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Republicans Are Looting the Treasury While They Still Can
They know a backlash is coming, and they’re making the most of their power while they have it.
By Joshua Holland/ The Nation/ December 2, 2017
The tax bill Senate Republicans rushed to pass in the dark of night, unread by most senators, was a Hail Mary pass by a party that expects to lose seats in the coming midterms, and knows that its historically unpopular president has a good chance of serving only one term. It was an act of legislative looting by a party that’s behind by an average of eight points in generic congressional ballot polls, doesn’t think it will enjoy unified control of government again in the immediate future, and is grabbing whatever benefits it can for its donors while teeing up deep, damaging cuts to the safety net in the future.
The conventional wisdom holds that Republicans pursued a maximalist approach to the bill because they faced a donors’ revolt if they didn’t deliver something big after Obamacare repeal turned into a debacle, and because they’re insulated to a degree from the wrath of the voters.
This is true. As a result of a combination of gerrymandering and the inefficient distribution of Democratic voters, the GOP might be able to hold on to control of the House despite losing the popular vote by as much as seven or eight points. Next year, Republicans will defend only nine Senate seats, many of them in solidly red states, while their opponents try to hold 25. And conservative donors have threatened to close their wallets if they don’t get big cuts.
But those factors alone don’t explain congressional leaders’ apparent contempt for public opinion. Looking at the bigger picture suggests that they’ve internalized the “emerging Democratic majority” thesis: They know that the electorate is becoming more diverse, more urban, and better educated. They understand that their core demographic—married whites who identify as Christians—is in rapid decline. This is what animates their relentless efforts to suppress the vote of typically Democratic constituencies, and it explains their rush to pass a massive rewrite of the tax code that’s historically unpopular.
As The Atlantic’s Ronald Brownstein noted on Twitter, the Senate bill will come down especially hard on the Dems’ rising coalition: “urban residents, blue states, college and graduate students.… It’s an enemies list as much as a revenue bill.”
Republicans understand that their last two presidents entered office despite losing the popular vote, as they’ve now done in six of the past seven presidential contests dating back to 1988. They get that Donald Trump’s approval ratings are historically low for this stage in a presidency, and that today’s intense partisanship makes it unlikely that he’ll ever enjoy anything even approaching majority support. They know that he’s going to lead them into a 2020 contest in which the Senate map favors the Democrats. And of course they know that Robert Mueller’s investigation is looming over all of this.
They know a backlash is coming, and they’re making the most of the power they have while they still can. They don’t care about public perception if it’s an obstacle to enacting long-term cuts to taxes and spending that will be difficult for future Congresses to reverse.
In order to finance a portion of the $1.4 trillion in tax cuts they’re showering on corporate America over the next 10 years, they eliminate the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual mandate. According to the Congressional Budget Office, this would lead to 4 million Americans’ losing their coverage next year, and 13 million fewer insured in 2027. As healthy people leave the pool, premiums for everyone else in the ACA’s exchanges would spike by 10 percent.
That’s only the beginning. As Amy Goldstein reports for The Washington Post, the bill would have “potent ripple effects” throughout the health-care system. As a result of an existing “pay as you go” law, rising deficits will make automatic budget cuts kick in, unless Congress steps in to stop them, that would reduce funding for Medicare by $25 billion per year. And it’s not just health care—Margot Sanger-Katz reported for The New York Times that if this bill becomes law “the funding for dozens of federal spending programs could be cut—in many cases to nothing—beginning next year.”
Republican senators blithely dismiss this reality, insisting that the bill would unleash sufficient growth to pay for itself. “I’m totally confident this is a revenue-neutral bill,” said Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). “I think it’s going to be a revenue producer.” This is something like confidently stating a belief in the tooth fairy or Santa Claus.
Letter to the Editor, Monterey Herald, December 3, 2017
American politics explained: (1) When in power, Republicans push through huge tax cuts and more money for the military, resulting in (2) a mushrooming deficit and an anemic economy, resulting in (3) the Democrats winning and raising taxes to balance the budget, resulting in (4) the Republicans winning on promises of huge tax cuts and more money for the military.
(The above is a word-for-word copy of my letter to the Herald on February 21, 2001. Some things never change.)
Is Our Government Any Different from a Fascist Government Now?
By Thom Hartmann/ thomhartmann.com/ November 27, 2017
I think that we need to start using language that actually reflects reality. The definition of fascism, as Benito Mussolini invented the word, comes from the Latin word fasces which was the old symbol of the Roman Empire.
Our Congress has it engraved at the speaker’s podium. A fasces is a bundle of sticks with a rope around it, with a little axe stuck in the top and this was the symbol of the Roman Empire.
And the idea was that individual sticks can easily be broken, but if you bundle them together and tie a rope around them, you can’t break it. You can’t even destroy it with an axe.
So Mussolini defined fascism as the merger of corporate and state interests.
And in Italy in the 1930s he dissolved the Parliament that had been elected by the people and replaced it with a parliament where each Italian equivalent of a congressional district, instead of sending an elected representative to serve in the Italian parliament, the largest corporation in that district sent a representative to serve in Parliament.
And the name of the Parliament was changed during Mussolini’s rule to the Camera dei Fasci e delle Corporazioni – the chamber of fascist corporations.
How is what’s going on right now any different from that?
I mean, it’s not quite as blatant, it’s not quite as obvious, it’s not quite as honest, but as Toly Rinberg and Andrew Bergman report in the New York Times in an article titled Censoring Climate Change…
” If you searched Google for the words “climate change” a little over six months ago, one of the first hits would have been the Environmental Protection Agency’s website. But that was before April 28, when the agency began systematically dismantling its climate change website.”
Now, why would they do this?
Well, because some of the biggest funders of the Republican Party are the Koch brothers. Koch Industries is a fossil fuel company, largely. The Koch brothers’ daddy made all his money in Russia teaching Joe Stalin how to drill for oil. He came back to the United States, expanded that fortune with refineries down in Texas and pipelines. They own a good chunk of the Canadian tar sands, etc., etc. They are fossil fuel billionaires and one of their many political arms is called Americans for Prosperity. As the New York Times article says…
“If you search those words today, a link to the E.P.A. site may not appear until the second or third search results page, and sometimes not even then… The site has fallen in Google’s search results because its address, or URL, no longer directs you to the climate change site or a related page.
If you click that link, you’ll be redirected to a notice page that says, “We are currently updating our website to reflect E.P.A.’s priorities under the leadership” of President Trump and Scott Pruitt…
A significant number of pages and PDFs are not available, and entire portions of the site, like the Student’s Guide to Global Climate Change, have been left out…
And now-broken links that previously led to the E.P.A. climate change pages are scattered across federal and nonfederal websites.”
[There have been] changes to tens of thousands of web pages… It is clear that the administration is intent on making it difficult or impossible to find information on its web pages about climate change.
The authors write…
“Of all the government websites we’ve been monitoring, the E.P.A.’s has been hit hardest.”
I would say by this fascist administration, an administration that is entirely dancing to the tune of billionaires and the industries that made them rich.
Find anything this administration is doing that isn’t principally being done for the benefit of billionaires and the corporations that made them rich. I can’t think of anything. Back to the article…
“Terms like “greenhouse gases,” “carbon” and “climate change” have been replaced by vague descriptors like “sustainability” and “emissions.” In addition, web resources about specific regulations have disappeared.”
Talk about censoring the internet!
“The agency also removed its website for “Climate and Energy Resources for State, Local and Tribal Governments” and replaced it with one called “Energy Resources for State, Local and Tribal Governments,” eliminating over 200 web pages, including almost all of those pertaining to climate change”…
The State Department removed reports containing required emissions projections under international treaty.
The Interior Department removed descriptions of its priorities for tackling climate change…
Links to websites hosting climate data were removed from the main Department of Energy climate change web page.”
This is a horror show, and the other thing about fascism is it’s all about rich people.
So you’ve got Senator Rob Portman, the Republican from Ohio, lying at a tax reform event hosted by the Koch-funded PAC Americans for Prosperity – gee, what a surprise!
“Portman was asked by a constituent whether the tax bill could impact his Medicare benefits.”
Here’s what Senator Rob Portman said: “no, it’s a tax reform bill”. Well, actually, it is going to impact all of our Medicare benefits and more. There’s this thing called PAYGO. The Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2010 reinstated pay-as-you-go budgeting rules used in Congress starting under George H W Bush in 1990.
Is our government any different from a fascist government now?
Letter to Editor in Monterey Herald, November 22, 2017 and San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 27, 2017
A lesson on American priorities in the age of Trump: The 2018 budget proposals call for cuts in Medicaid, Medicare, welfare, food stamps, children’s health insurance, Social Security Disability Insurance, health care, student loan programs, education … well, you get the picture. On the other hand, a 30-year makeover of the American nuclear arsenal will cost taxpayers $1.2 trillion ($1.7 trillion with inflation). Any questions?
— Arlen Grossman
Troopaganda Eats Its Own Tail
By David Swanson/ OpEd News/ November 12, 2017
First they tell you what to think the wars are for. They’re for protection from evil enemies, for spreading democracy and human rights.
Then you discover that wasn’t so. The evil enemies were actually human beings and no threat. The wars on terrorism have created many more enemies and spread terrorism far and wide. They’ve endangered rather than protected. They’ve damaged democracy at home and abroad. They’ve violated human rights and normalized their violation.
Then they tell you to keep the wars going for the sake of the poor fools sent into them and coming out of them with PTSD, brain injury, moral injury, and suicidal tendencies. If you’re not for harming more troops you’re “against” the troops.
Then you discover that this is all a twisted lie, that these one-sided slaughters that so devastate even the aggressors have no benefits, that people could have better and better-paying and more satisfying and less environmentally destructive jobs in peaceful industries for less financial, moral, and societal expense. It turns out the wars are for weapons profits and resource control and political domination and sadism.
Then they tell you it isn’t your right to have an opinion on the matter at all, that the troops themselves can decide what the wars are for. Even retroactively, they can simply choose some nice things to say the wars were for. And the wars can have been for different things for each person. It’s a question of personal preference.
If you don’t believe me, check out the hash tag #WhatIFoughtFor, pointed out to me by Coleen Rowley and created by a “human rights” organization. One guy declares that he fought for his family. That’s nice. How much more pleasant for him to love his family than for him to be willing to kill and destroy for a larger salary for the CEO of Lockheed Martin, or for the creation of ISIS, or for turning Libya into a hell on earth, or for the advance of climate change, or for any of the other actual results.
Others declare that they fought so that one particular collaborator or refugee could flee the hell that their fighting created or contributed to. That’s nice too. Surely veterans’ groups promoting kindness to refugees is better than veterans’ groups promoting hatred toward refugees. But what about the idea of ending the wars that create the refugees? What about the millions killed, wounded, traumatized, and left homeless for every one charismatic refugee whom someone claims after the fact that they were somehow fighting for?
And if veterans simply get to declare what they fought for, what is to stop the veterans among the fascists who come to Charlottesville from declaring that they fought for white supremacy? Surely they will be given louder microphones for that claim than will any members of Veterans For Peace. And if the contradictions between those who say they fought for genocide and those who say they fought for women’s rights are compounded by those who fought for some particular nice thing about their own family or town or non-profit funder, what becomes of public understanding?
Once war is understood as having no actual justification, but rather as having as many different justifications as participants, what if it occurs to someone to suggest that perhaps war isn’t justifiable at all?
Submitters Website: http://davidswanson.org
David Swanson is the author of “When the World Outlawed War,” “War Is A Lie” and “Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union.” He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for the online activist organization http://rootsaction.org
By Senator Bernie Sanders/ Politico/ November 10, 2017
It’s time we come together to enact real reform — only then can we defeat Donald Trump and retake the country.
Donald Trump’s presidency represents an unprecedented crisis for our country. His campaign, and now his White House, seek to divide us using racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia and xenophobia. His economic agenda is the agenda of the billionaire class. He wants more tax breaks for the rich, while cutting education, nutrition, affordable housing and other programs desperately needed by working families. And his refusal to acknowledge the great danger of climate change is a threat to the entire planet.
There is nothing, nothing more important than defeating Donald Trump and his extreme right-wing agenda. But this will not happen without an effective opposition party.
Victories in Virginia, New Jersey, Washington, Maine and other states around the country on Tuesday are an important first step in pushing back against Trump’s radical agenda. It was especially gratifying to see thousands of working people and young people jump into the political process, volunteering, knocking on doors and winning elections to state legislatures, city councils and school boards. But the longer-term trend for the Democratic Party is worrisome.
Since 2009, it has lost more than 1,000 seats in state legislatures across the country. Republicans now control the White House and 34 (soon to be 33) out of 50 governorships, as well as the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.
In 26 states, Republicans control the governor’s mansion along with the entirety of the state legislature. This is not just in so-called deep red states. It is true in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Florida and New Hampshire, all of which will be critical to defeating Trump in 2020, and in drawing congressional districts following that year’s Census.
What is especially absurd about this situation is that the American people strongly oppose almost all elements of the Trump-Republican agenda. Fewer than one-third of Americans support the Trump and Republican tax cuts for the wealthy, and just 12 percent supported their plan to throw tens of millions of people off of their health care. The majority of Americans understand that climate change is real.
Donna Brazile’s recent book makes it abundantly clear how important it is to bring fundamental reforms to the Democratic Party. The party cannot remain an institution largely dominated by the wealthy and inside-the-Beltway consultants. It must open its doors and welcome into its ranks millions of working people and young people who desperately want to be involved in determining the future of our nation.
Last year, Secretary Hillary Clinton and I agreed upon the need for a Unity Reform Commission to move the party in a new and more democratic direction. In a few weeks, this group will have its final meeting in Washington, D.C., and will decide if we are going to move forward in an inclusive way or continue with the current failed approach.
This is not some abstract, insular debate. The future of Democratic Party institutions has everything to do with whether or not Democrats have the grass-roots energy to effectively take on Trump, the Republican Party and their reactionary agenda — or whether we remain in the minority.
What are some of the reforms that are desperately needed?
First, it is absurd that the Democratic Party now gives over 700 superdelegates — almost one-third the number a presidential candidate needs to win the nomination — the power to control the nominating process and ignore the will of voters.
Second, in contrast to Republicans, Democrats believe in making voting easier, not harder. We believe in universal and same-day voter registration and ending antiquated, arbitrary and discriminatory voter registration laws. These same principles must apply to our primaries. Our job must be to reach out to independents and to young people and bring them into the Democratic Party process. Independent voters are critical to general election victories. Locking them out of primaries is a pathway to failure.
In that regard, it is absurd that New Yorkers must change their party registration six months before the Democratic primary in order to participate. Other states have similar, if not as onerous provisions.
Third, in states that use caucuses, we must make it easier for working people and students to participate. While there is much to be said for bringing people together, face to face to discuss why they support the candidate of their choice, not everybody is able to participate because of work, child care or other obligations. A process must be developed that gives everyone the right to cast a vote even if they are not physically able to attend a caucus.
Finally, if we are to succeed, we must fully appreciate Brazile’s revelations and understand the need for far more transparency in the financial and policy workings of the Democratic Party. Hundreds of millions of dollars flow in and out of the Democratic National Committee with little to no accountability. That simply is not acceptable.
At a time when we have a Republican president and Republican Party whose leadership and agenda are strongly opposed by the American people, now is the time for real change. It is critical that we come together and reform the Democratic Party. When we do that, we will win local, state and national elections and transform our country.
Bernie Sanders is the independent U.S. Senator from Vermont. He is the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history. He is a member of the Senate’s Budget, Veterans, Environment, Energy, and H.E.L.P. (Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions) committees.