Opinion: COVID Relief Fiasco Reveals McConnellism Rivals Trumpism In Disregard for Americans’ Welfare

Trump - McConnell

Americans have been living under a political system arguably best characterized as a tyranny of the minority for some time.  Certainly, for the past four years the nation has suffered the insidious rule of a president who lost the popular vote by 3 million tallies in the 2016 election, just as the nation was hornswoggled into a devastatingly costly war—in human, financial, and geopolitical terms—and financial disaster from 2000 to 2008 by the Bush-Cheney regime, which also sneaked into office having lost the popular vote.  And even when the majority vote was able to elect Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, it had to do so in the context of still-existent gerrymandered districting that meant in many cases, in down-ballot races, Republican candidates could win local elections in states that still featured an overwhelming Democratic electorate. read more

Mnuchin Cannot Confirm When White House and Democrats Might Reach a Deal on Coronavirus Relief

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin cannot confirm when the White House and Democrats might reach a deal on vital coronavirus relief funds for the millions of Americans affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

“I can’t speculate. If the Democrats are willing to be reasonable, there’s a compromise. If the Democrats are focused on politics and don’t want to do anything that’s going to succeed for the president, there won’t be a deal,” he told Fox Business Network. read more

Trump Uses Morning to Attack Dem Leadership Over Virus Relief

Trump Press Conferences

President Donald Trump lashed out at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), accusing them of delaying crucial coronavirus relief legislation.

So now Schumer and Pelosi want to meet to make a deal. Amazing how it all works, isn’t it,” he wrote. “Where have they been for the last 4 weeks when they were “hardliners”, and only wanted BAILOUT MONEY for Democrat run states and cities that are failing badly? They know my phone number!”

So now Schumer and Pelosi want to meet to make a deal. Amazing how it all works, isn’t it. Where have they been for the last 4 weeks when they were “hardliners”, and only wanted BAILOUT MONEY for Democrat run states and cities that are failing badly? They know my phone number! read more

Postal Workers Union Says Trump Will “Sacrifice our Public Postal Service at the Altar of Private Profit”

In a statement,  American Postal Workers Union (APWU) President Mark Dimondstein slammed President Donald Trump and his administration in response to a Washington Post report that the president is using the coronavirus pandemic to cripple the United States Postal Service (USPS).

“It’s a power grab to destroy the public Postal Service,” Dimondstein said. “The Post’s reporting confirms what our union has long known: This Administration is committed to fulfilling the decades-long pursuit by some to sacrifice our public Postal Service at the altar of private profit.”

“Postal workers provide an absolutely essential service to everyone in the country – no matter how rich or poor we are or where we live. During this pandemic, postal workers have continued to bind the nation together and deliver essential medicine, supplies and information to a public that is confined to their homes,” he continued.  “At a time when the country needs us now more than ever, Mnuchin and his Wall Street cronies are attempting to exploit the crisis to raise prices, demonize heroic postal workers and cut service, all so private delivery companies can profit. It’s a power grab. Shame on them.”

The Post report revealed that the Treasury Department is considering leveraging emergency coronavirus relief loan to control USPS. The report notes that officials who work for Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told USPS officials “that he could use the loan as leverage to give the administration influence over how much the agency charges for delivering packages and how it manages its finances, according to the two people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the talks are preliminary.”

President Trump himself has often accused the postal service of mismanagement. He has also said as recently as this month said that online retailers have contributed to “the demise of the Postal Service.”

“This is the new one. I’m the demise of the Postal Service,” Trump said on April 7. “I’ll tell you who’s the demise of the Postal Service, are these internet companies that give their stuff to the Postal Service.”

“They drop everything in the post office and they say, ‘You deliver it.’ And if they’d raise the prices by, actually, a lot, then you’d find out that the post office could make money or break even, but they don’t do that, and I’m trying to figure out why,” he said.

Native American Tribes Sue U.S. Treasury to Stop Coronavirus Relief from Going to Corporations

Six Native American tribes––including the Tulalip Tribes and the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation in Washington State. The Akiak Native Community, the Aleut Community of St. Paul Island, the Asa’carsarmiut Tribe of Alaska, and Maine’s Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians––have sued the United States Treasury Department to make sure coronavirus relief funds go directly to tribal governments and not Alaska Native corporations.

The plaintiffs say in their suit, which names Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin as a defendant, that Alaska Native corporations are not eligible to receive funds designated for tribal governments because they are for-profit “state-chartered and state-regulated private business corporations.”

The fact that these corporations have the same legal status as tribal governments by the federal government, they contend, “reduces the funds available for allocation and distribution to Plaintiffs, who are in dire need for the funds to support the necessary and increased expenditures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Alaska Native corporations, which own 44 million acres of land in Alaska, were devised in 1971 after Congress passed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. That legislation created 12 separate sections, or regions, of the state, where corporations could purchase land and conduct business such as mining and fishing.

The Interior Department, which oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs, argues that Alaska Native corporations are eligible for coronavirus relief. They’ve cited a definition that includes them as an “Indian Tribe” in the federal bill.

Earlier this week, tribes alleged that Tara Sweeney, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior, is deciding how this funding is spent. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) also commented on Sweeney’s role earlier this week.

“We can’t put these corporations before tribal governments [and] people,” Schumer wrote.

Pres. Trump’s @ASIndianAffairs Tara Sweeney is diverting funds for tribal governments during coronavirus to for-profit Alaska Native Corporations.

We can't put these corporations before tribal governments & people.

Sweeney used to be an exec for an ANC, and she wants to profit! read more

Treasury Sec Steven Mnuchin Announces April 15 ‘Tax Day’ Has Been Delayed

A number of reasonable changes to accommodate America’s new reality in dealing with the coronavirus crisis have been proposed and adopted by the federal government. Now, the deadline to file for taxes is one of them.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced on Friday that American taxpayers would not have to adhere to the normal April 15 deadline to file their tax returns. Instead, there would be a three-month delay, allowing filers to submit their records to the Internal Revenue Service up to July 15.

“At @realDonaldTrump’s direction, we are moving Tax Day from April 15 to July 15,” Mnuchin wrote on Twitter. “All taxpayers and businesses will have this additional time to file and make payments without interest or penalties.”

The delay is likely a welcome respite for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of workers, many of whom have recently lost their jobs due to the financial outcomes of the spread of coronavirus, as well as others who are still working but may not have a job in the near future.

According to recent polling from ABC News/Ipsos, more than 2-in-5 Americans say they are presently without a job. Seventeen percent of Americans have transitioned their ordinary work situations to a work-from-home (WFH) setup, and 5 percent said they were already working from home.

In announcing the delay, Mnuchin stressed that Americans should still try to get their tax returns into the IRS as soon as possible.

“We encourage those Americans who can file their taxes to continue to file their taxes on April 15,” he said in a statement. “Because for many Americans, you will get tax refunds.”

BREAKING: You now have 90 extra days to pay your taxes https://t.co/BlQJqAvYDs read more

As Wealth Tax Debate Heats Up, What Does it Mean to Invest in America?

Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax proposal has certainly sparked debates not just about basic questions of fairness, of morality, but also about the economic effectiveness and very meaning of taxation.

The debate raises the question of what it means to invest in America.

Beto O’Rourke, in the last debate, jumped on the Warren-bashing bandwagon, accusing Warren’s policies of being “more focused on being punitive or pitting one part of the country against the other instead of lifting people up.”

Elaborating O’Rourke’s critique in terms of the impact of the proposed tax on the economy, Lawrence Summers, Treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton, and law professor Natasha Sarin argued in a paper they wrote that a wealth tax would “undermine business confidence, reduce investment, degrade economic efficiency and punish success in ways unlikely to be good for the country or even to be appealing to most Americans.”

While we tend to hear in the media from billionaires like Bill Gates and Leon Cooperman and not the 99/9% of households that would not pay more taxes under Warren’s proposal, polls directly contradict Summer’s and Sarin’s claim, showing overwhelming public support for a wealth tax.

But let’s assess Summer’s and Sarin’s claims that the tax would “undermine business confidence, reduce investment, and degrade economic efficiency.”

In short, let’s explore the question of what it means to invest in America and whether a wealth tax would really constitute a reduction of investment in America.

First, let’s just reflect intuitively on whether a tax on just .1 percent of American households seems likely to “undermine business confidence” and “reduce investment.”  Consumer spending makes up roughly 2/3 of the U.S. economy, so it stands to reason that policies geared toward fostering a consistently robust consumer and encouraging consumer confidence in the 99.9% of households just might be a more effective approach to stimulating economic activity and ensuring the long-term economic health. Just saying.

For example, a recent study from the Illinois Economic Policy Institute highlights the many ways raising the minimum wage would significantly improve Illinois’ economy. The study contends, “By raising the minimum wage, Illinois can boost worker incomes, reduce income inequality, increase consumer spending, grow the economy, generate tax revenues, and decrease taxpayer costs for government assistance programs.”

In a nutshell, raising the minimum wage to $15 would both save taxpayers money by decreasing the need for public assistance for the working poor (saving $87 million alone in food stamp outlays, according to the study), increase the revenue the state brings in from income and sales tax (generating, the study says, $380 million in new state tax revenue), and overall generate $19 billion in economic activity. read more

More Chaos: Treasury Secretary May Be Next in Cabinet Fired By Trump

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin made a bad stock market situation worse over the weekend, and now he may be the next Trump cabinet member to receive a tweet from the president saying “you’re fired.”

As the stock markets have dropped precipitously in recent weeks, Trump has been looking for scapegoats. He would like to fire the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, but he can’t do that just because he is not happy with the Fed’s moves to increase interest rates.

Of course Trump has caused his own problems, with a trade war, with a government shutdown, and with his own random and chaotic behavior. Financial markets hate uncertainty, yet that is what Donald Trump has given them as president.

And now, according to Bloomberg News, Mnuchin’s head may be on the chopping block. The news service reported that Mnuchin’s future as Treasury Secretary depends on whether the market continues to drop.   

Mnuchin tried to solidify his position with the president by attempting to reassure financial markets over the weekend. As we reported yesterday,

“Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has put together something called the “plunge protection team.” He also called the CEO’s of the six largest banks in the country and inquired into their overall strength and liquidity. Mnuchin called the banks on Sunday, speaking to the heads of Bank of America, Citi, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo.”

But Mnuchin’s moves backfired, and on Monday the stock markets experienced their worst Christmas Eve decline in history. And to make his situation more precarious, he does not have a lot of supporters within the administration.

“There are plenty of people inside the White House who are not fans of Mnuchin who are happy to throw him under the bus,” Stephen Myrow, a former Treasury official, told Bloomberg. “Up until now, he’s been protected by the fact that Trump liked him and he’s been a loyalist.”

Trump has made things much worse by his escalating attacks on Powell and the Federal Reserve. Early yesterday he tweeted “the only problem our economy has is the Fed” and shortly thereafter all market indices experienced steep drops.

We reported in November that

Trump was unhappy with Mnuchin. read more

Mnuchin Says Trade Talks Are Broken As China Calls U.S. Enemy of All

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday admitted that trade talks with China had “broken down” while China was calling the United States the “enemy of all” because of Donald Trump’s trade policies.

“As the trade war continues between China and the United States, Steven Mnuchin said talks with Beijing had “broken down” and suggested it was now up to China to come to the table with concessions https://nyti.ms/2zBL7z6

As the trade war continues between China and the United States, Steven Mnuchin said talks with Beijing had “broken down” and suggested it was now up to China to come to the table with concessions https://t.co/dbd8kiPS6e pic.twitter.com/xby4GjLMSg read more

From Populism to Donorism: The GOP’s Authoritarian Rule Disregards American Majority

Remember last July when Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced sanctions against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro Moros and his regime? At the time the Maduros regime was attempting to re-write Venezuela’s constitution to erode provisions enforcing democratic institutions in order to secure dictatorial powers for himself.
Mnuchin issued a statement last July 31 that, looking back, we can see contains language remarkably resonant with the recent behaviors of not just the Trump administration but, it is important to note, the current GOP regime itself. In this statement, Mnuchin said, “As President Trump said earlier this month, the strong and courageous actions by the Venezuelan people to stand for democracy, freedom, and the rule of law have been continually ignored by Nicolas Maduro who dreams of becoming a dictator. Yesterday’s illegitimate elections confirm that Maduro is a dictator who disregards the will of the Venezuelan people.”

While Mnuchin characterizes Maduro as “a dictator who disregards the will of the Venezuelan people,” certainly the Republican efforts over the last year to ramrod massively unpopular legislation through Congress, from the failed Obamacare repeal to the current tax bill, constitute similar, even equal, disregard for the will of the American people.
Consider the following examples:

*Last September myriad major groups and constituencies, including the American Medical Association, the National Council on Behavioral Health, the American Association of Retired People, as well as major Health Insurance Companies such as Blue Cross Blue Shield and the largest health insurance lobby America’s Health Insurance Plans, expressed strenuous opposition to the Graham-Cassidy Bill designed to repeal and replace much of the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare. The legislation failed, to be sure, but what is important to note is that the Republican majorities in Congress pushed forward with the legislation despite this ferocious popular opposition among the industry itself and the masses of Americans.

*The current tax bill, which all signs indicate will be passed by Congress before Christmas, is also opposed by the majority of Americans. A Gallup poll from earlier this December registered a 56% disapproval rating for the bill, called the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, while a Quinnipiac Poll from the same time registered a 53% disapproval rating. Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight site compiled data ranking the bill the least popular tax-related bill since 1981, and included two tax-hike bills in the 1990s.

Despite this clear opposition from an American majority, Congress still nonetheless has promised to pass the current tax bill and President Trump has pledged to sign it, characterizing it as a Christmas present for the American people, who conversely, polls indicate, view the bill as a lump of coal in their stockings.

While Trump’s campaign was often characterized as a “populist” one, his administration has in the main disregarded the will of the American people, to the point of assaulting the economic well-being of the mass of Americans. Remember his first hour in office when he made mortgages more expensive for millions of middle-class and lower-income Americans?

Certainly, many have observed and discussed not just his abandonment of a populist agenda but his assumption of a downright authoritarian style of rule. But what really needs to be understood and underlined is that this authoritarianism, what Mnuchin described with Maduro as a disregard for the will of the people, is not limited to Trump himself but, more to the point, characterizes the Republican majority itself.

What accounts for this authoritarianism of the GOP that governs and legislates with such blatant disregard for the well-being of the majority of Americans? If the GOP isn’t representing the American majority, then whom do they pretend to represent?

Well, Republicans have been quite candid, according to Dylan Scott of Vox, about their motivations. They serve their donors, a small wealthy sliver of the American population, at the expense of the populous. He cites Representative Chris Collins (R-NY) who told him, “My donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again.’”
Populism has become donorism, and representational democracy has been turned on its head, becoming a representational elitism, leaving the majority of Americans inspired with terror at the prospects the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has in store for them.

The question now is how the will of the people, so blatantly disregarded by Trump and the broader GOP—both its fringe and establishment wings,–will express itself in the 2018 mid-term elections.