The Best Way to Spur Growth? Help the Poor- Not the Rich – by Peter Coy – Bloomberg Businessweek

“Trickle-down economics” is a term liberals use when they want to disparage tax cuts for the rich. So on Nov. 9, when Fox News anchor Maria Bartiromo asked Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin at an Economic Club of New York luncheon, “Do you still believe in trickle-down economics?” the prudent answer was obvious: “Of course not, Maria. That’s not what the Republican tax plan is about at all.”

Instead, Mnuchin said, “Uh, uh, I do.”

To be sure, Mnuchin is gaffe-prone. He was last spotted on Nov. 15 happily gripping a big sheet of uncut dollar bills while his wife, actress Louise Linton, struck a Cruella de Vil pose beside him. As the journalist Michael Kinsley once said, a gaffe is when a politician tells the truth. And the truth is that Republicans have gone all in on the notion that if they pour tax cuts onto the very rich, the benefits will flow down to the mere rich, and from them to the middle class, and finally to the poor. Like a Champagne tower at a swanky wedding reception.

There’s a reason trickle-down is suddenly trickling from everyone’s lips. The Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center calculates that the Senate’s version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act would give the biggest benefits to people just below the top 1 percent of incomes in 2019 and 2025, measuring benefits as the percentage change in each group’s after-tax income. By 2027, as some of the law’s provisions expire and others remain, the top 0.1 percent would be the biggest beneficiaries, the center says. (To be fair, this preliminary calculation doesn’t take into account potential economic growth effects from the tax changes.)”

Source: The Best Way to Spur Growth? Help the Poor, Not the Rich – Bloomberg

David Lindsay:

I love Paul Krugman, because he can make complicated economics understandable. Peter Coy has that ability, and here he does a fine job of deciphering one of the right wing’s great canards.

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Opinion | The Democrats’ Midterm Dilemma – by Ross Douthat – NYT

“One of the few people to really see Donald Trump coming was the University of Chicago economist Luigi Zingales, who warned way back in 2011 that American politics was going the way of his native Italy, that we could easily produce our own version of Silvio Berlusconi, and that Trump was an obvious candidate to bottle the celebrity-populist-outsider cocktail.

So Zingales’s advice to Democrats after their 2016 defeat carried more weight than the average act of punditry. On the evidence of Berlusconi’s many victories and rare defeats, he argued, the best way to beat Trump was to do exactly what many liberals understandably didn’t want to do — to essentially normalize him, to treat him “as an ordinary opponent” rather than an existential threat, to focus on issues rather than character debates, to deny him both the public carnival and the tone of outraged hysteria in which his brand of politics tends to thrive.”

I haven’t forgiven Ross yet for his creepy column supporting right to life laws in Ireland, that have caused great pain and suffering to the poor and middle classes of Ireland. See Maureen Dowd’s report that same Sunday.

But his basic warning here is sound and important. “So Zingales’s advice to Democrats after their 2016 defeat carried more weight than the average act of punditry. On the evidence of Berlusconi’s many victories and rare defeats, he argued, the best way to beat Trump was to do exactly what many liberals understandably didn’t want to do — to essentially normalize him, to treat him “as an ordinary opponent” rather than an existential threat, to focus on issues rather than character debates, to deny him both the public carnival and the tone of outraged hysteria in which his brand of politics tends to thrive.” “

A Sweeping Plan to Fix the Subways Comes With a $19 Billion Price Tag – The New York Times

By Emma G. Fitzsimmons
May 22, 2018
124 “A sweeping proposal to overhaul New York City’s subway and improve the broader transit system is expected to cost more than $19 billion, according to two people who were briefed on Tuesday, and goes far beyond the emergency repair plan that was unveiled last summer after the subway fell into crisis.The proposal by the subway’s new leader, Andy Byford, will be announced on Wednesday in a highly anticipated presentation before the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s board.

Mr. Byford has warned that the subway needs major upgrades to reverse its precipitous slide and the work will require short-term pain for millions of subway riders. His plan will focus on speeding up the rollout of a new signal system to replace the subway’s current antiquated equipment, according to the two people who were briefed on the plan on Tuesday and did not want to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly.”

Stacey Abrams Makes History With Georgia Win | The Last Word | MSNBC – YouTube

Making history, or making a mistake? I don’t know this candidate yet, and thought the other woman might be more moderate, and therefore more likely to succeed in Georgia.
In this victory speech, she is well spoken, articulate and confident.

Opinion | Neal Katyal: Can’t Indict a President? That Could Hurt Trump – The New York Times

“Everything having to do with President Trump and Russia, whether it is Mr. Trump’s demand for an investigation into the investigation by the special counsel Robert Mueller, or whether Mr. Trump will testify, requires an answer to one essential background question: Can Mr. Mueller seek to indict the president?

Last week, the president’s new lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, claimed Mr. Mueller had concluded the answer was no. And Mr. Giuliani went even further, asserting the president has so much constitutional immunity that he could not even be subpoenaed to testify about what he knows and did. Such statements are dangerously incomplete and tremendously misleading. And the ultimate loser here is not just the American people, but also perhaps Mr. Trump himself.

Begin with the basics. An indictment — a formal accusation that someone has committed a crime — can be brought only by a prosecutor working either in the federal or state system. Mr. Mueller is one such prosecutor. But even if Mr. Mueller has the goods on Mr. Trump, two barriers remain before he may indict him. First, some constitutional scholars believe a sitting president cannot be indicted. And second, two Department of Justice opinions, dating back to the Nixon and Clinton administrations, side with this view. From that vantage point, it looks as if Mr. Giuliani’s report about what Mr. Mueller said appears plausible.

But there are deep problems here. For one thing, the scholars who believe that a sitting president cannot be indicted always couple that belief with the insistence that the remedy for a president who commits a crime is to impeach him first (so he is no longer “sitting” and could then be indicted). Otherwise, a president would be above the law; he could, say, shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and face no legal process whatsoever. For that reason, the “can’t indict a sitting president” view is necessarily dependent on Congress having all of the information necessary to conduct thorough impeachment proceedings.”

DL: You should read the whole thing, but the main part is what follows, the 2nd half of the essay:

“The mishmash of bad constitutional arguments being floated by Mr. Trump has to cause Mr. Mueller concern. And that is why Mr. Giuliani’s story that Mr. Mueller’s team told him that Mr. Trump cannot be indicted seems at best incomplete. It is true that the special counsel regulations (which I drafted in 1999 for the Justice Department) generally require the special counsel to obey Justice Department policy. And it is also true that Justice Department policy is that a sitting president cannot be indicted. But the regulations contemplate that a special counsel could, in appropriate circumstances, depart from Justice Department policy.

The regulations had to be written that way. Those of us who created them could not foresee all the possible permutations of law and facts that would unfold in the years to come. If congressional leadership, for example, was in criminal cahoots with the president, no one would want the special counsel to be powerless to indict or to report information to the full Congress for impeachment.

Accordingly, the regulations permitted the special counsel to seek a departure from Justice Department policy, by going to the acting attorney general (in this case, Rod Rosenstein) and requesting it. The idea was that if responsibility for decision-making was vested in Justice Department leadership, decisions to protect the rule of law were more likely to be made. And as a safeguard against wrongdoing by Justice Department leadership, the regulations require transparency in the process: If the acting attorney general refuses a special counsel request, he must notify the majority and minority parties in Congress.

In this way, the regulations put a thumb on the scale in favor of having Mr. Mueller seek an indictment if he finds evidence of criminal wrongdoing by Mr. Trump. Unlike the Independent Counsel Act, a predecessor to the special counsel regulations that required the prosecutor to write a detailed final report to Congress, the regulations require only a substantive report when the acting attorney general overrules the special counsel. The acting attorney general is free to write one otherwise, but the only way Mr. Mueller can ensure such a report is written is to make a request that is overruled.

All of this explains why Mr. Giuliani’s story that Mr. Mueller has concluded he cannot indict a sitting president seems implausible and incomplete. It is far more likely that Mr. Mueller has concluded that Justice Department policy currently forbids such a step, but that he has a path forward toward seeking indictment if he believes it warranted. And Mr. Trump, whose Justice Department has, with his blessing, repeatedly overruled longstanding Justice Department positions at an unheard-of rate, is in no position to complain if Mr. Rosenstein overrules these two old opinions. Of course, if Mr. Rosenstein refuses to overrule them, he would still be creating a record that Congress may use as it considers impeachment.

Thus the various pieces of the constitutional and regulatory scheme work together: If indictment is off the table, then impeachment must be on it; and (perhaps in a future setting) if impeachment is off the table because of nefarious congressional activity, then indictment must be on it. That is the genius of our system, and the only way to ensure we remain a government of laws which no one is above.”

Neal K. Katyal (@neal_katyal), an acting solicitor general in the Obama administration, is a law professor at Georgetown and a partner at Hogan Lovells.

Dovey Johnson Roundtree- Barrier-Breaking Lawyer- Dies at 104 – By Margalit Fox – NYT

By Margalit Fox,   May 21, 2018

“The jurors were looking at her when they filed into court. That, Dovey Johnson Roundtree knew, could have immense significance for her client, a feebleminded day laborer accused of one of the most sensational murders of the mid-20th century.

Little had augured well for that client, Raymond Crump Jr., during his eight-day trial in United States District Court in Washington: Mr. Crump, who had been found near the crime scene, was black and poor. The victim was white, glamorous and supremely well connected. The country, in the summer of 1965, seethed with racial tension amid the surging civil rights movement.

Federal prosecutors had amassed a welter of circumstantial evidence — including 27 witnesses and more than 50 exhibits — to argue that on Oct. 12, 1964, Mr. Crump had carried out the execution-style shooting of Mary Pinchot Meyer, a Washington socialite said to have been a former lover of President John F. Kennedy.

By contrast, Ms. Roundtree, who died on Monday at 104, had chosen to present just three witnesses and a single exhibit to the jury, which comprised men and women, blacks and whites. Her closing argument was only 20 minutes long.”

David Lindsay:

Amazing story, about possibly one of  the most extraordinary Americans I’ve never heard of.  Margalit Fox has written a fine report, which includes:

““As a woman, and as a woman of color in an age when black lawyers had to leave the courthouse to use the bathrooms, she dared to practice before the bar of justice and was unflinching,” Katie McCabe, the co-author of Ms. Roundtree’s memoir, “Justice Older Than the Law,” said in an interview for this obituary in 2016. “She was a one-woman Legal Aid Society before people used that term.”

So there is a biography already, I hope there will be a movie.

Opinion | A Blue Wave of Moral Restoration – by Charles Blow – NYT

“Donald Trump’s approval rating is rising. The Democratic advantage on survey questions about party preference for control of Congress is vanishing. Liberal anxiety about the fate of the midterms — and I would venture, the country itself — is rising.

To all this, I say: Calm down.

Not relax. Not rest easy. Not coast. But stay the course and don’t panic. Work hard, message well and bring your passion — and a few neighbors and friends — to the polls in November.

If voters do that, as they have already done in special elections, signs are positive for a major realignment in Washington.

As a CNN analysis last month said: “These results suggest that the Republican Party is in trouble heading into the midterm elections. If past trends hold, it is possible Democrats could see a double- digit swing in the average House district in 2018 compared with past elections.” “

David Lindsay:  Yes, thank you Charles Blow. Here is my favorite comment:
Socrates
Downtown Verona. NJ1h ago
And if you don’t believe Charles Blow, because he may not be your cup of tea, then consider the words of former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson – who had a front row seat to Donald’s moral, intellectual and economic bankruptcy show – at yesterday’s commencement address at the Virginia Military Institute.

“If our leaders seek to conceal the truth, or we as people become accepting of alternative realities that are no longer grounded in facts, then we as American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom”

“When we as people, a free people, go wobbly on the truth even on what may seem the most trivial matters, we go wobbly on America”

“If we do not as Americans confront the crisis of ethics and integrity in our society and among our leaders in both the public and private sector — and regrettably at times even the nonprofit sector — then American democracy as we know it is entering its twilight years”

“One of America’s great advantages is we have many allies. Our adversaries — China, Russia, Iran and the terrorist organizations — have few.”

“We must never take these long-held allies for granted. We must motivate and strengthen them — not just in our areas of complete agreement, but particularly in bridging our differences both in trading relations and in national security matters.”

Lying for a living is a socio-political cancer that the Liar-In-Chief and the Grand Old Prevaricators have injected into American democracy.

Reject it with force on November 6 2018.

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Code Name Crossfire Hurricane: The Secret Origins of the Trump Investigation – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — Within hours of opening an investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia in the summer of 2016, the F.B.I. dispatched a pair of agents to London on a mission so secretive that all but a handful of officials were kept in the dark.

Their assignment, which has not been previously reported, was to meet the Australian ambassador, who had evidence that one of Donald J. Trump’s advisers knew in advance about Russian election meddling. After tense deliberations between Washington and Canberra, top Australian officials broke with diplomatic protocol and allowed the ambassador, Alexander Downer, to sit for an F.B.I. interview to describe his meeting with the campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos.

The agents summarized their highly unusual interview and sent word to Washington on Aug. 2, 2016, two days after the investigation was opened. Their report helped provide the foundation for a case that, a year ago Thursday, became the special counsel investigation. But at the time, a small group of F.B.I. officials knew it by its code name: Crossfire Hurricane.

The name, a reference to the Rolling Stones lyric “I was born in a crossfire hurricane,” was an apt prediction of a political storm that continues to tear shingles off the bureau. Days after they closed their investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, agents began scrutinizing the campaign of her Republican rival. The two cases have become inextricably linked in one of the most consequential periods in the history of the F.B.I.”

David Lindsay Jr.:   Here is a comment I approved, and my reaction below it:

NM
Times Pick

“They said Ms. Page and others advocated a slower, circumspect pace, especially because polls predicted Mr. Trump’s defeat. They said that anything the F.B.I. did publicly would only give fodder to Mr. Trump’s claims on the campaign trail that the election was rigged.”
That’s reminiscent of James Comey recently saying that he must have envisioned Hillary Clinton winning the presidency and not wanting hand-wringing after the fact that they had not been forthright.
But coming public with only one candidate’s story is not being transparent. Moreover, the election outcome was not guaranteed and FBI pronouncements most certainly can sway public opinion. That’s why the Bureau is supposed to stay out of elections.
What happened with the FBI’s double standard was interference with our election and we continue to pay a price for Comey’s poor decision-making.

 

David Lindsay:
This is stomach turning. Comey should be indicted.

Opinion | Just Saying Yes to Drug Companies – by Paul Krugman – NYT

“Last week we learned that Novartis, the Swiss drug company, had paid Michael Cohen — Donald Trump’s personal lawyer — $1.2 million for what ended up being a single meeting. Then, on Friday, Trump announced a “plan” to reduce drug prices.

Why the scare quotes? Because the “plan” was mostly free of substance, controlled or otherwise. (O.K., there were a few ideas that experts found interesting, but they were fairly marginal.) During the 2016 campaign Trump promised to use the government’s power, including Medicare’s role in paying for prescription drugs, to bring drug prices down. But none of that was in his speech on Friday.

And if someone tries to convince you that Trump really is getting tough on drug companies, there’s a simple response: If he were, his speech wouldn’t have sent drug stocks soaring.

None of this should come as a surprise. At this point, “Trump Breaks Another of His Populist Promises” is very much a dog-bites-man headline. But there are two substantive questions here. First, should the U.S. government actually do what Trump said he would do, but didn’t? And if so, why haven’t we taken action on drug prices?”

Opinion | Renounce Nancy Pelosi- Ignore Donald Trump — and Win? – by Frank Bruni – NYT

“WAXHAW, N.C. — Does Conor Lamb strike twice?

Dan McCready certainly hopes so. Like Lamb, who won a special House election in Pennsylvania two months ago, McCready is a Democratic congressional candidate competing on steadfastly Republican, Donald Trump-friendly turf.

Like Lamb, he’s a veteran, he’s young and he’s brand new to politics. And like Lamb, he has exceeded expectations in a fashion that contributes mightily to Democrats’ hopes for a House majority after November. If McCready succeeds in North Carolina’s Ninth District, which has been represented by Republicans for the last 55 years, Democrats are in a good position to win big over all.

Success is no fantasy. In the primaries on Tuesday, McCready got more votes in a two-way contest on the Democratic side than all three candidates combined on the Republican side. What’s more, he’ll go head-to-head in the general election not against the Republican incumbent, Robert Pittenger, who lost his primary, but against a former pastor named Mark Harris with extremely conservative social views.

Several prognosticators just changed their rating of the race from “leans Republican” to “tossup,” and the veteran North Carolina Republican strategist Paul Shumaker, who worked for Pittenger, told me: “I would not be surprised if, come September or October, you don’t see it rated ‘leans Democratic’.”

That’s fascinating. But McCready’s race is also worth watching because of the questions it raises — and the answers it may provide — about how Democrats should run in districts that aren’t any hue of blue.”

David Lindsay: Thank you Frank Bruni. Best thing I read in the NYT Sunday Review yesterday. This is good news to my ears. Since I highlighted almost half of it, hopefully others will read the whole piece too.
Introducing Dan McCready, of North Carolina. “Does Connor Lamb strike twice?. . . . ”