Archive

August 22nd, 2016

The whopping $1.2 trillion omission in Trump's tax reform plan

    When Donald Trump made his widely ballyhooed economic policy speech to the Detroit Economic Club last week, people came away with the idea that he was endorsing the tax reform plan recently proposed by House Republicans.

    But it turns out that he isn't endorsing one of the plan's major provisions - something that seems to have gone pretty much unnoticed.

    When you ask the right question - as I did - you find out that there's a 10-digit difference between Trump's proposal and the one House Republicans unveiled in June.

    We're talking a difference of $1.2 trillion. Even by the standards of today's big numbers and hyperbolic rhetoric, that's serious money.

    Let's step back, and I'll show you what I'm talking about.

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The troubling case of an attorney general who lied

    It's never the wrongdoing -- it's the lying about it. Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who announced her resignation Tuesday in the face of a possible 14-year sentence for her conviction on perjury charges, proves the truth of that adage for public corruption cases. Leaking grand jury proceedings to embarrass a political rival would not have gotten her sent to prison. But lying about it under oath could and will.

    How could a state's top law enforcement official be so dumb? Why are perjury charges so serious? And why don't people, even lawyers, realize it?

    The answer goes back to the origins of the legal system. To put it bluntly, the truth of testimony under oath is the single most important component of legal justice. Whether at trial or at depositions, most factual statements most of the time aren't easily verifiable or disproven. Unless we can treat truth as the default option, the entire justice system -- civil as well as criminal -- becomes little more than a charade.

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Is Comrade Trump Playing Us For Fools?

    Are we watching an American presidential campaign or the pilot episode of a bizarre new TV series? Or both? The hallmark of "reality TV," of course, being its extreme unreality.

    On a daily basis, the Trump campaign invites sheer disbelief. Recently, Ivanka Trump, the statuesque daughter her father talks about dating, posted an Instagram photo of herself sightseeing in scenic Croatia with Wendi Deng Murdoch.

    The New York Daily News explains that "Deng, who was divorced from Rupert Murdoch in 2013 ... has been linked romantically to Russian strongman Vladimir Putin." The newspaper adds that "the optics of the photo could raise further questions about the relationship between Ivanka's father and Putin."

    Geez, you think? Maybe I'll ask Boris and Natasha. Those are my pet names for the Russian operatives who started sending me obscene emails after a recent column critical of Trump. The subject line in Boris' latest reads, "TRUMP SHOULD (DEFECATE) IN YOUR TRAITOROUS MOUTH!"

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How to avert America's Brexit

    This year's startling election poses a real risk of touching off an American Brexit. In other words, there is a meaningful chance that 2016 could begin a retreat of the United States from the mix of economic policies and the global engagement that U.S. businesses have regarded for decades as central to their success - unless business leaders can move decisively to redefine their goals as harmonious with those of working- and middle-class families.

    The key question is how we rise up in more muscular defense of the interests of U.S. workers and industries without doing permanent damage to our economy. We must also demonstrate that government can function and that business can be a constructive partner to it.

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August 21st

Republicans are responsible for Trump's rise

    Are Democrats responsible for the rise of Donald Trump? That's an argument some are making - asserting that hyperbolic partisan attacks on Republicans such as George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney rendered Republicans insensitive to more accurate alarms later raised about Trump. It's essentially an argument that Democrats cried "Wolf!" so often that Republicans didn't care when the genuine article showed up at the door.

    You can argue about whether Romney, for example, was a "sneering plutocrat," or Bush was a "dunce." But there is no credible argument that even the most over-the-top partisan claims produced a Trump.

    How do we know? Because Republicans proved it. They called President Bill Clinton a drug-running murderer and a likely communist, and then they impeached him, claiming he had committed high crimes. Democrats reacted to these often outlandish attacks by nominating normal candidates such as Al Gore and John Kerry. Not Donald Trump.

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Here's what Kerry should do to divide Iran and Russia

    For the last year, Secretary of State John Kerry has worked and worked to get Russia to help end Syria's civil war. He has cajoled. He has sniped. He has spent countless hours in meetings and on the phone with his counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. And he pretty much has nothing to show for it.

    This point was driven home Tuesday when Russia announced it had started bombing missions from a base inside Iran.

    It was the latest in a series of humiliations for Kerry. As soon as the Iran nuclear deal was concluded last July, the Russians and Iranians began plotting a surge for Syria on behalf of the dictator, Bashar al-Assad. As Kerry made plans for talks in Geneva, the Russians set up air bases in Syria. Once their campaign started, they bombed U.S.-backed Syrian rebels. In June, Russian planes bombed a U.S. and British special operations base near the Syrian border.

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Don't fear the robot revolution

    My colleague David Ignatius is right ["When robots take all the jobs," Washington Forum, Aug. 12] that millions of jobs are threatened by things such as self-driving cars, voice recognition systems and intelligent software, in the same way that millions of jobs were eliminated by the mechanical reaper and precision lasers and computers. The result will certainly be a lot of economic churn and dislocation. And as with similar job losses from globalization, if we don't find a mechanism for the winners of this process to provide a better economic safety net for the losers, there will be a populist backlash.

    However, there are many who, like Ignatius, worry that this next wave of technological progress may be different - that, in the end, there won't be enough work for everyone to earn a living and have productive lives. These skeptics have a difficult time imagining what all those displaced cabdrivers and bookkeepers will do. But historical experience strongly suggests that there will be jobs for those who want them at wages in line with those in the rest of the economy.

    So how would that work?

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Clinton's winning the race for best surrogates

    She may not need another advantage, but Hillary Clinton has one in the final 12 weeks of the presidential race: surrogates. These are prominent backers who can drum up support, enthusiasm and money.

    The Democratic nominee's leading surrogates include two U.S. presidents, a vice president, a popular first lady and two favorites of the young voters she has struggled to attract.

    By contrast, the most prominent Republicans either don't support Donald Trump or are not making public appearances on his behalf.

    Surrogates don't win or lose elections, but Trump's lack of effective ones puts him at a disadvantage. "Significant political celebrities can draw crowds, drive message and provide added credibility with both the base and swing audience," says Stephanie Cutter, the deputy manager of President Barack Obama's 2012 campaign.

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Clinton's powerful and unreliable coalition

    Election Day is more than two months away, but the continued inability of Donald Trump to run a minimally competent campaign, or demonstrate a threshold level of relevant knowledge, has left Hillary Clinton in a remarkably strong position. (Florida is the latest swing state to produce a spectacularly bad poll for Trump.)

    Clinton could conceivably coast to a convincing victory in November, riding unprecedented levels of support from Hispanic voters and possibly even from black voters -- who could give the Democratic nominee a higher percentage of their vote than even the nation's first black president received.

    President Clinton's chief goals would be to make progress, through legislation or executive action, on Democratic priorities, such as immigration and middle-class security; to retain or expand the Democrats' national coalition; and to activate that coalition in the midterm election of 2018, when Democrats will be defending 25 of 33 Senate seats.

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But What if My Dog Had Been a Syrian?

    Last Thursday, our beloved family dog, Katie, died at the age of 12. She was a gentle giant who respectfully deferred even to any mite-size puppy with a prior claim to a bone. Katie might have won the Nobel Peace Prize if not for her weakness for squirrels.

    I mourned Katie’s passing on social media and received a torrent of touching condolences, easing my ache at the loss of a member of the family. Yet on the same day that Katie died, I published a column calling for greater international efforts to end Syria’s suffering and civil war, which has claimed perhaps 470,000 lives so far. That column led to a different torrent of comments, many laced with a harsh indifference: Why should we help them?

    These mingled on my Twitter feed: heartfelt sympathy for an American dog who expired of old age, and what felt to me like callousness toward millions of Syrian children facing starvation or bombing. If only, I thought, we valued kids in Aleppo as much as we did our terriers!

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