The Trump Tax ‘Plan’: here we go again

Yesterday the Trump administration announced its new tax ‘plan’ in order to beat the ‘100 day’ deadline[1], by all appearances.

Trump has – and I know this will come as a shock to those of you keeping score – been on both sides of that issue. On the campaign trail he promised to do more in 100 days than any President before him, and if you ask him now, he will claim that his administration has done more than any President before him. On the other hand, just days ago he called the 100 day deadline meaningless and arbitrary, in implicit acknowledgement that his administration has accomplished almost nothing in its first 100 days, the blizzard of (mostly meaningless) executive orders notwithstanding.[2]

That may be the most truthful thing he has said during his entire reign as President.

But back to the tax ‘plan,’ if one can call it that. It was really just a double-spaced one-page outline of a tax plan, not an actual plan.[3] Calling it a ‘plan’ is being extremely charitable. Even so, let’s look at what is supposedly in it.

For individuals the tax plan would apparently

  • Reduce personal income tax rates and reduce the number of brackets from seven to three: 10%, 25%, and 35%.
  • Repeal the estate (or ‘death’) tax altogether
  • Repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax (designed to ensure that high earners can’t bring their tax bill down to zero by invoking all manner of deductions and loopholes).
  • Repeal the surcharge on capital gains.
  • Eliminate certain unspecified loopholes (but apparently including the popular deduction for state and local taxes).
  • Double the standard deduction.
  • Increased child-care tax credits.

For businesses the tax plan would apparently

  • Cut business income tax rates from 35% to 15%.
  • Cut rates for ‘pass-through’ companies.[4]
  • Tax foreign-held profits.
  • Introduce a territorial tax system. [5]

Loyal readers of the blog may be surprised to hear me say this, but not every one of these ideas is bad. For example, bringing down the corporate tax rate – which conservatives are very fond of reminding everyone is the ‘highest in the world’ – isn’t a bad idea as long as it’s married to closing a large number of corporate loopholes. Because currently the ‘effective’ (i.e. actual) tax rate that many clever companies (like Apple, for example) is closer to zero.

Taxing foreign-held profits is another very reasonable idea.

Simplifying the number of personal rates and eliminating some deductions isn’t such a bad idea either.

But the basic problem with this tax plan is how much it would add to the federal deficit. Trump’s economists are assuming that the tax plan would generate 4.5% of annual sustained growth, which assumption more sober economists have dubbed as residing in ‘fairyland.’ Those are the kind of numbers even China hasn’t been able to sustain.

The last time we had ‘trickle down’ economics was, of course, during the Reagan administration. David Stockman, the Budget Director at the time (and chief architect of ‘trickle down’) proposal has long ago rebuked it, and admitted that it doesn’t work.  At all. The federal deficit grew like a baby cow on steroids during Reagan’s years in office.

So, here we go again.

Once Trump puts some meat on those bones, it’s going to smell just like the Republican replacement to the Affordable Care Act. In other words, not so good.[6]

[1] There is no real 100 day deadline. It’s a marker that was first set up when Franklin Delano Roosevelt, coming into office to combat the Great Depression, enacted a remarkable number of measures in his first 100 days, setting a high water mark which successor Presidents have been trying to match ever since.

[2] He did get Neil Gorsuch appointed to the Supreme Court, but needed the Senate to blow up its filibuster rule in order to get there. It was mostly an ‘accomplishment’ (if you will) by the Senate.

[3] This is the same approach that the Republicans used when releasing their alternative to the Affordable Care Act. Once they put meat on those bones, things suddenly went downhill in a hurry.

[4] Small partnerships, independent contractors, and some larger firms don’t pay corporate taxes. Instead they treat their business income more like a salary and include it with their individual income tax filings.

[5] While this aspect of the plan is particularly vague, the basic idea is to somehow stop taxing companies’ overseas earnings and focus just on their domestic operations.

[6] Since Trump has not released his own tax returns, it’s hard to know how these proposals would effect him personally, and his business as a whole. But since Trump’s business is closely held (so a private person can’t buy stock in the Trump organization), it is likely that income from the Trump organization would be treated as ‘pass through’ income, and he and his people would be entitled to report at the lower personal rates than the corporate rates.

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The Fairytale Prisoner that is Melania Trump

I came across this the other day, and have to admit that I found it really interesting. It was an article entitled “Fairytale Prisoner by Choice: The Photographic Eye of Melania Trump,”  and it was an attempt to gain a little bit of psychological insight by observing what the photographs that Melania Trump posts on Twitter. Or specifically, the 470 photos she posted in the three-year period between June 3, 2012 and June 11, 2015.

What was so interesting is how many pictures were from behind her husband and even her son.

How many pictures were of the same space, just in different weather and different parts of the day.

How many pictures were taken from inside of cars.

How many were taken from up high of scenes down below.

I’m sure Melania Trump never expected to become the First Lady of the United States. I think she’s smart enough to know that she was signing up to be a Trophy Wife, and she clearly was willing to make that bargain.

I posted something about this on Facebook and it was interesting to see some of the comments. They included comments like:

  • A) who cares? and b) utter speculation of the state of mind of a questionable human
  • My thought is that she is now a higher priced hooker.

On the other hand, other friends wrote:

  • I really hope no one judges my marriage, life choices, and emotional well-being by the photos I take.
  • I thought this was a very interesting spin on pics, seen as a body of work that tell us something about the one taking the pic. It is kind of obvious now, but I had not thought about it before. She seems very lonely.

Ah yes, she does seem very lonely. Fuastian bargain, that’s what she made. Like many of my friends, I seem to reflect the bifurcated feelings: I feel sorry for her and I don’t feel sorry for her. She married the Obergropenführer, so that’s entirely on her. Still, I doubt that she really understood what she was getting in to.

I hope she has some kind of epiphany some day. It can’t be much fun for her to watch her husband screw up everything he touches. But then, we’re all getting tired of so much winning, aren’t we?

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It’s 2017, and we really have to March for Science?

It’s 2017, and apparently we have to have a ‘March for Science.’ In 2017. I thought we had validated science back in the 1600s, when people like Copernicus and Galileo were making their discoveries.

The ‘science deniers,’ I should note, don’t mind taking advantage of the benefits of science. They use the Internet, and take anti-biotics, and go in for robot-assisted surgeries. It’s just when scientific conclusions (climate change, for example) conflict with their desires (more fossil fuels!) that they get all anti-science on us.

And for the people who think that the Earth was created 6000 years ago because that’s what it says in the Bible I ask, have you ever heard of the term ‘creation myth?’ Not everything was intended to be taken literally.

I’m tempted to go into Boston and march for science with the others who will be there. But I think I’ll skip it. I did the million women march with my sister and niece and friends, and that was a lot of fun. Felt energised. But on this dank rainy day, to have to march for the proposition that science is something which should be part of the consideration of public policy, or that science research should receive a federal funding assist? I don’t know, that feels like that should be beyond debate.

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This should be disturbing to anyone who cares about Justice even a little bit

I saw this last Sunday on 60 Minutes, and it should be of concern to anyone who cares even just a little bit about justice. Oh I know, a lot of the victims here are criminals. If they didn’t do this, they did something else, or so the thinking goes.

It’s a nice conceit that we’re different from ‘criminals,’ and that they deserve what they got. In some cases it’s even true. Yesterday Aaron Hernandez, the former Patriots tight end committed suicide at the Souza-Baranowski maximum security facility in Massachusetts. And really, I don’t care. Good riddance I thought. This is a guy who shot his former best friend in the eye — miracle of miracles the guy survived to testify against Hernandez in another murder trial — and later he shot two guys in a drive-by because one of them spilled a drink (by all accounts accidentally) on him in a club. Right after he signed a $34 million contract for four years with the Patriots.

So Aaron Hernandez is not like the rest of us, in almost any way. But oh so many so-called ‘criminals’ are. They may be a little less educated, a little more desperate, a little more inured to the violence all around them. But they don’t deserve this form of ‘justice’ depicted here.

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I’m feeling a little bit of Schadenfreude, not that it will last (or matter)

Do you know what the word ‘Schadenfreude‘ means my friends? That’s what I’m feeling this morning with the news that Fox News is cutting ties with Bill O’Reilly. It wasn’t the fact that he was a first class prick or even that he[1] paid out something like $13 million in settlements to 5 different women.

No, what finally got Fox News to throw in the towel was the “exodus of advertisers” that were no longer willing to associate themselves with the “O’Reilly Factor.”

Whatever it takes.

Not that it will matter much. Fox News is completely beyond redemption. In the land of Trump, they will continue to peddle their bald-faced lies as if it were some kind of truth completely without consequence. Another generation of people will grow up believing the craziest conspiracy theories, such as that Hillary Clinton ran a pedophile ring out of a pizza parlor in Washington D.C., or had her dear friend Vince Foster murdered.

[1] Well, it wasn’t O’Reilly himself who made the payments, but more likely Fox News.

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Our Hypocrisy is not like theirs, Part 14

To my long-running series, “Our Hypocrisy is not like Theirs,” add this little item, which probably escaped most people’s notice because of the amount of BS emanating from Washington these days: there was a positive jobs report, and the Trump Administration embraced it.

This is, of course, in contrast to how Trump responded to all of the positive jobs reports under the Obama Presidency during the course of the campaign. And now Trump wants to take credit for it.


So, just to reiterate:

  1. During the campaign Trump was consistently attacking government-sponsored economic data as being “fake data.” Now he embraces it.
  2. Trump wants to take credit, after 50 days, for the positive economic news that is riding on Obama’s coat-tails (since there is normally a delay of some months between executive action and an impact on the economy.)

When confronted with the contradiction, Sean Spicer just laughs about it, since it’s impossible to defend. And the reporters just laugh with him.

As Politico noted about this story, Trump has set the bar so low that no one even cares. Trump “spent months routinely maligning the work of career civil servants for no good reason. And now that it’s convenient for him to accept their work, he’s going to start accepting it. But there’s no apology and no admission of error — and it’s not even a big story. Just another day at the office.”

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The Difference between Fake News on the Left and Fake News on the Right

A lot has been made of the term “fake news.” There was a lot of it during the past Presidential election, and the Trump administration has taken to branding every story that it doesn’t like to be “fake news.” It isn’t so.

The Difference between Fake News on the Left and Fake News on the Right

I just want to point out something that should be obvious to people who have compared fake news on the left with fake news on the right.

  • Fake news on the left is designed to entertain.
  • Fake news on the right is designed to deceive.

Good example of fake news on the left are “The Onion” and the “Borowitz Report.” The readers of either know that the stories in them aren’t true. Those stories are satirical: they are designed to exaggerate, to amuse, to point a spotlight on something. They have headlines like “FBI to special-order a set of tiny handcuffs,” or “Betsy DeVos says Trump’s 40% approval rating means that more than half the country supports him.” Or stories like “Trump staffer grateful to work with so many people he could turn over to FBI in exchange for immunity,” or “Mar-a-Lago member complains about loud, obnoxious cabinet meeting at next table.”

On the right, it’s a completely different thing. Their fake news stories are deliberately intended to deceive. They’re intended to be believed and intended to be deceive. And to enrage. They are propagated by news sites like Breitbart and Infowars, and they are not funny in any way.

Three stories that are typical of fake news on the right include:

Stories like the three cited above have been completely debunked by non-partisan fact-checkers. They are no more credible than the obviously satirical stories form the Onion or the Borowitz Report. But people believe them as true.

The Death of American Common Sense

There has been this long popular notion that people in middle America have “common sense.” They may not be educated, the argument goes, but they can tell a conman when they see one, and they have the common sense that many educated people don’t have.

That notion, like so many others, has been blown apart by one Donald J. Trump. He has conned middle America to a remarkable degree, and all that legendary common sense that ordinary Americans supposedly possess has not come into play at all. Instead they’re falling for the Donald’s assertion that news that he doesn’t like or that contradicts his self-created narrative is “fake” news, when nothing could be further from the truth.

[1] This has sometimes been formulated as that 3 million people voted illegally, or that 3 million illegal aliens voted (which would obviously be illegal). Sometimes the number has ballooned out to 5 million. In Trump’s version, all of these people voted for Hillary Clinton. However, it’s worth noting that even if it were true that 3 million people voted illegally, and only a third of them voted for Trump, then Hillary Clinton would still have won the popular vote.

[2] This particular rumor led a demented man, one Edgar Maddison Welch, to take an AR15 into Comet Pizza with the intention of stopping the alleged pedophile ring. Once inside he fired his rifle into the floor. Miraculously, no one was hurt.

[3] This rumor is primarily propagated by the truly despicable Alex Jones, who also claims that the Oklahoma City bombing was faked as part of a plot to put down a “state’s rights” movements and to deprive people of their Second Amendment right to guns.

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