Now On to the Next Phase of the Looting

Pete Peterson might be dead, but the GOP quest to gut Medicare and Social Security marches on:

The financial future of the part of Medicare that pays older Americans’ hospital bills has deteriorated significantly, according to an annual government report that forecasts that the trust fund will be depleted by 2026 — three years sooner than expected a year ago.

The report, issued Tuesday by a quartet of Trump administration officials who are trustees for Medicare and Social Security, reveals that policy changes ushered in by the president and the Republican Congress are weakening the financial underpinnings of the already-fragile insurance program.

According to the report, less money will be flowing into the hospital-care trust fund in part because the tax law passed this year will cause the government to collect less in income taxes. In addition, lower wages last year will translate into lower payroll taxes.

As revenue slips, hospital expenses will increase, the report says. A senior government official who briefed reporters on it said that part of that increase is because the tax law will, starting next year, end enforcement of the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that most Americans carry health insurance. As a result, hospitals are predicted to have more uninsured patients, in turn requiring the Medicare program to pay more for such uncompensated care.

Literally everything the Republicans are doing is a direct attack on the American people.








Back to the phones

You know what to do — call your Senators and let them know your thoughts.








No, Virginia, Tax Giveaways To The 1 % Don’t Work

Just a check in on the astonishing economy building super duper special magical powers of GOP TAX CUT POTION™.

Spoiler: it works just as well as the utter, don’t-let-the-pointy-heads-at-the-FDA-f**k-up-a-good-thing  quackery Orrin Hatch has spent so long protecting.

The latest by Dean Baker:

The ostensible rationale for the big cut in the corporate tax rate that was at the center of the tax cut is that it will lead to a flood of new investment.

Since the outlines of the tax cut had been known since September, businesses had plenty of time to plan how they would respond to lower tax rates. If lower rates really produce a flood of investment we should at least begin to see some sign in new orders once the tax cut was certain to pass.

The January report showed orders actually fell modestly for the second consecutive month. The drop occurs both including and excluding volatile aircraft orders. While this is far from conclusive, it is hard to reconcile with the view that lower taxes would lead to a flood of new investment.

Remarkably, these new data have gotten almost no attention from the media. Both the NYT and the Washington Post ran an AP story that just noted the drop in passing. Doesn’t anyone care if the tax cut works?

As everyone who wasn’t a Republican and or a CEO said, the tax bill was a sham, a way to transfer yet more wealth from labor to capital, from most of us to a very few, already hugely rich.

Image: Reginald Gray, The Banker, Smoking, 2002.

 

 



We Can Always Use Some Bitter, Cynical, Gallows Humor, So Here’s A Kudlow Post

Larry Kudlow is the pure distilled essence of a Trump appointment, the type specimen of the breed, and the perfect expression of the state of Republican “thinking” on not just economics, but any matter in which actual knowledge and a respect for empiricism might help.

Via Wikipedia, we find he is barely educated, at best, in the fields in which he now works:

Kudlow graduated from University of Rochester in Rochester, New York with a degree in history in 1969. Known as “Kuddles” to friends, he was a star on the tennis team and a member of the left-wing Students for a Democratic Society at Rochester.

In 1971, Kudlow attended Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, where he studied politics and economics. He left before completing his master’s degree.

I’ll admit that Kuddles is kinda cute, but an unfinished masters degree in a policy school is not one you’d usually associate with economics acumen.

He went on to a stellar business career, managing to get fired repeatedly for substance abuse on the job, including a claimed $10,000/month cocaine habit that got him canned from Bear Stearns in 1994. (It’s interesting to note that a frantic effort is underway today to diminish such inconvenient truths on Kudlow’s Wikipedia page.)

Fortunately for Kuddles, he cleans up well, dresses nicely, and can tok gud. So he was able to revive his career as a TV gasbag, with a series of appearances and then shows on CNBC, the network that figured out the markets could be covered like sports teams.

Unfortunately — for the rest of us, if not for the ever-failing-up Kudlow — he’s been wrong about almost every key economic call since Methuselah was in diapers.  He is a Laffer disciple, a supply-sider whose faith that there is no tax that is too low, no plutocrat whose needs must not be served, is impervious to any test of reality.

Consider this:

In 1993, when Bill Clinton proposed an increase in the top tax rate from 31 percent to 39.6 percent, Kudlow wrote, “There is no question that President Clinton’s across-the-board tax increases … will throw a wet blanket over the recovery and depress the economy’s long-run potential to grow.” This was wrong. Instead, a boom ensued. Rather than question his analysis, Kudlow switched to crediting the results to the great tax-cutter, Ronald Reagan. “The politician most responsible for laying the groundwork for this prosperous era is not Bill Clinton, but Ronald Reagan,” he argued in February, 2000.

And this:

Kudlow firmly denied that the United States would enter a recession in 2007, or that it was in the midst of a recession in early to mid-2008. In December 2007, he wrote: “The recession debate is over. It’s not gonna happen. Time to move on. At a bare minimum, we are looking at Goldilocks 2.0. (And that’s a minimum). The Bush boom is alive and well. It’s finishing up its sixth splendid year with many more years to come”. In May 2008 he wrote: “President George W. Bush may turn out to be the top economic forecaster in the country” in his “‘R’ is for ‘Right'”.

And this:

When Obama took office, Kudlow was detecting an “inflationary bubble.” That was wrong. He warned in 2009 that the administration “is waging war on investors. He’s waging war against businesses. He’s waging war against bondholders. These are very bad things.” That was also wrong, and when the recovery proceeded, by 2011, he credited the Bush tax cuts for the recovery. (Kudlow, April 2011: “March unemployment rate drop proof lower taxes work.”) By 2012, Kudlow found new grounds to test out his theories: Kansas, where he advisedRepublican governor Sam Brownback to implement a sweeping tax-cut plan that would produce faster growth. This was wrong. Alas, Brownback’s program has proven a comprehensive failure, falling short of all its promises and leaving the state in fiscal turmoil.

The reviews are coming in. Via the BBC:

David Stockman, Mr Kudlow’s former boss during the Reagan administration, told the Washington Post in 2016 that Mr Kudlow’s prediction that tax cuts would lead to growth was “dead wrong”. Instead, he said the cuts led to budget deficits.

More recently, he has warned that Mr Kudlow would not be able to rein in the president.

“As much as I love him … Larry’s voice is exactly the wrong voice that Donald Trump ought to be hearing as we go forward,” he told CNBC.

Liberal economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has been sharply critical, noting that Mr Kudlow missed signs of the housing bubble and recession.

“At least he’s reliable — that is, he’s reliably wrong about everything,” Mr Krugman tweeted.

Indeed in December 2007 – just as the recession was beginning – Mr Kudlow wrote in the National Review: “There’s no recession coming. The pessimistas were wrong. It’s not going to happen.”

It is interesting that Kudlow himself doesn’t seem to disagree with his predecessor on the issue that got Cohn out. From a quick take bylined by him, Laffer and Stephen Moore (another stellar, always-wrong econ public intellectual) here he is on Trump’s tariff announcement:

Tariffs are really tax hikes. Since so many of the things American consumers buy today are made of steel or aluminum, a 25 percent tariff on these commodities may get passed on to consumers at the cash register. This is a regressive tax on low-income families.

I wonder how that squares with the new job. ETA: I know how it squares. It’s already been forgotten. We’ve always been at war with Eastasia.

But that’s just SOP in the circles in which Kudlow travels:  intellectual rigor doesn’t actually matter.  He’s under no obligation to be consistent in any of his pronouncements, and he certainly doesn’t have to be right about anything as long as he provides cover for the true Republican (n.b.: not just Trumpian) policy goal: the transfer of more and more of our society’s wealth to those who are already wealthy — and hence, in the GOP/Rand/Sociopath view of the world, those who are virtuous enough to deserve such riches.

For all of you who’ve wondered why the US can’t be more like Kansas — we may now we get to find out.

Image: Thomas Shields Clarke, A Fool’s Fool,  c. 1887.



Fiscal Conservatism Is Actually Robbing the Poor to Shower the Rich With Cash

Amazing:

It was another crazy news week, so it’s understandable if you missed a small but important announcement from the Treasury Department: The federal government is on track to borrow nearly $1 trillion this fiscal year — Trump’s first full year in charge of the budget.

That’s almost double what the government borrowed in fiscal year 2017.

Here are the exact figures: The U.S. Treasury expects to borrow $955 billion this fiscal year, according to a documents released Wednesday. It’s the highest amount of borrowing in six years, and a big jump from the $519 billion the federal government borrowed last year.

Treasury mainly attributed the increase to the “fiscal outlook.” The Congressional Budget Office was more blunt. In a report this week, the CBO said tax receipts are going to be lower because of the new tax law.

And we all know what that means- we will suddenly become (and by we, I mean the Republicans and the media) with the debt and deficit, so something will have to be done. That something will not be getting rid of the newly enacted tax cut, the proximate cause of this mess:

Welfare hardly exists anymore in the United States. Yet in his ever-persistent war on the poor, Paul Ryan is pushing a proposal that “could include work requirements for welfare beneficiaries,” as Politico reports. And to do so, Ryan and other Republicans are trying out a shiny new rebrand.

According to Politico, at a GOP retreat, “Ryan urged congressional Republicans to tackle ‘workforce development.’ He messaged the somewhat amorphous phrase as a matter of ‘helping people[.]’” House Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker followed a similar tack, saying, “If you really want someone to get out there and find fulfillment… even though you’ve got to get the framing or the phrasing right, wouldn’t you want to see that person excel?” and that “When we talk about ‘Medicaid reform,’ that’s not a great buzz phrase.”

The exact details of Ryan’s plans are not clear (after all, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the current version of welfare, already imposes strict work requirements), but he has consistently advocated for cuts to programs like Social Security, Medicare, and food stamps. And Donald Trump has already opened the door on tampering with Medicaid, allowing states to impose work requirements for the first time in the program’s 50-year history.

Winning the House and putting a dent in the Senate are national priorities.