Originally Published: 12/2/2017
CBO on Tax Cut Bill: The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) came out with its estimate of the effects of the Senate bill. It found that millionaires and those earning $100,000 to $500,000 a year will be the big beneficiaries. But by 2019 those earning less than $30,000 a year will be worse off. By 2021 those earning less than $40,000 will be worse off and by 2027 those earning less than $75,000 will be worse off. It estimated the bill will add $1.45 trillion to the deficit over the next decade. Check out the chart. The negative sign means people in those income brackets will pay less. The main reason the poor will be hit so hard is because the bill reduces aid for health care. CBO estimated that health insurance premiums will increase because the bill eliminates the mandate to purchase insurance. The increased cost of premiums will lead to 4 million people losing their insurance by 2019 and 13 million losing it by 2027. Didn’t stop the Senate Finance Committee though. It passed the bill on Tuesday, with help from Senators Bob Corker (R, TN) and Ron Johnson (R, WI), both of whom threatened to oppose it. (Washington Post) Early this morning the Senate passed the bill 51 to 49 with all Democrats, 2 Independents, and Senator Bob Corker (R, TN) voting against it. VP Mike Pence cast the deciding vote. (Roll Call) The 500-page bill had been re-written just before the vote to placate several senators, so no one really knew what was in it when they voted. (NY Times) The Senate bill will now have to be reconciled with the House bill, so a conference committee will have to be convened.
JCT on Tax Cut Bill: The Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that the Senate bill would add $1 trillion to the nation deficit over a 10-year period, “even after the economic growth the bill is projected to create is taken into account.” (Washington Post) Republicans were “scrambling” to find a way to placate deficit hawks and began considering a future tax increase if the economic growth estimates aren’t met after 5 years. And senators were said to be considering a “Pay-Go” waiver to keep the Pay-Go law from taking effect if revenues fall short, which would trigger an automatic reduction to Medicare and Medicaid as well as other entitlement programs. (Roll Call) I could find nothing this morning about whether either of these proposals was in the bill. Probably no one knows yet. There will be more analysis next week. But Republicans aren’t going to wait for Pay-Go to kick in. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R, WI) said he’s going after entitlement programs right away. (Washington Post)
More Tax Bill Issues: According to the Washington Post, the last minute changes to the Senate bill “could personally benefit” Trump “who has investment stakes in roughly 500 entities that could be affected by the planned adjustments.” The new Senate bill includes expanding a new tax credit on “pass-through” entities, the 500 enterprises in which Trump has invested. Principals in these companies pass their income through the individual income tax code, not the corporate tax code. These companies are primarily sole proprietorships, limited liability companies, or partnerships. Trump’s 2005 tax return showed that he had more than $109 million in income from these kinds of businesses. This provision made it into the final bill. (Washington Post) And the bill allows “unborn children” to be listed as beneficiaries of college funds. This appears to be a transparent attempt to codify “fetal personhood” in law. (Snopes) Teachers, who currently can deduct $250 a year for personal expenses on classroom material, will lose that deduction. (Washington Post) And Wall Street is probably going to “reap” $28 billion from the tax holiday provision in the bill according to a study by Public Citizen. Corporations that use tax shelters abroad will get a discount tax rate of 10% to bring their money back into the U.S. Just 9 top finance corporations collectively hold more than $172 billion offshore which is booked to their 2,270 tax haven subsidiaries across the globe. The greatest share of that is held by Citigroup - $47 billion in 137 offshore tax haven subsidiaries. JP Morgan Chase is next, followed by Goldman Sachs. The rest of the 9 are: Bank of America, American Express, Bank of New York Mellon, Morgan Stanley, State Street, and Wells Fargo.
Michael Flynn: As expected, Trump’s former national security adviser pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI “about a conversation with the Russian ambassador last December.” According to the NY Times, “the plea would be the latest indication that Mr. Flynn was cooperating with the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.” A Flynn confident said that he is prepared to testify that Trump “directed him to make contact with the Russians, initially as a way to work together to fight ISIS in Syria.” (ABC) And court records and “people familiar with the contacts indicated he was acting in consultation with senior Trump transition officials, including President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, in his dealings with [Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak].” (Washington Post) The news led to Keith Olbermann announcing that he was retiring his “Resistance” series. But the final one sums everything up nicely. (You Tube)
Jared Kushner: He still hasn’t passed a comprehensive background investigation that is required to gain a security clearance. Newsweek wrote” “no one will question the president’s decision to put his son-in-law in a crucial government role.”
Fake News: Trump called for a “contest” to determine which of the major news outlets should be awarded a Fake News Trophy. (USA Today) So conservative-leaning Rasmussen Reports did a poll. “Voters were presented with a handful of options, including CNN, MSNBC, CBS, and ABC - all outlets which President Trump has at one point deemed ‘fake news’ - as well as White House favorite Fox News.” Guess who won? Fox News - by a landslide. (Think Progress)
Russian Sanctions: Remember that Congress passed a new set of sanctions against Russia last July? (TWW, Russia, 7/29/17) To date, Trump has not implemented the sanctions. (KJZZ)
Mexico: It has revoked Monsanto’s permit to market GMO soy in 7 states “after authorities detected Monsanto’s GMO soy in unauthorized areas.” (EcoWatch)
Net Neutrality: Wonder why you haven’t heard all your friends talking about the abolition of net neutrality? It’s probably because they haven’t heard about it. Media Matters for America published a study that found that corporate cable and broadcast news coverage of Ajit Pai’s proposed net neutrality repeal (TWW, Net Neutrality, 11/25/17) has been sorely lacking and, in some cases, nonexistent.
Gun Control: The U.S. Supreme Court rejected the appeal of the National Rifle Association (NRA) to Maryland’s 2013 ban on assault weapons. They also declined another case of a Florida man who challenged the state’s ban on openly carrying firearms. (Guardian)
Burn Pits: Veterans and their family members had sued government contractor KBR “over burn pit operations in Iraq and Afghanistan that plaintiffs said caused them chronic and sometimes deadly respiratory diseases and cancer.” U.S. District Judge Roger Titus dismissed the case, saying that KBR wasn’t liable because burning waste disposal was a military decision and, therefore, the Pentagon is responsible. But, he added, holding the Pentagon responsible was “outside of his jurisdiction.” (Military.com)
Benghazi: Ahmed Abu Khattala was convicted on 4 counts, “including providing material support for terrorism, destroying property, placing lives in jeopardy, and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence” for planning the Benghazi attacks that killed 4 Americans. However, he was acquitted on 14 other charges - including murder. (NY Times)
William Emanuel: He’s a Republican member just appointed by Trump of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). He revealed this week a list of more than 100 of his former clients from the last 2 years, saying that he would recuse himself from matters involving these companies. “Before his appointment to the NLRB, Emanuel worked as a partner for Littler Mendelson, a law firm that specializes in union-busting consultancy.” (District Sentinel)
CFPB: Leandra English, the new acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (TWW, Mick Mulvaney, 11/25/17), filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the D.C. district to block Trump from installing Mick Mulvaney as the temporary head. (Washington Post) This didn’t stop Mulvaney. He showed up at the office Monday morning, bearing doughnuts, parked himself in the director’s office, and directed the staff to “disregard any instructions you receive from Ms. English in her presumed capacity as acting director.” (Washington Post) On Monday afternoon U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly held an “emergency” hearing but did not immediately rule. (Washington Post) However, Tuesday morning he denied the emergency motion to restrain Mulvaney from taking the office. (Roll Call) By the way, Judge Kelly was appointed by Trump. Mulvaney wasted no time. He announced a 30-day freeze on new rules and hiring. (Washington Post)
Deregulating Banking: Taking over the CFPB is just a part of the massive deregulation that Trump is doing. According to the NY Times, he’s “easing up” on policing Wall Street and the banking industry, “even without actually repealing broad swaths of regulation.” In addition to the CFPB, the Treasury Department is making it easier for financial firms to avoid being tagged as “too big to fail,” a designation “that subjects them to greater oversight.” And the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency “has become more forgiving of big banks when it comes to enforcing laws.” The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) “is reining in the power of regional directors to issue subpoenas.”
Time, Inc.: Time, Inc., publisher of the Time Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Fortune, and People, has been sold to the Meredith Corporation, owner of Family Circle, Better Homes and Gardens, and AllRecipes. The sale price was $3 billion and made possible “by an infusion of $650 million from Koch Equity Development. (NY Times) Koch Equity is a unit of Koch Industries. It has helped plenty of other takeover transactions, according to the Wall Street Journal. Among them is the sale of ADT for about $7 billion. Charles Alexander, the 13-year Time science editor, is concerned about the Koch Brothers’ influence as climate science deniers. (Guardian) Meredith said that the Koch’s would “have no influence on Meredith’s editorial or managerial operations.” But Robert Reich, writing at AlterNet, wrote: “Rubbish. The Koch Brothers don’t invest $650 million for nothing. My guess is they intend to use Time and its other publications - which reach millions of online and print readers - to promote their right-wing conservatism. The investment also gives them a way to combine their cache of voter information held by a data analytics company controlled by their network, 1360, with the publishers’ consumer data.” And a Public Citizen report exposed that 44 Trump administration officials “have close ties” to the Koch brothers.