Ted Cruz

Josh Hoxie: Sucker voters give Wall Street more power and money than ever

During the campaign, Donald Trump said he wanted to fix our rigged economic system. And we can’t do that, he said, by counting on the people who rigged it in the first place.

He talked a big game about Wall Street and the big banks. He repeatedly called out Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street behemoth, by name in ads and speeches, characterizing the firm as controlling his rivals Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz.

So it should come with some shock, at least to Trump voters, that now President-elect Trump has chosen a consummate Wall Street insider, Steve Mnuchin, for Treasury secretary.

Mnuchin spent 17 years as an executive at Goldman Sachs before continuing his lucrative career as a banker and investor. Is this not the swampiest of characters that Trump vowed to drain away?

Trump’s anti-Wall Street messaging resonated with millions of voters. A poll taken just before the election showed that nearly 70 percent of undecided voters in key swing states wanted to break up the big banks and cap their size to avoid another financial crisis.

The same proportion wanted to close the “carried-interest loophole,” an insidious provision that enables hedge-fund managers to pay lower taxes than nurses.

It’s unclear whether Trump’s anti-Wall Street messaging made the difference for these voters. But it’s abundantly clear that he didn’t mean a word of it.

In Washington, personnel is policy. And Mnuchin’s appointment casts serious doubt that Trump will follow through with any of his bluster on Wall Street.

Mnuchin isn’t just any Goldman Sachs alumnus: He oversaw one of the largest foreclosure operations in the country. Mnuchin bought mortgage lender IndyMac in 2009, renamed it OneWest, and continued on as its chair through 2015 — a period in which OneWest foreclosed on more than 36,000 families.

What exactly does Mnuchin want to do while in power?

In his first announcement, Mnuchin exclaimed his “number one priority is tax reform,” promising to work with Congress to pass the “biggest tax cut since Reagan.” He claims the benefits of this tax cut will go to middle-class families, rather than the upper class.

Fortunately, tax plans, unlike campaign promises, can be easily and quickly fact checked. Unfortunately, Mnuchin’s statement comes back pants-on-fire false.

Over half of the cuts in Trump’s proposed tax plan would exclusively benefit the top 1 percent, according to the non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The plan would increase their after-tax income by 14 percent, 10 times more than for middle-income earners.

Mnuchin won’t be the only Wall Streeter in the Trump administration. Steve Bannon, the chief strategist for the president-elect and former head of the white supremacist “news’’ outlet Breitbart, is a fellow former Goldman Sachs employee.

The Wall Street swampiness of both Mnuchin and Bannon, however, pales in comparison to that of Wilbur Ross, the billionaire investor selected by Trump to lead the Commerce Department. The 79-year-old investor built a career on greed, exploitation and apparent tone deafness. Ross infamously whined in 2014, “The 1 percent is being picked on for political reasons.”

These former Wall Streeters will have serious power overseeing major parts of the government and the overall economy.

It’s been just eight years since Wall Street bankers had to come to Washington, hat in hand and utterly humbled, to ask for a taxpayer funded bailout. The reforms put in place to prevent a repeat of the 2008 crisis are tenuous at best — and now they’re under serious threat from the same people they were designed to rein in.

Josh Hoxie directs the Project on Taxation and Opportunity at the Institute for Policy Studies. Distributed by OtherWords.org. 

 

Chris Powell: Block immigrants from repugnant, anti-Western cultures

According to police and news reports about Omar Mateen, the perpetrator of the atrocity in Orlando:

·      He was a Muslim and the son of refugees from Afghanistan who was born in New York.

·      His father imagines himself president or a military leader of Afghanistan and hosts a television program on which he has supported the Taliban and called for killing homosexuals.

·      He was said to have made remarks sympathetic to terrorism that brought him to the attention of the FBI, which found nothing actionable.

·      In accordance with the teaching of the crazy cult that is trying to hijack Islam he frequently beat his first wife, who came to consider him psychotic and left him.

·      Also in accordance with the teaching of the crazy cult, he was enraged by homosexuality, and, completing his psychosis, had homosexual tendencies himself, having often visited the gay bar where he eventually perpetrated his murderous rampage.

In this context Mateen's mid-rampage call to police to proclaim his loyalty to the Middle Eastern terrorist group ISIS seems more like a vainglorious afterthought than part of a conspiracy.

Predictably enough, Democrats are using the atrocity to argue for their gun-control agenda, including prohibition of "assault weapons," apparently any rifle with a magazine, any rifle capable of firing more than one or two shots at a time without reloading -- a dubious proposition. As for the Democrats' more compelling propositions -- more background checks for gun buyers and such -- they probably would not have disqualified Mateen from purchasing the guns he used. For he was already licensed as a security guard, held a Florida gun permit, and repeatedly had cleared background checks undertaken by his employer, a federal government contractor.

Also predictably enough, Republicans are using the atrocity to argue for restrictions on immigration and foreign visitors, and at last Donald Trump has figured out that while immigration and visitation cannot be restricted by religion -- not constitutionally and not practically, since no one at a border crossing would admit his adherence to a prohibited religion -- immigration and visitation can be restricted by national origin.

After the atrocity Trump and his recent rival for the Republican presidential nomination, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, asserted that the United States should not be welcoming people from countries that sponsor or are infected by terrorism or that oppress women, homosexuals, and disfavored religions. Such an exclusion would cover most of Africa and all the Middle East except Israel, the only democratic country there and the refuge of many homosexual Palestinians but nevertheless the bogeyman of the political left.

As Mateen demonstrates, and as has been demonstrated by other recent acts of terrorism,  such as the Boston Marathon bombing and the Fort Hood massacre, a background in an oppressive culture can span the generations and explode unexpectedly.

Thus the atrocity in Orlando can be attributed as much to this country's negligent immigration policy as to its negligent gun policy. For our negligent immigration policy celebrates "multiculturalism" even as the culture being imported is repugnant. Europe, which is being overwhelmed by migrants who have contempt for Western values, lacks the will to defend itself and has become Eurabia, thereby showing where negligent immigration policy will take the United States.

Defending the country requires getting a lot more selective with immigration, admitting only those people who can show a firm commitment to democratic and secular culture, not mere desire to get away from someplace else. The country needs no more Afghan refugees, nor more of the Syrian refugees Connecticut's governor lately has been celebrating, nor any more immigrants from the vast expanse of primitive barbarism that constitutes Religious Crazy Land.

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.

 

Voters hiding from the world

The insularity of that minority (i.e., “the base’’) of the electorate that tends to dominate presidential campaigns’ first innings explains much of the current nasty race, especially on the Republican side.

These people seek to protect themselves from the anxiety of hearing  a viewpoint they might not like by holing up in echo chambers in which the same fact-thin opinions are repeatedly  shouted day after day. The epicenter is the oratorical masturbation known as  political talk radio.

You’d think that listeners would get bored and occasionally want to hear something different, but that would make them uncomfortable. Talk radio does not encourage curiosity or research. The point is to soothe listeners by reinforcing their well-entrenched prejudices and satisfy their desirefor simple solutions to their problems – and clear villains.

The majority of talk-radio fans are middle- and lower-middle class white people aggrieved by their downward socio-economic mobility and upset about changing social mores as seen, for example, in gay marriage, and the changing ethnic and religious mix of America. That’s understandable.

But their refusal to listen to all sides  in order to become better informed citizens also suggests a disinclination to make the changes, be it training for new  work skills or bringing disorderly  personal lives under control, necessary to address these tougher times for many Americans. Too many of them are both angry and passive.

That makes them prey to such demagogues as Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Mr. Trump may be an especially fitting candidate for our times: People who avoid reading and obtain most of their “news’’  from TV and talk radio like him the most.

No wonder (relatively) scandal-free people of great executive and policymaking accomplishment who would have been very plausible presidential candidates in the past – say former New York  Republican Gov. George Pataki and former Democratic Sen. Jim Webb -- don’t have a prayer. And such competent chief executives  as Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley haven’t gotten much traction either.

And it’s hard to see Hillary Clinton, despite her long CV, intelligence, ambition and persistence, as a person of great executive and policymaking success.  Bernie Sanders, for his part, is an eccentric fringe high-tax candidate in a nation whose citizens hate taxes. His only executive experience has been as mayor of Burlington, Vt.: pop: 42,000.

(A  possible spanner in the works of a Hillary Clinton marchto theDemocratic nomination: indictment stemming from her “top-secret’’ home-server e-mails.)

You’d think that voters would want the nation’s chief executive to be or have been a successful elected executive of a government body. And no, running a business is not the same as running a government body.

Globalization and technology, both of which will continue to eat away at the American middle class, require a panorama of responses,  including reducing  our plutocracy’s ever-increasing power, more job training and  rebuilding the nation’s  decayed physical infrastructure to create jobs and make the nation more internationally competitive.

Cheapening  labor and technology-based automation, which so far have mostly destroyed the jobs of blue-color workers, are now eating away even at what had been well-paying upper-middle-class jobs. Andsenior business execs show little desire to share more of their gargantuan compensation with underlings.

The candidates generally avoid presenting and emphasizing  programmatic details because details don’t do well on TV and talk radio. And so many journalists have been laid off that the surviving ones almost entirely focus on the easiest and more marketable stuff in the campaigns - - the daily insults,  faux pas and hour-by-hour opinion polls -– the horse race.

Apparently that’s fine with the people who hide in the silos of talk radio.

Once the candidates of the two major parties are chosen, perhaps more substance will appear as the candidates reach for support  from moderate  and independent voters. We can hope they’ll then explain  with considerabledetail and precision what they’d do and, as important, how they’d do it.  

Meanwhile, most of the electorate,  the large majority of whom only bother to vote in November, can look into the mirror to see who is most  to blame for our predicament.

Robert Whitcomb (rwhitcomb51@gmail) oversees newenglanddiary.com, is a partner at Cambridge Management Group (cmg625.com), a former Providence Journal editorial-page editor and a former International Herald Tribune finance editor,

Peter Certo: Americans' absurd exaggeration of the terror threat against them

Via otherwords.org

One in 3.5 million: That’s the risk you’ll die from a terrorist attack in the United States, Ohio State Prof. John Mueller estimates. Rounded generously, that chance comes to 3 one-hundred thousandths of a percent.

That’s not how most Americans see it, though.

In a recent Gallup poll, 51 percent of respondents said they’re personally worried about becoming a victim. If you’ll forgive my amateur number crunching, that means we’re overestimating the terrorist threat by factor of about 1.7 million.

No wonder people play the lottery.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama is trying hard — with mixed results — not to get pushed into another Middle Eastern war. But that’s a tall order when Americans are more fearful of attacks than at any time since 9/11 — and when politicians like Ted Cruz are calling for bona fide war crimes like “carpet-bombing” Syria.

Obama tried hard to walk that line in his final State of the Union address.

He dismissed critics who likened the fight against the Islamic State to “World War III,” and insisted (correctly) that the group poses no existential threat to the United States. But he also assured listeners that the militants would be “rooted out, hunted down, and destroyed.”

To that end, Obama boasted, American planes had already launched 10,000 airstrikes on Iraq and Syria.

This appeal to the carpet-bombing constituency was Obama’s attempt to break the political taboo against counseling modesty about the threat of terrorism. Unfortunately, it only illustrates a much deeper taboo against admitting that foreign terrorism against our country is almost always a response to our foreign policies.

You know, policies like launching 10,000 airstrikes.

Political scientist Robert Pape should know. He’s studied every suicide attack on record.

Pape argues that while religious appeals — Islamic or otherwise — can help recruit suicide bombers, virtually all attacks can be reduced to political motives. “What 95 percent of all suicide attacks have in common,” he concludes, “is not religion.” Instead, there’s “a specific strategic motivation to respond to a military intervention.”

In the years before al-Qaida pulled off the 9/11 attacks, for instance — and since, for that matter — Washington propped up repressive regimes in places like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which ruthlessly subjugated Islamist and liberal challengers alike. It armed and enabled Israel, even as the country bombed its Muslim (and Christian) neighbors in Palestine and Lebanon.

And in between its two full-scale invasions of Iraq, Washington imposed devastating sanctions that caused well over half a million Iraqi children to die from a lack of food or medicine.

In his letter explaining the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden mentioned all of these things and more to argue that U.S. intervention in the Muslim world had to be stopped. That’s an opinion shared by plenty of people who aren’t mass murderers.

Similarly, before it expanded to Syria, the infamous Islamic State emerged out of a Sunni rebellion against the repressive Shiite government Washington set up in Iraq after toppling Saddam Hussein. To the extent that it’s engaged in international terrorism, ISIS has mostly targeted countries — like France, Turkey, Lebanon, and Russia — that have plunged into Syria on the side of its enemies.

None of this excuses terrorism in the least. But it strongly suggests that senseless wars only increase the risk of attack — especially when there’s not a bomb on this planet (much less 10,000 of them) powerful enough to put Iraq and Syria back together. Diplomats may do that someday. Carpet-bombing won’t.

Until then, a 0.00003 percent risk of terrorism is high enough. Why multiply it by acting rashly?

Peter Certo is the editor of Foreign Policy In Focus and the deputy editor of OtherWords at the Institute for Policy Studies. IPS-dc.org

Llewellyn King: A look ahead at my presidency

Some of you were expecting me to announce my candidacy for president of the United States along with those other two who got all the headlines. There have been a few problems. There are solutions, too. (How's that for a campaign zinger?)

There is the problem of my birth. I was, er, born in a foreign country with, er, un-American parents. I have to check with the Ted Cruz camp on that problem.

There is a money problem. At the moment, I have $138 in my current account. But that amount will swell when my Social Security check comes in next week.

In the long term, I have a crafty, two-pronged approach to raise the billion or so dollars I will need for my campaign. My wife will set up a foundation, called the Foreign Governments' Friends Committee, which will raise money like a Fourth of July flag.

Unlike one of my opponents, I will not beat about the bush on foreign campaign donations. I will take them all, see that they are properly laundered, and promise the donors all sorts of favorable treatment. I can renege later. Not a word, please.

Then there is crowd-sourcing. When my message gets out, I expect a Niagara Falls of money. I will be after the disaffected, unhappy people who hate all candidates. The nutters of the left and the nutters of the right have lots of dough.

Here is a peak at other aspects of my program:

Bring back manufacturing (back story, by lowering the minimum wage), so that our labor is cheap.

Get tough with Iran. Any Iranian waiter found passing himself off as an Italian at a New York restaurant will get summary deportation.

Give China an ultimatum: Double the value of your currency or millions of Americans will be forbidden to shop at Walmart.

In the Middle East, trust the dictators. We will support the most awful monsters in the time-honored way. If we could get Saddam Hussein out of the grave, I would go for it. Likewise Muammar al-Qaddafi. Call it the strongman policy: No messing about with uprisings.

I will be a tough guy supporting other tough guys. I will say to Vladimir Putin, when we are shirtless, “I don't give a hoot about Ukraine. Take it. But want you to invade China -- just a little way. And crush ISIS. You know, the way you did Czechoslovakia and Hungary in the glory days.

That should take care of the world.

At  home I will have the most flexible of policies, based on the latest polling. If you are in favor of abortion, tell Gallup and you will get them.

Want the Ten Commandments on the wall of the Capitol? No problem if you can produce a convincing poll, preferably written on stone tablets.

What is democracy but a craven pursuit of votes through polling? Go democratic all the way, I say.

Wait until you hear some of my appointments. How do you fancy Donald Trump for secretary of state? Here is someone who will appreciate my tough- guys-are-always-right policy.

Before I announce, I will perfect my Israel strategy. I am leaning toward giving honorary citizenship to Benjamin Netanyahu, so I can make him my national-security adviser. Why should Congress claim Bibi as their own? I will have goodies to offer him that will beat whatever John Boehner and Mitch McConnell can do. How about a hard pass to the White House and a regular chance to be on the Sunday talk shows, for starters?

Darrell Issa is my choice for ambassador to Libya, in recognition of his Benghazi studies.

Finally, my coup de grace: immigration. Simple, no one will want to live here when I am in the White House.

Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of “White House Chronicle,” on PBS. His e-mail is lking@kingpublishing.com.