The Trump Tax Plan

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Trump Maladministration

I think Paul Waldman has Trump’s number — “Yesterday the Trump administration released its ‘plan’ for tax reform, one page of bullet points that was apparently rushed out because President Trump surprised everyone by promising that he’d have a plan to announce this week.”

One page of bullet points? Well, anyway, the plan, or the plan for the plan, apparently is a huge tax giveaway to the rich that will be paid for by the Magic Economic Growth Fairy. What it is not is a middle-class tax cut, as the administration is claiming. This is the NY Times Editorial board:

As a rule, Republican presidents like offering tax cuts, and President Trump is no different. But the skimpy one-page tax proposal his administration released on Wednesday is, by any historical standard, a laughable stunt by a gang of plutocrats looking to enrich themselves at the expense of the country’s future. …

…The proposal was so empty of illustrative detail that few people could even begin to calculate its impact on their pocketbooks. Further, depending on where they live, some middle-class families might not benefit much or at all, because the plan does away with important deductions like those for state and local taxes.

That last one would hit blue-staters especially hard. Back to the NY Times:

Here again, the long-term consequences were hard to figure, because Mr. Cohn and Mr. Mnuchin offered no estimates of the plan’s costs; guesswork by some analysts put the figure in the same ballpark as the tax plan Mr. Trump offered during the campaign, or about $7 trillion in additional debt over the first 10 years and nearly $21 trillion by 2036.

But the Magic Laffer Curve Fairy will pay for it! No problem!

Nicholas Kristoff:

Trump’s tax “plan” is a betrayal of his voters. He talks of helping ordinary Americans even as he enriches tycoons like himself.

For example, it’s great that the tax plan promises help with child care costs, a huge burden for low-income families, especially single moms. But Trump doesn’t explain what form his help will take.

Maybe he will eventually provide details, but in his campaign tax plan (which over all seems similar to the latest), fewer than 10 percent of low-income households with children would get anything at all, according to a study by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center in February. It added that under the campaign plan, families earning between $10,000 and $30,000 a year would receive an average child care benefit of just $10.

You can’t even by a stupid baby monitor for $10.

But the heart of Trump’s “plan” is to lower taxes for corporations and the affluent. It would eliminate the alternative minimum tax, without which Trump would have paid less than 4 percent in taxes for 2005; with it, he paid 25 percent.

Do tell? See also Trump’s Tax Plan Is a Reckoning for Republican Deficit Hawks.

The White House insists that economic growth will cover the cost, which could be as high as $7 trillion over a decade. But the question will dog Republicans and could fracture their party as they face the prospect of endorsing a plan that many economists and budget analysts warn will increase the deficit. After years of fiscal hawkishness, conservatives now face a moment of truth about whether they truly believe America’s economy is drowning in debt.

Of course it’s a travesty — we would expect nothing less from Trump. But there’s also a long road between one page of bullet points and an actual bill, so the bullet points are likely just an opening offer. The interesting part will be if anything resembling any of this ends up in a bill that Congress actually votes on.

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Daddy’s Little Girl

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Trump Maladministration

Mike Allen reports at Axios:

Ivanka Trump told me yesterday from Berlin that she has begun building a massive fund that will benefit female entrepreneurs around the globe. Both countries and companies will contribute to create a pool of capital to economically empower women. …

Under the radar: Canadians, Germans and a few Middle Eastern countries have already made quiet commitments, as have several corporations, a source said.

Allegra Kirkland at TPM:

A spokesman for the World Bank confirmed to TPM that Kim and Ivanka Trump are currently in talks about how to finance it.  …

… But what exactly Ivanka Trump’s fund will look like and how it will operate remains a giant question mark. Ethics experts told TPM that Axios’ description leaves it unclear if the fund will be a private, for-profit endeavor or if it will be run through a federal government agency.

Jennifer Rubin … seriously, Jennifer Rubin … wrote of the foreign donations,

If true, this is egregious and potentially illegal, according to multiple ethics and legal experts. “If the donation would be a quid pro quo bribe, then asking for it is certainly solicitation of a bribe, which is every bit as criminal as the bribe itself,” Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe tells me via email. “But I started that sentence with ‘if’ because I don’t have enough facts about the donation request to opine on the ultimate bribe issue.” Nevertheless, he says:

At the very least, though, a donation is a “present,” which – if made by a foreign government or an agent of such a government or an entity controlled by it – is expressly banned by the text of the Foreign Emoluments Clause with respect to anyone holding “any Office of Profit or Trust” under the United States. Whether it counts as an “emolument” becomes irrelevant if it’s a “present,” which any donation would at least be.

Tribe explains, “Even if the First Daughter and Assistant to the President somehow manages to create formal distance between herself and that version of the Clinton Foundation, which of course her father denounced endlessly during the campaign, the hypocrisy of the move is jaw-dropping.” He adds, “Such contributions would surely constitute a financial benefit to … her brand, and her family’s brand even if she is unable to spend a penny of the contributions themselves. As such, soliciting such contributions violates at least the spirit of the Foreign Emoluments Clause.”

Many have pointed out that what Ivanka appears to be planning would amount to pretty much the same thing her father was slamming Hillary Clinton for doing last year.

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The Michael Flynn Saga Continues

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Trump Maladministration

Today’s top story:

Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s first national security adviser, may have violated federal law by not fully disclosing his business dealings with Russia when seeking a security clearance to work in the administration, the top oversight lawmakers from both parties in the House said Tuesday.

Also, too, the White House is refusing to provide documents on Flynn requested by the House Oversight Committee.

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.

 

Committee chair Jason Chaffetz seems to have decided to stop being a toady.

After the White House denied the House Oversight Committee’s request for documents related to former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s disclosure of foreign payments on Tuesday, the committee’s leadership delivered a remarkable, bipartisan rebuke of President Donald Trump’s vetting of his top advisers.

Flynn “was supposed to seek permission and receive permission from the both the secretary of state and the secretary from the Army prior to traveling to Russia to not only accept that payment but to engage in that activity,” the Republican committee chairman, Jason Chaffetz, said in a joint news conference with the ranking Democrat on the committee, Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings. “I see no evidence that he actually did that.”

Added Chaffetz: “This is something General Flynn was supposed to do as a former officer. . . . No former military officer is allowed to accept payments from a foreign government.”

The really juicy bit — Last week while I was in blog bardo, Rep. Jason Chaffetz announced he wanted to spend more time with his family.

Jason Chaffetz is so ambitious that his last name is a verb.

In the political world, to Chaffetz means to throw a former mentor under the bus in order to get ahead, and various prominent Republicans, from former Utah governor and presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr. to House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, have experienced what it’s like to get Chaffetzed. But the five-term Utah Republican and powerful chairman of the House oversight committee shocked Washington on Wednesday when he announced he would not seek reelection in 2018 or run for any other political office that year in order to spend more time with his family. …

… Chaffetz, a canny political operator, has surely read the tea leaves, wagering that it is in his best interests to sit out the bruising political fights of the Trump administration’s first term lest Trump bring Chaffetz down with him. Given Chaffetz’s talent for self-promotion, it’s likely that he won’t veer too far from the public eye. Talk on Capitol Hill is that he may take the path of other high-profile members of Congress and nab a lucrative contract with one of the networks, where he can maintain his visibility, build up his bank account, and bide his time for the right moment to get back in the political game. Chaffetz has been less than subtle in hinting he’s interested. “I’d be thrilled to have a television relationship,” Chaffetz told Politico on Thursday.

But even as he announced that he was stepping away from politics, Chaffetz and his supporters seemed to be quietly planning his political future. In early April, his campaign committee registered the domains Jason2028.com and JasonChaffetz2028.com.

Interesting. Of course, it’s possible Chaffetz has personal reasons for bailing out of Washington, but it does appear he’s trying to create some space between himself and Trump.

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Trump’s Tantrum

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Trump Maladministration

Lots of stuff has happened in the past couple of weeks while I’ve been in blog bardo. Much of this is real significant stuff with lots of implications. But after all the stress of dealing with web host tech support, right now I’m not up to taking on anything more complicated than beer. Maybe tomorrow.

Right now I’m just going to snark a bit about an interview of the so-called president by the Associated Press last Friday.  A lot of it is unintelligible. Really.

The AP released part of the interview last week, but made a fuller transcript available late Sunday. You can read it in full here, but beware: It’s a doozy. The phrase “Donald Trump is unintelligible” was even a top trending topic on Twitter early Monday ― referring to the 16 instances where the AP marked parts of the transcript “unintelligible.” (Pace later told the Toronto Star that one of Trump’s aides was talking over him at those moments, and that the aide did not want their comments included in the transcript. The Star notes that “this is itself highly unusual.”)

I’m wondering who the aide was and what his or her function was.  But the interview is all Trump. He’s bragging about how he’s the most wonderful president who ever was, and he’s genuinely surprised the press isn’t nicer to him (see Josh Marshall, “Trump: They Were Supposed to Love Me“).

At Vanity Fair, Tina Nguyen points out some of the more jaw-dropping moments of the interview. Like this one.

They had a quote from me that NATO’s obsolete. But they didn’t say why it was obsolete. I was on Wolf Blitzer, very fair interview, the first time I was ever asked about NATO, because I wasn’t in government. People don’t go around asking about NATO if I’m building a building in Manhattan, right? So they asked me, Wolf . . . asked me about NATO, and I said two things. NATO’s obsolete—not knowing much about NATO, now I know a lot about NATO—NATO is obsolete, and I said, ‘And the reason it’s obsolete is because of the fact they don’t focus on terrorism.’ You know, back when they did NATO there was no such thing as terrorism.”

Terrifying, right? It’s the verbal equivalent of mangled, three-day-old road kill.

We also learn that Rep. Elijah Cummings, off all people, told Trump he would be the greatest president ever.  Somehow, I think Trump misheard.

Nguyeb also tells us that at one point, while Trump was off record, he discussed something he saw on CNN. Then later in the interview, he denied ever watching CNN. This stuff goes on and on; see also “Seven Baffling Moments From Donald Trump’s AP Interview” at HuffPo. See also the annotated transcript at Washington Post.

Please snark away. The comments are working now.

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We’re Back!

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Trump Maladministration

Okay, the links work now. I think everything is back the way it was before the Great Migration.

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Glitches

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Trump Maladministration

I see that the comment link isn’t working, and also links to archived things don’t work. I’ll get back on the phone to tech support tomorrow.

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This Is It

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Trump Maladministration

If you are reading this, we’ve made it to the new server. I feel as if I’ve dragged every byte myself, over the Alps. Whew!

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Technodukkha

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blogging

The Mahablog is being migrated this week to a different server, which will allow me to take advantage of a less expensive hosting plan. But it may take them all week, and I’m not sure if I’m allowed to keep blogging while files are being migrated. So if I’m not updating this week, that’s why. In the meantime, I may update the Rethinking Religion blog (often boring stuff, though) and you can find me on Facebook.

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Jonathan Chait and the Susan Sarandon Hypothesis

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Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, Republican Party, Trump Maladministration

I’ve tried to avoid replaying the issues of the election, but it interested me that Jonathan Chait, possibly unwittingly, recently endorsed the Susan Sarandon Hypothesis. Chait wrote,

Imagine what the political world would look like for Republicans had Hillary Clinton won the election. Clinton had dragged her dispirited base to the polls by promising a far more liberal domestic agenda than Barack Obama had delivered, but she would have had no means to enact it. As the first president in 28 years to take office without the benefit of a Congress in her own party’s hands, she’d have been staring at a dead-on-arrival legislative agenda, all the low-hanging executive orders having already been picked by her predecessor, and years of scandalmongering hearings already teed up. The morale of the Democratic base, which had barely tolerated the compromises of the Obama era and already fallen into mutual recriminations by 2016, would have disintegrated altogether. The 2018 midterms would be a Republican bloodbath, with a Senate map promising enormous gains to the Republican Party, which would go into the 2020 elections having learned the lessons of Trump’s defeat and staring at full control of government with, potentially, a filibuster-proof Senate majority.

Instead, Republicans under Trump are on the verge of catastrophe. Yes, they are about to gain a Supreme Court justice, no small thing, a host of federal judges, and a wide array of deregulation. Yet they are saddled with not only the most unpopular president at this point in time in the history of polling, but the potential for a partywide collapse, the contours of which they have not yet imagined. The failure of the Republican health-care initiative was a sobering moment, when their early, giddy visions of the possibilities of full party control of government gave way to an ugly reality of dysfunction, splayed against the not-so-distant backdrop of a roiled Democratic voting base. They have ratcheted back their expectations. But they have not ratcheted them far enough. By the time President Trump has left the scene, what now looks like a shambolic beginning, a stumbling out of the gate, will probably feel like the good old days.

Chait gets things wrong sometime. He may be wrong this time. But he might not be wrong. We’ll see.

The Sarandon Hypothesis is from 2016. I confess I didn’t pay much attention to Sarandon, but as I understand it, she argued that it might be better in the long run if Trump beat Clinton, because Trump would be such an awful president he would destroy the Right and bring on the progressive revolution. A Clinton presidency, on the other hand, would have simply continued the slow death of progressivism in the U.S.

Trump is proving to be such a disaster there might not be anything left of the United States to salvage. But so far, his administration has not helped the Republican Party one bit.

For as unpopular as the president has become, Trump’s own party has been hit even harder when it comes to poll results. Republican support has dropped significantly over the past few weeks, with Americans now disapproving of Republicans 70 percent to 21 percent — a 14 point negative swing from two weeks ago.

The HuffPost aggregator has the Republican Party at 37 percent favorable, 52 percent unfavorable. Democrats aren’t doing much better, however. They’re at favorable 40 percent, unfavorable 50 percent. But you know who’s even less popular? Congress.

So we’re a long way away from seeing whether the Sarandon Hypothesis holds water. The strongest factor working against it, IMO, is the Democratic Party, which still seems reluctant to own up to what it got wrong last year. But we’ll see.

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How About Those Syrians?

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Trump Maladministration

I confess, I wonder if each president leaves a note for his successor in the Resolute Desk — “If your agenda fails, and your poll numbers are sinking, start a war with some country nobody cares about.” We’ll see if it works this time.

We’re hearing that Trump was so shocked at the hideous deaths of Syrian babies that he ordered air strikes. These are the same Syrian babies who must be blocked from entering the U.S. because they might be terrorists, so I’m not sure who he’s trying to kid.

Frank Bruni :

There’s justification for it, absolutely. President Obama had advisers who wished he’d done something similar, and there were Democrats aplenty — Hillary Clinton apparently among them — who found his restraint when it came to Syria and the regime of Bashar al-Assad to be infuriating, a surrender of America’s role and moral authority in the world.

But Trump’s military action makes little sense in the context of most of what he said in the years before he was elected and much of what he has done as president so far. Let me get this straight: Obama wasn’t supposed to draw or be drawn across a red line, not even when the Assad regime used chemical weapons, but when the regime did that on Trump’s watch, it crossed “many, many lines,” in his words, and compelled an American response?

That’s a “dizzying turnabout,” as Blake Hounshell wrote in Politico, under the headline “Trump’s Syria Whiplash.” And I can’t square Trump’s statements over the last two days that the United States can’t stand by idly in the face of such grotesque suffering with his determination to bar those who suffer from being accepted as refugees into America. The babies prompt outrage and heartache when they’re writhing in Syria, but God forbid they come here.

Some guy at Politico:

It’s a dizzying turnabout for a man who complained endlessly during the presidential campaign about the trillions the United States had wasted on wars in the Middle East—and who urged his predecessor in 2013 not to launch “stupid” airstrikes to punish Bashar Assad for using chemical weapons against his own people.  …

… Only last Thursday, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley was saying, “Our priority is no longer to sit and focus on getting Assad out,” and Tillerson, borrowing language from Russian diplomats, was announcing, “the longer-term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people.”

Months ago, Trump was insisting that the focus of U.S. policy should be defeating ISIS, rather than ousting Assad. “You’re going to end up in World War Three over Syria if we listen to Hillary Clinton,” he told Reuters in an interview. “You’re not fighting Syria anymore, you’re fighting Syria, Russia and Iran, all right? Russia is a nuclear country, but a country where the nukes work as opposed to other countries that talk,” he said. That was October. What happens next?

Who knows? I think he does what he feels like doing at the moment.

Charles Pierce :

As policy, beyond snapping back at Assad for the war crime he committed earlier this week, I don’t see how this makes much of any sense. We learned a new word Thursday night—”deconfliction”—which is fairly defined as, “Blow shit up without killing any Russians because that could be a problem.” I love the new jargon that comes along every time we decide to make war in a place. So it’s unlikely that we will be involved in a shooting war with Russia, which is a good thing.

By the way, how long has it been since anybody asked the so-called president about his secret plan to eliminate ISIS? This might be a good time to roll that out.

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