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  • December 11, 2017
    GOP Turns to Decades-Old Lies to Sell New Tax Scam

    "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and that's our target market." That perversion of Abraham Lincoln's timeless adage might as well be the slogan of the modern Republican Party, especially when the topic is taxes. After all, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Joint Committee on Taxation, (JCT), the Wharton School, the Tax Policy Center and a host of think tanks have concluded that the GOP tax bill will produce between $1 trillion and $1.5 trillion in additional debt over the next decade. But if "tax cut pay for themselves" is a cynical myth designed to force deep spending cuts in the future, so too is the notion that the "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act" (TCJA) produces either tax relief or jobs for lower- to middle-income Americans. It's no wonder that Republicans from Maine Sen. Susan Collins to House Speaker Paul Ryan have been struggling to manufacture lists of conservative economists to vouch for their voodoo.

    But more appalling than the grotesque GOP disinformation campaign itself is the Republican regurgitation of decades-old lies to sell it. The GOP's best and brightest have been peddling the same fiscal fantasies since supply-side snake oil salesman Arthur Laffer first sketched his magical Curve on a cocktail napkin for Team Reagan in the 1970s. The passage of time has not made the GOP falsehoods any more true.

    Consider, for example, Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary, McConnell declared himself "totally confident" that the TCJA passed by the Senate will not add to the deficit, adding:

    "I think it's going to be a revenue producer."

    Now, there's no need to stop me if you think you've heard this one before; you have. That's because back in 2010, then-Minority Leader McConnell used the same talking point to defend the extension of the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 for the richest Americans. Defending that windfall for the wealthy that would drain $70 billion annually from the United States Treasury, the No.2 Senate Republican Jon Kyl of Arizona proclaimed, "You should never have to offset the cost of a deliberate decision to reduce tax rates on Americans." McConnell rushed to Kyl's defense, announcing that his fiscal fraud was in fact now Republican orthodoxy:

    "There's no evidence whatsoever that the Bush tax cuts actually diminished revenue. They increased revenue because of the vibrancy of these tax cuts in the economy. So I think what Senator Kyl was expressing was the view of virtually every Republican on that subject."

    But then as now, Republican agreement on that view doesn't make it a fact. History tells us so. And that history starts, it turns out, with Ronald Reagan's arrival in the White House in 1981.

    Continue reading at Daily Kos.

    Perrspective 7:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Share

    December 4, 2017
    Trump's Golden Showers

    Donald Trump and his Republican allies have two definitions of the term, "golden showers." The first concerns a notorious--and as-yet unsubstantiated--claim from the so-called Russian dossier: Decorum prohibits elaborating further here. The second meaning of the term, however, describes any public policy--usually involving taxes--which overwhelmingly delivers its benefits to the very richest people in America. The plutocratic pleasure from this right-wing fetish is all the more ecstatic if raining cash on the gilded-class can be sold under the guise of winnings for workers.

    So it is with the supposed "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act" (TCJA) Republicans in both houses of Congress have been trying to rush largely unseen to President Trump's desk. This $1.5 trillion, 10-year liquid gold waterfall for the wealthy doesn't trickle down to average Americans. Instead, its new income tax brackets, elimination of the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), steep reductions in corporate taxes, bonanza for "pass-through" businesses and abolition of the estate tax guarantee the richest investors and financially-favored families will take all--or, at least, almost all.

    Now, you wouldn't know any of this from the myth-making generated by the Trump White House and the usual suspects among right-wing economists. As Lawrence Summers and Brad Delong among others explained, GOP claims that "the Republican bills could boost GDP 3% to 4% long term" and "American annual household income could increase by an average of $4,000" are belied by history, the clear consensus of economists. After all, the strong 3.3 percent GDP number for the third quarter and low unemployment shows the Obama expansion has continued uninterrupted. Ten years after the start of the 2007 recession, actual U.S. economic output has finally reached its full potential. With interest rates low, corporate profits high and U.S. firms sitting on stacks of cash, capital stocks are simply not an issue.

    Nevertheless, Republicans want to slash the statutory corporate tax rate from 35 to 20 percent. (It is worth noting that President Obama repeatedly proposed lowering it to 28 percent; Republicans in Congress balked.) Thanks to a wide range of tax breaks they already enjoy, American businesses face an effective tax rate of 18.6 percent, a figure comparable to most U.S. economic competitors. That's why, as Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, "Major companies including Cisco Systems Inc., Pfizer Inc. and Coca-Cola Co. say they'll turn over most gains from proposed corporate tax cuts to their shareholders, undercutting President Donald Trump's promise that his plan will create jobs and boost wages for the middle class." That doesn't square with Trump's promise this week in Missouri that "our focus is on helping the folks who work in the mailrooms and the machine shops of America."

    Instead of hiring more workers or raising their pay, many companies say they'll first increase dividends or buy back their own shares.

    Robert Bradway, chief executive of Amgen Inc., said in an Oct. 25 earnings call that the company has been "actively returning capital in the form of growing dividend and buyback and I'd expect us to continue that." Executives including Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey, Pfizer Chief Financial Officer Frank D'Amelio and Cisco CFO Kelly Kramer have recently made similar statements.

    "We'll be able to get much more aggressive on the share buyback" after a tax cut, Kramer said in a Nov. 16 interview.

    John Shin, a foreign exchange strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, explained those unsurprising views:

    "Companies are sitting on large amounts of cash. They're not financially constrained. They're still working for their shareholders, primarily."

    Shin should know.

    Continue reading at Daily Kos.

    Perrspective 10:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Share

    November 28, 2017
    GOP Tax plan is the Worst Jobs Bill Ever

    With apologies to Benjamin Disraeli, there are three kinds of lies Republicans are telling about their tax plan: lies, damned lies, and f**king lies.

    Constraints of space and time preclude listing them all, but here is a handful of the GOP's most farfetched falsehoods. For example, earlier this month House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) repeatedly promised "it's a tax cut for everybody ... every single person, every rate payer, every bracket person gets a rate cut." When the Washington Post Fact Checker published a Four Pinocchio beat-down of this bunk, Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) beat a hasty retreat. Despite the hemorrhage of red ink produced by the Reagan and Bush tax cuts, Trump White House economic adviser Gary Cohn bragged, We think we can pay for the entire tax cut through growth over the cycle," a point echoed by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on November 13. The 10-year, $1.5 trillion windfall for the wealthy will "not only ... pay for itself," Mnuchin boasted, "but it will pay down debt" as well. Unfortunately, analyses from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), the Wharton School, the Tax Policy Center (TPC) and even the conservative friendly Tax Foundation (TF) concluded otherwise. And even without seeing the president's past tax returns, we know that Donald Trump was lying through his teeth when he said the GOP tax plan was "going to cost me a fortune" and that his own finances were "going to get killed in this bill."

    So, neither the House nor the Senate versions of the GOP's "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act" (TCJA) does a very good job of actually delivering tax cuts, except to corporations and the wealthiest people in America. But as it turns out, the TCJA doesn't do much to create jobs, either.

    Of course, you'd never know it listening to Paul Ryan. On November 3, the speaker's website issued this update: "BREAKING: Analysis Finds House Tax Plan Would Create 890,000 New Jobs." Citing the analysis by the reliably right-leaning Tax Foundation, Team Ryan crowed that over the ensuing decade, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act would result in "890,000 more full-time equivalent jobs, 3.5 percent increase in size of the U.S. Economy [and] 2.7 percent higher wages for workers. (The Tax Foundation's assessment of the Senate bill put the employment gain at 925,000 over 10 years.) On November 7, Ryan excitedly tweeted the jobs number again, this time conveniently rounding up:

    Nearly 1 million new, full-time jobs will be created by the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act. See how many jobs will be created in your state.

    Then on November 16, the same day the House of Representatives narrowly passed his Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Speaker Ryan took to the floor to declare:

    "Let me just break it down in simple numbers. The nonpartisan tax foundation ran the numbers. They said with this bill, we'll get faster growth, about 3.5 percent faster economic growth, 890,000 new jobs. They estimate that in New York state alone, 57,834 new jobs. Wisconsin: 17,999 new jobs. California: 101,422 new jobs. Texas: 74,037 new jobs."

    Now, if you are experiencing a queasy sensation (or feeling, as James Comey might describe it, "mildly nauseous") because that jobs number seems pathetically low, that's because it is.

    Continue reading at Daily Kos.

    Perrspective 11:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Share

    November 21, 2017
    Abortion Rights and Free Speech Wrongs

    The United States Supreme Court this week announced it would soon hear a major case that could redefine the legal landscape at the critical juncture where abortion rights meet free speech. In National Institute of Life and Family Advocates v. Becerra, the plaintiffs are challenging a California statute regulating so-called "crisis pregnancy centers."

    After concluding that the Golden State's 200 pregnancy resource centers used "intentionally deceptive advertising and counseling practices that often confuse, misinform, and even intimidate women from making fully-informed, time-sensitive decisions about critical health care," the New York Times reported, the legislature in Sacramento required these anti-abortion counseling services to post a notice letting clients know that "free or low cost abortion, contraception and prenatal care are available to low-income women through public programs, and to provide a phone number for more information." In addition, the California Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency Act (FACT Act) mandates that all unlicensed centers disclose their lack of accreditation from the state. And that, attorneys for 110 CPCs operated by the faith-based Christian ministry of National Institute of Life and Family Advocates argue, amounts to unconstitutional "compelled speech."

    As it turns out, the claim that California law violates their First Amendment rights is more than a little ironic. After all, across the nation hundreds of new state abortion restrictions doubtless supported by the plaintiffs run roughshod over the freedom of speech by physicians and abortion clinics. That is, while California is mandating that crisis pregnancy centers simply tell women the truth about their services, GOP-led states are demanding that doctors lie to their patients about supposed "fetal pain," mythical "abortion regret," nonexistent side-effects, and so much more.

    Continue reading at Daily Kos.

    Perrspective 11:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Share

    November 13, 2017
    Vergangenheits-bewältigung in America

    This year represents the 25th anniversary of one of the great enduring memes of modern American culture and politics. In his thundering speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention, former Nixon hatchet man and Adolf Hitler admirer-turned GOP presidential candidate Pat Buchanan darkly warned of a "cultural war" already underway, one he deemed a "struggle for the soul of America." After Buchanan concluded by proclaiming that "block by block ... we must take back our cities, and take back our culture, and take back our country," the late humorist Molly Ivins joked:

    Many people did not care for Buchanan's speech. It probably sounded better in the original German.

    And so it was that Buchanan's kulturekampf spawned a generation of tongue-in-cheek declarations that various right-wing policies, programs and politicians--including Donald Trump--"sounded better in the original German." (For examples of such assessments of Mein Drumpf, see here, here and here.) In some cases, the translation was literal. As Scott Horton documented in Harper's in 2007, long before the Bush administration began using "enhanced interrogation techniques" as a euphemism for its regime of detainee torture, the Gestapo in 1937 introduced the original German verschärfte Vernehmung (which means "enhanced interrogation techniques") into its lexicon of savagery.

    But all snark aside, recent developments in the United States show the urgent need for an Americanized version of a German term central to the understanding of Deutschland and Europe since 1945. Vergangenheitsbewältigung (pronunciation here), variously defined as "coming to terms with" or "overcoming" or simply "confronting" the past, describes the ongoing, painful process by which Germans grapple with the inescapable, horrific crimes committed by Adolf Hitler and the nation's Nazi Third Reich.

    But while the symbols, likenesses, and ideology of the perpetrators of the conquest of Europe and Holocaust are beyond the pale in Germany, in the United States a much different approach guides Americans' attitudes toward our original sin--and world-historic crime--of slavery and the Civil War fought to eradicate it. Here, many whitewash the obvious cause of that war, traffic in antebellum nostalgia, and venerate statues erected to the traitors who in the service of perpetual human bondage killed hundreds of thousands of Americans. So, when the president of the United States calls for protecting "our great statues/heritage" and his chief of staff--a four-star American general at that--calls Robert E. Lee "honorable" and chalks up his blood-drenched treachery to a mere "lack of compromise," something about America's present is very, very wrong, indeed.

    That point was driven home to me during and after my recent trip to Berlin.

    Continue reading at Daily Kos.

    Perrspective 5:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Share

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    GOP Turns to Decades-Old Lies to Sell New Tax Scam
    December 11, 2017
    Comments (0)

    Trump's Golden Showers
    December 4, 2017
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    GOP Tax plan is the Worst Jobs Bill Ever
    November 28, 2017
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    Abortion Rights and Free Speech Wrongs
    November 21, 2017
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    Vergangenheits-bewältigung in America
    November 13, 2017
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