Archive

December 13th

Team Trump’s New Pledge on Tax Cuts

    CNBC isn’t a place people usually go to speak truth to wealth. It’s the unofficial television network of Wall Street and the channel that helped launch the Tea Party movement, thanks to a reporter’s 2009 on-air rant.

    Last week, though, Steven Mnuchin said something unexpected on CNBC, in his first interview after becoming Donald Trump’s choice for Treasury secretary. A friendly host invited Mnuchin to respond to the liberal charge that Trump’s tax cut was a sop to the rich. Mnuchin, a financier and former Goldman Sachs partner, refused — and made news instead.

    “It’s not the case at all,” he said. “Any reductions we have in upper-income taxes will be offset by less deductions, so that there will be no absolute tax cut for the upper class. There will be a big tax cut for the middle class, but any tax cuts we have for the upper class will be offset by less deductions that pay for it.”

    This is now a clear standard by which any Trump tax cut should be judged.

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Europe fell hard for Obama. Here's how he kept the romance alive.

    In 2008, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama was welcomed in Berlin by an ecstatic crowd of 200,000 people eager to listen to the new "American messiah," as the German magazine Der Spiegel dubbed him. Obama descended to the continent just like John Kennedy, Europe's quintessential U.S. political icon, who in 1963 delivered in Berlin one of his most inspiring and famous speeches.

    The romance hasn't faded. If Obama spoke again today, he would find the same, adoring crowd - one more realistic about what a president can achieve but no less enthusiastic. The same applies to most, if not all, major European capitals. The Obama hype is still here; the Obama nostalgia already heart-wrenching.

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Donald Trump says he wants to fix cities. Ben Carson will make them worse.

    Donald Trump talked more about cities than any major-party candidate for president in decades. The picture he painted was bleak. He described "inner cities" as hellholes and depicted urban blacks as the tragic victims of generations of neglect. He visited Detroit, blaming ostensibly liberal public policies for its long depopulation and decline, conveniently overlooking decades of cuts in urban funding and a bipartisan neglect of cities that dates back to the early 1970s. He falsely claimed that urban crime was skyrocketing (it has declined steadily since the early 1990s, falling to near 50-year low). And he pledged to fix it.

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Bad Air Days

    Many people voted for Donald Trump because they believed his promises that he would restore what they imagine were the good old days — the days when America had lots of traditional jobs mining coal and producing manufactured goods. They’re going to be deeply disappointed: The shift away from blue-collar work is mainly about technological change, not globalization, and no amount of tweets and tax breaks will bring those jobs back.

    But in other ways Trump can indeed restore the world of the 1970s. He can, for example, bring us back to the days when, all too often, the air wasn’t safe to breathe. And he’s made a good start by selecting Scott Pruitt, a harsh foe of pollution regulation, to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Make America gasp again!

    Much of the commentary on the Pruitt appointment has focused on his denial of climate science and on the high likelihood that the incoming administration will undo the substantial progress President Barack Obama was beginning to make against climate change. And that is, in the long run, the big story.

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Donald Trump's most terrifying appointment

    Donald Trump has gone about picking his Cabinet and senior advisers in much the way one might have predicted. Instead of looking for people with the highest levels of experience, expertise, and competence, he seems to be making his choices based on criteria like who he's seen on Fox News, or who praised him effusively, or who has a cool nickname.

    There may be no more dangerous choice Trump has made so far than picking Michael Flynn to be his national security adviser. There are few more important positions in the White House, and few where the wrong choice could have consequences quite as catastrophic. If we contemplate how President Trump might handle an international crisis - which he will face, probably before long - we see just how troubling Flynn's appointment is.

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Flotsam from the Trump thought stream

    The early projection: Donald Trump is the end of satire.

    Not that as president he would ban it, although in his fantasies he shuts down “Saturday Night Live.” It's that based on his early proclivities, Trump is beyond lampooning.

    Whatever scene a humorist might conjure, he lives it. He is his own work of fiction.

    Presidential? Oh my; with smart phone in hand, he is a running joke. Consider the laughable data he mined from a sophomoric web site to assert that Hillary Clinton’s 2.3 million-vote plurality comes from illegal votes.

    Granted, the man may turn out to be FDR. Based on his material, however, as of now Trump is Kanye West without rhythm.

    So is this what we face: Late at night, when Trump should be doing something constructive on behalf of the republic, he paces his quarters, armpits ablaze, sleeveless like Brando on stage, rat-tat-tatting out dubious mind-blorts into the wee Twitter hours.

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The new politics of fear

    French Socialist President Francois Hollande knew which way the winds were blowing. His announcement last week that he would not seek reelection was a response to record-breaking unpopularity. But it also reflects weaknesses haunting the left and center-left throughout the democratic world.

    Donald Trump's victory may thus be only a particularly alarming portent for moderate progressives who, less than two decades ago, were confidently on the march.

    Now, the radicalization of the right threatens the consensual welfare state capitalism that gave the West decades of relative social peace and prosperity. France is the latest example, and a dramatic one.

    If there is one taken-for-granted assumption in French political life, it is that Marine Le Pen, the candidate of the far right National Front, will find her way into the runoff in next year's presidential election. The first round will be held in April, the second, between the top two finishers in May.

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What's fair to Donald Trump should be fair to Keith Ellison

    Republican president-elect Donald Trump, as everyone knows, launched his campaign with insults to women, Muslims, Mexicans and other minorities -- and without apologies to anybody. He won election anyway.

    Now we have Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, frontrunner for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee, receiving renewed scrutiny of his past statements in support of Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan and other radical figures --which he renounced at least 10 years ago.

    Can Ellison, 53, the first Muslim elected to Congress (and, along with Andre Carson, an Indiana Democrat, one of two now serving in Congress), receive what Trump requested throughout his campaign, to be "treated fairly"?

    I don't fault the Anti-Defamation League for raising questions about Ellison's bid last week, although I think they would have benefitted from talking to him first. The statement from ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt cited statements about Israel in a 2010 speech by Ellison as "deeply disturbing and disqualifying."

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Trump's populist showmanship on full display in Carrier deal

    How much is the presidency that Donald Trump has just won worth to him?

    That's the tantalizing question he faces as pressures mount to divest himself of his immense real-estate and other stock holdings as the price of moving into the Oval Office next month.

    Trump has said he will reveal in two weeks how he will deal with major questions of conflict of interest involved in assuming the presidency while running his business empire.

    He has said conflict-of-interest laws don't apply to presidents but also that he wants to "formalize something" that will satisfy critics about his intention to put his real-estate empire in the hands of his children.

    A lengthy examination by the Washington Post of his available business portfolio as of last May indicates it also amounts to at least $40 million in stocks beyond his luxury hotel network known as The Trump Organization.

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December 12th

N.C. Republicans try to rig the system

    Mike Morgan, an African-American judge, defeated a conservative incumbent last month for a seat on the North Carolina Supreme Court. Now conservative Republicans are trying to sabotage his election by packing the court, a move that would have racial and perhaps national political implications.

    Although the court is officially nonpartisan, Morgan's surprise win means that four of the seven justices will be Democrats. The overwhelmingly Republican legislature and a lame-duck Republican governor who conceded defeat this week will go into a special session next week, ostensibly to provide relief for hurricane victims. What they really want to do is quickly appoint and confirm two more justices to a court that has had seven members for 80 years.

    This really would be rigging the system, the sort of thing President-elect Donald Trump might rail against. Except the victims would be African-Americans and Democrats.

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