I want to repeat something from the previous post because it deserves a post all its own. This is Donald Trump's "tax plan":

Trump has embarrassed us in so many ways that I guess this is small beer, but FFS. This is the United States of America, the biggest, richest country on the planet. The leader of the free world. And this is what we get from our president these days. He wants to cut taxes by $4 trillion or more—$4 trillion!—and he can't be bothered to produce more than a single page of bullet points about it. No details. No legislation. No analysis from the OMB. Nothing. Just a comic book version of a tax overhaul.

The contempt and incompetence this displays is breathtaking.

Last night I wrote that the Trump tax plan would be little more a than a rewrite of his campaign document. I was wrong. Here it is:

It's not worth the 60 seconds it would take to check this, but I'm pretty sure this is less detailed than Trump's campaign document. What a fucking embarrassment. It's like something a high school class would put together. Even with only five days to work with, you'd think the Treasury Department of the United States of America could produce a little more than this.

But let's go through the whole thing. There's a little more than you see in the tweet above:

Three tax brackets instead of seven. However, there's no telling how this affects taxes until Steve Mnuchin tells us where the cutoff points are.

Doubles the standard deduction from $12,000 to $24,000. This will help middle-class families, but it's a little hard to know how much it will help them until we get details on....

Elimination of itemized deductions. Which ones? All of them? Good luck with that. But you can be sure that one of the targets will be the deduction for state income taxes, since that mostly benefits the hated blue states of California and New York.

Elimination of the estate tax. A huge boon for the super-duper rich.

Elimination of the AMT. A huge boon for the rich.

Elimination of Obamacare's 3.8 percent tax on investment. A huge boon for the rich.

Reduce business tax rate to 15 percent. A huge boon for corporations and the rich, especially those with income from pass-through businesses. Apparently Mnuchin doesn't care that Senate rules make this almost literally unpassable.

Tax repatriation holiday. A huge boon for corporations and the rich.

Territorial taxation system for corporations. There's no telling what effect this would have. There are good territorial systems and bad ones. It's all in the details—though it's a pretty good guess that Trump will opt for one of the bad ones.

The driving force behind this appears to be Trump's desire to call this the biggest tax cut in American history. The previous champ was Ronald Reagan's 1981 tax cut, which cost 3.9 percent of GDP. That means Trump is gunning for 4 percent of GDP.

The Congressional Budget Office pegs GDP over the next ten years at $239 trillion. To get to 4 percent, Trump's tax plan will need to cut taxes by $9.5 trillion. This is obviously ridiculous. Maybe Trump isn't accounting for inflation or something. That would get him down to $4.3 trillion.

Really, who knows? I suppose Trump will call it the biggest tax cut in history regardless of how big it is. He doesn't care. The one thing we can be sure of is that the rich will swoon. At a guess, something like 90 percent of that $9.5 (or $4.3 or whatever) trillion will go to the top 10 percent. The rest of us get a few crumbs.

Of course, this whole thing is DOA in Congress anyway, which will pretty much ignore Trump and create its own tax plan for the rich. This one-page "plan" is really just a publicity stunt so Trump can say he introduced it during his first hundred days. What a doofus.

Mike Boswell tweets this morning that this is "good data for a @kdrum post":

That is peculiar, isn't it? Why did food service employment in San Diego plummet starting in October? I poked around a bit, and didn't come up with anything. However, the answer is supposed to be "because they raised their minimum wage," so I took a look at that. But it doesn't really fit. In July 2016 San Diego raised its minimum wage to 50 cents more than the state minimum. That's a pretty small increase to have such a significant effect, and for three months it didn't have any effect. Food service employment didn't turn around until October. So then I took a look at Seattle and San Francisco, two other West Coast cities that have raised their minimum wages recently. Here's what food service employment looks like in all three places:

I dunno. San Francisco and Seattle raised their minimum wages considerably more than San Diego, and their food service employment has been fine. Combine that with the tiny size of the San Diego increase and the 3-month lag before anything happened, and the minimum wage theory seems a little iffy.

But nothing else comes to mind either. Could it be due to an outflow of undocumented workers following Donald Trump's election? Something else unique to San Diego?

From Josh Marshall:

This is really quite astounding. In this morning’s edition of Mike Allen’s not-Playbook from Axios he introduces what seems to be Ivanka Trump setting up something that sounds a lot like the Clinton Foundation, only in this case run from within the White House by a top presidential aide who is also the President’s daughter, who also runs her own large international company and who also has two brothers who are currently running the President/Father’s company and trying to rake in as much money as possible on the fame and power of the presidency.

Here is Mike Allen:

Ivanka Trump told me yesterday from Berlin that she has begun building a massive fund that will benefit female entrepreneurs around the globe. Both countries and companies will contribute to create a pool of capital to economically empower women.

"The statistics and results prove that when you invest in women and girls, it benefits both developed and developing economies," she said. "Women are an enormous untapped resource, critical to the growth of all countries."

  • Under the radar: Canadians, Germans and a few Middle Eastern countries have already made quiet commitments, as have several corporations, a source said.
     
  • How it'll work: The fund will provide working and growth capital to small- and medium-sized enterprises.
     
  • Who's involved: President Trump is a huge supporter of his daughter's idea, and she has consulted with World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim about how to pull it off in a huge way.

I know I should say something about this. But what?

In case you missed it in last night's post because I kind of buried it, the latest Republican amendment to their health care bill allows states to opt out of Obamacare's essential requirements. But it doesn't apply to Congress. They are exempted. Just to refresh your memory, here's the list of essential benefits:

  1. Ambulatory patient services.
  2. Emergency services.
  3. Hospitalization.
  4. Maternity and newborn care.
  5. Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment.
  6. Prescription drugs.
  7. Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices.
  8. Laboratory services.
  9. Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management.
  10. Pediatric services, including oral and vision care.

The state of Wisconsin, for example, could choose to approve plans that don't include doctor visits (#1), hospitalization (#3), or prescription drugs (#6). House Republicans apparently think that's just fine.

But for themselves, their plans will include every single benefit on that list. I'm not normally too bothered by political hypocrisy, but this really jumps the shark. Back in 2009, Republicans gleefully proposed an amendment to Obamacare that would make it apply to Congress. They apparently figured that this would show up Democrats who didn't want to eat their own dog food. But no: Democrats were perfectly willing to be covered by their own law. They shrugged, voted for the amendment, and Republicans were then stuck using Obamacare for their insurance.

But now that they're in charge, Republicans are dead set on not eating their dog food. And who can blame them? Their dog food sucks.

This really ought to drive home just how horrible the Republican health care plan is. And maybe it will. Finally.

Did Mack Sennett ever make "The Keystone Cops Go to Washington"? No? No matter. That's what it feels like right now.

Let's see if I can do justice to our current legislative follies. For starters, it appears that we're going to get health care, tax reform, and infrastructure all in one week. Why? I guess so that President Trump can say he got going on all of them in his first hundred days. Which totally doesn't matter and Trump couldn't care less about it. But he released a truly comical list of all his accomplishments anyway. Not that he cares. But anyway. Let's move on.

Health care: The House Freedom Caucus has allegedly agreed to an amendment to the previous House bill—the one that crashed and burned last month thanks to the HFC's opposition—that now makes it acceptable. They haven't actually said so in public yet, but maybe tomorrow they will. Maybe. Basically, it allows states to opt out of the essential coverage requirements of Obamacare. Except for Capitol Hill, that is. Members of Congress will continue to get every last thing on the list. And there's no change to pre-existing conditions except for one teensy little thing: insurance companies can charge you more if you have a pre-existing condition. How much more? The sky's the limit, apparently. Does $10 million sound good? In practice, of course, this means that they don't have to offer coverage to anyone with a pre-existing condition.

Tax reform: It turns out the Treasury Department really was taken by surprise on this, so Wednesday's announcement will be little more than the same stuff Trump released on the campaign trail. Corporate taxes get cut by nearly two-thirds, to 15 percent. Ditto for "pass through" corporations like, oh, just to pull an example out of the air, The Trump Organization. There will be no offsetting spending cuts. There will be no border tax. There will be nothing much for the non-rich except a modest change to the standard deduction. There will, of course, be no details about which deductions and loopholes, if any, Trump plans to plug. It will be a gigantic deficit buster. And just for good measure, it's probably literally unpassable under the Senate's rules.

Infrastructure: In a laughable attempt to get Democratic support for his tax bill, Trump plans to add infrastructure spending and a child tax credit to it. The problem is that Trump's infrastructure plan is little more than a giveaway to big construction companies, and his child tax credit—designed by Ivanka!—is little more than a giveaway to the well off. In other words, instead of one thing Democrats hate, the bill now has three things Democrats hate. I'm just spitballing here, but I'm not sure this is how you make deals.

This is lunacy. The barely revised health care bill probably won't pass the House, let alone the Senate. Tax reform is just a PowerPoint presentation, not an actual plan. Plus it's such an unbelievable giveaway to the rich that even Republicans will have a hard time swallowing it. And the infrastructure stuff is DOA. It will almost certainly be opposed by both Republicans and Democrats.

This is like watching kids make mud pies. I guess that's OK, since this is all terrible stuff that I hope never sees the light of day. Still, I guess I prefer even my political opponents to show a little bit of respect for the legislative process.

I suppose this is hopeless, but I want to try one more time on the Comey thing. The most common response to the suggestion that James Comey's letter was the turning point in the 2016 campaign is this:

In a race this close, lots of things could have tipped the result. The Comey letter is just one of many.

But this isn't true. Take a look at 538's polling numbers in the final two weeks of the campaign:

On the day before Comey sent his letter, Hillary Clinton had a 6-point lead. There is no ordinary campaign event that plausibly could have turned that into a loss. Not dumb ad buys. Not bad internal polling. Not bad speeches by the candidate. Nothing. It's just too big a lead.

The Comey letter was a bolt from the blue and it cost Clinton three percentage points. This is the only thing that made the race close to begin with. Once Clinton's lead had been cut by three points, then an extra point of support for Trump in the last couple of days—which 538 and others missed—was just enough for Trump to eke out a 2-point popular vote loss and a miracle Electoral College victory.

That wouldn't have mattered without the Comey letter. None of those little things that everyone keeps pointing to would have produced a Trump win. It's true that in a tight race lots of things can make the difference between winning and losing, but it wasn't a tight race. Not until James Comey sent out that letter, anyway.

From the Associated Press:

A man accustomed to wealth and its trappings, Trump has embraced life in the Executive Mansion, often regaling guests with trivia about the historic decor. With the push of a red button placed on the Resolute Desk that presidents have used for decades, a White House butler soon arrived with a Coke for the president.

I just thought you'd all like to know.

Lunchtime Photo

We had our annual local tennis tournament over the weekend, and this poor kid was one of the losers. He was actually doing OK against a better player, and even managed to pull out the first set. But then his opponent figured out that he had a weak backhand and it was all downhill from there. In the final set, I literally don't think more than four or five balls went to his forehand. His opponent hit every ball as far wide as possible, and even though he knew where every shot was headed, it didn't matter. His backhand broke down under the assault and he lost the final set 6-1.

Have you heard of Unroll.me? I hadn't until they suddenly popped up in my Twitter feed because everyone was telling me to uninstall their app and never do business with them again. It turns out that Unroll.me is a company that scans your email and unsubscribes you from all your spam. Useful! And free! So how do they make money? By selling data to folks who will pay them for it.

In particular, it turns out that one of their clients is Uber, which was interested in keeping tabs on its biggest competitor, Lyft. Unroll.me helps by scanning email for Lyft receipts and telling Uber whether Lyft's business is up or down. This is what caused the commotion.

My initial reaction was: Duh. What did you think Unroll.me was doing to make money? I didn't bother writing anything about it because I didn't really care that much, but today co-founder Perri Chase (who's no longer with the company) comes to the defense of her friend and Unroll.me CEO Jojo Hedaya:

Anonymized and at scale why do people care? Do you really care? Are you really surprised? How exactly is this shocking?

Or maybe you just hate yourselves because you think Uber is gross but you use them anyway and “why are these tech founders such assholes” that they have to ruin your experience where you need to delete your apps? And you love Unroll.me and you feel righteous and you have to delete that now too because you need to take a stand against these plain-as-day-in-the-terms-of-service practices.

....Let’s look at why we are really in this situation. [Uber CEO] Travis Kalanick is out of control and no one can stop him. No one except a board who refuses to hold him accountable for his disgusting behavior. Yeah. As a woman I think he is disgusting. As a founder, the truth is I’m like DAMN. That guy is willing to do whatever it takes and I have a mild amount of envy that I’m not a shittier human willing to go to those lengths to be successful. See, Silicon Valley rewards it. He is setting the example for the future founders who want to “crush it” and be unstoppable. It’s gross. You don’t hate that Unroll.me sells your data. You hate that Unroll.me sells your data to Uber.

I still don't know how I feel about this. On the one hand, I'm distinctly unthrilled with the fact that that we all give companies access to so much personal information about ourselves—and we do it for a pittance. On the other hand, it's pretty clear that I'm in a tiny minority. Even when people know precisely what's going on, they mostly shrug and sign up anyway. That's the world we live in.

Chase's "plain-as-day-in-the-terms-of-service" defense is pretty disingenuous since she knows perfectly well that nobody reads the terms of service for the apps they use. But even if they did I doubt that Unroll.me would lose more than a few percent of their customers. Most of them probably wouldn't care if Unroll.me sold their names and email addresses to Uber, let alone a harmless bit of aggregate data.

For what it's worth, what I'd like to see from companies like Unroll.me is a really clear explanation on their websites of what they do. Maybe just a short, punchy bullet list: Examples of what we will do and examples of what we won't do. That's what I'd like. And a pony.