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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Bizarro Politics of the Tax Bill

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the tax issue in the 2016 campaign.  

Sahil Kapur at Bloomberg:
The 2009 economic-stimulus bill contained a one-year tax break worth $800 for married couples in 95 percent of working households -- a little over $15 a week. A February 2010 poll found that just 12 percent said their taxes had been reduced. More than half, 53 percent, said they saw no change. A remarkable 24 percent thought their taxes had increased.
“Virtually nobody believed they got a tax cut,” said Jared Bernstein, an economist who worked in former President Barack Obama’s White House. He called it a source of frustration at the time.

That 2009 tax cut contains warning signs for President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans. Their tax plans would deliver about the same level of initial relief to households with incomes between $40,000 and $100,000 -- roughly $800 on average -- according to data from Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation. If those numbers hold, and if history’s any guide, Trump’s working-class voters may not feel the tax cut he has repeatedly promised them.
Alexander Bolton and Naomi Jagoda at The Hill:
Rubio on Friday warned there are “going to be problems” if Senate and House negotiators working on the final legislation reduce the bill’s child tax credit or increase the corporate rate without making the child tax credit refundable to help lower-income families.
“It makes a lot of sense in a tax reform bill to provide some relief to those on the lower end of the income scale as well as the upper end,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster who does work for Rubio.
Ayres said Rubio is right that “it will help the overall perception of this bill if it’s perceived of helping everyone who’s working, not just those at the upper end of the income scale.”

Another Republican senator who commented on the condition of anonymity said that “lowering the corporate rate is never popular.”

“Forty-four percent of the country won’t see anything and then they see headlines about a big corporate rate cut,” said the lawmaker, explaining the weak public support for the bill.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Cutting Taxes for Corporations, Putting Middle-Class Entitlements at Risk

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the tax issue in the 2016 campaign.  Current tax legislation would greatly expand the deficit, which puts social security and Medicare at risk.

Damian Paletta at WP:
Over several months, tax cuts for families were either stymied or scaled back. And corporate benefits only grew, a development that increasingly made some Republicans nervous as they saw the bill’s true impact.

“Fundamentally, the bill has been mislabeled. From a truth-in-advertising standpoint, it would have been a lot simpler if we just acknowledged reality on this bill, which is it’s fundamentally a corporate tax reduction and restructuring bill, period,” said Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.). “I think they were particularly concerned about innuendo and what that might mean, so it was labeled as a middle-class tax cut.”
Susan Page at USA Today:
A new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll finds just 32% support the GOP tax plan; 48% oppose it. That's the lowest level of public support for any major piece of legislation enacted in the past three decades.

Americans are skeptical of the fundamental arguments Republicans have made in selling the bill: A 53% majority of those surveyed predict their own families won't pay lower taxes as a result of the measure, and an equal 53% say it won't help the economy in a major way.
Lloyd Green at Fox:
“We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit,” [Speaker Paul] Ryan said. But a good chunk of the future deficit and debt would be fueled by separate tax-cutting bills approved by the House and Senate. The two houses still need to reach agreement on a single piece of legislation for it to go to President Trump for his signature.

As usual, the numbers tell the story. In 2016, older voters who were the most likely to look to Medicare to pay for their health care in retirement put Donald Trump over the top. According to Election Day exit polls, he garnered an almost 20-point margin among white seniors, a 28 percent lead among whites voters ages 45 to 64, and a historic 37-point victory with white working-class voters.
But now the GOP seeks to punish the very folks who brought them to power. Unlike food stamps and welfare, Medicare and Social Security are benefits that working Americans have earned over a lifetime of steady, reliable, and conscientious work. They paid for these benefit with weekly payroll deductions.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Trump: The Cable Guy

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss Trump's character.

Maggie Haberman, Glenn Thrush and Peter Baker at NYT:
Before taking office, Mr. Trump told top aides to think of each presidential day as an episode in a television show in which he vanquishes rivals. People close to him estimate that Mr. Trump spends at least four hours a day, and sometimes as much as twice that, in front of a television, sometimes with the volume muted, marinating in the no-holds-barred wars of cable news and eager to fire back.
...
The ammunition for his Twitter war is television. No one touches the remote control except Mr. Trump and the technical support staff — at least that’s the rule. During meetings, the 60-inch screen mounted in the dining room may be muted, but Mr. Trump keeps an eye on scrolling headlines. What he misses he checks out later on what he calls his “Super TiVo,” a state-of-the-art system that records cable news.
...
Mr. Trump’s difficult adjustment to the presidency, people close to him say, is rooted in an unrealistic expectation of its powers, which he had assumed to be more akin to the popular image of imperial command than the sloppy reality of having to coexist with two other branches of government.
His vision of executive leadership was shaped close to home, by experiences with Democratic clubhouse politicians as a young developer in New York. One figure stands out to Mr. Trump: an unnamed party boss — his friends assume he is referring to the legendary Brooklyn fixer Meade Esposito — whom he remembered keeping a baseball bat under his desk to enforce his power. To the adviser who recounted it, the story revealed what Mr. Trump expected being president would be like — ruling by fiat, exacting tribute and cutting back room deals.
But while he is unlikely to change who he is on a fundamental level, advisers said they saw a novice who was gradually learning that the presidency does not work that way. And he is coming to realize, they said, the need to woo, not whack, leaders of his own party to get things done.
During his early months in office, he barked commands at senators, which did not go over well. “I don’t work for you, Mr. President,” Mr. Corker once snapped back, according to a Republican with knowledge of the exchange.
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican majority leader, likewise bristled when Mr. Trump cut in during methodical presentations in the Oval Office. “Don’t interrupt me,” Mr. McConnell told the president during a discussion of health care.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Roy Moore on Slavery, Putin, and Evolution

In Defying the Odds, we discuss congressional elections as well as the presidential race In Alabama, accused child molester Roy Moore is running for the Senate with the support of sexual harasser Donald Trump.
Moore, like Trump, seems to be a fan of Putin.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Trump v. Party Organization

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss Trump's role in the party system.

Trump has told RNC to support Roy Moore in Alabama.  NRSC pulled out, and is staying out.

Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman at NYT:
In a departure from every modern White House, Mr. Trump himself largely dictates whom to back and how to support his preferred candidates. Even before tensions between the president and Senate Republicans flared back up over Mr. Moore’s candidacy, there was little regular communication between West Wing officials and Republicans overseeing the 2018 races, Republicans say.
The scheduled meetings between the White House, the Republican National Committee and the House and Senate campaign committees stopped months ago. Congressional officials find it difficult to get presidential signoffs for even small requests like using Mr. Trump’s name in direct-mail appeals, according to party officials. And less than a month until the election year begins, he has not scheduled a single fund-raiser for a candidate running for the House, Senate or governor.
...
“What’s lacking is a central hierarchy in any decision making, which is critical to candidates across country,” said Scott Reed, the senior political strategist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a veteran of decades of campaigns. “You have this feeling that no one is fully in charge of Republican politics.”
The White House political affairs office has been effectively replaced by Mr. Trump and his Twitter account, handcuffing the president’s advisers. Requests for presidential assistance or, as in the case of the Alabama race, intervention often go unanswered because Mr. Trump’s staff members cannot offer any commitments, not knowing what the president will decide about a given candidate or campaign.
...
Yet the president does not completely understand his role as a principal, Republicans say, and his political operation does not have enough sway with him to make him fully grasp that he is the leader of the Republican Party.
For example, he is still telling his friends who attend high-dollar committee fund-raisers that they do not need to pay, the sort of favoritism that can create endless headaches for staff.
In two governor’s races, in New Jersey and Virginia, this year, the candidates and their top advisers up through Election Day were uncertain what Mr. Trump might say about the elections. When Mr. Trump tweeted about an ad run by Ed Gillespie, the Republican candidate for governor in Virginia, it was because he had just seen it broadcast on a Washington TV station.
“You can’t plan for him, you can only survive him,” said J. Tucker Martin, who was an adviser to Mr. Gillespie.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Collusion Update


Mark Mazzetti and Michael S. Schmidt at NYT:
Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, told a former business associate that economic sanctions against Russia would be “ripped up” as one of the Trump administration’s first acts, according to an account by a whistle-blower made public on Wednesday.
Mr. Flynn believed that ending the sanctions could allow a business project he had once participated in to move forward, according to the whistle-blower. The account is the strongest evidence to date that the Trump administration wanted to end the sanctions immediately, and suggests that Mr. Flynn had a possible economic incentive for the United States to forge a closer relationship with Russia.
Mr. Flynn had worked on a business venture to partner with Russia to build nuclear power plants in the Middle East until June 2016, but remained close with the people involved afterward. On Inauguration Day, according to the whistle-blower, Mr. Flynn texted the former business associate to say that the project was “good to go.”
The account is detailed in a letter written by Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee. In the letter, Mr. Cummings said that the whistle-blower contacted his office in June and has authorized him to go public with the details. He did not name the whistle-blower.
Ken Dilanian and Natasha Lebedeva at NBC:
Donald Trump Jr. asked a Russian lawyer at the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting whether she had evidence of illegal donations to the Clinton Foundation, the lawyer told the Senate Judiciary Committee in answers to written questions obtained exclusively by NBC News.
The lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, told the committee that she didn't have any such evidence, and that she believes Trump misunderstood the nature of the meeting after receiving emails from a music promoter promising incriminating information on Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump's Democratic opponent.
Once it became apparent that she did not have meaningful information about Clinton, Trump seemed to lose interest, Veselnitskaya said, and the meeting petered out

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Tax Legislation Remains Unpopular

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the tax issue in the 2016 campaign. 
As the Senate version of the Republican tax reform bill made its way through the legislative process this weekend, Gallup documented a highly partisan imbalance in Americans' reactions. Seven percent of Democrats and 25% of independents polled Friday and Saturday say they approve of the proposed changes to the federal tax code, contrasted with 70% of Republicans.
Mostly as a result of weak support from Democrats and independents regarding the proposed tax changes, 29% of U.S. adults as a whole approve of the plan, while 56% disapprove and 16% have no opinion. Still, 16% of Republicans disapprove, resulting in fewer Republicans approving of the plan (70%) than Democrats disapproving (87%).
The tax bill passed a major hurdle Saturday morning when the Senate approved it on a 51 to 49 near party-line vote. It now heads to conference committee where representatives from the House and Senate will work to craft compromise legislation that could get through both chambers by month's end.
Americans' current approval of the proposed tax changes is slightly lower than the 39% approval Gallup found the last time Congress took on a major overhaul of the federal tax code. That was in 1986, with President Ronald Reagan spearheading the legislation. However, the big difference between the two efforts is that far fewer Americans opposed the 1986 tax bill than oppose the proposals being debated today, 34% vs. 56%, respectively. More than a quarter of Americans in September 1986, just prior to final passage of that plan, expressed no opinion about it -- roughly twice today's level.