Friday Talking Points [455] -- Price Break!

[ Posted Friday, September 29th, 2017 – 17:49 UTC ]

As we sat down to write this, the news broke that Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price has resigned. So, of course, we immediately had to come up with a snappy "price" pun for our title. We could have gone with the Rolls Royce slogan ("If You Have To Ask The Price, You Can't Afford It"), or maybe "The High Price Of Airfare These Days," but both are kind of wordy. So we had to settle for "Price Break!" (we did consider "Price Cut," but that would have been more appropriate if he had actually been fired). The news of Price's resignation came immediately following the news that President Donald Trump was going to decide -- tonight -- whether to fire him or not. So, one way or another, the Price would have been lowered, so to speak.

But enough silliness. Tom Price is one of an increasing number of high-ranking Trump officials who are getting shamed for their use of extremely expensive private charter jets and military aircraft to move around -- travel that most such officials are supposed to use commercial airlines to accomplish. Price was the worst so far, having spent over a million taxpayer bucks on both charters and military flights so far (about half of the total, for each). Of this princely sum, he announced this week he would be reimbursing the Treasury for a little under $52,000. The optics, as even Trump admitted, were pretty bad and getting worse.

From the Politico story which broke the news of Price's military flights, came the following reminder of Price's rampant hypocrisy:

In June, Price defended a proposed budget for H.H.S. that included a $663,000 cut to the agency's $4.9 million annual spending on travel, or roughly 15 percent. "The budgeting process is an exercise in reforming our federal programs to make sure they actually work -- so they do their job and use tax dollars wisely," Price testified in front of the Senate Finance Committee on June 8.

That wasn't even the worst irony. That prize would have to go to the proposed White House budget, which would have cut billions in necessary federal funding for health needs, including $1.2 billion from the C.D.C. and another billion from the National Cancer Institute. These proposed cuts astonished even Republicans in Congress, and will likely never be enacted, but Price was the point man to make the case for them. How persuasive was he going to be, after all the revelations about his luxurious travel? "Let them eat moldy cake -- maybe they'll get some penicillin that way," perhaps?

Beyond Price, one has to wonder whether other heads might eventually roll. While Price was the worst abuser of private and military travel, he wasn't the only one in Trump's cabinet guilty of doing so:

Price has come under the most intense scrutiny -- President Trump chastised him publicly Wednesday and suggested that his job was no longer secure -- but lawmakers are also demanding probes of travel by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Pruitt has taken at least four noncommercial and military flights since mid-February, according to congressional oversight records, costing taxpayers more than $58,000, while Mnuchin is under investigation by the Treasury inspector general for his use of a government plane to visit Kentucky as well as one for a trip from New York City to Washington.

And a private plane chartered this summer by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, for a flight from Las Vegas to near his home in Montana, cost taxpayers $12,375, according to a department spokesman. Zinke also used private flights during a trip to the Virgin Islands.

With the way the week has unfolded, we fully expect to hear more of these revelations as reporters dig into all executive branch travel. So there's that to look forward to....

But let's take a look at the week that was. Donald Trump kicked the week off by picking a very public fight with the N.F.L. players who have been "taking a knee," which was nothing short of a gigantic distraction. Trump knew he was going to need such a distraction, because he was heading into a pretty tough week.

On Monday, Senator Susan Collins torpedoed the latest GOP "repeal and replace Obamacare" attempt, by joining John McCain and Rand Paul in stating they'd be voting "No" on the Graham-Cassidy bill. Donald Trump, later in the week, appeared delusional about what had happened (in two separate ways). Here he is, from an interview:

We have the votes, but reconciliation is a disaster. But as you know, it ends on Friday. So we don't have enough time, because we have one senator who's a "Yes" vote, a great person, but he's in the hospital. And he's a "Yes" vote. So we can't do it by Friday.

To begin with, no senator is in the hospital. Thad Cochran of Mississippi is home recuperating, but he had to tweet that he wasn't actually hospitalized after Trump repeated this false claim over and over again. Secondly, Trump seems eternally confused about what "reconciliation" actually is. For Republicans, reconciliation rules are a good thing, currently. It means they only need 51 votes rather than 60. Trump conflates these two numbers all the time, perhaps confused as to what a filibuster actually is. But even ignoring that, Trump cannot add. If one "Yes" vote is at home and three Republicans are voting "No," then the GOP would have 48 votes for the bill. This would increase by one if Cochran returned, making it 49 votes. But 49 votes is not a majority. So Trump did not have the votes. Delusional is the only appropriate word in this instance.

Tuesday night, the candidate Trump backed in the Senate special election GOP primary in Alabama lost badly. Trump had campaigned for Luther Strange (who was apparently named by Stan Lee), but Roy Moore beat him handily. Moore, among other things, is a big fan of conspiracy theories:

Moore has been a birther (though unlike Trump he hasn't renounced it), suggested President Barack Obama was a Muslim, and said the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks were punishment from God. He has compared a congressman taking the oath of office on a Koran to doing so on Hitler's Mein Kampf. He has also served as a columnist at the conspiracy-theory site World Net Daily. He even said Tuesday that there is Sharia law in the United States right now -- "as I understand it, in Illinois, Indiana." Yes, President Trump has latched on to some of this stuff, but the sum total has no precedent in recent American politics.

What was the most interesting thing about this bizarre election was the way in which Moore used Mitch McConnell as a whipping boy. From the same article: "Trump's advocacy on Strange's behalf basically boiled down to repeated assurances that Strange didn't even really know McConnell -- and thus couldn't be his puppet." So can we expect to see just as many anti-McConnell ads from Republican Senate candidates as we see anti-Pelosi ads from House wannabes? That's a strange thing to even contemplate, but then again Moore did win his primary using this strategy.

Meanwhile, under the radar, Democrats picked up two GOP-held seats in state legislatures, in New Hampshire and Florida:

The two races bring the total number of GOP seats won by the Democratic Party to eight this election cycle -- all of them in special races. The results suggest that the party is on track to make even more significant gains in statewide legislative races in Virginia and New Jersey this November.

The victory in New Hampshire was especially notable, since the party pulled it off in a heavily Republican state House of Representatives district where voters overwhelmingly preferred Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton in November's presidential election.

But back to Trump's bad week. News broke during the week that Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Reince Priebus, Steven Miller, and Steve Bannon all have been using private emails to conduct official White House business. "Lock them up! ... Oh, wait a minute...."

During all of this, Trump has been overseeing his own private Katrina, down in Puerto Rico. It took a while for the media to notice, but roughly since Monday they've been leading with the devastation Hurricane Maria caused, and the almost complete lack of effective federal response. It has now been well over a week since the hurricane hit, and this morning CBS had a report from a dock in Virginia with the Navy's hospital ship looming in the background -- which hadn't even left port yet, and wouldn't arrive in Puerto Rico for another four or five days. The most damning report yet pointed out that America's response to the 2010 Haitian earthquake was far better than Trump's response to Maria:

Within two days [of the Haiti quake], 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 [supplies]. By contrast, eight days after Hurricane Maria … just 4,400 service members were participating [and] about 50 U.S. military helicopters were helping to deliver food and water to the 3.4 million residents of the U.S. territory.

That is shameful, and should embarrass the Trump administration. Instead, Trump keeps repeating the equivalent of "Heck of a job we're doing, Trumpie," while patting himself on the back for his fantastic response -- which is bigger and better than anything anyone has ever seen before, so there. Trump helpfully explained why it was so tough to get aid to Puerto Rico: "This is an island surrounded by water -- big water, ocean water." The biggest, most tremendous water you've ever seen, believe me.

When he wasn't congratulating himself, Trump was busily shaming the victims, tweeting early in the week:

Texas & Florida are doing great but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble..

...It's old electrical grid, which was in terrible shape, was devastated. Much of the Island was destroyed, with billions of dollars....

...owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with. Food, water and medical are top priorities - and doing well.

So now Trump is offering advice on what to do when billions are owed to Wall Street and the banks? Previously, he personally "dealt with" this situation by declaring bankruptcy, just to remind everyone. Multiple times.

Trump actually saw his approval ratings inch upwards after FEMA didn't botch their response to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Hey, two out of three ain't bad, right?

And if the Trump administration hadn't been in enough trouble of the subject of military travel, they have been blocking members of Congress from using military flights to get down to Puerto Rico to see for themselves what is going on. If no member of Congress sees it, that means it didn't happen, right?

Trump was supposed to spend this week rolling out his new tax-cutting plan, of course, but that almost got buried (swamped?) by the rest of the bad news he got all week long. Earlier in the year, the Trump White House put out their "tax tweet," which contained fewer than 200 words and no actual numbers. With eight or nine months to work on it, the "Big Six" (first time we've heard such a group called anything but a "Gang," we should point out) from Congress and the White House hammered out... a nine-page list of bullet points. No tax legislation, no complete analysis, instead they just agreed on all the goodies and punted all the hard decisions "to Congress." At this rate, it'll be a decade or so before they actually draft a bill.

This may actually (gasp!) lead to some regular order in Congress (which we wrote about yesterday), but the immediate takeaway (that, sadly, most Democrats have not been properly using as a talking point) is that Trump is trying to cut his own taxes by a minimum of over 80 percent (which we wrote about Wednesday). And if that's not enough, we wrote what is no more, really, than an extended football metaphor on Tuesday, just because we were in the mood. Plus, almost all the talking points this week are on the GOP tax plan, so it's pretty well covered, below.

That's it for political news, although we have to offer up a quick Requiescat In Pace for Hugh Hefner, who hopped off to the great bunnyland in the sky this week. I know this will be hard for any Millennial to comprehend, but there was a time when nude photos were not actually widely available to all who wished to view them. Hef singlehandedly did more to change that than anyone else, and he helped usher in the sexual revolution in his own particular (and oh, so suave) way. So love him or hate him, you've got to admit he was an influential figure of the latter half of 20th century America.


Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

We've got an Honorable Mention to hand out this week, but for continuity's sake we have to announce it after the main Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award presentation.

The Washington Post had an excellent 10-point rundown of what we've learned from the defeat of Graham-Cassidy and all the other "repeal and replace" GOP schemes. Their list ends with one of the most important lessons for Democrats:

Health care is no longer an abstract debate, and citizens still have power. Republicans began thinking they could toss around pleasant words such as "freedom" and "choice" and that would obscure the human consequences of what they were proposing. But up against cancer patients describing how the ACA had enabled them to get life-saving care, or people with disabilities literally putting their bodies on the line to protest getting their Medicaid taken away, those words lost all their power.

While there were many facets to the campaign to stop these bills, what mattered most was ordinary people, people who organized and called and wrote and shouted and protested and through their efforts made just enough politicians understand what was really at stake. That's a lesson that shouldn't be forgotten.

We wholeheartedly agree, which is why -- once again -- we're giving the MIDOTW to everyone who protested the Republican attempt to deny health insurance to tens of millions of people. When you show up in person, it's harder to ignore you. You become not some sort of abstraction, but a real live human being with a real story to tell. More than any Democratic leader, the protesters (including everyone who phoned or contacted their own representative in any way to express their displeasure) were the driving force behind killing all of these very bad bills.

Which brings us to our Honorable Mention footnote:

Democrats, whose relationships with the protest groups have strengthened since the start of the year, encouraged them to get active ahead of the Sept. 30 repeal deadline. As they filled the halls, senators' social media teams shared videos of them talking about their personal coverage or even getting arrested; Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), the committee's ranking Democrat, personally delivered pizzas to the people who had been lining up since early morning.

Well done, Senator Wyden! Everyone loves pizza, after all. A classy move indeed!

[Congratulations to everyone who protested or attempted to protest this godawful bill -- we certainly appreciate all your efforts.]


Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

We haven't yet heard the end of Mr. Peter Tweeter, it seems.

Disgraced Democratic politician Anthony Weiner was sentenced this week to 21 months in the slammer, for sexting with an underage girl. This led to a chain of events which culminated in the head of the F.B.I. announcing mere days before the 2018 presidential election that he had some more Hillary Clinton emails to dig through. This most likely contributed to her defeat, so it's an important chain of events in the grand scheme of things.

It's also important to remember that previous to this incident, Weiner had been publicly exposed (so to speak) sexting women not actually married to him twice, which killed both his congressional career and his hope for a political comeback as New York City's mayor.

In the end, Weiner's legal team was resorting to victim-shaming, which didn't help much with the sentencing judge:

"The defendant did far more than exchange typed words on a lifeless cellphone screen with a faceless stranger," prosecutors wrote in sentencing papers. "With full knowledge that he was communicating with a real 15-year-old girl, the defendant asked her to engage in sexually explicit conduct via Skype and Snapchat, where her body was on display, and where she was asked to sexually perform for him."

Weiner's defense attorneys argued for a penalty that did not include jail time. They cast the former congressman as a man with an addiction problem and asserted that the teen had reached out to him hoping to generate material for a book deal.

Sheesh. Enough already. For the eighth time, Anthony Weiner is hereby awarded the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week.

[Anthony Weiner is (thankfully) not currently a politician, so you'll have to search his contact info out yourself to let him know what you think of his actions.]


Friday Talking Points

Volume 455 (9/29/17)

Today we're going to almost completely focus on the Republican tax-cutting plan, except for one parting shot at the Republican "repeal and replace" embarrassment, at the end.

The fight over taxes is first going to be fought among Republicans, if the recent past is any guide. There still are Republicans who care about not adding to the national debt, and who knows what the Tea Partiers will demand? So it'll be a fratricidal battle before Democrats even get involved.

Democrats should, in the meantime, try to undermine Trump's incorrect rationale in every possible way. This is fairly easy to do, because everyone in the Trump administration seems to be just flat-out lying about everything under the sun. We saw one claiming the economy will grow by six percent this week, and we immediately wondered what exactly he had been smoking before the interview (most sane economists consider anything over three percent to be complete fantasy -- even three percent is pretty wildly optimistic).

So Democrats should gather their data and be ready to make the basic case that the GOP tax plan is nothing short of an enormous giveaway to the ultra-wealthy, at the expense of everyone else in the country. Fortunately, as always, Republicans make it pathetically easy to make such a case. So without further ado, let's get right to it.


   Trump slashes his own taxes by tens of millions a year

Always lead with this one, because it already seems to bug him no end.

"Donald Trump campaigned on tax cuts for the working class. But the plan he just agreed to would lower his own taxes by 80 percent or more. That is a pretty jaw-dropping amount going to the wealthiest taxpayers, you've got to admit. From the one year we have of his taxes, he would have saved a whopping $47 million if his new tax plan had been in place. Changing how business income is taxed would have saved him $16 million, and one single change to the tax code -- getting rid of the Alternative Minimum Tax, which closes loopholes wealthy people can use -- would have saved Trump a whopping $31 million in 2005 alone. Trump insists he wouldn't benefit from this tax plan, but he is flat wrong. He'd save tens of millions of dollars each and every single year. He's just lying. And if he takes exception to that, then let him release some more-recent tax returns so we can all see how he'd be affected."


   Trump kids get even more

This wouldn't actually affect Trump directly, but it's also well worth pointing out.

"Trump doesn't stop at slashing his own taxes by tens of millions, because one change in the tax code will actually save his children over one billion dollars when he dies. By getting rid of the inheritance tax he will be giving his own children an enormous windfall of money after Trump is gone. Trump falsely claimed this was to save money for 'millions of farmers and small businesses,' but in fact less than 6,000 people ever even pay this tax each year, because up to $11 million of each estate is tax-free. Of that small number, only 80 family farms and small businesses would be affected. That's 80, not the 'millions' Trump claimed. While his own kids save a cool billion."


   Making out like bandits

Of course, these numbers will be refined if the Republicans ever actually write legislation (rather than a set of bullet points), but for now Democrats should use the currently-available data.

"Still don't believe this is a tax cut almost entirely slanted to the One Percent? Well, let's take a look at the details. The lowest tax bracket would actually see their tax rate go up, from 10 percent to 12 percent. This led Breitbart to run the headline: 'MORE BETRAYAL -- REPUBLICAN PLAN TO RAISE TAXES!' So while tax rates at the bottom go up, what happens to everyone else? One nonpartisan analysis shows the radically unbalanced effects of the Republican plan. It found that one in every four households will wind up paying more in taxes. For taxpayers with incomes between $50,000 and $150,000, almost a third will see their taxes go up. For those making between $150,000 and $300,000, half of all families will see their taxes rise. But then as the incomes get bigger, a strange thing happens. Taxpayers making more than $900,000 a year -- the One Percent, in other words -- would get an average $200,000 tax break. And when you look at the 0.1 Percent it gets even worse, because they'll enjoy a giant tax cut of over a million dollars a year. Not exactly the 'middle-class tax cut' Trump's been promising, is it?"


   The public is not on board

More hard numbers worth quoting.

"Let's take a look at what the public thinks, as we start the tax-cutting debate. Almost three in every four Americans (73 percent) think the tax system favors the wealthy over the middle class. A full 55 percent feel this 'strongly.' Over half of Americans think the Trump tax plan will favor the wealthy, while only 10 percent think it will mainly benefit the middle class. And how about those corporate rates? While only 11 percent think corporations pay too much in taxes -- the stated reason for why the Republicans are pushing tax cuts now -- a full 65 percent of the public thinks big business pays too little. Even among Republicans, 47 percent think corporations pay too little, while only 17 percent think they pay too much. So it's not like the public is clamoring for this tax cut -- quite the contrary, in fact."


   Down the memory hole

Classic Orwellian behavior, really.

"Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has been trying to peddle the snake oil that ordinary workers would benefit most from corporate tax cuts. To do so, he had to send a report on his own department's website down the memory hole, though. A 2012 paper from the Office of Tax Analysis 'found that workers pay 18% of the corporate tax while owners of capital pay 82%,' so of course it had to be deleted. It's so much easier to make a bogus case when your own website doesn't massively contradict your fantasy facts, isn't it?"


   A Reganite's view

This was the most damning indictment of the Republican fantasy all week, though. It comes from an op-ed written by Bruce Bartlett, a "domestic policy advisor to Ronald Reagan" who helped write the 1986 tax reform bill. His article is worth reading in full, although the title sums his point up nicely: "I Helped Create The GOP Tax Myth. Trump Is Wrong: Tax Cuts Don't Equal Growth." From someone who knows exactly what he's talking about:

The flip-side of tax cut mythology is the notion that tax increases are an economic disaster -- the reason, in theory, every Republican in Congress voted against the tax increase proposed by Bill Clinton in 1993. Yet the 1990s was the most prosperous decade in recent memory. At 37.3 percent, aggregate real GDP growth in the 1990s exceeded that in the 1980s.

Despite huge tax cuts almost annually during the George W. Bush administration that cost the Treasury trillions in revenue, according to the Congressional Budget Office, growth collapsed in the first decade of the 2000s. Real GDP rose just 19.5 percent, well below its '90s rate.


   Flipping him the bird

And finally, as promised, a parting shot at the Republican "repeal and replace" nonsense. This was also taken from the Washington Post article listing ten things we've learned over the past nine months, and it is the best description of Republican motives we've yet seen. This was the second point on the list of lessons learned:

The overwhelming majority of Republicans are more than happy to vote for bills with catastrophic consequences. All of the GOP health-care bills that were offered promised upheaval -- tens of millions losing their insurance, skyrocketing premiums, death spirals in the individual markets. Yet there were never more than a few Republicans willing to say no. The rest were ready to set off a tidal wave of human suffering if it meant that they could give the finger to Barack Obama.

-- Chris Weigant


All-time award winners leaderboard, by rank
Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground
Cross-posted at: The Huffington Post


45 Comments on “Friday Talking Points [455] -- Price Break!”

  1. [1] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    Nobody knew that that thick, orange cloud of corruption would result in rich guys getting free stuff.

  2. [2] 
    altohone wrote:

    Hey CW

    Typo alert-

    "This led to a chain of events which culminated in the head of the F.B.I. announcing mere days before the 2018 presidential election that he had some more Hillary Clinton emails to dig through"

    I'm not ready for another presidential election next year.


  3. [3] 
    Paula wrote:

    Cholera in Puerto Rico thanks to Blotus's incredible incompetence, backed by the unforgivable complicit irresponsibility of congressional GOP.

    Blotus off to golf again while Mayor of Puerto Rico begs for help.

    Blotus off to another golf course for the weekend.


  4. [4] 
    Kick wrote:

    CW: So we had to settle for "Price Break!" (we did consider "Price Cut," but that would have been more appropriate if he had actually been fired) .

    Trust me... Price was actually fired; you know he was. It wasn't that Trump took issue with his extensive use of taxpayer-funded military/charter flights to the tune of $1 million; Tom paid the Price for getting caught. The news broke as Trump flew to another one of his golf courses for the umpteenth time.

    Remember all the right-wing outrage and whining about the taxpayers' money whenever Obama would occasionally go on vacation? Where is all that outrage for the $3 million a pop for BLOTUS' frequent trips to Trump properties, including $60,000 in golf cart rentals by the Secret Service? Can you imagine the howling by the righties if Obama was raking in taxpayers' money to jet off to his own properties... more than one dozen trips already... and probably closer to 20 trips before the year is over?

    Since his inauguration, Trump has taken seven trips to his estate in Mar-a-Lago, Fla., traveled to his Bedminster, N.J., golf club five times and returned to Trump Tower in Manhattan once.

    Trump's frequent visits to his "winter White House" and "summer White House" are especially challenging for the agency, which must maintain a regular security infrastructure at each – while still allowing access to paying members and guests.

    Always costly in manpower and equipment, the president's jaunts to Mar-a-Lago are estimated to cost at least $3 million each, based on a General Accountability Office estimate for similar travel by former President Obama. The Secret Service has spent some $60,000 on golf cart rentals alone this year to protect Trump at both Mar-a-Lago and Bedminster.

  5. [5] 
    altohone wrote:

    Hey CW

    Nothing else to add except that Huma's former dachshund is deservedly getting 21 months, but torturing war criminals and economy devastating fraudsters walked... just for a little perspective.

    Oh, there was also a report that Trump's spawn had a little ski trip that cost tax payers $3,000,000.


  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Don't miss the last part of Real Time tonight.

  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    And, AIG just got de-designated as 'too big to fail' and, therefore will no longer labour under the arduous rules and regulations put in place for institutions that could pose a threat to the financial system as a whole should they ever get themselves into trouble. Ahem.

    Where is Timothy Geithner when you need him? Oh, never mind.

  8. [8] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Where's Michale?

  9. [9] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Mnuchin should 'resign' now ... but not because of luxury flights.

    see [7]

  10. [10] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Mnuchin should 'resign' now

    If for no other reason than that an image of Steve Mnuchin and Pepe the Frog sitting on adjacent lily pads would be the perfect metaphor for this administration.

  11. [11] 
    Mopshell wrote:


    Where's Michale?

    Been wondering the same thing. My guess would be that they were flooded out when Irma hit Florida - I think it was around that time that he stopped commenting.

  12. [12] 
    altohone wrote:


    Nope. His little tantrum thankfully continues.

    Can't understand why Liz is pining for both the fraudster bailout king and the trumpling.
    Seems like a disturbing pattern to me.

    If Geithner had an ethical bone in his body, AIG would have been liquidated, our economy would be at less risk, and the world would be a much better place


  13. [13] 
    Kick wrote:


    Don't miss the last part of Real Time tonight.

    She's right. Maher nails it too.

    New Rule: You can't demand that everyone stand for the flag if you've colluded with a foreign government to subvert the very democracy that flag represents.

  14. [14] 
    Mopshell wrote:



    Ah, I see. Just hadn't seen Michale lately. So maybe he's not around at the moment because he can't defend Trump for what he refuses to do for Puerto Rico? No, that would be asking too much, wouldn't it. ::sigh::

    As for Liz, looks like you're starting to see what she's really like.

  15. [15] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    If Geithner had an ethical bone in his body, AIG would have been liquidated, our economy would be at less risk, and the world would be a much better place

    Extremely false.

    But, I would love to read your explanation as to how AIG could have been liquidated.

  16. [16] 
    John M wrote:

    Point of addition to my posts from yesterday concerning the Republican tax cut proposal:

    I may be wrong, but I believe that in order to pass tax cut legislation through reconciliation, which would require only 51 ( all Republican ) votes in the Senate, the Republicans have to pass a budget resolution ( a simple statement by Congress of a tax and spending plan ) through Congress FIRST.

    Does anyone know if the continuing spending resolution that takes us to December that passed under the deal with Pelosi, Schumer and Trump qualifies as just such a budget resolution?

  17. [17] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    17 comments?? That's just sad. Typo alerts and anti-Geithner propaganda, no less. :(

    It's a(n) FTP column for crissakes!

    Speaking of Geithner, no one debunked the Republican cult of economic failure better than he did. Well, with the notable exception of David Fiderer who actually coined the phrase ...

  18. [18] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    It couldn't possibly be that CW needs to pick more stimulating topics such as campaign financing and present some different perspectives than the Democratic establishment talking points during the rest of week so that people are not bored with the same old talking points by the time we get to Friday.

    Well, I've never been a fan of the concept of talking points, per se. Probably because I'm a longtime Biden fan and he was never, ever somebody who relied much on talking points, shall we say.

    I have, however, become a grudging fan of FTP. And, I think Chris would laugh at the notion that he may be viewed as advocating the Democratic establishment's talking points. That's just not a great plan of action for you to take, Don, especially given the fact that Chris has always taken great exception to the perceived insults thrown at the "professional left" by the Obama administration even though I keep telling him he's not the professional left the last administration was talking about!

    However, I do think there is something to your observation that we, as commenters, have moved beyond the usual political topics and are looking for something different and more fundamental about what is wrong with American politics and how precisely to deal with and get beyond Trumpism.

    What do you think about Arnold Schwartzenegger's focus on redistricting. Is he on the right track?

  19. [19] 
    John M wrote:

    I just finished watching the Sunday morning talk shows like Meet The Press and Face The Nation:

    1.) Both Mnuchin and Paul Ryan insisted that their tax plan was going to be revenue neutral and target the middle class.

    2.) Paul Ryan also basically said he WAS going to do it through reconciliation without ANY Democratic votes AND get it done by Thanksgiving.

    I really don't see ANY of that happening.

    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    "What do you think about Arnold Schwartzenegger's focus on redistricting. Is he on the right track?"

    The consensus among the panelists was also:

    1.) Now that Republicans have unleashed this angry beast, they can't ride the tiger anymore and not even Donald Trump can control it either, as evidenced by the nomination of Roy Moore in Alabama. That establishment Republicans like Senator Corker of Tennessee, have basically capitulated to the crazy right wing of the party and thrown in the towel.

    2.) That the Trump base of the party really doesn't care if anything actually gets done or not. That all they want is someone like Trump in office to sympathize, represent, support, their anger, and piss off Liberals and Democrats.

    3.) That the Democratic party itself should give up on trying to win back the Trump voter, that that is unrealistic and is never going to happen, and that they should realize their base is going to be young people, women, people of color, etc. and that is where their future lies.

    4.) That the Republican party is no longer what it once was. It is not the party of Mitch McConnell or Paul Ryan but is now and will remain mostly the party of white identity politics, not traditional business, free trader, etc. what we used to know as "traditional conservatives."

    So to your point Elizabeth, I think focusing on redistricting reform would help level the playing field for Democrats as far as general elections go, but it won't do anything about the insurgency going on within the Republican party where people like Bannon and conspiracy theorists like Moore are challenging the establishment from the right and winning Republican primaries.

    There is a base out there, about 30 percent of the electorate, lily white, full of anger, that has been fed a steady diet the past several years of Talk Radio, Tea Party rhetoric, Trump birtherism, fake news diatribe, that is simply not going to change its beliefs or support of Trump no matter what, any reality to the contrary notwithstanding. And they have held the rest of the party hostage, which has and is working for them

    The sad thing for them is, America is NEVER going to get whiter. Even if they could throw out all 11 million illegals, just with the people already here, going forward America is going to get browner and browner. I know we keep saying it, but demographics are against them. Trump's election may indeed have been one of their last gasps. If not in their lifetime, then in their grandchildren's.

    Redistricting reform is great and very important, but without campaign finance reform as a partner to that, like Don Harris also keeps bringing up, it won't be enough just by itself.

  20. [20] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I think it's substantially more than 30 percent.

  21. [21] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I think the redistricting effort is also about campaign finance reform ... or, at least, it should be.

  22. [22] 
    John M wrote:

    Elizabeth wrote:

    "I think it's substantially more than 30 percent."

    I gave 30 percent as the floor. I think the ceiling is about 40 percent. So somewhere between 30 and 40 percent.

    "I think the redistricting effort is also about campaign finance reform ... or, at least, it should be."

    I agree, but I think that needs to be explicitly stated and made clear that the two go hand in hand. Also, as shown on the state level, like here in Florida, and because of the Supreme Court's decisions like Citizen's United and their upcoming ruling on gerrymandering in Wisconsin, it made need to be done through an amendment to the Constitution, which will make any kind of progress or reform that much more difficult.

  23. [23] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    It's worth noting, I think, that Obama and his former Atty General Eric Holder are also focused on gerrymandering reform as an out-of-office project. And they might all be onto something: the moderate wing of the GOP seems to have gerrymandered themselves out of existence.

  24. [24] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    An amendment to the constitution, eh?

    Well, good luck with that. :)

    We Canadians haven't had much luck with amending the constitution but, it hasn't been from a lack of trying.

    Of course, you are right - that is probably what it would take. So, seriously, best of luck with that!

  25. [25] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    the moderate wing of the GOP seems to have gerrymandered themselves out of existence.

    Or, maybe the moderate wing will form a New Republican Party and the right-wing wackos will fade into oblivion ... if we can do something with the 30-40 percenters, that is. Trump could help with that ...

  26. [26] 
    John M wrote:

    Elizabeth wrote:

    "Or, maybe the moderate wing will form a New Republican Party and the right-wing wackos will fade into oblivion ... if we can do something with the 30-40 percenters, that is. Trump could help with that ..."

    More than likely, as with Governor John Kasich of Ohio, if they left the Republican party, they would more than likely just run and vote as Independents. But I don't see a lot of them being elected that way. Just only isolated instances. As Balthasar implies, there are too few genuine moderates and too many die hard Trumpers.

  27. [27] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I see.

  28. [28] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Why not a Campaign Financing Week in October, Monday through Thursday and then catch up on all the distraction issues in FTP?

    Good idea, Don. Team it up with the problem of gerrymandering which could take it right through FTP.

    You would agree, though, that it's not enough for a candidate to take only small contributions but, he or she would also have to be an up-wing leader with progressive ideas and vision and the prerequisite courage to carry out that vision, right?

  29. [29] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Elizabeth [26] Or, maybe the moderate wing will form a New Republican Party and the right-wing wackos will fade into oblivion ...

    Nobody thought that the moderate Whigs would do anything when the Know Nothings took their party from them, and they went off and founded the GOP.

    The KN's faded away after proving that their policies led to bad governance. It turned out then that competence was the limiter switch.

    John M [27] there are too few genuine moderates and too many die hard Trumpers.

    See my answer to Liz above. Moderates seemed hard to find in the 1850's-1860's too, but eventually prevailed. In the end, any political movement that achieves power has to prove that it can govern, and moderates are demonstrably better at that than anyone else. Once again, Kansas is the canary in the coal mine, only this time it's not Bloody Kansas but rather Broke Kansas that portends the future.

  30. [30] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Waitaminute: a gun nut shoots up a country music festival in Vegas and Trump dedicates a trophy to Puerto Rico and nobody even mentions it here?

    This is Trump's America: tone deaf, dodging bullets, or dying of neglect.

  31. [31] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    2005: "Heckuva job, Brownie."

    2017: "I dedicate this trophy to the people of Puerto Rico."

  32. [32] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    "A full 65% of the people think business pays too little taxes" because all 65% of them are too ignorant of the laws of economics to have any meaningful comprehension of how the system works.

    Politicians love to tax producers (corporations) because they know their voters think that taxing businesses reduces their own tax burden - dead wrong!! Consumers ultimately pay ALL taxes, whether those taxes be included in the prices of the things they buy, or whether they be on their paycheck withholding stub or on their 1040 forms.

  33. [33] 
    John M wrote:

    Balthasar wrote:

    "Waitaminute: a gun nut shoots up a country music festival in Vegas and Trump dedicates a trophy to Puerto Rico and nobody even mentions it here?

    This is Trump's America: tone deaf, dodging bullets, or dying of neglect."

    Since this happened late last night Pacific time in Nevada, this is the first chance I have had to comment on it, being on the East Coast here.

    My heart goes out to everyone in this terrible tragedy.

    I don't know what the solution is.

    This now happens in America on a regular basis. Not in other nations.

    Only in America do we allow anyone to buy any type of weapon, even military ones, at any time for any reason.

    As for Trump, he has been skewered on social media already for his faux pas. I could be charitable towards and give him the benefit of the doubt of his wanting to make a nice gesture for the victims in Puerto Rico, if it were not for his callous earlier statements and the ineptitude of his response that has not been fast enough or done nearly enough yet in the wake of the ongoing tragedy in Puerto Rico.

  34. [34] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Just because there are no comments on an issue or incident, regardless of how horrific it is, does not mean what you conclude it to mean.

    That should go without saying, actually.

  35. [35] 
    MHorton wrote:

    There's no political element known to the LV shooter yet, so why would people be commenting on it on a political blog?

    We don't know anything about it, so there's nothing relevant to say.

  36. [36] 
    MHorton wrote:

    Btw, I don't think campaign finance reform is a good issue to push right now; the electorate is primed for a more emotional issue right now. Campaign Finance is all about numbers and ratios and implied results. We all know about it and people don't really get fired up about it.

    Gerrymandering would be an easier issue, but I think the issue the Dems should be pushing are smart police reform (having other law enforcement agencies do investigations of police killings, civil asset forfeiture reform which is already in Congress and very popular, reforming laws that give police special rights;) these are all things that you can find lots of retired officers to support, and that the average voter sees as obvious things that should already be in place. It shouldn't be about racial injustice in the justice system (though it's there) it should be about across the board checks and balances on all police departments. I think you could sell state police investigating local and county deaths by police, and having an FBI task force maybe that investigates deaths by state police. I think you could also sell bail reform, which has already been passed in NJ, a classic purple state.

    Other than that, healthcare isn't going away any time soon, and if the Dems make that one of their big pushes, it has the secondary benefit of forcing the internal conflicts in the GOP to the forefront as they figure out which response to give to Dem challengers.

  37. [37] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    If only a good guy with a gun had been at that concert . . .

  38. [38] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    "There's no political element known to the LV shooter yet"

    Aside from the fact that he believed he should be allowed to own an arsenal of military weapons.

  39. [39] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    [36]Just because there are no comments on an issue or incident, regardless of how horrific it is, does not mean what you conclude it to mean.

    Sorry Liz, I didn't mean to sound like I was criticizing anyone, just expressing surprise that it hadn't been mentioned yet, since, like John M, I hadn't gotten the news myself until that moment.

    (One thing about Michale: every once in a while he'd pop up in the morning ranting about something I hadn't even heard of yet!)

    Speaking of John [35]: This now happens in America on a regular basis. Not in other nations.

    My 2nd all-time favorite headline on The Onion:

    ‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens

  40. [40] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    C. R. Stucki [35] -

    Welcome to the site!

    Your first comment was held for moderation, but from now on you should be able to post comments instantly. Just don't post more than one link per comment, as multilink comments are automatically held for moderation. And (my apologies for the delay), as you can see, this sometimes takes a while for me to get to.

    As for your point, the percentage of taxes the government takes in from businesses used to be a lot higher than it is now. The slice they pay for has been shrinking for decades. Income taxes from workers, on the other hand, have grown in the percentage of tax receipts taken in. We pay more, so they don't have to anymore.


  41. [41] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    C. R. Stucki [35]: Consumers ultimately pay ALL taxes, whether those taxes be included in the prices of the things they buy, or whether they be on their paycheck withholding stub or on their 1040 forms.

    And yet, Republicans proved in the text of the Graham-Cassidy bill that they either don't care, or don't understand that pushing the costs of programs like medicare and medicaid off onto the states would eventually raise state and local taxes.

    When the states fail to provide adequate administration of these programs, the feds will swoop in and provide guidance, and finally regulation, which the states will then decry as 'unfunded mandates'. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    Ironically, it seems the congress is planning to pay for this by imagining that they live in a world in which tax cuts stimulate the economy far beyond the expectations of many economists, a world in which deficits don't matter anyway unless Democrats are in charge.

    Besides, none of this tax cut will affect payroll deductions by one red cent. By some estimates, 80% of it will only matter to 1% of all taxpayers.

    As for Corporations passing on taxes through higher prices, that's a whole lot more progressive than letting corporations pay no taxes at all. If GE wants to charge Boeing more for aircraft engines, I say have at it. Tell you what - how about removing all taxes on all items worth under $1000? That would offset, surely, the increase that Corporations could reasonably tack onto their products to cover taxes, and furthers that kitchen renovation far more than Mnuchin's plan.

  42. [42] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Balthasar -

    If GE charges Boeing more for aircraft engines, Boeing charges us more for plane tickets, right?

    Your response is mostly not in at least egregious error, but it's basically "non sequitur" to my point, which is that taxing producers (corporations, etc)in order to deceive the public about the true magnitude of their tax burden actually benefits those voters not in the slightest, but DOES handicap the domestic producers who have to compete with foreign corporations from places where the government is not dumb enough to do things that make it hard for their domestic corporations to compete in the world markets, the result of which is fewer American jobs and more foreign jobs.

  43. [43] 
    MHorton wrote:

    @Don campaign finance reform is not something you RUN ON.

    That's an issue the Dems should tackle in the 2019 Congress. Or, reform will have to come from a grassroots organization. But the DNC cannot effectively run on CFR. To suggest they do so is political suicide.

    We have a good dozen major issues that need to be dealt with. Why not run on the ones that are winners with the voters?

  44. [44] 
    MHorton wrote:

    For note, I'm not a Democrat, I used to be a Republican, so I have no inherent desire for Democrats to win, beyond the fact that they are the only ones taking government halfway seriously.

    I'm just offering strategic advice. And the lesson of 2016 is not that strategy doesn't work.

    It's that you need to understand what the people care about in the moment, and harness that energy. Hillary ran on what people SHOULD care about. Trump ran on what people DID care about. Bernie ran on what they DID care about. That's why both did well with independents.

    That's exactly what I'm suggesting. You look at what the electorate cares about, you pick things you have achievable solutions to, and you run on those.

  45. [45] 
    MHorton wrote:


    It's not a zero sum game? But CFR is NOT an issue you lead on. It doesn't motivate people to vote, and Hillary proved that money isn't really all that important.

    CFR cannot be accomplished before the 2019 Congress. That's literally the soonest it's going to be dealt with in a real form, so I don't really get the question about "why do we have to wait until 2019"

    I agree that small-funded candidates can succeed, but that's far different than making CFR your leading issue.

    And when you start talking about Tea Party, you're talking about what, primarying incumbent Democrats for taking campaign contributions? How is that working out exactly? Oh right, the moderates are completely gone.

    CFR just is not something that can be solved quickly, or simply, and it's just not a topic that actually motivates people. It should be a goal, but pretty far down the list on campaign priorities. All you should do is prioritize small donors, not take SuperPAC money, and then quietly mention that from time to time.

    Honestly, it's not campaign donations that are the leverages of power anyway. It's connections, it's a lifestyle, it's the promise of board positions on powerful companies that pay millions a year for doing nothing.

    These things cannot be legislated away easily, nor can you campaign on them.

    Oh, I just noticed that you're shilling for something, talking like I have any idea what you're talking about.

    There is absolutely no way you're going to get nationwide small-donor funded candidates in every, most, or even a great many races in less than a year.

    Lots of districts are already past or nearly past their registration times.

    Changing the political system takes a few years. It's a mighty big boat.

Comments for this article are closed.