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“Donald Trump Is Dead Wrong”: America Is A Fabulously Rich And Great Nation

America isn’t broke. Nor is it on the verge of a government debt crisis (whatever “crisis” even means for a nation whose debt is printed in a currency that is both its own and the world’s reserve). America is not in decay, and the last thing the U.S. should do is rashly withdraw from a dangerous world because of those mistaken beliefs.

This should be especially clear after the Belgium terror attacks.

Yet retreat is just what Donald Trump seems to be proposing. In an interview with The Washington Post editorial board Monday, Trump questioned the U.S. role in NATO and presence in Asia due to the financial burden they require:

I mean, we pay billions — hundreds of billions of dollars to supporting other countries that are in theory wealthier than we are. … When you look at the kind of money that our country is losing, we can’t afford to do this. Certainly we can’t afford to do it anymore…. I think we were a very powerful, very wealthy country. And we’re a poor country now. [Trump]

Looks like we finally found something Trump is in favor of off-shoring: America’s security.

Now, it’s certainly legitimate to evaluate the mission and cost of America’s overseas military commitments and posture. But that’s a different thing than scrapping our military alliances — or threatening to do so as some ham-handed budget negotiating tactic. Leading the free world, reassuring allies, and deterring aggression have little overlap with the skills needed to drive a hard bargain with a potential tenant in Trump Tower.

And yet, Republicans might give Trump’s defense policy ideas more of a hearing than they deserve because of their persistent debt fears. After all, it’s mainstream GOP economic thought that U.S. finances are precarious. How could they not be given the $19 trillion federal debt — $22 trillion if you include state and local government? These are figures Trump always mentions, as do many Republican politicians. They provide handy justification for arguing we can’t afford to invest in science, repair and upgrade our infrastructure, or bolster wages for low-income workers.

But here’s the thing: The U.S. is far from a poor nation. American households entered 2016 with a net worth of nearly $87 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve. To put that ginormous number in some context, China’s private wealth has been estimated at $23 trillion. Even if you factor in America’s debt-laden public sector and China’s large state-owned companies, the U.S. still has a $45 trillion wealth edge.

There are other ways of looking at national wealth that also show America’s riches. The value of U.S. intellectual capital has been estimated at around $9 trillion, with the value of the intangible assets — such as patents, copyrights, and general business methods — at nearly $15 trillion. And given Trump’s appreciation of brands — he generously values his own at $3 billion — you would think the businessman would appreciate America’s, which has been valued at close to $20 trillion.

Maybe all this wealth is one reason global financial markets don’t seem so worried about the U.S. debt. Well, that and the U.S. tax burden being one of the lowest in the developed world. The dollar is strong, and interest rates are low, as are inflation expectations. None of this is to say the U.S. should be a spendthrift in either defense or social spending. Without entitlement reform, Medicare and Social Security will require massive tax increases to keep their promises. Yet Trump would leave them untouched, vowing implausibly to fix their fiscal problems through higher economic growth alone.

The U.S. isn’t bankrupt. Our pockets aren’t empty. We aren’t a pauper nation.

But, of course, you can’t promise to make America great again without arguing that it currently isn’t.


By: James Pethokoukis, The Week, March 23, 2016

March 27, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Economic Policy, Foreign Policy, National Security | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“How The Movie Ends”: Three Stories That Prove The GOP Is Screwed For Years To Come

We are in the doggiest of the dog days of summer. Congress is currently in the sleep spindles stage of a five-week nap that the public doesn’t think it deserves. Meanwhile, the political media—because TV and the Internet and even the printing presses never stop—must continue to bark and pant. So anything you hear or read—including here—must be approached with appropriate skepticism. But three stories published online over the past 24 hours show what kind of media narrative we can expect in September, once our elected officials finally wake up and swipe the drool from their slack jaws.

1. The Hill reports Friday morning that “House conservatives say grassroots support is building for their effort to risk a government shutdown to defund ObamaCare.” Those House conservatives, specifically, are Indiana’s Marlin Stutzman and Texas’ Michael Burgess, who say there’s been overwhelming support at town hall meetings for doing anything, even shutting down our very necessary government, to defund Obamacare (a law that, it bears reminding, is a law—lawfully passed by Congress, signed by a lawfully elected president, and being lawfully enacted as we speak).

Burgess told The Hill that the decision to exempt lawmakers and staff from Obamacare is “driving people into a froth,” adding, “I’m hearing a lot of anger that is right beneath the surface, ready to erupt.” Well, of course he’s hearing that! These town meetings are not exactly how people with moderate opinions prefer to spend their evenings. But Burgess and Stutzman—unlike GOP representatives Tom Cole and Steve Womack, who are quoted as being opposed to a shutdown, no matter what they hear from constituents—are going to assume that a few dozen town hall attendees represent the thousands of voters who elected them.

Takeaway: House conservatives will likely return from vacation not only well rested, but emboldened to threaten a shutdown.

2. The New York Times reported Thursday that a “Puzzle Awaits the Capital: How to Solve 3 Fiscal Rifts,” the lead sentence of which declares that only one thing is “clear” about the endgame of this showdown: “President Obama thinks Republicans cannot risk another debt crisis or government shutdown, and Republican leaders agree.” The Times even goes so far as to call it a “consensus,” concluding that “the odds of an economy-damaging stalemate are relatively low, despite rising jitters in the capital.”

Takeaway: Republican leaders think they can prevent these emboldened, well-rested House conservatives from shutting down the government. Let’s hope the House leadership has learned how to count votes since June.

3. Neither The Hill nor The New York Times, though, come out and say what this really means. Enter Politico. According to Mike Allen and Jim VandeHai’s latest interpretation of our nation’s political theater, we are on the “Eve of Destruction.” “It is almost impossible to find an establishment Republican in town who’s not downright morose about the 2013 that has been and is about to be,” they report. “Most dance around it in public, but they see this year as a disaster in the making, even if most elected Republicans don’t know it or admit it.”

The “blown opportunities and self-inflicted wounds” include House opposition to broad immigration reform, alienating Latinos; narrowing voting laws and saying dumb things about the Trayvon Martin case, alienating blacks; and continuing to believe that gays shouldn’t be allowed to marry, alienating gays.

Takeaway (via Politico, natch): “This probably doesn’t matter for 2014, because off-year elections are notoriously low-turnout affairs where older whites show up in disproportionate numbers. But elite Republican strategists and donors tell us they are increasingly worried the past nine months make 2016 look very bleak—unless elected GOP officials in Washington change course, and fast.”

So. Come September, you can expect hourly reports on threats to shut down the government, the likelihood of said shutdown, and finally the imminence of said shutdown, with websites featuring running counters of the days, hours, and minutes until the first deadline, and then the second deadline, and then the third deadline. Riveting stuff! As Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland told the Times, “Even those of us quite close to it have a hard time saying how the movie ends.”

That statement is offensive to anyone who has ever made a movie. Also, we know how it ends: with a Democrat in the White House in 2017.


By: Brian Kearney, The New Republic, August 17, 2013

August 19, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Government Shut Down | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Down On America”: As Economy Improves, Republicans Remain In Denial

When Joe Biden said “I’ve never met two guys more down on America across the board,” he meant Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan — who provoked the vice president’s snipe during their debate by insisting, utterly falsely, that unemployment is still worsening across the nation. But the vice president’s complaint also applies to the Republican leadership at large, in Congress and across the right-wing media, where the talking points on U.S. economic prospects and progress are always negative.

Certainly the Republicans have tried to do their part to sink the economy, as last year’s manufactured debt crisis demonstrated beyond doubt. But whenever the news is good, they insist that the encouraging data must be inaccurate or even manipulated – as former General Electric boss Jack Welch proclaimed in his infamous tweet about the newly improved unemployment data last week.

This week the right-wing propaganda machine disparaged a big reduction in new jobless claims as a statistical anomaly, supposedly based on California’s failure to report its data to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in Washington. The only problem with this theory is that California officials did report those numbers.Meanwhile both the mainstream and right-wing media largely ignored the latest report by the Financial Times and the Brookings Institution, which found that the United States is “the sole bright spot” in a sluggish world economy.

Just how much uplifting data must appear before the persistent naysayers admit that the economy is improving? It is true that the numbers cut against their political interest, so they’re likely to deny any signs of economic health unless and until they can claim credit. Yet the signs are present and increasing.

On Friday, the Treasury Department reported that the federal budget deficit will again exceed $1 trillion, mostly as a consequence of the Bush tax cuts—but the good news is that tax revenue went up anyway by 6.4 percent, solely because of growth in jobs and income. (And in fact, the deficit was lower than last year, thanks to a reduction in government spending as American troops left Iraq.) So the president is reducing the deficit, as promised, in the only sensible and equitable way that can be done—by eliminating the cost of a pointless war abroad and stimulating growth at home.

Consumer confidence—another key indicator—has risen to the highest level since September 2007, according to a survey released today by Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan. The measure climbed to 83.1, jumping almost five points from the August rating of 78.3. Reuters reported that the new number significantly exceeded the expectations of most analysts, “who expected the rating to drop.”

There is more almost every day. Ask the bankers, who also seem to have noticed positive indicators (when they take a break from raising money for Romney). The chief financial economist for the Bank of Tokyo, for instance, told the Los Angeles Times that even if the new jobs numbers require correction—as such statistics almost always do, “the [improved] direction of the labor market is real.”

Reporting record profits for JPMorgan Chase on Friday, Jamie Dimon released a statement saying that the housing market has “turned a corner.” His company’s investment banking unit earned more in underwriting fees for equity and debt instruments—another indicator that firms are finally putting money into plants and equipment, rather than continuing to sit on trillions of dollars.

Polls suggest that the setbacks of the past few years have left voters with little patience for White House boasts of economic progress. But recent improvements open space for President Obama to say that things are finally getting better—and that changing course toward the radical right would be dangerous and foolish.


By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, October 12, 2012

October 13, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Hedging His Words”: Mitt Romney Isn’t Proposing A $5 Trillion Tax Break, It’s A $10 Trillion Tax Break

Part of Mitt Romney’s strategy in the first debate Wednesday night in Denver was to play fact-checker with false facts — also known as “lies.”

After the president said that he was proposing a $5 trillion tax break, Romney responded, “I don’t have a $5 trillion cut. I don’t have a tax cut of the scale that you’re talking about.”

He was partially correct. He isn’t proposing a $5 trillion tax break — his tax cut proposals equal more than $10 trillion over the next 10 years, according to Citizens for Tax Justice.

Romney’s new tax breaks would cost about $500 billion a year. This is on top of extending the Bush tax breaks, which would cost just over $5 trillion.

The president probably didn’t point out the full cost of the Bush tax breaks because he proposes to keep the tax breaks for the middle class at a cost of about $4 trillion. But these taxes have always been temporary and are supposed to expire. Romney is proposing making them permanent along with more cuts for a total of $10 trillion in tax breaks, as we are in the middle of a so-called debt crisis.

Romney also claimed that he is not proposing new tax breaks for the rich. “…I’m not going to reduce the share of taxes paid by high-income people. High-income people are doing just fine in this economy,” he said. “They’ll do fine whether you’re president or I am.”

Notice the key word there? “Share.”

Romney simply cannot claim that he isn’t going to reduce taxes for the richest Americans — he’s just promising that his cuts won’t benefit the rich disproportionally, just as George W. Bush falsely did in 2000.

In addition to the Bush tax breaks he promises to continue, Governor Romney wants to cut the estate tax, which only the richest Americans pay, to zero. His tax breaks will almost certainly cut the taxes the richest pay — despite his promises to remove reductions.

“An analysis by Citizens for Tax Justice found that even if millionaires were forced to give up all the tax expenditures that Romney has put on the table, his tax plan would still give a tax break of at least $250,000 on average for individuals making over $1 million,” the organization wrote in its “Debate Debrief.” “That is, he simply cannot back up his assertion that he is ‘not going to reduce the share of taxes paid by high- income people.’ And if he really is going to make up the revenues we’ll lose to his rate cuts, taxes would have to go up for other taxpayers.”

Romney has gone out his way to hide the specifics of his tax plan and is carefully hedging his words to make specious claims.

But let’s be clear about the facts. Mitt Romney is proposing a $10 trillion tax break. And he is clearly promising to cut the amount of taxes the richest Americans pay.

The fact that he has to do everything he can to hide this proves what a failure right-wing trickle-down economics have been.


By: Jason Sattler, The National Memo, October 5, 2012

October 7, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


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