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Archive for the ‘GOP’ Category

We should recognize that Scott Walker may simply be stupid: Wisconsin Is Going to Lose a Bundle on the Foxconn Deal

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Kevin Drum has an interesting chart and post. The chart:

The post begins:

It’s official: Wisconsin has approved a deal to bring a huge Foxconn facility to its state. The way this deal works is that Foxconn pays taxes to Wisconsin and Wisconsin provides Foxconn with refundable tax credits—that is, money that’s paid regardless of whether Foxconn has any tax liability. What this means is that it’s possible for Wisconsin to pay Foxconn more than Foxconn pays in taxes. In fact, it’s not only possible, it’s what they expect. Here’s what the deal looks like in cheese-colored chart form.

According to estimates from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the money Wisconsin pays to Foxconn will be higher than the combined taxes they get directly from Foxconn and from workers at the Foxconn facility. This annual deficit won’t become positive until 2033. The cumulative deficit won’t become positive until 2042. And this all assumes that Foxconn produces the 13,000 jobs it says it will. If it doesn’t, the deal will look even worse for Wisconsin.

Why enter a deal that’s certain to cost Wisconsin money in the short term and will only become profitable in the long term if Foxconn is still around in 25 years—a long time in the tech industry? . . .

Read the whole thing.

See also “Wisconsin Just Gave Foxconn $2.85 Billion — and Protection From Its Court System — to Build a TV Factory.” The first paragraph:

On Monday, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker signed a law that will transfer $2.85 billion from his state’s taxpayers to a Taiwanese tech company. The law also allows said company to forgo an assessment of how its plans will impact the state’s environment, and to flout laws meant to protect Wisconsin’s wetlands and waterways. Finally, the legislation stipulates that, should environmentalists, local businesses, or Wisconsin residents sue this company, for any reason, any trial-court rulings against it will be automatically suspended, until a higher court weighs in — should the higher court rule also against it, the company will be able to take its case to the state’s (conservative-dominated) Supreme Court in an expedited fashion. . .

Yes, Scott Walker is stupid. And/or he was paid handsomely on the side by Foxconn.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 September 2017 at 5:33 pm

Posted in Business, GOP, Government

The Cynicism Behind Graham-Cassidy Is Breathtaking

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Kevin Drum notes:

It’s hard to know how to react to the cynicism of the Graham-Cassidy health care bill. For starters, of course, it’s as bad as all the other Republican repeal bills. Tens of millions of the working poor will lose insurance. Pre-existing conditions aren’t protected. Medicaid funding is slashed. Subsidies are slashed.

But apparently that’s not enough. Republican senators (and President Trump, of course) obviously don’t care what’s in the bill. Hell, they’re all but gleeful in their ignorance. Nor is merely repealing Obamacare enough. Graham-Cassidy is very carefully formulated to punish blue states especially harshly. And if even that’s not enough, after 2020 it gives the president the power to arbitrarily punish them even more if he feels like it. I guess this makes it especially appealing to conservatives. Finally, by handing everything over to the states with virtually no guidance, it would create chaos in the health insurance market. The insurance industry, which was practically the only major player to stay neutral on previous bills (doctors, nurses, hospitals, and everyone else opposed them) has finally had enough. Even if it hurts them with Republicans, Graham-Cassidy is a bridge too far:

The two major trade groups for insurers, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and America’s Health Insurance Plans, announced their opposition on Wednesday to the Graham-Cassidy bill….“The bill contains provisions that would allow states to waive key consumer protections, as well as undermine safeguards for those with pre-existing medical conditions,’’ said Scott P. Serota, the president and chief executive of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

….America’s Health Insurance Plans was even more pointed. The legislation could hurt patients by “further destabilizing the individual market” and could potentially allow “government-controlled single payer health care to grow,” said Marilyn B. Tavenner, the president and chief executive of the association. Without controls, some states could simply eliminate private insurance, she warned.

Literally nobody in the health insurance industry likes this bill. The chaos and misery it would unleash are practically undebatable. It’s being passed for no reason except that Republicans have screwed up health care so epically that they have only a few days left to pass something, and Graham-Cassidy is something.

If there’s any silver lining at all to this mess, it comes from AHIP’s Marilyn Taverner:  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 September 2017 at 8:26 am

Kevin Drum has several excellent posts today

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Written by LeisureGuy

20 September 2017 at 4:41 pm

Trump White House Reportedly Nixed Study Showing Benefits of Refugees

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The GOP seems to detest facts and ignores them whenever possible. Benjamin Hart reports in New York magazine:

Ahead of an October 1 decision on how many refugees to admit into the United States next year, the New York Times reports that the Trump administration nixed a report showing that displaced people are beneficial to the U.S. economy. Commissioned by the White House in an effort to help justify its anti-immigration policy platform, the full document never made its way to President Trump, and officials believe it was suppressed before it got there.

The Times has the details of what the never-published report found:

The internal study, which was completed in late July but never publicly released, found that refugees “contributed an estimated $269.1 billion in revenues to all levels of government” between 2005 and 2014 through the payment of federal, state and local taxes. “Overall, this report estimated that the net fiscal impact of refugees was positive over the 10-year period, at $63 billion.”

But White House officials said those conclusions were illegitimate and politically motivated, and were disproved by the final report issued by the agency, which asserts that the per-capita cost of a refugee is higher than that of an American.

Rather than include the key data, the final draft limited its findings to how much money Department of Health and Human Services spends on an average refugee compared to a U.S. citizen. By that metric, it found that refugees seek government services more often, “reflecting a greater participation of refugees in H.H.S. programs, especially during their first four years.”

Stephen Miller, the Trump team’s preeminent immigration hawk, has been arguing that the U.S. should greatly reduce the number of refugees allowed into the country. The Trump administration already halved President Obama’s refugee quota from about 100,000 to about 50,000 people this year, but Miller wants to go much further in the future. (Even the numbers Obama approved were minuscule, on a per-capita basis, compared to Canada and many European countries.) Whatever quota the Trump administration arrives at will likely be the lowest in decades.

Miller, the 32-year-old former Jeff Sessions aide, has had a hand in most of the president’s big nativist moments. He authored the infamous “American carnage” inauguration speech and other addresses that have portrayed immigrants as “animals” who commit grisly crimes. And, not surprisingly, he appears to be one of the central voices that squashed the report in question; the Times reports that Miller “personally intervened in the discussions on the refugee cap to ensure that only the costs — not any fiscal benefit — of the program were considered, according to two people familiar with the talks.” Never mind that many other studies have also shown that refugees are a benefit, not a drain, to American society. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 September 2017 at 5:25 pm

For conservatives, loyalty to the party overrides everything else. Example: Evangelical Christians

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That’s from a NY Times column by Thomas Edsall via a post by Kevin Drum. Both are worth reading, but particularly the Edsall column, which really lays bare the authoritarian mindset.

As demonstrated repeatedly, conservatives are of an authoritarian mindset in which group loyalty and respect for authority are the preeminent virtues. Liberals, in contrast, don’t consider group loyalty that important and also are of the mindset “Question Authority.” See this study and this report for more on these findings.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 September 2017 at 11:51 am

Posted in GOP, Religion

RT, Sputnik and Russia’s New Theory of War

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Also read “Will America finally wise up to the Russian media war on our democracy?“, by Sarah Posner in the Washington Post.

Jim Rutenberg writes in the NY Times:

Martin Steltner showed up at his office in the state courthouse building in western Berlin. Steltner, who has served for more than a dozen years as the spokesman for the Berlin state prosecutor, resembles a detective out of classic crime fiction: crisp suit, wavy gray hair and a gallows humor that comes with having seen it all. There was the 2009 case of the therapist who mistakenly killed two patients in an Ecstasy-infused session gone wrong. The Great Poker Heist of 2010, in which masked men stormed a celebrity-studded poker tournament with machetes and made off with a quarter-million dollars. The 2012 episode involving the Canadian porn star who killed and ate his boyfriend and then sent the leftovers home in the mail. Steltner embraced the oddball aspect of his job; he kept a picture of Elvis Presley on the wall of his office.

But even Steltner found the phone calls he received that morning confounding. They came from police officers from towns far outside Berlin, who reported that protests were erupting, seemingly out of nowhere, on their streets. “They are demonstrating — ‘Save our children,’ ‘No attacks from immigrants on our children’ and some things like that,” Steltner told me when I met him in Berlin recently.

The police were calling Steltner because this was ostensibly his office’s fault. The protesters were angry over the Berlin prosecutor’s supposed refusal to indict three Arab migrants who, they said, raped a 13-year-old girl from Berlin’s tight-knit Russian-German community.

Steltner, who would certainly have been informed if such a case had come up for prosecution, had heard nothing of it. He called the Berlin Police Department, which informed him that a 13-year-old Russian-German girl had indeed gone missing a week before. When she resurfaced a day later, she told her parents that three “Southern-looking men” — by which she meant Arab migrants — had yanked her off the street and taken her to a rundown apartment, where they beat and raped her.

But when the police interviewed the girl, whose name was Lisa, she changed her story. She had left home, it turned out, because she had gotten in trouble at school. Afraid of how her parents would react, she went to stay with a 19-year-old male friend. The kidnapping and gang rape, she admitted, never happened.

By then, however, the girl’s initial story was taking on a life of its own within the Russian-German community through word of mouth and Facebook — enough so that the police felt compelled to put out a statement debunking it. Then, over the weekend, Channel One, a Russian state-controlled news station with a large following among Russian-Germans, who watch it on YouTube and its website, ran a report presenting Lisa’s story as an example of the unchecked dangers Middle Eastern refugees posed to German citizens. Angela Merkel, it strongly implied, was refusing to address these threats, even as she opened German borders to hundreds of thousands of migrants. “According to Lisa’s parents,” the Channel One reporter said, “the police simply refuse to look for criminals.”

The following day in Berlin, Germany’s far-right National Democratic Party held a protest at a plaza in Marzahn, a heavily Russian neighborhood. The featured speaker was an adult cousin of Lisa’s, who repeated the original allegations while standing in front of signs reading “Stop Foreign Infiltration!” and “Secure Borders!” The crowd was tiny, not much more than a dozen people. But it was big enough to attract the attention of RT, Russia’s state-financed international cable network, which presents local-language newscasts in numerous countries, including Germany and the United States. A crew from the network’s video service, Ruptly, arrived with a camera. The footage was on YouTube that afternoon.

That same day, Sputnik, a brash Russian-government-run news and commentary site that models itself on BuzzFeed, ran a story raising allegations of a police cover-up. Lisa’s case was not isolated, Sputnik argued; other refugee rapists, it warned, might be running free. By the start of the following week, protests were breaking out in neighborhoods with large Russian-German populations, which is why the local police were calling Steltner. In multiple interviews, including with RT and Sputnik, Steltner reiterated that the girl had recanted the original story about the kidnapping and the gang rape. In one interview with the German media, he said that in the course of the investigation, authorities had found evidence that the girl had sex with a 23-year-old man months earlier, which would later lead to a sexual-abuse conviction for the man, whose sentence was suspended. But the original, unrelated and debunked story continued circulating, drawing the interest of the German mainstream media, which pointed out inconsistencies in the Russian reports. None of that stopped the protests, which culminated in a demonstration the following Saturday, Jan. 23, by 700 people outside the Chancellery, Merkel’s office. Ruptly covered that, too.

An official in the Merkel government told me that the administration was completely perplexed, at first. Then, a few days later, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, held a news conference in Moscow. Bringing up Lisa’s story, he cast doubt on the official version of events. There was no way, he argued, that Lisa left home voluntarily. Germany, he suggested, was “covering up reality in a politically correct manner for the sake of domestic politics.” Two days later, RT ran a segment reporting that despite all the official denials, the case was “not so simple.” The Russian Embassy called Steltner and asked to meet, he told me. The German foreign ministry informed him that this was now a diplomatic issue.

The whole affair suddenly appeared a lot less mystifying. A realization took hold in the foreign ministry, the intelligence services and the Chancellery: Germany had been hit.

Officials in Germany and at NATO headquarters in Brussels view the Lisa case, as it is now known, as an early strike in a new information war Russia is waging against the West. In the months that followed, politicians perceived by the Russian government as hostile to its interests would find themselves caught up in media storms that, in their broad contours, resembled the one that gathered around Merkel. They often involved conspiracy theories and outright falsehoods — sometimes with a tenuous connection to fact, as in the Lisa case, sometimes with no connection at all — amplified until they broke through into domestic politics. In other cases, they simply helped promote nationalist, far-left or far-right views that put pressure on the political center. What the efforts had in common was their agents: a loose network of Russian-government-run or -financed media outlets and apparently coordinated social-media accounts.

After RT and Sputnik gave platforms to politicians behind the British vote to leave the European Union, like Nigel Farage, a committee of the British Parliament released a report warning that foreign governments may have tried to interfere with the referendum. Russia and China, the report argued, had an “understanding of mass psychology and of how to exploit individuals” and practiced a kind of cyberwarfare “reaching beyond the digital to influence public opinion.” When President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia visited the new French president, Emmanuel Macron, at the palace of Versailles in May, Macron spoke out about such influence campaigns at a news conference. Having prevailed weeks earlier in the election over Marine Le Pen — a far-right politician who had backed Putin’s annexation of Crimea and met with him in the Kremlin a month before the election — Macron complainedthat “Russia Today and Sputnik were agents of influence which on several occasions spread fake news about me personally and my campaign.” . . .

Continue reading.

I will point out that protecting us from such things is exactly the job of the government, and specifically the Executive Branch of the Federal government (now under President Donald Trump), and more specifically yet it’s the job of the FBI and the US military. Can they do their jobs? Apparently not, at least no so far, and of course the President is not going to push them to take on Russia—quite the contrary, as we have seen. So the Russians are getting an enormous payoff from their modest investment in tinkering with our election through propaganda. Of course, as the article observes, they’ve invested heavily in that area over several years and now are reaping the benefits of that experience and investment.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 September 2017 at 2:35 pm

Trump says his tax break will get companies to hire more workers. Companies say it won’t.

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So who would you trust? (Hint: check out the NY Times list of lies Trump has told since becoming president.) For those who read the news, Trump has negative credibility.

Heather Long reports in the Washington Post:

 

American companies such as Apple and Microsoft have huge cash reserves sitting overseas. President Trump keeps saying it’s as much as $5 trillion. But no one else seems to think it’s that high. Most on Wall Street say those overseas reserves total more like $2 trillion to $3 trillion. Whatever the exact figure is, it’s substantial.

Trump wants to bring that money back to the United States to spur jobs and growth, and he’s been aggressively pitching a plan to offer companies a large tax break if they bring all those dollars back to America soon. Under Trump’s proposal, companies would only have to pay a 10 percent tax on money they bring back — a process often called “repatriation” — rather than the usual 35 percent. (Trump offered that 10 percent figure during his campaign. More recent White House documents don’t specify an exact tax rate.)

“We must bring back trillions of dollars in wealth that’s parked overseas and just can’t come back,” Trump said last week in North Dakota during a speech intended to rally support for tax cuts. “We’re going to get it done.”

Trump says middle-class Americans should not fret about giant corporations getting a steep discount on their tax bills. Once that money is on U.S. soil, Trump argues, companies will use it to build new factories and research centers and create more American jobs.

But there are a lot of reasons to be highly skeptical of Trump’s repatriation plan. Chief among them is that U.S. companies have already told the world what they would do if they were granted a cheaper way to bring back trillions from overseas — and it wouldn’t be hiring workers or making more investments in America.

When Bank of America Merrill Lynch surveyed more than 300 top U.S. companies this summer about their plans for Trump’s “tax holiday” on overseas cash, 65 percent said they would bring the money back to the United States and use it to pay down debt. The next most popular plan was to spend the money on stock buybacks — when companies purchase their own stock, driving up the price.

“Companies want to get their money back to buy stock and goose the stock price because their senior executives derive so much of their compensation from the stock prices,” said Edward Kleinbard, a tax law professor at the University of Southern California and former chief of staff for Congress’s nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation. “Their motives are completely suspect.”

These actions would make rich executives and shareholders wealthier by boosting the company stock price. They would not deliver a boon to workers — or the economy as a whole — as Trump is promising.

The White House tried this once before, and the results were grim. Trump frequently bashes former president George W. Bush, but this tax holiday for foreign profits is straight out of the Bush playbook. In 2004, Congress and Bush dropped the tax rate on foreign earnings to 5.25 percent for a short window in 2004-05. It resulted in a great payday for CEOs and Wall Street shareholders but did almost nothing to help workers.

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 September 2017 at 10:17 am

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