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  • September 22, 2016
    Trump's Self-Dealing Scam to Raid the U.S. Treasury

    David Farenthold of the Washington Post on Tuesday broke a huge story about the rampant wrong-doing at the Trump Foundation. Donald Trump, Farenthold revealed, "spent more than a quarter-million dollars from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits that involved the billionaire's for-profit businesses."

    But if the Republican nominee's "self-dealing" as president of the Trump Foundation likely violated the law, the real estate magnate is trying to perpetrate a much larger scam to enrich himself at the expense of American taxpayers. And this other Trump con, a trillion-dollar shell game with the U.S. tax code, is completely legal.

    Here's how the scheme works. Last week, Donald Trump unveiled the third version of his tax plan in under a year and the second in just the last six weeks. The biggest change from August was the decision to seemingly abandon his proposed 15 percent corporate tax rate for "partnerships, limited liability companies and other businesses known as pass-throughs." But as the New York Times documented on September 16, that announcement represented "Conflicting Policy From Trump: To Keep, and Remove, Tax Cut."

    A few hours after Donald J. Trump publicly backed away from a $1 trillion tax cut for small businesses, campaign aides on Thursday privately assured a leading small-business group that Mr. Trump in fact remained committed to the proposal -- winning the group's endorsement.

    The campaign then told the Tax Foundation, a conservative-leaning Washington think tank it asked to price the plan, that Mr. Trump had indeed decided to eliminate the tax cut.

    Call it the trillion-dollar lie: Both assertions cannot be true. [Emphasis mine.]

    But Trump's misdirection wouldn't just cost the United States Treasury an estimated $1.5 trillion over the next decade. Keeping that pass-through payday for plutocrats would also redirect millions of dollars from Uncle Sam to Donald J. Trump and family--every year. As Trump's tax attorneys explained in his campaign's March 2016 required financial disclosure:

    "You hold interests as the sole or principal owner in approximately 500 separate entities. These entities are referred to and do business as The Trump Organization. ... Because you operate these businesses almost exclusively through sole proprietorships and/or closely held partnerships, your personal federal income tax returns are inordinately large and complex for an individual."

    And that would mean really YUGE savings for The Donald if his "now you see it, now you don't" tax cut is still on for January 20, 2017.

    As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) recently explained, "Pass-through income is claimed by business entities that aren't subject to the corporate income tax, which currently has a top statutory rate of 35 percent (though most corporations pay an effective tax rate considerably lower than 35 percent). Pass-through income is business income that "passes through" the business and is instead reported on the individual tax returns of the business owners and taxed at the owners' tax rates."

    But as CBPP also documented, "'pass-throughs' are not synonymous with 'small businesses' and "pass-through income is highly concentrated at the top:"

    Mr. Trump, who has proposed a 15 percent corporate tax rate, proposes a pass-through rate of 15 percent as well. The Trump pass-through proposal would be an expensive tax cut that would flow primarily to the wealthiest Americans. That's because more than two-thirds of pass-through business income flows to the highest-income 1 percent of tax filers.

    Many businesses, such as law firms, and groups of wealthy investors choose to be taxed as pass-through entities instead of as corporations and often do so to lower the overall taxes they owe. In recent decades, many businesses and their owners have reaped sizable tax savings by doing so. A special 15 percent tax rate on pass-through income such as the Trump tax plan proposes would offer them another large tax cut.

    As the Washington Post reported, "Trump would tax pass-through income at a rate of 15 percent, compared to the 40 percent personal income tax rate a wealthy business owner would pay today." And as the Post's Jim Tankersley explained, one of those wealthy business owners is Donald Trump himself:

    A little-noticed provision in Donald Trump's tax reform plan has the potential to deliver a large tax cut to companies in the Republican presidential nominee's vast business empire, experts say.

    Trump's plan would dramatically reduce taxes on what is known in tax circles as "pass-through" entities, which do not pay corporate income taxes, but whose owners are taxed at individual rates on their share of profits. Those entities are the most common structure for small businesses and increasingly popular for larger ones as well. They are also a cornerstone of the Trump Organization. On his 2015 presidential financial disclosure report, Trump listed holdings of more than 200 limited liability corporations, which is a form of pass-through.

    It's no wonder Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, said "It's a really nice deal" for Trump and pass-through owners like him. As for Uncle Sam: not so much. Last year, a team of economists led by Michael Cooper of the Treasury Department found that pass-through entities now account for half of the business income in the United States, up from one-quarter in 1980. A study by the Center for American Progress concluded that the rise of pass-throughs cost the federal government nearly $800 billion in tax revenue between 2003 and 2012. Trump's self-serving plan would make that trend much, much worse. (For a real-world example from the meth labs of democracy, just look at Kansas. There, the elimination of the tax on pass-through businesses and family farms didn't deliver the economic growth Sam Brownback, Stephen Moore, and Arthur Laffer promised, but a dramatic and dangerous decline in state revenue.)

    For his part, in August Trump economic adviser Stephen Moore protested that the candidate's proposed payday "wasn't something we took into consideration when we made this plan." But the Heritage Foundation's resident supply-sider in chief, banned in 2014 from the op-ed pages of the Kansas City Star for fabricating data, is now helping Trump sow confusion over the status of the pass-through tax cut proposal. As Bloomberg News reported on Monday:

    Adding to the confusion, the campaign on Monday morning posted a brief statement titled "Trump policy on business taxes" to its website, but then soon removed it. The statement said businesses could choose how they wanted to be taxed, according to a screenshot made before it was withdrawn.

    Stephen Moore, an economist who has been advising Trump, said little to clarify the situation Monday. The campaign will work on the issue with the Republican-led House Ways and Means Committee, which writes tax policy, he said.

    (If that "House Ways and Means dodge sounds familiar, it should. It's the same one current House Speaker Paul Ryan has used for years to avoid explaining which tax breaks and loopholes he'd close to fill a $6 trillion hole in his ten-year budget plans.)

    Now, #DoOverDonald is trying to have it both ways on his tax plan. On the one hand, he's trying to win over deficit hawks by supposedly getting rid of a tax cut that would balloon his red ink from $4.4 trillion to $5.9 trillion over the next decade, according to the reliably Republican Tax Foundation. (As the Wall Street Journal put it, "the $1.5 trillion gulf in the estimate [is] caused by the campaign's conflicting and blurry statements on a key feature of business taxation.") On other, he's trying to bribe small business groups by simultaneously claiming--nod, nod, wink, wink--the pass-through scheme is still part of his plan.

    Either way, Donald Trump and his kids will win big. After all, his campaign finance disclosures claim he has a net worth of $10 billion and earned $557 million between January 2015 and May 2016. While his income sources are no doubt diverse, President Trump would surely reap millions from candidate Trump's income tax and capital gains tax rate reductions alone. And if he is telling the truth about his net worth, The Donald's heirs could pocket over $7 billion from his promise to do away with the estate tax now paid by only the richest 0.2 percent of family fortunes.

    Because Trump refuses to make public even one year of his returns, Americans have no idea how much he makes, how much he pays (if anything) to the IRS, what his tax rate is and what (and whether) he gives to charity at all. There are only two things we know for certain about Donald Trump's taxes. First, he was lying when he made this boast as he announced the first version of tax plan back in September 2015:

    "It reduces or eliminates most of the deductions and loopholes available to special interests and to the very rich. In other words, it's going to cost me a fortune -- which is actually true -- while preserving charitable giving and mortgage interest deductions, very importantly." [Emphasis mine.]

    The other certainty of Donald Trump's tax cut snake oil is that Uncle Sam will lose big as tax revenue passes-through to Donald Trump and his gilded-class ilk. But that will only happen if Americans fall for his biggest self-dealing con of all.

    Perrspective 2:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Share

    September 21, 2016
    Donald Trump, the Subprime President

    In late 2007 and 2008, the United States and the global economy were devastated by the subprime crisis. That financial calamity was so named due to the hundreds of thousands of foreclosed upon homeowners who were unqualified for the loans they received from mortgage originators around the country. The disaster did not result from the borrowers' deceit or government policy to spur home ownership among lower income Americans, but from an entire financial sector that was incentivized to loan them money whether they could pay it back or not. Banks and private mortgage firms offered the loans because companies like Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and Goldman Sachs could "securitize" and sell the bundled mortgages insured by derivatives provided by, among others, AIG. It all worked for everyone, as long as the rating agencies like Fitch and Moody's gave them AAA ratings. And as long as housing prices kept going up. But when the bubble burst, trillions of dollars of wealth were wiped out and millions of Americans were left underwater.

    Now, as the country prepares to go the polls, Americans are running the risk of a new--and completely avoidable--subprime crisis of a different kind. On November 8, voters will choose to "loan" the White House and the all the power that goes with it to either Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican Donald Trump. The tightening polls show a growing possibility that Americans will mortgage their futures to the reality TV star, despite 62 percent of respondents (including 23 percent of Republicans) saying Trump is not "qualified to serve as president."

    But the bad risk Trump represents isn't limited to his temperament, intellect and judgment (or lack thereof). It's not just that his serial bankruptcies and dubious business practices can and do get him laughed out of bankers' offices. As it turns out, his repeated promises to pay for expanded defense spending, his maternity leave program, Medicare prescription drugs, Social Security and more by cutting "waste, fraud and abuse" doesn't pass either the giggle test or basic math. Worse still, a growing consensus of economists warn that Trump's mammoth tax cut windfall for the wealthy and balanced budget boasts would necessarily produce the next recession--or much worse.

    Continue reading at Daily Kos.

    Perrspective 9:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Share

    September 19, 2016
    The GOP Continues Its "Othering" of the President

    The article below ("The Othering of the President") originally appeared on February 23, 2015 in response to Rudy Giuliani's obscene claim that "I do not believe that the president loves America." But with Donald Trump's presidential campaign trying replace its old Birther slander with a new one (that the Birther movement itself was started by the Clinton team in 2008), it seemed time for a quick review of what happens when a major political party makes casual racism a centerpiece of its electoral strategy. As GOP strategist Alex Castellanos, a man whose previous claims to fame was to declare that "Hillary=France" and tell voters it's OK to call Hillary Clinton a "bitch," put it Sunday:

    "There is an otherness to this president."

    Back in October 2008, then Republican presidential candidate John McCain had one of the finest moments of his career. When angry Minnesota town hall questioners claimed Democrat Barack Obama was "an Arab" who could not be trusted, Senator McCain was quick to respond. After first lecturing the crowd that "I have to tell you, Sen. Obama is a decent person and a person you don't have to be scared of as president of the United States," McCain made clear he was having none of their hate-mongering :

    "No, ma'am. He's a decent family man [and] citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that's what this campaign's all about. He's not [an Arab]."

    Sadly, that was probably the last time a major Republican figure publicly and emphatically denounced his party's transparent attempts to portray Barack Obama as "the other," a somehow dangerous and demonic figure skulking outside the pale of American society. Six years into his presidency, President Obama still routinely faces slanders calling his faith, his citizenship and even his patriotism into question. And with their silence, GOP presidential candidates and Congressional leaders past and present are complicit in the conservative campaign to cater to what RFK aptly called "the dark side of the American character."

    This week, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani offered just the latest case in point. Giuliani, the 2007 GOP White House front runner who would fall 1,156 delegates short of the 1,191 needed to secure the nomination, had this to say at a Wall Street event also attended by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker:

    "I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn't love you. And he doesn't love me. He wasn't brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country."

    But given the chance to repudiate Rudy's slur, Walker decided to punt. The current leader of the GOP pack for 2016 instead proclaimed:

    "The mayor can speak for himself. I'm not going to comment on what the President thinks or not. He can speak for himself as well.

    "I'll tell you, I love America," he continued. "There are plenty of people, Democrat, Republican, independent, and in between who love this country. I think we should talk about ways we love this country and that we feel passionately about America."

    Of course, what Walker is really passionate about is winning over the hard-core conservatives who dominate the early Republican primary states. Targeting the same audience, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal on Thursday followed suit in throwing some red meat to the reddest of red staters:

    "Gov. Jindal Refuses to Condemn Mayor Giuliani."

    Leave aside for the moment that going back to his debut on the national stage in 2004, Senator, candidate and President Obama has repeatedly declared "that my story is part of the larger American story" and "that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible." Obama has often spoken with pride of his Kansas grandmother who worked on the B-29 assembly lines while his grandfather "signed up after Pearl Harbor, marched in Patton's army, and was rewarded by a grateful nation with the chance to go to college on the G.I. Bill." That's why during his acceptance speech at the 2008 Democratic Convention in Denver, nominee Obama delivered this tribute to his Republican opponent even as he announced, "I've got news for you, John McCain: We all put our country first":

    Let there be no doubt. The Republican nominee, John McCain, has worn the uniform of our country with bravery and distinction, and for that we owe him our gratitude and our respect...

    The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook. So let us agree that patriotism has no party. I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain.

    Four years later on Election Night, President Obama would offer a similar--if much less deserved--honor to the man he had just vanquished by six million votes, Mitt Romney:

    We may have battled fiercely, but it's only because we love this country deeply and we care so strongly about its future. From George to Lenore to their son Mitt, the Romney family has chosen to give back to America through public service and that is the legacy that we honor and applaud tonight.

    Obama's magnanimity in victory stood in sharp contrast to Romney's smallness throughout the campaign. After all, Governor Romney, his wife and even their sons had taken turns pandering to those Republicans who considered the first black President neither an American nor a man.

    It wasn't just Romney surrogates like John Sununu wishing "wish this president would learn how to be an American." On July 17, 2012, Mitt got in on the act, too, telling listeners that "his course is extraordinarily foreign." Two days later, Romney repeated the charge in response to the growing outcry about his mystery tax returns, shockingly low tax rate and private equity parasitism:

    "This idea of criticizing and attacking success, of demonizing those in all walks of life who have been successful, is so foreign to us we simply can't understand it."

    When Governor Romney wasn't accusing the President of the United States of being "extraordinarily foreign," he was providing aid and comfort to conservative fabulists claiming they could prove it. After all, Mitt Romney didn't just refuse to repudiate his Obama birth certificate fraud Donald Trump. Truth be damned, Romney suggested, instead arguing that cobbling together a majority--any majority--was what his candidacy was all about:

    "You know, I don't agree with all the people who support me and my guess is they don't all agree with everything I believe in," Romney said. "But I need to get 50.1% or more and I'm appreciative to have the help of a lot of good people."

    No doubt, many of the people Trump claimed "are screaming, 'Please don't give that up'" attended Romney's "Dine with the Donald" fundraiser. And if they missed that shindig, they might have joined Trump and Romney at the New York City birthday bash for Mitt's wife, Ann.

    As Election Day 2012 approached, the Romney clan began parroting Rush Limbaugh's talking points about the "little boy" and "man-child", the "Halfrican-American" Barack Obama. As with a fish, the rot starts at the head. Confronted earlier this month with President Obama's accurate statement about the $5 trillion, 10-year cost of the GOP ticket's tax plan, Mitt Romney countered:

    "I've got 5 boys. I'm used to people saying the same thing over and over again hoping it becomes true."

    Like father, like son, Josh Romney ascribed his dad's win in the first debate with Obama to the fact that as a father "he learned how to debate an obstinate child." Ann Romney, too, got in on the act. The same Mrs. Romney who has been telling women voters they "need to wake up" and Hispanics to "get past your biases" had some choice words to describe the President's response to her husband's primetime dissembling:

    "it's sort of like someone that's, you know, in the sandbox that like lost the game and they're just going to kick sand in someone's face and say, 'you liar.' I mean, it's like they lost, and so now they just are going to say, OK, the game, we didn't like the game. So to me, it's poor sportsmanship."

    As it turns out, those good sports of the Romney family--the same five sons Mitt said "are showing support for our nation" by "helping me get elected because they think I'd be a great president"--also liked to play with the Birther lies vomited forth by the likes of Limbaugh, Trump and campaign traveling companion Jerome Corsi. When Tagg Romney wasn't joking about "taking a swing" at President Obama, his brother Matt got laughs from New Hampshire Republicans when he brushed off requests for his father's secret tax returns this way:

    "I heard someone suggest the other day that as soon as President Obama releases his grades and birth certificate ...then maybe he'll do it."

    While he later apologized on Twitter ("my bad"), there was no need for Matt to say sorry to dad. After all, in August 2012 Mitt Romney himself told an audience in Michigan:

    "Now I love being home in this place where Ann and I were raised, where both of us were born," the GOP hopeful told the crowd. "Ann was born in Henry Ford Hospital. I was born at Harper Hospital. No one's ever asked to see my birth certificate, they know that this is the place that we were born and raised."

    That's right. Three and a half years after Barack Obama took the oath of office and more than a year after he released his long-form birth certificate, the GOP nominee was still casually trafficking in racist appeals to the Republicans' xenophobic right.

    But it wasn't just man who sought the White House who helped breathe life into the foulest lies propagated by the Tea Party. The GOP's leadership on Capitol Hill refused to put an end to the smears as well.

    On January 23, 2011, the new House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) told Meet the Press host David Gregory he would not speak out against those "who think that his birth certificate is inauthentic."

    GREGORY: Will you call that what it is, which is crazy talk?

    CANTOR: [laughs] David, you know, a lot of that has been an issue sort of generated by not only the media but others in the country. Most Americans really are beyond that and they want us to focus --

    GREGORY: Is somebody who brings that up engaging in crazy talk?

    CANTOR: David I don't think it's nice to call anyone crazy, OK?

    While Cantor ultimately acknowledged, "I think the president is a citizen of the United States," his boss John Boehner (R-OH) followed the same formula. Three weeks later, the new Speaker of the House told David Gregory, "I believe that the president is a citizen. I believe the president is a Christian, I'll take him at his word." But when Gregory pushed him to accept the "responsibility to stand up to that kind of ignorance," Boehner repeatedly refused.

    David, it's not my job to tell the American people what to think. Our job in Washington is to listen to the American people...Listen, the American people have the right to think what they want to think. I can't -- it's not my job to tell them.

    With their abdication, Boehner, Cantor, Romney and their ilk enabled con men like Dinesh D'Souza to make very lucrative careers out of telling the people what to think. The adulterer and convicted felon has written books and produced movies like The Roots of Obama's Rage and America 2016 which comically argue that "that Obama is best understood through the lens of anti-colonialism, in particular Kenya's struggle against British imperialism." D'Souza's sophistry didn't just become a Newt Gingrich talking point; Florida Republicans want it to become required viewing in Sunshine State schools. (D'Souza won more fans on the right this week when he tweeted of the "vulgar man" in the Oval Office, "YOU CAN TAKE THE BOY OUT OF THE GHETTO...")

    Thanks to the Republicans' skullduggery, what a large slice of the American public believes just happens to be false. Almost four years after the Obama birth certificate release, more people think the President is extraordinarily and literally foreign. As explained a new FDU/PublicMind poll on January 8, 2015, "Nearly one in five Americans say they don't believe President Obama was born in the United States":

    More than a third of Republicans asked (34 percent) and 22 percent of independents say that it's "definitely" or "probably" true that the president isn't a citizen. Thirty percent of Fox News Channel viewers also said they feel that way with another nine percent unsure.

    But that's not the only Obama myth that Republicans have been able to keep alive by their sins of commission--and omission. When 2014 polling showed strong support for the President from American Muslims, the Drudge Report and others among the usual suspects trumpeted the information. But among the conservative faithful, the whisper campaign about Barack Hussein Obama wasn't necessary. As the Washington Post's Aaron Blake gleefully explained ("Obama, long mistaken for a Muslim, has huge following among U.S. Muslims"), they were already convinced:

    Misinformed voters -- not to mention conspiracy theorists -- have long believed that President Obama is a Muslim rather than a Christian. That number has reached as high as nearly one-fifth of all Americans and 30 percent of conservatives.

    He's not. But he is hugely popular among the U.S. Muslim community.

    As it turns out, those figures are little different than survey results from six years ago. As I pointed out in 2009 ("10 Lessons for Tea Baggers"):

    An April survey by the Pew Research Center showed that 11% of Americans believe Barack Obama is a Muslim, a figure largely unchanged since its polling started in March 2008. Yet 17% of Republicans and 19% of white evangelicals (74% of whom voted for John McCain) insist the President is an adherent of Islam, despite his repeated pronouncements and decades of church attendance to the contrary.

    In the intervening years, Republicans have only helped fan the fire. In 2014, Republican White House wannabe Rand Paul appeared at an event with failed Virginia lieutenant governor candidate, E.W. Jackson. Jackson, as you may recall, claimed that President Obama "has Muslim sensibilities." In October 2013, Sarah Palin and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) appeared at a Tea Party rally in which Larry Klayman of Freedom Watch declared:

    "I call upon all of you to wage a second American nonviolent revolution, to use civil disobedience, and to demand that this president leave town, to get up, to put the Quran down, to get up off his knees, and to figuratively come out with his hands up."

    In the months since, those sentiments have been echoed by Paul's fellow presidential contenders including Cruz and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. On Thursday, Cruz denounced the President as "an apologist for radical Islamic terrorists." In the wake of Obama's remarks at the recent National Prayer Breakfast, Huckabee was blunter still:

    "Everything he does is against what Christians stand for, and he's against the Jews in Israel," Huckabee said. "The one group of people that can know they have his undying, unfailing support would be the Muslim community."

    Meanwhile, the right-wing American Thinker this week concluded Barack Obama must be a Muslim because one photograph supposedly showed him "flashing the one-finger affirmation of Islamic faith to dozens of African delegates."

    And so it goes.

    For his part, President Obama has had fun at the expense of the very people who try to tar him as an alien, a foreigner, a suspicious and covert follower of Islam and, yes, an African-American. At the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner in May 2009, Obama joked that John Boehner is also "a person of color, although not a color that appears in the natural world." In 2013, he jabbed his foes again:

    "I'm also hard at work on plans for the Obama library. Some have suggested that we put it in my birthplace but I'd rather keep it in the United States."

    At the same event the next year, the President acknowledged with a smile, "I'm not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be."

    Characteristically, over the six years of his presidency, he didn't get mad; he got even. In the face of Republicans who wanted to "let Detroit go bankrupt," President Obama rescued the American auto industry and with it one million U.S. jobs. In the wake of the greatest financial collapse since the Great Depression, Obama and his Democratic Party saved the U.S. economy despite the Republican austerians in Washington and the states who tried to kill it. He put the first Hispanic Justice on the Supreme Court, pushed comprehensive immigration reform and put his support behind marriage equality for all Americans. Oh, and one other thing. Barack Obama enabled some 19 million Americans to obtain health insurance even as the growth in premiums and total national spending on health care slowed to their lowest levels in years.

    Sounds like a man who loves his country and its people to me.

    Perrspective 9:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Share

    September 12, 2016
    Defining Trump's Deviancy Down

    In 1993, the late New York Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan published his famous paper, titled "Defining Deviancy Down." Lamenting the rising rates of crime, homelessness, and family breakdown among other American pathologies, the social scientist and member of the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations warned, "We have been re-defining deviancy so as to exempt much conduct previously stigmatized, and also quietly raising the 'normal' level in categories where behavior is now abnormal by any earlier standard." Whether due to the best of intentions, sheer opportunism or a gradual process of normalization, Americans and their institutions had come to "mainstream" behaviors once viewed as far beyond the pale of the acceptable.

    More than two decades later, it appears the United States is far along in the process of defining down the deviancy of Donald Trump. Now, a man whose naked racism, cynical xenophobia, rapid-fire dissembling, shady business practices, staggering public policy ignorance, and dangerously nonsensical proposals would have once disqualified him from serious consideration as a major party nominee has a very real chance to become the 45th president of the United States.

    Recent headlines tell the tale. During the past week alone, CNN reporter Dana Bash declared that the "onus" is on Hillary Clinton in the upcoming presidential debates as "the expectations are higher for her because she's a seasoned politician." Echoing Meet the Press host Chuck Todd's abdication of his journalistic duties during the passage of Obamacare, Fox News host and upcoming debate moderator Chris Wallace announced that fact-checking the candidates is "not my job." (In Wednesday's "Commander-in-Chief" Forum, NBC's Matt Lauer proved his point.) While former CNN anchor Soledad O'Brien fretted that the Donald's campaign had "normalized" white supremacy on air and in the national discourse, his campaign manager Kellyanne Conway claimed that "Mr. Trump deserves credit" for his ersatz outreach to those he calls "the blacks." To paraphrase George W. Bush, Trump is benefitting from the low expectations of soft bigotry.

    But that's not all. As Paul Krugman, Daniel Drezner, Brian Beutler and Paul Waldman among others protested, "Trump's history of corruption is mind-boggling. So why is Clinton supposedly the corrupt one?" After all, a cascade of stories from the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the AP, and ABC News raising doubts about the Clinton Foundation, Hillary's emails and her ethics at the State Department produced, as Drezner summed it up, "nothingburgers." While the asymmetric coverage of Clinton is now in its third decade, Waldman pointed out, "Trump is still being let off the hook."

    Continue reading at Daily Kos.

    Perrspective 3:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Share

    September 10, 2016
    Trump Recycles Romney's "Hollow Military" Myth

    It was one of the defining moments of the 2012 presidential campaign. "Our Navy is smaller now than at any time since 1917," Republican Mitt Romney charged during the third and final debate, adding, "Air Force is older and smaller than at any time since it was founded in 1947." President Obama responded with overwhelming force--and deadly accuracy:

    "We also have fewer horses and bayonets. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines...

    And so the question is not a game of Battleship, where we're counting slips. It's what are our capabilities. And so when I sit down with the Secretary of the Navy and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, we determine how are we going to be best able to meet all of our defense needs in a way that also keeps faith with our troops."

    Now, four years after Obama blasted the BSS Romney out of the water, would-be Commander-in-Chief Donald Trump has decided to resurrect the same discredited argument about defense spending and military preparedness.

    As Trump put it in his address to the Union League on September 7:

    History shows that when America is not prepared is when the danger is greatest. We want to deter, avoid and prevent conflict through our unquestioned military strength.

    Under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, defense spending is on track to fall to its lowest level as a share of the economy since the end of World War II. We currently have the smallest Army since 1940. The Navy is among the smallest it has been since 1915. And the Air Force is the smallest it has been since 1947.

    Trump proceeded to offer a laundry list of examples of supposed reductions in strength, much as Mitt Romney did four years ago. In January 2012, Governor Romney charged, "President Obama has put us on course toward a 'hollow' force."

    The Obama administration's cuts have left us with a military inventory largely composed of weapons designed forty to fifty years ago. The average age of our tanker aircraft is 47 years, of strategic bombers 34 years. While the weapons in our arsenal remain formidable, they are well along on the path to obsolescence. Along with the aging process, there has been a precipitous decline in sheer numbers. The U.S. Navy has only 284 ships today, the lowest level since 1916. Given current trends, the number will decline, and the additional contemplated cuts will cause it to decline even further. Our naval planners indicate we need 328 ships to fulfill the Navy's role of global presence and power projection in defense of American security. Our Air Force, which had 82 fighter squadrons at the end of the Cold War, has been reduced to 39 today.

    Unsurprisingly, Politifact rated Romney's gambit a "Pants on Fire" lie. It's no mystery as to why:

    Counting the number of ships or aircraft is not a good measurement of defense strength because their capabilities have increased dramatically in recent decades. Romney's comparison "doesn't pass 'the giggle test,' " said William W. Stueck, a historian at the University of Georgia.

    Now, accusing Democrats of gutting America's national defense is a tried if untrue Republican talking point. During his 2015 announcement speech, failed presidential candidate Marco Rubio (R-FL) similarly slandered the Obama administration, claiming the President:

    "...wasted no time stripping parts from the engine of American Strength. He enacted hundreds of billions in defense cuts that left our Army on track to be at pre-World War II levels, our Navy at pre-WWI levels, and our Air Force with the smallest and oldest combat force in its history."

    Sadly, George W. Bush successfully catapulted the propaganda of a hollow American military during the 2000 campaign. As he famously--and falsely--put it during his August 2000 acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention:

    "We have seen a steady erosion of American power and an unsteady exercise of American influence. Our military is low on parts, pay and morale. If called on by the commander-in-chief today, two entire divisions of the Army would have to report, 'Not ready for duty, sir.'"

    In reality, those two divisions weren't "not ready for duty," but already on duty. As Josh Marshall documented just four days after Bush spoke:

    [T]he reason those two divisions had their readiness downgraded was not because they were unfit for duty or lacked equipment. It was because portions of each division were on peacekeeping duty in Bosnia and Kosovo. The military's definition of readiness has to do with a particular division's ability to go into combat immediately in the hypothetical case of two major theater conflicts breaking out simultaneously. The commanders doubted their ability to quickly extricate their troops from their positions in the Balkans.

    By Bush's own standard, virtually the entire U.S. Army would have been "not ready for duty" in 2004 and 2008. It was already deployed--or more accurately, overdeployed--in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Hopefully, Donald Trump won't be able to repeat Bush's success and instead be condemned to suffer Mitt Romney's fate. When he starts ranting about the smallest military since 1917, Hillary Clinton might consider responding, "Please continue, Mr. Trump."

    Perrspective 10:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Share

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