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When is a tax not a tax?

When it is called a tariff.

Republicans claim to be against tax increases. They attack anyone who they believe wants to raise taxes. And yet, they have ignored Trump’s tax increases. What increases? Donald Trump has, by executive fiat, levied taxes of up to 50% on goods being imported into the US, with the most common tariffs being 25%.

How does this differ from a tax? I can’t think of any substantiative difference. If you buy anything from China or other foreign nations, you will be pay what is basically a sales tax to the federal government. Can you imagine the uproar if the government levied a sales tax of 25% on mobile phones, televisions, washing machines, solar panels, and other goods? Well, they have basically done that, and are threatening to tax those things even more.

And here’s the really interesting point. Sales taxes (including tariffs) are mainly paid by the middle class. The 1% don’t need to buy more than one iPhone or one washing machine, the same as the working Americans. Not only do Trump’s tariffs fall disproportionately on poor and middle class Americans, they would hurt working Americans by reducing GDP, and cutting full time jobs by around 80,000.

On the other hand, the majority of the Republican tax cut at the end of 2017 benefitted the richest Americans and large corporations. After the tax cut was enacted, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin claimed 90% of all working adults would see increases in their paychecks because of the cuts. But the it turned out to be that only 4.3% of workers saw a wage increase or even a one-time bonus because of the tax cut.

So the Republicans and Trump have given us a tax cut and a tax increase. Is anyone surprised that the tax cut went mainly to the rich, and the tax increase will be largely paid by working, middle-class Americans? Remember this the next time the Republicans claim to be against tax increases. They are against tax increases only for themselves.

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FEMA Fumbles

You can’t make this kind of stuff up. Can FEMA look any more incompetent?

With Hurricane Florence causing historically massive flooding on the east coast FEMA decided it was a good time to introduce a “Presidential alert” system, which would allow Donald Trump to send an emergency message to your mobile phone, which you cannot block and would interrupt phone calls and other usage of your phone. They announced that this system would be tested this Thursday, but then suddenly decided to delay that until October. Just what we need, Trump popping up on your phone unannounced and unavoidable. Still to be determined is how long will it take Trump to abuse this system by using it to brag about his beautiful accomplishments and attack people he doesn’t like.

Speaking of abuse, Trump unwisely decided this was a good time to complain about how under-appreciated his wonderful handling of Hurricane Maria was, which devastated Puerto Rico. All that did was to remind people of how bad a job the Trump administration has done with hurricanes in the past, just as we are facing down another massive hurricane. Not to mention that Trump claims climate change is a hoax and has eliminated almost all efforts to fight it, even though scientists agree that global warming is making hurricanes and other severe weather even more severe and deadly.

Incidentally, Trump’s head of FEMA jumped in to defend Trump, blaming “spousal abuse” for the death toll of Hurricane Maria. Seriously.

And speaking of FEMA chief Brock Long, he is now being investigated for personal use of government funds and equipment. Long is accused of breaking as many as six laws.


© Clay Jones

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Justice?

What will happen to Brett Kavanaugh? If the Republicans ram the Supreme Court nomination of Kavanaugh down America’s throat, they are going to rile up Democrats (especially women) and probably lose additional seats during the midterms. But if they don’t, they will piss off their die-hard base, who might sit out the midterms in response. And hovering above all of this is the memory of how the Republicans blatantly stole the nomination of Merrick Garland from Obama and the Democrats.


© Pia Guerra

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Obamacare Sabotage Backfires!

The Republicans have never tried to hide the fact that they are doing everything they can to sabotage the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Their hysterical campaign has included a barrage of frivolous lawsuits, purposely driving insurance firms out of markets, withholding reimbursements that were promised by the law, and rendering the individual mandate toothless. And their sabotage has continued despite the fact that Obamacare has steadily become more popular and is supported by a majority of Americans. And unlike the dramatic rate increases of the past, health insurance companies are actually talking about reducing rates for 2019.

And Republicans keep claiming that Obamacare is a socialist takeover of our healthcare system, even though it is nothing of the sort. They willfully ignore that the blueprint of the ACA was first drawn up by the conservative Heritage Foundation, and first implemented by Republican Mitt Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts. Yes, that’s right, the Republicans came up with and supported the idea of an individual mandate.

But what Republican sabotage has done is to convince Democrats that a market-based solution like the ACA is simply too vulnerable to right-wing sabotage. So the only safe path to providing health insurance to more people is through public programs, since public programs like Medicare have not only succeeded and are very popular, they have resisted Republican attempts to sabotage them.

So the irony is that the right wing as been completely oblivious to how their uncompromising stand has actually strengthened the case for more left-wing health-care reforms, while undermining the basis for more moderate ones (which were originally conceived of by conservatives).

Next step? Medicare for all! After all, Donald Trump did promise healthcare coverage for everyone.

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Rumor Control

Sometimes the news just writes itself. On Friday, FEMA tweeted this message:

It was retweeted by Donald Trump. Yup, the same person who the day before tweeted that the official government numbers for the death toll from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico are fake news cooked up by the Democrats. A tweet that was immediately debunked and even had Republicans rolling their eyes in disbelief.

The response on Twitter was immediate, asking “Where is the rumor control page for @realDonaldTrump’s Twitter feed? During this disaster of the Trump administration, it is critical to avoid spreading false information.”

Other people suggested that the best way to avoid spreading false information would be to take Trump’s phone away.

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History of Anonymous Op-Eds

Ruben Bolling
© Ruben Bolling

Does anyone feel better, knowing that there are members of the Trump administration who are actively working to keep us safe from the worst impulses of Donald Trump? Of course, we can’t thank them if they remain anonymous.

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All The President’s Men (Tal Defects)


© Mike Keefe

And right now, Trump’s major mental defect is that he is simply making shit up about Puerto Rico. Trump claims that only between 6 and 18 people died because of Hurricane Maria, which officially killed 2975 people. Even Republicans are rolling their eyes at such bald-faced lies.

Not only is Trump completely unmoored from reality, his craven need to fantasize that he is doing a good job is threatening to unleash a political hurricane that will bring the blue wave crashing down on the Republicans in the coming mid-term election. Trump will be a huge loser, and he only has himself to blame.

But that won’t stop him from blaming everyone but himself:


© Scott Bateman

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Another disaster

Hurricane Florence is bearing down on the eastern coast of the US. According to the National Weather Service, “This will likely be the storm of a lifetime for portions of the Carolina coast, and that’s saying a lot given the impacts we’ve seen from Hurricanes Diana, Hugo, Fran, Bonnie, Floyd, and Matthew. I can’t emphasize enough the potential for unbelievable damage from wind, storm surge, and inland flooding with this storm.”

So this is a good time to remember that Donald Trump played golf while Hurricane Maria tore Puerto Rico apart and killed over 3000 people (almost as many as died from the terrorist attacks on 9/11, but they don’t count even though they are Americans, because their skin isn’t white). And just to add insult to injury, Trump is now boasting that his handling of earlier hurricanes was “incredibly successful” and received an A plus (of course, the person who awarded Trump an A plus was Trump himself). Then Trump tried to play the victim, saying that his administration’s work in Puerto Rico was not appreciated (despite multiple reports of mismanagement, like this one about a million bottles of water that were never distributed to people who haven’t had water for a year, or this one, about Trump’s FEMA director, who is being investigated for illegal misuse of funds). Don’t you feel so very sorry for Trump?

This brilliant tweet has already been retweeted over 35 thousand times:

Even more ironic, there is a meme circulating that is targeted at Trump supporters. The meme is that the president of Puerto Rico is incompetent and should be impeached immediately. The question is how many Trump supporters understand that Puerto Rico is a US territory, so its president is one Donald Trump. Make Puerto Rico Great Again!

Despite his protestations, Trump stole around 10 million dollars from FEMA (the agency that responds to disasters like hurricanes), and gave it to ICE to lock up people accused of being illegal aliens and to take their children away from them, 12,800 of whom are still locked up. That’s a five times increase in children locked up since just a year ago.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Apparently over $200 million was taken, not just from FEMA, but also from the office in charge of countering weapons of mass destruction, the Coast Guard, TSA, the cybersecurity office, and even Customs and Border Protection. You know, because locking up potential illegal alien children is clearly our most important national security concern.

Much more important than this:

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Smackdown: Obama v. Trump

There is some great video of Trump in this. Watch while Trump — at a fundraiser in Fargo ND — waves some papers in the air. He brags “It’s four pages of things that the Trump administration has accomplished in a short period of time.” He obviously hasn’t even read them because he later changes his mind and reduces the number of pages to three. But we do know how much he loves bullet points, saying “Each dot is a thing, ok? And some of those things are very big things.”

Later he tries to make fun of California, but fumbles, saying “California has just become one really large person.” Wait, what? How senile do you have to be to say something like that? Well, we find out when we watch Trump try repeatedly, very hard to pronounce the word “anonymous” and fail, bigly.

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Supreme Kangaroo Court

This would be funny if it were not so true:


© Tom Tomorrow

I truly wish something like this would happen:


© Jen Sorensen

Confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh will start a war to overturn Roe v. Wade. In fact, in anticipation of his confirmation, the war has already begun. Kavanaugh may claim that he believes Roe v. Wade is settled law, but he is lying.

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The president is collaborating with the enemy

The Trump administration is not fighting a war against climate change, it is collaborating with the enemy. And it is doing it in the sneakiest way possible. In July, the EPA made it easier to release carbon dioxide pollution from vehicle tailpipes. Then in August, made it easier for coal-fired power plants to release carbon dioxide. And finally, this month, the EPA is planning on making it easier to release methane into the atmosphere.

Methane is one of the most powerful greenhouse gasses, which leaks from oil and gas wells, and is also intentionally vented and “flared” (burned) from drilling operations. Energy companies have often complained that the regulations requiring them to test for methane emissions are costly and burdensome. So the Trump administration will just waive them.

New, more powerful hurricanes are pounding this country, but unlike the entire rest of the world we aren’t fighting, we are rolling over and surrendering to powerful oil and gas interests.


© Dan Wasserman

But that is just one example of collaboration. In 2006, Trump stopped borrowing money from banks to finance his projects, and instead suddenly started making all of his investments in cash. That’s $400 million on 14 real estate projects since then, and nobody knows where the money comes from.

Well, maybe we do. Remember when Eric Trump blurted out to a golf magazine that the Trump organization doesn’t rely on American banks because they have all the funding they needed from Russia? Hmmmm.

In the book “Fear” (released today) there are some interesting quotes. Three weeks before the presidential election, Steve Bannon told Kushner that the campaign needed $50 million from Trump. Kushner balked saying “He’ll never do it,” and adding “He doesn’t have a lot of cash.” So Bannon and Kushner told Trump that they needed $25 million. Trump responded “No way. Fuck that. I’m not doing it.”

Remember that Trump promised that he would self-fund his campaign. I guess that was another lie. In the end, Trump made a $10 million loan to his campaign, to be repaid using the small cash donations that were coming in from his supporters.

In addition, the founder of Fusion GPS (who commissioned the famous dossier by Christopher Steele) told Congress that the Trump organization must have some outside funding because “he doesn’t have enough money to do this and that he would have had to have outside financial support for these things.”

So where is this money coming from? The one thing I hope (and expect) the Democrats will do if/when they take over either the House or the Senate is to launch an investigation into Trump’s finances, including getting Trump’s income tax returns. Trump has a bad habit of giving himself away, and he has repeatedly said that investigating his personal finances is off limits. What is he trying to hide?


© Drew Sheneman

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Why people talk to Bob Woodward

Stephen Colbert asks Bob Woodward a question (in detail) that lots of us have been curious about, which is “How in the world does Bob Woodward get people to spill their guts to him?”

Continued:

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Climate War!

The Republican party has lurched from claiming that climate change doesn’t exist (including Trump’s claim that it is a Chinese hoax), to admitting that it does exist but that it is not caused by humans, to just attacking it as a job killer. What they are really doing is “picking winners and losers” by trying to prop up old failing technologies like coal. Why? Because it gets them cold, hard cash in the form of campaign contributions from fossil-fuel energy companies (who may be failing, but still have donations to throw around).

So they go negative and pull out of the Paris climate accords, reverse anti-pollution regulations, and try to kill sustainable energy initiatives.

You know, the same kind of strategy they are executing to kill Obamacare to keep the health insurance companies making money so they can donate contributions. It is a cynical strategy that obviously won’t work over the long term (like giving tax breaks to the wealthy), but they don’t care as long as it gets them their money fix.

Unfortunately for them, even their claim that fighting climate change will be a “job killer” is a big lie. A new report from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate points out something important that should be fairly obvious: a war against climate change will create jobs, not kill them.

After all, it was World War II that finally got us out of the great depression. War stimulates the economy. But not just real wars, but virtual ones too. Like the space race (part of the cold war) ushered in the age of computers and cell phones. One can only imagine that if something like this were happening now, the Republicans would be campaigning to save land-line phones and all those jobs manufacturing slide rules.

The report points out that fighting climate change would provide economic benefits of $26 trillion by 2030, and create more than 65 million new jobs worldwide. And unlike a real war, a war against climate change would prevent 700,000 premature deaths.

There is plenty of evidence that fighting climate change would generate jobs. After all, the coal industry, which Trump is fighting so hard to save, employed only 160,119 Americans in 2016, while the solar energy industry employed 373,807 Americans — more than twice as many. And that doesn’t include other sustainable energy industries, like wind (101,738) and bioenergy (130,677). These numbers come from a report from the US Department of Energy.

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A man of Auction

Congressman Billy Long (R-MO) has a unique way to shut down right wing-nuts when they start to blather.

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Jimmy Kimmel Knows Who Wrote NY Times Op-Ed on Trump

Apparently, Washington (and everywhere else) is going crazy trying to figure out who wrote the bombshell anonymous op-ed published in the NY Times.

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