Notes and Comment Blog


We are not Trump’s peons

Dec 4th, 2017 9:16 am | By

Trump’s lawyer thinks Trump is an absolute monarch.

Trump continues to make it chillingly clear that his unceasing attacks upon the system are neither accidental nor a mistake borne of naïvete. Trump believes he commands the government with the same totality he commands his business. His lawyer, John Dowd, has elevated this assumption to official presidential doctrine in an explosive interview with Mike Allen. A “president cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under [the Constitution’s Article II] and has every right to express his view of any case,” he says.

So Trump can do anything he wants to, and no one can stop him. That’s a dictatorship. John Dowd is saying Trump is a dictator.

Dowd is claiming on Trump’s behalf virtual immunity from the law. The powers he is asserting, and the dangers it would bring, have almost no limit.

There are two ways a president could abuse the power of law enforcement. The first is offensive, to direct it as a weapon against his political enemies. The second is defensive, shielding himself and his allies from any accountability, and thereby enabling them to commit crimes without consequence. Trump has expressed frequent interest in both methods. Trump has harangued the FBI and the Department of Justice for failing to prosecute Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server. Clinton’s email server was investigated by the FBI in 2016, but the bureau concluded no rational prosecutor could bring charges. Trump has shown no compunction in asserting his belief that, now that he controls the presidency, if Trump demands the FBI lock somebody up, they should lock her up.

More pertinent to Trump’s needs of the moment is his demand for immunity from any mechanism of legal accountability. Trump does not accept the legitimacy of any legal restraint. He repeatedly demanded the FBI director pledge personal loyalty to him, and fired him when he failed to demonstrate his obsequience* to the president’s satisfaction. He did something similar to the U.S. Attorney in New York, who has legal jurisdiction over much of Trump’s financial world. He has publicly attacked Special Counsel Robert Mueller and threatened, publicly and privately, to fire him.

He seems to think the whole thing is just more The Apprentice, with a wider reach. It would be nice if he had acquired a little knowledge of how our system is supposed to work before running.

It is true, as Trump’s Republican defenders say, that he does not grasp the differences between his role as business owner and his role as elected official. But that is not a defense. It is a restatement of the accusation.

Trump’s belief that the entire government should operate on his personal behalf in exactly the same way as his employees at the Trump Organization is a worldview incompatible with republican government. Imagine the 2020 election conducted in an atmosphere in which Trump can sic law enforcement upon his opponent, and in which his supporters can commit any crimes they want on his behalf, secure in the knowledge that the president will protect them from prosecution.

He has to be gone long before then. Has to. Has to.

*Yo that’s not a real word.



Taking it

Dec 4th, 2017 7:58 am | By

So, Mary Beard and Hillary Clinton, together at last.

Since the Cambridge professor began presenting TV programmes on the Romans nearly a decade ago, she has become world famous, as well as wildly popular for her robust refusal to stand for misogynistic online abuse. Trolls are publicly challenged; one was memorably shamed into taking Beard to lunch to apologise for calling her “a filthy old slut”. Her latest book, Women & Power: A Manifesto, brings an illuminating historical perspective to the contemporary abuse of powerful women.

I have that book. Maureen sent it to me as a surprise.

The pair met briefly four years ago when both received honorary degrees at the University of St Andrews University in Scotland. Beard had been advocating a more combative strategy towards trolls than Michelle Obama’s famous injunction to “go high… when they go low”. The latter having failed to work for Clinton, she and Beard fall at once to discussing how women in public life can deal with misogyny…

Mary Beard What I remember us talking about when we met was the sense that it was extremely important to say: “Hang on a minute, mate, you are not right.” Or: “Please take this tweet down.”

Hillary Clinton Learning about the ongoing grief you took over standing up for women’s rights and accurate history was quite enlightening to me.

MB It’s gone on, too, actually.

HC Well, as you rightly point out, it has only continued, and in some ways gotten worse. The ability of people in public life or in the media to say the most outrageous falsehoods and not be held accountable has really altered the balance in our public discourse, in a way that I think is endangering democracy.

MB To me, what’s really interesting is that, although they look as if they’re going for what we said, what they’re really going for is the fact that we dared to say anything, almost. It’s not about having an argument about, say, migration. It’s about telling you to shut up.

HC That’s right. I know that very well, and so do you, and we have perhaps thicker skin than a lot of other people. But it is still distressing to be told, either explicitly or implicitly: “Go away. You have nothing to say.”

MB The friendly advice when it happens to you is always: “Don’t pay attention. Don’t give them oxygen and publicity. Block them and just move on, dear.” And you think, sorry, that is what women have been told to do for centuries. If somebody accuses you of having a smelly vagina that stinks of cabbage, you’re supposed to say: “Just block him.” Actually, no. Somehow, even among the people who are trying to support you, it’s basically saying: “Shut up.”

HC It’s interesting you say that, because, in my book, I try to talk about the dilemma that a woman faces between “be calm and carry on”…

MB You’re quite good at that!

HC Yes, I’ve had a lot of practice. You know, when Trump was stalking me [in the 2016 televised presidential debates] and leering and, oh, just generally trying to dominate me on this little stage, my mind was like: OK, I practised being calm and composed, you know, because that’s what a president should be. But, boy, would I love to turn around and say: “Back off, you creep.” But I didn’t, because I thought then his side will say: “See, she can’t take it. If she can’t take Donald standing there like the alpha male that he is, then how’s she going to stand up to Putin?” A ridiculous argument, but nevertheless one that might get traction. And, as you say, even your friends are like: “Oh, come on, don’t take the bait. Don’t take the bait.”

They have a good extended conversation about taking the bait, taking it and running with it.



He said it

Dec 3rd, 2017 5:40 pm | By

I was wondering if Billy Bush was going to say anything about Trump’s recent claims that “we think the voice wasn’t mine” – the voice on the Access Hollywood tape that is, the one we listened to repeatedly weeks before the piece of dung was elected. I was wondering if Billy Bush was going to say hey I was there and yes he did too so say it.

He has.

He said it. “Grab ‘em by the pussy.”

Of course he said it. And we laughed along, without a single doubt that this was hypothetical hot air from America’s highest-rated bloviator. Along with Donald Trump and me, there were seven other guys present on the bus at the time, and every single one of us assumed we were listening to a crass standup act. He was performing. Surely, we thought, none of this was real.

We now know better.

Recently I sat down and read an article dating from October of 2016; it was published days after my departure from NBC, a time when I wasn’t processing anything productively. In it, the author reviewed the various firsthand accounts about Mr. Trump that, at that point, had come from 20 women.

Some of what Natasha Stoynoff, Rachel Crooks, Jessica Leeds and Jill Harth alleged involved forceful kissing. Ms. Harth said he pushed her up against a wall, with his hands all over her, trying to kiss her.

“He was relentless,” she said. “I didn’t know how to handle it.” Her story makes the whole “better use some Tic Tacs” and “just start kissing them” routine real. I believe her.

Kristin Anderson said that Mr. Trump reached under her skirt and “touched her vagina through her underwear” while they were at a New York nightclub in the 1990s. That makes the “grab ‘em by the pussy” routine real. I believe her.

It’s not as if it seems bafflingly out of character, is it. It’s hard to think of anyone for whom it would seem more in character.

In 2005, I was in my first full year as a co-anchor of the show “Access Hollywood” on NBC. Mr. Trump, then on “The Apprentice,” was the network’s biggest star.

The key to succeeding in my line of work was establishing a strong rapport with celebrities. I did that, and was rewarded for it. My segments with Donald Trump when I was just a correspondent were part of the reason I got promoted.

NBC tripled my salary and paid for my moving van from New York to Los Angeles.

Was I acting out of self-interest? You bet I was. Was I alone? Far from it. With Mr. Trump’s outsized viewership back in 2005, everybody from Billy Bush on up to the top brass on the 52nd floor had to stroke the ego of the big cash cow along the way to higher earnings.

NBC did this to us. I like Maddow, but she doesn’t make up for that.



They think all of you are worthless

Dec 3rd, 2017 4:53 pm | By

Qu’ils mangent de la brioche aka let them eat cake, wot wot? Shoo the complaining peasants away and throw a few rotting cabbages at them.

After pretending for a brief moment in 2016 that the Republican Party stood for working people, the Republican-controlled Congress reverted back to trickle-down form on Friday when they passed a tax reform bill that overwhelmingly favored the rich. Not to be outdone, though, Senator Chuck Grassley made clear his disdain for those not benefiting under the new tax law.

“I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing, as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies,” Grassley told the Register in a story posted yesterday.

So he means men, not people. Don’t they always.

At any rate – is he even aware that many jobs don’t pay very much? That working class jobs don’t pay as well as they did for that short period between the war and the oil crisis? That unions have been all but wiped out? That health insurance (ahem) is expensive? That housing in many cities is grotesquely expensive? Does he really think poor people are poor because they spend all their money on…movies?

For a lot of working class people, there is a sense that lazy people living down the street from them are mooching off the government (and hey, there are some bums out there), which draws them to Republicans’ policies. But here’s the thing: Republican elected officials see everyone in the working class as bums. They’re not making a distinction between you and some of the folks around you. They think all of you are worthless if you don’t have a multi-million dollar estate. That’s the Republican Party.

Well put.



No Global Compact for Migration for us

Dec 3rd, 2017 4:22 pm | By

Trump is taking us out of an international pact meant to deal with global migration and refugee issues.

The US has been a part of the non-binding New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants since it was unanimously adopted by the UN General Assembly last year.

The declaration called for negotiations on a Global Compact for Migration, aimed at protecting the rights of refugees and migrants and helping them resettle.

It also seeks to fight xenophobia, racism and discrimination towards refugees and migrants.

So, naturally, Trump and his evil assistants would prefer us to weaken or demolish the rights of refugees and migrants, and hinder their efforts to resettle. Obviously they don’t want us to be fighting xenophobia, racism and discrimination towards refugees and migrants, because they love all three.

[L]ate on Saturday, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said the declaration’s “approach is simply not compatible with US sovereignty” and that the US will instead define its own migration plan.

But it’s non-binding, so it is compatible with US sovereignty, so she’s just lying.

“No country has done more than the United States, and our generosity will continue,” Haley said in a statement.

“But our decisions on immigration policies must always be made by Americans and Americans alone,” she added.

“We will decide how best to control our borders and who will be allowed to enter our country.”

But the agreement is non-binding.

The UN General Assembly president said he was disappointed with the decision.

“I regret [the] US decision to disengage from [the] process leading to a UN global compact on migration,” Miroslav Lajcak tweeted after the decision was announced.

His spokesperson said in a statement that the “role of the United States in this process is critical as it has historically and generously welcomed people from all across the globe and remains home to the largest number of international migrants in the world”.

Yes but Trump doesn’t like that about here (except for the part about providing cheap labor for rich guys who own golf clubs). He wants us to be more white and less foreign.



Another conflict Kushner “forgot” to list

Dec 3rd, 2017 11:51 am | By

The things these crooks get away with.

Jared Kushner failed to disclose his role as a co-director of the Charles and Seryl Kushner Foundation from 2006 to 2015, a time when the group funded an Israeli settlement considered to be illegal under international law, on financial records he filed with the Office of Government Ethics earlier this year.

The latest development follows reports on Friday indicating the White House senior adviser attempted to sway a United Nations Security Council vote against an anti-settlement resolution passed just before Donald Trump took office, which condemned the structure of West Bank settlements. The failure to disclose his role in the foundation—at a time when he was being tasked with serving as the president’s Middle East peace envoy—follows a pattern of egregious omissions that would bar any other official from continuing to serve in the West Wing, experts and officials told Newsweek.

It’s layers of wrongdoing. This guy has whole dimensions of violating rules and laws.

The first son-in-law has repeatedly amended his financial records since his initial filing in March, along with three separate revisions to his security clearance application. Despite correcting his financial history on multiple occasions, he has yet to include his role as co-director to the family foundation.

Plus there’s the law against presidents’ employing family in the first place.

The foundation donated at least $38,000 between 2011 and 2013 to a fundraising group building a Jewish seminary in a West Bank settlement known as Beit El. During that period, Kushner’s foundation also donated an additional $20,000 to Jewish and educational institutions in settlements throughout the region, the Associated Press reported. Had Kushner included the role in his financial records, his involvement in such donations—and the following conflicts of interest that could possibly arise in his government position—[might] have been considered by the Office of Government Ethics.

It certainly should have been.

Kushner demanded future National Security Adviser Mike Flynn “get on the phone to every member of the Security Council and tell them to delay the vote” on the West Bank settlement resolution, Buzzfeed reported Friday. The move may have violated over the 200-years-old law called the Logan Act, which bars “unauthorized citizens” from negotiating with “foreign governments having a dispute with the United States.”

Some little jumped-up turd of a slum landlord running US foreign policy. Brilliant.



The opportunities that this great country grants them

Dec 3rd, 2017 11:13 am | By

Priorities.

This week, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) helped push a tax bill through the Senate that will cost about $1 trillion. At the same time, he lamented the difficulties of finding the money to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which pays forhealthcare for nine million children and costs about $14 billion a year — a program Hatch helped create.

Sunday-morning tweet from MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough quoting Hatch kicked off a dustup on Twitter over the Utah Republican’s take on CHIP. Funding for the program — which was created as a joint effort between Hatch and Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy in 1997 — expired at the end of September; Congress has yet to reauthorize it. That puts health care for millions of American children at risk.

But those children will probably never amount to anything. Their parents can’t afford to buy commercial health insurance for them, so what are the chances that they will ever be CEOs or senators or lobbyists? The tax cuts, on the other hand, go to incredibly valuable people like mortgage brokers and fraudulent bankers.

“We’re going to do CHIP, there’s no question about it in my mind. And it’s got to be done the right way,” Hatch said. “But the reason CHIP’s having trouble is because we don’t have money anymore, and to just add more and more spending and more and more spending, and you can look at the rest of the bill for the more and more spending.”

This came as he advocated for a tax bill that, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation’s latest estimate, will add approximately $1 trillion to the deficit even when adjusted for economic growth, and which disproportionately benefits corporations and the wealthy.

But it’s all about deserving. Rich people deserve more than poor people do. Once you understand that it all makes sense.

Hatch also said he thinks CHIP has done a “terrific job for people who really need the help” and noted that he had advocated for helping those who can’t help themselves throughout his Senate career. But, he continued, “I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves, won’t lift a finger and expect the federal government to do everything.” He blamed a “liberal philosophy” for creating millions of people “who believe everything they are or ever hope to be depend upon the federal government rather than the opportunities that this great country grants them.”

Opportunities to work in chicken processing plants or harvesting kale, to take on huge debt to get a worthless degree, to take three buses to get to work because rents close to work are pegged to tech wages.

But that’s what they deserve, isn’t it.



Warm and festive

Dec 3rd, 2017 10:48 am | By

HAPPY JESUS’S BIRTHDAY TO YOU TOO

Image result for white house christmas



A fateful struggle

Dec 3rd, 2017 10:36 am | By

Stephen F. Cohen writes another love letter to Putin in The Nation:

Cohen argues that America is now in unprecedented danger due to two related crises. A new and more dangerous Cold War with Russia that is fraught with the real possibility of hot war between the two nuclear superpowers on several fronts, including Syria. And the worst crisis of the American presidency in modern times, which threatens to paralyze the president’s ability to deal diplomatically with Moscow. (To those who recall Watergate, Cohen points out that, unlike Trump, President Nixon was never accused of “collusion with the Kremlin” or faced reckless, and preposterous, allegations that the Kremlin had abetted his election by an “attack on American democracy.”)

(He’s describing himself in the third person because he’s summarizing a dialogue he had with John Batchelor on the latter’s eponymous radio show.)

What Trump did in Vietnam last week was therefore vitally important and courageous, though uniformly misrepresented by the American mainstream media. Despite unrelenting “Russiagate” attempts led by Democrats to impeach him for “collusion with the Kremlin” (still without any meaningful evidence), and perhaps even opposition by high-level members of his own administration, Trump met several times, informally and briefly, with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Presumably dissuaded or prevented by some of his own top advisers from having a formal, lengthy meeting, Trump was nonetheless prepared. He and Putin issued a joint statement urging cooperation in Syria, where the prospects of a US-Russian war had been mounting. And both leaders later said they had serious talks about cooperating on the crises in North Korea and Ukraine.

Because why would we not want to cooperate with Putin? Why would we not prefer the journalist-murdering oligarch to more “mainstream” (as Cohen puts it) allies like Merkel and Macron? Why would we not want to cooperate with Putin on his takeover of Ukraine?

Trump’s diplomatic initiatives with Putin in Vietnam also demonstrate that a fateful struggle over Russia policy is under way at high levels of the US political-media establishment, from the two political parties and Congress to forces inside Trump’s own administration. Whatever else we may think of the president—Cohen reiterates that he did not vote for him and opposes many of his other policies—Trump has demonstrated consistency and real determination on one existential issue: Putin’s Russia is not America’s enemy but a national-security partner our nation vitally needs. The president made this clear again following the scurrilous attacks on his negotiations with Putin: “When will all the haters and fools out there realize that having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing.”

This shit is in The Nation of all places.

Cohen is married to the editor, Katrina vanden Heuvel, but that just pushes the puzzle back a step, it doesn’t solve it.



Tatters

Dec 3rd, 2017 9:32 am | By

He’s frantic.

Many more “people in our Country” are asking how this terrible man got elected president.

The guy who can’t open his mouth without lying accuses the FBI director he tried to bully into ignoring a serious crime…of lying. You couldn’t make it up.

Taking a break from his own legal problems, the president of the US complains about the outcome of a trial.

Returning to his own legal problems, the president of the US attacks his own FBI.

Frantic.



Guest post: Chronically dyspeptic and paranoid bullies

Dec 2nd, 2017 4:04 pm | By

Originally a comment by Pliny the in Between on You had to be an ass-kissing corporate hack.

With the passage of the tax bill, the GOP gets to complete what was started when the draft was repealed – completely shift the burden and cost of defending the freedoms exploited by our elites to the backs of the poor. Of course this example of ‘governance’ also targets urban areas and blue states with their higher state and locals taxes and large numbers of college graduates. To do this in the dark, without debate, on the eve of the Russian connection coming home to roost is even more galling. A half century of progressive programs shot to hell in the legislative equivalent of an alley mugging – great legacy GOP. I used to think you were just tools. Now I am convinced you’re just evil.

Hard to know where we go from here. We have a president who was probably drawn to Putin in the first place for the simple reason that Trump’s an oligarch wannabe. We have a large voting block (30%+) that sadly is not so much ill-informed as they are simply extreme caricatures of the worst in Americans -short sighted, libertarian, self-centered, anti-intellectual, chronically dyspeptic and paranoid bullies. And a congress full of true representatives of the people – short sighted, self-centered and devoid of almost any of the guts needed to be true patriots – those who put the needs of society ahead of themselves.



But his emails

Dec 2nd, 2017 1:33 pm | By

Oh gee, look what the Times has.

When President Trump fired his national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in February, White House officials portrayed him as a renegade who had acted independently in his discussions with a Russian official during the presidential transition and then lied to his colleagues about the interactions.

But emails among top transition officials, provided or described to The New York Times, suggest that Mr. Flynn was far from a rogue actor. In fact, the emails, coupled with interviews and court documents filed on Friday, showed that Mr. Flynn was in close touch with other senior members of the Trump transition team both before and after he spoke with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, about American sanctions against Russia.

While Mr. Trump has disparaged as a Democratic “hoax” any claims that he or his aides had unusual interactions with Russian officials, the records suggest that the Trump transition team was intensely focused on improving relations with Moscow and was willing to intervene to pursue that goal despite a request from the Obama administration that it not sow confusion about official American policy before Mr. Trump took office.

And the Times has (some of?) those emails.

But it is evident from the emails — which were obtained from someone who had access to transition team communications — that after learning that President Barack Obama would expel 35 Russian diplomats, the Trump team quickly strategized about how to reassure Russia. The Trump advisers feared that a cycle of retaliation between the United States and Russia would keep the spotlight on Moscow’s election meddling, tarnishing Mr. Trump’s victory and potentially hobbling his presidency from the start.

As part of the outreach, Ms. McFarland wrote, Mr. Flynn would be speaking with the Russian ambassador, Mr. Kislyak, hours after Mr. Obama’s sanctions were announced.

“Key will be Russia’s response over the next few days,” Ms. McFarland wrote in an email to another transition official, Thomas P. Bossert, now the president’s homeland security adviser.

The Times chatted with Ty Cobb, Trump’s lawyer for The Russia Thing, said it’s all perfectly legal and normal and fine.

Read the rest.



A pretty substantial confession

Dec 2nd, 2017 12:57 pm | By

Lordy. I had to go do other things for a few hours and in that small space of time Trump only went and admitted obstruction of justice.

He fired him for lying to the FBI…and then tried to pressure Comey into letting him off. Obstruction. The lawyers are lining up to say so.



Why misogyny matters

Dec 2nd, 2017 7:23 am | By

Jill Filipovic notes that a lot of the fallen men in journalism helped Trump win the election.

Sexual harassment, and the sexism it’s predicated on, involves more than the harassers and the harassed; when the harassers are men with loud microphones, their private misogyny has wide-reaching public consequences. One of the most significant: the 2016 election.

Many of the male journalists who stand accused of sexual harassment were on the forefront of covering the presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Matt Lauer interviewed Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump in an official “commander-in-chief forum” for NBC. He notoriously peppered and interrupted Mrs. Clinton with cold, aggressive, condescending questions hyper-focused on her emails, only to pitch softballs at Mr. Trump and treat him with gentle collegiality a half-hour later. Mark Halperin and Charlie Rose set much of the televised political discourse on the race, interviewing other pundits, opining themselves and obsessing over the electoral play-by-play. Mr. Rose, after the election, took a tone similar to Mr. Lauer’s with Mrs. Clinton — talking down to her, interrupting her, portraying her as untrustworthy. Mr. Halperin was a harsh critic of Mrs. Clinton, painting her as ruthless and corrupt, while going surprisingly easy on Mr. Trump. The reporter Glenn Thrush, currently on leave from The New York Times because of sexual harassment allegations, covered Mrs. Clinton’s 2008 campaign when he was at Newsday and continued to write about her over the next eight years for Politico.

Feel sick enough yet?

A pervasive theme of all of these men’s coverage of Mrs. Clinton was that she was dishonest and unlikable. These recent harassment allegations suggest that perhaps the problem wasn’t that Mrs. Clinton was untruthful or inherently hard to connect with, but that these particular men hold deep biases against women who seek power instead of sticking to acquiescent sex-object status.

Or, when they’re too old for sex-object status, just going away already.

For arguing that gender shaped the election narrative and its result, feminists have been pooh-poohed, simultaneously told that it was Clinton, not her gender, that was the problem and that her female supporters were voting with their vaginas instead of their brains.

The latest harassment and assault allegations complicate that account and suggest that perhaps many of the high-profile media men covering Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump were the ones leading with their genitals. Mr. Trump was notoriously accused of multiple acts of sexual harassment and assault, and was caught on tape bragging about his proclivity for grabbing women. That several of the men covering the race — shaping the way American voters understood the candidates and what was at stake — were apparently behaving in similarly appalling ways off-camera calls into question not just their objectivity but also their ability to cover the story with the seriousness and urgency it demanded.

They felt a sympathy for Trump that we weren’t aware of, though we may have suspected it.

The theme running through nearly all of the complaints is a man in a position of power who saw the women around him not as competent colleagues or as even sovereign human beings, but as sexual objects he could either proposition to boost his ego or humiliate to feed a desire for domination.

It’s hard to look at these men’s coverage of Mrs. Clinton and not see glimmers of that same simmering disrespect and impulse to keep women in a subordinate place. When men turn some women into sexual objects, the women who are inside that box are one-dimensional, while those outside of it become disposable; the ones who refuse to be disposed of, who continue to insist on being seen and heard, are inconvenient and pitiable at best, deceitful shrews and crazy harpies at worst. That’s exactly how Mr. Lauer, Mr. Halperin, Mr. Rose and Mr. Thrush often treated Mrs. Clinton.

I feel more than sick enough now.



Tell us how this is fair?

Dec 2nd, 2017 6:44 am | By

My Twitter feed is full of anger and disgust.

Thousands (or tens or hundreds of thousands?) will die and many more will suffer, be disabled, be chronically ill.

Spreading the wealth of education, bad; making very rich people richer, fabulous.



You had to be an ass-kissing corporate hack

Dec 2nd, 2017 5:29 am | By

Michael Goldfarb on Facebook:

(Trigger warning, racial epithets used ironically in this post)
So much to say about the US tax bill, so little time to say it and not sure whether the people who get to see this when it’s first posted here in London will understand.
What happened yesterday was the end of a forty year process of undoing the tax code that underwrote America’s meagre social democratic safety net. Starve the beast has been the mantra of the ideological, anti-progress GOP going back to Reagan.
The beast, the government, takes from you to give to the n-words and free-school meals & edcuation to the illegal spics and to Planned Parenthood and to the undeserving who did not save for their retirements. The beast takes from your betters – wealth is its own proof of superiority and God’s blessing – who want to pass down their accumulated riches in their entirety to their posterity.
Now, within half a decade, all the programs underwritten by taxes will be gutted. The tax code was the guarantor of funding and now it has been destroyed.
What was at stake was not framed like that by those who reported on the process for major institutions and it should have been. In the stories you read, buried many paras down, you may find that the Senate has removed the mandate to buy health insurance, the underpinning of Obamacare. They couldn’t repeal it so now they just gut it of funding.

To be fair, I’ve seen that mentioned fairly prominently. I don’t think it’s really been buried.

When historians write about this odd, but decisive month (assuming there are historians in the future and not just myth-makers) when this bill was working its way through the Senate, they will note that at the same time the “liberal” side of journalism was distracted tearing itself apart over the gross sexual misconduct of some of its most prominent on-air and administrative men.
One thing will probably not be known to these future historians: to rise to the top of broadcast journalism you had to be an ass-kissing corporate hack. Guys like Lauer and especially Rose were lauded by “liberals” Why? they were incurious guys who looked good on camera. Literally hundreds of people, men and women, who actually did the work, risked their lives, ruined their marriages never got a sniff of advancement because they lacked the essential courtier skills necessary to ingratiate themselves.
So while human excrement like Lauer and Rose were being immolated, not for stupidity or just generally being awful at the essential business of reporting and explaining events and interviewing leaders with sufficient sceptical rigour, but because they used their positions to get laid, this bill worked its way through the Senate in the dead of night without any scrutiny at all.

That – except for the “they used their positions to get laid” part. They used their positions to harass and assault women. Getting laid is consensual; that’s not what they were doing. But the part about the incurious guys who looked good on camera: yes. Cf Broadcast News.

If we had better news media we would probably have a better political environment, but we don’t so we don’t.



Looted

Dec 2nd, 2017 4:53 am | By

The Times editorial board on last night’s theft:

With barely a vote to spare early Saturday morning, the Senate passed a tax bill confirming that the Republican leaders’ primary goal is to enrich the country’s elite at the expense of everybody else, including future generations who will end up bearing the cost. The approval of this looting of the public purse by corporations and the wealthy makes it a near certainty that President Trump will sign this or a similar bill into law in the coming days.

Starve the beast. Government is the enemy. Yadda yadda.

Because the Senate was rewriting its bill till the last minute, only the dealmakers themselves knew what the chamber voted on. There will, no doubt, be many unpleasant surprises as both houses work to pass final legislation for President Trump to sign.

The votes for the bill by Susan Collins of Maine and John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona were particularly disheartening. Ms. Collins, who helped sink an effort to effectively repeal the A.C.A. in September, blithely voted for a tax bill that will leave a gaping hole in that law by repealing its requirement that most people have insurance or pay a penalty. She traded away her vote for an inadequate deduction for property taxes and empty promises from Mr. Trump and the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, that they would help shore up the A.C.A., which they have repeatedly tried to sabotage. Mr. McCain, who previously voted against tax cuts in the Bush era because they were heavily tilted in favor of the rich rather than the middle class, seemed unconcerned that this bill was even worse in that regard. Then there is Mr. Flake, who has spoken powerfully against Mr. Trump and who is not seeking re-election. He folded on the basis of vague assurances about protecting the Dreamers, young undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children.

Because there’s just no resisting a chance to make corporations and rich people even richer, and poor and middling people even poorer.

Republicans offered one fantasy after another to make the case for their budget-busting tax cuts. For example, the White House has said that cutting the corporate tax to 20 percent from 35 percent will lead to a boom in investment and wages — an argument disputed by most credible economists.

And by CEOs, who to a person say nah, they’re going to give it all to executives and shareholders.

You can expect the lies to become even more brazen as Republicans seek to defend this terrible bill. But no amount of prevarication can change the fact that Congress and Mr. Trump are giving a giant gift to their donors and sticking the rest of the country with the tab.

It’s what Republicans do.

But by all means tell us more about the forgotten white working class in Appalachia and why it was natural for them to vote for Trump.



Growth and fairness aren’t opposites

Dec 1st, 2017 5:22 pm | By

More from Robert Reich:

The True Path to Prosperity

It’s often thought that Democrats care about fairness and not economic growth, while Republicans care about growth even at the cost of some fairness.

Rubbish. Growth and fairness aren’t opposites. In reality, Democrats are the party of economic growth and fairness. Republicans are the party of neither.

The only way to grow the economy is by investing in the education, healthcare, and infrastructure that average Americans need in order to be more productive. Growth doesn’t “trickle down.” It rises up.

Consider the two biggest legislative initiatives over past decade – the Affordable Care Act, achieved without a single Republican vote, and the current Trump-Republican tax overhaul, speeding ahead without a single Democrat.

The ACA extends coverage to 21 million mostly lower-income Americans, including millions of children.

It’s largely paid for by two tax increases on the rich – a 3.8 percent increase on their capital gains taxes and other investment-related income, and a 0.9 percent surcharge on their Medicare taxes. Those tax increases are a major reason why Republicans have wanted to repeal it.

But the ACA isn’t just about fairness. Healthier Americans are also more productive workers. Children who receive health care are better learners. The Act thereby fuels economic growth and widens prosperity.

Republicans say their tax overhaul will promote growth by increasing the profits of American corporations and investors. This is trickle-down nonsense.

Every major study (including Congress’s own Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation) finds that its benefits would go mainly to big corporations and the wealthy.

Share prices may rise for a time. They’re already at record highs in anticipation of the tax cut. But higher share prices don’t trickle down, either. The richest 1 percent owns almost 38 percent of the stock market. Eighty percent of Americans together own just 8 percent of all shares of stock.

This won’t fuel growth. Corporations expand and invest only when customers are eager to buy what they produce. And most of these customers are middle-income and below, who spend just about all they earn. The rich spend only a small fraction.

Profits are now at record levels but corporations aren’t investing them. They’re using them instead to pump up share prices and executive pay.

After the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, economic growth stalled and then dissolved in recession. After the 2004 corporate tax holiday for bringing foreign profits home, corporations didn’t invest or expand. The Reagan tax cut of 1981 didn’t cause wages to rise; they flattened.

What’s the real formula for growth? Better access to education, healthcare, and transportation, all of which make workers more productive.

These more productive workers command higher wages. With higher wages, they purchase more goods and services. These purchases motivate companies to expand and invest, and create more and better jobs.

American experienced this virtuous cycle for thirty years after World War II. We invested unprecedented sums in education, healthcare, and infrastructure. We financed these investments through higher taxes on the rich and on big corporations.

The economy boomed and wages shot upward. The wages of the bottom fifth rose even faster than the wages of the top fifth. This unleashed consumer spending, which generated more growth.

But the top fifth didn’t have hundreds of times more than the bottom fifth. The Republicans seem to want a world where a tiny fraction have more money than they know what to do with and everyone else struggles at best and withers at worst.

The rest.



Every single Republican voting, voted NO

Dec 1st, 2017 5:12 pm | By

Robert Reich:

The next time you hear Trump or Republicans in Congress claim they are for American workers remember this vote. Their tax plan is one of the biggest bait-and-switches in modern American politics.

Sen Dianne Feinstein‏
@SenFeinstein
Nov 30

UPDATE: Democrats just offered an amendment to ensure corporations use their tax savings to raise employee wages at the same rate they increase executive pay, stock buybacks and dividends to shareholders. Every single Republican voting, voted NO. #GOPTaxPlan

They voted NO. NO, workers can’t be guaranteed a share of the tax cut, NO, corporations will not undertake not to give all the tax cut revenue to people who are already rich, NO, they don’t give a rat’s ass about rising inequality. NO, they don’t care about the country as a whole or its people.



They’re doing this why?

Dec 1st, 2017 4:55 pm | By

The Republicans are doing tax deform so that they can shunt more money to the rich, because…what, the rich aren’t rich enough? The poor aren’t poor enough? We don’t have an extreme enough gap between the richest 1% and everyone else? Is that how things are?

Fortune interviewed Richard Florida on the subject last summer.

When did this wealth gap problem start?
Basically, this wealth gap that we see today is something that has really skyrocketed since about the 1980s and certainly in the past decade, decade and a half.

How bad is the wealth inequality we’re seeing in the United States?
The income inequality in the United States, according to the Gini coefficient (a measure of inequality where 0 is perfectly equal and 1 is perfectly unequal) is about 0.45, which is awful—worse than Iran.

How about in cities specifically?
In cities that inequality is even greater. There’s a table in my book (The New Urban Crisis, Basic Books, $28) showing this. Inequality in New York City is like Swaziland. Miami’s is like Zimbabwe. Los Angeles is equivalent to Sri Lanka. I actually look at the difference between the 95th percentile of income earners in big cities and the lower 20%. In the New York metro area, the 95th percentile makes $282,000 and the 20th percentile makes $23,000. These gaps between the rich and the poor in income and wealth are vast across the country and even worse in our cities.

But the Republicans think that’s not good enough, and want to make the gap bigger. Why? Why do they want us to be more like Zimbabwe in terms of wealth inequality?

How has the wealth gap affected the American people?
This gap between the rich and poor, the haves and the have-nots, is what produced the backlash that brought Donald Trump to power. Our country isn’t just divided by politics or class, it’s divided by where you live. The advantaged urban parts of the country by the coast—New York, Boston, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Los Angeles—they’re the blue areas, but the rest of America is increasingly red. The wealth gap that’s occurring in places is behind the political backlash we’re seeing in our country.

And what they’re getting is even more money shunted to the rich while their wages continue to stagnate and oh by the way no more subsidized health insurance.