Let's Fix This Country

trade

What Happened to Trump’s 45% China Tariff? North Korea Happened


Donald Trump began his campaign for the presidency by promising a physical wall to shut out Mexicans, they being rapists and thieves, and a tariff wall to shut out imports, particularly a 45% impost against China. Together the barriers would return "massive numbers of jobs" to America.

But much as he thought "Nobody knew that healthcare could be so complicated", he has since discovered how complicated the world is. In a desperate attempt to enlist China's help against North Korea, he told the Wall Street Journal that in his very first meeting with China's President Xi Jinping, he offered better trade terms. He had told Mr. Xi that his administration could not go on allowing America's huge trade deficit with China. "But you want to make a great deal?", Trump says he told Xi. "Solve the problem in North Korea". He went on to tell the Journal, "That’s worth having deficits. And that’s worth having not as good a trade deal as I would normally be able to make.”

His billionaire Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, would have none of that. He wants "tangible results" from the talks with…

foreign policy

Against Bluster, China and North Korea Hold the Hot Hands

Fearful that economic collapse would bring a flood of refugees, China has for decades been North Korea's principal source of support, which we covered in "North Korea Threat of War Heightens, As U.S. Options Diminish". China's view is that America's aggressive posture — troops stationed in South Korea for the 64 years since the Korean War ended, joint military exercises the U.S. conducts with the South — forced Pyongyang to develop nuclear weapons in defense of its existence. China wants the U.S. to resume the six-party talks that ended in 2009 when the North Koreans walked out and expelled all nuclear inspectors from the country. They advise that we take steps to make the North Koreans and their volatile ruler feel more secure. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in March that the U.S. would not engage…

foreign policy

Trump’s Circuitous Route to Striking Syria

The sequence how it came about

President Trump was genuinely horrified at what can only been assumed was the latest atrocity of the murderous madman who is still the president of Syria.

"These heinous actions by the Assad regime cannot be tolerated…That attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me.

When you kill innocent children, innocent babies, babies, little babies, with a chemical gas that is so lethal, and people were shocked to hear what gas it was, that crosses many, many lines, beyond a red lines, many, many lines.

And I will tell you, it’s already happened, that my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much."

A fair question is what did Donald Trump think of the Syrian president before, while he was destroying the nation's largest city, deliberately bombing every hospital and slaughtering his own people with barrel bombs? That his response to Syria was a ban to to block desperate refugees from entry into this country "indefinitely" says that he was entirely indifferent to their plight. Perhaps that will now change.

whatever

Revealingly, just days before, Trump had abandoned the Obama administration policy of the last five years that, however weakly, sought Bashar al-Assad's removal from power. "With respect to Assad, there is a political reality…

surveillance

Trump and Nunes Plot to Blow Up the Intelligence Committee

Our earlier suspicion proved true: that Donald Trump's White House orchestrated the plot for Devin Nunes, the House intelligence committee chairman, to discover documents that would prove — although they did nothing of the sort — that former President Obama "wiretapped" Trump Tower during the transition.

The clumsy plot, that had Nunes rush to the White House to warn President Trump that he had been surveilled, fell apart when Nunes revealed he had got the documents from none other than the White House itself the night before, and became comical when Trump got the timing wrong and revealed that he knew about the documents before he was supposed to.

The New York Times then discovered…

foreign policy

With a Year of Gains, North Korea Startles the West

And they may have the ultimate weapon

Over the past year, North Korea has made remarkable strides toward its goal to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles carrying nuclear warheads to the West Coast of the United States. There follows a timeline, and at its conclusion a devastating assessment that North Korea may already have far worse — a doomsday weapon:

  In January 2016, North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test, claiming it was a hydrogen bomb, although that was doubted.

 In February a year ago, Pyongyang successfully put a satellite into orbit with a three-stage rocket. Their ministry claimed a range of 7,400 miles and a payload of as much as 1,300 pounds, both…

healthcare

What’s Next for Obamacare? »

Not so benign neglect, probably

The collapse of Republican attempts in the House to pass repeal and replace legislation leaves the Affordable Care Act standing, but for how long? Major insurers have dropped out across the last year and
a half, citing the low enrollment of the young leaving them with the high cost of paying for the old. That accounts for the premium price increases for 2017 that averaged 22% for insurance bought on the federal and state exchanges.

Fixes could have and still can be made to elements of the Affordable Care that need adjustment, but since its inception, Republicans have refused to consider any repairs, preferring instead to vote for repeal in the House some sixty times. Their objection has always been ideological: that the subsidies and Medicaid expansion are yet another entitlement; that no one should be required to pay for something they don't want. The problem is that these…

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taxes

Our Tax Code Is a Mess. So Will Be the Battle to Change It

The revolutionary idea for corporations

Control of the White House and both chambers of Congress are viewed by Republicans as a once in a generation chance to revamp the tax code. But much as they stumbled on the complexity of reaching consensus to repeal and replace Obamacare, they are sure to find tax reform presents another magnitude of disagreement and difficulty.

Setting aside for the moment that President Trump and House Speaker Ryan have different plans for revising the tax code for people, there is already a serious dispute raging within Republican circles over the corporate taxation.

At a nominal 35% of profits, the U.S. tax rate for corporations is the highest among the Group of 20 Nations. There has been a global competition by countries to attract corporations.
Source: Bloomberg/BusinessWeek.

That has encouraged American corporations either to use accounting legerdemain to park trillions of dollars of profits offshore, or to take the more troubling step of moving to low-tax countries.

During the campaign, Trump spoke repeatedly of his intention to lower the corporate tax rate to 15%. As reality — namely, the needs of financing the U.S. government — set in, he began to speak of cutting the rate to 20%. Now, with the failure to eliminate Obamacare and its costs, the proposed rate spoken of is 28%. That, says Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, is apparently the lowest the corporate rate can go while by some unstated alchemy remaining revenue neutral. Revenue neutral makes the rate reduction eligible under Senate rules to be passed under "reconciliation", which needs only a 51% majority and nixes filibustering by Democrats who traditionally want to soak corporations irrespective of foreign competition.

But House Republicans, led by Paul Ryan, still have their sights on a 20% rate for corporations. To fill the crater left by what would be a 43% reduction… Read More »

foreign policy

North Korea Threat of War Heightens, As U.S. Options Diminish

Hermit Kingdom's Moves Hold U.S. and Partners in Check

On departing the White House, President Obama warned President-elect Trump that North Korea had become the number one national security threat. With the Trump administration preoccupied with banning entry of people from six Muslim nations, there's little sign so far that the advice has been taken. Trump has said ISIS is his first priority. There was no mention of North Korea in his address to Congress.

North Korea would not be ignored. First came the missile launch that made for indigestion at the President's Mar-a-Lago restaurant where he was hosting Japan's
Four North Korean missiles leave their launch pads simultaneously.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Days later, the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un staged a synchronous launch that sent four mid-range missiles into the Sea of Japan, three of them violating Japan's exclusive-use economic zone. The shoot was a warning to the U.S. and South Korea; it was timed for the sixth day of their joint military exercises that Pyongyang believes are a rehearsal for invasion.

But one action has been taken by the U.S., the sort that persuades Mr. Kim that he is right. The U.S. has just begun installing THAAD missile batteries in South Korea. This line of defense was ordered up not by Trump, but by former president Obama.

cyber not enough

As the launchers were Globemaster'd in, The New York Times broke a… Read More »

foreign policy

Remind Us: What’s the Six-Nation Ban For? »

The Trump administration rescinded its original executive order that would have blocked ingress by the people of seven
Seven countries originally banned are in red.
Iraq has since been removed from the ban.


Muslim nations, and substituted a new six-country version with the rough edges that the Ninth Circuit court objected to filed down.

It is still problematic, is still in violation of a Supreme Court ruling that entry to the U.S. cannot be based on nationality. The state of Hawaii filed suit. So have California, Minnesota, New York and Oregon. A Hawaiian judge has ruled a halt to the ban, the second time the courts have stopped it. President Trump says he will take it all the way to the Supreme Court, by which time, with extreme vetting long since installed to his satisfaction, a 90-day ban will make no sense whatsoever.

Let's step back to ask again what this ban is for. Its stated purpose — unchanged,…

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