Friday, July 7, 2017

Trump & The Repuli-CON's Big CON: Fiscal Responsibility

"Republicans finally seem to be figuring out that taking health care from the poor to pay for tax cuts for the rich isn’t exactly popular.

Indeed, less than 20 percent of people support the Senate’s plan, which would do just that. It has been enough to make some Republicans start considering what for them is the ultimate heresy: What if they didn't cut taxes as much as possible for wealthy investors? What if, instead, they used some of that money to cover a couple million more people and keep costs down a little more for everybody else — kind of, you know, like Obamacare does?

Now, as big a positional shift as that would be on health care, it actually wouldn't be one on taxes. That's because whatever taxes Republicans don't cut in their health-care bill, they can cut in their tax reform one.   . .

Why would they do that when it would mean their tax cuts would have to be temporary? Because it turns out that they can change the definition of 'temporary' to something that's a lot closer to permanent. The trick is that although their tax cuts have to be paid for past the budget window, there's nothing that dictates the length of that budget window. It's 10 years now, but it could be 15 or 20 or even 30 years if they wanted it to be — and some of them, like Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (Utah), do.

Not paying for their tax cuts would really solve their problem for how to pay for their tax cuts. Republicans could stop trying to throw 15 million people off Medicaid to cover the cost of cutting the tax on investment income from 23.8 to 20 percent for people making $250,000 or more. Or trying to come up with any tax loopholes they'd be willing to close — something that has eluded them so far — let alone a few trillion dollars' worth of them. Instead, they could get back to their Bush-era basics: passing a deficit-financed tax cut and then announcing how much they hate deficits whenever Democrats win back the White House. After all, why go through the unpleasant business of paying for things when you could skip all that and still get tax cuts that would last until almost the middle of the century?

Or, as Republicans call it, fiscal responsibility."

Read the Washington Post, Republicans say they might not cut taxes for the rich. Don’t believe them.

Trump's Big CON: His Mental Fitness is Our Greatest Threat

UPDATE:  "During a national security panel at last week's Aspen Idea Festival, retired general David Petraeus offered what the panel's host labeled perhaps the most robust defense of the Trump administration's foreign policy yet.

Then Petraeus was asked about Trump personally, and things took a turn.

As political affairs scholar David Rothkopf noted in an op-ed he wrote for The Washington Post on Tuesday, he asked Petraeus — after Petraeus argued that Trump had surrounded himself with a solid team that was instituting a measured, continuity-based foreign policy with plenty of successes — whether Trump himself was fit to serve as president.

Petraues's response was decidedly not 'yes.' Instead, he said Trump's fitness for the office was actually 'immaterial.'

I went back to the video to see if some context was missing from Rothkopf's op-ed. There isn't: It's as damning as it sounds. Here's a guy whom Trump considered nominating for secretary of state putting a pretty good face on the Trump administration — and then being unable to say whether the president is a mentally fit commander in chief. . .

This is a dance that many a Trump defender has been forced into — arguing that things aren't as bad with Trump as some would have you believe, and then punting when being asked to vouch for Trump personally. The latter is a much more difficult thing to do, because it means you are attaching your expertise to Trump's unpredictability and whatever he might do in the future.

But it's also important to emphasize just how low a bar this is. The fact that Petraeus can't even say that Trump is a fit commander in chief speaks volumes. And Petraeus seemed to be going out of his way on the panel to argue that U.S. foreign policy and national security are on the right path. He said repeatedly that we shouldn't get bogged down in Trump's 'discordant' tweets and public comments and should focus on actions. . .

[T]he argument from Petraeus seemed to be that Trump himself can only do so much damage and that the people around him would keep him in check — implying that Trump was, to his credit, allowing them to keep him in check. This is what some of Trump's biggest critics have hoped would be the case, and Petraeus suggested their wishes were coming true.

Then he was offered the chance to come out and say what he really meant. His nonresponse spoke volumes."

Read the Washington Post, David Petraeus’s damning nonresponse on Trump’s fitness to serve.

"Last week, at the Aspen Ideas Festival, I moderated a panel on U.S. national security in the Trump era. On the panel, former CIA director David H. Petraeus offered the most robust defense of President Trump’s foreign policy that I have heard. Central to his premise were two facts. First, he argued that Trump’s national security team was the strongest he had ever seen. Next, he argued that whereas President Barack Obama was indecisive to the point of paralysis, such as in the case of Syria, Trump is decisive.

Toward the end of the conversation, we turned to Trump’s erratic behavior and I noted that for the first time in three decades in the world of foreign policy, I was getting regular questions about the mental health of the president.

I asked Petraeus, a man I respect, if he thought the president was fit to serve. His response was, 'It’s immaterial.' He argued that because the team around Trump was so good, they could offset whatever deficits he might have. I was floored. It was a stunningly weak defense.

That is where we are now. The president’s tweeting hysterically at the media is just an element of this. So too is his malignant and ever-visible narcissism. The president has demonstrated himself to have zero impulse control and a tendency to damage vital international relationships with ill-considered outbursts, to trust very few of the people in his own government, and to reportedly rant and shout at staff and even at the television sets he obsessively watches.

Whether he is actually clinically ill is a matter for psychiatric professionals to consider. But when you take the above behaviors and combine them with his resistance to doing the work needed to be president, to sitting down for briefings, to reading background materials, to familiarizing himself with details enough to manage his staff, there is clearly a problem. Compound it with his deliberate reluctance to fill key positions in government and his wild flip-flopping on critical issues from relations with China to trade, and you come to a conclusion that it may be that Trump’s fitness to serve as president is our nation’s core national security issue.

Not only does the president diminish the office with his pettiness; he also shows disregard for constitutional principles including free speech, freedom of religion and separation of powers, and he operates as though he were above ethics laws. Daily he shows he lacks the character, discipline, intellect, judgment or respect for the office to be president of the United States."

[T]he stark reality is that objective analysis reveals that we have never before seen a president so unfit for office. Even President Richard Nixon at his moments of darkest paranoia was a professional public servant who understood the office and the stakes associated with it. One might, on this Independence Day week, have to go back to King George III to find a head of state who so threatened America. But there is no precedent for one whose character is so obviously ill-suited to the presidency."

Read the Washington Post, The greatest threat facing the United States is its own president.

Trump's Big CON: He Has No Plan, But Could He Tweet Us Into Nuclear War?

Other than claiming "It won't happen!", Trump has not plan or strategy regarding North Korea.

So his "reaction to North Korea’s missile test was to immediately reach for his phone and sound off with chest-thumping statements on Twitter.  This is a very reckless reaction, and one that risks miscalculation by adversary and ally alike. . .

Trump’s vague, blustery words, unattached to any strategy and without any plan to back up whatever he did mean, will undermine both our deterrence and our reassurance, which we have spent decades building. This could lead to miscalculation by North Korea or our allies. Such miscalculation could lead to war: Trump could literally tweet us into a nuclear war.

We know that Kim Jong Un is thin-skinned and will probably take Trump’s comment about 'this guy' as a personal insult. Or Kim may be confused — after all, just a few months ago, Trump said he would be 'honored' to meet with Kim under the right circumstances. To be clear, I don’t care at all about Kim’s feelings. But I do care about whether an offhand, hotheaded remark could provoke Kim to take actions that would have real consequences. Picking a Twitter fight with a nuclear-armed dictator is not wise — this is not reality TV anymore.

The White House has sent mixed messages about whether it wants Trump’s Twitter statements to be considered official statements. But it doesn’t matter how the White House wants to spin them — our adversaries and allies alike attach great weight to his every word, and they may calculate decisions based on what Trump says on Twitter.

Bluster and chest-thumping may feel good — but it will not make us safer. The threat posed by North Korea is serious, urgent and reaching a critical point. It requires a real, coordinated strategy in which the president works in concert with his national security team to protect the country." {Emphasis added.]

Read the Washington Post, How President Trump could tweet his way into nuclear war with North Korea.

Somebody needs to take The Donald's phone away!! NOW!!!

Read also the Washington Post:

Trump warns of ‘severe’ consequences for North Korea as Russia, China balk at tough U.S. talk, and

How to avoid the War of Trump’s Mouth, which offers the following advice that Trump would be wise to take:

"Of all the wars with odd names — the War of Jenkins’ Ear comes to mind — the potential one with North Korea may take its rightful place. It could be called the War of Trump’s Mouth for all the stupid and inconsistent things he has said about both China and North Korea. He needs to get the former to squeeze the latter, but he has gone about it the wrong way. China cannot be hectored.

China is the key here. It wants, above all, to keep North Korea as a buffer between it and South Korea. It does not want the regime in the north to collapse, sending thousands of refugees its way or uniting the two Koreas — and so talk in Washington of regime change is both counterproductive and just plain dumb. China prefers to live with Kim Jong Un rather than the chaos his collapse would cause in the region.

China also demands respect. . .

If China is going to tighten its noose around North Korea, it will be because it wants to avoid a war. Therefore, it has to believe that Trump is serious when he rattles his saber. But it’s hard to take Trump seriously about so many things. As China well knows, Trump early on seemed willing to abandon the one-China policy and recognize Taiwan, which Beijing considers a breakaway province. Trump backed off that pretty fast when China glowered its disapproval.

In many years and more than 50 trips to China, Henry Kissinger learned how much the Chinese crave respect and value patience. In all likelihood, they feel Trump shows little of either. He needs to lay off the tweets and slow down. Lives, not votes or ratings, are at stake."

Expect Trump to says soon: 'Nobody knew foreign policy could be so complicated'.

Trump's Big CON: His Secret Plan to Defeat ISIS

"Remember presidential candidate Donald Trump’s secret plan to defeat the Islamic State? And his boast that he knew more than the generals did about the Islamic State (thus implying he’d replace them once in office)? More campaign rhetoric crashing on the rocks of reality: The Trump administration just endorsed the core elements of former President Barack Obama’s counter-Islamic State plan, and Trump has decided that Obama’s generals weren’t so bad, either."

Read Foreign Policy, Trump’s ‘Secret Plan’ to Defeat ISIS Looks a Lot Like Obama’s.

Read also the Washington Post, Pentagon plan to defeat ISIS looks very much like Obama’s approach, which notes:

"The Pentagon is putting the final touches on a promised new counter-Islamic State strategy for Syria and Iraq, and it looks very much like the one the Obama administration pursued, according to senior defense officials."

Trump's Big CON: 'I'm the Jobs President'

UPDATE III:  "Mr. Trump himself declared upon taking office that his policies would produce 4 percent annual growth, and just this week said on Twitter to affirm that 'things are starting to kick in now.' . .

But the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s widely followed GDP Now expects the second-quarter growth figure to come in at 2.7 percent, more than a full percentage point below where it was in May, and a decline even since the beginning of the week. The New York Fed’s Nowcast is even more bearish, with an estimate of 1.9 percent for the quarter just ended and 1.6 percent for the current quarter."

Read The New York Times, Hopes of ‘Trump Bump’ for U.S. Economy Shrink as Growth Forecasts Fade.

UPDATE II:  "President Trump is touting data on the economy, telling his supporters that things are getting better for American workers. Not all professional forecasters share that enthusiasm, though, and many of them believe that this is about as good as it is going to get.

According to the average forecast among analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News, U.S. employers combined will add 165,000 workers to their payrolls a month this year, on net. That would be the slowest pace for hiring since 2010. Under President Barack Obama last year, the economy produced an average of 187,000 jobs a month.

When the Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes its monthly report on hiring Friday morning with figures for June, data on the labor market will be available for the first half of the year. Through May, the average pace was 162,000 new employees a month.

That is slower than not only last year, but also the year before, when the economy added 226,000 jobs a month on average. In 2015, the monthly pace averaged 250,000."

Read the Washington Post, Trump’s job growth nightmare: His first year could be slower than Obama’s last.

UPDATE:  AS A candidate for the White House, Donald Trump blasted the Ford Motor Company for planning to shift production of its leading compact car, the Focus, to Mexico. He even went so far as to threaten a huge tariff on any and all U.S. cars formerly produced in this country that might be exported from Mexico back into the United States. After Mr. Trump’s election, Ford seemed to cave by announcing it would not be building the cars in Mexico after all.

So what are we to make of the surprising facts that Ford now plans to make the Focus in President Trump’s other trade nemesis — China — and that the Trump administration’s response is, essentially, “whatever”? Ford’s move just “shows how flexible multinational companies are in terms of geography,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross observed. You don’t say! . .

Is it too much to hope that the federal government will stop purporting to micromanage specific business-location decisions using either threats or bribes?"

Read the Washington Post, Ford’s shift to China offers the Trump administration a lesson in economics.

"Five months ago at a Boeing factory in South Carolina, President Trump proclaimed, 'We are going to fight for every last American job.'

On Thursday, workers at the North Charleston plant learned they’d soon face layoffs."

Read the Washington Post, Trump visited this Boeing factory to celebrate jobs. It just announced layoffs.

Read also:

Trump's Big CON: "More Coal Jobs", and

Trump's Big CON: Trump Lied About Stopping Jobs From Moving Overseas.