Tax Bill Lets Trump and Republicans Feather Their Own Nests – The New York Times

“To understand the cynicism and mendacity underlying the Republican tax bill, look no further than a provision that would benefit President Trump and other property tycoons that is in the final legislation Congress is expected to vote on this week.

The provision would allow people who make money from real estate to take a 20 percent deduction on income they earn through limited liability companies, partnerships and other so-called pass-through entities that do not pay the corporate tax. The beneficiaries would also include members of Congress like Senator Bob Corker, who last week decided he would vote for the bill even though Republican leaders did nothing to address his concerns about an exploding federal deficit.

The biggest winners would be people like Mr. Trump, his family and similarly advantaged developers who make tens or hundreds of millions of dollars every year on swanky office towers and luxurious apartment buildings. An earlier version of the bill passed by the Senate provided a 23 percent deduction but put limits on its use that would prevent wealthy developers from profiting from it. The House version would simply have reduced the rate at which pass-through income is taxed.”

DL: Much uglier than simply pigs at a trough.

A Tax Plan to Turbocharge Inequality- in 3 Charts – by David Leonhardt – NYT

“The Republican tax bill is an audacious attempt to accelerate the economic trends of the last half-century.If you’re a fan of these trends — rapidly rising inequality and stagnant middle-class incomes — you should love the bill. If you’re not a fan, you can at least take comfort in knowing that you’re in the majority of Americans, as polls consistently show.

Over the last few decades, the rich have not only enjoyed the largest pre-tax raises, by far. They have also received big tax cuts. The middle class and poor, meanwhile, have suffered from slow-growing incomes — and from overall tax rates that are higher today than in the mid-1960s.The first part of that story is widely known. The rich have gotten richer, for a whole variety of reasons.”

DL: Great piece. It looks like this tax plan will help progressive environmentalist and their friends on the left, to take over congress in the next, or next couple of elections.

And exellent comments, such as:

Ron Cohen

is a trusted commenter Waltham, MA 17 hours ago

Contempt for the poor and middle class starts with Republican donors, the very rich. Why do the rich care so much? After all the tax cuts are modest relative to their immense wealth. Is it really about money? Or is it something deeper, more visceral, a need to dominate and impoverish everyone else?

The great English historian, R.H. Tawney, in his magisterial work, “Religion and the Rise of Capitalism” (1926), tells us that by the mid 1600’s, most English Puritans saw in poverty “not a misfortune to be pitied and relieved, but a moral failing to be condemned, and in riches, not an object of suspicion … but the blessing which rewards the triumph of energy and will.”

This ideal of individual morality, derived from Calvin, has been with us ever since. But it has surfaced with renewed zeal in our time, with men like the Koch bothers, Robert Mercer, Art Pope and Sheldon Adelson determined to spend whatever it takes to replace democracy as we know it—a leveling force—with a fascistic, plutocratic model of government.

For these billionaires, however, religion is not the motivator. Rather, it’s how they see themselves, their self image, that drives their lust for power, their need to dominate. They are the “makers,” deserving, while the rest of us are “takers,” undeserving and cadging off their efforts. Identity politics isn’t just for Democrats anymore.

For a penetrating interpretation, see George Monbiot’s short but defining piece in The Guardian:

Ed Schwab

Alexandria, VA 13 hours ago

One way to deal with the problems of Social Security and the high payroll taxes is by recycling taxes that many Social Security recipients pay on their benefits. AS you may know, many social security beneficiaries pay no taxes on their benefits. However, there are many like me who pay quite a bit. My wife and I pay about $7,000 a year.

SS benefits are taxed only when recipients receive more in retirement income from other sources than they receive in SS benefits. Taxes are paid under a complex formula from 0% to 80% depending on how SS income compares to other retirement income. My pension income is about 20 times my SS benefit. That means I and my wife pay income taxes on 80% (the max percentage) on our SS benefits.

I don’t mind paying that amount, but I object to where it goes. It goes into the general fund just like other taxes. It seems to me that the better way would be to recycle it into social security. There are millions of us who pay taxes on our social security. The problems of the fund would be relieved a lot if our taxes went back to social security rather than into the general fund. When my wife and I pay back almost 20% of what we get to the government, it seems like that money should go to replenish the SS fund.

NYT Pick


Upstate New York 5 hours ago

This tax bill for the rich is so appalling. Not only have payroll taxes not been addressed, but also every person will lose the personal exemption of $4,100 for themselves and for every member in their household.

It doesn’t matter that the standard deduction has doubled to $24,000 because if you are a family of three, you lose $12,300 in person exemptions. Therefore, doubling the standard deduction is a wash. But, if you’re a family of four or more, chances are very good you will pay more in taxes.

Why hasn’t the media explained to the public this MAJOR lose of the personal exemption of $4,100 per person? This vital fact has been ignored. Most middle class people will gain nothing. In fact, most of us will pay more. And every additional dollar we pay will go in the pockets of the 1%.

This tax bill is so shameful and such a sham.


How Republicans Learned to Sell Tax Cuts for the Rich – by Isaac Martin – NYT

“If anyone still believed that the Republican Party had become a party of economic populism, the tax bill that the party is set to pass in Congress will burst their bubble. This bill raises taxes on the poor and cuts taxes on the rich. Most of the American people disapprove.

Senate Republicans negotiated in secret at top speed, and then passed the bill at 1:50 a.m. on a Saturday, as if to minimize public scrutiny. The original American populists were the men and women of the Populist Party who demanded open government and income taxes on the rich; this tax bill is exactly the sort of thing that made them howl in outrage.But the Republican tax strategy has roots in the American populist tradition, too. That strategy is to disregard experts and rile up the base with tax policy arguments that would not survive professional scrutiny.

Populists did this on behalf of the poor. But the man who first put this strategy to work for rich people was Andrew Mellon, the millionaire who became secretary of the Treasury after World War I. Poor veterans of the war were clamoring for expensive public benefits. Rich men wanted their income taxes rolled back.Mellon squared the circle by inventing a supply-side argument: Cutting income tax rates would actually increase tax revenues. In particular, he said, cutting the top income tax rates would encourage rich people to pull their money out of tax shelters and invest in creating jobs. Or, as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said of the current Republican tax plan, cutting income taxes “will pay for itself with growth.” “

For Russian ‘Trolls=’ Instagram’s Pictures Can Spread Wider Than Words – The New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO — The enduring popularity of a provocative post on Instagram, created by a company with connections to the Kremlin, demonstrates why fighting propaganda on social media will be an uphill battle.

The photograph in the post, of a smiling woman wearing a black hijab, seems innocent. But the text around it was crafted to push buttons. This is a woman, readers are warned, who hates everything from Jews and Christians to lesbians and wine — yet she “complains about Islamophobia.”

Since it was posted on Nov. 8, the image has been “liked” by more than 6,000 people on Instagram, the image-sharing site owned by Facebook. What those people probably did not know was that it was created by the Internet Research Agency, or I.R.A., a so-called Russian troll farm that employed hundreds to influence discussions online by stirring debate in comment sections below online stories and creating provocative posts on social media.

The account where the post first appeared was banned by Instagram this year, but other accounts continue to spread the image.

via For Russian ‘Trolls,’ Instagram’s Pictures Can Spread Wider Than Words – The New York Times

David Lindsay Jr.

Hamden, CT 

Thank you SHEERA FRENKEL for bringing this problem of Fake News on Instagram to our attention. It is sickening, but it is also a very serious problem. This country has to figure out how to have a free and open press, but not one coopted by foreign powers, hate groups and the purveyors of fake news. Please keep us posted as to whether Intagram takes this problem seriously, and is all it should to fix this problem.

David Lindsay Jr is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth-century Vietnam”.

How to Cut the Cord and Stream TV – Watching Guides – The New York Times

“Television has changed remarkably over the past few years. It might be time for your viewing habits to change as well. Unless you enjoy paying more than $100 a month for a cable or satellite subscription you only half-use, you’re likely considering joining the growing ranks of consumers who have “cut the cord” and are now getting their favorite TV shows, movies and even live sports through the internet and streaming services. Making this change requires some preparation, though. Here’s a step-by-step guide to the cord-cutting process. And once you’re set up, hop on over to The New York Times’s site Watching for personalized movie and TV series recommendations.”

The Omen of Alabama – By Charles Blow – NYT

“The political winds are shifting with all the subtlety of a hurricane.Doug Jones’s defeat of Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate special election is yet the latest signal that the accommodators of Donald Trump, those who have normalized and bolstered him, the gutless, schismatic conservatives who abandoned principle to follow a pariah, will have hell to pay in 2018.Yes, Roy Moore was defeated, but it can never be fully erased from history or memory that he was endorsed by this president and supported by the Republican National Committee. All of Roy Moore’s sins are their sins, and they will wear that scarlet R straight into the midterms.We should also note that Jones didn’t win by a landslide. The margin was thin as a rail. Moore still won the Republican vote and the white vote and, yes, the “white born-again Christian” vote. These people contorted their faith to support a man accused of unthinkable transgressions.They made a mockery of Christian faith and moral fidelity. But as the Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians, “God is not mocked.”The Resistance is marching on, emboldened, with a strategy and proof that the strategy can work.The Alabama election has demonstrated once again that resisters aren’t just angry; they are motivated and insistent that the past will not defeat the future.”

Thank you Charles Blow. Let’s work harder, and win our country back, and preserve the environment for future generations.

Democrats Are Walking Into a Trumpian Trap – by Brett Stephens – NYT

“Take a walk with me, dear reader, into the yard, down the street — anywhere, really, just so that we can step outside of our house of outrage. It’s a roomy house, with space for everyone from woke progressives to disillusioned conservatives. It’s a good house, filled with people united in a just and defiant cause. It’s a harmonious house, thrumming with the sound of people agreeing vigorously.

And lately, we’ve started to believe we’re … winning.

We breathed relief Tuesday night when Roy Moore went down to his well-earned political death, like Jack Nicholson’s Joker at the end of Batman. We roared when Robert Mueller extracted a guilty plea from a cooperative Michael Flynn, and the investigative noose seemed to tighten around Donald Trump’s neck. We cheered when Democrat Ralph Northam trounced Ed Gillespie after the Republican took the low road with anti-immigrant demagogy.

It’s all lining up. Democrats have an 11-point edge over Republicans in the generic congressional ballot. The president’s approval rating is barely scraping 37 percent. Nearly six in 10 Americans say the United States is on the “wrong track.” Isn’t revenge in 2018 starting to taste sweet — and 2020 even sweeter?

Don’t bet on it. Democrats are making the same mistakes Republicans made when they inhabited their own house of outrage, back in 1998.”

David Lindsay Jr.

Hamden, CT 

Mr Stephens, you have the mouth of Saruman. The top commentors are all better at historical recollection than you. They can dispell your ugly spells. Reading your dreadful, false comparisons, put a profound chill in me. But Charles Blow followed, with his hurricane wind Patronus, and the chill evaporated.

Mike Lancaster, PA 4 hours ago
Before we go back to 1998, let’s clear up a few things about the present.

The Russian government meddled in our elections. The deputy attorney general ordered the special counsel, not the “president’s opponents.” The counsel’s investigation is not a “political bet” — it was ordered to look into the election interference and the complex ties to the Trump campaign. The investigation is a worthwhile effort, regardless of whether democrats or republicans feel “vindicated” at the end.

Sixteen women have accused Donald Trump of sexual misconduct. Being outraged and calling on Trump to resign are reasonable, regardless of the challenges in removing him from office.

Nearly every day, our president attacks the free press, lies and appears to have little understanding of our branches of government, their importance or the policies he supports. Any effort to hold him accountable is worthwhile. regardless of how strong the economy is.

Reply 845 Recommended

sdavidc9 is a trusted commenter Cornwall Bridge, Connecticut 6 hours ago
The outrage at Clinton was largely invented. Aside from some bad sexual habits, he was a competent politician who managed to get things done in spite of a determined, resourceful, and unscrupulous opposition. Getting his political enemies to work with him, he got the deficit under control and established constraints to keep it that way, accomplishments that were immediately shredded by dubya.

The outrage at Trump does not need to be invented. He risks the planet’s future, shreds our alliances, rubs salt in our national divisions of gender and race, knows very little about issues or how government works and does not care to learn, establishes and feeds an alternate fact-free universe, shuts the government down in many areas by not staffing it with leaders, and pours the stimulus of deficit spending on an economy already running at full speed. He is a plutocrat and does not believe in most of our fundamental values.

Trump is not afraid of bankruptcy. He made it work for him, and he probably thinks he can make it work for the country if the economy falters.

The robust economy means that more people will have jobs, but large chunks of their income will go to health care, cable bills, and other costs that are not controlled by government or by real competition. The fruits of the robust economy are going to those at the top.

Trump supporters are not rationale economic men for whom growth and inflation rates are important.

Reply 646 Recommended

Kevin Rothstein is a trusted commenter Somewhere East of the GWB 6 hours ago
Well, Brett, you are correct, at least in theory.

But Trump is no Clinton.

And 1998 is not 2018.

And we all know what happened in the years following 1998.

So, maybe you are right, and maybe, if history does not repeat itself, it often rhymes.

But Clinton was very popular among the masses; Trump is not.

Clinton did not assault our senses on a daily basis; Trump belongs in an asylum.

The electorate is also different than in 1998, and subject to the inevitable attrition of my generation, who actually care what an arcane index is on a daily basis, and giving way to our children’s and grandchildren’s generation, who are just trying to get by.

So, we will soon see if greed “trumps” basic common decency once again; if irrational exuberance and short-term economic growth overrules common sense.

If we choose to forget the past, then we are doomed, and deserve our fate.

FlagReply 541 Recommended

The Global Economy Is Partying Like It’s 2008 – By DESMOND LACHMAN – NYT

“In late 2008, at a meeting with academics at the London School of Economics, Queen Elizabeth II asked why no one seemed to have anticipated the world’s worst financial crisis in the postwar period. The so-called Great Recession, which had begun in late 2008 and would run until mid-2009, was set off by the sudden collapse of sky-high prices for housing and other assets — something that is obvious in retrospect but that, nevertheless, no one seemed to see coming.

Are we about to make the same mistake? All too likely, yes. Certainly, the American economy is doing well, and emerging economies are picking up steam. But global asset prices are once again rising rapidly above their underlying value — in other words, they are in a bubble. Considering the virtual silence among economists about the danger they pose, one has to wonder whether in a year or two, when those bubbles eventually burst, the queen will not be asking the same sort of question.”

via The Global Economy Is Partying Like It’s 2008 – The New York Times

David Lindsay: It is probably time to raise the cash you need for the next few years.

Can Whale Snot and Artificial Intelligence Save Our Oceans? (Paid Post by Intel From The New York Times)

Whales are awesome. We have to do what ever it takes to prevent their dying out. There are great pictures and videos and an interesting story in this Intel post.

“The crew members of the Glacier Seal squint lightly as they scan the surface of Alaska’s Frederick Sound. Just a few hundred yards from their ship, the huge gray mass of a humpback whale is breaking the surface with a percussive burst, sending a fine mist into the air as it breathes for the first time in 20 minutes. This is the moment they have been waiting for.
The group is a union of engineers, scientists and conservation experts who are developing new methods for studying these giant animals. They’re part of a collaboration between Intel and Parley for the Oceans, an environmental organization where creators, thinkers and leaders join to raise awareness of the beauty and fragility of the world’s oceans — and work on strategies to end their destruction. Together, they’re starting in this remote coastal region of Southeast Alaska where they’ll test novel tools for fieldwork: a system of high-tech aerial drones and artificial intelligence software from Intel, all of which is affectionately called SnotBot. The team will use these tools to both track the whales remotely and take samples of the snot they blow out when taking a breath (hence its name). In the process, they hope to gauge the health of the cetaceans and the oceans they live in.”

via Can Whale Snot and Artificial Intelligence Save Our Oceans? (Paid Post by Intel From The New York Times)

Rwanda Accuses France of Complicity in 1994 Genocide – The New York Times

“KIGALI, Rwanda — The Rwandan government released an independent report on Wednesday accusing French officials of complicity in the 1994 genocide, risking further strains to already icy relations between the two countries.

The report, commissioned by the Rwandan government and conducted by a Washington law firm, alleges that French military forces trained their Rwandan counterparts, supplied them with weapons even after an arms embargo, and gave cover, under the auspices of a United Nations-sanctioned humanitarian mission, in the last moments of a genocidal campaign.

Researchers and the Rwandan government say they cannot get France to make good on earlier commitments to fully open its archives or otherwise investigate the country’s role.

“What happened in the early ’90s and even before, in the lead-up to the genocide, is something France will have to come to terms with,” said Louise Mushikiwabo, the foreign minister of Rwanda. “Rwanda is not going away. We’re not going anywhere.”

Archival documents show that the French government was a close ally of the Rwandan regime that planned and perpetrated the mass slaughter of an estimated 800,000 people, most of them members of the Tutsi ethnic minority. Historians say a son of François Mitterrand, the French president at the time, was also a close friend of the Rwandan leader whose government organized the genocide.”

via Rwanda Accuses France of Complicity in 1994 Genocide – The New York Times

For excellent reading on the genocide in Burundi and Rwanda, I recommend Strength In What Remains, by Tracy Kidder.     From;

“The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of the modern classics Mountains Beyond Mountains and The Soul of a New Machine returns with the extraordinary true story of a young man and his will to survive.

In this remarkable book, New York Times bestselling author Tracy Kidder once again delivers the masterful story of a hero for these modern times.

Deo grew up in the mountains of Burundi, and survived a civil war and genocide before seeking a new life in America. In New York City he lived homeless in Central Park before finding his way to Columbia University. But Deo’s story really begins with his will to turn his life into something truly remarkable; he returns to his native country to help people there, as well as people in the United States.

An extraordinary writer, Kidder has the remarkable ability to show us what it means to be fully human, and to tell the unadorned story of a life based on hope. Riveting and inspiring, this may be his most magnificent work to date. Strength in What Remains is a testament to the power of will and friendship, and of the endurance of the soul.”