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Five Democratic arguments that might resonate in the suburbs

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Jennifer Rubin’s on a roll. She writes in the Washington Post:

Freed from their obsessive interest in President Trump’s core base (Should we have said “Merry Christmas” more often? Maybe we should have pretended that NAFTA cost jobs?) and the temptation to shun reality in search of the secret sauce for attracting fact-free Fox News viewers, Democrats seem to be coming to the realization that their traditional base — single women, minorities, young voters, college-educated voters, urban dwellers — is perfectly compatible with other demographic cross-sections of America (e.g. married women, suburbanites, #NeverTrump Republicans). Moreover, occasional voters (e.g. millennials) can become spirited activists and off-year voters if given enough reason to turn out. There is no shortage of issues that can bring together all these voters. We’ll start with just five that might resonate in the suburbs, with college-educated women and with disaffected Republicans — and also, in some cases, might help turn out traditional Democratic constituents:

1. Accountability: So long as Republicans retain House and Senate majorities, Trump and his band of ethically challenged advisers pay no price for their conflicts of interest, misuse of taxpayer monies, nepotism and lack of transparency. If voters think that this president and every future one should reveal his tax returns and eschew monies coming from foreign entities, they will need to jettison Republican majorities, who have been absolutely clear that they take no interest in the president’s financial self-dealing and conflicts. Real congressional oversight is possible only with Democratic-led committees.

2. Economic self-sabotage: Trump likes to take credit for the economy that he inherited, but he is doing a bang-up job undercutting the economic recovery now in its ninth year. Trump’s trade war is well underway. The Post reports:

The Chinese government plans to immediately impose tariffs on 128 U.S. products, including pork and certain fruits, a direct response to President Trump’s recent moves to pursue numerous trade restrictions against Beijing.

If U.S. goods become more expensive in China, Chinese buyers could opt to purchase products from Europe, South America or elsewhere, though White House officials have routinely discounted the likelihood of this.

Beijing’s move could force Trump to decide whether to follow through on expansive trade restrictions he had hoped would crack down on China even if Beijing is now threatening to harm U.S. companies that rely on Asian markets for buyers. . . . In addition to pork, the new tariffs from the Chinese government will include U.S. exports of apples, oranges, almonds, pineapples, grapes, watermelons, cranberries, strawberries, raspberries, cherries, and a host of other items.

Meanwhile, Trump’s anti-immigrant raving is costing the United States high-skilled workers. As Axios recently reported: “Tech companies in and around Toronto have seen a surge in international job applications over the last year, by far mostly from the U.S., according to a new survey. The number doubled and tripled in some of the companies, the result of a deliberate Canadian campaign to attract tech workers from the U.S. and around the world. … The spike in applications and hiring adds to the evidence suggesting that President Trump’s immigration crackdown is resulting in a loss of tech workers to Canada.”

3. DACA (the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program: Aside from the economic ramifications of his anti-immigrant stance, Trump’s approach to the “dreamers” — highlighted in his Easter Sunday tirade — is a moral disgrace and nightmare for local police (who understand the danger to public safety when a significant number of residents refuse to report crimes or assist police for fear of being deported). Upwards of 80 percent of voters want dreamers legalized; if deportations pick up, that number may soar. This is not just an issue for Hispanic voters. Bloomberg reports:

A sizable majority of Americans, especially Democrats and independents, support giving legal status to Dreamers, opinion polls have shown. The topic resonates especially in California, Arizona, Texas, Florida and Nevada — states with large Hispanic populations where Democrats are seeking to chip away at the Republican majorities in the House and Senate.

“We’re discussing it in our race every single day,” said Jacky Rosen, a U.S. representative who’s the likely Democratic nominee to face Republican incumbent Senator Dean Heller in Nevada. “Dean Heller is doing whatever the president wants — he’s opposing the Dream Act and he voted against two bipartisan DACA deals.” . . . . “To young voters, DACA isn’t an abstraction — it’s their friend, their neighbor, the classmate they’ve grown up with, who the Republican Party was willing to deport,” said Jesse Ferguson, a Democratic consultant.

4. Unfit nominees: The GOP Senate rubber-stamped a slew of incompetent, unqualified and/or ethically deficient nominees who predictably washed out (former secretaries Rex Tillerson, Tom Price, David Shulkin) or remain mired in scandal (the Environmental Protection Agency’s Scott Pruitt, Housing and Urban Development’s Ben Carson, Treasury’s Steven Mnuchin, Interior’s Ryan Zinke). It would be far better for the country, and for Trump frankly, if the Senate would exercise some quality control. It should have been apparent at Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s confirmation hearing (guns in classrooms to shoot bears?!?) and from Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s repeated untruths to the Senate Judiciary Committee about his Russia contacts that they would stumble in office. Nevertheless, the GOP-led Senate waved them through. If voters want to stop the parade of extremists, cranks, incompetents and ethical malefactors, they will need to dump the Senate majority.

5. War: . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

2 April 2018 at 1:12 pm

Republicans are in denial about a blue wave

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Jennifer Rubin has a good column on the upcoming Democratic tsunami:

NBC News reports:

Our latest NBC/WSJ poll finds Democrats with a 10-point lead in congressional preference, with Dems holding the advantage in enthusiasm and among independents, and with college-educated white women breaking heavily against the GOP. But there’s another ominous sign for Republicans in our poll: They’re losing ground on the congressional-preference question in GOP-held congressional districts. . .
Sixty percent of Democratic voters say they have a high degree of interest in the upcoming elections (registering either a “9” or “10” on a 10-point scale), versus 54 percent of Republicans who say the same thing. In addition, 64 percent of 2016 Clinton voters say they have a high level of interest, compared with 57 percent of 2016 Trump voters.
And among independent voters, Democrats lead in congressional preference by 12 points, 48 percent to 36 percent.

In GOP-held districts, the GOP preference of 14 points in January dropped to zero. “Given that so much of the 2018 House battleground is in red/purple areas, the GOP being in single digits — or even — in Republican-held districts is a problem.” That would be an understatement.
Moreover, Democrats hold huge leads among millennials (59 to 29 percent), women (57 to 34 percent), whites with a college degree (55 to 42 percent), independents (48 to 36 percent) and older voters (52 to 41 percent) The older voter numbers are especially problematic because older voters turn out in higher numbers in midterms than other groups and because this was previously a base of President Trump’s support (Trump won over-65 voters by a margin of 52 to 47 percent on Election Day while Republican House candidates won this group by a 53 to 45 percent margin.)

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Written by LeisureGuy

20 March 2018 at 1:42 pm

WOW! Change is a-comin’

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Just read this report in The Hill. It’s short, but big. I tell you, a new cultural meme is proving powerful.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 March 2018 at 8:45 pm

Instead of Taking on Gun Control, Democrats Are Teaming With Republicans for a Stealth Attack on Wall Street Reform

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David Dayen reports in The Intercept:

IN MID-JANUARY, Citigroup executives held a conference call with reporters about the bank’s fourth-quarter 2017 earnings. The discussion turned to an obscure congressional bill, S.2155, pitched by its bipartisan supporters mainly as a vehicle to deliver regulatory relief to community banks and, 10 years after the financial crisis, to make needed technical fixes to the landmark Wall Street reform law, Dodd-Frank.

But Citi’s Chief Financial Officer John Gerspach told the trade reporters he thought that some bigger banks — like, say, Citigroup — should get taken care of in the bill as well. He wanted Congress to loosen rules around how the bank could go about lending and investing. The specific mechanism to do that was to fiddle with what’s known as the supplementary leverage ratio, or SLR, a key capital requirement for the nation’s largest banks. This simple ratio sets how much equity banks must carry compared to total assets like loans.

S.2155 did, at the time, weaken the leverage ratio, but only for so-called custodial banks, which do not primarily make loans but instead safeguard assets for rich individuals and companies like mutual funds. As written, the measure would have assisted just two U.S. banks, State Street and Bank of New York Mellon. This offended Gerspach. “We obviously don’t think that is fair, so we would like to see that be altered,” he told reporters.

Republicans and Democrats who pushed S.2155 through the Senate Banking Committee must have heard Citi’s call. (They changed the definition of a custodial bank in a subsequent version of the bill. It used to stipulate that only a bank with a high level of custodial assets would qualify, but now it defines a custodial bank as “any depository institution or holding company predominantly engaged in custody, safekeeping, and asset servicing activities.”) The change could allow virtually any big bank to take advantage of the new rule.

Multiple bank lobbyists told The Intercept that Citi has been pressing lawmakers to loosen the language even further, ensuring that they can take advantage of reduced leverage and ramp up risk. “Citi is making a very aggressive effort,” said one bank lobbyist who asked not to be named because he’s working on the bill. “It’s a game changer and that’s why they’re pushing hard.” A Citigroup spokesperson declined to comment.

A bill that began as a well-intentioned effort to satisfy some perhaps legitimate community bank grievances has instead mushroomed, sparking fears that Washington is paving the way for the next financial meltdown. Congress is unlikely to pass much significant legislation in 2018, so lobbyists have rushed to stuff the trunk of the vehicle full. “There are many different interests in financial services that are looking at this and saying, ‘Oh my God, there’s finally going to be reform to Dodd-Frank that may move, let me throw in this issue and this issue,’” said Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., in an interview. “There are a dozen different players who decided this is the last bus out of town.”

And Coons is a co-sponsor of the bill.

A hopeful nation — and the president himself — expected that the Senate would begin debate on major gun policy reform next week, but instead a confounding scenario has emerged: In the typically gridlocked Congress, with the Trump legislative agenda mostly stalled, members of both parties will come together to roll back financial rules, during the 10th anniversary of the biggest banking crisis in nearly a century. And it’s happening with virtually no media attention whatsoever.

Aside from the gifts to Citigroup and other big banks, the bill undermines fair lending rules that work to counter racial discrimination and rolls back regulation and oversight on large regional banks that aren’t big enough to be global names, but have enough cash to get a stadium named after themselves. In the name of mild relief for community banks, these institutions — which have been christened “stadium banks” by congressional staff opposing the legislation — are punching a gaping hole through Wall Street reform. Twenty-five of the 38 biggest domestic banks in the country, and globally significant foreign banks that have engaged in rampant misconduct, would get freed from enhanced supervision. There are even goodies for dominant financial services firms, such as Promontory and a division of Warren Buffett’s conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway. The bill goes so far as to punish buyers of mobile homes, among the most vulnerable people in the country, whose oft-stated economic anxiety drives so much of the discourse in American politics (just not when there might be something to do about it).

“Community banks are the human shields for the giant banks to get the deregulation they want,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who is waging a last-minute, uphill fight to stop the bill. “The Citigroup carve-out is one more example of how in Washington, money talks and Congress listens.”

The Community Bank Hustle

S.2155 is known in Washington as the Crapo bill, named for the chair of the Senate Banking Committee, Idaho Republican Mike Crapo. But it is at least equally authored by North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, with strong input from Jon Tester, D-Mont.; Joe Donnelly, D-Ind.; and Mark Warner, D-Va.

Warner, known lately for his role on the Senate Intelligence Committee, is a conventional ’90s-era moderate-to-conservative Democrat, a believer in businesses’ ability to self-regulate and a skeptic of onerous banking rules, as is Donnelly. But Heitkamp and Tester are cut from more populist cloth. Both played a quiet but potent role in 2013 in linking up with bank reformers Warren, Sherrod Brown, and Jeff Merkley to form a wall of Banking Committee Democrats who stopped cold Larry Summers’s bid to become chair of the Federal Reserve, instead backing Janet Yellen. Despite the partisan lean of their respective states, Heitkamp and Tester have often been reliable allies of progressives in the Senate.

Facing re-election in states that President Donald Trump won handily, the fundraising benefit of backing a bank reform bill needs little explanation. But that a populist Democrat feels they can sponsor such a bill and see political benefit — or at least not face much pain — represents a stark failure on the left to adequately frame and define the conversation around banking, Wall Street, inequality, and the economy. For years, big Wall Street banks have laundered themselves through down-home community banks, with bored Democrats and a bored public helpless to lift the mask.

With just days before the floor debate begins, the bill has the support of 13 Democrats, enough to break a filibuster.

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Written by LeisureGuy

3 March 2018 at 1:13 pm

Shocker: Democrats’ predictions about the GOP tax cut are coming trueP

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Paul Waldman writes in the Washington Post:

When Republicans put together their tax bill last year, it was not much of a surprise to see that its centerpiece was a gigantic corporate tax cut, lowering the statutory corporate rate from 35 percent down to 21 percent. This cut accounted for about $1 trillion of the bill’s total $1.5 trillion cost, but Republicans said it really wasn’t about helping corporations at all.

No, the real target was the workers: Corporations would take the money and use it to create new jobs and raise the wages of those working for them, as trickle-down economics did its magical work.

Democrats, on the other hand, said it was a scam. They charged that workers would see only a fraction of the benefits, and instead corporations would use most of their windfall for things like stock buybacks, which increase share prices and benefit the wealthy people who own the vast majority of stocks.

And of course, most of the news media treated this argument in the standard he said/she said manner: Republicans say this, Democrats say that, and the truth lies in some secret location we may never actually reach.

Well, it has been only two months since President Trump signed the bill into law, and we’re already learning what anyone with any sense knew at the time: Everything Democrats predicted is turning out to be right. Let’s look at this report in the New York Times, which describes how stock buybacks are reaching record levels:

Almost 100 American corporations have trumpeted such plans in the past month. American companies have announced more than $178 billion in planned buybacks — the largest amount unveiled in a single quarter, according to Birinyi Associates, a market research firm.

Such purchases reduce a company’s total number of outstanding shares, giving each remaining share a slightly bigger piece of the profit pie.

Cisco said this month that in response to the tax package, it would bring back to the United States $67 billion of overseas cash, using $25 billion to finance additional share repurchases. Alphabet, the parent company of Google, authorized up to $8.6 billion in stock purchases. PepsiCo announced a fresh $15 billion in planned buybacks. Chip gear maker Applied Materials disclosed plans for a $6 billion program to buy shares. Late last month, home improvement retailer Lowe’s unveiled plans for $5 billion in purchases.

While the Times does note that some businesses are raising salaries, the piece concludes that “much” of the savings from the tax cuts is going to these buybacks, with this big-picture effect:

Those so-called buybacks are good for shareholders, including the senior executives who tend to be big owners of their companies’ stock. A company purchasing its own shares is a time-tested way to bolster its stock price.

But the purchases can come at the expense of investments in things like hiring, research and development and building new plants — the sort of investments that directly help the overall economy. The buybacks are also most likely to worsen economic inequality because the benefits of stocks purchases flow disproportionately to the richest Americans.

This is exactly what Democrats warned would happen. How could Democrats have been so clairvoyant? Do they own a time machine?

Well, no. They applied logic, looked at data and understood history. Republicans, on the other hand, were spinning out a ludicrous fantasy with no basis whatsoever.

Among the things Democrats pointed out was that even before the tax cut, corporations were making near-record profits and sitting on mountains of cash; if they wanted to invest, create jobs and raise wages, they already had the means to do it. They also observed that even before the tax cut passed, corporations were saying publicly that they intended to use the money for stock buybacks.

But what about those bonuses that companies announced and that Trump kept touting? It’s true that some companies did give workers one-time bonuses. But it was essentially a PR move. Take Walmart, for instance. It made a splashy announcement that it would be giving bonuses of up to $1,000 to workers, which sounded great. But then it turned out that you’d only get that much if you’d been working there for 20 years, and the average worker would get around $190. Which is better than nothing, but it isn’t exactly going to transform your life.

And as ThinkProgress noted, the total value of Walmart’s bonuses was $400 million, which seems like a lot until you learn that over 10 years the value of the tax cut to the corporation will be $18 billion. In other words, about 2 percent of its tax cut is going to workers, at least in the short run. . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

1 March 2018 at 8:37 pm

Interesting comment on the Schiff memo: The smoking gun

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Mark Kleiman writes at The Reality-Based Community:

The consensus (except at Fox News and the White House) is that the Adam Schiff memo just released utterly destroys the Nunes Memo, which the Trumpites have been trumpeting for two weeks as proving that the FBI is corrupt. That’s certainly the way it reads to me: every single charge made by Nunes (based, please note, on documents he hadn’t seen) is clearly refuted. No, the Steele Dossier was not essential to obtaining the FISA warrant against Carter Page; the FBI was already on him. No, the source of that memo was not concealed from the FISA court; judges can read footnotes, and the DNC wasn’t specifically named because that would have been an unjustified bit of “unmasking” domestic players caught in intelligence dramas.  No, those warrants (the original and  three extensions) weren’t approved by some rogue Democratic judge, but by two GWB appointees, one GHWB appointee, and one Reagan appointee. And so on and so forth.

To my eyes, there’s a much bigger fact in the Schiff memo. It was already in the record, but I hadn’t noticed it before, and I can find only one published reference to it – from Joe Uchill at The Hill – and no published source draws what seems to me the two strong inferences: that the DNC/DCCC/Podesta hacks were carried out by or for Russian intelligence, and that the Trump campaign very likely knew that and helped cover it up.

The key background fact is that, whatever the Troll Farm was or wasn’t doing, and whether it was or wasn’t doing it in direct collusion with the Trump campaign, whoever stole three caches of Democratic emails – from the DNC, the DCCC, and John Podesta – and sent them off to WikiLeaks for posting made a decisive difference in the outcome of the election; Trump mentioned “WikiLeaks” 141 times in the last month of the campaign alone.

According to the new memo (matching facts already on the record) the FBI first became aware that Russians were messing with the election through the antics of George Papadopoulos, one of the Trump campaign’s initial team of five foreign-policy advisers. Papadopoulos (it has been reported elsewhere)  drunkenly boasted to an Australian diplomat in April of 2016 about his conversations with a skeezy London-based Maltese quasi-academic named Josef Mifsud, and the Australian passed the word along to the U.S. (That’s one reason the FBI didn’t need the Steel Dossier to get started looking into Russian election meddling; another was that the Bureau already had its eyes on Carter Page, another Trump foreign policy adviser, as a Russian asset.)

The Schiff memo points to the Statement of Offense filed by Mueller’s office when Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. He had told the Bureau that, at the time he first spoke with Mifsud (in March), he had no connection to the Trump campaign. But that turns out to be false.

Defendant PAPADOPOULOS claimed that his interactions with an
overseas professor, who defendant PAPADOPOULOS understood to have substantial connections to Russian government officials, occurred before defendant PAPADOPOULOS became a foreign policy adviser to the Campaign. … In truth and in fact, however, defendant PAPADOPOULOS learned he would be an advisor to the Campaign in early March, and met the professor on or about March 14, 2016; the professor only took interest in defendant PAPADOPOULOS because of his status with the Campaign.

But the real kicker is in that ellipsis: . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

25 February 2018 at 4:46 pm

Writing on the wall: Dem wins Kentucky state House seat in district Trump won by 49 points

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Brandon Carter and Reid Wilson report in The Hill about a landslide victory for a Democratic candidate in a deep-red district in Kentucky:

Kentucky Democrats on Tuesday reclaimed a rural district in the state House of Representatives that went heavily for President Trump in 2016.

Linda Belcher (D), a former state legislator who lost her seat in the Trump landslide in Kentucky, reclaimed the Bullitt County district by a more than two-to-one margin, defeating her GOP opponent Rebecca Johnson 68 percent to 32 percent.

The Democrat had lost her seat in 2016 by just 150 votes, or less than 1 percentage point, even as Trump carried the district with 72 percent of the vote there compared to Hillary Clinton‘s 23 percent. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) also won the district in 2016 with 64 percent of the vote. . .

Continue reading.

The incumbent committed suicide after allegations of sexual harassment, though he denied the allegations. There’s more in the story, including GOP dismissal of the victory as meaningful.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 February 2018 at 5:42 pm

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