Friday, September 29, 2017: The Fat Lady Is Singing
The Fascist state is now. All that's left is for the Republicans to bayonet the wounded. The last nine months have seen the dismantling of the Obama era protections and agreements. The work is ongoing to put the Federal Judiciary firmly in the hands of the alt-right and to replace any sitting senators or congress persons with ultra conservatives if the Republican incumbent fails to follow their fascist agenda.
First, after effectively blocking Obama judicial appointments, the Republicans are now in a position to seat their far right jurists in the Federal court system. Amy Coney Barrett is a prime example of the type of individual they are nominating. It is not that she is a Catholic, it is that she is a member of a small tightly knit Christian group called the People of Praise. The group's members must swear an oath of loyalty, called a covenant, to one another and are assigned and are accountable to a personal advisor, called a "head" for men and a "handmaid" for women. The group teaches that husbands are the heads of their wives and should take authority over the family. The group believes in prophecy, speaking in tongues and divine healing, staples of Pentecostal churches that some Catholics have also adopted in a movement called charismatic renewal. There are some indications that both Ms. Barrett and the People of Praise may have tried to obscure Ms. Barrett's membership in the group.
She is also a member of the conservative Federalist Society, a conduit for judicial nominees to the Trump White House. There are over 45,000 lawyers and law students involved in Federalist Society activities, and "every single federal judge" appointed by the two Presidents Bush "was either a member or approved by members of the society," including four Supreme Court justices: Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts and Samuel Alito. No surprise that Barrett clerked for Scalia. According to the society, "There are few factors that are more critical to determining the course of the nation, and yet more often overlooked, than the values and philosophies of . . . the federal judiciary." Note they do not say it's how well they interpret the law.
By all accounts, Ms. Barrett appears headed for confirmation to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago, a post one rung below the Supreme Court. She is often mentioned as a potential candidate for the high court, especially if Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg were to retire.
The second example is Roy Moore's primary win in Alabama for the senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions. This guy is the ultimate right wing nut job. Twice removed from the Alabama Supreme court, first for his refuse to remove a 2.6 ton monument of the ten commandments that he had installed in the state judicial building and second for ordering judges not to comply with the Supreme Court decision overturning bans on gay marriage. What Moore's critics see as lawlessness, his fans see as insurgent valor. Trump's most prominent nationalist supporters, including Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, lined up behind Moore, describing him as part of the Trumpian revolution. Nigel Farage, a right-wing British politician and Trump ally, flew to Fairhope, Ala., to speak at a rally for Moore, saying on stage, "It is getting someone like him elected that will rejuvenate the movement that led to Trump and Brexit."
Folks, we are on the same path as Nazis. Fritz Stern, a historian who fled Nazi Germany, described the "conservative revolution" that prefigured National Socialism: "The movement did embody a paradox: its followers sought to destroy the despised present in order to recapture an idealized past in an imaginary future."
Thursday, September 28, 2017: The Trump Tax Reform Plan – Another Load of Republican Cow Pies
Forget the bullshit spewing from the oval office, the only people who benefit from the Trump tax plan are the rich, which by the way, includes the Donald himself. (From the NYT, 9/28/17)
1. The Republican framework would eliminate the Federal Estate Tax (a.k.a. "the death tax"), which currently only applies to estates valued over $5.49 million. So let's look at who benefits from this. Analysts at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center found that after deductions and exemptions, about 5,460 estates would owe a tax, paying a combined estimated $20 billion. The argument that the Federal Estate tax penalizes farmers and small businesses disproportionately is also bullshit. Only 80 of the 5,460 estates are small businesses and farms and they would only pay "fifteen hundredths of 1 percent of the total estate tax revenue," according to the Tax Policy Center. The current population of the United States is 323,100,000. So the 5,460 people benefiting from the elimination of the Federal estate tax represent a measly .00169% of our total population.
2. The new plan also would repeal the alternative minimum tax, a parallel system of taxation that currently ensures that those who take deductions and try to exploit loopholes pay a minimum amount; it largely impacts people making between $200,000 and $1 million or only the top 3.65% of the American households.
3. Doubling the standard deduction will not amount to a tax cut for everyone. An "archetypical American family" – a married couple with two children – might actually see its overall deductible income decrease. That family can deduct $28,900 under the current tax code, but just $24,000 under the Republican plan. Taxpayers filing as the head of household are not mentioned in the plan, but if their deduction does not double or if the status is eliminated altogether, as Trump previously proposed, they, too, would see their deductions decrease. A single parent with one child, for example, can take $18,350 under the current tax code, but just $12,000 as a single filer under Trump's plan.
4. Cutting corporate tax rates only benefits the stockholder. None of that money is going to go to the workers. For years the corporate mantra has been "increasing shareholder value", and not "let's pay our workers more". That isn't going to change because Trump gives large corporations a tax windfall.
5. Small businesses taxation is not higher than other countries. The Republicans only talk about rates and not the other factors that actually determine taxes like the income level at which the marginal tax rates are applied. Also, most small businesses are treated as pass-throughs meaning they are taxed as the business owner's personal income and U.S. personal income tax rates are at the bottom end of O.E.C.D. countries, a group of 34 member democratic countries who support free market economies.
Last but not least, this tax plan will create a deficit in the trillions, so how does Trumpster plan to fill that hole? Well folks, here is where you get screwed again. Apparently the solution is for the Federal government to go deeper in debt. For years, Republican lawmakers lamented the soaring national debt, pressing for spending cuts and clinging to the mantle of fiscal responsibility. The Republicans talk about the tax and spend Democrats, but they think it is OK to borrow and spend. Federal debt held by the public is at the highest level since shortly after World War II, at 77 percent of the gross domestic product. This month, the majority of Republicans in the House and the Senate voted to raise the debt limit without doing anything to rein in spending.
Oh, and Republican lawmakers are pushing to increase military spending by tens of billions of dollars, topping even Mr. Trump's request for a beefed-up military while they ignore the needs of the American people for universal health care.
And yet to come – exploitation our natural resources, elimination of the protections for the American worker, reversal of the gains made against discrimination, more short-sighted nationalism, pollution of our air and water, denial of climate change, pissing off our allies, and at some point my friends, war with somebody.
Wednesday, September 27, 2017: The Road to Ruin Part II: Union Busting
On September 20th the Michigan Civil Service Commission approved a host of reforms that will significantly limit the collective bargaining rights of Michigan's 50,000 state employees. The changes are the most significant reforms to state worker collective bargaining rights since the Michigan Legislature passed the law making Michigan a "right-to-work" state.
The most egregious reform was to restore a clause known as the rules of general applicability, which gives the commissioners the power to impose changes on all employees, even if those changes conflict with he terms of the existing union contracts. The commissioners also expanded the list of issues over which employee unions cannot negotiate to include overtime and staff assignment procedures, performance pay and more. (Source: Detroit Free Press, September 21, 2017)
I am certain the Kochs and the DeVos family are behind the curtain on this. They have been the big money driving the Michigan Republican Party's effort to break unions. They know that if they break unions, they can drive down wages and benefits for all workers and change workplace rules to the benefit of the employer even if those changes impact the health and safety of their employees.
Their strategy has been to start with public employees and then move to pass laws that place the same restrictions on private sector unions. You have to wonder if there are goon squads waiting in the wings to enforce the new rules.
Thursday, September 21, 2017: The Road to Ruin Part I
I consider the State of Michigan to be one of the Republican petri dishes where the party tests all manner of social plagues they intend to inflict on the American people at both the state and federal level. Given that they control all three branches of state government in Michigan, they are able to easily push through state legislation that supports their fascist agenda. This post and the next will highlight examples.
This week in less that six hours after Michigan Senate Bills SB335-336 were sent to Governor Rick Snyder's desk, he signed the legislation into law. These bills immediately allow a candidate for office in Michigan to raise unlimited amounts of money for super PACs. The bills were fast tracked by the Michigan legislature with Michigan House of Representatives passing the bill with only one hour of committee debate.
The result is that we have blown the lid off Michigan's campaign finance limits thereby allowing the Kochs and the DeVos's to buy politicians and put a political strangle hold on the people of Michigan. As Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan, a Lansing-based liberal advocacy group, said "Today should show clearly what Republicans are up to and who they truly care about: increasing the power of corporate money in our elections on behalf of rich folks trying to get richer. This is not about free speech — this is about killing Michigan's democracy so that our elections go to the highest bidder."
Wednesday, September 20, 2017: The Republican Constituency
When a Republican politician refers to his/her "constituency", it is not the residents who live in his/her congressional district or state. No my friend, it is the rich and powerful donors that line his or her pockets. Thus, the reprehensible and amoral Republican attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Tuesday, September 5, 2017: The Act of a Consummate Coward
Cowardice is a trait wherein fear and excessive self-concern override doing or saying what is right, good, and of help to others. As a label, "cowardice" indicates a failure of character in the face of a challenge. (Wikipedia)
So Trump ends the "Dreamers" program and pushes the responsibility to act onto Congress in a pathetic and cowardly attempt to avoid alienating is ever dwindling number of supporters.
This asshole of a president would sacrifice 800,000 beneficiaries of the DACA program just so he can continue to get Nazi era salutes. The only positive aspect of his decision is that it continues to highlight how really sick he is.
I would not be surprised if Trump causes the American Psychiatric Association to rewrite the part of DSM5 that defines narcissism.