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Daily Archives: October 18th, 2018


Bloomberg Tue, Oct 16 12:09 PM CDT

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday blamed rising federal deficits and debt on a bipartisan unwillingness to contain spending on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and said he sees little chance of a major deficit reduction deal while Republicans control Congress and the White House.
“It’s disappointing but it’s not a Republican problem,” McConnell said in an interview with Bloomberg News when asked about the rising deficits and debt. “It’s a bipartisan problem: Unwillingness to address the real drivers of the debt by doing anything to adjust those programs to the demographics of America in the future.”
McConnell’s remarks came a day after the Treasury Department said the U.S. budget deficit grew to $779 billion in Donald Trump’s first full fiscal year as president, the result of the GOP’s tax cuts, bipartisan spending increases and rising interest payments on the national debt. That’s a 77 percent increase from the $439 billion deficit in fiscal 2015, when McConnell became majority leader.
McConnell said it would be “very difficult to do entitlement reform, and we’re talking about Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid,” with one party in charge of Congress and the White House.
“I think it’s pretty safe to say that entitlement changes, which is the real driver of the debt by any objective standard, may well be difficult if not impossible to achieve when you have unified government,” McConnell said.
Politically Unpopular
Shrinking those popular programs — either by reducing benefits or raising the retirement age — without a bipartisan deal would risk a political backlash in the next election. Trump, during his campaign, promised he wouldn’t cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, even though his budget proposals have included trims to all three programs.
McConnell said he had many conversations on the issue with former President Barack Obama, a Democrat.
“He was a very smart guy, understood exactly what the problem was, understood divided government was the time to do it, but didn’t want to, because it was not part of his agenda,” McConnell said.
“I think it would be safe to say that the single biggest disappointment of my time in Congress has been our failure to address the entitlement issue, and it’s a shame, because now the Democrats are promising Medicare for all,” he said. “I mean, my gosh, we can’t sustain the Medicare we have at the rate we’re going and that’s the height of irresponsibility.”
Divided Government
McConnell said the last major deal to overhaul entitlements occurred in the Reagan administration, when a Social Security package including a raise in the retirement age passed with divided government.
McConnell said he was the GOP Senate whip in 2005 when President George W. Bush attempted a Social Security overhaul and couldn’t find any Democratic supporters.
“Their view was, you want to fix Social Security, you’ve got the presidency, you’ve got the White House, you’ve got the Senate, you go right ahead,” McConnell said. The effort collapsed.
The Office of Management and Budget has projected a deficit in the coming year of $1.085 trillion despite a healthy economy. And the Congressional Budget Office has forecast a return to trillion-dollar deficits by fiscal 2020.
During Trump’s presidency, Democrats and Republicans agreed to a sweeping deal to increase discretionary spending on defense and domestic programs, while Trump’s efforts to shrink spending on Obamacare mostly fell flat.
Republicans also passed a 2017 tax overhaul projected to add more than $1 trillion to the debt over a decade after leaders gave up on creating a plan that wouldn’t increase the debt under the Senate’s scoring rules. However, McConnell, like many Republicans, has said growth will more than make up for the lost revenue.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California reacted to McConnell’s comments Tuesday by saying the rising deficit is a direct result of the GOP tax cut enacted in December 2017.
“In budget after budget, congressional Republicans have exposed their cynical agenda: give massive, unpaid-for handouts to further enrich big corporations shipping jobs overseas and the wealthiest 1 percent, and stick seniors, children and families with the bill,” Pelosi said in a statement. “Under the GOP’s twisted agenda, we can afford tax cuts for billionaires, but not the benefits our seniors have earned.”

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Apparently blaming someone else is the new norm in politics along with willingness to lie to win at any cost, this occurs across party lines however the party in power gets more press since they have set us on a path of division. Ignoring the fact that the “Tax Reform Bill” has been the main cause of the deficit which was predicted by
The Senate’s Official Scorekeeper
Says the Republican Tax Plan
Would Add $1 Trillion to the Deficit.  My question is who is telling the truth, the numbers or Mitch? MA
By JUGAL K. PATEL and ALICIA PARLAPIANO UPDATED DEC. 1, 2017
Senate Republicans’ $1.5 trillion tax cut would not pay for itself, according to a report released on Thursday by the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation. The report is a significant setback for Republicans, who have asserted that the tax cuts would grow the economy enough to cover the cost of the plan.
Yuval Rosenberg, The Fiscal Times Tue, Oct 16 4:44 PM CDT
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks after the Republican weekly policy lunch on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 19, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
The quotes: “It’s disappointing, but it’s not a Republican problem. It’s a bipartisan problem: unwillingness to address the real drivers of the debt by doing anything to adjust those programs to the demographics of America in the future.”
McConnell also called the failure to reform entitlements “the single biggest disappointment” of his time in Congress and said that, because of the popularity of the programs in question and the risk of a political backlash, entitlement reform likely has to come through bipartisan compromise. “I think it’s pretty safe to say that entitlement changes, which is the real driver of the debt by any objective standard, may well be difficult if not impossible to achieve when you have unified government,” he said.
The context: McConnell’s comments, in an interview with Bloomberg, come a day after the Treasury Department said that the deficit grew to $779 billion in fiscal 2018, up 17 percent from the year before.
It’s true that, as the population ages, Medicare and Social Security are the main drivers of projected long-term U.S. debt, along with rising interest payments.
At the same time, budget watchers note that the GOP tax cuts passed last year are expanding the deficit rather than paying for themselves, as Republicans claimed they would. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said recently that legislation enacted in fiscal 2018, including tax cuts and spending increases, would add $445 billion to next year’s deficit — or 46 percent of the projected total.
Democrats argue that it’s unfair to single out safety-net programs for blame — and to put them on the chopping block — when repeated tax cuts and unfunded wars have contributed mightily to the debt over the last 20 years.
Democratic leaders seized on McConnell’s comments as evidence that Republicans were pursuing an agenda aimed at shrinking the government by starving it of revenue via tax cuts for the rich and then slashing safety-net programs for low- and middle-income Americans. “It’s gaslighting for the GOP to blow a $2 trillion hole in the deficit to give the rich a tax cut then suggest cutting Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid as the only fix for that new deficit,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted Tuesday.
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It is unfortunate that many Americans who are devoted “TOTUS’ supporters can only pick out 1 or two reasons they voted and supported him. Any one of their reasons is enough to terminate that support but the entertainment value appears to hold sway. MA.

Matt Bai 2 hours 5 minutes ago

Before he was treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin was a movie producer, so maybe he’d appreciate that when I think about him showing up at this “Davos in the Desert” confab in Saudi Arabia next week, my mind goes to “Lost in Translation,” the film with Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson.
I picture Mnuchin and Fox anchor Maria Bartiromo, who as I write this might be the only journalist still planning to attend, wandering aimlessly through a sleek hotel and passing joyless hours with exotic teas at the hotel bar (it’s a dry country), unable to understand what anyone around them is saying, ruminating quietly on lives gone horribly awry.
On the plus side, I guess, there won’t be a line for the treadmills.
Pretty much the rest of the English-speaking world — governments, investors, media celebrities — seems to have concluded, reasonably enough, that celebrating the Saudi kingdom’s cosmopolitan future isn’t the tasteful thing to do right now, with all indications pointing to the savage murder of a Washington Post columnist by an army of Saudi thugs who carted a bone saw to Istanbul.
I mean, when you’ve brutalized a dissenter in a way that shocks the Turkish government, you have to know that you’ve really set the bar high.
But all that’s of little concern to the American president, who so far seems bent on sending Mnuchin to the annual conference anyway, and who continues to hedge and make excuses for his Saudi friends, thus isolating the United States, yet again, from the larger world community.
“They’re investing tremendous amounts of money” in American products, President Trump said of his “great ally” Saudi Arabia, which he claims — dubiously — has signed on to buy $110 billon in American-made weaponry.
Trump’s detractors will say that this is just another example of his being amoral and impulsive, bowing down to murderous autocrats because he aspires to be one of them. But that’s not giving Trump enough credit.
The president is absolutely pursuing a strategy here, which he laid out in his very first day on the job. And it’s not just morally bankrupt. It’s economically reckless, too.

In truth, every modern president has struggled to find the right balance between America’s lofty ideals and our strategic interests. During the Cold War that dominated the second half of the last century, Washington often came to see ruthless right-wing regimes in Asia, Latin America and Africa as necessary bulwarks against communism. It wasn’t a good look.
And since the emergence of Islamic terrorism as an overarching threat, no country has tested this balance as much as Saudi Arabia. The Saudis repress women and dissidents, but they’ve also lent out their land for U.S. military bases, and they’re seen as a crucial counterweight against Iranian influence.
Both George W. Bush and Barack Obama tried to walk that line between values and realpolitik in the region, and they mostly ended up talking about the former while ceding to the latter.
Trump, however, represents a radical departure from his predecessors, Republican and Democrat. He makes no pretense of balancing moral imperatives, or even military objectives, against the economic agenda that is his only real priority.
He made that exceedingly clear in an inauguration speech striking for its total indifference to moral leadership. Expanding on his “America First” philosophy, Trump laid waste to an American century in which he said we’d spent too much energy and money worrying about what happened to people in other countries.
“We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world,” Trump said then, “but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.”
Trump was articulating not so much his governing philosophy — he doesn’t have one — as his business philosophy. When you’re cutting the ribbon for a casino or some towering condo building, you don’t trouble yourself about whether the guy holding a shovel next to you is mob-connected (or, like your son-in-law, a slumlord).
No, if you’re a certain kind of businessman, you ask yourself only one question: Will this deal make money? You’re not in the business of morally policing your partners, as long as they’re not brutalizing you.
And this, to give Trump the benefit of the doubt, is probably why he appears so beholden to foreign bullies. It’s why he shrugs at Turkish goons beating up peaceful protesters near the White House, and betrays only the slightest irritation at the Russians trying to execute a man and his daughter in England, and remains untroubled by the horrific genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar — all while lashing out bitterly at Canadian dairy farmers.
If it doesn’t threaten American factories or farms, Trump isn’t especially interested. Abstract values aren’t something he loses a lot of sleep over, in foreign policy or in life.
Trump’s supporters — both the ones who wave signs at his rallies and the Chamber of Commerce kind — tend to love this about him, and I get why. They’ve had enough nation-building and finger-waving and coalition-leading for one century.
The idea of a president focused only on American jobs and industry, without all the other noise, has strong appeal in communities where Americans have often felt overlooked, and where they can’t really afford to worry about how the Saudis handle their critics.
Except that there’s a problem with this formulation. It assumes that America’s economic interests have nothing to do with its moral imperatives. And in the long term, that’s just wrong.

America’s most vital export isn’t cars or soft drinks or computer chips. It’s our culture. It’s our brand.
American businesses thrived overseas in the 20th century not just because we made a bunch of stuff, but because the stuff we made signified the American creed. In every part of the world, they watched our cowboy movies and smoked our cigarettes because they admired us. They knew Americans aspired to moral courage and the rule of law, even if we often fell short of the goal.
Coke didn’t just taste good; it tasted like America. Fords weren’t the best-driving cars on the road; they were the symbol of an empowered middle class.
Trump is, if nothing else, a brand master. He built his own, after all, with little more than fast talk and big hair. He did it so effectively that foreign investors were willing to plunk down millions on a property just because it carried his gold-plated name.
But he doesn’t seem to understand the risks he’s taking with ours. He can’t seem to grasp that, unlike a casino or a skyscraper, America’s potential for profit is inextricable from its moral standing. Without the enduring legacies of Lincoln and Roosevelt and Kennedy and Reagan, we’re just another country growing soybeans.
The American president should react at least as strongly as our bankers to the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, because we ought to stand for the right to dissent, and for the freedom of our press, and for basic humanity. That’s reason enough.
But we ought to do so, too, with the clear understanding that there is no such thing as “America First” without holding firm to American ideals.

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