Sunday, October 22. 2017
I didn't get a head start on this -- in fact, started after dinner on
Sunday, so it's pretty quick and dirty, with a limited set of sources.
Still, it's so easy to find such appalling stories that posts like this
practically write themselves.
Some scattered links this week:
Matthew Yglesias: 4 political stories that actually mattered this week:
We got a bipartisan insurance stabilization deal: thanks to Sens.
Patty Murray (D-WA) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), but: Republican leaders
don't seem to want a deal, like Paul Ryan, with Trump both waxing and
waning; The administration tested some new tax arguments, like
"corporate tax cuts boost wages" and "math forces tax cuts for the rich";
Nobody knows what's happening with NAFTA, hence no real story here,
but Trump's folks are blowing some smoke. Other Yglesias pieces this week:
The raging controversy over Trump and the families of fallen soldiers,
explained: well, more like summarized, as it's hard to explain how
tone-deaf Trump is in human interactions as straightforward (albeit no
doubt unpleasant) as issuing condolences.
Yet Trump has managed to completely and utterly botch this relatively
simple job less than a week after creating a major diplomatic crisis
with Iran for no particular reason. The humanitarian crisis in Puerto
Rico appears to be, if anything, intensifying as citizens cope with a
chronic lack of safe water. The president has willfully destabilized
individual health insurance markets without any clear plan and is
actively scuttling congressional efforts to stabilize the situation.
Other serious challenges are lurking out there in the world, yet the
Trump administration seemed incapable of issuing a simple condolence
statement or answering a question about it without unleashing a
multi-front political fiasco.
Trump aide says manufacturing decline increases abortions, death, and drug
abuse: "He might be right." Reviews research on "China shock" -- what
happens to areas hard hit by job losses due to cheaper imports. You can
blame this on trade deals, but it's also indicative of the frayed safety
net all across the country.
Republians say they can't figure out how to not cut taxes for the
rich: "It's really not very hard." If, say, you wanted to lower
rates on the first $100k of income, that would reduce taxes on those
who make more too, but you could offset that by increasing the rate
further up the income scale. Or you could do it lots of other ways.
And don't bother cutting the estate tax, something no one in the
middle class has to pay -- that's only a benefit for the very rich.
Trump says a big corporate tax cut will boost average incomes by $4,000
Sarah Aziza: How Long Can the Courts Keep Donald Trump's Muslim Ban at
Bay? Two federal judges issued injunctions against the third iteration
of Trump's travel ban last week.
Julia Belluz: White House officials think childhood obesity is not a
problem. Have they seen the data? Their campaign to wipe out
Obama's legacy (in this case, Michelle Obama's) continues apace.
Aida Chavez: House Republicans Warn Congress Not to "Bail Out" Puerto
Jason C Ditz: What Are U.S. Forces Doing in Niger Anyway?: Four US
Special Forces were killed in an ambush a couple weeks ago, finally
pointing a spotlight on US intervention there (much like the Benghazi
Turns out that for five years Niger has been a toe in the expanding
American footprint in Africa, and has become a hub of U.S. military
activity (about 800 soldiers are serving as advisors and training
local forces there now) and, according to Nick Turse, the location
of a brand new $100 million drone base. Meanwhile, the region has
become a crossroads of Islamist activity, from Boko Haram in Nigeria
to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb across the Sahel. And now,
apparently, ISIS. . . .
Niger is far from the exception. In March 2012, the Pentagon
confirmed that U.S. troops were attacked in the southern Yemeni
city of Aden, and that a CIA officer was killed. This was the
first time officials confirmed that the U.S. had ground troops
operating inside Yemen at all. The revelation is even more stunning
when one recalls that the White House publicly ruled out sending
ground troops to Yemen several times in the years leading up to
More war news from around the world:
Lee Fang/Nick Surgey: Koch Brothers' Internal Strategy Memo on Selling
Tax Cuts: Ignore the Deficit: After all, deficits only matter when
a Democrat is president and might use deficits for expanding services
and/or growing the economy -- things Republicans oppose and, especially,
want to make sure no Democrat gets credit for. But when Republicans are
in power, well, as Dick Cheney said, "deficits don't matter."
Sarah Kliff: Medicare X: the Democrats' supercharged public option plan,
explained: Specifically, Sens. Bennet and Kaine, a plan that makes
less sense than Bernie Sanders' Medicare-for-all but would involve less
turmoil by adding a Medicare-based plan to the Obamacare exchanges as a
public option, increasing competition for private insurance plans.
Paul Krugman: Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies,
Lies: A propos of the Trump's "new" arguments for slashing taxes,
Modern conservatives have been lying about taxes pretty much from the
beginning of their movement. Made-up sob stories about family farms
broken up to pay inheritance taxes, magical claims about self-financing
tax cuts, and so on go all the way back to the 1970s. But the selling
of tax cuts under Trump has taken things to a whole new level, both in
terms of the brazenness of the lies and their sheer number. Both the
depth and the breadth of the dishonesty make it hard even for those of
us who do this for a living to keep track.
He then comes up with a list of ten (see the article for details,
although you're probably familiar with most of them already):
- America is the most highly-taxed country in the world
- The estate tax is destroying farmers and truckers
- Taxation of pass-through entities is a burden on small business
- Cutting profits taxes really benefits workers
- Repatriating overseas profits will create jobs
- This is not a tax cut for the rich
- It's a big tax cut for the middle class
- It won't increase the deficit
- Cutting taxes will jump-start rapid growth
- Tax cuts will pay for themselves
One thing that's missing in this debate is what do we need taxes for.
Some people argue that taxes should be limited to a certain percentage
of GDP -- often the same people who don't understand why government
spends more now than it did under Coolidge or McKinley. I think it's
obvious that a lot of things that we need in today's economic world
are necessarily more expensive than they were in past eras (especially
things that didn't really exist back then). To figure this out, one
needs some kind of multifactor analysis, and I think especially one
has to ask what things are most efficiently produced and distributed
through public channels. I think this list is large and growing, and
may include things that surprise you. If this list is as large as I
think, we need to be looking not at ways to cut taxes but at ways to
grow them, and how to do so fairly and efficiently. As it is, the
relentless focus on cutting taxes is an attack on public spending,
and ultimately on the public taxes are meant to serve.
Jane Mayer: The Danger of President Pence: A profile of the
vice president, one which raises plenty to be alarmed about, not
least because his odds of being elevated to the presidency via
the 25th amendment (the one that says all it takes is a majority
of the cabinet to find Trump incompetent -- perhaps something
Trump should have considered before giving Pence so much say in
picking nominees). For more on the 25th, see
Jeannie Suk Gersen: How Anti-Trump Psychiatrists Are Mobilizing
Behind the Twenty-Fifth Amendment.
Anna North: A detained 17-year-old immigrant wants an abortion. The
government went to court to stop her. Here's a case where the
Trump administration isn't being run like a business -- try finding
an angle where it makes sense for the government to prevent a detained
emigrant from obtaining an abortion -- but more like a shady religious
cult. For more cultlike behavior:
Doe is not the only minor who's been affected by the policy, according
to the ACLU. In March, according to court documents filed by the group,
another minor at a shelter in Texas chose to have a medication abortion
after getting a judge's permission for the procedure. After she had
taken the first dose of the medication, ORR officials forced her to go
to an emergency room to see if the abortion could be reversed. Ultimately,
she was allowed to proceed with the abortion and take the remaining dose
of the medication. In another case, the ACLU said, Lloyd traveled from
Washington, DC, to meet personally with a young woman to try to convince
her not to have an abortion.
Jon Schwartz: It Didn't Just Start Now: John Kelly Has Always Been a
Hard-Right Bully: The former Marine General has had a tough week,
not only failing repeatedly to keep Trump from embarrassing himself,
but having his own Trumpian moment making baseless charges against
Rep. Frederica Wilson. The best Trump mouthpiece Sarah Sanders came
up with in Kelly's defense was
It's "highly inappropriate" to question John Kelly -- because he's a
general. Schwartz compresses "Kelly's worldview, as expressed in
2010" into this short list:
- No one outside of the military can legitimately question any
of America's wars.
- No one who is in the military ever questions any of
- America and its wars are and have always been good.
- America is under terrifying threat from incomprehensible
- Our country is hamstrung by its sniveling "chattering class."
I've run across many more links on Kelly and Wilson, but I'd rather
point out this one:
Alice Speri: Top Trump Official John Kelly Ordered ICE to Portray
Immigrants as Criminals to Justify Raids.
Matt Shuham: Forbes: Trump Drops on 'Richest Americans' List as Net Worth
Takes a Hit: Down $600 million to $3.1 billion, dropping 92 spots
(from 156 to 248). No real analysis here as to why. Certainly, it's not
because he's resolved his conflicts-of-interest and made it impossible
to use his office to feather his own nest. And this looks extra bad with
the stock market setting new record highs. On the other hand, leaving
his day-to-day business decisions in the hands of Jr. and Eric may not
ave been the smartest idea. And naming so many properties after himself
has politicized them, which makes their value at least partly subject
to his extraordinarily low popularity.