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TomCADem's Journal
TomCADem's Journal
April 29, 2016

John Boehner just confirmed everything liberals suspected about the Republican Party

Interesting story on Vox discussing Boehner's recent slam of Ted Cruz:


"When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges."

The op-ed hit like a bomb. Mann and Ornstein were institutionalists with wide respect in both parties — Ornstein, in fact, worked (and still works) for the conservative American Enterprise Institute. For them to call out one party as "the core of the problem" in American governance was to violate all the rules of polite Washington society. Their diagnosis was controversial at the time, to put it lightly.

For the most part, Republicans dismissed the critique as motivated by the authors' personal liberalism. "The implicit premise is that Republicans are radical and partisan because they are conservative, and we’d be much better off if we returned to the days when Republicans were content to go in the direction of progressive liberalism, albeit a little bit more slowly," wrote Joseph Postell in the National Review.

* * *

In other words, for a critique like this to really have bite, it would need to come from a true, dyed-in-the-wool Republican. Someone whose loyalty to the party couldn't be questioned. Someone who clearly wanted Republicans to succeed and prosper. Someone like John Boehner.
April 26, 2016

Kansas’ credit rating on negative watch at S&P

Source: Kansas City Star

Brownback last week presented three options for the Legislature to consider to address the shortfall. One option would sell off future payments from a tobacco settlement lawsuit to bondholders for $158 million. The second would delay a $99 million payment to the state employee pension system until fiscal year 2018, with a requirement that it be repaid with 8 percent interest.

Those two options “provide a bridge through fiscal years 2016 and 2017, until a new two-year budget is developed addressing structural reform and any implications from the upcoming Supreme Court decision on education funding,” said Eileen Hawley, Brownback’s spokeswoman. “The third option reduces state spending and would create a more structurally balanced budget, as indicated by S&P.”

The third option would reduce spending for most state agencies by 3 percent to 5 percent, including for K-12 public schools and state universities. The cut to K-12 spending would be $57 million.

* * *
Democrats and some Republicans have called for rolling back a Brownback-led income tax exemption for 330,000 business owners, part of the Republican governor’s plan to cut state income taxes. Brownback has maintained that the state’s revenue shortfalls are due to a sluggish state economy and not due to tax policy.

Read more: http://www.kansascity.com/news/politics-government/article73789707.html

So, Kansas Republican Governor Brownback is now just trying to kick the can down the road, rather than repeal his signature tax cuts. Instead of addressing the structural deficit that he created, Brownback is considering closing the budget gap with one-time budget gimmicks. Of course, as noted by Mother Jones, the two leading Republican presidential candidates, Trump and Cruz, are pushing tax plans that might even make Brownback blush:


Here's the breakdown: The CBPP first took the Tax Policy Center's estimates of how far tax revenue would fall if Trump's or Cruz's plan were implemented. For Trump's proposal, the figure is $9.5 trillion over 10 years; for Cruz's, $8.7 trillion. This would place revenues as a percentage of the national GDP in the range of what they were in 1950—before Medicare existed and when Social Security claimed only 0.3 percent of gross domestic product. (Today, Social Security and Medicare account for 8.1 percent of GDP, and this amount is on the rise, thanks to those aging baby boomers.)

Numbers! I know—by now you're wondering, Hey, has Donald Trump tweeted anything in the past 20 minutes? But let's bravely trek on. The CBPP examined what would happen with this loss in tax revenues. After all, if you reduce revenues—and if you're not willing to turn the federal deficit into an exploding supernova—you have to cut spending. So how much will have to be cut? According to the CBPP, if Trump or Cruz is going to reduce taxes and balance the budget by 2026—and they both vow to bring the US government into the black—all government programs would have to be cut by 40 percent. That includes Social Security, Medicare, and the military. If Trump and Cruz don't want to eviscerate Social Security, Medicare, and the military, there is another option: eliminating the rest of the US government. That's right, simply get rid of it all: the Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, infrastructure, law enforcement, cancer research, food stamps, Medicaid, immigration enforcement, NASA, you name it.
April 26, 2016

Game changer? Bobby Knight to campaign with Trump in Indiana

Source: USA Today

Legendary basketball coach Bobby Knight is slated to appear with Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump at a rally in Indiana this week, the Trump campaign announced Monday.

While Knight has not commented on a potential endorsement, his support for Trump has been known for months. During a New York Times interview last fall, Knight called Trump and said over speakerphone: “No one has accomplished more than Mr. Trump has.” And Trump hinted Saturday that the coach who once famously threw a chair across the court would be campaigning for him in Indiana.

The announcement Monday just makes it official. Trump and Knight will appear at Indiana Farmers Coliseum in Indianapolis Wednesday evening, the campaign said.

Knight could provide a boost to Trump’s campaign heading into the Indiana primary next Tuesday. The RealClearPolitics polling average shows Trump leading Cruz 39.3%-33% in the state, but it’s unclear if a pact between Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich puts that margin in jeopardy. Kasich, who currently has 19.3% in the polling average, had said that he would cede Indiana to Cruz (although he told voters there Monday to vote for him).

Read more: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2016/04/25/game-changer-bobby-knight-campaign-trump-indiana/83509764/

Loud, obnoxious bully to campaign with loud, obnoxious bully in Indiana.
April 24, 2016

 If You’re Going to Accuse a Democratic Campaign of Election Theft, You Should Offer Some Evidence

I think the recent efforts to argue that the reason why one candidate is winning over the other is due to election fraud are incredibly misguided. First, there is no evidence that election irregularities have systematically helped or hurt one campaign over the other. Indeed, to the extent that there has been voter suppression of minorities, you could argue that this has hurt those campaigns, which have drawn more support from minorities than whites.

Second, argue that the whole electoral process is fraudulent and that the results are simply wrong suppresses the vote. After all, how can you get out the vote when you are also insisting that the vote does not really matter, because the tabulations are fabricated? Thus, it does not make sense to try to mobilize voters with wild accusations of voter fraud, because the logical result is that voting does not really matter.

Third, this reeks of Republican efforts to argue that President Obama was not really legitimate. We have gone through 8 years of Republicans insisting that President Obama has somehow usurped the Presidency, that we need to have the people have a voice in the selection of a Supreme Court justice, ignoring the 2012 election results, and we ourselves want to introduce the idea that the Democratic nominee and potential President is not legitimate?

Finally, and I think most importantly, if there was real evidence of fraud, Bernie's campaign would be all of it. He has gobs of cash on hand. Indeed, if he had real evidence of fraud, it might help him to mobilize support. However, making a false accusation would also tank his campaign and totally undercut his message.


But how well do these claims support the charge that the primaries are being rigged? Without getting too deep into the weeds, what’s clear is that Fitrakis and Wasserman don’t require much in the way of evidence to allege that an election is being stolen.

An example: In their original piece, they claimed that in Iowa, “Clinton’s ‘victory’ apparently turned on six coin tosses, all of which she allegedly won.” That would have been odd. But, as I wrote to Wasserman via e-mail on April 3, this was an early report that had later been proven erroneous by CNN, NPR and The Atlantic, among others. There’s no complete record of the ties that were decided by a coin flip in Iowa, but two things are clear: Sanders won his share, and since each flip determined only a tiny fraction of a single delegate, they had zero impact on the outcome. But as of this writing, their post remains uncorrected.

Another: Fitrakis and Wasserman claim that “there’s clear evidence that Bernie actually won the Massachusetts primary, which the corporate media and official vote count gave to Hillary.” They write that polls in Massachusetts showed “Bernie substantially ahead of Clinton prior to the voting,” but FiveThirtyEight’s weighted polling average on the eve of the primary had Clinton up by double digits and gave her a 94 percent chance of winning. Given that Clinton won in a squeaker, it was actually Sanders who did better than the polls predicted.

They go on to cite an analysis by Richard Charnin, who writes a blog devoted to “JFK conspiracy and systemic election fraud analysis,” claiming that, as Fitrakis and Wasserman put it, “Bernie won all the precincts with hand-counted paper ballots but lost all the ones with electronic voting machines.” The implication is clear, but the problem is that, even if Charnin’s numbers are accurate, the vast majority of precincts in Massachusetts use optical scanners. So we run into a small sample problem, and a result that’s easily explained by Sanders’s faring better than Clinton in small, rural towns that hand-count their votes.
April 14, 2016

NY Times - By Opposing Obama, the Republicans Created Trump

The interesting thesis is that by opposing President Obama's proposals to help the unemployed, particularly white working class men, Republicans helped stoke the anger that was the key to their electoral successes, but which also created conditions that were ripe for both Cruz and Trump.


Throughout his presidency, Mr. Obama has put forward constructive proposals to help those displaced workers. For its part, the Republican Congress has been behaving like Nero.

Take, for example, the administration’s 2011 proposal of a $447 billion package of measures including payroll tax cuts and the creation of an infrastructure bank that would have led to the creation of thousands of construction jobs, as well as other substantial economic benefits.

Designed to be bipartisan and fully paid for by higher taxes on rich Americans and some corporations, the American Jobs Act was nonetheless dead virtually upon its arrival on Capitol Hill.

That’s not all. During his administration, Mr. Obama put forth proposals for larger tax credits for child care; community college investments; expansion of the earned-income tax credit; changing retirement plans to be portable across employers and available to part-time workers; and tax credits for manufacturing communities.
April 10, 2016

Ezra Klein - Is the media biased against Bernie Sanders?

Very interesting and nuanced piece on a subject matter that does not lend itself to nuance. There is the media's bias towards so-called serious candidates versus the media's bias toward promoting a close, contested race in order to generate ratings. In California, for a change, primary turnout is expected to break records since both the Democratic and Republican primaries are contested. Personally, being from California, it is exciting that to be a pivotal state. We are the largest State, yet the California primary is seen as nothing more than a coronation of a nominee who has locked up the nomination.


Is the media biased against Bernie Sanders?

His supporters certainly think so. Hundreds of them recently picketed CNN, and I'm regularly deluged by emails from Bernie backers who feel the press — including Vox — is biased against their candidate.

I think there are ways in which the media tilts against Sanders, and that some of the reasons for that bias exist primarily as subtext, rather than text, which makes coverage of the candidate confusing for anyone reading it. That said, there are also important ways in which the media tilts toward Sanders and against Hillary Clinton.

The past few days offered good examples of all these dynamics. But they also spoke to deeper realities — realities that we don't often discuss — about the way the media covers all presidential candidates, and how the models that shape media narratives are often invisible to the public.

April 9, 2016

Face it: Ted Cruz is as far from the Republican mainstream as Donald Trump is

I do think that the article minimizes how extreme the Republican "mainstream" is, but he is correct that Ted Cruz takes RW crazy to a different level.


There’s a reason most Republican governors, senators and congressmen haven’t endorsed either Trump or Cruz. For the establishment GOP, both are nightmares, because each appeals to small but vocal factions of the party. Most probably neither could be elected, and, if one was, he likely couldn’t govern.

Which, of course, is why the party’s establishment is clinging to the idea of a deadlocked convention that would ultimately spurn both Trump and Cruz and nominate a more palatable (but far from invincible) mainstream candidate, possibly Paul Ryan, John Kasich, Mitt Romney or Marco Rubio.

* * *
Most Republicans want a smaller government, but Cruz’s budget plans go much further than the budgets approved by the Republicans in the House and Senate. Despite Cruz’s professed concern about the federal debt, the deficits would explode if his plans were adopted.

Even the most favorable analysis suggests that his flat-tax reform plan would starve the government of revenue, adding at least $3 trillion and as much as $21 trillion to the debt over 10 years. He hasn’t called for nearly enough spending cuts to balance the budget, even though he says he’s in favor of a constitutional requirement that the budget be balanced. By one account, to get to a balanced budget, Cruz’s tax plan would require spending to be cut in half, or for the economy to grow four times faster over the next decade. Neither is going to happen.
April 3, 2016

Cruz, Trump and Sanders want to go where few candidates have dared tread.

Interesting story in U.S. News comparing the tax plans of the four leading candidates. Here is a summary of the tax plans:


Here is a calculator of how each plan would affect you:


Of course, this does not necessarily discuss the spending or cuts that each candidate is proposing. With Bernie, a lot of those additional revenues would be applied toward new programs, rather than to merely trying to cut the deficit. With the Republicans, they are being pretty vague about what programs that they would cut to pay for their massive tax cuts to the rich.


Sanders' tax proposals are sweeping in size and scope – raising $15.3 trillion (6.4 percent of gross domestic product or GDP) over a decade. His plan is highly progressive, with high-income taxpayers bearing the largest increases in taxes, both in dollars and as a percent of their income, although most other taxpayers would pay modestly more as well. Sanders would simplify some features of the tax code but also add two new taxes, such as a tax on financial transactions and a carbon tax to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

* * *
Clinton's proposals would raise a much more modest but still substantial $1.1 trillion over a decade. Her plan is highly progressive as well, with 80 percent of the tax increases falling on the top 1 percent of taxpayers and little or none on the bottom four-fifths. She doesn't change corporate tax rates but proposes measures to, among other things, discourage tax avoidance by multinational corporations. The Tax Policy Center highlights her measures that add complexity and the disincentives from her higher tax rates. Its analysis is incomplete, it says, since Clinton has additional proposals in the works, including a tax cut for low- and moderate-income households.

On the Republican side, both the Cruz and Trump proposals would cost huge revenues ($8.7 trillion over a decade for Cruz, $9.5 trillion for Trump), while providing most of their tax cuts to very high-income people. While the Tax Policy Center sees the potential for tax simplification and greater incentives to work, save and invest in these plans, its overwhelming features are that they're highly regressive and would blow a huge hole in the budget. "Barring extraordinarily large cuts in government spending or future tax increases," it concludes for each candidate's plan, "it would yield persistently large, and likely unsustainable, budget deficits."

Cutting government programs so greatly to pay for tax cuts that go overwhelmingly to the rich would require far harsher cuts even than those in the House Budget Committee-approved budget, which gets 62 percent of its non-defense cuts from low- and moderate-income programs. Cruz and Trump provide few specifics on how they'd close the budget gap that their tax cuts would create, but it's hard to see how these programs wouldn't do even worse than in the House plan.

April 2, 2016

WaPo - "The Democrats’ Adult Campaign" - Discussion of *yawn* Tax Policy

In March, the Nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has finished publishing a series of analyses of the candidate's respective tax plans, which can be found here:


The analysis does not specifically try to measure the impact on GDP of the respective tax plans, as well as the related spending plans offered by the candidates. But, as this WaPo story discusses, at least Hillary and Bernie's plans are based on reality based assumptions compared to the plans offered by Republicans:


Take, for example, the fundamental question of how a government should tax and spend. Ms. Clinton in particular has offered a raft of serious, progressive proposals that are grounded in reality, even though the electorate has sometimes seemed more interested in ideological pizzazz. The independent Tax Policy Center, which has been examining each candidate’s fiscal plans, reported last week that Ms. Clinton’s would raise about $1.1 trillion in new revenue over a decade, almost entirely from very high earners. She would spend a significant portion of this money — on a tax cut for the middle class, making college debt-free and other programs. Though it is still unclear exactly how much of Ms. Clinton’s new revenue would be put to righting the country’s long-term budget outlook, hers is the most fiscally responsible plan on the table.

Mr. Sanders also claims to pay for all the new spending he proposes. But he would increase taxes — mostly on the wealthy, but on everyone to some extent — by a whopping $15.3 trillion over 10 years. The revenue would go to making college and health care free, among other goals. But the tax hikes would be so large and the spending requirements of his new programs so uncertain that the analysts warn that the plan carries economic risks that they cannot measure. There is little precedent for increasing the size of government so much and so fast.

The Republicans lately have not been much interested in discussing such matters. But they all have made proposals — and none of them passes the laugh test, as the Tax Policy Center analyses show.

Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump’s plan would do the most damage, reducing federal revenue by $9.5?trillion over 10 years. Ted Cruz takes the silver medal for irresponsibility, reducing revenue by $8.6?trillion, and Marco Rubio claims the bronze with a mere $6.8 trillion reduction. Each plan would require “unprecedented spending cuts” to work — on the order of slashing the entire defense budget or greater.

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