Factory deal Trump touted puts the ‘con’ in ‘Foxconn’ — and how taxpayers will get taken

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE LOS ANGLES TIMES)

 

How a factory deal Trump touted puts the ‘con’ in ‘Foxconn’ — and how taxpayers will get taken

The entirety of President Trump’s job-creation strategy was visible July 26 during a White House ceremony to announce a deal bringing a $10-billion video-screen factory for the Taiwan electronics company Foxconn to southeastern Wisconsin.

The elements included a claim about the number of jobs that was unverifiable and not believable; a description of the cost and terms of the $3 billion in tax incentives dangled in front of Foxconn that concealed their astronomical cost for Wisconsin taxpayers; the presence of political sycophants (in this case, Vice President Mike Pence, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and House Speaker Paul Ryan, [R-Wis.]) to attest to Trump’s role in negotiating the deal; and grandiose assertions by Trump himself that it’s all about him: “If I didn’t get elected, he wouldn’t be spending $10 billion,” Trump said of Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou, also in attendance.

Left unexpressed were doubts that the factory would ever actually be built, and that even if so, it would employ the extraordinary workforce of 13,000 that was claimed. Reporters on hand might have delved into that issue, but no questions were permitted.

So let’s provide some of the context that was overlooked on that occasion. Experts who have examined the proposed deal, which must be approved by the Wisconsin Legislature, have concluded that it won’t begin to pay off for state taxpayers for more than two decades, if then — or ever.

A good portion of the jobs will go not to Wisconsin workers, but to residents of Illinois, meaning that Wisconsinites will pay, and their cross-border neighbors will profit. The deal would exempt the Foxconn plant from a host of environmental regulations, placing the local water supply and ecology at risk.

In other words, the announcement was all flash and precious little substance. But what substance is known is disturbing.

“This is a transfer of wealth from Wisconsin taxpayers to Foxconn shareholders,” says Greg LeRoy, the head of Good Jobs First, which tracks government economic incentives handed over to corporations. LeRoy observes that even if the plant reaches its projected complement of 13,000 workers, that means the deal would cost about $230,000 per job.

“The average worker at Foxconn is never going to pay $230,000 more in state and local taxes than the public services she and her family will consume during her work tenure there,” he says. “For the taxpayers, it’s a guaranteed loser.” If the size of the workforce falls short, he noted, the cost per job could be much higher.

Under Gov. Walker, who briefly ran for the Republican presidential nomination last year, Wisconsin has been something of a sinkhole in economic development schemes. After Walker privatized the state’s main job-development agency, it became ensnared in scandal after scandalwhile failing to make much of a mark on job growth. The defining job program of Walker’s administration was a $6-million grant in 2014 to Ashley Furniture, which was allowed to lay off half of its 3,800 Wisconsin workers as part of the deal. A few weeks after the grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. was approved, Ashley’s owners donated $20,000 to the reelection campaign of the development group’s chairman, Gov. Walker.

The Foxconn proposal boasts similar elements of a glittery political veneer concealing signs of rot from the inside out. One blow was landed in Madison on Aug. 8 by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, which analyzes bills with budget implications. Among other points, the bureau pointed out that Foxconn would receive at least $1.35 billion and possibly as much as $2.9 billion in tax incentive payments even if it didn’t owe any Wisconsin tax, that increased state tax revenue from job growth wouldn’t offset the incentive spending until at least 2042 — and then only if the full complement of 13,000 jobs was reached and all went to Wisconsin residents.

But the bureau acknowledged that anywhere from 10% to half of the jobs could go to nonresidents. That’s because the proposed factory site in the Racine-Kenosha area — Paul Ryan’s home district — is within easy commuting distance of Illinois. If there are fewer jobs, and fewer go to state residents, the bureau said, the break-even point could be years or decades later.

Whether the plant ever will host 13,000 workers is doubtful; the legislative analysis acknowledged that some estimates place the probable payroll as low as 3,000. Trump touted the plant as a “state-of-the-art manufacturing facility,” but state-of-the-art electronics factories are replacing human assembly workers with robots, a trend the efficiency-minded Foxconn is unlikely to abandon.

The most important aspect of Trump’s participation in the Foxconn announcement may be what is says about his job development policies. They don’t seem to be aimed at anything special except generating photo opportunities. Foxconn itself is getting a reputation for making lavish promises and letting them lapse, as appears to have been the case with a project the company touted for Harrisburg, Pa., in 2013. That deal was for a $30-million plant employing 500 workers. But the plant hasn’t materialized.

Ever optimistic, Pennsylvania officials participated in a seven-state beauty contest Foxconn staged this year, playing Pennsylvania and Wisconsin off against Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Texas in its quest for the most lavish state and local incentives. This race to the bottom has the effect of all but eliminating any genuine economic gains the ostensible winner can claim from landing the plant.

Yet Trump explicitly endorsed such interstate shakedowns in December, when he bragged about keeping a Carrier air conditioning plant in Indiana. Employers “can leave from state to state and they can negotiate good deals with the different states and all of that,” Trump said then. “But leaving the country is going to be very, very difficult.”

Even Trump’s victory in the Carrier episode was predictably ephemeral. Even though the company supposedly pledged to retain more than 1,000 jobs rather than move them to Mexico, in June it emerged that Carrier will lay off more than 600 of its workers by the end of this year.

In Wisconsin, Foxconn is insisting that the state Legislature enact the package of proposed incentives by the end of September, or no deal. That means that for all the preening at the White House last month, the deal may end up like others sponsored by Trump and offered by Foxconn: real hype and false hopes.

Senate returns more pessimistic than ever on healthcare

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HILL NEWSPAPER)

Senate returns more pessimistic than ever on healthcare

Senators went into a recess skeptical over whether they could agree to legislation repealing and replacing ObamaCare.

They will return on Monday more doubtful than ever.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), one of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) most loyal allies, said Thursday that it’s “unlikely” the GOP will get a healthcare deal.

“I don’t see a comprehensive healthcare plan this year,” he told a local news station.

Senate Republicans hoped to have a draft bill this week, but it now looks like there will at best be an outline.

A Senate Republican aide said it’s too early to begin drafting legislation that can come to the floor in the next few weeks.“Parameters are more likely,” said the aide, who explained that McConnell wants to keep the details held closely so the legislation doesn’t get picked apart before lawmakers have a chance to consider it carefully.

“The last thing we want to do is litigate this in the press,” the aide said. “We want to discuss parameters and concepts without releasing a draft.”

“Maybe they can start talking to members about a specific product next week, but I would not be surprised if we don’t,” said another Senate GOP aide.

More unhelpful news came in the form of a Kaiser Family Foundation poll underscoring how unpopular the bill approved by the House is.

It found that three-quarters of Americans surveyed think the House bill does not fulfill President Trump’s promises on healthcare.

A full 82 percent said federal funding for ObamaCare’s expansion of Medicaid should be continued, an issue that deeply divides the Senate GOP. The House bill ends the ObamaCare funds in 2020.

Yet another factor for Republicans is Trump’s approval rating, which has fallen to its lowest point with Republicans since he took office in the latest Reuters/Ipsos tracking poll.

Republicans already had sought to lower expectations.

McConnell conceded last week that, “I don’t know how we get to 50 [votes] at the moment.”

He sounded more optimistic about passing major tax reform legislation, rating its chances as “pretty good.”

Republicans control 52 seats and can afford only two defections from their ranks. Vice President Pence could cast the deciding vote in case of a 50-50 tie.

The Senate GOP hasn’t given up hope on healthcare and faces tremendous pressure from the White House and House Republicans to hold a vote.

Republicans for years have promised to repeal ObamaCare, so failure would be a major blow. They also face pressure to finish their work on healthcare because of the tax reform push.

The GOP is using special budgetary rules to prevent Democrats from filibustering legislation on tax reform and healthcare.

Republicans can’t move to tax reform until the healthcare debate is finished because once they pass a new budget resolution that would allow them to move tax legislation with 51 votes, they will lose the vehicle set up to enable a healthcare bill that would circumvent a Democratic filibuster.

Those on a special 13-member working group have heard very little about the drafting efforts that were supposed to take place over the recess.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) was to provide the framework in consultation with GOP leaders and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

A major sticking point in the Senate is Medicaid. The House bill would cut nearly $900 billion from the program and cap the federal contribution for expanded enrollment in that program by 2020.

Several Republican governors from Medicaid expansion states, led by Govs. John Kasich (Ohio) and Rick Snyder (Mich.), earlier this year came out against the House bill, warning that it failed to provide adequate resources.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said he wants a more gradual “glide path” for capping the expansion, an idea not popular with conservatives.

Twenty Republican senators, including Portman, represent states that opted to expand Medicaid, and many of them worry that cutting federal funding will cause significant budget problems at home.

But another group of GOP governors, primarily from states that opted out of the Medicaid expansion, want to end federal support for the expansion.

Senators are divided as well over proposals to limit federal assistance for health insurance subsidies, which would hit older, low-income Americans disproportionately.

McConnell hasn’t set a deadline for passing the ObamaCare repeal-and-replace bill, but he has indicated concern about the debate dragging on for months, which could imperil tax reform.

“We can’t take forever,” he told Bloomberg TV last month.

By raising doubts about the possibility of getting a deal that musters 51 votes, the GOP leader is putting pressure on his colleagues to either come together or move on before the August recess.

McConnell has told colleagues that the 13-member working group will put together a bill and that he will bring it to the floor for a vote, but he has stopped short of promising that it will pass — in contrast to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who earlier this year guaranteed that the House bill would pass.

If the Senate bill fails on the floor, McConnell is likely to declare the GOP conference has worked its will and move on.

Even as the House voted to narrowly pass the House’s American Health Care Act last month, there was already strong pessimism among Senate Republicans about the chances of putting together a comprehensive package in the upper chamber.

A senior GOP senator at the time said the chances of getting 51 votes for legislation based on the House healthcare bill were less than 1 in 5.

When House Republicans debated healthcare reform earlier this year, some of their Senate colleagues said privately that they thought it might be better if the legislation died in the lower chamber.

Trump’s Budget Scam

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF POLITICO MAGAZINE)

I have a plan to dunk a basketball. First, I’ll grow a foot taller. Next, I’ll recapture the athleticism of my youth, so I can jump a lot higher. I didn’t say I had a serious plan—just a plan.

Today, the Trump administration released a plan to balance the federal budget over the next decade, and it’s no more plausible than my plan to become LeBron James. It does reveal the administration’s fiscal priorities, like deep cuts in spending on the less fortunate and the environment, no cuts to Medicare or Social Security retirement benefits, steady increases in spending on the military and the border, and an abiding faith in the restorative miracles of tax cuts for corporations and well-off families. But its claim to a balanced bottom line is based on a variety of heroic assumptions and hide-the-ball evasions, obscuring trillions of dollars’ worth of debt that it could pile onto America’s credit card.

Budget proposals always involve some guesswork into the unknowable, and administrations routinely massage numbers to their political advantage. But this proposal is unusually brazen in its defiance of basic math, and in its accounting discrepancies amounting to trillions-with-a-t rather than mere millions or billions. One maneuver in President Donald Trump’s budget arguably waves away an estimated $5.5 trillion in additions to the national debt from tax cuts, nearly $20,000 for every American alive today, enough to fund the Environmental Protection Agency at current spending levels for nearly 700 years. Trump critics in the budget-wonk world are pointing to another $2 trillion of red ink as a blatant math error—or, less charitably, as an Enron-style accounting fraud.

Numbers that huge tend to melt into abstraction. And the media will help downplay them by declaring the Trump budget dead on arrival in Congress, as if the fact that it won’t be rubber-stamped into law means that nothing in it matters. But a presidential budget is a detailed blueprint for governing—and in this case, the blueprint has a fair amount in common with blueprints offered by the Republicans who still control Congress. It matters for policy and it matters for politics.

It also matters that Trump’s numbers don’t add up. Whether or not you agree with the Tea Party philosophy behind the numbers, Trump and his hard-driving budget director, Mick Mulvaney, deserve credit for backing up their limited-government rhetoric by proposing $3.6 trillion in spending cuts, including politically courageous cuts in farm subsidies, rural development programs and other benefits geared toward Trump’s base. But they do not deserve credit for their aspirations to balance the budget, any more than I deserve credit for my aspirations to dunk. Budgets hinge on assumptions about taxes, spending and economic growth, and the Trump budget plays fast and loose with all three to try to achieve the illusion of balance, relying heavily on spectacular growth assumptions as well as vague and unrealistic promises to eliminate tax breaks and additional spending programs that go conveniently unnamed in the text. It proclaims that “we have borrowed from our children and their future for far too long,” but it is a blueprint for far more borrowing and far more debt.

Ultimately, the Trump budget reads like a corporate prospectus for a shady widget manufacturer who claims that cutting widget prices will spark a massive surge in widget sales, while also promising major cutbacks in ineffective widget salesmen and unnecessary widget costs. It doesn’t pencil out. And it’s worth understanding the main reasons it doesn’t pencil out, because soon Republicans in Congress will get to use their own pencils.

***

The Growth Spurt: Economic growth is as vital to balancing budgets as physical growth is to dunking basketballs. A booming economy means more tax revenue flowing into Washington, because workers have more income and corporations have more profits; and less federal spending flowing out of Washington, because fewer unemployed workers and poor families need the government safety net. “Economic growth,” Mulvaney recently said, “solves all our problems.”

So the Trump budget simply stipulates terrific economic growth. Specifically, it assumes the U.S. economy will expand an average of 3 percent per year over the next decade, more than 1 percentage point higher than the Congressional Budget Office assumes. And it uses that assumption to chop about $3 trillion off the 10-year deficit. “Everything is keyed to getting us back to 3 percent,” Mulvaney said Monday.

Terrific economic growth would be a terrific thing, and we should all hope for a recession-free decade of nonstop boom. But in the budgeting world, diverging that dramatically from the official forecasts is essentially cheating. President Barack Obama’s growth forecasts sometimes slightly overshot the CBO’s, but Trump’s gap with the CBO is nearly three times as large as Obama ever had in eight years. The U.S. economy hasn’t grown at a 3 percent rate for two consecutive years since 2000, which, not coincidentally, was when President Bill Clinton’s last budget balanced.

Trump aides say it makes sense to assume 3 percent growth, since it’s at the heart of the president’s promises to make America great again. Mulvaney calls it the guiding principle of Trumponomics, a rejection of the pessimistic notion that 2 percent is as good as it gets; he suggested yesterday that he probably should have assumed a more aggressive baseline of 3.5 percent or 4 percent growth, because 3 percent should merely be seen as normal. “Honestly, we have aspirations to do better,” one senior OMB official told me.

But 3 percent isn’t just something that will happen automatically, especially at a time when the population is aging, immigration is slowing and productivity is lagging. The Trump budget does not go into great detail justifying its growth assumptions, other than to suggest that rolling back onerous regulations and promoting domestic energy development will help the good times roll. It also suggests that one of the keys to the Trump boom will be tax reform, which happens to be the next area where its math gets fuzzy.

The Tax Dodge: So far, Trump has unveiled only a one-page summary of his tax reform principles, not tax reform legislation. Nevertheless, his budget “assumes deficit-neutral tax reform,” which is a bit like the old joke about the economist on a desert island who assumes a can opener. Trump’s tax reform principles, which he repeats on Page 13 of his budget, do not look deficit-neutral at all. Groups like the Tax Foundation, the Tax Policy Center and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget have estimated that they would add between $4 trillion and $6 trillion to the debt.

That’s because Trump’s principles look like they’re more about tax cuts than real tax reform. His budget proposes lower individual tax rates, lower corporate tax rates, lower investment tax rates, an end to the alternative minimum tax, an end to the estate tax and other tax relief. Its only proposal to offset the cost of those tax cuts is a vague pledge to “eliminate most special interest tax breaks,” but it specifies that tax breaks for mortgage interest, charitable gifts and retirement savings wouldn’t be included, while failing to specify the tax breaks that would be included.

The implication is that the tax cuts would stimulate so much additional economic growth that they would pay for themselves, a supply-side economic theory that has not worked out in practice. President George W. Bush’s tax cuts helped turn Clinton’s surpluses into gaping deficits; the state of Kansas recently had a similar experience of sizable tax cuts creating sizable budget shortfalls. Even the conservative Tax Foundation calculated that the growth effects from Trump’s proposed tax cuts would recoup less than one-third of the lost revenues.

The senior OMB official told me those nonpartisan analysts are all jumping the gun, because the administration really does intend to propose tax increases large enough to offset the tax cuts it has already proposed. It just hasn’t decided which loopholes and deductions it wants to close, so it didn’t mention them in its budget. “What the budget is saying is that tax reform will be paid for,” the official said. “There’s a large conversation to be had about how we’re going to do it.”

But the Trump budget doesn’t just assume that tax reform will pay for itself; it also predicts that the economic growth produced by tax reform will help pay for the rest of his budget, an additional $2.1 trillion windfall.

Budget wonks have seized on this as a classic case of double-counting, presuming that the administration was already relying on that growth to make tax reform deficit-neutral in the first place. That would be like proposing to deposit a $20 bill that you’re not even sure is yours in two separate bank accounts, except with 11 extra zeroes at the end of the bill. Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers called it “the most egregious accounting error in a presidential budget in the nearly 40 years I have been tracking them.”

Mulvaney ducked the issue Monday, suggesting that the administration doesn’t yet have enough details in its tax plans to provide more accurate accounting. But the other senior OMB official told me the double-counting accusations are wrong, because the budget assumes tax reform will be deficit-neutral without taking growth into account.

In that case, though, a Republican administration is counting on unspecified tax increases to convert a plan that independent analysts believe will cost about $5.5 trillion in its current form into a plan that will cost nothing at all, and would somehow end up producing $2 trillion worth of deficit reduction through growth. It’s conceivable, but it would be more plausible if the budget had disclosed even one of those potential tax increases. It would back up Mulvaney’s rhetoric about “how important it was and is to this president to try and bring some fiscal discipline.”

The Two-Penny Opera: The Trump budget isn’t really about fiscal discipline, but it does have real elements of spending discipline. It includes more than $600 billion worth of Medicaid cuts on top of the more than $800 billion of cuts in the Republican health care bill that just passed the House. It would eliminate rural housing loans, home heating aid for the poor, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and dozens of other line items. It would slash funding for climate science, foreign aid, medical research, Social Security disability and food stamps. It would boost spending for the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Veterans Affairs for 2018, but it would cut the budget of every other Cabinet department.

Congress probably won’t embrace most of those cuts, but they’re specific proposals for cuts that would move the federal budget toward balance. That said, the largest chunk of Trump’s proposed spending reductions come from a non-specific and even less realistic “two-penny plan,” which would reduce nondefense discretionary spending by an additional 2 percent every year. That’s hard to fathom, because nondefense discretionary spending—which includes the FBI, the EPA, NASA and almost every other federal dollar that doesn’t go to the Pentagon or entitlements—is already at its lowest level as a share of the economy since the Eisenhower years. Trump is proposing to cut it by about one-third over a decade, a total of $182 billion by 2027, while continuing to boost the parts of it (like border security) that he likes. He wants to start in 2018 by eliminating agencies like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as programs like 21st Century Community Learning Centers, but he wouldn’t be able to re-eliminate them in the out years; he’d have to find new targets for cuts.

The OMB official told me that his agency has already begun a review of the entire federal bureaucracy with an eye to eliminating inefficiencies, and that it expects to have a streamlining strategy in place by next year to follow through with the two-penny plan. But even many Republicans who hold the purse strings in Congress are unenthusiastic about slicing billions of dollars out of the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control or the State Department.

“Give me a break,” one congressional Republican appropriator told me. “A lot of the discretionary spending is already squeezed. You can’t get blood from a stone.”

***

It is tempting to dismiss the Trump budget because so much of it seems unlikely to become law, but it’s still a revealing window into the administration’s priorities. And just because a budget is declared “dead on arrival” does not mean it won’t influence the budget that eventually emerges on Capitol Hill; Trump’s budget may envision larger cuts than Republican leaders want, but it reflects many of the priorities that House Speaker Paul Ryan has included in his budgets in the past. It ought to be taken seriously if not quite literally, to borrow the cliché about Trump.

It just shouldn’t be taken as evidence of fiscal rectitude or a deep aversion to debt, which isn’t really what Trump is about. It looks more like a plan to cut taxes for the rich and spending on the poor, while covering up the effect on the debt by flagrantly violating Washington norms. And that’s exactly what Trump is about.

President Trump Lied About Wire Taps: He Needs To Quickly And Publicly Apologize To Mr. Obama

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Washington (CNN) House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday that “no such wiretap existed,” citing intelligence reports to House leaders after President Donald Trump accused then-President Barack Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower last year.

“The intelligence committees, in their continuing, widening, ongoing investigations of all things Russia, got to the bottom — at least so far with respect to our intelligence community — that no such wiretap existed,” Ryan said in response to a question from CNN at a news conference.
Ryan’s comment comes as Trump and the White House have retreated from the President’s stunning accusation in a tweet two weeks ago.
“When I say wiretapping, those words were in quotes. That really covers — because wiretapping is pretty old-fashioned stuff — but that really covers surveillance and many other things. And nobody ever talks about the fact that it was in quotes, but that’s a very important thing,” Trump told Fox News Wednesday.
The four lawmakers leading the House and Senate intelligence committees looking into Russia’s interference in the US elections have all said they have not seen any evidence to back up Trump’s claims. The House Intelligence Committee has requested any evidence of a wiretap from the Justice Department by Monday.

Congress And Ethics: In The Same Sentence? Really?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF POLITICO NEWS)

Inside the House GOP ethics debacle

A surprise move by a group of House Republicans to gut an independent ethics office caught leaders flat footed — and sparked a national backlash.

lede_170103_paul_ryan_louie_gohmert_msm_1160.jpg
Speaker Paul Ryan and Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert speak as Ryan enters the House floor. | M. Scott Mahaskey/POLITICO

Just hours after Republicans voted to gut the House’s independent ethics office, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s phone started lighting up with calls and texts.

The California Republican had tried to warn his colleagues about the political risks of defanging the Office of Congressional Ethics during a closed-door, secret ballot roll call Monday night. And after that vote, a number of lawmakers who agreed with McCarthy raised serious concerns about approving the controversial pitch in a public vote the next day.

By early Tuesday morning, McCarthy, Speaker Paul Ryan and the rest of GOP leadership realized the proposal was about to tank the entire House rules package — and implode the first day of the GOP-led Congress. They convened an emergency closed-door conference meeting around noon to discuss removing the ethics provision — but it was too late. Donald Trump had tweeted his disapproval, and the public outcry had risen to such a crescendo that all anyone wanted to talk about was an obscure House office few people had ever heard of just 24 hours before.

“We shot ourselves in the foot,” said Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), who added that the ethics snafu was an unforced error. “Sometimes people have to learn the hard way.”

House Republican’s push to neuter the OCE on the first day of a new Congress turned into a major public relations fiasco after the press, the public and president-elect himself came out against the move Tuesday. Trump, after all, ran on a platform of “draining the swamp” of an all-too-cozy Washington — a pitch that didn’t mesh well with the proposal to rein in oversight of lawmakers’ ethical issues.

So the opening of the 115th Congress, which was supposed to center on Obamacare repeal and GOP unity, ended up being being overwhelmed by another issue. That Ryan was re-elected speaker on the same day with only one Republican defection — a positive sign for a GOP leader who’s faced restive conservatives in the past — became a mere afterthought, for example.

Republican leaders vowed to revisit the issue over the summer, although Tuesday’s problems could provide a lesson. Given that they control all of the levers of power in D.C., Democratic resistance won’t provide the political cover it used to over the last eight years. Washington belongs to Republicans — the good, the bad, and the ugly.

“I think a move in that direction would be bad policy and bad politics,” said Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), who blasted the refoms. “It’s probably not the way you want to start out [the new Congress].”

A number of Hill Republicans have been seeking to curb the powers of the ethics watchdog for years. Privately, they say the office is too aggressive, pursues baseless anonymous tips and has become an unfair burden, both financially and politically, on lawmakers. Each time members approached ex-Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) about the matter, he deferred, saying this is something that should be done a bipartisan basis. But bipartisan reforms never materialized.

So Goodlatte, backed by a group of lawmakers who felt they had been wrongly accused by the OCE, devised a plan to rein in the office. They worked in secret for weeks, making sure word didn’t leak out to Democrats or the media. Then, just before House Republicans met to approve their rules package for the new Congress, they unveiled their amendment to scale back the powers of the OCE and put it under the House Ethics Committee’s jurisdiction.

The gambit caught leadership flatfooted, and Goodlatte’s side triumphed in the closed-door GOP meeting, but problems quickly developed. Democrats blasted Republicans for jamming through something so sensitive as their first act of the new Congress. Congress had created the office in the wake of Jack Abramoff scandal, which included the GOP lobbyist’s admission that he tried to bribe lawmakers. At the time, lawmakers hoped to stop anything like that from ever happening again.

Following a barrage of negative stories on Monday night, lawmakers were bombarded by a wave of phone calls to their offices criticizing the move. Republican leadership tried to change the narrative the following morning, although they never embraced Goodlatte’s proposal. Ryan put out a statement saying OCE was still independent despite the rules revisions, and McCarthy tried to argue the same during a press conference with reporters.

But that around the same time, Trump called out the proposal on Twitter.

“With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it,” Trump said in one tweet, adding, “……..may be, their number one act and priority. Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance! #DTS.”

Those tweets, on top of the thousands of phone calls and the wave of negative press, sources said, were the nail in the coffin. Republicans who had supported the idea the night before started to second-guess themselves.

“I don’t think there was any problem with the merit of the policy that needed to be changed. I just think it was how it was done,” said longtime Trump supporter Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) “The perception is not good.”

Barletta said Trump’s tweets at Congress are going to send “some shockwaves through Congress”— and they should probably get used to it.

“It’s going to send shivers down the spines of some members,” he added.

Democrats, meanwhile, decided in a closed-door meeting that they would protest the OCE change when the rules package came to the House floor Tuesday. They were readying a plan to pull out their cell phones and start livestreaming a demonstration on the House floor — something that irked House Republicans during the June “sit in” on gun control. (Republicans also included a provision in the rules package to fine members for violating the prohibitions on photos on livestreaming specifically. )

Just after 11 a.m., GOP leadership met in the speaker’s office. By then, everyone was on the same page: It was time to strike the ethics change. Leaders convened an emergency conference, just hours before members were sworn in, to try to convince their colleagues to take out the OCE language.

McCarthy told Republicans they did not run for Congress to fight over an obscure office but to repeal Obamacare and do tax reform — and it was time to scuttle the rules change. He gave them an option: vote now to strike the Goodlatte amendment, or he would offer an amendment to do so on the floor himself, taking the fight into the public sphere.

He met some resistance. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), who’s been under criminal and ethical investigation for years, was irate that leadership wanted the conference to back off. Young, as well as Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) and Raul Labrador (R-Utah) tried to get leadership to commit to reforming the office by a specific future date. GOP leadership would not.

Other Republicans said Trump should not have gotten involved in the matter to begin with. Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) stood up to say Trump should not be meddling in internal House matters, according to several sources in the room. Shuster’s spokeswoman Casey Contres denied that he used those words, but acknowledged that he “did express, however, the importance of separation of powers and Congress establishing these rules — not the executive branch.”

In the end, even Goodlatte backed leadership’s propose to strike his provision, blaming the press and his adversaries for “gross misrepresentation” of his proposal.

The day left some members shaking their heads. Many, including Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.), left the chamber Tuesday night crossing their fingers that the drama of the first day would not foreshadow the next two years to come.

“I think that there is going to be a lot of tough votes we will have to take and this wasn’t one of the toughest ones, so, I think we should learn from this,” he said. “Once you launch that ship, you’ve got to keep going… We need to go forth with more sense of purpose and direction.”

Heather Caygle contributed to this report.

Trump, Republicans: Warning Shot Across The Bow: House GOP guts ethics panel

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN NEWS)

House GOP guts ethics panel

  • The amendment was proposed by Republican Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte
  • This move would weaken ethics oversight in Congress

Washington (CNN)House Republicans voted Monday night to gut Congress’ independent watchdog on the eve of a new era.

Republican members voted 119-74 — breaking with party leaders — during a closed-door meeting in favor of Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s proposal, which would place the independent Office of Congressional Ethics under the control of those very lawmakers, a move that outraged Democrats and outside ethics organizations.
The change in rules carries the appearance of House members taking power away from the office that can investigate them for misconduct, at a time when Republicans are about to have control of two branches of government with a mandate for shaking up Washington.
The proposal would bar the panel from reviewing any violation of criminal law by members of Congress, requiring that it turn over complaints instead to the House Ethics Committee or refer the matter to an appropriate federal law enforcement agency. The House Ethics Committee would also have the power to stop an investigation at any point and bars the ethics office from making any public statements about any matters or hiring any communications staff.
And the ethics office would no longer be able to accept or investigate any anonymous reports of alleged wrongdoing by members of Congress.
The full House of Representatives will now vote on it as part of a larger rules package up for consideration Tuesday.
Currently the ethics panel operates as an independent, non-partisan entity that has the power to investigate misconduct against lawmakers, officers and staff of the United States House of Representatives. Originally created by Congress under Nancy Pelosi’s speakership in the wake of multiple lobbying scandals, it continued to act as an independent body under then-House Speaker John Boehner.
House Speaker Paul Ryan and other top GOP leaders opposed the change to ethics rules, but rank-and-file members disregarded their views and voted to approve the new structure for ethics reviews going forward, according to a senior House GOP leadership source familiar with the closed-door discussion.
Members of both parties complain that panel often takes up matters based on partisan accusations from outside groups with political motivations, and once they launch a probe members have to mount expensive defense campaigns.
Pelosi slammed the move.
“Republicans claim they want to ‘drain the swamp,’ but the night before the new Congress gets sworn in, the House GOP has eliminated the only independent ethics oversight of their actions. Evidently, ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress,” she said in a statement Monday following the vote.
Pelosi added: “The amendment Republicans approved tonight would functionally destroy this office.”
Goodlatte defended his proposal in the wake of the outrage Monday evening, telling CNN that the move “will make sure that work is properly done,” but “will also make sure that people who are wrongly charged have an opportunity to protect themselves.”
“There should be no entity in the entire federal government that doesn’t have review by some committee of the Congress so that’s all it sets up is oversight,” he said. “It still has its designated statutory responsibilities. It has some new rules that it has to follow but it still is empowered to take complaints from individuals as it was intended to do and investigate those complaints but every agency of the government whether it’s executive, legislative or judicial should have a committee that reviews it’s work.”
GOP Rep. Hal Rogers, the Appropriations Committee chairman, told reporters he backed the proposal because “it’s the right thing to do.”
Rogers said there were “numerous examples” of members “who were falsely accused by this group who had to spend a fortune to get their good name restored so I think there’s been an abuse.”
Texas Congressman Bill Flores also backed the change, saying the panel is “out of control‎, we don’t even get constitutional rights, constitutional protections. They don’t tell us who accuses us and they leak the data — they are out of control.”
Outside ethics group point to the ethics panel as the only real entity policing members and argue its independent status and bipartisan board are an appropriate way to oversee investigations.
“Gutting the independent ethics office is exactly the wrong way to start a new Congress,” said Chris Carson, spokesperson for League of Women Voters, in a statement. “This opens the door for special interest corruption just as the new Congress considers taxes and major infrastructure spending.”
Norman Eisen and Richard Painter, of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonprofit watchdog group, said the ethics office “has played a critical role in seeing that the congressional ethics process is no longer viewed as merely a means to sweep problems under the rug.”
“If the 115th Congress begins with rules amendments undermining (the ethics office), it is setting itself up to be dogged by scandals and ethics issues for years and is returning the House to dark days when ethics violations were rampant and far too often tolerated,” they said in a Monday night statement.
Eisen served as the top ethics lawyer for President Barack Obama and Painter held the same job under President George W. Bush.
CNN’s Tal Kopan contributed to this report.

Republican women are done with Trump: How Can Any Woman (Or Man) Not Be?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF POLITICO NEWS!) (How can anyone stomach this pampas ass any further?)

Republican women are done with Trump

Tape of the GOP nominee boasting about sexual assault has officials deserting him in droves.

161008-Carly-Fiorina-GettyImages-539261386.jpg
Donald Trump does not represent me or my party,” Carly Fiorina said. | Getty

Republican women are abandoning Donald Trump in a historic repudiation of their party’s nominee, a devastating development for the GOP candidate’s chances one month before Election Day.

Trump’s lewd, sexually aggressive comments about women, revealed in a 2005 audio recording that became public Friday, have prompted large-scale defections, from female Republican senators to conservative activists in the swing states. That dynamic further jeopardizes his chances with women voters, including white, married voters who typically back Republicans. After nearly two years of listening to Trump denigrate women — including Fox News host Megyn Kelly, Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, Heidi Cruz and former Miss Universe Alicia Machado — Republican women have had enough.

A mass desertion by white, married women would effectively torpedo Trump’s chances of defeating Hillary Clinton. That demographic has been a core part of every Republican nominee’s constituency this century — Mitt Romney and John McCain won 53 percent of married women, and still lost the election — meaning that Trump, who struggles far more with party unity than previous nominees have, has even less room for error. But he is already losing badly with women overall, and Friday’s bombshell threatens to set him back further with women of all marital statuses.

High-profile Republican women over the weekend made clear that they have zero interest in helping Trump regain his footing, instead offering cover to other lawmakers looking to abandon Trump.

“I wanted to be able to support my party’s nominee, chosen by the people, because I feel strongly that we need a change in direction for our country,” said New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who is in a competitive re-election fight in a key swing state. “However, I’m a mom and an American first, and I cannot and will not support a candidate for president who brags about degrading and assaulting women.”

Ayotte will be writing in Trump running mate Mike Pence, she said. New Hampshire GOP Chair Jennifer Horn backed her up, saying in a statement, “there will be no repercussions from the party directed at those who choose not to support Donald Trump.”

One particularly notable defection: Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), who is perhaps Trump’s most prominent female defender in the Senate.

“The comments made by Mr. Trump were disgusting and totally unacceptable under any circumstance,” she tweeted. “It would be wise for him to step aside and allow Mike Pence to serve as our party’s nominee.”

Fiorina, once a target of Trump’s trash talk — “look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?” he mocked during the primary — released a statement Saturday asking the Republican National Committee to replace Trump with Pence.

Donald Trump does not represent me or my party,” she said. “I understand the responsibility of Republicans to support their nominee. Our nominee has weighty responsibilities as well. Donald Trump has manifestly failed in these responsibilities.”

In perhaps the most explosive moment to date in a campaign that has already been littered with shocking developments, an audio recording of a hot mic moment from 2005, first reported by the Washington Post, captures Trump bragging about groping women, without their consent.

“I don’t even wait,” he said. “And when you’re a star they let you do it…Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

In a sign of how toxic Republicans expect this remark to be in swing states, Rep. Barbara Comstock, who faces a competitive race in her moderate northern Virginia district, was among the first lawmakers to urge Trump to exit the race. But it’s not just Republican women from moderate states: Rep. Martha Roby, from deep-red Alabama, also called on Trump to get out of the race in a statement Saturday morning.

“Donald Trump’s behavior makes him unacceptable as a candidate for president, and I won’t vote for him,” she tweeted.

And West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, whose state is a Trump stronghold, said, “the appropriate next step may be for him to reexamine his candidacy.” Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah) was one of several members of the Utah delegation to call on Trump to exit the race. Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) did the same.

Such high-profile Republican rebukes come as early and absentee voting has already gotten underway in some key states, making it all the more difficult for Trump to regain his footing.

“Yesterday made me even more sick,” said Heidi Wixom, a Republican activist in Nevada. “It was kind of like, ‘Oh great, we’ve got Bill Clinton all over again,’ except Bill Clinton had class, intelligence about working with policy, so we could overlook a lot of things. But with Trump, how do you overlook this when he’s already a buffoon to start with? He doesn’t have any redeeming qualities for me, he doesn’t.”

But for all of her concerns about Trump, before Friday’s development, she had been slowly starting to consider whether she could hold her nose and vote for him. No more.

“I was starting to say, OK, I’m looking more at party policy, looking at vice presidential candidates, looking at the realities of the Supreme Court nominees,” said Wixom, who is involved in the Mormon community, which has emerged as an anti-Trump bastion. “I was just starting to say, ‘OK, I think I can go for this man because of all of the above.’ But now I’m back to, wow, what do I do now? I really cannot stomach this.”

Across the country, it’s the same story with center-right women in Pennsylvania, who were, most recently, deeply troubled by Trump’s Twitter assaults—barely more than a week ago—on Machado, the Miss Universe winner who has emerged as a Trump critic. The audio only compounds their distaste for Trump.

“Obviously it does not play well with those people who have either not made their decisions, or maybe tentatively were supporting,” said Leslie Gromis Baker, a former chief of staff to Gov. Tom Corbett (R-Pa.) who lives in the Pittsburgh suburbs. “I think this would have a major impact on them. I’m not saying they’re going to support Hillary Clinton, but I think they’re going to have a very difficult time supporting Donald Trump.”

Kristen Mayock, who served as a Republican area chair for nearly a decade in the Philadelphia suburbs, told POLITICO last weekend that Trump “has made some statements that have been concerning for those of us who call ourselves feminists,” and added that he was struggling in Chester County, a key, usually Republican-leaning collar county, especially compared to Mitt Romney.

In an email Saturday, she made clear where her focus is: “Trump’s comments are simply indefensible,” said Mayock, who is based in Chester County, a typically Republican-leaning collar county of Philadelphia. “I am hopeful that our intelligent voters in the county recognize that we have some incredibly qualified and dedicated candidates running down ticket.”

Trump’s challenge in wealthier, well-educated places like Chester County is fueled by his longtime struggles with women, particularly college-educated women, including those who usually vote Republican. One high-ranking Republican official from the county remarked, “I would’ve thought 70 percent unfavorable is as bad as it can get. But this may bump it up a bit more.”

Alex Smith, the first female president of the College Republican National Committee, tweeted, “The Party of Lincoln is not a locker room, and there is no place for people who think it is. Definitely not with her, but not with him.”

A high-ranking New Hampshire Republican said that in her state, the Trump remarks are disastrous with women.

“This just confirms the concerns that those women had all along,” the source said. “It’s worse, but it’s not unsuspected. And it’s not just center-right women. In New Hampshire we really have to worry about independent voters, no one wins New Hampshire without the independent vote…I think this just confirms it for these people who have had concerns, it’s what they suspected all along.”

Said one conservative female operative: “I think every one of these comments he makes about women is disturbing enough, but the magnitude over a period is just too much.”

Burgess Everett contributed to this report.

Speaker Paul Ryan Doesn’t Understand That He And Conservatives Aren’t The Base Of The Republican Party

(I FIRST WROTE/PUBLISHED THIS ON MAY 5-th, 2016)

I am sitting in my living room watching CNN where the Speaker of the House is telling the world that he can’t get behind Donald Trump as the Republican candidate for the Presidency. Also in this clip we are told that the last four Republicans that were the Party’s Presidential candidates have said that they will not back Mr. Trump. Jake Tapper the  CNN reporter doing the interview along with Wolf Blitzer kept floating the concept of the Republicans floating a different candidate as a “3rd party” choice instead of Mr. Trump. This is what is going to end up happening in the Democratic Party with Mr. Sanders as I believe that he will run as an Independent because of the un-Constitutional actions of the Democratic Party (there is no way that ‘Superdelegates’ are Constitutionally legal). There system is also very rigged for the purpose of making sure the ‘establishment candidate’ wins the nomination no matter what the voters said during the primaries. (I PERSONALLY STILL BELIEVE THAT IF SANDERS HAD WON THE DEMOCRATIC  NOMINATION OR IF HE HAD RAN AS AN INDEPENDENT, HE WOULD BE THE PRESIDENT ELECT RIGHT NOW.) (11-09-16)

 

What the Republican establishment does not understand is that it is they ‘the establishment’ are exactly that the people of America were voting against during the primaries. The so-called ‘conservatives’ are not the ‘real base’ of the Republican party any longer. Mr. Trump has brought out millions of the people in America to vote that normally don’t vote at all, even the ones that are registered voters and the reason is that they have felt and rightfully so that the Republican Party doesn’t represent anyone but the far right conservatives and at best, they are only about 20-25% of the people here in America that do lean away from the Democrats. In past elections the people have stayed quiet and just didn’t vote at all because they just couldn’t vote to elect the trash that the Democrats or the Republicans were putting forth as our only options. There are so many of us people here in America that are registered Independents that aren’t even allowed to vote at all in any primary election (which is un-Constitutional) whom would vote for a Republican candidate if they could, but you alienate us all with your policies and your out of touch candidates.

 

Mr. Ryan, it is you and the Republican establishment that must change if you ever want to see the White House Oval Office ever again. The Democratic Party only seems to be interested in going as far to the left that they can get and your Party only wants to represent the top far right .01% and we the people are telling you that you and your Party are totally out of touch with the REAL BASE OF THE REPUBLICAN VOTERS. We are telling all of you right now that either you change or you will not be in office much longer. The Tea Party folks whom are even farther to ‘the right’ than your so-called Base are not the answer to getting Our Country moving forward again. Listen to what people like the fraud Christian Ted Cruz kept promising on the campaign trail when he kept saying that “he would not negotiate with the Democrats” as he constantly degraded any other candidate whom might. All of you bought and paid for idiots on both sides of the Congressional Isle create the gridlock that is killing the people of America’s chances of survival as you play your petty ego laden games. Politics is the art of compromise, if both Parties refuse to work together nothing constructive ever gets done for the masses of the American people and we know that. Mr. Ryan you and your Party’s leaders have shown us all that you have no interest in leading our Nation forward so now we the people are telling you very plainly, either follow or get the hell out-of-the-way! The days of the ass (you folks) wagging the dog are over!!!

Donald Trump News And Sarah Palin

This is a copy paste that I hope you will like. I by no means am a computer savvy person.

Donald Trump News
Palin Says Voters, Not Insiders, Should Decide GOP Nominee

Sarah Palin says voters will “rise up” in opposition if Republican power brokers try to take the presidential nomination away from Donald Trump or Ted Cruz at the GOP convention this summer.

The 2008 vice presidential nominee told The Associated Press on Thursday that GOP voters have the right to decide the party’s nominee and will rebel if House Speaker Paul Ryan or some other “white knight” is chosen at a contested convention. Ryan said this week he will not seek or accept the nomination.

Palin said voters know better than to be fooled by party leaders.

“How dare they?” Palin asked, denouncing “arrogant political operatives who underestimate the wisdom of the people.”

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If party leaders try to intervene at the July convention, “we will rise up and say our vote does count, our activism does count,” she said.

Those who try to thwart the will of the people “are the ones who need to leave,” she said. “We don’t need to leave.”

Palin, who has endorsed Trump, said she is confident he will win the GOP nomination, but that she can support Cruz if he emerges as the nominee.

She said she backs Trump because he is “so reasonable and so full of common sense and knows that for America to be great again we have to develop our natural resources” such as oil and natural gas.

The former Alaska governor was in Washington to promote a new documentary that seeks to debunk what it calls myths and hype about human-caused global warming. The movie, “Climate Hustle,” questions whether there is a genuine scientific consensus about global warming and features more than 30 scientists who reject mainstream climate science.

Palin said she wants viewers “to feel empowered to ask questions about what is being fed them by the scientific community.” The movie opensMay 2.

On other topics, Palin said Ryan has failed as House speaker because he did not ensure that the House approved a budget. And while she said she does not regret staying out of the presidential race, she did not rule out a possible presidential bid in the future.

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