Friday Reads: How long can we take this?

Good Afternoon!

It seems the end of the week is tailor made for a long list of the week’s stories that remind us that we just can’t set our expectations low enough for what’s going on with the entire Republican shamble of wrecking the country in the name of the very wealthy. Let’s catch our breath before the Friday night news drop that will set our sights even lower and review.

From the New York Times:  Trump Could Save More Than$1 Billion Under His New Tax Plan

President Trump could cut his tax bills by more than $1.1 billion, including saving tens of millions of dollars in a single year, under his proposed tax changes, a New York Times analysis has found.

On Wednesday, the White House announced a sweeping plan to cut a variety of taxes that would overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy. The estimate of Mr. Trump’s savings is based in part on information from his 2005 federal tax return. The analysis compares what his tax burden would be under current law with what it would be under the proposal.

Mr. Trump’s 2005 return is the most recent available publicly and was released in March by David Cay Johnston, a former New York Times reporter. The Times’s figure also relies on an estimate of Mr. Trump’s net worth, calculated by the Bloomberg Billionaire’s Index to be $2.86 billion.

“I don’t benefit. I don’t benefit,” Mr. Trump said on Wednesday. “In fact, very, very strongly, as you see, I think there’s very little benefit for people of wealth.”

In fact, high-income earners like Mr. Trump are likely to benefit disproportionately if the White House proposal becomes law. The estimates, calculated with the help of Robert Willens, an accounting expert, and Stephen Breitstone, a tax lawyer, provide a view into precisely how.

Though it would not be reflected on his income tax return, Mr. Trump’s proposal to eliminate the estate tax would generate the largest tax savings. If his assets — reportedly valued at $2.86 billion — were transferred after his death under today’s rules, his estate would be taxed at about 40 percent. Repealing the federal estate tax could save his family about $1.1 billion, though it could still be subject to New York estate taxes.

Let’s just juxtapose that on this headline from the Business Insider:  Here’s how the Trump tax plan would raise taxes on many middle-income families.  The Republican tax plan will explode the deficit in a way that’s likely to make it impossible to pass. However, since the couldn’t gut access to the healthcare of millions to fund billionaire tax cuts, they are trying to recoup it from working, lower and middle class families.  Nearly all of the plans’s tax cuts go to the upper one percent.

But what do you expect from folks that are this out of touch with real life? “Millionaire Trump Adviser Says Americans Can ‘Buy A New Car’ With $1,000 Tax Cut.”

President Donald Trump’s chief economic adviser — Gary Cohn, the former Goldman Sachs president worth an estimated $266 million — appears to be completely clueless about what the average American family spends on a car, vacation or home improvement project.

Hours after falsely claiming that “the wealthy are not getting a tax cut” under Trump’s tax reform plan, Cohn appeared at a White House press briefing and spoke to what middle-class Americans have to look forward to. Based on the administration’s assumptions, he said, a typical family that has two children and earns $100,000 per year can expect annual tax savings of approximately $1,000.

“If we allow a family to keep another thousand dollars of their income, what does that mean?” he asked. “They can renovate their kitchen. They can buy a new car. They can take a family vacation. They can increase their lifestyle.”  \

The rather tone-deaf comment came in response to a question about how Trump — who could see savings of more than $125 million per year under his own plan — can claim the proposal doesn’t benefit him personally.

People are dying in Puerto Rico while Kremlin Caligula goes golfing this weekend and tells every one he’s doing a heckuva job.

The first two storms, it appears, were only wind-ups to the presidential moment that presents itself now. The crisis in Puerto Rico figures to define President Trump’s responses to this remarkable string of powerful storms. After first seeming to blame Puerto Rico’s poor infrastructure and fiscal crises, Trump is now praising FEMA and expressing his wish that the “press would treat fairly.” But this is one where claims of “fake news” will likely be subsumed by the images and realities. Those realities include millions of American citizens in total crisis. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is warning that the lack of “clear command, control and communication” will cause the situation to “deteriorate rapidly.” The general who oversaw the federal response to Hurricane Katrina is calling the situation – yes – “like Katrina.” This is a heckuva comment, from acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke: “I know it is really a good news story in terms of our ability to reach people and the limited number of deaths.” Maybe she will be proven right, and Trump will be praised for taking charge. But this will require a lightly staffed administration – led by a president prone to distraction – to do a whole lot of difficult work, and fast.

The increasingly desperate mayor of San Juan has called out acting the Secretary of Homeland Security. 

The mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, lashed out at acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke’s comment that the Hurricane Maria relief efforts are a “good news story,” saying, that in reality, it’s a “people are dying story.”

Speaking outside the White House on Thursday, Duke said she is “very satisfied” with efforts to aid Puerto Rico in the wake of Maria, which devastated the island and has created a humanitarian crisis. Duke said, “It is really a good news story,” an assessment that prompted San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz’s strong rebuttal.

“Well, maybe from where she’s standing, it’s a good news story. When you’re drinking from a creek, it’s not a good news story. When you don’t have food for a baby, it’s not a good news story,” Cruz told CNN’s “New Day,” referring to the plight of Puerto Ricans, many of whom have received little or no aid thus far. “When you have to pull people down from their buildings — I’m sorry, but that really upsets me and frustrates me. You know, I would ask her to come down here and visit the towns, and then make a statement like that, which frankly, it is an irresponsible statement.”

“Damn it, this is not a good news story. This is a people are dying story. This is a life-or-death story. This is a ‘there’s a truck load of stuff that cannot be taken to people story.’ This is a story of a devastation that continues to worsen because people are not getting food and water,” she continued. “It is not a good news story when people are dying, when they don’t have dialysis, when their generators aren’t working and their oxygen isn’t providing for them. Where is there good news here? … I’m really sorry, but you know when you have people out there dying, literally, scraping for food, where is the good news?”

The issue, Cruz said, has not been a lack of supplies but an inability to deal with the logistics of distributing aid on an island that is still largely without power and supplying it to Puerto Rico’s more rural areas. The mayor said San Juan had received three pallets of water — slightly more than 4,000 bottles for a population of roughly 350,000 people — as well as four pallets of food and 12 pallets of baby food and supplies.

The New York Times Op Ed page is alive with pieces questioning Trump’s fitness for office. “Private Emails, Private Jets and Mr. Trump’s Idea of Public Service”.

On Monday, it emerged that at least six current and former top White House officials, including Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner; his daughter Ivanka Trump; and his chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, have been using private email accounts at least sporadically for government business. This is both dumb and richly paradoxical when one considers that Mr. Trump has continued to attack Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email account and server as secretary of state, and has prodded his Justice Department to restart an inquiry that cleared her of criminal wrongdoing.

While the president whips up chants of “Lock her up” in red states, his daughter — one of the less credible “moderating” forces in White House history — has been tapping away on her personal email despite being an administration official. Personal emails are not illegal per se, as long as those about government business are forwarded to government accounts. Failure to do that is a potential violation of the Presidential Records Act and the Federal Records Act, which preserve public access to government documents.

Mr. Kushner seems to have a particular problem with official record keeping, having failed to list scores of assets on his government financial disclosure, and forgotten to include meetings with Russians on his security clearance form. Given his central role in the campaign and White House, imagine how his latest lapse in transparency looks to the special counsel, Robert Mueller, and his team, now hoovering up White House documents in their investigation of possible collusion with Russia. Mr. Kushner’s failure to disclose the personal email concerns leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who learned of it from news reports.

But wait, there’s more: Americans have been learning over the past week about Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price’s habit of flying private jets to official meetings, with occasional detours to luxury resorts where he owns property, or for outings with his family. Mr. Price and Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, have even used private jets on what a White House aide called “a national listening tour … to learn from the heroes on the front lines” of the opioid crisis — all while pushing for a replacement of the Affordable Care Act that would drain billions from Medicaid and addiction treatment. When asked if he would, wisely, fire Mr. Price, the president said on Wednesday, “I’m looking at that very closely.” Mr. Price said on Thursday that he’d reimburse a portion of the cost.

Mr. Price — a multimillionaire orthopedic surgeon who as a congressman took actions that benefited his personal stock portfolio — isn’t the only Trump cabinet member polluting the public trough. There’s Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, the former Goldman Sachs banker who wanted a $25,000-per-hour Air Force jet to ferry him on his European honeymoon, and has been lying that a tax “reform” proposal to enrich wealthy people like him is a boon for the middle class. And there’s Scott Pruitt, industry’s best friend at the Environmental Protection Agency, who’s cost taxpayers more than $58,000 for noncommercial and military flights, and is spending nearly $25,000 to build a “secure phone booth” in his office.

Oh, this is new …  Ryan Zinke: US interior secretary ‘spent $12,000 on flight‘.   This is what’s known as bringing the CEO corporate culture into public service.  You ever wonder why everything you buy from a big company seems really expensive?  Well, this is the kind of shit you’re paying for and I can vouch that every CEO basically wears their perks like a North Korean General wears his medals.  They’re status symbols of power. Bilking investors and the public out of money is what Corporate Finance profs like me call the Agency Problem.

Mr Zinke flew from Las Vegas to Montana last June on a private jet that cost taxpayers more than $12,000, according to Politico and the Washington Post.

Paul Krugman outlines “Trump’s Deadly Narcissism.”

According to a new Quinnipiac poll, a majority of Americans believe that Donald Trump is unfit to be president. That’s pretty remarkable. But you have to wonder how much higher the number would be if people really knew what’s going on.

For the trouble with Trump isn’t just what he’s doing, but what he isn’t. In his mind, it’s all about him — and while he’s stroking his fragile ego, basic functions of government are being neglected or worse.

Let’s talk about two stories that might seem separate: the deadly neglect of Puerto Rico, and the ongoing sabotage of American health care. What these stories have in common is that millions of Americans are going to suffer, and hundreds if not thousands die, because Trump and his officials are too self-centered to do their jobs.

It’s difficult to see how we can continue to function if the only people in charge of government are those least equipped ethnically, intellectually, and skill-wise to do the work that so many public servants train for and work at their entire lives all while go places in coach or cheap rental cars.  It’s unlikely the Republicans will be able to get their deviant tax policy through.  I certainly hope so because it’s extremely bad fiscal policy.  It has nothing to do with economics or the country or anything that tax policy should be about.  It’s only about pleasing their donor overlords like the Mercers and the Kochs.

My hope is that we’re at least proving Grover Norquist wrong who only wants Presidents that can sign bills to destroy the country. My other hope is that the Mueller investigation and what’s left of the GAO can get rid of all these grifters.  I swear, there is no worse grifter than a CEO gone wild on other people’s money and that’s pretty much what’s in the West Wing right now.  It’s no wonder that Mueller is going after these folks in the same manner they tackle an organized crime syndicate.

Here are  Kenneth–snipe hunter extraordinare–  Starr’s thoughts.

Speaking with host Brian Williams, the former nemesis of ex-President Bill Clinton said he is well acquainted with Mueller and that the former FBI head is a relentless investigator.

Noting reports that Vice President Mike Pence met with Mueller over the summer to offer his cooperation, host Williams asked Starr what the American public can expect next.

“Counselor, it is my understanding that you are of the belief that the president should be much more wary and on-guard and worried about these Congressional investigations than the Mueller investigation,” Williams suggested.

“No, I think he’s going to be worried about both,” Starr replied. “I think there is a tendency to ignore what Congress is doing when, famously, during the Watergate investigation so many years ago, the explosive fact of the White House tapes, came not from Archibald Cox, but from Congressional investigators during a deposition.”

Restating the fact that Pence said he was cooperating, Starr added, “The president’s lawyers are all saying that, ‘let’s get this done,’ and the way to get it over with is cooperation.”

Saying he isn’t aware of how far the investigation has advanced, Starr said that he expected a “number of indictments”

“Yes or no answer,” Williams pressed. Do you see the president being placed under oath before this is all over?”

“Yes,” the former prosecutor bluntly stated.

The frog marches out of the White House can’t come soon enough for me or the future of our country.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Advertisements

43 Comments on “Friday Reads: How long can we take this?”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Gary Cohn thinks a “typical” American family has $100,000 income. Wrong again.

    • Mary Luke says:

      In fact prices are set on that assumption. That is why none of us can afford to live alone. Kate would have the figures but a large percentage of the population is two income households in the $70 to !100K range and that group is heavily Republican. He’s talking to his base.

  2. Mary Luke says:

    Will someone please tell me where this $1000 family vacation is? Old motels in Cape Cod are charging $250 to !275 a night and many of them have bee renovated and condo converted.

    I take it the regime is getting their estimates from around 1970. Please tell me they are deliberately lying. Please tell me they are not really that out of touch.

  3. dakinikat says:

    U.S. response in Puerto Rico pales next to actions after Haiti quake

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/us-responded-to-haiti-quake-more-forcefully-than-to-puerto-rico-disaster/2017/09/28/74fe9c02-a465-11e7-8cfe-d5b912fabc99_story.html?utm_term=.2b2449dc40b8

    After an earthquake shattered Haiti’s capital on Jan. 12, 2010, the U.S. military mobilized as if it were going to war.

    Before dawn the next morning, an Army unit was airborne, on its way to seize control of the main airport in Port-au-Prince. Within two days, the Pentagon had 8,000 American troops en route. Within two weeks, 33 U.S. military ships and 22,000 troops had arrived. More than 300 military helicopters buzzed overhead, delivering millions of pounds of food and water.

    No two disasters are alike. Each delivers customized violence that cannot be fully anticipated. But as criticism of the federal government’s initial response to the crisis in Puerto Rico continued to mount Thursday, the mission to Haiti — an island nation several hundred miles from the U.S. mainland — stands as an example of how quickly relief efforts can be mobilized.

  4. Enheduanna says:

    Happy Friday Dancers!

    I caught the tail end of the William’s show last night – right where Jeremy Bash ( ❤ ) was aghast at having to agree with Ken Starr. I continue to dislike Williams and avoid him when I can. From last night's show – here he is talking to Cornell Belcher about Roy Moore:

    "Cornell, I need not remind you the Republican's don't have a lock on crazy, and they don't have a lock on extremism – that this thing crosses party lines. It does make, to quote Politico, an interesting conundrum for the Democrats."

    Williams tried to say Dems have crazy like tRump and Moore too. And Cornell doesn't get paid to disagree.

    https://archive.org/details/MSNBCW_20170929_030000_The_11th_Hour_With_Brian_Williams

  5. dakinikat says:

    Outside in America
    Facing poverty, academics turn to sex work and sleeping in cars
    Adjunct professors in America face low pay and long hours without the security of full-time faculty. Some, on the brink of homelessness, take desperate measures

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/sep/28/adjunct-professors-homeless-sex-work-academia-poverty

    Adjuncting has grown as funding for public universities has fallen by more than a quarter between 1990 and 2009. Private institutions also recognize the allure of part-time professors: generally they are cheaper than full-time staff, don’t receive benefits or support for their personal research, and their hours can be carefully limited so they do not teach enough to qualify for health insurance.

    This is why adjuncts have been called “the fast-food workers of the academic world”: among labor experts adjuncting is defined as “precarious employment”, a growing category that includes temping and sharing-economy gigs such as driving for Uber. An American Sociological Association taskforce focusing on precarious academic jobs, meanwhile, has suggested that “faculty employment is no longer a stable middle-class career”.

    • NW Luna says:

      Saw that article just yesterday. I’ve occasionally taught a class or two as an adjunct or assistant prof. Pay was less than what I could make in practice at a non-profit, and of course far lower than at a for-profit company. Also no real benefits unless you work a certain %, which they don’t always guarantee. Not that the full-time profs got paid that well.

      • NW Luna says:

        It’s ironic and cruel. Higher education is about the only way people without rich parents have to develop their abilities and prepare for good jobs, yet college & university teachers cannot make a reasonable living.

  6. bostonboomer says:

    //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    • NW Luna says:

      WTF? This is outrageous. I know a lot of clinicians in the VA who are denied funding for $300 – $1,200 trips to medical conferences for continuing education! Including medical professionals who practice in specialty areas — brain injury, sub-specialty neurology and the like — where you can’t just get continuing ed locally.

      So our government can’t afford to pay medical clinicians to stay up-to-date and help veterans, but is happy to pay for sightseeing and European trips for the top guys and their wives. Disgusting.

  7. NW Luna says:

    How do these giant companies get to make millions off water that belongs to We The People?

    Nestlé pays $200 a year to bottle water near Flint – where water is undrinkable

    Despite having endured lead-laden tap water for years, Flint pays some of the highest water rates in the US. Several residents cited bills upwards of $200 per month for tap water they refuse to touch.

    But just two hours away, in the tiny town of Evart, creeks lined by wildflowers run with clear water. The town is so small, the fairground, McDonald’s, high school and church are all within a block. But in a town of only 1,503 people, there are a dozen wells pumping water from the underground aquifer. This is where the beverage giant Nestlé pumps almost 100,000 times what an average Michigan resident uses into plastic bottles that are sold all over the midwest for around $1. To use this natural resource, Nestlé pays $200 per year.

    Free water is not uncommon. In the US, water has traditionally been free for companies and people to use – it’s the government infrastructure that cleans and delivers people safe water that costs money. The government infrastructure is what failed in Flint.

    And environmentalists in California are watching closely whether Nestlé can continue to pump water – for $524 – out of San Bernardino national forest on a permit that expired nearly 30 years ago.

  8. Enheduanna says:

    ICYMI:

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/the-time-donald-trump-turned-away-in-disgust-while-a-man-bled-to-death-in-front-of-him

    Excerpted from the interviews with Howard Stern. He really is a complete sociopath.

    • quixote says:

      So let’s see. He’s stair-phobic, germophobic, can’t stand for anyone to know what happens when he arranges his so-called hair, can’t stand women unless properly pornly airbrushed, and considers a guy who fell and cut himself too gross to call 911 for ??!!

      What an utter turd.

      (In case you don’t follow the link, a bunch of Marines who were there saved the guy’s life.)

      • Enheduanna says:

        Yes I should have explained that the guy lived!

        But tRump just stood there right in front of the guy and worried – OUT LOUD – about the red stain on his marble floor. And he had relegated the Marines – who were guests – to the worst table in the back of the room.

  9. Pat Johnson says:

    How long before we see citizens of Puerto Rico begin to take the law into their own hands?

    These people are desperate for food, water, medicine, shelter and little movement is happening.

    I can see it getting worse when a parent must beg for help for her children or the elderly begin to die off because their ventilators are not working.

    This is such a major tragedy and all we hear is President Stupid patting himself on the back which does not compute to what we are seeing and hearing on the ground.

    Disgraceful!

  10. NW Luna says:

    Trump Could Save More Than $1 Billion Under His New Tax Plan

    Eat. The. Rich.

  11. dakinikat says:

    Heaven help this country if he chooses Bobby Jindal. Glad to see Price resign though.

    White House hits reset in search for Homeland Security chief: Sources

    http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/white-house-hits-reset-search-homeland-security-chief/story?id=50189126

  12. RonStill4Hills says:

    This racist elitist piece of shit attacked the Mayor of Dan Juan from his golf resort?!?! Unfuckingbelieceavle!

    • Catscatscats says:

      But so trump…

    • RonStill4Hills says:

      They want everything done for them?!? WTF!!!! There are not words to describe how unfit.

      • Sweet Sue says:

        That’s not a dog whistle. That’s Professor Harold Hill”s (another con man but redeemable) seventy six trombone marching band.

    • Enheduanna says:

      Yeah he’s back at Bedminster at taxpayer’s expense this weekend and considering going to a PGA tournament. Because he’s got plenty of time on his hands.

      Does anyone think for one minute he’s taken the slightest interest in a leadership role during this crisis? He’s delegated even delegating things.

      Instead he’s tweeting nasty innuendos that Puerto Ricans are incapable of helping themselves. Saying this as people who have hardly eaten for a week are resorting to drinking water out of creeks.

      Meanwhile FEMA is telling people to use the Internet – in a country where no electricity or Internet exists anymore – to report their needs and mayors are being asked to drive 3 hours – in a country where no gas exists – to report in person their needs.

    • dakinikat says:

      Yup. Second weekend in a row from his taxpayer fleecing spree. Where are the guillotines?

  13. Enheduanna says:

    I called Puerto Rico a country – it’s a colony really. We call them “territories”. I don’t really understand why we have territories. I expect this will become a topic of debate now. Wouldn’t statehood or independence both be better options?