First Return Out

So Rachel Maddow had a HUGE announcement tonight that she had secured two pages of one of Trump’s tax returns, apparently leaked to MSNBC in violation of federal law. I didn’t watch her broadcast since I have a low tolerance for her smugness. I knew how it would go: twenty minutes of connect-the-dots condescending intro, a dud of a revelation and back-patting for the remainder. Well, I was right:

Donald Trump earned more than $150 million in the year 2005—and paid just a small percentage of that in regular federal income taxes. Daily Beast contributor David Cay Johnston has obtained what appear to be the first two pages of Trump’s 2005 federal income tax return, and published an analysis of those pages on his website, DCReport.org. The Daily Beast could not independently verify these documents.

The documents show Trump and his wife Melania paying $5.3 million in regular federal income tax—a rate of less than 4% However, the Trumps paid an additional $31 million in the “alternative minimum tax,” or AMT. Trump has previously called for the elimination of this tax.

This is less than a nothingburger. This almost makes Trump look good. So much so that almost everyone in my feeds think that Trump himself was the source of the leak (the White House responded almost instantaneously to the report). 2005 was the last year Trump has a big business deal, selling off two of his assets. It was also before several sources insist he became entangled with Russian interests.

A large segment of the Left, having realize what a dud this was, are now praising Maddow for “keeping the issue at the forefront”. Pfft. The issue was never a big deal for Trump’s supporters. I think we can now make the argument that Trump should release all of his tax returns. But that argument has not changed.

Thoughts on the CBO Scoring

I haven’t written much about the Republican healthcare plan because it’s fairly obvious that it’s never going to happen. Another nail was put in the coffin yesterday when the CBO released their analysis of the Republican healthcare plan. The bottom line is that it would cut spending by $800 billion over ten years, cut taxes by $500 billion over ten years but increase the number of uninsured by about 24 million through both cuts to Medicaid and the elimination of the insurance mandate. The reaction has been about what you’d expect: conservative touting the deficit reduction and downplaying the uninsured numbers; liberals doing the opposite and accusing Republicans of literally murdering people to get “tax cuts for the rich”.

A few thoughts on this:

First of all, I would take any projections about the number of insured with several large helpings of salt. This number is infamously difficult to project. The CBO previously overestimated how many people were going to enroll in the Obamacare exchanges to the tune of 8-10 million. A lot will depend on what’s happening with the economy, what the states do, etc.

In many ways, the GOP is being more honest here with their CBO analysis. As McArdle reminds us, the Democrats heavily gamed the CBO projections of Obamacare:

During the process of passing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or PPACA, many of us complained that Democrats were gaming the CBO process, tossing out desperate cuts and pay-fors over and over until they got the score they wanted, in much the way video-gamers try to kill a hard boss. They ended up jamming in a bunch of provisions that made Obamacare’s finances look sturdier than they were, but realistically, had no hope of ever taking effect (among my favorites: a never-never long-term care program, and a requirement that everyone in the country had to issue 1099s to anyone who sold them more than a few hundred dollars worth of stuff). We certainly can’t accuse Republicans of that!

They also phased in the tax hikes years ahead of the spending hikes so that it appeared to balance over ten years even though it was running a deficit by the end of the window.

Second, if you want to know why so many people despise the Left, check out the verbiage being used to describe this. The Republicans are “taking away” people’s health insurance and “giving” money to the rich. They are “stealing from the poor and giving to the rich”. This is “class warfare” of the rich against the poor. This is high-grade horse manure but unfortunately what passes for thought in Left Wing circles. You can’t “take away” something that you’re giving to people free of charge. And you can’t “give” money to people that is already theirs. A more accurate description is that the Republicans are taking less from the rich to give to the poor. That’s fair enough and if you think that it is the government’s job, fine. But please stop with this “taking from the poor and giving to the rich” line. It’s nonsense and a mangling of the English language.

Third, ignore any claims that the Republicans are literally killing people here. We were told, when Obamacare passed, that lack of health insurance killed 100,000 Americans every year. If that had been the case, we should have seen a big drop in mortality since the bill was passed. We haven’t (in fact, mortality has ticked up a bit). The benefits of Medicaid, in particular, are highly disputed.

Fourth, I have no idea, given the inevitable lashing the GOP will endure, why they’ve written the bill this way. Since they’re going to be accused of murdering people anyway, why go with Obamacare Light?

Finally, let’s not forget something important. It’s not like the Republicans are fixing a problem that doesn’t exist. The ACA is teetering, with insurance rates skyrocketing, insurers pulling out of the exchanges and the beginnings of a death spiral in the individual insurance market. The problem with the ACA is that it did nothing whatsoever to make insurance “affordable”. All it did was shift the burden around, taking money from one group of people to make insurance “affordable” for another. But the price of health insurance remained what the price of health insurance is. And since numerous people are deciding they would rather pay the fine than astronomical insurance rates, the system is on the brink of collapse.

The Republican plan, however, does not address this problem at all. If anything, it makes it worse, replacing the Obamacare tax with higher insurance premiums for those currently uninsured, thus making the death spiral even steeper. It’s simply a terrible idea, both financially and politically. Because if the Republicans pass this law and the Obamacare markets collapse, they will take the blame for it.

Many are suggesting that the Republicans should just let Obamacare collapse so that the Democrats take the blame. I’m dubious about this. First of all, I don’t like using millions of people’s healthcare coverage as some kind of political tool. Second, the Republicans will almost certainly be blamed anyway. In fact, many liberals are blaming Republicans right now for eliminating the risk corridors — the subsidies paid out to insurance companies to keep the exchanges afloat. That’s how bizarre politics has gotten — Democrats accusing Republicans of killing poor people by their refusal to subsidize some of the largest businesses in America. Either way, Republicans are going to be blamed for the mess that Obama has created. I don’t see that there’s a good option here. But passing the AHCA is certainly a worse option than doing nothing.

Ultimately, our efforts at healthcare reform continue to founder on the same rocks: Americans can’t make up their minds what they want. Every healthcare system in the world balances tradeoffs. Ours gives up universal coverage and affordability for quick response and rapid technological innovation. Socialized systems are universal and “free” but sacrifice availability and demand heavy taxation. What the voters seem to want is insurance where they can get all the care they want, see any doctor they want but not have to pay any money for it. That’s simply not going to happen. And until someone — Republican or Democrat — acknowledges that, we will continue to stumble from bad plan to bad plan.

Faster please!

Trump’s new proposed budget leaves no doubt he is reprioritizing government and downsizing it, which can’t happen fast enough for me, but has the chattering class and the nanny staters all in a tizzy, is out.

President Trump’s budget proposal this week would shake the federal government to its core if enacted, culling back numerous programs and expediting a historic contraction of the federal workforce.

This would be the first time the government has executed cuts of this magnitude — and all at once — since the drawdown following World War II, economists and budget analysts said.

The spending budget Trump is set to release Thursday will offer the clearest snapshot of his vision for the size and role of government. Aides say that the president sees a new Washington emerging from the budget process, one that prioritizes the military and homeland security while slashing many other areas, including housing, foreign assistance, environmental programs, public broadcasting and research. Simply put, government would be smaller and less involved in regulating life in America, with private companies and states playing a much bigger role.

The cuts Trump plans to propose this week are also expected to lead to layoffs among federal workers, changes that would be felt sharply in the Washington area. According to an economic analysis by Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Analytics, the reductions outlined so far by Trump’s advisers would reduce employment in the region by 1.8 percent and personal income by 3.5 percent, and lower home prices by 1.9 percent.

“These are not the kind of cuts that you can accommodate by tightening the belt one notch, by shaving a little bit off of a program, or by downsizing a few staff here or there,” said Robert Reischauer, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office. “These are cuts that would require a wholesale triage of a vast array of federal activities.”

All I hear is that he plans to roll back Leviathan, and then focus on government doing the things it is told are its responsibility in the constitution, but I am sure that the usual members of the vote-buying credentialed elite class, seeing their own lucrative scheme come under attack, will be howling in anger that this is happening. of course, I suspect – as the article points out – that Trump’s biggest challenge to get this done will come from the biggest bunch of freeloaders out there – congress:

Still, budget experts said it was unclear what the precise impact on many agencies might be because the departments could choose to implement reductions in a variety of ways.

Administration officials have also stressed that discussions are ongoing between budget officials and agencies, and that the size of the budget cuts remains fluid. Moreover, the cuts cannot take effect unless they are authorized by Congress, which could prove difficult. Lawmakers routinely rebuffed budget requests from President Barack Obama, leading instead to protracted negotiations between both sides.

Already, Democrats have vowed to fight Trump’s proposals, and some Republicans have also expressed unease at the size of the reductions.

The White House declined to comment publicly, but administration officials have signaled for weeks that large cuts will be part of the budget.

That the democrats – which have never seen either a government entity that is large enough or pisses away too much of the tax payer’s money on crap that adds no value but buy democrat politicians votes – would react to this plan like vampires would to holy water, holy symbols, or sunlight, was expected. But the added bonus here is that it will expose the democrat-light nanny staters in the republican establishment, for what they are. These politicians on the republican side need to stop acting like they care about fiscal responsibility and small government when they are no better than the democrats, and we need to know who they are so we can vote them out as well.

I hope he wins this fight and forces congress to show its hand. And I hope every budget that follows this one repeats the cycle. The best thing to prevent the current tyranny of the nanny state is a small government with little power outside of the duties the constitution allows it. A lot of our problems will fix themselves when you don’t have the political class, and an entire political party, selling favors with other people’s money.

BTW, for the people all confused by why suddenly after the democrats lost the election things like employment, consumer confidence, and future economic outlook are off the charts in positive territory, it is things like this that are driving that. People want less intrusive and abusive government, and most of us definitely want government out of the business of picking winners and losers.

No, Guys, This is Normal

So the Trump Administration announced that they have asked 46 of the US Attorneys to resign. There’s been some moaning from the Left but as no less than Vox reminds us, this is normal. Janet Reno asked all the USAs to resign when Clinton did office. So did Bush 43. Obama waited a few months but eventually replaced them all. The USAs are political appointees. Most administrations will let them hold over long enough to finish any important business and for a replacement to be chosen. But all Presidents want the 94 USAs to reflect their law enforcement priorities. Trump won the election, he gets to pick his prosecutors.

There was a mini-scandal when Bush fired some USAs midway through his term. That was a bit different as he was firing his own appointees, apparently for not moving fast enough on cases against his political opponents. Several members of the Justice Department ended up resigning over it, including AG Gonzalez. But Trump’s firing are not that. This is typical house-cleaning for a new Administration.

Today, however, USA Preet Bharara decided to make his bid for jumping into politics. That’s the only reason I can think of that he decided to tell the press he would refuse to resign. This was somewhat unprecedented. USAs serve at the pleasures of the President and he can ask them to resign at any time. He was apparently miffed that Trump told him he’d be allowed to stay on, then changed his mind.

Bharara has been immediately proclaimed a hero in some quarters, with many calling for him to run for public office. But as I pointed out on Twitter this was not “bold defiance”. This was a USA refusing to follow lawful instructions to make himself look like a hero. I said Trump should fire his ass.

Well, Bharara just tweeted out that Trump fired his ass. Good. Trump is perfectly within his rights here. I only hope the replacement is better. Bharara may sound familiar to you. He was the overreaching prosecutor who tried to force The Best Magazine on the Planet to reveal the identities of blog commenters who said things he didn’t like, then silenced Reason about even the existence of the subpoena. Anyone who would abuse his power that way does not belong in government. And the Left should not try making this guy into a hero just because he stuck a thumb in Trump’s eye.

Hawking says that without world government tech will destroy us!

That’s the claim he makes <a href=’http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/stephen-hawking-world-government-stop-technology-destroy-humankind-th-a7618021.html” target=”_new”>in this article. Meh, globalists are getting desperate and even people that are supposed to be intelligent are now talking out of their asses. I find it not just naive but ridiculous to put faith in an entity that couldn’t do the job even at the micro level of states. What, incompetent credentialed bureaucrats like the ones running the EU or the UN will suddenly discover the secret to doing things right? Talk about being delusional. Shit, if the tools that will be running the global government don’t kill us outright themselves, they will use this tech to enslave us. Maybe Hawking thinks that is preferable to his imagined alternative, but I don’t.

Tech won’t doom humanity. Idiots thinking that only they are qualified and know what is best in charge of tech is what will doom humanity, and you are far more likely to get that with a global government than you are without. You want a bunch of social engineering idiots that think their will can bend the laws of nature, humanity, and physics to be in charge? Shit, Obama had the intelligence people spying on everyone, including his personal and political enemies. The Eu is a bunch of unaccountable douchebags that have been screwing over the people of Europe while they live a high life. And the UN, well that is one of the world’s biggest criminal organizations ever. Why the fuck would anyone trust an even larger and more intrusive government to do anything but make things worse for us?

I guess this “cri de coeure” by Hawking is just another desperate attempt at replacing the panic inducing shit other pro-globalization types push, like AGW, to sell their shit sandwich. The globalists are freaking out that their dream is dying, but I see it as a great thing that it is. Credentialed tools should not be calling the shot based on the horrible performance they have produced so far. That’s the real threat to humanity.

CIA Pogroms Russians

The “Russian under every bed” hysteria displayed by Tweedledee and Tweedledum (The MSM and the Democrats, tied at the hip) might, after months of ghost chasing, be coming to a sad end. Sad for me, because this constant (hollow) rant has beclowned them to the point of derision and mockery, and naturally I would like the spectacle to continue.

As discussed here several times in the last few months, any “Russian” investigation should, as it’s primary mission, find out by what means they hacked into the DNC and Podesta’s emails (Yes, ridicule them for having shitty protection security) and to what extent they (the Russians) interfered with our election process. If, in the course of this investigation, they find malfeasance or collusion present with the Trump campaign, air it out. Having something, anything, beside bubkiss would as least lend some credibility to all this Russian hysteria.

One thing I remembered about the first wikileak dump Re: the Hillary campaign, was that Assange said, more than once, that he did NOT get his info. from the Russians. This has been lost on all those reflexive Russian spotters. But a new batch of wikileak dumped files surfaced, did the CIA do a one-two skidoo on the Russians;

WASHINGTON—WikiLeaks released a massive trove of documents and files Tuesday that it says exposes how the Central Intelligence Agency hacks smartphones, computer operating systems, message applications and internet-connected televisions, in what would be one of the biggest breaches in the spy agency’s history.

The group, which was behind the leak of emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee during last year’s presidential campaign, said the release consists of 8,761 documents and files from the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence. It called the unauthorized disclosure, which it dubbed Vault 7, the “largest ever publication of confidential documents on the agency,” laying bare some of the CIA’s most sensitive secrets.

Also in the dump, we find out about Umbrage:

The CIA can hide its own fingerprints from its hacking exploits and attribute blame to others, such as Russia and China, according to WikiLeaks’ Year Zero confidential data release.

Every hacking technique leaves a “fingerprint” which, when collated, can be used to connect different attacks and tie them to the same culprit.

The CIA’s Remote Development Branch (RDB)’s Umbrage sub-group collects an archive of hacking exploits created by other actors, like Russia and other hackers, and leaves this false trace for others to detect.
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Umbrage captures and collects keyloggers, passwords, webcam captures, data destruction, persistence, privilege escalation, stealth, anti-virus (PSP) avoidance and survey techniques.

This allows the CIA to not only steal other’s hack techniques, but falsely apportion blame to those actors.

Very sneaky, pin it on the Russians.

I’ve often wondered (not really, I know that answer) that if Hillary won the election, knowing the Russian connection she and her campaign had, actually provable connections, not the “mountain out of an imaginary molehill”, would the Republicans now be seeing Russians under the bed and screaming for a special prosecutor? We always knew about their lobbying connections, but now we learn about Podesta’s brother;

The entire “Trump Russian scandal” narrative is complete utter nonsense. Democrats are so desperate to stop Trump, they’re clinging to a Saturday Night Live comedy skit- with the full cooperation of their liberal lackeys in the mainstream media.

They’ve just made a YUGE mistake. And it’s all going to blow up in their face. There is a “Russian influence scandal.” It just has nothing to do with President Trump.

It belongs to Hilary and the Democrats.
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Because it turns out that Tony Podesta, brother of Hillary’s national presidential campaign manager John Podesta is a super lobbyist who took huge money from the Russians in order to end U.S. government sanctions against Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank.

Which begs the question to those most vociferous Russian chasers on this blog, would same twisted panties be just as bunched if Hillary had won? You know who I’m talking about.

Another thing I wanted to touch on briefly was the Rosenstein confirmation hearing yesterday, anybody catch any of that? The cabal of obstructionists all wanted Rosenstein to commit to hiring a special prosecutor to investigate the Russians, he was having none of it. Saying he was not on the job yet and did not have all the facts (fact’s, we don’t need no stinking facts).

Appointing a special prosecutor is unnecessary, this isn’t Iran/Contra, Watergate or even Valery Plame, it is (so far) an empty suit, superfluous flummery, a nothingburger with a side of hypocrisy.

How Trump Won

This is amazing. A couple of college professors did an experiment where they recreated the 2016 debates with actors replicating the exact words and gestures of the candidates. But there was one twist: Trump was played by a woman and Clinton by a man. They wanted to see how sexism played into our perception of the debates.

Yeah, it’s not how you’re thinking:

We heard a lot of “now I understand how this happened”—meaning how Trump won the election. People got upset. There was a guy two rows in front of me who was literally holding his head in his hands, and the person with him was rubbing his back. The simplicity of Trump’s message became easier for people to hear when it was coming from a woman—that was a theme. One person said, “I’m just so struck by how precise Trump’s technique is.” Another—a musical theater composer, actually—said that Trump created “hummable lyrics,” while Clinton talked a lot, and everything she was was true and factual, but there was no “hook” to it. Another theme was about not liking either candidate—you know, “I wouldn’t vote for either one.” Someone said that Jonathan Gordon [the male Hillary Clinton] was “really punchable” because of all the smiling. And a lot of people were just very surprised by the way it upended their expectations about what they thought they would feel or experience. There was someone who described Brenda King [the female Donald Trump] as his Jewish aunt who would take care of him, even though he might not like his aunt. Someone else described her as the middle school principal who you don’t like, but you know is doing good things for you.

This reflects something I heard from a lot of my friends and family who supported Trump. All the pundits (including me) concluded that Trump’s debate performances were disastrous. And certainly there were times when he flailed badly. His grasp of facts was non-existent. Had this been a high-school debate team match, he would have lost.

But this wasn’t a high-school debate. This was two highly unlikable candidates trying to win our trust. And for all of Trump’s bumbling, he was straight-forward and had a clear message. Clinton had reams of policy details but no real message other than, as Dave Barry noted, “I’m a woman and I will fight for families or something”.

Here is a clip.

I always disliked Clinton and found her debate performances to be poor. I couldn’t understand how the media proclaimed her to be such a great politician and the clear winner of each debate. Having a male actor play her enhances my perception, driving home why I dislike her performance. She was smug, entitled and disconnected from ordinary concerns. It jumps a little more strongly when the opponent isn’t an asshole as well.

But what surprises me is how much this changes my perception of Trump. With his personal baggage removed, his message becomes much clearer. I still disagree with it but I can understand why it appealed to people and why many could overlook his personal/political/financial shortcomings.

There are caveats here: it’s only one experiment and could be entirely a result of the actor and actress chosen for the roles. Perhaps, with different actors, we would perceive it differently. But even with those caveats, I think it’s an astonishing result. It shows just how thick the liberal bubble was and just how much their perception of Clinton was shaded by their hatred of Trump and their heartfelt desire to see a woman become President. It really illustrates a point one Trump supporter made to me right before the election: if you took away Clinton’s gender, what was left? An ethically-dubious philosophically-muddled long-time political insider who couldn’t understand why the country was so angry.

The Plan is Out

Just a few quick thoughts since I’m frantically packing for the long trip back to the US.

The Republicans finally came out with their official Obamacare replacement plan. From what I can tell, it is basically Obamacare with more debt. It eliminates the insurance mandate tax, replacing it with hiked insurance rate for those who go without coverage — under the logic, I guess, that higher initial premiums will encourage the uninsured to buy insurance. It maintains the coverage mandate, which doesn’t work without a purchase mandate. It keeps the elimination of lifetime caps and coverage for those under 26. It also cuts off funding to Planned Parenthood. It’s basically all the popular stuff about Obamacare without all the unpopular stuff that pays for it.

There’s also no chance it will pass. The Senate is highly skeptical. A number of interest groups and conservative groups are already against it. The proposal is basically DOA.

And frankly, so is the Republican Party if they can’t do better than this. I didn’t think they could come up with something worse than Obamacare but they managed it.

(Note: the response from the Democrats is very illuminating. The overwhelming cry is, “THIS IS A TAX CUT FOR THE RICH!!!!” It’s astonishing how every Democratic policy and every political instinct revolves around soaking those evil rich people.)

And He Is Supposed To Be On Our Side

As mentioned before, the foot dragging exhibited by the dems re: cabinet and sub cabinet nominees is just shameful, and a more nimble deft GOP majority should have seen this coming and worked around it, they didn’t. But what is really bugging me is the snails pace we see our side in The Congress moving in implementing Trump’s core policy proposals. I am talking about just 2 here, tax relief and Obamacare;

1) Obamacare- Ryan’s A Path To Prosperity and A Better Way is old news, but it shows us they have been thinking about it. They have had 8 years to come up with a alternative, many congress critters are doctors, Tom Price is a doctor, they have had time to wrestle with options of repeal, alter, or replace entirely;

In the past few years, the House has voted more than 60 times to repeal or alter Obamacare, but Republicans had no hope a repeal would become law as long as Obama was president and could veto their bills.

OK, so they knew Nov. 7th that they were finally going to get their shot, time to put up or shut up. You would think, given all the ruminations about Obamacare imploding before our eyes, that on Jan. 20th, a well thought out workable plan, crafted and debated by those GOPers who were screaming ,”Put me in, coach”, would with bow attached, be sitting on Trump’s desk. Yet still we sit here, wondering if this golden opportunity of Republican majorities is going to be wasted.

2)Same with tax relief. Everyone was on the same page, essentially with slightly differing brackets, but what was not in dispute was the need for a corporate tax overall. Personally, I would have preferred this tackled before Obamacare replacement. Trump’s number one pledge was jobs and the economy, nothing would have ignited a resurgence in both more than a corporate tax cut, making us more competitive in world markets, that and repatriating American dollars held overseas back home at a discounted rate. This was job one. Even doing this now, then revisiting the individual rates after the Obamacare replacement bill, I could have lived with that. But now I hear that instead of getting any of this done by summer, it may now be 2018 and I don’t like it one bit. Trump has 2 years to put his agenda in place, we have the majorities now, and if he dicks around and waits until after midterms, who knows what numbers he will have then. Many Trump supporters (myself included) have little patience for dawdling. He said he was a deal maker, well, start dealing. If the Congress is wimping out, go over there and crack some heads.

Now, given the task at hand, you would think that Republicans would be laser like focused on moving their agenda forward, some aren’t;

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is proposing a federal law that would require all candidates for president to release their 1040 personal income tax returns, including President Donald Trump. But such a law should not survive a court challenge, because it would be unconstitutional.

What a good idea, lets spend valuable seated time and capital on stupid shit like this, what a moron, I guess he was sick those days in law school where they talked about the Constitution. Yes, Trump should release his tax returns, but that is not the issue here. A monumental task lies ahead with an anxious nation waiting for results, and he wants to spend his time on the periphery, pulling lint out of his naval and doing the opposition’s dirty work.

I would like to put both Lindsey Graham and Susan Collins on waivers, for a couple of draft choices to be determined at a later date.