Monday, May 27, 2019

To be charitable, GOP tax policy isn't

            NPR still got the car.

            The donation to public radio was the wish of a son who had driven the '98 Mazda, its red paint peeling, until its dying moments.

            I was in favor, since public broadcasting needs our support in the face of Republican exercises in false economy and rigged scarcity – a trillion in added debt over the next decade from unnecessary and genuinely stupid tax cuts.

            The better to strangle important programs like food stamps, education funding, help for the disabled, and of course public broadcasting.

            So, I was all for the donation. At the same time I was anticipating listing it on my tax returns as would have been the practice before Donald Trump and his slovenly enablers changed the tax laws.

            I wasn't aware of one change: Unless one itemizes, charitable deductions are out.

            With the standardized deduction doubled, this eliminates most who live from paycheck to paycheck.

            One would think this is a windfall, so stop your whining. Tax cuts for people in the middle have been minuscule, while those making $100,000 and above have been generous.

            For this, we have an annual federal deficit which, though declining when Barack Obama handed over the keys. According to, the annual federal deficit was $442 billion in 2015, but by 2018 it was $779 billion.

            The charitable deduction isn't the only thing that went away for non-itemizing earners. So did the deduction for work expenses – yes, you teachers who bought supplies and other things for your classes.

            Meanwhile, some other deductions were swept away whether one itemizes or not: moving expenses, tax preparation fees and casualty losses. Also, the deduction for state and local taxes has been acutely limited.

            To what end? If it resulted in a streamlined, common-sense tax system that benefited all comparably and paid for what government we need, we could all applaud it.

            This does not do that. That applied as well to Republican tax reforms in the Reagan years. We had an opportunity to raise the revenue to stop the bleeding caused by supply-side economics. Instead, Reagan's mandate was that the changes be "revenue neutral."

            Well, no amount of voodoo will allow Donald Trump to demonstrate that, though the standard Republican claim was that the tax cuts would pay for themselves. This is a lie decades in the framing.

            So, what has the tax change done to charities that rely on small donors in addition to the big ones? It's too early to know the full extent.

            A projection coming into this tax year was that the law would cause a 4 percent decline in charitable giving.

            Thank goodness small givers aren't driven by tax policy. They are driven by goodness.

            Nonetheless, it's ridiculous that wealthy givers can deduct their acts of generosity, as if theirs are the only ones that matter, while the less wealthy will file theirs away under "D" for "decency."

            The Charitable Giving Coalition is lobbying Congress to make charitable donations tax-deferred regardless of how one's taxes are paid.

            The fact is that roughly half of all Americans who once deducted donations no longer can do so under the Republican tax law. In Colorado alone, that applies to $1 billion worth of charitable donations, according to the Colorado Nonprofit Association.

            Once again, most of those donations will continue, because people care about the institutions they support.

            Under the new tax law, the institutions Donald Trump and his acolytes support are multi-national corporations, their boards and the trust funds of the super-wealthy.

            I did have good news to harvest in researching this commentary. I found out that though federal tax laws don't allow me to deduct the cost of my donation to NPR, Colorado law does that very thing.

            Regardless, we did the right thing. It felt good. Try it, Mr. President.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Or mandatory vasectomies?

            I don't know the 17th century conditions that caused British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli to describe conservative government as "organized hypocrisy." I do know what it means in the 21st century.

            Friday the U.S. House passed legislation to prevent discrimination against people based on sexual orientation. The bill is DOA in the Senate, though, where Associated Press said Republicans denounced it as "government overreach."

            Yes: the best government governs least. Reagan-Goldwater stuff, you know.

            One could grant this to today's Republicans if they in any way adhered to the bromide for all things.

            As small-government words were being mouthed in the nation's capital, Republicans in several states were adopting government policy that could not be bigger and more intrusive: state monitoring of wombs.

            So-called conservatives say they embrace small government, but that's not true. The biggest forms of big government are their passions:

            Prisons -- That's big government, even if specious for-profit contractors cut as many corners as they can.

            Drug policies -- Throwing the book at people for victimless offenses like pot possession is big government at its most vainglorious and costly.

            War -- No big-government endeavor is bigger. Add the tools for waging it – in our case a military bigger than those of the next seven countries combined.

            However, in scope and audacity, no big-government quest can match the newly revved war on reproductive rights.

            Clothed in verbal drapery like "respect for life" (war being a fertile field for propaganda), call this what it is: the move toward state-ordered gestation.

            State-ordered in Alabama: whether the pregnancy results from rape or incest; whether the victim is 12 or a mentally disabled 36.

            Should these new restrictions on a woman's decision to carry a baby get the go-ahead from the Supreme Court, which decided more than 40 years ago that "unduly restrictive state regulation of abortion is unconstitutional," we await the first inquests into a miscarriage suspected as being self-induced.

            Alabama will then lead the nation into a new era of jurisprudence when it establishes its system of unwanted pregnancy courts.

            Don't laugh. States like Georgia would put themselves in similar legal straits with laws banning abortion except in cases of rape and incest.

            We would await the first trial in Georgia in which a 14-year-old victim tries to convince the court that the 23-year-old she fantasized to be a provider actually was a predator.

            It's hard enough for rape and incest victims to come forward to press charges anyway. Under said situations, a so-called rape-incest exception is simple cruelty by "pro-life" know-nothings.

            Not to suggest any more work for these busy reproductive-totalitarian states and those contemplating the same, but Sen. Kamala Harris had a good question for then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

            Did he know, she asked, of any laws "the government has any power to make over the male body?"

            Excellent question in a country in which a tiny bit more than half of the populace is female. What is your answer, Alabama?

            A country truly interested in preventing abortion, rather than simply enforcing unworkable moral dictates in a complex medical world, must have laws that govern both genders.

            -- Mandated condom use for all males under penalty of death.

            -- Mandated seminars for all males on rape, incest and the definition of consent. With video and audio like those now presented to pregnant women seeking abortion.

            -- Mandatory comprehensive sex education in schools, regardless of religious objections.

            Of course, we know that the best way to "respect life" is to give women control over their reproductive choices, even that 14-year-old who can't yet vote. Colorado dramatically cut teen pregnancies with a state-funded program making contraception widely available. Religious-right Republicans opposed it.

            Indeed, if Republicans really wanted to do something about abortion (which is going to happen, safely or otherwise, whatever they mandate) the most effective thing they could do is dramatically increase funding for Planned Parenthood. It does more to prevent abortions than any Bible-quoting lawmaker ever will..

            They wouldn't dare fund contraception, sex education and more, because the proponents of "pro-life" laws aren't so much about "protecting the unborn" as punishing women for misappropriating their organs.

            Anti-abortion? If you are not pro-contraception as well, you are a 21st century hypocrite.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:


Monday, May 13, 2019

A mysterious coverup that would make Richard Nixon blush

            Donald Trump Jr. is a big boy, purportedly, and is hardly shy around a microphone. So why not slide that chronically protruded chest toward a mike before the Senate Intelligence Committee?

            Republicans are throwing a toddler tantrum, all tears and slobber, at the thought. Why? Let the man talk.

            So many "whys" about what our president, his kin and his enablers have been doing:

            If the Mueller Report "totally and completely exonerates" Donald Sr., why would Trump not want to cooperate with Congress in every way to ease everyone's minds?

            If Robert Mueller found "no collusion, no obstruction," why would Trump seek to prevent him from testifying before Congress?

            So, too, with former White House counsel Don McGahn. What more does McGahn know that Donald Trump doesn't want you and me to know?

            The report says Trump leaned on McGahn to dismiss Mueller. McGahn refused. Then, McGahn says, Trump asked him to lie about that request.

            Maybe that's because with Mueller on his case, as the latter reports, Trump said, "This is the end of my presidency."

            How so, Mr. President? No collusion, no obstruction, you say. What then had you worried?

            Why concoct a lie about the reason for the infamous Trump Tower meeting with a Russian contingent?

            Why ask FBI director James Comey to pull back from probing National Security Adviser Mike Flynn for his dealings with Russia?

            Why concoct another lie about the pretext for firing Comey (later admitting it was about stopping the Russia investigation and nothing more)?

            What don't you want Mueller, and Comey, and now Congress and well, everyone, to know?

            Prosecutors use a term called "consciousness of guilt." Look it up. Basically it describes just about everything Donald Trump has said and done regarding Russia.

            It means lying repeatedly even when the lies are self-evident. ("No communication" with Russia while Jared Kushner was discussing setting up a back channel for such a thing.)

            It means constructing false alibis (um, adoption as a pretext for Russians at Trump headquarters pre-election).

            It means intimidating witnesses, something Trump did in tweet after tweet as former enablers turned state's evidence.

            These things should tell us that Trump and his campaign broke the law in their dealings with the Russians and have engaged in a coverup that would make Richard Nixon blush.

            What continues in his resisting congressional scrutiny -- obvious and ongoing obstruction – should make every citizen demand the truth.

            A letter signed by more than 800 federal prosecutors asserts that Trump has done indictable things to thwart investigations of all stripes.

            Some assert that a bunch of Democrats and liberals signed that letter. That doesn't stand up to scrutiny. But you decide. Among them, Jeffrey Harris, a former assistant to former New York prosecutor Rudy Giuliani, says, "I have absolutely no doubt that the prosecutor Rudy Giuliani would have indicted someone who committed the acts that are put out on the Mueller report in a heartbeat."

            The same goes for Paul Rosenzweig, who was on the team of Special Counsel Ken Starr in making the case against Bill Clinton. Rosenzweig said that Trump's attempt to bully McGahn unto itself is indictable and impeachable.

            I can't imagine any American believing that if Trump were not president he would not be facing criminal indictment. Mueller's report lists 10 possible acts of obstruction.

            Add to that now an 11th: contempt of Congress. Trump appears dedicated to forcing the hand of House investigators by using their only remedy to get the truth – an impeachment trial.

            The fact is that this should have happened even before the Mueller report was released. It should have happened the moment former Trump fixer Michael Cohen was convicted of crimes done at Trump's bidding.

            If not then, it should have begun after Cohen testified in Congress on matters which legal observers said implicated Trump in at least 14 crimes, ranging from insurance fraud and tax fraud to threats and intimidation.

            There is no "if" as to whether Trump obstructed justice. The only question is "why" he lied so consistently about all things Russia. We should not be left to guess.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Monday, May 6, 2019

Brown-skinned laborers, white-skinned hypocrites

            I'm stunned at this late moment that we haven't seen a presidential tweet – exhausting all 280 characters and all 11 syllables of Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos' last name.

            Dot. Dot. Dot.

            If Donald Trump considers himself a Fox News hound, what's with his failure to exploit that name and all the angst and anger – angster -- he can further foment among his fearful followers?

            Surely the leader of the paleface world heard the name pronounced on TV. All those trilled Rs and alien phonics. Why, that "G" isn't even pronounced the way God intended it.

            Aguilera-Mederos was behind the wheel of a runaway semi that caused one of the most horrific traffic accidents in Colorado history – 28 vehicles, four fatalities, scores of injuries.

            That's bad enough, but consider: Using "Fox & Friends"-speak, the driver was from what would qualify as one of those "Mexican countries" (actual headline) down around the equator. Aguilera-Mederos is here from Cuba with a green card.

            The semi was headed down a steep incline on I-70 when the driver lost control. Charging down from the foothills, the truck slammed into cars halted by another traffic accident.

            Runaway trucks are nothing new in the Rockies. That's why emergency ramps are availed and signs advise the utmost caution. Aguilera-Mederos was negligent. A court will decide if he's criminally so.

            It's just the state of discourse, however, that the driver's ethnicity became a focal point of much of it.

            Someone whipped up an online petition to deport Aguilera-Mederos, and to remark on the harm wrought by "brown devils." It continued, "The wetbacks need to get out of R country and build the f---ing wall."

            Once again, Mr. President. Why no tweet? Your public awaits.

            Ah, but let's think about this a little further. What if the truck was defective? And if this man was unqualified, who hired him?

            It turns out a small Houston trucking company owns the vehicle. Not surprisingly, the company has been cited for vehicles with, ahem, brake problems.

            Yes, isn't that the way it works? We talk about invading hordes of brown-skinned people (actually people who demonstrate the highest qualities of resourcefulness, hard work and attention to family), but rarely do we talk about the people who exploit their labor.

            Like Donald Trump, for instance.

            Remember the tempest stirred during the Clinton administration – Nannygate it was called – when two candidacies for attorney general (Zoe Baird and Judge Kimba Wood) were withdrawn after acknowledging they hired undocumented individuals to perform household functions?

            President Trump didn't withdraw Andrew Pudzer's name from nomination as his secretary of labor though Pudzer acknowledged the very same thing. (Pudzer was rejected by the Senate.)

            And why should Trump have made a thing about it? His properties are well-known to have employed undocumented individuals. A recent Washington Post expose revealed a veritable Costa Rican pipeline of undocumented workers to Trump properties.

            If members of the MAGA set know this, it appears not to bother them one bit.

            Reportedly, federal investigators from the Southern District of New York, are not so sanguine. They are investigating the Trump Organization's use of illegal labor as one piece of a possible organized crime case under the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act.

            Rest assured, those who will made a big deal out of Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos' name have no complaint if people with all those dreaded syllables clean their motel toilets, harvest their produce or replace their storm-battered roofs.

            And of course they're completely satisfied if brown-skinned "devils" help prop up the business of a folk hero with a forked tongue.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: