Nel's New Day

April 14, 2018

DDT: Week 64 – Shifting Opinions, More Executive Orders

Another blow to the defense of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) in the Russian investigation is the revelation that his lawyer Michael Cohen was in Prague during the summer of 2016 despite Cohen’s denials. That information shows that the Steele dossier about DDT was not wrong in claiming Cohen’s visit to the city and that he may have taken over for campaign communications with Russia after Paul Manafort was fired by the campaign. Sources maintain that Cohen went to the Czech Republic through Germany so that his passport didn’t need to be stamped.

In his latest attempt to destroy the Affordable Care Act, DDT expanded “hardship exemptions” to the law’s individual mandate by waiving fines for those without insurance to those who say they object to abortion rights. Anyone living in an area where all affordable health plans in the federal exchange provide abortion may apply for an exemption of fees from months that they weren’t covered. This criterion is added to exemptions for being homeless, experiencing domestic violence, and experiencing a family member’s death. The new guideline will not always work in the 26 states that ban marketplace plans from covering abortions, but people living in a county with no or only one insurer can also apply for the exemption. All counties have ACA healthcare plans, but 26 percent of enrollees live in areas with a single insurer on the marketplace.

This weekend was the 8th Summit of the Americas in Lima (Peru), but DDT skipped the event in order to bomb Syria as he hoped to cover up all his scandals. U.S. presidents attended the first seven summits; with a 16 percent approval rate in South America, DDT probably didn’t want to face anyone there. Meanwhile, China is making great investment on the continent, especially Brazil, and President Xi Jinping has been there several times.

DDT got a lot of traction from his supporters by refusing participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Now he changed his mind after the 11 other countries already made their own trade pact. DDT told his trade representative and the new National Economic council Director to examine how the U.S. could get back into the agreement. A tweet after the order made DDT appear to waffle about his demand although it may be one of the few ways to persuade China to back down from its proposed tariffs.

DDT may worsen negotiations with China and upset his supporters by bailing out farmers with a Depression-era program, Commodity Credit Corporation, that can borrow up to $30 billion from the Treasury Department for farmers whose orders from China shrink. History shows the misuse and unfairness of CCC, and it doesn’t stop a trade war. Farmers also fear long term effects when South America becomes more competitive because of unreliability in U.S. supplies, and the U.S. loses its markets. Providing welfare for farmers can result in more trade wars when other countries fight the U.S. at the World Trade Organization. Ad hoc subsidies in the late 1990s and early 2000s led to a year-long dispute with Brazil about U.S. cotton subsidies that resulted in millions of dollars in payment from Washington. The farm bill already pays from $5 billion to $7 billion in welfare to farmers for price and revenue drops as well as subsidizes 62 percent of farmers’ crop insurance premiums. Another $3 billion covers disaster assistance for producers after hurricanes and wildfires last year. The apparel and chemical industries can also be hit with DDT’s trade wars.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month with a declaration from DDT, who bragged about his own sexual assaults, tries to hide those of others, and nominated a Secretary of Education who protects rapists in schools:

“Sexual assault crimes remain tragically common in our society, and offenders too often evade accountability. These heinous crimes are committed indiscriminately: in intimate relationships, in public spaces, and in the workplace. We must respond to sexual assault by identifying and holding perpetrators accountable. Too often, however, the victims of assault remain silent. They may fear retribution from their offender, lack faith in the justice system, or have difficulty confronting the pain associated with the traumatic experience. My Administration is committed to raising awareness about sexual assault and to empowering victims to identify perpetrators so that they can be held accountable. We must make it as easy as possible for those who have suffered from sexual assault to alert the authorities and to speak about the experience with their family and friends.”

Part of the declaration spells “assault” as “assult.”

The U.S. Postal Service is caught in the middle of DDT’s vendetta against Jeff Bezos and History about the USPS shows that Congress, not Amazon, is at the heart of the issue. A nonprofit business, USPS is required to deliver to every home and business in the U.S., and Congress sets is charges and locations of postal office. In 2006, Congress mandates that the USPS prefund retirees’ health benefits up to 2056 at an annual $5 billion cost which creates a “manufactured crisis.” Unlike other delivery services such as FedEx or UPS, the USPS cannot lobby for any changes.

Both UPS and FedEx save money by contracting with USPS to deliver parcels for the rural and most-expensive routes. With mail volumes shrinking, the USPS makes up for the lost revenue in reduced first-class mail by contracting with Amazon and other internet retailers. Federal regulators have determined that the contract between Amazon and the USPS is profitable for the USPS. Striking out at Amazon because of his anger at Jeff Bezos’ Washington Post, DDT issued an executive order for an administration task force, chaired by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, to evaluate he USPS finances and operations with proposed changes.

As for DDT’s criticism about Amazon not charging state sales tax—although it does—DDT’s online store of the Trump Organization charges sales tax only in Florida and Louisiana, not even in New York where the business has a physical presence in violation of the Supreme Court’s ruling in 1992 Quill Corp v. North Dakota ruling to the contrary. The Supreme Court is hearing arguments in a case from South Dakota next week that will decide whether companies will be required to pay sale tax in all states that have sales tax. Ten percent of shopping is now done online.

The Department of Homeland Security is extending DDT’s Big Brother lifestyle in its project “Media Monitoring Services” that establishes a database of journalists. It will include reporters on general media and other “media influences” for searching contact information, professional history, and “sentiment,” permitting intimidation for journalists reporting negative information about political leaders.

Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management and Budget who also took over the Consumer Protection Bureau, is now removing regulatory power from the Treasury Department for his own purview. He is now responsible for reviewing tax regulations before they take effect, including the massive tax break for non-corporate “pass-through” businesses. The new arrangement prevents Treasury from publishing “any tax regulatory action” without his permission. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin lost the argument to keep the 34-year agreement giving his agency the ability to write tax rules and regulations. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) pointed out that “this administration added more bureaucratic red tape to a fundamentally flawed law.”

Much is being said about James Comey’s heroism in declaring his opposition to DDT in his new book Higher Loyalty. Yet Comey, then a Republican, stated that he might have deliberately come out with more accusations of Hillary Clinton emails just ten days before the presidential election in order to influence the outcome. The excuse for Comey and the FBI not revealing its investigation into Russian assistance to DDT’s campaign against Clinton at least six months before the election was the need for the FBI to be apolitical, evidently only true if the person being protected is from the same political party as the investigator. The same cannot be said regarding Robert Mueller, also a Republican.

DDT tweeted today, “Mission Accomplished!” Almost 15 years ago, George W. Bush used the same words on May 2, 2003 before the war slogged on for another 15 years with no resolution. Like Bush’s approach in Iraq, DDT has not identified any mission in Syria. John Bolton wa in the White House only four days before he found some place to bomb.

If the bombing of Syria yesterday has any humor, it comes from Alex Jones, top conspiracy theorist and (former) DDT supporter, who burst into tears and moaned:

“We’ve made so many sacrifices and now he’s crapping all over us. It makes me sick.”

Jones claims that DDT’s administration is “done.”

June 17, 2012

Save the Post Office!

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:13 PM
Tags: , , ,

Is the U.S. Postal Service paying for itself? Conservatives keep saying no, that postal workers should be cut back. Maybe Republicans have stock in UPS and FedEx. Since 1971, the postal service has not taken a dime from taxpayers. All of its operations, including the rconvenience of 32,000 local post offices, are paid for by peddling stamps and other products. So what’s with screaming about the USPS deficit? There isn’t one.

It’s all in the accounting. In 1969 the feds changed to something called a unified budget which included trust funds such as Social Security that had been considered off-budget because they were self-sustaining by a dedicated revenue. At the time of the change, the USPS had been a federal department like the Department of Energy or the Department of Agriculture for the prior 177 years. In fact, the post office is in the Constitution. The next year, 1970, the Department of the Post Office became the U.S. Postal Service.

The change moved the post office from a government entity to something that looks like a private corporation. The move allowed the USPS to borrow for necessary capital investments and gave more flexibility in its expenditures. The provided subsidy was phased out over the next 15 years. By the mid-1980s, the only USPS taxpayer funds, about $100 million a year, subsidizes mail for the blind and official mail to overseas voters. USPS finances were administratively moved off budget in 1974 and legislatively removed in 1989.

No matter what the change in law was, the Congressional Budget Office still treated the USPS as part of the unified budget, the one they use for “scoring” legislation to estimate its impact on the deficit. And no matter how much the USPS had stashed away, the federal government didn’t pay interest on all this money that helped the budget look better. At the same time Congress was able to control everything that USPS does.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) put the Postal Service on its list of “high-risk” programs in 2001 because it seemed to going into the red. One year later the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) found the USPS had been significantly overpaying into its retirement fund. The USPS could be self-sustaining by reducing future payments into the retirement fund and use the existing surplus to cover current expenses. But they weren’t allowed to do this; they still looked as if they were short of money.

Letting the USPS have their money back could increase unified budget deficits by up to $41 billion, about $3.5 billion each year. That’s when Congress rearranged the chairs on the national deficit Titanic. The USPS was allowed to use overpayments to meet its debt and delay decreasing rates for three years. After that overpayments were collected in an escrow fund that is unavailable to the USPS until Congress determines how to use those funds. They also required the USPS to pay pensions for postal workers for the time they spent in prior military service. Until this time, the obligations were paid by the U.S. Treasury. That way Congress managed to take the USPS’s surplus away from them. In essence, the USPS was paying pensions for a time that workers did not work for the USPS.

Even Congress thought that this wasn’t fair and started to pass bills to change back to the earlier system. George W. Bush stopped this process, however, because of its “adverse impact on the Federal budget,” translated into Bush not wanting to give the USPS back its own money.

Congress found a way to seemingly give back the USPS its money in 2006: the USPS could use the escrow money, and pension obligations for military service was transferred back to the U.S. Treasury. But the USPS money stayed in Bush’s budget because the USPS was required to make 10 annual payments of between $5.4 billion and $5.8 billion into the newly created Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund. This law required the Postal Service to pre-fund 100 percent of its entire future obligations for 75 years of health benefits to its employees within ten years. The USPS couldn’t use any of this money for actual retiree health benefits during those 10 years. There was no justification for this annual amount other than it would pay back the money that had been in the escrow account. And the government didn’t give them any interest.

Therefore the USPS isn’t broke; in fact, it made a profit the year before the 2006 law took effect. The USPS just can’t access its money because this would make the budget look worse than it already does. Part of the solution is to give the money back to the USPS and make payments into the health fund based on actuarial statistics. Another part of it is to lift the prohibition on the USPS offering non-postal services such as issuing licenses (e.g. drivers, hunting, fishing, etc.) or contracting with local and state agencies to provide services. The USPS could make more money if Congress lifted the prohibition on its shipping wine and beer.

The French post office offers banking and insurance services. From 1911 to 1967 the U.S. Post Office successfully and profitably ran a nationwide postal savings bank. The Swedish post office will physically deliver email correspondence to people who are not online.

Congress wants to break another union by laying off more than 200,000 workers and then privatize another government function. At this time, the 574,000 USPS workers comprise the second largest civilian workforce in the nation; USPS is a Fortune 500 company. These workers are not employed by the government. Losing union rights would mean cutting salaries, removing health care, taking away pensions, and moving to part-time workers who would have even fewer rights. It’s a movement to slave labor. Privatization would continue the downward slide away from a country that has a substantial middle-class.

In a radio interview with Alan Minsky of KPFK, economist Michael Hudson observed,

“The pretense is that privatization is more efficient. But privatizers add on interest and financial fees, high executive salaries and bonuses, and turn the roads into toll roads and other infrastructure into neofeudal fiefdoms to charge monopolistic access fees for people to use. This is what has happened in Chicago when it sold off its sidewalks to let bankers finance parking meters in exchange for a loan. Chicago needed this loan because the financial lobbyists demanded that it cut taxes on commercial real estate and on the rich. So the financial sector first creates a problem by loading the economy down with debt. And then ‘solves’ it by demanding privatization sell-offs under distress conditions.”

Anyone who uses private mailing knows that it costs a great deal more than the post office. But conservative legislators don’t care: they get free mailing. A good side-affect for conservatives who want to destroy our country’s democracy is that shutting down the post offices will move the casual meeting places for small communities. The less that people get together and talk, the easier they are to control. Control, for conservatives, is their top priority.

The next time you hear someone say that taxpayers are funding the post offices, that post offices aren’t paying their own way, that they are running in the red, that we should fire the workers and privatize the post offices—tell them no!

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