Thursday, December 08, 2016

Trumpy-The-Clown, The Stock Markets And Tax Policy


I'm sure you noticed that the stock markets have reacted favorably to the prospect of a Trump presidency. Wednesday the Dow closed at an all-time high. It has rocketed 1200 points since Trump "won." The Dow is getting close to 20,000, something few people thought they would ever live to see. As CNN reported this week, "Wall Street is betting that Trump will be great for business and help accelerate the U.S. economy. Trump has promised to slash taxes, roll back costly regulations and spend big on infrastructure. Trump's less business-friendly promises-- tearing up NAFTA, breaking up the big banks and auditing the Federal Reserve-- have largely been shrugged off as campaign rhetoric." Today I spent some time with my financial planner talking about what happens when Trump disappoints-- as his entire life in business clears shows he will-- and rather drastically. I'm shocked that so few financial analysts are taking that into account. It's terrifying actually.

One of my advisors sent out a newsletter today-- from a money-Republican perspective basically-- about all the wonderful things Trumpism will bring to the greed and selfishness set. "President-elect Donald Trump," they drooled, "has made it clear that he wants tax reform, and he wants it as quickly as possible. To help him in this quest, he has a Republican House and Senate who also want tax reform.
There are two obstacles that will need to be overcome in order to enact tax reform. The first is the “Senate road bump.” The final count on the political distribution of the Senate is anticipated to be 52-48 in favor of the Republicans [after Louisiana elects a Republican]. In order to avoid the possibility of filibuster as a tool to prevent tax legislation from advancing, either: eight Democrats will need to get on board to attain the 60 vote Super Majority rule, or the Budget Reconciliation Process will need to be used which allows tax legislation to pass with a simple 51 vote majority.

The second obstacle is the resulting decrease in revenues. The 10-year cost of Trump’s proposal is estimated by experts to be between $4.4 and $5.9 trillion, with the GOP estimate half of that at $3.1 trillion.1 But where will offset replacement revenues or expense reductions be found? And how will the parallel proposal of massive works projects to improve infrastructure be paid for?

These two issues are likely the only potential “drag” on the march to tax reform. Many commentators believe the proposed changes to the tax laws will ultimately pass, probably with some compromises.

While Trump and the GOP's versions of tax reform have differences, they also share many similarities. It is safe to assume that whatever proposals we are seeing now will be “tweaked” before the cake is baked. Here is an overview of the changes proposed by Trump:
Lower Individual Income Tax

As part of Trump’s proposal, individual income tax rates would go down. Currently we have seven income tax brackets. Trump’s plan has 3 brackets: 12, 25 and 33%. Capital gains rates stay the same-- 0, 15 and 20%. The GOP proposal for capital gains is to allow a 50% deduction of the gain before the tax is imposed.

As part of the calculation of taxable income, the Trump proposal changes three items: (1) personal exemptions are eliminated, (2) standard deduction is increased, and (3) itemized deductions are capped.

The new standard deduction: for single individuals from current $6,300 to $15,000; for married-joint filers from current $12,600 to $30,000. Itemized deductions will be capped at $100,000 for single filers, $200,000 for married-joint filers. We should note that the GOP plan does not contain these caps, rather it eliminates itemized deductions entirely, with the exception of mortgage interest, charitable donations and a few taxes (excluding state income tax). The elimination of personal exemptions may be bad for families with more than two dependent children (2016 personal exemption is $4,050). A family of five with 3 dependent children would see less deduction from the new system. Under the current rules, that family would have a $12,600 standard deduction plus 5 personal exemptions at $4,050 per person, for a total of $32,850. However, under the proposal, they are capped at $30,000.

The new standard deduction could negatively impact the benefits of the mortgage interest deduction for middle-class families with mortgage payments and few other itemized deductions. The first $30,000 a year in deductions will have no income tax benefit for a married couple because of the increased size of the standard deduction.

Childcare and eldercare Deductions

An “above-the-line” deduction would be allowed for childcare costs for children under the age of 13, and would be capped based on a state average for a child of that age. The deduction would also apply for Eldercare expenses for a dependent of up to $5,000 a year. This deduction would not be allowed for married couples making over $500,000 a year and singles making over $250,000 a year. These benefits would be indexed for inflation.

Eliminate tax loophole for "carried interest"

The average American may not know what “Carried Interest” is, but many have heard the stories of wealthy individuals avoiding millions in taxes by taking ownership in the company they work for in order to ultimately sell and pay capital gains instead of ordinary income. Ordinarily they would have received income and paid ordinary income tax. This is a huge paradigm shift on a contentious issue. Under the proposal, taxpayers who make money this way would have to pay ordinary income tax rates on their gains when the company is sold.

Lower corporate income tax

The corporate income tax rate would be lowered from 35% to 15% with some limitations on deductions. The GOP proposal is 20%. There is uncertainty whether the 15% tax rate also applies to business income that flows through to individual tax returns, if the taxpayer has an active business structured as a “pass-through” (S corporations, LLCs, Partnerships and sole proprietorships). If this becomes part of the plan, it would create huge incentives for individuals to become independent contractors instead of employees. The proposal also provides for 100% expensing of capital expenditures in the year of acquisition instead of depreciation or amortization.

In addition, Trump’s proposal would encourage U.S. corporations that keep money overseas (from profits made overseas) to repatriate those assets by having a repatriation “holiday” (fixed-time period) when those assets could be brought back to the U.S. at only a 10% tax rate (as compared to the current 35% tax rate). Capital Economics reports that, as of 2015, U.S. corporations had over $2.5 trillion parked overseas, including $110 billion by Microsoft alone.

Eliminate 3 taxes

Details on Estate Tax repeal

The Trump proposal calls for full estate tax repeal. Stepped-up basis for transfers at death would be repealed as well, and instead carryover basis would apply. For example, assume Antonio purchased a rental property many years ago and had taken depreciation, and his basis was currently $100,000, and the fair market value of the property currently $1 million. If Antonio sold the property, he would have to pay capital gains on $900,000, the difference between his $100,000 basis and the $1 million sales price (plus recapture depreciation). Under current law, if Antonio passed away and left his home to daughter Gabrielle, and Gabrielle sold the property for $1 million, she would pay $0 capital gains taxes because she got stepped up basis. If instead she held the property for a couple more years and was then able to sell for $1.2 million, she would pay capital gains only on the $200,000 of appreciation that occurred since her father died. If instead the new law is passed and Gabrielle only gets carryover basis, she would pay the same amount of capital gains tax as her father if he had sold it.

However, there is also an argument that what Trump means is that he actually wants to trigger all capital gains taxes at death (similar to the Canadian system). Trump’s website vaguely references some break on the triggering of capital gains tax at death for owners of small businesses and farms, without any details. In addition, there would be an exemption taxpayers could use to allocate to specific assets that would allow those assets to get stepped-up basis at the death of the taxpayer: $10 million exemption for married taxpayers; $5 million for single. Presumably a taxpayer (or the representative of their estate) could pick and choose which assets to allocate this exemption to, with the preference being the most highly appreciated assets, while factoring in whether there are any assets never likely to be sold by the heirs. This in turn leads to the conclusion that there would still have to be some kind of Federal estate information return filed to show the allocation of this tax benefit among the assets owned by the deceased. With this system, it would be imperative that a client’s estate plan make clear either who benefits from the $10/$5 million and/or who gets to make the decision. The GOP proposal is full estate tax repeal while retaining stepped up basis at death on all assets.

What is unclear at this point is whether full “estate tax repeal” also means full gift tax repeal and generation skipping tax repeal. Trump’s proposals to date have been silent on whether “estate tax repeal” really means the entire system including gift taxes and generation skipping taxes, or literally just estate tax repeal. It is likely that it does include generation skipping tax repeal. There is a split of opinion on whether it also means gift tax repeal; more on this in a moment.

...If the gift tax is also being repealed as part of the proposal, there would be no more restrictions on transfers of assets to your family and friends. No more $14,000 limit on annual gifts. So, if you wanted to give your children money or real estate, you could just go ahead and give it to them – or to anybody else for that matter. See below for comments on the ability to transfer assets at will as a means to move taxable income into lower tax brackets of family members and whether there will need to be some “gift-tax-like” rules to prevent this. However, no one yet knows if the tax proposal will eliminate the gift tax or otherwise put restrictions on it such as limiting how much you can gift during lifetime.

Will the middle class see real benefits from income tax reform?

Trump's proposal is positioned to help the middle class. Some interesting observations were recently made about the potential tax savings for a sample “middle class” taxpayer.2 Households with an annual income between $143,100 and $292,100 will see an average annual savings of $4,300 under Trump's proposal, and an average annual savings of $300 under the GOP's plan.

Households with an annual income of $3.8 million or more will see an average annual savings of $1.07 million under Trump's proposal, and an average annual savings of $1.2 million under the GOP's plan.

Déjà vu?

We’ve been here before with George W. Bush in 2001 and a Republican House and Senate. Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGGTRA) was passed in August of that year. It included the phase out of the Federal estate tax, with full repeal by 2010. The thinking behind waiting until 2010 was that Congress would figure out the numbers before then so that estate tax repeal would be permanent. But they never did figure it out. Or, put another way, they chose not to deal with the issue.

So, what's different now? First, the repeal of estate tax has now been on the table for 15 years. Additionally, the public has been convinced it's an unfair tax, even if most people don't pay it. Finally, Trump wants it and he has incredible political capital at the moment.

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Republican Kathryn Barger, Predictably, Pisses on Democratic Endorsers


The gang's all here: Hilda Solis, Janice Hahn, their GOP Latino-hating pal Kathryn Barger and Sheila Kuehl 

-by Dorothy Reik
President, Progressive Democrats of the Santa Monica Mountains

Once Republican Kathryn Barger was elected to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, defeating Democrat Darren Park, she wasted no time in showing her true colors-- not brown or black or even purple-- her color is TRUMP RED.

It was a busy first day in the Chamber with Barger going along with the rest of the Supervisors on many good motions but then the rubber met the road. On protection for immigrants who fear for their safety and whose families are under threat of being torn apart, Barger abstained. If Hilda Solis held her motion so her endorsed candidate Barger would make the vote unanimous she was sadly mistaken:
Solis recommended protections for immigrants, a motion she previewed two weeks ago but chose to hold for a vote until after Hahn and Barger were sworn in. After more than 100 speakers expressed their support and dozens more chose to waive their time to speak at the end of a long day that motion was approved on a 4-0 vote, with Barger abstaining.
Another Barger endorser who might be scratching her head is Maria Elena Durazo, Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee no less! How can she endorse a Republican? She can because the Democratic Party is undisciplined giving its members license to be unprincipled.

Of course Maria and Hilda were not the only Democrats who fell for Barger’s promises in spite of warnings that she had supported the sheriff’s abuse of minority tenants in her district as the chief deputy of right wing Republican disaster Michael Antonovich. The fact that he annointed her as his preferred successor, undoing the term limits put in place to get rid of him, should have been enough to send them running. "Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich has tapped his chief of staff, Kathryn Barger-Leibrich, as his preferred successor." This rotten apple did not fall far from her tree.

Way before Trump’s name became a household word outside of New York, minorities in Barger’s district, especially in the Antelope Valley and Palmdale, faced abusive, racist policing. The district had to settle a federal lawsuit for millions of dollars. "Federal officials said some (italics are mine) sheriff's personnel in the Antelope Valley had engaged in a 'pattern or practice of unconstitutional and unlawful policing regarding stops, searches and seizures, excessive force, and discriminatory targeting of voucher holders in their homes.'"

Barger supported the sheriffs and they returned the favor: "Campaign finance statements posted Monday show that the Assn. for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs and Los Angeles County Firefighter Local 1014 have each contributed $400,000 to the outside committee set up to support Barger." Barger also supports the environmentally disastrous Newhall Ranch development and the Chiquita Canyon landfill expansion, both abhorred by environmentalists.

In addition to Durazo and Solis, the following leading Democrats endorsed Barger: Sheila Kuehl, Gloria Molina, Zev Yaroslavsky, Eric Garcetti and Jeffrey Prang. Depressing-- but something to remember as time goes on.

They could have supported the Democrat, Darrell Park, who was endorsed by the Los Angeles County Democratic Party and all the Democratic Clubs, but they didn’t. Why? Would Barger have won anyway? We will never know. The residents of District 5 are the losers here-- even more than Darrell Park. They are the ones who will continue to live with abusive sheriffs and who will have to continue their fight against the Chiquita garbage dump (let’s call it what it is!) and the disastrous Newhall Ranch development and their own elected supervisor will be leading the charge against their efforts.

But how were they to know? The leading Democrats endorsed her. They trusted the Democratic leadership. We know how that turned out in the presidential election. It worked out the same way in District 5. That’s where Our Revolution needs to start.


Nancy Pelosi = Bob Michel? Maybe... But The House Dems Have No Newt To Save Them


Robert Michel (R-IL) was in Congress for 38 years, starting when I was a pre-teen. And he was After serving as Minority Whip for half a dozen years, he became Minority Leader in 1981 and was finally ousted in 1995, completely changing the fortunes of the utterly pathetic House Republicans. Before Congress, Michel had served as an infantryman during World War II, earning two Bronze Stars, a Purple Heart and 4 battle stars. But getting rid of Michel, a decent, old school Peoria gentleman, breathed new life into the GOP. For the entire 38 years he served in Congress-- employing the same failed strategies and tactics over and over and over-- the GOP was never the majority party. That changed-- and in a really big way-- as soon as they, painfully, put Michel out to pasture. I say "painfully," because he came under withering attack from his own party's far right, led by... a slick hustler: Newt Gingrich. By the early 90s Gingrich and other Republican extremists, tired of being irrelevant started attacking Michel as a weak and ineffective compromiser who just wanted to get along with the Democrats, play golf with them and never fight hard for Republican ideals.

Gingrich was seen as a "bomb-thrower" but more and more House Republicans were rallying to his standard and Michel decided to not seek reelection in the 1994 midterms, ceding party leadership to Gingrich and his aggressive right-wing agenda. That year the Republicans swept into power, winning 54 Democratic seats and taking over the House for the first time since 1952, even defeating House Speaker Tom Foley as well as several senior committee chairmen. Gingrich became Speaker and the GOP remained in power until the Democrats stumbled into a very short-lived majority in 2006.

Since 2010 Pelosi-Michel comparisons have been something Democrats whisper about. almost all the overt criticism of her leadership comes from the right, from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party (the Blue Dogs and New Dems, who hate her for her progressive instincts however faded). Tim Ryan, obviously, was no Newt Gingrich. In fact, the spineless House Democrats don't have anyone willing to stand up to Pelosi except much worse alternatives (again, Blue Dogs and New Dems), who want to move the party in far worse directions than Pelosi has steered it. Younger leaders who she's taken under her wing to groom for party leadership-- particularly Chris Van Hollen and Xavier Becerra-- have grown tired of waiting for her to move on. It was like being a prince of England under Elizabeth II. Last year Van Hollen said "screw it" and ran for an open Senate seat and last month Becerra took an appointment as California Attorney General, widely seen as a stature-raising stepping stone for the Feinstein Senate seat.

Now the House Democrats have only the dimmest of possible prospects for the post-Pelosi/Hoyer era: corrupt garbage conservatives like New Dem chief Joe Crowley and Congress' most universally hated-Democrat: Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Hoyer has been training two rot-gut right-wing Blue Dogs for leadership positions: Kyrsten Sinema, who has the worst voting record of any Democrat returning to Congress next year, and Illinois reactionary and Rahm Emanuel protégée Cheri Bustos.

Pelosi has the 25th ProgressivePunch lifetime crucial vote score (93.80). Among the two dozen Democrats with better voting records, almost all of them all also extremely old-- many tired and jaded-- and some of the younger ones not showing any real leadership abilities and inclinations. Mark Pocan from Madison may be the one bright exception, although it's reasonable to root for Judy Chu (CA) and Karen Bass (CA) to step on the gas a little as well. Another hope for future-- and not distant-- leadership is Ted Lieu. Like Pocan, Chu and Bass, Lieu is no bomb-thrower of a Gingrich variety and I don't see him ever leading a much-needed revolt against a worn-out Pelosi. Yesterday's New York Times included a somewhat fatuous piece, The Next Class of California Political Leaders and the only member of Congress they included was Lieu. They pointed out that one of the most alarming factors facing the Democrats today is that their leaders are all relics, although they politely called it "a paucity of younger Democrats" but claim California is a bright spot where there is "a generational renewal" as "Gov. Jerry Brown, 78; Senator Barbara Boxer, 76; Senator Dianne Feinstein, 83; and Nancy Pelosi, the house minority leader, who is 76 approach the end of their public careers."
This new class of Democratic leaders seems likely to reshape the political face of California for a generation. But for national Democrats, they also represent a potential talent pool of leaders who can help pull the party out of the worst crisis it has faced since 2005, the last time the Republicans controlled the White House and both houses of Congress. California also stands ready to become a laboratory for Democratic policy that, it seems fair to say, will have little chance for enactment in Washington, at least for the next two years.

There may be no more Democratic state than California in this new Trump era. This election delivered the party two-thirds control of both houses of the Legislature, in addition to control of all statewide elected officials. And Democrats here stand in stark contrast in terms of ideology and demographics to Mr. Trump and his followers.

That has been particularly clear this week in Sacramento, where the Democratic leaders of the Assembly and Senate-- Kevin de Leon, the president of the Senate, and Anthony Rendon, the leader of the Assembly-- introduced legislation intended to thwart any effort by Mr. Trump to crack down on immigration.

...Both Mr. Rendon and Mr. de Leon are viewed as part of this new class of leaders. They are also Latino, like many of the elected officials on the list below. Latinos now make up 40 percent of the state’s population. In the latest sign of their rising influence here-- and presumably nationally, at least at some point-- Mr. Brown appointed Representataive Xavier Becerra of Los Angeles as attorney general, succeeding Kamala Harris, who was elected last month to fill Ms. Boxer’s position in the Senate.
Among the bright-spots the Times pointed to were L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti (45), state Senate leader Kevin de León (49), Becerra, the still completely unproven Kamala Harris (52), the much-disliked slimy corporate whore Gavin Newsom (49) and, of course, Lieu (47), a nose-to-the-grindstone legislative powerhouse who is committed to accomplishing the agenda that drew him to public service-- ameliorating Climate Change, protecting civil liberties, fighting for equal opportunities for working families... Problem with younger people, like Lieu? I hope I'm not speaking out of school here but I begged him to run for DCCC chairman and he turned me down flat because he has-- as people his age tend to-- two young sons, Brennan and Austin, who he is committed to spending real time with, something that would be impossible to do and simultaneously be a winning DCCC chairman. Alas, being a winning DCCC chair isn't something that has probably ever crossed the mind off Ben Ray Luján (44 and a bachelor), since he-- even more so than Bob Michel or Nancy Pelosi-- only knows the rut of losing and losing and losing; he was instructed by Steve Israel, expert in nothing but losing-- and kept the losinest team in town, the corrupt and incompetent DCCC staff.

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Two Ways of Looking at U.S. Industrial Policy


U.S. industrial policy, as practiced (click to enlarge; source)

by Gaius Publius

I was of two minds,
Like a tree
In which there are two blackbirds.

    (with apologies to Wallace Stevens)

Much of the debate around U.S. trade policy — or "trade" policy, since so much of it really concerns capital flow and "investor rights" than it does actual trade — is really an attempt to define and direct U.S. industrial policy.

Here's one definition of "industrial policy":
The industrial policy of a country, sometimes denoted IP, is its official strategic effort to encourage the development and growth of part or all of the manufacturing sector as well as other sectors of the economy.[1][2][3] The government takes measures "aimed at improving the competitiveness and capabilities of domestic firms and promoting structural transformation."[4] A country's infrastructure (transportation, telecommunications and energy industry) is a major part of the manufacturing sector that often has a key role in IP.
Ignore the part about "aimed at improving the competitiveness of domestic firms," since industrial policy can have other, more pernicious goals, as you'll see shortly. Industrial policy certainly promotes "structural transformation" when it acts. In the same way, by inaction industrial policy leaves in place structures it prefers not to disturb.

In short, "industrial policy" is what a nation does or does not do to structure its manufacturing capability — its ability to produce good domestically, with domestic labor — as it wishes. In other words, the goal of a nation's industrial policy is to enable the wishes of the nation's leaders, whatever they are, even when those wishes are other than "improving the competitiveness of domestic firms."

Let's look at two definitions of current U.S. industrial policy, in particular, mine and Marcy Wheeler's. While quite different, these definitions are not mutually exclusive, since, as the piece quoted above points out, "Industrial policies are sector-specific." One (mine) deals largely with manufacturing for the privately financed consumer-based economy. Wheeler's deals largely with the publicly financed and supposedly military-based economy.

First my own definition, then Wheeler's.

U.S. Industrial Policy — Beggar the Nation to Enrich the Wealthy

If you consider the effect (i.e., the goal as practiced) of U.S. industrial policy, you can't in good conscience say it's "aimed at improving the competitiveness of domestic firms," since what would improve that competitiveness (that is, bolster the competitiveness of goods manufactured domestically) is the kind of protectionism practiced during the first 200 years of the nation's history, explicitly argued by Alexander Hamilton and adopted under the George Washington administration.

The Washington administration, and every administration until Reagan's, had as a goal to increase the competitive success of the domestic manufacturing sector, the sector powered by U.S. labor, relative to both domestic (U.S.) markets and world markets. Under Reagan, and under every president since — Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, Obama — the U.S. manufacturing sector, or that part of it that services the consumer economy, has been systematically dismantled. (The arguments that this is true are legion, but for the short version, think NAFTA.)

Thus my definition of U.S. industrial policy as practiced:
Current U.S. industrial policy is to move our consumer manufacturing capability out of the country at the fastest possible rate and to hand the (untaxed) savings to billionaires, using corporations as a pass-through.
That is, the people who control U.S. government policy vis-à-vis the manufacture of consumer products make sure that the nation's manufacturing worker class is made poorer so that the savings in labor cost can go into the pockets of the corporate ownership and financier classes. They do this to the greatest extent possible, and at the fastest rate allowable under current conditions.

They do this by action — through treaties like NAFTA, for example, as well as numerous bilateral agreements — and by inaction, through tax policies that don't interrupt, or in many cases accelerate, the wealth drain out of the worker class (including white collar workers) into the pockets of the international wealthy.

Regarding U.S. industrial policy for the consumer manufacturing sector, a person would be hard put, I think, to disagree. Which is why I wrote at the start of this piece that the "wishes" or goals of a nation's policy don't necessarily have to be beneficial to its manufacturing sector. In this case, the U.S. beggars (dismantles) its manufacturing sector for another goal — the enrichment of those who control the political and political-messaging processes.

The F-35 As U.S. Industrial Policy

Marcy Wheeler takes another approach to determining what U.S. industrial policy is, and hits the nail on the head, at least as regards the military-industrial-congressional sector. Wheeler discusses that here (my emphasis):
Our Industrial Policy Is the F-35

...I actually think the [Carrier] deal ought to elicit a more interesting discussion of industrial policy — the kind of systematic intervention that [economist Jared] Bernstein talks about that might actually do something about the hollowing out of America’s manufacturing base.

Such a discussion has long been forbidden in American political discourse, in part because the same economists pretending such whack-a-mole bribes haven’t become the norm in American political life also pretend that an unfettered “free” market (always defined to include mobile capital and goods, but not labor) will benefit everyone.

Yet even during the period when any discussion of industrial policy has been forbidden, we’ve had one.

Our industrial policy consists of massive US [taxpayer-financed] investments in manufacturing war and intelligence toys that we then sell to foreign governments. When done with Middle Eastern petro-states like Saudi Arabia, that trade goes a long way to equalize our foreign trade deficit, but it contributes directly to instability that then requires us to intervene and build more war toys. That investment in war leads, in turn, to a disinvestment in publicly funded infrastructure that could also provide jobs in the heartland.

The most obvious symbol of our unacknowledged industrial policy is the F-35...
Wheeler goes on to add:
Our current industrial policy, you see, feeds so few prime contractors that they are virtually immune from the competition that might pressure them to deliver quality goods. Which leads, in turn, to rework, contract overruns, and contractors walking out of the building with our government’s most closely guarded secrets, all with no consequences.

Let’s stop pretending (as this piece does) that America’s manufacturing, increasingly dominated by the production of war toys, exists in a a real market, shall we?
Which is where our views converge:
Once we do that, we might begin to address the diseases of our defense contracting and — more importantly — rediscover the value of investing in other kinds of manufacturing that our country needs to have. Justify these investments by some future defense need, I don’t give a damn (though there are military officials who will soberly explain the risks of the hollowing out of our manufacturing base). But invest in the technologies the US needs to stay competitive and retain a manufacturing base.
And there it is, two definitions of "U.S. industrial policy," one for manufacturers in the privately financed consumer sector and one for manufacturers in the tax-payer financed military-industrial-congressional sector.

Interesting how the source of the money used — whether it comes from the public pocket (yours and mine) or the pocket of those who own the business — determines where the manufacturing occurs. It probably helps a lot that publicly financed manufacturing includes a very generous profit guarantee (which Wheeler also discusses), a guarantee not available to private corporations.

These must guarantee their profit — and their mahogany suite compensation and "golden parachutes" packages — by taking from tax-payers in another way. They take from them directly, in other words, in the form of lost wages, since they can't use the IRS as an extraction tool.


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Are Schools Afraid To Teach Critical Thinking? Or Is It Just Too Damn Hard?


Yesterday charter school shill Sarah Hernandez jumped into the open seat race for CA-34, one of the bluest districts in the country. The last thing that kind of district needs is some pawn on the charter school billionaires jumping into Congress disguised as a progressive Democrat just because EMILY's List demands a woman fill the seat. Betsy DeVos is a woman too. Stephen Henderson, who writes for the Detroit Free Press knows her well and shared his insights about why she could well be Trump's most dangerous cabinet pick so far with USA Today readers this week.
In Detroit, parents of school-age children have plenty of choices, thanks to the nation's largest urban network of charter schools.

What remains in short supply is quality.

In Brightmoor, the only high school left is Detroit Community Schools, a charter boasting more than a decade of abysmal test scores and, until recently, a superintendent who earned $130,000 a year despite a dearth of educational experience or credentials.

On the west side, another charter school, Hope Academy, has been serving the community around Grand River and Livernois for 20 years. Its test scores have been among the lowest in the state throughout those two decades; in 2013 the school ranked in the first percentile, the absolute bottom for academic performance.

Or if you live downtown, you could try Woodward Academy, a charter that has limped along near the bottom of school achievement since 1998, while its operator has been allowed to expand into other communities.

This deeply dysfunctional educational landscape is no accident. It was created by an ideological lobby that has zealously championed free-market education reform for decades, with little regard for the outcome. And at the center of that lobby is Betsy DeVos, the west Michigan advocate whose family has contributed millions of dollars to the cause of school choice and unregulated charter expansion throughout Michigan.

President-elect Donald Trump has made a number of controversial cabinet nominations already. But none seems more inappropriate, or more contrary to reason, than his choice of DeVos to lead the Department of Education.

DeVos isn’t an educator, or an education leader. She’s not an expert in pedagogy or curriculum or school governance. In fact, she has no relevant credentials or experience for a job setting standards and guiding dollars for the nation’s public schools.

She is, in essence, a lobbyist-- someone who has used her extraordinary wealth to influence the conversation about education reform, and to bend that conversation to her ideological convictions despite the dearth of evidence supporting them.

For 20 years, the lobby her family bankrolls has propped up the billion-dollar charter school industry and insulated it from commonsense oversight, even as charter schools repeatedly failed to deliver on their promises to parents and children.

DeVos is a believer, and a powerful influence wielder for the special interest she has championed. But that doesn't make her the right pick to helm an entire arm of the federal government. Wealth should not buy a seat at the head of any policy-making table.

That is true especially in public education-- a trust between government and the people that seeks to provide opportunity for those who wouldn’t otherwise have it.

Supporters call Betsy DeVos an "advocate" who cares for children. And she may be that.

But the policy expression of that concern has been one-sided, and as much about establishing an industry as it is about kids.

The DeVos family has helped private interests commandeer public money that was intended to fulfill the state's mandate to provide compulsory education. The family started the Great Lakes Education Project, whose political action committee does the most prolific and aggressive lobbying for charter schools.

Betsy DeVos and other family members have given more than $2 million to the PAC since 2001. GLEP has spent that money essentially buying policy outcomes that have helped Michigan's charter industry grow while shielding it from accountability.

This summer, the DeVos family contributed $1.45 million over two months-- an astounding average of $25,000 a day-- to Michigan GOP lawmakers and the state party after the Republican-led Legislature derailed a bipartisan provision that would have provided more charter school oversight in Detroit.

GLEP also pushed hard and successfully to lift the cap on charter schools a few years ago, even though Michigan already had one of the highest numbers of charters in the nation, despite statistics suggesting charters weren't substantively outperforming traditional public schools.

And in 2000, the DeVos extended family spent $5.6 million on an unsuccessful campaign to amend Michigan's constitution to allow school vouchers-- the only choice tool not currently in play in Michigan.

Even if Betsy DeVos ceased her substantial contributions to pro-school choice lawmakers, or to GLEP’s PAC, what credibility would she have in a policy job that requires her to be an advocate for all schools? How could she credibly distance herself from her history as a lobbyist?

Beyond the conflicts, there are also deep questions about her substantive understanding of education policy.

As a private citizen, DeVos is free to hold any belief she wants, and to promote her beliefs however she likes, regardless of how they comport with fact or outcome. But as secretary of Education, DeVos would be expected to help set standards, guide accountability and oversee research in a way that benefits children, through outcomes, not one particular interest or industry. And more important, the U.S. Secretary of Education must understand the value of both high-performing charters and traditional public schools.

She has no track record of working along those lines, and no experience that suggests she’s even interested in it.

Largely as a result of the DeVos lobbying, Michigan tolerates more low-performing charter schools than just about any other state. And it lacks any effective mechanism for shutting down, or even improving, failing charters.

We're a laughingstock in national education circles, and a pariah among reputable charter school operators, who have not opened schools in Detroit because of the wild West nature of the educational landscape here.

In Michigan, just about anyone can open a charter school if they can raise the money. That's not so in most other states, where proven track records are required. In other states, poor performers are subject to improvement efforts, or sometimes closed. By contrast, once a school opens in Michigan, it's free to operate for as long as it wants.

And in Michigan, you can operate a charter for profit, so even schools that fail academically are worth keeping open because they can make money. Michigan leads the nation in the number of schools operated for profit, while other states have moved to curb the expansion of for-profit charters, or banned them outright.

The results of this free-for-all have been tragic for Michigan children, and especially for those in Detroit, where 79% of the state's charters are located.

A yearlong Free Press investigation found that 20 years after Michigan's charter school experiment began, Detroit's charter schools have shown themselves to be only incrementally stronger, on average, than traditional public schools. They have admirable graduation rates, but test scores that look nearly identical to those of public schools.

The most accurate assessment is that charter schools are simply a second, privately managed failing system. Yes, there are high-performing outliers--  slightly more than 10% of the charter schools perform in the top tier. But in Detroit, the best schools are as likely to be traditional public schools.

DeVos and her family have not been daunted by these outcomes. It's as if the reams of data showing just incremental progress or abysmal failure don't matter. Their belief in charter schools is unshakable, their resistance to systematic reforms that would improve both public and charter schools unyielding.

They have also pushed hard on schools of choice, where districts open their borders to kids from other jurisdictions.

In concept, it could be a great equalizer: Children from poor districts could attend schools that have many more resources. But in practice, white and more affluent parents have fled as poorer, minority kids have come into their schools, exacerbating de facto segregation, according to a report by Bridge Magazine.

This newspaper has been, and will continue to be, an advocate for successful charter schools, and for educational choice as one way-- but certainly not the only way--  to improve this state’s school landscape.

But it's impossible to imagine such improvement will be aided by an education secretary so willfully impervious to the relevant data. Instead, Betsy DeVos' lodestar has been her conviction that any nontraditional public school is better than a traditional one, simply because it's not operated by government.

Charter school advocates like DeVos reject any criticism of charters as a defense of the status quo. But that's a gross and partisan distortion, especially for people like me.

I've made the most personal endorsement possible by sending my two children to charter schools in Baltimore and here in Detroit. In both cases, we've chosen high-quality charters; in Detroit, the best choices were far scarcer than in Baltimore. And to get into the high-performing school we chose in Detroit required an extraordinary effort. I have the income, the transportation and access to be sure my kids get the best opportunity available.

Most Detroit parents don't enjoy those same advantages, and they are stuck choosing from among a sea of mediocrity or worse.

DeVos' lobbying hasn't been good for Detroit, or Michigan.

It won't be good for the nation.

And if you noticed that virtually every member of the Trump Administration-- from top to bottom-- is weighted down by unbelievable conflicts of interest, you would be guessing right if you assumed DeVos is one of the worst. Even the Wall Street Journal couldn't help noticing yesterday. Her family invests heavily in Social Finance Inc., "a startup whose fortunes hinge in part on policies crafted by the department Ms. DeVos would run... Much of SoFi’s business stems from refinancing student loans; the Department of Education is by far the country’s biggest student lender, with $1.3 trillion in outstanding loans."

So what happens when we educate children poorly. I'm sure you know. Trump's election stands as a testament to ill-advised political interference in the education system by right-wing ideologues like DeVos for decades. This week an occasional DWT contributor, author and neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, penned a special report for the New York Daily News on the "fake news" pizzagate insanity of recent days. This could only happen in a country filled with self-righteous, ill-educated morons, the people who, in large part, elected Trump. Dan started his piece by acknowledging he was about to drive some of those morons into a frothy frenzy "by saying two things that will surely make some people very mad. First, the language we use has begun to obscure the relationship between facts and fantasy. Second, this is a dangerous byproduct of a lack of education in our country that has now affected an entire generation of citizens."
Regarding language: we are all being more than a bit too careful in how we refer to falsehoods. Perhaps in an effort not to create interpersonal confrontations, an effort to "just get along" we have started to use euphemisms to refer to things that are just plain whack-a-doo crazy. The lie that Washington, D.C. pizza shop Comet Ping Pong was running a sex slave operation spearheaded by Hillary Clinton led to a shooting on Sunday. This newspaper called the lie a "fringe theory."

Other euphemisms for lies are counterknowledge, half-truths, extreme views, conspiracy theories, and, the more recent appellation, "fake news."

The phrase "fake news" sounds too playful, too much like a schoolchild faking illness to get out of a test. The euphemisms obscure the fact that the sex-slave story is an out-and-out lie. The people who wrote it knew that it wasn't true. There are not two sides to a story when one side is a lie. Journalists-- and the rest of us-- must stop giving equal time to things that don't have an opposing side. Two sides to a story exist when evidence exists on both sides of a position. Then, reasonable people may disagree about how to weigh that evidence, and what conclusion to form from it. Everyone, of course, is entitled to their own opinion. But they are not entitled to their own facts. Lies are an absence of facts and, in many cases, a direct contradiction of them.

Regarding education: We have failed to teach our children what constitutes evidence, and how to evaluate it. Edgar Welch, the Comet Ping Pong shooter, told authorities that he was "investigating" the conspiracy theory. I believe he thought that is what he was doing, but there is no evidence that any investigating was performed. I suspect that this ignorant citizen does not know what it is to compile and evaluate evidence. In this case, one might look for a link between Hillary Clinton and the restaurant, behaviors of Clinton that would suggest an interest in running a prostitution ring, or even a motive for why she might benefit from such a thing (certainly the motive could not have been financial, given her speaking fees). Or, lacking the mentality and education to conduct one's own investigation, one could rely on professionals by reading what trained investigative journalists have to say about the theory. The fact that no credible journalist gives this any credence should tell you all you need to know.

We have failed to teach our children to fight the evolutionary tendency towards gullibility. We are a social species, and we tend to believe what others tell us. And our brains are great storytelling and confabulation machines: given an outlandish premise, we can generate fanciful explanations for how they might be true. But that's the difference between creative thinking and critical thinking, between lies and the truth: the truth has factual, objective evidence to support it.

A Stanford University study of civic online reasoning tested more than 7,800 students from intermediate school through college for 18 months ending June 2016. The researchers cite a "stunning and dismaying consistency. Overall, young people's ability to reason about the information on the Internet can be summed up in one word: bleak." They were horrible at distinguishing high quality news from lies. We need to start teaching them to do so now. And while we're at it, the rest of us could use a refresher course. Fortunately, evidence-based thinking is not beyond the grasp of most 12-year olds, if only they are shown the way.

Our kids isn't learning.

Many are saying that Pizzagate is a direct result of fake news (but let's call it like it is: lies). But what weaponizes the lies is not the belief in them-- belief in lies can be harmless, such as belief in Santa Claus or that these new jeans make me look thin. The danger is in the intensity of that belief-- the unquestioning overconfidence that it is true.

Critical thinking trains us to take a step back, to evaluate facts and form evidence-based conclusions. What got Welch into a situation of discharging a firearm in a DC pizza parlor was a complete inability to understand that a view he held might be wrong. The most important quality in critical thinking is in short supply these days: humility. If we realize we don't know everything, we can learn. If we think we know everything, learning is impossible. Somehow, our educational system and our reliance on the internet has led to a generation of kids who do not know what they don't know. If we can accept that truth, we can educate to stamp out the lies.
Yesterday, the NY Times looked at those PISA results (from the video up top) and although there is some controversy over the premises, everyone agrees that the U.S. is doing pretty badly at educating young people-- treading water in the middle of the pool. "Generally speaking, the smartest countries tend to be those that have acted to make teaching more prestigious and selective; directed more resources to their neediest children; enrolled most children in high-quality preschools; helped schools establish cultures of constant improvement; and applied rigorous, consistent standards across all classrooms."
For now, the PISA reveals brutal truths about America’s education system: Math, a subject that reliably predicts children’s future earnings, continues to be the United States’ weakest area at every income level. Nearly a third of American 15-year-olds are not meeting a baseline level of ability-- the lowest level the O.E.C.D. believes children must reach in order to thrive as adults in the modern world.

And affluence is no guarantee of better results, particularly in science and math: The latest PISA data (which includes private-school students) shows that America’s most advantaged teenagers scored below their well-off peers in science in 20 other countries, including Canada and Britain.

The good news is that a handful of places, including Estonia, Canada, Denmark and Hong Kong, are proving that it is possible to do much better. These places now educate virtually all their children to higher levels of critical thinking in math, reading and science-- and do so more equitably than Americans do. (Vietnam and various provinces in China are omitted here because many 15-year-olds are still not enrolled in school systems there, limiting the comparability of PISA results.)

As we drift toward a world in which more good jobs will require Americans to think critically-- and to repeatedly prove their abilities before and after they are hired-- it is hard to imagine a more pressing national problem. “Your president-elect has promised to make America great again,” Mr. Schleicher said. But he warned, “He won’t be able to do that without fixing education.”
Change for the sale of change is never the answer. In fact, its as likely that change will make thing worse instead of better. And, judging by who Trump picked to head his education efforts, worse is exactly the direction the U.S. will soon be headed.

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Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Will Trumpy-the-Clown's Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, Destroy The Marijuana Industry?


The marijuana industry is growing by leaps and bounds across the country. And industry players are spending money on lobbying and have even been contributing to friendly candidates. Since 2010 the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has given contributions of between $500 and $1,000 to, among others:
Chellie Pingree (D-ME)
Jerry Nadler (D-NY)
Mark Pocan (D-WI)
Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY)
Cory Booker (D-NJ)
Earl Blumenauer (R-OR)
Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)
Beto O'Rourke (D-TX)
Alan Grayson (D-FL)
Alan Lowenthal (D-CA)
Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ)
Steve Cohen (D-TN)
Jamie Raskin (D-MD)
This cycle the Marijuana Policy Project has given around half a million dollars to candidates who support legalization, including to lots of conservatives. Their half dozen biggest recipients in 2014 and 2016 (combined):
Rand Paul (R-KY)- $13,700
Peter Aguilar (New Dem-CA)- $8,000
Justin Amash (R-MI)- $5,750
Michael Eggman (D-CA)- 5,000
Ruben Gallego (D-AZ)- $5,000
Ami Bera (New Dem-CA)- $5,000
The National Cannabis Industry Association is the trade organization for legal marijuana businesses and they lobby and give out contributions as well as does the Drug Policy Alliance. So, it's becoming a real thing in the way the Beltway judges "real."

And there has been some hope that this kind of thing-- coupled with tax revenues being generated-- $44 million in Colorado in sales and excise taxes on pot for 2014, for example-- will keep Trump and Sessions at bay.

This week, the music industry trade magazine, Billboard, tied the growing marijuana industry directly to the music business, which has been suffering and which has been a major American export revenue earner for decades. Andy Gensler asks specifically if growing weed sales can revitalize increasingly moribund record stores. Record stores have been dying off rapidly primarily because most people get their music online. "CD sales," he reported, "have plummeted from $9.4 billion in 2006 to just $1.5 billion in 2015, according to the RIAA-- an 84 percent drop-- and the much-ballyhooed vinyl resurgence has done little to staunch the bleeding, making up only 6 percent of physical sales in 2015." Most states now have some degree of decriminalization and 8 have pretty much decriminalized it completely: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington (+ Washington, DC).
But there is hope on the hazy horizon, and it’s coming in the five-leafed form of marijuana, which is legal in a majority of states-- 28 of them have sanctioned cannabis for medical or recreational use-- following the 2016 elections. What does reefer have to do with records? With music retailers getting into the dispensary business or aligning their physical location with pot shops, the long-standing symbiotic relationship between music and weed may finally be (legally) monetized.

“There’s a history of marijuana and music that goes back to the jazz era,” says Michael Kurtz, co-founder of Record Store Day, who also notes retail’s role in selling paraphernalia-- record stores birthed head shops. “Anytime human behavior is decriminalized, it’s good for business.”

And the pot business is booming. Projected to generate more than $1 billion in revenue in 2016 in Colorado, where recreational marijuana is sanctioned, legal weed will soon stretch all the way down the West Coast-- from the border with Canada to the North to Mexico in the South-- once California’s Proposition 64 goes into effect in 2018. No wonder record stores are, for the first time in more than a decade, feeling optimistic.

“With marijuana, everything has gotten better,” says Paul Epstein, owner of Denver’s Twist & Shout Records, which has been in business for 28 years. “You would be hard pressed to find any business in Denver for which the legalization of recreational marijuana hasn’t had a positive effect.”

“Tax revenue [from cannabis] all told last year was $140 million for 2015,” says Andrew Freedman (aka “the weed czar”), director of marijuana coordination for Colorado, an outlier state that legalized recreational use in 2012. Today, Denver has nearly 400 licensed medical and/or recreational-cannabis retail outlets. According to a study by the Marijuana Policy Group cited by Freedman, pot revenue had a $2.4 billion economic impact in Colorado, creating 18,000 new jobs.

That said, Epstein and other music retailers Billboard spoke to in Colorado, Seattle and Los Angeles say they have yet to see significant dividends. “My sales aren’t up,” says Louis Lambert, co-owner of the Independent Records & Video chain in Colorado Springs, Colo., who also is a partner in two medical dispensaries. “I have a dispensary next to my store,” he says, “but there are 10 other dispensaries right next to them.” Other stores, too, spoke of a “weed glut,” along with strict regulations impeding them from fully capitalizing on a nascent pot market.

Another concern is that an incoming Trump administration and its attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions may roll back state marijuana laws. Recalling the hysteria of 1930’s propaganda film Reefer Madness and the Reagan administration’s benighted “Just Say No” policies, in April Sessions called weed “not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized” and a “very real danger.” In fact, Sessions, who was rejected for a 1986 federal judgeship for his alleged racist views, said he thought Ku Klux Klan members were “OK, until he learned that they smoked marijuana.” (Worth noting: Seven of the eight states legalizing recreational cannabis and the District of Columbia backed Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential bid.)

But California chain Amoeba Music, which is leading the state’s music-retail charge into cannabis, may be immune from future “re-criminalization,” as the dispensary license it recently obtained for its Berkeley location is medical and not the result of the recently won recreational rights that came with Prop 64’s passage. Meanwhile, its San Francisco store has opened Green Evaluations adjacent to its location. There, for $44, California residents can be examined by a physician and receive a medical marijuana ID card. That business now covers half of the Haight Street store’s annual rent. Amoeba’s Hollywood store, which is set to move from its current location within five years, may explore a similar strategy.

“We’ve gone to great lengths to keep the Berkeley store going for many years without making much money, but just trying to keep it alive,” says co-owner Marc Weinstein, who notes that Amoeba earns roughly half the revenue it did in 2008 and is down to 35 employees from 90. “The reason we worked on getting this permit for five years is because we really believe this is the mix that can help the store make it in the long run.” He adds that pot’s profit margin is greater than recorded music’s and “something Amazon can’t kill you on.”

Still, there are challenges, like stipulations as to what can be sold and where. Says Colorado’s Freedman: “You’re only allowed to sell marijuana products and some amount of paraphernalia, but very little else in recreational and medical establishments here.”

When asked what makes him think he can run a successful dispensary in what is still a budding crossover market, Amoeba’s Weinstein cites his 26 years running one of the country’s most successful independent music-retail chains. “Our model is to have as many products as possible, know about them in depth and be able to offer people selection,” he says. “We’re just interested in having a killer retail store.”

For Madell, whose Other Music was in business for 21 years, the possible marriage of music and marijuana comes too late. “For many customers, myself included, this would be a dream combination,” he says. “I can’t really say if Other Music would have gone this route if we had the opportunity-- too many hypotheticals here-- but I will say 100 percent that I will frequent the first New York City shop that realizes the dream.”

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Scott Garrett (R-NJ)-- The Ultimate Sore Loser


Loser and extremist loon, Scott Garrett (R-NJ)

Aside from being the home of the Bada Bing strip club from The Sopranos, NJ-05 sits on the entire northern border of New Jersey with New York, from the Hudson River in the east to just outside of Port Jervis in the west, and the entire northwestern border with Pennsylvania from Milford through the Delaware Water Gap and beyond my old home in Stroudsburg. It's an affluent R+4 district in blue New Jersey. Over 70% of the population is in northern Bergen County's suburbs and towns like Paramus, Hackensack, Teaneck, Mahwah and Lodi (the Bada Bing club town). Politically, this is Chris Christie country although Sen. Bob Menendez won the district with 51% last time he ran. McCain won the district in 2008, 51-48% and Romney won in 2012, 52-49%. The congressman from the area, Scott Garrett, is the most extreme right congressman from New Jersey-- and the entire northeast United States-- since he was first elected in 2002. He was reelected in 2014 with 55.7% against political novice Roy Cho, who spent $1,251,518 to Garrett's $2,245,456. This year, though, the DCCC found themselves a revolting Blue Dog and pushed him bigly.

Gottheimer-- who got more money from the banksters than any other non-incumbent running for the House this year ($889,419), outraised Garrett $4,288,192 to 2,055,513. Garrett, until recently a Wall Street fave (as the anti-regulation sociopath chairman on the House Financial Services Committee's subcommittee on Capital Markets), only got $674,888 from the Finance Sector this cycle, way down from the $1,159,579 he scooped up from them in 2014 or the $1,224,313 he got in 2012. They wanted him to lose this year.

So on November 9, Bergen County residents woke up to some good news and some bad news. The good news was that Scott Garrett was on the losing end of a 156,863 (50.5%) to 146,643 (47.2%) result. It was the Bergen County voters who had finally grown tired of Garrett's extremism and who had turned him out. In 2012 he won Bergen County with 100,874 votes. This time, which far more people voting, only 93,430 in Bergen County went for Garrett. 121,875 voted for Gottheimer. And that's the bad news, of course: Gottheimer won. It looks like this will turn out to be the most expensive House race in New Jersey history. Outside spending was through the roof. Ryan's House Leadership PAC and the NRCC refused to spent a nickel on the widely disliked Garrett. Only another of crooked hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer's PACs, the American Principles Fund, kicked in any substantial money for Garrett-- $309,025. Meanwhile, smelling blood in the water, the DCCC and it's allies, excited to get another slimeball Blue Dog into Congress, spent a gargantuan $6.4 million attacking Garrett and bolstering Gottheimer. It worked. I wonder if they'll think it was worth it when Gottheimer becomes a regular supporter of Paul Ryan's agenda.

Gottheimer joined both the Blue Dog and the New Dems caucuses, as expected-- the Republican wing of the Democratic Party. Members have been telling me that he and Ro Khanna, another fake Democrat who was largely financed by the Finance Sector, by anti-union charter school billionaires and by Republicans, seem to be joined at the hip and are always walking around the Capitol together. Who Gottheimer is not walking around with is Garrett, who has been absent from Congress, furious at Ryan and the NRCC and refusing to show up for work (although still being paid, of course).

Yesterday, Herb Jackson, the DC correspondent for the Bergen Record reported that after an especially bitter campaign, Garrett is doing his best to sabotage Gottheimer's transition.
In an interview about his orientation as a new member of Congress, Gottheimer told The Record that Garrett has not returned his calls or responded to a certified letter asking about a transition, especially to ensure constituent requests do not fall through the cracks.

“I called him," Gottheimer said Thursday. "I sent him a letter before Thanksgiving both thanking him for his service as well as asking him to meet to discuss the transition. My chief also reached out to his chief of staff. We just haven’t heard back.

“My biggest thing is, these constituent issues are not partisan issues. Helping a veteran or a senior, making sure they get their Social Security, or helping a business that has an issue, this election should not affect their lives,” Gottheimer said.

...While polarizing politics is all too common, Garrett's apparent unwillingness to discuss a transition with his successor is not.

The last time a Democrat captured a New Jersey seat that a Republican had held was in 2008, and Democrat John Adler not only worked on the transition with the retiring incumbent , H. James Saxton, Adler even kept one of Saxton’s constituent service aides on his payroll.

When Adler was defeated two years later by Republican Jon Runyan, he transferred his outstanding constituent files to the offices of the state’s two Democratic senators. Garrett’s office has not made similar outreach to either Sen. Cory Booker or Sen. Bob Menendez, their offices said.

“We have not been contacted by Garrett’s office, but constituents have begun to call,” Menendez spokeswoman Tricia Enright said. “They say they were told Garrett’s office is not taking any new cases and they’re telling constituents to contact Sen. Menendez or Sen. Booker.”

At the non-profit Congressional Management Foundation, which has a contract with the House to provide training services to members, President Brad Fitch said he had heard of only one other case in the past 10 years in which there was no cooperation between an outgoing and an incoming member. Fitch said it is not unusual for some materials to be withheld, such as electronic databases of constituent contacts, especially if party control is changing hands, but files about constituents are a different story.

...Along with being New Jersey’s most expensive House race ever, the Garrett-Gottheimer campaign was particularly nasty practically from the start. Gottheimer’s ads said Garrett was being investigated for ethics violations, when all that had happened was an advocacy group made an allegation that appeared to go nowhere.

Garrett, meanwhile, used a civil lawsuit that was ultimately withdrawn as the basis for ads saying Gottheimer had assaulted a female neighbor, when the lawsuit itself said he had only wagged his finger in the woman’s face and did not touch her.

In their only debate, the candidates argued over who was a better liar.

Garrett initially declined to concede on Election Night, saying there were tens of thousands of votes still be counted. With no further reference to those votes, he put out a statement the following day thanking his supporters and lamenting the results “were not what I hoped for.” The statement never mentioned Gottheimer.
Bada bing!

UPDATE: Moratorium On Saying Mean Things About Ro Khanna

I wrote the above post before had some exchanges with Ro Khanna we told me he's going to be a lot different than what I expected-- a lot better-- and that I should have an open mind. And I will. Among other things, he said "My grandfather spent four years in jail with Gandhi fighting British colonialism. My aspiration is to help end the colonial model of the world. I am a progressive. My heart is in the right place. I hope we can build a relationship and you can email me regularly if there are key votes or issues you think we need a strong progressive voice on." Who could ask for more? So no more Ro Khanna-bashing around here. And if it starts up again, you'll know exactly why.

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Re. the belated concession of NC Gov. "Puppet Pat" McCrory: Good riddance to bad rubbish


Puppet Pat: Not smiling so much anymore?

by Ken

So North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, known to DWT readers as "Puppet Pat," has thrown in the towel on his failed reelection, after dragging the proceedings out with a series of crackpot accusations about election fraud -- only to see his margin of defeat hold fast as limited recounts began.

And it was by no means a given that Puppet Pat and the NC GOP would accept the election result. In the above-referenced NYT report on the governor's belated concession to NC Attorney General Roy Cooper, Richard Fausset notes:
The sealing of Mr. Cooper’s victory — he leads by just over 10,000 votes in the unofficial state tally — brings a modicum of relief to Democrats here. Many of them had feared a post-Election Day power play by North Carolina’s Republicans, who control the state’s General Assembly, where the Republicans in recent years have enacted aggressive gerrymandering plans and a law curtailing voter access that have been struck down by the federal courts. Some feared that the Republicans would take advantage of a law that allows contested elections to be settled by a vote of the legislature.
So, not gonna happen. Thank goodness for small favors.

My first response to the earlier news that Puppet Pat's lie-fueled demand for a recount wasn't going so well was: Is there really no price to be paid for pols' lying? Of course I had the president-elect in my thoughts as well, and judging by his example, the answer is "What're you, nuts? Of course not!" As long as the pol is telling the right kind of lies, which usually means the hard-core right-wing kind, they're not only tolerated but encouraged.

But with Puppet Pat, there's a wrinkle. His unexpected defeat -- running far behind, in the statewide vote count, both presidential candidate Donald Trump and reelected turdheap Sen. Richard Burr -- is routinely attributed to the mean-spirited "bathroom bill" he reluctantly signed, and I have no reason to doubt this. A certain number of NC voters seem to have cottoned to the fact that some forms of bigotry have become bad for business. Great!

However, when I hear Puppet Pat's name and reign referred to, alluded to in this snippet from the NYT account:
As a mayor of Charlotte, Mr. McCrory was known as a moderate and pragmatist, a reputation that attracted many Democrats to his 2012 campaign. But the legislature pushed, and he generally supported an ambitious conservative agenda, rolling back the state’s generous ballot-access rules. The legislature also passed expanded rights for gun owners, a private-school voucher plan, new abortion regulations and a tax overhaul that opponents criticized for favoring the wealthy.
What I think of is a terrific post our Noah wrote back in December 2013, "A tale of two Popes -- the one in the Vatican, who takes Jesus' words to heart, and the one in North Carolina." I'm going to take the liberty of reprising the start of that post:
There are two Popes in the news lately. Both represent organizations that claim to speak for Jesus Christ. One's name is Pope Francis, leader of the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Francis is the better-known of the two, and his actions befuddle and anger U.S. Republicans. The other's name is Art Pope. Art Pope is the North Carolina Republican Party's pope.

Unlike many past Popes, Francis seems to take the reported actions and words of Jesus to heart and uses his own words and actions to lead his organization toward the betterment of humanity. Art Pope plays for the other side.

While Pope Francis seeks to aid the poor and the powerless, even leaving the Vatican at night dressed as an ordinary priest to comfort the homeless, Art Pope's mission is to exploit the poor and the powerless to gain more power, even seeking to expand the numbers of poor in his state. Art Pope is a mini-me to the Koch Brothers. He has a lot of money but not Koch Brothers Kash, so for now he has been content to buy just one state out of 50.
As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.
-- Jesus, as quoted in the Book of Matthew, 25:31-46
Art Pope preaches a very different gospel. He has used his material goods to elect and buy the best and truest form of Republican government he can. The end result has been a takeover of North Carolina by political perps that is as extreme as any since the days of segregation. But the agenda that Art Pope pushes is not based solelyon race. Women, senior citizens, Hispanics, and students are all targets of this pope.

It is oligarchist Art Pope who has financed an insane asylum that serves as the North Carolina legislature and governor's office. He is now even Gov. Pat McCrory's budget director, all but officially making the governor his hand puppet.

In 2010, 75 percent of all the outside money that came into North Carolina's legislative elections came from groups backed by Art Pope. His candidates won 80 percent of those races. Pope's money then financed a 2012 election that was so successful for Republicans that it ended in this being the first time since 1870 that the Repug Party controlled the governorship and both houses of the state legislature, the General Assembly. Without Art Pope putting his money behind his agenda, there is no feo-fascist Gov. "Puppet Pat" McCrory; there are no attacks on the teachers of North Carolina (right down to removing money for instructional supplies).

In fact, Puppet Pat seems to think that education should exist only to train people for jobs -- vocational training for worker bees, as it were. Puppet Pat wants Pope's legislature to pass laws that would provide funds to universities "not based on how many butts in seats but how many of those butts can get jobs." Apparently McCrory never learned that education deals with the brains in your head. His stated outlook reveals that education is not about expanding the mind or improving society and moving it forward. As for the promised jobs, they haven't materialized, as his policies continue to damage the state economy.

Without people like Puppet Pat who are so willing to do the bidding of the money men, there is no chronic union-busting; there are no attacks on the voting rights of legal North Carolina citizens; there is no well-orchestrated attack on democracy itself. He is his state's Scott Walker. To Art Pope, just as to the Walker-backing Koch Brothers, there are the privileged few and "the least of these," with nothing in between: lords and serfs. It's a push back to the past -- way back. . . .
So all in all my response to Puppet Pat's graceless concession is: Good riddance to bad rubbish.

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