Monday, December 11, 2017

Designer deficits for Christmas

The man didn't look like he was from Mar-a-Lago – very gaunt, sort of green, parts of him having fallen off.

But, of course, Marley the accountant had returned from the grave.

"How did you get in here?" asked Donald Trump.

"How did you become president?" asked Marley. "Some things have no earthly explanation."

"Ah, but you're wrong. I can explain it. I staged a historic landslide."

"And I'm Twiggy," said Marley.

"I'm calling security," said Trump. "Ivanka!"

"Don't bother," said Marley. "This is between you and me."

"State your business," said the president, quivering in pink satin.

"I'm here to show you the error of your ways," said Marley.

"No collusion."

"And I'm Audrey Hepburn. But Russia is not why I've come. I'm here to tell you the stupidity of cutting taxes on people like yourself and on multinational corporations, and boosting the deficit by more than a trillion dollars."

"Believe me, it's not going to benefit me at all."

"Yes, and I'm Tippi Hedren."

"And besides that, tremendous economic growth will pay for it. Believe me."

"I believe you. And I'm Rosemary Clooney."

Marley extended a pale, elongated finger at something over the president's shoulder. Trump turned, and suddenly he and Marley were in a misty graveyard.

A grotesque corpse was doing the zombie crawl in their direction.

"I'm the ghost of tax cuts past in Kansas," said the specter. "Gov. Brownback signed me with great fanfare in 2012. It was a disaster. The touted economic boost didn't happen. Neither did the jobs. And lost revenue crippled state services. Lawmakers rolled me back this year."

"Unfair comparison," said Trump dismissively, shivering in pink.

"That's right," said Marley. "Unfair. The tax cuts you propose at the federal level are considerably more draconian than what Kansas did."

With an icy cold "whoosh," Kansas was supplanted by another moldy specter.

"I'm the ghost of tax cuts past in North Carolina," it said.

"North Carolina. Crooked Hillary said she'd win North Carolina."

"Silence."

Trump was silent.

"North Carolina faces a $1.2 billion budget shortfall in 2019, with schools on the chopping block."

"Happened here in Texas, too," said another mildewed corpse. "Schools especially suffered when the national economy went in the crapper -- and that was after the Bush tax cuts in Washington. Yes, we shared W. and his tax policies with everyone. Apologies."

Suddenly, Trump flinched to see a ghost that towered over the others.

"I am the ghost of Reaganomics," it said. "I am the architect of the deficits that have haunted this nation for decades. We knew the math didn't make sense. 'Voodoo' it was. It was as much about asphyxiating the federal government as about making things add up. It was our mission, our strategy. It was cynical. It verged on criminal. It was deficits by design.

"Like you, I convinced enough people that all this black magic would pay for itself. I trotted out 'rosy scenarios' and sprinkled my budget with 'magic asterisks' that left this nation in red ink up to our elbows."

"This is what I wanted you to see," said Marley the accountant. "You said you'd never cut Medicare or Social Security. But just last week Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio said new tax policies will necessitate exactly that."

"Enough," said Trump. "Take me home. I've got work to do – tee time with Tiger.

"You are wrong about my tax policies. They're going to be tremendous, so tremendous. They're going to benefit everyone -- everyone except me. They're going to create jobs -- so, so many jobs. And they're going to pay for themselves. No added debt. Believe me. I hate debt."

"And I'm Gina Lollobrigida."

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

 

Monday, December 4, 2017

Deposing the Lyin' King

"President Donald Trump's rally in Missouri was a set-piece of distortion about taxes and the economy" that "compounded his growing legacy of false tales on Twitter . . ."

Those weren't the opening lines from some loser liberal commentator. They were from the Associated Press.

The editors at AP at some point realized that their job wasn't just to report what newsmakers say but also whether what they say is false.

In the speech in question, AP reported, Trump said a whole bunch of things that weren't true: like the fact that he wouldn't benefit from the moist and scaly tax monster slithering through Congress.

"This is going to cost me a fortune, this thing, believe me," he told the crowd.

Oh, yeah. In fact, Trump could benefit by more than $1 billion, according to an NBC News analysis.

The alternative minimum tax, abolished in this bill, is the only reason Trump paid anything at all in the only year we know anything about if or what he paid in taxes. Then there's the break he and his heirs would get from an end to the estate tax.

Yes, the Republican tax plan borrows a trillion against America's future to give billionaires and multinational corporations big tax breaks. At the same time, one-third of Americans would see no benefit whatsoever or even pay more. What a deal.

As satirist Andy Borowitz wrote, "Jubilant Trump voters celebrated the prospect of a gigantic tax cut that will benefit everyone but them."

Yes, with the tax bill, the Lyin' King finally has a triumph to announce from Pride Rock. Hear him roar.

Unfortunately for him, some lies are catching up with His Majesty.

Consider one trivial falsehood told by Mike Flynn to the FBI, one which neatly dovetails with lies Trump repeatedly has told Americans about canoodling with Russians.

Team Trump is doing its best to diminish the fact that the man Trump hired to be his go-to man on national security is a felon.

We will hear now that the Logan Act, which prohibits civilians (then-citizens Trump, Flynn, Kushner, Sessions) from conducting foreign policy, is no biggie. Never been prosecuted. Mountain out of molehill.

That may be true, but that's not the real crime being investigated here, aside from the crime of obstructing the investigation into the real crime.

The real crime is Russia's providing assistance to the Trump campaign through in-kind services, like stealing information from the opposing party and sharing it with the Trump campaign, seeding social media with fake news and ads, and attempting to cripple or otherwise compromise state elections operations.

When Richard Nixon was impeached, lies were the reason – the cover-up. But the crime was far more than one iddy, biddy burglary.

The Nixon campaign had sponsored a massive program of dirty tricks aimed at undermining his political opponents.

What Robert Mueller is investigating is whether Team Trump contracted out – yes, outsourced – the dirty tricks business to foreign friends.

We found out years after his departure that Nixon had violated the Logan Act by seeking, before he became president, to slow down peace negotiations in Vietnam so he could take credit for any breakthrough.

Richard Nixon said, "I am not a crook." Donald Trump said, "Russia is a ruse."

He may yet enjoy his tax cut, but the lies are catching up to the king of falsehoods.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

Monday, November 27, 2017

The youth vote: from apathetic to angry

Whether he acknowledges it or not, in large part Donald Trump owes his presidency to the youth vote -- or the lack of it.

More precisely, he owes a lot to youth apathy or a general malaise regarding ballot choices. (Any progressives now seeking a Mulligan for that Jill Stein vote?)

Things have changed. Observe the surge of young voters turning out for Democrats in Virginia, New Jersey and Washington State Nov. 7.

Trump and the Republicans are digging a hole among those voters that could leave them on the outs for a generation.

Consider the tax bill that will award the wealthiest richly and raise taxes for up to 30 percent of middle-class taxpayers. Young voters are straining hard just to project themselves into that middle class. They don't see these tax cuts helping them whatsoever.

Consider how these tax cuts will harm college students. For instance, the House-passed bill would treat tuition waivers for graduate students as income.

Meanwhile, the Republicans would repeal the Lifetime Learning Credit and the Hope Scholarship Credit, both of which allow students to deduct some educational expenses from taxes, while ending deductions for interest on student loans.

While the Republicans pose and preen for big donors, the 1 percent, and big business, they are making young voters furious.

Maybe the biggest issue that has stirred young voters across the board is net neutrality. It's something that's mostly off the radar for most of the over-50 set. Most assuredly that's not the case with those in the 30-and-under set, who see an attempt to control this public resource, the internet, as an attack on their neighborhood.

It's about enabling internet giants like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast to discriminate regarding the speed of data and the preferential treatment of content.

The Trump administration's move to lift net-neutrality rules alarms young voters. They see internet service providers exploiting their monopolies to charge more for the higher speeds that enable entertainment staples like Netflix and Hulu.

FCC chairman and Trump appointee Ajit Pai says that freeing internet service providers from federal rules will result in more innovation (and of course, profits for internet titans). Opponents fear more expensive internet service, which only makes sense. That's what "profit" implies, yes?

Pai takes the standard Republican line that deregulation will save consumers. Of course, that's rarely the way deregulation works. What it typically means is a harvest for monopolies.

Not only are the Republicans digging a hole with young voters, but with Trump as their bell cow, they are deepening and calcifying hatred among minorities for what they represent.

It's more than disgrace when a chief executive would lower himself to engage in a petty dispute like what Trump has had with Lavar Ball, who likes the sound of his voice every bit as much as President Orange Helmet.

For the Republicans, it's a more serious matter than that, writes Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent.

Sargent called Trump's "rage-tweets" part of a pattern of regular attacks on "high-profile African-Americans to feed his supporters' belief that the system is rigged for minorities."

All of the above demonstrates one thing: Trump is not as smart as he thinks he is.

This is a man who lost the popular vote by 3 million but comports himself as if he's Reagan or Roosevelt, with the most massive mandate and broad-based support in political history.

Trump and fellow Republicans need the youth vote. They need the non-white vote, or at least a sliver of each. To so blindly alienate potential allies is simply stupid.

In 2018, and then in 2020, the Republicans will reap the whirlwind of what they sow today with policies that no smart politician would advise.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.