higher costs in releasing them.”  He did give a typical conservative answer about making sure that he could hide everything: “I do not know why, given that Mitt Romney knew the day that [John] McCain lost in 2008 that he was going to run for president again that he didn’t get all of this out and tidy up some of his offshore accounts and all the rest.” Will, by the way, is the staunch Republican pundit who stole Jimmy Carter’s questions before the 1980 debate and gave them to his opponent, Ronald Reagan.

The feeding frenzy isn’t going away, despite all the attempts by Romney’s supporters to divert the discussion. Speculation has run rampant through the media. Did he not pay taxes? Or did he make even more money from Bain than we realize?  Or did he have to pay fines? Or did he have even more offshore tax dodges than the ones in Bermuda, the Caymans, and the Swiss bank account? Or would the tax returns  show deductions from “controversial charities” that would turn off his potential voters?

The issue of Bain’s offshoring by sending jobs from its purchased companies to China has paled by comparison, but it’s equally as perplexing. Romney spent three weeks saying that there was nothing wrong with doing this until he calculated the problems from admitting it and told everyone who would listen that he wasn’t at Bain at the time that this happened. On Sunday’s Meet the Press, Ed Gillespie said that Romney decided to “retroactively retire” for the previous years in 2002, not explaining why Romney took money for working while retired. And even now, Romney doesn’t criticize offshoring; he just says that he didn’t do it.

The Olympics situation may add to Romney’s problems. When he was asked how he felt about the clothing for United States’ participants being made in China, he said, “No comment.” Possibly he wanted the entire question to go away because the clothing for the 2002 Winter Olympics torchbearers, the Olympics administered by Romney, were made in Burma, until last year a brutally military regime.

The Republican forces are gathering to protect Romney by attacking President Obama. After the president’s speech talking about how the United States has accomplished important things by working together to build an infrastructure, John Sununu, the former governor of New Hampshire said Obama’s recent defense of public infrastructure shows he “doesn’t understand how America works.” Later Sununu said, “I wish this president would learn how to be an American.”

Another distortion of President Obama’s speech came from his statement that “U.S. policymakers are lazy in creating jobs.” True, but the Republicans are now running television ads that claim the president said, “Americans are lazy.”

Sununu may have gotten more talking points from Rush Limbaugh. “He [Obama] has no idea how the American system functions,” Sununu said on Fox News. “And we shouldn’t be surprised about that, because he spent his early years in Hawaii smoking something, spent … another set of years in Indonesia.”

Limbaugh said Romney should “get down and dirty with Obama” and say:

“Look, pal, when I was out creating jobs, investing in businesses, and growing this economy, you were at Columbia smoking weed and snorting coke. You write about it in your book. You talk about how you got into Columbia and the Harvard Law Review, and you didn’t have to do anything. That’s what was great about it to you! You loved getting into Columbia ’cause all you had to do was go to class, get your grades, and smoke a little weed! Well, I was out building the country when you were doing that.”

I can’t understand what influenced Sununu to accuse President Obama of outsourcing “a major portion of the U.S. space program to the Russians.” FactCheck declared this statement false and explained that George W. Bush set NASA on a path eight years ago to retire the Space Shuttle and rely on the Russians for space travel. It was under President Obama’s charge that the Space Shuttle program ended, but it was George W. Bush who retired the shuttle because the White House refused to give NASA the authority and funds to replace it.

Bush directed NASA to retire the shuttle in 2010 to coincide with the scheduled completion of the space station as part of his plan for NASA that also called for the agency “to conduct the first manned mission no later than 2014,” with the goal of reaching the moon in 2020 and using it as a base for future trips to Mars.

In a 2007 speech at Georgetown University, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said the U.S. may have “no alternative other than to use Soyuz [Russian space craft] for crew transport and rescue.” Bush signed a bill on Sept. 30, 2008, so that Russians would provide transportation to the space station. U.S. astronauts also went to the space station aboard the Soyuz in 2003 after the Columbia disaster caused a suspension of the shuttle program for two years and Edward Lu used Russian transportation. If this is outsourcing, Sununu should have kept quiet because it’s the Republican president who offshored the NASA program.

Even sometimes-reasonable Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, has joined the irrational chorus. Because Republican governors in Utah and Nevada asked the Obama administration for flexibility in the welfare reform law that required adults to either work or participate in a work training program, the president granted flexibility to satisfy their needs. On a voluntary basis, states can now “experiment with ways to improve the number of people making the jump from government assistance to jobs.” On Fox and Friends, Huckabee said:

“It’s basically just a transfer of money from the taxpayer to the government, from the government to people who become beneficiaries of the government, because that way the government can own these people. It is a trap, and it is like the roach motel. Once you get in, but you never get out.”

It’s not the first time that conservatives have compared people needing the safety net to animals. Gabriela Saucedo Mercer, the GOP candidate for Arizona’s District 3, put the following on her website before she hastily removed it.

“The Food Stamp Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is actually proud of the fact it is distributing the greatest amount of free meals and food stamps ever. Meanwhile, the National Park Service, administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior, asks us to ‘Please Do Not Feed The Animals.’ Their stated reason for the policy is because the animals will grow dependent on handouts and will not learn to take care of themselves. This ends today’s lesson.”

Arizona is one of the top two states with food insecure (aka hungry) children; in Arizona 29 percent of the children go to bed hungry each night.

Another Republican disaster today is the release of the first book from the George W. Bush Institute, The 4 Percent Solution: Unleashing the Economic Growth America Needs.  James K. Glassman, executive director of the Bush Institute, said the book states the country can achieve a 4 percent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by extending the Bush-era tax cuts, broadening the tax base by getting rid of special exemptions and loopholes, taxing consumption rather than income, and lowering corporate taxes. With GDP being the market value of all officially recognized final goods and services produced within a country in a given period, it is often considered an indicator of a country’s standard of living.

During the reign of George W. Bush, who wrote the forward for The 4 Percent Solution, the GDP averaged just over 2.3 percent using the ideas promoted in the Bush Institute’s book. Because of the over 30% increase in imports during that time, business investment actually declined relative to GDP despite all the Bush tax breaks. Residential investment, which was almost 35% higher in 2005 than it was in 2000, plummeted to less than 83% of its 2000 level by 2008.

Republicans repeatedly say that President Obama’s policies are ruining the nation. He hasn’t had a chance to put his policies into effect. It’s the conservative Republicans’ policies that keep the GDP from growing as Republicans refuse to provide revenue and send jobs out of the country.

AGR Daily News Service

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