Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Trump Will Soon Be Eating Fesenjan And Qorme Sabzi With Mullahs In Tehran


In the last few days Reese, Gaius and I have all written about how Trump is blowing opportunities for a sane relationship with Iran with his bombast and penchant for taking advise from warmongers.

Yesterday, Trump, addressing the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, now says he's "willing to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani anytime, saying that he believes it is always better to meet with adversaries... No preconditions. If they want to meet, I’ll meet. Anytime they want." Who remembers the national breakout when candidate Obama said something similar? He started babbling some nonsense about how Iran is no longer the same country since he withdrew the U.S. from the Iran Nuclear Deal. Is Trump just manipulative or just a moron? Do you know?

Max Boot: "If past is prologue, maybe next year Trump will be claiming credit for averting war and praising Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as talented, funny, intelligent and a strong leader who loves his people."

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Time For Another Russian Revolution?


Who's the richest person on earth? It's not a spoiler to say it's a ruthless crook, right? How's this for a spoiler-- the runner-ups, according to Forbes? Jack Ma ($39 billion), Mukesh Ambani ($40.1 billion), Ma Huateng ($45.3 billion), Alice Walton ($46 billion), Rob Walton ($46.2 billion), Jim Walton ($46.4 billion), Sergey Brin ($47.5 billion), Larry Page ($48.8 billion), Michael Bloomberg, currently up at Bohemian Grove bragging that he's running for president ($50 billion), Larry Ellison ($58.5 billion), David Koch ($60 billion), Charlies Koch ($60 billion), Carlos Slim ($67.1 billion), Amancio Ortega ($70 billion), Mark Zuckerberg ($71 billion), Bernard Arnault ($72 billion), Warren Buffett ($84 billion), Bill Gates ($90 billion)... and, according to Forbes, number uno is Jeff Bezos ($112 billion). OK, but where are the "royal" families that own countries? And where's the Russian mafia that pillaged the collapsing Soviet Union? Modest about reporting their loot. Leonid Blavatnik, who bought Warner Bros Music to launder Russian money claims to be worth a mere $20.8 billion. Alexexy Kordashov, a steel oligarch, claims he's worth about the same as Blavatnik. Vladamir Potanin, who stole a lot of everything says he's worth about the same as the other two criminals. But what about... ssshhhhh. Well, it's a secret, but "everybody" knows Putin is the richest person on earth (i.e., the man who stole the most). Fortune asserted last year that Putin is worth more than Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos combined-- something like $200 billion. No wonder Trump, who aspires to be on these lists, licks Putin's ass.

Putin was born in Leningrad (once again, St. Petersburg) in 1952, son of a naval conscript (a submariner) and a factory worker. He studied law, graduated in 1975 and then worked as a KGB officer for 16 years, first in counter intelligence and then spying on foreigners. You've heard of kompromat, right? That was his thing. He says he was a Lieutenant Colonel when he retired in 1991, just as the coup d'état against Mikhail Gorbachev began. Putin was clear that it was anti-Communist which he saw as a dead end. In 1996 he moved to Moscow. In 1998 Boris Yeltsin first appointed him head of the FSB, the new KGB, and then Prime Minister. A year later he gently pushed Boris Yeltsin aside and took over the presidency, immediately dropping corruption charges that Yeltsin and his family were certainly guilt of. So when did Putin have the time to accumulate more wealth than Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos combined?

And how? After the Soviet Union collapsed it dawned on everyone-- including Wall Street-- that the government owned virtually everything-- and certainly everything big. The decades of accumulated state wealth was quickly privatized-- by a criminal gang: Vladimir Putin and his ruthless cronies, although mostly Vladimir Putin. Oligarchy? Kleptocracy? Plutocracy? Kakistocracy? All that and more... and everything that Trump longs for.

Forbes had a funny headline yesterday: Russian Commies Try Staging A Comeback. Well, not exactly... but just what a Forbes headline writer would get a woody over. You heard about how Putin is trying to redistribute the wealth of Russia even further upward by raising the retirement age, right. People-- poor people-- have been flipping out all during July. It doesn't really have that much to do with the Communist Party, a Putin house pet... it's pretty organic.
If there is one thing you can bet the house on, it's the fact that people will take to the streets if you change the rules of retirement. A politician or a party that messes with social security is destined to lose popularity.

Over the weekend, the Russian Communist Party staged their anti-pension reform protest, something that has been in the works since the celebratory grand finale of the FIFA World Cup on July 15. The no. 2 party in Russia filed their paperwork for an organized street rally, keeping the rules in mind, and got a few thousand people to show up.

They had help from Vladimir Putin's new Public Enemy No. 1, Alexei Navalny, who got his followers out with ease. "A trillion in savings will come from pension reform, but guess where that trillion in savings will go?" he told his followers on social media. "Yes, you guessed right." Navalny thinks the money will be squandered and used by the ruling United Russia party to pad their pockets.

He's probably right. Russian GDP has fallen by over $1 trillion between 2013 and 2016, more than any of its BRICS counterparts.

Navaly ended up in jail last night following another day of protests. He has since been released.

"Pension reform should come as no surpise," says Dmitry Medvedev, Russia's Prime Minister.  "We are approaching this just now because conditions have been met for life expectancy within the framework of the 80+ program," he said, about the official policy to care for aging Russians.

While Navalny was the rockstar of the protest, as always, it was the old Communist Party that took this movement as their own. Or at least wants to. The public is largely against pension reform. The new changes would mainly increase the retirement age. The Communist Party is the biggest party in Russia after United Russia, led by Putin. And if they can galvanize support from people who hate the "R" word-- reform-- they might be able to become a real opposition when Putin fatique sets in.
That's silly... but perfect for Forbes-- and for Putin. A recent poll shows that 90% of Russians oppose the "reform" and an online petition opposing it attracted 3 million signatures. 6,000 people showed up for the rally on Sunday, where people opposing the raising of the retiring age held signs saying "stop stealing our future," not "workers of the world unite" nor "no war but class war," "capitalism kills," "socialism or barbasism" (let alone "the only church that enlightens us is the church that burns"). What Putin wants to do is raise the retirement age, to 65 from 60 for men and to 63 from 55 for women, even though Putin promised to never raise the retirement age while he was campaigning for president.

Because the stolen wealth of the oligarchs-- including Putin, of course, is untaxed, there is a strain on public finance and the oligarch-owned government says it can't afford the pensions. Sound familiar? Putin, sounding very Republican: "The moment will come relatively soon when the number of workers will equal the number of retirees and will then continue to decline. And then either the pension system will burst or the budget of the reserve fund used to finance the deficit in the pension system will blow up." No chance of taxing the stolen trillions?

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Trump's Newest Trial Balloon Is REALLY Embarrassing-- And Could Actually Get Him Impeached


You'll have to ask Nancy Ohanian if they came out of the sewer or leave via the sewer

Rudy Giuliani is kind of a lawyer... but that isn't the job he has in the Trump defense team. Trump hired him as a publicist-- someone to get his boss ink and lots of chatter on TV and in social media. So yesterday, for example, Rudy was on Fox and Friends early in the morning saying that he'd been "looking in the federal code trying to find collusion as a crime. Collusion is not a crime," he insisted. The Fox peanut gallery goons on the coach agreed. So is the trial balloon for the new defense, "Yeah, I colluded with Putin to steal the election, but show me where that's a crime?" From Fox, Giuliani scurried-- through the sewer system-- to CNN... where he was even funnier-- on a colloquial and Shakespearean sense of "funny." First off, the 32 minute ramble referred to a "very nasty" link between Mueller and Señor T and Mueller. Trump has been bitching about a 2011 dispute around Mueller quitting and getting his money back from one of the crooked Trumpanzee golf resorts-- this one in Sterling, Virginia.

But yesterday's target was former Trump fixer (a Trump "lawyer," the way Giuliani is a Trump "lawyer") Michael Cohen. "You’ve got a really bad guy here," he asserted. "He was shaking people down for money, he was lying about what was on a tape and manipulating, doctoring tapes... I didn’t know any of that. George Washington didn’t know Benedict Arnold was a traitor."

Warming up to the inner Guiliani, he called Cohen a "scumbag" and noted that Trump "turned out to have a close friend betray him, like Iago betrayed Othello, like Brutus put the last knife into Caesar. It happens in life, that you get double-crossed.

Obviously Giuliani was admitting on CNN that two days before the infamous Trump Tower meeting with every Russian spy in the New York City metropolitan area to get "dirt" on Hillary, there was a so-called "planning meeting" to prepare for that meeting. OK, Rudy said that planning meeting included Trumpanzee Jr., Kushner-in-law (I wonder if he knows perjury is a serious crime), Manafort, Rick Gates and "others." And, lookie-lookie, the date of that meeting, June 7, was the very day that Trumpazee, Sr. teased the upcoming speech that never happened, where he promised an arenaful of drooling fans that he would reveal explosive new information on the Clintons in a few days. Someone must have screamed at poor befuddled Rudy for fucking-up the narrative and exposing the lies because he immiatekly ran back to Fox to say he didn't say what he said and meant to say that there was no planning session and then named all the colluders who weren't colluding. Except Rick Gates has been spilling the beans to Mueller for months so I'm sure at least the prosecutors were laughing their asses off as Rudy ran back and forth between Fox and CNN trying to clean up his own mess.

As writer and theater director Isaac Butler pointed out, Giuliani’s Shakespearean allusions don’t quite work.

Brutus and Iago both betray close friends, but they are not otherwise alike. Brutus was motivated by idealism, believing that Caesar was a would-be dictator who would destroy the Roman Republic. Iago, by contrast, was motivated by pure envy and spite. Giuliani’s own speculations about Cohen’s motives (that the lawyer was stung by not getting a White House job and jealous of the president’s children) does follow a pattern close to Iago.

But in any case, these analogies do little credit to Trump. If Cohen is Brutus or Iago then Trump is Caesar or Othello. Which means Trump is either an aspiring tyrant or he’s so foolish that he can easily be manipulated into self-destruction by an underling.
John Oliver is kind of Shakespearan, right?

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Where Was The DCCC When A GOP Tracker Was Manhandling Kara Eastman's Daughter?


Early in the cycle, the DCCC identified NE-02, basically the Omama Metro, including all of Douglas County and some rural areas in Sarpy County, as "must win" district. Obama won it in 2008, Romney won it in 2012 and Hillary beat Trump 48.2% to 46.0% in 2016. It's a very swingy district with a miscalculated R+4 PVI (should be R+2). Anyway, the DCCC said that to win back Congress they had to take back NE-02 and quickly endorsed a Republican-lite Blue Dog, Brad Ashford, who was defeated while Hillary was winning, primarily because his short stink in Congress turned off progressive voters who recognized him as too conservative for them. That didn't matter to the DCCC. When Ashford lost his county job and suddenly jumped into the congressional race, the DCCC immediately began boosting him and undercutting the progressive woman, Kara Eastman, who was already in the race. (Keep in mind that Bernie beat Trump in NE-02 55-45%, but somehow the DCCC felt a defeated very conservative Blue Dog, who had earned an "F" during his two years in Congress, was preferable to a popular progressive woman.)

In the end, Kara beat the Blue Dog and was eager for some help from the DCCC. Playing the old Rahm Emanuel game, the DCCC instead, disappeared NE-02 off the map, refusing to help Kara and leaving her to the tender mercies of the GOP, which immediately started pouring money into the district on behalf of Bacon. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce alone, spent a quarter of a million dollars building up Bacon and Paul Ryan's superPAC started spending as well. The DCCC ignored the situation and spent their money in much less winnable districts where they could support their favorite kind of candidate-- corrupt conservatives from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party, mirror images of the decision makers at the DCCC.

Yesterday Kara-- who has been endorsed by Blue America-- sent an e-mail to her supporters to let them know that various elements of the GOP has been sending aggressive trackers out to plague her campaign and stalk and harass her and her family, staff and supporters.
Nothing is out of bounds for these trackers. One went so far as to physically touch my daughter, Sabina, in an attempt to provoke me. When we called the police, Bacon’s team reacted by sending not one, but five trackers to our Independence Day parades-- for the sole purpose of pestering and trolling our team and our volunteers.
Goal ThermometerSabina, 17 years old, is a friend of mine and I was horrified by this. A poised young lady, she was still in high school when I had dinner with her a couple of months ago; she was trying to decide which college to attend. The idea of one of these Republican goons-- paid by Paul Ryan with grubby Adelson money-- grabbing her so they could film an angry response from Kara made me absolutely nauseous Ryan refuses to comment. As Kara said, "These actions tell me one thing: Don Bacon is scared of our success. We are making waves in the polls and our message is resonating on the ground. They can’t stop the momentum of our ideas and instead have resorted to intimidation and dirty politics." I have an idea-- the DCCC refuses to respond to any of these Republican lowball politics. How about if DWT readers do? See that thermometer on the right? Please consider clicking on it and contributing what you can to Kara's campaign. "His attempts to intimidate and hound us with these trackers will not," wrote Kara, "deter me from continuing to run this campaign with integrity and heart."

And one more thing, if anyone calls you from the DCCC asking for money, ask them why they're not backing Kara Eastman and the other progressive primary winners in competitive districts. Suggestion: tell them you're contributing the money that would normally go to the DCCC to Kara instead. Maybe the implication will make its way up the chain to Pelosi and Lujan.

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GOP Tax Scam-- Just More Failed Trickle Down


The GOP thought that at least they'd have one "achievement" to run on in the midterms-- the massive taxcut. But the tax cut-- which many call "the tax scam"-- has turned out to not be that popular, not popular enough to run on. Over the weekend, the NY Times reported that Republicans aren't barging about and aren't even bragging about the continuation of the Obama economic expansion Trump takes credit for. "Republicans have reason to doubt the efficacy of an economic message in hotly contested midterm campaigns, which have historically been referendums on the sitting president. The last time the economy grew 4 percent in a quarter was in the middle of 2014, under President Barack Obama, just before Senate Democrats lost nine seats-- and their majority-- that fall... For their part, Democrats are weaponizing the tax law-- which is mired in only middling popularity-- against Republican opponents in some key races. Their critiques have been fed by government statistics showing that wages for typical American workers have not risen over the past year, after adjusting for inflation, even though Republicans promised the tax cuts would unleash rapid wage growth."

Polling has shown that voters are skeptical of the tax cut. Six months after its passage only 34% of voters approved-- a 6 point decline from the previous month. Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute said that "Public opinion on the Republican lawmakers’ signature accomplishment has never been positive, but potentially growing uncertainty about how American taxpayers will be affected does not seem to be helping the GOP’s prospects for November."

So where's the beef dough? Early yesterday morning Politico reported that it's been gobbled up the kinds of stock buy backs that make CEOs and corporate executives very rich.

Yesterday, I spent a couple of hours being interviewed for a book. It brought me back to thinking about long-forgotten incidents in my life in corporate America. I had to recall an incident when I was arguing about freedom of expression with 4 of Time-Warners highest ranking executives-- the kinds of guys who got millions of dollars in stock options annually. These are people whose net worth went up and down based on rises and drops in the company stock. And a record I had been executive producer on, "Cop Killer" by Ice-T's Body Count was causing the stock to go down-- a lot. I was arguing about freedom of expression. They were arguing about their personal wealth. At one point they rose from the table as one and walked out of the room snarling, sure they would never see me again. (At the time I was an obscure employee at Sire Records, someone whose name they didn't know and would never have to know. When they saw me next I had just been named president of Reprise and they walked into a party and saw me, thought about it in their hive brain and nearly fainted.)

Anyway, the gist of the Politico feature was that the biggest winners from Señor Trumpanzee’s new tax law "are corporate executives who have reaped gains as their companies buy back a record amount of stock, a practice that rewards shareholders by boosting the value of existing shares." These executives "have been profiting handsomely by selling shares since Trump signed the law on Dec. 22 and slashed corporate tax rates to 21 percent. That trend is likely to increase as Wall Street analysts expect buyback activity to accelerate in the coming weeks."
“It is going to be a parade of eye-popping numbers,” said Pat McGurn, the head of strategic research and analysis at Institutional Shareholder Services, a shareholder advisory firm.

That could undercut the political messaging value of the tax cuts in the Republican campaign to maintain control of Congress in the midterm elections.

Since the tax cuts were enacted, Oracle Corp. CEO Safra Catz sold $250 million worth of shares in her company-- the largest executive payday this year. Product development head Thomas Kurian sold $85 million. The sales came after the company announced a $12 billion share repurchase.

Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga sold $44.4 million of stock in May, the largest single cash-out by an executive of the company in at least 10 years, months after the company announced a $4 billion buyback of its own stock.

Two days after Eastman Chemical announced it would purchase $2 billion of its own stock, CEO Mark Costa sold 55,000 shares for $5.4 million.

The SEC requires company executives to disclose share purchases or sales within two business days. Companies emphasize that their executives’ share sales are often scheduled at regular intervals well in advance. In Banga’s case, he has routinely sold shares once a year, and always in May, since 2013.

Yet the insider sales feed the narrative that corporate tax cuts enrich executives in the short term while yielding less clear long-term benefits for workers and the broader economy. Critics of insider sales argue that they diminish the value of paying C-suite employees in shares-- a practice that’s intended to give them a greater stake in the long-term health of the company-- and can even raise questions about the motivation for the buybacks themselves.

Following the tax cuts, roughly 28 percent of companies in the S&P 500 mentioned plans to return some of their tax savings to shareholders, according to Morgan Stanley. Public companies announced more than $600 billion in buybacks in the first half of this year-- already toppling the previous annual record.

Year to date, buybacks have doubled from the same period a year ago, Merrill Lynch said in a July 24 report, citing its clients’ trading activity. “Last week we noted that buyback activity [was] poised to accelerate over the next six weeks, and indeed, corporate clients’ buybacks picked up to a two-month high and the 6th-highest level in our data history,” the company said.

The correlation between corporate buybacks and insider sales is clear, according to SEC Commissioner Robert Jackson, a Democrat. He studied 385 buybacks since the beginning of 2017 and found that after half of them, at least one executive sold shares within the next month.

The link between the tax cuts and big executive payouts, fueled by buybacks, is also plain, according to one institutional research firm.

“Stock buyback announcements in the U.S. have swelled to the highest levels on record in the wake of last year’s corporate tax cut,” said TrimTabs Investment Research in a July 10 report. “Corporate America’s actions suggest that most of the benefits of the corporate tax cut will flow to investors in general and top corporate executives in particular.”
And as the Washington Post pointed out yesterday, "since Paul Ryan joined Congress in 1999, the budget will have gone from a $125 billion surplus to a $1.1 trillion deficit." But... maybe some of these rich executives getting much richer are hiring butlers or buying more private planes and yachts and a little of that money is trickling down to working folks. Maybe. But a blue collar friend of mine who just moved to L.A. can't find a job. And he's been looking really hard and is pretty much willing to do anything. Trickle down has never worked and it's not working now.

Goal ThermometerEllen Lipton, is running for an open seat in a suburban Michigan district north of Detroit. Today she pointed out that "For decades, Republicans have been running on the same message-- that massive tax cuts to billionaires and huge corporations will spur economic growth and make everyone better off. One reason I'm running for Congress in Michigan's 9th district is because voters here know that's not true, and that we can't afford to keep giving massive tax breaks to the top 1% while working people in this country continue to suffer. If Republicans in Congress could find over a trillion dollars to give tax breaks to their rich donors, we can absolutely make universal health care a reality in this country. Americans are sick and tired of hearing that there's no money for free college, no money for infrastructure, no money for a living wage. We know trickle-down doesn't work, and that it's time to stop putting the needs of political donors ahead of everyone else."

Progressive Democrat Lisa Brown was the chancellor of Washington State University in Spokane and an economist herself. She pointed out that despite the terrible numbers, her opponent, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers "continues to deliver the DC talking points in eastern Washington to avoid talking about what’s really coming down-- which is the fallout of the ill-conceived tariffs and trade war on farms, ranches, businesses, and consumers. Tariffs are taxes. Worth repeating-- tariffs are taxes, ultimately paid in lost markets and revenue for farms and businesses  and higher prices for everyone. The administration has imposed billions of dollars of tariffs on imports and friends and foes alike are in retaliation imposing billions on U.S. exports. Republicans in the House are 'expressing disappointment' and then pivoting to their talking points while this disaster continues to unfold."

J.D. Scholten is giving Iowa racist Steve King a real race for his money, Yesterday he told me that "Trump and Speaker Ryan said the average American worker would see an extra $4,000-9,000 a year from this bill. So far, the average American worker has seen an additional $323, according to an Employment Situation report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In IA-04, we haven't seen any job growth. Our district is shrinking. As much as we produce corn, hogs and wind energy, the best thing we produce is our children. This Tax Bill doesn't do a damn thing for this district long term and it doesn't help us create a modern economy that allows us to keep our high school and college graduates in our district."

Matt Haggman is running for the open Miami-Dade seat that Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is retiring from, the bluest Republican-held district in the country. Trump only took 38.9% of the vote in 2016. Matt told us that "we know America is the strongest when its middle class is in good shape and we also know that trickle-down economics only benefits the wealthiest in this country. Trickle-down economics has never worked in this country and it never will. It’s time that as a country we get smarter about changing the economic landscape and start preparing our workforce for a 21st century economy. Too many families today are working twice as hard for less and we don’t tackle this issue now it will likely get much worse soon. The GOP tax reform passed in late 2017 was not only a scam that lied and manipulated lower and middle-class Americans, but it gave the wealthiest 1% breaks that they don’t need. The tax cuts that should have been made should’ve gone towards middle class families. It should have also made sure corporations and the wealthiest 1% are paying their fair share of taxes-- which as of today is not the case. I believe that everyone who is willing to work hard and play by the rules deserves a fair shot at the American Dream. It is clear though, after their horrendous Tax plan, we see the GOPs mentality is more towards the ‘kick them while they’re down’ approach."

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

In addition to the above, Paul Ryan's House crew, in a further attempt to obstruct justice and merge our country with their beloved Russia, have now filed impeachment papers against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in their effort to subvert and obstruct the Mueller Investigation. Treason is as treason does is the new motto of the Republican Party, or, is it One Nation Under Putin?

Few in the media will call this like it is. They tell us that it's just a small handful of Repug congresscretins who are doing this. They'll even quote Speaker Ryan insincerely implying that he kind of thinks the idea of obstructing Comrade Trump is wrong. Really? Ya think? But the bottom line is that, once again, The words coming out of Ryan's diseased hellpit of a mouth mean nothing and only his actions do. It is his actions that reveal his betrayal of his country, if he ever considered America his country. It's Ryan who encourages people like Jim Jordan, Trey (for traitor) Gowdy, and even more obvious Russian agents like Devin Nunes and Dana Rohrabacher to do their worst for our country. It is the entire Republican Party who voted their approval of the subversive treacheries listed in tonight's meme. Meanwhile, the rest of Washington just stands by; tacit approval all around.

If America and its voting public were sane, these people would be living in cages in GITMO or Leavenworth for the rest of their days; cages much smaller than the ones we place kidnapped children in. Instead, we send these people to Washington, where they can do the most harm.

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Monday, July 30, 2018

Señor Trumpanzee Wants A Place In History


In ancient Egypt there were a few times when a pharaoh and a Pharaonic regime was considered so awful by the successor that all traces of him were wiped away. Even his name was chiseled off tablets and monuments... or hers. Hatshepsut was the only female pharaoh and she was very successful but her successor, Thutmose III, claimed all her achievements for himself and completely erased her from the history of Egypt, even destroying her statues mentions of her on temple walls, etc. Here are 9 other people who were erased from history Trump seems to think that building the Great Wall of Trump across the southern border will preserve his name in history. Because, let's face it-- nothing else will... except as an example of America's illegitimate "president," worst "president" and "president" installed by a foe.

So Sunday he was, once again, threatening to shut down the government in September if he doesn't get the money for the wall, a honey put for kleptocracy, by the way. He's blaming the Democrats.
Trump has previously floated the possibility of a government shutdown over border security and immigration, and on Sunday he made his threat explicit, saying he would do so unless Congress funds his proposed wall, which he promised Mexico would pay for, and puts in place his preferred immigration policies.

In May, Trump suggested "closing up the country for a while" if he did not get his wall.

"They don't want the wall," Trump said. "But we're going to get the wall, even if we have to think about closing up the country for a while."

Sunday's shutdown threat from Trump also echoed a remark he made in February when he said "I'd love to see a shutdown" if the government did not agree to address immigration.

Congress ultimately passed a spending bill in March that funded the government through September. Trump threatened at the time to veto the spending agreement, but eventually signed the bill while expressing his displeasure with Congress.

"I said to Congress, I will never sign another bill like this again," Trump said in March.

Randy Bryce, a union iron worker running for Congress in Wisconsin, sees right through Trump's farce: "As soon as I heard Trump make a campaign promise that Mexico would pay for his stupid wall I knew that if it got built, WE would be the ones paying for it. Trump has a very clear history of stiffing those who do the work. It’s ridiculous that billions can be spent on a wall but the same people claim it costs too much to let us see a doctor."

Last summer, when Trump was whining about his wall and congressional Republicans were going along with him, James Thompson, the progressive candidate in Wichita told us that "Congress agreed to spend $1.6 billion on a wall between the United States and Mexico. This wall is a sleight of hand trick by Republicans in Congress and President Trump who want to distract Americans from healthcare and the Russia investigations. As they dangle this wall in front of our eyes, they hope to repeal healthcare and slip the Russia investigations under the rug. How many children would that feed? How many houses, roads or bridges would that build? How many school loans would this pay off? How many small business would this help? How much health care would this provide? At a time, when our country is sinking further into debt, our infrastructure is decimated, our access to healthcare is in doubt, and our education system is in shambles, President Trump wants to build a wall. This wall will not result in fewer drugs coming into our country. It will not result in fewer undocumented workers. This wall will not guarantee us security. The only thing this 30 foot high wall will guarantee is that 31 foot tall ladders and shovels will go on sale in Mexico."

Politico reported on Sunday that some of Trump's advisers think a shutdown would be a good base-rallying tactic leading into the midterms. OK, but... "Republican leaders have been telling us for months that they think they’ve convinced Trump a shutdown is a bad idea. Clearly they have not. In fact, Trump seems to be broadening his demands. He is signaling he’ll demand immigration changes as part of the government funding bill. Government funding runs out 37 days before Election Day.

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Koch Brothers Network In The Age Of Trump-- Confused, Hypocritical And As Evil As Ever


The weekend's Koch brothers biannual 3-day conclave of wealthy right-wing political donors, featured a video of Charles Koch blasting Trump's trade agenda. In Colorado Springs they got to hear Charles explaining that "the urge to protect ourselves from change has doomed many counties throughout history. This protectionist mindset has destroyed countless businesses." Isn't the definition of conservatism "the urge to protect ourselves from change?" In any case, there was lots of Trump criticism going around. The Koch network co-chair Brian Hooks came right out and said that "The divisiveness of this White House is causing long-term damage" and also chided elected officials who are "following" Trump's lead. That would be every single Republican the Koch network is funding this cycle. Talk about mixed messages, hypocrisy and confusion!
The Koch network's influence, even among Republicans, has come into question in the conventional-wisdom-shredding era of Trump. The network has during the past year and a half fruitlessly pushed for comprehensive health care and immigration reform; and like other leading conservative groups, the network has been powerless to persuade the President to rethink his strategy on trade generally and tariffs specifically.

The weekend conference comes with fewer than four months until the midterm elections, as the network, led by billionaire Charles Koch, gears up to spend millions to protect Republican majorities in Washington. Yet the networks' leaders did not sound like they were on war footing on Saturday, instead highlighting bipartisan cooperation.

"It is radical, particularly given the divisive climate that we're in right now and how polarized and factionalized the country is in many ways," said James Davis, a spokesperson for the network. "But we want to focus on aggressively finding areas of common interest where we can make progress on some issues, even if we disagree on other issues."

Although the Koch network has not adjusted its spending projections for the midterms, its thematic shift suggests the GOP-aligned group could be contemplating a new power dynamic in Washington and its place in it. Indeed, in spite of significant investments by the Koch network and like-minded groups, Democrats have maintained an advantage in generic polling and appear as well positioned to compete for majorities in Congress now as they did earlier this year.

The Koch network has dabbled in working with and supporting Democrats when their interests have aligned, and the network alarmed some Republicans earlier this year when it funded a digital ad campaign applauding North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp's support for rolling back bank regulations. Heitkamp is one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents this year, and her race could help decide partisan control of the Senate.

...The group remains unambiguously pro-Republican by reputation. Only Republican elected officials plan to attend the Koch network's meeting over the course of the weekend, as is standard-- including a few, like Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a candidate for Senate in Tennessee, who will count on the deep pockets of Koch network donors in competitive races this fall. Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who is also running in a marquee Senate race, will also be on hand, as will the No. 2 Senate Republican, John Cornyn, among others.

But the administration's tariffs have stung uniquely for this group, which traces its roots to 2003, when Charles Koch and a group of like-minded business leaders grew alarmed at the rapid growth of government programs and the implementation of steel tariffs under President George W. Bush.

"So, we find that there are some similarities to where we are today," said Davis.

In a video message that will be shown to the network's donors during this weekend's meeting, set on the lush grounds of the Broadmoor hotel here in Colorado Springs, Charles Koch warns that "protectionism is perverting the key institutions of our society."

The Koch network has pledged a "multi-year, multi-million dollar" commitment to fighting tariffs and other policies they believe are protectionist. "We see this as a long-term endeavor," said Davis.

Even beyond some glaring policy disagreements, the Koch network has not exactly enjoyed a cozy relationship with Trump, having voiced stark concerns about him during the presidential election and recoiled at his brand of Republicanism. Once Trump won, however, the network resolved to work with him where they could, and following his first year in office, their public view turned rosier. In January, Tim Phillips, the president of the network's political arm, Americans for Prosperity, touted the network's "partnership" with Trump and cheered the administration's work to roll back regulations and nominate conservative judges.

As the political ground shifts, the network is also grappling with a fundamental transformation of its own. The shorthand for the network was once the "Koch brothers," a reference to Charles and David Koch, its patrons and figureheads. But David Koch, 78, formally resigned from his role with the network earlier this year, citing declining health.
Steve Bannon was certainly not invited out to Colorado Springs. As Politico's Alex Isenstadt reported earlier today, he was hurling feces from the sidelines. He was bitching that the billionaires have to "get with the programs" and finance a "ground game [and] to support Trump’s presidency and program."
Bannon argued, the Kochs need to rally behind the president. Democrats, who he said want to halt Trump’s agenda and launch impeachment proceedings, are energized and focused-- and out-hustling Republicans.

He described the Koch political operation as ineffective, saying it had wasted untold dollars on losing past elections. And he argued that voters had rejected the free-trade approach the Kochs embrace in favor of Trump’s brand of economic populism.

“We can have a theoretical discussion later, OK? This is why they don’t know what it means to win, OK? We don’t have time to have some theoretical discussion and to have their spokesman come out and say the president is divisive,” Bannon said.

He said it was unacceptable “for them to come out and talk about divisiveness” given their long-running lack of support for Trump.

“They were the first people to put the knife in his back,” he said.

..."Charles Koch is a good man, but 100 days before an election that will determine the direction of the country is not the time to tell us that you are prepared to work with Democrats that support parts of your progressive agenda,” Bannon said.

“It's wrong, it's stupid and it shows contempt for the hardworking grassroots folks that delivered the victory that got your tax cut,” he added.
Meanwhile, who did the Kochs invite to their shindig? Mostly very extreme, hard right whackadoodles like Matt Bevin (R-KY), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Rick Scott (R-FL), John Cornyn (R-TX) and Doug Collins (R-GA), not mainstream conservatives, let alone moderates. Maybe they should have gone outside the box and invited Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to speak at their dog-and-pony show. They would have learned something important for a change. Listen; she sounds good, doesn't she? And she's part of the future of this country, not the octogenarian Koch brothers.

[S]ocialism lost its sting at the end of the Cold War. In 2009, when Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) told a reporter he had a secret list of 17 “socialists” then working in Congress, the Beltway press and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) responded not with McCarthy-era outrage but gentle amusement. When Rep. Steve King (R-IA) called same-sex marriage a socialist plot that same year, he couldn’t even convince conservative Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Millennials are the first generation to come of age without all of this Cold War brain baggage. They also entered adulthood around the 2008 financial crisis, a period in which the word “capitalism” was having a rough go: double-digit unemployment, mass foreclosures, unaffordable rent, crushing student debt, deepening economic inequality, bailed-out bankers swallowing six-figure bonuses, tech billionaires who literally can’t figure out how to give away their money.

Plenty of reformers have insisted that these signs of social breakdown were offenses against capitalism rather than products of capitalism. But they are losing the semantic battle. Polling in recent years has consistently shown a majority of millennials are enthusiastic about “socialism,” often preferring it to “capitalism.” For millennials, “capitalism” means “unaccountable rich people ripping off the world,” while “socialism” simply means “not that.”

Indeed, when the newest star on the left, soon-to-be Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York discusses her vision for “democratic socialism,” her agenda sounds a lot like old-school New Deal liberalism, or basic, functional, small-d democracy.

“In a modern, moral and wealthy society, no American should be too poor to live,” Ocasio-Cortez told NBC’s Chuck Todd earlier this month. “Every working-class American in this country should have access to dignified health care, should actually be able to see a doctor without going broke. It means you should be able to send your kids to college and trade school if they so choose, and no person should feel precarious or unstable in their access to housing.”

No gulags, just dignity. Boomers of the world, calm down. You have nothing to lose but some words.

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The Climate Crisis is The Number One Issue This August


-by Michael Wolkowitz

The cable network with the most credible, compelling progressive narrative today is not MSNBC, CNN, or BBC 1. It is The Weather Channel

Before dismissing this, as I might, as old or no news, first please consider this:

I realize what I say might be obvious be heavy handed and not surprise any of you. If so, all the more reason to keep reading. We all experience the climate crisis and recognize how important it is. On some levels in certain moments in time we are shocked stunned and saddened. But we are not making nearly big enough a deal about it. We are not treating it with urgency, immediacy, or currency. To help perpetuate biological life on this planet, we need to get more focused, put more energy behind it and be screaming from the rooftops.

Don’t worry about the elections and conventional wisdom-- this can and will make a lot of political hay this year (as to real hay-- the farmers already know they need more of it than they can yet for this coming winter). At this very moment there is nothing theoretical or hypothetical about this-- it is in our faces. Is there pristine science to connect specific events to the larger trends-- who cares?!? Certainly not the people who hold up snowballs in the winter as proof that it is all a lie.

Over the last 15 years or so I have mostly heard experts talking about what will happen “by 2030” “by 2050” and “by the end of the century.” The change we are now experiencing moves at an increasingly an accelerated (though not exponential) rate. If it is not going to get dramatically worse, for another 12, 32, or 72 years and we are amidst what the last 15 years have wrought, what the hell does really bad look like?

People throughout our country must be pushed to connect the dots among 1) the horrifying and huge weather events all around the country (and those less significant parts of the globe too), 2) climate change/crisis and 3) the Republican Party of Denial... it I a major opportunity we can capitalize from now until Labor Day and beyond. Let’s not waste it.

It really is the biggest existential issue of all. World War III is underway:
It is not the World War III of Dr. Strangelove with mushroom clouds followed by nuclear winter, billions wiped out in a matter of moments and the rest over no more than weeks or perhaps months.

It is a World War III with much slower more tortuous and drawn out pain death and destruction ahead. Those same billions will ultimately be wiped out, but it will take decades.
In the history of the planet we call Earth, the difference between weeks and decades is entirely statistically insignificant. On any timeline they are the same little tiny dot-- not even a tiny segment of line, just a dot.
Many of the other truly important issues we focus on politically are driven or made worse by the climate. Some of them will just be washed, burned, or starved out of existence. Dead people do not need civil rights. Dead societies do not need to be civil.

Today, the mainstream media is rife with this. Just take a look at relatively random string of videos on the BBC.

The commercials are all kinds of filmmakers chance to make a disaster movie. Simply using any given day’s footage on BBC.

The speeches write themselves.

Wildfires are everywhere:
And it is only the beginning of the season
They burn north of the Arctic Circle
Bring new phenomena like fire tornados
Render the British Isles, emerald no more, just plain brown.
Everywhere. Though in some places the bigger issue is

Too much water everywhere:

...massive floods
Too little water everywhere else though in some places

Water is just plain weird

...shrinking ice sheets
...rising oceans
...receding glaciers
...rivers turned into dry ditches
All those events are killing people, destroying communities, permanently altering the biosphere, and impressing us with powerful and out of our control nature is.

Other issues?

From the deeply ridiculous like using public money to fly private planes, botched attempts to set up back-channels to the Kremlin, making money at a hotel down the block, or getting conned by Sacha Baron Cohen...

to the genuinely abhorrent like children ripped from their mothers arms, #Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, universal health care and family leave, or our onward marching ever more expensive military-industrial complex.

There is plenty to talk about, plenty that matters, plenty that needs to be addressed now.

But if we do not talk and act about softening the inevitable blows of the climate crisis, all those issues will be inconsequential.

  We have gone from global warming to climate change. We should already have gone from climate change to climate crisis. Unless we work hard and fast and get lucky we will have to go from climate crisis to world war three.

Advocacy groups, think tankers, politicians (not a dirty word), journalists, humans:

Please peak with one loud voice about this while the atmosphere is literally filled with flames and smoke, and the water rises and rises and vanishes and vanishes with no good end in sight.


A Looming War with Iran...What It Will Look Like


James Baker and Hillary Clinton speaking with Charlie Rose on June 20, 2012, about the need for regime change, and war if necessary, with Iran

by Gaius Publius

Since Cheney days and likely long before, war with Iran was the next neocon dream after war with Iraq. Are those days gone, or is the U.S. military and its bipartisan political warrior class (see video above) still hungering for war against the ancient seat of the Persian empire and current seat of Shiite political strength?

Just watching the news, the answer seems clear. There is no small chance that the U.S. will find a way to go to war with Iran.

So what might a war with Iran look like?

A ground war is highly unlikely. Iran has twice the population of Iraq and will not be rolled over the way hapless Iraq was rolled over. If Iraq was a quagmire — a soft, sucking, muddy wetland — Iran will be a wetland of gargantuan proportions. Iran is larger than Mongolia, ten times the size of Texas, and contains a population with a large professional class. The literacy rate is above 80% even for women.

For these reasons the U.S. military would never agree to a ground war, and the political warrior class, our neocons, want regime change, not occupation.

Which leaves us with an air war. What might that look like, and is one likely?

Iran in Ruins

To answer the first question, here's veteran war reporter Eric Margolis writing in Common Dreams:
The US and Israel will surely avoid a massive, costly land campaign again Iran, a vast, mountainous nation that was willing to suffer a million battle casualties in its eight-year war with Iraq that started in 1980. This gruesome war was instigated by the US, Britain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to overthrow Iran’s new popular Islamic government.

The Pentagon has planned a high-intensity air war against Iran that Israel and the Saudis might very well join. The plan calls for over 2,300 air strikes against Iranian strategic targets: airfields and naval bases, arms and petroleum, oil and lubricant depots, telecommunication nodes, radar, factories, military headquarters, ports, water works, airports, missile bases and units of the Revolutionary Guards. 

Iran’s air defenses range from feeble to non-existent.  Decades of US-led military and commercial embargos against Iran have left it as decrepit and enfeebled as was Iraq when the US invaded in 2003. The gun barrels of Iran’s 70’s vintage tanks are warped and can’t shoot straight, its old British and Soviet AA missiles are mostly unusable, and its ancient MiG and Chinese fighters ready for the museum, notably its antique US-built F-14 Tomcats, Chinese copies of obsolete MiG-21’s, and a handful of barely working F-4 Phantoms of Vietnam War vintage.

Air combat command is no better. Everything electronic that Iran has will be fried or blown up in the first hours of a US attack. Iran’s little navy will be sunk in the opening attacks.  Its oil industry may be destroyed or partially preserved depending on US post-war plans for Iran.

The only way Tehran can riposte is by staging isolated commando attacks on US installations in the Mideast of no decisive value, and, of course, blocking the narrow Strait of Hormuz that carries two thirds of Mideast oil exports. The US Navy, based nearby in Bahrain, has been practicing for decades to combat this threat.
He concludes, "Direct western intervention in a major ground campaign seems unlikely. But the US and Israeli war plan would aim to totally destroy Iran’s infrastructure, communications and transport (including oil) crippling this important nation of 80 million and taking it back to the pre-revolutionary era. That was the plan for Iraq, the Arab world’s most industrialized nation. Today Iraq still lies in ruins."

Iran in ruins. Margolis hasn't named his sources, so we'll have to look to his history as a reporter for evidence he has some. He's likely right. Margolis is not alone in making this case, and the logic is strong. If the U.S. and its Middle East allies go to war with Iran, it will be by air. 

Is a War Like This Likely?

To answer our second question, war against Iran does seem more likely than not — though clearly not certain — unless another round of sanctions tips the current government into collapse instead. That regime-change tactic has already failed and will likely fail again. 

Regime change in Iran was strongly supported during the Bush presidency, and is strongly desired today. Iran is now a force in Middle East politics, a thorn in western sides. Here's Arab scholar and president of the Arab American Institute James Zogby on the growth of Iranian strength as a consequence of the Iraq War. Zogby is no neocon, nor is he anti-Shiite, so what's below can be taken as dispassionate and judged on its merits:
Foolish Wars Have Consequences

...In this weakened and fractured Iraq, Iran found a foothold which it parlayed to its advantage. Today, Iran remains a major player in Iraq and not only there. Another unintended consequence of the war was the unleashing of Iran as a regional power.

Subdued, for a time, by its rival Iraq, Iran now felt empowered to extend itself beyond its borders. Preying on growing anti-American sentiment and sectarian tensions in other countries, “revolutionary Iran” was emboldened to meddle in regional affairs. This gave rise to the Arab Gulf states feeling the need to assert themselves against this growing and destabilizing Iranian threat. ...

The neoconservative’s blindness to Middle East realities did indeed give birth to a “New Middle East,” but it was exactly the opposite of the one they had imagined.

As the region descended into multiple new crises—with deadly wars in Syria and Yemen—the impact of the Iraq war became even more pronounced. Iran was a player in each of them. The Gulf states also became involved seeking ways to combat aggressive Iranian advances which challenged and threatened them. Al-Qaeda and its offshoots played an new and deadly role in Iraq and Syria. And new players like Russia and Turkey, each defending what they saw as their interests, also emerged as regional actors.
Growing Iranian influence is a matter of great (even existential) concern to the Sunni Gulf states and Israel, all of whom want to curb the power of Iran, and all of whom, it's safe to say, want war.

If the U.S. Bombs Iran, What Then?

We could ask a final question: What would be the outcome for Americans of this adventure?

I'll offer a first answer: blowback against the softest of soft targets. Reducing Iran to ruins will bring home to the shopping malls, sports centers and movie theaters of America our endless war against the Shiite Muslim world.

And how might a muscular Trump-Pence government react to that? It's anyone's guess, of course, but mine is a dark one.


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Taxing Churches? The GOP Did It... By Accident


Why did Donald J Trump sign a bill to tax churches 21%

Academic, seminarian and monk, Mike Hertsenstein, shook up the evangelical world this week with a lost passage from an infamous Nixon tape. "Bill Graham can be heard," he wrote, "defending anti-Jewish conspiracies and admitting Hitler was right about some things to President Richard Nixon on a newly-released portion of an infamous Oval Office tape. The long-censored passage of the 1972 conversation confirms certain comments reported hitherto only second-hand, and adds to the historical record shocking new words and beliefs of the evangelist, whose legacy had already been damaged by the earlier, redacted releases of the tape.
During “the Latter Days,” Graham is heard to say, Jews will be divided into the “Remnant of God’s People” and “the Synagogue of Satan.” The second group consists of those Jews in league with the devil, Graham says, who “have a strange brilliance about them” and are behind “all your religious deceptions.”

Nixon’s ranting against Jewish “domination” of media is by now old news, so also Graham’s fervent assent, and the evangelist’s already-disturbing contributions to this discussion. Graham has been long known to have warned Nixon to break the “stranglehold” of Jewish influence. But that comment takes on even darker tones in context with the new material, a bizarre speech that climaxes with references to Nazi Germany. “You see,” the evangelist explains to Nixon, summing up their exchange about Jewish influence, "Hitler of course… they had a stranglehold on Germany. On the banking of Germany, on everything in Germany. And the media. They have the whole thing, you see. But he went about it wrong…"

...Hearing America’s one-time beloved “pastor,” a regular atop “most-admired” lists, speak from beyond the grave of evil Jewish conspiracies also comes at a particularly fraught moment for such a revelation. The late evangelist’s traditional constituency has become associated with movements that threaten to mainstream once-repudiated prejudices against out-groups, including Jews. Even more critically, leadership for such radical views feature the current President of the United States and Billy Graham’s own evangelist son.

...Graham confessed "[the Jews] swarm around me and are friendly to me because they know that I’m friendly with Israel. But they don’t know how I really feel about what they are doing to this country. And I have no power, no way to handle them, but I would stand up if under proper circumstances."

This may be an inconvenient time for this to have come out in light of Congress accidentally having embroiled itself in a debate about taxing churches by having rushed through the Republican tax scam through both houses of Congress without anyone having had time to read it thoroughly. (And, of course, Trump can't read and just looks at pictures, but signed it anyway... with a clauses that taxes churches.)

First off, it's worth mention-- because the McClatchey report certainly doesn't-- that there are people who believe churches, especially churches that operate as businesses, should be taxed, just like any other business. But that isn't want the GOP stumbled into. Emma Dumain reported that the GOP tax scam "accidentally" included a 21% tax on the value of certain employee benefits and that Jim Clyburn (D-SC) is rallying Democrats around new legislation to repeal the provision.
e can’t do it without help from Republicans, and calling their tax bill the “GOP tax scam” isn’t going to win over lawmakers who are fiercely protective of this congressional session’s biggest legislative achievement.

“(Democrats and Republicans) are describing the problem in very different ways,” said Galen Carey, vice president of government relations for the National Association of Evangelicals. “One side is saying ‘this is an oversight,’ the other is calling it Republicans’ war on religion … overheated rhetoric probably won’t help us get a solution.”

Short of legislative action, a public relations nightmare could be awaiting lawmakers who voted for the tax bill back home.

“This is an issue that will not go away,” said Dan Busby, president of the Evangelical Council for Fiscal Accountability. “When you stir up 100,000 houses of worship, and then hundreds of thousands of nonprofits on top of that, you have a pretty mighty force that is going to get attention on this issue.”

Tucked away in the new tax law congressional Republicans passed late last year with no Democratic support is a provision slapping certain nonprofits and charities, including houses of worship, with a 21 percent tax on the value of some employee benefits.

The expectation is the tax would relate to parking spaces and public transit passes. But those affected by the provision are genuinely unsure what exactly would qualify as a taxable expense because they still haven’t received official guidance from the Treasury Department.

“Treasury is aware of the change... and we have been talking to the impacted constituencies about the concern,” said a Treasury spokesperson in a statement to McClatchy. “We are working to address the issue and provide clarity for taxpayers.”

The new tax on the value of employee benefits means that many institutions are going to have to prepare tax forms for the very first time-- a convoluted and potentially costly exercise.

“Most churches do not have the sophistication that’s necessary to deal with the tax code,” Clyburn told McClatchy. “Small churches that exist in communities I represent... don’t operate as businesses. They’ve never operated as businesses.” Churches also help pay for transportation expenses for employees who would might otherwise have a tough time paying for it themselves. If institutions had to pay a tax on providing these perks, they might rescind them, Clyburn suggested.

The new requirement was not discussed in the lead-up to passage of the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” and has since caught virtually everyone off guard, even members of Congress.

“Had we had hearings, I can assure you I would have been testifying or screaming,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) a United Methodist pastor.

Clyburn said he had only just learned about the provision from faith leaders in his district when he received a phone call from Rep. Mark Veasey( D-TX) who described being “accosted” by ministers at an event in his district.

Clyburn’s bill currently has 31 co-sponsors, including Cleaver and Veasey. All are Democrats and predominantly fellow members of the Congressional Black Caucus who tend to have strong ties to churches.

Referring to the Republican tax bill as the “GOP tax scam” in a press release announcing the introduction of his bill, Clyburn said he’d be glad to work with GOP lawmakers to repeal the 21 percent tax, but had not talked to any yet.

When asked how he might reconcile calling the tax bill a scam with his desire to work across the aisle, Clyburn chuckled.

“They know it’s a scam,” he said.

Republicans’ appetite to act seems tepid. As Republicans looked for ways to cut costs in their bill late last year, they decided to eliminate tax breaks for employers of for-profits who hand out perks to their employees. They decided to apply the same standard for nonprofits, too.

Legislative tax-writers were reluctant this week to pan the provision or suggest there could be adverse effects.

“People call it a tax on churches and charities. There is no tax on churches and charities,” said Rep. Tom Rice (R-SC). “What we’ve said is, ‘We’re trying to make things fair across the board. So organizations-- all organizations, for-profit, nonprofit, everybody that gives their employees free stuff, we’re trying to make it equal.’”

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) was noncommittal, saying, “I do think it’s something that at the very least requires the committee’s consideration.”

...Though the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation did not provide a revenue estimate for this provision, it calculated the cost of the policy as part of a larger estimate for the “repeal deduction for qualified transportation fringes, including commuting.” That came out to $17.7 billion over 10 years.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated in April the entire tax bill would cost $1.9 trillion over the time same frame.

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