Posted by: Bruce Allen | March 26, 2018

Most Republicans on the Wrong Side of History. Again.

© Bruce Allen. March 26, 2018

NRA Terr Org.

It would be such a wonderful trip if these millions of outraged tweeners (whom we have failed, BTW) became activist single-issue voters on the side of the angels, passing out NRA report cards on every candidate at every rally and etc. If it catches on, the A+ NRA ratings of the Rubios of the world would become political indictments, smoking guns. And we libtards might find a coherent reason to vote, other than just to honor the institution of voting. The demographics, as predicted when Clinton was president, are moving inexorably in the direction of the Democrats and for good reason. This is a young blue wave.

Imagine if the alleged Movement took hold. Imagine Democratic candidates coming out of the woodwork proclaiming their lifelong fear of and hatred of machine guns and automatic weapons. Explaining how the framers of the Constitution could not be expected, in their time, to imagine the immense destructive capacity of constitutionally-protected assault weapons once commonly/now formerly sold at Walmart.

While being governed by Republicans, people of color, the dispossessed, the barista with $80,000 of student loans, people with health issues, people with income issues, in short, pretty much every new young voter, is finding the quality of their lives diminished. This is how modern Republicans get things done, via the Reverse Robin Hood theorem, taxing the poor to give to the rich, all done under the mantle of “reform.” Consistently, predictably on the wrong side of issues, typically bought and paid for by the trade associations involved. They are always in search of new, regressive ways to finance this largesse, and predictably look in the direction of “unsustainable entitlement” programs, the fast movers of which are SSI and Medicare.

The students at Parkland fit the profile. Young, mostly minority backgrounds. We probably hear mostly from the kids who are on the student council and the debate club, the high achievers, but it appears to make no difference to students nationwide. All appear to be on board, regardless of their differences, and all are counting the days until they can register to vote and begin what they claim is a systematic process to remove legislators and politicians who are on the payroll of the terrorist organization called the NRA. And taking things from there. That’s a mouthful. Many of these kids have experienced gun violence up close and personal. Their credibility is unassailable.

Add to this new layer of outrage over guns the upcoming Great UnGerrymandering of the United States, and the ceaseless disgust/terror generated by Donald Trump–taking Congress in 2018 could be the first step in re-defining the Democratic party. The party of single-payer health care. The party of the modernizing of the American workforce and labor markets. The party of outlawing assault weapons, offering amnesty for their surrender, and getting every possible AK, Mac and AR off the streets of the U.S. Turning the War on Drugs into the War on Assault Weapons.

Ah, but single-issue voters, and the candidates who appeal to them, are dangerous, fully capable of spouting crackpot theories on lots of stuff. Personally, I can live with that. If I have a choice of two Democratic candidates for the same seat, both of whom promise to help outlaw assault weapons, I’d just vote for the less-crazy of the two. Most people would do the same. And if they’re against guns, they’re probably liberals; no need to worry about anti-LBGTQ stuff, etc., in the statehouse. This is the thinking of many single-issue voters on both sides. ‘As long as they’re this, I don’t care about that.’

Being a liberal would once again be okay. Revisions to the IRS code and statues governing entitlement programs would steepen the tax curve and the incidence thereof would fall, visibly, on the highest 10% of earners and asset-owners. The way God intended. The earnings cap on social security contributions would be removed, and SSI benefits would be means-tested, i.e., benefits would not available to rich people who don’t need them. Legislatively, this would represent hard cheese for the ruling class. It cannot and won’t get accomplished under the Mitch McConnells of the world. Never mind you know who.

Single-payer health insurance will need to be paid for and will necessitate a multitude of adjustments and changes for practically everyone. It will also take health care off the table, off the list of global-scale problems the U.S. needs to face up to. And it should lower the aggregate per capita cost of healthcare nationally. Medicare runs like a watch these days. Sell it to everyone. Eliminate the need for separate Medigap and prescription plans. Free preventive care and well-baby exams. To those who would shout that health care is not a right, I would say, “Step aside. Please. Your ideas are outmoded. Thank you for your service.”

Coincident with this must come serious efforts to install term, pension and compensation limits on elected officials, and to get private money out of elections. Repeal Citizens United. Remind ourselves that corporations are not people. Get real. The young people coming at you in a massive blue wave need you to get real and keep it real. About the heating of the planet, and the environment, the air and water. Plastics in the ocean.

They have an innate distrust of career politicians. They want to get rid of them, too, someday.

As 2018 approaches and the Mueller investigation begins its crescendo, this wave will attract growing attention from disaffected middle-class Trump supporters. It will begin to change the minds of adults. Back in 1972 I convinced my parents, both of whom were lifelong Dems, NOT to vote for Richard Nixon in his mismatch with George McGovern. They changed their minds, got crushed, and never stopped thanking me.

This new movement, comprised mostly of high school and college students, must make one of their primary goals the enlistment of their parents in this effort and this new approach to being governed. Though thoroughly earnest and completely energized—radicalized— by what has happened, they are currently few in number. Whatever their numbers today, they could quickly double them by getting their own parents on board, demonstrating and asking other parents to discuss the issue. This is how ideas gain momentum on the ground. Person-to-person with people you know.

We must also make it clear that our desires do not include properly-licensed and registered rifles, shotguns and handguns. Assault weapons only. This group of students, as brave and articulate as any adults, if and when it gets us sensible gun law reform, appears ready to take on the world. First, we must devote time, talent and treasure to the effort to attain critical mass in support of banning assault weapons. I believe we will attain critical mass and that the kids will cause the laws to change.

After all, they have a strong advantage—they are on the right side of history.

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Posted by: Bruce Allen | January 17, 2018

The Two-Front Wars Faced by Republicans in 2018 and 2020

The fracture in the Republican party, most evident in the House, painted on the side of the runaway truck that is the Freedom Caucus, promises those seeking re-election in the next few cycles cannon to the left, cannon to the right, and, directly before them, cannon  from Democrats, the former, and far more consuming fight an ugly primary with heavy fire coming from at least one side and possibly more.

With political campaigns becoming increasingly more organized around military concepts–needing a good ground (infantry) game, a well-greased effort with boots on the ground, superior deployments,  comms and network, great intelligence–House Republicans will find themselves fighting the quintessential two-front war, generally a recipe for disaster on the field. Moreover, the noticeable lack of enthusiasm amongst staunch Republicans, evidenced recently in Virginia and Alabama, suggests the conscripts may not be that geeked up about fighting hard for the incumbents.

So, hand-to-hand combat with another well-financed Republican in a long and ugly primary, attacking and defending, followed, if one survives, by a race against a Democrat sure to pin the indictments and failures of the Trump administration squarely on your back with a following that is fully charged up about ‘outing the bastards.’ Sounds great.

Sounds like what the 2018 midterms could bring. If Democrats take back both the Senate and the House, the odds of an across-the board rout by the Dems in 2020, including the White House, look good. The good news for Republicans is that many of the Freedom Caucus would get swept away in such a flood. The good news for Democrats is that the economy, by 2019 anyway, will have consumed most of the gains of the tax bill, with interest rates already having risen for months. Some of the wind will have started luffing the economy’s sails.

The only thing holding the Trump administration in the air is the economy/the stock market, both beginning to froth, lotta foam on the beer. Unemployment 4.1%, stock market gaining 1,000 points in seven trading days. But no inflation staring us in the face. Paul Krugman’s ‘liquidity trap’ appears, once again, to be firmly in place. Carmakers are offering 0% financing for 72 months, so they don’t seem to be worried about inflation. The Trump administration needs 2018 to be another brilliant year. It also needs 2019 to be yet another brilliant year. It needs the longest bull market in history (?) to continue apace for another 30 months. That’s a big ask, with China slowing down.

So, can the SCOTUS justices eager to retire hold on until November, and then perhaps until January, to allow centrist nominees to be reviewed by a Democratic-majority Senate? If so, the right-wing tide will have reached its zenith, and the receding water will return to normal, where the political left and center have more to say about how the government is run.  A world more cognizant of facts. A world that makes a little more sense.dropdead

As we watch the budget bill, government shutdown and DACA circling the bowl, we must acknowledge the futility of trying to convince congressional Republicans to grow a pair and do the right thing. These guys, and the lobbyists who finance their viability, are paid to NOT believe in climate change, are paid to NOT support immigration reform, are paid to NOT reform healthcare and the treatment of health insurers, and are paid NOT to lose the tax windfall accruing to their employers via “tax reform.”

Of the many ironies inbred in this conversation, the one that gets me occurs when the party that effectively controls all three branches of government (including both houses of congress) blames the minority party for any or all of the above. The fact is that Democrats have maintained a fairly consistent historical dogma in these areas, using both tax and debt to support expansionary government fiscal policy, to protect the national credit rating and the bond markets by NEVER defaulting on the deficit, and supporting the intent of DACA, to provide a better life for people who had no choice but to grow up in the U.S. and who are as woven into American culture as you or I.

Unlike most congressional Republicans, who find it necessary to get in line and get behind ideas once considered anathema to party pillars–fighting free trade; fighting against states’ rights, noticeably state policies concerning cannabis; fighting stability in bond and money markets, etc. Being forced to support this buffoon and his regressive tax policies and stolen supreme court nominee and gruesome healthcare bill. His bombast and bluster, his profanity, his retrograde notions of leadership and power. His recklessness with North Korea and most of the free world. His crudity, his generally rough, tactless, and emotionally-vacant demeanor.

Despite his best efforts, Trump still has thousands of government employees and contractors working “for him” who loathe him as a pyramid-head boss and as a person. Employees who must implement his policies/moods. People who, with 15 or 20 years in working for the “good” guys are not above a little “malicious obedience” when it comes to direction from the new nitwits upstairs.

The true targets of today’s headline is the Maginot Line of the president’s defense, Republicans in the House and Senate. It is these people whoa give the president political cover whenever his true colors shine through. It is these people who have chosen to believe that the president’s approval ratings cannot be glued to them, which, of course, is stupid and wrong. Who believe they can dump Trump in June when it becomes obvious the Democrats have assembled a tsunami of liberals, women, people of color, people with student loans, people who have lost health care, and people connected in any way to Puerto Rico.

People whose hatred of being governed by Republicans is reaching a crescendo. People whose fire will be stoked by indictments to come from Robert Mueller. People who are going to work tirelessly to get more people like themselves registered and prepared to vote on election day in November 2018. Joined by people who may have voted for Trump in 2016 but are disgusted by his pronouncements and provocations, his amateurish behavior as America’s point man. A sad, bloated carrot of a man who sits in bed, gorging on junk food, watching cable TV news, in a lather, angry at the world.

The only people left to protect him from leaders in both parties are people who are paid to protect him, either politically or policy-wise. Many of them are doing so reluctantly, looking for new jobs, preparing to bail out as soon as possible, having completed their year with the circus. Eight Republican committee chairman, who have accumulated power over decades, have recently resigned rather than face a brutal campaign from both sides in the fall. Their staffers, numbering in the dozens, will no longer be paid to think in a specific way.

In mid-January of 2018, the midterms are shaping up as a rout. How cool is that?

Broken_GOP image

Posted by: Bruce Allen | January 13, 2018

The Clock is Ticking for The Donald

Democrats and independent voters, along with an increasing number of straight-ticket Republicans, are enjoying watching the lights slowly and figuratively going on inside the head of Donald Trump. Trump, who for decades could have things exactly the way he liked them by snarling, snapping his fingers, and threatening to sue anyone who got in the way of his getting his way, is finding out that things don’t work that way in Washington.

During the 2016 election, the majority of Clinton voters would have told you that most if not all of Trump’s campaign promises were untenable. From jobs at Carrier Corporation in Indianapolis, which has sent almost 40% of the jobs Trump bragged about having saved, to Mexico in the past three months, to pulling the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal. From implementing a “beautiful health plan for all, you’re going to love it, believe me” to advancing the damage of an already-damaged ACA. True, he helped hijack a supreme court nominee, and rammed a grossly regressive tax plan through the chests of democrats.

Utility companies have announced plans to close and/or convert a record number of plants from coal to natural gas in 2018. The heavily-promised jobs in the coalfield are not coming back. China is cutting back its consumption of coal in favor of natural gas and renewables.

The Wall, once the central plank of his many momentary platforms, will not be the monolith he portrayed during the campaign. It most certainly won’t be paid for by Mexico. His America First program, when examining foreign trade, will reduce the size of the market available to American manufacturers from $21 trillion, across the globe, to $4 trillion, the size of the US economy. The World market can survive much more easily without the U.S. than the U.S. can survive the loss of the World market. Not gonna happen.

Meaningful immigration reform–not gonna happen. DACA and a long term budget agreement–not gonna happen. Even infrastructure, once considered a bipartisan slam dunk, is not gonna happen in any meaningful way. Which is okay, actually, in that the economy is doing pretty well without more fiscal stimulus.

The Russia story does not go away because Trump wants it to. On the contrary, it seems to grow like a snowball rolling down the side of a snow-covered hill, baby. It’s always been about obstruction of justice, the justice to be enforced for money laundering, doing business with Russian oligarch banks which, in turn, leads to blackmail from Putin on behalf of his oligarch buds. “Donald, we have no interest in releasing documents relating to your ownership position, and leverage, in these Russian businesses. None. It is my job to ensure they do not leak. It is far easier for me to attend to this if I am not being whipsawn by questions relating to collusion Every. Single. Day. Kindly make these questions go away.”

He simply can’t keep most of his campaign promises, as they were a fantasy to begin with. His political capital is virtually gone. He has no political strategy and no one to help him develop one, with Sloppy Steve now pissing outside the tent. More indictments–Don Jr., Jared, family–are going to come down any day. McMasters and McGahan are history; Gary Cohn won’t be far behind them. There are virtually no capable candidates to replace them.

So, Trump’s political viability now depends upon the November mid-terms. If, as expected, the House turns over to the Dems, and perhaps the Senate, too, all will be lost for him. His Maginot Line, the Republican majority on the Hill, will have been breached, with nothing standing between constitutional process and his own disgrace but, well, nothing.

By then, the Trumpian dismantling of the United States as a functioning bureaucracy and world leader will have had another year to undercut American institutions, values and conventions. China will be a major beneficiary of the fact that Russia is playing us for a rube. We are taking every bait Putin offers Trump, and the Chinese are buying the world, especially the “shithole” countries. Not surprisingly, these countries react better to a prospective ally with money to invest and who does not call them a shithole country, than they do to one that threatens to take away money, and calls them a shithole country. China’s Vampire Squid plan, to suck out every third world natural resource on the globe through the blood funnel of international trade, is being abetted by Trump’s ignorance and crudity.

Once Congressional Republicans internalize the fact that their support for Trump at this time amounts to obstruction of justice, they may or may not react. So far, most haven’t. Many are choosing retirement rather than facing the passenger train of national anger likely to arrive in November. Mueller, who runs a tight ship, is likely to start making noise in the spring and summer. Getting the prosecutorial flywheel up to speed.

Democrats can hear, in the faint distance, the sound of a heavy train picking up speed. Onboard the train will be registered Democrats and independents, women, people of color, moderate Republicans, people with student loans, people who have lost their health insurance, people who have seen their paychecks go up by $17 a month since the tax bill passed and that Warren Buffet’s companies stand to gain $37 billion.

If both the Senate and House turn over, there is little doubt that impeachment proceedings will commence early in 2019. By then Trump will have likely offended his last remaining apologists in Congress. Someone, a Marc Rubio perhaps, will stand up and proclaim himself The Opportunistic and Loyal Opposition Personified, in early 2019, preparing for a primary challenge to Trump, in the unlikely event he is still around, winning, for the 2020 presidential nomination.

Beginning in January of 2019, Democrats on the Hill may be able to attract sufficient “safe” Republican senators and representatives to be able to override presidential vetoes. This would offer a profound opportunity to stop the bleeding that has marked the Trump administration, that will portray him as an obscenely bad joke, an interloper in the basically decent parade of American presidents. One who is, contrary to his repeated false and vulgar statements, not winning, and not making America great again.

The Republican party is going to have to answer for their enabling support of Donald Trump, of putting party before country. Another congressional committee chair retired just today, wanting to distance himself from the tsunami gathering in the Pacific. Part of the epidemic among centrist Republicans of suddenly wanting to spend more time with their families.

Patriots should brace themselves. Democracy is under assault. The Battle of the Bulge is in front of us. Until Trump is convinced of his own political death, he will fight harder and dirtier than anything we’ve ever seen. Robert Mueller must time his actions right, and this will end well for those who see themselves as Americans first and party members second.

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Posted by: Bruce Allen | January 8, 2018

A Letter To Sen. John Cornyn

dropdeadI am mailing hard copies of the following letter to senators Cornyn and Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, and The Sad Bloated Carrot. We old hippies love the Futile Symbolic Gesture. Any reader wishing to cut and paste pieces of it in a letter to their own senators and representatives is welcome to do so.

Carmel, Indiana 46033
January 8, 2018

The Hon. Senator John Cornyn
517 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear John—

You attended Rock Creek Palisades elementary school in Kensington, Maryland in the early 1960’s for a year or two. We were classmates. My old friend Don Kaiser remembers enjoying your “friendship, good nature, and common sense.” He tells a story about your father returning from a WWII German POW camp saying that Wonder Bread tasted like cake after so long eating rough black bread in captivity. I remember you as having a squeaky laugh and not knowing exactly how to ride a two-wheeled bike. But I digress.

Since we left Kensington, I picked up an honors degree in economics and a free ride to Michigan State University for a masters in environmental policy. I know a little more than nothing about what I’m fixing to share with you.

As a lifelong yellow dog Democrat (my mom was born and raised in Ft. Worth), I know that you, and many of your colleagues on the majority side of the aisle, are not unaware that the President is on an unsustainable path. Your party’s leadership—sorry, including you so far—has been unwilling or unable to “encourage” him to temper his outbursts, for the sake of the country. Many in your party stand accused of enabling his authoritarian impulses through sins of omission. He has policy moods, not policy positions. There seems to be a great fear of Trump’s “deplorables” among the usually-lucid moderate wing of your party. These politicians need a leader. As the #2 Republican in the Senate, I’m writing in the hope that you will rise to the occasion and become that leader.

I remember Warren Magnuson, Edward Brooke, Mac Mathias, Charles Percy, Richard Lugar and many other Republicans from those grade school days, loyal party members who would NEVER have considered falling in line with Mr. Trump. These were statesmen, not just politicians. To borrow from Peter, Paul & Mary, Where Have All the Statesmen Gone?

Here’s what I don’t get. How can anyone who calls himself a loyal Republican stand up, look the other way, and allow Donald Trump to eviscerate the party of Abraham Lincoln? If he were still a Democrat and spent his time stomping on the legacy of Franklin Roosevelt, I believe a majority of Democrats would already be beavering away at getting him out of the White House, either via the 25th amendment, impeachment, or tied to a gurney. Yet you and your colleagues seem to stand by and watch, embarrassed, rooted to the ground, unwilling, unable or lacking the political courage to stand up and say, “Enough. Cease and desist, or become the second President in 50 years to be forced to resign.” Or, in Trump’s case, the first to go to the mattresses and barricade himself in the White House, tweeting his way to oblivion.

Don Kaiser believes you love your country; I share his belief, but don’t hold it as strongly as he does. He thinks letters like this will have some effect on your leadership. I told him I expect an off-subject form letter in response, if anything at all.

It’s now 2018, and it looks like the midterms are going to be a disastrous for your party. Your majority in the Senate couldn’t be any thinner. Your feckless colleague Mr. Cruz might be in trouble—I would loudly applaud that—and the Dems are going to take over the House. It’s going to be a mad scramble for governors, mayors and state legislatures. Needless to say, the political landscape promises to be substantially altered by this time next year. Should the SCOTUS strike down gerrymandering, the Democrats, despite themselves, shall rise again.

The majority of Republicans—the ones who don’t use their Social Security checks to purchase sun bonnets for their race horses—will have seen, by November, that their paychecks have only grown at the margin while the benefits accruing to corporations and wealthy donor-types will be measured in tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars. They will gradually arrive at the conclusion that Mr. Trump doesn’t really give a rip about them or anyone else, for that matter. They will see more and more of the Trumpistas getting indicted and making deals, lighting even more of a fire under the lunatic in the White House. And anything resembling a shooting war on the Korean peninsula or the South China Sea will be lethal for your party and perhaps the entire globe.

Time and time again, more and more in recent years, we elitists have watched congressional Republicans choose party over country. Healthcare and “tax reform” are but the latest examples. A great many Republicans, I believe, go to bed worried about what Trump might do tomorrow, after having spent the day asleep at the wheel, oblivious to what he might have done just today.

Neither party appears overly concerned about the existential threat to the planet in the way of climate change. You have read history and know that once-great civilizations fall; leaders like Trump almost always pave the way. Athens and Rome are now simply tourist destinations, not the hubs of civilization they once were. There’s no obvious reason why Washington, D.C. could not join them. Not today and not tomorrow, but within the lifetimes of your own grandchildren and mine. The Great Migration from the American Southwest, including Texas, to Canada in search of drinking water and relief from the summer heat will not begin until later in this century.

On behalf of your classmates from grade school and Americans across the country, please do not stand aside and allow Donald Trump, whom history will regard as an obscenely bad joke, to gut this country. Most of the damage he has done, with the complicity of your party, can be un-done, although it may take decades. You are in a position to exercise a particularly American virtue—political courage—and save us, our national reputation as the land of the free and the home of the brave, and our children’s futures, by drawing a line in the sand and organizing resistance inside the Republican Party. Doing so may run counter to your own political interests, but it will help you greatly if and when we all stand before God and explain why he shouldn’t consign us to the pit.

Please deliver us from the worst President ever. The whole world’s watching.

Very truly yours,

Bruce Allen

cc: Don Kaiser
The Hon. Charles Schumer
The Hon. Nancy Pelosi
Donald J. Trump

Posted by: Bruce Allen | December 22, 2017

Republicans Giddily Overplaying their Hand. Again.

Dear Mr. BruAl–

What are ya, nuts? You actually think the Democrats can take control of both houses of Congress in 2018? You pansy.

–Disappointed in Denver

Dear Disappointed–

The passage of the Republican tax reform bill, in confluence with the “normal” two year political cycle, several possible Supreme Court nominations, government funding cliffs and more has 2018 shaping up to be another textbook example of Republicans overplaying their hand.

The main point here has to do with the tax bill. Some of the piddly changes in withholding rates will kick in early in the year, along with more-than offsetting increases in healthcare expenses. For many working class people, any real benefit (say in the form of an increased standard deduction) won’t even be recognized until three months after the mid-term elections.

In the meantime, as in 24 hours a day all year, big news channels will be reminding voters of the billions of dollars of extra cash the bill provides business owners and corporations which will likely help to inflate stock markets and 401(k) plans for those that have them. Given the fact that we are at full employment at present and that interest rates are rising, such a boost, in macro terms, is, at best, badly mis-timed.

One might argue that the point of the tax plan is to raise wages. A number of companies have acknowledged their impending tax windfalls and have announced small, one-time year-end bonuses for hourly workers attributable to the new law. But increased healthcare expenses, especially for smaller companies, will probably more than offset any reduced withholding for workers in 2018. Bottom line: Voters will see how good the Republican tax plan is for companies and business owners. They will be told about how good it is for the wealthy, with specific examples cited. “Brad Pitt saves $7 million in taxes this year. Find out how!” They will feel nothing. They will be pissed.

While inflation, in the form of too many dollars chasing too few goods, is pretty much guaranteed, higher wages, The Great Equalizer, are not. They depend upon the beneficence of employers and whether they choose to produce inflated returns to shareholders (themselves), or, instead, choose to provide higher wages for their “most valuable assets.” For consumers, any revolving debt at a pegged rate will become more painful. For the vast majority of voters, they will have seen next to no benefit from the Republican tax plan while watching TV and reading headlines about how the stock market is going up, how the rich are now getting richer and what a relief that is.

The 2018 elections are in November, when folks have had almost another full year to learn to dislike being governed by Republicans, who line their own pockets and those of their donors in broad daylight, who casually run up the deficit while excoriating Democratic presidents who might venture to do the same. Who, over and over again, expose themselves for being the hypocrites they are.

In discussing taxes, one should examine the “incidence” of a tax–who pays it. In this case, this wealth transfer will shift more of the incidence to middle class taxpayers and less to upper income taxpayers and business owners. The people in the bottom 20th percentile of incomes won’t feel a thing unless inflation, which hasn’t been around in over a decade, shows up again, in which case they will feel a reduction in their purchasing power at the grocery store and rental office.

So. No tax relief for the Base. No health plan. No immigration plan. No infrastructure plan. No budget plan. No wall. No workforce redevelopment plan. Plenty of indictments starting to fly around; my money says Jared is next. Members of the president’s family will be under indictment. Firing the special prosecutor is political suicide. What’s a blundering neofascist to do?

Polls suggest a Democratic uprising in 2018 while Republican malaise builds. For Republicans, the Senate is almost surely lost. The House is in play and in real danger of being lost. Trump has used up what little political capital he ever had, which wasn’t much. Everyone wants him to leave before there’s no United States of America left. Should he escape removal from office, he is likely to face an all-Democratic Hill that will want nothing more than to thwart his every move for the last two years of his last term.

Tread gently, Republicans.

Posted by: Bruce Allen | December 20, 2017

Tax Reform 2017 LOL

Dear Mr. BruAl–

What’s up with this big tax bill the Republicans just passed? Am I going to see more money in my paycheck?

–Confused in Columbus

Dear Confused–

Excuse me while I wipe the tears of laughter from my eyes about your “more money in my paycheck” question. But yes, maybe $15 or even $20 a month, starting in February. You may be thinking about all the lifestyle changes that extra dough is going to provide you and your family, but probably not.

From a macro point of view, the only POV of which I’m capable, the bill amounts to a “wealth transfer” in the amount of $1.5 trillion from the vanishing middle class to the wealthy. THE MARGINAL TAX RATE ON PASSIVE INCOME IS LESS THAN THAT ON MOST WORK INCOME. Which means the tax “reform” Republicans are crowing about, the new and improved U.S. Tax Code, now values wealth over work. If you’ve already got it, you’ve got it made. If you don’t, good luck getting there.

The expansive effects of the bill are overstated for several obvious reasons. One, the wealthy have a lower propensity to spend additional marginal income, instead tossing it into vaults on top of the wealth they’ve already accumulated. In many cases, they are unable to spend all the money they have, regardless of how hard they try. So, with 80-some percent of the $1.5 trillion going to people who’ve already got plenty, less of it will find its way back into the economy than if it were given to people who actually need it.

Second, business owners who have been paying a 37% marginal tax rate (now 21%) may find themselves with a formidable annual windfall of  investable cash beginning later in 2018. Most are not going to use it to create new jobs. The smart ones are going to take a bunch home and stash it and use what’s left to buy technology that will REPLACE jobs, reducing head count in the future while maintaining production rates and improving quality.

Finally, as we’ve observed here before, the economy is at full employment–disregarding the huge disconnect between the skills the millions of unemployed have and the skills that companies with openings are seeking. The stock markets are at or near all-time highs. Interest rates are already rising in advance of the tax cut. Any of the $1.5 trillion that does find its way into the economy is likely to be inflationary, in that the economy is already strong.

The Republicans are at risk of over-heating the economy the way the Democrats did in the 60’s. A series of hard left jabs from The War on Poverty combined with the knockout overhand right of The Vietnam War resulted, after a lag of several years, in “stagflation,” elevated unemployment, a stock market wipeout and the highest interest rates in modern history. Such is unlikely to re-occur, but why give it a chance?

The newly-“reformed” tax code itself will remain what it’s always been–a tool for implementing social policy. Our collective social conscience has just taken a large hit in this reverse Robin Hood scenario, these hypocrites stealing from the poor to give to the rich, while telling their somewhat gullible Base that they’re making out like bandits. One can only hope that the few positive changes working people see next spring, after they’ve filed their returns, will allow them to understand they’ve been had, and remind them they can express their displeasure during the mid-term elections in November.

Republicans now own tax and healthcare policy. No more blaming Obama or Hillary or Harry Truman. If people become upset, they need to be upset with Republicans.

My grandson asked me last night if the new tax bill was good for me. I told him no. I lied. It will be good for us, only because our situation is somewhat different from most taxpayers. It is the only tax bill ever passed in the Senate without support from at least one minority member. It removes the individual mandate for 13 million healthy people, guaranteeing significant health insurance premium increases for those insured under what’s left of the ACA. Guys like Trump and Mnuchin and Ross make out like BANDITS. Bandits, I tell you.

It is lousy legislation and should come back to haunt Republicans next year. Before they have a chance to steal from everyone’s Social Security and begin effing with Medicare. Republicans are free, willing and able to break their own promises–paging Bob Corker–but they should not be able to break promises made by American statesmen and politicians since the 1930’s.

Posted by: Bruce Allen | December 11, 2017

Snippet: On Naming Storms

Back in the olden days, the only storms that earned names were hurricanes, and they were always women’s names. That, in itself, is fodder for a separate rant. Now that we’re fully gender-equalized in the naming of storms, and now that we assign anything remotely resembling a storm a name (Tropical Depression Liziqua), and given our aversion to repeating ourselves–Winter Storm Benji just blew through New England–we are at risk of trivializing tragic occurrences for individuals caught in one of these poorly-named natural disasters.

Readers will forgive me for this, but it’s the reason I write this stuff down.

This trend is likely to produce heartbreaking quotes like these in local newspapers:

“Yep, her and her brothers and alla them got swept out by Cadwallader.”

“Back in ought ’20 about 25 people froze to death during Bubbles.”

“My husband fell off the roof shoveling snow after Zyprexia.”

“During Mudslide Slim the entire cul-de-sac just fell onto the beach.”

“It was Hurricane Nimrod that changed our lives forever.”

We should direct The People in Charge of this stuff at NOAA to address this issue and return to the practice of assigning regular old names to these storms, especially avoiding those associated with strippers, dogs and cats. No one wants to write notes to the deceased’s friends advising them that Aunt Ellen was a victim of Benji, or Trixie, or Fluffy.

Just sayin’.

cropped-reflections-by-garry.jpg

 

Posted by: Bruce Allen | November 26, 2017

Snippet: Self-Driving Cars Making Moral Decisions

So here’s the article in USA Today which sparked this snippet.  It asserts that, in the event of unavoidable accidents, self-driving cars will be programmed to make instantaneous moral decisions as to who survives a crash and who doesn’t.

Granted, the occasions in which this occurs–a kid darting out from between cars, a school bus suddenly veering into your lane–are rare, but they are real. Up until now, humans have dealt with them when they do occur, usually poorly. I think it’s safe to say, however, that in the vast majority of human-driven car accidents, the driver’s instinctive reaction is to save himself. Self-preservation, after all, sits at the top of everyone’s subconscious to-do list.

The manufacturers engaged in making this a full-fledged industry are being roundly criticized for programming their cars to act the same way human do, i.e., to protect the driver at the expense of the unexpected child or bus. Or, one supposes, passenger.

Regardless of whether it’s a child or a bus, the lawsuit(s) emerging from such an accident would be monumental. If Daimler Benz, for example, were found liable for programming a car to kill a child, as the headlines would scream, it could put the entire industry at risk.

Personally, I’ve had enough computer issues during my life to pretty much swear off the purchase of a self-driving car if at all possible. If I’m going to be involved in an automobile accident, I would strongly prefer it be caused by “human error,” i.e., mine, than by “computer error.” I don’t want to get t-boned by some moron texting his girlfriend, and I don’t want to go hurtling over a cliff because the computer driving my car hiccupped when I hit a pothole. Just sayin’.

Posted by: Bruce Allen | November 22, 2017

Snippet: ACA Dismemberment

© Snippets by Bruce Allen

The Republicans and the Individual Mandate. Headline:

Murkowski caves

Photo courtesy Huffington Post

Lisa Murkowski Says She’s OK With Killing The Health Insurance Mandate
Projections suggest millions will lose coverage; the Alaska senator says she simply wants to allow choice.                                            

The argument being thrown around is mis-framed. The Individual Mandate controversy needs to be broken down into two groups–those who can’t afford it (but may desperately want it), and those who can but who choose not to purchase health insurance. It’s this second group to whom the Republicans are appealing, and the reason it’s so maddening and hypocritical is because the sentence itself has been truncated. The sentence should read: “… and those who can but who choose not to purchase health insurance, preferring instead to stick emergency rooms and hospitals with unpaid bills that ultimately get paid by taxpayers, one way or another.”

The miscreants who once thought of themselves as the party of Rugged Individualists are now basing their health plan on the following proposition: “Say, pal, would you rather have healthcare that YOU have to pay for, or healthcare that SOMEBODY ELSE has to pay for that’s free to you?  Oh, and, by the way, our plan will save you even more money by stiffing those poor schmucks that can’t afford insurance. When the bills come due and the Federal deficit expands, we’ll just blame Obama. Don’t be a sucker. What’ll it be?”

I refuse not to be offended by this type of politics.

 

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