Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Student Confronts Pelosi: Actually, Tax Reform 'Crumbs' Are Helping My Family Put Me Through College

A college student confronted House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi at an on-campus event sponsored by Georgetown University's Institute of Politics on Tuesday, challenging her rhetoric referring to the GOP-passed tax cuts and related bonuses as "crumbs."  Other Democrats have followed suit, sneering at the tangible benefits being experienced by everyday American families -- all thanks to a law that people like Pelosi wrongly predicted would inflict "Armageddon" on the US economy and trigger "the end of the world."  The student, who identified himself as freshman from Virginia, relayed his family's positive experience with tax reform and pressed Pelosi on whether she would stand by her dismissive formulation

“You’ve spoken about the effects of the Republican tax plan, specifically referring to its effects on average Americans as crumbs,” the student said. As the son of small business owners, I know that it’s helped my parent hire more employees. It’s helped us pay off our mortgage, helped put me through college...Would you still refer to the effects of this tax plan on average Americans as crumbs?”

Pelosi conceded that some people are benefitting from the new law, but referred to the economic arguments in favor of the Republican policy as "BS." She also made the following claim: "Here's a tax bill that they advertise as a benefit for the middle class, and did you know 83 percent of the benefits of the tax bill go to the top one percent? ...In the life of the bill, 86 million middle class families will pay more taxes." 

The first part of that statement is flat-out false.  The second, carefully-parsed attack is deeply misleading.  Let's unpack each element.  It's simply wrong to say that 83 of the new law's tax benefits go to the top one percent.  Here's the truth:

Brian Riedl of the Manhattan Institute points out, “The bottom 80 percent of families currently pay 33 percent of all combined federal taxes, yet will get 35 percent of the tax cuts. By contrast, the top one percent currently pays 27 percent of all federal taxes, but will get just 21 percent of the tax cuts. This means the share of all federal taxes paid by upper-income earners will slightly rise.”

That's a far cry from what Pelosi said (and while we're at it, read this piece about tax burdens and "fair shares"). So where did she come up with that number? By embracing a total distortion that we've dismantled in previous analyses. Here is FactCheck.org exposing her dishonest point back in January:

"The Republican tax plan was signed into law just last month, and Democrats already have a well-worn, and misleading, talking point about it: 83 percent of the tax cuts go to the wealthiest 1 percent. That’s true for 2027 but only because most of the individual income tax changes expire by then. In 2025 — the last year before those tax changes expire — a quarter of the tax cuts go to the top 1 percent. It’s a classic case of politicians using a technically accurate statistic but without the context or explanation it requires...

The important missing context is that the final tax legislation, which President Donald Trump signed into law Dec. 22, allows most of its individual income tax provisions to expire by 2027, making the tax benefit distribution more lopsided for the top 1 percent than in earlier years.

In other words, the only way transform Pelosi's statement into something remotely accurate is to pretend as if the years 2018 through 2026 do not exist.  That's preposterous and goes well beyond mere "misleading," especially considering how she used that statistic to describe the entirety of the law.  That's a lie. 

Her talking point also assumes that all of the tax cuts will, in fact, expire by 2027.  How likely is that?  Not bloody likely.  Indeed, Republicans are already planning to call votes to make the middle class tax cuts permanent, which would completely blow up this critique from Democrats.  Her latter statistic, which was preceded by the caveat about "the life of the bill," relies on the same sleight of hand.  She was slapped with Pinocchios by the Washington Post over a previous iteration of this fear-mongering, so she's added a qualifier to make it slightly less deceitful. 

Again, the bottom line is that these alleged "tax increases" on 86 million middle class families would only hypothetically occur if the GOP tax cuts go away years from now.  Republicans are on the record in favor of extending them indefinitely, but couldn't make the "reconciliation" math work in order to pass the original bill with a simple majority in the Senate.  That's why the on-paper expiration date was included; it was a necessary budget gimmick, and everyone knew it. 

Will Democrats oppose efforts to keep those tax cuts in place?  If so, they would be to blame for a potential politically-painful and therefore extremely unlikely tax hike in the future.  And what's especially galling about this line of attack from Pelosi is that she's endorsed repealing the law, which would guarantee a massive middle class tax increase.

Back in reality, the law is reducing taxes for roughly 90 percent of all taxpayers, across all income groups, including an estimated 91 percent of middle income families.  The corporate tax cuts have resulted in hundreds of companies announcing expansion plans, new investments, enhanced benefits, and special bonuses for millions of workers. 

Financial optimism among voters, manufacturers and small business owners has soared, as have employment projections for the wider economy -- all of which has spurred stepped-up GDP growth.  Pelosi can wave this all away as "crumbs" and "BS," but she's living in an alternate, anti-math universe.  But that's nothing new, especially on this front.  I'll leave you with Mitch McConnell calling out Indiana Democrat Joe Donnelly (not by name, but by obvious implication) for voting with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi against a law that has precipitated a great deal of good news for Hoosiers:

“As my colleague, Senator Young, reports, the results in Indiana are adding up. He heard from a Hoosier in Cedar Lake who’s expanding his family milk-hauling business, and a Kokomo small business owner who’s now hiring more workers. And I recently read that over in Ellettsville, one family has found an additional $200 in their monthly paychecks -- enough to cover a week’s worth of groceries. I don’t think my colleagues across the aisle intended to make life more difficult for middle-class families across the country. It’s just that left-wing policies make it harder, not easier, for American workers and job creators to get ahead.

But when my Democratic friends had the chance to join us and deliver historic tax relief to American families, they stood firm and tried to block tax relief on party lines. One of Indiana’s own senators tried to block all that good Indiana news from happening. I’m proud Republicans overcame that obstruction and got tax reform done for Americans.”

Don't be surprised to see a "Joe voted no" reprise in Indiana sometime soon.



Democrats Won’t Be Pleased with Ben Carson’s Plan for Public Housing

President Donald Trump’s administration will propose increasing the minimum percent of income that poor families living in subsidized housing will pay in rent, according to suggested legislation The Washington Post first reported.

Currently, the lowest-income residents in housing provided by the Department of Housing and Urban Development pay 30 percent of adjusted salary toward rent.

However, Secretary Ben Carson’s proposal would raise that to 35 percent.

Carson’s proposal suggests raising the minimum rent for the poorest families to $150 a month, compared to the current monthly minimum of $50, according to The Post.

The suggested legislation text stipulates the secretary may raise the minimum rate through regulation.

The administration’s proposal would have to be approved in Congress, which is currently considering proposals to reform HUD’s rent assistance model in line with Trump’s goal of encouraging poor families and welfare recipients to participate in the workforce and become self-sufficient.

Carson also hopes to reduce the burden of Byzantine rules housing authorities and tenants must navigate to calculate rent costs for families with similar incomes.

“The system we currently use to calculate a family’s rental assistance is broken and holds back the very people we’re supposed to be helping,” Carson said Wednesday.

“HUD-assisted households are now required to surrender a long list of personal information, and any new income they earn is ‘taxed’ every year in the form of a rent increase,” he added.

“Today, we begin a necessary conversation about how we can provide meaningful, dignified assistance to those we serve without hurting them at the same time.”

The current rental structure for subsidized housing encourages families to work few hours and doesn’t provide incentives raise incomes, critics said.



Mattis On Russian Mercenaries In Syria: I Ordered Them 'To Be Annihilated'

On Thursday, Secretary of Defense James Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he ordered Russian mercenaries in Syria to be annihilated once he found out that they were not part of the Russian military.

Mattis revealed that the military used a deconfliction line with Russia to make sure that forces with which they were engaged in conflict were not part of the Russian military. Once the military received confirmation from Russia, Mattis ordered U.S. military forces to destroy the Russian mercenaries, The Washington Free Beacon reported.

"The Russian high command in Syria assured us it was not their people, and my direction to the chairman was for the force, then, to be annihilated," Mattis said. "And it was."

Mattis added that at this point he couldn't attribute responsibility for who was behind the Russian mercenaries to the Russian government, noting that there are multiple forces involved in the operations in Syria.

"I cannot target the responsibility to the Russians right now," he said. "It is a crowded battlefield; it’s also got Iranians there and, of course, the regime forces as well."



Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman: Palestinians Need To Negotiate Or 'Shut Up And Stop Complaining'

According to Barak Ravid of Israel’s Channel 10 News and Axios, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman shocked Jewish attendees during a meeting in New York in March, saying:

In the last several decades the Palestinian leadership has missed one opportunity after the other and rejected all the peace proposals it was given. It is about time the Palestinians take the proposals and agree to come to the negotiations table or shut up and stop complaining.

Bin Salman also slammed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, reports Ravid, citing inside sources.

Mohammed Bin Salman has risen to fame on a rocket after he was made Crown Prince in June 2017. Since he came to power, bin Salman has begun to open up the nation to more Western values — if only by inches. According to TIME:

In June, women will drive on Saudi roads, independent from male chaperones. Music festivals and movie theaters are opening, though questions remain about separate seating for men and women. The kingdom’s religious police are being reined in. In a setting as sterile and controlled as Saudi Arabia, these modest changes have generated genuine enthusiasm among activists, many of whom had been skeptical of bin Salman.

However, the Saudi government has also continued to conduct itself in a manner more befitting a dictatorship.

The New York Times reports that in November, a number of Saudi businessmen and royals were imprisoned in the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton at the behest of bin Salman, some of whom were allegedly manipulated or forced into handing over “more than $100 billion” collectively.

This act was billed as an “anti-corruption campaign,” according to the Saudi government — although some critics say it was the opposite, a move designed to gather power.



Broward Deputy Union Drops Hammer On Sheriff Scott Israel

In an overwhelming vote, the Broward Sheriff's Office Deputies Association announced it has "no confidence" in Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel and is going to ask Florida Governor Rick Scott to remove him from office over his handling of the Parkland shooting.

Out of the 628 officers in the union, 534 voted that they had no confidence in Sheriff Israel. Union President Jeff Bell said that it was the "union's first vote of no confidence against a sheriff."

WPBF Investigative reporter Terri Parker noted that the union said Sheriff Israel was a liar, deputies were demoralized and the police force was understaffed.

In response to the vote, Israel claimed that Bell was trying to "use the Parkland tragedy as a bargaining tactic to extort a 6.5 percent raise."

Bell responded by telling the newspaper, “Amazing leadership starts from the top, and there is no amazing leadership here. We are a ship out at sea with no power — adrift,” adding that “members have displayed great courage to come out and vote under threat of retaliation and reprisal from the sheriff.”



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