TWOFER: Tax and Health Care Cuts

Trump has two top legislative priorities: “Tax Reform” and “Repeal the ACA”.
Today, they intersected: his “Tax Reform” plan cuts exactly one tax from the ACA – the 3.8% Medicare tax on Net Investment Income for high-income taxpayers.
It has long been a badly-kept secret that the driving force behind “repeal the ACA” has been the 3.8% Medicare tax on Net Investment Income for high-income taxpayers. After all:
  1. this is a tax on the top 4% of income earners, who make more than a quarter-million dollars annually on investment income. 96% of the population is never affected by this tax.
  2. this is a Medicare tax on investment income. Before the ACA, this income was not subject to Medicare tax – those who made all or most of their income from investments paid nothing or little into Medicare

Continue reading

CHANNELLING Behavior : Rewards and Punishments through the Tax System

In the 1960’s, an infamous memo from the Draft (Selective Service System) described “manpower channelling” as an important part of the draft. Using draft deferments, the system could “channel” young men to behave in ways that were seen as “in the national interest”. Quoting from the memo:

In the Selective Service System, the term “deferment” has been used millions of times to describe the method and means used to attract to the kind of service considered to be the most important, the individuals who were not compelled to do it. The club of induction has been used to drive out of areas considered to be less important to the areas of greater importance in which deferments were given, the individuals who did not or could not participate in activities which were considered essential to the Nation.

… It is in dealing with the other millions of registrants that the System is heavily occupied, developing more effective human beings in the national interest.

Continue reading

Promises made, Promises broken

Uncertainty damages business … and people too. Too bad about the student loan forgiveness plan.

18820225526_884e6b752d_zI remember (in 2012) when the Bush tax cuts of 2003 were scheduled to expire. Republicans raised a hue and cry about the “uncertainty” that this cast upon our economy. Businesses didn’t know how to plan – should they expect those tax cuts to be extended? or will taxes be restored? or raised? or lowered? What to do?

Yet, now, these same Republicans are reveling in a new world of uncertainty – one that makes every rule and every law an uncertain rule or law. Every day, the Republican Congress is voting on another rollback or another repeal. Rules that applied yesterday may not apply tomorrow. Promises made are being broken. Businesses don’t know how to plan – what to do?

Well, here’s today’s uncertainty and this time it is being cast on those with student loans.

Continue reading

“Fear was a big part of it”

1032506967

I’m watching the PBS American Experience episode “Ruby Ridge”. Sara Weaver, the daughter of Randy Weaver, is describing how her parents were preparing to move from their Iowa farm to living on a mountain in Idaho. She says they were adhering to the Biblical passages of “an apocalyptic future” and says

“Fear was a big part of it.”

As the episode draws to a close, she adds

“When you operate out of misinformation and fear, things can go wrong.”

These are words worth remembering – not just in the tragic and volatile 1992 “Ruby Ridge” case, but in our society in general today, and in the language that we hear from those who are responsible for guiding us forward as a nation.

Fear is a big part of it.

Continue reading

Reward and Punishment: SCOTUS Nominations

I’m still troubled by the idea of rewarding – and thus encouraging – the behavior of the GOP Senate in 2016 re: the nomination of Merrick Garland.

ctdmlmkwiaa4x2x

While two wrongs don’t make a right, rewarding a wrong encourages more of the same. There have to be consequences to misbehavior, especially intentional misbehavior such as the 2016 GOP Senate engaged in.

With that in mind, and for that reason – the Democrats should block all consideration of any SCOTUS nomination for the duration of this current presidency, regardless of the nominee’s qualifications.

 

Ending the Imperial Presidency

I have a theory — that we are living through the end of the “Imperial Presidency”, with the accompanying restoration of the Congress as the center of power in federal government.
p4

 

“The Imperial Presidency”. Those who have watched as many presidencies as I have (or more) know that term. It has been around for the entirety of our modern presidency — which I put at all presidents starting with Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1933 inauguration, in the midst of the Great Depression. It was FDR who swung the presidency like a club, sweeping across the economy and the “general welfare” of a nation in dire straits. FDR wasn’t always attentive to the Constitution along the way, and met resistance from conservatives, the opposition (Republican) party and businesses. But his New Deal reforms are entrenched in government programs to this day — and the presidential power that he exercised before and during World War II set the tone for the Imperial Presidency that continued long after he died.

All presidencies since FDR have tried, with varying degrees of success, to deal with the challenge of the Imperial Presidency. We’ve had other Imperials — JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, W and Obama. All of them were accused — correctly — of expanding the dominance of the White House. In most cases, Congress pushed back hard and SCOTUS blocked the way, but the popular perception, at home and internationally, was that of a dominating, celebrity POTUS.

With 45, it’s different — significantly different. First, he is showing himself, unsurprisingly, to be utterly incompetent and ignorant, and has surrounded himself with friends who are equally ignorant, equally incompetent or just too obsequious to resist him. Add to that the departure, by voluntary or forced resignation, of the knowledge leadership in the executive branches, and the slow pace at which that leadership is being restored. The executive branch is in the hands of idiots – and that is widely accepted to be true, at least for the time being.
Second, importantly, Congress is all Republican. This gives Congress the ability to do whatever they want and to succeed in demanding that their fellow party member in the White House go along with it. They are soon to move SCOTUS into their camp as well (because they can), taking down any final barrier to Congressional “overreach”.

Continue reading

Can You Lie About The Future?

Can you lie about future events? Here’s a comparison of two statements, both cast as “lies”:
OBAMA: “no matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period. If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan.” (June 15, 2009)
TRUMP: “There were people over in New Jersey that were watching it, a heavy Arab population, that were cheering as the buildings came down.” (November 21, 2015)
img_1755In my judgement, Obama was wrong but Trump lied.
What makes the difference? The difference is that Obama was making a statement about a FUTURE event.
In June 2009, the health care plan was nowhere close to being decided. The Tea Party rose up a few months after this statement, Congress was battling over small and large changes, and everything was uncertain. So what was Obama talking about? He was talking about what he was trying to put into place — it was a statement about what the future would be IF Congress passed Obama’s plan. They didn’t. For these reasons, PolitiFact rated it “half-true” because it was a statement about the future.

Continue reading

Dear Congressman: Oppose Repeal of PPACA

A letter to Congressman David Trott, Michigan’s 11th Congressional District:

January 15, 2017

I was disappointed that you did not attend the Save Our Health Care rally event at Macomb Community College in Warren today, Sunday, January 15, 2017. Several thousand Michiganders were present, including myself and many others from your District, along with several of your colleagues from the House of Representatives.

It is imperative that you OPPOSE efforts to repeal the PPACA. This should go without saying if there is nothing to replace it. But even if there is a replacement plan, a repeal introduces chaos and uncertainty into the health care marketplace for insurers, providers, patients and payers all. How do we plan? How do we protect ourselves, our families? What can we depend on?

Repeal is what you do with something that is doing more harm than good, or something that is doing no good at all. I’m certain that you know that the PPACA has brought good for millions of Americans since it took effect in 2010, including hundreds of thousands in Michigan and thousands in the 11th District. I don’t just mean those on Medicaid, though there are thousands who’ve benefited from that. I don’t just mean those who qualified for subsidies, though there are thousands who’ve benefited from that. I don’t just mean those with Medicare, though Medicare’s viability has been extended through the PPACA. I don’t just mean those who’ve seen their Plan D coverage improved, though there are thousands of those who’ve enjoyed that benefit.

Continue reading

Words, Not Just Tone, Matter

In the “heated argument” between Kellyanne Conway and Jennifer Palmieri at Harvard last week, the press attention focused on the seemingly angry tones between these two. The audio reflects that tone, both speakers (and others) talking over the others in incomplete sentences, neither side making a coherent argument. What should have been an instructive and reflective examination of the past presidential campaign devolved into a shouted barrage of “Oh yeah?”, “Did not!” and “Did too!”

But for all the shouting and hostility, we should not forget the words — yes, there were words spoken and statements made and claims denied, and these should not be ignored. These words matter, because the claims they make matter and the denial of these claims matter.

So — what set off this heated argument?

Palmieri expressed her pride that Clinton stood up against the “white supremacists, white nationalists” who were attaching themselves to Trump’s campaign as a way to get their message out.

“One of my proudest moments with [Hillary Clinton] is her standing up with courage and with clarity in Steve Bannon’s own words and Donald Trump’s own words the platform that they gave to white supremacists, white nationalists. And it is a very, very important moment in our history as a country and I think as his presidency goes forward I am going to be very glad to be part of the campaign that tried to stop this,” Palmieri said.

The claim, then, is that the Trump campaign gave “a platform” to these groups.

The counter-claim is that the Trump campaign had “a decent message for the white working class voters” and that Clinton “doesn’t connect with people, […] they have nothing in common with her [and] you had no economic message.”

The counter-claim is not, as it turns out, a denial. Conway doesn’t say “no, we did not give white supremacists a platform, we kicked them out whenever they latched on to us.” Conway doesn’t quote any statement by Trump or anyone else in the campaign, telling David Duke, the KKK, Breitbart, the Spencers’ or other known white nationalists to go away. Indeed, when those statements did come, they were only after the election was over and Trump had been declared “president-elect.”

So we have a claim, an accusation if you will, which — given the opportunity — the accused does not deny.

Words shouldn’t be lost in the heat of the exchange. Words aren’t as entertaining as a shouting match, true, but they are instructive.

Words — and the absence of words to the contrary — matter.

Trump Transition: You’ve Been Punk’d!

trump_flicker_face_yess-bw
Let’s think about this for a second.
  • First, never forget that Trump’s expertise is marketing – more than anything else, he gets people to think the way he wants them to think.
  • Second, Trump is highly sensitive to any criticism – he does not tolerate having people say negative things about him.
  • Third, Trump never lets any challenge go unanswered and unpunished.
With that in mind, Trump is “interviewing” a lot of people who were really rude to him. The key here is Romney — why would Trump want Romney to be considered for something as high profile as Secretary of State?