Posts Tagged ‘Democrats’

Trump aims to achieve congressional balancing act on taxes

September 24, 2017

The Associated Press

Donald Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says he wants to lure Democratic lawmakers to sign on to a Republican-crafted tax overhaul plan but negotiators must deal with the reality that any handouts to Democrats could quickly turn into turnoffs for the GOP.

The White House and tax-writing Republican leaders are expected to begin filling in some of the details this coming week on Trump’s plan to simplify the tax system, a legislative priority for the president. The White House views this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to simplify taxes and cut rates, while giving Trump a much-needed victory as the Republicans struggle to overturn the Obama health care law.

The specifics are taking shape. Trump’s efforts to draw in a few Democrats could mean “you’re going to lose a few Republicans,” said Mark Weinberger, CEO of the accounting firm EY. But he added: “He wants to get 51 votes period in the Senate … so it is possible you might lose a few Republicans and pick up a few Democrats who are in states that Trump won.”

While the plan is not finalized, Trump is already planning to promote it heavily. He will travel to Indiana on Wednesday, and aides are discussing a televised speech, according to people familiar with White House plans.

People familiar with the plan being written entirely by Republicans said the administration is considering lowering the corporate tax rate from its current 35 percent to somewhere in the low 20s. The plan probably would seek tax cuts across the board for individuals and reduce the number of tax brackets from seven to three. The administration is considering whether to repeal the estate tax, long a Republican cause, according to these people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations still underway.

Republican leaders had promised an overhaul that would not add to the deficit. Republicans are talking about cuts whose costs would be justified by assumptions of greater economic growth.

Lawmakers on the House Ways and Means Committee planned to meet Sunday night and Monday to discuss taxes, and House Republicans are set to meet privately away from the Capitol on Wednesday, according to aides familiar with the plans.

The White House initially pushed hard to overhaul taxes with only Republican support. But in recent months, people involved with tax discussions have found that Republican lawmakers — beyond a general desire to cut rates and simplify the tax system — also have their own divisions. The result is that Trump has been unable to deliver a tax overhaul with concrete details.

“There are Republicans, there are base Republicans, there are Trump Republicans, there are progressive Democrats, there are Blue Dog Democrats,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office. “There is no way to move one way or the other and not lose someone on the other end of the spectrum.”

Trump has bargained on other issues with Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California. But the tax plan has been developed in private with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, White House economic adviser Gary Cohen, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the two Republicans leading the major tax-writing committees — Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas.

Republicans will need to agree on a companion budget plan to get the tax effort off the ground. A series of fights awaits once the administration details the plan, including whether to limit or eliminate the itemized deduction for state and local taxes.

White House advisers expect Trump to rally support for the plan by visiting states with Democratic senators that he won last year, and states in Rust Belt such as Pennsylvania and Ohio that powered his victory. Critics of the emerging plan say it will take more than that to bring Democrats on board.

“Simply going to a red state with a blue senator and saying she better support my tax cut doesn’t strike me as a very powerful weapon at all when the tax cut is a nice big fat package for wealthy people that does nothing for the working class,” said Jared Bernstein, a former economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden and a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

In his early effort to build broader support for a tax plan, Trump has focused on Democrats such as Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota during trips to their home states, which both delivered major victories for Trump in the 2016 election.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said in an interview that he has told Trump he’s “very receptive to reducing the corporate tax to the 25 (percent) range,” and described some of the early discussions over components of the plan as “very doable.”

But Manchin said he told the president the plan would need to be fiscally responsible. “One thing we don’t need to raise is more debt,” Manchin said.

Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., who dined with Trump and other senators earlier this month, has urged the president to make sure the tax plan addresses the outsourcing of jobs and includes provisions supporting companies that invest in U.S. jobs and penalize those that ship jobs overseas. Vice President Mike Pence pushed Donnelly during a visit to the state Friday, saying “Sen. Donnelly, we need your help too.”

Heitkamp, a former North Dakota tax commissioner, has pointed to the complexities involved in any overhaul and said she’ll need to see more details.

___

Associated Press writer Josh Boak contributed to this report.

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The Panic Over Graham-Cassidy

September 22, 2017

The single-payer Democrats won’t budge on health care.

Senate Republicans must be making progress on their latest attempt to reform health care, because the opposition is again reaching jet-aircraft decibel levels of outrage. The debate could use a few facts—not least on the claims that the GOP is engaging in an unfair process.

Republicans are scrambling to pass Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy’s health-care bill before Sept. 30, when the clock expires on the budget procedure that allows the Senate to pass legislation with 51 votes. The bill would devolve ObamaCare funding to…

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-panic-over-graham-cassidy-1506035850

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CNN Money

The Graham-Cassidy Obamacare repeal bill would eliminate the law’s mandates, turn funding for the law’s subsidies and Medicaid expansion into block grants and reduce federal support for Medicaid overall.

GOP senators unveil alternative health plan

Republican senators’ latest attempt to repeal Obamacare could be the most far-reaching of GOP efforts this year.

Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana last week released a bill that would eliminate or overhaul major sections of the health reform law. The duo had been trying to garner interest in earlier versions of their bill for months, but hadn’t gotten much traction.

Now, however, Republicans likely have only two weeks left to use their 2017 budget reconciliation bill as a way to dismantle Obamacare with a simple majority in the Senate. The Graham-Cassidy bill is the only repeal effort left on the table, coming even as a bipartisan Senate committee is working on legislation to stabilize the Affordable Care Act.

The Congressional Budget Office said Monday it may take several weeks for it to release an analysis of the Graham-Cassidy bill so it remains to be seen how many fewer people could be insured under it or what the impact on premiums may be.

Graham-Cassidy in a nutshell:
Reduces federal spending and block grants it.
Caps Medicaid.
Waives community rating and essential benefits.

— Larry Levitt (@larry_levitt) September 18, 2017Here’s what’s in the bill:

Repeal Obamacare individual and employer mandates: Obamacare levies penalties on most Americans who don’t have health insurance and larger employers who don’t provide affordable coverage for their workers. The bill would eliminate the penalty, retroactive to 2016.

Related: GOP isn’t done with Obamacare repeal

Repeals Obamacare subsidies and ends Medicaid expansion funding: The legislation would eliminate Obamacare subsidies that lower premiums, deductibles and co-pays in 2020. It would also jettison federal funding for Medicaid expansion, which 31 states use to provide coverage for residents with incomes up to about $16,000.

The legislation would turn the federal funding for Medicaid expansion and the subsidies into a block grant program. States would be given a lump sum of money and would have a lot of leeway over how to spend it.

For instance, they could help enrollees pay their premiums and out-of-pocket costs or set up high-risk or reinsurance pools to help protect insurers from costly enrollees and entice them to stay in the individual market. States could use a portion of money to help those enrolled in Medicaid afford care.

Graham and Cassidy say that this provision would return power to the states and allow them to create programs that fit their residents’ needs. Also, it would equalize Medicaid funding across the states. The bill’s authors note that four states — New York, California, Massachusetts and Maryland — get 37% of Obamacare funding.

But Democrats and consumer advocates say that many states, particularly those that expanded Medicaid, would lose a lot of federal funding, making it harder for them to provide coverage or assistance to their residents. Also, they note, the block grant is only authorized through 2026, jeopardizing the continuation of funding after that.

Loosens Obamacare’s regulations regarding pre-existing conditions: The bill would also let states waive several key Obamacare protections for those with pre-existing conditions. While it would still require insurers to provide coverage to everyone, states could allow carriers to charge enrollees more based on their medical history. So younger, healthier folks could see their premiums go down, but sicker Americans could find themselves priced out of policies.

The legislation also would let states eliminate Obamacare’s essential health benefits provision, which mandates insurers cover an array of services, including hospitalization, maternity care, prescription drugs, mental health and substance abuse services. This could lower premiums somewhat and give consumers a wider choice of plans. But it would also make it harder for people to buy comprehensive policies so those with pre-existing conditions may not be able to find coverage that meets their health care needs.

Related: Democrats scramble to rally troops for another Obamacare fight

Revamps funding for Medicaid overall: The legislation would send the states a fixed amount of money per Medicaid enrollee, known as a per-capita cap, starting in 2020.

States could also opt to receive federal Medicaid funding as a block grant for the non-disabled adults and children in their program. Under a block grant, states would get a fixed amount of federal funding each year, regardless of how many participants are in the program.

States, however, cannot opt to receive block grant funding for elderly and disabled participants.

Graham-Cassidy would also shrink the program even more over time by pegging the annual growth rate of funding for children and non-disabled adults to standard inflation after 2024, rather than the more generous medical inflation.

Either per-capita caps or block grants would limit federal responsibility, shifting that burden to the states. However, since states don’t have the money to make up the difference, they would likely either reduce eligibility, curtail benefits or cut provider payments. The block grant would be more restrictive since the funding level would not adjust for increases in enrollment, which often happens in bad economic times.

Related: McCain, Murkowski undecided on new GOP health care bill

Allows states to institute work requirements for Medicaid: States would now be able to requireadultMedicaid recipients to work. The disabled, elderly and pregnant women would be exempt, however.

Permits everyone in the individual market to buy catastrophic plans: Obamacare only allows those under age 30 to buy catastrophic policies, which usually have higher deductibles and fewer benefits. This legislation would allow anyone to buy these plans starting in 2019.

Repeals a handful of taxes: The bill would repeal the tax on over-the-counter medicine, health savings accounts and medical devices, a levy unpopular on both sides of the aisle. But it keeps in place Obamacare’s taxes on the wealthy, health insurers and others.

Defunds Planned Parenthood: In keeping with longstanding Republican beliefs, the legislation prohibits federal funding for Planned Parenthood. But the restriction is only for a year, beginning when the bill is enacted.

Increases maximum contributions to health savings accounts: Today, individuals can save up to $3,400 and families can save up to $6,750 a year tax-free in a health savings account. The bill would raise that limit to the annual out-of-pocket maximum for high-deductible plans. For 2018, that would be $6,650 for individuals and $13,300 for families.

CNNMoney (New York) First published September 18, 2017: 8:46 PM ET

http://money.cnn.com/2017/09/18/news/economy/obamacare-repeal-graham-cassidy/index.html

The 30 Republicans Holding Up Tax Reform

September 14, 2017

The Freedom Caucus threatens to side with Democrats and block the GOP majority.

By Karl Rove
The Wall Street Journal
Sept. 13, 2017 6:53 p.m. ET

No matter how persuasive President Trump is, it’s unlikely he can round up enough Democrats to get 60 votes in the Senate for tax reform. That means Republicans will need to use the Senate’s reconciliation process, which avoids the filibuster, to pass their plan with 51 votes. But first the House and Senate must pass a budget resolution—and soon.

A budget resolution sets spending levels and authorizes congressional committees to prepare bills fulfilling the blueprint. With the reconciliation plan in mind, this year’s resolution would set the size of the tax reform and then instruct the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee to flesh out the provisions.

Gaining agreement on a budget resolution is always tough. No more than a handful of lawmakers from the opposition party ever vote for the majority’s resolution. It helps that Republicans control both the House and Senate, but the GOP must still resolve its internal philosophical disagreements.

House Republicans tend to insist on resolutions that balance the budget within 10 years. This means resolutions that pledge to slow substantially the growth of entitlement spending. Such promises are rarely fulfilled. But putting them in the budget blueprint fuels Democratic ads claiming Republicans will throw grandma off the cliff and deprive poor children of free school lunches. Knowing this, Senate Republicans tend to want resolutions that reach balance after 10 years. Another GOP tension is between defense hawks, who want increased military spending, and deficit hawks, who want all spending restrained or cut.

Then there are nerdy but important technical arguments, starting with how the resolution’s spending baseline is calculated. Beginning with a baseline of “current law” means assuming that a tax break currently authorized for only a year or two will actually expire instead of being reauthorized. But Congress renews some tax breaks annually and probably will keep doing so through the next decade. To account for this, many in the GOP want to calculate the baseline under “current policy.”

It sounds technical, but it quickly becomes political. Democrats demand “current law” because a higher baseline would make tax reform appear to raise the deficit more than it actually would. On the other hand a lower baseline would give tax reform more wiggle room: One GOP budget expert tells me that “current policy” would provide, on paper, $450 billion that could be used to lower rates and make the tax code simpler and fairer.

Dynamic scoring is another geeky fight. A tax reform that generates economic growth will offset some of the government revenue lost from cutting rates. Republicans want their bill evaluated with dynamic scoring because it takes this effect into account and makes reform more attractive. Democrats oppose it for the same reason.

Still, given time and leadership—both on Capitol Hill and from the White House—Republicans could cobble together a budget resolution setting up a strong tax reform, which in turn would juice the economy and redeem the GOP in the midterms.

The biggest obstacle is the House Freedom Caucus. This group of just over 30 Republican congressmen has already slowed up the process by threatening to vote with Democrats against the GOP budget resolution unless they can see and approve, in advance, every major provision of the tax-reform bill. The Freedom Caucus tried in late July to block the House Budget Committee’s passage of a resolution unless the border-adjustment tax was taken off the table—which it then was. Now the Freedom Caucus’s members say they’ll flake on the budget resolution if tax reform includes full, immediate expensing of business investment. But if that’s agreed to, they’ll have more demands.

These lawmakers say they want Congress to operate in “regular order,” with committees grinding away to write legislation instead of leadership handing it down. This is hypocritical bunk. What they want is for their caucus to dictate the details of tax bills to the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee and the Republican majorities on both sides of Capitol Hill. Their approach is to make demands while threatening to join Nancy Pelosi in opposing the budget resolution unless they get their way.

If the Freedom Caucus acts on its threat, the budget resolution could be voted down, making tax reform impossible. No doubt, following their M.O., the group’s members would then blame the GOP leadership. Even if the resolution passes, the Freedom Caucus’s shenanigans may delay tax reform until 2018. These lawmakers are demonstrating once again that the freedom they most prize is freedom from the responsibility of governing.

Mr. Rove helped organize the political-action committee American Crossroads and is the author of “The Triumph of William McKinley ” (Simon & Schuster, 2015).

Appeared in the September 14, 2017, print edition.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-30-republicans-holding-up-tax-reform-1505343197

Donald Trump stabbed his party in the back. It might just pay off

September 11, 2017

By

Americans are fed up with political gridlock. If President Trump continues to makes deals with Democrats, the rewards would be high – but there are risks

The mainstream, “establishment” Republican leadership made a cynical calculation to tolerate Donald Trump’s dangerous faults, believing they could use him to rubber-stamp their long-sought conservative legislative agenda. They made a bargain with a con-man, and now he has betrayed them.

His deal last week with Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi on debt limits and disaster spending is a huge political betrayal. But make no mistake: for Trump, it’s good politics.

Americans are fed up with gridlock and dysfunction in the Washington DC “swamp,” and they blame Republicans as much as Democrats. Furthermore, the legislation which might pass by making deals with Democrats polls well across the political spectrum.

The White House has even hinted at much broader cooperation on issues that are anathema to mainline conservatives – legislation to remedy the Daca dilemmarepealing the debt limit, which regularly puts us in danger of default, disaster aid for hurricane victims. There are rumors of some cooperation on tax reform (which give Democrats real leverage on tax breaks for billionaires.) And although nobody will admit it publicly, there is even whispered talk about fixing the problems with Obamacare.

Meanwhile, back in the “swamp”, the establishment Republican leadership, hamstrung by their own caucus’ fractious fringe, The Freedom Caucus and Republican Study Committee, cannot deliver on any of this, even if they wanted to. But Trump’s loyal base wants action.

Voters are angry at Congress, and most polling reveals that even Republican base voters support a much more progressive agenda than the party orthodoxy allows. (See herehere and here.) This empowers Trump to unhitch himself from people like Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and other establishment Republican party leaders and venture forth on his own, making deals across the aisle, catering to his base and building a cult of personality broader and more powerful than the Republican party brand.

However frightening the prospect of “Dear Leader” Trump might be, if he can find enough common ground with Democrats and Republican moderates, we might just see a breakthrough on a whole host of important legislation.

If government actually started to function again, it might ease voters’ frustration levels and lower hyper-partisan political temperatures across the spectrum. All things being equal, that’s all to the good. But all things are not equal.

Trump’s calculation ignores the one truly existential threat he faces: Russia. Trump craves adulation – praise to feed his outsized ego – and to get it he’s happy to betray friend and foe alike. But he also desperately needs the partisan protection of Congressional Republicans to shield him from Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian collusion and obstruction of justice, which is gathering steam every day.

So far, Republicans in Congress have been doing just that. Despite the fact that most of them either openly dislike, distrust or disdain Trump, they have been careful to support their fellow Republican in the White House. But now he has stung them with the worst wound of all: betraying his own party. If he keeps it up, all bets are off.

There was already a constant undercurrent of murmuring among Republicans that they would be better off with Pence. Now that Trump has monumentally pissed them off, there’s no reason to pretend anymore. If he keeps siding with Democrats over his own party, Mueller would be doing them a favor.

In the short run, Trump’s gambit may be popular with voters, and if we’re lucky, it might even do some real bi-partisan good. But when time rolls around for Congress to judge “high crimes and misdemeanors,” just watch the Republicans abandon him.

  • Joe McLean is president of the Crockett Policy Institute, a non-partisan think tank

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/sep/11/donald-trump-betrayed-republican-party

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We may be witnessing a turning point in the Trump presidency

September 10, 2017

Image may contain: 1 person

By Michael Goodwin
New York Post

Keep these numbers in mind: 316 to 90 and 80 to 17. They were the lopsided votes in the House and Senate in support of the deal President Trump made with Democratic leaders on storm aid, the debt limit and government funding.

Remarkably, all the no voters were Republicans.

The numbers shout that we are witnessing a potential turning point in the Trump presidency, one that could further shake up Washington and rattle the calcified political parties.

Frustrated by the failure of GOP majorities in both chambers to pass his agenda, Trump followed through on threats to work with Democrats.

Signs suggest it was not a one-off deal, as the president already is discussing other topics with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma helped spark his decision. Trump was clear that, especially on storm relief, he wanted fast, bipartisan action that reflected the way ordinary Americans were helping each other, especially in hard-hit Houston. With Irma aiming at Florida and the southeast, the president recognized that the public would have rightly viewed political squabbling during national emergencies as an infuriating failure.

Still, the circumstances didn’t stop all the GOP grumbling, with some Republicans astonished that a president from their party had accepted Dems’ terms on the debt limit to get a quick deal. Not surprisingly, Trump was hardly apologetic, firing back on Twitter: “Republicans, sorry, but I’ve been hearing about Repeal & Replace for 7 years, didn’t happen!” — a reference to the failure to overturn ObamaCare.

He also issued a warning on tax reform, tweeting: “Republicans must start the Tax Reform/Tax Cut legislation ASAP. Don’t wait until the end of September. Needed now more than ever. Hurry!”

The developments show the president shedding the party straitjacket and being true to his disrupter candidacy. If he continues and is successful, he could create a new coalition that includes revolving members of both parties, depending on the issue.

That’s an ambitious scenario, given the hyper-partisan atmosphere in Washington and the cultural and political chasms across the country. But at least the president is proving in the short term that it is possible to get things done — and get them done quickly, a point he emphasized by signing the legislative package as soon as it reached his desk.

Naturally, the prospect of a bipartisan approach alarms both ends of the political spectrum, with leftists angry that Schumer and Pelosi dared to even talk to Trump, let alone make a deal. That attitude is both a cause and effect of the gridlock that has gripped the capital for the better part of two decades and turned compromise into an insult.

Yet beyond the professional activists, ideologues and consultants, much of America yearns for more government cooperation and less combat.

Like children watching their parents fight, most voters just want a productive peace, not an endless battle for ­total victory that yields nothing of common value.

Above all, they want a government that works for them, not one fixated on partisan scorekeeping and ideological litmus tests.

But it would be Pollyannaish to think that gridlock is just a big misunderstanding that can be resolved at a beer summit. There are legitimate differences between the parties’ reigning philosophies, and most major issues do not lend themselves to simply splitting the difference.

Debts and deficits, for example, can’t be resolved without goring somebody’s ox, and lawmakers are elected on the promise to make sure their backers are spared the bloodletting.

Tax reform is another issue that won’t go quietly. There’s a reason why there hasn’t been an overhaul of the revenue system since 1986.

Then there is the fact that gridlock offers advantages to incumbents. It allows them to raise money and hold onto their jobs by pledging purity, no small matter when everything from gerrymandering to technology means most pols are threatened more by primary opponents than by general elections.

But the big picture is that most Americans feel government in general and Washington especially has little concern for their lives and problems.

The tiresome duels of rehearsed talking points that offer no possibility of compromise reflect a broken model of politics.

Indeed, Trump’s promise to change Washington was a key ingredient in his victory, and he may be uniquely positioned to carve out a new model. Throughout his business life, he’s been on both sides of big issues, and comes to the presidency with less of a fixed political core than anyone in ­recent memory.

That’s made him understandingly suspect to many conservatives and his inexperience has been compounded by mistakes, but that outsider, pragmatic perspective can now work in his favor. If he can find both common ground and real solutions, we might look back one day and see a more bipartisan approach to governing as the one silver lining of the weather calamities of 2017.

Liberals’ ‘supreme’ smugness

Since labels are everything, a friend offers a new one: liberal supremacists.

It fits those who demand safe spaces and want to erase history. They’re the ones whose argument starts and ends with “shut up.”

Take Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who revealed herself to be a liberal supremacist through badgering insults to Amy Coney Barrett, a Trump nominee to a federal appeals court. A law professor at Notre Dame, Barrett’s sin is to be too much of a devout Roman Catholic for Feinstein’s refined taste.

“Whatever religion is, it has its own dogma,” the California Democrat declared. “The law is totally different. And I think in your case, professor, when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you….”

Abortion was the topic, and critics were quick to accuse Feinstein and other Dems who joined her chorus, of declaring that “No Catholics need apply” and setting an illegal religious test for public office. Bet they wouldn’t do that to a Muslim.

Then again, maybe they would because liberal supremacists have their own dogma. They believe they are smarter and better than everybody else.

http://nypost.com/2017/09/09/we-may-be-witnessing-a-turning-point-in-the-trump-presidency/

Why Entitlements Keep Growing, and Growing, and . . .

September 9, 2017

Once granted, benefits always multiply and are nearly impossible to repeal, John Cogan says. Only three presidents have been able to rein them in.

By Tunku Varadarajan
The Wall Street Journal

Stanford, Calif.

Donald Trump’s gleeful deal with the Democrats—ratcheting up the debt ceiling, as well as the ire of the Republican establishment—puts John Cogan’s mind on 1972. Starting in February of that year, the Democratic presidential candidates engaged in a bidding war over Social Security to gain their party’s nomination. Sen. George McGovern kicked off the political auction with a call for a 20% increase in monthly payments. Sen. Edmund Muskie followed suit, as did Rep. Wilbur Mills, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. Former Vice President Hubert Humphrey, never one to be outdone, offered a succulent 25%.

Mr. Cogan has just written a riveting, massive book, “The High Cost of Good Intentions,” on the history of entitlements in the U.S., and he describes how in 1972 the Senate “attached an across-the-board, permanent increase of 20% in Social Security benefits to a must-pass bill” on the debt ceiling. President Nixon grumbled loudly but signed it into law. In October, a month before his re-election, “Nixon reversed course and availed himself of an opportunity to take credit for the increase,” Mr. Cogan says. “When checks went out to some 28 million recipients, they were accompanied by a letter that said that the increase was ‘signed into law by President Richard Nixon.’ ”

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The Nixon episode shows, says Mr. Cogan, that entitlements have been the main cause of America’s rising national debt since the early 1970s. Mr. Trump’s pact with the Democrats is part of a pattern: “The debt ceiling has to be raised this year because elected representatives have again failed to take action to control entitlement spending.”

An economics professor at Stanford and a fellow at the university’s Hoover Institution, Mr. Cogan, 70, is one of those old-fangled American men who are always inclined to play down their achievements. The latest of his is the book that draws us together in conversation. To be published later this month by Stanford University Press, it is a 400-page account of how federal entitlement programs evolved across two centuries “and the common forces that have been at work in causing their expansion.”

Mr. Cogan conceived the book about four years ago when, as part of his research into 19th-century spending patterns, he “saw this remarkable phenomenon of the growth in Civil War pensions. By the 1890s, 30 years after it had ended, pensions from the war accounted for 40% of all federal government spending.” About a million people were getting Civil War pensions, he found, compared with 8,000 in 1873, eight years after the war. Mr. Cogan wondered what caused that “extraordinary growth” and whether it was unique.

When he went back to the stacks to look at pensions from the Revolutionary War, he saw “exactly the same pattern.” It dawned on him, he says, that this matched “the evolutionary pattern of modern entitlements, such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps.”

https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-entitlements-keep-growing-and-growing-and-1504908795

How Democrats left us vulnerable to North Korea’s nukes

September 8, 2017
  September 6

With last weekend’s surprise nuclear test, North Korea has reached final stage of its crash course to develop thermonuclear weapons that can reach and destroy U.S. cities. So why are we not on a crash course to protect our cities from North Korean nuclear missiles?

Answer: Because for more than three decades, Democrats have done everything in their power to prevent, obstruct or delay the deployment of ballistic missile defense.

Opposition to missile defense has been an article of faith for Democrats since President Ronald Reagan announced the Strategic Defense Initiative in 1983. Sen. Edward M.Kennedy led the early opposition to what Democrats derisively labeled “Star Wars,” denouncing missile defense as a “mirage” and “a certain prescription for an arms race in outer space.” Running against Reagan in 1984, Walter Mondale called it a “dangerously destabilizing” and unworkable “hoax.”

Reagan nonetheless moved forward with research and development, and his successor, George H. W. Bush, put missile defense on track for deployment with the Global Protection Against Limited Strikes (GPALS) program. But as soon as President Bill Clinton took office in 1993, he terminated GPALS and cut national missile defense funding by 80 percent, while downgrading it from an acquisition program to a technology demonstration program. Clinton also signed an agreement to revive the moribund Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which banned deployment of missile defense and whose status had come into question with the 1991 collapse of our treaty partner, the Soviet Union.

Then Republicans took over Congress, and passed a defense authorization bill in 1996 that required deployment. Clinton vetoed it on the grounds that there was no threat. Secretary of Defense William Perry declared “we do not need a national missile defense system because . . . no rogue nation has [intercontinental ballistic missiles] . . . and if these powers should ever pose a threat, our ability to retaliate with an overwhelming nuclear response will serve as a deterrent.” In other words, national missile defense would never be needed — even to protect against a regime such as North Korea.

When President George W. Bush came to office, he revitalized missile defense efforts and withdrew from the ABM Treaty. Democrats were more upset than the Russians. Sen. Joseph Biden declared “The thing we remain the least vulnerable to is an ICBM attack from another nation” adding “This premise that one day Kim Jong Il or someone will wake up one morning and say, ‘Aha, San Francisco’ is specious.”

Bush deployed the first ground-based interceptors in California and Alaska, and put in place a plan to deploy 44 interceptors by 2009. He reached a historic agreement with Poland and the Czech Republic to deploy defenses. And he dramatically increased funding for three critical programs: The first two — the Airborne Laser and the Kinetic Energy Interceptor — would take out a ballistic missile in the “boost phase” of flight, the most vulnerable eight minutes when a missile is still over enemy territory and presents a large, slower-moving target because the small nuclear warhead at the top has not yet separated from the large rocket filled with highly explosive fuel. The third — the Multiple Kill Vehicle — would place multiple warheads on our ground-based interceptors, so that instead of hitting a “bullet with a bullet” we could fire five or 10 bullets at each target, dramatically increasing chances of success.

If we had continued the Bush program over the past eight years, we would now have a robust array of defenses against any North Korean ICBM. We would be able to target a North Korean missile in the boost phase, and if that failed we would have 44 ground-based interceptors armed with hundreds of warheads that could be fired to take it out in mid-course.

But we did not continue the Bush program. President Barack Obama slashed funding for ballistic missile defense by 25 percent. As part of his failed “reset” with Russia, he scrapped Bush’s agreement with Poland and the Czech Republic. He reduced Bush’s plan from 44 ground-based interceptors to just 30. (He belatedly changed course in 2012 after North Korea tested the Taepodong missile, but the United States still has not recovered from the delay.) And he cancelled the Airborne Laser, Kinetic Energy Interceptor and Multiple Kill Vehicle programs. As a result, North Korean now has eight minutes of unchallenged flight during which their missiles are most vulnerable, and we have dramatically reduced the chances of hitting a North Korean missile as it descends on a U.S. city.

Amazingly, on taking office, President Trump’s budget continued Obama’s missile defense cuts, reducing funding by another $300 million . Trump has since recognized his mistake, promising “We are going to be increasing the anti-missiles by a substantial amount of billions of dollars.” Time to do so is short. He should immediately deliver Congress an emergency supplemental spending bill to speed the deployment of ground-based interceptors, and he should revive the Multiple Kill Vehicle, the Airborne Laser and Kinetic Energy Interceptor — and then work with Congress on a long-term plan to build and deploy space-based interceptors.

In 1983, Reagan asked “Isn’t it worth every investment necessary to free the world from the threat of nuclear war?” For the Democrats, the answer was no. No one is happier about that today than Kim Jong Un.

Read more from Marc Thiessen’s archivefollow him on Twitter or subscribe to his updates on Facebook.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/how-democrats-left-us-vulnerable-to-north-koreas-nukes/2017/09/06/534e7cc2-9302-11e7-89fa-bb822a46da5b_story.html?utm_term=.94d49b56145f

Is The Republican Party Committing Suicide?

August 27, 2017

By Brent Bozell — For Breitbart

The Grand Old Party is about to commit suicide.

All this talk about Trump this, and Trump that, masks a far bigger political controversy. The Republican Party leadership in Washington, D.C., has fundamentally betrayed its constituents and they are about to learn that they’ve been double-crossed — for years.

Every Republican candidate’s stock speech sounds the same, the thunderous roar about a government out of control, federal spending out of control (insert charts and graphs and why, if you stack hundred dollar bills, they will reach the edge of the universe), federal taxes out of control (insert comparisons to socialist countries), the federal bureaucracy out of control (insert metaphors about chains, yokes, and the like), the family shattered with federal funding of abortion a crime against humanity (watch for it — there! The heart-wrenching sob), and our military is emasculated.

Two more items were added to the menu, courtesy of Obama. Obamacare Will Be Repealed! and Illegal Immigration Will Not Stand!

In 2009, the Democrats controlled everything, partly due to the Republicans’ cowardice on Capitol Hill, and in part because of some of the most inept candidates and campaigns America has seen in years. The Obama folks could have played it safe but went for socialist gold, using the power of the legislative and the executive branches (and later the judiciary, thank you Justice Roberts) to advance their agenda.

That included federal spending on a level unmatched in human history resulting ultimately in a $19 trillion in debt we simply cannot pay, and with so many tens of trillions of dollars in unfunded liabilities that “infinity” is not far behind. One seventh of the economy was confiscated by the federal government with the passage of Obamacare. Our national borders were declared open and discussions over our national sovereignty closed. And to top it off, the Democrats all but declared themselves above the law.

The GOP harrumphed that this would not stand, by God! If only… if only America would vote them into the majority.

In 2009, the Tea Party was born. The Grand Old Party was rejuvenated. Happy days were here again.

Just one year later, the Republicans captured the House, and with that, the power of the purse. They now had the authority to stop the insane spending on so many obnoxious and wholly unnecessary ventures. They could end Obamacare simply by not funding it.

Instead, under the “leadership” of John Boehner, it did absolutely nothing. Why, if only we had the Senate! Then we could take on the President!

So in 2014, after spending hundreds of millions of campaign dollars running hundreds of thousands of television and radio ads pledging to end illegal immigration while repealing Obamacare “root and branch” (author: Mitch McConnell), they were given control of the Senate.

And within a month McConnell re-authorized both, along with every single other thing Harry Reid and Obama wanted for yet another year.

But that’s because we can’t do what we promised until we have the Presidency! The excuse was as predictable as summer heat in the Sahara.

In 2016, they were given that too.

They were given everything.

In January of this year, they formally controlled both houses of Congress and the executive branch. Every single thing they’d ever promised was now possible.

They now had the power to enact every single spending cut they’d ever solemnly pledged. All those wasteful programs designed to fill the liberal sandbox — PBS, NPR, Planned Parenthood, NEH and the rest of the alphabet soup; all the hundreds of billions of dollars in corporate welfare to multi-billion-dollar corporations; all of the hundreds of billions of dollars directed toward leftist social engineering — poof! All of it could come to an end with a stroke of a pen.

They now had the power to restore fiscal tax sanity too. Remember the flat tax? The fair tax? Slashing the highest corporate taxes in the world? Giving you a tax break? All of it could be done with a snap of the fingers.

Repeal Obamacare? Check. End illegal immigration? Check. Build the wall? Check.

Crush the Deep State? Done, by God, done!

There was not a damn thing the Democrats could do to stop them from draining the swamp.

Except the Republican leadership didn’t mean it. With the exception of the Freedom Caucus in the House, and literally a handful in the Senate, the rank-and-file didn’t either. Not one word of it.

The opportunity arose for the vote to repeal Obamacare, and after huffing and puffing, and huffing and puffing some more, the dust settled and socialized health care remains the law of the land, perhaps permanently.

The opportunity arose for tax reform, to enact the cuts America desperately needs. It was never a matter of if, it was a matter of how much. It is now mid-August and nothing, absolutely nothing has been accomplished — even attempted!

And now we face the final test: the debt ceiling. Will we or won’t we stop the spending madness? Will the Republicans enact the cuts they’ve promised, or will they now be the ones to kick the can, piling evermore trillions of dollars of debt on their own grandchildren?

By every indication that’s precisely what they plan to do. The signal has come from President Trump, from Speaker Ryan, and from Majority Leader McConnell. The debt ceiling will be raised and no fiscal sanity will be restored.

There is no difference between Republicans and Democrats. Put them together. They are the swamp.

Just as Republicans have the power to enact the agenda they’ve pledged in toto, so too do they now own the federal government, in toto. It’s no longer Obamacare. It’s GOPcare. It’s no longer crazy liberal Democratic spending. It’s crazy liberal Republican spending. It’s no longer socialist Democratic Party taxation, it’s socialist Republican Party taxation. All the legislation authorizing all these programs, all the graft, all the waste, all the obscenity, all the immorality, and where Planned Parenthood is concerned, all the killing — all of it is now formally authored by the Republican Party.

Come the Congressional elections next year, and the presidential election in 2020, the Grand Old Party will once again bellow its hallowed promises. But this time it won’t work. This time there will be no straw men to blame. This time their voters will know those hallowed promises are not even hollow promises. They are lies.

These voters are tasting betrayal. They will not vote to swallow more vomit.

We are watching the GOP systematically committing suicide.

Brent Bozell is the Chairman of ForAmerica, a national grassroots organization whose mission is to use social media to reinvigorate the public with the principles of American exceptionalism: freedom, prosperity, and virtue. ForAmerica has over 9 million members and is a non-profit 501(c)4. www.ForAmerica.org

http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2017/08/27/exclusive-brent-bozell-the-slow-death-of-the-republican-party/

Bernie Sanders to push for government-funded healthcare and abolition of private insurance

August 14, 2017

The issue has the potential to split the Democratic party

By Alexandra Wilts Washington DC

The Independent

Senator Bernie Sanders is relaunching his push for a government-funded healthcare system, but the move could further divide Democrats on a key issue as the party seeks to regain its footing at the state and national levels.

While defending Obamacare – which Republicans unsuccessfully tried to dismantle in July – the Vermont independent declared that the way forward in the long-term was a “Medicare-for-all” single-payer system, a federally administered programme that would abolish the role of private insurers in basic healthcare coverage.

Single-payer healthcare is a system in which the government, generally through taxes, covers basic healthcare costs for all residents regardless of income, occupation or health status.

“Medicare-for-all …will be saving middle-class families substantial sums of money, and it will be guaranteeing health care to every man, woman, and child in this country,” Mr Sanders, who caucuses with the Democrats, told CNN.

Mr Sanders will soon be introducing a bill in the Senate that would create this system, a major plank of his 2016 presidential campaign, even if he knows it is unlikely to pass in the current political climate.

An Urban Institute study of Mr Sanders’ single-payer proposal during the campaign said implementing the plan would increase federal expenditures by $32 trillion over 10 years. 

“Look, I have no illusions that under a Republican Senate and a very right-wing House and an extremely right-wing president of the United States, that suddenly we’re going to see a Medicare-for-all, single-payer passed,” Mr Sanders recently told NPR. “You’re not going to see it. That’s obvious.”

But he said the point of the bill is to force conversation about the idea.

“Senator Sanders has always believed that health care must be recognized as a right, not a privilege,” office spokesperson Daniel McLean told the Independent. “Like every other major country on Earth, every man, woman and child in our country should be able to access the health care they need regardless of their income.” 

The concept of a single-payer system is becoming increasingly popular in the Democratic party – senators including Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand and Kamala Harris have expressed some support, and, for the first time, a majority of Democrats in the House of Representatives have now signed on to the single-payer bill that Congressman John Conyers has been introducing regularly for more than 10 years.

However, experts fear that supporting a single-payer programme could become a litmus test for Democrats, meaning members either support the bill or progressive political action committees, or PACs, try to prevent them from getting reelected.

“Any Democrat worth their salt that doesn’t unequivocally say Medicare-for-all is the way to go? To me, there’s something wrong with them,” Nina Turner, president of Mr Sanders’ Our Revolution PAC, told Politico. “We’re not going to accept no more hemming and hawing.”

While the progressive, and arguably most energetic, wing of the party has gotten behind the single-payer idea, it still remains a divisive issue for moderate Democrats. The proposal was notably excluded from Democratic leaders’ new economic agenda that was unveiled last month.

The party has been desperate to regain its mojo following its defeat last November, when it failed to win a majority in the Senate and Mr Trump triumphed over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

It will be a challenge for the Democrats to retake a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate during the 2018 midterm elections. The party needs a net gain of 24 to have a majority in the 435-member House. And while they only need a net gain of three seats in the 100-member Senate, they are also defending 25 seats – 10 of which are in states that Mr Trump won.

“Single-payer healthcare as an issue is a worthy debate for the Democrats to be having,” said Jim Kessler, the senior vice president for policy for Third Way, a centrist think tank. “But it’s a huge mistake to make it a litmus test for Democrats at this point.”

Instead of pushing for a healthcare system overhaul in the US that Donald Trump will reject, some of suggested, all efforts should be focused on improving Obamacare – otherwise known as the Affordable Care Act – which still remains under attack by the President.

At the end of July, one vote prevented the Senate’s Republican leadership from passing a bill that would have repealed major provisions of former President Barack Obama’s healthcare law.

“We are one lousy election in November 2018 away from losing Obamacare,” Mr Kessler said.

“The stronger that Obamacare is, the great likelihood it will survive the next assault.”

Republican members of Congress, as well as Mr Trump, campaigned for years on repealing and replacing Obamacare, which they say has driven up premiums and forced consumers to buy insurance they do not want or cannot afford.

In June, when asked why Democrats aren’t countering Republicans with a single-payer plan, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said “it isn’t helpful to tinkle all over the Affordable Care Act right now.”

“The path to public option, single payer is in the Affordable Care Act,” she said. “It is not in distracting us from the focus of stopping what (Republicans) are doing to let people die..with their bill.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/bernie-sanders-healthcare-medicare-for-all-government-funded-abolish-private-insurance-a7891611.html

Amid US-Russia feuding, chief diplomats Tillerson and Lavrov stay tight-lipped over talks

August 6, 2017

Neither responded to a shouted question about how new sanctions might affect their discussions

.

The Associated Press
August 6, 2017

The United States and Russia are feuding, expelling diplomats in what Washington calls a new post-cold war low. But that did not stop US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov from meeting for the first time since the Trump administration imposed new sanctions against Moscow.

The two held talks on Sunday on the sidelines of an Asian regional gathering in the Philippines, and as investigations into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US presidential election push ahead. They smiled and exchanged pleasantries but made no substantive remarks to journalists, who were briefly permitted to observe the start of the meeting.

Neither Tillerson nor Lavrov responded to a shouted question about how the new US penalties might affect their discussions. More than an hour later, Tillerson emerged from the meeting and boarded his motorcade without commenting.

Tillerson and President Donald Trump opposed the sanctions package, passed by Congress in July, which makes it harder for Trump to ever ease penalties on Russia. Trump signed the bill last week, but called it “seriously flawed”.

The White House said Trump’s opposition stemmed from the bill’s failure to grant the president sufficient flexibility on when to lift sanctions. Trump’s critics saw his objections as another sign that he is too eager to pursue closer ties to Russia, or to protect the former cold war foe from penalties designed to punish Moscow for its actions in Ukraine, election meddling and other troublesome behaviour.

Even so, Trump’s administration has argued there’s good reason for the US to seek a more productive relationship. Tillerson has cited modest signs of progress in Syria, where the US and Russia recently brokered a cease-fire in the war-torn country’s southwest, as a sign there’s fertile ground for cooperation.

Yet Russia continues to dismiss any suggestion it interfered in the US election. The former Russian ambassador in Washington, Sergey Kislyak, denied the allegations in an interview screened on Russian state television on Saturday. He said he was merely carrying out his duties as a diplomat when he met with members of Trump’s campaign team.

“Any diplomat, Russian or not, works to better understand the policy of a country he’s posted to, figure out what the new administration’s course is and understand where cooperation is possible,” Kislyak said.

Still, a US Justice Department investigation is moving ahead into Russia’s election interference and potential Trump campaign collusion.

Trump denies any collusion and has repeatedly questioned US intelligence about Moscow’s involvement. Trump has tried to turn the issue into a political rallying cry, arguing that the controversy is an attempt by Democrats and the media to undermine the many millions of Americans who voted for him.

http://www.scmp.com/news/world/united-states-canada/article/2105644/amid-us-russia-feuding-chief-diplomats-tillerson-and