Thursday, November 9, 2017

Trump's Big CON: Using Fear, Anger and Hatred for Political Purposes

UPDATE II:  "The terrorists behind the attack, he said, need to be “rubbed out.” “Law and order” must be preserved. The courts are “against the country” and “the media should not have unlimited freedom.” “I will allow the military to try you,” the president warned terrorists, “and put you to death.”

You could be forgiven for thinking these were the words of President Trump reacting to Tuesday’s terrorist attack in New York City that killed eight and wounded 12. It’s all there: The familiar Trump bravado. The call for swift justice. The indictment of other institutions — the courts, the press — that are said to be too weak or unwilling to help safeguard the nation.

But each of the quotes above are from authoritarians who have exploited terrorist attacks to undermine rule of law in their own countries and for whom Trump has breathlessly professed admiration. And this week, he has also sought to emulate them. . .

[Terrorist] groups like the Islamic State and al-Qaeda seek to do more than kill. With each attack, they hope to provoke divisions in our society and undermine confidence in the institutions and diversity that define our Republic.

This week, we saw that they have an enabler at the highest level — an unpopular, impulsive, ineffective and increasingly isolated president who in attempting to project a strongman image reveals his fundamental weakness as a leader. Trump has once again succumbed to his worst impulses. They question for the rest of us is, which is stronger — the demagogue or our democracy?"

Read the Washington Post, President Trump is responding to terrorism the way demagogues and dictators do

UPDATE:  "[E]ven when we take reasonable, effective actions against Islamist terrorism, we do not guarantee that these incidents will stop. We are defeating the Islamic State and destroying its caliphate, and yet Islamist fundamentalism may still inspire murderous rampages. We can authorize and reauthorize National Security Agency surveillance programs, but a single killer need not communicate with anyone overseas to launch a plot. We can interdict money flowing to terrorism, but all this attack cost was the rental fee for a truck. . .

So what do we do? Do we learn to 'live with' these low-level attacks? Let’s begin with what we should not do — demonize an entire religion, assail our own democratic institutions, demean our intelligence community or politicize every corner of government. . .

Beyond that, we should continue to do the big things (destroy the Islamic State’s territorial haven) and the not-so-big-but-critically-important things (more extensive use of barriers, improved police relations with Muslim communities). We control what we can, and we understand that we cannot eliminate every threat, of every size, of every origin. That is how Israel has survived since its inception; that is how we address ordinary, domestic crime.

This should not be confused with complacency or fatalism. To the contrary, we should remain determined to do whatever is in our power to halt the scourge of Islamist terrorism, but in doing so, we should stop doing silly, time-wasting, counterproductive things for political reasons. We should stop stoke fear of our fellow Americans and of foreigners. Focus on what’s doable and avoid idiotic stunts that make us no safer and that do great damage to the fabric of our democracy. In short, stop Trump from being Trump."

Read the Washington Post, The right and wrong ways to respond to the NYC attack.

"October was bookended by tragedy.

On Halloween, a man who authorities say emigrated from Uzbekistan seven years ago, drove a rented pickup truck down a bike path, killing eight people and injuring 11 before being shot and subdued. On Oct. 1, a man shooting from the windows of a hotel on the Las Vegas Strip killed 58 and wounded 546. . .

Trump’s response to the attack in New York on Tuesday was immediately different. Since the attack, at about 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Trump has tweeted (as of writing) six times about it and about the need for policy changes to address it.

Donald J. Trump

My thoughts, condolences and prayers to the victims and families of the New York City terrorist attack. God and your country are with you!
5:57 PM - Oct 31, 2017

Donald J. Trump

I have just ordered Homeland Security to step up our already Extreme Vetting Program. Being politically correct is fine, but not for this!
8:26 PM - Oct 31, 2017

 Donald J. Trump

The terrorist came into our country through what is called the "Diversity Visa Lottery Program," a Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit based.
6:24 AM - Nov 1, 2017

And so on.

This is not a new pattern for Trump. He’s regularly raced to link terrorist attacks (and things that turned out not to be terrorist attacks) to the need to crack down on immigration. It’s of a piece with his campaign, during which he promoted the risks posed by immigrants as a central concern for the public and his own policies as the only way of addressing them.

Contrasting the two incidents in October mirrors the overall difference between gun violence and terrorism. Since Trump was inaugurated, there have been 283 incidents in the United States in which four or more people were shot. The death toll from those incidents, excluding Vegas, is 224. There have been a handful of terrorist attacks, perhaps only two of which involve a Muslim or an immigrant (though it’s not clear). In those two incidents, two people were killed. . .

[These two incidents show how The Donald uses fear, anger and hatred for political purposes,] how Trump considers people like Paddock versus how he considers people like Saipov. Saipov’s actions are inseparable from his status as an immigrant, as Trump’s tweets make clear: What he did is a reflection of all immigrants and therefore immigration laws need to change. Paddock — older, white — was just a guy with a broken brain. What can you possibly do about that?
So, with Saipov, Trump is quick to weigh in on policy proposals meant to address the perceived threat posed by immigrants — even if those proposals are not necessarily rooted in an accurate understanding of the issue."

Read the Washington Post, For Trump, October’s two mass killings lead to very different responses.

Read also the Washington Post, Trump responds to terror attack with petty tweets and demagoguery.

Trump's Big CON: Lie, Deny, & Vilify, Repeat Frequently, And NEVER Admit a Mistake

"Last week John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, tried to defend President Trump against charges that he was grossly insensitive to the widow of a U.S. soldier killed in action. In the process, Kelly accused Frederica Wilson, the member of Congress and friend of the soldier’s family who reported what Trump had said, of having behaved badly previously during the dedication of an F.B.I. building.

Video of the dedication shows, however, that Kelly’s claim was false, and that Representative Wilson’s remarks at the ceremony were entirely appropriate. . .

[O]f course, Kelly has neither admitted error nor apologized. Instead, the White House declared that it’s unpatriotic to criticize generals — which, aside from being a deeply un-American position, is ludicrous given the many times Donald Trump has done just that.

But we are living in the age of Trumpal infallibility: We are ruled by men who never admit error, never apologize and, crucially, never learn from their mistakes. Needless to say, men who think admitting error makes you look weak just keep making bigger mistakes; delusions of infallibility eventually lead to disaster, and one can only hope that the disasters ahead don’t bring catastrophe for all of us. . .

Again, everyone makes [mistakes]. If you’re consistently wrong, that should certainly count against your credibility; track records matter. But it’s much worse if you can never bring yourself to admit past errors and learn from them.

That kind of behavior makes it all too likely that you’ll keep making the same mistakes; but more than that, it shows something wrong with your character. And men with that character flaw should never be placed in positions of policy responsibility."

Read The New York Times, The Doctrine of Trumpal Infallibility.

Read also from March, The New York Times, America’s Epidemic of Infallibility, which states:

"Just to be clear: Everyone makes mistakes. Some of these mistakes are in the 'nobody could have known' category. But there’s also the temptation to engage in motivated reasoning, to let our emotions get the better of our critical faculties — and almost everyone succumbs to that temptation now and then (as I myself did on election night).

So nobody is perfect. The point, however, is to try to do better — which means owning up to your mistakes and learning from them. Yet that is something that the people now ruling America never, ever do.

What happened to us? Some of it surely has to do with ideology: When you’re committed to a fundamentally false narrative about government and the economy, as almost the whole Republican Party now is, facing up to facts becomes an act of political disloyalty. . .

But what’s going on with Mr. Trump and his inner circle seems to have less to do with ideology than with fragile egos. To admit having been wrong about anything, they seem to imagine, would brand them as losers and make them look small.

In reality, of course, inability to engage in reflection and self-criticism is the mark of a tiny, shriveled soul — but they’re not big enough to see that.

But why did so many Americans vote for Mr. Trump, whose character flaws should have been obvious long before the election?

Catastrophic media failure and F.B.I. malfeasance played crucial roles. But my sense is that there’s also something going on in our society: Many Americans no longer seem to understand what a leader is supposed to sound like, mistaking bombast and belligerence for real toughness.

Why? Is it celebrity culture? Is it working-class despair, channeled into a desire for people who spout easy slogans?

The truth is that I don’t know. But we can at least hope that watching Mr. Trump in action will be a learning experience — not for him, because he never learns anything, but for the body politic. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll eventually put a responsible adult back in the White House."

It should be clear by now that a responsible adult will not be back in the White House any time soon.

Trump's Big CON: It's Not Tax Reform, It's a Tax Cut for the Wealthy

UPDATE VI:  "Contrary to the president’s claim, the tax plan is not “so bad” for the wealthy. In fact, no matter how you slice it, the superwealthy do rather well under the House GOP proposal. As we have said, that’s largely because they already pay a large chuck of income taxes already.

Trump could actually make the distribution tables look better if he pushed to keep the AMT in place for incomes above $1 million and the estate tax in place for estates larger than $11 million. The failure to do so underscores the fact that this tax plan is not only for the middle class."

Read the Washington Post, Trump’s claim that the House GOP bill is ‘so bad for rich people’.

Read also the Washington Post, Who really pays the estate tax?, which notes that roughly 2.7 million Americans will pass away in 2017, but only 11,310 deceased individuals (the top 0.5 percent wealthiest) will need to file an estate tax return.  After deductions, only 5,460 of them will owe any estate tax, and only 80 will be "small" businesses or small farms (worth between $5-10 million). Those 80 "small" businesses or small farms will pay on average $375,000, and they have "the option to pay it off over a period of 15 years, softening its impact."

So Trump's claim that the proposal is 'so bad for rich people' is a lie, but his tax cut proposal will save him and his family billions (yes, billions).

UPDATE V:  "Killing the estate tax has long been the holy grail of Republicans. (They even succeeded in one year, 2010, but then it came back.) So there is little surprise that the tax bill would include an estate-tax repeal.

But what is surprising is that the tax bill also allows the beneficiaries of estates to not pay capital gains taxes on the increase in value of assets held by the estates. That has not been a feature of most previous estate-tax bills. In fact, President Trump’s campaign plan would have repealed the estate tax but taxed capital gains accumulated at death. . .

But the House GOP tax plan, by contrast, kills the estate tax (starting in 2024) and continues to value assets passed to heirs at a stepped-up basis. (The only exception is certain interest in foreign entities, such as a passive foreign investment company.)

[I]t’s interesting that House tax-writers would press forward with an elimination of the estate tax that goes far beyond previous efforts — or even Trump’s campaign tax plan — to allow tens of billions of untapped capital gains to remain beyond the reach of the U.S. government. The money left on the table because of a difference between two words — 'stepped-up' and 'carryover' — is certainly staggering."

Read the Washington Post, Two words in the GOP tax bill mean tens of billions for the superwealthy.

UPDATE IV:  "The Republican tax bill is often described as being weighted toward 'the rich.' But that’s not the full story.

It’s actually weighted toward the loafer, the freeloader, the heir, the passive investor who spends his time yachting and charity-balling.

In short: the idle rich.

Republicans claim the opposite, of course. For years the GOP has argued that we need to cut taxes to incentivize work and job creation. If only today’s allegedly sky-high marginal rates were lower, millions of talented, driven Americans would apply more of their talent and drive toward growing the economy.

Why? Well, if they got to keep more of their hard-earned cash, there would be a greater payoff from clocking that extra hour, taking on that extra project, seeing that extra patient, scoring that extra client, building that extra business, and so on. Working would look more attractive relative to playing an extra round of golf.

Yet the GOP tax bill offers the biggest windfall to those who sit on their duffs and do nothing.

Rich layabouts benefit in multiple ways from the proposal. . .

So much for the dignity of work."

Read the Washington Post, Who wins biggest in the GOP tax plan? The lazy rich.

UPDATE III: "Many of the ideas in the Republican tax proposal unveiled Thursday have found bipartisan support in the past and endorsements from economists who see a way to improve the U.S. economy. That includes plans to make the corporate rate more competitive, simplify personal taxes, curb several tax breaks of dubious value and provide more assistance to working families.

The controversy is over who will gain the most: the rich and corporations. The GOP bill would cut the corporate rate well below previous attempts, eliminate a tax on inheritance that affects only people with many millions of dollars, and take other actions that do not provide direct benefits to most Americans.

And the proposal represents a significant break with previous tax-rewrite discussions.

Republicans have in the past focused on the importance of not adding to the nation’s debt through tax reform. Democrats have favored overhauling the tax code to raise revenue to pay for needed improvements in America’s infrastructure or to provide services for the middle class and poor.

But in this case, Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation estimated Thursday that the tax plan would be paid for by $1.5 trillion in additional borrowing over the next decade. Much of that reflects tax reductions benefiting the wealthy and companies."

Read the Washington Post, The GOP’s bill is ‘a sensible framework’ — but ‘still a deficit-exploding tax cut’ for the rich and corporations.

UPDATE II:  "Judging from the initial details, Republican tax-plan writers have thrown out the idea that they should simplify the code. They’ve also decided that high-six-figure earners and wealthy heirs deserve a tax break. . .

As one might expect, Trump’s plan takes care of himself and his real estate pals: 'Many companies would face a new limit on their interest deductions, which would be capped at 30% of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, which is a measure of cash flow. Real-estate firms and small businesses would be exempt from that limit.'

In short, this is still a bill that directs enormous benefits to the rich and to corporations and hammers middle-class people in high-cost and high-tax states. The complexity of the proposals undercuts its claim to be “tax simplification” while diminishing some pro-growth aspects. It is a bill in which everyone will find something to hate."

Read the Washington Post, Republicans manage to make the tax code more complicated.

UPDATE:  "In 1986, corporations basically footed the bill for individual tax cuts. It's shaping up to be the reverse this time around."

Read the Washington Post, Who’s really going to pay for Trump’s big tax cut?

Republi-CON so-called tax reform "is, in fact, a gigantic giveaway to corporations and the wealthy . . .

The entire purpose of this exercise is to cut taxes for the wealthy and corporations, because it’s a Republican plan and that’s what Republicans do."

Read the Washington Post, Don’t buy the latest spin. The GOP tax plan is still a huge giveaway to the rich., which explains how they are trying to do it.