Originally Published: 4/29/2017
Trump’s Tax Plan: Trump finally released his tax plan, a goal for his first 100 days. It appears to be a dramatic overhaul of the tax code but we’re not sure because he only released a one-page outline for the changes he wants. (ABC) It’s based on the Laffer Curve (NY Times), something Ronald Reagan tried and you know how that turned out. He wants to replace the 7 income tax brackets with 3 new ones, cut the corporate tax rate by more than 50%, abolish the alternative minimum tax - which is just about the only tax he paid in 2005 (TWW, Tax Leak, 3/18/17) - and the estate tax, and create new incentives to simplify filing returns. (Politico) His summary didn’t say how much the plan would reduce revenues or increase the debt. In fact, he didn’t specify anything. He said only that the goal was to reduce taxes so much and so fast that it would lead to immediate economic growth. “It’s so poorly thought out that even tax-cut-loving congressional Republicans like Paul Ryan are aghast. (MarketWatch) Many Republicans are trumpeting their age-old mantra that cutting taxes will lead to faster growth. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said that Trump’s proposal “may inflict a short-term hit to revenue” but it will “cover the gap by boosting economic growth over the next decade.” (Bloomberg) But, he can’t guarantee that the middle class won’t pay more under this plan. (ABC) Needless to say, the plan would shift trillions of dollars from federal coffers to the richest families and their heirs. (NY Times) Let me break it down into its 2 major parts: corporate tax cut and personal tax cut.
Corporate Tax Cut: Trump is seeking a “drastic” cut in the corporate tax rate, “a move that is likely to grow the national debt and breach a long-held Republican goal of curbing federal borrowing.” He wants to take it from 35% to 15%. Independent budget experts say this could cost us $2.4 trillion over a decade. (Washington Post) Remember, while 35% is one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world, the largest corporations don’t pay that. (TWW, Corporate Tax Rate, 3/18/17) See the chart put up by MarketWatch. This lower tax rate would also apply to small business owners, who pay their taxes for their businesses on their individual tax returns which would encourage people to form small businesses and hire out as independent contractors rather than employees. (CNN) The Guardian’s tax experts report that this provision alone “could deliver many millions of dollars annually in tax savings to Donald Trump personally.”
Personal Tax Cut: As expected, Trump’s plan would give the biggest tax cut to the top. (Center for Budget and Policy Priorities) He’s proposing a reduction in the top tax rate from 39.6% to 35%. He also wants to repeal the 3.8% surcharge for Medicare that applies to a portion of investment income from capital gains, dividends, interest, rental income, and annuities. Currently the tax only applies to incomes of more than $200,000 if single or $250,000 if married filing jointly. And, of course, he wants to eliminate the estate tax, which currently only applies to estates of more than $5.5 million, so “it only affects about .2% of all estates in any given year.” (CNN) Like I said above, it’s not clear if the cuts will reduce middle-class taxes but Josh Bivens, writing at the Economic Policy Institute, pointed out that, even if they do, any tax cuts for lower income people will not help them. Check out this chart. The bottom 80% has “lost ground” even as their tax rates have been cut.
Russian Connection: House Oversight Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz (R, UT) and ranking member Elijah Cummings (D, MD) said they believe Michael Flynn broke the law when he earned money from Russia and Turkey and “neither received permission nor fully disclosed” the income. (TWW, Financial Disclosures, 4/8/17; Michael Flynn, 2/18/17) “They reached this conclusion after viewing 2 classified memos and a financial disclosure form in a private briefing Tuesday morning.” As a former military officer Flynn was required to get permission to earn income from a foreign power, which he didn’t do. (Washington Post) Chaffetz and Cummings asked the White House to turn over internal documents related to the hiring and firing of Flynn. The White House refused. (NY Times) Meantime, in the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation there are plenty of problems, too. They have just 7 part-time staffers and “not one of them is a trained investigator.” They haven’t interviewed a single “player in Trump’s orbit.” (The Daily Beast) Keith Olberman thinks we’re witnessing a cover-up. The Pentagon’s Inspector General Glenn Fine has told the committee that it has launched an investigation into Flynn’s actions. (Washington Post)
Charmaine Yoest: Trump has named her to be assistant secretary of public affairs at the Health and Human Services Department (HHS). Yoest is “one of the most prominent anti-abortion activists in the nation.” (Politico)
Ivanka & Jared: The government watchdog group Democracy 21 “asked Jared Kushner to recuse himself from a wide array of policy areas due to Kushner’s decision to retain ownership of hundreds of his businesses.” (Washington Post) And Ivanka was “booed and hissed” by an audience in Berlin after she praised her father’s stance on women. (Independent) John Oliver has a great take on the the dynamic duo. (You Tube)
Mar-a-Lago: The State Department website had an “ad” for Mar-a-Lago. Then it suddenly disappeared. But not before it was noticed by lawyers suing Trump for ethics violations. (NPR)
An Interview with Trump: The Associated Press did an interview with Trump. Here’s the transcript. It’s very long but I suggest you read it to know what we’re up against. This guy has something wrong with him. And, as usual, the Washington Post got its Fact Checker rolling and rated it “Pinocchio-laden.”
Britain: For the first time since the industrial revolution, Britain fulfilled all of its energy needs without using coal for a full day. (Independent)
North Korea: Trump said in an interview, “There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea.” (Reuters) Shortly thereafter North Korea conducted a ballistic missile test. It failed. (CNBC)
Arkansas: Governor Asa Hutchinson carried out “back-to-back” executions Monday night. 2 were executed “to become the first U.S. state to put more than 1 inmate to death on the same day in 17 years.” (Reuters) And another inmate was killed Thursday night but many are calling for an investigation since he was observed “lurching” and “moaning” during the procedure. (Arkansas Times)
Louisiana: Lots happening in Lousiana this week. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana added another test for determining what constitutes a “search.” Judge Lance Africk held that collecting the DNA from the door handle of a car parked in a local strip mall parking lot was a Fourth Amendment search “because it trespassed on to the car.” (Washington Post) The City of New Orleans has begun removing the first of 4 Confederate monuments known as the “Lost Cause of the Confederacy.” The first was originally erected in 1891 to honor the 16 members of the Crescent City White League, a group of all-white, mostly Confederate veterans, who died during an insurrection against the racially-integrated New Orleans Metropolitan police force. (Times-Picayune) The monuments will be put in a place “where they can be put in historical context.” And Governor John Bel Edwards (D) declared a state of emergency for coastal areas “to highlight the state’s need for more federal funding to address extreme weather events.” More than half of its 4.65 million residents live on the coast and parts are unprotected from hurricanes and floods. (EcoWatch)
Missouri: U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs issued a preliminary injunction blocking state laws requiring physicians performing abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and that clinics performing abortions be certified as ambulatory surgical facilities. Sachs cited the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Texas. (Rewire)
Ohio: Tim Nolan, a former Campbell County District Judge who currently sits on the Campbell County Board of Education, was indicted for human trafficking of children. (River City News)
Police Shooting: An unarmed man, shot in the back by a police officer, cannot have a full trial, decided a lower court. The U.S. Supreme Court denied to take the case. (Think Progress) Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that the court is developing a “disturbing trend” of siding with police officers accused of excessive force. She argued that they should have taken the case. (Washington Post)
Tribal Sovereign Immunity: The Supremes reversed a lower court decision. The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that tribal sovereign immunity extends to a tribal employee who was sued in his individual capacity due to an auto accident off the reservation. The Supremes unanimously found the employee could not receive the benefit of the tribe’s sovereign immunity and remanded the case. (Stanford Law)
Continuing Resolution: The CR that was passed last December (TWW, Continuing Resolution, 12/10/16) was expiring on Friday, so they had to come up with something or the government would shut down today, Trump’s 100th day. Of course, they wanted another budget. But the Senate would need 60 votes for cloture and, given what the radical Republicans would put in the budget, that wasn’t likely. Or Majority Leader Mitch McConnoll (R, KY) could use the nuclear option on legislation. So, they went for another CR. I guess we don’t have annual budgets anymore. We just function on CRs. The whole week was spent bickering over it. Trump was pressuring Democrats saying Obamacare would die if they didn’t come up with a cash infusion and he’d make sure it wouldn’t happen if they agreed to fund the Border Wall. (Reuters) Later, in an obvious attempt to get something done by his 100th day, he “indicated he [was] willing to delay his demand for funding” the Wall to avoid a shutdown of the government. (Guardian) As the deadline approached, congress critters got serious. House Appropriations Committee Chair Rodney Frelinghuysen (R, NJ) introduced a bill late on Wednesday night to fund government operations at current levels for one more week. (Reuters) The House passed the bill on Friday 382 to 30 (Washington Post) and the Senate signed it shortly thereafter and immediately sent it to Trump for signing. (Roll Call)
The New Navy: The U.S. Navy is planning a “new force structure” that calls for a fleet of 355 ships, “substantially larger than the current fleet of 275 ships and also larger than the Navy’s previously stated goal of 308 ships. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) was asked to estimate the costs of this. CBO wrote that to achieve the Navy’s goals would take at least 18 years, if it’s given sufficient funding. The cost to build and operate a 355-ship fleet “would average $102 billion per year (in 2017 dollars) through 2047,” or “more than one-third greater than the amount appropriated for fiscal year 2016 for today’s 275-ship fleet.”
Sanctuary: Trump signed an Executive Order in January to withhold federal funds for sanctuary cities (TWW, Immigration, 1/28/17) and Jeff Sessions sent notices to 9 jurisdictions. (TWW, Sanctuary, 4/22/17) San Francisco was the first city to sue over this order (TWW, Sanctuary Cities, 2/4/17) so the case ended up in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco. District Judge William Orrick temporarily blocked Trump’s plan to withhold federal funds from localities that “limit their cooperation with immigration enforcement.” He wrote that the president “overstepped his powers” and that only Congress could place such conditions on spending. (NY Times) Once again, Trump’s “bragging and bluster” sealed the fate of his order. Just like the Muslim Ban (TWW, Travel Ban, 3/18/17), Orrick “homed in on the vast discrepancies between what government lawyers defending the sanctuary cities order argued in court and what administration officials said about it in public.” (Washington Post)
Net Neutrality: Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chair Ajit Pai released a plan to roll back Net Neutrality. (TWW, Net Neutrality, 2/28/15) Remember, Net Neutrality rules are that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) be regulated like public utilities, making it illegal for them to block or slow down websites. Pai’s proposal is set for a vote on May 18th. I suggest that you get busy calling - again. (Washington Post)
Tariffs: Trump announced that he’s planning to impose a roughly 20% tariff on softwood lumber imported from Canada. (Washington Post)
Economy: The U.S. economy “turned in the weakest performance in 3 years in the January-March quarter as consumers sharply slowed their spending. (Guardian)
Repeal and Replace: The far-right conservative House Caucus, the so-called Freedom Caucus, has thrown its support behind the MacArthur Amendment (TWW, Repeal and Replace, 4/22/17). This will put pressure on the more moderate Republicans to go along with it. (Washington Post) The new deal allows “an exemption for the health insurance of legislators and their staff. This means that members of Congress and their aides would be guaranteed access to Obamacare provisions that constituents could lose.” (Vox) In other words, Congress likes the Obamacare provisions. They just don’t want anyone else to have them. It wasn’t enough. The House couldn’t scrounge up enough votes to get it passed in Trump’s first 100 days. (NY Times)
Anthem & Cigna: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia blocked the merger of Anthem and Cigna, “upholding a lower court’s decision that the $54 billion deal should not be allowed because it would lead to higher prices for healthcare.” They can ask the court to reconsider its decision or appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. (Reuters)
Rape: A new study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that women who have been raped or sexually assaulted pay almost $1,000 in medical bills after reporting the crime. The average amount spent on treatment for each victim by insurance providers in 2013 was $6,735. Of this, victims paid an average of $950.
Surgeon General: U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy was removed by Trump and replaced temporarily by his deputy, Rear Admiral Sylvia Trent-Adams. (Washington Post)
Soft Drinks: Last week I told you about the problem with artificial sweeteners. (TWW, Artificial Sweeteners, 4/22/17) This week a new report found “markers of accelerated aging and early signs of Alzheimer’s disease” in people who drink 1 or 2 “sugary” drinks a day. “Sugary” is defined as soft drinks and well as fruit juices with added sugar. (NY Times) Now I’d like to see them do the same research on drinks with real sugar as opposed to high-fructose corn syrup.
Clean Power Act: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia granted Trump’s request to halt a lawsuit over the Clean Power Act, “handing him a major victory in his bid to revoke the rule that would have required power plants to curb their greenhouse gas emissions.” The court’s decision sends the regulation back to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review and “most likely quash the regulation.” (Politico)
Climate Science: There are 180 climate science deniers in the current Congress. 142 are in the House and 38 in the Senate. “That’s more than 59% of the Republican House caucus and 73% of Republicans in the Senate.” (Think Progress)
Fossil Fuels: Trump signed another Executive Order that directs Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to roll back the borders of protected lands and open them to drilling, mining, and logging. This will open up protected waters in the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans to offshore drilling. (CNBC) The Order includes telling the Interior Department to “reconsider” several of the safety regulations put in place on offshore drilling after the Deepwater Horizon disaster. (NY Times)
Climate Scientist Defamation: The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that climate change scientist Michael Mann “can sue 2 conservative writers over allegations that they defamed him.” The posts were written by Rand Simberg in a Competitive Enterprise Institute blog and Mark Steyn on National Review. The Court ruled that a “reasonable jury” could “find that the pieces by Simberg and Steyn meet the standard necessary to prove that they illegally defamed Mann.” (The Hill)
Offshoring: Trump promised on the campaign trail that he would punish firms that offshore American jobs. Well, that promise is out the window. According to a new report from Good Jobs Nation and Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, federal contracts to firms that have major offshore operations has continued unabated. Of the contracts awarded in 2016, 56% went to corporations that offshored jobs. 41 of these received over $176 billion in taxpayer dollars. Most of these contracts are still in effect today. Since Trump has taken office, United Technologies has received 15 new awards and General Electric many more.