Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Trump's Big CON: 'Welcome to the Trump Kleptocracy'

UPDATE: Not finished your Christmas shopping yet?  Then help monitize Daddy Donald.

"Donald Trump's adult sons are opening their father's presidency with a high-price fundraiser at which attendees can win a spot on a half-million-dollar hunting trip with Eric and Donald Jr. . .

A million dollars can buy you a 'multi-day hunting and/or fishing excursion for 4 guests with Donald Trump, Jr. and/or Eric Trump,' the invitation declares. And that’s just one of the perks: It also provides a private reception and photo op for 16 guests with Trump, four guitars signed by the performer (advertised as Toby Keith) and 200 general admission tickets to the event, among other things. The package is titled the 'Bald Eagle.”\'

The Grizzly Bear package, which comes in at $500,000, also nets supporters a hunting trip with Don Jr. and/or Eric. But that package provides for only eight guests to pose with Trump, and only two autographed guitars.

On the other end of the spectrum — down past Elk ($250,000), Marlin ($100,000) and Rainbow Trout ($50,000) — is the Wild Turkey package for $25,000. It provides 2 VIP tickets, 4 general admission tickets and the 'Outfitter’s Pro Package with commemorative custom details,' which is mentioned throughout the invitation and defined nowhere on it.

Read Politico, Trump sons bring 'Camouflage and Cufflinks' fundraiser to inauguration

Cha -ching, baby, cha-ching!

Proving once again, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

"The words 'conflict of interest' don’t begin to describe what the Trump administration is shaping up to look like . . .

Anti-nepotism laws prevent Trump from giving his family members jobs in the administration. But don’t think that’s going to stop them from being active participants in U.S. government decision-making, or using the fact that Trump is president to keep money flowing in. In fact, we could see the president enriching himself and his family on a scale that we normally associate with post-Soviet kleptocrats and Third World dictators. . .

[Already] Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry is promoting the bracelet she wore on last Sunday’s '60 Minutes' interview, which can be yours for $10,800. . .

[During the election] nothing we have learned about Trump suggests that he will operate in a remotely ethical way when it comes to opportunities to enrich himself once he becomes president. We’re talking about a man who allegedly ran multiple grifts on gullible customers (Trump University, the Trump Institute, the Trump Network); who used the bankruptcy laws to escape the collapse of his casinos, leaving investors holding the bag while he made out like a bandit in a kind of Atlantic City version of 'The Producers'; who ran a foundation that was essentially a scam from top to bottom; who regularly stiffed contractors when he knew they were too small to fight him; who used undocumented workers and reportedly had foreign models lie to customs officials so that they could work illegally in the United States, who once paid $750,000 to the Federal Trade Commission to settle an antitrust suit, and who was generally revealed to be, if not the most spectacularly corrupt businessman in the United States, then certainly a strong contender for that title.

The irony is that so many of Trump’s supporters believed his preposterous claim that he would be the one to banish corruption from Washington, that he’d 'drain the swamp' and send that crooked establishment packing. He’ll do nothing of the sort, of course; his transition team is drowning in corporate lobbyists, and among his first priorities are cutting taxes for the wealthy and removing oversight from Wall Street. But that’s standard Republican fare; what’s different and probably unprecedented is the way Trump will increase his fortune by hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars while he’s president."

Read the Washington Post, Welcome to the Trump kleptocracy.

"Kleptocracy (from Greek: κλεπτοκρατία, klépto- thieves + -kratos rule, literally "rule by thieves") is a government with corrupt rulers (kleptocrats) that use their power to exploit the people and natural resources of their own territory in order to extend their personal wealth and political power."

Monday, December 19, 2016

Trump's Big CON: Life is Not a Reality TV Show

Trump says "he can make decisions 'with very little knowledge other than the knowledge I [already] had, plus the words 'common sense,' because I have a lot of common sense and I have a lot of business ability.' . .

[But] Trump is about to be thrust into a situation unlike any he has faced before, one in which he will be forced to make an endless string of critically important decisions. . .

Since Trump has neither worked a day in government nor evinced the barest interest in policy, there will be almost no decisions to which Trump will bring any base of knowledge.

That means that perhaps more than any president in history, he’ll have to rely on the people who know more about that particular area than he does to give him the information he needs to make the best decision. This is something all presidents must do, but Trump will be further hampered by what appears to be a deep distrust of anyone who actually has that kind of knowledge.

I suspect that distrust comes from what is obviously his profound intellectual insecurity — no actual smart person goes around saying things like 'I’m, like, a smart person' and 'Let me tell you, I’m a really smart guy' and 'I have a very good brain' and 'Look, if I were a liberal Democrat, people would say I’m the super genius of all time' and 'Look, I went to the best school, I was a good student and all of this stuff. I mean, I’m a smart person,' unless they have some serious issues.

But for whatever reason, Trump is positively contemptuous of those with expertise, as we saw over and over during the campaign. . .

So inside the Oval Office, a particular scenario will likely play itself out over and over. Trump will be presented with a decision he has to make on a matter about which he knows nothing. In order to bring him up to speed, he’ll be given the views of some experts, perhaps in person, or in a document, or communicated by his close aides. He’ll then have to weigh what those experts have told him. And what will he do? There’s no way to predict. On one hand, he has this contempt for experts, yet on the other hand, as Jenna Johnson and Robert Costa reported in August, according to those around him, 'Trump tends to echo the words of the last person with whom he spoke, making direct access to him even more valuable.'

This is all made even more unusual by the fact that Trump has no coherent ideology or policy agenda. . . [so] it’s impossible to predict what he might think about an issue he hasn’t dealt with directly, and there’s no way to know whether what he thinks about it today will be the same thing he thinks about it tomorrow."

Read the Washington Post, Why we should be terrified of Donald Trump’s decision-making process.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Trump's Big CON: No Jobs, No Tax Cuts & No Health Care for Trump Voters

UPDATE III:  Trump is planning "a big, fat tax cut for America's next top heirs.

Republicans, of course, insist that this is really about protecting family farms and small businesses from Uncle Sam's allegedly rapacious grasp, but some facts are in order. According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, only 30 such farms and businesses owed any estate tax in 2015, and they only paid 0.05 percent of the estate tax's total revenue. The reality is that you have to be pretty rich to leave behind more than a $10.9 million estate, which is how much a married couple can give their kids tax-free. And you have to be super rich for the 40 percent tax on anything over that to be a big deal to you. Indeed, the top 1 percent paid $13.8 billion of the $18.4 billion that the estate tax raised in 2015. That's 75 percent of the total. And the top 0.1 percent alone paid $6.4 billion, or 35 percent.

Not only would getting rid of the estate tax be a giveaway to the über-wealthy, but it'd also be a giveaway that probably wouldn't create that many jobs. . .

[W]e're talking about real money here. The Tax Policy Center estimates that the estate tax would raise $225 billion over the next decade. That'd be enough to pay for the Children's Health Insurance Program three times over. . .

[And] deficits will go back to not mattering for at least the next four years.

It will be populism of, by and for plutocrats."

Read the Washington Post, Donald Trump’s 'populism' includes a huge tax cut for his kids.

UPDATE II:  "Researchers have found evidence of a natural gulf between the policy positions of the wealthy and the working class in the United States — and they’ve found that the preferences of the wealthy have been far more likely to translate into action. . .

[E]xtremely wealthy Americans were more likely than the population as a whole to support cutting Social Security, food stamps and health care, as well as somewhat more likely to support cutting homeland security, environmental protection and job programs. They were less likely to support labor unions, increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit and providing unemployment benefits.

Read the Washington Post, What happens to the working class when millionaires and billionaires are in charge.

UPDATE: Watch Late Night with Seth Meyers, Trump's Cabinet of Plutocrats and Hardliners: A Closer Look:

'Some of [Trump’s] proposals — walling off the country with protective tariffs, for example — would make things worse for the middle and working class, while tax cuts for the wealthy will exacerbate inequality rather than lessen it.' . .

Remember: Trump’s tax cut delivers most of its benefits to the wealthy: millionaires get a $300,000 cut; those in the middle-class get $900.

[Trump voters are] also, if Trump and the congressional Republicans have their way with the Affordable Care Act, at risk of losing recently acquired health coverage. What happens then, I don’t know, but perhaps they’ll be more open to an agenda that actually meets their interests."

Read the Washington Post, States with lots of Trump voters didn’t get the jobs. Now they won’t get the tax cuts.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Trump's Big CON: No Balanced Budget

UPDATE II:  "It’s curious to hear Republicans suddenly talking about the urgent need for fiscal stimulus. For the past eight years, including the darkest days of the Great Recession, they tried to convince us that fiscal stimulus doesn’t work, and that the only way to really boost economic growth is to cut the budget deficit. But now that they are about to get their hands on the federal checkbook, Republicans have decided that we are all Keynesians once again.

To anyone serious about economic analysis, it should be obvious that we don’t need Keynesian stimulus at the moment. The unemployment rate is at 4.6 percent, which is about as close to full employment as it gets. The economy is producing more than 175,000 jobs each month, with many industries complaining they could add more if there were trained workers to hire. Wages are rising faster than they have in a decade, and faster than productivity is rising. Corporate profits and share prices are at record levels. And thanks to aggressive bond buying (and bond holding) by the Federal Reserve, monetary policy is still extraordinarily accommodative. Keynes himself would never have suggested that this is an appropriate time to use the government’s taxing and spending powers to boost the economy. In fact, seeing the developing bubble in stock and real estate markets, Keynes probably would be recommending a budget surplus right about now."

Read the Washington Post, Republicans are finally willing to spend on the economy — at the exact wrong time.

UPDATE: "For the last 35 years, Republicans haven't worried about deficits when they've been in power—in fact, former vice president Dick Cheney said that 'Reagan proved' they 'don't matter'—and treated them like the greatest threat to the republic when they've been out of it. So the fact that this would add a lot of red ink wouldn't be a dealbreaker. Republicans are going to resume not caring about the deficit the moment the calendar flips to Jan. 20, 2017."

Read the Washington Post, How Obama’s unaffordable socialism could become Trump’s smart conservatism.  

Read also the Washington Post, How to pay for Donald Trump’s trillion-dollar agenda? Congressional Republicans aren’t saying.

"President-elect Donald Trump on Thursday made his first stamp on Congress as House Republicans bowed to his wishes and announced plans to extend government funding through March . . .

Read the Washington Post, Trump camp calls for short-term spending bill despite Senate concerns.

Balancing the budget is a long-time Republi-CON.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Trump's Big CON: Wall Street Knows It

There won't be any change in trad policy, or balanced budgets.

"Investors have bid stock prices up to historic highs this week, brushing off escalating threats from President-elect Donald Trump to disrupt global trade. . .

Instead, investors are optimistic that Trump and Congress will substantially reduce taxes while spending more on infrastructure and defense, putting more money into the economy and juicing corporate profits."

Read the Washington Post, Why Wall Street still isn’t taking Donald Trump seriously

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Sieg Heil Der Donald!, Cont.

UPDATE:  Read the Washington Post, Democrats can stop Trump via the electoral college. But not how you think., which notes:

"To become president, a candidate must get a bare majority of 270 votes when the electoral college meets Dec. 19.

As Alexander Hamilton explained, the electoral college provides a backstop in the event voters select a dangerously unfit candidate. 'The process of election,' Hamilton wrote, 'affords a moral certainty that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.' Electors would use their judgment to prevent the 'tumult and disorder' that would result from 'this mischief' of presidential candidates exploiting 'talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity.' One might call it the cooler-heads college. . .

The only way Democrats stand any chance of persuading Republican electors to abandon Trump is with a dramatic gesture of true bipartisanship. If all 232 Democratic electors pledge to reach across the aisle and vote for a Republican alternative to Trump, it would take just 38 GOP electors to make that person the next president."

Read also the Washington Post, The electoral college should be unfaithful.
"Trump has shown a daunting disregard or ignorance of the Constitution and of law. Regarding the use of torture, he has said that the military must follow his orders — even if they are illegal. More recently, he declared that flag-burning should be a crime and that flag burners be punished by 'perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail.' The remark was one of his off-the-cuff inanities — since 1989, flag-burning has been protected political speech, and citizenship, we’d like to think, is forever. The tweet — so few words, so much meaning — spoke to Trump’s abysmal lack of knowledge but, more important, contained an emotional truth. Trump despises dissent and often reacts emotionally to setbacks or challenges.

Now, ask yourself what might happen if there were a huge terrorist incident on American soil. Might this man of little knowledge and no restraint attempt to suspend civil liberties? . .

I have too much faith in America and its institutions to think that Weimar is the future. It is, however, a warning, not something that shouldn’t be discussed, but something that should be mulled. The differences between Weimar Germany and contemporary America are significant but so, increasingly, are the similarities."

Read the Washington Post, Trump isn’t Hitler. But the United States could be another Germany.

Read also: Sieg Heil Der Donald!

Trump's Big CON: He's Really a Crony Capitalist

UPDATE V:  Trump's "actions are dangerous, and the more so when they generate popular acclaim."

Read the Washington Post, Donald Trump is practicing presidential extortion of companies for symbolic political gain.

UPDATE IV:  "Trump’s transition has ended any remaining doubts that his promise to 'drain the swamp' of corrupt government was a lie. Based on his post-election moves, it seems the Trump White House will be an experiment in crony capitalism on steroids.

After playing to the country’s populist mood as a candidate, Trump has surrounded himself almost exclusively with corporate elites. While the appointments of chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon and attorney general nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) fired up his base, Trump has loaded up his transition and Cabinet-in-waiting with members of the establishment he claimed he would crush. Trump’s team, with few exceptions, is filled by the 'swamp creatures' we’d expect in virtually any Republican administration."

Read the Washington Post, Trump’s team of faux populists and real crony capitalists.

UPDATE III:  "In the thick of his reelection campaign in 2012, President Obama devoted six paragraphs in his State of the Union address to his plans to reverse a flow of factory jobs to foreign countries.

He called to end tax breaks for companies that outsource jobs, to cut taxes for domestic manufacturers and to levy a minimum tax on multinational corporations. He implored businesses to 'ask yourselves what you can do to bring jobs back to your country,' and he told Congress 'It is time to stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas, and start rewarding companies that create jobs right here in America.'

'Send me these tax reforms,' Obama said, 'and I will sign them right away.'

Congress — including the Republican-held House of Representatives — never sent Obama any of those reforms. In the official Republican response to the speech, the then-governor of Indiana, Mitch Daniels, chided him for not focusing on a different economic issue, the growing national debt. Later that year, the GOP nominee for president, Mitt Romney, declared in a debate with Obama that 'the idea that you get a break for shipping jobs overseas is simply not the case.'

Obama repeatedly proposed measures to punish offshoring companies and reward domestic producers. None of them were as far-reaching or punitive as President-elect Donald Trump's threat to slap a 35 percent tariff on goods imported from "any business that leaves our country for another country. . .

[Now Republi-CONs are] endorsing a version of the policies they have long derided as 'crony capitalism.'"

Read the Washington Post, Republicans have a double standard when it comes to Trump’s threats of 'retribution'.

UPDATE II:  "[T]here is a whiff of Putinism in the combination of bribery and menace that may have affected Carrier’s decision — the bribery of tax breaks, the menace of potential lost defense contracts for Carrier’s parent company, United Technologies. . .

It may be appealing as a model to America’s president-elect, too.

The problem is that it doesn’t work. Russia’s economy is shrinking, year by year, and no matter how many factory directors Putin humiliates, it won’t start growing again without structural and political reform.

The U.S. economy has challenges, including the loss of manufacturing jobs and the insecurity many workers experience. But it is far healthier than Russia’s, with steady economic growth, low unemployment and a far, far higher standard of living.


A key reason is that the U.S. economy is governed by laws, not by the whims of the nation’s rulers."

Read the Washington Post, Trump’s Carrier deal is right out of Putin’s playbook

Read also the Washington Post, Trump’s Carrier deal could permanently damage American capitalism.

UPDATE:  "Donald Trump promised to punish U.S. companies that ship manufacturing jobs out of the country. Instead, judging from the way he has handled the Carrier Corp. matter, he plans to reward them. Quite handsomely, in fact.

As should be standard practice with Trump, pay attention to the substance, not the theater. United Technologies, the parent company of air-conditioner-maker Carrier, has been threatening to move more than 2,000 jobs from Indiana to Mexico. Trump addressed this specifically during his campaign, vowing to hit the company with a punitive tariff.

'If they’re going to fire all their people, move their plant to Mexico, build air conditioners, and think they’re going to sell those air conditioners to the United States — there’s going to be a tax,' Trump said on 'Meet the Press' in the summer. 'It could be 25 percent, it could be 35 percent, it could be 15 percent, I haven’t determined.'

As it turns out, how about zero percent?

In fact, how about giving United Technologies state tax breaks worth about $7 million over the next decade, in exchange for moving only 1,300 jobs to Mexico? That’s basically the deal offered by Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who happens to be governor of Indiana (and thus in a position to offer the tax relief). . .

The company still gets to lay off many of the targeted Indiana workers and replace them with much cheaper Mexican labor. It gets partial compensation from the state government. And instead of worrying about a potential tariff, United Technologies can anticipate a major reduction in the federal corporate tax rate. That’s something Trump promised on the campaign trail — and also, reportedly, in a recent phone call with United Technologies chief executive Greg Hayes.

In a Post op-ed, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) put it this way: 'Just a short few months ago, Trump was pledging to force United Technologies to 'pay a damn tax.' .?.?. Instead of a damn tax, the company will be rewarded with a damn tax cut . Wow! How’s that for standing up to corporate greed? How’s that for punishing corporations that shut down in the United States and move abroad?'

So imagine you’re a CEO who wants to send, say, 5,000 manufacturing jobs overseas. Having learned from the Carrier example, you might begin by announcing that unfortunately you are forced to eliminate 10,000 jobs because of the crushing tax burden. Even if you really want to move the jobs to Vietnam or Kenya, just say you’re looking at possible sites for a new plant in Mexico. That’s sure to get Trump’s attention.

When Trump calls offering tax breaks or enterprise zone incentives or free rounds of golf in Scotland, whatever goodies he tosses in, hold out for a while — then reluctantly, in the spirit of patriotism and Making America Great Again, announce you’ve agreed to cancel half of the 10,000 job cuts. You’d still be meeting your original goal of eliminating 5,000 jobs, only now you’d also have a lower corporate tax bill and a tee time at Turnberry.

The Carrier deal is just the latest piece of evidence suggesting that Trump’s populist rhetoric about championing the working stiff and cracking down on greedy globalist corporations was all a bunch of hooey."

Read the Washington Post, Trump will helm a government of, by and for corporate America.

Read also the Washington Post, Why lots of people think Trump’s deal to save 1,000 Indiana jobs was a bad idea.

The Republi-CON's new economic strategy -- bribe corporate America.

Read the Washington Post, Trump’s deal to keep Carrier jobs in Indiana includes $7 million in state subsidies.

Read also the Washington Post, Bernie Sanders: Carrier just showed corporations how to beat Donald Trump.

Republi-CONs are hypocrites, they were/are livid whenever there was/is government intervention into private enterprise.

Remember their claims in response to the financial crisis -- that Obama used corporate subsidy to distort the 'free markets' -- and demanded a balanced budget instead.

Now, government debt for corporate welfare is fine.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Trump's Big CON: Time to Call the Bluff on the Republi-CON Socialist Moochers

"In 2004, the journalist and historian Thomas Frank wrote an insightful and prescient book, “What’s the Matter With Kansas?", in which he tried to puzzle out why voters in his native state backed Republicans whose policies undermined their own economic interests. . .

Data compiled by the Pew Charitable Trust found that 10 states that receive less than a dollar back for every dollar they send to Washington: Delaware, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, Connecticut, Illinois, Ohio, Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island. And here are the states that get more than $2 back for every $1 in taxes paid: Mississippi, New Mexico, West Virginia, Hawaii, South Carolina, Alabama, Maine, Montana, Alaska, Virginia, Arizona, Idaho, Kentucky and Vermont. You don’t have to be a political scientist to see the blue state/red state pattern here. Red state voters may talk a good game about small government and low taxes, but in reality they are socialist moochers. . .

[Time for] watching Trump's voters stew in their own political juices as Red State America finally frees itself from the evil grip of global elites and big government and turns itself into a low-tax, low-wage, low health paradise where it's every man for himself.

As H.L. Mencken once put it, 'Democracy is a theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it, good and hard.'"

Read the Washington Post, Under Trump, red states are finally going to be able to turn themselves into poor, unhealthy paradises.

Read also:

The Repbli-CON Plan to Destroy the Economy, Kansas Edition

Is This the End of Our 'Free Lunch' Fantasy?

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Trump's Big CON: He's a Flip-Flopping Narcissistic Contortionist

"Since winning the election, Trump has made clear that even his firmest positions are open to change and that he can be easily persuaded by the well-known figures now clamoring to give him advice. The president-elect tends to echo the last person he spoke with — or the last thing he saw on TV — making direct access to him all the more valuable, especially as he selects members of his administration. . .

'No one should have ever mistaken Trump for a man of any fixed principles or of having any sort of intellectual framework beyond his self aggrandizement and bluster,' said Rick Wilson, a Republican strategist and longtime Trump critic. 'His followers thought he meant every word he said. But it’s obvious that Trump has little if any actual ideological consistency despite his promises.' . .

Trump’s third and final campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, has repeatedly compared working with Trump to tricking her young children into doing what she wants. Conway has said that she’s careful to not tell Trump what to do and instead gives him a few options to pick between, delivered in snappy soundbites. . .

Praise is often the key to influencing Trump, who has made clear that he does not like to be questioned or challenged.

Nearly a year ago, staffers at the now-defunct gossip website Gawker decided to 'set a trap for Trump' on Twitter, tricking him into retweeting a quote from Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. They created a 'bot' that regularly fired tweets at Trump containing a dictator quote and a dose of flattery. In February, Trump took the bait and hit retweet.

'We came up with the idea for that Mussolini bot under the assumption that Trump would retweet just about anything, no matter how dubious or vile the source, as long as it sounded like praise for himself,' Gawker reported at the time."

Read the Washington Post, The trick to persuading Trump? Flattery, proximity and snappy pitches.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Trump's Big CON: Manipulative Dictator Edition

"President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday threatened loss of citizenship or jail for those who burn the American flag, saying such protests — which the Supreme Court has declared to be free speech — should carry ';consequences.' . .

Flag burning was ruled to be constitutionally protected speech under the First Amendment in a 1990 Supreme Court case, United States v. Eichman, that struck down a law seeking to prevent the flag's desecration. Moreover, a 1967 Supreme Court decision rejected the practice of stripping U.S. citizenship as a form of criminal punishment. . .

Trump’s latest interest in curbing First Amendment protections follows several other actions related to free speech, including his blacklisting of reporters who fell out of favor with his campaign and a suggestion that he would 'open up' libel laws to make it easier to sue the news media.

Read the Washington Post, Trump suggests loss of citizenship or jail for those who burn U.S. flags, which also notes that "Trump's tweet also demonstrated an ability, which has continued beyond his campaign, to divert public attention from other issues of the day."