Economy & Business

Treasury Dept. Analysis of GOP Tax Plan Ripped as ‘Pure Propaganda’

by Jake Johnson – One coalition of advocacy groups concluded that the analysis shows the GOP tax plan “would be great for the economy…in a world where unicorns exist, pigs fly, and Trump has released his tax returns.” President Donald Trump’s Treasury Department released its long-awaited analysis (pdf) of the GOP tax plan on Monday, and experts are aghast. Promised “full transparency” and a comprehensive explanation of how the legislation would meet its lofty goals, the public instead got one page of “pure propaganda” that makes fantastical projections in the service of bolstering Trump administration talking points. While the report attempts to validate Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s oft-repeated claim that the GOP tax bill would more than pay for itself through surging economic growth, it only does so by assuming legislative victories down the road. In addition to the economic growth the department expects from corporate tax cuts, the Treasury report asserts that a full...

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Led by U.S. Weapons Makers, Global Arms Sales Soared in 2016: Analysis

by Jessica Corbett – With U.S. weapons companies claiming more than half of global sales, and despite five previous years of decline, arms producers around the world raked in $375 billion in profits. With U.S. weapons makers leading the way, and after five consecutive years of decline, sales among the world’s 100 largest arms producers rose in 2016, garnering nearly $375 billion in profits, according to a new analysis of industry data by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). “The growth in arms sales was expected and was driven by the implementation of new national major weapon programs, ongoing military operations in several countries, and persistent regional tensions that are leading to an increased demand for weapons,” according to a SIPRI fact sheet (pdf). Considering more than half of SIPRI’s top 20 weapons sellers are based in the United States—including Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman in the top five—the report declares the...

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Teacher-turned-congressman Hilariously Grades Mitch McConnell’s Tax Scam Pitch to Voters: FAIL

by Jen Hayden –  In 2012 Rep. Mark Takano was elected to represent the California’s 41st District. Prior to that he served the community for 20 years as a teacher. He took one look at Mitch McConnell’s tax scam pitch to voters and he got out the dreaded red pen, slicing and dicing the entire charade of a tax proposal.   Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

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Zinke Says Energy Wasn’t Involved in Bears Ears Decision. Nuclear Company Documents Say Otherwise

by Meteor Blades – Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke has made it a point to declare that energy concerns had nothing to do with his recommendation to Pr*sident Trump that Bears Ears National Monument in Utah be cut by 85 percent and the remnant hacked into bits. There’s no mine in Bears Ears, he told reporters after Trump issued two proclamations Tuesday cutting Bears Ears and another national monument in Utah, the Grand Staircase-Escalante. But The Washington Post has obtained documents showing there was heavy lobbying in favor of reducing the monument’s acreage by the owner of the nation’s only remaining uranium mill. It sits just outside the boundary of Bears Ears as designated last year by President Obama, but miles away from the new boundary under Trump’s truncated designation. Juliet Eilperin’s report on the documents shows that Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc., a subsidiary of a Canadian firm, lobbied the Trump regime to shrink the monument—which is rich with scenic beauty and ancient American...

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Mitch McConnell Says Caring About Legislative Process is For Losers. He’s Wrong

by Peter Suderman – Rushing a bill to a vote makes for messy legislation that comes apart over time. Early in the morning on Saturday, after Senate Republicans passed major tax legislation on a party-line vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took a question about the speed with which the bill had been passed. The final text of the bill, which ran nearly 500 pages, had been released just a few hours before the vote, and included pages that were crammed with handwritten notes at the margins, and portions of legislative text crossed out in pen. Last-minute deals were struck with several GOP senators throughout the day, and those changes as well as others had been hastily added into the bill. What did McConnell think of some of the process concerns that Democrats had raised in objection to the bill? McConnell’s response was to dismiss the worriers as losers: “You complain about process...

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Who’s Ready for Some Trillion-Dollar Republican Deficits?

by Matt Welch – Fiscal hawks, from their perch in the wilderness, predict we may again see 13-digit deficits as soon as next year. From 2009 to 2012, the federal government of the United States ran an annual deficit north of $1 trillion. The figure was shocking—Washington didn’t get around to spending $1 trillion in a year total (in 2009 dollars) until 1975. Coming on the heels of the debt-doubling during the presidency of George W. Bush, which candidate Barack Obama in 2008 characterized as “unpatriotic,” the new recession/bailouts/stimulus deficit-spending triggered a stampede of national anxiety. The Tea Party arose in 2009 partly in revulsion at the Bush/Obama binge. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen famously warned CNN in 2010 that, “The most significant threat to our national security is our debt.” The president himself acknowledged the problem, predicting in a major 2011 speech that the debt “has grown so large that we could do real damage to the...

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CVS Merger With Aetna: Health Care Cure or Curse?

by Sharona Hoffman – The announcement that CVS plans to acquire Aetna for US$69 billion raises hope and concerns. The transaction would create a new health care giant. Aetna is the third-largest health insurer in the United States, insuring about 46.7 millionpeople. CVS operates 9,700 pharmacies and 1,000 MinuteClinics. A decade ago, it also purchased Caremark and now operates CVS/Caremark, a pharmacy benefits manager, a type of business that administers drug benefit programs for health plans. CVS/Caremark is one of the three largest pharmacy benefits managers in the United States. Along with ExpressScripts and OptummRXTogether, these three control at least 80 percent of the market. Should American consumers be happy or concerned about the proposed merger? As a professor of health law and bioethics, I see compelling arguments on both sides. Good for consumers, or for the companies? CVS and Aetna assert they are motivated by a desire to improve services for consumers and that the merger will lower health care costs...

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It’s Time to Change More Than Trump

by Robert Borosage – Every day, the media feasts on Trump’s lurid antics. Don’t fall for it. He’s a distraction, the clown show. And while he’s barking outside the big top, the GOP is inside, cutting away at our economy and the very essentials of our public life. The tax bill Republicans are trying to ramrod through the Congress provides a clear reminder that the real threat we face is a rabidly ideological GOP, now in full control of all branches of government, in Washington and in 26 states. Now, virtually unified Republican caucuses in both Houses are on the verge of passing truly grotesque tax legislation that will give more than 60 percent of its benefits to the richest 1 percent in the nation, while raising taxes on nearly all working families. Rule By Tweet Trump tweets out anti-Muslim videos from a far-right British hate group, earning condemnation from...

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Quid Pro Quo: Flynn Said Russian Sanctions Would Be “ripped up” on Trump’s Inauguration

by Dartagnan – Well now we know why Russia was so adamant to get Donald Trump elected. WASHINGTON — Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, told a former business associate that economic sanctions against Russia would be “ripped up” as one of the Trump administration’s first acts, according to an account by a whistle-blower made public on Wednesday. You don’t make a claim like that unless you’re fairly confident that’s The Boss’s plan.  Of course, there was something in it for Flynn as well: Mr. Flynn had worked on a business venture to partner with Russia to build nuclear power plants in the Middle East until June 2016, but remained close with the people involved afterward. On Inauguration Day, according to the whistle-blower, Mr. Flynn texted the former business associate to say that the project was “good to go.” Yep, “Inauguration Day” would be the right day to send that text....

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31 House Republicans Say They Want DACA Action This Year. They Can Do it With One Signature

by Josh Israel – Just 22 would have to sign a discharge petition to bring the Dream Act of 2017 to the floor. Last week, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said it was unlikely that Congress would act on protecting hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the country as kids before the end of the year. On Tuesday, 33 Republican Representatives and (plus the non-voting Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico), released a letter calling for action before the end of December. But if these lawmakers are serious about making that happen, there is an easy way they could do so. A seldom-used procedure, known as a “discharge petition” could bring the Dream Act of 2017 to the floor within days. When the Trump administration announced in September that it would end DACA, the Obama administration’s executive action that gave undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children temporary deportation relief and work authorization in...

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GOP Tax Bill Will Devastate Renewable Industry While Incentivizing Automation

by Joe Romm – Polluting robots win big while clean energy workers get screwed. Polluting robots of the world, unite! The GOP tax bill is for you. The rest of us, however, have a lot to lose from GOP tax changes that favor investments in dirty energy over clean — and robots over human workers. As one MIT economist told Newsweek, “We are creating huge subsidies in our tax code for capital and encouraging employers to use machines instead of labor.” And unless significant changes are made in the GOP plan, those machines will be running on dirty energy. Last month, I discussed how the House tax bill targets key solar and wind energy tax credits that have helped make clean energy a crucial high-wage job-creating sector in the United States. The good news is that the Senate tax bill doesn’t roll back those renewable energy tax credits. The bad news is that it contains language...

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Mueller Gets Deutsche Bank’s Trump Records

by Karen Wehrstein – For months now, Democrats have been requesting more transparency from Deutsche Bank over whether the $300 million Donald tRUmp owes them (about half his outstanding debt, according to a Bloomberg analysis), is in some way connected to Russia.  The bank has firmly refused to reveal anything. We’ll find out now, though, because Special Counsel Robert Mueller has jumped with both feet over tRUmp’s “red line” and demanded these records via subpoena. (Because telling Mueller “going after my family’s finances is a violation” is not at all like waving a big red flag in front of a bull.) Mueller issued a subpoena to Germany’s largest lender several weeks ago, forcing the bank to submit documents on its relationship with Trump and his family, according to a person briefed on the matter, who asked not to be identified because the action has not been announced. “Deutsche Bank always cooperates with investigating...

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Trump Decimates Two National Monuments in ‘historic action’

by Natasha Geiling – It’s the largest-ever reduction in U.S. history. Speaking outside of the Utah State Capitol on Monday, President Donald Trump announced the largest-ever reduction of a national monument in the nation’s history, shrinking Bears Ears National Monument by some 1.1 million acres, or nearly 85 percent. “I know all of you feel blessed to be living among some of the most glorious natural wonders anywhere in the world,” Trump said. “Some people think that the natural resources of Utah should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington. Guess what? They are wrong. The families and communities of Utah know and love this land the best, and you know the best how to take care of your land. You know how to protect it, and you know how best to conserve this land for many many generations to come.” Trump also announced that he would...

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Homelessness: One of Capitalism’s Many Inevitable Products

by Gus Bagakis, Truthout | News Analysis – “As long as the capitalist mode of production continues to exist, it is folly to hope for an isolated solution to the housing question or of any other social question affecting the fate of the workers.” — Friedrich Engels, 1872 “Homelessness exists not because the system is not working but because this is the way it works.” — Peter Marcuse Housing is the necessary precondition for security, identity, emotional well-being, work, leisure and community. There is no greater condemnation of capitalism than its inability to provide adequate housing for those who produce its wealth — the working class. The high percentage of people of color who are homeless points to the wealth divide between the white and non-white working class, based on the historical legacy of racism and the building of capitalism out of slavery. The ruling class explanation relies on blaming the victims, arguing that people experiencing homelessness are in some way individually incompetent. Other, more perceptive,...

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Here Are the Flimsy Promises That Got Key Republican Swing Votes to Support the Tax Plan

by Addy Baird – And the ways some of those promises are already being torn apart. Several Republican senators who were considered swing votes on the GOP tax plan — a plan the chamber intends to vote on Friday night, without giving members sufficient time to even read the bill — have been swayed with flimsy promises by Republican leadership and the Trump administration. “After securing significant changes, as well as commitments to pass legislation to help lower health insurance premiums, I will cast my vote in support of the Senate tax reform bill,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) tweeted Friday. Sen. Susan Collins ✔@SenatorCollins After securing significant changes, as well as commitments to pass legislation to help lower health insurance premiums, I will cast my vote in support of the Senate tax reform bill. (1/2) https://www.collins.senate.gov/newsroom/senator-collins%E2%80%99-statement-support-senate-tax-reform-bill … 4:07 PM – Dec 1, 2017 Her concerns, she said in a statement, had been addressed...

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Whistleblower: Mnuchin’s Touted Analysis Claiming ‘Tax Cuts for Rich Pay for Themselves’ Doesn’t Even Exist

by Jake Johnson – One critic called the Treasury Department’s failure to release a comprehensive analysis of the tax bill a “shocking abdication of responsibility” The Trump White House has pulled out all the stops in its efforts to help the GOP ram through its widely disliked tax bill, including—as the New York Times reported Thursday—citing a Treasury Department analysis one government whistleblower says doesn’t even exist. For months, Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin has peddled the ambitious claim that not only would the GOP’s proposed tax cuts for the rich “pay for themselves” through a massive surge in economic growth, but also that the cuts would help the U.S. “pay down debt.” “In our models, we believe there will be $2.5 trillion of growth,” Mnuchin said during a recent CNN interview. “And we’re happy to go through the numbers. We’re happy to give the details. We want full transparency to the American public.” Despite such lofty promises and his expressed commitment...

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Mulvaney’s In, Bankers Win, and Trump Shafts Americans Again

by Richard Eskow – A Trump-appointed judge has issued his ruling. Mick Mulvaney – the Tea Party Congressman turned Trump apparatchik – will run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The political extremist who once said the CFPB was “extremely frightening,” who called it “a joke… in a sick, sad kind of way”  and said he would “like to get rid of it,” is now its Acting Director. Mulvaney didn’t wait for the judge’s ruling before taking the helm. He showed up at the office bearing doughnuts for the staff. Were the condemned being served their last meal? A quick review of the CFPB website on Monday showed that he had already placed himself at the top of the org chart: On his first day on the job, Mulvaney froze all hiring and rule-making, bringing the bureau’s critical work to an effective standstill. The banks had won the first round. And Trump proved once again that,...

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Small Business Leaders Unite Against Tax Cuts

by Tim Wilkins – Small businesses and their customers will be badly hurt by Republicans’ bid to enact massive tax cuts for the wealthy, according to Sen. Ron Wyden and small business owners from across the country who joined him to denounce the plan. “What the Republicans produced was a multi-trillion dollar handout for multinational corporations and tax cheats,” said Wyden, Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, on a call to reporters hosted by the Main Street Alliance, a national coalition of small business owners. “It is going to raise taxes on hardworking Americans, and leave small businesses in the lurch.” Joining Wyden to speak out against the GOP tax plan, which has been cleared for debate in the Senate and may reach a floor vote this week, were local business leaders from Maine, Oregon, Arizona and Iowa. “Reducing the corporate tax rate further tilts the scale in favor...

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Republican Tax Bill Paves Way For the Destruction Social Security, Medicare, and Safety Net

by Joan McCarter – Take it from a Republican, not just any Republican but a domestic policy adviser to President Ronald Reagan and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy at the Treasury Department in the Bush 41 White House. The fix is in with this Republican tax bill that spikes the deficit. Bruce Bartlett@BruceBartlett Literally the second the ink is dry on the tax cut, deficit hawks will emerge from their hibernation, where they have had nary a word of criticism about increasing the deficit by $1.5 trillion, to demand that SS & Medicare be slashed b/c the deficit has mysteriously increased. 2:03 PM – Nov 27, 2017 As he warned in the Washington Post, “They’ve played this game before.” he stealth goal of GOP tax cuts is to start down the path toward gutting the New Deal and the Great Society—and if tax cuts pass, they might get away with it. If anything, by...

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Corporations Agree: Tax Savings Will NOT go Toward Hiring New Workers or Raising Wages

by Kerry Eleveld – The reason no CEOs raised their hands at a forum where they were asked if they would reinvest their tax cut savings in new or existing workers is now perfectly clear, if it wasn’t already. Bloomberg News writes: Major companies including Cisco Systems Inc., Pfizer Inc. and Coca-Cola Co. say they’ll turn over most gains from proposed corporate tax cuts to their shareholders, undercutting President Donald Trump’s promise that his plan will create jobs and boost wages for the middle class. The president has held fast to his pledge even as top executives’ comments have run counter to it for months. Instead of hiring more workers or raising their pay, many companies say they’ll first increase dividends or buy back their own shares. Robert Bradway, chief executive of Amgen Inc., said in an Oct. 25 earnings call that the company has been “actively returning capital in the form of growing dividend and buyback and...

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Fools or Knaves?

by Robert Reich – One of the most dangerous consequences of this awful period in American life is the denigration of the truth, and of institutions and people who tell it. There are two kinds of liars – fools and knaves. Fools lie because they don’t know the truth. Knaves lie because they intend to mislead. Trump is both, because he doesn’t even care enough about the truth to find out what it is. He’ll say whatever he thinks will get people to believe what he wants them to believe. What about people like Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Trump’s point person on the Republican tax bills now making their way through Congress? Mnuchin continues to insist that the legislation puts a higher tax burden on people earning more than $1 million a year, and reduce taxes on everyone else. “I can tell you that virtually everybody in the middle class will...

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More Than 200,000 Americans Tried to Buy a Gun on Black Friday

by Alan Pyke – The FBI got twice as many background check requests this Black Friday as in 2008. More than 200,000 Americans sought to buy a gun the day after Thanksgiving this year, based on federal background check data. The Black Friday rush on firearms dwarfed the equivalent figures for 2008, 2009, and 2010 and far exceeded even the relatively elevated level of gun sales recorded through the background check data, Bloomberg reported. There were more than 203,000 separate pings of the background check database on the retail industry’s most important day of the year. It was the third straight year in which Black Friday gun sales — for which background check numbers are only an inexact proxy — topped a high set in December 2012 when gun enthusiasts rushed to the cash register following the Sandy Hook massacre of school children. The background check figures do not mean that all 203,000...

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Janet Yellen and Barack Obama’s Economy Is Looking Good

by Dean Baker, Truthout | Op-Ed – As Congress debates plans to give even more money to the country’s richest people, it is worth briefly recounting where the economy is now, before we feel the effects of any tax plan. Basically, it is a pretty good story. The overall unemployment rate for October was 4.1 percent. This is the lowest unemployment rate since 2000. And that was an extraordinarily good year for the labor market. We would have to go back to 1970 to find the last time the unemployment rate had been this low. The unemployment rate for African-Americans was 7.5 percent in October. The 7 percent level reached in September ties for the lowest figure on record. While these levels of unemployment are still unacceptably high, they are an enormous improvement from the near 17 percent rate hit at the low point of the downturn in 2010. The 4.8 percent...

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The GOP Has a Problem With Paying for Kids’ Basic Care

by Rebekah Entralgo – Congress is driving nearly 10 million kids and pregnant women into a health insurance crisis. Fifty-six days after Congress failed to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), some American children are at risk of losing their health insurance. The deadline to renew the program’s funding was Sept. 30, and Congress hasn’t granted the program $15 billion to continue. As a result, the popular state-level insurance program for low-income children and pregnant women is facing a funding cliff. While some states may be able to keep the program going through some of next year, half a dozen are projected to run out of funding by late December or early January. It takes time to make program changes and alert families they’ll be left in the lurch, so States are starting to take action now. States closest to the funding cliff are preparing to warn customers that funding might disappear, leaving kids...

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Forbes Bottom Lines Insanity of GOP Tax Bill: They’re Coming for Your Social Security & Medicare

by Heavy Mettle – A Forbes Magazine oped contributor blog post describes how the current GOP tax bills are “the end of GOP economic sanity” and goes through a long list of problems that would never have been inflicted on the US populace before: “If it’s enacted, the GOP tax cut now working its way through Congress will be the start of a decades-long economic policy disaster unlike any other that has occurred in American history.” “There’s no economic justification whatsoever for a tax cut at this time. U.S. GDP is growing, unemployment is close to 4 percent (below what is commonly considered “full employment“), corporate profits are at record levels and stock markets are soaring. It makes no sense to add any federal government-induced stimulus to all this private sector-caused economic activity, let alone a tax cut as big as this one.” After going through a list of problems it will cause, such as high...

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Washington’s War on Poor Grad Students

by Jill Richardson – Imagine having to pay thousands of dollars of taxes on virtually no income. The Republican tax plan winding its way through Congress includes a special middle finger to the nation’s graduate students. It’s a little bit wonky, so stay with me here. I’ll explain how it affects me, since I’m an actual graduate student. Going to grad school would’ve been entirely out of reach for me if I had to pay full tuition for my education. Getting a PhD takes at least five years and often more. I don’t have a spouse, trust fund, or parents to cover my cost of living or my tuition. If I had to pay for my own education, it would’ve been simply out of the question. This is hardly uncommon. How many adults do you know can forego five or more years of income while simultaneously paying thousands of dollars in...

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42 Top Economists Were Asked if the Trump Tax Plan Would Significantly Grow the Economy. 1 Said Yes

by Rebekah Entralgo – Remember when the White House said the economic growth would put an extra $4,000 in your pocket? Overhauling the tax code before Christmas would be a difficult task under “normal” conditions, yet Republicans in Congress are pledging to do just that with their tax bill. There’s just one big problem: It is a supremely poor tax plan that doesn’t provide middle-class tax relief while also serving as a substantial handout to the wealthy. A University of Chicago survey released Tuesday polled 42 of the nation’s leading economists about the Republican tax plan — and all but one said they do not agree with claims that the plan will grow the economy. This survey is yet another piece of analysis that eviscerates a popular White House talking point that by cutting taxes for corporations, the GOP tax plan would create so much economic growth that the average American family would get a raise...

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Russia has Owned Trump for Quite Some Time and Mueller Knows it; Tick, Tock Impeachment Clock

by ursulafaw – Guardian journalist Luke Harding has written a book, Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win. The book contains conversations with former spy Christopher Steele, who admonished Harding to follow the yellow brick road, which in Trump’s case is gold and extends all the way from Moscow to Trump Tower. Good advice and Robert Mueller is following it. Vanity Fair: In December of last year, Steele informed Luke Harding, a journalist for the Guardian, that “the contracts for the hotel deals and land deals” between Trump and individuals with the Kremlin ties warrant investigation. “Check their values against the money Trump secured via loans,” the former spy said, according to a conversation detailed in Harding’s new book, Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win. “The difference is what’s important.” According to his book, Steele did not elaborate on this point to Harding, but his implication was clear: it’s possible...

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New Report Details ’13 Terrible Things’ About Senate GOP Tax Plan

by Common Dreams staff – Americans for Tax Fairness warns that the bill gives most of the tax cuts to the richest 1%, makes 82 million middle-class families pay more in taxes, and endangers funding for public services. Amid mounting efforts to block the Republican Party’s latest attempts to cut taxes for the nation’s corporations and wealthiest families, a new report out Tuesday details 13 “terrible things” about the most recent GOP tax bill put forth in the U.S. Senate. The analysis by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF)—a campaign of more than 425 national, state, and local groups that advocate for progressive tax reform—is just latest in a series of warnings about the consequences of passing what’s being called the #GOPTaxScam. The report warns that the proposed legislation: Gives most of the tax cuts to the richest 1%. The share of tax cuts going to the richest 1% is 62% in 2027, up from 18% in 2019. Their tax cut...

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Under GOP Plan, Wealthy Foreign Investors Benefit Nearly Three Times More Than US Taxpayers

by Common Dreams staff – “Just amazing,” said one economic analyst. “Really hard to get your head around. But it’s true.” If the Senate Republicans’ latest version of their tax overhaul bill passes, foreign investors will receive a financial benefit nearly three times larger than all U.S. taxpayers combined, according to a new analysis released Saturday. In its updated analysis, the non-partisan Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) found that while U.S. households would receive $8 billion in net benefits from the plan, wealthy overseas investors would capture an astonishing $22 billion. “By 2027,” the analysis states, “foreign investors would benefit more than American households overall under the bill as written. While some households would pay more and others would pay less, in 2027 the average net effect for U.S. households would be a tax cut of $8 billion, which is much smaller than the $22 billion benefit to foreign investors.” As Seth Hanlon,...

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EU Cuts Turkey Funding After ‘democratic deterioration’

by Umut Uras – The European Union will cut funds allocated to Turkey due to the “deteriorating situation in relation to democracy, rule of law and human rights” there, according to a European Parliament (EP) statement. The bloc will shrink the so-called “pre-ascension funds” for Turkey by 105m euros ($124m) and suspend an additional 70m euros in the 2018 budget, the statement said on Saturday. Ankara is entitled to receive 4.45 billion euros from the EU between 2014 and 2020 in the framework of the bloc’s “Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance”. The Council of the EU and the EP, the two legislative institutions of the bloc, still need to formally approve the new budget. “Concerning Turkey, MEPs made sure to cut pre-accession funds by 105 million euros (with a further €70 million in commitments put in reserve), as they consider the deteriorating situation in relation to democracy, rule of law and human rights worrying,” the statement by the...

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Trump’s Asia Trip Proves the Increasing Irrelevance of the US

by m2c4 – Early on in the Trump administration, it was already clear that Trump was incapable of a coherent foreign policy and his erratic and destructive behavior was forcing our allies to re-examine their relationship with the US, signaling the end of the “American Century”. That process has been taking place all over the world. Australia implemented a complete review and refocus of their foreign policy based on the assumption that America was in retreat and China would become the dominant force in Asia. The European Union no longer considers the US as “friend” and is looking to move forward without the US and the UK as a partner. Now, in an almost immediate indication of the failure of Trump’s Asia trip and a reflection of foreign leaders’ fear of the instability of Trump and his administration, it seems that Japan is actually looking to also move closer to China. Japanese Prime Minister Abe...

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House Approves $700B ‘Cash Cow for Weapons Companies’—But Single Payer ‘Too Expensive’

by Jake Johnson – “What if we tell House Republicans and Democrats that North Korea wanted to close schools, take our healthcare away and pump CO2 into our air—we could suddenly, magically find $700 billion dollars for all of it.” In a bipartisan show of support for endless war and out-of-control military spending, the House of Representatives on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved the nearly $700 billion National Defense Authorization Act of 2018 that aims to boost war outlays by $80 billion—an amount that critics noted would easily cover the costs of free public college tuition and other initiatives that are frequently dismissed as too expensive. The final vote tally was 357-70, with 127 Democrats throwing their support behind the bill. Sixty-seven Democrats—including Reps. Barbara Lee of California, Keith Ellison of Minnesota, and John Conyers of Michigan—voted against the legislation. In addition to providing cash for 90 F-35 jets—20 more than President Donald Trump requested—the measure also approves...

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Uranium One in a Nutshell

by Edward Adams – “We had Hillary Clinton give Russia 20 percent of the uranium in our country.” –Donald Trump, news conference, Feb. 16, 2017  “Uranium deal to Russia, with Clinton help and Obama Administration knowledge, is the biggest story that Fake Media doesn’t want to follow!” –Donald Trump, Tweet, Oct. 19, 2017 “This is equivalent to what the Rosenbergs did, and those people got the chair. Think about it: Giving away nuclear capability to our enemies, that’s what we’re talking about.” –Sebastian Gorka, Hannity, Oct. 26, 2017   As the Mueller investigation heats up, Trump, his Republican defenders, and Fox News can be expected to play up the contrived Uranium One scandal, suggesting of course that Hillary Clinton is really the one in bed with the Russians. The House Intelligence Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee are initiating a probe, and the Justice Department just notified Congress that it is considering...

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Evangelical Attack on Women’s Rights Hidden in GOP Tax Reform

by Rmuse – Religious Republicans made another sneak attack on American women’s right to self-determination last week and there was barely a whimper; which is the reason the attack was done through subterfuge. And besides a lack of outrage,  there was a lack of media reporting that Republicans are embracing a Vatican dictate as their official legislative weapon of choice in the evangelical Republicans’ war on women. Based on the machinations Republicans are using to eliminate women’s reproductive rights, including the right to use contraceptives, they certainly know their agenda is highly unpopular; it is precisely why they ensconced a “personhood” provision deep in the 429-page Republican House tax reform legislation. Despite several varied states rejecting the bizarre, and frankly absurd, idea of “personhood,” as a legal provision and as a concept, Republicans are pushing the issue as a means of completely controlling women’s reproductive lives. For the second time in Trump and preacher Pence’s burgeoning theocracy, the federal...

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Economic Patriotism: 400 Millionaires Pen Letter to Congress, ask Republicans NOT to Cut Their Taxes

by Jen Hayden – Responsible Wealth, a group of business leaders, investors, and inheritors in the richest 5 percent of wealth and/or income in the U.S., are sending an open letter to members of Congress with a clear message: do not cut our taxes. In the letter, which can be read in full below, the 400+ millionaires say that they do not support any tax plan that “further exacerbates inequality” and they deeply oppose cutting any services like “education, Medicare and Medicaid.” The letter includes several well-known names: The letter was put together by Responsible Wealth, a group that advocates progressive causes. Signers include Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, fashion designer Eileen Fisher, billionaire hedge fund manager George Soros, and philanthropist Steven Rockefeller, as well as many individuals and couples who aren’t household names but are part of the top 5 percent ($1.5 million in assets or earning...

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Here’s a Rundown of a Few of the Trump Donors Keeping Their Money Offshore

by Luke Barnes – Because nothing says patriotism like stashing your cash overseas to avoid taxes. One year ago, Donald Trump stood in front of an adoring crowd in New York City, proclaiming victory for the forgotten Americans over the elitist, globalist campaign of Hillary Clinton. “Ours was not a campaign, but rather an incredible and great movement,” he said. “It was made up of millions of hard-working men and women who love their country and want a better, brighter future for themselves.” But now, a new series of revelations from the Paradise Papers show just how hollow those promises were. The leaked papers show that a number of Trump’s biggest financial backers were the same billionaire globalists that Trump decried at rallies across the country — and that’s in addition to the tax-dodging globalists currently sitting in his cabinet. The leaks reveal that these men stashed away parts of their fortunes, valued in the...

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GOP Tax Bill Would Trigger $25 Billion in Automatic Cuts to Medicare, Warns CBO

by Julia Conley – Senior citizens’ healthcare spending would be on the chopping block to make up for the $1.5 trillion deficit increase brought on by the House tax plan. Progressives on Tuesday urged Trump critics to voice their opposition to the tax bill that House Republicans are hoping to push through, after the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported that the legislation could put billions of dollars in Medicare spending in danger. Because the bill would add an estimated $1.5 trillion to the federal deficit over the next decade, the CBO said in a letter to Congress, the government would be required to automatically cut mandatory spending should the bill pass, under “pay-as-you-go” rules, also known as PAYGO. To make up for the deficit increase, the government would have to cut $150 billion in spending every year for the next decade. Under PAYGO, Medicare spending could legally be cut by up to four...

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Probe Demanded After Wilbur Ross, Rex Tillerson Implicated in Paradise Papers

by Jessica Corbett – “Latest revelations are part of a disturbing pattern of Trump administration officials seeking to hide their links to Russian business interests and members of Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.” Raising concerns about possible ethics violations and corruption, the Paradise Papersrevealed two top members of the Trump administration, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Rossand Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, have ties to tax havens, and that during Ross’s confirmation hearing, he failed to disclose business dealings with Russians who are directly connected to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Paradise Papers are a trove of more than 13 million leaked documents, published Sunday, detailing tax avoidance and shady deals among some of the world’s richest individuals and multinational companies. The documents include decades of corporate records from the offshore law firm Appleby. They were obtained by a German newspaper and shared with journalists associated with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and other media organizations. The files show...

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New Study Shows Urgently Needed 100% Renewable Transition More Feasible Than Ever

by Julia Conley – A complete transition from fossil fuels would create millions of jobs and save money while protecting planet from harmful emissions. A transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050—or even sooner—is not only possible, but would also cost less and create millions of new jobs, according to new research presented in Bonn, Germany on Thursday. The German non-profit Energy Watch Group (EWG) teamed up with Finland’s Lappeenranta University of Technology to present a study at the COP23 climate summit. The results of the study, according to a forward written by EWG’s president Hans-Josef Fell, show “that a 100% renewable electricity system is an effective and urgently needed climate protection measure. A global zero emission power system is feasible and more cost-effective than the existing system based on nuclear and fossil fuel energy.” To achieve the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting the warming of the earth to well below...

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Three Richest Americans Now Own More Wealth Than Bottom Half of US Combined: Report

by Jake Johnson – “The elite ranks of our billionaire class continue to pull apart from the rest of us,” a new Institute for Policy study analysis finds. In the United States, the 400 richest individuals now own more wealth than the bottom 64 percent of the population and the three richest own more wealth than the bottom 50 percent, while pervasive poverty means one in five households have zero or negative net worth. Those are just several of the striking findings of Billionaire Bonanza 2017, a new report (pdf) published Wednesday by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) that explores in detail the speed with which the U.S. is becoming “a hereditary aristocracy of wealth and power.” “Over recent decades, an incredibly disproportionate share of America’s income and wealth gains has flowed to the top of our economic spectrum. At the tip of that top sit the nation’s richest 400 individuals, a group...

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More Than Two Dozen House Democrats Tell Speaker Ryan They are Set to Throw Down for Dreamers

by Gabe Ortiz – This is what leadership looks like. More than two dozen House Democrats say they are prepared to thrown down for Dreamers who face being torn from the only country they’ve ever known as home, telling Speaker Paul Ryan in an op-ed to either pass a clean DREAM Act free of poison pills, or risk losing their support for the end-of-year spending bill. Democrats appear to have the upper hand here. As Politico noted last week,“Republicans will need Democratic votes—definitely in the Senate and almost certainly in the House, too—to pass legislation to keep the government funded.” In their op-ed, the House members say they are prepared to use that hand to protect undocumented immigrant youth: Nobody except for a small extreme faction in the Republican Party thinks deporting DREAMers is a good idea. Every poll indicates that the American people favor legal status for these young immigrants by a 4-to-1 margin. The overwhelming support...

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Barber Who has Been Giving Free Haircuts to Homeless is Gifted Barbershop by Stranger

by Walter Einenkel – Philadelphia-based barber Brennon Jones has been working as a mobile haircutting unit, in a project he called Haircut 4 Homeless. Jones started this project in January, and as CBS local news explains, it’s exactly what it sounds like. “I look past their outer appearance. I look past whatever addiction they may have. I see the person for who they are,” he said. “My very first haircut, his name is Braden. I cut his hair on 15th & Walnut . A few days later, I went to check up on him and he wasn’t there. I was hoping nothing bad happened to him. When we did catch up weeks later, he got offered a full-time job.” Taper’s Barber Shop is owned by Sean Johnson. As word of Jones’ Haircuts 4 Homeless project got out, Johnson wondered what he could do to help. Sean Johnson wanted to help, so he...

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GOP Tax-reform Writers Benefited From Offshore Holdings

by Danielle Mclean – A new international report finds Trump cabinet members with massive offshore investments. President Trump’s inner-circle may be among the biggest beneficiaries of his proposed tax bill that would allow multinational corporations to bring massive offshore holdings back to the mainland at a one-time low-rate. Several Trump officials — including key writers of the proposed tax reform bill being sped through Congress — have their own investments or were involved in the decision to keep company profits sheltered overseas, according to a report from the Guardian, which was part of an international coalition of journalists who obtained leaked documents called the Paradise Papers. Among the various advisors and cabinet members in Trump’s administration identified in the reporting are: Trump’s chief economic advisor Gary Cohn, who led Goldman Sachs’ purchase of companies from a financial arm of General Motors based in Bermuda. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who led a billion-dollar...

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Russia Retaliates After Canada Imposes Sanctions

Canada’s move to impose sanctions on 30 Russian officials was “senseless and reprehensible” and has led to retaliatory measures, Russian officials said. Canada announced the sanctions on Friday against Russian officials it accused of complicity in the death of anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in 2009 while he was in prison after alleging state tax fraud. Kirill Kalinin, a spokesman for the Russian diplomatic mission in Ottawa, told the official TASS news agency late on Friday retaliatory actions against Canadians had already been set in motion. “Canada’s decision on extending anti-Russian sanctions under a false pretext of a hypocritical protection of human rights is absolutely senseless and reprehensible,” said Kalinin. Ottawa’s move “is isolating itself from one of the key global powers” and “pushes Canada’s foreign policy back to the narrow black-and-white world view, incompatible with modern geopolitics”, he added. “Dozens of Canadians” have now been barred from entering Russia in response, Kalinin said, without specifying who...

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Nixing NAFTA: Trump Might Not Have as Much Power as He Thinks

by Tim Panzarella – Congress may have final say on the trade deal. President Donald Trump has made it clear he’s willing to terminate the North American Free Trade Agreement, but legal experts aren’t sure he has the authority to do so. Under the U.S. Constitution, Congress is given the power to “regulate commerce with foreign nations,” suggesting it has the a final decision on NAFTA. Article II of the Constitution, however, grants the president the power to conduct foreign policy. Is NAFTA is a foreign or commerce treaty? Most legal academics believe the power should reside with Congress, according to Scott Lincicome, adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, a free market think tank based in Washington, D.C. NAFTA is technically a congressional-executive agreement and not a treaty, leading some to believe that it falls under congressional power to regulate foreign commerce. “The thinking on this is, look, this isn’t a...

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Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross Retains Investment in Company Doing Business With Putin Family

by Hunter – Every single member of Trump’s administration is crooked, Wilbur Ross edition: After becoming commerce secretary, Wilbur L. Ross Jr. retained investments in a shipping firm he once controlled that has significant business ties to a Russian oligarch subject to American sanctions and President Vladimir V. Putin’s son-in-law, according to newly disclosed documents.The shipper, Navigator Holdings, earns millions of dollars a year transporting gas for one of its top clients, a giant Russian energy company called Sibur, whose owners include the oligarch and Mr. Putin’s family member. Despite selling off numerous other holdings to join the Trump administration and spearhead its “America first” trade policy, Mr. Ross kept an investment in Navigator, which increased its business dealings with Sibur even as the West sought to punish Russia’s energy sector over Mr. Putin’s incursions into Ukraine. Why keep his investments in this particular company, while properly divesting from others? We don’t...

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Trump’s Betrayal: One Broken Promise After Another

As a candidate, President Donald Trump made grandiose promises to the people he referred to as the “forgotten men and women of our country.” He said that he would bring back jobs, improve health care, and protect their retirement. Yet one year after being elected president, it is clear that Trump’s policies and plans are a betrayal of the American people—including some of his strongest supporters. Trump said, “I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created,” but in reality: Job growth is slower than it was during the previous six years. Under President Trump, the economy has generated a little more than 164,000 jobs a month, compared with 187,000 jobs a month in 2016 and 226,000 jobs a month in 2015. In fact, in 2017, average job growth has been lower than it was in any of the previous six years. At least 66,000 American jobs have been moved offshore. Since President Trump...

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Donald Trump’s Five Asia-Pacific Challenges

by James Reinl – Donald Trump’s upcoming tour of Asia offers plenty to keep the US president cheerful, from lavish state banquets to honour-guard pomp and even a chummy round of golf with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. That’s where then fun stops. It also represents a gruelling 12-day slog of speech-making, summits, and tricky sit-downs on a range of trade disputes – and the intractable policy headache of North Korea’s nuclear arms programme. These are big tests for a commander-in-chief who does, on occasion, follow the teleprompter and stay “on message”, but at other times becomes frustrated and fires off salvos of brusque, early morning Twitter missives. Before Air Force One takes off for a Hawaii visit on Friday, Al Jazeera picked out the key challenges facing Trump on an odyssey that starts in Japan on Sunday ahead of stops in South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines. North...

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Maryland Investigating Kushner Real Estate Practices

by Alec MacGillis – The probe by the Maryland attorney general comes after reports by ProPublica, The New York Times and The Baltimore Sun about the firm’s aggressive treatment of tenants. The office of the Maryland attorney general is investigating the management practices at the many large apartment complexes in the state that are owned and overseen by Kushner Companies, the family company of President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser, Jared Kushner. A spokesman for Kushner Companies confirmed that the office of Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, a Democrat elected in 2014, has been in contact with the New York-based company. “We have been working with the Maryland Attorney General’s Office to provide information in response to its request,” the company said in a statement issued by the spokesman. The statement concluded: “We are in compliance with all state and local laws.” A spokeswoman for the attorney general, Christine Tobar,...

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