Topics and articles chosen with care. Linked articles in bold purple
◆ Trump goes BIG with proposed tax cuts
New York Times: “Trump Proposes Sharply Cutting Tax Rates for Individuals”
The plan is still broad strokes, rather than details, but the strokes are bold. The point men are Steven Mnuchin at Treasury and Gary Cohn at the National Economic Council.
The proposal envisions slashing the tax rate paid by businesses large and small to 15 percent. The number of individual income tax brackets would shrink from seven to three — 10, 25 and 35 percent — easing the tax burden on most Americans, including the president, although aides did not offer the income ranges for each bracket.
Individual tax rates currently have a ceiling of 39.6 percent and a floor of 10 percent. Most Americans pay taxes somewhere between the two.
The president would eliminate the estate tax and alternative minimum tax, a parallel system that primarily hits wealthier people by effectively limiting the deductions and other benefits available to them. –New York Times
The Times also has a perceptive story: Trump’s Tax Plan Is a Reckoning for Republican Deficit Hawks
The White House insists that economic growth will cover the cost, which could be as high as $7 trillion over a decade. But the question will dog Republicans and could fracture their party as they face the prospect of endorsing a plan that many economists and budget analysts warn will increase the deficit. –New York Times
Comment: The main story on tax cuts is riddled with editorial attacks on Trump and often personal ones. The opening line of the lead story is that the tax cuts benefit the rich. And all the stories emphasize the NYT’s speculation–and that is all it is–that the cuts will benefit Trump personally. The implications are that he is self-dealing and that this plan is just another “favor-the-rich, Republican plutocrat” idea. They also love to follow the “benefit the rich” with the words “like Donald Trump.” They have given up all pretense of distinguishing their hard-news reporting from their editorial stance. The difference is the first thing student journalists learn.
◆ US THAAD anti-missile system, sent to South Korea, to be active within days (CNN)
Comment: The US has also sent major naval assets to the area, while China and Russia have deployed significant land forces, possibly fearing an influx of refugees if the Kim regime collapse. But also a signal to Kim Jong Un that he is facing pressure on multiple fronts.
◆ Obamacare repeal: House GOP factions making progress, Senate Republicans still an obstacle. Politico reports: GOP senators not so keen on House’s Obamacare repeal
The House may finally be on its way to scrapping Obamacare, but don’t expect the Senate to go along: Any plan sent over will undergo major surgery — and survival is far from assured.
The hurdles in the upper chamber were on vivid display Wednesday as House Republicans celebrated their breakthrough on the stalled repeal effort. The compromise cut with House Freedom Caucus members won over the right flank, but the changes will almost surely make it harder to pick up votes in the more moderate-minded Senate. –Politico
Comment: The pressure to get this done will be enormous. The GOP knows that they face electoral disaster if they don’t pass their biggest promise of the past seven years.
◆ How good is the economy in Austin, Texas? “Employers struggling to find workers who will take less than $15 an hour” (KXAN)
The story also notes, oddly, that unemployment there has crept up slightly in the past few months.
Comment: When I was in Austin this winter, I asked some workers at a fast-food chain what the starting wage was. “$12 an hour.” I often ask that question when I travel since the starting wage at a McDonald’s or Dairy Queen is the effective minimum wage in the area.
I draw two lessons from the Austin story.
First, the only lasting way to raise the minimum wage is to strengthen business demand for workers, which means making it easier for them to do business and prosper. That’s the Texas story, in a nutshell.
Second, if unemployment is creeping up (though still very low in Austin) but businesses cannot find workers, then something is wrong. Either people don’t have the right skills or there are disincentives to work. Either way, those are problems that need solutions.
◆ First settlers came to America 130,000 years ago, long before previous estimates, according to a new study. (Science News)
An unidentified Homo species used stone tools to crack apart mastodon bones, teeth and tusks approximately 130,700 years ago at a site near what’s now San Diego. This unsettling claim upending the scientific debate over the settling of the Americas comes from a team led by archaeologist Steven Holen of the Center for American Paleolithic Research in Hot Springs, South Dakota, and paleontologist Thomas Deméré of the San Diego Natural History Museum. If true, it means the Cerutti Mastodon site contains the oldest known evidence, by more than 100,000 years, of human or humanlike colonists in the New World, the researchers report online April 26 in Nature. –Science News
♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
◆ Michael Lipson for the Austin, Texas, story