Friday, October 19, 2018

538's numbers show Dems raising more money in House races ...

… because GOP fundraising is down from 2016.

In today’s Election Update, 538’s Nate Silver reports on disparities in fundraising in the 2018 cycle compared to that in the 2016 cycle. The good news is that the Dems are hauling in far more than the GOP in House races. Let’s say that again. In run-of-the-mill House races, Dems are better funded than Republicans. Wow! Yippee kai yai! Holy Moly, Batman. No sh!t! Here are the numbers.

It would be one thing if Democrats were raising money only in a few high-profile races — say, for example, in Beto O’Rourke’s Senate race in Texas. But that’s precisely not what is happening. Instead, the Democrats’ fundraising advantage is widespread. They’re raising money almost everywhere they need it in the House, whereas Republicans are sometimes coming up short.

Until recently, it was rare for House candidates to raise $2 million for their races — but it’s become more common in recent years as fundraising has gone digital and candidates have learned how to make highly tailored online appeals. There was a huge jump in the number of $2-million-plus candidates in both parties between 2014 and 2016, for example. But while Democrats’ numbers have held steady or improved from the high levels they had in 2016, Republican numbers have collapsed. The 17 GOP candidates that project to raise at least $2 million this year is down from 64 in 2016. (All figures are adjusted for inflation.)

Silver reports that the same pattern holds for candidates at lesser funding levels. Those Democrats raising $1 million or more increased by 2 from 2016 to 2018 but those Republicans in this category dropped by a whopping 87. Similarly, those Democrats raising $500 thousand or more increased by 20 but Republicans in this category decreased by 70.

The result is a fundraising disparity of the likes we’ve never seen before — at least not in recent years. (Our data on House fundraising goes back to 1998.) In the average House district, the Democratic candidate has raised 64 percent of the money, or almost two-thirds. Likewise, the Democrat has raised an average of 65 percent of the money in districts rated as competitive by the Cook Political Report. In all previous years in our database, no party had averaged more than 56 percent of the money in these competitive districts.

The fundraising numbers are so good for Democrats — and so bad for Republicans — that it’s a little bit hard to know quite what to make of them. … [But] If Democrats beat their projections on Nov. 6 — say, they win 63 House seats, equalling the number that Republicans won in 2010, an unlikely-but-not-impossible scenario — we may look back on these fundraising numbers as the canary in the coal mine.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

The second shoe - the real business model of the Trump Organization

Shoe #1: My October 3rd 2018 post was about the NY Times reports on how Trump made his money - suspect tax schemes and gifts from Dad. I quoted one of that report’s amazing conclusions: “President Trump participated in dubious tax schemes during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud, that greatly increased the fortune he received from his parents, an investigation by The New York Times has found.”

Shoe #2: Now Adam Davidson at The New Yorker asks Is Fraud Part of the Trump Organization’s Business Model? A new investigation shows a pattern in different projects around the country and the world.

Here are excerpts.

This month, two incredible investigative stories have given us an opportunity to lift the hood of the Trump Organization, look inside, and begin to understand what the business of this unusual company actually is. It is not a happy picture. The Times published a remarkable report, on October 2nd, that showed that much of the profit the Trump Organization made came not from successful real-estate investment but from defrauding state and federal governments through tax fraud. This week, ProPublica and WNYC co-published a stunning story and a “Trump, Inc.” podcast that can be seen as the international companion to the Times piece. They show that many of the Trump Organization’s international deals also bore the hallmarks of financial fraud, including money laundering, deceptive borrowing, outright lying to investors, and other potential crimes.

The reporters—Heather Vogell and Peter Elkind of ProPublica, and Andrea Bernstein and Meg Cramer of WNYC—identified a similar pattern that occurred in deals around the world. The basic scheme worked like this: some local developer in Panama, the Dominican Republic, Florida, Canada, or some other location pays Trump, up front, for the use of his name and agrees to pay him a cut of every sale—not only of units but of things like hotel-room minibar items or, even, bathrobes. These projects typically require sixty per cent or more of units to be sold before construction gets under way. The same set of problems occurred in multiple projects. Many of the early units would be sold to shadow buyers—hidden behind shell companies. Donald Trump or, often, Ivanka Trump would deceive future investors by telling them that a much higher percentage of units had been sold than was factual. More investors pour money in, getting enough money into the project, often, to begin construction. Eventually, the project fails and goes bankrupt. Many of those investors lose all of their money. But the Trumps do not. They got paid up front and are paid continuously throughout until the day the project collapses. They are paid for their name and for overseeing the project, and, if the building is opened, the Trumps manage the property day to day, in exchange for hefty fees.

[For example:] In the Panama City project, Trump licensed his name for an initial fee of a million dollars, ProPublica and WNYC reported. Trump was also paid a portion of apartment-unit sales and minibar fees. Whether the project succeeded or failed, he was paid as well. A final accounting is startling: the project went bankrupt, had a fifty-per-cent default rate, and the Trump Organization was expelled from managing the hotel, yet Donald Trump walked away with between thirty million and fifty-five million dollars.

The same pattern emerged in other projects. In Fort Lauderdale, Trump announced that a hotel-condominium project was “pretty much sold out” in April, 2006, according to a broker who attended the presentation. In reality, sixty-two per cent of units were sold as of July, 2006, according to bank records that emerged in a court case. The project entered foreclosure, and Trump’s name was removed before construction was completed. In Toronto, Ivanka referred to the property as “virtually sold out” in a 2009 interview. In fact, 24.8 per cent of units had sold, according to a 2016 bankruptcy filing by the developers. The project was built but went bankrupt, and Trump’s name was removed from it. In New York, Ivanka told reporters in 2008 that sixty per cent of units had sold in the Trump SoHo. A Trump partner’s affidavit revealed that only fifteen per cent had been sold at the time. The building was constructed, but the project went bankrupt, and Trump’s name was removed from it.

Real estate has long been associated with some types of fraud. Large projects are perfect for a wide variety of schemes. There is an opportunity for fraud in exaggerating the rate of sales. The price one pays for a unit in a new building is affected by how many units were sold earlier, because a well-sold building is worth more than a less well-sold one. How much the developer has put in of its own money is an opportunity to mislead buyers as well. If a developer doesn’t invest in a project that it’s in charge of, it can suggest that it’s not as great as the developer is saying. The Trumps repeatedly lied about these two factors, ProPublica and WNYC found, telling potential investors that far more units had been sold than really were and saying that they had invested much of their own money in the projects. This increases the amount people paid and disguises the very real risks people were taking with their investments.

What is the Trump Organization? What is it good at? Where do its profits come from? It is becoming increasingly clear that much of the company’s business may have come from fraud. Daniel Braun, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney who specialized in fraud cases, told the reporters on the story, “You’re describing the basic elements of a long-running and significant scheme to defraud investors. So is that the sort of thing that the F.B.I. and the Justice Department pay attention to? It is. It has a number of kinds of ingredients that you would typically see in an investigation or even prosecution of fraud.”

Regardless of whether it leads to impeachment, the House of Representatives has the power to acquire Trump’s tax returns. The Business Insider tells us how: Democrats will be able to make Trump’s tax returns public if they take back Congress. Here’s how.

  • Certain committees in Congress have the authority to request President Trump’s tax returns for review and can then vote to make them public.
  • Republicans have so far blocked efforts by Democrats to utilize the procedural tool.
  • If Democrats retake the House majority, they can move forward with getting Trump’s tax returns with newfound power in the Ways and Means Committee.

Three committees in Congress already have the authority to take a peek at Trump’s — or any president’s — tax returns in a closed session: The Senate Finance Committee, the Joint Committee on Taxation, and the House Committee on Ways and Means.

Through section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code, those three committees can request 10 years of Trump’s tax documents from the Secretary of the Treasury. They can then vote to make the returns public.

While the JCT is a nonpartisan committee operated by experienced economists and the Democrats’ chances of taking back the Senate are looking relatively slim, the House looks more likely to be changing hands come January, according to recent polling.

Taking back the House would allow Democrats, using their newfound control of the Ways and Means Committee, to review the tax returns and decide whether or not to release them.

The latest numbers from 538 have the House flipping by 40 seats. From its Election Update email:

You may have noticed a little bump for Democrats in the “Classic” version of our House forecast early this week. On Wednesday night, the party had a 5 in 6 chance (83.9 percent) of taking control; on Tuesday night, it had risen to 84.8 percent, the best Democrats have fared in our model since its August launch. The average number of seats Democrats are expected to pick up was 39; on Tuesday, that number reached 40 for the first time.

Things threatened with extinction - black rhino, red panda, our food supply

Look, even if you don’t worry about the black rhino’s fate, you should worry about pollinators going extinct. Those little buggers are responsible for 35% of the world’s plant crops. If the bugs go, we starve. “We are starting to cut down the whole tree [of life], including the branch [humans] are sitting on right now.”

The planet is losing biodiversity. In plain English, critters large and small are disappearing rapidly. To get a sense of the magnitude, the “sixth extinction” we are experiencing (and probably causing) is likely to be on par with the massive extinction that killed off dinosaurs. I raised the alarm back in January 2015 in Signs of the sixth extinction: What happens when apes rule the earth and more recently this month in Thinking in terms of the survival of human society.

Here are two recent features in 538’s significant digits email.

45 percent decrease
Bugs are disappearing. Biologists estimate that the population of invertebrates such as beetles and bees has decreased 45 percent over the past 35 years. The number of flying insects in German nature preserves dropped 76 percent in a similar amount of time. And a new study found the same thing in a “pristine” Puerto Rican national forest. The animals that eat the insects are disappearing, too: The population of the Puerto Rican tody, a bird that eats bugs, dropped by 90 percent. “Holy crap,” an expert in invertebrate conservation said to the Post. [The Washington Post]

The Washington Post sounded a hyperalarm about a threat to human food supply: ’Hyperalarming’ study shows massive insect loss.

Insects around the world are in a crisis, according to a small but growing number of long-term studies showing dramatic declines in invertebrate populations. A new report suggests that the problem is more widespread than scientists realized. Huge numbers of bugs have been lost in a pristine national forest in Puerto Rico, the study found, and the forest’s insect-eating animals have gone missing, too.

In 2014, an international team of biologists estimated that, in the past 35 years, the abundance of invertebrates such as beetles and bees had decreased by 45 percent. In places where long-term insect data are available, mainly in Europe, insect numbers are plummeting. A study last year showed a 76 percent decrease in flying insects in the past few decades in German nature preserves.

The latest report, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that this startling loss of insect abundance extends to the Americas. The study’s authors implicate climate change in the loss of tropical invertebrates.

"This study in PNAS is a real wake-up call — a clarion call — that the phenomenon could be much, much bigger, and across many more ecosystems,” said David Wagner, an expert in invertebrate conservation at the University of Connecticut who was not involved with this research. He added: “This is one of the most disturbing articles I have ever read.”

No matter the cause, all of the scientists agreed that more people should pay attention to the bugpocalypse.

“It’s a very scary thing,” Merrill said, that comes on the heels of a “gloomy, gloomy” U.N. report that estimated the world has little more than a decade left to wrangle climate change under control. But “we can all step up,” he said, by using more fuel-efficient cars and turning off unused electronics. The Portland, Ore.-based Xerces Society, a nonprofit environmental group that promotes insect conservation, recommends planting a garden with native plants that flower throughout the year.

"Unfortunately, we have deaf ears in Washington,” Schowalter said. But those ears will listen at some point, he said, because our food supply will be in jeopardy.

Thirty-five percent of the world’s plant crops require pollination by bees, wasps and other animals. And arthropods are more than just pollinators. They’re the planet’s wee custodians, toiling away in unnoticed or avoided corners. They chew up rotting wood and eat carrion. “And none of us want to have more carcasses around,” Schowalter said. Wild insects provide $57 billion worth of six-legged labor in the United States each year, according to a 2006 estimate.

The loss of insects and arthropods could further rend the rain forest’s food web, Lister warned, causing plant species to go extinct without pollinators. “If the tropical forests go it will be yet another catastrophic failure of the whole Earth system,” he said, “that will feed back on human beings in an almost unimaginable way.”

2.5 billion years’ worth of evolutionary history
According to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, we humans have hastened the extinction of more than 300 species of mammals, thus depriving them of “2.5 billion years’ worth of unique evolutionary history.” Yikes. Sorry about that. The study’s lead author believes we are living in the middle of a sixth mass extinction. For reference, the fifth mass extinction was the one that killed all the dinosaurs. [Huffington Post]

Mammals Will Still Be Recovering From Human Destruction Long After We’re Gone.
A somber new study estimates that it could take several million years for mammal diversity to recover from humanity’s impact.

Humans have helped propel the extinction of more than 300 mammal species — equaling a staggering loss of 2.5 billion years’ worth of unique evolutionary history, according to a grim new study published Monday.

It could take many millions of years for mammals to evolve enough new species to recover from the destruction humans have caused, researchers estimated. The human species, however, won’t likely survive to see the day.

“We are doing something that will last millions of years beyond us,” paleontologist Matt Davis of Denmark’s Aarhus University, who led the new research, told The Guardian of humans’ devastating impact on biodiversity.

The new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, estimates that it could take up to 5 to 7 million years for mammal diversity to be restored to the level it was before the arrival of modern humans — and that’s assuming people cease all poaching, pollution and habitat destruction in the next 50 years.

Like many scientists, Davis believes the world is currently in the midst of a sixth mass extinction, also known as the anthropocene extinction or one caused by human activity. Davis told The Atlantic this week that “what we are going through now could have as big an impact as the asteroid” that killed off most of the dinosaurs.

It’s a “pretty scary” situation we’ve created, Davis said. “We are starting to cut down the whole tree [of life], including the branch [humans] are sitting on right now,” he told The Guardian.

Davis said he hopes the new research will help guide conservation work, specifically in helping to identify ― and prioritize ― endangered species with long evolutionary histories. The study, for instance, highlighted the black rhino, red panda and the indri, a large lemur endemic to Madagascar, as endangered animals with particularly long and unique lineages.

“It is much easier to save biodiversity now than to re-evolve it later,” Davis said in a news release.

Ultimately, however, piecemeal conservation efforts won’t be sufficient to stem the tide of extinctions and avert “worst-case scenarios,” Davis stressed.

“It’ll probably get worse, in all honesty,” he told The Atlantic. ”[We need] a massive, ambitious global-scale project that everyone will need to be involved in.”

“It comes down to whether politicians have the political will to make this happen,” he added.

Oops.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Monday's Senate debate reduced to an analogy. unflappable is to unhinged as Sinema is to McSally

McSally & Sinema Debate
McSally & Sinema Oct 15 2018 Debate

McSally, Sinema trade barbs, stress voting records during their only Senate debate reports Cronkite News (via the Tucson Sentinel).

In a debate peppered with accusations of lying and treason, U.S. Senate candidates Martha McSally and Kyrsten Sinema took shots at each other Monday in their only public debate of the 2018 election, each calling out the other’s voting record as proof that the other candidate is not a true representative of Arizona.

Sinema used the debate, which was broadcast live on Arizona PBS, to portray herself as an independent, echoing the campaign ads supporting her candidacy. She painted herself as someone willing to step over party lines, embracing the fact that she had voted largely with President Donald Trump’s agenda since 2017.

“Over the past six years, I’m proud to say I’ve taken the time to learn and grow and occasionally even change my opinion,” said Sinema, who has served three terms in Congress. “Over time, I think it makes sense for individuals, who are willing, to learn and to grow.”

She attempted to dodge questions about how she would have voted during the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearing, calling the event a “circus.” She expressed disappointment with the way the Senate handled the confirmation, but ultimately said she would have voted no because it appeared to her that Kavanaugh lied under oath.

McSally spent much of the debate on the attack, fighting against both her opponent and the moderators – “Arizona Horizon” host Ted Simons and Arizona Republic/azcentral.com reporter Maria Polletta. Answering the first question about her relationship with Trump, McSally said she took offense to the idea that she had been a critic during the 2016 campaign.

“I never endorsed anyone for anything, whether president or dog catcher, and I just continued with that path,” she said. “But he’s now in office and is the president of the United States and we have this historic opportunity to move America in a new direction.”

She defended White House policy, including the separation of undocumented children from their parents at the southern border, saying the administration’s hands were tied by the law.

“The law in the books is to enforce the law,” McSally said.

As the debate weaved through topics ranging from health care to immigration, McSally fought back against questions about her voting record and stances on those issues.

When asked about her motivation for voting to allow internet service providers to sell private information online, McSally denied acting on behest of corporate political action committees and said such accusations had been debunked. She had received more than $40,000 in campaign contributions from the telecom industry when the vote was held.

“What are you even talking about?” McSally asked. “Of course I did not do that. And this has already been debunked. This is, again, what this campaign is all about, coming up with these lies and attacks that are fear tactics. I’m actually a privacy hound.”

McSally described herself as anti-abortion but refused to give an answer when pressed about whether she would support the repeal of Roe v. Wade.

“I am pro-life and I have a very strong pro-life record,” she said. “I would support (Supreme Court) justices that are looking independently at the Constitution and the laws that we make, and that they will have a good decision-making process because of that.”

By the end of the hourlong debate, McSally was visibly frustrated, not answering a question about climate change and instead turning to her opponent and asking whether she would apologize for 2003 comments about the Taliban that McSally described as treasonous.

So let’s look at that accusation. Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) reports how Martha McSally accuses Kyrsten Sinema of backing “treason” in Senate debate.

PHOENIX — Republican senatorial contender Martha McSally said Monday that Kyrsten Sinema, her Democratic foe, is guilty of “treason.”

Near the end of their hour-long debate, McSally brought up a radio interview Sinema did in 2003 during her anti-war days. Asked if it was OK to fight for the Taliban, Sinema had said, “Fine, I don’t care if you want to go do that.”

Much of the campaign against Sinema has been focused on who she was more than a decade ago, including her opposition to war in the Middle East. McSally hopes to convince voters that Sinema, since being elected to Congress in 2012, is not the moderate that she proclaims.

After the debate, Sinema brushed aside the questions of what she said years ago.

“Martha’s chosen to run a campaign that’s based on smears and attacks and that’s her choice,” she said. What happened in the past, Sinema said, is history.

“Over time I think it makes sense for individuals who are willing to learn and to grow,” she said.

Sure, but Scriber thinks there is no apology necessary. It’s one thing to root out the taliban and go after Osama bin Laden who masterminded the 9/11 attack. It’s quite another to invade Iraq on excuses ranging from quite flimsy to mostly false to outright fiction. A lot of us were opposed to Bush’s war which he paid for by adding more to the deficit.

The Wall Street Journal reported a study showing that the U.S. Spent $5.6 Trillion on Wars in Middle East and Asia.

The cost of the wars also include borrowing money to pay for them,[Sen. Jack Reed (D., R.I.)] said. According to the [study][brown], the accumulated interest expenses on the future cost of borrowing money to pay the wars could add an additional $8 trillion to the national debt over the next several decades. “Even if we stopped [the wars] today, we would add $7.9 trillion to the national debt,” Mr. Reed said

Wikipedia lists the Financial costs of the Iraq war. The estimates are eclipsed by the Brown University study cited by Sen. Reed. For example: “According to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report published in October 2007, the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could cost taxpayers a total of $2.4 trillion by 2017 when counting the huge interest costs because combat is being financed with borrowed money.” Ten years later we know the cost is triple those estimates.

On that basis alone, any thinking person would have to question, if not oppose, the Mideast wars.

McSally might want to rethink her accusation and consider Trump defending Putin’s attack on our democracy and the Russian interference in our election. Now that, it seems to me, is treason.

AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona agrees in A desperate Martha McSally accuses Kyrsten Sinema of ‘treason’.

… if you want to talk about “treason” Martha, you should take it up with Putin’s puppet traitor Trump who is coming to Mesa to campaign for you on Friday. Trump fails to defend America against Russian attacks; there is a word for that. Helsinki is now synonymous with Munich for appeasement.

Trump is expected to stump for McSally on Friday in Mesa, the same day that former president George W. Bush – responsible for the unnecessary and illegal war in Iraq – is scheduled to hold a fundraising breakfast for the Republican candidate in Scottsdale, according to the Arizona Republic.

Martha McSally is unfit for political office. She has been a complete failure as my representative in Congress. She does not deserve a promotion to U.S. Senate. Go away, never to be heard from again.

David Gordon at Blog for Arizona summarizes the debate this way: In Monday’s Arizona Senate Debate, it was a Tale of Two Temperaments: Poised versus Unhinged

Scriber agrees. For example, at the end of the debate when time had run out, the moderators tried to close it down as McSally shrieked “Military, military.” Sinema was unflappable.

Democratic nominee Representative Kyrsten Sinema came across as poised, prepared, mature, approachable, bipartisan and wonky. On issue, after issue, be it healthcare, Brett Kavanagh, border security, climate change, or the economy, she skillfully laid out for the audience her positions and why she supported or opposed differing policy initiatives or nominees. She conducted herself professionally when attacked by her opponent, calmly refuting each assertion brought on by her.

In sharp contrast, Representative Martha McSally came across as unhinged, inflexible, bombastic, animated, and untruthful. On issue after issue, she continually parrotted Republican talking points on the border, health care, the economy. taxes, and Brett Kavanaugh. She brought up Nancy Pelosi (the Republican boogeyman of the last 12 years) at least twice and when it came time for her response to the topic of climate change, she immediately demanded to shift the topic to the military where she regurgitated all the proven misleading, inaccurate, and false accusations against Representative Sinema, even “slinging mud” by accusing her of treason for remarks made in 2003 (long before the Democratic Nominee ever held office).

Here are useful links from Gordon: a fact-check and the debate itself

The devil is in the deficit - and his GOPlins are coming after your Social Security and Medicare

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) exposes what the Republicans don’t want you to know about how they plan to pay for their deficits: GOP rhetoric about the deficit becomes a punch-line to an awkward joke.

First, consider Benen’s chart showing deficits by year by party in the White House. “Red columns point to Republican administrations, blue columns point to Democratic administrations, and red-and-blue columns point to years in which the fiscal year was split between presidents from two different parties.”

Deficits - year x party

Here are some take-aways from those data. Reagan ran a deficit as did Bush 1. Clinton actually ended up running a surplus. Bush 2 cranked up the deficit. Obama, after the stimulus to counter the great recession, gradually reduced the deficit. Under Trump, due to his tax breaks, the deficit increased and is increasing. Benen tells us how the Republicans are planning to pay for such excess.

As recently as June, Larry Kudlow, the director of the Trump White House’s National Economic Council, boasted to a national television audience the U.S. budget deficit “is coming down, and it’s coming down rapidly.”

Yeah, about that….

The U.S. government ran its largest budget deficit in six years during the fiscal year that ended last month, an unusual development in a fast-growing economy and a sign that – so far at least – tax cuts have restrained government revenue gains.

The deficit totaled $779 billion in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, up 17% from $666 billion in fiscal 2017, the Treasury Department said Monday. The deficit is headed toward $1 trillion in the current fiscal year, the White House and Congressional Budget Office said.

This deficit is the fifth largest in modern American history – in non-inflation adjusted terms – and it now stands at 3.9% of GDP, up from 3.5% a year ago.

To be sure, as a percentage of the economy, the deficit isn’t necessarily at a level that should cause significant concern. The trouble is the broader context:

Circling back to our previous coverage, there are a few key angles to this to keep in mind. The first is that Donald Trump’s campaign assurances about balancing the budget and eliminating the national debt should be near the top of the list of his broken promises.

Second, it’s now painfully obvious that the Republican Party, which spent the Obama era pretending to care deeply about fiscal responsibility and the terrible burdens deficits place on future generations, operated in bad faith.

And third, every Republican who said the GOP tax breaks for the wealthy would pay for themselves ought to face some renewed questioning about how very wrong they were.

As we discussed several months ago, I should emphasize that I’m not a deficit hawk, and I firmly believe that larger deficits, under some circumstances, are absolutely worthwhile and necessary. [Scriber agrees.]

These are not, however, those circumstances. When the economy is in trouble, it makes sense for the United States to borrow more, invest more, cushion the blow, and help strengthen the economy.

The Trump White House and the Republican-led Congress, however, decided to approve massive tax breaks for the wealthy and big corporations when the economy was already healthy – not because they were addressing a policy need, but because they were fulfilling an ideological goal.

Economic growth is healthy and unemployment is quite low. This is exactly when we should see the deficit shrinking. Instead, it’s growing – and it’s on track to keep growing in the coming years.

Worse, now that the deficit is spiraling, those same Republicans who pretended to care about “fiscal responsibility” have decided that what the nation really needs is more tax breaks – none of which will be paid for – and cuts to Medicare and Social Security.

Given how close we are to the midterm elections, GOP officials and candidates will have to hope voters don’t hear about this.

One of those leaders is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

In a companion piece, McConnell eyes cuts to Medicare, Social Security to address deficit, Benen thinks rhetoric about “entitlements” has become quite serious. To Scriber all this sounds typical Republican: spend the public money on yourself and then complain that there is no money to run the government. In other words, they are starving the beast. The thing is, the “beast” is you and me.

Take a wild guess what McConnell told Bloomberg News he wants to do about [the soaring deficit].

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday blamed rising federal deficits and debt on a bipartisan unwillingness to contain spending on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and said he sees little chance of a major deficit reduction deal while Republicans control Congress and the White House.

“It’s disappointing but it’s not a Republican problem,” McConnell said in an interview with Bloomberg News when asked about the rising deficits and debt. “It’s a bipartisan problem: Unwillingness to address the real drivers of the debt by doing anything to adjust those programs to the demographics of America in the future.”

He added that he believes “Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid” funding constitutes “the real driver of the debt.”

… it’s important to understand that we already know it’s the Republicans’ tax breaks for the rich that have made the deficit vastly larger. When McConnell calls the increased federal borrowing “very disturbing,” as he did this morning, it’s like watching an arsonist wring his hands over the ashes he created.

… During the debate over the Republican tax package, Democrats made a fairly obvious prediction: GOP policymakers would blow a giant hole in the budget and then use the shortfall as an excuse to target social-insurance programs like Medicare and Social Security (often referred to as “entitlements”).

That is, of course, exactly what’s happening.

But looking past Trump’s bizarre nonsense [about the GOP saving social insurance programs], leading Republican officials – from the White House, the Senate, and the U.S. House – keep admitting that they’re eager to cut programs like Medicare and Social Security. Maybe the public should believe them.

So now you know what the GOPlins are up to but don’t want to admit to.

Be worried.

Monday, October 15, 2018

With DNA evidence against him, welsher-in-chief reneges on million dollar bet on Elizabeth Warren's ancestry

Trump attacked Sen. Elizabeth Warren in a July 5, 2018 rally in Great Falls, Montana. (Why pick on Warren? She’s a presumed potential rival for the 2020 presidential election. ) As usual, Trump focussed on Warren’s claimed Native American ancestry, calling her repeatedly “Pocahontas”. He walked the audience through an imagined debate in which (1) he presents Warren with a DNA testing kit, and (2) offers to give her a million dollars for her favorite charity. Trump said: “I will give you a million dollars to your favorite charity, paid for by Trump, if you take the test and it shows you’re an Indian,” he said. “I have a feeling she will say no.”

The offer was widely quoted at the time. For example, NBC News reported that Trump challenges ‘Pocahontas’ Warren to DNA test to prove she’s Native American, and RealClearPolitics reported that Trump Offers $1 Million For “Pocahontas” Elizabeth Warren To Take DNA Test To Prove Indian Ancestry.

The Daily Beast reports that, now fighting back, Elizabeth Warren Fights Trump’s ‘Pocahontas’ Taunt With DNA Test Proving Native American Roots. The senator sought to negate the frequent attacks on her claimed heritage. But for Trump and his allies, it seems, no evidence will ever prove sufficient.

It was President Trump, however, who said at a rally in Montana this summer that he would give $1 million to charity should Warren take a DNA test proving her heritage claims.

“And we will say, ‘I will give you a million dollars, paid for by Trump, to your favorite charity, if you take the test and it shows you’re an Indian,’” Trump said. “And we’ll see what she does. I have a feeling she will say no, but we will hold it for the debates.”

On Monday, however, the president denied that he ever said such a thing.

“I didn’t say that. You better read it again,” he told reporters.

Warren, eager to remind him of the pledge, defiantly tweeted Monday that Trump should send a check to the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center.

The Hill, cited in the Washington Post coverage, quickly posted a fact-check result: “Trump denies offering $1 million for Warren DNA test, even though he did.” The Post has a comprehensive time-line with the evidence in Trump promised $1 million to charity if Warren proved her Native American DNA. Now he denies it..

Moreover, his mouthpieces are attacking the DNA report as “junk science.” The Post reports:

Earlier Monday, Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, dismissed Warren’s DNA test as “junk science,” an early indication that Trump is not likely to follow through on the donation promise he now denies having made.

"I haven’t looked at the test. I know that everybody likes to pick their junk science or sound science depending on the conclusion, it seems some days,” Conway told reporters. “But I haven’t looked at the DNA test and it really doesn’t interest me… ”

It gets worse.

On Monday afternoon, Trump was again asked by a reporter about the promised donation, and this time he said he would “only do it if I can test her personally.”

Oh, good grief.

Remember that:

Trump has had a long history of making bold pledges to donate large sums of money to charity, without actually delivering on those promises, as The Washington Post’s David A. Fahrenthold uncovered in a series of articles that won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting.

I’ve got a few things to say about all that. First off, Trump can deny all he wants. Fox News, his own propaganda outlet, posted the evidence to YouTube. Click on the link to view the 2:35 video with the million-dollar promise at about 2:05.

Second, the report of the DNA analysis conducted by independent scientists supports Warren’s claim about her ancestry. “While the vast majority of the individual’s ancestry is European, the results strongly support the existence of an unadmixed Native American ancestor in the individual’s pedigree, likely in the range of 6–10 generations ago.” This is not “junk science.” I’d venture a guess that Conway does not know anything about genetics or quantitative analyses.

Third, now confronted with the evidence against his claims, Trump says he won’t pay up because he never said that he would. Liar. As Post reporter David Fahrenthold learned, Trump has a history of welshing on payments to contractors, a history I reviewed back in June 2016, here and here. Coupled with the Fox News video, it appears he has welshed again, trying to get himself off the hook by denying what has already been proven.

Finally , Warren has opened a new web site show-casing her background. It does look like the kind of slide show that would appear on the large screens of a Democratic National Convention. Be worried, Donald. Go get’m Elizabeth!

Robert Reich contrasts Trump's economy with the living standards of most Americans. 'You get a very different picture.'

This last Sunday I covered a New Yorker piece on why a narcissist like Trump should not be in charge of our economy. Robert Reich has many more specifics on how Trumponomics is not helping the non-rich but is actually hurting them. He exposes The Truth About the Trump Economy
(Monday, Oct 15, 2018).

I keep hearing that although Trump is a scoundrel or worse, at least he’s presiding over a great economy.

As White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow recently put it, “The single biggest story this year is an economic boom that is durable and lasting.”

Really? Look closely at the living standards of most Americans, and you get a very different picture.

Yes, the stock market has boomed since Trump became president. But it’s looking increasingly wobbly as Trump’s trade wars take a toll.

Over 80 percent of the stock market is owned by the richest 10 percent of Americans anyway, so most Americans never got much out of Trump’s market boom to begin with.

The trade wars are about to take a toll on ordinary workers. Trump’s steel tariffs have cost Ford $1 billion so far, for example, forcing the automaker to plan mass layoffs.

Reich lists many more negative aspects of Trump’s economy after the break. He concludes:

Too often, discussions about “the economy” focus on overall statistics about growth, the stock market, and unemployment.

But most Americans don’t live in that economy. They live in a personal economy that has more to do with wages, job security, commutes to and from work, and the costs of housing, healthcare, drugs, education, and home insurance.

These are the things that hit closest home. They comprise the typical American’s standard of living.

Instead of an “economic boom,” most Americans are experiencing declines in all these dimensions of their lives.

Trump isn’t solely responsible. Some of these trends predated his presidency. But he hasn’t done anything to reverse them.

If anything, he’s made them far worse.