TIS INDEED THE “SEASON OF MIRACLES” — I WOKE UP THIS MORNING AND FOUND MYSELF IN COMPLETE AGREEMENT WITH CHARLES KOCH!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/congress-must-act-on-the-dreamers/2017/12/14/3dc0ab98-e053-11e7-bbd0-9dfb2e37492a_story.html

From the Washington Post:

Congress must act on the ‘dreamers’


A woman holds up a sign outside the U.S. Capitol in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on Dec. 5. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
December 14

Tim Cook is chief executive of Apple. Charles Koch is chairman and chief executive of Koch Industries.

The holidays are upon us, and families across the United States are coming together to celebrate. Yet for about 690,000 of our neighbors, colleagues and friends, this holiday season is marked by uncertainty and fear.

These are the “dreamers” — children of undocumented immigrants who are working, in countless ways, to make the United States stronger. Unless Congress acts, this holiday season might be the last one the dreamers get to spend in the country they love and call home.

We must do better. The United States is at its best when all people are free to pursue their dreams. Our country has enjoyed unparalleled success by welcoming people from around the world who seek to make a better life for themselves and their families, no matter what their backgrounds. It is our differences that help us to learn from each other, to challenge our old ways of thinking and to discover innovative solutions that benefit us all. To advance that prosperity and build an even stronger future, each successive generation — including, today, our own — must show the courage to embrace that diversity and to do what is right.

We have no illusions about how difficult it can be to get things done in Washington, and we know that people of good faith disagree about aspects of immigration policy. If ever there were an occasion to come together to help people improve their lives, this is it. By acting now to ensure that dreamers can realize their potential by continuing to contribute to our country, Congress can reaffirm this essential American ideal.

This is a political, economic and moral imperative. The sooner Congress resolves this situation — on a permanent basis — the sooner dreamers can seize the opportunity to plan their lives and develop their talents.

This extraordinary set of circumstances has brought the two of us together as co-authors. We are business leaders who sometimes differ on the issues of the day. Yet, on a question as straightforward as this one, we are firmly aligned.

As a matter of both policy and principle, we strongly agree that Congress must act before the end of the year to bring certainty and security to the lives of dreamers. Delay is not an option. Too many people’s futures hang in the balance.

Both of our companies are fortunate to have dreamers on our teams. We know from experience that the success of our businesses depends on having employees with diverse backgrounds and perspectives. It fuels creativity, broadens knowledge and helps drive innovation. For our nation to maximize progress and prosperity, we need more, not fewer, talented people at the table.

Another foundation of our country’s success is our consistent and equal application of the law. In a free nation, individuals must be able to trust that when our government makes a promise, it is kept. Having laws that are reliable is what gives people the confidence to plan their futures and to invest in their businesses, their communities and themselves.

The United States should not hold hard-working, patriotic people hostage to the debate over immigration — or, worse, expel them because we have yet to resolve a complex national argument. Most Americans agree. In fact, more than 8 in 10 Americans support a straightforward solution to allow dreamers to stay.

No society can truly flourish when a significant portion of its people feel threatened or unable to fulfill their potential. Nor can it prosper by excluding those who want to make positive contributions. This isn’t just a noble principle; it’s a basic fact, borne out through our national history.

Dreamers are doing their part. They have shown great faith in the United States by coming forward, subjecting themselves to background checks, and submitting personal and biometric data.

Now, the rest of us need to do our part. Congress should act quickly, ideally before year’s end, to ensure that these decent people can work and stay and dream in the United States. As a nation, we must show that the dreamers’ faith in our word and goodwill was not misplaced. And we should make clear that the United States welcomes their contributions as part of our national life.

********************************************

I agree with every word.

My only question: Why are Ol’ Charlie and his bro David (the “Koch Bros”) bankrolling a GOP that has been taken over by repulsive, dishonest, backward looking, fundamentally dumb, anti-American guys like Trump, Sessions, Bannon, Miller and their racist, White Nationalist, xenophobic, homophobic, religiously intolerant, exclusionary agenda of hate, fear, and loathing, which if followed to its logical conclusion, would destroy America and quite possibly the world?

Even though the Koch Bros are White, many of the employees they depend on to maintain their billionaire status aren’t White, Christian, straight, or U.S. citizens. They have no place in the Trump GOP’s vision of America. Trump and his band wouldn’t exempt the Koch Bros from their planned Armageddon just because of their Whiteness or past services to the party.

So, why keep supporting these heinous individuals and their anti-American agenda? The only reason we have this problem is because a minority of voters with incredibly poor judgement and total disregard for the common good, in an intentionally gerrymandered America, voted for the absurdly unqualified Trump rather than the clearly more qualified candidate. And, if the Kochs had supported Clinton, America would be closer to the place that Charlie Koch and Tim Cook describe in their article. Indeed, the whole costly, divisive, and totally unnecessary self-created “Dreamer Disaster” need never have occurred. What do you expect when you enable a racist xenophobe like Jeff Sessions (who doesn’t know much, if any, law either) to serve as our Attorney General?

At some point, decent folks (and, I’d be willing to admit the Kochs into that company even if I don’t agree with them on most things) who believe in America have to either 1) support Democrats, or 2) form an honest Third Party that excludes the White Nationalist haters. Today’s GOP is not that party.

Realizing that I actually have a fundamental area of agreement with the Koch Bros makes their overall conduct all the more inexplicable.

PWS

12-14-17

TWO NEW FROM TAL@CNN: 1) Will “Radical Moderation” Be The Next Great Political Movement? – 2) How Will Dems Negotiate The DACA Endgame?

Here’s what Tal has to say:

1) Will “Radical Moderation” Be The Next Great Political Movement?

http://www.cnn.com/2017/12/14/politics/congress-moderate-republicans-revenge/index.html

Can moderates get their revenge on DACA?

By: Tal Kopan, CNN

As year-end funding decisions loom, a familiar pattern is repeating, with House conservative Republicans playing hardball to pull their colleagues to the right.

And moderates are increasingly tiring of it — especially after Tuesday’s repudiation of a candidate seen as emblematic of the GOP’s right flank in the Alabama special election.

Government funding and efforts to abolish Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a popular program for young undocumented immigrants, have some moderates increasingly wondering: Why can’t we play hardball, too?

Moderate Republicans and House members in districts that are either generally competitive or which Hillary Clinton carried in the 2016 presidential election are starting to grow frustrated with the effectiveness of groups like the House Freedom Caucus in influencing legislation, often by withholding their votes as a bloc until demands are met.

“Yes,” Florida Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo said with exasperation when CNN asked Wednesday if the time had come for centrists to borrow tactics from the far right.

“We cannot be spectators here,” Curbelo said. “Other groups have used their leverage to influence the process, and we must do so as well, especially when there are 800,000 lives which could be radically changed for the worse if we don’t take care of (DACA).”

“I think last night’s election’s going to cause a lot of people to re-think where we are and what we’re doing,” said New York Republican Rep. Pete King of Democrat Doug Jones’s victory in Alabama.

While the current focus is on passing tax reform, one Republican staffer said patience could be limited once it’s dispensed with, as vulnerable moderates are frustrated with being forced to take tough votes seen in many cases as messaging exercises to appease the conservative base.

“It’s the moderates who are going to have to run in tough elections on this sh**,” the staffer said.

But there remains skepticism that, despite the frustration, moderates can hold together as a group the way conservatives have been able to do, or are willing to stomach the tough tactics the right flank employs.

The conservative House Freedom Caucus, for example, almost tanked a procedural measure on tax reform in a public show of force on the House floor earlier this month to send a message to Speaker Paul Ryan about year-end funding.

And according to a Republican source, rumors have been building around the Capitol that the farther right lawmakers are prepared to challenge Ryan’s speakership immediately if he calls a stand-alone fix for DACA to the floor.

Nearly three dozen moderates, on the other hand, sent a carefully worded letter to Ryan urging him to move on a fix for DACA, which protects young undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children, by the end of the year, without making any concrete threats to withhold any votes on government funding.

Curbelo has committed to oppose government funding without clear progress toward a DACA fix, and is urging fellow Republicans to do the same.

Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent, a moderate Republican who has decided to not seek reelection, said he agreed with Curbelo that a DACA fix should go on an upcoming must-pass bill, though it could potentially be in January.

“The power of 25 here can force a lot of things,” Dent said, referring to the GOP margin of the majority in the House. “And Freedom Caucus has been effective at it, they can put their votes together, and we need to do that from time to time, (though) we need to pick our fights carefully.”

But one conservative Republican source noted that moderates have always had difficulty being as united as more conservative groups. That sentiment was echoed by King, who referred to the group that former House Speaker John Boehner once called “legislative terrorist(s)” as “crazies” even as he distanced himself from moderates.

“I consider myself actually a blue-collar conservative, I’m not really in the moderate wing, I’m just against some of the crazies,” King told CNN, speaking of his unsuccessful fight against the GOP tax bill he sees as devastating for his state. “It’s hard to unify everybody.”

Some moderates gave credit to the Freedom Caucus, saying their effectiveness should only be a source of inspiration.

“I don’t fault anybody for doing what they believe is best in their way of representing their district,” said Washington Rep. Dan Newhouse, who helped organize the DACA letter. “I respect that. …(But) it’s also incumbent upon me to do the same thing.”

2) How Will Dems Negotiate The DACA Endgame?

http://www.cnn.com/2017/12/14/politics/daca-likely-slip-january/index.html

Democrats wrestle with likelihood DACA slips to January

Washington (CNN)Democrats are increasingly grappling with the likelihood that Congress could push a decision on a popular immigration program into January, even as they’ve spent weeks saying it should be dealt with by the end of the year.

“To some extent, yes,” Congressional Hispanic Caucus member and Arizona Democrat Rep. Raúl Grijalva said Thursday on Capitol Hill when asked if there’s a growing realization that the issue will likely slip to January.
“Some of us are holdouts, but if you talk about reality, yeah,” he continued. “I mean, if leadership is not pushing it, they’re not holding the line with members and we have a CR that includes (children’s health funding), which is really, really important, funding for community health centers, then not seeing it before the end of the year becomes more and more precarious.”
Democrats and even some Republicans have not given up on trying to get done a deal to maintain a version of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protected young undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children from deportation but which President Donald Trump has opted to terminate.
Advocates note the issue is more urgent than portrayed by the administration. More than 20,000 DACA recipients either did not renew or were rejected in the window the government offered, meaning more than 100 lose their status every day before the March 6 deadline the administration intended to set.
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But even as negotiations continue and intensify on both sides of the Capitol to reach a bipartisan compromise on the issue, the likelihood of being able to pass something by the end of the year is rapidly slipping away.
Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat, hosted a meeting of the Senate negotiators on Thursday afternoon, including Republicans Lindsey Graham, James Lankford, Cory Gardner, Jeff Flake and staff from Sen. Thom Tillis. But all exiting the meeting said while negotiations progressed, no break-throughs have been reached yet. And while some wouldn’t rule it out as a possibility, none expressed much optimism it could be done by the end of the year.
“It’s starting to take form, but we’re still negotiating,” Durbin said.
Tillis, R-North Carolina, said earlier Thursday that negotiators are working on a consensus on how to handle the DACA component of the deal, reconciling different bill approaches that are out there.
“What we’re trying to do is figure out where we have common ground there,” Tillis said. “But we’ll be reaching a point pretty soon to where we have to have a discussion about chain migration, which is very important, the President’s told us, and border security and other things. I would say when we talk about ‘we’re close to an agreement,’ we’re only talking about one half of the broader agreement, so maybe we’re a third of the way there.”
“I think people are having good faith discussions,” he continued. “I can’t imagine it being done by year end.”

Strategic maneuvering

Democrats know that their greatest leverage for many of their priorities is on government funding, which expires a week from Friday. Republicans will likely need Democratic votes to pass a full year of funding, in the Senate and likely in the House where budget hawks traditionally reject domestic spending levels.
But they also have a laundry list of priorities for negotiation, including an overall deal on domestic spending, community health centers, children’s health insurance, pensions and immigration. And five legislative days before funding runs out.
The current plan, according to multiple lawmakers and aides, is for the House to pass a bill that would fund defense for a year, reauthorize children’s health insurance, and punt the rest into January. That bill is dead on arrival in the Senate, where 44 Democrats have gone on record opposing it. The belief is that the Senate will send something back to the House, likely with Obamacare payments or possibly just a short-term funding extension into January. All the while, parties negotiating a DACA deal in both chambers remain optimistic about the progress of talks.
Such a plan could squeeze Democrats, especially in the Senate, to weigh rejecting an opportunity to keep negotiating and risk the government shutting down, or to hold out for more offers from Republicans.
It’s possible that a short-term extension could pass the House without Democratic votes, taking pressure of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who with her caucus has been more vocal about rejecting anything that doesn’t include DACA by the end of the year. House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows said many of his members, who are the more troublesome Republicans for the party on funding, could support a punt.
“If it’s just looking at a (continuing resolution) that gets us to January 19 where we can negotiate on a bigger omnibus, I think most of my members will support that,” Meadows, R-North Carolina, told reporters Thursday. “There are some who won’t, but most would be supportive of that.”
In the Senate, Democratic aides believe that January could be an option. They feel there would be no need to force a bad deal now, if a good deal is still attainable in a few weeks’ time. Senators have also been more cautious than their House colleagues.
“I’m hopeful that it will happen. And we’re not there yet on what will happen if it doesn’t happen,” Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono said at a press conference Thursday about pushing for all of Democrats’ priorities by the end of the year, asked whether members would reject a deal to keep making progress on some issues.

Warnings to Democratic leadership

Still, Democrats are warning their leadership that they can’t appear to surrender.
“I think there is a Plan A, a Plan B, a Plan C, a Plan D and a Plan E in the House, I can see that there are more heightened negotiations in the Senate, and I’m dedicated to working 24/7 and I have to say my caucus has been doing that,” Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Michelle Lujan Grisham said Thursday. “We want something to vote on next week, and we are making that clear to leadership. … So I think we have to stay the course and any conversation that we can wait even 15 days is cruel, unjust, wrong and there’s real harm.”
“I’m not ready to wave the white flag and say let’s see what happens,” Grijalva echoed. “I think the pressure has to be constant on this thing or it will fail.”
The deputy chair of the Democratic Party, Minneosta Rep. Keith Ellison, said Democratic leadership should know that the party base will not accept less than a full fight.
“My advice to anybody in leadership in the House of Representatives is we better do everything imaginable to deliver on DACA or we better we be visibly shown to have done every single thing that could be done,” Ellison said. “Our grassroots base is expecting us to deliver on DACA, and that’s it. … I feel so strongly about this. We cannot fail on this.”

*******************************************

Tal is amazing! As you probably can tell, I’m a big fan of her reporting: Timely, informative, balanced, easy to read. I’m glad she is on the CNN “immigration beat” — particularly for the “Dreamers” story which is so critical to the fate of our nation (not to mention the Dreamers).

The “Freedom Caucus” is in fact the “Bakuninist Wing” of the GOP: Out to destroy American Government and perhaps take the world with it. They are an existential threat to every American, nearly on the same level as the Trump Administration itself.

Somewhere, Mikhail Alexandrovich Bakunin –– the “Grandaddy of all Anarchists — must be smiling at how these “valueless bad dudes” can actually “con” constituents into voting for their own (and everyone else’s destruction). Of course, on the way to destruction, they don’t mind freeloading off the public purse. They just mind it when others get their fair share of the pie.

The Dems need to peel off enough GOP moderate support to enact a decent Dream Act. They definitely can’t go with the White Nationalist inspired — essentially racist (let’s be upfront about it) — end of so-called “chain migration.”

Chain migration is actually the White Nationalists’ misnomer for “Beneficial Family Migration” that has helped make America great and is essential to our future success. Yeah, they aren’t all White Christians who arrive with PhDs speaking English (although some family members undoubtedly fit this mold). And, that’s a good thing for both us and them that “they aren’t, and they don’t.”

While I can see a case for some additional immigration enforcement resources, increases  should be limited to technology, management improvements, and  increased legal resources for the ICE Offices of Chief Counsel.

Under NO circumstances should more immigration agents be authorized unless and until DHS improves their current hiring and training practices; abandons “Gonzo enforcement” for a rationally tailored enforcement program along the lines of other law enforcement agencies; and closes down the majority of their unnecessary, wasteful, and counterproductive “American Gulag,” starting with substandard and corrupt private immigration detention facilities.

With the border largely under control, interior enforcement without any discernible plan, rational objectives, or meaningful results, and the U.S. Immigration Courts in complete disarray under Sessions, there is no need for yet more immigration agents at present.

What on earth would they do? “Bust” more janitors, maids, landscapers, mothers, and students who are helping America? Then what? Throw them into the collapsing Immigration Courts which already have enough work for the balance of this Administration?

It’s much more likely that White Nationalists Trump, Sessions, and their cronies would build up an internal security police, to be used against America, than that additional agents would be put to any reasonable, permissible, and constructive use. It’s a prescription for disaster. And, ironically, one that should worry the GOP “Bakuninists.”  Hard to see how expanding Government domestic police resources without rational assignments or goals should be a priority for folks who want to “shrink government, then drown it in a teacup.”

And anyone who says that the so-called “Trump Executive Orders” (an exercise in “Gonzo racist irrationalism” if I’ve ever seen one) is some sort of “reasonable blueprint” has been smoking some stuff stronger than can legally be bought in Colorado. Yeah, Trump can issue any Executive Order he wants to. But, he can’t fund most of his unnecessary initiatives without Congressional permission. This is Congress’s chance to force some rationality back into the U.S. Immigration enforcement system, which has taken a decidedly irrational, racist, and xenophobic turn under Trump and Sessions.

PWS

12-14-17

TAL @ CNN: TRUMP’s CLAIM THAT IMMIGRATION RESTRICTIONS WOULD PREVENT TERRORISM RINGS HOLLOW — Critics Say More Likely That Campaign Of Hate, Fear, Loathing, & Isolation Promotes Radical Terrorism!

http://www.cnn.com/2017/12/12/politics/new-york-attacker-domestic-radicalization-trump-administration/index.html

Tal reports:

“But given that Ullah began his radicalization in the US years after immigrating, and that the previous New York attacker, Sayfullo Saipov, was also radicalized in the US, according to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, critics are accusing the administration of disingenuously pushing its aggressive immigration agenda.

Reacting to Cissna’s turn at the podium, Gregory Chen, director of government relations for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, called it “baldly transparent” that the administration could not make a sufficient connection between the immigration programs it is targeting and terrorism.
“They are just using this as a way to scapegoat and attack the immigration system, this particular incident, when there’s no demonstrated connection between cutting back on the family-based system and protecting our national security,” Chen said. “That was so transparent from that (briefing).”
Experts say family-based migration achieves the goals of assimilation that the administration says it wants, by connecting individuals from abroad with family members already settled in the US.
All immigrants to the US are screened for security risks, which Cissna acknowledged on Tuesday. Although diversity lottery winners are chosen at random and family-based migrants are allowed in based on their relatives, all of them must pass eligibility checks by the US and be interviewed before they can receive visas.

Critics argue that the administration is ignoring the threat of online radicalization by terror groups in its pursuit of dramatic cuts to the legal immigration system.
“It’s worse than not effective, it’s counterproductive,” said Michael Breen, president and CEO of the Truman Center and Truman National Security Project, whose membership includes former national security officials and veterans of the Obama and Clinton administrations.
Breen said that responding effectively to terrorist ideologies requires creating a “sense of national unity,” and that to be “opportunistic” with an agenda instead could lead to more radicalization.

“The more we alienate people, the more difficult it is to prevent radicalization,” Breen said. “It is not good policy to categorize large parts of your population as outside the national identity.”

*******************************

Read Tal’s complete article at the link.

The Trump/Sessions/Bannon/Miller White Nationalist restrictionist immigration agenda has NEVER been about protecting America from terrorism. That’s just a smokescreen for an unrelenting (and counterproductive) program of racist, antiMuslim, anti-foreigner hysteria. In other words, the White Nationalist agenda of dividing and destroying America as we know it.

PWS

12-13-17

 

THIRD WORLD AMERICA! – THE ATTACK OF THE SWAMP RATS! — Under Trump’s GOP, Americans Now Correctly View White House As The Most Corrupt Institution — But, Who Are The Fools Who Voted These Immoral Jokers Into Control?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/josh-rogin/wp/2017/12/12/report-americans-view-trump-white-house-as-the-most-corrupt-government-institution/

Josh Rogin reports in the Washington Post:

“Almost half of Americans believe that corruption is pervasive in the White House under President Trump, a sharp increase over last year, according to a new survey. Americans now see Trump and his top officials as the most corrupt public officials in government, despite his campaign pledge to drain the swamp.

A new report out Tuesday compiled by Transparency International, the leading nonprofit organization tracking corruption worldwide, shows Americans have significantly lost faith that their government is ably fighting corruption, compared to last year. Overall, Washington-based government institutions are viewed by Americans are more corrupt than those outside the Beltway, the report found. But the Trump White House tops the list.

According to the group’s 2017 U.S. Corruption Barometer, 44 percent of respondents said that most or all of the officials in the office of the president are corrupt, up from 38 percent at the end of Obama’s second term.

Members of Congress are seen as the second most corrupt group of government officials of the nine categories in the survey, with 38 percent of Americans viewing them as mostly or all corrupt. After that, Americans perceive corruption as pervasive in non-White House government officials, business executives, local officials and business leaders in decreasing proportions. Only 16 percent of respondents viewed judges and magistrates as mostly or all corrupt, according to the data.

Meanwhile, 69 percent of respondents said the U.S. government is fighting corruption “fairly badly” or “very badly,” up from 51 percent in 2016. More than half of respondents said people don’t report corruption due to fear of retaliation.

Transparency International defines corruption as “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.” Key issues within that definition include the influence of wealthy individuals over government, “pay for play” politics, revolving doors between government and corporate entities and the abuse of the financial system by elites.

The perception of Trump and his top officials as being corrupt is easy to understand. Trump and his family have scores of well-documented conflicts of interest they have dealt with in an opaque manner. Meanwhile, Trump’s failure to divest fully from his businesses, combined with his failure to release his tax returns, has fueled suspicions.

The phone survey, performed by the company Efficience3, included interviews of 1,005 randomly selected Americans in October and November. The data were weighted to be demographically representative of all American adults by age, race, gender, urbanization, social grade and ethnicity.

Zoe Reiter, Transparency International’s U.S. representative, said that the study was meant to form a basis for understanding how government is failing to uphold high anti-corruption standards and provide a call to action for Americans to respond. She pointed out that 74 percent of respondents said they believed ordinary people still can make a difference.

“The good news is a majority of Americans feel empowered to fight corruption,” she said. “Since our elected officials are failing to deliver, we need to figure out a way to push them much harder to take these issues more seriously.”

**************************************

Read the rest of the article at the link.

There is some disconnect here, because some of the folks who now are concerned about corruption voted for Trump and the GOP, despite more than ample public evidence of his endemic dishonesty, congenital lying, incompetence, and general immorality. Garbage in — garbage out!

But, the answer to the problem is still pretty obvious:

  • Vote Trump and his corrupt cronies out of office;
  • Dismantle the current version of the GOP, which has become an “aider and abettor” of corruption, greed, immorality, and bad government.

Yes, we could and should have a viable two-party system. But, no major party should include horrible immoral individuals like Donald Trump, “Ayatollah Roy,” Steve King, Stephen Miller, or Steve Bannon whose views are deeply Anti-American and threatening to our continued existence as a nation and to the entire free world!

PWS

12-12-17

 

VICTORY DANCE! — ICE’S HOMAN SAYS CLIMATE OF FEAR HAS STEMMED BORDER CROSSINGS & PROVES UNRESTRAINED, ARBITRARY IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT WORKS! — “There’s no population that’s off the table,” he said. “If you’re in the country illegally, we’re looking for you and we’re looking to apprehend you.” — America Won’t Be Truly Safe Until The Last Cook, Gardner, Construction Worker, Nanny, Janitor, Tree Cutter, Mechanic, Handyman, Carpenter, Home Health Aide, Computer Programmer, Healthcare Worker, Lettuce Picker, Cow Milker, Landscaper, Lawnmower, Bricklayer, Roofer, Window Washer, Waiter, Sandwich Artist, Teacher, Minister, Coach, Student, Parent, Clerk, Fisherman, Farmer, Maid, Chicken Plucker, Meat Processor, Etc., Without Docs Is Removed And US Citizens Take Over All These Jobs!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/arrests-along-mexico-border-drop-sharply-under-trump-new-statistics-show/2017/12/05/743c6b54-d9c7-11e7-b859-fb0995360725_story.html

Nick Miroff reports in the Washington Post:

“The number of people caught trying to sneak over the border from Mexico has fallen to the lowest level in 46 years, according to Department of Homeland Security statistics released Tuesday that offer the first comprehensive look at how immigration enforcement is changing under the Trump administration.

During the government’s 2017 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, U.S. border agents made 310,531 arrests, a decline of 24 percent from the previous year and the fewest overall since 1971.

The figures show a sharp drop in apprehensions immediately after President Trump’s election win, possibly reflecting the deterrent effect of his rhetoric on would-be border crossers; starting in May, the number of people taken into custody began increasing again.

Arrests of foreigners living illegally in the United States have surged under Trump. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers made 110,568 such arrests between inauguration and the end of September, according to the figures published Tuesday, a 42 percent increase over the same period during the previous year.

Tom Homan, ICE’s temporary director and Trump’s nominee to lead the agency, praised the president and gave a vigorous defense of ICE’s more aggressive approach.

“This president, like him or love him, is doing the right thing,” Homan told reporters at a news conference in Washington, accompanied by the heads of the U.S. Border Patrol and Citizenship and Immigration Services.

“A 45-year low in border crossings? That’s not a coincidence,” Homan said. “That’s based on this president and his belief and letting the men and women of ICE and the Border Patrol do their job.”

[How Trump is building a border wall no one can see]

Trump’s sweeping promises to crack down on illegal immigration fueled his presidential campaign and are at the center of his most ambitious domestic policy proposals, including construction of a wall along the border with Mexico.

Asked whether such a barrier was justifiable given its high cost and the decline in illegal immigration, DHS officials endorsed the president’s plan.

“In this society, we use walls and fences to protect things. It shouldn’t be different on the border,” said Ronald Vitiello, chief of the Border Patrol.

Apprehensions by Border Patrol agents peaked at more than 1.6 million in 2000 and began falling substantially after 2008. The previous low point was 331,333 arrests, during fiscal 2015. Experts have attributed the decline to tougher U.S. enforcement, improving job prospects in Mexico and long-term demographic changes that have driven down the country’s birthrate.

3:32
On the U.S.-Mexico border, Trump supporters wait for th
Still, the drop in border arrests is among the sharpest year-to-year changes on record, one that only casts more doubt on the wisdom of building a border wall, said Doris Meissner, senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington think tank.

“It’s a throwback response to yesterday’s problems,” she said, arguing that the money would be better spent addressing what accounts for a growing share of illegal migration: families with children fleeing rampant violence and dismal poverty in Central America.

Border agents took more than 75,000 “family units,” classified as at least one child and a related adult, into custody during fiscal 2017. But the number of unaccompanied minors fell 31 percent, to 41,435.”

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Read the complete article at the link.

This has to be what true greatness looks like! Imagine a world without those pesky undocumented workers to support our economy, our society, and our “American” way of life! That’s making America Great Again!

I’m sure future generations will be inspired by Homan’s humanity and wisdom as they pick produce or pound shingles in 100 degree heat, clean toilets, empty urine bags for the elderly and handicapped, clean tables, wash dishes, limb trees, shuck oysters, schlep concrete blocks, dig ditches, and, horror of horrors, take care of their own children while working full-time. Man, that’s going to be “America the Great” just as Trump, Sessions, Bannon, Miller, Homan, and others envision it!

And, the best part: we won’t have to worry about any of that burdensome, nasty “globalism” and the unfair burden of global leadership! That’s because the Chinese, Indians, Canadians, Mexicans, and Europeans will be in charge of the world economy and the Ruskies will control world politics. So we can enjoy our little White Nationalist enclave modeled on post-revolutionary Cuba — life in the 1950’s preserved forever! Save those “Classic ’57 Chevies!”

Kinda sorry I won’t be here to enjoy it! But, then again, I already lived through the real 1950’s once — Cold War, Jim Crow, segregation, anti-semitism, racial covenants, no women doctors, lawyers, or execs, African Americans only welcome on the football fields and basketball courts of a few Northern colleges! Boy, it was great! But, not sure I want  to do it again, even to experience the pure, unadulterated joy of having “my Milwaukee Braves” win the 1957 World Series (before fleeing to Atlanta)!

On the flip side, at Homan’s “record pace” of “law enforcement,” he and his minions will have every single undocumented American resident removed from the U.S by 2080 — that’s if no more arrive in the interim. And, the really great thing — they and those around them (including U.S. citizen kids and family members) will be living in fear every moment for the next six decades! Now, that’s something of which we can be truly proud! Of course, this all assumes that the North Koreans don’t nuke us and the rest of the world out of existence first!

PWS

12-06-17

 

INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE: US ADMINISTRATION OF SHAME: “A year of unwelcome How the Trump administration has sabotaged America’s welcome in 2017”

https://www.rescue.org/article/how-trump-administration-has-sabotaged-americas-welcome-2017

“Since President Donald Trump took office on Jan. 20, his administration has repeatedly implemented policies that pull the welcome mat from under the feet of refugees and immigrants seeking safety in the United States. The latest directive, announced in late October, institutes new vetting measures for refugees from 11 countries, effectively extending the travel ban that recently expired.

These developments are unbefitting America’s history as a safe haven for refugees. Democratic and Republican presidents alike have ensured that the United States supports refugees who seek liberty and reject ideologies opposed to American values.
U.S. leadership is needed now more than ever, when tens of millions across the globe face life-threatening situations. Yet the Trump administration continues to issue anti-immigrant and anti-refugee policies that endanger innocent people fleeing persecution and, inherently, weaken America’s reputation both at home and abroad.
Here is a timeline of the Trump administration’s immigrant policies during its first nine months.
Travel ban
By the numbers
President Trump is pulling back America’s welcome mat at a time of unprecedented global need. This year:
65 million
people worldwide are currently uprooted by crisis

More people have been forced to flee their homes by conflict and crisis than at any time since World War II.

Learn more about refugees
During his first week in office, President Trump instituted a travel ban that suspended the U.S. refugee resettlement program for 120 days and barred Syrian refugees from entry to the U.S. indefinitely. It also indiscriminately excluded any travel from six other countries—Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen—for 90 days.
Opponents of the travel ban challenged the directive in the courts. The Administration drafted a second travel ban as replacement: It allowed travelers who hold green cards entry the U.S.; removed Iraq from the list of restricted countries; and struck down the indefinite ban on Syrian refugees.
Even with this second ban, an eventual Supreme Court ruling required the administration to rewrite its travel guidelines over the summer, stipulating that people who have a “credible claim of bona fide relationship” with a person living in the U.S. can enter the country. The new guidelines, however, raised more questions than answers. For example, “bona fide relationships” didn’t include grandparents or resettlement agencies until advocates further challenged the protocols. Meanwhile, thousands of vulnerable refugees who were not already on flights to the U.S. were left stranded.
“The human toll on families who have patiently waited their turn, done the vetting, given up jobs and prepared to travel is wrong,” said David Miliband, president of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), in a July 13 statement. “After decades of leading with its gold standard resettlement program, this defective policy shifts the goal posts and sees America turn its back on—and break its promise to—the world’s most vulnerable.”
The Supreme Court scheduled hearings on the legality of the travel ban, but the expiration date for the directive rendering the case moot.
End of protections for Central American refugee children
On Aug. 16, the Trump administration ended the automatic parole option for children in the CAM program (formally called the Central American Minors Refugee and Parole program). Since December 2014, the CAM program has helped reunite children fleeing gang violence in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador with parents already in the U.S.
Many of these children avoided a perilous journey in order to reunite with parents and relatives—who are lawfully in the U.S.—and begin their new lives with refugee status protected under U.S. and international laws, notes Jennifer Sime, senior vice president of United States Programs at the IRC. “These children are no longer separated from their parents due to conflict and unrest, and are able to attend school and have a childhood free from violence.”
Terminating this lifesaving program, as this administration has done, is brutally tearing families apart—and in many cases, endangering children.
End of the “Dreamers” program
By the numbers
President Trump is pulling back America’s welcome mat at a time of unprecedented global need. This year:
45,000
is the record-low U.S. limit on refugee admissions

That number is less than half the refugee admissions cap set by President Obama last year.

Why the U.S. should accept more refugees
On Sept. 5, Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program, which created a fair and necessary safeguard for hundreds of thousands of young people—commonly known as Dreamers—brought to the U.S. as children.
This decision puts nearly 800,000 young people at risk of deportation from the only country they have ever known. It will have a painful and lasting impact on their lives, the fortunes of their employers, and the wellbeing of their communities.
“The devastating decision to discontinue DACA … unnecessarily tears families apart,” says Hans van de Weerd, vice president of United States Programs at the IRC. “To take away the promised protection of DACA without an alternative, from those who courageously came out of the shadows to apply to the program, bolster our economy and enrich our communities, is simply inhumane.”

Historically low refugee cap
On Sept. 27, the Trump administration announced that it would cap at 45,000 the number of refugees granted admission to the U.S. in Fiscal Year 2018. This number is a historic low—the annual cap on average has exceeded 95,000 since 1980—and comes at a time when more people are uprooted by war and crisis than ever before.
“This administration’s decision to halve the number of refugees admitted to America is a double-blow—to victims of war ready to start a new life, and to America’s reputation as a beacon of hope in the world,” says Miliband. “When America cuts its numbers, the danger is that it sets the stage for other nations to follow suit, a tragic and contagious example of moral failure.”
New vetting procedures
By the numbers
President Trump is pulling back America’s welcome mat at a time of unprecedented global need. This year:
15,000
refugees are actually likely to be admitted to the U.S., based on IRC projections

Vulnerable refugees are being harmed by bureaucratic red tape that won’t make Americans safer.

Why the existing vetting process already works
The travel ban officially expired on Oct. 24, but the Trump administration substituted the directive with a round of new vetting procedures for refugees entering the U.S. All refugees will now need to provide addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and other details – over the past decade – for themselves and, potentially, their extended family members.
Further measures essentially allow Trump to extend the ban for 90 days for refugees from 11 countries.
“This will add months, or potentially years, to the most urgent cases, the majority of which are women and children in heinous circumstances,” says Sime. “With a world facing brutal and protracted conflicts like in Syria, or new levels of displacement and unimaginable violence against the Rohingya, this moment is a test of the world’s humanity, moral leadership, and ability to learn from the horrors of the past.”
Stand with refugees

We need your help to fight back and remind Congress that the Trump administration’s refugee policies DO NOT represent American values.”

*******************************

More for Fat Cats, corporations, and the Trump Family Enterprises. Less for the needy and vulnerable. Eventually, there will be a reckoning for selfish, “me first,” policies of greed and disregard for the rights and humanity of others. I read it in a book.

PWS

12-02-17

 

 

 

GOP’S WAR ON AMERICA RAMPS UP! — LOOT, PILLAGE, BURN UNLESS & UNTIL VOTERS WAKE UP — AFTER UNNEEDED TAX CUTS, SOCIAL SECURITY, MEDICARE, & SAFETY NET NEXT TO BE SACRIFICED TO THE RICH — RACE TO THE BOTTOM ACCELERATES!

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2017/12/republicans_rule_and_ruin_agenda_shows_how_bankrupt_the_party_has_become.html

Jamelle Bouie writes in Slate:

“For the Republicans in opposition to Barack Obama, it was rule or ruin. If they couldn’t advance their agenda, then they would paralyze Congress, sabotage the courts, and hold the economy hostage to hyper-ideological demands. If they couldn’t set the terms of American governance, then no one would.

Jamelle Bouie
JAMELLE BOUIE
Jamelle Bouie is Slate’s chief political correspondent.

Far from paying a political price for this behavior, Republicans rode it to the trifecta of federal power: a majority in the House, a majority in the Senate, and a president in the White House. Finally, they ruled. But in forging this path to power, the GOP abandoned any commitment to the public interest. The result is rule and ruin from a Republican Party that holds power but wields it in destructive, irresponsible ways.

Historian Geoffrey Kabaservice detailed the demise of the moderate Republican at the hands of an uber-ideological conservative movement in his book Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party. But the current GOP has laid bare exactly what this means when the party takes power.

Republicans pushed, again and again, to repeal the Affordable Care Act earlier this year, despite wide opposition and clear evidence of disastrous consequences for ordinary Americans. They slapped together plans with little forethought and even less rigor, with predictable results: Any one of the GOP repeal bills would have crashed the individual health care market and crippled Medicaid, leaving tens of millions of Americans without health coverage. Pressed on why exactly they were doing this, few Republican lawmakers could even answer the question. They weren’t legislating to solve problems or further the public good, they were legislating to achieve a narrow ideological goal, whatever the costs for actual, living people.

We see this, now, with the Republican tax plan. Sold to the public as a generous middle-class tax cut, the reality is just the opposite. As it currently exists, the Republican bill is a large tax cut for corporations and wealthy households, paid for by tax hikes on middle- and working-class households and designed to land glancing blows on the social safety net writ large.

Republicans would slash corporate tax rates, spending more than $1 trillion over the next decade to cut the rate from 35 percent to 20 percent. They would slash rates on the highest income earners, as well as create a new loophole lowering taxes on certain kinds of businesses. They would also make cuts to the estate tax, with an eye toward phasing it out entirely, hugely benefiting wealthy heirs. There is a middle-class tax cut, but unlike these provisions, it’s temporary. “By 2027,” notes the New York Times, “people making $40,000 to $50,000 would pay a combined $5.3 billion more in taxes, while the group earning $1 million or more would get a $5.8 billion cut.”

Adding to this, Republicans intend to use this bill to end the individual mandate in Obamacare, potentially crippling the law’s health insurance markets and lowering the insurance rate by an estimated 13 million people over the next 10 years. Other measures include the end of a federal deduction for state and local taxes—sharply raising the tax burden in high-tax states like New York and California—and a provision that would end deductibility for tuition waivers for graduate students and repeal the student loan interest deduction, policies that might restrict access to higher education for people from marginalized groups.

The economic case for these policies is nonexistent. There’s little evidence that, in these conditions, a tax cut would stimulate significant economic growth. On Thursday, the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation said that the Senate GOP plan would result in just 0.8 percent more growth over the next decade. And Republican rhetoric notwithstanding, this growth would only cover a third of the cost of the tax cut. The public would be on the hook for $1 trillion. The only way to close that gap, if you won’t raise taxes on the rich, is to slash vital services like Social Security and Medicare, plans that are already taking shape.

The Republican tax plan, then, is potentially transformative. It would supercharge inequality, putting even more of the nation’s wealth in the pockets of a handful of wealthy families (one of which is the Trump family, which would benefit enormously from the provisions of the bill, even as Trump says the opposite), and it would fund this by slashing health care, burdening students, and raising taxes on middle-income families. All to fix a problem—high, burdensome taxes on the wealthy—which doesn’t exist.

Want More Politics? Listen to the Political Gabfest.

Join Emily Bazelon, John Dickerson, and David Plotz as they discuss and debate the week’s biggest political news.
In other words, this tax plan does not serve the larger public. It’s simply a giveaway to wealthy interests, robbing the country of needed investments and loading younger generations with endless debt and little to show for it. As we saw in Kansas and Oklahoma—states that had to make deep cuts to infrastructure and education to afford their tax cuts—this is essentially rule in order to ruin. The looting of public coffers for the sake of individuals and interests who already have so much. And while Trump is a central figure here, he is not the driving force. This is the endpoint of conservative ideology, the all-consuming priority of the Republican governing class. Replace President Trump with President Rubio or President Cruz and we’d be looking at a similar bill, with a similarly reckless process.

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Part of their calculation must be they’ll lose big next year so they have to rob the place while they can.

The “rule and ruin” ethos applies to more than just legislation. It defines the relationship between President Trump and the Republican Party, as GOP lawmakers tolerate racist demagoguery and dangerously unstable rhetoric for the sake of narrow ideological concerns, ignoring or rationalizing the real damage to America’s norms and institutions. It captures the dynamic of GOP-led states like Wisconsin and Michigan, where “rule” has meant all-out attacks on unions and higher education. You could almost see this repeat itself in Virginia, where the Republican nominee for governor, Ed Gillespie, promised massive tax cuts (while demanding steep spending cuts) had he won the election.

Backed by a network of activist billionaires, the Republican Party has launched an assault on public goods and the public interest, bent on destroying the idea that affluent citizens owe anything to the commons. It’s the return to a Gilded Age ideology, where politicians openly worshipped wealth, and where keeping that wealth in the hands of the wealthy was more critical—and more worthy—than attending to the vulnerable among us.

*******************

Meanwhile, over at the Washington Post, Jeff Stein writes about the next target for these Mondern Day Mauraders who intend to strip many Americans of the benefits they need to live somthat they can line their own pockets and those of their fat cat cronies — all the time laughing at the fools who elected them and counting on their continuing to vote their biases rather than their best interests.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/12/01/gop-eyes-post-tax-cut-changes-to-welfare-medicare-and-social-security/

“High-ranking Republicans are hinting that, after their tax overhaul, the party intends to look at cutting spending on welfare, entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, and other parts of the social safety net.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said recently that he wants Republicans to focus in 2018 on reducing spending on government programs. Last month, President Trump said welfare reform will “take place right after taxes, very soon, very shortly after taxes,” according to The Washington Examiner.

As Republicans advocate spending cuts, they have frequently cited a need to reduce the national deficit while growing the economy.

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“You also have to bring spending under control. And not discretionary spending. That isn’t the driver of our debt. The driver of our debt is the structure of Social Security and Medicare for future beneficiaries,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said this week.

While whipping votes for a GOP tax bill on Thursday, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) attacked “liberal programs” for the poor and said Congress needed to stop wasting Americans’ money.

“We’re spending ourselves into bankruptcy,” Hatch said. “Now, let’s just be honest about it: We’re in trouble. This country is in deep debt. You don’t help the poor by not solving the problems of debt, and you don’t help the poor by continually pushing more and more liberal programs through.”

The GOP tax bill currently under consideration in the Senate would increase the federal deficit by nearly $1.5 trillion over a decade, according to Congress’s official tax analysts and multiple other nonpartisan analysts. When economic growth the measure could create is included in the analysis, Congress’s official tax scorekeeper predicted the bill would add $1 trillion to the deficit over 10 years.

President Trump greets Vice President Pence, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) in July. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
Trump has not clarified which specific programs would be affected by the proposed “welfare reform.”

During the presidential campaign, Trump vowed that there would be “no cuts” to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, although the president has reversed many of his economic campaign promises since taking office.

The remarks from leading Republicans have fueled a growing fear among liberals that the GOP will use higher deficits — in part caused by their tax bill — as a pretext to accomplish the long-held conservative policy objective of cutting government health-care and social-service spending, which the left believes would hit the poor the hardest.

“What’s coming next is all too predictable: The deficit hawks will come flying back after this bill becomes law,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the ranking Democrat on the finance committee. “Republicans are already saying ‘entitlement reform’ and ‘welfare reform’ are next up on the docket. But nobody should be fooled — that’s just code for attacks on Medicaid, on Medicare, on Social Security, on anti-hunger programs.”

On the Senate floor Thursday night, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) asked Rubio and Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) to promise that Republicans would not advance cuts to Medicare and Social Security after their tax bill. Toomey said that there was “no secret plan” to do so, while Rubio said he opposed cuts to either program for current beneficiaries. However, neither closed the door to changing the programs for future beneficiaries.

“I am not going to support any cuts to people who are on the program and need those benefits. But I want this program to survive,” Toomey said. To which Sanders responded: “He just told you he’s going to cut Social Security.”

Many conservatives have long argued for cutting and changing social safety net programs, arguing that anti-poverty programs have failed and that Social Security spending is growing at an unsustainable rate.

Still, members of both parties have long been reticent to cut benefits, especially for seniors, due in part to the potential political cost of doing so. And in discussing changes, Republicans, including Rubio, have largely confined their ideas to plans that would affect new beneficiaries, rather than current ones.

Still, it may be particularly difficult for Republicans to push those measures ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, in which many in swing states and districts face well-funded Democratic challengers hoping to ride an anti-Trump wave into office.”

********************************

Ah, the party of grifters taking their “Begger Thy Neighbor” strategy to new heights! Because they can! (And the rest of us have let them get away with it.)

PWS

12-01-17

 

“THIRD WORLD AMERICA” — GOP ON THE VERGE OF “DECONSTRUCTING” GOVERNMENT, PUBLIC SERVICES, HEALTH, & EDUCATION AT ALL LEVELS TO HAND OUT FAVORS TO THE RICH — PARTY OF “REVERSE ROBIN HOOD” ABOUT TO “SCORE A BIG ONE“ FOR THE ALREADY OVERPRIVILEGED AT THE EXPENSE OF EVERYONE ELSE! –“This tax bill is a grand deception,” said Arnold Hiatt, the former chief executive of Stride Rite, which makes children’s shoes. “It hurts the most vulnerable, and hurts health care and education, which are essential for a healthy economy.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/29/business/republican-tax-cut.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

“Economists and tax experts are overwhelmingly skeptical that the bills in the House and Senate can generate meaningful job growth and economic expansion. Many view the legislation not as a product of genuine deliberation, but as a transfer of wealth to corporations and affluent individuals — both generous purveyors of campaign contributions. By 2027, people making $40,000 to $50,000 would pay a combined $5.3 billion more in taxes, while the group earning $1 million or more would get a $5.8 billion cut, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation and the Congressional Budget Office.

“When you put all these pieces together, what you’re left with is we are squandering a giant sum of money,” said Edward D. Kleinbard, a former chief of staff at the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation who teaches law at the University of Southern California. “It’s not aimed at growth. It is not aimed at the middle class. It is at every turn carefully engineered to deliver a kiss to the donor class.”

In a recent University of Chicago survey of 38 prominent economistsacross the ideological spectrum, only one said the proposed tax cuts would yield substantial economic growth. Unanimously, the economists said the tax cuts would add to the long-term federal debt burden, now estimated at more than $20 trillion.

If the package does have a guiding philosophy, it is a return to trickle-down economics, an enduring story line in which the wealthy are supposed to spend and invest their tax breaks, creating jobs and commercial opportunities for everyone else.

As President Ronald Reagan slashed taxes in the 1980s, he argued that citizens, not bureaucrats, should decide how to spend their money. President George W. Bush bestowed enormous tax cuts on the affluent.

But the trickle-down story has yet to achieve its promised happy ending. Only the beginning reliably transpires, the part where wealthy people get relief. The spoils of resulting economic growth have largely been monopolized by those with the highest incomes. Pay for most American workers has been stagnant since the mid-1970s, after the rising costs of housing, health care and other basics are factored in.

Nonetheless, Republicans are staging a trickle-down revival.

“Either it’s a religious belief, a belief where no amount of evidence would change that, or they are using the argument cynically and they just want more money for themselves,” the economist Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate, said.

Mr. Stiglitz has long warned of the perils of growing inequality while deriding tax-cutting inclinations. Yet even those who have favored lighter tax burdens are critical of the current proposals.

In the late 1970s, Bruce Bartlett developed what would become the locus of the Reagan tax cuts while working for Representative Jack Kemp, a conservative Republican from New York. Those cuts helped cushion the pain from sharp increases in interest rates by the Federal Reserve, Mr. Bartlett maintains. But Reagan was lowering the highest tax rate on individuals from 70 percent down to 28 percent by 1986.

“What they have here is a big tax cut for the rich paid for with random increases in taxes for various constituencies,” Mr. Bartlett said. “It’s ridiculous. And it’s telling that they are ramming this through without any debate. All of the empirical evidence goes against the tax cut.”

 

The meat of the package is a permanent lowering of the corporate tax rate, to 20 percent from 35 percent, which business leaders have long wanted. Proponents assert that this would prompt multinational companies to expand operations in the United States.

“We’ve been bleeding corporate headquarters and production for a long time,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office and now president of the American Action Forum, a nonprofit that promotes smaller government.

But recent history suggests that when corporations get tax relief, they find abundant uses for money that do not involve paying higher wages. They give dividends to shareholders and stock options to executives. They stash earnings in tax havens.

In 2004, Congress invited American corporations to bring home overseas earnings at a sharply reduced rate, pitching it as a means of bolstering investment. But the corporations spent as much as 90 percent of their windfall buying back their shares, according to Bureau of Economic Analysis research.

If Congress bestows fresh relief on major businesses, signs suggest a similar result. Many companies are enjoying record profits. Those in the Fortune 500 had $2.6 trillion salted away overseas as of last year.

“In our boardroom, the number-one thing we’re talking about is not taxes,” said Jeremy Stoppelman, chief executive of Yelp, the online review platform. “Having a strong middle class out there spending money is what’s most important for our business.”

If the tax bill widens inequality, local communities will likely find themselves with fewer resources to aim at helping struggling people.

A key feature of the Senate bill is the elimination of a federal deduction for state and local taxes. Conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation and American Legislative Exchange Council have sought to end the deduction as a means of reining in government spending.

In high-tax states like California, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut — where electorates have historically shown a willingness to finance ample safety-net programs — the measure could change the political calculus. It would magnify the costs to taxpayers, pressuring states to stay lean or risk the wrath of voters.

Some see in this tilt a reworking of basic principles that have prevailed in American life for generations.

. . . .

Since the 1930s, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt created Social Security, unemployment benefits and other pillars of the safety net to combat the Great Depression, crises have been tempered by some measure of government support. Recent decades have brought cuts to social services, but the impact of the current bill could be especially consequential.

“This is a repudiation of the social contract that Franklin Roosevelt announced at the New Deal,” Joseph J. Ellis, a Pulitzer Prize-winning American historian, said of trimming benefits for lower- and middle-income families to finance bigger rewards for the wealthy. Health coverage would shrink under the Republican plan while multimillion-dollar estates would not have to pay a penny in taxes.

The tax cut package, for instance, could trigger rules mandating cuts to Medicare, the government health care program for seniors, the Congressional Budget Office warned. Some 13 million people could lose health care via the elimination of a key plank of Obamacare. Insurance premiums are also expected to rise by 10 percent.

“This tax bill is a grand deception,” said Arnold Hiatt, the former chief executive of Stride Rite, which makes children’s shoes. “It hurts the most vulnerable, and hurts health care and education, which are essential for a healthy economy.”

The proposals break from seven decades’ worth of federal efforts to broaden access to higher education.

Since World War II, the guiding sense has been that “it is government’s responsibility to provide higher education for all those who can benefit from it,” said David Nasaw, a historian at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. That idea was behind the G.I. Bill, which helped generations of veterans pay for college and training.

The House bill includes provisions that would end the deductibility of tuition waivers for graduate students and repeal the deduction for interest paid on student loans. Both chambers’ bills would tax investment earnings from university endowments.

The endowment tax, in particular, threatens the ability of low-income students to pursue college and graduate studies, said Ron Haskins, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Proceeds from endowments subsidize students from lower-income families, while allowing students across the board to graduate with less debt.

“When the time of reckoning comes to fix huge deficits, social safety-net programs will be first on the chopping block,” Julian E. Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, said.

“It’s very far-reaching,” he added, “but there hasn’t been much of a debate.”

*****************************************

Read the complete, revealing but disturbing, article at the link. We’re ultimately going to look more like a (at least temporarily) well-to-do “Banana Republic” with the rich on top and in power; everyone else scrambling; lots of excess guns and ammo; and a lower standard of living for average folks to support the privileged power class. And, the GOP has managed to pull all of this off at the ballot box and without any true debate or public accounting, relying on the overall inability of the electorate to figure out that they are being fleeced by their own representatives. Pretty impressive!

PWS

11-30-17

PAUL KRUGMAN IN THE NYT: GOP IRATE AT BEING CALLED OUR ON ITS BIG TIME TAX LIES! – The “Anti-Robin –Hood” Party Is In Full Attack Mode! – Screw Everyone Else To Hand Out More Bennies To The Super Rich!

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/20/opinion/lies-incoherence-and-rage-on-tax-cuts.html

Krugman writes:

“One thing you can count on in 21st-century U.S. politics is that Republicans will lie about taxes. They did it under George W. Bush, they did it under Barack Obama and they’re still doing it under Donald Trump.

Yet this time is different. It’s not just that the lies have gotten even more brazen. There’s now a combination of incoherence and rage that we, or at least I, haven’t seen before. These days, they can’t even seem to get their fake story straight — and they literally start yelling obscenities when someone tries to point out the facts.

G.O.P. lies about taxes generally involve two issues: who is hurt or helped by tax changes, and what these changes will do to the budget.

Thus, when George W. Bush cut taxes in 2001 and 2003, he and his party repeatedly insisted that the tax cuts were primarily for the middle class. In fact, while there were some middle-class tax breaks in the package, such as an increase in the child tax credit, these were dwarfed by cuts in tax rates on high incomes, reduced taxes on dividends and repeal of the estate tax. Over all, the richest 1 percent saw a much larger increase in after-tax income than middle-class families did.

At the same time, the Bush administration used a series of gimmicks to hide the true fiscal cost of the plan, such as delaying the implementation of some tax cuts while pretending that others would expire when the actual intention was to make them permanent.

When Obama took office, these tricks were simply flipped on their head. Republicans insisted, falsely, that Obama had imposed a “massive tax increase” on the middle class; in fact, for the most part he actually cut middle-class taxes. Meanwhile, they insisted that the surge in the budget deficit caused by the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis was permanent, and ridiculed the Obama administration’s claims that deficits would fall sharply once crisis spending ended and tax receipts recovered; in fact, that’s exactly what happened.

So what’s different this time? As in the Bush years, Republicans are claiming to be offering a middle-class tax cut. But where Bush truly was cutting taxes on the middle class, just much less than he was on the wealthy, current Republican plans would raise those taxes on many lower- and middle-income families, even as they go down for the wealthy. (Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, claims that only “million-dollar earners”would see tax increases. This is the opposite of the truth.

Oh, and a memo to journalists: If you play it safe by reporting this as “Democrats say” that middle-class taxes will go up, you’re misleading your readers: Those estimates come from the Joint Committee on Taxation, Congress’s own nonpartisan scorekeeper.

How can Republicans like Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, pretend to be helping the middle class? It depends crucially on a new kind of budget gimmick: Both the House and Senate tax-cut bills do contain some middle-class tax breaks — but only for the first few years. Then they expire.

Take one of Ryan’s favorite examples, a family with two children and earning $59,000 a year. That family would indeed get a tax break next year. But the break would rapidly dwindle and turn into a tax increase by 2024.

The Republican response is to claim that these tax breaks wouldn’t really expire, that Congress would eventually renew them. That’s quite doubtful — and even if true, it means that the tax plans would add much more to the national debt than the G.O.P. admits. Which brings me to the whole budget deficit issue.

Not long ago, leading Republicans claimed to be deeply concerned about budget deficits. Only fools and centrists took the Republicans seriously. Still, the abrupt shift to nonchalance about adding trillions to the debt in order to cut taxes on corporations and the wealthy is causing a bit of whiplash even among cynics. How do they justify the shift?

Well, they don’t seem to have settled on a story. Mnuchin keeps asserting that tax cuts will pay for themselves, going so far as to claim (falsely) that Treasury has released a study showing this. Mick Mulvaney, the budget director, cheerfully acknowledges that they’re using gimmicks to pass a bill that permanently cuts taxes on corporations, and not to worry. Whatever works, it seems.

So we’re really looking at an unprecedented level of dishonesty here. But what happens when you try to explain what’s going on? When Senator Sherrod Brown tried to point out, correctly, that the Senate G.O.P.’s tax bill heavily favors the rich, Senator Orrin Hatch exploded, calling it “bull crap” and asserting that he grew up poor (which is relevant why, exactly?).

Sorry, but this isn’t the righteous anger of a man falsely accused of wrongdoing. It’s the rage con men always exhibit when caught out in their con.

But what’s the con about? The very incoherence of the arguments Republicans are making for their plans shows that it’s not about helping the economy, let alone ordinary families. It really is about making the rich richer, at everyone else’s expense. If this be bull crap, make the most of it.”

***********************************************

As usual, the GOP counts heavily on voters being too biased or gullible to figure out that they are being fleeced. And, to date, they have been correct. So, why stop a “winning strategy” even if it is based on lies, demonstrably bogus assumptions, and other “cons?”

PWS

11-21-17

WALL? WHAT WALL? – BUREAUCRATIC BARRIERS BEST BAR TO (NEEDED) IMMIGRATION (Hey, I Could’ve Told ‘Em That!) – But, White Nationalist Goal Of Returning To A “White America” Ultimately Doomed — “You can slow the rate of Latino and Asian immigration, but it won’t make the population whiter,”. . . “It will just become less white at a slower pace.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/immigration/how-trump-is-building-a-border-wall-no-one-can-see/2017/11/21/83d3b746-cba0-11e7-b0cf-7689a9f2d84e_story.html?utm_term=.a71d3a707371

Maria Sacchetti and Nick Miroff report in the Washington Post:

“President Trump’s vision of a “big, beautiful” wall along the Mexican border may never be realized, and almost certainly not as a 2,000-mile physical structure spanning sea to sea.

But in a systematic and less visible way, his administration is following a blueprint to reduce the number of foreigners living in the United States those who are undocumented and those here legallyand overhaul the U.S. immigration system for generations to come.

Across agencies and programs, federal officials are wielding executive authority to assemble a bureaucratic wall that could be more effective than any concrete and metal one. While some actions have drawn widespread attention, others have been put in place more quietly.

The administration has moved to slash the number of refugees, accelerate deportations and terminate the provisional residency of more than a million people, among other measures. On Monday, the Department of Homeland Security said nearly 60,000 Haitians allowed to stay in the United States after a devastating 2010 earthquake have until July 2019 to leave or obtain another form of legal status.

. . . .

Even as they fight court orders seeking to halt parts of Trump’s immigration agenda, Sessions, White House senior adviser Stephen Miller and other key players are finding ways to shrink the immigration system. Miller was an aide to Sessions before both men joined the administration; in less than a year, their immigration policy prescriptions have moved from the realm of think-tank wish lists to White House executive orders.

In October, the White House — in a plan led by Miller — said it had conducted a “bottom-up review of all immigration policies” and found “dangerous loopholes, outdated laws, and easily exploited vulnerabilities in our immigration system — current policies that are harming our country and our communities.”

. . . .

Trump’s tough talk alone appears to be one of the administration’s best bulwarks: Illegal crossings along the border with Mexico have plunged to their lowest level in 45 years, and U.S. agents are catching a far greater share of those attempting to sneak in. Applications for H-1B skilled visas and new foreign-student enrollment have also declined.

William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, said that until now U.S. immigration rates have largely spared the country from the challenges facing advanced industrial nations such as Japan and Germany that can’t replace aging workers fast enough. By slashing immigration, Frey said, the country could end up with labor shortages and other workforce issues.

But although some of Trump’s most fervent supporters see curbing immigration as a way to turn back the United States’ rapid racial and ethnic transformation, Frey said it is an unrealistic goal. By 2020, census projections show minorities will account for more than half of the under-18 U.S. population, because of higher birthrates in nonwhite populations. And by 2026, the number of whites is projected to begin declining in absolute numbers, he said, as deaths exceed births.

“You can slow the rate of Latino and Asian immigration, but it won’t make the population whiter,” Frey said. “It will just become less white at a slower pace.”

Trump continues to insist his administration will build a border wall, despite exorbitant cost projections and senior DHS officials saying a 2,000-mile structure is impractical. His supporters say they admire the president for plowing ahead in his overhaul efforts and see a historic, generational shift underway.

“There is more than one way to get to the goal,” Dane said. “Legislative solutions are all great, but clearly the administration has done things behind the scenes. . . . The results have been dramatic.”

*******************************************

Read the full article at the link.

It’s no surprise that guys like Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions and his henchman Stephen Miller are leading this racist-inspired, xenophobic “race to the bottom” that if successful would likely tank our economy and cause even more inequality and social unrest as well as inflicting all sorts of unnecessary pain and suffering on long time residents, needed and productive workers, and the most vulnerable individuals seeking protection under U.S. and international laws.  Really, hard to see how guys like this with retrograde ideas that come right from the “Jim Crow era” of American history get into positions of power for which they are so totally unqualified, both by background and temperament. But, then again, look at whom we have elected our President to represent us on the international scene.

The good news for the majority of Americans is that  the “turn back the clock” plan is ultimately likely to fail. We will eventually move forward again as a diverse, productive, “country of immigrants,” and restore humane and humanitarian values to our national and international profile.

PWS

11-22-17

DOJ PLANS TO CUT U.S. IMMIGRATION COURT BACKLOG IN HALF BY 2020 — CONTINUES TO PRESS BOGUS CLAIM THAT BACKLOGS DRIVEN BY PRIVATE ATTORNEYS — THE TRUTH: BACKLOGS DRIVEN PRIMARILY BY POOR DECISIONS BY CONGRESS (E.G., USG SHUTDOWN) & “AIMLESS DOCKET RESHUFFLING” BY THE DOJ OVER THE PAST THREE ADMINISTRATIONS, INCLUDING THIS ONE!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/immigration/doj-details-plan-to-slash-immigration-court-backlog/2017/11/03/03fcef34-c0a0-11e7-959c-fe2b598d8c00_story.html

Maria Sacchetti reports in the Washington Post:

“The Department of Justice said Friday it is aiming to slash the massive immigration court backlog in half by 2020 by adding judges, upgrading technology and refusing to tolerate repeated delays in deportation cases.

Officials, who briefed reporters on condition that they not be identified by name, said the effort is part of the Trump administration’s broad plan to more efficiently handle cases of undocumented immigrants, who number 11 million nationwide.

The administration has reversed Obama-era policies that allowed prosecutors to indefinitely postpone low-priority cases, which the Justice Department officials said allowed some immigrants to delay “inevitable” deportations. In other cases, they said, immigrants who deserved to win their cases were delayed for years because of the backlog.

The immigration court backlog has tripled since 2009, the year former president Obama took office, to more than 630,000 cases in October.

“That is what this administration is committed to, getting this done right, ensuring that we’re never in this place again,” a Justice Department official said. “Really and truly, when you look at the numbers . . . it reflects the fact that the last administration likely wasn’t as committed to ensuring that the system worked the way that Congress intended it to.”

The agency, which oversees the administrative immigration courts, said it plans to hire new immigration judges, use technology such as videoconferencing, and increase judges’ productivity by setting case-completion guidelines, though officials would not give details.

The department also will have a “no dark courtrooms” policy, the officials said, explaining that there are at least 100 courtrooms nationwide that are empty every Friday because of judges’ alternate work schedules. The Justice Department is tapping retired judges to fill those courts.

The immigration court overhaul comes as the Trump administration is carrying out policies that could generate even more cases in coming months. Arrests and deportations from the interior of the United States are rising sharply, and the Trump administration has ended Obama-era protections for some undocumented immigrants, including 690,000 undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children.

By Monday, the Trump administration is also expected to say if it will renew temporary protected status for thousands of longtime immigrants from Honduras and Nicaragua whose permits expire next year.

The Justice Department officials said they are no longer widely using certain protections for undocumented immigrants, including a tool known as prosecutorial discretion that allowed the government to set aside low-priority deportation cases.

DOJ officials criticized immigration lawyers, saying they “have purposely used tactics designed to delay” immigration cases. As of 2012, the officials said, there were an average of four continuances for each case before the court.

Gregory Chen, director of government relations for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said the administration’s plan to cut the backlog would “undermine judicial independence” in the immigration courts.

“This administration has been extremely hostile toward the judiciary and the independence of immigration judges, as well as other judges,” Chen said.

Speeding up cases depends partly on congressional funding. It also rests partly on the actions of immigration judges, who have expressed concerns about due process for immigrants, many of whom are facing deportation to some of the world’s most violent countries. Immigrants are not entitled to a government-appointed lawyer in these courts and often handle cases on their own.

The Justice officials would not comment on reports that they will impose case-completion quotas on judges, which raised an outcry from the judges’ union. But the officials said they would give judges clear standards to complete cases and add more supervisors.

Officials say they are already seeing results from efforts this year to improve efficiency. From February to September, judges ordered 78,767 people to leave the country, a 33 percent jump over the same period in 2016. The total number of final decisions, which includes some immigrants who won their cases, is 100,921.”

***************************************************

THE GOOD:

  • Using retired U.S. Immigration Judges to fill in while Immigration Judges are on leave or otherwise scheduled to be out of court is a good idea. Indeed, the National Association of Immigration Judges (“NAIJ”) has been pushing this idea since the Clinton Administration with no results until now. Additionally, finally taking advantage of the available “Phased Retirement Options” for the the many Immigration Judges nearing retirement could also be helpful.
  • Over time, hiring additional Immigration Judges could be helpful, at least in theory. But, that depends on whether the hiring is done on a merit basis, the new judges are properly trained, and they have the space, equipment, and support staff to function. The DOJ/EOIR’s past record on accomplishing such initiatives has been beyond abysmal. So, it’s just as likely that additional hiring will harm the Immigraton Courts’ functioning as it is that it will help.

THE BAD:

  • “Productivity standards” are totally inappropriate for an independent judiciary. They are almost certain to infringe on due process by turning judges into “assembly line workers.”  Moreover, if hiring is done properly, judges should be self-motivated professionals who don’t need “Micky Mouse performance evaluations” to function. While it might be helpful to have some “periodic peer review” involving input from those appearing before the courts and judges of courts reviewing the judges’ work, such as takes place in some other independent judicial systems, that clearly isn’t they type of system this Administration has in mind.
  • More use of Televideo is problematic. In person hearings are definitely better for delivering due process. The EOIR Televideo equipment tends to be marginal from a technology standpoint. “Pushing the envelope” on Televideo could well force the Article IIIs to finally face up and hold at least some applications of this process unconstitutional.
  • More “Supervisory Judges” are totally unnecessary and a waste of resources. In the “EOIR World,” Supervisory Judges often don’t hear cases. Moreover, as noted previously, professional judges need little, if any, real “supervision.” The system might benefit from having local Chief Judges (“first among equals”), like in other independent judicial systems, who can address administrative issues with the Court Administrator and the public, But, judges don’t need supervision unless the wrong individuals are being selected as judges. And, as in the U.S. District Courts, local Chief Judges should carry meaningful case loads.
  • Every other court system in the U.S., particularly the U.S. District Courts, rely on heavy doses of “Prosecutorial Discretion” (“PD”) by government prosecutors to operate. By eliminating PD from the DHS Chief Counsels, then touting their misguided actions, this Administration has  guaranteed the ultimate failure of any backlog reduction plan. Moreover, this stupid action reduces the status of the DHS Assistant Chief Counsels. There is no other system I’m aware of where the enforcement officials (“the cops”) rather than professional prosecutors make the decisions as to which cases to prosecute. PD and sensible use of always limited docket time is part of the solution, not the problem, in the Immigration Courts.

THE UGLY:

  • The DOJ and EOIR continue to perpetuate the myth that private attorneys are responsible for the backlogs. No, the backlogs are primarily the result of Congressional negligence multiplied by improper politically motived docket manipulation and reschuffling to meet DHS enforcement priorities by the last three Administrations, including this one! This Administration was responsible for unnecessarily “Dark Courtrooms” earlier this year in New York and other heavily backlogged Immigration Courts.
  • Although not highlighted in this article, EOIR Acting Director James McHenry recently admitted during Congressional testimony that EOIR has been working on e-filing for 16 years without achieving any results! Thats incredible! McHenry promised a “Pilot Program” in 2018 with no telling when the system will actually be operational. And DOJ/EOIR has a well-established record of problematic and highly disruptive “technology rollouts.”

THE INCREDIBLE:

  • As usual, the DOJ/EOIR “numbers” don’t add up. EOIR “touts” compleating approximately 100,000 cases in the 7-month period ending on August 31, 2017. That’s on a pace to complete fewer than 200,000 cases for a fiscal year. But, EOIR receives an average of at least 300,000 new cases each year (even without some of the “Gonzo” Enforcement by the Trump DHS).  So, EOIR would have to “pick up the pace” considerably just to keep the backlogs from growing (something EOIR hasn’t done since before 2012). Not surprisingly, TRAC and others show continually increasing backlogs despite having more judges on board. To cut the backlog from 640,000 to 320,000 (50%) by 2020, the courts would have to produce an additional 160,000 annual completions in 2018 and 2019! That, in turn, would require completing a total of at least 460,000 cases in each of those years. That’s an increase of 230% over the rate touted by DOJ/EOIR in the Post article. Not going to happen, particularly since we’re already more than one month into FY 2018 and Congress has yet to authorize or appropriate the additional resources the DOJ wants!

WHAT’S CLEAR:

  • The DOJ hocus pocus, fake numbers, unrealistic plans, political scheming, cover-ups, blame shifting, and gross mismanagement of the U.S. Immigration Courts must end!
  • Unless and until Congress creates an independent, professionally managed Article I Immigration Court, any additional resources thrown into the current Circus being presided over by Jeff Sessions’s DOJ would be wasted.

PWS

11-04-17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WASHPOST: TRUMP’S ANTI-IMMIGRANT WHITE NATIONALIST HYSTERIA & UNJUSTIFIED ATTACKS ON OTHERS DIMINISHES OUR COUNTRY AND MAKES US LESS SAFE!

Three Editorials in today’s Washington Post emphasize the extremely counterproductive nature of Trump’s response to the NY terrorist attack.

First, on his inappropriate attempt to blame immigrants for the incident:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trumps-response-to-the-new-york-attack-was-downright-dispiriting/2017/11/01/00558930-bf43-11e7-8444-a0d4f04b89eb_story.html?utm_term=.133a8ef49c1b

“IN LOWER MANHATTAN on Tuesday, not far from the memorial to the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, eight people were killed and 12 injured when a man espousing fidelity to the Islamic State drove a rented pickup down a busy bike path along the Hudson River. “It was gruesome. It was grisly. It was surreal,” one witness said of bicyclists and pedestrians being mowed down. The attack on innocent people enjoying a fine autumn day was a chilling reminder of the persistent threat posed to the United States by Islamist extremists — and their ingenuity in finding ways to commit murder.

Some small comfort can be taken in the fact that in the 16 years since the fall of the twin towers, improvements in protecting the homeland and fighting terrorism abroad have lessened the terrorists’ strength to strike and improved our ability to respond. The quick actions of police and other first responders during Tuesday’s tragedy should be applauded. So must the resilience and strength of the people of New York City, who made clear they will not be cowed by fear.

Far less inspiring — indeed, downright dispiriting — was the reaction of President Trump. In a series of tweets that apparently were informed (a word we use loosely) by his viewing of “Fox & Friends,” Mr. Trump went on a harangue about immigration and attacked Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). On Wednesday, Mr. Trump signaled he might upend the judicial process by declaring the suspected attacker an enemy combatant to be shipped off to the Guantanamo Bay prison; federal terrorism charges filed against him later in the day likely would foreclose that from happening. Note that the White House wouldn’t discuss gun control after last month’s mass shooting in Las Vegas, on the grounds that it would politicize a tragedy, but it had no problem launching partisan attacks following a terrorist strike that ought to unify all Americans. Note also, as The Post’s Philip Bump pointed out, that Mr. Trump is quick to jump to conclusions when there are incidents involving immigrants but is far more circumspect when nonimmigrants are involved.

What’s really needed from the Trump administration is not blame-shifting but a serious attempt to investigate and learn from this latest attack. Were others involved or aware of the alleged plans dating back a year that went into the attack? Are authorities right in their initial assessment that the suspect became “radicalized domestically” while living in the United States? Were signals missed when he appeared on the radar of law enforcement in connection with the investigations of other suspects? The 29-year-old, authorities said, allegedly “followed almost exactly to a T” instructions that the Islamic State has put out on its social-media channels on how to carry out attacks. So what can be done to detect and deter other would-be followers?

Among those killed Tuesday were five Argentines who were part of a group of school friends who traveled to New York to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their high school graduation. It was their dream trip to a city known for being open and generous and diverse. Those are the traits that make America great; to undermine them in response to Tuesday’s attack only plays into the hands of terrorists.”

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Second, the Editorial Board responds to Trump’s attempt to blame Senator Chuck Schumer of New York for the attack:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/for-trump-new-yorks-tragedy-means-a-new-attack-on-immigration/2017/11/01/8ffa0940-bf38-11e7-97d9-bdab5a0ab381_story.html?utm_term=.ead2a22ecd7d

“PRESIDENT TRUMP, ever prone to seek out scapegoats, fastened on a new target in the wake of the terrorist attack in New York: the state’s senior Democratic senator, along with a 27-year-old visa program that offers applicants from dozens of countries a shot at immigrating to the United States.

Mr. Trump singled out Sen. Charles E. Schumer, who, in 1990, sponsored the diversity visa program, through which the alleged attacker in New York, Sayfullo Saipov, is reported to have immigrated to the United States from his native Uzbekistan. In a tweet, the president derided the program as “a Chuck Schumer beauty.”

Never mind that Mr. Schumer’s legislation establishing the program attracted bipartisan support; or that it was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush, a Republican; or even that Mr. Schumer himself unsuccessfully bargained to end the program, in 2013, in return for a bill granting legal residence to millions of undocumented immigrants already in the United States. Neither the facts nor the normal political imperative to avoid partisanship in the wake of a terrorist attack appeared to move Mr. Trump.

His tweet made it appear that his overriding interest in an assault allegedly backed by the Islamic State is to use it to assail immigration — in this instance, a legal program whose beneficiaries represent a speck in the overall number of immigrants. Managed by the State Department since 1995, the program now grants up to 50,000 visas annually, via a random lottery, to citizens of dozens of countries who would otherwise be mostly overlooked in the annual influx of green-card recipients. In recent years, many of the winners have been from Africa and Eastern Europe.

Having reaped political advantage as a candidate in vilifying illegal immigrants, Mr. Trump has set his sights in office on legal migrants, including refugees, from a handful of mostly Muslim countries, whom he’d like Americans to see as an undifferentiated mass of potentially violent interlopers. Gradually, he is chipping away at what was once a national consensus that immigrants are a critical source of vitality, invention and international appeal.

Like almost any immigration program, the diversity visa lottery is imperfect and susceptible to abuse. The fortunate winners, who represent less than 1 percent of those who have applied annually in recent years, are not uniformly equipped to thrive in this country; many lack an education beyond high school. As Mr. Saipov may turn out to prove, even the extensive vetting required of all who immigrate through the program does not provide an ironclad guarantee that it is impervious to applicants who might seek to harm the United States.

The lottery program might be improved. Still, the fact that more than 11 million people applied for it in fiscal 2016 reflects the magnetic appeal the United States continues to exert around the world. Satisfying a small fraction of that demand, through the lottery or some other legal means, is a powerful tool of public diplomacy in countries whose citizens might otherwise have no hope of coming here.”

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Third, Jennifer Rubin (“JRUBE”) comments on Trump’s “mindless,” totally inappropriate, attack on our justice system (in other words, on our Constitution):

https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2017/11/02/trumps-mindless-insult-to-the-american-judicial-system/?hpid=hp_no-name_opinion-card-b%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.6be7fbcdabb0

“Asked about the suspect Wednesday, President Trump called him an “animal.” Prompted to say whether he thought Saipov should be sent to the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Trump said, sure, he’d consider it. Later, at Wednesday’s White House press briefing, Sarah Huckabee Sanders said flatly that the White House considered the suspect an “enemy combatant.”

The president also said yesterday that the American justice system (presumably including his own Justice Department) is a “joke” and a “laughingstock.” He further opined, “We also have to come up with punishment that’s far quicker and far greater than the punishment these animals are getting right now,” Trump said. (Terrorists are subject to the death penalty, so it’s unclear what he had in mind.) “They’ll go through court for years … We need quick justice, and we need strong justice,” he said.

Thankfully, the Justice Department, like the Pentagon, has learned when to ignore Trump. On Wednesday, Saipov was charged in federal court. By Thursday morning, Trump was backing off his support for sending Saipov to Guantanamo. Once again, the ignorant president shot from the hip and had to creep back to reality.

Just how harmful were Trump’s statements? It is reprehensible for the president to defame our justice system, which is not a “joke” nor a “laughingstock” but the envy of the world. Moreover, in the terrorist context, it has proved remarkably efficient in trying and convicting terrorists, and then handing out maximum punishments. The surviving Boston Marathon bombing defendant was convicted in just this way and sentenced to death.

. . . .

Based on today’s tweet, we were right to assume that neither Trump nor Sanders had any idea what he/she was talking about (always a good assumption). We will watch with pride as American justice takes its course — and with horror as Trump continues to wreck havoc from the Oval Office.”

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Having spent a professional lifetime working on immigration and refugee issues, I can confirm that Trump and his GOP “restrictionist cronies” like Sessions, Miller, and Bannon have managed to transform what used to be “a national consensus that immigrants [and particularly refugees] are a critical source of vitality, invention and international appeal” into a highly partisan and racially-charged attack on the national origins and futures of some of our most productive citizens and residents — those who far more than Trump or his cronies are likely to help us in building a better, safer future for all Americans.

Having worked on all sides of our U.S. Justice System, served as an administrative judge on the trial and appellate levels for more than 21 years, listened to and/or read thousands of accounts of what made people leave their “home countries,” and studied in detail the reasons why some failing countries are “senders” of talented migrants and others, like the U.S., are fortunate enough to be on the “receiving” end, I can say unequivocally that the fairness of our justice system and the overall honsety and integrity of civil servants in the U.S. Government are the primary differences between the “sending” and “receiving” countries, like ours.

As I have observed before, Trump and his cronies are launching what is basically a “Third-World autocratic attack” on our Constitution and our democratic institutions. If they succeed, the immigration “problem” might eventually be “solved” because nobody will want to come here any more. How many people risked their lives trying to get into the former Soviet Union?
Donald Trump, his cronies, and his enablers are and will remain a much greater threat to our safety and Constitutional institutions than any foreign terrorist could ever be. We ignore his dangerous and fundamentally un-American rants at our own peril!
PWS
11-02-17

 

TAL KOPAN AT CNN: TRUMP SEEKS CUTS TO DOMESTIC TERRORISM PREVENTION PROGRAMS!

http://www.cnn.com/2017/11/01/politics/countering-domestic-terror-cuts/index.html

Tal reports:

“Washington (CNN)After a deadly terrorist attack in New York City, critics of President Donald Trump on Wednesday pointed to the millions in proposed cuts to counterterror programs sought by his administration, which reduced multiple such initiatives in its budget request.

The Trump administration has proposed sharp cuts to programs that seek to prevent domestic terrorism and prepare localities to respond — a point made by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, in response to Trump criticizing him on Wednesday morning, in a tweet linking the attack to an immigration policy Trump ascribed to Schumer.
“President Trump, instead of politicizing and dividing America, which he always seems to do at times of national tragedy, should be focusing on the real solution – anti-terrorism funding – which he proposed cutting in his most recent budget,” Schumer said in a statement. “I’m calling on the President to immediately rescind his proposed cuts to this vital anti-terrorism funding.”

The Department of Homeland Security says, for its part, that it continues to improve the administration’s efforts on countering terrorism, and promises more effective measures to come.

Trump’s 2018 budget proposal included steep cuts to a number of grant programs run by the Department of Homeland Security that go toward terrorism and violent extremism preparedness and prevention. All told, more than $300 million would be cut from such programs.

New York itself would stand to lose millions in federal funds. On Tuesday, a 29-year-old Uzbek national killed eight people and injured more than a dozen more when he drove a rented truck onto a bike and pedestrian path in Manhattan, pledging his support to ISIS in a note found at the scene.

The administration has also folded two counterterror grant programs altogether, and is in the process of rebranding the Obama administration’s Countering Violent Extremism office.

A senior DHS official earlier this fall disputed the notion that the administration was retreating from fighting terrorism and domestic extremism, though, saying a new strategy is forthcoming.

“We really intend to elevate and amplify our terrorism prevention efforts in a big way, because the threat environment is serious, we’re taking it seriously and we’re doing a full end-to-end review of what we do on terrorism prevention to make sure that our efforts are effective,” the official told CNN. “We do not intend to focus our terrorism prevention efforts exclusively on one ideology. DHS is committed to combating both domestic terrorism and international terrorism and bolstering efforts for both.”

. . . .

In testimony before Congress earlier this year, acting Secretary Elaine Duke told lawmakers that administration is evaluating its approach to preventing terrorism going forward — and she and other officials have begun calling it “terrorism prevention” instead of “countering violent extremism.”
“Americans do not want us to simply stop violent plots, they want us to keep them from materializing in the first place,” Duke said in her prepared testimony. “As part of this effort, we have launched an end-to-end review of all DHS ‘countering violent extremism’ or CVE programs.”
Nevertheless, DHS officials have faced numerous questions from lawmakers about the proposed cuts to the programs and criticism from counterterror experts. The House-passed 2018 budget, which still needs to pass the Senate, largely increases or maintains the funding that Trump has proposed to cut.“

****************************

Read all of Tal’s article at the above link.

The DHS response sounds like “classic bureaucratic doublespeak” to me!

PWS

11-01-17

THE GRIFTERS: Yes, It’s Satisfying To See A True Scumbag Like Price “Outed!” But, Before You Get Too Excited, Remember That His Replacement “will serve at the altar of Trump, after all. The only requirement? Destroy what you can. Let everyone else suffer.”

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/sep/30/tom-price-resignation-victory?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Ross Barkin writes in the Guardian:

“The sad truth is that Trump will probably replace him with a health and human services secretary who is just as bad at the job
For the Trump skeptics, the full-blown resisters, and everyone who prefers to see government remotely good, the downfall of Tom Price was a moment of true catharsis.

Donald Trump’s loathsome health and human services secretary was driven from office on Friday after a series of stunning Politico reports detailed how he racked up at least $400,000 in travel bills for charter flights. The extravagance was too much even for Trump, who in his past life as a failed developer wasted plenty of taxpayer money, and Price was told he had to go.

Before sobering reality sets in – nothing has really changed about Trumplandia – let’s remember all the ways Price represented the worst of the worst about Trump’s storming of Washington.

Tom Price resigns as health secretary over private flights and Trump criticism
A former rightwing congressman from Georgia and an orthopedic surgeon, Price spent most of his House tenure trying to destroy Obamacare and replace it with something far more draconian.
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As health and human services secretary, his dream fully realized, Price set about trying to undermine American healthcare as much as humanly possible without achieving a repeal of Obamacare. Price stopped trying to encourage people to sign up for insurance, ensuring costs would rise for everyone else. He obliterated Obamacare’s advertising budget.

Price backed a Trump budget that slashes funding for health and human services, the National Institutes of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. His vision of healthcare was rather simple: get any trace of the government out of there, any protections that might be offered for the poorest and sickest. Let the free market take care of the rest.

Now Trump will cast about for a worthy successor. Price, a multimillionaire, will feel shame for a few days and then go back to cashing out in the private sector, maybe as a healthcare lobbyist trying to wrangle goodies from his old colleagues. The waterline of the swamp will rise.

Health secretary Tom Price apologizes for taking private flights for work
The real question, once the celebration dies down from liberals and various journalists heartened by the power of the press to get their scalp, is how anything will change in Trump’s Washington.

Will a new HHS secretary bring some common sense to the role and realize stabilizing the healthcare markets is their chief job? Will he or she attempt to be anything resembling an administrator? Probably not.

Despite the conventional wisdom that Trump is a gun-slinging independent beholden to no party, he is fully indoctrinated in far-right, slash-and-burn thinking. He is a president for nihilist billionaires and Milton Friedman apostles. He will lurch to the left, but his grounding will stay true. We know that from his tax plan, which promises to give relief to the rich and no one else.

In another time now lost to history, both parties paid allegiance to the idea of governing. Democrats, in the post Franklin D Roosevelt-era, were the party of large, activist government, but Republicans understood that dismantling what they inherited made no sense.

Richard Nixon preserved the gains of Lyndon Johnson’s civil rights and Great Society legislation. Medicare and Medicaid remained.
Under a moderate Republican president – almost no moderates actually ran for president in 2016, and it’s increasingly unclear such a creature even exists – Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act would be understood for what it is: not socialism, but a mixture of government intervention and market-driven policies dreamed up by the rightwing Heritage Foundation and later pioneered by a Republican governor, Mitt Romney.

It is nothing approximating single-payer healthcare. It’s a start – but it’s also plenty flawed.

Many marketplaces are succeeding, but others are failing, in part because the Trump White House is encouraging their failure. The next best thing to repealing Obamacare, for the Republican party, is to let it rot without serious reform.

Federal subsidies must be increased and a public option should be introduced to compete with private insurers. The long-term goal, championed by Bernie Sanders, should be Medicare-for-all, universal healthcare, though we’re not there yet.
Price’s successor probably won’t think about any of these things. He or she will serve at the altar of the Trump, after all. The only requirement? Destroy what you can. Let everyone else suffer.”

*********************************

Why wouldn’t Price, who ripped off taxpayers to the tune of approximately $1 million, face some consequences beyond being permitted to resign?

Also, Donald Trump is not “destroying the soul of the GOP” (an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one). The modern GOP stands for the same corrupt agenda as Trump. That’s why they never really stand up to him. And, Tom Price, a Swamp Creature if  there ever was one, was a perfect representative of everything that is wrong with today’s GOP.

And with a truly miserable specimen of a human being like “Ayatollah Roy” and a slate of Bannon-inspired scummy White Nationalist candidates in the wings, the GOP has by no means “bottomed out.” The worst is yet to come.

PWS

10-01-17

 

 

THE GRIFTERS: Party Of Liars — GOP Tax Plan Proposes To Loot America For the Rich, Limit Government Services For Everyone Else, & Leave Future Generations To Pay The Price — Not Surprisingly, They Lie About It And Assume That Non-Fat-Cat Supporters Are Too Dumb Or Biased to Figure It Out! — Fact Checker Gives GOP Politicos Coveted “Four Pinocchios!”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2017/09/29/trump-aides-sell-tax-plan-with-pinocchio-laden-claims/

Glenn Kessler writes for the “Fact Checker” in the Washington Post.

The wealthy are not getting a tax cut under our plan.”
— Gary Cohn, director of the White House Economic Council, in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Sept. 28, 2017

“The numbers are about a trillion and a half to the baseline. But more importantly, it’s a trillion dollars to policy, which is the right way of looking at it. We think there will be $2 trillion of growth. So we think this tax plan will cut down the deficits by a trillion dollars.”
— Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, in an interview on Fox News, Sept. 28

In selling President Trump’s tax plan, his aides have resorted to making strikingly misleading statements to defend it.

At the moment, there are few details about the tax plan, only broad strokes. That makes it easier for the administration to make big claims as analysts scramble to try to make sense of the plan’s possible impact. That will be much harder once an actual tax bill is written and the details can be analyzed in depth.

In the meantime, we have a pair of Four-Pinocchio claims that are worth highlighting.

 

‘The wealthy are not getting a tax cut under our plan’

The Trump tax plan drops the top bracket from 39.6 to 35 percent, and allows for the possibility of a 25 percent top rate through a pass-through entity. It presumably would also eliminate a 3.8 percent Obamacare tax on investment income that hits only upper-income taxpayers.

So, on its face, this is a ridiculous statement to make for any plan that includes reductions in tax rates. That’s because federal income taxes are paid mostly by the wealthy. So when you cut income tax rates, it results in lots of dollars for the wealthiest taxpayers.

According to Treasury Department data, the top 10 percent of income earners in 2016 paid 80 percent of individual income taxes. The top 20 percent paid 94.8 percent. The top 0.1 percent paid an astonishing 24.5 percent of taxes.

In 2014, the latest year Internal Revenue Service data is available, just the top 400 taxpayers — with $127 billion of income — paid $29.4 billion in income taxes, or more than 2 percent of all income taxes. That’s more than the bottom 70 percent of taxpayers combined.

 

In other words, the vast majority of American taxpayers pay little or nothing in income taxes; they instead mostly pay payroll taxes such as Social Security and Medicare. So it really strains credulity for administration officials such as Cohn to say the wealthy will not get a tax cut.

The wealthy pay most of the taxes, so unless the tax plan specifically leaves them untouched — which Trump’s plan does not — they will get big tax cuts. This is why distributional tables often look so lopsided when tax rates are reduced. The administration has suggested that another, higher rate level might be added, presumably so the distributional tables won’t look so ugly, but right now the plan calls for a significant reduction in the top rate.

Besides a reduction in the top tax rate, the tax plan would eliminate the alternative minimum tax (AMT). That in theory should be a boon for the wealthy as well, although it increasingly has snared families in the upper middle class, especially if they live in high-tax states or have many children.

 

The administration has called for eliminating the itemized deduction for state and local taxes, as well as the personal/dependent exemptions, which are key add-ons when calculating the AMT. (If those items were eliminated from the AMT, the number of tax filers facing the AMT would drop by 95 percent, according to the Joint Committee of Taxation.)

So it’s possible that for many people it would be a wash, or even a net loser, depending on whether a tax filer lives in a state with high taxes. According to JCT, the AMT is paid by 36 percent of returns with income of between $200,000 and $500,000, nearly 55 percent between $500,000 and $1 million, and nearly 18 percent above $1 million.

Still, in 2014, the top 400 taxpayers paid nearly $700 million because of the alternative minimum tax, nearly 2.5 percent of the total. The one recent tax return of President Trump that has leaked — for 2005 — shows his tax bill increased $31 million because of the AMT.

Finally, the tax plan calls for eliminating the estate tax, although it is unclear on whether any tax would be required when someone dies. Currently, the estate tax is estimated to affect only about 5,500 estates out of nearly 3 million estates because as much as $11 million can be shielded from taxation.

 

In theory, assets would be subject to capital gains tax instead, which could actually affect more people, but that has not been specified in the administration’s tax outline. If the administration also eliminates the gift tax and does not tax capital gains at death, some income earned by the wealthy may never be taxed.

“We strongly believe the final tax bill will not cut taxes for the wealthy as a class — but there is no way to solve for every single individual in the country,” a White House official said.

‘We think this tax plan will cut down the deficits by a trillion dollars’

Mnuchin made this statement in response to an observation that the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has estimated the tax plan would reduce revenue by $2.2 trillion over 10 years. (Including additional interest on the debt, CRFB estimated the deficit would increase by $2.7 trillion.) He argued that instead there would be an additional $2 trillion in revenue from economic growth, resulting in a $1 trillion reduction in the deficit.

Cohn, briefing reporters at the White House a few hours later, offered a different estimate: “We know that 1 percent change in GDP will add $3 trillion back. So if they’re right, we’re only going to pay down $800 billion of the deficit. I’ll live with a $800 billion paydown.”

It’s a little odd that Mnuchin is anticipating $2 trillion in revenue and Cohn is anticipating $3 trillion in revenue. But these are both very rosy estimates of the impact of a tax cut in economic growth. No serious economist believes that a tax cut boosts economic growth so much that the tax cut pays for itself.

The Congressional Budget Office, under Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a Republican, in 2005 estimated that a 10 percent reduction in federal income tax rates would have macroeconomic feedbacks of between 15 and 30 percent. In other words, a $1 trillion tax cut might yield $150 billion to $300 billion in additional revenue. That still means a reduction in revenue of as much as $700 billion.

“The big problem is that there is no fully specified plan,” Holtz-Eakin said. “Without one, you can’t gauge the growth or know the budget cost. I’m broadly sympathetic to the framework, but it is a start, not the finish.”

As Holtz-Eakin put it earlier this year in an opinion column for The Washington Post: “Proposing trillions of dollars in tax cuts and then casually asserting that such a plan would ‘pay for itself with growth’ … is detached from empirical reality.”

Indeed, contrary to popular perception, even Ronald Reagan predicted revenue would fall as a result of his big 1981 tax cut that reduced tax rates. That is shown in Reagan administration and Congressional Budget Office scores of the Reagan tax plan reproduced in a 2011 article for Tax Notes by Bruce Bartlett, who helped craft the 1981 tax cut as a congressional aide at the time. The estimates turned out to be wrong because the 1981-1982 recession was deeper than expected and inflation fell more rapidly than expected, so Reagan boosted taxes just one year after his tax cut.

William A. Niskanen, chairman of Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisors, co-wrote a paper in 1996 that defended Reagan’s economic record but also said it was “an enduring myth” that Reagan officials believed tax cuts would pay for themselves. “This was nonsense from day one, because the credible evidence overwhelmingly indicates that revenue feedbacks from tax cuts is 35 cents per dollar, at most,” Niskanen wrote, noting that “the Reagan administration never assumed that the tax cuts would pay for themselves.”

A Treasury Department study on the impact of tax bills since 1940, first released in 2006 and later updated, found that the 1981 tax cut reduced revenue by $208 billion in its first four years. George W. Bush’s 2001 tax cut — also a rate cut — led to a revenue loss of $91 billion, over four years, the Treasury paper calculated. (The figures are rendered in constant 2012 dollars.)

Both the Reagan and Bush tax cuts came during periods of economic stress, which is certainly not the case now. So there is less room now for a big swing upward in the economy, especially with the country’s aging workforce.

The Treasury Department did not respond to a query for an explanation of Mnuchin’s math. But frankly it is irresponsible for a treasury secretary to claim a certain amount of growth or revenue without even producing the details of a plan, as the details determine the impact on the economy.

The Pinocchio Test

Though the details of the tax plan are sparse, both Cohn and Mnuchin made statements that are simply false. Of course the wealthy will do well under the tax cut, even if certain deductions are eliminated, and it’s silly to pretend otherwise. And it’s a fantasy to claim that the tax cut will pay for itself — and even reduce the deficit — especially in an economy that already has low unemployment and a booming stock market.

Four 🤥

The wealthy are not getting a tax cut under our plan.”
— Gary Cohn, director of the White House Economic Council, in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Sept. 28, 2017

“The numbers are about a trillion and a half to the baseline. But more importantly, it’s a trillion dollars to policy, which is the right way of looking at it. We think there will be $2 trillion of growth. So we think this tax plan will cut down the deficits by a trillion dollars.”
— Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, in an interview on Fox News, Sept. 28

In selling President Trump’s tax plan, his aides have resorted to making strikingly misleading statements to defend it.

At the moment, there are few details about the tax plan, only broad strokes. That makes it easier for the administration to make big claims as analysts scramble to try to make sense of the plan’s possible impact. That will be much harder once an actual tax bill is written and the details can be analyzed in depth.

In the meantime, we have a pair of Four-Pinocchio claims that are worth highlighting.

 

‘The wealthy are not getting a tax cut under our plan’

The Trump tax plan drops the top bracket from 39.6 to 35 percent, and allows for the possibility of a 25 percent top rate through a pass-through entity. It presumably would also eliminate a 3.8 percent Obamacare tax on investment income that hits only upper-income taxpayers.

So, on its face, this is a ridiculous statement to make for any plan that includes reductions in tax rates. That’s because federal income taxes are paid mostly by the wealthy. So when you cut income tax rates, it results in lots of dollars for the wealthiest taxpayers.

According to Treasury Department data, the top 10 percent of income earners in 2016 paid 80 percent of individual income taxes. The top 20 percent paid 94.8 percent. The top 0.1 percent paid an astonishing 24.5 percent of taxes.

In 2014, the latest year Internal Revenue Service data is available, just the top 400 taxpayers — with $127 billion of income — paid $29.4 billion in income taxes, or more than 2 percent of all income taxes. That’s more than the bottom 70 percent of taxpayers combined.

 

In other words, the vast majority of American taxpayers pay little or nothing in income taxes; they instead mostly pay payroll taxes such as Social Security and Medicare. So it really strains credulity for administration officials such as Cohn to say the wealthy will not get a tax cut.

The wealthy pay most of the taxes, so unless the tax plan specifically leaves them untouched — which Trump’s plan does not — they will get big tax cuts. This is why distributional tables often look so lopsided when tax rates are reduced. The administration has suggested that another, higher rate level might be added, presumably so the distributional tables won’t look so ugly, but right now the plan calls for a significant reduction in the top rate.

Besides a reduction in the top tax rate, the tax plan would eliminate the alternative minimum tax (AMT). That in theory should be a boon for the wealthy as well, although it increasingly has snared families in the upper middle class, especially if they live in high-tax states or have many children.

 

The administration has called for eliminating the itemized deduction for state and local taxes, as well as the personal/dependent exemptions, which are key add-ons when calculating the AMT. (If those items were eliminated from the AMT, the number of tax filers facing the AMT would drop by 95 percent, according to the Joint Committee of Taxation.)

So it’s possible that for many people it would be a wash, or even a net loser, depending on whether a tax filer lives in a state with high taxes. According to JCT, the AMT is paid by 36 percent of returns with income of between $200,000 and $500,000, nearly 55 percent between $500,000 and $1 million, and nearly 18 percent above $1 million.

Still, in 2014, the top 400 taxpayers paid nearly $700 million because of the alternative minimum tax, nearly 2.5 percent of the total. The one recent tax return of President Trump that has leaked — for 2005 — shows his tax bill increased $31 million because of the AMT.

Finally, the tax plan calls for eliminating the estate tax, although it is unclear on whether any tax would be required when someone dies. Currently, the estate tax is estimated to affect only about 5,500 estates out of nearly 3 million estates because as much as $11 million can be shielded from taxation.

 

In theory, assets would be subject to capital gains tax instead, which could actually affect more people, but that has not been specified in the administration’s tax outline. If the administration also eliminates the gift tax and does not tax capital gains at death, some income earned by the wealthy may never be taxed.

“We strongly believe the final tax bill will not cut taxes for the wealthy as a class — but there is no way to solve for every single individual in the country,” a White House official said.

‘We think this tax plan will cut down the deficits by a trillion dollars’

Mnuchin made this statement in response to an observation that the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has estimated the tax plan would reduce revenue by $2.2 trillion over 10 years. (Including additional interest on the debt, CRFB estimated the deficit would increase by $2.7 trillion.) He argued that instead there would be an additional $2 trillion in revenue from economic growth, resulting in a $1 trillion reduction in the deficit.

Cohn, briefing reporters at the White House a few hours later, offered a different estimate: “We know that 1 percent change in GDP will add $3 trillion back. So if they’re right, we’re only going to pay down $800 billion of the deficit. I’ll live with a $800 billion paydown.”

It’s a little odd that Mnuchin is anticipating $2 trillion in revenue and Cohn is anticipating $3 trillion in revenue. But these are both very rosy estimates of the impact of a tax cut in economic growth. No serious economist believes that a tax cut boosts economic growth so much that the tax cut pays for itself.

The Congressional Budget Office, under Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a Republican, in 2005 estimated that a 10 percent reduction in federal income tax rates would have macroeconomic feedbacks of between 15 and 30 percent. In other words, a $1 trillion tax cut might yield $150 billion to $300 billion in additional revenue. That still means a reduction in revenue of as much as $700 billion.

“The big problem is that there is no fully specified plan,” Holtz-Eakin said. “Without one, you can’t gauge the growth or know the budget cost. I’m broadly sympathetic to the framework, but it is a start, not the finish.”

As Holtz-Eakin put it earlier this year in an opinion column for The Washington Post: “Proposing trillions of dollars in tax cuts and then casually asserting that such a plan would ‘pay for itself with growth’ … is detached from empirical reality.”

Indeed, contrary to popular perception, even Ronald Reagan predicted revenue would fall as a result of his big 1981 tax cut that reduced tax rates. That is shown in Reagan administration and Congressional Budget Office scores of the Reagan tax plan reproduced in a 2011 article for Tax Notes by Bruce Bartlett, who helped craft the 1981 tax cut as a congressional aide at the time. The estimates turned out to be wrong because the 1981-1982 recession was deeper than expected and inflation fell more rapidly than expected, so Reagan boosted taxes just one year after his tax cut.

William A. Niskanen, chairman of Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisors, co-wrote a paper in 1996 that defended Reagan’s economic record but also said it was “an enduring myth” that Reagan officials believed tax cuts would pay for themselves. “This was nonsense from day one, because the credible evidence overwhelmingly indicates that revenue feedbacks from tax cuts is 35 cents per dollar, at most,” Niskanen wrote, noting that “the Reagan administration never assumed that the tax cuts would pay for themselves.”

A Treasury Department study on the impact of tax bills since 1940, first released in 2006 and later updated, found that the 1981 tax cut reduced revenue by $208 billion in its first four years. George W. Bush’s 2001 tax cut — also a rate cut — led to a revenue loss of $91 billion, over four years, the Treasury paper calculated. (The figures are rendered in constant 2012 dollars.)

Both the Reagan and Bush tax cuts came during periods of economic stress, which is certainly not the case now. So there is less room now for a big swing upward in the economy, especially with the country’s aging workforce.

The Treasury Department did not respond to a query for an explanation of Mnuchin’s math. But frankly it is irresponsible for a treasury secretary to claim a certain amount of growth or revenue without even producing the details of a plan, as the details determine the impact on the economy.

The Pinocchio Test

Though the details of the tax plan are sparse, both Cohn and Mnuchin made statements that are simply false. Of course the wealthy will do well under the tax cut, even if certain deductions are eliminated, and it’s silly to pretend otherwise. And it’s a fantasy to claim that the tax cut will pay for itself — and even reduce the deficit — especially in an economy that already has low unemployment and a booming stock market.

Four 🤥 🤥 🤥 🤥

********************************************

Four Pinocchios is getting into “Jeff Sessions’s territory!”

But, I can see that they were richly deserved. I watched Steve “Munchkin” Mnuchkin on “Meet the Press” with Churck Todd this AM.  It was appalling!

Munchkin lied about Puerto Rico, lied about the tax plan, and then lied and tried to cover up his own responsibility for trying to get a “freebie” at taxpayer expense for his honeymoon. The idea that there was any “national security” reason for the Munchkin keeping in touch with the White House is preposterous.

Indeed the very idea that Munchkin would have any role in national security other than making sure the checks don’t bounce is prima facie ridiculous. And, if he did, that’s what secure facilities in the CIA part of the nearest U.S. Embassy are for. Or for that matter, that’s what subordinates in the Trasure Department are for. Gotta believe that every once and awhile spooks have to make secure communications with Washington.

When confronted by Todd with his obvious lies and cover-ups, Munchkin just kept on spewing whoppers. Finally, Todd gave up, thanked him, and let the record speak for itself.

PWS

10-01-17