AuthorTopic: Tax Cuts: It’s All About Capitalism  (Read 898 times)

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Tax Cuts: It’s All About Capitalism
« on: November 04, 2017, 12:57:32 AM »

Tax Cuts: It’s All About Capitalism
November 3, 2017


 The Bullet § Socialist Project

Marty Hart-Landsberg

Powerful corporations and the rich in the United States continue their winning ways. By narrow margins, both the House of Representatives and Senate have agreed on a budget proposal that calls for an increase in the federal deficit of $1.5-trillion in order to fund a major reform of the U.S. tax system that will make the rich and powerful even more so.

Republicans in each house of Congress still need to work out the specifics of their desired tax reform and then negotiate any differences before they can send the budget to President Trump for his signature. But, there seems to be general consensus on the following business tax changes:

    slash the top tax rate on pass-through business income from partnerships and limited liability companies or sole proprietorships from 39.6 per cent to 25 per cent; most law firms, hedge fund and real-estate companies are pass-through companies in which profits are counted and taxed as the owner’s personal income
    reduce the corporate income tax from 35 per cent down to 20 per cent
    repealing the corporate alternative minimum tax
    replace the current global profit tax on business with a territorial tax, which means corporations will no longer be required to pay taxes on their foreign earnings.
    institute a one-time lower tax rate on repatriated corporate profits currently held outside the country.

Tax Cuts for the 1%
The Tax Policy Center estimates that these and other less significant changes would give corporate America a $2.6-trillion tax cut over the next decade.

There will also be changes to the personal tax code, although in dollar terms not nearly as large as the likely business tax changes highlighted above. There seems to be agreement in both the House and Senate on ending the inheritance tax and alternative minimum income tax and reducing the number of individual income tax brackets from seven to three, with tax rates of 12 per cent, 25 per cent and 35 per cent, although some members of congress would like to add a fourth higher bracket for very high-income earners.

The only serious disagreements involve whether to raise funds to offset the huge deficits that will be generated by the business tax cuts by ending federal deductions for state and local government taxes and restricting the yearly contributions taxpayers can make to their tax deferred 401(k) retirement accounts, both changes that would hit middle income earners hard.

The Tax Policy Center estimates that the likely personal income tax changes would be roughly revenue neutral, although as much as two-thirds of the likely personal income tax cuts would go to the top 1 per cent of income earners.

No doubt as both houses of congress set to work, public attention will be directed away from both corporate tax cutting, which is the main aim of the tax reform and the primary driver of a growing federal debt, and the various tax give-aways to high income earners, and toward possibly heated congressional debates over the possible loss of personal tax deductions enjoyed by middle income earners.

Business, at Least for Now, No Longer Cares About the Deficit
It is the business community that is driving this push to slash corporate taxes. As an article in Bloomberg Businesweek explains:

“It was only about five years ago that powerful people in finance loved talking about the horrendous consequences for the U.S. if it didn’t get its finances under control. They warned that the federal debt – and the interest payments – could eventually get high enough to drag down the economy, burden future generations, and even threaten national security. Chief executive officers of five of the biggest U.S. banks joined a campaign called Fix the Debt, signing on with hedge fund billionaires, asset managers, and private equity executives, as well as former lawmakers and others.”

It was not long after Trump’s election that everything changed. From then on, the business community, including most of the leading members of Fix the Debt, embraced tax cuts without concern for the deficit:

“Case in point: Goldman Sachs Group Inc. CEO Lloyd Blankfein, a Fix the Debt supporter who in 2012 told CNBC he’d be for higher taxes if they helped mend the fiscal gap. After the election, Blankfein told colleagues in a companywide voicemail that Trump’s proposals, including tax reform, ‘will be good for growth and, therefore, will be good for our clients and for our firm.’

“He wasn’t alone. It’s ‘about capitalism’, JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon said in February, as he pushed Washington to lower corporate taxes. He suggested that if corporate rates fell, wages would come up. A few weeks earlier, Bank of America Corp. head Brian Moynihan said Trump should focus on cutting taxes. They were part of the antidebt campaign, too.”

Dimon is right – it is about capitalism, which means that business leaders have one goal – maximize profits. And if their desired tax cuts cause deficit problems down the road, well, these business leaders will effortlessly shift their message back to “fix the debt,” which translates into the need to slash critical social programs, all in the name of promoting a healthy capitalism.

Ideological Cover
Of course, there is always an attempt to present policies designed to enrich the powerful as beneficial for all. The argument has to be made and publicized, regardless of who really believes it. And here it is: Kevin Hassett, the Chair of President Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers, has announced that the corporate tax cuts being discussed could be expected to increase a typical American household’s income by $3000 to $7000 a year.

The argument made by Hassett and the rest of the Council of Economic Advisers is that high corporate taxes force companies to invest overseas and reduce hiring in the United States. In contrast, lower corporate taxes will lead corporations to invest and compete for workers, all of whom would be more productive thanks to the investment, thereby driving up growth and worker earnings.

There is, in fact, little support for this notion that tax cuts lead to higher wages. As the New York Times reports:

“Other research has cast doubt on the theory that businesses would pass tax savings on to their workers in the form of higher wages. A 2012 Treasury Department study, which Treasury recently removed from its website, found that less than a fifth of the corporate tax falls on workers. A Congressional Research Service report last month concluded that the effects of corporate taxes fell largely on high-income Americans, not average workers.”

So, how did the Hassett and the Council get its result? Jared Bernstein, a Senior Fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, examined the model used. As he explains:

“The interesting economics question is to why the model predicts such an unrealistic result for the U.S. economy? Which of the assumptions most fail to comport with reality? To the extent that we want to train students to be useful practitioners as opposed to proficient, yet unrealistic, modelers, answering those questions would also provide some real educational value-added.

“In this case, the model assumes that the U.S. is a small, open economy such that capital inflows instantaneously fund more investment, such investment immediately boost productivity, and the benefits of faster productivity immediately accrue to paychecks. The simple model ignores the extent to which these inflows would raise the trade deficit as well as their impact on revenue losses and higher budget deficits.

“The model assumes away imperfect competition, which is relevant today as a) monopolistic concentration is an increasing problem, and b) the one thing economists agree on in this space is that in these cases, the benefits of the corporate cut flows to profits and shareholders, not workers, other than maybe some ‘rent sharing’ with high-end workers.”

It may well be too late to stop this round of tax giveaways to business and the rich. But it is not too late to use the moment to help working people develop a clearer picture of how capitalism works and a more critical understanding of the arguments used to defend its interests. It won’t be long before new economic tensions and difficulties present us with another opportunity to resist and hopefully, if we have used this time well, advance a meaningful movement for change. •

About the Author
Martin Hart-Landsberg is Professor Emeritus of Economics at Lewis and Clark College, Portland, Oregon; and Adjunct Researcher at the Institute for Social Sciences, Gyeongsang National University, South Korea. His areas of teaching and research include political economy, economic development, international economics, and the political economy of East Asia. He maintains a blog Reports from the Economic Front where this article first appeared.

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 POLITICS 11/15/2017 06:42 pm ET
Republicans Explain Why They Want Permanent Tax Cuts For Corporations But Not People
Corporations are people, my friends!
By Igor Bobic

Joshua Roberts / Reuters
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill, Sept. 12, 2017.

WASHINGTON ― Republicans say their tax reform bill will benefit middle-class families. But the new version of their legislation in the Senate actually lets almost all of the individual income tax cuts expire in 2025.

Meanwhile, the heart of the plan ― a reduction in the top corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent ― would still be permanent in the Senate bill.

The last-minute change, unveiled by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) Tuesday night, was made to comply with Senate rules that forbid certain legislation from adding to the federal budget deficit after 10 years. Those rules, dictated by a process known as reconciliation, would allow Republicans to pass their bill with a simple majority instead of with 60 votes.

In short, Republicans were forced to alter the bill in order to more easily pass their tax cuts. In doing so, however, they weakened the talking point that the plan would primarily benefit the middle class.

Democrats were quick to cite the change as evidence of a double standard.

“Nothing highlights what this plan is truly all about more than the fact that its tax cuts for massive corporations are permanent, while the middle class gets crumbs that last only a few years,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said in a statement.

Republicans countered by arguing that individuals and corporations alike could receive a permanent tax cut if Democrats agreed to work with them outside the reconciliation process.

“There’s a simple solution. If our Democratic colleagues work with us to get 60 votes,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said during a Finance Committee markup hearing on Wednesday, “we could make it permanent.”

In reality, though, Republicans never attempted to work in a bipartisan fashion on tax reform in the first place. They similarly eschewed trying to reach a bipartisan consensus on health care this summer. In that effort, they failed to bring 50 Republican senators on the same page to repeal Obamacare.

So why do corporations deserve a permanent tax cut under the Senate bill, but individuals do not?
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Republican senators on Wednesday said the problem stemmed from the rules they’d imposed on themselves at the beginning of the process. Others insisted that cutting corporate taxes would benefit individuals in the long run anyway.

“Let me correct one thing,” Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) told HuffPost. “Individuals own corporations. So the best benefit that I can give the American worker is to make an American corporation competitive with the rest of the world. That’s what this is about.”

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) argued that permanent tax cuts would indirectly benefit consumers by lowering prices, increasing employee wages and encouraging investment.

“To try to create an argument between two sides of the ledger, when in fact the only side that pays the tax is the individual, is at least insincere, if not just completely wrong,” Scott told HuffPost.

Asked why middle-class families would only get temporary tax relief under this bill, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said it’s “probably [because of] the way the rules are.”

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) said he hoped individuals and corporations would both receive a permanent tax cut, but he didn’t have an answer as to “why there would be a disparity between” the two groups in the Senate bill.

The GOP’s efforts to pass tax reform hit a speed bump Wednesday afternoon after Ron Johnson became the first Republican senator to publicly announce his opposition to the current Senate bill. The Wisconsin Republican said the legislation unfairly benefits corporations more than other types of businesses.

“If they can pass it without me, let them,” Johnson said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. “I’m not going to vote for this tax package.”

Johnson similarly opposed the effort to repeal Obamacare early on, though he ultimately voted for a bill to rescind the law.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who is being closely watched over his concern about the enormous cost of the bill, argued Wednesday that businesses deserve a permanent tax cut because they generate economic growth.

“The personal side, candidly, does not,” Corker told reporters.

Corker, who is not seeking re-election next year, brushed off concerns about the political implications of making tax cuts temporary for the middle class.

“But I understand,” he added, “what the other side is going to do with that. They’ve already given me their slogan, and I understand it’ll be messaged in a very different way on the other side.”

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Elizabeth Warren: The GOP Tax Bill Is For The Rich, And No One Else (HBO)
« Reply #2 on: December 20, 2017, 12:36:39 AM »
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We’re witnessing the wholesale looting of America
Unchecked by norms or political prudence, it’s smash-and-grab time for the GOP.
By Matthew Dec 19, 2017, 8:40am EST

Photo by Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

Over the course of 2017, both in Congress and in the executive branch, we have watched the task of government devolve into the full-scale looting of America.

Politicians are making decisions to enrich their donors — and at times themselves personally — with a reckless disregard for any kind of objective policy analysis or consideration of public opinion.

A businessman president who promised — repeatedly — that he would not personally benefit from his own tax proposals is poised to sign into law a bill that’s full of provisions that benefit him and his family. Congressional Republicans who spent years insisting that “dynamic scoring” would capture the deficit-reducing power of tax cuts are now plowing ahead with a bill so fast that they don’t have time to get one done, because it turns out they can’t be bothered to meet their own targets.

Meanwhile, in the background an incredible flurry of regulatory activity is happening out of public view — much of it contrary to free market principles but all of it lucrative for big business and Trump cronies.

Throughout the 2016 campaign, the political class talked a lot about “norms” and how Donald Trump was violating them all. He brushed off fact-checkers, assailed the media, went on Twitter tirades against his critics, and dabbled in racism. Since taking office, his norm busting has spread. Members of Congress who under other circumstances might be constrained by shame, custom, or the will of their constituents have learned from Trump’s election that you can get away with more than we used to think.

Norm erosion is real, and it matters. Economists Daron Acemoglu and Matthew Jackson of MIT and Stanford have written about how rules are only effective when they are backed up by social norms “because detection relies, at least in part, on whistle-blowing.” Their Spanish colleague Patricia Funk emphasizes that in a variety of contexts, “the strength of the social norm of ‘not committing a crime’ is shaped by social interactions.”
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These scholars are all considering deep, long-lasting differences in cultural norms, but we also know from experience that norms can sometimes shift dramatically in unusual circumstances. Sometimes a blackout or other disaster prompts a few people who would ordinarily be too cautious to break store windows in broad daylight to become more brazen. And the normal course of ordinary life flips into reverse, as those with some inclination toward bad acts recognize a moment of impunity and grab what they can, while those who would ordinarily be invested in upholding order are afraid and stay inside. The sheer quantity of bad acts makes it impossible for anyone to hold anyone accountable. Soon, a whole neighborhood can be in ruins.

Or a whole country.
Republicans love bank bailouts now

The tax bill pending in Congress this week is, naturally, front of mind and unquestionably represents the linchpin of the 2017 looting agenda. But in some ways, the clearest example of the difference between a regime of corporate looting and one of free market ideology came on the lower-profile topic of financial regulatory policy, where the Trump administration quietly signaled a major shift last month.

Back in 2009-’10, of course, the Obama administration responded to the financial crisis and the chaotic Bush-era bailouts by passing the Dodd-Frank law to overhaul America’s financial regulations. The goals of the law were twofold, on the one hand hoping to tighten the regulatory screws to make future bailouts less likely and on the other hand trying to bring some order to the question of what to do with large banks that do go bust in a way that risks a crisis.

Republicans opposed this approach, arguing that heavy-handed regulation was stifling the economy. But they said that they, too, deplored bailouts and that the real solution to the problem of banking crises was a need to tie the government’s hands to prevent any possibility of future bailouts.

The Trump administration has taken up the deregulatory baton with gusto, appointing Wall Street lawyers to run key agencies and turning what was intended to be an interagency working group on identifying financial risk into a forum for advancing deregulation.

But the free market fix for financial crisis has gone missing in action. In late November, the Trump Treasury Department quietly announced that it wants to keep the Dodd-Frank Orderly Liquidation Authority fund around after all. That’s an obscure little corner of the government, but it’s conceptually crucial — that’s the thing Republicans used to call a “permanent bailout fund.” They used to argue that eliminating it was the key to establishing a sound financial regulatory framework in which no bailouts would happen, and bankers would be disciplined by markets rather than bureaucrats.

Under Trump, the reality is that neither markets nor bureaucrats are going to be doing any disciplining.

In the short term, of course, lax banking regulation will almost certainly pay off in the form of higher bank profits and stock valuations. The problem is when the crisis hits down the road. But that’s exactly the triumph of short-term thinking that pervades everything Trump does, from debt-financed tax cuts for the rich to disinvestment in education, rollback of environment regulations, and approaches to the telecom sector that prioritize the profitability of today’s incumbent businesses over tomorrow’s regulators.

Across the board, it’s about letting whoever’s powerful now squeeze as much out as they can without worrying too much about the consequences — like enormous, deficit-financed tax cuts passed with no regard for budgetary or economic effects.
The strange death of tax reform

The tax bill is another case in point. It’s poised to pass Congress this week, and the swamp is overflowing with perks.

Somewhere in its murky origins, “tax reform,” as conceived by is Republican authors, was supposed to be a policy-driven bill aimed at creating a simpler and fairer tax code that would generate broadly superior economic outcomes for most people — a normal governing objective even if it was always the case that substantial disagreement would exist over the merits of marginal corporate tax rate cuts as a growth-boosting policy.

But along the way, virtually all of the high-minded aspirations were dropped and all of the normal aspects of congressional process broken — to the point where the bill’s leading architects won’t even mention the policy changes that are at the heart of the bill. In the end, instead of taking on the special interests as promised, it gives away the store to almost every lobby shop in town — with last-minute additions that personally enrich the Trump family and a decent chunk of the members of Congress voting for it.

Once upon a time, Republicans had a set of clear promises about what they called “tax reform.” The idea was to produce a simpler tax code, with fewer brackets and fewer deductions so that a typical individual could fill it out on a postcard.

The goal was to cut tax rates without reducing government revenue because loopholes would be closed. From the beginning, they were counting in part on economic growth to make up the difference, but they said they would rely on serious, third-party analysis of the impacts.

“Not economic growth judged by us,” Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), the Chair of the House’s tax-writing committee, told Vox in March, “but by the independent Joint Committee on Taxation.”

And of course it wasn’t going to be a bonanza for the rich. Trump went so far as to promise that the rich wouldn’t benefit “at all” from his plan, and he certainly swore repeatedly that he would not personally benefit.

Neither the House nor the Senate came within a trillion dollars of hitting Brady’s deficit target, so the conference committee charged with reconciling the bills didn’t bother to wait for a dynamic score at all, and both houses are expected to pass the bill before the JCT can finish its analysis. The House bill slashed the top tax rate a little and the Senate bill slashed it a little more, so the conference committee compromised on a bigger rate cut than either had proposed.

Meanwhile, after all the months of work, Republicans ultimately settled on not actually eliminating any significant deductions or loopholes after all.

Why? Well it certainly seems to have had something to do with the orgy of lobbying that, according to the New York Times, led more than half of the city’s 11,000 registered lobbyists to report having worked on the tax bill. The swamp is running wild.

The committee also created a big new tax cut for owners of real estate LLCs — i.e., for Donald Trump’s family. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) also stands to personally benefit from this provision, leading to early speculation that it’s the reason he flip-flopped and decided to back a bill whose deficit impact he’d earlier deplored. Corker denies this, offering the absurd defense that the new provision can’t possibly have driven the change since he hasn’t even read the bill he’s now decided to support.

Members swapping votes to secure special deals for their constituents is nothing new in the political process, but getting special deals for themselves personally is quite the innovation. And the ultra-rushed process means we have almost no time to kick the tires on how many new loopholes have been created and who stands to gain from them.
The new political dishonesty

Politicians have never been renowned for their honesty and have always liked to spin their policies in the most positive light possible. But not only does Trump lie a lot more than his predecessors — a New York Times analysis found six times as many lies in Trump’s first 10 months in office as across Obama’s eight years — but the Trump-era GOP has grown terrifyingly comfortable with a kind of large-scale misrepresentation of what their legislation says that’s totally unprecedented.

Speaker Paul Ryan’s official list of five policy highlights in the tax bill, for example, includes one point that is merely preserving the status quo on mortgage interest, and totally neglects to mention the corporate tax cut that is its centerpiece.

Republicans’ Obamacare repeal bills ultimately didn’t pass, but they also had this characteristic.

Reasonable people can disagree, for example, on whether it’s a good idea to cut Medicaid spending. But the GOP wrote a series of bills that entailed large cuts in Medicaid spending and then sent the secretary of health and human services out on television to say they weren’t proposing to cut Medicaid spending.

Not every member of the party was as brazen as that. But Trump and Ryan have completely dissolved the norm against dishonesty to the point where there are no longer any whistleblowers in the Republican caucus or the world of conservative media. You just say whatever you want, and dole out favors to your friends — moving at such a rapid pace that the country’s ability to process what’s happening gets overwhelmed.
There’s so much happening that we don’t notice

Back in April, Megan Wilson reported that there were 1,500 new lobbying registrations and a huge surge in lobbying revenue as firms moved to snatch up new staff with connections to Trump and key congressional Republicans in order to take advantage of a new bonanza of opportunities.

And it’s paid off enormously. While Americans are fascinated by major legislative drama, endless sexual abuse scandals, endless Trump-Russia scandals, and countless inappropriate presidential Twitter outbursts, key regulators — almost uniformly drawn from the ranks of corporate America — are doling out favors at a pace that boggles the mind.

Most people know about the Federal Communications Commission rescinding network neutrality rules, for example. But they’re also rescinding rules on overconcentration in the broadcast television industry, while Congress has moved to let ISPs sell their users’ private browsing data.

Trump’s Labor Department has been working overtime by making it easier for employers to steal servers’ tips but harder for workers to organize against chain restaurants. They’ve made it easier for employers to get away with not paying overtime, and while stories like Trump’s effort to destroy the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or his unprecedented shrinkage of protected national monuments at least garnered a couple of days of coverage, most of this labor stuff has passed in the night.

Some of this is dictated by free market ideology, of course. But the coal industry bailout Rick Perry is pushing doesn’t fit that bill, nor does the Transportation Department’s drive to reduce transparency in airline fees.

And while it’s unlikely that the famously detail-averse president is actually paying attention to the nuts and bolts of DOT rulemaking, he is absolutely setting the tone from the top.
The looter-in-chief

It takes a lot more than Donald Trump to orchestrate the kind of feeding frenzy that’s currently playing out in Washington. Nothing about this would work if not for the fact that hundreds of Republican Party members of Congress wake up each morning and decide anew that they are indifferent to the myriad financial conflicts of interest in which Trump and his family are enmeshed. Moral and political responsibility for the looting ultimately rests on the shoulders of the GOP members of Congress who decided that the appropriate reaction to Trump’s inauguration was to start smashing and grabbing as much as possible for themselves and their donors rather than uphold their constitutional obligations.

But it really is true that in this case, the fish rots from the head.

Trump has always operated in businesses in legal and ethical gray areas — during the transition, he had to pay out a $20 million fraud settlement arising from a fake university he used to operate, and the fraudulent part wasn’t even that the university was fake. His all-purpose excuse for shady, greedy behavior was, to quote the man himself, “that makes me smart.”

Yet in his business career he did once undertake solemn obligations to people other than himself, as the chief executive officer of a publicly traded company, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts.

Trump never turned THCR into a profitable business. But he did profit mightily from running it, bilking shareholders by transferring his personal debts onto the corporate balance sheet, having the public company pay extravagant sums to buy Trump-branded goods from separate companies that he owned personally, and of course paying himself a lavish salary for his troubles.

This is looting on the corporate level, tunneling financial assets out of the company the shareholders control into entities controlled by the CEO. Like many things Trump did over the years, it’s probably illegal, but enforcement of white-collar criminal law is spotty. Trump was fined by the Federal Trade Commission and separately by the Securities and Exchange Commission, and then separately again by the Treasury Department’s financial crimes division, but not in ways that were serious enough to put him out of business.

And in truth, we have no clear picture of the full extent of Trump’s personal corruption, since in violation of decades’ worth of tradition he’s refused to give us a clear sense of his income streams or financial interests. It would be trivially easy for congressional Republicans to force Trump to disclose his tax returns, but instead of holding his feet to the fire, they are taking their cues from him — even though many of them spent the 2016 campaign openly recognizing that he was unfit for office.

Trump’s victory, rather than inspiring a bipartisan movement to check the new president’s worst impulses, caused the party to snap, with as many factions as possible reaching to toss a rock and grab what they can as long as the party lasts.

The country is left only to hope that it doesn’t last too long.

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This man sent HORSE SHIT to the Treasury Secretary to protest Trump's tax plan
« Reply #4 on: December 24, 2017, 03:46:55 PM »
We need more regular shit deliveries to TPTB.  Don't use USPS.  Use FedEx, when the shit ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY has to arrive there overnight!


This man sent horse manure to the Treasury Secretary to protest Trump's tax plan

A horse is seen as celebrities muck out stables during the final day of the German Dressage and Jumping Derby 2007 at Klein Flottbek Derby Park in Hamburg, Germany. Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Elina Shatkin | KPCC, AP | December 24, 2017

Authorities say a gift-wrapped box of horse manure addressed to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was found near his Los Angeles home — and the man who says he sent it tells KPCC that it was a political act.

The package was found Saturday night in the tony Bel Air neighborhood after it was dropped off at a neighbor's house.
Visitors walk past one of four piles of fake blue horse manure outside the Neue Nationalgalerie art museum on August 7, 2012 in Berlin, Germany. It's part of an art installation by artist Martin Gostner titled Visitors walk past one of four piles of fake blue horse manure outside the Neue Nationalgalerie art museum on August 7, 2012 in Berlin, Germany. It's part of an art installation by artist Martin Gostner titled "The Oriel of the Blue Horses." Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Robert Strong says he sent the manure to Mnuchin because he believes the recently passed tax plan is corrupt and "brazenly ripping off the American people."

"What I did, I would like to compare to what Jesus did when he went into the temple and overturned the tables of the moneychangers, who were exploiting the people financially in the name of religion. I feel like that's what the GOP has done to the American people," he told KPCC.

Strong works as a psychologist for the L.A. Department of Mental health and realizes he might be putting his job at risk. In fact, he said he's surprised he hasn't been arrested. But, for him, the political is very personal.

Strong, who said he was an organizer for Occupy L.A., connects the "intense increase of homelessness" he has seen in the past few months with economic policies promoted by the Trump administration.

"In the long run, if we don't do stuff like this, what are we going to have left?" he told KPCC.

Strong "borrowed" some poop from a friend who owns horses, put the manure in a box, gift-wrapped the box and wrote a card that read: "Dear Misters Trump and Mnuchin, we are returning your Christmas gift of the Republican tax plan because it's complete horse s**t. Sincerely, the American people."

The Los Angeles Police Department's bomb squad was called to the home and officers opened the box to find the pile of horse manure. Police said the Secret Service was taking over the investigation.

Representatives for the Secret Service and Treasury Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment Sunday.

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‘Must be the Season of the RICH’
« Reply #5 on: December 27, 2017, 01:20:40 AM »

‘Must be the Season of the RICH’
By Philip A Farruggio
Global Research, December 25, 2017
Region: USA
Theme: Global Economy, Poverty & Social Inequality

Many thanks to singer/songwriter Donovan’s Season of the Witch for inspiration. As New Year 2018 is  before us, we are truly in a ‘ Season of the RICH’. One need not be an accountant or financial whiz to know that this so called ‘ Tax Reform Bill ‘ is a super rich man’s gift to the super rich.

Alas, all you suckers out there are , like this writer, a few paychecks away from financial uncertainty. The less than one thousand dollars extra per year that this bill will throw you is nothing compared to the mega millions the super rich and the large corporations will see added to their spreadsheets. Some of you still  hold steady to the hogwash that the Trump team and the mainstream whore media are selling: The more the super rich save in taxes the more  that will be reinvested in our economy. Remember the two phony Wall Street bailouts, one under stooge # 1 Junior Bush, and the second under stooge # 2 Obama? All it did was allow these predators to give each other bonuses and more stock buybacks.

We are living in an age here in an Amerika that not only rivals the infamous Gilded Age ( 1870-1890) but surpasses it! The CEOs of major Fortune 500 companies earn in excess of 300 times that of their average worker. Matter of fact , between 1978 and 2014 CEO pay increased by over 1000% while that of their average worker increased by 11%. That was three years ago… now it is worse! Yet, as with the phony Wall Street bailouts, many Amerikans still believe that the super rich deserve it. After all, my friend Dante informs me: ” The rich pay most of the taxes.” Oh really. Well, go to the gas pump and see how much in tax money is collected each time you fill up. Multiply that by the 99+ % of us, compared to the fraction of 1% who gas up. Who pays more of that tax? Oh, and check out the sales tax collected on a toaster or toaster oven. Every home usually has one right? Well, once again do the multiplying and see how many toasters we 99+ % have compared to our super rich fellow citizens. Get my drift? Bottom line: WE working stiffs and the poor are taxed the most!

You remember the words of the late Governor George Wallace on January of 1963: ” Segregation Now, Segregation Tomorrow, Segregation Forever” Well, the time has come for we working stiffs to join in with our own mantra: Socialism Now, Socialism Tomorrow, Socialism Forever! To those out there who think that this is a call for Communism, sorry. No, to this writer true socialism means that the major interests  of the public , like banking, energy, transportation, health care and medicine, rental housing, education, elections, infrastructure repair, to name but a few, should be non profit. What this would do , among other things, is allow small business to prosper and flourish. Let the entrepreneurs  succeed in small business. Imagine if all privately owned small businesses had real and viable profit sharing for all employees. Imagine how  productivity would increase if  each working stiff at such a place had a stake in it.

It is time for we 99+ % to start thinking bigger, and not continuing to behave like serfs. The great statesman Frederick Douglass, put it succinctly: Power concedes nothing without demand. It never has. It never will! One demand that all we working stiffs should focus on is this: A 50% Surtax on ALL income over one million dollars.. with NO deductions! That alone would bring in enough revenue to our treasury to underwrite Medicare AND Dental Care for all! Sure would save this writer a few teeth.

PA Farruggio

December 2017

Philip A Farruggio is a son and grandson of Brooklyn , NYC longshoremen. He has been a free lance columnist since 2001, with over 300 of his work posted on sites like Consortium News, Information Clearing House,  Global Research ,Nation of Change, World News Trust, Op Ed News, Dissident Voice, Counterpunch, Activist Post, Sleuth Journal, Truthout and many others. His blog can be read in full on World News Trust., whereupon he writes a great deal on the need to cut military spending drastically and send the savings back to save our cities. Philip has a internet interview show, ‘ It’s the Empire… Stupid’ with producer Chuck Gregory, and can be reached at )

Offline RE

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As US budget fight looms, Republicans are suddenly worried about spending
« Reply #6 on: January 02, 2018, 05:18:09 AM »

As US budget fight looms, Republicans are suddenly worried about spending

    In keeping with a sharp pivot underway among Republicans, U.S. Representative Mark Meadows drew a hard line on federal spending.
    Lawmakers will begin to try and pass a federal budget in a fight likely to be linked to other issues, such as immigration policy.
    Democrats will try to use their leverage in the Senate, which Republicans narrowly control, to defend both discretionary non-defense programs and social spending.

Published 1 Hour Ago Updated 40 Mins Ago Reuters
President Trump kicks off new year with busy agenda
President Trump kicks off new year with busy agenda 
1 Hour Ago | 02:22

In keeping with a sharp pivot underway among Republicans, U.S. Representative Mark Meadows, speaking on CBS' "Face the Nation," drew a hard line on federal spending, which lawmakers are bracing to do battle over in January.

When they return from the holidays on Wednesday, lawmakers will begin trying to pass a federal budget in a fight likely to be linked to other issues, such as immigration policy, even as the November congressional election campaigns approach in which Republicans will seek to keep control of Congress.

President Donald Trump and his Republicans want a big budget increase in military spending, while Democrats also want proportional increases for non-defense "discretionary" spending on programs that support education, scientific research, infrastructure, public health and environmental protection.

"The (Trump) administration has already been willing to say: 'We're going to increase non-defense discretionary spending ... by about 7 percent,'" Meadows, chairman of the small but influential House Freedom Caucus, said on the program.

"Now, Democrats are saying that's not enough, we need to give the government a pay raise of 10 to 11 percent. For a fiscal conservative, I don't see where the rationale is. ... Eventually, you run out of other people's money," he said.
Rep. Mark Meadows
Bill Clark | CQ Roll Call | Getty Images
Rep. Mark Meadows

Meadows was among Republicans who voted in late December for their party's debt-financed tax overhaul, which is expected to balloon the federal budget deficit and add about $1.5 trillion over 10 years to the $20 trillion national debt.

"It's interesting to hear Mark talk about fiscal responsibility," Democratic U.S. Representative Joseph Crowley said on CBS.

Crowley said the Republican tax bill would require the United States to borrow $1.5 trillion, to be paid off by future generations, to finance tax cuts for corporations and the rich.

"This is one of the least ... fiscally responsible bills we've ever seen passed in the history of the House of Representatives. I think we're going to be paying for this for many, many years to come," Crowley said.

Republicans insist the tax package, the biggest U.S. tax overhaul in more than 30 years, will boost the economy and job growth.
'Entitlement reform'

House Speaker Paul Ryan, who also supported the tax bill, recently went further than Meadows, making clear in a radio interview that welfare or "entitlement reform," as the party often calls it, would be a top Republican priority in 2018.

In Republican parlance, "entitlement" programs mean food stamps, housing assistance, Medicare and Medicaid health insurance for the elderly, poor, and disabled, as well as other programs created by Washington to assist the needy.

Democrats seized on Ryan's early December remarks, saying they showed Republicans would try to pay for their tax overhaul by seeking spending cuts for social programs.

But the goals of House Republicans may have to take a back seat to the Senate, where the votes of some Democrats will be needed to approve a budget and prevent a government shutdown.

Democrats will use their leverage in the Senate, which Republicans narrowly control, to defend both discretionary non-defense programs and social spending, while tackling the issue of the "Dreamers," people brought illegally to the country as children.

Trump in September put a March 2018 expiration date on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, which protects the young immigrants from deportation and provides them with work permits.

The president has said in recent Twitter messages he wants funding for his proposed Mexican border wall and other immigration law changes in exchange for agreeing to help the Dreamers.

Representative Debbie Dingell told CBS she did not favor linking that issue to other policy objectives, such as wall funding. "We need to do DACA clean," she said.

On Wednesday, Trump aides will meet with congressional leaders to discuss those issues. That will be followed by a weekend of strategy sessions for Trump and Republican leaders on Jan. 6 and 7, the White House said.

Trump was also scheduled to meet on Sunday with Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott, who wants more emergency aid. The House has passed an $81 billion aid package after hurricanes in Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico, and wildfires in California. The package far exceeded the $44 billion requested by the Trump administration. The Senate has not yet voted on the aid.

Offline RE

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Privatize the Profits, Socialize the Losses
« Reply #7 on: January 14, 2018, 12:31:42 AM »

When Profits at Utilities are Privatized and Losses Socialized, Do We Still Need Public Shareholders?
by Leonard Hyman and Willian Tilles • Jan 13, 2018 • 29 Comments   
So who takes the risks, and who gets paid to take them?
By Leonard Hyman and Bill Tilles:

In the UK, the government puts its various rail franchises up for public bidding periodically. Rather sophisticated corporate bidders calculate projections for rail traffic, expenses, ticket prices and the like. And based on their financial assessment offer a series of payments to the government in return for the train franchise.

This week, the two operators of the London-Newcastle-Edinburgh train line, Virgin Group and Stagecoach, announced the line was likely to be operating at a loss in the next two years. Revenues and, far more importantly, profits were not remotely going to meet expectations.

These two operators of the East Coast line effectively went to the government’s Transportation Secretary Chris Grayling and said, “Here, you can have your franchise back. Oh and we won’t pay you the £3 billion we said we would two years ago. We messed up in our sums.”

And of course the Tory government — rigid disciples of Thatcher and F. A. Hayek replied, “Bust a deal, face the wheel.” Or the stern British ministerial equivalent thereof.
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Not really. What they received was not even a half-hearted, meek reminder that corporations with stockholders should realize they assume certain business risks in return for what they expected to be adequate levels of recompense. And the fact that these anticipated profits have now proven illusory does not make this the government’s problem until the franchise agreement expiry in 2022.

Or, standing on the strength of their contract agreement the government’s ministers might’ve politely reminded the unhappy rail franchisees that in the harsh language of the elementary school playground, “Sorry, no backsies.” Which is merely an eight year old’s way of saying, “See you in court.”

But what happens when rosy business scenarios fail to materialize for large, politically well-connected privately owned corporations? Nowadays in the UK, the transport secretary lets you off the hook. Risk and reward apparently means, shareholders take the rewards, government takes the risk.

Or to borrow again from the playground, being a privately owned corporation in today’s UK means getting lots of “Do overs” from a lenient government bureaucracy.

Another government approved multi-billion dollar mess takes us to South Carolina and the SCANA-Santee Cooper nuclear fiasco. Starting around 2007, SCANA embarked on an ambitious two-unit nuclear construction project. As we’ve seen since the plant’s July cancellation, completion of this project was apparently beyond SCANA’s (and Santee Cooper’s) financial and managerial capabilities.

The project failed due to relentless cost over-runs which ultimately led to the bankruptcy of the builder, Westinghouse. SCANA’s stock fell in response. But Virginia-based Dominion Energy just offered to buy SCANA in a move that would, if little else, mitigate a considerable portion of shareholder pain. Let’s look at the deal.

SCANA has already written off a part of the project. In that respect, one might argue that shareholders have already taken a hit. Except that was on the books, not in reality. Dominion is offering SCANA’s shareholders an amount equal to what their stock was worth before the cancellation of the nuclear project. SCANA shareholders may emerge from this nuclear construction debacle almost unscathed. Bondholders will collect interest and principal on schedule too.

Borrowing a concept from physics, we believe that capital, like matter, is at times almost impossible to destroy. There are infinite ways to reallocate it. But destroying it is another matter. But that’s what South Carolina’s Governor and some legislators are insisting on – that none of the cancelled nuclear plant costs will be borne by customers. They promise to free the electricity consumers from the economic burdens associated with their recently cancelled nuclear plant.

These financial burdens come in two bundles. The equity, or shares of stock, SCANA’s management sold publicly to finance nuclear construction and the bonds they sold to fixed income investors for the same purpose. It is the obligation to bondholders that concerns us here. That obligation under the proposed merger transaction is merely transferred from SCANA to Dominion.

Under this proposal, South Carolina’s electricity users continue to pay an additional $20 per month for 20 years. Dominion Resources has proposed to take those funds and retire the debt (i.e. bonds) that was originally incurred to finance the now cancelled nukes. In other words, South Carolina’s electricity consumers ultimately (even if unwittingly) incurred a portion of the financial risks and they are being asked to continue to pay for past mistakes. For which investment of course they will receive no electricity.

We are not arguing that it is good policy to let public service enterprises mismanage themselves into insolvency. Nor are we suggesting completion of the VC Summer nuclear units would have been the preferred course. The public loses as well as shareholders and creditors. But despite whatever capitalist or free market trappings are on display, the US federal government does on occasion bail out private institutions like banks, aerospace, automotive companies, and the old days even a railroad like Penn Central.

When this occurs, the government and ultimately the public effectively becomes the financial risk taker albeit implicitly. But in finance theory that is what shareholders are supposed to do. And the public frequently receives a far smaller return than shareholders for what turns out to be the equivalent financial risk.

Let’s go one step further. We can segment the electricity business by risk: the high risk commodity power suppliers and the low risk distribution or wires business. Maybe consumers would not want to directly take on the risks of the power producers, but what about the supposedly safe wires?

If the government will bail out any wires company (because we want to make sure that the company continues to provide a vital service), then do those companies need stockholders?  Could a government-owned utility accomplish the same task at a substantially lower cost of capital? Darwinism may lead to good decision making, but not when the predator is leashed. By Leonard Hyman and Bill Tilles.

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Blame game ramps up as shutdown nears
« Reply #8 on: January 19, 2018, 03:13:16 AM »
Looks like this installment of "Goobermint Shudown" is a done deal.  What's the Over-Under on how long it will last?  ???


Blame game ramps up as shutdown nears
By Alexander Bolton and Jordain Carney - 01/18/18 11:56 PM EST
Blame game ramps up as shutdown nears

© Greg Nash

Lawmakers drifted closer to a shutdown of the federal government late Thursday after the House approved a funding bill on a largely party-line vote, with Democrats in the Senate vowing to defeat the measure.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) adjourned the Senate until 11 a.m. Friday without scheduling a vote on the House measure, giving lawmakers just 13 hours to reach a deal to avert a shutdown.

A Senate vote to advance the House funding bill is expected to fail with Democrats and some Republicans lining up against the measure. McConnell needs 60 votes to overcome a Democratic filibuster and pass a bill to avert a shutdown, which would begin Friday night at midnight.

Despite the time crunch, Republicans and Democrats angrily blamed each other Thursday night for the looming shutdown.

McConnell accused Democrats of holding hostage various federal priorities, including a six-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), in order to gain leverage over what he called a “non-imminent problem" of immigration.

“They’re prepared to shut down the government over the issue of illegal immigration,” he said.

McConnell argued that Congress has until March 5 to replace the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which President Trump announced in September that he would rescind.

Trump’s executive decision threatens an estimated 800,000 illegal immigrants who came to the country as children.

“Where is the urgency here?” McConnell asked.

That statement angered Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), who argued that the plight of so-called Dreamers, immigrants who often have lived in the United States since childhood, cannot be ignored any longer.

“If you want to know the urgency, look into the gallery behind me,” he said, referring to young Hispanic immigrants who crowded into the chamber for the late-night debate. “Look at the people who have gathered here late this night who are following every word that we are debating.”

McConnell countered that Republicans also want to help Dreamers but argued the issue is too complicated to tack onto an appropriations bill.

A group of negotiators made up Durbin, Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn (Texas), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) are in the midst of negotiating a compromise.

McConnell accused Democrats of dragging out spending talks in order to gain leverage on immigration.

“The reason these talks have gone on so long is because they’ve [insisted] on throwing the illegal immigration issue into the pool of these other issues and now are saying … we’re going to shut the government down if we can’t have our way on this issue,” he said.
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Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) pushed back, arguing Democrats had no choice but to defeat the House measure.

He accused GOP leaders of shutting Democrats out of negotiations and ignoring their major priorities.

“A continuing resolution constructed by the Republican Speaker and passed without the consultation of the House Democrats or Senate Democrats whatsoever. The Republican leader is now saying to us take it or leave it,” he said.

McConnell and Schumer are both betting that the other will back down first.

Schumer called on his colleagues to hold a decisive vote on the four-week House-passed spending measure on Thursday evening in the hopes that it would be quickly defeated and force Republicans to the negotiating table.

“We all know that it will be defeated,” he said, and urged his colleagues to “start serious negotiations” on Friday morning.

But McConnell objected, instead pushing to vote on the House bill Friday shortly before government funding expires in an effort to put pressure on vulnerable Democrats up for reelection this year.

Democrats predict the GOP will get most of the blame for a possible shutdown given their control of Congress and the White House, as well as Trump's bellicose statements about immigration in the last week.

Republicans, meanwhile, believe they have the upper hand. They think voters will be angry with Democrats for blocking a crucial funding bill over immigration — which they say should be handled separately.

Earlier on Thursday, several Republicans including Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) proposed short, multi-day spending resolutions to give negotiators a little more time to work on alternative legislation.

McConnell shot down those proposals at a Senate Republican lunch.

Josh Holmes, a GOP strategist and McConnell’s former chief of staff, said Democrats running in Republican-leaning states would suffer a political backlash for voting against the funding bill.

“Look at this objectively: Democrats are proposing to shut down essential services for Americans to provide citizenship for those who are not. How do you think that will be received in MT, MO, IN, WV, OH, WI, ND, etc?” he tweeted, referring to Senate battlegrounds in Montana, Missouri, Indiana, West Virginia, Ohio, Wisconsin, and North Dakota.

Not all Republicans are convinced, though.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said Republicans usually get the blame during shutdowns.

“We always do, even though it’s their fault,” he said.

Democrats say Republicans would suffer more blowback because they control both chambers of Congress.

A senior Democratic aide noted that several Republicans, including Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Rand Paul (Ky.), are expected to vote with Democrats against the bill.

“This won’t fail because of one party,” the source said.

Democratic aides also point to a poll released Tuesday by Hart Research Associates, a Democratic survey firm, showing that a plurality of voters in 12 Senate battleground states would blame Republicans more than Democrats for a shut down.

GOP leaders won a small victory Thursday by convincing Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), who had pledged to vote no, to change his mind.

Rounds said he made a deal with leaders to move to a defense appropriations bill through regular order in the next few weeks. He has repeatedly stated his objections to funding the government with a succession of temporary measures.

But GOP leaders could lose the support of Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who says the leadership promised him an immigration bill would come to the floor this month in exchange for his support of last year’s tax bill.

"I had a commitment to have a DACA vote on the floor—the bipartisan DACA vote on the floor—by the end of January and then all of the sudden the condition was put on 'if the president supports it,’” he said, referring to McConnell’s statement to reporters earlier this week that he would not bring an immigration bill to the floor unless he knows Trump supports it.

"I'm not inclined to vote for the CR,” he warned, referring to the continuing resolution.

Flake said extending government funding for another month would leave lawmakers in the same place without much progress.

Offline Surly1

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Re: Blame game ramps up as shutdown nears
« Reply #9 on: January 19, 2018, 03:30:55 AM »
Looks like this installment of "Goobermint Shudown" is a done deal.  What's the Over-Under on how long it will last?  ???


Blame game ramps up as shutdown nears
Blame game ramps up as shutdown nears

The Rs control the presidency and both houses of Congress, and can pass any bill they want over the heads of the Ds. What they apparently NOT do is agree on what such a bill should look like. So watch the furious spinning today as the #WorseThanISIS crowd attempts to blame Dems for their failure to execute. Fuck 'em.

As to how long it will last, not sure you could even get a line on that in Vegas. What you CAN count on is the Fox News will blame the Clintons.

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline RE

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Re: Blame game ramps up as shutdown nears
« Reply #10 on: January 19, 2018, 04:37:46 AM »
As to how long it will last, not sure you could even get a line on that in Vegas. What you CAN count on is the Fox News will blame the Clintons.

Not the Obamanista?

I'm going with a week long shut down.  Then the Repugnants will capitulate and throw the Demodopes a Dreamer Bone. 🍖



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