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  • January 4, 2018
    The Difference Between 2018 and the 2010 Midterms? The Truth

    As the new year begins, press, pundits and politicians alike are saying 2018 could be the year of the "blue wave." Led by a historically unpopular first-year president and still smarting from embarrassing losses in Virginia and Alabama, many Republicans are talking out loud about "bloodbath" in next November's midterm elections. While Democrats are fielding challengers to incumbent Republicans in almost every congressional district, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is privately warning his colleagues the GOP could lose control of both the House and Senate. Retiring Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent simply urged his fellow Republicans to "be prepared for the worst."

    They have good reason to be afraid. Very afraid. Together, McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) presided over a series of legislative fiascos. Both their greatest failure (the effort to repeal Obamacare) and their greatest success (the year-end corporate tax cut package) were wildly unpopular. In the aftermath of their efforts to take health insurance away from between 13 and 32 million Americans, the Affordable Care Act now enjoys majority support. The massive, $1.5 trillion tax cut windfall for wealthy (also known as "Trump's Golden Showers") does little for working Americans even as it delivers 82 percent of its benefits in 2027 to the richest 1 percent of taxpayers. It's no wonder why in recent polling Democrats lead the generic congressional ballot by 10 to 18 points. On top of it all, the rapid-fire fabrications and the staggering incompetence of the president, the unprecedented corruption of his administration and the five Russia scandals* still under investigation by special prosecutor Robert Mueller have many wondering if the true loyalties of the Oval Office occupant lie with his bank accounts--and the Kremlin.

    Republicans have one more reason to feel mildly nauseous heading into the 2018 midterms. After all, just 8 short years ago, the shoe was on the other foot. By November 2010, the GOP's "Red Tide" washed away the Democrats' majority in the House, as Republicans picked up a staggering 63 seats. McConnell's minions added six Republican senators in the 2010 midterms and would take over the chamber four years later. And Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and the Republican Party did it all without one great advantage Democrats hold today.

    The truth.

    That's right. In a colossal media failure perhaps exceeded only by the Iraq war and the election of Donald Trump itself, the GOP swept to power in 2010 despite misleading the nation on almost every major campaign issue of consequence. After all, Obamacare, signed into law on March 23, 2010, did not increase the national debt, represent a "government takeover of health care" which contained "death panels" or "stick it to seniors" with a "raid a Medicare." And far from being "Taxed Enough Already," Americans in 2009 and 2010 received the largest two-year tax cut in American history.

    To fully understand the 2010 triumph of the most successful disinformation campaign in U.S. up to that time, it helps to start with not-so-immaculate conception of that great right-wing hissy fit, the tea party.


    Continue reading at Daily Kos.

    Perrspective 11:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Share

    December 26, 2017
    The 'We Told You So' President

    As 2017 draws to a close, President Donald Trump and his amen corner are bragging about his "year of solid policy accomplishments." Despite approval ratings only slightly higher than the Ebola virus, Trump took to Twitter to soak up praise from Maria Bartiromo, who gushed that "Year One has been excellent from an economic standpoint." Echoing Byron York of the Washington Examiner, former Sarah Palin bath water drinker Rich Lowry proclaimed, "Trump's first year is starting to look like a big win." While Lowry rejoiced in "the welcome ascension of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court" and that "Trump's deregulation has been in full gear," the occupant of the Oval Office boasted in all caps, "DOW RISES 5000 POINTS ON THE YEAR FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER - MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!" With Congressional Republicans on the verge of passing the massive $1.5 trillion tax cut windfall for the wealthy, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders crowed on Dec. 17, "Amazing how much safer & more prosperous America is after only one year of President @realDonaldTrump." Ignoring the 800-pound bear in the room, Sanders asked:

    Of course, that Donald Trump would try to appropriate the credit for whatever went well during his first year was entirely predictable. As it turns out, many of us predicted the very things--like the strong economy and the defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria--for which Trump would claim paternity. But that's not all. His successes, his failures, the promises he kept and, more importantly, the promises he broke pretty much went according to script. There's no mystery as to why. Candidate Trump's narcissism, braggadocio, and pathological lying weren't going to end when he planted himself in the Oval Office.

    Take, for example, the claims of the supposed conqueror of the Islamic State.

    Continue reading at Daily Kos.

    Perrspective 11:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Share

    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

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    The Difference Between 2018 and the 2010 Midterms? The Truth
    January 4, 2018
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