On Tax Cuts, Trump & Congress Once Again Think Speed Is Their Friend; And A Huge Political Move In China

The General Idea Being The Faster A Bill Whooshes To A Vote, The Less Likely The Public Will Have Time To Understand, Absorb, And Get Angry About Exactly What’s In It

But wait a sec: didn’t they just try that with health care? That backfired. Multiple times.

Things might be different this time for the simple reason that people tend to like tax cuts better than getting health care taken away. It’s an easier sell for politicians, and a theme Trump’s been all over: pass tax cuts swiftly and you’ll be cruising into 2018 elections. Don’t, it’s at your peril.

There’s another big difference: the Obamacare repeal would’ve taken nearly a decade to fully kick in. During that time, members of Congress would’ve continually had to answer to disgruntled constituents.

Tax cuts on the other hand, can put more money into almost everybody’s pockets quickly, and should make the economy look great in the short-term, headed into next year’s Congressional elections and beyond. Consequences will be kicked down the road: It’ll be several years before the veneer starts to wear off and we’re faced with not enough money to pay for essential benefits, and a snowballing number of retirees finding themselves with little in the way of retirement savings, and a very flimsy safety net. (That could be accelerated if economic growth ends up being slower than projected).

Trump himself lifted the lid off this Pandora’s box a bit when he Tweeted he would not allow changes to 401K retirement contributions. Chances are, prior to that, you didn’t even know 401K contributions were on the chopping block. In fact, Roll Call reports that Republicans had plans to cut those tax free contributions from the current $18,000 a year per person, to just $2,400. And as the New York Times points out, this is but one of many fights over highly contentious provisions with powerful defenders.

Trump’s actually laudatory move is causing grumbling among the powers that be on Capitol Hill, who question Trump’s ability to be a trustworthy negotiator and partner (both on tax cuts and the bipartisan Obamacare fix.)

At the same time the deficit hawks seem to have flown South: the “Tea Party” types, who in previous years vowed to fight tooth and nail to see that every $1 in tax cuts was made up for by $1 in spending cuts, suddenly seem OK with adding $1.5-trillion in debt. In fact they’re among the loudest voices endorsing a speedy passage.

Democrats have virtually no say in this debate: due to the same obscure procedural rules as with health care, tax cuts can pass the Senate and House with zero votes from Democrats.

Trump’s so gung-ho to get Congress fired up about speeding the process up, he’s going up to their house: he’ll have lunch today with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill.


Big Moves In Beijing Today As Party Elite Adds President Xi’s Philosophy To China’s Constitution, Further Solidifying His Grip On Power

China’s Communist Party Congress endorsed sweeping, blockbuster changes today during its once-every-5-year gathering, none more notable than its unanimous vote to add President Xi’s “Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in a New Era” to the country’s constitution, making him the most powerful Chinese leader since Deng Xiaoping, and granting him similar status to Chairman Mao. Here are accounts from both U.S. and China news sources [Washington Post] [Xinhua]

That’s likely to embolden Xi’s moves to consolidate power within the party, while he aggressively pursues his goal of embracing globalism to transform China into the preeminent world trade superpower. (Trump’s making that easier for him by focusing on exactly the opposite).

China’s President Xi Jinping

The South China Morning Post reports one of the first things Xi will do is further decentralize the People’s Liberation Army, appointing new military leaders, many with personal ties to him. (Previous Presidents were undermined by the powerful PLA.) The SCMP also reports the Party appears to have forced the resignation of its aggressive anti-corruption chief, who will also likely be replaced by somebody close to Xi.


Nicaragua Signs On To Paris Climate Accord

Leaving the U.S. and Syria the only countries in the world outside the pact. (Heck, even North Korea’s in it!) Nicaragua had delayed joining because it said the climate change controlling measures didn’t go far enough.


Famed Anti-Putin Activist Locked Out Of U.S.

Senators John McCain and Ben Cardin are asking the Department of Homeland Security to immediately review Bill Browder’s visa. On the face of it, it appears Browder’s denial stems from him being placed by Russia on an Interpol watchlist. Russia accuses Browder of exactly the crimes he says they committed, most notably the murder of Russian tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. While Magnitsky was working for Browder, he uncovered hundreds of millions of dollars in fraud at the highest levels of the Russian power structure. Shortly after, he was detained, beaten, and died in police custody.

Hedge Fund Manager and Russia Activist Bill Browder

If his name sounds familiar, that’s because at Browder’s urging, Congress passed a law forbidding individuals involved in Magnitsky’s demise from any dealings with the U.S. In retaliation, Putin forbid the adoption of Russian babies in the U.S.

In case all that sounds familiar, it was at the center of a meeting which came to light this summer set up by Donald Trump, Jr., involving a Kremlin-affiliated lawyer. In fact, the Magnitsky sanctions and adoption is all that Trump, Jr. said was discussed at the meeting.

Separately, in Moscow, a radio reporter who works for a station that frequently criticizes Putin was stabbed in the neck. Tatyana Felgenhauer is expected to survive. The station: Ekho Moskvy, is considered one of the few remaining independent news outlets in Russia, even though it is owned by the energy conglomerate Gazprom.

Tatyana Felgenhauer


Trump Trusts Mainstream Media Story About People Distrusting Mainstream Media

Trump tweeted:

Trump got those numbers from Politico, a news organization he’s repeatedly slammed as  “the dumbest and most slanted of the political sites” — a “phony,” “third-rate,” “dishonest” “scam” published by “losers,” “clowns,” “serious haters” and “some very untalented reporters.”

But now all of a sudden, says Trump, they’re telling the truth

As this Washington Post blog points out, authoritarian regimes often attempt turn public opinion against mainstream media by repeating propaganda over and over again until it starts to be accepted as fact.  


6 Tweets, 100,000+ Followers (And Counting). Who?

James Comey, that’s who! NPR confirms that a Twitter account using the name of a theologian best known for his writing on the intersection of religion, politics, and public policy, actually belongs to to fired FBI Director James Comey. And Comey suggests in his latest Tweet he’s planning on becoming a more active voice.


That’s led some to speculate it might presage a run for public office.


Handicapping Trump’s “Wall”

We are not going to discuss whether Trump will get his wall. We’re past that. Sadly, we firmly believe he will.


Because blowing a lot of money on a useless wall the President really cares about doesn’t directly hurt anybody. Deporting 800,000 immigrants who have been here since childhood, or slashing health care to millions, or not helping hurricane victims hurts a lot. It’s a stupid, but easy trade-off.

As you may have heard, prototypes of Trump’s wall are going up right now near San Diego. So what we’re going to handicap this morning is which wall?

Keep in mind: Trump sees this as his legacy beyond anything else. It’s what Americans generations from now will point to and give him credit for. (Whether it ends up being a highly-militarized barrier, or a crumbling meaningless monument). For that reason, it’s got to look Trumpian. Look at his hotels. They are not modern, cinder-blocks. Why would he pick a wall that is? You can look at them all here. Most of them look like prison walls.

We nominate this one:

It’s far less concrete slab-ish than most of the other walls. The prototype also cost U.S. taxpayers only $400,000, whereas most of the others are in the $500,000 range. The only possible negative: it’s not made by a U.S. company, rather an Israeli company, which set up manufacturing facilities in the U.S. this year specifically for this purpose.

It also doesn’t meet one of Trump’s prior specs: that it be see-through, so that agents patrolling the U.S. side don’t get hit with huge sacks of drugs when Mexican gangs fling them over (yes he did say that).

So with that in mind, here’s our 2nd choice:


This one has the most design touches, like a faux brick finish and spikes up top in the shape of agave plants:

And one made by a Hispanic owned construction company in Arizona, which could appeal to Trump. But look at it, it’s a mess: