Tuesday, February 27, 2018

What Are Corporations Doing With The Funds From Their Tax Cuts?

Corporations are using the windfall from the cuts in their tax bill just like survey's said that they would.  They are buying back their shares, which increases the value of the unsold shares;  they are paying higher dividends to shareholders and they are looking to acquire other companies.  Since corporate executives are also large shareholders that is good for them.  It is also good for the richest 10% which owns 84% of corporate stocks.  That's good news for many of us, but that is not how the tax cuts were sold to the public.  They were told that corporations would use the funds to purchase capital equipment, build new plants and to increase wages.  Each of those outcomes would lead to higher economic growth, more jobs and higher wages.  Corporate executives are not interested in stimulating GDP growth.  They get measured and rewarded every quarter on movements in their stock price.  Making investments in projects that may increase the stock price a couple of years from today is not high on their priority list.  That, of course what they told economists in the surveys.  Apparently, Trump and his administration decided that it made more political sense to convince its base that they succeeded in passing a middle class tax cut.  Good politics but bad economics.

Donald Trump Does A Terrible Job Playing Our "Fearless Leader"

Donald Trump realizes that autocrats must convince their supporters that they are strong and brave enough to protect them from danger.  Part of the game is to increase the level of fear in their base.  The other part is to demonstrate strength and "manliness" in the face of danger.  Our fearless leader chose to use his powerful Twitter account to demonstrate his manliness.  He claimed that he would have personally attacked the gunman who used his assault weapon to murder 17 people at the Parkland school in Florida if he had been in the building at the time.  Its lucky for him that he was not present during the shootout because he has a poor record of responding bravely in the face of danger.  During the Vietnam war he sought and obtained a deferment due to bone spurs in his heel.  He has also been captured on film reacting to danger in a very unmanly fashion.  The Trumpster is much better at demonstrating power by issuing tweets from his bedroom in the White House while watching cable news.  He is more comfortable insulting enemies and barking commands over the Internet than he is in the presence of danger or retaliation. He is also comfortable speaking powerfully in front of true believers like those at his campaign rallies and far right conservatives at the recent CPAC meeting.  That's pretty easy.  He only has to tell them what they want to hear.  For example, he told the CPAC audience that we should give teachers guns to protect students from deranged individuals armed with assault weapons.  That, of course, echoes one of the party lines from the NRA which keeps conservatives informed about how to protect their Constitutional right to own assault weapons. All statements from the NRA are automatically accepted as biblical truths by CPAC.  Gun manufacturers also love the idea that more guns are needed to protect us from gun owners who want to murder innocent children with assault weapons.  If we did that, we may even be able to protect our students without having our fearless leader available in schools during an attack.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Some Questions For Trump To Answer If He Dares To Have Another Press Conference

Unlike former presidents, who regularly held press conferences, Trump has had only one press conference during the first year of his new job.  His press secretary has been given the job of not answering questions from the press.  Ruth Marcus reported a list of questions that Trump might be asked if he held a press conference.  They are good questions; they make it easy to understand why Trump prefers using his Twitter account to communicate with his base instead of dealing with "fake news" reporters who might ask some of the questions recommended by Marcus.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Marco Rubio And NRA Representative Jeered At Florida Meeting

The Governor of Florida and The President Of The United States, who winters in Florida, did not attend a meeting about the mass shooting in Florida.  They were smart cowards.  Marco Rubio, and a spokes person for the NRA, had to take the punishment and jeers from the parents and students in the audience.  Rubio was asked if he would continue to take money from the NRA.  His answer was as slippery as each of the positions that he took from the audience.  He claimed that the $3,000,000 in contributions he has received from the NRA had nothing to do with his position on guns.  After the jeers from the audience ended, he claimed that his position reflected the views of the public which he represents.  That was a bit more truthful because the NRA has a propaganda arm that defends the economic interest of gun producers.  A substantial portion of the Republican base has been convinced that government controls on access to guns violates their Constitutional rights.  Rubio and other Republican politicians depends upon their votes in elections.  They are a minority but their votes can be counted on by politicians like Rubio.  That explains why a politician as smart as Rubio pretends  that access to assault weapons is protected by a Constitution that was written when the US military consisted of private citizens who served in state militias with their own muskets.  He knows that the second amendment to the Constitution has provided a smokescreen that was invented by the NRA. He is constrained, however, to defend that nonsense in order to protect his seat in the Senate.

Rubio, and the NRA propagandist, took another position that makes Republicans comfortable.  They argued that guns are not the problem.  People who misuse guns are the problem.  That position is consistent with Trump's current views on the subject.  Instead of preventing dangerous people from having access to assault weapons we should try to cure their mental illnesses.  That is utter nonsense. We do not have more mentally ill citizens in the US than other nations.  We lead the rest of the world in deaths from guns because we possess almost half of the world's supply of guns available to households.  Politicians in Australia decided to reduce the number of deaths from guns by addressing the real problem.  They took actions to reduce the number of guns held by households.  That produced a huge decline in deaths from firearms.

Marco Rubio, and the NRA representative, may have lost a bit of sleep after hearing from the parents who lost one of their children and from students who lost classmates from the shootout.  They can also expect more pressure from the public to take some actions that might reduce senseless murders.  Their usual approach is to tinker around the edges of the problem.  They will not deal with the crux of the problem.  They will not ban the sale of assault weapons.  That is because our democracy is being held hostage by around 35% of the electorate.  Their votes can be counted upon in any election.  The only real competition in elections is for the 65% who are open to debate on most policy issues.  We don't have majority rule in the US for that reason.  That is also why the Russians have used cyberwarfare in the US and in Europe to exacerbate divisions over cultural and social issues like gun control, race and religion.  The goal is to undermine democracies without the use conventional warfare.

The social media contribute the divisions that are being exacerbated in the US.  It didn't take long for a video posted on YouTube by an obscure individual in Idaho to go viral with a conspiracy theory about the murders in Parkland.  Mike m posted a video of David Hogg is who a student at Parkland.  The video is about another incident that happened in August.  Mike m declared that David Hogg is an actor who has been hired the MSM (short for networks other than Fox News) which promote left wing ideologies.  The video was picked up other conspiracy sites.  It appeared on Facebook and Twitter as well as on YouTube which is owned by Google.  There were over 200,000 hits to the "trending" video  before it was blocked by YouTube.  Mike m was encouraged by his success.  He posted another video that YouTube blocked.  His account will be deleted by YouTube if another of his posts is blocked.  Of course, he can also create another account on YouTube to move from obscurity in Idaho where he resides. 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Its Time To Vote NRA Prostitutes Out Of Office

Tom Friedman describes what Republican lawmakers get in return for blocking reasonable changes to gun laws in the US.  They get $174,000 per year in salary and they get free parking at Reagan National Airport.  They will do just about anything to hang on to their jobs.  They also understand that they could lose their jobs if they take any actions that concerns the NRA.  Those who receive campaign contribution from the NRA will have to find other sources and the NRA will do what it takes to turn NRA voters against them.  Friedman believes that some of them may have difficulty with their NRA deal when they see young children being shot in schools but most of them are more worried about losing $174,000 and free parking at Reagan National Airport. 

Friedman was encouraged by students at the most recent shootout who would like politicians to take actions that will keep more of them alive.  He understands, however, that there is only one solution that will protect them.  They, and other Americans must go to the polls and take away their $174,000 jobs and their free parking at Reagan National Airport.  Nothing else will work.  Its hard to get prostitutes to seek a more honorable profession when they have such a nice gig with the NRA.

Putin's Useful Idiots On The Social Media

It is now well known that Putin funded hundreds of social media trolls in a disinformation campaign that began in 2014.  He referred to social media users who were sucked into his disinformation campaign as "useful idiots".  It was easy to find the useful idiots because they were everywhere on Facebook and Twitter promoting socially divisive issues.  Putin's trolls joined with them in prompting conspiracies and fake news stories that appealed to splinter groups.  The goal was to amplify story lines that were socially divisive.  The trolls were quick learners.  They could write a book about the useful idiots and the issues that divided them from most Americans.  They tend to be many of the same issues that Republicans have used to win elections since Richard Nixon's Southern Strategy was implemented.  After, Trump won the GOP nomination, with the help of Russian trolls who put the GOP favorite Jeb Bush away early in his campaign, they backed Trump, Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein while doing everything they could to turn Hillary Clinton into Satan.  Its hard to determine the number of voters who were influenced by the Russian disinformation campaign but Clinton would have carried Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania,  and won the 2016 election, if she got all of the votes from Democrats who voted for Jill Stein.  They also provided Sanders supporters with information that might have discouraged many of them from voting for Clinton in the general election. 

Russia and many other nations, including the US, have used disinformation campaigns to serve their interests.  However, the social media have changed the disinformation game dramatically.  It was expensive and much more difficult to distribute information when a small number of news sources controlled the media.  Lyndon Johnson famously announced that he lost the Vietnam war when Walter Cronkite turned against the war.  His evening news show, on one of the three major networks, provided millions of Americans with the information that influenced their opinions on major issues. Those days are gone forever.  The social media have made the distribution of information more democratic and much less expensive.  It wasn't hard for trolls to locate the most likely audience for each of their divisive messages, and the disinformation that they provided did not have to go through an editorial process to determine the veracity of their messages.  Everyone has been given an inexpensive megaphone by Facebook and Twitter.  The Russian trolls, along with a host of splinter groups have learned how to amplify their freedom speech on the social media which do not employ editors to fact check the information that they broadcast.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Senator Marco Rubio's Speech Shows Why We Can't Stop Mass Shootings In US

Marco Rubio gave a speech which argues that making it more difficult for mass shooters to obtain assault rifles like the AK-15, which was used to murder 17 students in his state,  would be pointless.  If we made it more difficult for the 19 year old who used an AK-15 to murder 17 students, it would not have prevented the crime. The shooter would have found an illegal way to obtain the weapon that he used.  In other words, there is no way to stop mass shootings by restricting access to guns.  Guns are not the problem.  Demented individuals are the problem.  Rubio's logic would also make it pointless for the government to restrict access to drugs like heroin.  After all, drug addicts can often find illegal ways to obtain heroin.  We might just as well sell it at CVS.  That would make it easier to purchase, and it would reduce the price because illegal drug drug dealers must charge high prices to cover the costs of obtaining heroin and the risks of being arrested.

Marco Rubio is not stupid.  He only makes stupid arguments because it is in his interest to do so.  Rubio has received over $3,000,000 from the National Rifle Association (NRA) in campaign contributions.  He doesn't want to bite the hand that feeds him and other politicians who have been bought and paid for by the NRA.  Rubio also understands that the majority of Republican voters in his state oppose government restrictions on access to guns.  They see no difference between an AK-15 and the rifles that are used  for sport by hunters.  Some of them even believe that the best way to protect students in schools from mass shooters is to arm the students so that they can protect themselves.  Fox News and popular talk radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh make that argument after each mass shooting.

The bottom line is that many politicians, especially those funded by the NRA, care more about winning elections than they do about mass shootings.  They are not stupid; they are immoral.  They offer meaningless prayers to those whose suffering they have enabled because they have sold themselves in order to win elections.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Thirteen Russians Indicted For Conspiracy In US Election

Special Counsel Robert Mueller unleashed a bombshell yesterday.  He indicted 13 Russians and two businesses for conspiring to created discord and to undermine democracy in the US.  The Russian program began in 2014 and it supported Donald Trump in the 2016 election while disparaging Hillary Clinton.  It focused on three divisive issues in the US:  immigration, religion and race.  They were also informed enough to focus in battleground states in the US which could swing the election in Trump's favor.  The names of the Russians and the firms indicted are available here.

The disinformation factory used by the Russians is described in this article.  Russians posed as Americans on the social media and they effectively exploited vulnerabilities in Twitter.  They used bots to amplify the number of hits on their tweets.  Twitter algorithms are set up to identify trending tweets which gives them more visibility.  For example, they exploited an issue at the University of Missouri to inflame racial tensions on the campus which were harmful to the University and to entire state of Missouri.  Russians also worked with the Trump campaign in Florida to promote political rallies.  Their Russian identities were unknown to the Trump campaign.

The indictments will have an immediate effect in the US.  Mueller has been being attacked by Republicans in Congress, and by Trump who denies that Russia interfered in the US election.  The indictments should end any debate about Russian interference in the US election.  Trump's henchmen in Congress should be disgraced and Trump will be forced to give up his efforts to deny Russian involvement in the election.  Trump, of course, used the indictments to argue that the Russian campaign began in 2014 and that it nothing to do with victory in 2016.  The US intelligence agencies take no position on the effectiveness of the disinformation campaign in the election.  However, they were very clear about the intent of Russian interventions.  They clearly favored Donald Trump.  They also worked hard to discredit Hillary Clinton and they even promoted Bernie Sander's campaign.  They probably wanted to discourage Sander's supporters from voting for Clinton in the general election.  The election results in several rust belt states were so close that votes for third party candidates that would have otherwise gone to the democratic candidate could have easily tipped the election in Trump's favor.

The Russian indictments, along with the information about how the Russians exploited the social media,  will also have an impact on the 2018 election.  The government should do whatever is needed to deal with the 2018 disinformation program that is already underway.  The social media firms have also been given a warning.  They will have to take steps to deal with the vulnerabilities in their systems or they will not be permitted to stay in business.  The general public which naively consumes disinformation provided in the social media should also become more critical of how the disinformation campaigns hooked millions of them in 2016.  Frankly, this should be a required subject in our school systems. Russians are already exploiting the mass shooting in Florida.  They have linked up to US groups that are receptive to conspiracy theories.  They are promoting the idea that the mass shootings did not really happen and that it is part of an effort to take away our guns.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Another Trump Affair That Was Covered Up By Huge Payment For Silence

Trump's lawyer paid $130,000 to purchase the silence of a porn star who had an affair with Trump who was married at the time.  This article describes a similar payoff to purchase the silence of a woman who had a similar affair with Trump.  They both met with Trump at the same room in a Beverly Hill's apartment.   The same lawyer was involved in both payouts.  In this case the publisher of the National Enquirer put up $150,000 for the payoff.  The Enquirer purchased all rights to the woman's ability to sell the story.  The publisher of the Enquirer has had a long term relationship with Trump and the payoff occurred after Trump had won the GOP nomination.

The Politicians that Have Received The Most Funding From The NRA

We had another mass shooting in Florida.  A troubled teenager who had been expelled from the school used an assault rifle (AK 15) to randomly murder 17 people.  He had a record of depression, violence, and an attraction to guns.  He bought the assault rifle legally.    

After each of these senseless shootings, that are becoming more common,  our politicians announce that they deplore gun violence and they typically tell the relatives of the victims that they are praying for them.  So far, their prayers have not been very helpful.  That is because the NRA has been very generous  to the politicians that pray for the victims.

This article lists the politicians who have received the most funding from the NRA over the years.  They are  all Republicans.  They have received millions from the NRA which secures their votes.  Their prayers fall on deaf ears.  The victims are gone forever but they will win their elections.  The NRA, with help from Republican politicians, has also spent millions warning Republican voters that they have to defend their rights to guns, guaranteed by the Constitution, to prevent government from taking away their beloved guns.  They even oppose regulations that might make it more difficult for troubled individuals and criminals to purchase guns, including assault weapons.  By purchasing politicians with millions of campaign contributions, and by training Republican voters to defend their constitutional rights to weapons from government regulators,  the NRA is responsible for the gun violence that has become too common in the US.  The prayers from the politicians who protect their business interests are meaningless to the victims.

This article, by a conservative who believes in gun rights,  argues that Republican support for the NRA will eventually lead to its demise because the majority of Americans would like to see more control over access to weapons of mass destruction.  Unfortunately, that is not likely to happen.  The fervor that the NRA has created among Republicans is much stronger than the concerns that most people have after one of the mass shootings.  Nothing is done after a mass shooting and those who are horrified by the shooting quickly forget about it.  The NRA and most Republicans do not forget. The only way to defeat the NRA is for Americans who mourn the mass shootings to be more active politically.  They must be more active in elections than the NRA.  It won't be easy.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Why Is It So Hard For Democracy To Stop The Inequality Train In The US?

The growth of wealth in the US since 1980 is directly related to one's starting position in 1980.  The lion's share has gone to the top 0.01 and those at the bottom the distribution have seen a decline in their share of wealth since 1980.  This article describes many of the attempts to explain rising inequality in the US.  It also attempts to explain why this has happened in a democracy.  One would think that a democracy would respond differently to rising inequality if the system was responsive to the needs of the majority.  All of the explanations offered are reasonable.  There is no single reason for rising inequality.  The Republican Party has encouraged the growth in inequality because that is what it has stood for many decades.  The Democratic Party used to play a stronger role in protecting the interests of working class Americans than it does today.  The Republican Party has been successful to dividing the working class based on racism.  Moreover, the Democratic Party's coalition has changed over time and it must compete with Republicans for campaign contributions from businesses and wealthy families.  We have a good understanding of the problems that contribute to rising inequality but there is no simple political response to the problem because the political system has been altered over time in ways that encourage rising inequality.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Living With An Abusive Husband Named Rob Porter

Rob Porter played a key role in the Trump Administration.  He was unable to get a security clearance because investigators discovered that he had abused his two wives.  Trump was forced to get rid of Porter when his abusive relationships were made public.  Trump is very familiar with the role of an abusive husband and he has defended Porter by calling for due process which might show that the claims by Porter's two wives. and his ex girl friend, are false. 

This article is from one of Porter's two wives.  She describes the forms of abuse that she had endured and how it turned a strong woman into a broken woman suffering from depression.  Her story is similar to the story told by Porter's other wife and by his ex girl friend.  Rob Porter was as good at abusing his female partners as he was at serving his fellow abuser who resides in the White House./

David Brooks Predicts End Of Two Party System In US

David Brooks has been struggling to come to grips with the changes that have been underway in the US political system.  He explains how his political party became the Trump Party and he argues that conservatives will break away and start a party that is more compatible with its ideology.  Something similar will happen among liberals and the Democratic Party will also split.  This will be the end of the two party system in the US and we will look more like the parliamentary system in Europe.

Brooks's thesis is centered on the idea that a scarcity mentality has replaced the abundance idea that had prevailed in the US.  He argues that the scarcity mentally destroys belief systems.  Moreover, he believes that scarcity is not going away; it will only get worse. It is incompatible with any civilized political creed. It transforms belief systems.  The Republican Party has become a clan warrior party under Donald Trump.  Under the abundance mind set the Wall Street Journal was the primary organ for the Republican Party.  It has been replaced by Fox News.  Immigration has become its new mind set.  It is no longer concerned with responsible fiscal policy, the rule of law, global engagement and moral decency.  Its immigration policies are also tainted by racism.  Evangelicalism has been turned into an interest group that reveres a pagan immoralist.

Eventually conservatives will have to leave the clan warrior party and start a new conservative party.  Something similar will happen to the Democratic Party.  Brooks does not have much to say about the Democratic Party but he believes that it has also been infected by the scarcity mentality and that its belief system has also been eroded.  He must believe that the tension between the Sanders and Clinton wings of the party are similar to what transformed his party to the Trump Party. I think that Brooks has taken moral equivalence to a new level but he can't give up his party without doing something similar with the Democratic Party.

The end game for Brooks is that both of our major parties will break up and the two party system gives way to a multiparty political system.  Brooks does not discuss the other possibility.  That is, the Trump Party wins the war and we end up with a one party system like those that he described in Europe.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Everything You Need To Know About The Federal Budget Deal

Congress finally passed a budget bill that will keep the government in business for a couple of years.  The budget included a 10% increase in defense spending and a 10% increase in domestic spending which included funds to help many states and US territories in the Caribbean to recover from natural disasters.  Increased spending, along with the tax cuts passed earlier, will lead to trillion dollar budget deficits that will be paid for by borrowing.  Fiscally responsible Republicans had to swallow hard to vote for the bill. 

Trump signed the bill which did not give him the billions that he had demanded for his famous wall.  It also did not incorporate any of Trump's demands for immigration reform.  Leaders in the Senate and in the House agreed to debate the DACA issue at a later date. 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Republicans Have Learned To Love Budget Deficits

The Republican Party has a fickle relationship with federal budget deficits.  Richard Nixon ran big budget deficits to stimulate the economy during his regime.  He even declared his love affair by stating that "We are all Keynesian's now".   He wanted a vigorous economy while he was in office and he believed what Keynes had preached during the Great Depression.  Running budget deficits by cutting taxes and increasing government spending will stimulate economic growth.  The Trump administration has cut taxes and it has increased government spending for the same reason that Nixon adopted Keynesian economics.  A robust economy gives the president something to brag about.  However, Trump's Keynesian policies, in a period of full employment, has a well known side effect. It increases the risk of inflation.  The Fed raised interest rates to reduce the risk of inflation and the stock market went into a tailspin.  The boom in the stock market had been driven by ultra low interest rates.  This article also reminds us about the Republican Party's hatred of Keynesian policies during the Obama administration.  They resisted every effort by the president to stimulate an economy that was recovering from recession by using Keynesian economic policies.  They declared that the world would come to end if the federal budget deficit was not reduced during Obama's administration.  They like recessions and they hate federal budget deficits whenever a Democrat is in the White House.  They welcome the $1.5 trillion increase in federal debt produced by Trump's tax cuts along with a huge increase in defense spending.  That will stimulate economic growth and it will be used by Paul Ryan and Tea Partiers to justify cuts in social welfare programs. The Republican Party has deteriorated into a political party based on hypocrisy.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Why Trump Cannot Bring Back The 1950's US Economy

Donald Trump promised to make America great again by creating jobs in manufacturing and in the coal industry.  That helped him to win enough votes in the rust belt to win the election.  However, there are many reasons why Trump's promise to restore of the US economy in 1950 cannot be realized.  This article explains why Trump's MAGA slogan was only a slogan.  It explains why manufacturing jobs as a share of the US labor market will never come close to its share in 1950.  Jobs in the coal industry will also not return.  The demand for coal will continue to decline as the price of other energy sources continue to fall and as machines do more of the work that had been done by human labor.  The only real issue is whether Trump can continue to sell his campaign slogan to his rust belt base.  Its more likely that Trump will revert to selling more traditional Republican social and cultural slogans to his base.

Donald Trump's Impact On Global Stock Market Is Close To Zero

The current global sell off in the stock market has little to do with Donald Trump. Of course, the rise in global stock prices, that Trump took credit for, also had little to do with Donald Trump. He only takes credit for good news and he takes no responsibility for bad economic news.  There are many reasons why Trump has little impact on the US stock market.  In the first first place, there was a global rise in stock prices and a global sell off.  The global rise in stock prices was stimulated by a global economic recovery.  That, in turn, increases the risk of inflation.  Central banks respond to inflation risk by raising interest rates.  That has two fundamental economic effects on stock prices.  Higher interest rates raises the cost of borrowing by businesses and by consumers.  That has a dampening effect on economic activity.  It also makes investing in bonds relatively more attractive to investors.  Asset prices will always respond to fundamental economic factors and the actions taken by central banks have had a more powerful impact on asset prices than anything that Donald Trump has done.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

The Republican Party Is Now The Party Of Donald Trump

Donald Trump had a rocky start with the Republican Party during the GOP nomination campaign.  He also had a tough time winning the support of many Republicans during  the presidential campaign.  His romance with the Republican Party has now blossomed into wedlock.  His populist rhetoric during the presidential campaign was a smokescreen.  His policies, after capturing the White House, have been on the far right of the Republican spectrum.  His success at selling the Republican tax plan cemented his relationship with the GOP donor class.  That, combined with the populist base that he has secured, has cemented his control over the Republican Party.  He owns the GOP donor class as well as its Southern and rural populist base.  There are only a few dissenters in the GOP who do not face an election that they would lose if attacked by Trump.  Like many other Americans they are concerned that Trump is a threat to the rule of law that always been supported by both of our political parties.  Trump, like other autocrats, only cares about consolidating his personal power.

Paul Ryan Shows How The GOP Sells The Tax Plan

The GOP strategy for selling the tax plan in which 83% of benefits go to the top income earners is quite simple.  Paul Ryan showed how it works in a tweet.  The plan throws some crumbs to low wage earners, that disappear after the 2020 election, so that plutocrats get permanent tax cuts.  Ryan tweeted that a secretary got a $1.50 week increase in her pay check from the tax plan that she can use to pay for her annual fee at Costco to purchase discounted consumer goods.  The Koch family, will receive billions over time from the tax cut.  They rewarded Paul Ryan with a $500,000 campaign contribution.  That was Ryan's crumb for delivering billions to the Koch family.  He did a little better than the secretary but he came cheap.  The tax cuts will increase federal debt by around $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years.  Paul Ryan's career has been based on selling himself as a fiscal conservative who will reduce the federal debt burden.  Since the tax plan has the opposite effect, Ryan will use the budget deficit to justify large cuts in entitlement programs.  This is how Republican populism works.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Democracies Are Not Easy To Build And Sustain

Its easy to look at Donald Trump's rise to the presidency and conclude that Trump is responsible for the erosion of democracy in the US.  That is giving Trump too much credit.  In a sense we are fortunate that Trump has been an inept autocrat.  We would be in more danger if General Kelly had won the election.  There is a lot of overlap between their values but a competent general, with the ability to wrap himself up in the flag, would be more dangerous threat to democracy. Trump took advantage of some of the issues that erode democracy, but it is important to understand those issues more deeply.  This article explores some of the factors that enable democracy but it also shows how difficult it is to preserve it.  One of the factors that undermines democracy is the degree of partisanship that prevails.  For example, Democrats and Republicans were less partisan during the period in which the South was controlled by the Democratic Party.  They tempered the policies advocated by the Northern branch of the party.  That made it easier for Democrats and Republicans to work more closely together.  Today the values gap between the two political parties is so deep that they regard the opposing party as illegitimate.  The solid South is now Republican and it this has moved the Republican Party much closer to identity factors that have always been prevalent in the South.  The Democratic Party has taken this opportunity to build a coalition among minority groups which have been growing as a share of the electorate. It should not be surprising that members of the Republican Party are so opposed to liberal immigration policies and to the policies of Obama.

There are many other well argued points about the foundations of democracies and how they are eroding in the US and elsewhere.  I will close with only one of the worrisome points discussed in this article. .

The simple fact of the matter is that the world has never built a multiethnic democracy in which no particular ethnic group is in the majority and where political equality, social equality and economies that empower all have been achieved.

Devin Nunes' Effort To Discredit The FBI

This editorial from the NYT, which Trump and his allies call a 'fake news" source, explains what the memo written by members of Devin Nunes', staff is all about.  It is an effort to undermine the investigation of Donald Trump and his campaign staff by Robert Mueller.  To accomplish that goal Nunes (R, White House) cherry picked data collected by the House Intelligence Committee, which he chairs, to argue that an "innocent member" of the Trump campaign was illegally placed under surveillance by the FBI.  That claim is based upon the assumption that a FISA obtained by the FBI, in order to conduct the surveillance, was falsely obtained.  Moreover, Nunes claims that the FBI was biased against Trump and that its investigation of the Trump surrogate was initiated by a dossier funded by the Clinton campaign (that is untrue).  This editorial describes the process by which a FISA warrant is obtained which is very difficult to obtain under false documentation.  It also shows that Trump's surrogate had a history of contacts with Russian spy's which prompted the FBI to watch him prior to the election campaign.  Moreover, another member of Trump's campaign alerted intelligence sources in Australia about the surrogate during a drunken conversation.  That information was forwarded to US Intelligence.

The Director of the FBI, who was appointed by Trump, expressed grave concerns about releasing the Nunes memo.  He claimed that it exposed US sources of information and that it misused sources of information to reach its conclusions.  Trump will ignore that warning because he is more interested in protecting himself from the ongoing investigation he is about exposing US intelligence sources.  He is being supported by most Republicans in Congress for another reason.  Information damaging to the Trump White House will be harmful in the 2018 midterm elections to GOP candidates.  Above anything else they want to maintain control of Congress.