Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Democratic Narrative on Putin-Trump Influence Falls to Pieces


washingtonsblog |  As Rep. Adam Schiff tries out for the lead role in a remake of the Joe McCarthy hearings by maligning specific Americans as suspected Russian moles, some of the actual evidence argues against the Democratic notion that the Russians own President Trump and other key Republicans.

For instance, last week, Democrats circulated a report showing that retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who served briefly as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, had received payments from several Russia-related entities, totaling nearly $68,000.

The largest payment of $45,386 came for a speech and an appearance in Moscow in 2015 at the tenth anniversary dinner for RT, the international Russian TV network, with Flynn netting $33,750 after his speakers’ bureau took its cut. Democrats treated this revelation as important evidence about Russia buying influence in the Trump campaign and White House. But the actual evidence suggests something quite different.

Not only was the sum a relative trifle for a former senior U.S. government official compared to, say, the fees collected by Bill and Hillary Clinton, who often pulled in six to ten times more, especially for speeches to foreign audiences. (Former President Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with ties to the Kremlin, The New York Times reported in 2015,)

Yet, besides Flynn’s relatively modest speaking fee, The Washington Post reported that RT negotiated Flynn’s rate downward.

Deep inside its article on Flynn’s Russia-connected payments, the Post wrote, “RT balked at paying Flynn’s original asking price. ‘Sorry it took us longer to get back to you but the problem is that the speaking fee is a bit too high and exceeds our budget at the moment,’ Alina Mikhaleva, RT’s head of marketing, wrote a Flynn associate about a month before the event.”

So, if you accept the Democrats’ narrative that Russian President Vladimir Putin is engaged in an all-out splurge to induce influential Americans to betray their country, how do you explain that his supposed flunkies at RT are quibbling with Flynn over a relatively modest speaking fee?

Wouldn’t you think that Putin would have told RT’s marketing department that the sky was the limit in paying off Flynn because the ever-prescient Russian president knew from his Ouija board in 2015 that Flynn would be the future national security adviser under President Trump?

After all, it’s become one of Official Washington’s favorite groupthinks that RT is nothing but a Russian propaganda front designed to destroy the faith that Americans have in their democratic process – as if the sleazy and shameful political campaigns financed with hundreds of millions of dollars from billionaires need any help from RT.

Tillerson Plans to Skip NATO Meeting and Visit Russia Instead


reuters |  U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plans to skip a meeting with NATO foreign ministers next month in order to stay home for a visit by China's president and will go to Russia later in April, U.S. officials said on Monday, disclosing an itinerary that allies may see as giving Moscow priority over them.

Tillerson intends to miss what would have been his first meeting of the 28 NATO allies on April 5-6 in Brussels so that he can attend President Donald Trump's expected April 6-7 talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, four current and former U.S. officials said. 

Skipping the NATO meeting and visiting Moscow could risk feeding a perception that Trump may be putting U.S. dealings with big powers first, while leaving waiting those smaller nations that depend on Washington for security, two former U.S. officials said.

Trump has often praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Tillerson worked with Russia's government for years as a top executive at Exxon Mobil Corp, and has questioned the wisdom of sanctions against Russia that he said could harm U.S. businesses.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Banksters Parasitic Economic Deceptions


counterpunch |  I want to move on to one of the issues people have been thinking about today: in light of this new political context, I want to ask you about the chapter in your book “K is for kleptocrat.” The new Trump administration has done a number of things that people are concerned about. With regard to the financial sector, they’ve rolled back the feeble regulations of Dodd-Frank. The Republican Congress is looking into an infrastructure project that largely looks to be a giveaway of public funds to the private sector. This is to say nothing of the president’s direct business interest, but I’m wondering what your reaction is to the new administration. Also, there’s this idea that the Trump administration represents something new. I was wondering what you see that is new, versus what is more or less ‘business-as-usual’?
 
Michael Hudson: What’s new is that Trump said the emperor has no clothes. He said, “You think you’re getting rich under Obama? You haven’t got rich.” So when Hillary told her supporters to look and see how much better off you are today than when Obama was elected, she made herself look blind, referring only to the One Percent. All the growth in the American economy from 2008 to 2016 accrued only to 5% of the population – the richest. 95% of the population were worse off. Trump saw the obvious – which you would think that any member of the 95% would have seen. When Hillary tried to convince people they were better off, Trump simply said, “Let’s look at reality: You’re worse off.”

Voters thought that if he could see that they’re worse off, he must know how to cure it – instead of knowing how to make them even more worse off. People wanted prosperity and Trump said NATO’s obsolete. There’s no reason for us to maintain it—Russia’s not going to invade Europe. Why should they invade? There’s no way any European country is going to militarily invade another.

The new mode of warfare isn’t military anymore, it’s financial. Russia and China realize that the United States is dissipating its ability to conquer countries financially by spending its economic surplus on military and the FIRE sector. Trump realized that as a real estate developer, he’d been fighting banks all his life. There’s no love there for the banks.

So the neocons are out to get him. They’re saying it is treason to want peace instead of war. We need an enemy sufficient enough to justify giving all the surplus to the upper 5% and spending it on the military. If you don’t advocate doing that, you’re a traitor – to their fortunes. So they’re out to get rid of him.

Adam Simpson: As I understand it, he has promised to increase military spending even without perhaps the enemy that Hillary would have painted Russia to be.

Michael Hudson: On the one hand, he did say that. On the other hand he said look we’re not going to spend so much money on Air Force One, you’re overcharging it. We’re going to get rid of the F-35 fighter—it’s cost almost a trillion dollars. He said that is a waste. We’re going to get rid of the waste. But if you get rid of the waste and what’s not necessary, you’re going to have lower military spending. So I don’t see what Trump is going to spend more military money on.

Banks are Evil


peakprosperity |  Nobel Prize-winning economist Angus Deaton recently agreed:
Income inequality is not killing capitalism in the United States, but rent-seekers like the banking and the health-care sectors just might, said Nobel-winning economist Angus Deaton on Monday.
If an entrepreneur invents something on the order of another Facebook, Deaton said he has no problem with that person becoming wealthy.
“What is not OK is for rent-seekers to get rich,” Deaton said in a luncheon speech to the National Association for Business Economics.
Rent seekers lobby and persuade governments to give them special favors.
Bankers during the financial crisis, and much of the health-care system, are two prime examples, Deaton said.
Rent-seeking not only does not generate new product, it actually slows down economic growth, Deaton said.
“All that talent is devoted to stealing things, instead of making things,” he said.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Forget ________Care: Medicine Itself is Badly in Need of Fixing




freakonomics |  We tend to think of medicine as a science, but for most of human history it has been scientific-ish at best. In the first episode of a three-part series, we look at the grotesque mistakes produced by centuries of trial-and-error, and ask whether the new era of evidence-based medicine is the solution.


freakonomics |  How do so many ineffective and even dangerous drugs make it to market? One reason is that clinical trials are often run on “dream patients” who aren’t representative of a larger population. On the other hand, sometimes the only thing worse than being excluded from a drug trial is being included.


freakonomics |  By some estimates, medical error is the third-leading cause of death in the U.S. How can that be? And what’s to be done? Our third and final episode in this series offers some encouraging answers.

Why Experts Fail to Understand the Trump Phenomenon


ZH |  The percentage of people who are business owners relative to the overall employed population, is at an all time low.

The Fast Company, Shark Tank echo chamber would have you believe that entrepreneurialism is in a bubble.

It’s not.

Unprofitable, tech-centric gimmicks that are fueled by loosed monetary policies from the Fed are in a bubble. Legitimate businesses that produce cash flow and grow the middle class are not being created much, if at all.

Because the US has been waging war on the self-employed since the 1950’s, we not only have very few self-employed people in the workforce, we also have multiple generations of journalists who have ZERO experience engaging with those who run an actual business.

This is why NO ONE in the media gets Trump or the impact of his policies.

None of them have ever had to make payroll or create something from nothing. They’ve spent the last eight years literally kowtowing to a man who openly told the self-employed, “you didn’t build that.”
The same can be said for economists.

Time and again, you will see academics like Paul Krugman write op-eds suggesting that Trump is going to collapse the economy. Krugman has never once had to actually run a business. His entire career has been one of writing the equivalent of glorified book reports for other people who write glorified book reports to read.

If you ran a McDonalds or plumbing business implementing anything Krugman claims, you’d be broke within six months. The man lives in a world of excel spreadsheets and faculty meetings, not the world of revenues and payroll.

So what is Trump doing?

First off, Trump is getting rid of regulations.

Economists don’t understand the impact of this because none of their models include regulations. According to an economist, you simply “start a business.” These people have no concept of the business costs of licenses and the like.

Business owners care far more about regulations than taxes. Get ride of stifling regulations and you can start growing your business more aggressively.

I can tell you, business owners would happily pay more in taxes if they were doing 50% more in revenues. No business owner feels successful paying less in taxes on a business with zero growth.

Regarding taxes themselves, Trump understands them better than anyone in politics in the last 30 years.

Why?

Because as a business owner, Trump has been paying more taxes than the media or politicians can believe. This is why the obsession with Trump’s personal taxes is beyond moronic.

As a business owner, Trump has been paying taxes on property, payroll tax, taxes on some products, excise taxes, and a slew of others than journalists and economists don’t even know exist.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Robert Mercer: Brainbug and Moneybag Behind the Trump Presidency


NewYorker |  In 1993, when Nick Patterson mailed Robert Mercer a job offer from Renaissance, Mercer threw it in the trash: he’d never heard of the hedge fund. At the time, Mercer was part of a team pioneering the use of computers to translate languages. I.B.M. considered the project a bit of a luxury, and didn’t see its potential, though the work laid the foundation for Google Translate and Apple’s Siri. But Mercer and his main partner, Peter Brown, found the project exciting, and had the satisfaction of showing up experts in the field, who had dismissed their statistical approach to translating languages as impractical. Instead of trying to teach a computer linguistic rules, Mercer and Brown downloaded enormous quantities of dual-language documents—including Canadian parliamentary records—and created code that analyzed the data and detected patterns, enabling predictions of probable translations. According to a former I.B.M. colleague, Mercer was obsessive, and at one point took six months off to type into a computer every entry in a Spanish-English dictionary. Sebastian Mallaby, in his 2010 book on the hedge-fund industry, “More Money Than God,” reports that Mercer’s boss at I.B.M. once jokingly called him an “automaton.”

In 2014, Mercer accepted a lifetime-achievement award from the Association for Computational Linguistics. In a speech at the ceremony, Mercer, who grew up in New Mexico, said that he had a “jaundiced view” of government. While in college, he had worked on a military base in Albuquerque, and he had showed his superiors how to run certain computer programs a hundred times faster; instead of saving time and money, the bureaucrats ran a hundred times more equations. He concluded that the goal of government officials was “not so much to get answers as to consume the computer budget.” Mercer’s colleagues say that he views the government as arrogant and inefficient, and believes that individuals need to be self-sufficient, and should not receive aid from the state. Yet, when I.B.M. failed to offer adequate support for Mercer and Brown’s translation project, they secured additional funding from DARPA, the secretive Pentagon program. Despite Mercer’s disdain for “big government,” this funding was essential to his early success.

Meanwhile, Patterson kept asking Mercer and Brown to join Renaissance. He thought that their technique of extracting patterns from huge amounts of data could be applied to the pile of numbers generated daily by the global trade in stocks, bonds, commodities, and currencies. The patterns could generate predictive financial models that would give traders a decisive edge.

The Weaponized AI Propaganda Machine?


medium |  “This is a propaganda machine. It’s targeting people individually to recruit them to an idea. It’s a level of social engineering that I’ve never seen before. They’re capturing people and then keeping them on an emotional leash and never letting them go,” said professor Jonathan Albright.

Albright, an assistant professor and data scientist at Elon University, started digging into fake news sites after Donald Trump was elected president. Through extensive research and interviews with Albright and other key experts in the field, including Samuel Woolley, Head of Research at Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project, and Martin Moore, Director of the Centre for the Study of Media, Communication and Power at Kings College, it became clear to Scout that this phenomenon was about much more than just a few fake news stories. It was a piece of a much bigger and darker puzzle — a Weaponized AI Propaganda Machine being used to manipulate our opinions and behavior to advance specific political agendas.

By leveraging automated emotional manipulation alongside swarms of bots, Facebook dark posts, A/B testing, and fake news networks, a company called Cambridge Analytica has activated an invisible machine that preys on the personalities of individual voters to create large shifts in public opinion. Many of these technologies have been used individually to some effect before, but together they make up a nearly impenetrable voter manipulation machine that is quickly becoming the new deciding factor in elections around the world.

Most recently, Analytica helped elect U.S. President Donald Trump, secured a win for the Brexit Leave campaign, and led Ted Cruz’s 2016 campaign surge, shepherding him from the back of the GOP primary pack to the front.

The company is owned and controlled by conservative and alt-right interests that are also deeply entwined in the Trump administration. The Mercer family is both a major owner of Cambridge Analytica and one of Trump’s biggest donors. Steve Bannon, in addition to acting as Trump’s Chief Strategist and a member of the White House Security Council, is a Cambridge Analytica board member. Until recently, Analytica’s CTO was the acting CTO at the Republican National Convention.

Presumably because of its alliances, Analytica has declined to work on any democratic campaigns — at least in the U.S. It is, however, in final talks to help Trump manage public opinion around his presidential policies and to expand sales for the Trump Organization. Cambridge Analytica is now expanding aggressively into U.S. commercial markets and is also meeting with right-wing parties and governments in Europe, Asia, and Latin America.

Cambridge Analytica isn’t the only company that could pull this off — but it is the most powerful right now. Understanding Cambridge Analytica and the bigger AI Propaganda Machine is essential for anyone who wants to understand modern political power, build a movement, or keep from being manipulated. The Weaponized AI Propaganda Machine it represents has become the new prerequisite for political success in a world of polarization, isolation, trolls, and dark posts.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Harvard University's Guide to Fake News


thesaker |  Okay, so I am not being honest with this title.  But hey, since Harvard does list my blog as a ‘fake news’ source, I might as well indulge, at least once, into some absolutely shameless click baiting and “fake newsing” :-)

Seriously, my friend Steve Lendman wrote an interesting post on his blog about Harvard University’s “guide to fake news”.  Check it out, he does a great job explaining it all.  Also, it’s not like Harvard University focused on my blog.  In fact, their full list is much longer (see here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/10eA5-mCZLSS4MQY5QGb5ewC3VAL6pLkT53V_81ZyitM/).

But yeah, they do list the Saker blog :-)

Make sure to also read their “guide to fake news” right here: http://guides.library.harvard.edu/fake – it is amazing.

What a fall from grace, really.  Harvard University, arguably THE symbol of US academia, has now joined such “prestigious” (not) actors like CNN or the BBC in the ideological scramble to discredit free information sources.  For somebody like me who studied in US colleges and who got two degrees in the USA, it is really sad.

The High Cost of Truth


paulcraigroberts |  What is scary about the US and Europe is not merely the gullibility and insouciance of such a large percentage of the populations. What is very frightening is the willingness of the media, government officials, military, and members of professional organizations to lie for the sake of their careers. Try to find any shame among the liars that their lies expose humanity to thermo-nuclear annihilation. It is not to be found. They don’t care. Just let me have the Mercedes and the McMansion for another year. 

The Saker, an observant being, says that the color revolution being conducted by the neoconservatives, the Democratic Party, the presstitutes, the liberal/progressive/left, and by some Republicans against President Trump is “de-legitimizing the entire [democratic] political process which brought Trump to power and upon which the United States is built as a society.” http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/46658.htm The consequence, says The Saker, is that “the illusion of democracy and people power” has been destroyed both domestically and abroad. The propaganda picture of “American Democracy” has lost its believability. As the false picture crumbles, so does the power that was based on authority constructed by propaganda. 

The Saker asks: do we face an endless horror or a horrible end?

As George Orwell said decades ago, “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

This is the way the criminals who rule us see it, and it is the way their whores in the media see it. If you tell the truth in America, you are a purveyor of fake news and possibly a traitor.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Open Thread: ATLAH stands for “All the Land Anointed and Holy”




Russia Obsession Continues Among Congressional Dangerous Elderly


libertyblitzkrieg |  " I note the senator from Kentucky leaving the floor without justification or any rationale for the action he has just taken. That is really remarkable, that a senator blocking a treaty that is supported by the overwhelming number, perhaps 98—at least—of his colleagues would come to the floor and object and walk away.

The only conclusion you can draw when he walks away is he has no justification for his objection to having a small nation be part of NATO that is under assault from the Russians. So I repeat again, the senator from Kentucky is now working for Vladimir Putin."

This video should alarm all Americans. McCain is accusing a fellow Senator of disloyalty and allegiance to a foreign power simply because he disagrees with him. It’s remarkably similar to what we saw Adam Schiff do a few months ago in an embarrassing interview with Tucker Carlson.


I suppose yelling “Russia” is simply the new strategy for clueless politicians when they can’t win an argument.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Did Double-O Ask GCHQ Branch to Surveil .45?


hotair |  Via the Daily Wire, that’s quite a claim. The president of the United States using a foreign intelligence agency to spy on the other party’s presidential candidate, for the obviously illicit purpose of erasing any domestic paper trail of his actions? “Scandal of the decade” material. And yet it falls not to the Fox News investigative team to break the story but to legal commentator Andrew Napolitano — and not on one of Fox’s marquee shows like O’Reilly or Tucker but on Fox & Friends and Martha MacCallum’s program. You’d think a scoop like this would be in 50-point font on the Fox website, but as I write this at around 4:45 ET, they’re leading with a story about a probe of IT staffers who work for House Democrats. How come?

Sean Davis thinks this is a game of telephone gone bad inspired by the “Trump dossier,” which was compiled by a British ex-spy. Could be. It gains some plausibility from the fact that the U.S. and UK are part of the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing arrangement, which of course includes the NSA and GCHQ (Britain’s NSA). It’ll also seem a bit more credible than it might have in light of the surprise resignation in January of Robert Hannigan as head of the GCHQ. Hannigan stepped down three days after Trump’s inauguration, ostensibly for personal reasons, having served just two years on the job. With news swirling at the time about the Trump dossier, some Brits speculated that the real reason he resigned might have been “related to British concerns over shared intelligence with the US in the wake of Donald Trump becoming president.” On top of all that, the Times reported just two weeks ago that two foreign intelligence agencies, the British and the Dutch, had provided intelligence on meetings allegedly held last year between Trump “associates” and Russian officials in European cities.

.45's Spiritual Advisor: Rule By Thieves One Week in the American Kleptocracy


rutherford |  “The first and most important thing to understand about politics is this: forget Right, Left, Center, socialism, fascism, or democracy. Every government that exists — or ever existed, or ever will exist — is a kleptocracy, meaning ‘rule by thieves.’ Competing ideologies merely provide different excuses to separate the Productive Class from what they produce. If the taxpayer/voters won’t willingly fork over to end poverty, then maybe they’ll cough up to fight drugs or terrorism. Conflicting ideologies, as presently constituted, are nothing more than a cover for what’s really going on, like the colors of competing gangs.” — Author L. Neil Smith
The American kleptocracy (a government ruled by thieves) continues to suck the American people down a rabbit hole into a parallel universe in which the Constitution is meaningless, the government is all-powerful, and the citizenry is powerless to defend itself against government agents who steal, spy, lie, plunder, kill, abuse and generally inflict mayhem and sow madness on everyone and everything in their sphere.

Case in point: in the same week that Wikileaks dropped its bombshell about the CIA’s use of spy tools to subject law-abiding Americans to all manner of government surveillance and hacking—a revelation that caused barely a ripple of concern among the citizenry—the government quietly and with little fanfare continued to wage its devastating, stomach-churning, debilitating war on the American people.

Incredibly, hardly anyone noticed.

This begs the question: if the government is overstepping its authority, abusing its power, and disregarding the rule of law but no one seems to notice—and no one seems to care—does it matter if the government has become a tyrant?

Here’s my short answer: when government wrongdoing ceases to matter, America will have ceased to be.

Just consider the devastation wrought in one week in the life of our American kleptocracy:

CNu Felt a Disturbance in the Force - IC Leakers Tugged Assange's Sleeve...,


activistpost |  WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange suggested on Twitter Tuesday Hillary Clinton and certain unnamed members of the U.S. Intelligence Community are plotting a takeover by Vice President Mike Pence.

“Clinton stated privately this month that she is quietly pushing for a Pence takeover,” Assange tweeted. “She stated that Pence is predictable hence defeatable.”
“Two IC officials close to Pence stated privately this month that they are planning on a Pence takeover,” he added in another tweet. “Did not state if Pence agrees.”
Further, he continued, By handing unilateral power to the CIA over its drone strikes at this time White House signals that bullying, disloyalty & incompetence pays.
In response to shocked reactions to the tweets, Pence lambasted Assange’s suggestion of a takeover as “absurd” and “frankly offensive” in an interview with radio host Laura Ingraham

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Protocols of the Elders of Christendom


americanthinker |  Theocracy-watcher Katherine Yurica "the most immoral political program ever adopted by a political movement in this country." At Illuminati Conspiracy Archive, Paul and Phillip Collins say that it "echoes the revolutionary fervor of Robespierre's radical Jacobinism."

The object of this fear and loathing? An obscure
essay (now available only on web archives) titled "The Integration of Theory and Practice: A Program for the New Traditionalist Movement," written in 2001 by Eric Heubeck, a former associate of the late Paul Weyrich at the Free Congress Foundation. Not only has his essay been removed from Free Congress's website, but Heubeck has apparently withdrawn from public life, as this author has not been able to contact him.

In the estimation of Yurica and her fellow leftists, Integration concretely articulates a plan developed by "Christian Theocrats" to seize political power and use it forcefully to dismantle the domain of liberalism (secularism, welfare, multiculturalism, affirmative action, etc.) and enforce a fundamentalist Christian order in America. In brief, Yurica sees Integration as an American, Christian version of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

This is the full meaning of the smear term "Dominionism" coined by the left. As Yurica sees it, this evil plan is well on its way to victory; one can visualize her shuddering as she imagines jackbooted, goose-stepping "Theocrats" chanting "Sieg Heil!" 

No Tard Left Behind - Pence Tryna Hand Epic Fail Brownback a Paycheck


kansascity  |  Vice President Mike Pence has been pushing for Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback to land a job in President Donald Trump’s administration, according to sources.

Brownback would not comment on a possible appointment during his first public appearance since reports that he is under consideration to become U.S. ambassador to the United Nations for food and agriculture, a post that is based in Rome.

Pence, a former congressman who served as governor of Indiana, is close to Brownback and has been advocating to find him a job in the administration, according to several people familiar with the situation but not authorized to speak publicly as a matter of practice. Trump has considered Brownback for several jobs but has not yet offered one.

Brownback said in August that Trump’s decision to choose Pence as his running mate had helped persuade him to support Trump’s candidacy despite his initial reservations. Brownback went onto serve on Trump’s agricultural and Catholic advisory committees.

“Mike, I know well,” Brownback said in August. “He’s a good man. He’s a man of faith. I have confidence in Gov. Pence, and you know elections are about choices in policy...What he’s shown in the picking of Pence is a willingness to get good people around him, and you’ve got to realize that’s the way a nation is run.”

The two men have shared staffers over the years. Brownback’s former chief of staff, David Kensinger, served as a consultant on Pence’s 2012 gubernatorial campaign shortly after stepping down from his post in the Brownback administration.

The Star’s sources say that talks between Brownback and the Trump administration are ongoing, but the governor refused to clarify the matter Thursday.

“I’m just not going to make any comments about any of that. I’m glad to see the administration off to a strong start on job creation and security issues, which is the key things they ran on, but I’m not making comments about it,” Brownback said Thursday after handing out a humanitarian award to a Kansas physician.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/news/politics-government/article137424678.html#storylink=cpy

Why Brownbackistan's Fiscal Implosion is Bad News for Trump


motherjones |  An ambitious effort by a Republican governor to drastically cut his state's taxes is crumbling—and that's a bad omen for Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress who are hoping to slash tax rates at the national level.

Shortly after he became governor of Kansas in 2011, Sam Brownback went to work on rewriting the state's tax code. Together with the Republican-dominated legislature, he eliminated the top income tax bracket, lowered everyone else's income tax rate, and created a loophole that allowed some business owners to pay no state income taxes at all.

Brownback sold the cuts as a way to jolt the Kansas economy to life, promising major job growth thanks to the lower tax rates. To pass these tax measures, Brownback worked to replace moderate Republicans in the legislature who opposed his ideas with true-believer conservatives. He helped knock off nine moderate Republican incumbents, and the effort paid off when his tax reform passed in 2012.

But instead of the miracle growth that Brownback promised, the tax cuts have left a widening crater in the state budget. State economic growth has lagged behind the national pace, and job growth has stagnated. Lawmakers have been left scrambling each year to pass unpleasant spending cuts when tax revenue comes in below expected levels, leading to contentious fights in the legislature and state courts over reduced public school funding. When the state legislature convened last month, it faced a $320 million budget shortfall that needed to be closed before the end of the current fiscal year in June—and a projected additional $500 million shortfall for the next fiscal year.

After more moderate Republicans joined the GOP-dominated legislature following last November's election, the party has appeared more willing to concede defeat and ditch Brownback's tax experiment. Last week, the state House and Senate passed a bill that would generate more than $1 billion by eradicating most of Brownback's reforms. It would raise personal income tax rates (though still not as high as the pre-Brownback rates) and end the loophole that has allowed 330,000 business owners—including subsidiaries of Wichita-based Koch Industries—to avoid paying income taxes.


.45's Proposed Federal Contraction


chicagotribune |  The federal government is projected to spend $4.091 trillion next year, with roughly two-thirds of that going mostly toward Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, poverty assistance and interest payments on the government debt. This spending is expected to be left untouched in the budget proposal next week.

What Trump will propose changing is the rest of the budget, known as discretionary spending, which is authorized each year by Congress. Slightly more than half of this remaining money goes to the military, and the rest is spread across agencies that operate things like education, diplomacy, housing, transportation and law enforcement.

Among Trump's expected proposals are an increase in military spending of $54 billion, more money to start building a wall along the border between the United States and Mexico, and the creation of new initiatives that expand access to charter schools and other educational programs.

To offset that new money, Trump will propose steep cuts across numerous other agencies. Although final numbers remain in flux, his advisers have considered cutting the Department of Housing and Urban Development's budget by $6 billion, or 14 percent, according to a preliminary budget document obtained by The Washington Post. That is a change that Trulia chief economist Ralph McLaughlin said could "put nearly 8 million Americans in both inner-city and suburban communities at risk of losing their public housing and nearly 4 million at risk of losing their rental subsidy."

Preliminary budget documents have also shown that Trump advisers have also looked at cutting the Environmental Protect Agency's staff by about 20 percent and tightening the Commerce Department's budget by about 18 percent, which would impact climate change research and weather satellite programs, among other things.

Trump and his advisers have said that they believe the federal workforce is too big, and that the federal government spends - and wastes - too much money. They have said that Washington - the federal workers and contractors, among others - has benefited from government largesse while many other Americans have suffered. Federal spending, they have argued, crowds the private sector and piles regulations and bureaucracy onto companies.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Dominionists Rule Because Democrats Stand for Nothing


moonofalabama |  Some of the people around the U.S. Democrats finally start to get the message of the 2016 election. An editor at Salon writes a slightly satirical critic of the Democratic Party under the headline: How the DudeBros ruined everything: A totally clear-headed guide to political reality
The core sentence:
When “the left” endlessly debates which core issues or constituencies must be sacrificed for political gain, as if economic justice for the poor and the working class could be separated from social justice for women and people of color and the LGBT community and immigrants and people with disabilities, it is no longer functioning as the left.
When LGBT claptrap, gluten free food, political correctness and other such niceties beat out programs to serve the basic needs of the common people nothing "left" is left. The priority on the left must always be the well-being of the working people. All the other nice-to-have issues follow from and after that. 

Many nominally social-democratic parties in Europe are on the same downward trajectory as the Democrats in the U.S. for the very same reason. Their real policies are center right. Their marketing policies hiding the real ones are to care for this or that minority interest or problem the majority of the people has no reason to care about. Real wages sink but they continue to import cheep labor (real policy) under the disguise of helping "refugees" (marketing policy) which are simply economic migrants. (Even parts of the German "Die Linke" party are infected with such nonsense.)

The people with real economic problems, those who have reason to fear the future, have no one in the traditional political spectrum that even pretends to care about them. Those are the voters now streaming to the far right. (They will again get screwed. The far right has an economic agenda that is totally hostile to them. But it at least promises to do something about their fears.) Where else should they go?