Saturday, December 10, 2016

What's Wrong With Trump Supporters?


I hope you read Tom Sullivan's post, Donald In Wonderland, yesterday at Digby's place. The Donald isn't the only one wandering around cluelessly in Wonderland though. Much, if not most, of his fan base is too. If you have a brother-in-law who listens to Hate Talk Radio and Fox News all day and voted for El Presidente-elect Señor Trumpanzee, or if you saw Rachel Maddow's report Thursday night (above) on the newest PPP post-election survey, then you already know what we're dealing with. The question is, though, can American democracy recover from the death spiral it's certainly now entered? First let's deal with an easier question: what planet do Trump voters live on? Are they willfully ignorant or is it just the tragedy of the 2-digit IQ set?

PPP head, Dean Debnam, wrote that "over the course of the campaign we found there was a cult like aspect to Trump's support, where any idea he put forth a substantial share of his supporters would go along with. We see that trend continuing post election. 60% of Trump voters think that Hillary Clinton received millions of illegal votes to only 18% who disagree with that concept and 22% who aren't sure either way... 40% of Trump voters insist that he won the national popular vote to only 49% who grant that Clinton won it and 11% who aren't sure... 14% of Trump supporters think Hillary Clinton is connected to a child sex ring run out of a Washington DC pizzeria. Another 32% aren't sure one way or another, much as the North Carolinian who went to Washington to check it out last weekend said was the case for him. Only 54% of Trump voters expressly say they don't think #Pizzagate is real."

But across the board, Trump voters are at odds not only with normal people, but with reality. As Maddow explained on her segment "67% of Trump voters say that unemployment increased during the Obama administration, to only 20% who say it decreased [and o]nly 41% of Trump voters say that the stock market went up during the Obama administration. 39% say it went down, and another 19% say they're not sure." The stock market more than doubled-- one of the biggest increases any presidential term has ever seen. But Trump voters are so far removed from reality-- whether because of the fake news they embrace or because they are so incredibly dumb, or, more likely a toxic combination-- that the country is in actual jeopardy.

And by the way, the nation al raw vote count, which is pretty close to finished now, stands like this:
Clinton- 65,746,544 (48.2%)
Trump- 62,904,682 (46.2%)
Others- 7,645,378 (5.6%)
But look at the divergence of reality perception between normal Americans and the ignorant masses who voted to inflict the scourge of Trumpism on America and the world:

I don't know what we're going to do with these damned Trumpists. Any suggestions?

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Friday, December 09, 2016

Not A Peep-- Or A Tweet-- Out Of Ole Man Trump As Ryan Deletes The Buy American Provision In The Infrastructure Bill


Wisconsin's deadly job killing duo, Grothman and Ryan

Sometimes when Congress wants to pass embarrassing legislation they're not eager for opponents or just constituents to track down, they give it an innocuous or misleading name. It happens constantly and it happened on Thursday just before the Republicans adjourned the House for the year. The last vote of the year was on S.612, John Cornyn's (and, in the House, Henry Cuellar's) "bill to designate the Federal building and United States courthouse located at 1300 Victoria Street in Laredo, Texas, as the 'George P. Kazen Federal Building and United States Courthouse.' It passed 360-61, with 17 Republicans and 44 Democrats voting against it. Democratic Leadership didn't whip the bill one way or the other and Hoyer voted for it, while Pelosi voted against it. Neither of them was thinking about Laredo's courthouse or about the legacy of George Kazen, a Democratic south Texas senior district judge (and FISA Court judge).

The bill was reported out of the House's Transportation and Infrastructure Committee looking as innocent as it went in. It takes 90 seconds to read, and triggers no alarm bells. Earlier in the day, however, the House voted on H.Res.949, "providing for consideration of the Senate amendment to the bill (H.R. 2028) making appropriations for energy and water development and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2016, and for other purposes, and providing for consideration of the bill (S. 612) to designate the Federal building and United States courthouse located at 1300 Victoria Street in Laredo, Texas, as the "George P. Kazen Federal Building and United States Courthouse." All the Republicans voted for that and all but one mangy old Blue Dog, Jim Costa of California, voted against it.

So why did 44 Democrats vote against the bill (including Pelosi)? Did you catch that line in the enabling legislation about "making appropriations for energy and water development?" That has nothing to do with the courthouse. But it's what that bill was really all about-- funding water-related infrastructure funding. When I asked Alan Grayson why he voted for it, in fact, he said he had to because there was a lot of really badly-needed money in it for crucial Everglades projects related to environmental catastrophes on both of Florida's coasts.

The first person I reached out to about the Democrats who voted no was Wisconsin Congressman, Mark Pocan, one of the union movement's most ferocious supporters on Capitol Hill. "It is unthinkable," he told us, "why Congressional Republican Leadership removed the permanent 'Buy America' requirements that was voted on and passed by the Senate in the water infrastructure bill. Wisconsin has one of the highest percentages of its workforce employed in the manufacturing sector. Foundries across the state like the Neenah Foundry are scratching their heads wondering why Republicans would want to send taxpayer dollars to companies that ship jobs overseas. Republicans claim to care about keeping jobs here in America, yet consistently rally around legislation that help ship jobs overseas."

Neenah workers are represented by both moderate Republican Reid Ribbble, who's retiring in a week, and bizarre anti-union fanatic Glenn Grothman, who, alas, isn't. (The city of Neenah itself sits just north of Oshkosh in Grothman's district but many of the employees also live in Appleton which is the adjacent city and in Ribble's district.) On their website, the company makes it clear where they stand: "The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 was enacted to stimulate the American economy by supporting American jobs. A 'Buy American' provision in the Act mandates that 'none of the funds ... made available by this Act may be used for a ... public building or public work unless all of the iron, steel, and manufactured goods used in the project are produced in the United States.' Millions of Americans-- such as those working at NEI's seven manufacturing plants-- rely upon this stimulus funding to protect their jobs and their families."

The district in nowhere near Paul Ryan's district way to the south, although I'm guessing factory workers in Janesville, Kenosha and Racine aren't too happy with his little maneuver yesterday. Reid Ribble had the decency to show up and vote against it along with Pocan. Grothman, who would like to abolish unions entirely, was delighted to vote against "Buy American." And by the way, the Wisconsin counties most heavily impacted by this, all went for Trump this year-- Outagamie (54.2%), Calumet (58.1%), and Winnebago (50.6%).

Some desperate voters-- and not just in Wisconsin where these two photos were taken-- reached, in a really stupid way if you ask me, for greener pastures and actually voted for Trump. They will be learning their lesson over and over and over for the next 4 years.

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Run for your life (or at least your sanity), SantaCon is coming!


If you were planning to be in any of these afflicted affected areas of Manhattan tomorrow, you might want to rethink those plans.

"While the party bills itself as a 'charitable' pub crawl, it's had a fraught relationship with people who live in its path over concerns including public urination, death threats and numerous arrests. . . .

"Last December, New York's SantaCon took to Twitter to brag about the fact that no one associated with their group was arrested in 2015, according to initial reports."

-- from Veronika Bondarenko and Julia Bottles' updated DNAinfo NY report

by Ken

The first time I found myself enmeshed in the tide of drunken, degraded humanity that is SantaCon, a few years back, I had no idea what was happening. I guess I just assumed it was some sort of spontaneous hooliganism which was unaccountably escaping the vigilance of the NYPD. That was bad enough. When I discovered what it was, and that it was in fact organized drunken, degraded hooliganism, I was really peeved.

Now, as you can see from the quote above, the organizers of the event are actually capable of bragging that, at least according to preliminary reports, not one of their troops of marauding scumbags has been arrested! Talk about setting your behavioral bar really, really low.

For those of you who are coming into this story as clueless as I was way back when, not to mention those of you who are lucky enough not to have SantaCon anywhere near you, here's the deal:

SantaCon Will Invade These Manhattan Neighborhoods Saturday

By Veronika Bondarenko and Julia Bottles
Updated December 9, 2016 11:22am

Get ready for the Santas.

SantaCon, a controversial yearly pub crawl involving roughly 20,000 revelers dressed in Santa and Christmas-themed costumes, has announced its starting location and released the map of its official route.

The Santas will gather at the Flatiron Building pedestrian plaza at West 23rd Street and Broadway starting at 10 a.m. Saturday, according to the event's website. [Note: Lots more links onsite. -- Ed.]

Then the imbibing Santas will make their way through Midtown, Gramercy, Flatiron and the East Village, hitting up over 45 bars and several strip clubs along the way.

After the kickoff, revelers will watch Twitter or sign up for alerts by texting "follow santacon" to 40404 for information about the next bars.

In addition to the SantaCon bars there will be "Santa Clubs" which revelers can get access to for a $10 charitable donation. [Onsite there follows a list, which you're welcome to access for yourself. I'll be darned if I'm going to publicize the names. -- Ed.]

While the party bills itself as a "charitable" pub crawl, it's had a fraught relationship with people who live in its path over concerns including public urination, death threats and numerous arrests.

In 2013, SantaCon rerouted around Hell's Kitchen after residents begged them to steer clear of their area. In 2014, organizers had to scrap plans to start at the Maria Hernandez Park and later in all of Bushwick after both local residents and businesses got word of the plan.

As in previous years, there will be an alcohol ban on Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road and in train stations the weekend of SantaCon, the MTA announced Wednesday.

This year SantaCon organizers released a statement defending the pub crawl and addressing concerns saying "there is no excuse for inappropriate behavior" and promising that they are working "even more closely with the New York Police Department ensure that the event remains enjoyable for locals and Santas alike."

Last December, New York's SantaCon took to Twitter to brag about the fact that no one associated with their group was arrested in 2015, according to initial reports.
I suppose we should be encouraged by the organizers' presumed admonition to their revelers that "there is no excuse for inappropriate behavior." However, as far as I can tell, and in full realization of how fuddy-duddy-ish this sounds, it seems to me that the one and only reason this orgy of assaultive mayhem exists is precisely as an excuse for inappropriate behavior. What else is it about?

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So What Happens Once The Republicans Implement Ryan's And Price's Plan To Kill The Affordable Care Act?


Yesterday we all read that life expectancy-- particularly for the American working class-- has dropped. And you can't even blame the NRA for all of it-- heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's, drug overdoses are all contributing, as Gaius went into more deeply this morning. And Trump, Pence and Tom Price haven't even been sworn in yet! In theory Trump and the congressional Republicans are in synch about repealing Obamacare. Trump campaigned on repealing it and replacing it with something fabulous. Congressional Republicans mostly just campaigned on repealing it, presenting it as a substitute and an abstract effigy for Barack Obama, focusing as much hatred as they could on it. So do the congressional Republicans have to come up with something fabulous to replace it with so that Trump doesn't look like a lying sack of shit? Or is that just another one that just get slipped down the collective memory hole?

When they repeal and not replace the Affordable Care Act-- or at least start the process by killing off the exchanges-- it will send the U.S. health care system into disarray and lead to 29.8 million people losing their coverage, something like 16.6 million of whom are white-- not just white, but white working class. I wonder how many of them voted for Trump.

According to a new study from the Urban Institute, 82% of those who would lose coverage are in working families. Repealing the Affordable Care Act without a replacement plan will more than double the number of uninsured children in the country-- leaving 4 million children uninsured.

  Dangerous plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act without replacing it are a serious threat to hospitals, providers, and caregivers-- jeopardizing lives, livelihoods, and communities across the country. Hospitals are already warning of an "unprecedented public health crisis." Providers, including hospitals and doctors, would see a dramatic surge in uncompensated or charity care, $88 billion in 2019 alone and $1.1 trillion from 2019-2028.

Murderous mission
Paul Ryan, Kevin McCarthy, Tom Price, Mitch McConnell and Lamar Alexander are plotting to repeal the ACA, at least partially, through Reconciliation. The Urban Institute analysis starts with the premise that "since only components of the law with federal budget implications can be changed through reconciliation, this approach would permit elimination of the Medicaid expansion, the federal financial assistance for Marketplace coverage (premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions), and the individual and employer mandates; it would leave the insurance market reforms (including the nongroup market’s guaranteed issue, prohibition on preexisting condition exclusions, modified community rating, essential health benefit requirements, and actuarial value standards) in place." They compare future health care coverage and government health care spending under the ACA and under passage of a reconciliation bill similar to one vetoed in January 2016. The key effects of passage of the anticipated reconciliation bill are as follows:
The number of uninsured people would rise from 28.9 million to 58.7 million in 2019, an increase of 29.8 million people (103 percent). The share of nonelderly people without insurance would increase from 11 percent to 21 percent, a higher rate of uninsurance than before the ACA because of the disruption to the nongroup insurance market.
Of the 29.8 million newly uninsured, 22.5 million people become uninsured as a result of eliminating the premium tax credits, the Medicaid expansion, and the individual mandate. The additional 7.3 million people become uninsured because of the near collapse of the nongroup insurance market.
Eighty-two percent of the people becoming uninsured would be in working families, 38 percent would be ages 18 to 34, and 56 percent would be non-Hispanic whites. Eighty percent of adults becoming uninsured would not have college degrees.
There would be 12.9 million fewer people with Medicaid or CHIP coverage in 2019.
Approximately 9.3 million people who would have received tax credits for private nongroup health coverage in 2019 would no longer receive assistance.
Federal government spending on health care for the nonelderly would be reduced by $109 billion in 2019 and by $1.3 trillion from 2019 to 2028 because the Medicaid expansion, premium tax credits, and cost-sharing assistance would be eliminated.
State spending on Medicaid and CHIP would fall by $76 billion between 2019 and 2028. In addition, because of the larger number of uninsured, financial pressures on state and local governments and health care providers (hospitals, physicians, pharmaceutical manufacturers, etc.) would increase dramatically. This financial pressure would result from the newly uninsured seeking an additional $1.1 trillion in uncompensated care between 2019 and 2028.
The 2016 reconciliation bill did not increase funding for uncompensated care beyond current levels. Unless different action is taken, the approach would place very large increases in demand for uncompensated care on state and local governments and providers. The increase in services sought by the uninsured is unlikely to be fully financed, leading to even greater financial burdens on the uninsured and higher levels of unmet need for health care services.
If Congress partially repeals the ACA with a reconciliation bill like that vetoed in January 2016 and eliminates the individual and employer mandates immediately, in the midst of an already established plan year, significant market disruption would occur. Some people would stop paying premiums, and insurers would suffer substantial financial losses (about $3 billion); the number of uninsured would increase right away (by 4.3 million people); at least some insurers would leave the nongroup market midyear; and consumers would be harmed financially.
Many, if not most, insurers are unlikely to participate in Marketplaces in 2018-- even with tax credits and cost-sharing reductions still in place-- if the individual mandate is not enforced starting in 2017. A precipitous drop in insurer participation is even more likely if the cost-sharing assistance is discontinued (as related to the House v. Burwell case) or if some additional financial support to the insurers to offset their increased risk is not provided.
We asked several of the most promising freshmen members of Congress what they think Democrats should do to protect their constituents. Aware of his outstanding record of leadership on tough, crucial issues in the Maryland legislature, Jamie Raskin was one of the first candidates Blue America endorsed in 2015. He beat a pack of wealthy, predatory self-funders in the primary and went on to win the general election with 60% of the vote. He's someone we'll be looking to for many years, not just for good votes, but for good ideas and strategies. This morning he asked rhetorically, "What kind of leaders seek to dismantle a program that provides health coverage to 20 million Americans? This is political malpractice in a democracy. Every American needs health care, not just billionaires and CEOs. TrumpCare is exactly what the doctor didn't order."

DWT is taking another look at Congressman-elect Ro Khanna, who defeated Mike Honda in a hard-fought run-off last month. Khanna has joined the Progressive Caucus and vowed to make a positive difference in the lives of California working families. Back from the freshman congressional sessions at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government this week, he told us that "Jack Kingston, a former member of Congress and senior Trump advisor, openly told freshman members of Congress at our Harvard orientation that Trump's first priority will be to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He said every Republican needs to be for that because they must have campaigned on it."

All Democrats must make the defense of the Affordable Care Act our highest priority. We need to make the case that repeal will hurt working class Americans most-- many in districts that Trump carried. At a time when unfair trade deals and automation are hurting working families in middle America, we simply cannot afford to strip millions of Americans of basic health insurance.

As someone who was in the Obama Administration when the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, I will play a leadership role to make the case why we must fight with every fibre of our being to keep it. I recognize as one of only two Obama Administration alum in the U.S. Congress and Senate that I have a unique responsibility.

Long term, we need to work towards a single payer system and Medicare for all. We can't take a step back now.

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U.S. Life Expectancy Falls for First Time Since 1993


Dying of drugs and despair — causes of death in the working class, from a 2015 study.

by Gaius Publius

Part of the surprising (to many) primary-season discovery that Trump was popular, was the discovery of where he was popular. Put bluntly, he was popular where people, especially working class people, were dying. From Jeff Guo last March in the Washington Post:
Death predicts whether people vote for Donald Trump

A few weeks ago, following the Republican Iowa caucuses, I pointed out an eerie correlation in the voting data. It seems that Donald Trump performed the best in places where middle-aged whites are dying the fastest.

That wasn't a fluke. The relationship between white mortality and Trump support is real, as the fresh results from Super Tuesday confirmed.
The Post produced scatter plots to prove the point:

Note that only in the Massachusetts chart does mortality not correlate to Trump support.

This analysis can take us in several directions. One, naturally, is to see this as part of the "Trump phenomenon," part of the "what makes Trump special" discussion. Taking things that way, the discussion turns on race, especially as it relates to the 2016 electoral context.

Guo himself falls into this group, writing, "The people I've been describing — this distressed, dying demographic slice of America — are similar to the people who tend to vote for Trump, according to phone and exit polls. Trump supporters are mostly white; skew older; and are less likely to have college degrees than other Republicans." He also asserts, "Trump’s promise to 'Make America Great Again' has been most enthusiastically embraced by those who have seen their own life's prospects diminish the most — not [only] in terms of material wealth, but in terms of literal chances of survival."

Guo is not alone in making that correlation. Put briefly, that correlation states: "It's an important part of the Trump phenomenon that less educated, working class white people, who are now at increased risk of dying, are voting him."

The underlying study, however, was non-political and only seems to reach that conclusion. The report, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in September of 2015, found
a marked increase in the all-cause mortality of middle-aged white non-Hispanic men and women in the United States between 1999 and 2013. This change reversed decades of progress in mortality and was unique to the United States; no other rich country saw a similar turnaround.
Note the lack of a political dimension in the study. 

Of course, even outside of the electoral context, the study made news, since the reversal of decades of progress in life expectancy was both astonishing and unprecedented in modern America. Causes for increased mortality, as you may have read, included "midlife increases in suicides and drug poisonings," which lead some writers like myself to conclude that people in the working class were "dying of drugs and despair."

But Is This a Trump Phenomenon or an American Phenomenon?

Here is where the analysis gets interesting. This is not really a statement about Trump per se. Three points to note:

First, while Trump voters are overwhelmingly white, the country is overwhelmingly white as well, at least for now.

Second, the point that this was about Trump was made in the primary, when Trump's chief competition for these voters — Bernie Sanders — was not running in head-to-head contests against him. Note that Sanders, somewhat famously, also had strong white working class support — though he had broader support as well, despite the "white Bernie bro" meme that the Clinton campaign, strategically and perhaps cynically, deployed at the time.

Third, in the general election, it certainly seemed that Clinton & Co. did as much as they could to distance themselves from the white working class electorate. Clinton herself uttered the now-infamous "basket of deplorables" remark, and Chuck Schumer was widely noted as saying, "For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin." In short, the Democratic Party's "identity politics" strategy seemed almost designed not to appeal to the white working class, which made it easy, in the end, for Trump to pick them up as voters.

Would Trump have picked up the same percentage of these voters in a head-to-head contest with Sanders? I for one think not. Michigan voters went for Sanders (against Clinton) in droves. He would certainly have held many of those voters in a general election against Trump, while not losing any of Clinton's voters in those states. As many see it, in a Trump v. Sanders contest Sanders wins the Rust Belt vote hands down — and thus wins the general election as well.

All of which means that the "dying of despair" voters are not just Trump voters. They're American voters.

Death Rates Are Rising Generally in the U.S. 

Now comes another study to bolster that conclusion. General life expectancy in the U.S. is now in decline. The Washington Post again:
U.S. life expectancy declines for the first time since 1993

For the first time in more than two decades, life expectancy for Americans declined last year — a troubling development linked to a panoply of worsening health problems in the United States.

Rising fatalities from heart disease and stroke, diabetes, drug overdoses, accidents and other conditions caused the lower life expectancy revealed in a report released Thursday by the National Center for Health Statistics. In all, death rates rose for eight of the top 10 leading causes of death.
The article goes on to note:
Its findings show increases in “virtually every cause of death. It’s all ages,” said David Weir, director of the health and retirement study at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. Over the past five years, he noted, improvements in death rates were among the smallest of the past four decades. “There’s this just across-the-board [phenomenon] of not doing very well in the United States.”
What should we make of this?

Bottom Lines

I'm going to make these points quickly, and expand on them (defend them) later. I think we can easily draw three conclusions:

First, as Thomas Frank and others have extensively argued, it's not just the white working class that's been going over the cliff, it's everyone in the country not served by the two political parties, which means, everyone below the top 10% of the population. That's a lot of population (and a lot of Sanders voters, by the way). I'm not alone in arguing that in America today most of the country is represented by no one, that their interests are served by neither political party.

Second, the despair covers almost every demographic group, from older white and black workers, broken in body by years of physical labor, to students and former students of all economic classes who leave college with debt like a mortgage but no house, and with a degree they'll never use because no jobs. No one in the bottom 90% escapes this devastation. People who aren't themselves victims know someone who is. It's a painful country to live in for the lower 90%, and worse, no one suffering in it sees things getting better.

Which means the nation is "Brexit-hungry" for change, any change. In the general election, only Trump was on offer as "change," yet with cabinet pick after cabinet pick he's already proving to be no change at all.

Which also means, third, the U.S. is in trouble as a nation. A nation in despair has elected a wealth-serving autocrat as an economic savior, a "change agent" who's making no changes. It seems we're doomed to disappointment and worse. What's next?

Will the working class continue to commit suicide and still cheer Trump on? Not when they see no real improvement in the hopelessness of their lives — more crappy jobs, more degenerative diseases and conditions, more meth labs and oxycontin use, more suicides, more deaths from inadequate health care, or worse, inadequate health care withdrawn.

What will the increasingly dependent do when Medicare is cut or privatized, when Social Security benefits are sliced, when the now-unified government passes the old "grand bargain" between "entitlements" and taxes that Obama couldn't get through a Republican Congress, but Trump surely will?

I've said before that the U.S. is in a pre-revolutionary state. Trump beat every Establishment candidate in the Republican field by a lot. Sanders nearly toppled a former senator and First Lady, a woman running with every Establishment advantage at her disposal, including almost all media but that on the right. In the general election, Trump beat Clinton in a squeaker, but it's a race that should never have been close, except that Trump was on offer as the "change candidate," and she was not.

What will the nation do if people keep dying? The entire population, almost, is hungry for economic change, real betterment in their lives. If elections don't provide that change, the people may provide it themselves in some other way. And if they do that, there will be rough times ahead.


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Hillary Won 7 California Districts That The DCCC Blew-- But Pelosi Re-Hired Lujan Anyway


Good help may be hard to find-- but for Pelosi, it's impossible to find

Let's look at some congressional districts where there was enough ticket splitting to elect a member of Congress from one party and a president from the other. Unfortunately, with not all votes in there are still some districts that are too close to call in the presidential race-- and the numbers of voters for Trump and Clinton are still not broken out by congressional district.

Working alphabetically, the first state with anomalies is Arizona. The state elected 5 Republicans and 4 Democrats to the House,although two of the Democrats-- Tom O'Halleran and Kyrsten Sinema-- are so far to the right, that they might as well be considered Republicans. Sinema, in fact, has the worst ProgressivePunch lifetime crucial vote score of any Democrat from any state going back to Congress next year (a dismal and abhorrent 36.63-- in a Tempe,Mesa, Scottsdale, Chandler district Obama won both against McCain and against Romney. Sinema, whose raised $3,927,992 to her opponent Dave Giles' $233,297 won 60.9-39.0%. The race between Trump and Clinton is still too close to call in the district. Same in gigantic AZ-01 (most of the eastern part of the state plus Flagstaff, some southern Phoenix and northern Tucson suburbs)-- too close to call between Trump and Hillary but "former" Republican/pretend Democrat Tom O'Halleran beat the gay sheriff, Paul Babeu, 50.7-43.4%, after outspending him significantly. (Obama lost the district with 48% both times he ran.) The only other district where Clinton may have beaten Trump, AZ-02 (Tucson), Republican Martha McSally triumphed over Matt Heinz (who, unlike O'Halleran, got ZERO help from the DCCC) 57-43%. Clinton out-performed Trump in the Tucson suburbs but votes are still being tabulated so the district numbers aren't in yet.

On to California where Clinton won seven red districts: CA-10 (Modesto), CA-21 (Central Valley), CA-25 (Santa Clarita), CA-39 (Orange County), CA-45 (Orange County), CA-48 (Orange County) and CA-49 (Orange County/San Diego), where Republican incumbents, respectively, Jeff Denham, David Valadao, Steve Knight, Ed Royce, Mimi Walters, Dana Rohrabacher and Darrell Issa all managed to win reelection, primarily because even if the DCCC tried to be less competent they could't be as incompetent as they continue to prove themselves.

In Colorado, Clinton beat Trump in CO-06 (Aurora and the Denver suburbs) but Mike Coffman still managed to hang on 50.9-42.6%. He outspent Morgan Carroll, a credible candidate $2,725,315 to $2,326,607 but the GOP swamped the Democrats in outside spending $7.2 million to $5.2 million.

In Florida, it was the same ole, same ole: the two blue Miami-Dade, districts, FL-26 and FL-27, Clinton won (just as Obama had) but Wasserman Schultz made sure Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was reelected in one and the Democrats nominated an unelected corrupt Blue Dog, Joe Garcia, in the other district. What a mess. If Tim Canova manages to beat Wasserman Schultz in 2018, Ros-Lehtinen will be a guaranteed loss immediately after.

In Illinois, the Democrats seem to want to protect Peter Roskam for some reason I could never figure out. IL-06 (Chicagoland suburbs) went for Obama in 2008, Romney in 2012 and Clinton this year-- and reelected Republican Peter Roskam 59.2-40.8% with no DCCC participation whatsoever. Trump may have won IL-17 (Moline, Rock Island)-- still countin'-- while Blue Dog Cheri Bustos won reelection 60.3-39.7% in a dead race where she outraised Republican Patrick Harlan $3,249,480 to $11,284.

Trump swept Iowa-- like seem to have loved having him denigrate them and call them brain-damaged morons during the primaries-- and he won all 4 district, including IA-02, where Democrat Dave Loebsack was reelected 53.7-46.2%, outraging Republican Chris Peters $1,542,987 to $207,030.

Kansas was Trumpland, of course, but Hillary won KS-03 (Kansas City and its suburbs), while Kevin Yoder managed to beat DCCC recruit Jay Sidie (who was buried in GOP cash) 51.3-40.6%.

In Minnesota, Democrat Tim Walz managed to narrowly win his MN-01 southern tier district, despite a win by Trump. Walk outraised Republican Jim Hagedorn $1,462,926 to $311,542 and the NRCC stayed out of it. They probably would haven the seat had they jumped in. Conversely, up in MN-03 (the suburbs west of the Twin cities), Erik Paulsen managed to win 56.7-43.0% despite a Clinton win in the district. He outraised Blue Dog Terri Bonoff $4,493,021 to $1,656,703. Trump won MN-07 and MN-08, but both Democratic incumbents, progressive Rick Nolan and ultra-reactionary Blue Dog Collin Peterson both hung on, respectively 50.2-49.6% and 52.5-47.4%.

New Hampshire was finally officially awarded to Clinton yesterday but one district went strongly for her and one district, NH-01, went narrowly for Trump. Luckily, the DCCC didn't interfere in the congressional race and the progressiveDemocrat running, Carol Shea-Porter, despite being outspent won the three way race 45.8% to 44.4% to 7.0%. The incumbent Republican, Frank Guinta, spent, $1,117,756, gay Wall Street fake-Democrat who had some Bernie backing despite professing a desire to cut Social Security and Medicare (Sean O'Connor) ran as an independent to damage Shea-Porter and spent $1,056,281. Carol spent less than either: $1,025,533, but won the race. The NRCC threw around another $1,294,212 against Shea-Porter but it was badly spent and ineffectual.

In New Jersey, Trump managed to win the northern tier of the state, NJ-05, while the incumbent Republican extremist there, Scott Garrett, was defeated by Blue Dog Josh Gottheimer, who buried him in spending. Both Leonard Lance and Rodney Frelinghuysen faced severely under-financed opponents but both there districts, respectivley NJ-07 and NJ-11 are still too close to call and it looks like Clinton may have one them.

Across the river, Sean Patrick Maloney was reelected in NY-18, 55.2-44.8%, while Trump took his district. Clinton won the Syracuse district (NY-24) but the incredibly bad candidate, Collleen Deacon, who Kirsten Gillibrand and the DCCC forced on the district lost miserably to dull incumbent John Katko, 61.0-38.9%.

The 3 GOP-held Philly collar counties are all still GOP-held but this was ground-zero for Clinton's suburban moderate Republican strategy and it failed. PA-08, Bucks County, went for Trump and the other two, PA-06 and PA-07 are both till too close to call in the presidential race. Further north, Matt Cartwright won reelection, 53.8-46.2%, but Trump beat Clinton there (PA-17).

In Texas, where the suburbs did swing to Clinton, she won TX-07 (Houston suburbs) and TX-32 (Dallas suburbs), while right-wing GOP incumbents John Culberson and Pete Sessions were reelected handily, Sessions with no Democratic opponent at all, and Culbertson with one who had no money and no backing. Culbertson raised $1,169,866 and the Democrat, Jim Cargas raised $36,235. Culbertson walked away with a 56.2-43.8% win. In the heavily Latino south TX-23 district, it's still to close between Trump and Clinton to call but the DCCC managed to find a weak enough crap-canddiate, Pete Gallego, to lose to incumbent Will Hurd, albeit very narrowly. Democrats have been yammering for years about demographics making Texas bluer, are they expecting a shofar band to make a racket when it happens so they know?

In Virginia, Clinton won the DC suburban VA-10, but the flawed DCCC candidate, LuAnn Bennett lost to right-wing nut incumbent Barbara Comstock, who outraised her $4,634,196 to $2,200,188. The DCCC and House majority PAC flushed around $6 million down that rat-hole, while the NRCC and Congressional Leadership Fund spent around $7.4 million on Comstock.

In Wisconsin, Trump won the 3rd district in the west, while New Dem Ron Kind had no GOP opponent-- why should they bother when Kind is basically a Republican anyway?

The next time we look at this, we'll have all the completed tabulations but I know for the handful of people who like this kind of stuff, well... you're probably not going to find it anywhere else before 2017.

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Thursday, December 08, 2016

Trumpy-The-Clown, The Stock Markets And Tax Policy


I'm sure you noticed that the stock markets have reacted favorably to the prospect of a Trump presidency. Wednesday the Dow closed at an all-time high. It has rocketed 1200 points since Trump "won." The Dow is getting close to 20,000, something few people thought they would ever live to see. As CNN reported this week, "Wall Street is betting that Trump will be great for business and help accelerate the U.S. economy. Trump has promised to slash taxes, roll back costly regulations and spend big on infrastructure. Trump's less business-friendly promises-- tearing up NAFTA, breaking up the big banks and auditing the Federal Reserve-- have largely been shrugged off as campaign rhetoric." Today I spent some time with my financial planner talking about what happens when Trump disappoints-- as his entire life in business clears shows he will-- and rather drastically. I'm shocked that so few financial analysts are taking that into account. It's terrifying actually.

One of my advisors sent out a newsletter today-- from a money-Republican perspective basically-- about all the wonderful things Trumpism will bring to the greed and selfishness set. "President-elect Donald Trump," they drooled, "has made it clear that he wants tax reform, and he wants it as quickly as possible. To help him in this quest, he has a Republican House and Senate who also want tax reform.
There are two obstacles that will need to be overcome in order to enact tax reform. The first is the “Senate road bump.” The final count on the political distribution of the Senate is anticipated to be 52-48 in favor of the Republicans [after Louisiana elects a Republican]. In order to avoid the possibility of filibuster as a tool to prevent tax legislation from advancing, either: eight Democrats will need to get on board to attain the 60 vote Super Majority rule, or the Budget Reconciliation Process will need to be used which allows tax legislation to pass with a simple 51 vote majority.

The second obstacle is the resulting decrease in revenues. The 10-year cost of Trump’s proposal is estimated by experts to be between $4.4 and $5.9 trillion, with the GOP estimate half of that at $3.1 trillion.1 But where will offset replacement revenues or expense reductions be found? And how will the parallel proposal of massive works projects to improve infrastructure be paid for?

These two issues are likely the only potential “drag” on the march to tax reform. Many commentators believe the proposed changes to the tax laws will ultimately pass, probably with some compromises.

While Trump and the GOP's versions of tax reform have differences, they also share many similarities. It is safe to assume that whatever proposals we are seeing now will be “tweaked” before the cake is baked. Here is an overview of the changes proposed by Trump:
Lower Individual Income Tax

As part of Trump’s proposal, individual income tax rates would go down. Currently we have seven income tax brackets. Trump’s plan has 3 brackets: 12, 25 and 33%. Capital gains rates stay the same-- 0, 15 and 20%. The GOP proposal for capital gains is to allow a 50% deduction of the gain before the tax is imposed.

As part of the calculation of taxable income, the Trump proposal changes three items: (1) personal exemptions are eliminated, (2) standard deduction is increased, and (3) itemized deductions are capped.

The new standard deduction: for single individuals from current $6,300 to $15,000; for married-joint filers from current $12,600 to $30,000. Itemized deductions will be capped at $100,000 for single filers, $200,000 for married-joint filers. We should note that the GOP plan does not contain these caps, rather it eliminates itemized deductions entirely, with the exception of mortgage interest, charitable donations and a few taxes (excluding state income tax). The elimination of personal exemptions may be bad for families with more than two dependent children (2016 personal exemption is $4,050). A family of five with 3 dependent children would see less deduction from the new system. Under the current rules, that family would have a $12,600 standard deduction plus 5 personal exemptions at $4,050 per person, for a total of $32,850. However, under the proposal, they are capped at $30,000.

The new standard deduction could negatively impact the benefits of the mortgage interest deduction for middle-class families with mortgage payments and few other itemized deductions. The first $30,000 a year in deductions will have no income tax benefit for a married couple because of the increased size of the standard deduction.

Childcare and eldercare Deductions

An “above-the-line” deduction would be allowed for childcare costs for children under the age of 13, and would be capped based on a state average for a child of that age. The deduction would also apply for Eldercare expenses for a dependent of up to $5,000 a year. This deduction would not be allowed for married couples making over $500,000 a year and singles making over $250,000 a year. These benefits would be indexed for inflation.

Eliminate tax loophole for "carried interest"

The average American may not know what “Carried Interest” is, but many have heard the stories of wealthy individuals avoiding millions in taxes by taking ownership in the company they work for in order to ultimately sell and pay capital gains instead of ordinary income. Ordinarily they would have received income and paid ordinary income tax. This is a huge paradigm shift on a contentious issue. Under the proposal, taxpayers who make money this way would have to pay ordinary income tax rates on their gains when the company is sold.

Lower corporate income tax

The corporate income tax rate would be lowered from 35% to 15% with some limitations on deductions. The GOP proposal is 20%. There is uncertainty whether the 15% tax rate also applies to business income that flows through to individual tax returns, if the taxpayer has an active business structured as a “pass-through” (S corporations, LLCs, Partnerships and sole proprietorships). If this becomes part of the plan, it would create huge incentives for individuals to become independent contractors instead of employees. The proposal also provides for 100% expensing of capital expenditures in the year of acquisition instead of depreciation or amortization.

In addition, Trump’s proposal would encourage U.S. corporations that keep money overseas (from profits made overseas) to repatriate those assets by having a repatriation “holiday” (fixed-time period) when those assets could be brought back to the U.S. at only a 10% tax rate (as compared to the current 35% tax rate). Capital Economics reports that, as of 2015, U.S. corporations had over $2.5 trillion parked overseas, including $110 billion by Microsoft alone.

Eliminate 3 taxes

Details on Estate Tax repeal

The Trump proposal calls for full estate tax repeal. Stepped-up basis for transfers at death would be repealed as well, and instead carryover basis would apply. For example, assume Antonio purchased a rental property many years ago and had taken depreciation, and his basis was currently $100,000, and the fair market value of the property currently $1 million. If Antonio sold the property, he would have to pay capital gains on $900,000, the difference between his $100,000 basis and the $1 million sales price (plus recapture depreciation). Under current law, if Antonio passed away and left his home to daughter Gabrielle, and Gabrielle sold the property for $1 million, she would pay $0 capital gains taxes because she got stepped up basis. If instead she held the property for a couple more years and was then able to sell for $1.2 million, she would pay capital gains only on the $200,000 of appreciation that occurred since her father died. If instead the new law is passed and Gabrielle only gets carryover basis, she would pay the same amount of capital gains tax as her father if he had sold it.

However, there is also an argument that what Trump means is that he actually wants to trigger all capital gains taxes at death (similar to the Canadian system). Trump’s website vaguely references some break on the triggering of capital gains tax at death for owners of small businesses and farms, without any details. In addition, there would be an exemption taxpayers could use to allocate to specific assets that would allow those assets to get stepped-up basis at the death of the taxpayer: $10 million exemption for married taxpayers; $5 million for single. Presumably a taxpayer (or the representative of their estate) could pick and choose which assets to allocate this exemption to, with the preference being the most highly appreciated assets, while factoring in whether there are any assets never likely to be sold by the heirs. This in turn leads to the conclusion that there would still have to be some kind of Federal estate information return filed to show the allocation of this tax benefit among the assets owned by the deceased. With this system, it would be imperative that a client’s estate plan make clear either who benefits from the $10/$5 million and/or who gets to make the decision. The GOP proposal is full estate tax repeal while retaining stepped up basis at death on all assets.

What is unclear at this point is whether full “estate tax repeal” also means full gift tax repeal and generation skipping tax repeal. Trump’s proposals to date have been silent on whether “estate tax repeal” really means the entire system including gift taxes and generation skipping taxes, or literally just estate tax repeal. It is likely that it does include generation skipping tax repeal. There is a split of opinion on whether it also means gift tax repeal; more on this in a moment.

...If the gift tax is also being repealed as part of the proposal, there would be no more restrictions on transfers of assets to your family and friends. No more $14,000 limit on annual gifts. So, if you wanted to give your children money or real estate, you could just go ahead and give it to them – or to anybody else for that matter. See below for comments on the ability to transfer assets at will as a means to move taxable income into lower tax brackets of family members and whether there will need to be some “gift-tax-like” rules to prevent this. However, no one yet knows if the tax proposal will eliminate the gift tax or otherwise put restrictions on it such as limiting how much you can gift during lifetime.

Will the middle class see real benefits from income tax reform?

Trump's proposal is positioned to help the middle class. Some interesting observations were recently made about the potential tax savings for a sample “middle class” taxpayer.2 Households with an annual income between $143,100 and $292,100 will see an average annual savings of $4,300 under Trump's proposal, and an average annual savings of $300 under the GOP's plan.

Households with an annual income of $3.8 million or more will see an average annual savings of $1.07 million under Trump's proposal, and an average annual savings of $1.2 million under the GOP's plan.

Déjà vu?

We’ve been here before with George W. Bush in 2001 and a Republican House and Senate. Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGGTRA) was passed in August of that year. It included the phase out of the Federal estate tax, with full repeal by 2010. The thinking behind waiting until 2010 was that Congress would figure out the numbers before then so that estate tax repeal would be permanent. But they never did figure it out. Or, put another way, they chose not to deal with the issue.

So, what's different now? First, the repeal of estate tax has now been on the table for 15 years. Additionally, the public has been convinced it's an unfair tax, even if most people don't pay it. Finally, Trump wants it and he has incredible political capital at the moment.
UPDATE: Trump And Taxes:

Bloomberg just ran the numbers on what Trump's tax plans would mean to Trump and the cabinet from Hell. Their point is that though he "won the hearts and minds of millions of working-class voters, [he] may help deliver a multibillion-dollar bonanza to America’s wealthiest families."
The Manhattan businessman’s election offers congressional Republicans their best chance in years to eliminate the estate tax, which he and others call the “death tax.” Abolishing it would save more than $20 billion a year for the millionaires and billionaires the tax applies to-- including the Trump family and several of the people he has chosen for his administration.

...Under federal law, the tax, which is levied at a 40 percent rate, applies only to estates worth more than $5.45 million for individuals and $10.9 million for couples. Estates worth less than that may be passed on to heirs tax-free. Last year, just 0.2 percent of estates of people who died were subject to the tax, according to estimates by the Tax Policy Center, a Washington-based research group that’s a joint venture of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution.

At that 18.8 percent effective rate, repealing the tax would be a large windfall to the leaders-in-waiting of the Trump administration.

Trump’s estate would save $564 million, based on his estimated net worth of $3 billion. Trump disagrees with that net-worth estimate, which Bloomberg News compiled in July; he has said his net worth exceeds $10 billion. If so, his savings would increase-- to as much as $1.9 billion at an 18.8 percent effective tax rate. Trump’s transition team didn’t respond to a request for comment for this story.

Trump’s Commerce secretary choice, Wilbur Ross, might save about $545 million, based on his estimated net worth of $2.9 billion. Ross is the chairman and chief strategy officer of WL Ross & Co. LLC. Richard DeVos, the father-in-law of Trump’s education secretary choice Betsy DeVos, might save $900 million, based on his estimated $4.8 billion net worth. Richard DeVos is co-founder of Alticor Inc., the parent of closely held direct-seller Amway Corp. Their net worth estimates were compiled by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Repealing the tax would also benefit Treasury secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin, who held shares in CIT Group Inc. worth more than $100 million as of Dec. 2. And Linda McMahon, Trump’s pick to head the Small Business Administration, and her husband, Vince McMahon, have earned hundreds of millions of dollars after founding World Wrestling Entertainment Inc.

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Republican Kathryn Barger, Predictably, Pisses on Democratic Endorsers


The gang's all here: Hilda Solis, Janice Hahn, their GOP Latino-hating pal Kathryn Barger and Sheila Kuehl 

-by Dorothy Reik
President, Progressive Democrats of the Santa Monica Mountains

Once Republican Kathryn Barger was elected to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, defeating Democrat Darren Park, she wasted no time in showing her true colors-- not brown or black or even purple-- her color is TRUMP RED.

It was a busy first day in the Chamber with Barger going along with the rest of the Supervisors on many good motions but then the rubber met the road. On protection for immigrants who fear for their safety and whose families are under threat of being torn apart, Barger abstained. If Hilda Solis held her motion so her endorsed candidate Barger would make the vote unanimous she was sadly mistaken:
Solis recommended protections for immigrants, a motion she previewed two weeks ago but chose to hold for a vote until after Hahn and Barger were sworn in. After more than 100 speakers expressed their support and dozens more chose to waive their time to speak at the end of a long day that motion was approved on a 4-0 vote, with Barger abstaining.
Another Barger endorser who might be scratching her head is Maria Elena Durazo, Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee no less! How can she endorse a Republican? She can because the Democratic Party is undisciplined giving its members license to be unprincipled.

Of course Maria and Hilda were not the only Democrats who fell for Barger’s promises in spite of warnings that she had supported the sheriff’s abuse of minority tenants in her district as the chief deputy of right wing Republican disaster Michael Antonovich. The fact that he annointed her as his preferred successor, undoing the term limits put in place to get rid of him, should have been enough to send them running. "Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich has tapped his chief of staff, Kathryn Barger-Leibrich, as his preferred successor." This rotten apple did not fall far from her tree.

Way before Trump’s name became a household word outside of New York, minorities in Barger’s district, especially in the Antelope Valley and Palmdale, faced abusive, racist policing. The district had to settle a federal lawsuit for millions of dollars. "Federal officials said some (italics are mine) sheriff's personnel in the Antelope Valley had engaged in a 'pattern or practice of unconstitutional and unlawful policing regarding stops, searches and seizures, excessive force, and discriminatory targeting of voucher holders in their homes.'"

Barger supported the sheriffs and they returned the favor: "Campaign finance statements posted Monday show that the Assn. for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs and Los Angeles County Firefighter Local 1014 have each contributed $400,000 to the outside committee set up to support Barger." Barger also supports the environmentally disastrous Newhall Ranch development and the Chiquita Canyon landfill expansion, both abhorred by environmentalists.

In addition to Durazo and Solis, the following leading Democrats endorsed Barger: Sheila Kuehl, Gloria Molina, Zev Yaroslavsky, Eric Garcetti and Jeffrey Prang. Depressing-- but something to remember as time goes on.

They could have supported the Democrat, Darrell Park, who was endorsed by the Los Angeles County Democratic Party and all the Democratic Clubs, but they didn’t. Why? Would Barger have won anyway? We will never know. The residents of District 5 are the losers here-- even more than Darrell Park. They are the ones who will continue to live with abusive sheriffs and who will have to continue their fight against the Chiquita garbage dump (let’s call it what it is!) and the disastrous Newhall Ranch development and their own elected supervisor will be leading the charge against their efforts.

But how were they to know? The leading Democrats endorsed her. They trusted the Democratic leadership. We know how that turned out in the presidential election. It worked out the same way in District 5. That’s where Our Revolution needs to start.


Nancy Pelosi = Bob Michel? Maybe... But The House Dems Have No Newt To Save Them


Robert Michel (R-IL) was in Congress for 38 years, starting when I was a pre-teen. And he was After serving as Minority Whip for half a dozen years, he became Minority Leader in 1981 and was finally ousted in 1995, completely changing the fortunes of the utterly pathetic House Republicans. Before Congress, Michel had served as an infantryman during World War II, earning two Bronze Stars, a Purple Heart and 4 battle stars. But getting rid of Michel, a decent, old school Peoria gentleman, breathed new life into the GOP. For the entire 38 years he served in Congress-- employing the same failed strategies and tactics over and over and over-- the GOP was never the majority party. That changed-- and in a really big way-- as soon as they, painfully, put Michel out to pasture. I say "painfully," because he came under withering attack from his own party's far right, led by... a slick hustler: Newt Gingrich. By the early 90s Gingrich and other Republican extremists, tired of being irrelevant started attacking Michel as a weak and ineffective compromiser who just wanted to get along with the Democrats, play golf with them and never fight hard for Republican ideals.

Gingrich was seen as a "bomb-thrower" but more and more House Republicans were rallying to his standard and Michel decided to not seek reelection in the 1994 midterms, ceding party leadership to Gingrich and his aggressive right-wing agenda. That year the Republicans swept into power, winning 54 Democratic seats and taking over the House for the first time since 1952, even defeating House Speaker Tom Foley as well as several senior committee chairmen. Gingrich became Speaker and the GOP remained in power until the Democrats stumbled into a very short-lived majority in 2006.

Since 2010 Pelosi-Michel comparisons have been something Democrats whisper about. almost all the overt criticism of her leadership comes from the right, from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party (the Blue Dogs and New Dems, who hate her for her progressive instincts however faded). Tim Ryan, obviously, was no Newt Gingrich. In fact, the spineless House Democrats don't have anyone willing to stand up to Pelosi except much worse alternatives (again, Blue Dogs and New Dems), who want to move the party in far worse directions than Pelosi has steered it. Younger leaders who she's taken under her wing to groom for party leadership-- particularly Chris Van Hollen and Xavier Becerra-- have grown tired of waiting for her to move on. It was like being a prince of England under Elizabeth II. Last year Van Hollen said "screw it" and ran for an open Senate seat and last month Becerra took an appointment as California Attorney General, widely seen as a stature-raising stepping stone for the Feinstein Senate seat.

Now the House Democrats have only the dimmest of possible prospects for the post-Pelosi/Hoyer era: corrupt garbage conservatives like New Dem chief Joe Crowley and Congress' most universally hated-Democrat: Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Hoyer has been training two rot-gut right-wing Blue Dogs for leadership positions: Kyrsten Sinema, who has the worst voting record of any Democrat returning to Congress next year, and Illinois reactionary and Rahm Emanuel protégée Cheri Bustos.

Pelosi has the 25th ProgressivePunch lifetime crucial vote score (93.80). Among the two dozen Democrats with better voting records, almost all of them all also extremely old-- many tired and jaded-- and some of the younger ones not showing any real leadership abilities and inclinations. Mark Pocan from Madison may be the one bright exception, although it's reasonable to root for Judy Chu (CA) and Karen Bass (CA) to step on the gas a little as well. Another hope for future-- and not distant-- leadership is Ted Lieu. Like Pocan, Chu and Bass, Lieu is no bomb-thrower of a Gingrich variety and I don't see him ever leading a much-needed revolt against a worn-out Pelosi. Yesterday's New York Times included a somewhat fatuous piece, The Next Class of California Political Leaders and the only member of Congress they included was Lieu. They pointed out that one of the most alarming factors facing the Democrats today is that their leaders are all relics, although they politely called it "a paucity of younger Democrats" but claim California is a bright spot where there is "a generational renewal" as "Gov. Jerry Brown, 78; Senator Barbara Boxer, 76; Senator Dianne Feinstein, 83; and Nancy Pelosi, the house minority leader, who is 76 approach the end of their public careers."
This new class of Democratic leaders seems likely to reshape the political face of California for a generation. But for national Democrats, they also represent a potential talent pool of leaders who can help pull the party out of the worst crisis it has faced since 2005, the last time the Republicans controlled the White House and both houses of Congress. California also stands ready to become a laboratory for Democratic policy that, it seems fair to say, will have little chance for enactment in Washington, at least for the next two years.

There may be no more Democratic state than California in this new Trump era. This election delivered the party two-thirds control of both houses of the Legislature, in addition to control of all statewide elected officials. And Democrats here stand in stark contrast in terms of ideology and demographics to Mr. Trump and his followers.

That has been particularly clear this week in Sacramento, where the Democratic leaders of the Assembly and Senate-- Kevin de Leon, the president of the Senate, and Anthony Rendon, the leader of the Assembly-- introduced legislation intended to thwart any effort by Mr. Trump to crack down on immigration.

...Both Mr. Rendon and Mr. de Leon are viewed as part of this new class of leaders. They are also Latino, like many of the elected officials on the list below. Latinos now make up 40 percent of the state’s population. In the latest sign of their rising influence here-- and presumably nationally, at least at some point-- Mr. Brown appointed Representataive Xavier Becerra of Los Angeles as attorney general, succeeding Kamala Harris, who was elected last month to fill Ms. Boxer’s position in the Senate.
Among the bright-spots the Times pointed to were L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti (45), state Senate leader Kevin de León (49), Becerra, the still completely unproven Kamala Harris (52), the much-disliked slimy corporate whore Gavin Newsom (49) and, of course, Lieu (47), a nose-to-the-grindstone legislative powerhouse who is committed to accomplishing the agenda that drew him to public service-- ameliorating Climate Change, protecting civil liberties, fighting for equal opportunities for working families... Problem with younger people, like Lieu? I hope I'm not speaking out of school here but I begged him to run for DCCC chairman and he turned me down flat because he has-- as people his age tend to-- two young sons, Brennan and Austin, who he is committed to spending real time with, something that would be impossible to do and simultaneously be a winning DCCC chairman. Alas, being a winning DCCC chair isn't something that has probably ever crossed the mind off Ben Ray Luján (44 and a bachelor), since he-- even more so than Bob Michel or Nancy Pelosi-- only knows the rut of losing and losing and losing; he was instructed by Steve Israel, expert in nothing but losing-- and kept the losinest team in town, the corrupt and incompetent DCCC staff.

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Two Ways of Looking at U.S. Industrial Policy


U.S. industrial policy, as practiced (click to enlarge; source)

by Gaius Publius

I was of two minds,
Like a tree
In which there are two blackbirds.

    (with apologies to Wallace Stevens)

Much of the debate around U.S. trade policy — or "trade" policy, since so much of it really concerns capital flow and "investor rights" than it does actual trade — is really an attempt to define and direct U.S. industrial policy.

Here's one definition of "industrial policy":
The industrial policy of a country, sometimes denoted IP, is its official strategic effort to encourage the development and growth of part or all of the manufacturing sector as well as other sectors of the economy.[1][2][3] The government takes measures "aimed at improving the competitiveness and capabilities of domestic firms and promoting structural transformation."[4] A country's infrastructure (transportation, telecommunications and energy industry) is a major part of the manufacturing sector that often has a key role in IP.
Ignore the part about "aimed at improving the competitiveness of domestic firms," since industrial policy can have other, more pernicious goals, as you'll see shortly. Industrial policy certainly promotes "structural transformation" when it acts. In the same way, by inaction industrial policy leaves in place structures it prefers not to disturb.

In short, "industrial policy" is what a nation does or does not do to structure its manufacturing capability — its ability to produce good domestically, with domestic labor — as it wishes. In other words, the goal of a nation's industrial policy is to enable the wishes of the nation's leaders, whatever they are, even when those wishes are other than "improving the competitiveness of domestic firms."

Let's look at two definitions of current U.S. industrial policy, in particular, mine and Marcy Wheeler's. While quite different, these definitions are not mutually exclusive, since, as the piece quoted above points out, "Industrial policies are sector-specific." One (mine) deals largely with manufacturing for the privately financed consumer-based economy. Wheeler's deals largely with the publicly financed and supposedly military-based economy.

First my own definition, then Wheeler's.

U.S. Industrial Policy — Beggar the Nation to Enrich the Wealthy

If you consider the effect (i.e., the goal as practiced) of U.S. industrial policy, you can't in good conscience say it's "aimed at improving the competitiveness of domestic firms," since what would improve that competitiveness (that is, bolster the competitiveness of goods manufactured domestically) is the kind of protectionism practiced during the first 200 years of the nation's history, explicitly argued by Alexander Hamilton and adopted under the George Washington administration.

The Washington administration, and every administration until Reagan's, had as a goal to increase the competitive success of the domestic manufacturing sector, the sector powered by U.S. labor, relative to both domestic (U.S.) markets and world markets. Under Reagan, and under every president since — Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, Obama — the U.S. manufacturing sector, or that part of it that services the consumer economy, has been systematically dismantled. (The arguments that this is true are legion, but for the short version, think NAFTA.)

Thus my definition of U.S. industrial policy as practiced:
Current U.S. industrial policy is to move our consumer manufacturing capability out of the country at the fastest possible rate and to hand the (untaxed) savings to billionaires, using corporations as a pass-through.
That is, the people who control U.S. government policy vis-à-vis the manufacture of consumer products make sure that the nation's manufacturing worker class is made poorer so that the savings in labor cost can go into the pockets of the corporate ownership and financier classes. They do this to the greatest extent possible, and at the fastest rate allowable under current conditions.

They do this by action — through treaties like NAFTA, for example, as well as numerous bilateral agreements — and by inaction, through tax policies that don't interrupt, or in many cases accelerate, the wealth drain out of the worker class (including white collar workers) into the pockets of the international wealthy.

Regarding U.S. industrial policy for the consumer manufacturing sector, a person would be hard put, I think, to disagree. Which is why I wrote at the start of this piece that the "wishes" or goals of a nation's policy don't necessarily have to be beneficial to its manufacturing sector. In this case, the U.S. beggars (dismantles) its manufacturing sector for another goal — the enrichment of those who control the political and political-messaging processes.

The F-35 As U.S. Industrial Policy

Marcy Wheeler takes another approach to determining what U.S. industrial policy is, and hits the nail on the head, at least as regards the military-industrial-congressional sector. Wheeler discusses that here (my emphasis):
Our Industrial Policy Is the F-35

...I actually think the [Carrier] deal ought to elicit a more interesting discussion of industrial policy — the kind of systematic intervention that [economist Jared] Bernstein talks about that might actually do something about the hollowing out of America’s manufacturing base.

Such a discussion has long been forbidden in American political discourse, in part because the same economists pretending such whack-a-mole bribes haven’t become the norm in American political life also pretend that an unfettered “free” market (always defined to include mobile capital and goods, but not labor) will benefit everyone.

Yet even during the period when any discussion of industrial policy has been forbidden, we’ve had one.

Our industrial policy consists of massive US [taxpayer-financed] investments in manufacturing war and intelligence toys that we then sell to foreign governments. When done with Middle Eastern petro-states like Saudi Arabia, that trade goes a long way to equalize our foreign trade deficit, but it contributes directly to instability that then requires us to intervene and build more war toys. That investment in war leads, in turn, to a disinvestment in publicly funded infrastructure that could also provide jobs in the heartland.

The most obvious symbol of our unacknowledged industrial policy is the F-35...
Wheeler goes on to add:
Our current industrial policy, you see, feeds so few prime contractors that they are virtually immune from the competition that might pressure them to deliver quality goods. Which leads, in turn, to rework, contract overruns, and contractors walking out of the building with our government’s most closely guarded secrets, all with no consequences.

Let’s stop pretending (as this piece does) that America’s manufacturing, increasingly dominated by the production of war toys, exists in a a real market, shall we?
Which is where our views converge:
Once we do that, we might begin to address the diseases of our defense contracting and — more importantly — rediscover the value of investing in other kinds of manufacturing that our country needs to have. Justify these investments by some future defense need, I don’t give a damn (though there are military officials who will soberly explain the risks of the hollowing out of our manufacturing base). But invest in the technologies the US needs to stay competitive and retain a manufacturing base.
And there it is, two definitions of "U.S. industrial policy," one for manufacturers in the privately financed consumer sector and one for manufacturers in the tax-payer financed military-industrial-congressional sector.

Interesting how the source of the money used — whether it comes from the public pocket (yours and mine) or the pocket of those who own the business — determines where the manufacturing occurs. It probably helps a lot that publicly financed manufacturing includes a very generous profit guarantee (which Wheeler also discusses), a guarantee not available to private corporations.

These must guarantee their profit — and their mahogany suite compensation and "golden parachutes" packages — by taking from tax-payers in another way. They take from them directly, in other words, in the form of lost wages, since they can't use the IRS as an extraction tool.


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