Senators Agree To Start Debate; Expect To Vote By Friday
The big last-minute feint we’re talking is in reaction to a move by “deficit hawks” like Trump-nemesis Bob Corker, to push for a “trigger” that automatically hikes taxes back up in the next 5 or 6 years if the the bill doesn’t produce the level of economic growth it promises.
Corker says he got a pledge that “trigger” would be part of the bill when he agreed to vote to move it out of Committee. He’s got support on that from Senators Lankford and maybe Flake, but as it’s turning out, not too many others.
The Koch Brothers, in particular, are mobilizing against the idea, and they’re making their opposition felt.
Ironically, all the sudden furious opposition to the “trigger” may also be a sign that not many people believe the tax cuts will “pay for themselves” meaning the “trigger” will almost certainly kick in, meaning it becomes a 5-year tax cut not a 10-year tax cut, meaning it’s giving (mostly) corporations $1-trillion, not $1.5-trillion in tax breaks. (Because if they really thought the numbers were realistic, who cares? The “trigger” would never kick in anyway…)
So instead of a “trigger” that would raise taxes back some, some Senators are now suddenly pushing for a different type of “trigger”: one that would automatically cut government spending instead.
Same difference right?
Because hiking taxes would just put things back to the way they are now, while slashing spending opens the door for Republicans to further their agenda of reducing or eliminating federal funding for a wide range of programs.
In other words, they’re setting it up so if the tax plan fails, the “penalty” will be something they want anyway.
There’s one potential problem: adding a trigger for spending cuts might prevent the bill from being able to pass with a simple majority, if it’s determined those spending cuts aren’t purely budget related and reflect major policy changes.
Or the “trigger” idea might be abandoned, and Republicans will just have to hope Corker and the others fall in line when the vote comes. (Then we’ll see if Trump was right when he said Corker’s got “no guts“).
A smaller, but also interesting skirmish involves an attempt by Utah’s Mike Lee and Florida’s Marco Rubio to tweak the corporate tax rate back up just a tad in exchange for a bigger child tax credit. The current bill actually reduces deductions for people who have a lot of children. Trump is totally against this idea: he wanted the corporate tax rate down to 15%, so in his view, 20% is enough of a compromise, he doesn’t want to go to 22%.
And there’s a broader problem: this “tax cut” actually raises taxes for many, many people. It’s “a big tax cut for the rich paid for with random increases in taxes for various constituencies”, says one former Reagan tax advisor, as quoted in the New York Times.
The State And Local Tax Deduction Double Whammy!
Earlier in the week we talked about how the elimination of deductions for state and local taxes would actually make things far less equitable, because residents in high tax states already pay a disproportionately large share of federal taxes.
Now the New York Times looks at the flip side: how the new tax law could prevent states from levying new taxes in order to make up for cutbacks in federal funding. Let’s say the federal government decides to dramatically slash Medicaid, or funding for education, or public transportation. Right now, states that want to continue these programs anyway, on their own, would have some flexibility to charge residents more to make up for the shortfall, since the amount they pay to shore up the state system would be deductible on their federal income tax returns. But under the new law it suddenly won’t be, and as a result, states could lose a lot of that leeway.
What Is Trump Thinking?
Trump wakes up (if he slept), got a new missile launch by North Korea to “handle”, probably about to get a big “win” on taxes, made Schumer and Pelosi look like fools. Yeah, Matt Lauer’s in trouble, who he likes, but at least it ain’t Hannity. All-in-all a pretty full, pretty good morning for the Pres… With the exception of Kim Jong-Un, people are starting to do what he wants…
And yet somehow, some way he suddenly feels compelled to Retweet some random hate-mongering anti-Muslim videos from Britain without even verifying they’re real…(We’re not going to share them. If you’re that interested, you can go to Trump’s Twitter feed). One of the videos that purports to show a “Muslim Migrant” beating up a Dutch Boy on crutches has been circulating for months, and the attacker is not Muslim, nor a migrant.
Is it a challenge to Republicans to continue to support him no matter what he does or says or Tweets? To prove how blindly they’ll now obey him and turn a blind eye to his disgusting, vile prejudices?
Even British Prime Minister Theresa May, who in some ways is cut from the same cloth as Trump, was compelled to say “It is wrong for the president to have done this”. And that’s about as strong a condemnation as you’re ever going to get from a Brit. Trump responded by attacking her.
Meanwhile Brendan Cox whose Member-of-Parliament wife was slaughtered by a white nationalist, warned “Spreading hatred has consequences.” Interestingly, he and others in Britain also accused Trump of trying to legitimize the fringe Far Right in the U.K. Now what interest would Trump have in doing that…? (And of course he has, because it’s impossible to cover this story without doing that).
Why is this important and not just more “noise and distraction”? Because:
- It teaches that it’s OK (maybe even a priority) to hate people because of their race or religion, and actively and eagerly spread that hatred. Without even bothering to vet what you’re sharing. (Reporters can do that later, and if they find inaccuracies you can call their findings “fake”, or say it doesn’t really matter if they’re fake or real: “whether it’s a real video, the threat is real and that’s what the president is talking about”, as Sarah Sanders did, and by then it won’t matter anyway).
- It undermines arguments by Trump and those around him that actually he “loves” everybody, that everybody’s “special” to him, and it’s the “fake media” that’s misrepresenting him.
- It suggests Trump was at least somewhat serious when he said “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters“. Because he seems genuinely compelled to prove he can get away with anything, as in “I’m gonna pull this stunt and they’re still gonna give me my tax cuts”. Greg Sargent sums it up well in the Washington Post when he says: “The brazenness of it is the whole point.”
Could anything positive come out of this? Maybe.
Up til now in Trump’s Presidency there’s been a debate among federal judges whether the President’s Tweets represent expressions of official policy, or are just kind of a casual running commentary.
In one of the the rulings freezing Trump’s original travel ban, a judge did take Trump’s anti-Muslim Tweets as evidence the ban was meant to discriminate on the basis of religion, even thought the White House denied that. However, that ruling was overturned, partly because other judges weren’t as sure it was cool to use those Tweets as evidence. (We are oversimplifying, but you get the idea).
These latest Tweets could muddy this situation even more, presumably not in Trump’s favor.
But even if Tweets and Retweets like this do get courts taking Trump’s outlandish online activity more seriously, it’s still not worth the muck this President drags we the people of this proud, diverse country through on a daily basis.
Speaking Of Shooting Someone In 5th Avenue
That new gun proposal we told you about earlier this week that will allow anyone with a concealed carry permit from one state to carry their gun into any other state, passed in the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 19-11. That clears the “Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017” for a vote on the House floor, where it’s expected to pass with overwhelming Republican support.
Amendments proposed by Democrats were all shot down. Those included bans for previous violent offenders, and people convicted of domestic violence and stalking.
The bill will also allow someone who has been rejected for a gun permit by his or her state apply for a permit in another state, and then bring the gun home.
Again We Ask: Is North Korea Laughing At Us?
We know we are getting a little hung up on this, but we truly believe the master propagandists in North Korea have latched on to the fact that nothing gets under Trump’s skin like the idea that people are “laughing at him“.
Each time North Korea has released official photos of a missile launch, almost all the photos that aren’t of missiles are of Kim Jong-un and his generals laughing. The latest batch are no exception:
North Korea says its missiles now can reach the U.S. mainland. U.S. scientists and Secretary of Defense Mattis agree. Reminding us of this pledge from Trump back in January that he’s apparently conveniently forgotten about (and maybe that’s a good thing).
Matt Lauer, Garrison Keillor…
Matt Lauer’s abrupt firing now looks like an attempt to get ahead of a tremendously damning “exclusive” in Variety documenting 3 cases of alleged sexual harassment and multiple instances of lewd behavior on the part of the long-time Today Show host. Still no response from Lauer.
Meanwhile, Garrison Keillor, who retired from his flagship show “A Prairie Home Companion” last year, was completely shut out and shut down by Minnesota Public Radio because of unspecified “inappropriate behavior with an individual who worked with him”.
Keillor wasn’t quiet about the allegation. He told a story about a gesture where he “meant” to pat a woman on her back, and concluded by saying “If I had a dollar for every woman who asked to take a selfie with me and who slipped an arm around me and let it drift down below the beltline, I’d have at least a hundred dollars. So this is poetic irony of a high order.”
P.S. We Apologize If We’re Running A Little Long These Days, But There Is Just So Much Crazy Stuff Going On in So Many Different Places
We remain aware, however, that our purpose is to streamline things for you, so we hope you’ll accept our editorial judgment that this stuff is just too critical to skip, and we’ll start winnowing things down as soon as they get winnow-able again. Thank you, as always, for sticking with us.