Let's Fix This Country

governing

Say Goodbye to the Internet As We Know It

The FCC is handing control to corporate America

Few topics of government policy spur outrage, but don't mess with my Internet is one. The Republican-controlled Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has upended yet another popular Obama administration policy by turning control of the Internet over to the corporations that provide access, allowing them to do with it as they please.

In just the week after the plan was announced by FCC chairman Ajit Pai, the FCC received more than 200,000 phone calls in protest. Over 500,000 comments were left on the agency's website, adding to the 20 million that have come in since outlines of the agency's intentions became apparent earlier this year. (Obama's Clean Power Plan drew 4.3 million comments over six months).

A lunatic fringe shamelessly took its anger too far. The changes stirred threats of violence and ethnic slurs — Pai's parents immigrated from India — and daily protests in front of his house as far back as May, inexcusably frightening his wife and children ages 3 and 5.

Nevertheless, chairman Pai is resolute in defying public opposition despite there being no groundswell of support for the government ceding the Internet to corporations.

The FCC under Obama appointee Tom Wheeler established in 2015 the rule that required equal treatment by Internet service providers (ISPs) of all content,
from e-mail to movies, delivering all to customers without preference given to any source, without slowing the one to speed the other. This simple rule was tagged "net neutrality". Mr. Pai calls it "micromanaging the Internet".

Under his plan, ISPs will be unrestrained, free to deliver the Internet to customers according to whatever preferential…

the presidency

Will the Rule of Law Survive Donald Trump?

He treats the law as a hindrance that shouldn't apply to him

Within 24 hours came the guilty plea of Michael Flynn, President Trump's momentary National Security Adviser, and the disclosure by the New York Times
that over the summer Trump had repeatedly contacted Senate Republicans urging that they halt the intelligence committee's probe into Russia's election interference.

Flynn's sole charge of lying to the FBI disregards his involvement in a portfolio of questionable activities most notably with the Turkish government, suggesting that in return he has much to tell the special counsel about Russian connections during the Trump campaign and transition. The president's attempt to persuade the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr, to end their investigation and then his going around Burr to other senators, says that Trump is greatly worried about what is coming to light.

The question is, what is he likely to do? This is a president like no other,…

taxes

The Republican Tax Plan, a Colossal Indulgence at the Nation’s Expense

Republicans have long condemned Democrats for pushing through by simple majority vote, without a single Republican on board, the Affordable Care Act. How could they force on the nation a health care plan that affected one-sixth of the American economy.

Republicans are now employing the same maneuver — reconciliation, which requires only a simple majority — to ram through massive tax cut legislation that this time affects the entire U.S. economy, and for decades to come, without a single hearing, without a single Democrat on board.

The same conservatives, who in 2009 so objected to Obama's $858 billion
stimulus, a desperate measure to shore up the economy to prevent a depression in the wake of the financial crisis, are now in their mania for tax cuts injecting a huge stimulus not during a recession but at a time of an overheating economy and full employment, a bill that has been scored to add at least $1 trillion to the deficit.

These are the same conservatives who have long been the guidon bearers for…

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emoluments

Mar-a-Lago’s Search for American Workers

But deport the rest

An attempt to hire Americans, Trump's Mar-a-Lago club got U.S. Labor Department permission to hire 70 foreign works as cooks, waiters, and housekeepers to work over the winter. They had first followed the rules to advertise the jobs to all comers, but inexplicably no one responded to the tiny ad in a Palm Beach newspaper that had no phone number or e-mail address and asked that people "apply by fax".

tax breaks

Senate Under the Influence

Payoff in free booze?

The tax plan needs money so why do beer, wine, and spirit companies — including foreign producers — get a special tax cut costing $4.2 billion over 10 years. As it is, taxes on booze haven't changed since 1991, and with no indexing to inflation are already 45% lower in adjusted dollars. Will everyone get cases for Christmas?

Comment?
wild blue yonder

What the Mnuchins Owe You

Good luck collecting
Certain cabinet members qualify to use military aircraft for overseas flights for security reasons. Then there's Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and his Scotch actress wife who commandeered military aircraft domestically over last summer until they were found out. They cost us taxpayers $172,283. They would have cost $3,402 had they flown commercial, says this analysis.

Tim Geithner, Obama’s first Treasury secretary, flew commercially, always in coach, when traveling domestically, says his assistant secretary for public affairs.

Comment?

governing

Exiting the World: Trump Gutting the State Department

“There is simply no denying the warning signs that point to mounting threats to our institution and to the global leadership that depends on us”, writes Ambassador Barbara Stephenson, a career diplomat with the U.S. State Department for over 30 years, in a letter to a foreign service publication:

"The talent being shown the door now is not only our top talent, but also talent that cannot be replicated overnight. The rapid loss of so many senior officers has a serious, immediate and tangible effect on the capacity of the United States to shape world events.”

When Rex Tillerson took the reins at the State Department, the first order of business was clearly the threats the world presents — nuclear missiles from North
Korea, the growing belligerence of Russia and China, the perpetual turmoil of the Middle East. It was therefore bewildering that his priority instead seemed to be cutting costs and reorganizing the agency. He announced the intention to cut the 75,000 person department by 30%, a White House goal that undoubtedly originated with Steve Bannon's goal of "administrative deconstruction". That approach seemed to resonate with Tillerson, the corporate chieftain, as if the agency should be handled like the business he'd just run, ExxonMobil. He seems most enthusiastic talking about…

"organizational redesign…the organization chart itself, the boxes, and who reports to whom...The most important thing I can do is to enable this organization to be more effective, more efficient".

The most important thing? Hardly. Certainly not now. But not entirely outlandish. In a New Yorker profile of Tillerson, a former State Department negotiator told author Dexter Filkins, “No one will tell you this, but there’s a lot of dead wood around here”. There are 75,000 people in Washington and in… Read More »

tax reform

A Bespoke Tax Plan for the Trump Family »

"It's not good for me, believe me", said Donald Trump about the tax plan developed by him and a group of six from the Senate, the House and his administration. From a president infamous for inventing his own reality, this claim dwarfs all that came before. When he said in January, "We are going to be cutting taxes massively", it turns out he meant his own.

what they meant by simplification

To begin, the plan would eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). That is a second way of calculating taxes required of the wealthy to prevent their huge deductions from wiping out any obligation to pay taxes. Proof enough of how this will hugely benefit the rich is Trump's own tax return of 2005 leaked to the media. He had written off more than $100 million in business failings, mostly paper losses that the White House described as "large-scale depreciation for…

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