• ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, April 27

    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


    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Michael Lipson
     for the Austin, Texas, story


  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, April 26

    Topics and articles chosen with care. Linked articles in bold purple

     The story today that will most affect Americans for years to come: a proposed big tax cut for business, with a special focus on small businesses.

    The Washington Post frames it this way “Trump to propose large increase in deductions Americans can claim on their taxes

    President Trump on Wednesday plans to call for a significant increase in the standard deduction people can claim on their tax returns, potentially putting thousands of dollars each year into the pockets of tens of millions of Americans, according to two people briefed on the plan. . . .

    Trump will call for a sharp reduction in the corporate tax rate, from 35 percent to 15 percent. He will also propose lowering the tax rate for millions of small businesses that now file their tax returns under the individual tax code, two people familiar with the plan said.. –Washington Post

    The New York Times is far grumpier. “Trump Tax Plan: Low Rate for Corporations, and for Companies Like His” and “The ‘Voodoo Economics’ of the Laffer Curve Return

    Comment: The NYT slant reminds me of the old joke about their front page headline: “World to End. Poor Affected Most” 

    Where’s Perry White? Save the editorials for the editorial page.

     No Sanctuary? Another judge from the 9th Circuit nixes a major Trump policy, this time blocking policies that could defund Sanctuary Cities

    The Reuters story is here.

    The ruling from U.S. District Judge William Orrick III in San Francisco said Trump’s Jan. 25 order targeted broad categories of federal funding for sanctuary governments and that plaintiffs challenging the order were likely to succeed in proving it unconstitutional.

    The Republican president’s moves on immigration have galvanized legal advocacy groups, along with Democratic city and state governments, to oppose them in court. –Reuters

    Fox counters, predictably (but interestingly): Judge Who Blocked Trump Sanctuary City Order Bundled $200K for Obama and personally donated more than $30k to groups supporting him.

    Comment: I’m going to make a wild guess here: the DOJ will appeal. Since this case will go to the 9th Circuit, which will rule predictably against Trump, this one will go up to the Supremes.

    ◆ Iran Nuclear Deal: Politico publishes a major investigation headlined, “Obama’s Hidden Iran Deal Giveaway”  The article goes further, effectively saying the Obama Administration misled the American public about the scale of their giveaways in their desperate effort to get a deal with the Mullahs.

    In his Sunday morning address [January 17, 2016] to the American people, Obama portrayed the seven men he freed as “civilians.” The senior official described them as businessmen convicted of or awaiting trial for mere “sanctions-related offenses, violations of the trade embargo.”

    In reality, some of them were accused by Obama’s own Justice Department of posing threats to national security. Three allegedly were part of an illegal procurement network supplying Iran with U.S.-made microelectronics with applications in surface-to-air and cruise missiles like the kind Tehran test-fired recently, prompting a still-escalating exchange of threats with the Trump administration. Another was serving an eight-year sentence for conspiring to supply Iran with satellite technology and hardware. As part of the deal, U.S. officials even dropped their demand for $10 million that a jury said the aerospace engineer illegally received from Tehran. –Josh Meyer investigation in Politico

    It gets worse–and more dangerous:

    In its determination to win support for the nuclear deal and prisoner swap from Tehran — and from Congress and the American people — the Obama administration did a lot more than just downplay the threats posed by the men it let off the hook, according to POLITICO’s findings.

    Through action in some cases and inaction in others, the White House derailed its own much-touted National Counterproliferation Initiative at a time when it was making unprecedented headway in thwarting Iran’s proliferation networks. In addition, the POLITICO investigation found that Justice and State Department officials denied or delayed requests from prosecutors and agents to lure some key Iranian fugitives to friendly countries so they could be arrested. Similarly, Justice and State, at times in consultation with the White House, slowed down efforts to extradite some suspects already in custody overseas, according to current and former officials and others involved in the counterproliferation effort. –Josh Meyer in Politico

    One immediate effect: House Foreign Affairs chair, Ed Royce, asks DOJ and State to revive probes that the Obama Administration “may have” killed. (Politico)

    Comment: If you think the major networks gave this major story any play at all, you still believe in the tooth fairy. Story on non-reporting here

    While ABC, CBS and NBC on Monday and Tuesday found time to celebrate the return of “easy-going,” rested Barack Obama to the public scene, none of them covered the release of a blockbuster expose that reveals the buried secrets of the ex-President’s Iran deal giveaway. –Newbusters

     Ann Coulter to speak in public plaza in college town Thursday; Berkeley police prepare for D-Day Invasion.  (Washington Post)  

    Comment: The fact that people riot at this is simply insane. This was once the home of the free-speech movement. Now, it’s “free speech for me but not for thee.”



  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . .Tuesday, Dec. 19

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆”I’m more oppressed.” “No, I AM more oppressed.” Berkeley conference among victims groups turns into a nasty bidding contest about which one is more oppressed. Blacks wanted it all to be about their oppression. Muslims wanted it to be about their oppression. And so on. The conference breaks down in recriminations about which one is most oppressed. The article is here, at The College Fix.

    ⇒ Related Story: Hispanic student describes her mistake in telling other UCLA students that her family was “not here illegally.” Turns out you cannot use the word “illegal.” Jacqueline Alvarez in The Daily Bruin

    ◆ How Israel turned a toy into an invaluable, high-tech military tool. (Commentary Magazine)

    ◆ Overregulation Nation = Stagnation Nation. Bret Stephens lays out the grim details of how much worse regulatory burdens have gotten under Obama. (WSJ) One characteristic data point. When Obama came into office, it took 40 days to get a construction permit; now, thanks to smart regulation, it takes 81.  When Obama entered office, the US was third in the world in “ease of doing business.” Now, it’s eighth and declining.

    ⇒ Comment: IMO, the decline is partly due to a government of European-style social democrats, partly to an administration entirely composed of lawyers who have never run a two-car funeral. (Charles Lipson)

    ◆ Apple uses its Irish domicile to minimize EU taxes. The EU hates that and has fined Apple billions for what appears to be perfectly sensible tax planning. Now, Apple is fighting back. Here’s the essence of the Wall Street Journal report:

    [Apple’s legal] filings highlight sharp disagreements between the EU commission on one side and Ireland and Apple on the other, presaging a years-long battle in the EU’s top courts that will determine the extent of the bloc’s powers to rein in alleged tax avoidance by multinational companies doing business in Europe. –WSJ

    ◆ Noam Chomsky has now decided that the worst organization in human history, surpassing the Nazis, Stalin, Mao, the Khmer Rouge is . . . wait for it . . the Republican party. (Independent, UK)

    ◆ I confess, I love it when live TV goes wrong. Here, our morning anchor shares her Christmas-time artichoke dip. Not a tasty treat, it turns out.


    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Ed Vidal and Thomas Lifson
     for the Berkeley Olympics of oppression article.
    ◆ Kate Hardiman for the article in the College Fix and the link to one in the Daily Bruin.

    ◆ Tom Elia for Noam Chomsky’s insights


  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Wednesday, November 30

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ Trump’s initial Cabinet appointments tell me he intends to move swiftly to pass a far-reaching agenda and will work closely with a Republican House and Senate to do it.

    Comment: Tom Price is an expert of health care and committed to dismantling Obamacare and replacing it with a market-oriented system. Betsy DeVos is an expert on charter schools and vouchers and will make big changes at the Department of Education. Elaine Chou has extensive experience in government and a background in infrastructure, which she will bring to the Department of Transportation.

    The ties to Capitol Hill are strong, without the K-Street strings. Price has worked extremely closely with Paul Ryan, as has Chief of Staff, Reince Preibus. Chou, who was born in Taiwan and has helped manage her family’s transportation interests, was a long-serving Secretary of Labor under George W. Bush. She is married to Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell. Vice-President-elect Pence served in both the House and Senate before becoming Governor of Indiana.

    These appointments suggest the Trump Administration will work closely with Ryan and McConnell to move a big agenda. They have majorities in both houses (but not a super-majority in the Senate), and have already passed a lot of Republican proposals that died on Pres. Obama’s desk. So, they won’t have to start from scratch.

    regulations-labeled-200px-no-marginsPaul Ryan lays out his top 4 priorities:

    1.  Economic growth, beginning with deregulation
    2.  Repealing and replacing Obamacare
    3.  Tax Reform
    4.  Security the border

    He discussed those priorities in a Wisconsin radio interview and says he is in close touch daily with Pres.-elect Trump. (Talking Points Memo)

    ◆ UN Security Council to pass tighter sanctions on North Korea with China’s help. (Fox News)

    Comment: China’s problem here is vexing. They do not want to break the vulnerable Kim regime, but they don’t want to see South Korea and Japan start arming themselves to cope with North Korea’s rising threat.

    ◆ Indonesia has always had a huge Muslim population but not a militant, extremist one. That’s changing, says Time Magazine, and the Chinese minority in the country are fearful.

    ◆ ISIS calls attacker at Ohio State a “soldier.” (New York Times) He appears to have been inspired online, rather than trained directly.

    Comment: White House spokesman Josh Ernest was truly embarrassing as he tried to describe the attack without saying the word “Islam.” It was like the author who wrote an entire novel without using the letter “e.” Yes, you can do it. But why?


    Seen any interesting news or commentary?

    I welcome your suggestions. Charles (dot) Lipson at Gmail (dot) com