Thursday, March 16, 2017

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Worse Numbers

The White House disputed the CBO scoring of the GOP tax cut masquerading as a healthcare bill, saying that the headline of 24 million people losing their health insurance is way wrong.

They’re right; their own estimates are that even more people will lose out.

A White House analysis of the GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare shows even steeper coverage losses than the projections by the Congressional Budget Office, according to a document viewed by POLITICO on Monday.

[…]

White House officials late Monday night disputed that the document is an analysis of the bill’s coverage effects. Instead, they say it was an attempt by the OMB to predict what CBO’s scorekeepers would conclude about the GOP repeal plan.

“This is not an analysis of the bill in any way whatsoever,” White House Communications Director Michael Dubke told POLITICO. “This is OMB trying to project what CBO’s score will be using CBO’s methodology.”

According to documents viewed by POLITICO, the OMB analysis intended to assess the coverage and spending outcomes of the legislation.

The analysis found that under the American Health Care Act, the coverage losses would include 17 million for Medicaid, 6 million in the individual market and 3 million in employer-based plans.

A total of 54 million individuals would be uninsured in 2026 under the GOP plan, according to this White House analysis. That’s nearly double the number projected under current law.

So when the White House ran the numbers using the CBO methods, it made it worse.  Oops.

At some point even they will have to admit that this attempt at repeal-and-replace for Obamacare is a bomb that won’t make it through Congress.

The much-maligned Obamacare replacement bill will face its biggest test so far on Thursday, as a House of Representatives committee filled with conservatives could derail the legislation backed by Speaker Paul Ryan before it gets to the House floor.

If four Republicans join Democrats in voting against the bill in the House Budget Committee, the legislation will fail.

Okay, fellas, what’s Plan B?

No News Taxes

After a big build-up and a long lead-in, Rachel Maddow released two pages of Trump’s 2005 federal tax return.  The White House actually scooped her by releasing it first.  It shows he made a lot of money and paid 25% in taxes after a bunch of write-offs, which anyone with a lot of money and a decent accountant would do.

Trump’s defenders are saying “nothing to see here, move along,” and they’re probably right.  But if Trump had followed the lead of every other president in the last forty years and released all of his taxes without making up flimsy excuses like “I’m under audit” or “the dog ate them,” then there would be no news about no-news taxes from twelve years ago in the first place.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

24 Million

That’s a big number no matter how you slice it.  It’s about 90% of the population of Canada.  It’s also the number of people who are estimated to lose healthcare coverage if the GOP has their way.  (Not to worry, Canada; you have a real healthcare system that works.)

The Congressional Budget Office on Monday released its long-awaited analysis of the Republican plan to replace Obamacare — and it contains some very bad news for supporters of the American Health Care Act.

CBO projects that the Republican plan would cause 24 million Americans to lose coverage by 2026. This is a much bigger drop in coverage than experts had expected. Republican legislators will now be forced to answer questions about why tens of millions of Americans will lose coverage and how those people will fare under the new system.

The CBO projections also show that a promise President Trump and his advisers have made multiple times — that Trump would draft a bill that covered everyone, or that no one would lose coverage under his plan — to be flatly false.

Just this weekend, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said, “We don’t believe that individuals will lose coverage at all.” CBO says this is not the case whatsoever.

The Republican bill offers less help to people who buy their own insurance than Obamacare currently does. It also hugely pares back the Medicaid expansion, which covers millions of low-income Americans.

The CBO report lays bare that, taken together, those changes mean million fewer Americans would have coverage.

Or, to paint a picture of it:

The initial response to this news from the GOP is “well, everybody knows that the CBO is partisan.”  Except it’s not; and the head of the CBO is a Republican appointed by Tom Price, the Secretary of HHS.

The next thing that will happen is that the Republicans will come out and tell us how much money this will save the country by getting rid of Obamacare, especially by giving tax cuts to rich people because we all know that they will invest it in jobs to hire people.  Except they never do, and the people that they say they’re going to hire will either be too sick to get a job or dead.

I thoroughly expect Trump to go around the country saying how wonderful this new plan is and telling his base that this is why they voted for him; to free them from the tyranny of having affordable healthcare and that no one within the sound of his voice will be burdened with freedom-crushing Obamacare, and only the other guy will be sick, but then he deserves it because he voted for Hillary.

The sad part — aside from the 24 million people who will lose their healthcare insurance — is that no matter what happens, the Republican base will still keep churning out the votes for the Republicans.  Because that is the most important thing to them.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Monday, February 27, 2017

Friday, February 3, 2017

Be Careful What You Wish For

At the National Prayer Breakfast yesterday Trump called for the repeal of the Johnson amendment, the law that prohibits churches from supporting individual political candidates and still be exempt from paying taxes.

The logic behind the amendment is clear: If a church wishes to be a tax-exempt entity which can receive tax-exempt contributions, then it also must steer clear of participation in partisan politics. Not that it doesn’t already. It clearly does, as can be easily seen just by the list of church-backed organizations supporting the Gorsuch nomination. But by and large, it separates the political activity by carved-out nonprofit organizations which are separate from the church entity itself.

Churches should be careful about what they wish for, because gutting this amendment would put their tax-exempt status at risk. The Catholic Church would be ponying up a lot of money if this amendment was gutted, and that would be the beginning.

I am totally in favor of churches paying taxes.  And that means all of them, from St. Patrick’s Cathedral to that little brown church in the vale.  At the very least pay property taxes on the land they own that isn’t used specifically for worship services or non-partisan church business.

If they want to go around telling people about mythical history and warning of retribution from some mean magical sky faerie if we don’t vote for their favorites, they should have to pony up for the privilege.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Talking Turkey

Via Raw Story:

In a preview of a Newsweek article due to be released Tuesday morning, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow explained that writer Kurt Eichenwald has uncovered evidence that President-elect Donald Trump may have already been compromised by a foreign leader holding the power to threaten his overseas holdings to gain a political advantage.

According to Maddow, Trump has a business relationship with the Doğan family, owners of Doğan Holding, which is building twin towers in Turkey bearing the Trump name for which the Trump family stands to make millions of dollars.

“The day after our presidential election in this country, one of the world leaders who called up Trump tower and spoke with the president-elect was the president of Turkey,” Maddow explained. “And one of the perk up your ears strange things reported about that call is that while Donald Trump was on the phone taking that congratulatory phone call from the president of Turkey, in that same call, Mr. Trump brought up to the president of Turkey by name that executive from the Doğan company, the guy who was the key guy on Trump’s big twin towers in Istanbul.”

Noting that Trump praised the man to Turkish President Erdoğan, Maddow continued.

“Now Newsweek reports that Turkey has figured out how to turn that to their advantage and how to put the president of the United States over a barrel in the process,” Maddow explained.  “On December 1st, the top representative of the Doğan company, in Turkey’s capital city, got arrested by the Turkish police. Again, Trump as president-elect had taken an official call from the Turkish president and used that occasion to tell the Turkish president how much this one particular company meant to him, going so far as to name specific executives.”

According to Maddow, President Erdoğan had the founder of the Doğan Holding, as well as an executive arrested on “threadbare” charges that  both were involved in an attempted military coup that happened in turkey this past summer.

Maddow then got to the heart of the matter.

“Turkey desperately wants the U.S. government to extradite an imam [Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen],” Maddow explained. “They [the U.S.] have said that they are not extraditing him. But if that’s what you wanted, what if you could squeeze the personal financial interests of the American president as a way to get what you want from the American government?”

“I mean, the Trump family and the president-elect themselves, they stand to make millions of dollars from their relationship with the Doğan group in Turkey. That will stop if they get locked up,” she continued. “So they started locking them up. Nice leverage, right? it would be one thing if it was business leverage — but it’s leverage against all of us as Americans.”

As Eichenwald notes in his article: “If Erdoğan’s government puts more pressure on the company that’s paying millions of dollars to Trump and his children, revenue flowing from that tower complex in Istanbul could be cut off. That means Erdoğan has leverage with Trump, who will soon have the power to get Gulen extradited.”

So it’s not just the Russians who are making Trump their bitch.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Plane Truth

Trump got twitterpated about the “$4 billion contract” to replace the aging Air Force One planes and sets off the bullshit meter.

Maybe Trump has information that is unavailable to our best news sources, but the planes are supposed to cost about $800 million each, not $2 billion each, as Trump’s tweet suggests. It’s hard to see how there could have been cost overruns this significant in so short a time, especially since the deliverable date isn’t until 2024 and the contracts that have been awarded so far add up to barely more than $150 million.

Of course, the contract could well be cancelled now that the president-elect has recommended it. Boeing’s stock began to plummet immediately. But, again, the only alternative to Boeing is Airbus, and Airbus is already looking to poach Boeing business from China if Trump follows through with belligerent anti-Chinese polices (as he has already begun to do).

So we’d “make America great again” by flying the president around in a plane built by the French?

Josh Marshall thinks he knows what set Trump off.  It’s got nothing to do with the price of the contract and everything to do with wounded egos and hurt fe-fe’s.

The article recounts a speech Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg gave before the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association on Friday in which he was mildly critical of Trump’s plans both for the Export-Import Bank and more protectionist trade policies. The Tribune story wasn’t the first time the speech was reported on. The Puget Sound Business Journalwrote up the speech on Friday. But a Google search (which is obviously an imperfect measure) suggests that the Tribune story was the only published mention of the speech in the last 24 hours prior to Trump’s tweet. It seems at least plausible that the Tribune story was the first or one of the first reports of the speech Trump or his team saw.

The Constitution says the president must be at least 35 years old.  Sadly, it doesn’t specify how mature he must be.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Ms. Colebrook Regrets

I’m shocked, shocked.

WASHINGTON (AP) — When Donald Trump named his Treasury secretary, Teena Colebrook felt her heart sink.

She had voted for the president-elect on the belief that he would knock the moneyed elites from their perch in Washington. And she knew Trump’s pick for Treasury — Steven Mnuchin — all too well.

OneWest, a bank formerly owned by a group of investors headed by Mnuchin, had foreclosed on her Los Angeles-area home in the aftermath of the Great Recession, stripping her of the two units she rented as a primary source of income.

“I just wish that I had not voted,” said Colebrook, 59. “I have no faith in our government anymore at all. They all promise you the world at the end of a stick and take it away once they get in.”

Less than a month after his presidential win, Trump’s populist appeal has started to clash with a Cabinet of billionaires and millionaires that he believes can energize economic growth.

The prospect of Mnuchin leading the Treasury Department drew plaudits from many in the financial sector. A former Goldman Sachs executive who pivoted in the early 2000s to hedge fund management and movie production, he seemed an ideal emissary to Wall Street.

When asked Wednesday about his credentials to be Treasury secretary, Mnuchin emphasized his time running OneWest — which not only foreclosed on Colebrook but also on thousands of others in the aftermath of the housing crisis caused by subprime mortgages.

“What I’ve really been focused on is being a regional banker for the last eight years,” Mnuchin said. “I know what it takes to make sure that we can make loans to small and midmarket companies and that’s going to be our big focus, making sure we scale back regulation so that we make sure the banks are lending.”

But the prospect of Mnuchin leading the Treasury Department prompted Colebrook and other OneWest borrowers who say they unfairly faced foreclosure to contact The Associated Press. Colebrook wishes she could meet with Trump to explain why she feels betrayed by his Cabinet selection after believing that his presidency could restore the balance of power to everyday people.

“He doesn’t want the truth,” she said. “He’s now backing his buddies.”

Not to be too cruel to Ms. Colebrook, but it’s not like the warning signs weren’t there from long before Trump ran for president.  But no, you decided to go with him anyway.

The reason she’s a news story is that the vast majority of Trump voters who got screwed by the system he flaunts and sells will not recognize that they’re the ones still getting screwed.  When Obamacare goes away and their insurance either goes through the roof or just plain goes away and when the deficit soars back up to 2008 levels thanks to the ginormous tax cuts whooped through by the GOP, they’ll find a way to blame it on President Obama and the Democrats.  The next recession — and there will be one — will be called “Obama’s Recession.”  The next hurricane will be Obama’s Katrina.  And when Russia takes over Ukraine, Syria becomes an ash heap, and China hikes their tariffs on their stuff sold here, guess who will get the blame.

We told you that, too, Ms. Colebrook.

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Fine Print

So Trump was able to get Carrier to hold on to some jobs in Indiana.  That’s truly great for those people who might have been unemployed.  But with anything from a great deal on a car loan to “join free for a month!”, there are always some hidden traps that take the joy out of it and make you wonder if it was worth it.

Steve Benen has the details:

1. Carrier jobs are still moving to Mexico. While the company will receive $7 million in taxpayer money to keep roughly 800 jobs in Indiana, the Wall Street Journalreports that Carrier “still plans to move 600 jobs from the Carrier plant to Mexico,” plus moving another 700 other jobs that will be lost when it closes a separate plant in Huntington, Ind. In other words, under Trump’s alleged triumph, the one that will teach a valuable lesson to American companies, Carrier is shipping 1,300 jobs from Indiana to Mexico, even as receives millions of dollars from the state.

2. This is the exact opposite of what Trump said he’d do. As a presidential candidate, Trump mocked government efforts to keep employers stateside with grants, tax incentives, and low-interest loans. Candidate Trump said that approach “doesn’t work,” which is why he’d use a stick rather than a carrot: “What you do is you tell them, ‘You move to Mexico, you`re going to pay a 35 percent tax bringing these products that you make in Mexico back into the country.’”

Except, with Carrier, Trump’s doing exactly what he promised not to do, ignoring the solution he assured voters would work “easily.”

3. Moral hazard exists. As we discussed yesterday, paying off companies that threaten to ship jobs out of the country is not the basis for a sustainable, national manufacturing strategy. On the contrary, it creates a problematic set of incentives: if companies are led to believe the government will give them money to stay in the United States, every employer, whether they have outsourcing plans or not, will have a strong incentive to routinely call up the Trump White House and say, “Give us a sweet, taxpayer-financed deal or we’re out of here.”

4. Beware of unknown incentives. We know about the $7 million. We don’t know for certain whether there are any as-yet-unreported parts of the deal. The Wall Street Journalpiece added the federal government is an important customer for Carrier’s corporate parent, United Technologies: “The U.S. military accounts for about 10% of United Technologies’ $56 billion in annual sales, for products like the engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.”

Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the top Democrat on the Finance Committee, said he would be asking more about the Carrier deal and said he would inquire whether there were promises about defense contracts.

“I want to know whether the president-elect promised special federal tax breaks for a single company,” Mr. Wyden said Thursday. “I want to do everything I can to keep jobs in the United States, but there are some questions here.”

5. Conservatives should be howling: I’m so old, I remember when conservatives were disgusted with the idea of politicians using government money to pick “winners and losers.” Apparently, the right didn’t mean it.

The people who really got the fuzzy end of this lollipop are, in the long run, the American taxpayers and especially those in Indiana who are basically making up the difference to Carrier/United Technologies for what they would have saved if they had moved to Mexico.  Seven million dollars in “tax incentives” means either the taxpayers will pony up the difference somehow to balance the loss, or they will just go without whatever the $7 million was going to pay for in the first place, be it an infrastructure project or school funding or perhaps even a “tax incentive” to the taxpayers themselves.  But math is math; you cut something from one line, you’ve got to add it back somewhere else.

But apparently the good people of Indiana and Carrier were so taken with the idea that hey, Trump is coming to our town and saving us they really don’t notice — or care — that they’re the ones who will end up losing.  Will Trump come back and save them?  I wouldn’t count on it.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Gator Nation

No, this is not a post about University of Florida football.  It’s about Trump voters finding out that their hero’s plan to “drain the swamp” is bait and switch, and they’re the bait.

Case in point: the appointment of a bunch of Wall Street bankers — those wonderful folks who brought you the Great Recession — are being welcomed back to the table.  And they’re not happy.

Most importantly, this is a shining example of how Trump gaslit the nation. He pointed his finger at Hillary Clinton as the corrupt one for having delivered a few speeches, when his corruption was so deep it could have been seen beneath his thin, shiny orange skin.

Didn’t I just say that?

This flag-burning tweet is designed, pun intended, to inflame his white GOP base and deflect their attention from his once-vaunted promises to drain the swamp while he brings in fresh alligators.

 

claytoonz-gators-12-01-16Via.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Hey, Middle Class, You Got Screwed

About 4 million people, mostly middle class workers, just got screwed out of a significant amount of money, and they can thank the Republicans — the ones who just promised them they’d have their backs — for the screwing.

A Texas judge blocked President Obama’s bid to expand overtime pay protections to millions of Americans on Tuesday, thwarting a key presidential priority just days before it was set to take effect.

The Labor Department rule would have doubled the salary level at which hourly workers must be paid extra for overtime pay, from $23,660 to $47,476. Siding with business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Texas District Judge Amos L. Mazzant III halted it.

The rule, finalized in May, represented the first such change in more than a decade and was hailed at the time as the most consequential action the Obama administration could take for middle-class workers without congressional involvement.

Plaintiffs had argued the Labor Department acted beyond its authority under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The administration said more than 4 million salaried workers stood to benefit from the change when it took effect Dec. 1.

The rule was already in jeopardy after the election of Donald Trump. Just as the Obama administration made the change through its rule-making prerogatives, a Republican administration could undo it.

Neither the White House nor the Labor Department had an immediate comment.

But Hillary Clinton used the wrong e-mail address so it’s all good.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Stiffed Again

When will people learn that you can’t do business with Donald Trump and expect a fair deal?

Donald Trump’s hiring of pollster Tony Fabrizio in May was viewed as a sign that the real estate mogul was finally bringing seasoned operatives into his insurgent operation.

But the Republican presidential nominee appears to have taken issue with some of the services provided by the veteran GOP strategist, who has advised candidates from 1996 GOP nominee Bob Dole to Florida Gov. Rick Scott. The Trump campaign’s latest Federal Election Commission report shows that it is disputing nearly $767,000 that Fabrizio’s firm says it is still owed for polling.

Trump campaign officials declined to provide details about the reason the campaign has declined to pay the sum to Fabrizio Lee, the pollster’s Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based firm. “This is an administrative issue that we’re resolving internally,” said senior communications adviser Jason Miller. Fabrizio did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Trump has repeatedly been accused of failing to pay vendors and contractors hired by his real estate empire, including painters, dish washers, real estate brokers and a music store that provided pianos for his Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City. The billionaire has said he pays fairly and that he has withheld payments only when he was dissatisfied with someone’s services.

Which proves that one of the reasons Trump has money — or at least says he does — is because he never pays for anything ever.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Short Takes

Militants attack police academy in Pakistan; many killed.

Vatican to help mediate political situation in Venezuela.

Ex-attorney general of Pennsylvania sentenced to prison.

Pentagon trying to get back recruitment bonuses.

No kidding: Study says guns on campus won’t make them safer.

Game 1 of the World Series is tonight in Cleveland.