Sometimes when presented with esoteric information I find myself thinking, “Why would I ever need to know that?” Without being psychic, there’s a better than even chance you are about to have that exact same thought, because…
This post is about budget reconciliation, the Senate Byrd Rule, and tax cuts.
Stick with me for about 400 more words and I promise everything will come together.
First, a quick story. Let’s say you are an enterprising high school student who, on occasion, visits your parent’s liquor cabinet. The parents, just as enterprising, mark the level of happy juice remaining after they partake. Therefore, fun is calibrated by hash marks running down the spine of the bottle indicating how much happy juice remains to be imbibed.
How does the enterprising teenager cover his surreptitious “borrowing” of fun juice? A “C” student would use water to fill the bottle back to the hash mark. An “A” student would find the pen used to make the hash mark and just make a new, lower one.
Folks, that’s a synopsis of the federal budget reconciliation act for purposes of tax cuts. I’ll explain.
Being discerning Widdershinners, the velocity with which the Republican American Health Care Atrocity Act (AHCA) moved was worrisome. Why the breakneck speed to alter almost one-fifth of the economy? The reason: Paul Ryan didn’t want anyone to notice the tax cut hash marks were being changed.
What the AHCA did was to lower the liquor bottle hash marks for tax cuts. It changed the tax baseline. The reason this is important is that the Senate rules require any tax cut to end after ten-years unless it is “paid-for” – ergo, the lower the hash mark, the less you have to replace. That’s the Byrd Rule.
The Republicans wanted to eliminate $1.0 Trillion in taxes over the next ten years by repealing the A.C.A. That meant $1.0 Trillion less they would have to replace in “pay-fors” in the next round of tax cuts, which they euphemistically call “tax reform”.
Paul Ryan doesn’t care about health care policy. He cares about tax cuts. The AHCA was merely a means to an end. Ryan, with a complicit White House, was merely figuring out a way to make the coming tax cuts larger and permanent. He was lowering the hash mark on the liquor bottle so he and his overlords could swill more of that sweet, delicious juice of the tax cut. The repeal of the A.C.A. taxes make the next tax cuts coming through “tax reform” look more affordable.
The chart below demonstrates what a massive redistributive tax cut the AHCA represented. It was redistribution from those least able to pay to the wealthiest collective in the country – the One Percenters.
Why am I taking your time with this? The quest for larger and permanent tax cuts isn’t over.
Ryan and his tax cut swilling cohort aren’t quitting – just like drinkers, nobody likes a quitter. Yesterday, a purloined recording of Ryan cooing to Republican donors surfaced. He promised:
We’re not going to just all of a sudden abandon health care and move on to the rest. We are going to move on with rest of our agenda, keep that on track, while we work the health-care problem. . . . It’s just that valuable, that important.
The anime-eyed granny-starver isn’t giving up. He might announce his grand plan as early as Thursday or Friday. Hell hath no fury like a Republican denied tax cuts. Who would have thought Republicans would seek to cut taxes, end regulation, rollback civil rights, and then for good measure, cut some more taxes? Who’d a’thunk it?
This class on budget reconciliation is now adjourned.
What’s on your mind today?
For those tuning in for Fredster’s mellow tunes, he’s taking the weekend to rest. He spends way too many hours a day making sure things run smoothly around here. I’m sure he’ll be around to drop some tunes.
As is my prodigiously prolixous habit, I have a story. Most everyone knows A Chorus Line is one of the longest running Broadway shows in history. What most people don’t know is that the stories comprising A Chorus Line are real.
When the show was work-shopped, dancers were asked to recount their “stories”. Those stories were woven together to create the play, the lyrics, and the music. Never before had it been tried. No one knew if it would work.
Well, it did work and it changed musical theater. It also changed lives. Young people became actors, dancers, choreographers, costumers, set designers, prop masters, and hundreds of other professions because of the show. It changed the way people saw theater.
This change came about because it was a play based in reality. It was about talent. It was about living your own truth – about telling your story. Most of all, the play was about standing up, following your heart, and doing something.
This week reminded me of A Chorus Line. The success of saving health care for 24 million Americans is due to people turning out, telling their stories, living their truth, and using their talent to overcome. Whether it was marching, calling, knitting hats, signing petitions, or just being informed, in the end reality won – at least for now.
Asked in November, anyone would have proclaimed the ACA dead. Health care was the long-hanging fruit – hanging so low it was touching the ground and rotting on the vine. No way, no how, would the Republicans be so incompetent as to not succeed at repealing something they have grunted and groaned about for seven years.
But they were that incompetent. They fielded a bill written with the venom of the insurance industry and recorded in the journals of epic fails. Never underestimate just how much Republicans will overestimate their reach.
So my suggestion is we celebrate with songs about overcoming adversity. If you have other ideas, you are welcome to share them. The first video is about the cast of Hamilton on April 16, 2016, celebrating the 40th anniversary of A Chorus Line opening off-Broadway at The Public Theater. At the end they talk about making a difference in the world just like what we witnessed this week.
Your turn. I hope your weekend is a great one.
Indeed, a bold move, let’s see if it pays off for them. So bold, the logic is nonexistent or exists in a parallel bizarro universe. Originally, I was going to post about a political science study, but it is too egg-headed and stuffy for a day like today.
Today we get to watch a bunch of Congressional one-eyed lemmings follow one another off the cliff because they’ve been told they can learn to fly on the way down.
These lemmings were tricked into trying to “midair Kitty Hawk” by King Don Dumb, the author of Schart of the Zeal. That’s a book about living a goony-eyed life of believing your own sh!t so much you get all excited and poop yourself, but not before toot farting, thereby signaling your unbridled zeal.
Here’s the upside for King Don Dumb if it passes – 24 million lose their health insurance, premiums go up, deductibles go up, coverage goes down, but the really rich get millions in tax cuts.
Overnight, there was another ransom note from the freaky Freedom Caucus. Not only does it cut essential benefits like maternity care, newborn care, pediatric care, mental health, drug treatment, rehabilitation, prescription drug coverage, preventative care, wellness care, chronic disease, laboratory services, hospitalization, and outpatient services, there’s more – even though that list looks like pretty much everything insurance is supposed to do.
To the things listed as essential services, add about eight other technical things that must have been written down during especially unctuous nocturnal emissions of insurance lobbyists. They include eliminating the “single risk pool” allowing insurers to cull the cheap healthy from the expensive sick, reinstating lifetime and annual coverage limits, eliminating the requirement for no-cost preventative care like mammograms, and undoing the Medical Loss Ratio standards, which is a fancy term for forcing large insurers to pay out at least 85% of premiums on claims and rebating the rest.
And here’s what I can’t believe hasn’t been covered: This travesty – this atrocity increases the deficit. It’s only slightly cheaper than the ACA, but it still increases the deficit because of the tax cuts. These heartless, amoral, hell-bound morons are borrowing money to heap suffering on 24 million people. It’s like an arsonist taking a mortgage on a house before torching it.
For seven years we’ve heard that selling insurance across state lines is the magical elixir to reduce premiums. That tired story is just another hornless unicorn, but it is what “wonkinator” Paul Ryan has sworn will work. States already allow interstate insurance sales, but insurance companies don’t do it because it doesn’t make economic sense. As health care expert Austin Frakt, told the Los Angeles Times, “I never understood the appeal of this idea. It only makes sense if you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Here in one chart is all you need to know. The chart depicts the percentage of income paid for premiums of a 60-year old making $20,000.00 a year. Under the ACA, she pays about 5% of her income no matter where she lives. Under this “Death Care” (© Fredster), in some parts of the country the same 60-year old pays 100% of her income for coverage. No one is going to do that. No one can do that.
No idea how this will turn out in the morning, but I’m sure of these things: The legislative language is still being worked out, there is no CBO score so no one knows how much these changes will cost, and oh yeah, this Death Care is polling at 17%.
One other thing, even if it does pass, it is DOA in the Senate. King Don Dumb has tooted and schart his pants declaring, “Take it or leave it, I’m done with health care.” At about 11:00 p.m., he blamed the anime-eyed granny-starver for this fiasco. As if that is a surprise.
The bold strategy is whether or not they can hide the fact this “wealth care” is only about the rich and Republican swamp dwellers. Hell of a thing. If someone had only warned us.
The first procedural vote is scheduled for 8:00 a.m. EDT this morning.
What’s on your mind today?
Yesterday felt like I had been at the carnival too long. I had ridden the Tilt-a-Whirl too many times and eaten too much cotton candy. I was dizzy and jittery. Sensory overload.
There was just too much news yesterday. It was a carnival sugar high leaving me craving something savory – wanting something real. No what ifs – no fake news – just what’s real.
This story is real.
Imagine an eighty-something guy – let’s call him Marty. Marty is a retired AT&T employee. Not a sophisticated investor, Marty had accumulated a sizable chunk of AT&T stock at discounted prices. It was a nice nest egg, except…
In 2008 Marty watched Jim Cramer of Mad Money on the Today show say, “Whatever money you may need for the next five years, please take it out of the stock market right now.”
So without consulting financial advisers or knowledgeable family members, Marty sold his AT&T stock. This was October 2008. Wall Street was beginning a bout of serious bulimia after gorging itself on the mortgage/derivative/credit cotton candy fraud scheme. Selling was neither smart nor prudent.
If Marty had reinvested his funds, the S&P 500 total return would have been 192%. Within just five years, reinvestment would have returned him 98%.
In the popular vernacular: Sad!
Here’s where it starts getting real. Marty’s last name is Bannon. Marty is Steve Bannon’s dad. And Steve Bannon lays his entire life philosophy around the “Rosebud moment” of Marty losing money in the stock market in 2008.
The elevator pitch offered by The Wall Street Journal is this:
There were many factors that turned Steve Bannon into a divisive political firebrand. But his decision to embrace ‘economic nationalism’ and vehemently oppose the forces and institutions of globalization, he says, stems from his upbringing, his relationship with his father and the meaning those AT&T shares held for the family.
“Everything since then has come from there,” Bannon told the Journal. “All of it.”
Let’s break this down, shall we? Marty was 80-something then, he’s 95 now. He watched Jim Cramer screaming on the teevee. He didn’t call his son Steve who worked for Goldman Sachs or his other son who also worked on Wall Street. He didn’t reinvest. He was overleveraged in AT&T. He didn’t diversify. And here’s the kicker…
Marty probably didn’t lose $100,000. Without getting all wonked up, given the time Marty worked for AT&T he most likely paid a lot less than what he sold for. In fact, when he sold, the stock was trading at a 2006 level, far above Marty’s accumulation dates from 1945-1995.
If Marty had sold at the high point, most likely he would have made $100,000 more, but he didn’t lose money. Marty made a stupid mistake. I’m sorry that he did, but he wasn’t the only retiree who suffered because of Dubya’s lack of SEC enforcement and the greed of Wall Street.
What’s different is that Marty’s son is using this as his personal “Rosebud moment” – his excuse for being. So what does Steve Bannon do to protect the little guys – the Martys of the world?
Like Sancho Panza, Steve Bannon hitches his wagon to the millionaire, pussy-grabbing heir to a real estate fortune. A fortune siphoned-off renting to blue-collar hardworking Joes and Josephines as long as they were lily-white. To everyone’s surprise, this legacy heir wins the presidency.
Bannon pedals his tricycle to the White House where he is tickled to see a bevy of Goldman Sachs buddies occupying every nook and cranny. Within a week, Bannon has dinner and helps send a Navy Seal, someone’s husband and son, to his death. Not to be deterred, Steve then sets his sights on taking away the insurance of 24 million ordinary Joes and Josephines. The demonic irony is that by denying these folks insurance it will ensure the one-percenters an $800 Billion tax cut.
I can’t begin to capture the hypocrisy as well as Francis Wilkinson does:
So if you want to know why Steve Bannon ran a website that became a digital drag bar for neo-Nazis and racists, or why he is determined to ban desperate, war-ravaged Muslim refugees from reaching American shores, or to deport mothers of American children to nations they haven’t seen in years, or to stop subsidizing health insurance for the poor and middle class, or to eliminate environmental safeguards, or to deregulate Wall Street so that it has fewer constraints in exploiting vulnerable investors, or to deliver vast tax cuts to extremely wealthy people like Steve Bannon — all while the president of the United States conceals his tax returns and sells the presidency for profit, well, it all comes down to what the elites did to poor Marty Bannon.
“Everything since then has come from there,” Bannon said. “All of it.”
An illegitimate President being served by his own kind – a Decepticon, perhaps named Optimus Subprime. Bannon is fake. His whole “supposed philosophy” is an ontological excuse for believing in nothing. A real Rosedud.
What’s on your mind today?
When I’m cooking, I’ve learned if you have the luxury of time, low and slow is the way to go. Earlier in my scotch-addled life, my friends told me of limbo contests where I physically went low and slow. And speaking of my scotch-addled life, low and slow pretty much described my dating habits.
Low and slow is neither the way to run the government nor is it the way to run the economy. It is inconceivable to imagine a budget lower in basic human services than what we saw this week.
Yesterday in watching Dick Prick Mick Mulvaney, the dust ruffle of crazy town, claim that cutting Meals on Wheels is the compassionate thing to do, I’m pretty much convinced we can’t go much lower. As we say around here, we are “next to the belly of a snake in a wagon rut.”
Obviously, Dolt 45 is as dumb as a box of hair mated with some orange zest and Adderall. He could care less what these crazy ideologues do as long as he can continue belching his lies in front of half-empty venues.
So why should he care? He’s got Mulvaney and anime-eyed granny-starver Paul Ryan to shovel the steaming dump Jim DeMint and the Heritage Foundation just took on the country. This budget, which will never pass, is nothing but the greatest hits from 1980s Heritage Foundation. Not even Reagan dared going this low.
When someone has no shame, there just is no limit to the depths they will sink. Given this first fifty days, it won’t be long before we are plumbing the depths of the Mariana Trench.
When it comes to slow things, the economy is troubling. About a year ago, I started paying attention to certain economic indicators believing Hillary was about to inherit a lethargic economy. There are disturbing indicators.
Here is a truism: Economic expansions never die from old age. The current expansion is seven and half-years old. That is long in the tooth.
Gallup surveys economic confidence and says it is at a historic high. The stock market is at a record high. The economy is still adding jobs. So why am I spending your time on the subject?
We are in a bubble. The confidence and stock market are anticipatory highs. It is not based in value. The highs are based upon a belief in massive Trumpanzee promised corporate tax cuts and the repatriation of $2.1 Trillion in offshore profits. Neither will be invested in expansion, but will be paid out in dividends or in stock buybacks. It will make the 1% even more one-percentier.
Unrelated to this economic giddiness, there are indicators screaming we are heading into another slowdown if not outright recession. Not to bore you, but just a few indicators:
- Employers are cutting back hours. We are seeing the highest percentage in the decline of hours since the 2008 recession.
- Tax receipts are down.
- Retailers are missing their earnings projections.
- Lending standards have tightened.
- Job growth at the S&P companies has gone negative.
All of these are warning signs of a slowing economy or impending recession. Any external event could hasten an economic retreat. Perhaps even monkeying around with one-sixth of the economy with an ill-conceived health care plan or a federal budget that would decimate hundreds of thousands of employees could precipitate it. Who knows?
I do know this: There are very few tricks left in the wheelhouse to combat recession. We will hear tax cuts from this bunch of Neanderthal MAGAbators, but as we have seen time and time again, sloganeering is not economic policy.
We are still paying for the last time we allowed this knuckle-dragging crowd to raid the Treasury with tax cuts, two wars, and unfunded benefit programs. Half of the national deficit is due to giving them the credit card and hoping for the best. Well, we know how that turned out.
Why do I think this is important enough to take your time this morning? From what I saw in the proposed budget, these people are unimaginative at best and stone-cold ignorant at worst. They are uncaring and vindictive. They are politically deaf. Power is a means to an end for them.
The choices represented in their budget were callous and heartless. If the worst happens, their response to an economic downturn will be likewise – callous, heartless, low, and slow. Human suffering will be but a minor inconvenience for a $2.1 Trillion payday. Daddy needs a new Gulfstream 650.
What’s on your mind today?
Noted scholar and transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.” So to begin my self-allotted 800 words, what do I do? I quote a smart man explaining his utter disdain for quotes.
True story. I love quotes. Collect them I do. I’m always looking for smart words from those who have journeyed before. Their wisdom is manifest and unmistakable. I find comfort in that.
So this week while thinking about this post, I began looking for a quote about shame. There weren’t that many shame quotes and the few I found were all wrong. They talked about shame as a regulator of behavior – as something to be “ashamed of”. There weren’t any quotes about the lack of shame.
Given the lack of quotes about shamelessness, it might indicate we are regressing along the evolutionary continuum. I imagine shamelessness requires less higher reasoning and a greater reliance on the lower brain stem – which brings me to Supreme Commander Monkey Butt (hereinafter “His Redness” or sometimes “Dolt 45” or “His High Assholiness”).
When I’ve described Dolt 45’s personality traits, I’ve been quite reticent about his mental health. With a high degree of probability I can surmise his behavior patterns, but his mental condition I will leave to others.
This brings me to his shamelessness. The only shame he fears is being labeled a fraud which is his primary and paramount behavioral avoidance priority. For all other types of normal, human shame – he has none. The shame a normal human would suffer does not faze him.
Within the last forty-eight hours, he told Tea Party groups not to worry if the Trump/RyanCare plan failed because he would make sure the ACA failed so he could blame the Democrats. Or telling the same groups he was fine with accelerating the human suffering by speeding up the Medicaid cutbacks by two years if that’s what it takes to win. Sociopathic behavior for sure, but no evidence of shame.
My point is this: While His High Assholiness’ behavior is abhorrent, it is the new Republican Trumpism. He is near the perfect Republican or so says at least 89% of self-described Republicans. Again, my feeble mind is called to a quote from H.L. Mencken:
As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.
The great and glorious day has arrived and the White House is now resplendently adorned by the consummate “downright moron” who happens to be unburdened by shame. He was the apple-eyed desire of the plain folks or at least 70,000 under-educated white men in three states. That desire still burns white-hot in nine out of ten Republican hearts.
These Trumpian sycophants know no shame. Just consider: Passing legislation affecting one-sixth of the economy without a hearing in the dead of night. Or ending life-sustaining medical care for maybe 15,000,000 people. Or ending opioid therapy or mental health treatment for millions. Or ending health clinics and outreach for the poorest and most under-served populations. Or doing all of this without an estimate of the costs.
All of this to give the wealthiest, most secure, and most powerful a massive tax cut. And on top of that giving insurance companies and medical device manufacturers a tax cut. And on top of that making sure the inadequate tax credits are as regressive as possible without regard to need or ability to pay. And on top of that, and this is where the shamelessness is extraordinary, financing the whole damn thing by draconian cuts to Medicaid – cuts to the poorest, weakest, and most vulnerable among us.
This bill isn’t a health care plan, it is a massive tax cut disguised as a political slogan to repeal the ACA. It is a WealthCare plan. It is a risible act of ignominy so outrageous it wouldn’t even make the SNL trashcan.
As discerning Widdershins, you are asking, “Why isn’t he mentioning the hypocrisy?” The answer is simple – without shame there is no hypocrisy. Talking to these people about hypocrisy is like talking to a cobra about venom or a skunk about stink. It is what makes them who they are.
The inimitable Mr. Emerson was a transcendentalist meaning he believed in the inherent goodness of individuals. I want to believe that too since there’s no shame in that – at least not yet.
I’m going to leave you with a musical interlude then I’ll list some links for interesting stories I couldn’t work into my self-indulgent rant/therapy. As always, take the safety off, comment at will, and thanks for listening.
Speaking of clowns, here’s one, and he’s a substitute for the Presidential Daily Briefing:
A wonderfully researched study of 1.25 million stories by the Columbia Journalism Review indicating Breitbart to be the right-wing media anchor hub of a distinct and insulated media system that appears to have set the agenda and overall tone for Hillary’s negative coverage.
An interactive demonstration that the “higher premium” lamentation by the shameless Republicans is, like so many things, made of whole cloth.
The lackadaisical use of military force is troubling and a bad omen of things to come. One week of bombing is equal to one year of missions under Obama.
Watch Paul Ryan’s Adam’s Apple when he’s asked about his “good, best friends” the rich.
From Anne Rice’s book, The Witching Hour:
Give me a man or woman who has read a thousand books and you give me an interesting companion. Give me a man or woman who has read perhaps three and you give me a very dangerous enemy indeed.
Our White House is chocked full of dangerous enemies. I doubt Dolt 45 has ever read a book. Of the two power brokers, Steve Bannon and Steve Miller, or Steve Squared, Bannon has undoubtedly cracked more books than the dead-eyed, zombified Miller, but their coming of age is almost identical.
According to acquaintances, Bannon changed after 2001. He came to embrace eras of historical significance divvied-up into 20-year increments of “highs, awakenings, unraveling, and crises.” To quote one of Bannon’s 2008 films, “History is seasonal, and winter is coming.”
The Miller part of Steve Squared was an enfant terrible calling into conservative talk radio while still in high school in the early aughts. He bragged to conservative audiences of cracking the whip on laggardly high school janitorial staff. A graduate of U.S. Senator and ambulatory garden gnome Jefferson Beauregard Sessions’ tutelage, there is no better description of Miller than this:
In any other Republican administration, Miller would have been lucky to land a second-tier job at a third-tier agency. But in the Trump White House, Miller stands out: He’s one of the few people in the president’s inner orbit who has actually worked in government.
And that my friends is the high water mark of what constitutes a policy shop for a petulant 70-year old who might or might not have successfully graduated from the Trump University of Potty Training given the reports of vodka-swilling, borscht-loving prostitutes.
Bannon and Miller are zealots. They are true believers – not of Trumpism for whatever that may turn out to be. They have spawned an apocalyptic philosophy of white national populism – the schizophrenic belief of a Judeo-Christian right to a 21st Century modernity of gadgets and gizmos nestled safely in a 1950’s culture where we are all employed by jobs last worked by our grandparents.
Empty vessels are the easiest filled. Barely 40-days in and this truism is proved by Flynn resigning due to canoodling with the Russians, a Secretary of the Navy, a Secretary of the Army, a Secretary of Labor, a Deputy Secretary of Commerce, and at least six White House staffers biting the curb because of non-existent vetting. Hundreds of offices are unfilled without any hint of nominees.
We have a rolling disclosure of Russians leaping like Baryshnikov to meet with campaign Trumpets. As of this writing, Flynn, Kushner, fruitcake Carter Page, J.D. Gordon, Walid Phares, and His Gnomeness Sessions, all met with the Russian ambassador Kislyak.
Then there is Michael Cohen, Trump’s lawyer, who is so squirrely his bushy tail twitches when he someone says, “nuts.” Add to that Paul Manafort and you just need one more to field a baseball team, maybe the Chernobyl Reds who can play in the majorly radioactive league. The nagging question is this: Why the concerted effort to conceal these meetings?
Given these people’s intellectual challenges, they would be safer if they ate their meals with sporks since they are absolutely unfettered by their cluelessness of what they don’t know. The two people who are dancing on Occam’s razor, hoping against hope that Dolt 45’s signing pen doesn’t run out of ink are McTurtle and the doe-eyed Granny starver Ryan.
These two who worship power above all else are hoping that when the dust settles, their treasonous tryst will go unnoticed. And even if they are suspected of nefarious collusion, they will have accomplished their goal – tax cuts for the wealthiest among us. The 400 highest income earners in the country will get an average tax cut of about $7.0 Million a year for the low, low price tag of depriving health care to 21 Million.
Of course this pas de deux of the vacuous and the treasonous will culminate in a virtuoso of viperous Republican retribution. All in an effort to make good on the promise to the reliably hateful Republican/Tea Party voters to hurt those with less.
Overwhelming the already anemic media is part of the Steve Squared’s plan – not that overwhelming the media requires much effort. At least it appears that the Democrats are heeding the message to fight. It seems as if they finally understand there were no rewards for working with Dubya or no punishment for eight years of Republican obstruction.
It seems as if the Intelligence Community is our last bastion of protection. I follow a few former intelligence officers on Twitter and I perked right up when one said quite unequivocally that Dolt 45 will spend his last years in prison. They use sporks there too.
What’s on your mind today?