No wonder Trump loves the tax cut

The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

Everyone knows what’s coming now. The passage of so-called tax reform by Republicans in Congress will of course prompt President Donald Trump to tour the country and bask in the cheers of his base over his one legislative accomplishment in the first year of his presidency. But if in these days after Christmas Americans have had a chance to unwrap the tax reform package in detail, they’ll see that the gift the president touted doesn’t fit many people – and can’t be returned. No matter for Trump; he’ll just bash his predecessor, President Barack Obama. The crowds always love that.

Blasting away on others is all he’s got, after all. Evidenced by out-and-out falsehoods about this reform – it’s all about the middle class, it’s rocket fuel for the economy, it’s going to hurt him and other wealthy people – the president is a master of self-delusion. He pronounced this action, for example, as the largest tax cut in American history, though it’s not. Presidents Bush (George W.), Reagan, Kennedy and others did more.

Trump’s hard-core supporters will cheer on his attacks, literally no matter what he says. And he “protects” them by not releasing his own tax returns, which might show he and his family members will save many millions of dollars thanks to this reform.

Other Republicans, however, are concerned about the political consequences of a tax cut for the rich. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky says his GOP colleagues will “sell” reform to the people. Right. But what if they look under the hood?

The Supreme Court’s chance to tame gerrymandering

Bloomberg View

The U.S. Supreme Court has long been reluctant to impose restrictions on gerrymandering, the practice of drawing election districts for partisan advantage. There’s no accepted standard to say where justified redistricting stops and outright vote-rigging begins, and any ruling might arouse suspicions of partisanship. There are signs, however, that this hesitancy might be coming to an end — and not a moment too soon.

In October, the court heard arguments in a case from Wisconsin, where legislators so distorted the state’s political map that Republicans went on to win almost two-thirds of the state assembly seats with less than half of the popular vote. The case involves an explicit attempt to provide an objective standard: the so-called vote efficiency test.

That might deal with one of the justices’ concerns. The other remained. During oral arguments, Chief Justice John Roberts worried that even seeming to take political sides might cause “very serious harm to the status and integrity of this court in the eyes of the country.”

Then, in an unusual move, earlier this month the Supreme Court agreed to consider arguments in a case challenging Maryland’s 2011 congressional district map. (The court doesn’t normally take a case if it’s already considering one raising similar issues.) In Maryland, the controversy is over a district that Democrats designed to make it very hard for Republicans to win.

Reading the minds of Supreme Court justices is ill-advised, but in this case hard to resist. Combining the Wisconsin and Maryland cases offers the court something that neither case can provide on its own: partisan symmetry. If the court struck down gerrymandering in Maryland, the ruling would benefit Republicans. If it did the same in Wisconsin, it would benefit Democrats.

Taking the cases together affords an the court an opportunity to establish a constitutional standard for gerrymandering while avoiding, at the outset at least, the kind of partisan sniping that Roberts fears could damage the court’s reputation. If that’s the idea, then it’s a good one.

Oh, good, we’re great again

The Charlotte Observer

Apparently, America is already great again.

That’s the verdict from Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. She declared it in a tweet recently:

“Democrats wasted the year tearing the President down while the President built America back up: Booming economy – Millions of new jobs – ISIS caliphate in ruins – Record number of judicial appointments – Obamacare individual mandate repealed – Historic tax cuts America great again.”

Apparently, all it took to make America great again was to begin accepting facts President Donald Trump had said were fake.

The Trump administration has been touting GDP growth of above 3 percent for two consecutive quarters and deeming that, along with a low unemployment rate, a record-setting stock market and a couple million jobs created in 2017 as a “booming economy.” Under President Obama, the S&P 500 nearly tripled; the jobless rate began falling at a pace not seen since the Reagan era; and the middle class and poor received the largest annual increase in wages on record. In order to match the growth seen under Obama, the Dow Jones industrials would have to reach about 48,000 points under Trump; it’s at less than 25,000 today.

During the Obama era, quarterly GDP topped 3 percent seven times and came close a few more quarters. The economy grew 4 percent during the final three quarters of 2014; a brutal winter kept growth below 3 percent for the full year. If a couple of quarters of growth under Trump made America great again, why didn’t the back-to-back 4.6 percent and 5.2 percent quarters under Obama?

The Trump administration is bragging about the recently passed “historic tax cuts.” During the Obama era, there were two larger tax cuts, one of which came in a stimulus package that created millions of jobs and helped lift the country out of the worse downturn since the Great Depression.

The Trump administration says ISIS is in ruins. What it doesn’t say is that much of those battlefield gains happened under Obama and that the Trump strategy was essentially an extension of Obama’s fight.

The Trump administration brags about “millions of new jobs” but neglects to say monthly job creation so far under Trump is slightly behind the pace Obama set, or that under Obama the economy created jobs for more consecutive months than any other president ever. The black poverty rate fell to its lowest level ever under Obama, and the overall poverty rate was falling at its fastest clip since 1968 during the end of the Obama era.

Though the Trump administration is exaggerating the president’s accomplishments, it is encouraging that it is finally embracing solid economic measures it once considered phony.

A great country can’t be truly great if its leaders refuse to accept basic fact.

Trump tweet storms still in the forecast

The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

Despite some decidedly mixed reviews, the Donald Trump Morning Show on Twitter has been picked up for a second season, at least apparently.

Look out, though. The president may fall victim to something he, as a show-business sort of guy, ought to know is a problem: reruns too familiar to the audience.

For what seems like years now, Trump’s been tweeting about “Crooked Hillary” in reference to his 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, and about “Obamacare” as if, instead of a health care plan, it was a disease.

So how’d Trump get going the day after Christmas? More on Twitter about “Obamacare,” with this: “Based on the fact that the very unfair and unpopular Individual Mandate has been terminated as part of our Tax Cut Bill, which essentially Repeals (over time) ObamaCare.” And he took a poke at the FBI: “And they used this Crooked Hillary pile of garbage as the basis for going after the Trump Campaign!” A lot of his tweets were in capital letters, as the president clearly is mad at the FBI, a questionable strategy given the ongoing investigation of Russian manipulation of the 2016 election.

Trump’s tweeting has gone, in terms of public perception and the view of his aides, from being an example of a savvy candidate who knows how to use social media to a daily “Uh, oh” or “Oh, no” moment wherein the president vents his anger as if he’s clearing his sinuses. His tweet storms are amusing to his political enemies, who believe them to be the equivalent of a daily foot to the mouth, but when Trump starts “warning” North Korea and implying military actions on Twitter, the humor in his behavior quickly vanishes.

Thus, Trump’s staff ought to make this a Resolution: First one up, hide the phone and the laptop.