The Associated Press reports today on various rumors making the rounds about President Trump's tax plan, including this one:

One circulating this past week would change the House Republican plan to eliminate much of the payroll tax and cut corporate tax rates. This would require a new dedicated funding source for Social Security....This approach would give a worker earning $60,000 a year an additional $3,720 in take-home pay, a possible win that lawmakers could highlight back in their districts....Although some billed this as a bipartisan solution, and President Barack Obama did temporarily cut the payroll tax after the Great Recession, others note it probably would run into firm opposition from Democrats who loathe to be seen as undermining Social Security.

Just to be clear: this is pie in the sky, not something that has any real chance of happening. Still, let's go along with the gag. If you wanted my vote for this in return for whatever horrible thing Republicans wanted to do with the rest of the tax code, the easiest way to get it would be to not create a new dedicated funding source for Social Security. Just put the trust fund bonds in a big ol' bonfire and pay for Social Security out of the general fund. This is how we pay for nearly everything else, after all.

If we did this, we could do away with the annual idiocy about Social Security "going bankrupt," which makes about as much sense as the Pentagon going bankrupt. The only reason we say this about Social Security is because it's possible to compare Social Security costs with a specific funding stream. But who cares? Money is money, and if we spend too much it turns into a deficit, regardless of where the money is coming from.

Neither Social Security nor the Pentagon will go bankrupt unless Congress allows it, and Congress will never allow it. So why maintain the charade? Get rid of the regressive dedicated funding stream, fund Social Security from general revenues, and then adjust taxes and/or deficits as necessary to pay for it. This seems to work tolerably well for every other function of government, so why not Social Security?

Now, about Medicare....

I know that the summit meeting with the Chinese premier got overshadowed by the Syria bombing, but I'm still curious: did anything happen at all when Xi and Trump met? I saw nothing. Not even "insider" accounts of what "really" happened between the two men. That's a little odd, isn't it?

K.T. McFarland has always been one of President Trump's odder choices for a senior position on his national security team. She last served in the government during the Reagan administration, and for the past 30 years has done precisely nothing that would make her qualified for even a junior position. Except for one thing: she spent several years as a Fox News commentator, where she regularly savaged Barack Obama and became pals with Eric Trump and Don Jr. Presumably Trump thought that was great experience. Steve Bannon signed on because he doesn't care about anything except whether someone agrees with him, and former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn is such a loony tune that there's no telling why he accepted her as his #2.

But then Flynn got fired, and Trump's first choice to replace him turned down the job when he was told that McFarland had to stay. H.R. McMaster, however, plays a longer game, and took the NSA job even though McFarland came with it. He slowly sidelined her, and now she's being reassigned to the exciting post of ambassador to Singapore. McMaster has been on the job for six weeks, and in that time he's gotten Steve Bannon off the National Security Council; exiled McFarland to Singapore; and masterminded the bombing of Syria, which got Trump a ton of fawning coverage. Not bad for a guy who a few years ago was having trouble even getting the Army to promote him to general.

Here is Doyle McManus today:

In some ways, the most remarkable thing about President Trump’s decision to fire missiles at Syria last week was how oddly traditional he made it sound. As he explained his reasons for military action, our normally unorthodox president borrowed a well-worn list of justifications from his predecessors: United Nations resolutions, international norms, compassion for civilians (in this case, “beautiful babies”), even the proposition that “America stands for justice.”

It was as if the Donald Trump who ran as an America First isolationist had suddenly morphed, once confronted with real-life choices, into an old-fashioned internationalist.

I've read quite a few versions of this, and I don't get it. Sure, Trump ran as an American Firster, but that was mostly related to trade. When it came to military action, he didn't say much, but when he talked about Iraq and Syria his preferred solution was to "bomb the shit out of ISIS." In a primary debate, he suggested he might send 30,000 ground troops to Iraq. He described himself repeatedly as "the most militaristic person you'll ever meet." He wants to increase the Pentagon's budget by $54 billion, and he recently approved a multibillion arms deal for Bahrain. He hasn't yet approved a plan to arm the Kurds, but apparently Kurdish leaders are hopeful that this will change soon.

Donald Trump is no isolationist. He's a standard-issue hawkish, blustering Republican when it comes to war in the Middle East. There was absolutely nothing surprising about his cruise missile display against Syria, and nothing to suggest it represents a policy change of any kind. Why do so many people think otherwise?

My new camera produces better, sharper pictures, but that doesn't do me a lot of good if I can only view them on a standard 90 dpi monitor. So I went out last week and bought a 4K monitor.

It rocks. Everything looks better and sharper, as if I've just put on a new pair of glasses. The resolution is good enough that I don't need to bother with ClearType on Windows anymore. In fact, text looks better without it. Here's what the New York Times looks like:

No anti-aliasing, no nothing. It's nearly as sharp as a retina display on a tablet.

The monitor installed with no problems. Windows auto-detect worked fine, and scaling was automatically reset to 200 percent. So far, I've only run into two problems. First, my email client looked terrible. I guess it renders fonts internally or something. However, I've been meaning to switch clients anyway, so this was a good excuse to do it.

The other problem was with Photoshop, which you'd think would be highly attuned to high-res monitors. But one of its functions just doesn't work right anymore. I tried it on my tablet and it failed there too. So it's clearly something to do with the pixel density of the display.

Most people aren't resolution geeks, but I always have been. If you are too, a 4K monitor is very much worth looking into.

It's time for the latest Donald Trump pivot. The Wall Street Journal reports that the crisis in Syria "has sharpened Mr. Trump’s desire to cut some of the drama out of his West Wing." He's finally going to get presidential!

President Donald Trump is considering a major shake-up of his senior White House team, a senior administration official said Friday....In recent days, he has talked to confidants about the performance of chief of staff Reince Priebus and has asked for the names of possible replacements....Another top aide who could be removed or reassigned in a shake-up is Steve Bannon, chief strategist, who has been sparring with Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and one of his closest advisers.

In fairness, Trump can't fire himself, but is he really so clueless that he doesn't realize the infighting springs directly from his own chaotic personality, not from the folks around him? If he provided clear direction on both policy and communications—and stopped tweeting random crap all the time—things would calm down fast.

But he'll never figure that out.

After years of ignoring the pod, Hopper has suddenly taken to it. Sometimes by herself, other times squeezing in beside Hilbert. At the same time, my lap has become a no-go zone. But our bed, which she used to cede to Hilbert at night, is now one of her favorite spots.

What's the deal with cats and their rotating cast of favorite spots? We'll never know, will we?

Here's another look at how the economy is doing:

The overall labor force participation rate is hard to draw conclusions from because it includes students and retirees. Some of the change in these categories might be related to the state of the economy, but some of it is simply voluntary and demographic.

By looking only at prime-age workers, we eliminate this point of confusion. The good news is that the participation rate has been increasing for the past two years. The bad news is that we're still roughly 1 percentage point away from full employment. That's about a million people, give or take. The economy continues to improve, but it still has a ways to go before it's firing on all cylinders.

Come on, Fareed:

God almighty no. When will we ever get over the idea that bombing people is inherently presidential because it shows you're not afraid to bomb people? This is doubly true in this case, since Trump apparently pulled a barely thought-out policy U-turn and ordered the airstrike because he saw some footage of dying children on Fox News. That's horrible, and Assad is a butcher, but it's not a good reason to abruptly upend your own foreign policy and start lobbing cruise missiles.

Instead, allow me to sign on with my conservative buddy David French:

The commander-in-chief has broad, inherent authority to order the military to defend the national security and vital national interests of the United States, but every provision of the Constitution has meaning, and the Constitution gives to Congress the power to “declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water.”

....The existence of a legal and moral justification for war does not always render war wise or just. Nor does it remove the need for congressional approval. There is no reason to forego congressional debate now, just as there was no reason to forego congressional debate when Obama considered taking the nation to war against Syria in 2013.

Congressional approval is not only constitutional, it serves the public purpose of requiring a president to clearly outline the justifications for war and his goals for the conflict. It also helps secure public support for war.

The pretextual argument against this view is that a single airstrike isn't "war," and anyway, the War Powers Act gives the president the authority to do this kind of thing. The real argument is simpler: presidents have done this stuff forever, and Congress has never worked up the gumption to stop them.

Actually, it's worse than that: as near as I can tell, Congress actively doesn't want to exercise its warmaking authority. It's too politically risky. They'd rather have the president do it unilaterally, and then kibitz from the sideline. This is why I don't really blame presidents for authorizing attacks like this. Congress could stop it anytime they want via the power of the purse, and they never have.

The American economy added 98,000 new jobs last month, 90,000 of which were needed to keep up with population growth. This means that net job growth clocked in at 8,000 jobs. That's pretty dismal, but under the surface the news was better: the number of employed people went up by 472,000 and the number of unemployed declined by 326,000. As a result, the headline unemployment rate dropped to 4.5 percent.

Hourly earnings of production and nonsupervisory employees went up at an annual rate of about 2.3 percent for the second month in a row. That's about even with the inflation rate, which means the real increase was close to zero. That's disappointing given recent signs that wages were starting to make gains.