Lazy Saturday Reads: Winter Is ComingPosted: December 16, 2017
So . . . it looks like the GOP tax scam has enough votes to pass the Senate next week now that Bob Corker and Marco Rubio have predictably flip flopped. You have to wonder why the Republicans are going forward with this monstrosity, since it will likely result in a Democratic wave election in 2018. Maybe they figure that’s going to happen anyway so they might as well give themselves tax cuts for when they are forced into retirement. Of course they’ll get their government pensions too.
Lawrence O’Donnell said last night that Corker’s decision was obviously based on his political ambitions. He hopes to replace Tillerson as Secretary of State and of course he’s fantasizing about running for president in either 2020 or 2024. Marco Rubio will also be running, of course. These two know they’d never be able to do that if they cross their billionaire donors on tax cuts.
The Washington Post: Why Republicans shouldn’t be so optimistic their tax bill will be a big win.
Republicans are on the verge of passing a massive tax cut for businesses that is deeply unpopular with the American public. They are doing it with no Democratic votes and at a moment when the U.S. economy looks pretty healthy (typically, tax cuts are most effective when the economy is struggling and the government wants to revive it). A surprising number of chief executives admit their top plan for the extra cash is to pay shareholders more, not grow jobs and wages. Billionaire chief executive Michael Bloomberg went so far as to declare the bill a “trillion-dollar blunder.”
So all of this begs the obvious question: Why are Republicans doing this?
Supposedly it’s about politics. If they don’t get something done before the end of the year, and they claim their voters want these destructive tax cuts.
Getting a tax cut done shows the GOP is doing something, particularly on an issue — tax cuts — that has been at the core of Republican orthodoxy since the Reagan era. The surprise victory of Democrat Doug Jones in Alabama also means Republicans could have an even harder time passing a bill like this next year.
But pursuing legislation that most of the country doesn’t like is still very risky. Poll after poll shows only about a third of Americans think it’s a good idea. The vast majority feel it’s heavily skewed to the rich and big businesses.
Yet Republicans are optimistic. Why? Perhaps because most Americans are getting a tax cut under this plan, and if growth gets even hotter and unemployment gets even lower by Election Day, voters could reward the GOP.
I don’t think it’s going to work, but I guess we’re going to find out. Of course their other goal is to create massive enough deficits that they can claim they need to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; and they’re definitely going to get those deficits.
The tax cut bill will cause problems for lots of people, but we’ll have to wait for the experts to read the more than 1,000 page mess and analyze it detail. But it looks like the Republicans decided to take this opportunity to make things worse for Puerto Rico.
The final version of the Republican tax plan would end some of the tax advantages companies with operations in Puerto Rico have long enjoyed, potentially delivering an economic blow to the territory still reeling from Hurricane Maria and a record setting bankruptcy, according to an expert who reviewed the plan Friday.
Gabriel Hernandez, the head of the tax division at BDO Puerto Rico, said that under the new rules subsidiaries of U.S. companies based on the island would be treated as foreign, subject to a tax from income derived from intangible assets held offshore. Although the final plan did not include the House’s proposed 20 percent excise tax, as many local officials feared, it still likely signaled sweeping changes for the commonwealth’s economy, he said.
“All planning related to Puerto Rico essentially has changed,” Hernandez said in a telephone interview Friday evening. “It’s so complicated, it’s not even funny. And I’m a tax guy.”
The treatment of Puerto Rico as a foreign jurisdiction undercuts the central platform of Governor Ricardo Rossello, who lobbied against that status this week in Washington. Rossello wants Puerto Rico to become a state — the consideration of the island as foreign runs counter to his party’s main policy.
Hernandez, who has been a Puerto Rico tax expert for more than 25 years, said the plan released Friday seemed like deja vu for the embattled territory. In the nineties, Congress voted to end certain tax incentives then enjoyed by pharmaceutical and other companies with Puerto Rican manufacturing plants. When the rules lapsed completely in 2006, the island entered its years-long recession that culminated ultimately in its record-setting bankruptcy earlier this year. He said the changes released today could be as dramatic.
Read more details at the link.
The Washington Post has a piece about Matt Taibbi and Mark Ames and the years they worked as publishers/journalists in Russia. It’s about time someone in the mainstream media called attention to these two and their ugly history of sexually harassing and abusing women.
The two expat bros who terrorized women correspondents in Moscow, by Kathy Lally
There’s more than one way to harass women. A raft of men in recent weeks have paid for accusations of sexual harassment with their companies, their jobs, their plum political posts. But one point has been overlooked in the scandals: Men can be belittling, cruel and deeply damaging without demanding sex. (Try sloughing off heaps of contempt with your self-esteem intact.) We have no consensus — and hardly any discussion — about how we should treat behaviors that are misogynist and bullying but fall short of breaking the law.
Twenty years ago, when I was a Moscow correspondent for the Baltimore Sun, two Americans named Matt Taibbi and Mark Ames ran an English-language tabloid in the Russian capital called the eXile. They portrayed themselves as swashbuckling parodists, unbound by the conventions of mainstream journalism, exposing Westerners who were cynically profiting from the chaos of post-Soviet Russia.
A better description is this: The eXile was juvenile, stunt-obsessed and pornographic, titillating for high school boys. It is back in the news because Taibbi just wrote a new book, and interviewers are asking him why he and Ames acted so boorishly back then. The eXile’s distinguishing feature, more than anything else, was its blinding sexism — which often targeted me….
I remember the eXile as a mishmash of nightclub listings (rated on how easily a man could get sex), articles on lurid escapades (sex with a 15-year-old girl, an account Ames now says was a joke), political pieces (“Why Our Military Shopping Spree Has Russia Pissed Off”) and press reviews savaging mainstream Western journalists. It ridiculed one female reporter as a “star spinster columnist” and mentioned women’s “anger lines” and fat ankles. The paper even had a cartoon called the Fat Ankle News , about a woman who tweezes her nose hairs and gorges on doughnuts while editing a story. Some male reporters came in for scorn as toadies or morons or liars. But their outrages concerned their minds and not their bodies.
Please read the whole thing. I hope this high-profile exposure of Taibbi and Ames will get plenty of reaction. I’d love to see Taibbi go down in flames, although he’ll probably survive somehow.
You probably heard about this one already, but it’s too horrible not to include.
The Washington Post: CDC gets list of forbidden words: fetus, transgender, diversity.
The Trump administration is prohibiting officials at the nation’s top public health agency from using a list of seven words or phrases — including “fetus” and “transgender” — in any official documents being prepared for next year’s budget.
Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta were told of the list of forbidden words at a meeting Thursday with senior CDC officials who oversee the budget, according to an analyst who took part in the 90-minute briefing. The forbidden words are “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”
In some instances, the analysts were given alternative phrases. Instead of “science-based” or “evidence-based,” the suggested phrase is “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes,” the person said. In other cases, no replacement words were immediately offered.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
I just watched an interview Trump ghostwriter Tony Schwartz on Joy Reid’s show. Schwartz is convinced that Trump is working up to establishing a police state in the U.S. He argues that Trump’s attacks on the FBI and the Department of Justice are part of his plan to establish a private military run by Blackwater founder Erik Prince.
I don’t want to go off the deep end with this kind of speculation, but I am fearful of the way things seem to be going and the lack of GOP opposition to anything Trump does. The only hope he have is the Mueller investigation, and Republicans are actively attacking Mueller and his team in Congress and on Trump TV AKA Fox News. Even John Cornyn, the number 2 guy in the Senate suggested on Twitter yesterday that Mueller should be fired. Check out his timeline.
I hate to end on a negative note, but I’ve got a knot in my stomach after listening to Tony Schwartz, and I can’t focus on anymore scary news this morning.
What stories are you following?