Rooting for Trump?

promoNew Orleans   Nevada results are in with Hillary Clinton edging Bernie Sanders by 5 percentage points, but perhaps more tellingly leveraging huge support from African-Americans to put a stake through the heart of his campaign. A coming romp for Clinton in South Carolina could end everything but the shouting. Donald Trump rolled the field in the Republican primary in South Carolina with Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio in a cage match for second place. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush suspended his campaign failing to have ever caught traction after a last gasp in Carolina.

An analysis of Bush has some tilting towards Ohio Governor Kasich with a trickle here and there to others, but not enough to threaten Trump. Florida’s rich haul will presumably go to Rubio just as Texas will go to Cruz. Nothing seems to be settling in any way that seems comforting for the Republican establishment, and it looks even worse for the rest of us. While Rubio tries to position himself as the more moderate, establishment candidate now, parsing his positions it is hard to find much substantive difference between him and Cruz on the issues. Perhaps his style is a little less combative, and he delivers the punch with a smile, but the pain is the same on one issue after another.

Even as the Clinton train builds steam and starts to pull away, it’s hard to feel confident in her as a campaigner and sense any increased passion for her candidacy. Increasingly, I find myself secretly rooting for Donald Trump, thinking he might be the easiest candidate for Hillary to beat in the general election. And, if not Trump, give me Cruz, since he has more negatives than Clinton and, if anything, is even stiffer on the campaign trail. I’m very scared that Rubio could beat Clinton. The Republican faithful and true believers might find it off-putting as Cruz labels him the “Republican Obama,” but it’s just that concept that makes me worry that he just might be exactly that, the Republican Obama who could come out of nowhere and beat Clinton to the White House.

Even rooting secretly for Trump, it’s still hard to believe that in the long march through the primaries he won’t still self-destruct, but so far he seems impervious to catastrophes that fell normal candidates. He’s also a question mark for many. His positions have bounced back and forth on all kinds of issues, so it’s possible to hope he’s not as much as a hater as the others whose records are clearer, and imagine people voting for him to send their own protest message to the party and the world.

The hard truth to get around is that as long as the Republicans have multiple candidates in the list, Trump can win with his 30% and let the rest live or die at 20% support. A two horse race like we find in Clinton-Sanders makes it harder for the candidate challenging the status quo in the party. Super-delegates from the ranks of the party electeds and big whoops are numerous and though the majority remain uncommitted, Clinton has a couple of hundred committed and at last count Sanders had less than ten on his side of the ledger.

It’s hard not to get the feeling that this year’s election cycle is going to be scary all the way down the line.

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Rewriting the Rules

Rewriting-rulesNew Orleans              The AFL-CIO has already begun the process of vetting potential Presidential candidates, offering the opportunity to any of the score that has an interest in coming by, which so far means all the Democrats and Republican ex-Arkansas Governor and current TV commentator Mike Huckabee. Interestingly, Rich Trumka has indicated that the AFL’s key benchmark flows from a new report spearheaded by Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz of Roosevelt University with the input of a host of others. The report is called “Rewriting the Rules,” so let’s take a look at its proposals.

Not surprisingly, Trumka and the house of labor are no doubt pleased to see the ringing endorsement of expanded labor rights and promotion of collective bargaining as important principles to re-establish in the economy. The clearest proposal in this area recommended that the federal government add clear conditions not only to governmental subcontracts but to development grants to protect and advance union protections and bargaining. The rest was predictable.

The point of the report is that the rules matter. No rules, which is what the long desert of deregulation in so many sectors produced, tilted the economy to the 1% and allowed Wall Street and other cowboys to herd us into the Great Recession. Remember it wasn’t just “no rules,” but “bad rules,” which is the point here, too. “Rewriting the Rules” is an argument that in order to re-balance the economy and its myriad winners-and-losers, our politicians and the government need to put new regulations in place that would allow us to prosper and to do so more equitably.

Perhaps most interesting were the recommendation for reforming the financial sector, because this is right in the wheelhouse for Stiglitz and many of his helpers:

 

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 10.02.33 AMEnd “too big to fail” by imposing additional capital surcharges on systemically risky financial institutions and breaking up firms that cannot produce credible living wills.

 

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 10.02.33 AMBetter regulate the shadow banking sector.

 

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 10.02.33 AMBring greater transparency to all financial markets by requiring all alternative asset managers to publicly disclose holdings, returns, and fee structures.

 

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 10.02.33 AMReduce credit and debit card fees through improved regulation of card providers and enhanced competition.

 

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 10.02.33 AMEnforce existing rules with stricter penalties for companies and corporate officials that break the law.

 

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 10.02.33 AMReform Federal Reserve governance to reduce conflicts of interest and institute more open and accountable elections.

 

Some of those recommendations would make a difference, particularly impacting on banking and credit access and affordability. The report also takes some clear shots at what is needed to rein in the quick buck artists of business for the protection of the economy and the public.

 

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 10.02.33 AMRestructure CEO pay by closing the performance-pay tax loophole and increasing transparency on the size of compensation packages relative to performance and median worker pay and on the dilution as a result of grants of stock options.

 

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 10.02.33 AMEnact a financial transaction tax to reduce short-term trading and encourage more productive long-term investment.

 

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 10.02.33 AMEmpower long-term stakeholders through the tax code, the use of so-called “loyalty shares,” and greater accountability for managers of retirement funds.

 

I wouldn’t hold my breath about any of this, but it is reassuring that labor at least is asking the right questions and pointing the way to some hard decisions and clear policies.

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Please enjoy Rickie Lee Jones’ J’ai Connais Pas (I Don’t Know).

Thanks to KABF.

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The IRS is Flopping on Election 2016

130514_irs_building_ap_605New Orleans      Sometimes you just have to pinch yourself when you’re reading the daily papers because what you’re reading is so unbelievable. Today’s interplanetary, Ripley’s Believe-it-or-Not set of stories features the USA’s Internal Revenue Service, the IRS, or the Service, as they call themselves, and the fact that they pretty clearly are flopping on the coming 2016 presidential election and deciding to let the pols pretty much do whatever they want, whatever way they want, and look the other way. Are you kidding me?!?

Ok, we all know that money has flooded politics and pushed the biscuit cookers, little people, and regular Joe’s to the margin. The currently trending Supreme Court did that, too, remember with Citizens’ United opening the floodgates to the Kochs and every other two-bit billionaire who wanted to buy, rent, or own a politician or party. Comedians famously organized their own super-PACs last election in protest of the money floating those supertankers of political influence.

What I do not think we had fully realized is that the IRS was going to just rollover and look the other way on all of this mess. Who do they think they are? The Federal Election Commission or something?

Not merely satisfied with super-PACS, although almost all of the candidates are still taking the PAC-crack, many are aligning themselves with tax exempt bodies formed as 501c4 formations, ostensibly classified as exempt from taxes because they are devoted to “social welfare.” In this case the welfare seems to be favored presidential candidates. They do not have to divulge their donors and many are clear that they have no intentions to do so by damn. Furthermore, though they are technically not supposed to coordinate with candidates and their campaigns, many share staff, board members, and, reportedly, extensive coordination and division of responsibilities with the candidates in that wonderful period when they stalked the country and the corporate suites without formally declaring the obvious fact that they were running for president. One such outfit, the Conservative Solutions Project, tied to Senator Marco Rubio has raised almost $16 million according to reports, more than many other candidates. Not surprisingly they have taken over some of the polling, analysis, research, and advertising that would normally have been done by the candidates own campaign. Come on now!

The IRS seems too buffaloed to bother, the people can go to the devil. They are not going to issue regulations on what is allowable political activity and expenditure until after the 2016 election when the cows are way past the barn, and maybe they will have already elected a cowboy president who will think all of this is dandy. Unbelievable!

Meanwhile on the home front we’re supposed to jump up and salute every April 15th and stand at attention with chills running down our spine every time we get a letter from the IRS. Don’t tell me that’s never happened to you!

Clearly there’s a solution. We need to reincorporate ourselves as 501c4’s and tell the IRS next time they ask that we’re going to do whatever we darned please just like all of the candidates for President. So there!

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Please enjoy Rickie Lee Jones’ Jimmy Choos. Thanks to KABF.

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