That Mantra, Popularized During The Obamacare Repeal Debacle, Doesn’t Really Ring True
We listened to so many of our coastal friends (plus people we run into at the gym, in the coffee shop, etc.), telling us over the past weeks and months that the Trump/Republican tax bill would never pass. People who are a lot smarter than we are: attorneys, bankers, accountants, brokers, bond traders: people in the very industries at the heart of it. All saying Washington is in a shambles, nobody will ever agree on anything…And yet here we are…
The tax bill looks set for final passage in Congress tomorrow, putting it on the President’s desk in time for him to sign it while being sure to say “Merry Christmas” as he does. (BTW, do you know anybody who is really against saying “Merry Christmas”? Even those of us here who are not Christian are fine with it and often say it. We think this is a totally made up issue).
Anyway, we spent a lot time last week talking about what’s in the bill, so we won’t now. If you need a refresher, here are good pieces from the Atlantic and the New Yorker. At the other extreme, if you want to read the whole 1101 page piece of…legislation, here’s a link.
We will point out a couple of things that ended up being a bit different than the last time we talked:
- Florida Senator Marco Rubio demanded and got an expanded child tax credit. Even though rank-and-file Republicans were irritated for causing them so much trouble so late in the game, we think they’ll end up being glad he did. Why? It gives them one thing in the bill to point to that actually does help working families, at least a little. The credit gives them $300 a year more than originally planned. So this may be the one thing Republicans will be able to point to and say “you see, we did do something great for working people!”
- And last minute changes made it great-er for Trump and other real estate developers, as explained in this article from Bloomberg.
- The “compromise” on deducibility of state and local taxes is something of an attack on marriage, because the allowed deduction is the same if filing as an individual, or a couple…
And That’s Only For Starters…
Yes, Trump failed in his bid to get an accused child molester elected to the U.S. Senate. And yes, a lot of what he’s doing is really not much more than destroying things (but you can tear things down a lot faster than build them). And yes, we still believe Trump too will ultimately self-destruct via a combination of hubris and incredible insecurity. Check out this early morning Tweet from today:
And yes, he’s never going to have as many “accomplishments” as he says he does, but:
• He’s transforming the judiciary: Forget about the increasing opposition even from Senate Republicans to ludicrously unqualified judicial nominees: other, barely more qualified candidates are sneaking through. This has been a chief goal for the past decade for the Koch Brothers, among others. The Koch’s have poured tons of money into building a new breed of unyielding Conservative judge. The appearance on the scene of the ridiculous candidates we saw last week just an indication they’re further ahead than they thought they’d be.
• He’s successfully making the U.S. role in the world smaller: Militarily, we’re still number one. But Trump’s abdicated economic and diplomatic leadership. As a result, China’s President Xi is seizing on many regional economic opportunities, not just in Asia, but other areas where Trump has dropped the ball, is angry with, or is just uninterested. Trump today will announce a national security plan designed at preventing China and other countries from taking advantage of the U.S. We think stating a willingness by the U.S. to at least partly disengage, actually emboldens leaders like Xi.
More curiously, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel fighting for her political life, France’s President Emmanuel Macron may be emerging as the world’s diplomatic leader. And Trump enabled that too by announcing he was moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. In the wake of that, regional leaders turned to Macron for intervention and assistance.
• His efforts to attack illegal immigration and curtail legal immigration are not blocked: the Supreme Court has upheld his travel ban. While it’s not a final ruling, it’s a positive sign for him. The court does not typically allow a policy to go into effect if it thinks there’s a substantial chance it’ll issue a ruling overturning it.
• He’s recklessly deregulated, well everything: net neutrality, emission standards, banks, etc. Failing to keep in mind that agencies like the FCC and EPA exist for a reason: when left to regulate themselves in the past, corporations have been really bad actors, and almost never work in the interest of consumers. Keep in mind too, that many of these agencies and rules were established during Republican Presidencies: President Nixon founded the EPA, net neutrality was first promoted by George W. Bush’s administration.
We could go on, but we think you get the idea.
Why bring this up now? Because we think a false complacency has set in that we just have to “wait it out”, and say to ourselves each time: “well yeah, he did that, but now he won’t be able to do anything else”. Until he does the next thing. (So stop it, NPR!) Maybe that’s why people weren’t up in arms about the tax bill the way they were about health care over the summer. (We think it’s also the timing: around the holidays, and as we’ve said before, the fact that giving people money is never going to be as unpopular as taking away their health care). But no: We continue to need to be vigilant, share information as much as we can, and protest when necessary. Waiting it out works when you have a cold. It doesn’t work when someone’s cut your leg off.
Good News/Bad News On Obamacare
The good news is that despite the Trump Administration’s inarguably brazen attempt to sabotage the sign-up process, large numbers of people still signed up.
The bad news is because of the Trump Administration’s inarguably brazen attempt to sabotage the sign-up process, the sign-up period ended this past weekend for those buying insurance through the federal exchange: healthcare.gov, instead of extending several more weeks as in the past. So there won’t be as many people signed up this year, possibly one or two million less. (Individual states that set up their own marketplaces have different deadlines, so if you haven’t signed up yet, please check: you still might be able to).
The success of Obamacare depends on as many people as possible signing up, so this is a problem, especially if it leads to higher premiums in the future. And then there’s the repeal of the part of Obamacare that requires people to buy health insurance that got shoved into the tax bill. That could also result in fewer sign-ups down the road.
Trump’s People Increase Their Attacks On Mueller, As Investigation Appears To Zoom In On Them
The big brou-ha-ha over the weekend was Axios’ revelation that Mueller’s team has tens of thousands of emails from the Trump transition team that the President’s people say were improperly released. Of course, it’s a difficult tightrope to walk, since if there’s nothing in those emails, as Trump and others claim, there shouldn’t be any issue with Mueller having them.
We were also wondering why Trump’s people addressed their complaint (attached here) to Congress and not the courts. And Trey Gowdy, Chair of the House Oversight Committee is apparently thinking the same thing.
Meanwhile, Trump said he’s not thinking about firing Mueller (but that’s also what he’s often said in the past right before he’s had somebody fired).
Here’s a clip from Reuters of some quick Q&A on the topic with Trump late last night on the White House lawn. It’s worth watching:
McCain Will Miss Tax Bill Vote
Since the tax bill vote seems to be a lock without him, John McCain is choosing to miss it so he can travel home and work on recovering from the side effects of chemotherapy, and continue treatment there. The Arizona Senator has an aggressive form of brain cancer. We are glad he will be home with his family for Christmas.