Thursday, December 28, 2017

Better luck next year...

Goodbye 2017, Hello 2018 and Hope

What a no good horrible, very bad year 2017 turned out to be.

Newly sworn in Donald Trump quickly dashed any hope of a different-from-his campaign, comfortable in his skin, as he unleashed a gaggle of twisted tweets about his self-perceived gigantic (not!) inaugural crowd size, as if discussing his hands wasn’t enough.

As his WH weeks rolled on, President and Commander in Chief Trump found no slight or put down  too small for him to respond, generally calling attention to his own greatness or that of his family or fortune.

No official, personality, country, or US institution proved too prominent or august for him to insult or disdain. In his campaign, he started on John McCain, Mexicans, Muslims, various foreign nations and leaders, and never stopped until the year wound down, claiming he—alone--brought back the “Merry Christmas” phrase.

The interim year generated many DJT news stories about the following people and issues, in no particular order.

--his blatant nepotism;
--befuddled sense of the Constitution and his role
--his explosive tweets;
--keeping stake in his family businesses through kids;
--Sean Spicer (and SNL!!); Sean gets replaced by “Biscuit” Sanders; 
--“fake news”;
--Kellyanne Conway;
--Sebastian Gorka
--unprecedented presidential attacks on the FBI, CIA, and Us intelligence agencies;
--Trump’s ongoing “Putin Bromance”;
--Russian dossiers complete with “golden showers”;
--Michael Flynn and Jim Comey are axed;
--AG Jeff Sessions recuses himself from Russia investigation;
--Robert Mueller named Special Prosecutor and promptly gets maligned by WH trolls;
--Trump immigration efforts/travel bans get rejected by various courts;
--Mexico doesn’t pay for “Wall”;
--DJT has GOP Obamacare legislative defeat in Senate;
--Trump’s dispute with NFL players and owners; dispute with Black military widow and Florida congresswoman;
--Offers Puerto Rican put downs post Hurricane Irma;
--North Korea (Score: Kim-5, DJT-O), China, Iran, NATO allies; England;
--Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon get fired/removed (but he still takes their phone calls and advice);
--the (not healthy) Prez’s Big Mac diet;
--Trump’s HRC and FBI “wiretapped me” accusations;
--Media report Rex Tillerson calls Trump “an idiot”;
--POTUS praises Duerte;
--POTUS finds virtues in Right Wing/Nazi demonstrators in Charlottesville, but then quickly changes tune (a recurring pattern?);
--Mara Largo (Trump Inc.) charges government for DJT stays;
--Secret Service vacates Trump Towers over lease dispute with Trump Inc.;
--HHS Secretary Tom Price resigns;
-- June 2016 meeting with Russians is revealed, slowly with changing WH story lines; 
--Record US hurricanes and fires in the face of his rejection of global warming or climate change;
--despite vowing no vacations (“I’m going to be working for you, I‘m not taking off…”), Trump takes off record vacation days to play golf and visit more than a 100 of his family-owned properties;
--Several women reiterate their claims that DJT—before becoming President--sexually assaulted them or otherwise abused them;
--Trump scuttling “bad” trade deals;
--challenges Canadian lumber imports and Mexican everything;
--Prez insults Australia;
--“Little Rocket Man”:
--North Korean missiles fly everywhere (Score: Kim--7, Trump—still 0);
--DACA and dreamers (most have jobs, pay taxes, and are not druggies or murderers”);
--Anthony Scaramucci, we barely knew you;
--“Pocahontas,” we heard too much about you from DJT;
--Omarosa Manigault did what for the President/our nation?
--Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Syria, Yemen;
--DJT supported Republican Ed Gillespie loses Virginia’s Governor’s race to Democrat Ralph Northam;
--Trump recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel;
--Sen. Kirsten Gillebrand;
--Poster child for gluttony, (Mrs.) Louise Mnuchin, wife of Treasury Secretary Steve, gets her be-jeweled and designer coated picture taken at the eclipse in Kentucky—then brags about how much federal tax her husband pays US (not so much anymore, Louis!)--and then in similar finery, is pictured with hubby fingering freshly printed sheets of US dollar bills,
--DJT claims: “I did not say, ‘Grab them by the p….’ “, but Billy Bush asserts DJT is lying;
--Roy Moore (ugh!);
--GOP Senate turns against Trump judicial candidates who can’t answer fundamental legal questions;
--and much, much agitating and stomach roiling more which I am sure I missed.

Someone just keep him away from the nuclear football!
Everyone out there, just a little worried about this President’s tendencies and lack of control, urge Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to send a memo reminder to the national monuments staff: “At Rushmore, hold up on moving Teddy over a bit and initiating ‘the Donald’ sculpting?”

Tax Law—bad for the United States,
But could be bad for Republicans, too

The very bad news—for which I must grant them political credit—is President Trump and his GOP political allies produced an impressive/substantial legislative tax law win for the Republican party just before Christmas, unforutnately he represents more than just that group.

It was poorly constructed, woefully designed, and broadly unfair relative to the GOP-claimed middle-income beneficiaries, but Trump and his allies pulled off a monumental financial rape of the US Treasury—on behalf of big business and the “haves”—with the entire US and world watching.

It was the legislative embodiment of his campaign boast that he could kill someone in the middle of NYC and—so far--not be held responsible.

The new law--which most mainstream non-conservative media, economists, and financial commentators not associated with right wing think tanks—is seriously flawed and heavily favored those who didn’t need it.

Likely—unless changed by a future Congress—its toll will be paid by middle and low income Americans and their children.

But Trump and his posse prevailed.

The Republicans, despite years of bitching about deficit spending and the need for federal budget cuts (meaning for the lower income and working class) gathered their forces around colossal fake analyses and specious tax arguments--which have failed for years to sway congressional votes--and squeaked out Senate and House wins, which still may cost them control of one or both in 2018 midterm elections.

I hope their political victory will be short term and pyric.

Yes, true tax reform would have been desirable.

Sorry, this law was not sound public policy being forged by thoughtful public officials. It was mass ideological carnage cleaning out the US Treasury on behalf of major GOP campaign givers and nothing more.

After Christmas, it allowed our President to swagger and boast to his fellow wealthy Mara Largo party goers, “You all just got a lot richer.” (Oh and Mara Largo this year increased its Christmas holiday guest fees.)

Yak, gag, barf!

Class—or in President Trump, no class—always shows.

And the Republicans are not finished yet spending your future tax payments with continued 2018 deficit spending.

Wait until DJT seeks greater military spending, not to mention federal infrastructure subsidies, employing their identical “feed the cows to feed the crows” theories.

(For those of you unfamiliar with the phrase—or the ideological meaning--it means the GOP nurturing the big old cows, who then pass excrement through their systems, which the crows fight over to consume.)

I can’t ignore the tax bill’s  financial class-bigotry and rewarding the Trump caviar eaters (the “cows”), who suggest a few hundred dollars in someone’s pay check over 12 months balances the billions going to businesses, which not only don’t need it to be successful, but who have doing quite well by any measure of corporate return.

From Yahoo Business:

Senate Finance Committee Chairman, Orrin Hatch, this past week was lambasted and called on to retire early by his home Salt Lake City Tribune. I hope that thinking spreads to others whose DNA is on the tax law.

Democrats see the tax bill’s unfairness and heavy benefits for the elite “1%” as a key to winning back the House or Senate in 2018 and maybe both, if the public has had it with the list of “uglies” mentioned above.

As more US voters—in Red States and Blue--wake up to how new the tax law disadvantages them and favors the corporate class—they might take out their frustration against those federal office seekers who helped the President pass the giveaway. Taking away his congressional majorities is a wonderful first step in paying him back for the financial and ideological debacle he presided over just so he could claim a “win.”

Year end GSE musings

Obviously Treasury and the FHFA talked to one another and temporarily solved each other’s GSE political problem.

Mel Watt has been warning about the GSEs having no capital and the tax bill causing a DTA write-down that would cause Treasury to write checks to the GSEs.

And Treasury’s Steve Mnuchin--up to his ass in non-GSE alligators, not to mention Mrs. M-- didn’t have time to putz around with this itty-bitty issue (in his grand scheme of things).

So, they amended the PSPA and created a tiny $3 Billion capital cushion for each and quickly moved on.

It’s another “kick the can down the road” tactic and now they‘ll wait until next year to deal with it, when they have Corker –Warner 2.0 likely introduced.

But, the tax bill—despite the GOP bunting placed around it—hurt the home building and home selling industries. Will they sign up for a big serving of the market unknown and uncertainty of killing the GSEs and restructuring the market on behalf of the big banks in a mid-term election year?

Having romped with the tax rewrites, will the Republicans now want to savage Fannie and Freddie??

My answer is yes, they certainly will try.

As 2018 evolves...

One final comment. I'm cyncial, as these blog pages suggest, but at bottom I'm looking and hoping for a better future.

I think our federal government is a sham, right now, with only an aware and politically active citizenry able to throw out enough of these dud Senators and Members--when they seek re-election in 10 months--and correct the course on our national ship.

It is that and your participation to which I look forward. If not us, who?

Happy New Year!!

Maloni, 12-29-2017

Monday, December 18, 2017

Drip, drip, drip….

When will his political and investment fate
catch up with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.)?

Some people may enjoy the revealing, unadorned, unforgettable, and raw political picture bared as President Trump and his GOP sycophantic congressional acolytes displayed their priorities and values in their tax package “for the haves.”   This egotistical President wants the bill on his desk in a week so he can claim he’s giving a “Christmas present” to the American public, yet with buckets of red ink thrown on the backs of future generations..

Our nation would be better off if the POTUS stuck to small gifts of  gold, frankincense, and myrrh and not slashed the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%, while hiding lots of other permanent goodies for the wealthy and his beloved “1%.” Oh, a few regular folks got some short term tax relief, which isn’t more than crumbs.

United States economic history, already, has shattered the GOP lies and distortions that undergird their tax legislation, no matter if it’s a 2018 Donald Trump event and not those of President Reagan in the 80’s, which helped create more US millionaires but never cut the deficit.

The 1996 Clinton tax cuts and later the Bush tax cuts in  2001, produced negative tax credits which grew the deficit, along with the social security, Medicare, and other spending programs which faced few cutbacks.

In fact, some cynics believe that part of the GOP’s rationale for the Trump tax cuts is to lay the justification—later in his term in the name of deficit reduction--to slash the remaining federal social safety net because of the growing deficits caused by these, mainly, unneeded 2018 corporate tax reductions.

In the past, our markets almost never grew at 3% or 4%, replaced lost revenue, and paid down existing deficits.

Yet this is the predictive policy swill the R’s have huckstered and a majority in Congress asks you to believe.

Markets don’t operate that way and all of the R spinning and insistence this time things will be different, ignores the tremendous giveaway most of these changes represent not for capital investment, new jobs, and repatriated dollars earned overseas, but for additional,  gushing red ink which will be add to our growing federal deficits.

Already companies are lining up to do corporate stock buybacks not build new plants or educate their work forces.

But who cares? In this bill, the GOP Senate and House—and their major campaign contributors—will get theirs. (Here’s hoping they will reap the corrective political consequences for their tawdry/transparent actions.)

Corker the phony statesman

A few blogs ago I said nice things about Sen Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), when he went after President Trump using language I might use in describing the President’s fecklessness, lack of character, and leadership. Corker deserved that praise for figuratively declaring “Emperor Trump is not wearing any clothes.”

Ironically, my regular gadfly “Anonymous”—who gives me grief over things progressive—suggested I was being hypocritical for lauding Corker after chewing him up for years over his GSE antics.

OK Anon, I’ve seen the light and I am back to “chewing up Corker.”

If possible, Corker’s performance during the tax debate and votes was even more mocking and derisive. And that was before this weekend’s revelation about a major tax provision—which was not in either the Senate or the House passed bills—added by the conferees which could heavily benefit Sen. Corker’s personal tax situation and his major development investments. (See story link below.)

For those who missed Corker’s early bravura performance, shortly after he verbally speared President Trump, Corker held himself out as an opponent of deficit spending, vowing he would resist the generous Senate tax bill which reportedly had a TRILLION AND A HALF Dollars of ADDITIONAL FEDERAL RED INK, spread over 10 years.

Well ‘hold tight” Bob—our Horatio at the Budget Deficit Bridge-- disappeared pretty soon.

As Bob hid behind his faux persona as a deficit hawk, “Corker the Conman”  added his crucial and deciding vote when the tax bill--at its procedurally most vulnerable--was in the Senate Budget Committee and Corker cast the tie-breaking vote, 11 to 10, to report the legislation to the Senate floor.

So Corker, mooting his "tailored for the public Consumption"  anti-red ink position and his symbolic but useless floor vote, sought to have it both ways and claim he “opposed the tax legislation” but strategically rolled over for the GOP and cast the pivotal and winning vote to bring the tax bill to the floor.

Bullshit, Senator Both Ways Bob, Bullshit!

Corker and the GSEs

Nobody should be conned, fooled, swayed by the added Corker-Warner bull pucky with their new GSE bill, which reportedly will be introduced next year in the Senate.

Yes, it purports to keep the GSEs alive (remember, this %^$#@*& devil is in the details), but as bloodless husks until their new mortgage Guarantors can be inflated with enough life-generating big bank capital and new Uncle Sam mortgage securities guarantees  until Fannie and Freddie can easily be discarded.

Neither Corker nor Warner are looking to do anything positive for Fannie and Freddie and nobody should be fooled by any sweet words or conjecture of same. If the Senate Ethics Committee had any stones or the federal courts looked carefully, Bob Corker could face charges for his financial dealings.

The two-GSE Senate uglies are shilling for the same bank-centric model which was featured in a handful of  similar ploys over the years, all of which rejected.

Systemically, Fannie and Freddie currently block those commercial bank apostles of greed from treating borrowers unfairly, overcharging them, or otherwise abusing the mortgage process.

The anti-GSE schemers want the GSEs dead or neutralized, ergo Corker-Warner 2.0.

They would have killed Fannie and Freddie three years ago if the Senate Banking Committee Democrats and low income advocates hadn’t blown the whistle on C-W 1.0 and its TBTF fans.

Anyone suggesting that Corker retiring next year or Jed Hensarling (R-Tex.) doing the same will be a boon for the GSEs, fuggadeaboutit.

My best advice to Fannie and Freddie fans, people who would like to see them as shareholder owned entities go forward, is vote against as many House and Senate incumbents as you can in hopes that a new crew coming in after next year’s elections will be less biased and more open to the real GSE history and success.

Ask anyone running for federal office their position of on this matter and vote accordingly, especially against any incumbent who will blunder and tell you they support the nation’s largest banks over the safety, soundness, efficiency, fairness, and innovation of the GSEs.

The Senate and House has a lot of slow wits. The people of Alabama did heroic work last week in squashing one of them. Many of those votes against Roy Moore and for Doug Jones were cast by women with children, who also are part of households which own homes or aspire to do so.

Just as they did in supporting Jones over Moore—to support their own best interests--we all need to inquire more, educate more, do more and make sure everyone who seeks a congressional seat knows about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, since chances are the next Congress will have to vote on their futures.

Merry Christmas and have a healthy and happy holiday and new year.

Maloni, 12-18-2017