Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Trump/GOP Tax Bill: Nothing But Coal In the Stockings of Working People

     Like a stocking full of coal (particularly apt this holiday season), the Trump/Ryan/GOP tax  boondoggle has arrived. 
     As we might have expected, our so-called “leaders” have staked their bill on corporate tax cuts (from 35 to 20 percent).  The majority of Americans oppose these cuts (Pew Research Center), but what does the will of the people have to do with reality?  Trump, Mnuchin, and Cohn have been relentlessly parroting the tired line that the U.S. corporate tax rate is too high.  On the surface, they appear to have a point.  The U.S. rate stands at 39% versus 30% in Germany and 24% in the UK.  Yet our “effective” corporate tax rate (once you factor in the bundle of goodies they’re able to deduct:  cost recovery allowances, interest deductability, and expensing research & development) is actually around 18.6% which puts us in line with the UK rate of 18.7 %, and much closer to Germany’s rate of 15.5%. 
     It’s likely that slashing our corporate tax rate will instigate a race to lower corporate taxes across the globe.  That will only benefit the rich.  The rest of us will pay a price the country can’t afford.  Trump supposedly wanted to call this the “Cut, Cut, Cut Bill”.  Apart from his desperate need to simplify everything (how else could he hope to understand the issues?), he’s accidentally right--but not in the way he intended.  In order to pay for the massive additions--an estimated $2 trillion dollars over 10 years--to the deficit that will be caused by this corporate giveaway, the government will cut funds for education, cut funds for health care (Medicaid), and cut funds to safeguard the environment.  Cut, cut, cut... but not for Trump, Robert Mercer, the Koch Brothers, Sheldon Adelson, and the other bloated GOP cash cows.
     A few other tidbits to demonstrate their largesse:  Although they’ve made a show out of keeping the highest tax rate (39.6%) in place, they’ve more than doubled the threshold at which that top rate kicks in--from $400,000 to $1 million (for married couples).  Nice sleight of hand.  They’ve also made wealthy families eligible for expanded child credit!
     If one wants to study the results of Republican tax policy in action, the disastrous Kansas tax experiment stands as a terrifying testament.

     Trump and company would undoubtedly love to say “let them eat cake” (and probably do behind closed doors).  My hope is that resistance to their insatiable greed will continue to grow and 2018 will see their power begin to crumble. 

Friday, June 30, 2017

Donald the Drama Queen

Many of our Presidents have had descriptive nicknames associated with them:  Washington was the “Father of His Country”, Madison was “Father of the Constitution”, Lincoln was “Honest Abe”, Teddy Roosevelt was “The Trust Buster”, Wilson was “The Schoolmaster”, and Reagan was “The Great Communicator”.  Other Presidents have simply been known by their initials:  Franklin Roosevelt was “FDR”, Kennedy was “JFK”.  Nothing more was needed.  Until now, however, we’ve never had a president identified by the term “drama queen”.  Granted, mention of the Trump “presidency” will more often than not be accompanied by an asterisk, but, let’s assume for one moment that he is the President.  The one thing that will never be footnoted are his all-too-frequent forays onto the catwalk of crazy.  He pirouettes and sashays in outrageous form, depending on the mood d’jour:  temper tantrums, megalomania run amok, misogynistic rants... the lunacy is limitless.

One moment he’ll prattle on about “fake news” (which he pretty much invented--see his false and shameful Obama birth certificate claims, among other fabrications), the next he’s being called on the carpet for doctoring a Time Magazine cover (from 2 March 2009) and posting this fraudulent piece of self-promotion (“Trump is hitting on all cylinders... even TV” uh huh, as if any legitimate source would have written that!) at four of his country clubs for all to admire.  Talk about “fake news”...
If he’s not telling outright lies, then he’s whining about any number of supposed grievances and manipulating the media.
“Obama had me bugged!” (demonstrably false).  “Obama was colluding with the Russians!” (didn’t he claim the Russians weren’t colluding with anyone, because they would never meddle in our elections?).  “My Inauguration crowd was the biggest ever!” (Sorry Diva Don, the empty space was epic--the proof is in the photos).  “Comey should be careful, there could be tapes...” (then watch him drag this out as long as possible--much like his claim that he might one day release his taxes).  “Let me turn the announcement of my Supreme Court nominee into a three ring circus, or a cheesy game show”--(playing coy, trying to hide his identity, scheduling the announcement as though it were some great unveiling.  It was embarrassing, as well as disgraceful.
Last, but certainly not least, Donald the Drama Queen surfaces most consistently on his Twitter feed.  Trump cannot tolerate criticism in any form, nor can he stand it when he's not the center of attention. He's unable to play well with others... but as a paranoid narcissist, how could he?  While portraying himself as a much maligned victim, he has verbally assaulted countless individuals, news sources, and organizations in the course of these late night Twitter rants.  One assumes these have been collected for posterity--a testament to the Trump years. 
In the meantime, let’s let the “leader” of the Free World speak for himself, as he did so eloquently on 6/29/17.  Joe Scarborough and Mika Brezezinski, co-hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”, have incurred Trump’s wrath by failing to praise him in the sycophantic style of his cabinet.  He tweeted:

I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don't watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 29, 2017 Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year's Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 29, 2017

Rage on, drama queen, rage on... but please make America great again--by resigning.

NOTE:  Despite almost universal condemnation from both parties, Trump doubled down and continued running his mouth on Twitter--repeating and expanding his comments about Scarborough and Brezezinski.  He continues to embarrass himself, the presidential office, and America.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Donald Trump? Bubonic Plague?

If one were to adhere to the journalistic standards set by Breitbart & InfoWars, I’d be willing to bet that it’s possible to equate Donald Trump with the Bubonic Plague, and, after reporting a few facts which are then skillfully wrapped in baseless innuendo and repetition, create the distinct impression that the two are related and/or synonymous.  Let me state right up front that the Bubonic Plague is sometimes referred to as “Black Death”.  Given Trump’s racism, use of that term here would be far too easy, not to mention potentially incendiary.  Instead, let us focus on the facts.

The Bubonic Plague is a bacterial infection that is spread through the air from person to person, or through the bite of infected fleas from small (Donald Trump) animals.  Historically, outbreaks of Bubonic Plague were not limited to any one nation--it spread rapidly across borders (Donald Trump) making a mockery of any so-called natural barriers such as rivers and oceans, or man-made barriers such as walls (Donald Trump).
Some people dealt with their terror and uncertainty by lashing out at their neighbors (see “Trump campaign”, 2016), while others coped by turning inward and seeking to strike a bargain with God--and turning to flagellation.
In the 14th century, it was estimated that the Plague killed an estimated 50 million people--25-60% of the European population.  This devastation of the working population perversely produced an increase in wages.  In their attempt to devastate health care for working people, (Trumpcare) the Republicans are seeking to replicate what they see as a viable economic formula.  Survival of the fittest, as long as it’s them!
The Bubonic Plague is an infection of the lymphatic system that causes chills (Donald Trump), seizures (Donald Trump), general malaise (Donald Trump), high fevers (Donald Trump), muscle cramps, lymph gland swelling, and gangrene (Kellyanne Conway--bonus points).
It is not responsive to vaccines (Donald Trump) as preventative treatment; however numerous antibiotics that have been developed are highly effective.
Finally, and in true Trumpian/InfoWars/Breitbart journalistic fashion, let me report that there is allegedly a 14th century Sicilian lithograph depicting the arrival of members of the Drumpf (Trump’s real name) family arriving in the port of Messina in October of 1347 on one of 12 Genoese ships widely thought to have introduced the Plague into Europe.

There you are, the Drumpfs (Trumps) and the Bubonic Plague...inextricably linked by fine right-wing journalism!   

Friday, March 31, 2017

Trump's Numbers In The Tank

Donald Trump is a man obsessed with numbers.  Sometimes, he’s unable to grasp the significance of big numbers (see “Failed Policies, Trumpcare”) and there are times he struggles with the concept of sharing certain numbers (see “Broken Promises, Release of Tax Returns”).  However, despite numerous bankruptcies, Donald believes that numbers can prove he’s a billionaire as he claims, and not “just” a millionaire as others familiar with his business ventures have maintained.  Numbers would also show if Donald owes large sums of money to Russian banks, but he still refuses to release those pesky tax returns.

There are two numbers in particular that Donald refuses to accept.  62,984,825 and 65,853,516.  The first figure is the number of votes he received in the 2016 presidential election.  The second figure, almost 3 million votes higher, was the number of votes Hillary Clinton received.  If you combine her total with the 4,489,233 votes Gary Johnson received and the 1,457,222 votes Jill Stein received, it’s clear that the vast majority of Americans wanted someone other than Trump--by a huge margin... almost 9 million votes!  Donald doesn’t like those numbers.

So, it’s safe to assume he must really despise a whole bunch of recent numbers.  FiveThirtyEight reports that Trump’s current approval rating of 41.3 constitutes a new low for this presidency, but it’s also a new low for ANY recent presidency at this juncture.  To add historical context:  Trump trails Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Bush 1, Clinton, Bush 2, and Obama.  In virtually every instance, Trump trails these former Presidents by huge margins.
Public Policy Polling has Trump with a 40% approval rate, while 53% disapprove.  CNBC reports similar numbers:  42% approve of Trump’s job performance, while 56% think he’s doing a poor job and the country is headed in the wrong direction.

However, the bad news gets even worse for Donald.  The latest Gallup poll measured his approval rating at a paltry 36% following the Trumpcare debacle.  To Donald, all these numbers must sound as bad as someone telling him that, upon review, it’s been discovered that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ratings as host of “The Apprentice” had actually been higher than Trump’s.  News of that sort would likely cause angry denials followed by uncontrolled fits of rage.

Yes, numbers certainly matter.  They play a vital role in our lives... and sometimes, they’re just plain fun--but don't ask Donald.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Donald Trump Screws the Base

Much as he gloated about grabbing women by the p***y, Donald Trump is now assuming he can bend his base over the proverbial “Apprentice” casting couch, and expect them to take it while still singing his praises.  The question is... will they?  Or, is there a chance that at least some of them will wake up and realize they’ve been conned by a lesser Oz?

Throughout the campaign last fall, Trump liked to throw red meat to the tens of thousands of his supporters who craved blood, baring their fangs at every opportunity.  I believe the chant was “lock her up”, in reference of course, to former Frist Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  Guess what?  Trump made it clear in the first days of his (pseudo) presidency that he has no plans whatsoever to pursue the matter.

Trump promised to “drain the swamp”.  Well, he pretty much acknowledged that was just a campaign slogan, and he had no intention of drastically altering the status quo.  In fact, he’s appointed a cabinet of billionaires:  anti-labor, pro-corporate establishment who have absolutely nothing in common with the average American.  

Trump claimed he was beholden to no one, but his Russian ties continue to raise questions and keep him tied in knots of his own creation.  While the world condemns Putin’s second attempt to poison a political opponent (Vladimir Kara-Murza), Trump remains silent.  Trump appointed Putin ally and patsy Rex Tillerson (former Exxon CEO) as his Secretary of State.  Tillerson is an advocate of lifting sanctions on Putin and his circle of thugs.  The questions remain about Putin’s efforts to get Trump elected--just how deep was his involvement?  Were the constant Wikileaks drips piped out of the Kremlin?  Just as Trump has no interest in releasing his taxes due to the revelations they contain (perhaps he’s not really a billionaire, perhaps he owes millions to Russian banks...) he constantly attempts to divert attention from investigations into the “Russian connection”.  His latest break with reality came when he accused President Obama of wiretapping Mordor (Trump Tower).  No proof whatsoever, but Trump has a close relationship with fantasy.  Does his base really want the image of the United States of America tarnished by a close relationship with a murderous band of thugs?  We’ve unfortunately ventured down this road before; it wasn’t pretty.

Finally, there’s healthcare.  Wow... candidate Trump promised that when he repealed Obamacare he would “take care of everybody”-- his replacement would be cheaper & better.  Now, suddenly, he is claiming that “nobody knew healthcare could be so complicated”.  Wrong.  He may have been the only one who didn’t realize the complexity of the issue.  His response to this shocking discovery has been to take refuge in Paul Ryan’s plan.  Well, the CBO (a nonpartisan group designed to provide Congress with independent analysis & estimates of the cost of proposed legislation) has reported that 24 million people will likely lose insurance in the next decade under this “plan”--with 14 million losing their insurance in 2018 alone!  I hate to break it to the base, but there’s every indication that this will hit you hard.

There are so many other reasons to open your eyes.  U.S. taxpayers are paying for Trump's wall folly, not Mexico. Coal is not coming back.  He has not divested from his businesses.  He slept through the Yemen raid (in which a Navy SEAL and an 8 year old American girl were killed--along with numerous other civilians.  The raid produced no useful intel.  He touts the same jobs reports he once labeled as “phony”.  He invented “fake news”, and continues to create more of it than any other person, living or dead.

Stop allowing this man to abuse you, and don’t believe his promises (once a liar, always a liar).  Remember, all abusers have a weakness... some fatal flaw that allows victims the opportunity to break free.  In Trump's case it's his massive ego.  Just remind him that he lost the popular vote by almost 3 million votes, and that John Lewis was right, Donald will never be a legitimate president.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Attack in Denmark!

Following on the heels of last week’s terror attack in Sweden (revealed to the world by would-be U.S. President Trump), tonight ISIS seized the spotlight by staging a dramatic attack in Denmark.

Two gunmen, believed to be jihadists, opened fire at an indoor rally of the anti-immigrant Danish People’s Party.  According to reports from Flux News, hundreds of people were likely wounded by the heavily armed individuals, though there had been no immediate reports of fatalities.  Danish authorities denied allegations of a delayed response to the crisis, while the Chief of the Danish Security and Intelligence Service specifically denied having said “there’s no urgency, it’s only the Dansk Folkleparti”. Meanwhile, the White House confirmed that U.S. intelligence sources had tentatively identified one of the two men as the shadowy and infamous cleric Sheikh Yerbouti, long suspected to be deceased.  The other individual is thought to have been his long-time assistant, Eisel Eifel Kahn.  The pair eluded Danish authorities and escaped into the Copenhagen night.  However, a notebook recovered at the scene revealed the two had been planning to infiltrate the United States using Nutopian passports.  According to preliminary research, there is no indication that any citizens of Nutopia have ever been vetted prior to admission into the U.S.

President Trump noted that this exposes the U.S. to a clear and present danger.  Accordingly, he vowed that Nutopia will now be added to his revised travel ban. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

After the Apocalypse: Democrats Move Forward

In his excellent post-mortem on the 2016 presidential campaign (“Insane Clown President:  Dispatches from the 2016 Circus), not-beholden-to-anyone journalist Matt Taibbi hits the nail on the head in describing the peculiar appeal of Donald Trump.

“Candidate Trump told a story about a conspiracy of cultural and financial elites bent on finishing off a vanishing white middle-class nirvana, first by shipping jobs overseas, and then by waving hordes of crime-prone, bomb-tossing immigrants over the border.  These elites lived in both parties, Trump warned.  The Republicans were tools of job-exporting fat cats who only pretended to be tough on immigration and trade in order to win votes, when all they really cared about were profits.  The Democrats were tools of the same interests, who subsisted politically on the captured votes of hoodwinked minorities, preaching multiculturalism while practicing globalism.  Neither party saw the awesome potential of this story to upend our political system.

Taibbi later points to a Democratic leadership “increasingly indebted to banks and corporations, never imagining it could be the target of a class uprising.  They failed to understand how they could be seen as aristocrats--after all, as the party of FDR they received union endorsements and were pro civil rights!” 

The maneuvering within the Republican Party is hardly surprising.  After spending the better part of the general election campaign distancing themselves from the Donald, McConnell, Ryan and company are suddenly kissing Trump’s tuckus at every turn; while simultaneously convincing themselves they’re his equals in wielding power.  They’re seeking to impose a regressive, ultra-conservative agenda on a deeply divided country that recently rejected their vision (as well as Trump) by a margin of several million votes.
Democrats, meanwhile, are searching for a way out of the wilderness.  Rep. Keith Ellison, former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, and several lesser known candidates are battling to become the next chairman of the DNC.  Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, and Harry Reid have all weighed in with their opinions/endorsements.  Whoever wins, the task will be daunting.  Political operative and author David Brock has called on the Democrats to become the party of “no”, maintaining that their “no” would differ from the past 8 years of Republican obstructionism because anything that Trump proposes is certain to be harmful to the majority of Americans-- thereby requiring determined opposition .  Elizabeth Warren has said much the same thing:  maintaining that Democrats need to “grow a backbone”.  One thing is certain, the last thing the Democrats can afford to do is turn to career politicians or corporate lawyers running milquetoast campaigns and looking to “play it safe”. Go along to get along only leads to more of the same.  Pretty soon we’ll all be playing footsie and become Facebook buddies with the likes of Steve Bannon.  We’ll be reduced to spirited conversation about sporting events, or the weather.

As Democrats in Maine look toward the gubernatorial contest in 2018, they’re faced with the fact that they lost not only once, but twice, to Paul LePage--an early (yet equally terrifying) prototype of what the country now faces in Donald Trump.  Opposing his agenda for the remainder of his term will be a moral imperative.  LePage has repeatedly demonstrated that he has neither the vision nor the temperament to govern the state.  He’ll leave behind a myriad of failed policies and a toxic political environment-- a product of his racist/sexist/ludicrous remarks, vicious personal attacks, and irrational outbursts.  His behavior has become legendary; embarrassing not only himself, but the state of Maine.  There will be a great deal of work needed to undo the damage, and to close the enormous gap now separating Republicans, Democrats, Greens, and Libertarians.

There are bound to be several so-called “establishment” Democrats who pursue the nomination.  The “old politics” so recently turned on its head would dictate that they’re “deserving” of the nomination, perhaps “entitled” to it.  No doubt these are honorable men and women who’ve served the state well, but the Democratic Party needs to change with the times--regardless of tradition.  There’s a need for fresh(er) faces, real world experience, and a boatload of empathy and understanding.  Contrary to his mantra in the state of the State address, LePage has done a great deal of harm--to cite one of many examples, Maine leads New England in child poverty and hunger.  We must work hard to reverse moral disgraces such as these, engage in constructive dialogue,  and provide positive leadership focused on economic growth and opportunity throughout the state.  The only choice before us is to get back up and be ready to fight at every turn, because as Paul Wellstone observed, "if we don't fight hard enough for the things we stand for, at some point we have to recognize that we don't really stand for them."