Saturday, April 29, 2017
One thing that has driven me to distraction for years is the manner in which black Christians - especially many black pastors - have allowed themselves to be manipulated by racist white evangelicals. Here in Virginia, The Family Foundation ("TFF") - an organization that traces its history to many of the the white supremacists who backed "Massive Resistance" rather than integrate public schools - has played black pastors for fools for decades and turned them into TFF's trained circus dogs. Positions on abortion and gays have been cynically used by TFF to rally these pastors to support Republican candidates who once in office are enemies to minorities in general and blacks in particular. A piece in Religion Dispatches speculates that just maybe in the face of the Trump/Pence regime and racist GOP agenda black Christians and evangelicals are waking up to the fact that white evangelicals are NOT their friends. Here are excerpts:
But this new administration has changed everything for George and evangelicals of color across the nation. The fact that 81 percent of white evangelicals supported a candidate who channeled white nationalism is not lost on minority believers. Nor is the unending news of travel bans, appointments of white nationalists, mass deportations and racial hate crimes. It has forced a reckoning.Today, believers of color are redefining their relationships with white evangelicalism in ways that could dramatically shift the landscape. Already, people of color make up a larger portion of the entire American Christian population than before, and church growth experts predict they will make up the majority of the Christian population after 2042. And their values are largely at odds with the white evangelical support for Trump; pre-election surveys showed that nonwhite evangelical Protestant voters, which included black, Hispanic and Asian-Pacific Islander Protestants, supported Clinton over Trump by a very wide margin (67% vs. 24%), according to the Public Religion Research Institute.
So while white evangelicals captured the election, they may have lost their fellow believers, the very people who could keep their churches, denominations and institutions from the attrition that has many Christian institutions and leaders genuinely worried for the future. These days, evangelicals of color are talking next steps. Their endeavors run the gamut, but the ones gaining steam include leaving evangelicalism altogether, reframing the evangelical world as a mission field as opposed to a place for spiritual nourishment, creating ethnic safe spaces or staying firmly planted in evangelical community to combat racism from within. It’s too early to tell which will prevail, but the urgency and organization happening within communities of color point to a fundamental shift in the evangelical landscape.
Like these evangelicals of color, in the aftermath of the election and that party, George began to question everything.
For one attendee of a California megachurch, the questions began after her pastor made a sermon joke about how King Nebuchadnezzar’s Median Wall was built because he “got the Mexicans to pay for it.” The audience roared with laughter, but “Jan,”* who is Korean American, and her Mexican-American husband, ushered their children out of the service. Jan asked her pastor for a public apology. When he shrugged off her request, she was shocked. He had been a spiritual guide for years. He officiated the funeral of her son. But now it was as if they didn’t know each other. She resigned from her role in the children’s ministry, and her family has left that church for good.
Jan is one of many evangelicals of color choosing to depart from white evangelical spaces. For some, that means leaving churches and communities while for others, it means not supporting evangelical conferences or organizations that are predominantly white. Many describe these moves as “divestment” from white evangelicalism: they’re moving money, bodies and souls elsewhere.
“For some people, the divestment began before the election,” says Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes, associate professor of practical theology at Mercer University and author of Too Heavy a Yoke: Black Women and the Burden of Strength. “One friend said the election was the ‘final nail in the coffin of my relationship with the evangelical church.’”
She sees firsthand how nearly “everyone is reconsidering whether or not they want to remain under the moniker ‘evangelical,’” including minorities, white people, the young and the old, “because the word ‘evangelical’ has been truly hijacked by a movement to maintain the political, economic and social supremacy of whiteness.”
For those staying, they must contend with a dominant white theology, shaped in the cauldron of privilege, which suggests that a successful life springs from an individual’s good, moral choices alone. It fails to recognize how unfair policies and societal structures harm the economic and social wellbeing of those subject to those systems.
Those who stay must also contend with a politicized evangelical movement fundamentally shaped in the late 1970s by a desire to preserve segregation. As documented by historian Randall Balmer, the religious right galvanized evangelicals into a political movement when the IRS threatened to revoke the tax exempt status of racially discriminatory Christian schools. Today, evangelicals of color staying to “combat racism from within” are working against a deeply entrenched culture.
Shortly after the party, George resigned from his post as the executive pastor of his megachurch. After seeing the white evangelical role in electing Trump and after that toxic party interaction, George knew it was time for a change. His departure wasn’t a rebuke of his church, but of a faith culture that denies its brutal legacy while indoctrinating its followers to perpetuate it.
“I think evangelicalism is the empire that’s about to fall,” he says. “It needs to be dismantled because it’s too powerful and it’s all about money.” Rather than centering the needs of the marginalized and justice work, George sees a toxic faith system that platforms capitalism, unsustainable growth, a prosperity narrative, flashy services and pastors who hang with celebrities. To George, “everything” is at stake. “We’re at the part of the story where Jesus goes into the temple and flips over tables.”
Better late than never.
I left the Republican Party years ago before I publicly "came out" when it became crystal clear that (i) being gay and being Republican were inherently incompatible, (ii) being a Republican was incompatible with supporting constitutional rights for all citizens, and (iii) being a Republican and being a truly moral person were likewise incompatible. Things have only gotten worse over the intervening years. Indeed, in my view, being gay and a Republican in the age of Trump is akin to being a 1930's German Jew and actively supporting the Nazi Party. I truly do not grasp what would motivate one to want to remain a Republican other than some sort of lingering internalized homophobia and/or religious brainwashing. Some friends will no doubt take offense at this assessment , but seriously, they need to take a look in a mirror and ask themselves WTF are they doing. A gathering of gay "conservatives" at a Republican gathering in New York City underscored the ugliness and moral failings of these "gay Republicans. Both BuzzFeed and The Daily Beast have pieces that look at the general misogyny that marked the event. Here are excerpts from BuzzFeed:
A forum at the Metropolitan Republican Club in New York City on Thursday night was billed as an "all-star" collection of activists in the "new gay movement in the Republican Party." And indeed, panelists inside the tony brownstone on Manhattan's Upper East Side were among the country’s most notable conservative gay-rights activists.
But rather than detail how they were building a new movement — or discuss their influence in the nascent Trump administration — the gay men on stage spent most of two hours ridiculing the left while peppering their speeches with cheap cracks about transgender people.
They mocked President Obama’s LGBT liaison as "the most unattractive tranny," joked that Caitlyn Jenner hadn't had "the operation," and said Obama-era rules to protect transgender students were “horrifying.”
People of color and women fared little better with the all-white, five-member panel. One claimed the gender wage gap was "a total fucking myth," while another opined that black people don't face oppression because they aren't enslaved. Then he laughed about adopted Asian babies.
This week, nearly 100 days into Trump’s term, these gay Republican activists had a chance to assess their success. Or they could make fun of people.
To illustrate the left’s knee-jerk histrionics over Trump, Lucian Wintrich, who led a project during the campaign called Twinks for Trump, blasted Obama's LGBT liaison — a transgender woman named Raffi Freedman-Gurspan.
“Begrudgingly, I’ll say ‘she,’” said Wintrich, implying that he didn’t consider her a woman. He went on to call her “the most unattractive tranny," a line that cast the packed room of Republicans into guffaws under golden chandeliers and star-spangled bunting.
BuzzFeed News followed up with [Fred] Karger about whether anti-transgender slurs and comments from other panelists would actually entice young voters to the party. Karger said he’d tuned out those comments.
Sadly, such behavior is the norm for the Republican Party base: greed and inhumanity, if no outright hatred towards others are pillars of today's GOP. In my view, no one moral and decent - much less LGBT - can be a Republican.
The best news at the end of the first 100 days of the ill begotten regime of Der Trumpenführer is that other than some admittedly horrible executive orders and the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, the Republicans in Washington, DC, have accomplished almost nothing. Rather than proving himself to be another Hitler - he has too little self-discipline or core ideology - Trump has shown himself instead to be a version of Sargent Schultz from the old Hogan's Heroes TV show. (he even has a similar girth). All of which is good news for America given that so much of what the Trump/GOP agenda has to offer is toxic to all but the extremely wealthy or large corporations. Yes, there remain plenty of reasons to be fearful of what the narcissist-in-chief might do, but with luck his regime will remain a do nothing one and that his supporter's sole source of glee will be limited to no longer a black man in the White House. A column in the Washington Post by a conservative columnist looks at the GOP dysfunction and incompetence at governing. Here are excerpts:
The markets are waking up to the reality that President Trump is not going to accomplish much of anything, as the Wall Street Journal reports:Markets are signaling caution after investors greeted President Donald Trump’s election with enthusiasm.
Bets on higher economic growth, inflation and interest rates—which became known as the “reflation trade”—have eased since the election. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note is lower than it was when Mr. Trump took office, including a decline Wednesday after the White House unveiled its tax proposal.
If one had any doubt, this week’s events — a half-baked tax proposal that would not pass one let alone two houses, another failed effort at Trumpcare, White House bluffs and retreats on the budget — should have disabused observers of the notion that Trump’s agenda would sail through Congress.
The Trumpcare effort was the quintessential “rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.” For every Freedom Caucus member who figured he’d jump on the bandwagon (the opt-out for states who could choose to do away with the list of essential benefits), there was a moderate who jumped off. What did Ryan and the rest expect would happen when they made a bad bill even less attractive to the great majority of Americans?
Trump cannot manage to devise attractive legislation or get down in the weeds of negotiation, while House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) seems willing to accommodate whatever group is currently rocking the boat, regardless of the likelihood of success. Neither Ryan nor Trump can lead a successful legislative effort. As a result, members of Congress figure there is little reason to stick their necks out for either one.
To a large degree, the GOP’s angst is to the country’s benefit. The national and world economies are slowly recovering from the 2008 financial meltdown. Unemployment is way down in the United States. If “do no harm” (or, as President Barack Obama would say, “Don’t do stupid stuff”) is the watchword, then gridlock and inaction may not be the worst thing. Not exiting from NAFTA, not pulling the rug out from millions of people who got coverage under Obamacare and not building a wall or harassing cities (for refusing to do the feds’ work on immigration enforcement) are certainly preferable to Trump “succeeding” on these issues. A tax plan that exacerbates the gap between rich and poor and starves the federal government of revenue so that it cannot make worthwhile investments in worker training, education, science and infrastructure would arguably be worse than the current situation. If they fail on the big, ambitious items, then small improvements in Obamacare or the tax code may be possible.
[T]his president and Congress have not a clue how to proceed. They would potentially do much more harm than good. They are prisoners of extreme ideology, unrealistic expectations and their own incompetence.
Perhaps under another president, the center-right and center-left can make progress on key issues. For the remainder of Trump’s term, however, the best-case scenario would be no new wars or new nuclear powers and the status quo at home.
Friday, April 28, 2017
With almost no accomplishments to show 100 days into his misrule, Trump has managed to do something few presidents have done so quickly: trigger and on going FBI investigation and four Congressional investigations into whether or not the Trump campaign colluded with Russian intelligence operatives and thus the Kremlin to throw the 2016 election to Trump. It's about the only "huge" thing Der Trumpenführer has managed and the good news is that there is no end in sight for the Russiagate investigations which, I personally hope will find collusion and treason and end the Trump/Pence nightmare for the country. A piece at CNN looks at the ongoing saga (read the whole piece):
Russia's influence is currently the subject of four separate congressional probes, and has led to the resignation of the national security adviser and the recusal of the attorney general for the Justice Department investigation into the matter.
The steady drip of leaks coming from intelligence sources familiar with the federal investigation has turned into a consistent stream of embarrassing news for the new administration.
As the Trump White House heads into the 100th day, House and Senate investigators are on a slow, methodical track, pulling together the many threads of Russia's ties to a core group of Trump's top advisers, all of which promises to extend the steady stream of news related Russia much farther into the President's term.
The White House has consistently argued there is no connection between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives. In an amusing exchange during his daily briefing last month, White House press secretary Sean Spicer made the point that overzealous reporters are seeking something that doesn't exist.
The Russia investigations stand at a juncture now -- with questions of whether they will turn out more like Watergate, which led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon (a president Trump is often compared to stylistically) or closer to Whitewater -- a fiasco which harangued President Bill Clinton through his first term in office, but ended with no criminal charges against the president.
The one thing that is certain is this cloud of Russia questions is not moving from over the administration any time soon.
The very run-up to Trump's 100-Day mark was dominated by news first that former national security adviser Michael Flynn may have broken the law by not disclosing payments from RT-TV on his security clearance application -- a revelation not from the House intelligence committee, but instead the House oversight committee.
We've already seen this coverup behavior for the last few months: the number of people who met with Russians who didn't disclose it, the information that we've asked for -- whether it's Flynn, or Sessions, or Kushner -- that they won't turn over is concerning."
The White House has distanced itself from the four major targets of both the FBI probe and Congressional investigators -- Flynn, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page and former Trump aide Roger Stone.
Veteran congressional investigators say the best answer is to simply not fight the inquiries, by either withholding documents or distracting. . . . . The White House does not appear to heeding at least some of that advice, telling the House oversight committee earlier this week that for several reasons it would not be handing over documents they requested related to Flynn.
The peril for the Trump administration is that it now faces not just an active FBI investigation, but two major, functioning Congressional probes and additional inquiries -- all churning slowly in quiet, digging deeper into the Trump campaign's ties to Russian operatives.
Meanwhile, outside the Capitol, "Tax Returns!" has become a chant in rowdy town hall meetings where Democratic and Republican lawmakers are bombarded with questions about Trump's financial holdings that, progressive activists say, could easily show Trump's own ties to Russia.
So far, Republicans in the House and Senate have resisted calls to subpoena Trump's tax returns. But House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has noted that, if Democrats win back the House in 2018, they could easily seek his tax returns.
The 100-Day benchmark is typically a victory lap for a new administration -- but the parade of Russia stories from this fledgling White House and the outstanding questions -- almost guarantees the story far away from its ending.
100 days into the misrule of Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, thankfully little has been accomplished. I say thankfully, because so much of the Trump/Pence and GOP agenda is bad and threatens to harm average Americans, including those who were stupid enough to fall for Trump's racist and xenophobic campaign rhetoric. Thankfully, the renewed GOP to destroy health care for millions is as of this morning once again on the back burner. As for the Trump "tax plan" a New York Times headline describes the one page exercise in irresponsible behavior this way: "Plan Redistributes America’s Wealth to Its Richest Families." Among those families, of course is Trump's own. The atmosphere that is net result of this incompetent and deranged presidency is aptly described in a New York Times op-ed this way:
"Fans of old TV series may remember a classic “Twilight Zone” episode titled “It’s a Good Life.” It featured a small town terrorized by a 6-year-old who for some reason had monstrous superpowers, coupled with complete emotional immaturity. Everyone lived in constant fear, made worse by the need to pretend that everything was fine. After all, any hint of discontent could bring terrible retribution. . . . . Actually, it feels a bit like that just living in Trump’s America."
What is most baffling - until one looks at and understands to white rage that powered Trump to office and his legitimizing of the same - is that surveys show that 96% of voters are happy with Trump's performance even though he has delivered little or nothing to date. A column in the Washington Post by a conservative columnist looks at Trump's inability to meet even exceedingly low expectations. Here are highlights:
As we cross the finish line of President Trump’s first 100 days, no leader in recent memory has benefited more from low expectations. A more typical president who tumbled from an approval rating in the high 60s to one in the low 40s would be in a political crisis. Trump’s current performance is only a slight dip from his divisive norm.
A president with pretensions of rhetorical coherence would be embarrassed by gaffes and mediocre speeches. For Trump, gaffes and inarticulateness are part of the package. A president with high standards of integrity would be mortified by a brewing scandal that seems to involve smarmy aides and a foreign government. For Trump, well, what would you expect?
The president is particularly proud of the consequential elevation of Neil M. Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. But this action invites a comparison. Trump’s one unquestioned achievement consists of appointing another man who actually has thoughtful convictions.
Much of Trump’s 100-days defense could have been employed by the pharaoh who ruled after the one in the book of Exodus. The cattle haven’t all died. We’ve seen less fiery hail. And pestilence has been kept to an acceptable minimum.
[A]t least, in polling language, he is a “strong and decisive leader.” This is a conceit that becomes harder and harder to maintain. . . . Consider Trump’s interaction with China. On the campaign trail, the Chinese were currency manipulators who were too weak on North Korean nukes. In his first meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, the American president got his first glimpse of the Chinese perspective and was transformed.
It seems the case that one of America’s main strategic rivals was, quite literally, schooling the American president on economics and foreign policy.
A similar picture has emerged in Trump’s dealings with Congress. When the Freedom Caucus defied him on health care, the administration’s blustery threats against the dissenters came to nothing. House Republicans ignored his tantrum and continued their work.
Ultimately, Trump is failing because he has little knowledge of the world and no guiding star of moral principle. The best of our leaders — think Abraham Lincoln — have been sure about the truth and uncertain about themselves. Trump is the opposite. His mind is uncluttered by creeds. He knows what he wants at any given moment, but it can bear little relation to the moment following. Who really believes that he would be sleepless if the wall were not built or if NAFTA ultimately survived? Who believes he would not be sleepless because of a nasty joke at his expense during a dinner party?
Trump clearly wants to be judged by a frenetic level of activity. But the issue at hand is direction, not momentum. It is useful to undo some past liberal excesses, as Trump has done. But negation can’t be confused with inspiration. There can be no measure of political progress without a measuring stick of political conviction. Instead, we are treated to hysterical self-praise. Appalling — but, hey, what did we expect?
As noted in prior posts, Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer's "tax plan" is based on fairy tale assumptions and will result in huge new deficits if passed and throw the vast majority of the tax cuts to the very wealthy and large corporations. But one example is the elimination of the estate tax that currently only impacts married couples with a net estate of over $11 million. Average Americans simply get no benefit from a repeal of the estate tax, yet many foolishly support its elimination. Similarly, many working class whites voted for Trump and Republican candidates even though for the last 37 years most of the GOP's policies have worked against the working class. So why the support for those who are behind the economic destruction of these people? In a word, racism. The GOP for decades now has played off of white racial animosities. For an added bonus, the GOP and now Trump have also played to Christian extremists, LGBT rights being but one of the favored whipping boys to get out the GOP base on election day. A piece in Slate looks at this disturbing phenomenon which has no sign of abating. Here are excerpts:
Donald Trump wants to give himself a tax cut.
His new tax plan, a one-page summary unveiled on Wednesday in the last-minute scramble for an accomplishment before the end of his first 100 days, would cut the business rate down to 15 percent. Now, Trump isn’t a business, but he owns one, and it’s not structured like a typical one. Instead, it’s a “pass-through” corporation, meaning its earnings are passed through to the owners’ individual returns and then taxed at the appropriate marginal rate. Trump’s tax cut is structured to slash rates on pass-throughs as well other corporate forms. In other words, if passed, the president will save himself a nice chunk of change, on the order of tens of millions of dollars.
Trump’s plan would slash individual and business rates, repeal the estate tax, and end the alternative minimum tax (which hits a number of affluent households, in addition to the highest income earners). What’s more, Trump would eliminate the 3.8 percent investment surtax found in the Affordable Care Act, another break for the wealthiest households and estates.
Together, these tax cuts would cost an estimated $5.5 trillion over the next 10 years, according to a preliminary analysis from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. . . . with $20 trillion added to the national debt by 2036.
This is just gravy for the rich: The large bulk of these cuts will go to the highest earners and wealthiest Americans. More than 30 percent of income gains accrue to those with annual incomes more than $200,000, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, with 14.3 percent accruing to those with incomes above $1 million.
His budget would slash tens of billions of dollars from anti-poverty programs; his health care plan would leave tens of millions of Americans without health insurance; and his tax proposals would blow a hole in the federal budget, starving the government of revenue and leaving future Americans the burden of attempting to re-knit the social safety net.
At first glance, it’s an odd populism that takes from the many to give to the few, that abandons the anxious and suffering in favor of the wealthy and comfortable. But remember, Trump’s populism wasn’t just an appeal to jobs and economic interest—it was a racial appeal. Trump cast blame on Muslims, Hispanic immigrants, and foreign others; he pledged to reopen the mines, recover the factories, and restore the white male industrial wage-earner to his perceived place at the top of the material and social hierarchy.
If nothing else, the racial interests of white Americans have always been at the forefront of white politics, a powerful force across class and social lines. The collapse of support for all kinds of public goods, from robust schools to neighborhood pools, is tied to the perceived beneficiaries. When the majority of white Americans believed those beneficiaries looked like themselves, they backed those investments. When they didn’t, they rejected them, either explicitly or eventually under the guise of “color blind” ideologies.
Yes, many Americans are just plain stupid - and bigots to boot.[N]ow would not be the first time that millions of white Americans backed racial demagogues in the destruction of public goods as a means to restore white hegemony over a smaller, more limited public. We would, in a way, be reverting to form, extending to the country what has defined those regions where race hierarchy was most rigid.
Thursday, April 27, 2017
The self-prostitution to Christofascists that I saw Republican elected officials engage in prior my leaving the GOP years ago pales in comparison to what now passes for normal within the party. The irony, of course, is that over time those elected officials who most loudly proclaim their support of "Christian values" and maintain the most anti-LGBT voting records are the same folks that one sees being arrested for child porn or sexual misbehavior with underage boys as happened recently with a strident "family values" state level Republican. As Right Wing Watch reports, two dozen Congressional Republicans took self-prostitution to new lengths when they joined Religious Right activists in Washington, D.C., for the annual “Washington – A Man of Prayer” event, held in Statuary Hall inside the U.S. Capitol. Rep. Randy Weber of Texas literally broke into
crocodile tears and begged God to forgive
this nation for the “sin” of marriage equality in an effort no doubt to win Christofascist votes. Here are highlights:
Last night, nearly two dozen members of Congress joined Religious Right activists in Washington, D.C., for the annual “Washington – A Man of Prayer” event, held in Statuary Hall inside the U.S. Capitol.Organized by The Jefferson Gathering, which is a project of right-wing pastor Jim Garlow’s Skyline Church in California, the prayer event was kicked off by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan while Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., and Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., served as honorary hosts.
Over the course of an hour and a half, 20 different members of Congress took to the podium to lead the gathering in prayer, including Rep. Randy Weber of Texas, who repeatedly choked up while begging God to forgive this nation for the “sins” of legal abortion and marriage equality.
Modifying the Lord’s Prayer to declare that “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth here in the halls of Congress,” Weber confessed the “sins our nation has been so emboldened to embark upon” and pleaded with God to forgive us.
“We have endeavored to try and kick your word out of public schools,” Weber said. “Father, we have endeavored to take the Bible out of classrooms, the Ten Commandments off the walls. Oh, Lord, forgive us. Father, we think we’re so smart, we have replaced your word and your precepts with drug-sniffing dogs, with metal detectors, with uniformed police officers in our schools. Oh, Lord, forgive us.”
“Father, we have trampled on your holy institution of holy matrimony and tried to rewrite what it is and we’ve called it an alternate lifestyle,” Weber continued, his voice cracking. “Father, oh Father, please forgive us.”
“Lord, we have gone to killing the most innocent amongst us,” he wept. “Your servant Moses warned in Deuteronomy 19 for us to choose life so that we and all our descendants might live. Father, we’re killing our descendants and we’re calling it a choice. Oh, God in heaven, forgive us, please.”
Many of these same Republicans, however, despite last night's performance show their real view of true Christian values as they push legislation that will thrown millions off of health insurance, cut social safety net programs, take from the needy to give to the wealthy, and lie with abandon. The biblical Pharisees were upstanding in comparison. These Republicans are yet another reason that I do not want the label "Christian" attached to me in any way. A tawdry whore likely has more integrity and honesty than these political prostitutes.
Like House Republicans, Der Trumpenführer is utterly desperate to get some form of legislation passed and to change the topic of conversation away from Russiagate. Whenever talk about his possible treason and collusion with a foreign enemy heats up, something is floated to distract the media which continues to suffer from something akin to attention deficit disorder. Trump's tax reform proposal is a case in point. The fact that it is based on fairy tale claims and assumptions is not relevant so long as it changes the topic of conversation. The "plan" also underscores that Republicans have learned nothing since 1980 when Reagan promised that tax cuts would pay for themselves. They didn't and the deficit ballooned. An op-ed in the Washington Post by the director of the Congressional Budget Office from 2003 to 2005 eviscerates Trump's "tax plan." Here are excerpts:
President Trump is correct to press for tax reform, correct to argue that corporate rates should be reduced and correct to look for policies that boost the United States’ anemic economic growth rate. But the “rough draft” of Trump’s tax plan, rolled out at the White House on Wednesday, falls short of being a real tax reform suitable to tax-cutting conservatives such as me.
Proposing trillions of dollars in tax cuts and then casually asserting that such a plan would “pay for itself with growth,” as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said, is detached from empirical reality. A real tax-reform plan would include specifics on how to broaden the tax base — not leave that hard work to Congress. A responsible tax plan would not ignore the threat of increasing a national debt that is already on an unsustainable course.
Accelerating the pace at which the federal budget bleeds red ink must be avoided, and building a tax plan based solely on the premise of future economic growth is dangerous. Sailing straight into a sovereign debt crisis is not a pro-growth strategy. What firm would want to headquarter in a country that is toying with financial meltdown accompanied by emergency austerity and tax hikes?
Typically, the Office of Management and Budget and the Congressional Budget Office analyze the economic growth potential of proposed policies through “dynamic scoring.” . . . . never has a dynamically scored analysis concluded that a proposal would “pay for itself with growth,” and no serious economist would make such a claim. At best, according to the prevailing consensus, the positive feedback effect from tax cuts would recoup in the range of 25 to 35 percent of the cost.
Real tax reform, however, takes on tough choices to broaden the base and is not built on implausible claims for the impact on growth. Congress has a rare opportunity to boost American competitiveness and productivity growth with a sensible tax-reform package. But that package must be built on realistic growth assumptions, not economic fairy tales.
Word around Washington is that the fractious House Republicans may be able to cobble together a new bill to "repeal and replace" Obamacare. Like its predecessor, this concoction would likely throw millions off of health insurance and allow premiums to soar for many even as disingenuous House members bloviate (read lie) about reducing costs, etc., etc. Frankly, only a total fool would believe the claims since the number one goal in the House is a massive tax cut for the wealthy. That said, anything that does manage to pass the House - likely on a pure party line vote - still faces sever obstacles in the Senate and not just from Democrats. As a piece in Politico reports, a number of Republican Senators may be the bill's biggest obstacle. Here are article highlights:
The House may finally be on its way to scrapping Obamacare, but don’t expect the Senate to go along: Any plan sent over will undergo major surgery — and survival is far from assured.
The hurdles in the upper chamber were on vivid display Wednesday as House Republicans celebrated their breakthrough on the stalled repeal effort. The compromise cut with House Freedom Caucus members won over the right flank, but the changes will almost surely make it harder to pick up votes in the more moderate-minded Senate.“The Freedom Caucus has done a good job of trying to make the bill less bad,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), one of the lead Senate agitators against the House health care push, said Wednesday. “For me, it’s a big stumbling block still that there’s taxpayer money that’s being given to insurance companies, and I am just not in favor of taxpayer money going to insurance companies.”
Phil Novack, a spokesman for Sen. Ted Cruz , also indicated that the conservative Texas firebrand isn't sold, saying “significant work remains” in the Senate, “specifically to address Obamacare’s insurance mandates and enact major patient-centered reforms that will further reduce the cost of health care.”
Sources say it may take more than a month for any House health care bill to run through the traps in the Senate, including internal party discussions and an analysis of how the measure would affect the deficit and insurance rolls. No committee hearings are planned because Republicans don’t want to give Democrats a public forum to bash an effort they are not involved in. And similar to the Senate's dim view of the House's proposal, the lower chamber may not ultimately be able to pass whatever the Senate is able to produce on Obamacare.
Weeks after the spectacular collapse of Obamacare repeal efforts last month, MacArthur and Meadows struck a deal with new language that would allow states to opt out of several key Obamacare provisions, such as its ban on charging sick people higher premiums and the so-called essential health benefits mandate that requires insurers to provide a set of minimum benefits.
The new language was enough to earn the formal endorsement of the Freedom Caucus, but House moderates who were opposed to the previous plan remain wary of backing a proposal that could cause constituents with pre-existing conditions to lose affordable health care coverage. In fact, the new plan may be having the reverse effect on some centrists: Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) had supported the initial Obamacare replacement but now says he’s a “maybe.”
Influential Senate Republicans also raised doubts about whether the new House proposal is workable. . . . Senators are likely to make Medicaid cuts less severe, deliver more money for opioid funding, make tax credits for the middle class more generous and rework the House’s waivers from Obamacare’s requirements.
In interviews with senators across a broad ideological range, there was growing irritation with attempts to ram complicated legislative language through the House and expect the Senate to clean it up. Some GOP senators suggested that a bipartisan bill may be the only way to overhaul the health care system in a lasting manner.
“I don’t know if this bill is better … the worst thing we can do is replace it with a Republican-only alternative that doesn’t drive down costs, that doesn’t improve access to care,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
Republicans in the House are desperate to pass a bill. The fact that it would harm many seems to be irrelevant as long as they can say they passed something - and, of course, delivered a big tax cut to the most wealthy.
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
The title of this post tracks that of a piece at Salon that reacts to a new ABC News poll that shows that far too many Americans remain enamored with Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, despite the lack of any accomplishments in his first 100 days in office and his continued lining of his own pockets with taxpayer funds. Just ending his weekly travel to the "Florida White House" over the course of a year could fund many items he seeks to cut from the federal budget. Sadly, the take away from the poll findings is that yes, many American voters are just plain stupid and utterly uninformed, especially those who limit their news sources to scandal plagued Fox News. Just as frightening, Trump's and the GOP's calls to racism explain much of the continued Republican support for policies that are in actuality directly against their own financial interest. Legitimizing these people's prejudices seeming matters more than policies that would improve their economic lot. Highlights from a piece in Salon look at this disturbing picture. Here are highlights:
Are tens of millions of Americans really this stupid? If the findings from a new poll are any indication, then the answer is yes:There’s no honeymoon for Donald Trump in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll but also no regrets: He approaches his 100th day in office with the lowest approval rating at this point of any other president in polls since 1945 — yet 96 percent of those who supported him in November say they’d do so again today …
Among those who report having voted for [Trump] in November, 96 percent today say it was the right thing to do; a mere 2 percent regret it. And if a rerun of the election were held today, the poll indicates even the possibility of a Trump victory in the popular vote among 2016 voters.
This is despite all the lies Donald Trump has told and all the campaign promises he has betrayed: He has not “drained the swamp” of lobbyists and corporate fat cats, has not built his “huge” and “amazing” wall along the Mexican-American border, has not returned jobs to the United States and has not repealed the Affordable Care Act. Indeed, as of day 100 of his presidency Trump has fulfilled few of his main campaign promises.
Moreover, that 96 percent of Trump’s voters would make the same decision again despite overwhelming evidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin interfered in the 2016 presidential election with the goal of installing Trump as a puppet candidate raises many troubling questions about how tens of millions of American voters were “flipped” by a foreign power to act against their own country.
The findings from this new poll are troubling. But they should not come as a surprise.
Political scientists and other researchers have repeatedly documented that the American public does not have a sophisticated knowledge of political matters. The average American also does not use a coherent and consistent political ideology to make voting decisions. As Larry Bartels and Christopher Achen demonstrate in their new book “Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government,” Americans have identities and values that elites manipulate, which voters in turn use to process information — however incorrectly.
American voters en masse are not rational actors who seriously consider the available information, develop knowledge and expertise about their own specific political concerns, and then make political choices that would maximize those goals.
These matters are further complicated when considering right-wing voters. While Trump may have failed in most of his policy goals, he has succeeded symbolically in terms of his racist and nativist crusade against people of color and Muslims. Given the centrality of racism and white supremacy in today’s Republican Party specifically, and movement conservatism more generally, Trump’s hostility to people of color can be counted as a type of “success” by his racially resentful white voters.
American conservatives and right-leaning independents are also ensconced in an alternative news media universe that rejects empirical reality. A combination of disinformation and outright lies from the right-wing media, in combination with “fake news” circulated online by Russian operatives and others, has conditioned Trump voters and other Republicans to make decisions with no basis in fact. American conservatives do however possess a surplus of incorrect information. In that context, their political decisions may actually make sense to them: This is a version of “garbage in, garbage out.”
This is a crisis of civic literacy that threatens the foundations of American democracy. . . . This is but one more reminder that Donald Trump’s victory was not a sudden crisis or unexpected surprise. The neofascist movement that Trump represents was an iceberg of sorts — one that was a long time in the making. If this new poll is correct, many millions of Americans would make choices that would steer the ship of state into that same iceberg all over again. Such an outcome is ominous. The thought process that would rationalize such a decision is deranged.
Yale historian Timothy Snyder has argued that a democracy has approximately one year to reverse course if it has succumbed to fascism and authoritarianism. America’s civic literacy crisis may mean that the country has even less time than Snyder’s prediction suggests.
|Trump and Flynn - laugh over all the Russian money?|
Even as the White House is refusing to turn over requested documents to Congressional investigators Politico has broken a story that suggests that payments received by former Trump BFF, Mike Flynn, ostensibly from Turkey may have in fact come from Russia. Flynn received these payments while involved in the Trump campaign and failed to register as a foreign agent of Turkey, much less Russia. Indeed, the smoke is becoming thicker and thicker and suggesting that there indeed is a fire that could take Mike Flynn, Der Trumpenführer, and many others down, if not put them in prison. No wonder Flynn is seeking immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony about the Trump campaign's ties to Russia. Here are excerpts from Politico (there is much more and the rule to remember is "follow the money back to its source"):
The Turkish man who gave Mike Flynn a $600,000 lobbying deal just before President Donald Trump picked him to be national security adviser has business ties to Russia, including a 2009 aviation financing deal negotiated with Vladimir Putin, according to court records.The man, Ekim Alptekin, has in recent years helped to coordinate Turkish lobbying in Washington with Dmitri “David” Zaikin, a Soviet-born former executive in Russian energy and mining companies who also has had dealings with Putin’s government, according to three people with direct knowledge of the activities.
This unusual arrangement, in which Alptekin and Zaikin have helped steer Turkish lobbying through various groups since at least 2015, raises questions about both the agenda of the two men and the source of the funds used to pay the lobbyists.
the hiring of Flynn by Alptekin came at a time when Flynn was working for Trump’s campaign and Putin’s government was under investigation for interfering with the U.S. election.
Flynn’s lawyer, Robert Kelner, declined to comment. In a filing with the Justice Department, Flynn said he relied on assurances from Alptekin that he was not directly or indirectly funded by a foreign government. But shifting explanations and a web of business ties raise questions about the arrangement.
Flynn has offered evolving accounts of his lobbying work for Alptekin. In September, Flynn reported his client as a Dutch shell company owned by Alptekin. After being forced to leave the White House — reportedly because he lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations during the transition with the Russian ambassador — Flynn filed new paperwork in March acknowledging that his lobbying work “principally benefitted” the Turkish government.
The revelation of Russian business ties to the man who hired Flynn threatens to complicate the White House’s struggle to escape the shadow of the FBI investigation into whether members of the Trump campaign coordinated with Russian agents.
His original White House ethics disclosure failed to include payments from Kremlin propaganda network RT and two other Russian companies. The RT payment was for a paid speech Flynn gave at a Moscow gala where he sat at the same table as Putin.
A White House spokesman declined to comment.
Alptekin, in an interview, said he hired Flynn with his own money and did not coordinate any lobbying for the Turkish government.
Siberian Energy Group’s dealings under Zaikin were characteristic of the equity trades, offshore financing schemes and consulting agreements that Putin’s allies have used to protect and hide assets.
Der Trumpenführer seemingly has never heard of the saying that if you don't have anything to hide, then don't act as if you do. With Russiagate continuing to haunt him - and rightfully so - Trump increasingly has Congressional Republicans beginning to protest obstruction efforts by the White House. A case in point is the White House refusal to turn over requested documents relating to former Trump BFF Mike Flynn and payments made to Flynn by Russia. Marco Rubio and Jason Chaffez have joined the chorus of those criticizing Flynn and/or the White House. I continue to believe that there is more than just smoke surrounding the evidence suggesting possible collusion between the Russian intelligence officials and the Trump campaign. Of course, the release of Trump's tax returns could also shed light on the role of Russian money in Trump's financial situation. Mother Jones looks at the White House's attempt to strong arm Congressional investigators. Here are excerpts:
The White House is refusing to provide congressional investigators with some of the documents they're requesting as part of an investigation into potential Trump campaign connections to Russia, and whether former national security adviser Mike Flynn disclosed payments from Russian companies when applying for his security clearance.
The news comes as Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) announced Tuesday that Flynn might have broken the law by failing to disclose the foreign payments on official documents filed as part of the security clearance review process. The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence is conducting one of two congressional investigations into links between the Trump campaign and Russia. (The Senate intel committee is conducting the other.)
"I see no data to support the notion that Gen. Flynn complied with the law," Chaffetz, the chair of the committee, told reporters Tuesday.
Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said the White House is refusing to provide documents related to Flynn.
"Despite all of these very troubling developments…we received a response from the White House refusing to provide any of the documents we requested," Cummings told reporters Tuesday. "So we received no internal documents relating to what Gen. Flynn reported to the White House when they vetted him to become national security adviser, and we received no documents relating to his termination as national security adviser for concealing his discussion with the Russian ambassador."
CNN reported Tuesday morning that White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short told the House committee in a letter that some of the documents originated with other agencies and therefore would have to be provided by them. He added that concerning the relevant White House documents, "we are unable to accommodate" the request.
The White House didn't immediately respond to a request for comment from Mother Jones.
I am of an age where I remember the Watergate hearings. As now, Nixon's unraveling and eventual resignation from office likewise began with acts like these now taking place. If Trump has nothing to hide, he should release the requested documents and his tax returns as well. The longer he fails to do so, the more many will believe he is guilty of collusion with Russia, if not outright treason.