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Are Trump's Economic Policies Really Making America Great?

August 4, 2018 in Economics

By Thomas A. Firey

Thomas A. Firey

President Trump is nearing his 600th day in office, a lengthy
period that has allowed him to develop, refine, and pursue his
economic policies to “Make America Great Again.” The
approach of this milestone is a good time to survey and appraise
his “MAGAnomics.”

Right now, it appears to be successful. The unemployment rate hovers around record-low
levels, gross domestic product growth topped 4 percent
in the second quarter, and consumer confidence is as high as it’s
been since the late-1990s boom. But economic policy isn’t
just about the present; it’s mainly about the long term. So
how is MAGAnomics doing in that regard?

Fiscal policy

President Trump’s biggest policy triumph so far is the
fall 2017 tax legislation that cut income tax rates
on businesses and individuals, increased the standard deduction and
family tax credit, capped a number of deductions used by wealthy
taxpayers, and ended the Affordable Care Act’s insurance
penalty.

Protectionism mainly
harms the protectionist countries, while trade benefits even
countries with large trade deficits.

The lower business tax rate and the capped tax deductions are
noteworthy achievements. The former reduces the deadweight losson desirable business activity and
brings the U.S. rate in line with the rest of
the developed world. The latter reduces the regressivity of some
parts of the tax code. Those changes will likely endure because
future Congresses won’t want to reinstitute a tax
disadvantage on U.S. businesses or restore a tax advantage for the
rich.

However, the legislation’s overall reduction in
Americans’ taxes will almost certainly not endure because
federal spending wasn’t cut along with the taxes. Trump and
Congress will close the budget gap with more federal borrowing,
returning America to trillion-dollar deficits.

Unless Congress launches into serious budget-cutting, federal
taxes will have to rise to pay those debts, or at least to assure
America’s lenders that they will be repaid. Because of that,
the 2017 tax changes are “fake” tax cuts.

Trade and immigration

The Trump administration’s top two policy priorities are
managing the nation’s international trade and cutting both
legal and illegal immigration.

On trade, Trump has backed out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership,
a pact to lower trade barriers between nations around the
Pacific Rim, and he is threatening to abandon similar pacts with
Europe and the rest of North America.

Trump is now taxing imported steel and aluminum, washing
machines, and solar panels, and has threatened tariffs on
automobiles. He’s also singled out specific nations like
China for general tariffs. In response, China, Canada, and the
European Union are are raising tariffs on U.S. goods.

Such protectionism mainly harms the …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Historian Manisha Sinha Got Death Threats After Writing an Article Comparing Donald Trump to Andrew Johnson

August 4, 2018 in Blogs

By Rick Shenkman, History News Network

The article had been published on Friday at 6:37 in the morning. At 10:17 went out the tweet indicating she'd received death threats from someone who knew where she lived.


On Friday this stark tweet drew gasps from across Twitter:

 

The tweet was written by Manisha Sinha, a professor of history at the University of Connecticut. Messages of support poured in immediately from Jelani Cobb, Annette Gordon-Reed, Kevin Kruse and scores of others.

The ordeal began shortly after she wrote an op ed published by CNN with the headline, “What happened the last time a President chose America's enemies over its friends.”  In the article Sinha compared Donald Trump to Andrew Johnson.

Trolls immediately attacked Sinha. But she took the broadsides in stride.  This was the cost of doing business on the Internet, she acknowledged, as noted in this tweet:

But within hours the discussion had turned potentially violent.

The article had been published on Friday at 6:37 in the morning.  At 10:17 went out the tweet indicating she'd received death threats from someone who knew where she lived.  In her tweet she asked followers to alert campus police.

Sinha, the author of a new acclaimed study of abolitionism, The Slave's Cause:  A History of Abolition, published this past February by Yale University Press, was unnerved.

In a Facebook post composed the next day she related what had happened: “[J]ust after 9 am I received a series of threatening phone calls, vile, racist, and misogynistic. I thought I would just ignore them until the last one read out my home address and said they have it on GPS and would be coming to kill me.  I called 911.”   She explained that she was so “freaked out” that when FedEx showed up to deliver a package she called the police.  They arrived within minutes.

The authorities' investigation quickly identified the culprit who'd made the GPS death threat call.  It was from someone in Texas.  He can now be prosecuted in Massachusetts.  But Sinha, writing a little more than 24 hours after the threats had been made, remained frightened:  ”I want to thank everyone who worked so fast …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Opposition to Galileo Was Scientific — Not Just Religious

August 4, 2018 in Blogs

By Aeon

Science’s history matters.


In 1614, when the telescope was new technology, a young man in Germany published a book filled with illustrations of the exciting new things being discovered telescopically: moons circling Jupiter, moon-like phases of Venus, spots on the Sun, the rough and cratered lunar surface. The young man was Johann Georg Locher, and his book was Mathematical Disquisitions Concerning Astronomical Controversies and Novelties. And while Locher heaped praise upon Galileo, he challenged ideas that Galileo championed – on scientific grounds.

You see, Locher was an anti-Copernican, a fan of the ancient astronomer Ptolemy, and a student within the Establishment (his mentor was Christoph Scheiner, a prominent Jesuit astronomer). Locher argued that Copernicus was wrong about Earth circling the Sun, and that Earth was fixed in place, at the centre of the Universe, like Ptolemy said. But Locher was making no religious argument. Yes, he said, a moving Earth messes with certain Biblical passages, like Joshua telling the Sun to stand still. But it also messes with certain astronomical terms, such as sunrise and sunset. Copernicans had work-arounds for all that, Locher said, even though they might be convoluted. What Copernicans could not work around, though, were the scientific arguments against their theory. Indeed, Locher even proposed a mechanism to explain how Earth could orbit the Sun (a sort of perpetual falling – this decades before Isaac Newton would explain orbits by means of perpetual falling), but he said it would not help the Copernicans, on account of the other problems with their theory.

What were those problems? A big one was the size of stars in the Copernican universe. Copernicus proposed that certain oddities observed in the movements of planets through the constellations were due to the fact that Earth itself was moving. Stars show no such oddities, so Copernicus had to theorise that, rather than being just beyond the planets as astronomers had traditionally supposed, stars were so incredibly distant that Earth’s motion was insignificant by comparison. But seen from Earth, stars appear as dots of certain …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Generation Wealth: Will America Ever Cure Its Obsession With Bling, and Celebrity and Narcissism?

August 4, 2018 in Blogs

By Robert Scheer, Truthdig

“The American Dream had really become corrupted, going from values of hard work and frugality and discipline—that being a means of social mobility that was accessible to anyone—to a culture that elevated bling, and celebrity and narcissism.”


Photographer and filmmaker Lauren Greenfield is an expert in Americans’ yearning for material wealth. Since the early ’90s, her work has documented our hunger for it in photography books, multiple traveling exhibitions, short films and four documentary features, notably 2012’s “The Queen of Versailles,” the story of one Florida woman’s quest to build a replica of King Louis XIV’s home.

Greenfield’s latest feature, “Generation Wealth,” involves multiple stories, giving viewers a wide view of the cultural and social forces that drive Americans to covet becoming rich above all other goals. As Greenfield explains in an interview with Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer, our wealth addiction has intensified in the last few decades, influencing everything from our spending habits to whom we elect president.

“America has undergone a monumental shift in the last 25 years,” Greenfield explains in the latest edition of “Scheer Intelligence.” “The American Dream,” she says, “had really become corrupted, going from values of hard work and frugality and discipline—that being a means of social mobility that was accessible to anyone—to a culture that elevated bling, and celebrity and narcissism.”

Unfortunately, as Greenfield has discovered, the desire continues to grow. She starts the film with the stories of wealthy individuals in Los Angeles, including scenes from a bar mitzvah in a giant L.A. club with strippers, then moves across the country, then the world. She includes interviews with hedge fund managers, bankers, heirs to family fortunes and entrepreneurs, providing context for how we got here, and whether we can change.

Scheer and Greenfield discuss the decline of America’s meritocracy, the impact of venerating wealth as a positive value and how our wealth obsession led to the election of Donald Trump. Greenfield also explains what she calls “the influence of affluence, the aspiration, and, in a way, the kind of aspirational hunger, kind of disease, kind of perpetual dissatisfaction, that we really see …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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After Spending Big to Reinstate Death Penalty, Nebraska Gov. Brushes Aside Pope's Call to Push Forward With Plan for 'Experimental Execution'

August 4, 2018 in Blogs

By Andrea Germanos, Common Dreams

“Will Catholic [Gov. Pete Ricketts], who spends a lot of time talking about his 'pro-life values,' heed the words of Pope Francis by cancelling the experimental execution scheduled for August 14 in Nebraska?” asks Sister Helen Prejean


Nebraska's Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts confirmed Thursday that his state is going forward with its first death penalty execution in more than 20 years.

The confirmation, indicated in an email to the Omaha World-Herald in which he asserted the death penalty is “an important tool,” came in the wake of Pope Francis' announcement of a shift in church teaching, which now sees the death penalty as “inadmissible” in all situations.

“While I respect the pope's perspective, capital punishment remains the will of the people and the law of the state of Nebraska,” said Ricketts, a Catholic who poured money into the campaign to reinstate the death penalty. The World-Herald previously reported that he dumped $300,000 into the pro-death penalty campaign.

The shift in church doctrine, however, did prompt the state's three bishops to urgeconstituents to call state officials and press them to halt plans for the Aug. 14 execution of Carey Dean Moore, who was sentenced in 1980 for double murder.

To kill Moore, the state plans on using a never-before tried four-drug cocktail.

Ricketts' insistence on following through with killing also comes despite drugmakers' objections over their products being used for a lethal injection.

“We are again asking the Nebraska DOC (Department of Corrections) to return any Pfizer restricted product,” the pharmaceutical company stated. In addition, as the Associated Press reported, “Representatives of Sandoz Inc. and Hikma Pharmaceuticals sent letters late last month urging state officials to return their drugs for a refund or provide assurances they won't be used in executions.”

Noted death penalty activist and Dead Man Walking author Sister Helen Prejean entered the fray, asking on Twitter: “Will Catholic @GovRicketts, who spends a lot of time talking about his 'pro-life values,' heed the words of Pope Francis by cancelling the experimental execution scheduled for August 14 in Nebraska? #DontKillForNE.”

Whether or not Ricketts heeds those words, Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty is planning to hold a rally outside the state Capitol on Aug. 14 “to speak out against …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Universal Basic Income Is a No-Brainer

August 4, 2018 in Blogs

By The Conversation

One of the best proxies that we have for understanding the effects of a basic income policy from an economic perspective in Canada is the guaranteed income received by seniors.


Ontario’s minister of children, community and social services just announced that the Canadian province’s landmark basic income pilot project would be terminated. Lisa MacLeod did not offer an alternative for moving forward, apart from a vague mention of a “better plan in 100 days.”

The project has been running since April 2017. It reached full enrolment with 4,000 residents receiving the basic income payment in three communities: the Hamilton area, the Thunder Bay area and Lindsay. More than 2,000 additional individuals are volunteering as participants in the study without receiving monthly payments. They are helping to serve as a comparison group, to measure the differential effects for those in the program.

The Ontario pilot had already diverged to some extent from other models of basic income programs. A “full” basic income model is universal. It is based on the principle of targeting all individuals in a community unconditionally, regardless of income, without clawbacks.

Participants in Ontario received up to $16,989 per year for a single person, less 50 per cent of any earned income. Couples received $24,027 per year, less 50 per cent of any earned income. Up to an additional $6,000 per year was provided for a person with a disability.

MacLeod later admitted that the cancellation of the pilot was a broken campaign promise. In rationalizing the decision, she explained that the program was a disincentive to participants becoming “independent contributors to the economy.” She went on: “We want to get people back on track and be productive members of society where that’s possible.”

This is poppycock.

‘Ignorant’ decision

Caring about the economy and society means caring about the outcome of the basic income pilot.

The Ontario Progressive Conservative government’s decision is ignorant of the considerable thought and analysis on basic income as a promising policy solution for improving lives and strengthening the economy, ideas that come from the right and the left.

One of the best proxies that …read more

Source: ALTERNET