Paul Ryan’s false claim that ‘because of Obamacare, Medicare is going broke’

The Affordable Care Act actually strengthened the near-term outlook of the Part A trust fund. The law includes a 0.9 percent payroll tax that hits the wages and self-employment income of wealthier Americans — above $250,000 per couple or $200,000 for a single taxpayer. That was estimated to raise an additional $63 billion for the Part A trust fund between 2010 and 2019. The law also was estimated to cut expenses, including $162 billion in productivity adjustments to provider payments and $86 billion in reduced payments to Medicare Advantage plans.

The net result was that the “insolvency” date was extended by 12 years . Before the law was passed, the trustees said in 2009, the fund was going to be depleted in 2017. “The short-range financial outlook for the HI [hospital insurance] trust fund is substantially more favorable than projected in last year’s annual report, primarily as a result of the Affordable Care Act,” the Medicare trustees said in their 2010 report, saying the fund would last until 2029.

In the 2016 trustees report, the fund was estimated to be depleted in 2028, two years earlier than the 2015 report, primarily because the consumer price index, representing inflation, did not rise as much as anticipated, reducing income projections. (In the long run, however, lower inflation will also reduce Medicare expenditures.) But that’s unrelated to the Affordable Care Act.

In fact, Republicans have vowed to repeal Obamacare, which would in turn make the trust fund’s situation instantly worse unless lawmakers found a way to make up the payroll tax revenue and program savings embedded in the Affordable Care Act.

the House speaker really went off the rails when he said on national television that Obamacare is making the program go broke. That’s the exact opposite of what happened.

Four Pinocchios

(Excerpted from Fact Checker, Washington Post 11/14/16)

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Against Trumpian triumphalism

Let’s be clear: The United States of America is not Donald Trump’s country.

When all the returns are in, Hillary Clinton will emerge with a popular vote lead of some 1.5 million to 2 million votes, according to estimates by both Nate Cohn of the New York Times and Henry Olsen, a conservative voting analyst whose pre-election predictions were close to the actual results.

To point out Clinton’s popular-vote advantage is not a form of liberal denial. It’s a way of beginning to build a barricade against right-wing triumphalism — and of reminding immigrants, Muslims, African Americans, Latinos and, yes, our daughters that most Americans stood with them on Election Day.

It is also not true that the emerging political coalition that elected President Obama died on Nov. 8. That alliance maintained its national advantage, as the popular vote shows, and came within a whisker in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan of delivering the election to Clinton despite an onslaught of partisan congressional investigations, Russian meddling and the last-minute political intervention of the FBI.

But there is one piece of the post-election conventional wisdom that is importantly right, yet in ways more complicated than we progressives might wish.

Those who touted the power of the Obama coalition made the grave miscalculation of forgetting that white working-class voters were essential to making the new alliance work. Democrats sorely need to recover ground with white working-class voters, especially after learning that even a candidate as troubling as Trump could not sufficiently loosen the Republican loyalties of many among the college educated — particularly men.

Still, progressives hoping that a heavy dose of populism will be enough to win back the working class must not be under the illusion that the Trump constituency was motivated solely by economics.

In fact, Trump’s immigration stand (he won 86 percent of voters who want to build a wall on the Mexican border, according to CNN’s exit polls ) and his law-and-order appeal (he won 74 percent among those who rejected the idea that the criminal justice system treats black Americans unfairly) were key to his victory. When exit pollsters asked voters to name the most important issue facing the country, he won among those who listed immigration or terrorism; he lost among those who cited the economy. Trump’s hard-edged social conservatism, not just a general anti- establishment appeal, drove up white turnout in many key counties.

(Excerpted from Dionne, Washington Post 11/13/16)

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A clean shave for President Trump — but not a free one

Herblock, the legendary Post cartoonist, spent decades depicting Richard Nixon as a sinister figure with a 5 o’clock shadow. The day after the 1968 election, Herblock sat down to draw the cartoonist’s office as a barbershop, a paper taped to the wall: “This shop gives to every new president of the United States a free shave.” Signed, “H. Block, proprietor.”

Herblock later explained his decision to employ a healing razor: “In spite of his past, it seemed to me that an incoming president, particularly at a time of national divisions and crisis, was entitled to his chance to lead.”

So is President-elect Donald Trump.

His clean shave does not mandate our empty mind. Not about the repulsive things Trump has said and done, nor about his manifest unfitness and unpreparedness for office. Nor does it signify naive optimism about Trump’s willingness — or even his capacity — to change. As Herblock discovered, which surely did not surprise him, “it turned out to be the same old Nixon.”

A clean shave should not be a free one. The price for Trump must be, first, a recognition of reality: that a majority of voters did not support him — indeed, that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. Second, Trump as president-elect, and as president, must demonstrate some comprehension of constitutional norms.

On these, the evidence, post-election, is unnervingly mixed. Trump struck the right tone in his victory speech and his White House visit. He spoke of the need to “bind the wounds of division.” He pledged “to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans.”

And then there was Thursday night’s ominous tweet, characteristically thin-skinned and dismissive of free speech. “Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!”

Trump — or a grown-up with access to his Twitter account and some understanding of the Constitution — cleaned things up early Friday morning. “Love the fact that the small groups of protesters last night have passion for our great country.”

The cynical way to understand this about-face is that Thursday Night Trump is the real, unexpurgated Trump; and Friday Morning Trump is the spin-doctored version. That this is almost certainly accurate — no one thinks Trump woke up and thought better of his intemperate words on his own — does not answer the more salient question: Which Trump will emerge as president?

And will he assemble a Team of Inciters that inflames his worst instincts or a Team of Naysayers that tempers them?

Thursday morning, Rudy Giuliani, a potential attorney general, popped off on “the very close question” of whether to prosecute Clinton.

“It’s been a tradition in our politics to put things behind us,” Giuliani told CNN. Still, he said, “suppose somebody comes along a year from now and is alleged to have stolen $50,000 from a charity — and [she] was never investigated for hundreds of millions.” This is Giuliani deranged, not for the first time this election. No one has suggested Clinton stole anything from the foundation.

A clean shave — sure. But it can only last so long, and the shadow looms.

(Excerpted from Marcus, Washington Post 11/11/16)

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Donald Trump’s questionable ‘blind trust’ setup just got more questionable

Donald Trump’s decision to leave his children in control of his fortune during his presidency was already an unusual and eyebrow-raising setup. And on Friday, it became even more so.

A day after Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, announced that Trump’s three oldest children — Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric — would control what he labeled a “blind trust” for the president-elect, the Trump campaign announced Friday afternoon that all three would also serve on Trump’s presidential transition team executive committee.

In that role, the trio will have input when it comes to the people Trump picks for key administration posts.

Watchdogs who were critical of Trump’s “blind trust” in the first place say this proves that the lines between President Trump and his money will be too fuzzy under this setup.

“The fact that they have been included as part of the transition team just shows how inappropriate their role in bridging the gap between him as a businessman and politician is,” said Meredith McGehee, a strategic adviser at the Campaign Legal Center. “It’s a clear demonstration that there is no firewall between the two.”

McGehee and others have also cast doubt on the idea that the so-called “blind trust” is actually blind at all. She calls it a “one-eye-closed-and-one-eye-open trust.”

In addition to blurring the line between Trump’s presidency and his money, skeptics note that his children will now also have control over the people who will be put in charge of regulatory decisions that could affect his multi-billion-dollar fortune.

Karen Hobart Flynn, president of Common Cause: “Having your children run your business is not a blind trust no matter what his attorneys choose to call it. And having those same children involved in the transition only compounds the conflict.”

(Excerpted from Blaske, Washington Post 11/11/16)

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Donors and lobbyists already shaping Trump’s ‘drain the swamp’ administration

The chant echoed through Donald Trump’s boisterous rallies leading up to Election Day: “Drain the swamp! Drain the swamp! Drain the swamp!”

“We are fighting for every citizen that believes that government should serve the people, not the donors and not the special interests,” the billionaire real estate developer promised exuberant supporters at his last campaign rally in Manchester, N.H.

But just days later, there is little evidence that the president-elect is seeking to restrain wealthy interests from having access and influence in his administration.

It’s not just corporate lobbyists who are playing early, visible roles in the new power structure. Some of Trump’s biggest political donors are shaping the incoming administration

Meanwhile, top campaign fundraisers and a raft of lobbyists tied to some of the country’s wealthiest industries have been put in charge of hiring and planning for specific federal agencies. They include J. Steven Hart, chairman of the law and lobbying shop Williams & Jensen; Michael McKenna, an energy company lobbyist who is overseeing planning for the Energy Department; and Dallas fundraiser Ray Washburne, was has been tapped to oversee the Commerce Department.

On Friday, the Trump Organization said it was focused on identifying how to “immediately transfer” management to his three oldest children — an arrangement government ethics experts said was fraught with conflicts, particularly since his children are also helping oversee the transition.

Meredith McGehee, who heads policy and strategy for Issue One, a bipartisan group that aims to reduce the influence of wealthy interests on politics, said there is “tremendous dissonance” between Trump’s rhetoric and early actions.

“Much of what he said was, ‘I’m going to change the game,’ ” she said. “Of all of his messages, that one I think clearly resonated the strongest. That’s going to be in­cred­ibly difficult when the people you bring in are the experts at making the game work for them.”

Trump aides and transition officials did not respond to repeated requests for comment about what role donors and lobbyists will play in the administration.

(Excerpted from Washington Post 11/11/16)

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What Democrats Need to Do

Republicans now control the presidency, the Senate, the House and will likely soon control the Supreme Court. Even more important, a radicalized version of Republicanism will likely dominate those institutions.

It’s true that the Senate does not have a 60-vote, filibuster-proof majority. But Senate rules allow a simple majority to pass budget bills, and Republican leaders may weaken the filibuster anyway.

What can the Democrats do about all this? First, they can show the same unity and discipline that Senate Republicans had during the Obama years, albeit to a different end. They can offer to work with Republicans on sensible compromises, especially with Trump, given his uncertain allegiances — and Democrats can outright oppose any partisan bill that hurts ordinary Americans.

Some shrewd observers expect Republicans to have little interest in compromise. The Republican agenda “is going to happen,” Theda Skocpol, a Harvard professor, told me, “and there is nothing Democrats can do to stop it.”

Democrats would then have only one good option: describing what was really happening, clearly and repeatedly.

“Repealing Obamacare” will mean taking health insurance — and, by extension, medical care — from millions of people (including many lower- and middle-income whites). Trump’s proposed tax cut will bestow an average $1.1 million tax cut on the top 0.1 percent of earners. The resulting lack of government funds will rob schools and promising medical research of funding. Rolling back environmental regulations will increase pollution and its adverse effects on health and, most worrisomely, the damage from climate change.

Democrats can’t simply foment during press conferences in the halls of Congress. They need an outside game too, one based in individual states, that provides tangible examples of how these policies will change people’s lives.

I don’t want to sugarcoat reality. The immediate future will include a lot of changes that will make life harder for many Americans.

Building the support to reverse those reversals starts now.

(Excerpted from

(Excepted from Leonhardt New York Times 11/10/16)

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Being American in the Trump Years

It’s a strange, distressing situation for citizens to be in — to acknowledge the danger of having a reckless, unqualified leader, while maintaining respect for the office he holds. But we cannot give in to fear or despondency. There is too much to be done.

There is a planet to save. The earth is in peril from a changing climate no matter how many deniers say otherwise. There may be millions of immigrants to shield from a Trump homeland-enforcement regime. State and local governments may need to step in if the federal government retreats from protecting consumers or helping educate children. And there may be sick people to care for, should Mr. Trump dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

All Americans can help in this work, whether as activists or volunteers, or simply as neighbors who show, through reaching out to someone who looks or worships differently than they do, that they reject bigotry, misogyny and fear. Let’s give Mrs. Clinton the last word, an exhortation to young people who supported her candidacy and the values it embodied. “This loss hurts, but please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it,” she said. “We need you to keep up these fights now and for the rest of your lives.”

(Excerpted from New York Times 11/10/16)

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November 2016 Newsletter

trumpkinsRead the November 2016 Newsletter to find out how you can help with the GOTV efforts.  Also, read interviews with candidates and find out about other recent events like our Trumpkin carving contest!

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October 2016 Newsletter

Read the October 2016 Newsletter to find out about Operation Deep Blue, Muleskinners events, and to read interviews by local candidates!

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Missouri senator took campaign cash from schools accused of ripping off students

For the past two years, Sen. Roy Blunt has been a powerful ally to the nation’s beleaguered for-profit colleges as they fight government regulation.

At the same time, the industry and its lobbyists have funneled at least $100,000 in campaign donations to the Missouri Republican.

That total is a fraction of the $14.6 million Blunt has raised overall in his re-election effort.

But the money from for-profit colleges – and Blunt’s personal connections with lobbyists – closely tie the former college president from Springfield, Missouri, to an industry under attack for its business practices and, some say, for ripping off students.
Steve Gunderson, president of a for-profit college trade association

His influence may prove critical for the profit-driven schools during an especially tough era:

▪ More than two dozen companies that operate for-profit colleges have come under investigation by federal agencies and state attorneys general on suspicion of fraud and other illegal activity.

▪ Their businesses rely heavily on U.S. taxpayers for revenue, from both federal student aid programs and veterans’ GI Bill benefits.

▪ Blunt is the second-highest recipient in the Senate of donations in the 2016 election from individuals who work for for-profit education companies and their political action committees, with a total of $28,800. He’s gotten at least $73,550 more from lobbyists hired by for-profits, and an unknown amount from fundraisers those lobbyists threw for him, according to an analysis of public records by McClatchy.

▪ At least four times, Blunt’s campaign cashed checks from lobbyists within days of the senator taking action in the Senate that would have helped their for-profit client, Bridgepoint Education. The company recently agreed to forgive $24 million in private student loan debt after allegedly misleading students about repayment costs.

(Excerpted from Kansas City Star 10/31/16)

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Missouri Senate Republicans offer private dinners for campaign contributions

Kansas City’s Hotel Sorella on the Country Club Plaza will host a three-day retreat for Republican state senators later this month. And for the right price, donors can purchase face-to-face meetings with GOP leaders when they return to the state Capitol to begin legislating in January.

According to an invitation to the event, a $5,000 donation to the Missouri Senate Campaign Committee — which helps fund GOP candidates for the state Senate — buys four tickets to a Nov. 16 tour of Arrowhead Stadium.

After the tour, there will be dinner and cocktails.

Perhaps more importantly, though, is that the donation also buys dinner during the first two weeks of the 2017 legislative session with the entire Senate leadership team.

A $2,500 donation buys two tickets to the Arrowhead Stadium tour, dinner and cocktails. For that price, the donor gets breakfast during the first two weeks of the 2017 session with Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard and Majority Leader Mike Kehoe.

Both the dinner and breakfast sessions with senate leaders will take place in Jefferson City.

A $1,000 donation only buys two tickets for the Arrowhead Stadium event.

“The Senate majority caucus’ scheme to sell access to Senate majority leadership is a new low for ethics in Jefferson City,” said Laura Swinford, executive director of the liberal advocacy group Progress Missouri.

The Senate caught flak earlier this year after a report by Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway criticized a bank account operated by the Senate outside the state treasury for the purpose of soliciting contributions from lobbyists to pay for meals. Galloway, a Democrat, said the fund is unconstitutional and could create a conflict of interest.

Her conclusions were nearly identical to those of former state Auditor Tom Schweich, a Republican.

(Excerpted from Kansas City Star 11/01/16)

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Jason Kander for U.S. Senate

Blunt, 66, is the consummate Washington insider. While that can work to Missouri’s benefit, he has repeatedly ignored conflicts of interest and allowed family lobby-related business interests to interfere with his legislative responsibilities. He embraces Donald Trump’s candidacy. Blunt defines the Washington problem, not the solution.

It’s time for him to go. Missourians cannot continue electing divisive politicians like Blunt, hoping they’ll heal the nation’s wounds.

This newspaper endorses Kander, 35, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan with a clear moral standard. Kander’s moderate political bent can help quell the partisan extremism ripping Washington apart.

Blunt has had chances to make big differences, but has failed. In 2013, he joined a small minority of 22 senators, all Republican, voting against reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. In the aftermath of the massacre of 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012, Blunt voted against measures to impose reasonable background checks and limit sales of military-style assault weapons.

Blunt talks a lot about gun rights. Kander can easily assemble an assault weapon blindfolded while discussing why the Second Amendment would not be imperiled by reasonable regulations. Kander has carried military assault weapons in war and understands their killing power, especially when equipped with high-capacity magazines. They do not belong in the hands of civilians, as respected special operations military officers have argued.

Blunt walks in lockstep with the lobbyists whose dollars he gladly rakes in. Missourians should demand a senator capable of thinking independently of lobbying groups like the National Rifle Association. (Blunt, by the way, is the top recipient in Congress of NRA money.)

Blunt’s campaign ads assert that he understands the experience of war veterans. How so? He received three deferments to avoid serving in the Vietnam War. Kander, by contrast, interrupted his own career to serve in Afghanistan. He understands military and veterans issues from the viewpoint of someone who’s been there.

Blunt, by contrast, joined 41 Republican senators in 2014 voting against a proposed $21 billion in Veterans Administration spending at a time when veterans reportedly were dying while waiting for medical appointments.

Nothing speaks louder about the need to break the Washington stalemate than the controversy surrounding Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. Blunt refuses even to sit for a chat with Garland, simply because a Democratic president nominated him.

Ideological extremists have made a mess of Washington. Kander’s voice of moderation is what the Senate needs to end the partisan rancor.

(Excerpted from St. Louis Post Dispatch 10/29/16)

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The costs of Comey’s appeasement

The evidence suggests that FBI Director James B. Comey is a decent man. The evidence also suggests that he has been intimidated by pressure from Republicans in Congress whose interest is not in justice but in destroying Hillary Clinton.

On Friday, a whipsawed Comey gave in. Breaking with FBI precedent and Justice Department practice, he weighed in on one side of a presidential campaign.

I don’t believe this was his intention. But his vaguely worded letter to Congress announcing that the FBI was examining emails on a computer used by Clinton aide Huma Abedin accomplished the central goals of the right-wing critics Comey has been trying to get off his back.

Especially disturbing is that some of those critics are inside the FBI. As The Post’s Sari Horwitz reported on Saturday, “a largely conservative investigative corps” in the bureau was “complaining privately that Comey should have tried harder to make a case” against Clinton.

For a major law-enforcement institution to be so politicized and biased against one party would be a genuine scandal. If Comey acted in part out of fear that his agents would leak against him, it would reflect profound dysfunction within the FBI.

Comey may have thought he had arrived at the Solomonic middle ground that would make everyone happy. But as Matthew Miller, a former Justice Department official, wrote in The Post, when “the government decides it will not submit its assertions to . . . rigorous scrutiny by bringing charges, it has the responsibility to not besmirch someone’s reputation by lobbing accusations publicly instead.”

Comey had entered the political fray, and there was no turning back — especially since his Republican tormentors would not be satisfied until Clinton was brought down. As The Post editorialized, Comey had already gone “too far” in “providing raw FBI material to Congress.” He allowed himself to be sucked into a dangerous and dysfunctional relationship with one political party that set him on the hazardous course to Friday’s letter.

History shows that appeasing bullies never works. Maybe Comey has learned this lesson and will try to make amends in coming days.

As for the voters, my hope is that they reject this perversion of justice all the way down the ballot.

(Excerpted from E.J. Dionne Jr. Washington Post 10/30/16)

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Avoiding all avoidable provocations

POLITICAL TENSION is running high in the United States, extraordinarily so, we’d say. And so it behooves everyone in a position of official responsibility to do everything he or she possibly can to help maintain stability — while avoiding all avoidable provocations — until the bitter competition between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump runs its ugly course on Nov. 8.

That is the context for Friday’s announcement by James B. Comey, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, that his agency is again looking into Ms. Clinton’s private email server in light of newly discovered emails “that appear to be pertinent to the investigation.” Mr. Comey may have had good reason to inform Republican committee chairmen in Congress of the review, but his timing was nevertheless unfortunate, given its potential to affect a democratic process in which millions of people are already voting.

What might his reason be? On the merits, Ms. Clinton erred by using a private email server for her official communications as secretary of state — though as we have previously argued, the matter has been greatly overblown. According to the previous FBI review, the small amount of classified material that moved through Ms. Clinton’s private server was not clearly marked as such, and no harm to national security has been demonstrated.

The FBI conducted a thorough investigation for any prosecutable offenses, especially any involving the transmission of classified information. Mr. Comey rightly recommended against bringing charges; he told his staff that the decision was “not a cliff-hanger.” In deference to the reality that the target of the inquiry was a major-party nominee for president, he gave the public a summary of the facts and law behind his decision.

Mr. Comey went too far, however, in providing raw FBI material to Congress, notwithstanding its important oversight role; that attempt to appease Republicans set a precedent that future partisans who are unhappy with the results of FBI investigations may exploit.

Mr. Comey found himself in a bind when his investigators turned up additional, previously unexamined Clinton emails, apparently on devices belonging to top aide Huma Abedin and her husband, Anthony Weiner, seized during an FBI probe of the latter’s alleged sexual misconduct with a minor. (As if this could not get any more bizarre.) If Mr. Comey failed to tell Congress before Nov. 8 about his decision to review them, he would be accused — again — of a politically motivated coverup. By revealing it, he inevitably creates a cloud of suspicion over Ms. Clinton that, if the case’s history is any guide, is unwarranted. Hence Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s not unreasonable demand that Mr. Comey “immediately provide the full details of what he is now examining.”

Mr. Podesta said he is “confident” full disclosure “will not produce any conclusions different from the one the FBI reached in July.” If so, the question will be how badly damaged was Ms. Clinton’s candidacy by the 11th-hour re-eruption of a controversy that never should have generated so much suspicion or accusation in the first place.

 (Excerpted from Washington Post 10/29/16)

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Trump boasts about his philanthropy. But his giving falls short of his words

For as long as he has been rich and famous, Donald Trump has also wanted people to believe he is generous. He spent years constructing an image as a philanthropist by appearing at charity events and by making very public — even nationally televised — promises to give his own money away.

It was, in large part, a facade. A months-long investigation by The Washington Post has not been able to verify many of Trump’s boasts about his philanthropy.

Instead, throughout his life in the spotlight, whether as a businessman, television star or presidential candidate, The Post found that Trump had sought credit for charity he had not given — or claimed other people’s giving as his own.

It is impossible to know for certain what Trump has given to charity, because he has declined to release his tax returns. In all, The Post was able to identify $7.8 million in charitable giving from Trump’s own pocket since the early 1980s.

In public appearances, Trump often made it appear that he gave far more.

rump promised to give away the proceeds of “Trump University.” He promised to donate the salary he earned from “The Apprentice.” He promised to give personal donations to the charities chosen by contestants on “Celebrity Apprentice.” He promised to donate $250,000 to a charity helping Israeli soldiers and veterans.

Together, those pledges would have increased Trump’s lifetime giving by millions of dollars. But the Post has been unable to verify that he followed through on any of them.

Instead, The Post found that his personal giving has almost disappeared entirely in recent years. After calling 420-plus charities with some connection to Trump, The Post found only one personal gift from Trump between 2008 and the spring of this year. That was a gift to the Police Athletic League of New York City, in 2009. It was worth less than $10,000.

(Excerpted from Washington Post 10/29/16)

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Ryan plans to steamroll Democrats with budget tool – While GOP leaders have made threats in the past to use reconciliation to repeal Obamacare, Ryan is making it clear he plans to use it when it counts

If Donald Trump is elected president and Republicans hold onto Congress, House Speaker Paul Ryan is bluntly promising to ram a partisan agenda through Capitol Hill next year, with Obamacare repeal and trillion-dollar tax cuts likely at the top of the list. And Democrats would be utterly defenseless to stop them.

Typically, party leaders offer at least the pretense of seeking bipartisanship when discussing their policy plans. But Ryan is saying frankly that Republicans would use budget reconciliation — a powerful procedural tool — to bypass Democrats entirely. It’s the same tool Republicans slammed Democrats for using to pass the 2010 health care law over their objections.
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While GOP leaders have made empty threats to use reconciliation to repeal Obamacare in the past, Ryan is making it clear that this time he plans to use it when it counts. And he would likely have support from a Trump White House. Larry Kudlow, an economic adviser to the GOP presidential nominee, said he is also strongly urging Trump to embrace reconciliation in order to pass sweeping tax cuts.

Ryan peeled back the curtain on his strategy at a news conference after a reporter suggested he would struggle to implement his ambitious agenda next year. After all, it was noted, Republicans are certain to lack the 60 votes needed in the Senate to break Democratic filibusters on legislation. So Ryan gave a minitutorial on congressional rules and the bazooka in his pocket for the assembled reporters.
“This is our plan for 2017,” Ryan said, waving a copy of his “Better Way” policy agenda. “Much of this you can do through budget reconciliation.” He explained that key pieces are “fiscal in nature,” meaning they can be moved quickly through a budget maneuver that requires a simple majority in the Senate and House.

The GOP-controlled Congress passed a reconciliation bill last year that would repeal key parts of the health law, including effectively eliminating the individual and employer mandates and scrapping the Medicaid expansion, insurance subsidies for consumers and the medical device and Cadillac taxes. The bill was promptly vetoed by President Barack Obama, but it would serve as a road map to Republicans in 2017. The reconciliation process relies heavily on precedent, so now opponents of Obamacare already know what can pass muster with the Senate parliamentarian. Notably, the bill also defunded Planned Parenthood for one year, in a sign of how expansive a reconciliation bill can be.
Other pieces of Ryan’s “Better Way” policy agenda that could find their way into a reconciliation measure are controversial proposals to bring down the costs of Medicare and Medicaid or overhaul the food stamp program and housing assistance for low-income renters. Every line of the bill would face scrutiny from Democrats, but a skilled procedural tactician could overcome most parliamentary challenges.
Republicans would also set about rewriting the tax code through budget reconciliation. Asked if the procedure would be a good way to implement GOP tax plans, Kudlow responded, “Not good, fabulous.” Speaking for himself and not the campaign, Kudlow said reconciliation was “the fastest way in our judgment to get necessary pro-growth tax reform.” He said he has been encouraging that path to Trump and his staff all year, and that they were considering it.

(Excerpted from Politico 10/06/16)

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“Is this the president we want for our daughters?

“Mirrors” — Ad opens with a series of young girls looking in the mirror.SCRIPT : Donald Trump speaking: “I’d look her right in that fat ugly face of hers…She’s a slob … She ate like a pig … A person who’s flat-chested is very hard to be a 10…Does she have a good body? No. Does she have a fat [expletive]? Absolutely.” Interviewer asking Trump, “Do you treat women with respect?” Trump: “I can’t say that either.” Text at the end of the ad on screen reads, “Is this the president we want for our daughters?”

(Excerpted from Politico Playbook 9/23/16)

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The U.S. cities with the most to lose if Donald Trump starts a trade war

Donald Trump has pledged to impose burdensome tariffs on goods imported from Mexico and China if elected — actions that experts have warned could provoke economic retaliation with potentially severe consequences for American workers. A new report suggests one reason these dire forecasts have not fazed his supporters.

While workers across the country risk being put out of a job under Trump’s policies, the report identifies several places where Americans would have the most to lose. Generally speaking, they are the major cities where Trump is especially unpopular.

The report, published by the Peterson Institute for International Economics, forecasts the economic effects of foreign countries’ possible responses to new tariffs imposed by a Trump administration. Overall, the predictions are grim. In a worst-case scenario, unemployment would increase to 8.6 percent by the end of Trump’s first term if the Republican nominee incites a full-blown international dispute over trade policy.

However, the authors of the report say it’s more likely that Beijing would retaliate against Trump’s tariffs with measures targeted to injure specific sectors of the U.S. economy, without the diplomatic headaches that would result from a broad tariff on all U.S. exports.

While these tactics would have a more modest effect on the economy in general, they would be extremely detrimental for the affected sectors.

Chinese retaliation would also negatively affect some blue-collar towns as well, depending on Beijing’s response.

For example, if China stopped purchasing aircraft built in the United States, many residents of cities such as Seattle, Wichita and Hartford would be out of work. The researchers project that 179,000 fewer Americans would be working in the industry if Chinese buyers stopped purchasing aircraft.

American agriculture is another sector that is vulnerable to retaliation. For instance, employment along the Mississippi River in the area surrounding Memphis would be devastated by a Chinese embargo on U.S. soybeans. In Sharkey County, Miss., for instance, an embargo could reduce employment by 40 percent.

The researchers also considered the possibility that China retaliates in kind, with a broad tariff like the one Trump has proposed. The disruption from a retaliatory tariff would be more acute and more widespread geographically.

In terms of the number of workers put out of a job, the worst effects would be indirect as overall economic weakness forced consumers to stay at home. In retail and wholesale trade, almost 600,000 fewer people would be working. In restaurants, the total would approach 250,000 workers in the worst-case scenario. Hospital employment would decline by close to 200,000 workers.

“People have a stake in this, and they may not even know it,” Noland said.

The ramifications of this kind of conflict would be especially severe in a few industries. For example, about 1 in 10 workers who make construction equipment, truck trailers, semiconductors or plastics would be out of a job, according to the forecast.

The consequences would be worst for workers who make high-speed drives and gears, 10.2 percent of whom would lose their jobs. This major industry produces components for dynamos in power plants. Metalworkers, aluminum producers and iron miners would also be negatively affected.

Besides the country’s most prosperous cities, a range of other kinds of places would be negatively affected by a broad tariff. Midwestern, industrial cities such as Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Louisville would record some of the greatest declines in employment in the worst-case scenario analyzed by the researchers.

(Excerpted from Washington Post 9/21/16)

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Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson is friendly and seems moderate. But then there’s this.

Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson is a friendly guy, seems pretty moderate. But he could tank the economy.

That’s what trying to balance the budget all at once would do. Which, of course, is what Johnson says he would. He wants to cut spending by 20 percent next year to get the government back in the black, and then veto any legislation that would make the red ink return.

This probably wouldn’t end well. The problem is the Federal Reserve might not be willing or able to really counteract this. In normal times, you see, the Fed cuts interest rates when the government cuts the deficit so that the private sector can pick up the slack for the public sector. The Fed can’t cut interest rates right now, because they’re barely above zero. Now, it’s true that the Fed could print money instead — that’s how it stopped austerity from starting a recession in 2013 — but Johnson doesn’t want the Fed to do that. He’s said that quantitative easing, which is when the Fed buys bonds with newly created dollars, is just an attempt to “override the free market” that will only lead to “malinvestment, inflation, and prolonged unemployment.” And since he would not only get to pick two Fed members in 2017, but also a new Fed chair in 2018, what he thinks matters.

The result, in all likelihood, would be a lot more unemployment. A little math can give us an idea just how much. Start with how Johnson is proposing an immediate fiscal tightening of 3 percent of gross domestic product. Without any monetary offset from the Fed, that would hurt growth by, well, something like 3 to 4.5 percent of GDP. That’s because there can be a multiplier on government spending. In other words, money that Uncle Sam doesn’t pay you is money you don’t have to pay someone else who, in turn, doesn’t have money to pay another person. If we use the rule of thumb that every percentage point the economy grows less than it should adds half a percentage point to the unemployment rate, then Johnson’s plan would probably push joblessness up somewhere around 6.5 to 7.25 percent.

A Fed audit, something else Johnson supports, wouldn’t be much better. This is one of those ideas that sounds better the less you know about it. The truth is that the Fed has already been audited, and already publishes a weekly report on its balance sheet. If you want to see how many mortgage and Treasury bonds it owns, that information is all there. Not that Johnson seems to realize it. He thinks that a Fed audit might cause a “worldwide panic” once people found out what’s on the Fed’s balance sheet, including, he falsely believes, stocks. Although that’s not the real impetus for all this. No, that’s “auditing” the Fed’s policy decisions so that politicians can try to browbeat it into doing what they want — which, in this case, is raising rates.

The irony is that it’s the libertarian who wants us to become, in Fed policy, like Europe. Except that instead of calling for us to give everyone Medicare or paid family leave, Johnson wants us to cut our budget and cut back on monetary stimulus like they did. It didn’t work there — the euro zone’s unemployment rate is still in double digits — and it wouldn’t here.

(Excerpted from O’Brien, Washington Post 9/22/16)

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Ready, Aim — Voting

The hottest political ad of the season — I am not counting anything involving Triumph the Insult Comic Dog — is probably for the Missouri Senate, in which the Democratic candidate talks about … gun background checks.

Jason Kander, who served a tour of duty in Afghanistan, assembles an assault rifle blindfolded while saying that he believes “in background checks so the terrorists can’t get their hands on one of these.”

His opponent, Senator Roy Blunt, had been lambasting Kander for his failure to toe the straight National Rifle Association line. “I approve this message,” Kander concludes, swiftly finishing his eyes-closed assemblage, “because I’d like to see Senator Blunt do this.”

The race is close and Kander cites polls that show most voters are fine with background checks. (The people he talks to, he added, are more worried about college debt, which Blunt once blamed on the students’ “personal living standard.”)

Missouri elected a candidate who’s middle-of-the-road on guns, right after the State Legislature just set a record in the extremely competitive category of Loopiest N.R.A. Cave-In.

The massive Republican majority voted, for one thing, to eliminate all training requirements for concealed weapons permits. “I am in a real estate course,” said Jason Holsman, a state senator from Kansas City, in a phone interview during a class break. “Missouri law requires 72 hours of training before you can sell a house. Now, zero hours before you can carry a concealed gun.”

Actually, the N.R.A. went much, much further, and wiped out the permits entirely. Now, Missourians can just buy a gun and stick it in their pocket.

The new law also includes one of those “stand your ground” provisions. Now people walking around after dark could reasonably presume that anybody they ran into might have a concealed weapon, and would have a right to fire first if they felt physically threatened.

Thanks to Kander, the voters will at least get to hear a lively statewide debate about whether this is a good plan.

(Excerpted from Collins, New York Times 9/22/16)

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