The Two Percent Rule

In his first NATO meeting, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson presented our allies with two choices. They either increase defense spending to two percent of GDP, or devise a  plan to reach the 2 percent budget guideline.

Mr. Tillerson wants those plans completed in time for a May 25th NATO meeting in Brussel. President Trump, long critical of NATO members he feels aren’t paying their fair share, will attend the meeting.

“Allies that do not have a concrete plan to spend 2 percent on defense by 2024 need to establish one now. Allies that have a plan to reach the 2 percent guideline need to accelerate efforts and show results,” Tillerson said Friday in Brussels.

Currently, only four Member states (Great Britain, Greece, Estonia, and Poland) have met the defense spending goal of 2 percent set in 2014. In contrast, Germany spent 1.19 percent GDP on defense.

I have been very critical of the Trump Administration, but this something they are getting right. If you want to be a NATO member, you have to meet your spending obligations. The United States can’t be expected to subsidize European welfare states.

Like it or not, President Trump’s 2018 budget makes deep cuts in everything but defense. The United States spends over 3 percent GDP on defense. Asking American taxpayers to shoulder deep domestic cuts while subsidizing NATO isn’t politically feasible.

It also isn’t fair

Gates Out and Walsh In

Katie Walsh, the White House Deputy Chief of Staff, is leaving that post to work as a senior advisor for America First Policies, a nonprofit group created specifically to support the Trump Administration’s political agenda. The nonprofit has so far failed to have any political impact.

Rick Gates, a founding America First Policies member, left his position with the organization because of his connections to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.  This is the same Paul Manafort who, due to his work for the Ukrainian government, was forced to leave the Trump Campaign last summer.

Mr. Manafort recently volunteered to speak before the House Intelligence Committee, which is currently looking at questionable contacts between the Russian Government and Trump campaign officials.

The hope is Mrs. Walsh, a well established GOP operative with a proven track record, will bring stability to the under-performing organization.

Jared the Oligarch

President Trump plans to open the White House Office of American Innovation, which will serve as a “think tank” on how to apply private sector solutions to government problems.

“All Americans, regardless of their political views, can recognize that government stagnation has hindered our ability to properly function, often creating widespread congestion and leading to cost overruns and delays,” Trump told The Washington Post. “I promised the American people I would produce results, and apply my ‘ahead of schedule, under budget’ mentality to the government.”

This new office, which is to be manned by former business executives, will be run by Mr. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.

“We should have excellence in government,” Kushner said. “The government should be run like a great American company. Our hope is that we can achieve successes and efficiencies for our customers, who are the citizens.”

Topics the White House Office of American Innovation will tackle range from changes in veteran care to providing internet access to undeserved communities. The new office will also look at privatizing some government functions.

The idea of running government like a business isn’t new. It also doesn’t work. Former President’s Obama and Bush suggested similar ideas.  Can you recall how successful those attempts were? I thought so.

The problem is America isn’t a company. Government doesn’t run on profit margins. Also, there is no CEO or “owner” that can fire unruly employees. Government is meant to represent the needs of all citizens. By putting billionaires an business people in charge, you end with a government that represents their interests.

And that isn’t because business people are bad. Like most people, they measure success as what works for them. Why would someone change an institution that has made him or her successful?

And just because it works for them, doesn’t mean it is good for the rest of us.

Meanwhile in Russia

Today, Russian dissident Denis Voronenkov was assassinated in Kiev. Mr. Voronenkov, a colonel in the Russian Armed Forces and a former member of the Russian Parliament, was an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Mr. Voronenkov planned to testify against former Ukraine President Victor Yanukovych. Mr. Yanukovych, a pro-Russian Putin ally forced into exile since 2014, is being tried in absentia for treason. From at least 2006 until 2012, Mr. Yanukovych employed former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort as a political consultant.

[How Trump adviser Manafort revived his career — and business fortunes — in Ukraine]

There is a point where coincidence ends and conspiracy begins. Not the tinfoil hat type X-Files  conspiracies, but the two interested parties working together to achieve mutual goals.

The Russian government did not want Hilary Clinton to win the 2016 Presidential Election. They didn’t necessarily want Donald Trump to win, but like Bernie Bro voters, the Russians were in the anybody but Hillary camp.

Donald Trump and his supporters wanted to win the 2016 election. That is a “no shit Sherlock” statement true of any campaign, but you do what you need to do to win.  And supporters select candidates based on their interests.

That Paul Manafort, a well established GOP player, supported Donald Trump in 2016 isn’t much a shock. It also isn’t shocking that the Russian Government, who wants anybody but Hillary Clinton to win, would use those connections (and the power of the state) to advance their national interests.

Everything  else that follows is just business.

And that is why business and government shouldn’t mix. Business is about making money and maximizing profits for investors.T here isn’t any ethical long term goal beyond profit.

Government is about enacting policy that benefits it’s citizens. Government doesn’t make a profit. Government works for the security and benefit of all citizens. Government is ethical, or at least it should.

And if you elect a profit driven businessman who then surrounds himself with other profit driven businessmen……….



From Russia Without Love

During a March 20th 2017 five-hour hearing before the House Intelligence Committee, FBI Director James Comey confirmed the FBI is actively investigating allegations that members of President Trump’s 2016 Campaign team worked with the Russians to influence the election outcome.

“We’re investigating whether there was any coordination between people associated with the Trump campaign and the Russians,” Comey said.

And yesterday, the Associated Press reported that in 2005 Paul Manafort collaborated with Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska to advance the interests of the Russian government.

Mr. Manafort is the former campaign chairman for President Trump. He left the Trump campaign in August 2016 due to questionable financial dealings with several Russian organizations.

Mr. Manafort is a well established GOP operative, and his client list reads like a collection of Bond villains. Mr. Manafort has worked/lobbied for such distasteful assholes as Ferdinand Marcos, Mobutu Sese Seko, and Jonas Savimbi.

He also represented former Ukrainian president  Viktor Yanukovych. Mr. Yanukovych, who now lives in exile in Russia, is wanted by the Ukrainian government for high treason.

And for those keeping score, former Trump National Security Adviser and raging Islamophobic d-bag Michael Flynn was forced out of his position after lying about talks he had with the Russian Ambassador.

Despite what they say, the Trump Administration has a Russia problem. And it isn’t going away anytime soon.


Trump Can’t Stop Lying

Yesterday, the House Intelligence Committee questioned both National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers and FBI Director James Comey regarding Russian efforts to influence 2016 presidential election.

The five-hour hearing answered two important questions. First, we now know the FBI is actively investigating allegations that members of President Trump’s 2016 Campaign team actively worked with the Russians to undermine Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

“We’re investigating whether there was any coordination between people associated with the Trump campaign and the Russians,” Comey said.

And secondly, there is absolutely no evidence to support Mr. Trump’s accusations that President Obama wiretapped Trump Towers prior to the 2016 elections.

“The FBI and the Justice Department have no information to support’’ Mr. Trump’s wiretap accusations, Comey said.

At this point, the media needs to stop calling Mr. Trump’s statements unsubstantiated claims. They are lies. He isn’t some college bro lying to his buddies about getting laid. He is the President of the United States lying about all types of petty bullshit.

Mr. Trump has always had a truth problem. And it isn’t like his fucktard voters didn’t know it.  During the 2016 campaign, PolitiFact found 70 percent of Trump’s campaign statements to be complete false. Think about that for a moment. Seven out of every ten thing he said were complete and total bullshit.

But when called out on his truth dodging fuckary, Mr Trump just keeps repeating the same bullshit lie over and over again. It is like he thinks that through sheer repetition, his bullshit will magically be transformed into truth.

And he then attacks those who call him out for his bullshit.

Donald Trump is a man with absolutely no integrity. He is a man that can’t be trusted. He is a man that will do and say whatever he thinks gets him what he wants.

And he is also the President of the United States.



Medicaid Cuts

If enacted, the Congressional Budget Office estimates over the next 10 years the American Health Care Act will cut $880 billion in federal funds from Medicaid. These cuts would leave up to 24 million people without health insurance over the same time period.

Under the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid expanded coverage to around 11 million people.

Mr. Trump ran promising repeal and replace the Affordable Car Act with something better. He also promised not to make cuts to Medicaid or Social Security. The American Health Care Act breaks both these promises.

Trumpcare Scare

Monday, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office reported that repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act with the current House Republican plan will result in 14 million Americans losing insurance coverage this year. From there, the numbers just get worse. The estimate projects 21 million Americans will lack insurance in 2020, and 24 million will go without in 2026.

The new House Republican health plan, titled the American Health Care Act, is really just a tax bill. Among other things, it eliminates tax penalties on people who chose not to purchase insurance. It also eliminates taxes currently used to pay for health care subsidies. These cuts are essentially a ten year $600 billion tax cut benefiting the wealthiest Americans.

Mr. Trump campaigned against the Affordable Care Act in 2016. He made a promise saying those who currently had insurance wouldn’t lose it. Mr. Trump made a lot of bullshit promises but, when it comes to health care, people need results. And so far the results are far from pretty.

All politics aside, voting to toss 14 million disadvantaged people off insurance is never good policy. And doing so while dishing out tax breaks for America’s wealthiest is akin to political suicide. I don’t care how favorable 2018 looks for Republicans, the American Health Care Act will obliterate any advantages.

In it’s current form, the American Health Care Act, stands little chance of passing in the Senate. Republicans will eventually pass something. I predict some form of Obamacare-Lite relying on tax write offs that still leave million under-insured. The numbers will be low enough to claim victory and assuage upper-middle class guilt, but will still give huge tax breaks to the ultra-rich and guarantees healthy bottom lines for insurance companies.

Still, the real issue being ignored is governance. Aside from tax cuts, repealing abortion, and deciding where people pee, Republicans believe the free market sorts everything out. They believe these markets yield only positive results,  which is why they despise the social welfare system. And to some extent, they are right.

Capitalism/the free market does reward winners. These market winners get housing, healthcare, and excellent educational opportunities. Markets winners also enjoy access to legislators, who they contribute to/pay to advocate for them. Market winners have laws enacted that ensure they (and their children) remain winners.

And the losers get the leftovers.

Let Them Eat Cake

Republican lawmakers revealed their Affordable Care Act replacement package, and it looks to be a mix of Medicaid rollbacks, program cuts, and an enormous tax write-off for insurance company CEOs. The GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare is not surprisingly unpopular with Democrats. More surprisingly, the current plan is under fire from both moderate and conservative Republicans.

Fiscal Conservative oppose refundable tax credits, which they view as an entitlement. Moderate Republicans are justifiably concerned that millions of their constituents will lose their insurance. However, Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz has a solution.

Don’t buy a new iPhone.

During a CNN interview, Mr. Chaffetz said, “Americans have choices, and they’ve got to make a choice. So rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and want to go spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest in their own health care.”

All the healthcare pros and cons aside, Jason Chaffetz is an asshole. Not only does he come off as a patronizing prick, Mr. Chaffetz compares buying a 700 dollar iPhone to paying thousands a year in healthcare costs. You would literally need to buy a new iPhone every month to make that argument stick.

But what Mr. Chaffetz inadvertently does is nail the Republican world view regarding poverty. Poor people make poor decisions and choose to be poor. In Republican Land, the poor are dope smoking “welfare queens/kings” who waste money on expensive luxury items. They sit around all day dealing weed, playing video games, and fucking. Also, the poor live in the inner-city and are predominantly black.


And it is bullshit.


Capitalism’s dirty little secret is its dependence on cheap labor. You can’t have millionaires and billionaires without poor people doing actual work. A capitalistic system only produces a middle class if the workers can afford to buy the things they (and others) produce. Forcing choices between healthcare and consumption actually hurts consumption, which damages capitalism.

Republicans argue that high taxes penalize success and hard work. The implication being poor people don’t work hard. And while that may be true in some cases, most wealth is inherited. Donald Trump and his children aren’t rich because they worked hard. They’re the result of rich people fucking.

Subsidizing healthcare through wealth redistribution doesn’t punish success. And even if it does, who cares? If you raise taxes on the richest people in the country, the result is they are still the richest people in the country. It doesn’t impact their lifestyle. They don’t skip meals. They still live in mansions. They still have lots of fancy cars. They still wear designer clothes.

The only thing that happens is everyone else has access to a doctor.

Slate’s Nonsense

During today’s confirmation hearing of Rod Rosenstein, President Trump’s selection for the number two position at the Justice Department, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley criticized Minnesota Senator Al Franken over a perceived “gotcha question” Mr. Franken asked then Senator Jeff Sessions during his January confirmation hearing.

This story comes from Slate, an online liberal/progressive magazine covering various political, international, social, and cultural topics. Personally, I don’t consider Slate a liberal or progressive. Like The Daily Beast and other supposedly liberal publications, Slate basically carries water for establishment Democrats.

My problem with this article is the labeling the interaction as “yelling” or a “blowup” when it isn’t anything more than Grassley whining. Seriously, the Senator from Iowa sounds like an old man bitching about cold oatmeal and kidney stones.

And this is the problem with our media. When whining passes for yelling, what does yelling really look like? What is hostile political discourse? Either they are obsessed titillating headlines aimed at generating hits, or they’re just as whinny as Mr. Grassley.