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President’s Day: What We Have And What We Need

“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” Franklin Delano Roosevelt

“My fellow Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” John F. Kennedy

“No collusion!” Donald Trump (2017-)

You get the idea.

This President’s Day, which by the way has to be the most terrible use of a Monday as a holiday, my thoughts turn to leadership and what a president–any president– contributes to the intellectual, moral, educational, and spiritual life of this country. We’ve had some great presidents who’ve led us through terrible times and we’ve had good, mediocre and ineffective presidents who, for whatever reason, fell short of greatness. We’ve also had presidents who split the bill, most notably Nixon and LBJ, who did some things that great presidents do, and other things that severely damaged the country for decades.

I don’t think we’ll need to worry about whether Donald Trump will ever rise to greatness as a president. He is clearly unable to unite the country because he only sees politics and governing as a zero-sum game, and in order for him to win, someone else has to lose. And if he can win at the expense of common sense or unity or nationalism or rising above partisan politics, then all the better. So rather than rallying the country against a Russia that clearly tried to influence the 2016 election, the president has turned it into a referendum on his personal brand. Saying that he’s against domestic violence, much less saying it one week after allegations with pictures emerged about one of his staff members, is both laughable and tragic. I can’t think of any other modern president that would need to say such a thing. It was obvious. Not with this president.

It’s the same with the tragedy in Florida. Mental health is certainly an issue, but when the president has tried for more than a year to repeal a law that mandated mental health coverage for all health insurance policies, then his words are simply words. Add that to his fealty to the NRA and their laughable/tragic commitment to having everyone in the country armed and you have a president who will not compete with the best of our executives. He is simply too divisive, too ignorant of policy and too devoid of compassion.

As for the tax cuts. Yes, I did receive more money in my last paycheck, but my best financial strategy is to now put it in an interest-bearing account because I’ll need it to pay back taxes next April because I won’t be able to deduct enough taxes and interest to keep my cut. Imagine a tax cut bill that makes teachers pay more. Unfathomable.

This President’s Day, let’s reflect on what a great president would do to help solve our problems, unite the country and move us forward towards a greater future. Then let’s elect someone like that in 2020.

For more, go to www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives or Twitter @rigrundfest

Donald Trump #Featured

The Bigger Deficit Is Intellectual

Donald Trump might be the first president to step on his own tax cuts. With February 15 in sight, and most companies ready to use the new tax tables for that payday, the resident philanderer, sexual braggart, pussy-grabber-in-chief has decided that the #MeToo movement might be getting too close to the Oval Office for his comfort. Not only will this dilute the message that many Republicans want to send, that the president is finding his footing and is acting–here we go–presidential, but it will remind many voters that although they will be getting a bump in their pay, there is a steep price to pay for the pizzas they’ll be able to pay for.

And don’t think for a minute that the president is actually worried about Rob Porter or Roy Moore or Al Franken or Bill O’Reilly. He’s worried about the one and only person who matters to him in all matters–himself. He knows that the Stormy Daniels affair was real, and so does his wife. He knows that he was speaking a truth to Billy Bush when he was talking about what rich Neanderthals can do to women when they want to assert their power. He knows that allegations about other members of his staff reflect poorly on him, so naturally he decides that rather than lead the country through this important societal upheaval, his best shot at saving himself is to belittle the women who are leading it and making credible, provable accusations.

Plus, the president’s newfound respect for due process is about as sincere and his handshake with Hillary Clinton during the debates. He’s not trying to right a wrong here. He’s trying to dismiss the issue because ultimately it leads to his front door. Due process meant nothing when he was painting NFL players as un-American or in crafting legislation that would allow Dreamers to stay in this country, or in judging the Central Park Five as guilty despite the fact that they were, in fact, completely innocent.

Don’t the victims deserve due process too?

I guess that when you’re on the other side of due process, like, say, when you’re being investigated by someone who actually knows what the phrase means and how to apply it, or you’ve been accused by dozens of women of committing sexual crimes against them, then I can imagine it would be uncomfortable to know that you could actually be held liable, lose your job or go to jail because of your actions.

As for those tax cuts, Democrats have to be careful because in the short term they will be a real boon to many wage earners who might decide that they can tolerate the president’s behavior if it means an extra $100 per month. Yes, the stock market has gyrated wildly, but the key is real wages and jobs.  Inflation is about to erode much of the wage gains that many Americans are counting on, and a good part of those wage gains will be in the form of bonuses. Trade wars will make goods that much more expensive. And our foreign policy is a mess. These are winnable issues for November. The president’s outbursts are but extra sauce.

Remember, and I mean always remember, that more people voted for Hillary Clinton’s vision of America’s future than Donald Trump’s. “The country” does not support his policies and “the American people” did not speak in favor of his agenda in 2016.

The president has said some terrible things about minorities. He’s forgetting that he is one himself.

For more, go to www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives or Twitter @rigrundfest

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Donald Trump Will Gain “Immensely” From Tax Overhaul

In addition to the praise and worship Republican lawmakers lauded on Donald Trump yesterday after passing the tax law – his first legislative win by the way, Donald Trump and his family will also draw huge benefits when the law goes into effect in 2018.

The Washington Post reports that Trump, who said he would be a “big loser” if the bill passed, stands to gain immensely from the Republican tax overhaul, including through a lower top tax rate and lucrative deductions for top-earning households, according to attorneys and tax experts who reviewed the final bill.

Trump could also take advantage of benefits that will lift specific business sectors, including a last-minute tax deduction that helps many owners of high-value commercial real estate, the industry where he first made his fortune.

The tax plan’s transformation into law crystallizes the contrast between Trump’s populist rhetoric and the private fortune he made by marketing condos, hotels and golf resorts to a wealthy clientele.

The Republicans’ first legislative triumph of 2017 will ensure a financial windfall for the president and his family in a way that is virtually unprecedented in American political history, experts said.

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Tax Cut Pizza Math: How Many Slices Will You Get?

Raise your hand if you thought the Trump tax plan would favor the middle class and the poor.

I see no hands.

Democrats in the House and Senate can fulminate all they want, and the responsible media – and you know who they are – can put banner headlines about economic inequality on their sites and publications, but in the end, cutting taxes for the upper class will always be the GOP’s number one priority.

What’s different this time around is that the deficit hawks who haunted President Obama for his supposed wasteful spending that saved the auto industry and basically the entire economy are…silent. Actually, they’ve defended the multi-trillion black hole that TrumpTax will blow in the deficit, with the otherworldly assumption that economic growth will pay for the tax cuts.

It will not. Yes, economic growth will likely rise in the first few months after the cuts are passed, but at some point the Federal Reserve, with or without Janet Yellin, will raise interest rates enough to cool off the resultant inflation. That will result in some more fulminating from the president who knows less about actual economics than he does about health insurance.

This assumes that the bill is passed as presented today, which also is not going to happen. There are too many moving parts and too many corporate interests that stand to lose for the law to stand. The home building industry is concerned about the mortgage interest deduction. People like me who live  in states where state and local taxes are high will put pressure on legislators to put back the deduction for those taxes. The new proposed 25% tax rate for pass through entities could result in many people listing themselves as pass through entities, which would mean they’d pay a lower tax rate.

And, of course, there are other parts of the proposal (still only 9 pages long) that will come out soon that will benefit other groups. Tax bills run into the thousands of pages. I can’t wait to see who gets the breaks and who gets the shaft.

The real impact, though, will mean the most when the bill is written and the true measure of what each group in this country will get out of it is measured in pizzas.

That’s right, pizzas, as in, “the average person will see a $1,600 tax cut, which comes out to $31 per week, or about 2 pizzas.” Right now, the average middle class worker will get about a $660 tax break per year which comes out to $12.70 per week, which is…one pizza. Are you ready to create a multi-trillion dollar addition to the deficit for your pizza? If we need to, we can pool our money together and add pepperoni. Or an anchovy. After the bill passes in its final form, I would not be surprised to see the middle class share fall from a whole pie to slices. And not fat Sicilian slices either.

No matter how you slice it, though, it ain’t gonna to be much for the voters who thought Donald Trump was on their side or that the swamp would be drained. This bill is already fueling the lobbyists who are anticipating a windfall. And the president will still not show us his tax return, so any of his claims that tax reform will not help him are specious at best.

But this is par for the course for our golfing executive. You know: the one who’s currently blaming Puerto Rico for its devastation.

For more, go to www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives or Twitter @rigrundfest

Featured #Health Care

You Think This Is About Health Care? Sucka.

This is not about health care, and as a matter of fact, the Republican self-immolation this past week has never been about health care. Or health insurance. Or health. Or care.

It’s the taxes, stupid.

That’s what the Republicans care about. That’s what they think will make them healthy and insure their political future. Taxes. as in lower taxes. As in lower taxes than Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush would ever consider because as repellent as their political and economic philosophies were, they were rooted in real-world and real-economy assumptions. Those assumptions turned out to be wrong, as is amply evidenced by the deficits they created and the fact that economic growth never reached the heights it would need to pay back the Treasury for their rashness.

And Reagan even raised taxes over the course of his term in office to cover part of the shortfall. W’s dad gave up his political career when he raised taxes and set the stage for the Clinton boom in the 90s that was further fueled by the tax hikes in Bill’s budgets.

But now we have the ultra-right wing sycophants who forget or, my assumption, never learned those lessons. They’ve wanted to cut taxes for the past eight years and now they have the ultimate know-nothing in the White House who’s going to make their dreams come true.

In order to do that, though, they need to claim the money that President Obama used to revolutionize the health care system. To make sure that uninsured Americans can get affordable health insurance, which they are getting thanks to government subsidies, and to make sure that those people who have pre-existing conditions or are women or are elderly and should not be denied or price-gouged, taxes went up for the wealthy. And corporations. That’s obviously too much for the GOP to handle, so repeal became the rallying cry.

Well, when your goal is to repeal instead of making people healthier, then repeal is what you get. Except, the bill the House passed last week is not repeal. It just guts the best parts of the ACA while making the most vulnerable and sick people in this country subject to paying far more for health care.

Like they used to. When America was great. We’re going to make it great again by making health insurance more expensive, less comprehensive, unfairly discriminatory, and less job-friendly.

But at least taxes will go down, way down, for the already wealthy and to pay for the cuts Donald Trump will sell our intellectual and cultural soul. Because in the end, Trump only wants victories. He knows nothing about health insurance, or about how to be president for that matter, and only counts wins and losses. He considers the vote last week a win. It was not.

Let’s hope that the Senate proposes an actual health care bill that benefits real people. Otherwise, 2018 will not be kind to the Republicans.

For more, go to www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives or Twitter @rigrundfest

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New York Democrats Introduce Bill to Force Trump to Release his Taxes

Donald Trump is obviously hiding something.

After Trump promised the country that he would release his taxes if he ran for president, then promised he would release his taxes if he became the Republican’s nominee, then promised he would release his taxes if elected and now saying he has no intention of releasing his taxes, it is clear that this man is a liar, determined to keep his tax secret from the American public.

Well New York Democrats are determined to flush that secret out!

Democrats in the New York legislature have introduced a bill that would require the state to release five years of President Trump’s state tax returns, according to The Associated Press.

The bill would apply to any president or vice president who files a New York state tax return, which would include Trump, the news service reported. The bill would also apply to top state politicians like Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and the attorney general, as well as New York’s two U.S. senators.

New York Democrats say the bill is a chance to force Trump to release more tax information than he previously has.

“This is drawing a line in the sand: Are you for transparency or not?” Sen. Brad Hoylman (D) of Manhattan told the AP. “This is an issue of national security.”

The Democratic-controlled New York Assembly will likely support the bill, but it faces longer odds in the state Senate, which is held by Republicans, the AP noted.

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Reporter to Sean Spicer – Are We Ever Going to See Trump’s Taxes? – Video

Donald Trump has dicked the American people around for so long, that even reporters are beginning to call him out on it. One issue in particular that has the public concerned, and is Trump’s insistence on keeping his taxes hidden from the people.

Trump is the first American president in recent decades to fool the American people into voting him into office without allowing us  to see who he is financially connected to. In a recent press conference, White House spokesman Sean Spicer was asked whether Trump would release his 2016 taxes, to which he answered that those taxes were already under a routine audit.

How convenient!

“I think it’s been covered before. It’s the same thing that was discussed on the campaign trail. The president is under audit. It’s a routine one and it continues. And I think the American public [knows] clearly where he stands. This is something that he made very clear during the election cycle.”

ABC reporter, Johnathan Karl heard enough!

“You’ve been asked about this obviously a thousand times. You always talk about you’re under audit, the president is under audit. Is it time to say once and for all, the president is never going to release his tax returns?”

“We’ll have to get back to you on that,” Spicer replied. A well practiced phrase indeed.

Video