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Daily Archives: December 29th, 2019


 

December 20, 201911:32 AM ET
Heard on All Things Considered

Scott Horsley
Two years ago Friday, Republicans in Congress passed a sweeping tax cut. It was supposed to be a gift-wrapped present to taxpayers and the economy. But in hindsight, it looks more like a costly lump of coal.
Passed on a party-line vote, the tax cut is the signature legislative accomplishment of President Trump’s first term. He had campaigned hard for the measure, promising it would boost paychecks for working people.
“Our focus is on helping the folks who work in the mailrooms and the machine shops of America,” he told supporters in the fall of 2017. “The plumbers, the carpenters, the cops, the teachers, the truck drivers, the pipe-fitters, the people that like me best.”

As Growth Slows, The Economy Is Falling Short Of Trump’s Target
In fact, more than 60% of the tax savings went to people in the top 20% of the income ladder, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. The measure also slashed the corporate tax rate by 40%.
“It will be rocket fuel for our economy,” Trump promised.
Boosters of the tax cut insisted the economy would grow so fast, it would more than make up for the revenue lost to lower rates.
“The tax plan will pay for itself with economic growth,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.
It hasn’t worked out that way.
“It was unbelievable at the time, and it’s proven to be absolutely untrue,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “The tax cuts were never going to — and have not — come anywhere close to paying for themselves.”
Corporate tax revenues fell 31% in the first year after the cut was passed. Overall tax revenues have declined as a share of the economy in each of the two years since the tax cut took effect.
“Not surprising, if you cut taxes, you get less in revenues,” MacGuineas said. “And what we’ve been doing at the same time is we’ve been increasing spending. And no surprise, our deficit has exploded.”
The federal deficit this year was $984 billion — an extraordinary figure at a time when the country is not mired in recession or widespread war.
The tax cut also failed to produce a permanent boost in economic growth, despite promises from Republican supporters.
“After eight straight years of slow growth and underperformance, America is ready to take off,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said when the tax cut passed two years ago.
In fact, the economy grew 2.9% last year — exactly the same as in 2015.
The tax cut, along with increased government spending, did give a short-term lift to the economy and businesses temporarily boosted investment. But the rocket fuel burned off quickly. Business investment declined in the last two quarters

“There was an acceleration in terms of momentum for business investment, but it was rather short-lived,” said Gregory Daco of Oxford Economics. “A year further down the road, we’re really not seeing much of any leftover of this fiscal stimulus package.”
Hampered in part by the president’s trade war, the economy is projected to grow only about 2% this coming year. That’s below the administration’s target of 3% and slightly below the average growth rate since 2010.
To be sure, the stock market is booming, and unemployment is near record lows. But while most Americans give the economy high marks, that doesn’t extend to the tax cut. A Gallup Poll last tax season found only about 40% of Americans approved of the cut while 49% disapproved.
Even though experts say most workers did get a bump in their take-home pay, it was largely invisible to many taxpayers. Only about 14% of those surveyed by Gallup believe their taxes went down. (That figure includes 22% of Republicans, 12% of Democrats and 10% of independents.)
“For millions of middle-class Americans, it is not a very happy anniversary,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said while wealthy Americans are celebrating their tax savings from the past two years, working people feel like an afterthought.
Perhaps it’s an acknowledgement of that sentiment that the president is now talking about another round of tax cuts, after the 2020 election. “We’re going to be doing a major middle-income tax cut, if we take back the House,” Trump promised in November.
The president made similar promises before last year’s midterm election. But the follow-up to his 2017 tax cut never materialized.

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© Leah Millis / Reuters Donald Trump on July 26, 2019, one day after his now-infamous phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky Donald Trump sitting in front of a window: Donald Trump on July 26, 2019, one day after his now-infamous phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky

 

David Frum 15 hrs ago

 
Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.
Amid a two-day binge of post-Christmas rage-tweeting, President Donald Trump retweeted the name of the CIA employee widely presumed to be the whistle-blower in the Ukraine scandal. On Thursday night, December 26, Trump retweeted his campaign account, which had tweeted a link to a Washington Examiner article that printed the name in the headline. Then, in the early hours of Friday morning, December 27, Trump retweeted a supporter who named the presumed whistle-blower in the text of the tweet.

This is a step the president has been building toward for some time. The name of the presumed whistle-blower has been circulating among Trump supporters for months. Trump surrogates—including the president’s elder son—have posted the name on social media and discussed it on television. Yet actually crossing the line to post the name on the president’s own account? Until this week, Trump hesitated. That red line has now been crossed.
Lawyers debate whether the naming of the federal whistle-blower is in itself illegal. Federal law forbids inspectors general to disclose the names of whistle-blowers, but the law isn’t explicit about disclosure by anybody else in government.
What the law does forbid is retaliation against a whistle-blower. And a coordinated campaign of vilification by the president’s allies—and the president himself—surely amounts to “retaliation” in any reasonable understanding of the term.
While the presumed whistle-blower reportedly remains employed by the government, he is also reportedly subject to regular death threats, including at least implicit threat by Trump himself. Trump was recorded in September telling U.S. diplomats in New York: “Basically, that person never saw the report, never saw the call, he never saw the call—heard something and decided that he or she, or whoever the hell they saw—they’re almost a spy. I want to know who’s the person, who’s the person who gave the whistle-blower the information? Because that’s close to a spy. You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now.”
Trump’s tweeting in the past two days was so frenzied and the sources quoted were so bizarre—including at least four accounts devoted to the Pizzagate-adjacent conspiracy theory QAnon, as well as one that describes former President Barack Obama as “Satan’s Muslim scum”—as to renew doubts about the president’s mental stability. But Trump’s long reticence about outright naming the presumed whistle-blower suggests that he remained sufficiently tethered to reality to hear and heed a lawyer’s advice. He disregarded that advice in full awareness that he was disregarding it. The usual excuse for Trump’s online abusiveness—he’s counterpunching—amounts in this case not to a defense but to an indictment: Counterpunching literally means retaliating, and retaliation is what is forbidden by federal law.
The presumed whistle-blower’s personal remedy for the president’s misconduct is a private lawsuit for monetary damages against the federal government. It’s hard to see how such a lawsuit would do anybody any good. The presumed whistle-blower still draws a salary, and may not have suffered any material costs at all. The presumed whistle-blower’s ultimate compensation for this ordeal should be a future place of honor in the service of the country.
In the meantime, though, the country is left once again with the problem of a president who refuses to obey the law. Trump is organizing from the White House a conspiracy to revenge himself on the person who first alerted the country that Trump was extorting Ukraine to help his reelection: more lawbreaking to punish the revelation of past lawbreaking. Impeaching a president whose party holds a majority in the Senate obviously presents many grave practical difficulties. But Trump’s post-Christmas mania confirms House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s prediction that Trump would impeach himself.
Donald Trump will not be bound by any rule, even after he has been caught. He is unrepentant and determined to break the rules again—in part by punishing those who try to enforce them. He is a president with the mind of a gangster, and as long as he is in office, he will head a gangster White House.

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Politics has become a dirtier business than any previous time. As a free country, we have in the past looked upon other countries with incredulity, scorn, and derision regarding the cheating in their governments. Fast forward to now, we have apparently fallen into the same abyss after years of being an example {of sorts) of what a good government should look like. The following cartoon is just an example of where we are now:

Mike Luckovich Comic Strip for December 29, 2019

We have always been a bit suspicious of government, this is not a condemnation but it generates a measure of doubt that should lead to closer looks at laws and proposals that affect us as individuals and the country as a whole. This administration if nothing else has opened the doors to the real intent of the extremes on the right and left while the middle muddles

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