Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Trump's Budget Growth Assumptions

All budgets make assumptions about anticipated growth and the Trump budget proposal is no different. They're assuming a 3%-4% growth rate long term.

Most economists think that's unrealistic.

Trump budget director Mick Mulvaney, rather than DEFENDING their assumptions. attacked the growth assumptions the Obama administration made in sort of a macabre tu quoque pastiche.

The Obama administration assumptions were in line with so-called economic wisdom at the time and after a short 3%-4% recovery phase estimated a long term growth in the 2%-2.4% range.

These numbers also lined up with the CBO estimates because historically the US economy has rebounded for a short period at about double the depression rate before settling into a more modest long term growth.

To put it bluntly, they were wrong. Growth was only about 2% average coming out of the recession. Why? Because economics is one part mathematics, one part black magic and one part confidence and the nation never really recovered its confidence in the economy because the "recovery" was so uneven. Some areas recovered quickly and other areas can justifiable ask "what recovery?"

Now the Trump administration is assuming 3%-4% SUSTAINED growth, which is much more optimistic than anything the Obama administration ever assumed, without providing any justification beyond we're going to cut taxes and then a miracle will happen.

Trump's Budget Proposal

Basically the proposal calls for slashing just about every social safety net including Medicaid, SNAP and Social Security Disability while increasing defense spending by some $50 billion, increasing the Homeland Security budget and allocated a few billion for that stupid wall.

The budget also calls for significant cuts in almost every department including the EPA and the Department of State.

Let me start by saying that I'm am absolutely in favor of a balanced budget. As a matter of fact after the budget is balanced I would like to pare the debt a little bit year by year until it gets to a more manageable level.

But now the question becomes who pays for balancing the budget and trimming the debt? Apparently the Republicans believe that the most vulnerable people in our society are the ones that should pay because, by some incredibly twisted logic, they seem to think that the poor, the elderly and the disabled have somehow benefited the most from our overspending while the rich and powerful not only haven't benefited but have been stoically footing the bill.

How do you think these folks got wealthy? By being taken advantage of or by benefiting from the overspending that has occurred?

We all know it's the latter so now that the time has come to pay the piper, how about we ask those who can most afford it and have benefited the most from the splurging to carry most of the burden.

I'm willing to kick in a few more shekels to help balance the budget but NOT to finance another $50 billion in military spending or to build a silly wall because El Jefe in Washington has to throw lots of scraps and raw meat to those who financed his campaign.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Roger Ailes is Dead

I was wondering why the air smelled better this morning. Then I found out that Roger Ailes had died which solved the mystery.

Ailes was an evil man. He wasn't on the scale of a Hitler or a Stalin perhaps but the damage he's done with the innuendo laced, accurate but misleading and outright lying format that still dominates Fox News probably won't be repaired for decades and may never be repaired.

Fox News is not a news station. It's a Right Wing propaganda outlet and needs to be viewed that way.

Allow me to provide a recent example and explain exactly what Fox is doing.

In Mid-March two young men in Maryland, 17 and 18 years old, were accused of raping a 14 year-old female classmate in a bathroom stall at their high school.

One of those young men was an undocumented immigrant.

That was all it took, simply an accusation, for Fox News, in the person of Tucker Carlson,  to go all beast mode on illegal immigration. Carlson claimed that city officials “don’t want to think about the connection illegal immigration might have to this crime or others like it.”

Carlson's conclusion about the case was “This is insanity, of course, a sign of a sick civilization at war with itself. A strong country enforces its laws and protects its citizens. That’s Job One. In the U.S., too often we ignore our own laws and allow ruin to be visited on our own people.”

Now, notice two things, first he is assuming the boys are guilty even though he interviewed their lawyer who told him the sex was consensual. Carlson's response was to badger the attorney saying “You’d better be right about this because if you’re going to be impugning the character of a 14-year-old girl who says she was raped — other people said they heard her screams.”

Second, notice that he is introducing things that may or may not be true as facts. (1) Illegal immigration has a significant connection to crime. (2) City officials don't want to think about that. (3) People heard the girl scream. (4) In the US we ignore our own laws. (5) You're in danger because these things allow "ruin to be visited on our own people."

All of these things are asserted as facts with no justification, no evidence and no dissenting opinion. A lot of people are going to walk away from this barrage believing all of this crap.

Meanwhile, back in Maryland, the charges against the two boys were dropped because as the county prosecutor put it, “The facts of this case do not support the original charges filed."

Now Fox News wasn't the only Right Wing outlet jumping to conclusions but they were probably heard by the most people and did the most damage.

So, they're going to issue a retraction right? ****crickets****

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

DOJ Appoints Special Counsel

The Trump administration appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller Friday evening as a special counsel to oversee the federal investigation into allegations Russia and Donald Trump's campaign collaborated to influence the 2016 presidential election.

This is precisely the right thing to do.

We need to get this resolved one way or the other and Mueller is clearly qualified to head the investigation.

Everyone should be happy with this move which is the first intelligent thing Trump has done since taking office.

I suspect he's learning that you can't steamroll things. That's probably a good thing.

Monday, May 15, 2017

May Gallup Poll

The folks over at Gallup have provided us some interesting numbers in their May poll on social issues.

The first is a record high number of Americans saying Gay Marriage should be legal at a whopping 64%. When Gallup first started asking the question in 1996 only 27% supported it.

The support for same sex relations has also climbed to 72%. I hear NOM has a financial crisis. If so, then given these numbers it's not going to get better any time soon.

Democrats support Gay Marriage by 74%, Independents by 71% and even Republicans are figuring it out as support among the GOP has inched up to 47%.

The second interesting tidbit is that for the first time more people view the Bible as "a book of fables, legends, history and moral precepts recorded by man" than as the literal word of God by 26% to 24%. Most of the middle group still think it's "inspired by God" at 47%.

Men, at 36%, are more likely to consider it a book of fables than women at 24%. College graduates at 36% are more skeptical than those with no college at 19%.

The younger you are the more likely you'll view the Bible as a group of fables. Of those 18-29, 33% viewed it skeptically and of those 30-49 33% viewed it skeptically.

Well, that's a start but we still have a long way to go.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Trump's Tax Plan

Rational analysis says Obama did a pretty good job. He took an economy from the brink of disaster and brought it back to pretty decent health yet the Right Wing decries the "anemic growth rate" of "only" 1%-2%.

Which is a whole lot better than shrinking which is what we had at the end of the Bush years. Obama took a low risk approach and got modest results.

Trump and the supply side Republicans are going to take a high risk with massive tax cuts. Of course most of those tax cuts will be going to the very wealthy and to corporations rather than to where it should be going.

If you want to grow the economy you need to do it from the bottom up. Put more money into the hand of low and middle income who have a high mean propensity to consume. In other words, they're going to spend the money.

Supply follows demand. Without new demand there is no particular reason for companies to expand. If the corporate tax rate is low, there is no particular reason for companies to re-invest. It's more attractive to take the profits.

There is a theory that corporate tax cuts give a short lived boost to the economy but ultimately lead to an economic crash for that very reason. Companies tend to take profits rather than reinvest.

Trump and the Republicans keep pointing to Ronald Reagan as an example of the success of tax cuts.

There are three fundamental problems with this analogy.

(1) Reagan had a very different economy. Inflation was at 11% and unemployment rate was 9%. The current economy has an inflation rate around 2% and the unemployment rate is at 4.4%.

(2) Another ignored tidbit is that while there were two tax adjustments during the Reagan years there was also a major increase in payroll taxes, the closing of a large number of tax loopholes and a $400 billion increase in spending from $745 billion to $1.14 trillion. Reagan didn't just slash taxes like Trump seems to want to do.

(3) Reagan had first Donald Regan and then James Baker as secretaries of the treasury AND they worked closely with congress in particular senators Jack Kemp (R) from New York and Bill Bradley (D) from New Jersey.

In other words Reagan had very good advisers and people working on the tax changes.

Steve Mnuchin is either a clown who honestly believes that manufacturing plants aren't going to be highly automated (read that run by robots) or he's a crook who's bullshitting everyone and is waiting to grab his bag of cash and bolt.

Needless to say I'm concerned about what this tax plan is going to look like. I'm betting the rich get a lot richer and the rest of us get squat. I could be wrong but I doubt it.

Partisanship run amok

Donald Trump could cure cancer, end poverty and insure world peace and the Democrats would still criticize him.

Donald Trump could rape a 12 year old, nuke Iran and North Korea and steal half the treasury in broad daylight and his Republican and Evangelical Christian supporters would still support him.

Things have gotten so polarized that people aren't considering WHAT. All they're considering is WHO.

If the other side does it then it's bad. If our side does it then it's good is NOT a rational approach to anything.

Trump three months later

I haven't changed my mind. He continues to be self centered, immature, delusional and a lousy judge of character.

If there is one aspect of his personality that is most frightening it's his refusal to even consider that some claim he's made could ever be wrong regardless of the amount of evidence demonstrating that he is wrong.

The latest nonsense is he's going forward with a special investigation into voter fraud despite zero evidence that there is any.

Worse he's picked Chris Kobach from Kansas for the panel who has made a career out of figuring out ways to disenfranchise voters.

This sets up the suspicion that the panel is actually being tasked with manufacturing evidence rather than performing a real investigation.

The Comey Firing

Let's be very clear about this subject. You have to separate the man, James Comey, from the office he held as Director of the FBI.

Comey probably deserved to be fired. If there was a guy at his level better at putting his foot in his mouth I can't recall him off the top of my head.

The problem is in firing Comey with immediately filling the void of the Russian interference investigation with say a special prosecutor, Trump impinged the integrity of the office of Director of the FBI.

When you are playing with this sort of explosive stuff you not only have to be right you have to have all of the appearance of being right.

Trump is pretty good at putting his foot in his mouth as well. It's seems clear that he has lousy advisers.

The Heath Care Bill

It's been seven weeks since I had any desire to say anything about anything. A lot has happened in those seven weeks and I'm going to put down my thoughts about them in a few posts in no particular order.

Like Lazarus rising from the grave the Republican health care bill doesn't want to stay dead. I'm no expert and I will admit that I didn't have the heart to read the new bill so I'm sort of relying upon what others say, but I'll give you my impression.

The Republicans are absolutely full of crap.  Yes they did rush the legislation without waiting for the CBO assessment or input from interested groups. So far I've heard the AMA and the AARP have both panned the bill.

You can't cut Medicaid dollars and essentially hope the states will pour money into some sort of high risk pool for people with preexisting conditions without guaranteeing a bunch of folks will either lose health insurance or not be able to get it.

The other thing I don't understand is why cut the tax on tanning salons? Is there anyone that seriously thinks we shouldn't be discouraging people from using those cancer incubation machines? I mean come on.

If you take all the sick people out of the market AND essentially put no requirements on what a health care policy has to include of course premiums are going to come down. Profits are also going to go up but some people are also going to die.

In the meantime the senate sounds like its going to essentially write their own bill. Can't wait to see that one.

It seems pretty simple to me that you write a bill you need to include two important things in a summary somewhere.

(1) What is the objective or objectives of the bill.

(2) A specific explanation, complete with numbers, on how this bill is expected to accomplish that objective or those objectives.

If you can't specify these two things, then you're just blowing hot air.