Not Impeaching Right Away – A Gamble with Enormous Consequences

From a Google Image Search – Truthout

Not Impeaching Right Away – A Gamble with Enormous Consequences

The call for impeachment gets louder each day. As the President orders staff and former staff members called to testify before House committees to blow off any such requests up to and including subpoenas, more and more Democrats urge either outright impeachment or the beginning of an impeachment inquiry. 

Impeachment is a Congressional duty when America has a President who cannot seem to uphold our Constitution or respect the human rights which are the basis of our democracy. It gets old to repeat the specifics of Trump’s transgressions over and over but there are still Americans who just don’t see them. If you get your “news” from Fox you are told that the Mueller report totally exonerated Trump. If you get your news from almost any other source then you have either read the report yourself or you have heard summaries from people who have read it. The Mueller report does not exonerate Trump, especially of obstruction of justice.

The evidence also suggests that Russians, with probable connections to Putin, did help Trump get elected. Although Trump managed to keep his distance from the Russians there were hundreds of contacts between his campaign staff and Russians. Several of Trump’s campaign staffers have been indicted, convicted, and are serving jail sentences with more still under indictment. Since Trump has an authoritarian leadership style it is difficult to believe that he did not call the shots or at least have final approval over all that went down. Most of his cronies seem willing to take the bullet for him.

He also seems to have decided that the emoluments clause is not settled law, I guess, even though every other President has abided by this prohibition against accepting money or gifts from foreign governments which Trump continues to allow through his ownership of the nearby DC hotel where many foreign petitioners stay.

Timothy Egan sums Trump’s transgressions up this way, writing in The New York Times, and it is worth reading the whole article,

“After the inauguration debacle, Trump moved on to bigger targets — the judiciary, the military, the press, and the professional class of bureaucrats who have made the United States a model for competence and incorruptibility in the Civil Service.

With William Barr, Trump now has an attorney general who doesn’t care how much lasting damage he does to truth, justice and the American way. His mandate as the nation’s top prosecutor is to carry out Trump’s private vendettas.”

Although the evidence tells us that Trump richly deserves to be impeached I can see a possible advantage to starting an inquiry but waiting until after the election to impeach. However as Nancy Pelosi reminds us “impeachment does not necessarily mean removal”. So it is possible we could impeach and also win the election. But it’s a gamble. The order of operations could be very important here.

Trump is a terrible President, but he is also backed by an entire Party full of equally incomprehensible cronies who back his moves and seem sanguine about the damage to our constitutional government, perhaps because they are convinced that Trump is trashing the very same parts of the Constitution they want to trash.

If we could win the 2020 Presidential election and win enough seats in the Senate we could get rid of Trump, Pence, Mitch McConnell and the Freedom Caucus in one fell swoop. That would be a celebration. But if we impeached Trump and won the 2020 election, now that would be winning! 

Trump, Pelosi, the Wall, and the Government Shutdown

shutdown-chester energy and policy

Arguments about the standoff between Nancy Pelosi and the Dems and Trump have gotten complex and passionate, something that would not be true if we were not in the first government shutdown ever called by a President.

Thoughts on the government shutdown-

Our president never lets compassion for his pawns (oops, people) get in the way of trying to make a deal.

Dems do not want to make a deal as long as the government is shutdown. They define the federal workers who are not being paid as ‘hostages’. I guess this makes Trump a terrorist. We don’t make deals with hostage-takers.

Thoughts about the wall-

The President wants $5.7 for the wall and has already spent over $7 b to get his way, because experts say that is the cost of the shutdown so far. People are upset with the Democrats and they are saying the Dems are being unreasonable and should take the newest deal on the table that offers the left a few tantalizing tidbits,

One, like a 3 year extension for some DACA young people.

What will happen after 3 more years in America, when these young folks, who have never lived in the country of their parents, or were too young when they left to remember it now, if they are deported to a land that is no longer their country?

Two, the President has offered to build wall (barriers) in noncontiguous arrangements.

The Democrats do not want to pay for a wall at all. It is a symbol of our President’s racism and white supremacy(which he expresses all the time, although he says he doesn’t). MSNBC is showing a piece of film in which MLK is standing before the Berlin Wall and expressing his sorrow about any efforts towards separating humans from each other. MLK knew what walls were for.

So two reasons not to give inon the wall: because the President wants it for immoral reasons and, because the President has taken ‘hostages’.

Here’s another reason, the President is only concerned about getting reelected. This was his election promise and right wing media people like the scary-mean Ann Coulter are holding Trump’s feet to the fire, reminding him he will never get reelected if he doesn’t build the wall.

Trump’s New Deal

These are the things that Trump offered in his speech to America on 1.19.19. There are some things that Trump offered that people think will help at the Border

  1. 800 m. for immediate humanitarian aid (used how?)
  2. 805 m for improved drug technology at legal ports of entry
  3. Hiring 2,750 new border agents
  4. Hiring 75 more immigration judges to help with asylum backlog
  5. Installing a new system that allows minors to apply for asylum before they leave their home country (A pretty transparent way to end caravans but good for young people and children if they are granted asylum. However, will everyone just be turned down? Is this just a way to get this out of view of Americans)
  6. Steel barriers along 230 more miles of the border

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/trump-major-announcement-today-humanitarian-crisis-southern-border-mexico-daca-deal/

Media begins to blame Nancy Pelosi for being stubborn when workers are suffering

The media is beginning to turn on Nancy Pelosi. They are upset that she turned down the deal before the American people even heard it.

They do not seem to give credence to the importance of ending the shutdown first. Are we now in a fight over ‘order of operations’?

The American people are also beginning to turn on Nancy Pelosi. They think she is being heartless to the federal workers who aren’t being paid and that she should be more flexible now that Trump has offered those tantalizing tidbits.

The Democrats in the House can pass all the legislation they want but they know that any of their passed bills are unlikely to be taken up in the Senate. Their power is limited by strong opposition. Winning the House was not winner-takes-all.

Democrats have planning they can do and investigations they can do put beyond run-of-the-mill House Resolutions the only other thing they control is the purse strings.

Democrats would not be in any hurry if it were not for the ‘hostages’. Trump may have no compassion, but Democrats do. Trump is pretty sure he can break the Democrats if things get bad enough for workers affected by the shutdown.

How much of this is just about power? Should Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats who just won control of the Congress allow themselves to be humbled? What negative effects could that have on the country? We already have spent two years without any checks and balances. Can Trump have a long-view strategy for sidelining the Dems in the House so he still has no checks and balances?

Is this just an arm wrestling match with a side show of unpaid workers looking on woefully from behind the President, directly appealing to their only hope, the Democrats’ to throw the match?

Is this really about the Southern Border at all? When did the Southern Border become a crisis that had to be solved right this very minute, the Republican way, with no input from the Democrats? The only reason this issue is front and center right now is because our President made it so and the right wing nuts will not let him back down. (Most people must agree that Ann Coulter and Steven Miller are wing nuts.) Ann Coulter is not even in our government. No one elected her or appointed her to any office in our government.

However, I believe that the Democrats will have to caveso people can go back to work. Otherwise we may never again be able to see Democrats as being the party with a heart, the party of ‘we the people’. If the Democrats let Trump win he may use this tactic over and over again and that is a risk we will have to take if public opinion gets any more negative.

Can Nancy Pelosi sell a cave-in to the newest Democrats and still keep the speakership? How?

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Chester Energy and Policy

 

 

Media/Experts on Tax Reform

Aspects of Tax Reform: What Media/Experts Say

Republicans promised tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations and Trump promised tax cuts for all. Although there is more negotiation occurring around the issues of tax reform, whose tax cuts will prevail has yet to be determined. Just recently Bannon almost convinced Trump to raise taxes on the wealthy but the Republicans were horrified and quickly said that Trump did not really intend to do any such thing. Both the GOP and Mr. Trump would like to do tax reform and to make filing simpler by ending some tax loopholes and tax breaks but leaving the ones that benefit the wealthy the most. Their slogan is “lower the rates, broaden the base, which means cut tax rates, but also eliminate loopholes that shield some income from being taxed altogether.”

Republicans have also been fierce about requiring “pay-fors”. If you make cuts you need a way to increase revenue to avoid raising our deficits or debt. But recently they are beginning to let go of some of the principles that were deemed most important to Republican tax reform/tax cuts including finding revenue to pay for cuts.

Deficit Neutral/ Raise Economic Growth Rate

“The White House has argued that tax cuts would spur economic growth, which would boost revenue and pay for cuts; economists on the right and left overwhelmingly reject that claim.”

“The White House insists that economic growth will cover the cost, which could be as high as $7 trillion over a decade. But the questions, says the NY Times, will dog Republicans and could fracture their party as they face the prospect of endorsing a plan that many economists and budget analysts warn will increase the deficit. After years of fiscal hawkishness, conservatives now face a moment of truth about whether they truly believe America’s economy is drowning in debt.”

From the same article we are told: “It seems the administration is using economic growth like magic beans: the cheap solution to all our problems,”…Mr. Trump’s plan could reduce federal tax revenue by $3 trillion to $7 trillion over a decade. The economy would need to grow at a rate of 4.5 percent – more than double its projected rate, an unlikely prospect – to make the plan self-financing.” (Says Maya MacGuineas, president of Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.)

“This is fool’s gold that you’ll cut taxes, everybody will work harder, more money will come and you’ll erase the fiscal impact,” said Steve Bell, who was a Republican staff director of the Senate Budget Committee from 1981-1986. “It never happens.”

Doug Elmendorf, former Congressional Budget Office director, says, in the Washington Post article, pushing back on the Trump administration’s claim that this or any other tax cut will raise the growth rate by half (from 2 percent to 3 percent) says “The evidence shows clearly that no feasible tax reform in this country will raise economic growth to 3 percent on a sustained basis given our current demographics”

In this same article from the Washington Post by Jared Bernstein, Bernstein goes on to say that the slowing of our labor force “is largely a function of our aging demographics…Aging demographics not only have negative growth implications but also mean we’re going to need more, not less, revenue in the future.”

While Steven Mnuchin claimed that we got a new President because the old one could not get us to 3% growth (I’m paraphrasing), Bernstein says, “First, the president doesn’t set the growth rate. Not even the Federal Reserve does that, though that would be a bit closer to reality.” Then he gets a bit snide (and I don’t mind). He says, “Yes, when the stars align, policy can add or subtract from growth. Countercyclical government spending in recessions or investments in physical (infrastructure) or human capital (education) can boost growth. Conversely, austerity measures and disinvestment in public goods can harm growth. But we’re talking basis points (hundredths of a percent), not percentage points.”

Bernstein goes on to cite the comments of Neil Irwin in The Upshot. “It is striking how many (items in the tax plan)…affect the president and his family. He is a high-income earner. He receives income from 564 business entities, according to his financial disclosure form, and could take advantage of the low rate on ‘pass-through’ companies. According to his leaked 2005 tax return, he paid an extra $31 million because of the alternative minimum tax that he seeks to eliminate. And his heirs could eventually enjoy his enormous assets tax-free.” (Since both Trump and the Republicans plan to end the death tax.)

The Border Tax Adjustment

One way this administration hoped to make this tax plan revenue neutral and have cuts equal revenues was to place a tax on imports coming over our borders but not on exports crossing the other way. But, according to another article, this time in the NY Times “the idea drew the ire of retailers, energy companies, and the billionaire Koch brothers, who invested heavily to undermine it…To the glee of the border tax skeptics, on Thursday the provision officially died.

Full Expensing

“Full expensing means allowing companies to deduct all new investments from their taxable income in the year they are made. Under the current code, companies must depreciate investments over a course of years, according to a complicated schedule” says Joseph Lawler in the Washington Examiner on July 29, 2017.

Although the Ways and Means Committee says that this is still a goal, Tim Phillips of Americans for Prosperity said “his group would be advocating rate cuts, as opposed to full expensing, both of which cost revenue. We do think full expensing is not the right way to go, as it chooses a certain kind of economic activity to reward. Start-ups and established companies make differing levels of new investments.”

So although full expensing would simplify the tax code it has enough push-back that it is unlikely to be included in the final plan.

Permanent v. Temporary Change to the Tax Code/Reconciliation

Ryan wished to make these changes to the Tax Code permanent “so that businesses can plan along 10 to 20 year timelines” says the article in the Washington Examiner.

The article goes on to say, “Using the legislative process known as reconciliation Republicans can pass a tax bill without the Democrats. But under the procedure a permanent change to taxes could not add to long term deficits. Some Republicans would rather cut taxes deeply, even if that meant that the changes to the code would have to be temporary.”

Since it looks like there is no way to make the tax plan deficit neutral or to pass the bill without using reconciliation permanent change is unlikely to be doable at this time.

Conclusions: For Now

Even with all the lost aspects of the tax reform plan, the last statements on the subject made by Ryan and Pence before the August break pleased some Conservatives:

“…Ryan pledged to take on ‘defenders of the status quo’- and then proceeded to defend many of the status quo’s worst aspects. He pledged to get rid of ‘special interest carve-outs’ except for those that ‘make the most sense’ – such as the deduction for mortgage interest. Actually this distortion of the real estate market says the Editorial Board of the Washington Post, is one of the tax code’s least sensible features, but it is politically sacrosanct due to the power of the real estate lobby. The only major individual tax break Mr. Ryan seemed to leave on the chopping block was the deduction for state and local taxes, which disproportionately favors states that send Democrats to Congress. Any GOP tax plan would eliminate the estate tax, Mr. Ryan insisted – thus entrenching the concentration of wealth in the United States.”

The editorial board goes on to say, “Mr. Ryan … alluded to the need for ‘tax cuts’. That made the week’s GOP messaging unanimous and reinforced suspicions that, for all their talk of reform, slashing taxes, mainly for the wealthy and corporations is the one policy that Republicans agree on and therefore the only policy they are actually going to enact.”

“This is a thing of beauty, a thing of wonder,” Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, said of Mr. Trump’s one page plan, ‘Growth, growth, growth!” (But the more satisfied Grover Norquist is with a tax plan the less likely I am to think that such a plan will benefit “we the people”.)

Now that the repeal of the Affordable Care Act did not pass (I’m being kind for ego’s sake) Congress may have to revisit health care if 45 makes them. Since neither the Trump tax plan nor the Ryan tax plan is deficit neutral it cannot hope to pass until there is a budget. So the new order of operations is. Health Care first (maybe). Then the debt ceiling needs to be raised and then the budget must be passed before Congress can tackle the tax plan. At least that is what one source is saying at the moment. This year could be a long slog for Congress, for “we the people” and for the resistance.

Tax Reform Article 1: http://thearmchairobserver.com/tax-reformtax-cuts-trump-plan-republican-plan/

Tax Reform Article 2: http://thearmchairobserver.com/tax-plans-talk-budgets/