• Republicans Just Announced That They’ll Need Democratic Votes For Their Tax Bill

    When politicians are working on a new policy, you’d normally expect to get a short statement of principles first, followed later on by a document that fleshes things out a bit more. Finally, as a last step before actual legislation, you’d get a white paper that outlines specific details of the new policy.

    Obviously we didn’t get that from Republicans on health care, and we’re not getting it on tax reform either. As the Wall Street Journal points out, we’re getting just the opposite:

    Top congressional Republicans and the Trump administration agreed to drop a plan to tax imports and exempt exports as part of their strategy to rewrite the U.S. tax code….Dropping the idea was part of a broad statement of principles released by Republicans for tax policy on Thursday.

    ….The new document included less detail than the president’s campaign plan, the House GOP’s June 2016 blueprint or the one-page offering from the White House in April. For instance, it makes no mention of a specific corporate tax rate or rates for individuals. It also doesn’t mention staples of GOP plans such as a higher standard deduction or estate-tax repeal, perhaps a sign that the statement doesn’t cover the breadth of where the party may yet go.

    The entire statement is about the length of a blog post, and the single paragraph that actually talks about principles is less than 200 words long:

    Above all, the mission of the committees is to protect American jobs and make taxes simpler, fairer, and lower for hard-working American families….We also believe there should be a lower tax rate for small businesses so they can compete with larger ones, and lower rates for all American businesses so they can compete with foreign ones. The goal is a plan that reduces tax rates as much as possible, allows unprecedented capital expensing, places a priority on permanence, and creates a system that encourages American companies to bring back jobs and profits trapped overseas….While we have debated the pro-growth benefits of border adjustability, we appreciate that there are many unknowns associated with it and have decided to set this policy aside in order to advance tax reform.

    There you have it. Lower taxes for hardworking Americans, lower taxes for business, and the ability for businesses to write off 100 percent of their capital expenses in a single year. Also, the border adjustment tax is dead.

    Now here’s the interesting part:

    The goal is a plan that…places a priority on permanence….Our expectation is for this legislation to move through the committees this fall, under regular order.

    Translated into English, this means that Republicans don’t want a ten-year tax cut like George Bush’s. They want a permanent tax cut. The problem is that with the new border adjustment tax out of the picture, there’s no way to make their tax bill revenue-neutral. It’s going to increase the deficit,¹ and that means Republicans can’t use reconciliation, as they’re doing with health care. It has to be passed under regular order, and regular bills require 60 votes. That means they need to corral at least eight Democratic votes in the Senate.

    And yet, so far they’ve done exactly zero to get Democrats on board. The whole plan is being put together by the Big Six: four Republican members of Congress and two Republican members of Trump’s administration. So what are they planning to offer Democrats in order to get their support for this budget-buster of a bill? Anything? Or just more bluster about how Dems are obstructionists blah blah blah? We’re all eager to find out, aren’t we?

    ¹Demonstrating once again—as if we needed it—that Republicans only care about the deficit when a Democrat is president and the topic is spending money on the poor.

  • Lunchtime Photo

    As our week drifts toward its end, a nice peaceful sunset is in order. This is an electric pylon right off the 405, a few hundred yards from my house. It just goes to show that even the ugliest artifacts of human technology can become beautiful if the sun is setting behind them.

  • Sam Brownback Officially Leaves Kansas With the Worst Economy in the Plains

    Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has decided to step down from the governorship of Kansas in order to assume the vital post of ambassador at large for international religious freedom. If you’ve never heard of this position, you’re not alone.

    Anyway, this marks the official end of the Brownback era in Kansas. As you may recall, he took office at the start of 2011, declaring that Kansas would be ground zero for a true test of conservative economic principles: slashing taxes on the rich and then making up for it by slashing spending on everyone else. It didn’t work out. To commemorate the full Brownback era, here is employment growth in Kansas compared to its neighboring states:

    Brownback had a chance to beat one neighboring state, but at the last minute Oklahoma pulled out of a tie and recorded employment growth a little better than Kansas—despite a brutal recession caused by falling oil prices.

    So that’s that. Over the course of the entire Brownback era, Kansas had the worst employment growth of any state in the region. Ditto for GDP growth. I don’t expect this to change any minds, though. Cutting taxes on the rich has never been about economic growth anyway.

  • Transgender Ban Took the Pentagon Completely By Surprise

    Truly remarkable:

  • How Long Can the Mooch Last?

    Ron Sachs/CNP via ZUMA

    Oh man. It turns out I missed something hilarious yesterday.

    As you probably know, Politico published a piece a few days ago that included financial disclosures made by Anthony Scaramucci, Donald Trump’s shiny new communications director. Mooch immediately went ballistic on Twitter, apparently blaming the leak on chief-of-staff Reince Priebus. Reporters soon got confirmation that Mooch was on the outs with Priebus, but a few hours later Mooch deleted the tweet and claimed that he and Priebus were best pals.

    That’s not the hilarious part, of course. The hilarious part is the reason that Mooch suddenly went quiet:

    There was a reason Scaramucci didn’t respond further: There had been no leak. The Politico reporter, Lorraine Woellert, obtained Scaramucci’s disclosures by making a routine request to the Ex-Im bank for the form 278e that Scaramucci completed before working there. Woellert tweeted: “Mr @Scaramucci’s Form 278e is publicly available from ExIm. Just ask.”

    The form had been filed on June 23, and became publicly available on July 23. So Woellert asked for it and got it.

    This is what happens when you instantly go ballistic over every perceived slight. At best you look like a hothead. At worst you look like a dolt. And as long as we’re on the subject, I think Rich Lowry is right about Scaramucci:

    His current communications gig probably has a limited shelf life for at least two reasons: 1) When you are in front of the cameras every day, even if you are very adept (Anthony is), you are going to get dinged up, especially when you are constantly defending Trump’s various statements; 2) The more time Scaramucci has in front of the camera and as his profile grows, it is more likely that Trump gets sick of seeing him and becomes jealous of the attention he’s getting.

    Scaramucci is essentially taking on a press secretary’s job, since he’ll be on camera a lot. That’s a tough gig no matter what. With Trump, it’s an impossible gig, because the only way to defend the guy is to debase yourself constantly. Eventually you just get worn down. And as Lowry says, on the off chance that you can survive despite this, Trump will get jealous of you and figure out a way to fire you.

    Once again, we’re left with one of life’s imponderables: why would anyone work for Donald Trump? It is a mystery.

  • Donald Trump’s Revenge Is Coming Soon

    So what did I miss yesterday? In the Senate, I guess Obamacare “clean repeal” went down in flames, where it joins “repeal-and-replace.” So what’s left? Republicans can try to amend BCRA enough to win more votes, but considering how many votes they need to pass it, that seems like a lost cause. So now it’s on to “skinny repeal,” aka “let’s punt this off to another committee and see what they come up with.” But any committee that includes House members is only going to push to make the Senate bill even worse, and what are the odds that this will earn more Senate votes?

    Never say never, but it looks like Obamacare repeal is dead. This means that President Trump will almost certainly begin Operation Sabotage, designed to wreck Obamacare while trying to blame it all on Democrats. Politically this seems unlikely to work, but it will certainly make life worse for millions of poor and working-class Americans. But that’s Donald for you. He has to take revenge on someone, and if he can’t take it out on Democrats, he’ll take it out on the ordinary people that Democrats care about.

    And speaking of taking revenge, I see that Trump decided to ban transgender people from the military. This seems to have come out of nowhere. The military wasn’t pushing for it, and was taken by surprise when they read Trump’s tweets announcing the new policy.¹ I don’t think that social conservatives had this on their radar either. So whose idea was it? And what’s the point? Is it to build a bit of credibility with social conservatives, who are starting to get pretty peeved with Trump’s treatment of right-wing darling Jeff Sessions? Is it to stick a finger in the eye of those bad Democrats who are holding up Trumpcare? Is it some Bannon-esque move with a motivation too obscure for us to figure out?

    I don’t know. All I know is that it looks like Trump is close to losing a big battle, and his instinct when that happens is to lash out. We should all assume that he’s going to do his best over the next few weeks to piss off liberals one way or another. Sadly, since he doesn’t have much leverage over actual members of Congress, that may well mean taking out his anger on vulnerable populations that liberals care about.

    ¹Yes, he informed the Pentagon of this new policy via Twitter.

    UPDATE: I see that the reason for Trump’s transgender policy is more prosaic than I thought:

    House Republicans were planning to pass a spending bill stacked with his campaign promises, including money to build his border wall with Mexico. But an internal House Republican fight over transgender troops was threatening to blow up the bill. And House GOP insiders feared they might not have the votes to pass the legislation because defense hawks wanted a ban on Pentagon-funded sex reassignment operations — something GOP leaders wouldn’t give them.

    They turned to Trump, who didn’t hesitate. In the flash of a tweet, he announced that transgender troops would be banned altogether.

    So the transgender ban (a) helps him with defense hawks, (b) helps get his priorities funded, and (c) reverses a policy Obama put in place. Simple.