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POLITICS 05/06/2019 05:03 pm ET Updated 5 days ago

By Igor Bobic and Matt Fuller
WASHINGTON — As House Democrats dither over moving forward with impeachment in a divided government and Senate Republicans are satisfied confirming judges rather than passing legislation, a pressing question is emerging: What the hell is Congress good for, anyway?
The House and Senate have been divided many times. Congress and the presidency are rarely controlled by one party. But the extent to which this Congress is already proving itself worthless as a legislative body and as a check against the president is historic.
“This is the worst I’ve seen it,” congressional historian and American Enterprise Institute scholar Norman Ornstein told HuffPost this week. “With Nixon, we had people like Howard Baker, Hugh Scott, Barry Goldwater, Bill Cohen and John Rhodes. There is no equivalent today. And we have far worse corruption and lying.”
Ornstein added that Trump and his Cabinet are taking “defiance of Congress to a level we have not seen before.”
For the past century, the legislative branch has steadily handed its authority to the executive on various issues like trade, regulations and war-making powers. Lawmakers continued that tradition earlier this year, allowing Trump to circumvent the appropriations process with his emergency declaration and let him build portions of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The unprecedented move ― which a majority of Republicans supported ― opened the door for future presidents to similarly fund their priorities without the explicit approval of Congress.
“Part of what Congress does is take the easy way out; there’s a laziness factor to just let the executive do something,” said Kevin Kosar, vice president for policy at the R Street Institute, a libertarian think tank. “Part of it is also a quasi-parliamentary mentality that our legislature has fallen into. If there’s a Republican president, you wave the Republican flag. If the president is a Democrat, and you’re a Republican, you’re supposed to be reflexively against that person.”
Trump and his Cabinet are taking ‘defiance of Congress to a level we have not seen before.’
American Enterprise Institute scholar Norman Ornstein
While Democrats in the House certainly aren’t lining up behind Trump, they also aren’t lining up against him. Impeachment efforts in the House have been relegated to a few Democrats on a quixotic mission, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has effectively pumped the brakes on all the talk.
Special counsel Robert Mueller declined to make a prosecutorial judgment on Trump and multiple examples of his potential obstruction of justice. But the Mueller report includes a whole section on Congress protecting “the integrity of its own proceedings, grand jury investigations, and federal criminal trials.”
Mueller seemed to be prodding Congress toward impeachment: “We concluded that Congress can validly regulate the president’s exercise of official duties to prohibit actions motivated by a corrupt intent to obstruct justice,” the report said.
Instead of impeachment, however, congressional Democrats mostly met the report with yet another round of carefully worded press releases calling for more investigation.
The problem with that position is that the Trump administration is barely cooperating with those investigations.
Trump himself said he would ignore every subpoena related to oversight of his administration. In defiance of the law, the Treasury Department refuses to turn over his tax returns. Members of his administration routinely don’t show up to testify before the House ― Attorney General William Barr turned down his scheduled appearance last week, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross passed on his invitation to speak before the Appropriations Committee. Trump is even suing his own banks to block them from turning over his financial statements.
Pelosi said last week that she viewed the president’s “blanket” position refusing to answer to any document or testimony requests as “obstruction of justice.” But the rebukes ring hollow when Pelosi simultaneously cautions Democrats against opening impeachment proceedings, worrying it could cost her party at the ballot box in 2020.
She even told The New York Times last week that Democrats need to remain in the center to “inoculate” against the possibility that Trump refuses to vacate the presidency in a close election.
So scared are Democrats of a standoff with Trump that they’ve convinced themselves they need to play nice ― because the truth is, they have hardly any remedy for Trump playing hardball.
After Barr failed to show up to a House Judiciary hearing or provide an unredacted copy of Mueller’s report as mandated in a congressional subpoena, Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said the nation’s top law enforcement officer was “trying to render Congress inert as a separate and coequal branch of government.”
The committee is expected to hold Barr in contempt, but Democrats have few viable moves remaining. There is some talk of holding administration officials in “inherent contempt,” potentially subjecting them to jail time or hefty fines. But the dispute is unlikely to be resolved without years of litigation in federal court.
“We are at a very critical moment in this nation’s history,” House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) told reporters last week. “And I’m praying that the American people will wake up and understand that the president is blocking us from interviewing White House personnel.”
Cummings said everyone needed to understand that, when the administration denies Congress access to key documents or witnesses, “what they’re doing is saying, ‘Congress, you don’t count. You have no ability to do your job under the Constitution.’”
He added that Congress cannot have “a presidency that is run as if it were a king or dictator.”
But short of impeachment ― which won’t result in Trump’s removal without Republican support ― and some ineffectual lawsuits, Congress really doesn’t have many good ways to bend the executive to its will.
So scared are Democrats of a standoff with Trump that they’ve convinced themselves they need to play nice ― because the truth is, they have hardly any remedy for Trump playing hardball.
Traditionally, one check on the executive branch would be Congress’ power of the purse. Lawmakers can block money from going to any agency or action simply by writing it into an appropriations bill. But Democrats seem unwilling to risk a shutdown over, say, blocking money from going to Trump’s national emergency border wall.

It’s risky to threaten shutdowns with a president who’s willing to close the government. And Trump could always defy Congress, expecting lawmakers or the courts to either do nothing or at least be slow to respond.
Part of the problem is that Democrats are still hoping for some legislative achievements, like an infrastructure bill or drug-pricing legislation. It’s difficult for Democratic leaders to make the case that Trump is a corrupt president when they’re simultaneously heading to the White House to meet with him.
But hopes for a big infrastructure package making it to Trump’s desk are fading fast. So, too, are the chances for action on other issues like immigration, gun control or climate change. Not only are Democrats incapable of meeting the oversight challenges of the Trump administration, but they’re also unable to pass their legislative priorities. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) bragged last week that the GOP majority was turning the Senate into a “legislative graveyard.”
But a lack of oversight or legislative activity is hardly the only reason Congress is failing at its job. Lawmakers have voted for years to kneecap their ability to check the president.
The executive branch is composed of 180 agencies and more than 4 million civilian and military employees. In contrast, the legislative branch has about a dozen supporting agencies and only about 30,000 employees, according to a report by The Constitution Project. While Congress passes about 50 laws every year ― many of which rename post offices or transfer federal land to states or other groups ― executive agencies issue roughly 4,000 substantive rules every year. The Constitution Project report estimates that 80 to 100 of those rules have an economic effect of more than $100 million.
The diminishing power of Congress got much worse once Newt Gingrich became speaker in 1995 and cut committee staff by one-third. But the problem has gotten even worse in recent years, as congressional pay has remained stagnant in a city with rising costs and experienced staffers are lured to higher-paying jobs on the other side of the revolving door.
A Sunlight Foundation Report found that most congressional wages have not risen in two decades and that companies spend more on lobbying in Washington than the U.S. government spends on all staff pay for the House of Representatives.
What they’re doing is saying, ‘Congress, you don’t count. You have no ability to do your job under the Constitution.’
House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.)
But the problem of a feeble Congress is also inflicted for partisan reasons. GOP congressional leaders like McConnell and former House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) were far more interested in enacting a Republican legislative agenda that Trump could sign than in checking the president in any way. And while Democrats took back the House earlier this year and have started numerous investigations, the administration has stymied many of their inquiries.
“This is not Congress against the president,” Ornstein told HuffPost. “If it were, I would be confident it would be resolved appropriately. But every Republican in the House and Senate are siding with the corrupt, lying autocrats in the administration. It is Democrats against the president and the Republican Senate, with a stacked judiciary adding to the problem.”
Take, for example, the Senate shedding its longstanding rules to favor Trump. The chamber’s advice and consent role under the Constitution ― as well as the filibuster ― was a way for the chamber to hoard power as an institution. If a president wanted someone confirmed, they’d have to make sure that person was exceptionally qualified and amenable to at least some members of both parties.
But the elimination of supermajority requirements for executive and judicial nominations in recent years, including for the Supreme Court, has greatly reduced the power of individual senators and the minority. Nominees no longer require anyone from the minority party to support their nomination, meaning less qualified and more partisan people are entering government and the judiciary.
Republicans, meanwhile, reject the notion that rule changes concerning executive and judicial nominations have weakened the upper chamber as an institution. They argue that reducing floor debate time for certain nominees, one such change they pushed through earlier this year, has made the upper chamber function more efficiently, as intended by the founders.
“It’s actually making the Senate operational and responsive again, where before this was a place where nothing was getting done,” Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) said last week. “I see it more as the restoration of how Congress used to function.”
Of course, Democrats see it much differently. They argue that the GOP move will allow Trump and future presidents to run roughshod over the Senate.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) ― one of the lonely and loudest voices in Congress calling on members to reassert their institutional authority on declarations of war and military force ― said the Trump administration is flouting congressional prerogatives at levels not seen before.
Kaine cited recent reports that Trump’s Department of Energy kept secret numerous authorizations allowing U.S. nuclear energy companies to share sensitive technological information with Saudi Arabia from both the public and congressional committees that have jurisdiction over nuclear proliferation and safety.
“They want to completely ignore the Article I branch,” Kaine said, expressing frustration at Democrats’ inability to find any means of recourse in a GOP-controlled Senate. “What do you do?”
He added to his colleagues: “Hey guys, let’s stand for the institution here.”
Arthur Delaney contributed to this report.

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Slide 15 of 81: The News In CartoonsSlide 77 of 81: Gary Varvel/Creators.comSlide 44 of 81: Phil Hands/Wisconsin State Journal/Tribune Content AgencySlide 10 of 81: The News In CartoonsSlide 29 of 81: Gary Varvel/Creators.comSlide 24 of 81: The News In CartoonsSlide 29 of 81: Gary Varvel/Creators.comSlide 20 of 81: The News In Cartoons

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Slide 13 of 81: The News In Cartoons


The Lyrics below are from a happy and exhilarating song from the ’30s. However, the current parade of miscreants we have in this administration is the opposite of that .MA
I LOVE A PARADE
From the Cotton Club show “Rhythmania” (1931)
(Music: Harold Arlen / Lyrics: Ted Koehler)
Arden-Ohman Orch. (vocal: Frank Luther) – 1932
Harry Richman (feat. in the short film “I Love A Parade”) – 1932

Also recorded by:
Bessie Smith; Boston Pops Orch.; Maxine Sullivan.

I walk every step o’ the mile,
And think it was really worthwhile
To see a parade come marching down the line.
I don’t know a son of a gun
Who wouldn’t be willing to run
To see a parade come marching down the line.
Perhaps I’m what you’d call a patriot,
But one thing’s certain, whether I am or not!

I love a parade;
The tramping of feet,
I love ever beat
I hear of a drum.
I love a parade;
When I hear a band
I just wanna stand
And cheer as they come!

That rat-a-tat-tat!
The flair of a horn!
That rat-a-tat-tat!
A bright uniform!
The sight of a drill
Will give me a thrill!
I thrill at the skill
Of anything military!

I love a parade;
A handful of vets,
A line of cadets,
Or any brigade,
For I love a parade!

Look, here they come!
Oh what a sight!
Listen to the crowd!
They’re cheering, hip hip hooray!
Oh, everybody loves a parade!
And look at those teams,
Tramp tramp tramp, never missing a beat!
And here comes the band, they’ll be here soon!
Listen to what they’re playing,
Sousa’s “Stars And Stripes For Ever!”.
Oh boy, that’s what I call a tune!
And look at that drum major,
Watch him with that stick,
I’ll wager he doesn’t miss a trick!
The captain is yelling,
It’s the command,
They’re going to drill,
Here’s where I get a thrill!
Oh by jove, that’s it!
Excuse me, lady!
Oh, quit shoving!
Say, who do you think you are?
Oh yeah?
Thanks!
Get out of the way, you mug!
Hallo Charlie!
Hallo Lou!

I love a parade;
The tramping of feet,
I love ever beat
I hear of a drum.
I love a parade;
When I hear a band
I just wanna stand
And cheer as they come!

That rat-a-tat-tat!
The flair of a horn!
That rat-a-tat-tat!
A bright uniform!
The sight of a drill
Will give me a thrill!
I thrill at the skill
Of anything military!

I love a parade;
A handful of vets,
A line of cadets,
Or any brigade,
For I love a parade!

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It seems that the GOP (Dupublicans) are afraid of their own members but they have supported them against their own constituents and possibly the Constitution, Thanks Mitch.MA
Alexander Bolton, The Hill, 2Hrs ago

GOP senators see the former House lawmaker as an obstacle to striking deals on spending, including a stalled disaster relief package. The intraparty battle could spill over into high-profile debates on fiscal matters, such as raising the debt ceiling and avoiding another government shutdown.
Before joining the administration, Mulvaney was a founding member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, which rose to prominence after the Tea Party wave of 2010 by opposing spending increases and the implementation of ObamaCare. Some GOP lawmakers worry that Mulvaney has ingrained the Freedom Caucus’s staunch conservative worldview to the White House, making it tougher to cut deals with Democrats.

“There is a feeling that the Freedom Caucus may be on the wane in the House, but it’s on the ascendency in the West Wing,” said one Republican senator, who requested anonymity to discuss colleagues’ frustration with Mulvaney.
A second GOP senator said, “He’s a former member of the Freedom Caucus, and he’s used to saying no.”
A third Senate Republican said there’s “frustration” that Mulvaney and his ally Russ Vought, the acting White House budget director, are willing to settle for a yearlong continuing resolution to fund the government instead of negotiating a new spending deal with Democrats.
Republicans warn a yearlong continuing resolution would likely result in a substantial defense spending cut.
Senate Republicans voiced their frustrations over the lack of progress on disaster relief and the annual spending caps to Vice President Pence during a meeting at the Capitol on Tuesday, according to lawmakers who attended.
The lawmakers told Pence that boosting aid for Puerto Rico, a Democratic demand, will have to be met in order to reach a deal on a package that would provide storm and flood relief to Republican states in the Midwest and Southeast.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) told reporters Tuesday that he had a “candid” conversation with Mulvaney earlier in the day about the lack of progress on disaster relief.
Asked if “candid” was a euphemism for a heated conversation, Shelby just chuckled.
John Czwartacki, a White House spokesman, expressed optimism that Congress will pass a disaster relief package soon but declined to comment on the complaints of Senate Republicans: “We are looking forward to the House and Senate passing a disaster relief bill to bring aid to those impacted as soon as possible. Other than that, we are not in the habit of commenting on private and deliberative conversations with members of Congress.”
Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) said that many Senate Republicans are eager to pass disaster relief and view Mulvaney as someone who could break the gridlock.
“Shelby wants to get this done and he’s got a lot of members in his ear about getting it done so I think he’s trying to convince the White House to get movement while Mulvaney is in a position, I think, to shake things loose if he wants to,” Thune said.
Shelby said the talks remained stalled as of Wednesday afternoon.
“We haven’t reached any resolution on disaster, caps or anything. Still talking,” he said.
Mulvaney also has his fans on Capitol Hill, such as Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who on Wednesday praised Mulvaney’s service to Trump.
“I think he’s doing a good job. I’m glad he’s there,” Graham said. “I think he serves the president well, which is to balance out not only the Republican Party but how to deal with Congress.”
But Mulvaney’s tough stands on disaster relief and a possible spending caps deal are grating on the nerves of senators who want to pass bills.
“I wish we could get to agreement on both of those, disaster [relief] and spending cuts. I’ll say this about Mick Mulvaney: He’s been very accessible and willing to talk and cultivate relationships, but he does come from that belief set” of the Freedom Caucus, said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who served with Mulvaney in the House.
Capito said she has heard “rumblings” from colleagues about Mulvaney’s influence on spending discussions.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters last month that moving a disaster relief package and reaching an agreement with Democrats on spending caps are two of his top legislative priorities.
“We need to get this done. We need to pass it out of the Senate before the Memorial Day recess,” McConnell said Tuesday, arguing that the current relief package has taken longer to pass than similar measures after any previous disaster.
A Senate Democratic official familiar with the negotiations on disaster relief said Mulvaney has derailed emerging deals with last-minute objections.
“Even when they meet with Trump and the president says I’ll go along with this, that or the other thing, Mulvaney will say no,” said the Democratic official. “He’s always like, ‘No, we’re not for that.’ ”
“We could have passed something with 90 votes in the Senate in March and the House would have accepted it by a voice vote,” the source added.
Mulvaney has reined in Trump on other issues, such as a massive infrastructure deal the president discussed with Democrats last week.
Shortly after Democratic leaders touted a tentative agreement to spend $2 trillion on infrastructure, Mulvaney labeled the proposal unrealistic, predicting the talks would likely break down over differences on environmental regulation.
He poured more cold water on the idea Friday.
“Is it difficult to pass any infrastructure bill in this environment, let alone a $2 trillion one, in this environment? Absolutely,” Mulvaney told The Washington Post.
A Republican senator from the Midwest said he recalled Mulvaney pushing Trump to cut spending on crop insurance shortly after he took office in 2017 by advocating for reduced premium subsidies and limiting eligibility for subsidies to farms with incomes less than $500,000.
Mulvaney fell short in his effort to cut insurance subsidies, which are popular in farm states, but it left GOP lawmakers wary about his influence on the president.
“He’s tough,” said the GOP farm-state senator.


A perfect example of how a consummate liar works- a reminder of 1930’s German propaganda which eventually devastated Europe and resulted in the murders of millions.MA

 
10 hrs ago
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump brought his enduring fiction about hurricane aid for Puerto Rico to a rally crowd in Florida on Wednesday.
Pledging unstinting support for more hurricane recovery money for Floridians, he vastly exaggerated how much Puerto Rico has received.
Trump laced his speech in Panama City Beach with a recitation of falsehoods that never quit, touching on veterans’ health care, the economy, visas and more. A sampling:
TRUMP: “We gave to Puerto Rico $91 billion” — and that’s more, he said, than any U.S. state or entity has received for hurricane aid.
THE FACTS: His number is wrong, as is his assertion that the U.S. territory has set some record for federal disaster aid. Congress has so far distributed only about $11 billion for Puerto Rico, not $91 billion.
He’s stuck to his figure for some time. The White House has said the estimate includes about $50 billion in expected future disaster disbursements that could span decades, along with $41 billion approved.
That $50 billion in additional money is speculative. It is based on Puerto Rico’s eligibility for federal emergency disaster funds for years ahead, involving calamities that haven’t happened.
That money would require future appropriations by Congress.
Even if correct, $91 billion would not be the most ever provided for hurricane rebuilding efforts. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 cost the U.S government more than $120 billion — the bulk of it going to Louisiana.
___
TRUMP, boasting that his economic record has delivered the “highest income ever in history for the different groups — highest income.”
THE FACTS: Not so. He did not achieve the best income numbers for all the racial groups. Both African Americans and Asian Americans had higher income prior to the Trump administration.
The median income last year for a black household was $40,258, according to the Census Bureau. That’s below a 2000 peak of $42,348 and also statistically no better than 2016, President Barack Obama’s last year in office.
Many economists view the continued economic growth since the middle of 2009, in Obama’s first term, as the primary explanation for recent hiring and income gains. More important, there are multiple signs that the racial wealth gap is now worsening even as unemployment rates have come down.
As for Asian Americans, the median income for a typical household last year was $81,331. It was $83,182 in 2016.
___
TRUMP, claiming countries are taking advantage of the U.S. diversity visa lottery program: “They’re giving us some rough people.”
THE FACTS: A perpetual falsehood from the president. Countries don’t nominate their citizens for the program. They don’t get to select people they’d like to get rid of.
Foreigners apply for the visas on their own. Under the program, citizens of countries named by the U.S. can bid for visas if they have enough education or work experience in desired fields. Out of that pool of qualified applicants, the State Department randomly selects a much smaller pool of tentative winners. Not all winners will have visas approved because they still must compete for a smaller number of slots by getting their applications in quickly.
Those who are ultimately offered visas still need to go through background checks, like other immigrants.
___
TRUMP, describing how veterans used to wait weeks and months for a VA appointment: “For the veterans, we passed VA Choice. … (Now) they immediately go outside, find a good local doctor, get themselves fixed up and we pay the bill.”
THE FACTS: No, veterans still must wait for weeks for a medical appointment.
While it’s true the VA recently announced plans to expand eligibility for veterans in the Veterans Choice program, it remains limited due in part to uncertain money and longer waits.
The program currently allows veterans to see doctors outside the VA system if they must wait more than 30 days for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a VA facility. Under new rules to take effect in June, veterans will have that option for a private doctor if their VA wait is only 20 days (28 for specialty care) or their drive is only 30 minutes.
But the expanded Choice eligibility may do little to provide immediate help.
That’s because veterans often must wait even longer for an appointment in the private sector. In 2018, 34 percent of all VA appointments were with outside physicians, down from 36 percent in 2017. Then-Secretary David Shulkin said VA care was “often 40 percent better in terms of wait times” compared with the private sector.
Choice came into effect after some veterans died while waiting months for appointments at the Phoenix VA medical center.
___
TRUMP, on the Choice program: “That’s a great thing for our veterans. They’ve been trying to get it passed for 44 years. We got it passed.”
THE FACTS: He’s incorrect. Congress approved the private-sector Veterans Choice health program in 2014 and President Barack Obama signed it into law. Trump is expanding it.
___
TRUMP, on Democrat Beto O’Rourke’s crowd size at a Texas rally, before he launched his presidential campaign: “He had like 502 people.”
THE FACTS: Trump sells short O’Rourke’s crowd, though it has grown in his mind since he claimed the Democrat only got 200-300 at his El Paso gathering in February. Trump had a rally there the same day.
O’Rourke’s march and rally drew thousands. Police did not give an estimate, but his crowd filled nearly all of a baseball field from the stage at the infield to the edge of outfield and was tightly packed.
___
Find AP Fact Checks at http://apne.ws/2kbx8bd
Follow @APFactCheck on Twitter: https://twitter.com/APFactCheck

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Stuart Carlson Comic Strip for May 08, 2019 “Botch” McConnell is again hiding from his duties and maintaining silence while “his” President continues to run the country into the ground. It is odd that he fought the previous administration tooth and nail but allows this one to assail the Constitution and twist the law with the help of his gang of miscreants. The question is: who does he work for, the people or his party?

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10 hrs ago
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump brought his enduring fiction about hurricane aid for Puerto Rico to a rally crowd in Florida on Wednesday.
Pledging unstinting support for more hurricane recovery money for Floridians, he vastly exaggerated how much Puerto Rico has received.
Trump laced his speech in Panama City Beach with a recitation of falsehoods that never quit, touching on veterans’ health care, the economy, visas and more. A sampling:
TRUMP: “We gave to Puerto Rico $91 billion” — and that’s more, he said, than any U.S. state or entity has received for hurricane aid.
THE FACTS: His number is wrong, as is his assertion that the U.S. territory has set some record for federal disaster aid. Congress has so far distributed only about $11 billion for Puerto Rico, not $91 billion.
He’s stuck to his figure for some time. The White House has said the estimate includes about $50 billion in expected future disaster disbursements that could span decades, along with $41 billion approved.
That $50 billion in additional money is speculative. It is based on Puerto Rico’s eligibility for federal emergency disaster funds for years ahead, involving calamities that haven’t happened.
That money would require future appropriations by Congress.
Even if correct, $91 billion would not be the most ever provided for hurricane rebuilding efforts. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 cost the U.S government more than $120 billion — the bulk of it going to Louisiana.
___
TRUMP, boasting that his economic record has delivered the “highest income ever in history for the different groups — highest income.”
THE FACTS: Not so. He did not achieve the best income numbers for all the racial groups. Both African Americans and Asian Americans had higher income prior to the Trump administration.
The median income last year for a black household was $40,258, according to the Census Bureau. That’s below a 2000 peak of $42,348 and also statistically no better than 2016, President Barack Obama’s last year in office.
Many economists view the continued economic growth since the middle of 2009, in Obama’s first term, as the primary explanation for recent hiring and income gains. More important, there are multiple signs that the racial wealth gap is now worsening even as unemployment rates have come down.
As for Asian Americans, the median income for a typical household last year was $81,331. It was $83,182 in 2016.
___
TRUMP, claiming countries are taking advantage of the U.S. diversity visa lottery program: “They’re giving us some rough people.”
THE FACTS: A perpetual falsehood from the president. Countries don’t nominate their citizens for the program. They don’t get to select people they’d like to get rid of.
Foreigners apply for the visas on their own. Under the program, citizens of countries named by the U.S. can bid for visas if they have enough education or work experience in desired fields. Out of that pool of qualified applicants, the State Department randomly selects a much smaller pool of tentative winners. Not all winners will have visas approved because they still must compete for a smaller number of slots by getting their applications in quickly.
Those who are ultimately offered visas still need to go through background checks, like other immigrants.
___
TRUMP, describing how veterans used to wait weeks and months for a VA appointment: “For the veterans, we passed VA Choice. … (Now) they immediately go outside, find a good local doctor, get themselves fixed up and we pay the bill.”
THE FACTS: No, veterans still must wait for weeks for a medical appointment.
While it’s true the VA recently announced plans to expand eligibility for veterans in the Veterans Choice program, it remains limited due in part to uncertain money and longer waits.
The program currently allows veterans to see doctors outside the VA system if they must wait more than 30 days for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a VA facility. Under new rules to take effect in June, veterans will have that option for a private doctor if their VA wait is only 20 days (28 for specialty care) or their drive is only 30 minutes.
But the expanded Choice eligibility may do little to provide immediate help.
That’s because veterans often must wait even longer for an appointment in the private sector. In 2018, 34 percent of all VA appointments were with outside physicians, down from 36 percent in 2017. Then-Secretary David Shulkin said VA care was “often 40 percent better in terms of wait times” compared with the private sector.
Choice came into effect after some veterans died while waiting months for appointments at the Phoenix VA medical center.
___
TRUMP, on the Choice program: “That’s a great thing for our veterans. They’ve been trying to get it passed for 44 years. We got it passed.”
THE FACTS: He’s incorrect. Congress approved the private-sector Veterans Choice health program in 2014 and President Barack Obama signed it into law. Trump is expanding it.
___
TRUMP, on Democrat Beto O’Rourke’s crowd size at a Texas rally before he launched his presidential campaign: “He had like 502 people.”
THE FACTS: Trump sells short O’Rourke’s crowd, though it has grown in his mind since he claimed the Democrat only got 200-300 at his El Paso gathering in February. Trump had a rally there the same day.
O’Rourke’s march and rally drew thousands. Police did not give an estimate, but his crowd filled nearly all of a baseball field from the stage at the infield to the edge of the outfield and was tightly packed.
___
Find AP Fact Checks at http://apne.ws/2kbx8bd
Follow @APFactCheck on Twitter: https://twitter.com/APFactCheck

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It has been shown through the past several years that TOTUS is easily distracted by “shiny objects”. This is the latest

“The Kentuky Derby decision was not a good one. It was a rough and tumble race on a wet and sloppy track, actually, a beautiful thing to watch. Only in these days of political correctness could such an overturn occur. The best horse did NOT win the Kentucky Derby – not even close!
– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 5, 2019″

The “intelligent” Leader belies that intelligence with every word and action, it must be the “bone spurs”!.

 


As usual, the Current administration speaks out of the wrong end about policies they have created out of ignorance. MA. 

© The Hill

Morgan Gstalter 5 hrs ago
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) fired back on Friday after Vice President Pence said she “doesn’t know what she’s talking about” regarding the ongoing conflict in Venezuela.
Omar took to Twitter to say that Pence’s criticism is something “women of color have heard” before.
“Instead of ‘we disagree,’ it’s ‘she doesn’t know what she’s talking about,’ ” Omar wrote. “They have to make us feel small.”
“This from an Administration that thinks climate change is a Chinese hoax,” she added.

Omar was responding to the vice president’s remarks after she warned against U.S. military involvement in Venezuela amid political turmoil in the country.

When asked by Fox News anchor Sandra Smith why he has chosen to criticize Omar on social media, Pence said it was “because the congresswoman doesn’t know what she’s talking about.”
“Nicolás Maduro is a socialist dictator who has taken what was once one of the most prosperous nations in this hemisphere and brought it literally to a level of deprivation and oppression and poverty that we have never seen,” Pence said of the Venezuelan leader. “That’s not a result of U.S. policies.”
The freshman Democrat has been critical of the Trump administration’s efforts to pressure Maduro out of office and previously said that the U.S. “helped lead the devastation” in the South American country.
Omar said the economic turmoil in Venezuela has been exasperated in recent years by U.S.-led sanctions that have cost the economy millions from lost oil revenue.
“A lot of the policies that we have put in place has kind of helped lead the devastation in Venezuela,” Omar told Democracy Now this week, adding that U.S. sanctions had “set the stage” for the current humanitarian crisis.
The Trump administration announced support for National Assembly leader Juan Guaidó in January, recognizing him as the country’s interim president over Maduro.
Supporters of Guaidó have taken to the streets in recent days in an effort to overthrow Maduro’s government in a political rebellion.

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The 2017 Tax and Jobs Act – does this have anything to do with the “Audit” of Trump Org.’s taxes? MA.

By Peter Cary and Allan Holmes of the Center for Public Integrity 7 hrs ago

 

Big companies drove Donald Trump’s tax cut law but refused to commit to any specific wage hikes for workers, despite repeated White House promises it would help employees, an investigation shows.

The 2017 Tax and Jobs Act – the Trump administration’s one major piece of enacted legislation – did deliver the biggest corporate tax cut in US history, but ultimately workers benefited almost not at all.
This is one of the conclusions of a six-month investigation into the process that led to the tax cut by the Center for Public Integrity, a not-for-profit news agency based in Washington DC.

The full findings, based on interviews with three dozen key players and independent tax experts, and analysis of hundreds of pages of government documents, are published today in an in-depth piece.
‘Just 6% spent on workers’
The tax hike was sold to citizens as a move that would boost the economy, add jobs and hike wages. The president said in one speech that it would bring the average American household “around a $4,000 pay raise”.
Seizing on that, the Communications Workers of America, a 700,000-member union, asked eight major corporations to sign a pledge to hike worker wages by $4,000 a year if their tax rate was cut to 20%, the initial proposed rate. The companies balked and signed nothing.
Still, big business got what it wanted.
The bill signed into law by Trump on 22 December 2017 cut the corporate tax rate from 35 to 21%, the largest such rate cut in US history. “The most excited group out there are big CEOs,” said the White House economic adviser Gary Cohn as the measure was making its way through Congress in 2017.
But the fears of ordinary workers in regard to those promised higher wages were realized.
The bulk of the $150bn the tax cut put into the hands of corporations in 2018 went into shareholder dividends and stock buy-backs, both of which line the pockets of the 10% of Americans who own 84% of the stocks.
Just 6% of the tax savings was spent on workers, according to Just Capital, a not-for-profit that tracks the Russell 1000 index.
In the first three months after the bill passed, the average weekly paycheck rose by $6.21. That would be $233 a year.
One retirement expert, J Mark Iwry, said more of the cut should be reaching workers: “It would seem appropriate for employers to share their tax savings with their workers – for example, through new employer 401k plan contributions or wage increases.”
Among the investigation’s other key takeaways:
– During the process deficit hawks who opposed adding any more to the existing $20tn in US debt, and who insisted on any tax cut having “revenue neutrality”, hemmed and hawed and finally folded, as one commentator put it, “like a cheap suit”. Still, some Republicans used $1.5tn in accounting devices to either hide the true cost of the bill or help justify their votes.
– One idea on the table for nearly six months was a so-called Border Adjustment Tax, which would have raised $1tn and largely paid for the tax cuts. But members of the Senate belittled it, saying it would never fly because it was opposed by a coalition of huge retailers. They were right. But when the border tax was abandoned, Congress had no plan B to offset the huge tax cuts.
– The bill was drafted in secret, partly to keep it from Congress’s own members who, it was feared, would leak it to lobbyists. Those crafting the bill worried that if the contents of their drafts leaked out, lobbyists would go to work gutting the bill. Hearings on the legislation were reduced to a bare minimum.
Limited scrutiny
The bill was passed with astonishing speed that limited scrutiny. The Joint Committee on Taxation, a trusted nonpartisan agency that tried to give an honest assessment of the cost of the bill, was virtually cut from the picture. Its final and most important assessment was not delivered until the day Trump signed the bill. Not a single member of Congress saw that analysis before voting.
In a meeting that was the key turning point in the entire process, the Senate’s most vocal deficit hawk, Republican Bob Corker of Tennessee, who wanted to create no new debt, sat down with the Senate’s most strident supply-sider, Republican Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who wanted to borrow $2.5tn to pay for the tax cuts. They agreed on borrowing $1.5tn over 10 years. The meeting lasted all of 10 minutes.
Ultimately, three main themes emerged from the Center’s reporting.
One is that the bill, with its 21% corporate tax rate, was first and foremost a gift to multinationals. They had wanted cuts in the corporate tax rate for foreign and domestic profits for decades. Everything else flowed from that: the tax cuts for smaller businesses known as “pass-throughs”, which had been their holy grail, and the cuts for individuals, which were needed to sell the bill to voters.
The second: all the posturing about real “reform” of the tax code and “revenue neutrality” for the legislation was meaningless. In fact, the bill had to create a $1.5tn 10-year deficit to pay for its generous tax cuts. Without the deficit, the corporate rate of 21% could never have been achieved and, more important, the bill could not have passed at all.
The third was that the bill as passed was hugely problematic. It contained egregious mistakes, created massive new loopholes and opened the door to new forms of tax avoidance. Thirteen tax law professors from around the country, in a 68-page study, blasted its “rushed and secretive process” that resulted, they said, “in deeply flawed legislation”.
Dana Trier, here at a 2018 Brookings Institution event, was hired by the Trump administration to help write the tax bill. ‘I thought I could make it work,’ he said of the tax bill. ‘And in fact, we didn’t reach my standard.’
Among the disappointed were people who had been hired by the Trump administration to craft the bill – including Dana Trier, a New York lawyer who had been a tax policy official in the Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush administrations. He allowed himself to be lured back into government for one more go because he thought the tax code had gotten out of whack and reform was overdue.
In the end, though, Trier counted himself among those who were severely troubled by how the bill turned out. Parts were not well thought through, he told the Center, and “known problems” were not corrected because of the speed with which it passed.
“So, I mean I want to be honest with you, I was completely sick,” he said. “You know from my perspective I took one for the team and my reason for taking one for the team had not been fulfilled. I thought I could make it work. I could be one of those people who could help make it work. And in fact we didn’t reach my standard.”
Read the full investigation on the Center for Public Integrity’s website. Peter Cary and Allan Holmes are reporters at the Center for Public Integrity

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