2016 Politics open thread, December 11-17

Scott Adam’s blog post about two separate reality paths made me think of our blog, which reflects what I observe among many other people I know in real life.

The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States has effectively forked reality into two versions that are running in parallel. Clinton’s supporters believe they are living in a world that is a repeat of 1930s Germany, with Trump playing the part of Adolf Hitler. See this reaction for a typical example.

Meanwhile, the other half of the country believes we elected a highly-capable populist who will “drain the swamp” and bring a business approach to government along with greater prosperity.

How can it simultaneously be true that Trump is OBVIOUSLY the next Hitler while it is also true that half the country didn’t notice? There are at least three ways to explain-away this dissonance. Maybe…

  • Half the country are sexist, racist monsters too, so they like Trump.
    or…
  • Half the country is stupid and can’t identify a Hitler that is right in front of them.
    or…
  • Clinton supporters have been duped into believing something ridiculous about Trump.

What do you think?

(Via Althouse)

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294 thoughts on “2016 Politics open thread, December 11-17

  1. On this topic, I heartily recommend Jonathan Haidt’s “The Righteous Mind” on how “we” think about politics– very helpful and interesting! (I have a glog post that reviews the book if you’re interested.)

  2. “How can it simultaneously be true that Trump is OBVIOUSLY the next Hitler while it is also true that half the country didn’t notice? There are at least three ways to explain-away this dissonance. Maybe…”

    Substitute Mussolini for Hitler and you pretty much have the situation in 30’s Italy. In fact, when I was spending time in southern Italy in the 80’s, there were still a lot of older people who wished Mussolini was still around.

  3. And that website you posted is not a shining example of objectivity in itself, I think I am not going to partake of these political threads any more. It is just too clear we are all in separate universes.

  4. In this case, Clinton supporters were persuaded to believe that Trump is OBVIOUSLY the next coming of Hitler

    I don’t know anyone IRL who believed/s that.

    Personally, I don’t think Trump has a racist, sexist, antisemetic, homophobic bone in his body. I do however share CofC and presumably Eric’s deep misgivings about Trump’s economic and trade policy.

  5. MM,

    Only Milo and Scarlett are really onboard the Trump train. Cordelia, CofC, Eric etc. are opposed to at least half of his policies, if not more.

  6. Despite my feelings that he is a vile, self-absorbed, emotionally stunted 14 yr old in a 70 yr old’s body, I find that he has stated a couple of things that I agree with. I can’t. All them policies, though, because he contradicts himself so frequently.

    What scares me the most is his disregard of facts. Him explaining that he does not need daily intelligence briefings because he considers himself really smart, plus his public denigrating of the intelligence agencies makes him seem very unstable on foreign policy, to me. I also am concerned that all decisions for the next four years are going to be based entirely and shamelessly on what benefits the cadre of billionaires the most, common people be damned

  7. There is a relatively small % of people who imagine Trump is all that and a bucket of popcorn. Most of his voters chose him because he was not Clinton or because he would shake things up. So, people are too worried about his supporters (imagining many of them as Nazis, racists, or…deplorables). And he is more likely to shake things up– for better and/or for worse– because he’s not a typical politician, etc.

    It’s easy for most people to understand why people would not want Trump. It *should* be easy to see why people would not have wanted Clinton. But many of her avid supporters and her voters have trouble imagining it. This struggle with empathy, particularly on the Left, is part of what makes Haidt and his research so valuable/fascinating. (And he’s relatively/quite liberal, which should make him more credible for people on the Left.)

    What will Trump do? Who knows?! Will he, overall, be more “authoritarian” than Clinton would have been? Not at all sure, at least if one is looking at a full range of issues.

    Hope for the best; pray for him and our other leaders (if you’re a Christian, it’s commanded); and most important: do your best in your spheres of influence.

  8. Most of his voters chose him because he was not Clinton or because he would shake things up.

    I think a fair number voted for him because he he identified a cause and a proposed a solution to their problems i.e. opposition to free trade and immigration.

  9. I think a fair number voted for him because he he identified a cause and a proposed a solution to their problems i.e. opposition to free trade and immigration.

    I was just flipping through the Time man of the year issue and there are a lot of comments from people about why they voted for Trump – a lot of working class, children if immigrants, 20 and 30-somethings, etc, normally the dems’ core constituency. The comments are basically “Trump is going to create jobs” and “the Democrats abandoned us.”

  10. Of all the things I’m concerned about, Trump ditching the intelligence briefings is last on my list. You know he’d just tweet about them! Pence is attending them and, though I loathe Pence’s policies, I suspect he’s got better judgment than Trump about how to handle the briefings and how to sort out which things are important and which aren’t.

  11. “What scares me the most is his disregard of facts. Him explaining that he does not need daily intelligence briefings because he considers himself really smart”

    Like Obama.

    “It is apparently a point of pride in the White House that Obama’s PDB is “not briefed to him.” In the eyes of this administration, it is a virtue that the president does not meet every day with senior intelligence officials. This president, you see, does not need briefers. He can forgo his daily intelligence meeting because he is, in Vietor’s words, “among the most sophisticated consumers of intelligence on the planet.” ”

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/marc-thiessen-obama-alone-this-president-does-not-need-intel-briefers/2012/09/13/c11e1a52-fda5-11e1-b153-218509a954e1_story.html?utm_term=.bce6e764bd8d

  12. This struggle with empathy, particularly on the Left

    Can you expand on that?

    I think the ideological extremes of both sides struggle equally with empathy. You seem to disagree.

  13. Just a suggestion: Perhaps we need totebag political discussion ground rules?

    For example:

    Scarlett, if you read about Obama’s briefings in 2012 and thought to yourself, “Good for him for delegating.” Then you can raise your point.

    RMS, If you objected to Obama delegating his briefings back in 2012, then it’s fine to bring up when Trump does the same.

    I think we can have this discussion at a higher level than the sort of tit for tat political posturing that just gets everyone all upset.

    Again, just my humble opinion.

  14. The PDB is a DOCUMENT, intended to be read, not orally briefed. It is the most important product of the CIA, and is put out every day. It is also the most secret document produced in the government.
    Obama READS his PDB most days, starting with the transition. He had a special secure tablet set up for this. He also instituted a tradition of deep dives every so often. Only the Bushes insisted on oral briefings. George HW Bush started it, most likely because he was an ex CIA director and loved discussing things with a CIA officer. Carter READ his PDB, like Obama, and was famous for extensive notes in the margins, so they started printing the document with giant margins. Reagan took his PDB in video form sometimes, because he preferred video to text, and never had an oral brief. For LBJ, they had to shorten all the sentences and make bullet points because he couldn’t read that well.
    Nixon, however, completely ignored the PDB, since he distrusted the CIA, calling them effete elites. Sounds a lot like Trump.

    I just finished a wonderful book on the PDB, and am most entertained to see it discussed in the news these days,

  15. Haidt finds that liberals struggle (much) more with empathy– and he’s a liberal. (I think we see this manifest with current events as well– with the recent election– but that’s subject to interpretation.) Check him out (or start with my blog post)!

  16. On DD’s comment, I just wrote a long piece that reviewed Thomas Frank’s book, “Listen, Liberal”– a *real* liberal critiquing the Dems. He argues that the Dems purposefully moved away from the working class 40 years ago, moving to young professionals, middle-upper class folks who are socially liberal and represent “the new economy”.

    Even without the strength of Frank’s case, it’s seems obvious that the Dems have not been nearly as interested in those issues– and those voters have moved GOP / Tea Party / independent in some key elections– Reagan, Perot, and now Trump.

  17. Eric,

    Frank’s theory is basically what Milo has been saying. Where does it go from here, in your opinion?

    As a libertarian, I imagine you’re not a huge fan of Trump and Bannon’s “The free market has failed” brand of economic nationalism.

  18. Right, as an economist and a libertarian, I’m not a fan of the anti-immigration and esp. the anti-trade stuff. Immigration policy is mostly rhetoric anyway. And the anti-trade rhetoric is somewhere between annoying and potentially devastating.

    Still, we’ll see what happens in practice. For example, Trump said he favored a higher minimum wage. But he’s chosen a Labor Secretary who is opposed to making it more difficult to hire less-skilled workers and understands the impact on business and the resulting allure of automation.

    Where does it go from here? Difficult to say. It’s not a good sign that the Dems have taken to more blame-shifting than introspection. Can they move away from their focus on identity politics toward a greater interest in working folks? (If African-Americans figure out that Dem policies cause them a lot of trouble, they could lose a key constituency. Trump’s appeal to them was one of the most fascinating parts of the campaign, yes?) And if Haidt’s correct– which, by the way, frustrates him, since it works against the way he’d like the world to go– then it’s less likely. On the other hand, the GOP is usually feckless, so it could (will probably) swing back again in 8-12 years! ;-)

  19. Eric, I agree. A great example as the senate race two years ago here in Colorado between Cory Gardner and Mark Udall. Udall was the incumbent, and while Colorado is a swing state, leading up to that election, we had a democratic governor, two democratic senators, and had gone for Obama twice, so Udall should have been able to win fairly easily. Udall outspent Gardner $15 million to $9 million, but he spent most of the campaign harping on abortion and other social issues, while Gardner focused on economic issues and won.

  20. On the other hand, the GOP is usually feckless, so it could (will probably) swing back again in 8-12 years! ;-)

    I think it will swing back simply because that’s the nature of politics. People inevitably become dissatisfied with the party in power at some point and vote the other party back in.

  21. I thought the key issue was Trump’s appeal to Rust-Belt / coal-mine working class voters, esp. in combo with social issues, (perceived) cultural malaise, and a sense that nobody cares about them, despite claims about hope, rhetoric, etc. Until election night, I couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t doing a lot better in PA, MI, OH, WI and IL.

    I thought the key moment was Hillary’s 50% basket of deplorables, which cemented what people were prone to think of her and what Donald had been claiming throughout the campaign.

  22. Rust-Belt / coal-mine working class voters, esp. in combo with social issues

    I don’t where people are getting the social
    Issue angle. No Republican has ever cared less about social issues than Trump.

  23. Not social issues per se, but the sense that socially, things aren’t going where they ought– and Hillary would make things worse. I doubt this makes much difference, but Trump’s campaign priorities, disappointment at oversold “hope”, and her gaffes and perceived elitism all pointed toward supporting him, despite weaknesses.

  24. Not social issues per se, but the sense that socially, things aren’t going where they ought

    In terms of?

  25. As much as Trump’s cabinet picks seem to be full of (b/m)illionaires, there is no guarantee they will be comfirmed and/or last beyond the first year. Even if all are approved, I can’t imagine they can all play well together. This is normal, though. Not sure Trump can manage them in a superior way…..There is usually departures in the first year or so. I did not vote for him (or her) but am glad the election may have gotten us beyond the standard unions/abortion/welfare discussions that have driven so many elections. I think Trump had no idea what presidency entailed. His ego got in the way I think that will get him in major trouble…impeachment, inability to be reelected, or citizen revolt/uprising. I do think this an exciting and really interesting dilemma for the US. Its great because its outside the traditional political scandals

  26. I support an expanded EITC, basically as described in this article, and think both increasing taxes and reducing social programs are ways to pay for it. I prefer an expanded EITC to a universal basic income (if that were possible) or a high minimum wage because an expanded EITC is less inflationary and rewards work without (I think) reducing employment as much as a high minimum wage.

    Opinions? Other than money, are there reasons people oppose an expanded EITC?

  27. Rhett, maybe I’m just repeating stuff I’ve heard from the media, but I was thinking issues such as crime, single-parent births/households, immigration, transgender bathrooms.

    WCE, EITC is fine with me. The downside is having another welfare-like program which necessarily has a “take-back rate” on the benefit. In other words, when the govt gives to those who are more needy, it will give less to those who are less needy– a reduction in benefits as earnings increase, which is equivalent to a marginal tax rate. But that’s better than simply pricing many of the relatively-unskilled out of labor markets.

    I would add that we could drop the 15.3% FICA tax on every dollar earned under the poverty line. EITC was originally set up as an offset against “the employee’s half” of FICA (only for heads of households). Drop FICA for the working poor and the EITC really becomes a (net) credit, rather than merely an offset of a tax. The fact that the “champions” of the working poor and middle class never talk about FICA (let alone, fight against it) might be considered evidence #1 of Frank’s thesis.

  28. In this case, Clinton supporters were persuaded to believe that Trump is OBVIOUSLY the next coming of Hitler

    “I don’t know anyone IRL who believed/s that.”

    I know lots* — relatives, friends, and acquaintances.  I wonder why the difference.  At the hair salon the other day my stylist was talking about the crying that went on among her customers.  Just this morning on FB I saw this.

    I’m honestly afraid of WWIII because of Trump, I’m afraid of another Civil War (not kidding)

    and

    To all the folks who just couldn’t vote for a Clinton…. Doesn’t our democracy even matter to you?

    * Of course, many previous Republican politicians have been called “Hitler” so maybe it’s become a meaningless, go-to expression for some progressives.

  29. “And that website you posted is not a shining example of objectivity in itself, I think I am not going to partake of these political threads any more.”

    No, I don’t want to cause people to stay away. That website, like almost all I see, is not objective. It’s a person giving his views, which will necessarily be subjective. But his reasoning does make sense to me. But I think I should stop posting links.

  30. The fact that the “champions” of the working poor and middle class never talk about FICA (let alone, fight against it) might be considered evidence #1 of Frank’s thesis.

    You obviously know why they favor the poor paying FICA and therefore know it doesn’t support Frank’s thesis.

  31. I would be in favor of eliminating FICA for anyone under the poverty line (and reducing it for those who aren’t much above it) so long as they still get a credit for it and can collect it later. I am also in favor of increasing the rate and amount taxed for high earners. I am not sure that eliminating the employer’s portion is a good idea. That would probably encourage employers to hire even more low wage employees. I would rather see their portion get paid to the low earner directly.

  32. Economists distinguish between the imposition and the burden of a tax. The imposition is how it’s collected; the burden is who actually bears its brunt. It comes down to what economists call “elasticity”– the extent/flexibility to which behavior is sensitive to a change in a variable (here, price). Think of a gas tax: your local gas station “pays” it, but the burden is borne by consumers, given our low elasticity. Same with FICA; the employer pays it for the worker, but the burden of “the employer’s half” is borne by the workers in the form of lower wages/comp.

  33. Rhett, no, I’ve never a meaningful justification for that; it’s usually ignored– and things get uncomfy when pointy-headed economists bring up the topic. What do you have in mind?

  34. What I am suggesting is that the employee doesn’t pay his portion and the employer pays his portion to the employee at time of wage payment. And that the employee still gets credit for SS and can collect in retirement. I think that my side would be on board with this. Not so sure about the Republican leadership.

  35. What do you have in mind?

    In order for their to be broad based support for a social safety net, everyone needs to pay in and get goods and services in return. As it’s structured now everyone pays into FICA and almost everyone eventually gets SS and Medicare. If you have some people not paying in but still getting benefits, it turns into welfare and public support declines.

    It’s the most common justification so I’m a little surprised you’ve never heard it.

  36. It’s the most common justification so I’m a little surprised you’ve never heard it.

    That may have came out harsher than I intended.

  37. I support an expanded EITC, basically as described in this article, and think both increasing taxes and reducing social programs are ways to pay for it. I prefer an expanded EITC to a universal basic income (if that were possible) or a high minimum wage because an expanded EITC is less inflationary and rewards work without (I think) reducing employment as much as a high minimum wage.

    I guess hell has frozen over, because WCE and I agree.

  38. Eric, I wish you’d define “real liberal”. Do you mean libertarian (“classical liberal”) or progressive, or what? You can’t complain about people not being “true liberals” if you don’t specify what those are.

  39. I am a progressive from a progressive family (we prefer that term to liberal). I have friends who are very upset about the choices Trump has made so far and we are giving serious thought to how to work toward our ideals and also prevent a rollback of federal government initiatives to pre-Great Society (1965) levels. Most of us have no personal fears for ourselves because of age, income and region. I also have heard about folks who are crazed with immediate fear, forgetting how this unwieldy republic lurches forward but swings from side to side along the way. I am inadvertently exposed to those who post ludicrous comments on congenial sites or FB or sling words about like Hitler for Trump, much as there were those for eight years who called Obama Osama and far worse. However, I don’t spend time socially with folks who fail to see that their commentary has crossed the line and is no longer civil discourse and are always name calling or harping on their particular issue or area of concern or constantly bringing up false equivalences, whether that is on the left or on the right.

    I am glad Eric S has weighed in. Perhaps he can temper this political thread.

  40. Meme, thanks for your encouraging words.

    RMS, my apologies; I should have explained. In a nutshell, the recent presidential election cycle revealed that the two major parties are not dominated by “liberals” (of the contemporary sort) or “conservatives” (whatever that term means). A liberal could not be an avid supporter of Clinton; a conservative (except of a narrow and particular sort) could not have been an avid supporter of Trump. Along these lines (and what we discussed earlier), y’all might get a kick out of my review of Frank’s book: http://schansblog.blogspot.com/2016/12/listening-to-real-liberal-thomas-franks.html

    Rhett, yes, I’ve heard of that, but not quite in those terms (the connection to public support). I don’t recall Dems talking about ending the FICA tax on dollars below the poverty line. Usually, when Dems talk about FICA, they propose lifting/eliminating the cap on the tax. (FWIW, I’m ok with extending this flat tax, if it’s offset by a reduction in 1040-style “income taxes”). But to your point, removing the cap explicitly moves the policy from retirement program to welfare program, since it disconnects what you get from what you paid into it. (Economists already see SS as “welfare”, given its redistribution, pay-as-you-go-funding, benefit reduction rates and disincentives, etc.) SO…If they’re going to propose removing the cap, then why wouldn’t they (first?) propose eliminating the tax on the working poor?

  41. One of the things I try to cultivate on my FB feed/threads, in the classroom, and in daily life– and what should be valuable to Totebaggers and others– is civilized discussion, where we strive for empathy, knowledge, etc., particularly on difficult topics, such as politics, religion, parenting, cultural norms, etc.

    The Totebag seems to be a good place for this; I appreciate its contribution to fruitful discussions that improve life!

  42. If they’re going to propose removing the cap, then why wouldn’t they (first?) propose eliminating the tax on the working poor?

    I think it’s an equally bad idea to raise the cap or eliminate FICA on the working poor. To close the funding gap everyone needs to pay a little more and get a little less back, more an increase in the EITC and increase in the baseline amount of SS to help those at the bottom.

  43. I hear ya and that’s fine for preserving the popular sense of what SS/Medicare are, But it’s unacceptable unjust to me– to have an income tax that costs the working poor thousands of dollars per year– and those in the middle class, up to $10K per year.

    Imagine it this way: what if Congress said they wanted to start a program that would impose a 15% tax on every dollar earned– no deductions, exemptions, credits, etc. People would go *ape* over that. We’d say– hey, I appreciate what you want to do, but you must find a different way to fund it.

  44. Eric – I don’t disagree. Why do you think there isn’t more support for it? I also would like to see sales tax for necessities refunded to those under the poverty line.

  45. But it’s unacceptable unjust to me– to have an income tax that costs the working poor thousands of dollars per year– and those in the middle class, up to $10K per year.

    I find the alternative even more unjust. Unless you’re proposing a transition toward a system like Australia’s:

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-05-30/in-australia-retirement-saving-done-right

    My main concern about the Australian system is how big the US is and as a result how big our Superannuation funds would be and how that would impact the global economy. Also, if almost all the population is in these funds, politicians will be under even more pressure to intervene in the markets during the next financial crisis.

  46. Eric, I did read your review of the book and now I have placed a hold on the book at the library (I’m such a socialist!) In regard to your 9:29am reply to Rhett, the flat 15% tax may be “unjust” (it probably is) but it satisfies a lot of people who are deeply resentful of the poor getting any benefits. If the poor have to pay the same as the rich, then those rich individuals who believe that their status is due entirely to their own efforts have no grounds to complain that the undeserving poor are getting special treatment.

  47. I think that every thread here is not going to appeal to everyone. If people want to abstain, that’s ok. However, I think the rest of us should continue with these fascinating conversations.

    I, too, am interested in reading the Frank book.

  48. Kate: I think it’s because the Dems don’t care (along the lines of Frank’s thesis) and they like the status quo on SS, where they can use it as a way to score cheap political points.

    RMS, I hear ya, but the topic gets virtually no discussion– certainly disproportionate to the amount of damage it causes.

    Rhett and RMS, FWIW, if I were in charge, I would advocate a flat tax of X% (25%?) on any income above the poverty line, with deductions only (or at most) for charity. In any case, I can’t see how liberals (justice) or conservatives (incentives) can support taxing the income of the working poor.

  49. All the abortion restrictions are causing me more concern.

    When I got pregnant (both times) they were considered high risk (mother >35) and DH is 15 yrs older than me. We had a lot of testing done and had decided if there were significant disabilities we would abort mainly because we have no family younger than us that could take on care of a severely disabled child. We knew it would mean a later life of institutionalization. Thankfully, both pregnancies resulted in healthy children.

    The ‘final’ test was the amniocentesis, which was conducted at about 16 weeks, clearly in the second trimester. With all these anti-abortion laws and proposals, what would even be the point of doing any second trimester testing, if you can’t take any action based upon them.

    There aren’t sufficient supports in place for people with severely disabled children and families are shamed if they put their children in institutional settings. I know it is still all about money – if you live near the border or have the money to go where you can get those procedures your access is not limited.

  50. , I can’t see how liberals … can support taxing the income of the working poor.

    I explained the rationale and you seemed to understand it. Now, you’re back to claiming you don’t understand it?

  51. Rhett – I think that is just evidence of what Eric is saying about people not caring. Regardless, I think it is a great idea and something I am going to start advocating.

  52. IMO, that rationale does not suffice for the terrific burden it imposes on marginal people. And it is not the sort of rationale that would satisfy a liberal (at least, how I would define it!). Hey, we have this program we’re running and we promise to give you your money back if you live that long at an average ROI of 0%– but we need $3K from you this year. Huh?!

    The best one can do is to cast it, instead, as “we don’t think a lot of people will save for their own retirements, so we’re going to force them to save and put it in an account that they own and can control to some extent…”

  53. Rhett – I think that is just evidence of what Eric is saying about people not caring.

    How so? Their honest belief is that not subjecting the working poor to FICA (refunded via the EITC) would rob SS of support to such a degree that the working poor would be much worse off overall. How is that evidence that they don’t care?

  54. I think the “how can people think he’s the next Hitler” and the “I like where he is on social issues” spring from the same feeling — and it’s not the “all Republicans are racists/xenophobes/misogynists” one.

    My sense is that a number of people think that we have just paid too much attention to liberal social issues, and that things have gone too far. E.g., the conversation I had last week with Milo, who supports gay marriage but draws the line at transgender bathrooms. For better or worse, I think the transgender bathroom issue has become something of a poster child — a/k/a all I’m reading about in the papers is whether a man can use the women’s bathroom, and no one cares that my freaking job is going to China? This is what my tax dollars are being used for?

    OTOH, many of the people on the other side care more about those social issues than economic concerns (and/or believe in globalism as the long-term path to economic prosperity and so believe we must continue on despite the hardships caused). And this is a campaign that, for better or worse, traded on the theme that these liberal social issues have gone too far, that we are protecting terrorists and rapists and murderers above good American jobs and hard work. You combine that with the fringe elements that have in some ways been totally validated as part of the campaign (e.g., “alt-Right”), and the predominance of some of these parties across the globe, and, well, if civil rights are a core part of your belief system, it is scary.

    Also, FWIW, the “Germany 1933” comparisons are NOT, IMO, designed to say “Trump is Hitler.” It’s more to say that even someone as horrible as Hitler turned out to be didn’t seem that way at the beginning — most people who supported his rise to power weren’t avidly racist antisemites, they were decent people who were scared about jobs and feeding their family, who were willing to overlook some, er, “issues” that their guy might have because it was worth the tradeoff to return their nation to greatness. It is a warning to pay attention and don’t take it for granted that good, decent people can’t let horrible things happen, just because they seem unthinkable to use now in our nice, safe homes.

  55. Hey, we have this program we’re running and we promise to give you your money back if you live that long at an average ROI of 0%

    As I understand it, the average 401k has a negative ROI in practice as a form of retirement savings: people buy high and sell low, cash out when they switch jobs, cash out and pay taxes and penalties, etc.

  56. I think that’s a reasonable point– although not nearly enough to argue for the status quo– but I’ve never heard that argument from a politician and rarely from anyone else.

    Few people understand EITC– and fewer have a clue that it’s an offset to part of FICA.

  57. Rhett – if we shifted the burden to higher income workers, we could have no effect on $ collected. But from what I understand from your point is that people won’t buy in to that evade it then becomes welfare and people need to believe they are getting something from their contributions. They don’t want wealth/income shifting. They want their money back.

  58. but I’ve never heard that argument from a politician and rarely from anyone else.

    You’ve never heard a politician argue that popular support for SS is based on the idea that everyone pays in and everyone gets something in return? Or, just the part about FICA and the EITC.

  59. I think the EITC is a much better mechanism to refund social security tax to the working poor than waiving/eliminating social security tax on low income workers because it depends on household income and not indiividual income. I would be OK with having the projected EITC distributed across the year by employers via lower withholding for cash flow purposes.

  60. I would be OK with having the projected EITC distributed across the year by employers via lower withholding for cash flow purposes.

    NO, NO, NO!

    I have more than enough to do without adding another level of bureaucracy, paperwork and liability. If you all think that the projected EITC should be distributed throughout the year, then the government can do this. That way, everyone pays for it, not just employers.

  61. I have more than enough to do without adding another level of bureaucracy, paperwork and liability

    Do you not use a service like ADP?

  62. Are or should employers be in the position to determine a worker’s eligibility for the EITC? That would seem to be an obstacle.

  63. Do you not use a service like ADP?

    No I don’t. I handle payroll. My job is basically bookkeeping and compliance.

  64. Hit return too soon. While I prefer to spend my time on planning and business development, most of my time is spent on payroll, environmental compliance, regulatory matters, and fighting off new regulations. I spend far too much time appeasing the government and not nearly enough time planning crop rotations, orchard developments, new leases and and watching things grow.

  65. An employer paying out EITC is also requiring the employer to front additional cash from the government to the employee. For some businesses, that could be a cash flow issue.

    It’s also a potential nightmare for employees who are working multiple jobs, who have changed jobs mid year, who have additional 1099 income from Uber, who marry or divorce or have a child, or a child who changes dependency status, who buy a house, who sell a house, whose spouse loses a job, or takes on another job, who decide to begin tithing…

    ADP is just the spreadsheet. The burden part is making the employer responsible for maintaining an accurate record of all that information

  66. The burden part is making the employer responsible for maintaining an accurate record of all that information.

    The burden could be on ADP to maintain that accurate record.

  67. “The burden could be on ADP to maintain that accurate record.”

    It would make more sense for it to be on irs.gov. The employee herself can get an account and apply for advanced EITC payments. There’s an identity theft risk here, as well as the very high likelihood that many people will take too much in advance and then have a big tax liability the following April.

  68. Rhett – There is already a mechanism in place for an employee on his form W-4 to claim under penalty of perjury exemption from income tax withholding on the form W-4. The employer is off the hook for income tax withholding if the employee does that. (Payroll tax withholding is mandatory on the employer.) I assume you realize that EITC is often paid to a family that has had zero income tax withheld and no reason at all to file a return otherwise. It would obviously not be possible for any individual employer to be given responsibility for paying a hypo future EITC out of pocket.

  69. I assume you realize that EITC is often paid to a family that has had zero income tax

    The employer is still withholding the employees half of FICA and paying the employer half.

  70. Thanks Milo, for much more eloquently expressing some of the issues.

    The major objection I have is that managing taxes and welfare programs is emphatically NOT my business. My business involves growing and selling crops. Not maintaining social programs, or redistributing wealth, or making sure child support is paid. I am not arguing whether those programs are valuable, but rather, why I am responsible for them? Why isn’t Rhett, or WCE, or RMS?

  71. A major problem is liability. It something is an employer responsiblity, they are liable to get it done. If ADP screws up, it is my fault. If an employee screws up, it is my fault. If a labor contractor doesn’t pay his employees, even if I pay the contractor, I still owe the employees. I do not need anything more to be responsible for or liable for. Especially if I have no choice in taking on that liability.

    Adding additional costs (whether directly via increased minimum wage, or indirectly through forced sick leave, or paying out EITC) changes the labor/capital ratio and make capital relatively less expensive than labor. People and machines are in some manner interchangeable. McDonald is experimenting with kiosks in place or employees to take orders. We look at increasing the size and horsepower of tractors so that we need fewer employees to work a given land area. The employees who will be replaced by machines are likely to be the lower productivity/lower skilled workers. I assume that these are the people that the EITC is expected to help.

    Making lower wage/low skilled employees more expensive to hire doesn’t seem like an effective strategy to help them.

  72. “The burden could be on ADP to maintain that accurate record.”

    The burden is *never* on the hired contractor instead of the employer — you cannot, under any area of law that I am familiar with, contract away your legal compliance responsibility to a third party. And what if the person has a second job, whose payroll is managed by another company? Or is an independent contractor, etc.? How is ADP supposed to get that info? And what if the employee quits and gets a new job partway through the year that puts him above the EITC/FICA refund threshold, so now he is no longer eligible for the entire year? How does the employer get that money back?

    I agree with Cordelia on this one — we already make employers responsible to be experts in too many things. I can’t see how making them advance the amount of the EITC/FICA credit to an employee (at risk of not getting the $ back if the employee earns too much, leaves town, etc.), and making them responsible for doing this all correctly where the employee may not even give them accurate/complete info (or circumstances may change partway through a tax year) is remotely feasible or wise. The only entity that might possibly be in the situation to do that is the government itself, which at a minimum could offset amounts owed from past overpayments against future tax refunds.

  73. There used to be a Form W-5 filed by employees so that employers were required to pay out advance income tax credit. Each member of the married couple could file one such form with one employer. Advance payment of EITC was repealed effective 2011 by the Democratic controlled Congress and President Obama as part of some reforms. This is an old idea that was tried and found wanting.

  74. The burden is *never* on the hired contractor instead of the employer — you cannot, under any area of law that I am familiar with, contract away your legal compliance responsibility to a third party.

    You could with appropriate legislation, could you not?

  75. I don’t think ADP or any other payroll provider or the employer should have the burden. The only entity that will have all of the info is the govt. we can create a new sub agency to handle it. Put it in Youngstown or Detroit. Jobs creation!

  76. LfB,

    Here is how I would structure it. All employers would make payments to a Payroll Receipt Entity” it could be a bank, brokerage firm, credit union, postal bank, etc. Within that PRE you would sign up for your 401k, IRA, health insurance, disability, FSA, etc. All the wage garnishments for child support, creditors, tax leins, etc. would be processed by the PRE. All the employer would be legally responsibly for is paying the agreed amount on the agreed day to a certified PRE.

  77. i am in complete agreement with Scarlett, Milo and Cordelia on this one. (mark it down!)

    The employer can in NO way be held responsible for understanding the full tax picture of its employees. That is an incredible burden and nearly impossible for all the reasons mentioned above – multiple jobs, marriage/family situations, other tax credits a person might qualify for, investments, etc. This is one of my biggest pet peeves. Employee has a big tax bill & gets pissed at the employer for not withholding enough. NO. The employer withheld exactly what you told them to withhold, as they should. It is the taxpayer’s responsibility to know their own tax situation.

    If you want to make an argument that a large portion of the working population doesn’t have the mental capacity to understand tax law, fine. Make taxes simpler. I’m open to that in theory.

  78. @Rhett — Well, sure. But now you have a new law with new costs employers must bear, and a new nationalized program that is going to be called one step closer to socialism, with the sole apparent reason for doing so to enable poor people to get refunds of taxes they don’t even pay faster. Do you see any conceivable political scenario under which this actually gets passed?

  79. But now you have a new law with new costs employers must bear

    The cost would be born by the PREs via fees charged to the employee, not by the employer.

    that is going to be called one step closer to socialism,

    A key Republican reform is to break the link between employment and health insurance. With this system you’d pick and pay for your insurance via the PREs website or 800 number. Much like you pick stock or bond funds in your brokerage account.

  80. The cost would be born by the PREs via fees charged to the employee, not by the employer.

    Yeah, no. I would still be setting up accounts, explaining to employees where to go to get their paycheck. Dealing with them asking for advances because it takes to long to get their money. Dealing with people who don’t want to go that route to get paid.

  81. Besides, a couple weeks ago, there was a huge conversation about how hard it was to get ID. How would this new program work with all the people who can’t get ID?

  82. “Other than money, are there reasons people oppose an expanded EITC?”

    I was going to point out the difficulty in claiming EITC, but that sort of thing has been better elucidated by others already.

    Another point to consider is that the EITC is one program that does subsidize low-wage employers. A lot of proponents of higher minimum wages seem to thing that’s a bad thing, so I would think that those proponents would oppose the EITC.

    I would prefer to see a large expansion of the standard deduction. This would greatly reduce the number of low-income people required to even file tax returns, much less go through the exercise of claiming EITC, which could, at least in theory, facilitate a reduction in government.

    And while such an increase might also provide tax reductions to higher income folks, it wouldn’t provide any reduction to those who still itemize., and could also be offset with higher rates on higher incomes. It could also facilitate a move to a simpler income tax structure without deductions.

    Rhett’s logic WRT support of SS would also apply here.

  83. “The political thread is just what I need to give up this site.”

    Please keep in mind, the reason we segregated political discussions to their own weekly threads was to facilitate skipping of the political discussions while still participating in the rest of our discussions.

  84. . I would still be setting up accounts, explaining to employees where to go to get their paycheck.

    Why would you need to set up the account? In my system, a valid PRE is part of the employment eligibility verification system.

    How would this new program work with all the people who can’t get ID?

    I thought you opposed people without documentation working in the US?

  85. “I prefer an expanded EITC to a universal basic income (if that were possible) or a high minimum wage because an expanded EITC is less inflationary and rewards work without (I think) reducing employment as much as a high minimum wage.”

    From a philosophical standpoint, I agree that the EITC is preferable to a high minimum wage because it moves the burden of the postulated (and IMO fallacious) connection between minimum wage and a “living wage” from individual employers to all taxpayers.

    But raising the standard deduction would also increase the net reward of work for most low-income earner without reducing employment as much as a high minimum wage.

    The EITC would, by subsidizing low wage employers, probably increase minimum wage opportunities.

  86. Cordellia,

    I would also let a PRE card with a photo take the place of all the I-9 documentation.

  87. “I also would like to see sales tax for necessities refunded to those under the poverty line.”

    Well, some states don’t even have sales taxes, including ours, which has a more onerous general excise tax.

    Others don’t charge sales tax on many of what might be considered necessities. E.g., I believe CA does not tax food, medical services, or rent.

  88. “What I am suggesting is that the employee doesn’t pay his portion and the employer pays his portion to the employee at time of wage payment. And that the employee still gets credit for SS and can collect in retirement.”

    Won’t that kill SS?

  89. But raising the standard deduction would also increase the net reward of work for most low-income earner

    47% of the population pays no federal income tax. How would a larger standard deduction help them?

  90. Why would you need to set up the account? In my system, a valid PRE is part of the employment eligibility verification system.

    Some of my employees are “unbanked” We don’t have a functional employment eligibility verification system.

    How would this new program work with all the people who can’t get ID?

    I thought you opposed people without documentation working in the US?

    I oppose people without ID voting. I have been convinced that getting an ID in some parts of the country is unreasonably difficult.

  91. We don’t have a functional employment eligibility verification system.

    See my PRE card with photo replacing the I-9.

  92. Won’t that kill SS? You mean financially? Not if you offset it with an increase to the cap. If you mean politically? I think what Rhett is arguing is yes.

  93. “Won’t that kill SS? You mean financially? Not if you offset it with an increase to the cap. If you mean politically? I think what Rhett is arguing is yes.”

    Financially, it would kill SS without another source of funds.

    Politically, yeah, what Rhett said. It’s going to be hard enough increasing the funding to SS now, but coupling that with this proposal would probably kill both.

  94. “47% of the population pays no federal income tax.”

    I’m wondering how many of them are:

    -Higher than minimum wage earners who are able to avoid taxes.
    -Tax scofflaws.
    -Not family breadwinners (e.g., my kids).

  95. The EITC is a compliance minefield. I looked into signing on as a volunteer tax return preparer for low income taxpayers and the materials on EITC eligibility were ridiculously complicated. The IRS estimates that fully 25% of the payments are made in error.


  96. -Higher than minimum wage earners who are able to avoid taxes.
    -Tax scofflaws.
    -Not family breadwinners (e.g., my kids).

    If you have a mortgage (with property taxes) and two+ minor children, it’s not that hard to have 0 federal tax liability. Off the top of my head, with those demographic factors, it’s probably any household with less than about $60k income.

    I don’t think they’re scofflaws (or your kids), because, iirc, the stats are based on returns filed.

  97. A relatively high standard deduction is one of the reasons that many households pay no federal income tax.

  98. Milo, I know several young families who fit that demographic profile. Their mortgage interest is irrelevant — their personal exemptions from 3 or more kids and the standard deduction are enough to zero out their federal income tax liability.

  99. With deductions, exemptions, and child tax credits, you need to earn about $50K with a few kids to start “income” taxes. (Of course, FICA has pounded you for $7K in the meantime.)

    The HMID makes little difference for middle-income folks. The marginal gain– above the standard deduction– is unlikely to be large. (And it requires big charitable contributions or other Sched-A deductions to make any difference at all.) And then, the income is taxed at relatively low marginal tax rates. HMID is expensive and highly regressive in its impact.

    For example, if the std deduction is 12K and you itemize up to 13K (thanks to HMID), your net gain is only 15% of the $1K. Not much to get excited about.

  100. “I don’t think they’re scofflaws (or your kids), because, iirc, the stats are based on returns filed.”

    IOW, only 47% of those who file pay taxes?

    My understanding is that, with few exceptions, if you don’t owe taxes, you don’t need to file. This would suggest that far more than 47% pay no taxes.

  101. “The HMID makes little difference for middle-income folks. ”

    That will vary quite a bit from state to state, since state income tax paid is a federal deduction.

    Property tax will also vary from state to state.

  102. “That is not correct. t’s based on gross income:”

    Thanks for the correction. It looks like the cutoff is based on the standard deduction and personal exemption. It appears that many whose tax liability is 0 without taking advantage of itemizing or credits don’t need to file (perhaps some who owe 0 in part due to exemptions, e.g. for kids, may need to file).

  103. 2016 exemptions are $4050, and standard deductions are $6300 single or MFS, $12600 joint.

    So for a family that doesn’t itemize (e.g., renters) with 3 kids, fed income tax kicks in at $32850.

    With child credits, dependent care credits, pre-tax medical premiums, itemized deductions, etc., income could be well above that before tax liability goes above 0.

    I hadn’t realized incomes could be that high an not be taxed by fedgov. I was probably thinking back to the discussion of EITC vs higher standard deduction for state taxes, which locally kick in at a much lower level (e.g., std deduction $2200, exemptions $1144, so that family could have state income tax kick in at $10,120).

  104. Cordelia, I’m pretty sure that’s not true. I haven’t had to file for DD the last couple years because her income, while more than 0, was not high enough to warrant filing.

  105. As we say in the tax trade, (court cases starting in the 1930s)

    every deduction from gross income is allowed as a matter of legislative grace.

    Filing a return (when gross income exceeds certain low threshholds) and within the statutory time limits is part of the process of claiming your legal right to a deduction. More importantly, if you are entitled to a refund of taxes already withheld or refundable credit, you have an even more limited time to file.

  106. Au Pairs only file the years they make more than 4k (per instructions on the 1040 NR- non-resident). My new Au Pair – who arrived a few weeks ago — will not file taxes in April 2017. However, she will make more than 4k in 2017 and will have tax obligation and likely file in April 2018.

    I think the threshold for US citizens is higher. I do Au Pair taxes each year, however. I don’t do my own.

  107. Yesterday at a new doctor my D was asked for a photo id. She had forgotten to it, but they still treated her and asked her to bring it next time. And she had to fill out all the patient form info on an iPad.

    I never would have noticed about requiring a photo id if not for the discussion here recently.

    Off topic, older folks like me are loving the new (to me) trend of LED menus. No more squinting in the dark to select your dinner.

  108. This harks back to the electoral college discussion — https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/judge-says-electors-must-vote-for-statewide-winner/2016/12/12/739d50e2-c0d1-11e6-a52b-a0a126eaf9f7_story.html?utm_term=.891a8465adc4. I have to say, the issue intrigues me (not from the prospect of keeping Trump out of the White House, which had about a 0.2% chance even before this ruling, but from the Constitutional angle. Because, yes, I am a geek.).

    Just at first glance, it seems to me that the Constitution pretty clearly says the people elect the electors, and the electors elect the President. So how is a state law that restricts how the electors vote not unconstitutional? I guess you could say that the Constitution is ambiguous on that subject. But usually when a law is ambiguous, you go to the intent of the drafters, which in this case is pretty clear that they envisioned electors who assessed all of the information and exerted their own independent judgment. Maybe I’ll have to pull up the case and the briefs to see what the rationale was — I don’t do this for a living, so I’m sure there’s a lot of deeply-rooted Constitutional precedent that I don’t know about.

  109. Oh, PSA: please note that the threshold for paying FICA tax is much lower than the threshold for filing a 1040. Not an issue with most kids with jobs (as employers will withhold the FICA), but it is an issue for those who work for religious institutions or others who are exempt from FICA withholding — as I read the rules, just because the institution isn’t required to collect FICA doesn’t mean you are exempt from paying it.

    We are definitely going to have to file a tax return next year for DD — her normal student aide job pays little enough to be below the threshold (or at least it did last year, need to check this year), but her summer camp job will put her over for sure.

    Not that anyone really cares enough to track down non-reporting 15-yr-olds who make less than $1K/yr, but the IRS is one of the few agencies that scares the bejeebers out of me, so I don’t play that even close to the line.

  110. “I guess you could say that the Constitution is ambiguous on that subject. But usually when a law is ambiguous, you go to the intent of the drafters, which in this case is pretty clear that they envisioned electors who assessed all of the information and exerted their own independent judgment.”

    Obviously not a lawyer, but if you consider it against the backdrop of the 10th Amendment, the Constitution allocates electors to each state and leaves it up to them to decide how to choose. So I would think the federal government should only get involved if someone’s rights are being abridged, equal protection, that sort of thing (equal protection being the basis in Bush v. Gore).

    The drafters may have envisioned the Electoral College as a deliberative body, but that’s in no small part due to the fact that they never envisioned a popular vote for any national office other than the lower chamber of Congress. But since they left it up to the states to determine how the state legislatures would choose electors, and if the state legislatures decided to pass a law requiring their electors to vote in accordance with the outcome of the popular vote in their state — and there’s no equal protection violation — the federal government has no business trying to decide whether the Founders would have liked the states’ laws or not.

    That’s just my interpretation…your thoughts?

  111. @Milo — I think you’re right, that’s got to be it. “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors” — so presumably the “in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct” gives the state the discretion to impose the party-line requirement.
    I read that as granting power to determine the “how,” but not the “what” — i.e., the state can determine the process by which electors are appointed, but that doesn’t mean it can control what those electors do once they are chosen.

  112. “but that doesn’t mean it can control what those electors do once they are chosen.”

    Hmmmm.

  113. ““but that doesn’t mean it can control what those electors do once they are chosen.””

    Of course, nothing says they can’t. Except the WP article mentioned a 1st Amd violation, that such a state law was abridging free speech. I could see an argument there.

    On the other hand, in accordance with Virginia law, I voted on my ballot for “Electors FOR DONALD TRUMP” (emphasis mine). They lost, but let’s assume I live in South Carolina, as we came very close to doing. I would think I’d have a serious equal protection or some such gripe against my state’s electors if my state constitution allows me to vote for Presidential electors, and those electors are on the state ballot specifically for a certain candidate, and then they change their minds.

  114. @Milo — yeah, I see that. But that’s also assuming you haven’t changed your mind as well. Let’s take a really egregious scenario: after the election, but before the inauguration, the President-Elect is discovered to be a double-agent, spying for ISIS [or insert generic enemy here]. You are revolted that the guy is not only a traitor, but has been conspiring this whole time with Enemy #1. So the electors all get together and say, hmm, we’re going to vote for the next runner-up from the party primaries. You, personally, agree with that decision. Should the electors be free in that case to switch their vote? Or do they need to vote him into office and then leave it to the Senate to impeach him immediately?

  115. “Should the electors be free in that case to switch their vote? Or do they need to vote him into office and then leave it to the Senate to impeach him immediately?”

    I think I’d prefer the latter option, depending on what their state law allows. And it wouldn’t be that much different than if his ISIS ties were uncovered the day after the Electoral College votes.

  116. and those electors are on the state ballot specifically for a certain candidate, and then they change their minds.

    The reason that the Constitution calls for this extra layer, rather than just providing for the direct election of the president, is that most of the nation’s founders were actually rather afraid of democracy. James Madison worried about what he called “factions,” which he defined as groups of citizens who have a common interest in some proposal that would either violate the rights of other citizens or would harm the nation as a whole.

    It seems like the ability to change their mind is the whole point to the system.

  117. “most of the nation’s founders were actually rather afraid of democracy”

    Sure. That’s why they didn’t see any reason for average Joes to be voting for the president and senators. But we’ve decided to scrap their thinking, and amended the Constitution to elect senators by popular vote, and the states devised ways to select their electors.

    In light of that, even if we were to presume that the Founders’ fears of democracy are a legitimate basis for the federal government to protect faithless electors (which I don’t presume), I don’t see how the Founders envisioned the electors as needing some opportunity to “change their minds.” Change their minds from what? The state legislators who selected them weren’t going to be of the common riff raff, anyway.

  118. Change their minds from what?

    I think you need to view it in terms of the speed and volume of communications c. 1789. Many voters would be voting with almost no information due to the rarity of newspapers and the horse and sail based speed of communications in general. It’s possible the electors would have a lot more info than the average rural voter.

  119. Re: electoral college – I think it is an open question of law. Who knows what theCourt would do (maybe they would have a tie!). We’ll have civil war before it comes to that.

  120. Rhett – The average rural voter wasn’t voting for President. The electors were selected by the state legislatures. Since the Founders, based on their fear of popular democracy, never intended any popular voting for President (or U.S. senator), why would they imagine that the electors might need to change their minds against some crazy, misguided, ill-informed popular vote that didn’t exist?

    Deliberate, sure, but they were supposed to do that in their respective state houses, anyway.

    This is a good article. I didn’t realize that PA and MD immediately started with a general election for electors:

    https://mises.org/library/origins-electoral-college

  121. Hearty dips are also popular at large gatherings like buffalo chicken dip or the seven layer dip. Add some crusty bread and you are good to go!

  122. This is enlightening:

    “The Founders intended for the electoral college to be composed of knowledgeable electors, as a kind of search committee to forward a list of the top candidates for the presidency to the House, which would then choose the president except in cases where there was a consensus among electors. But the system never worked this way. John Quincy Adams was the first president who did not receive an electoral majority, meaning that the nation had selected presidents for more than three decades without ever having a president selected in the House.”

  123. Right. “Change their minds” is the wrong terminology — the whole point of the electoral college was to shield the election of the President from the unfettered will of the masses. The point was that the electors were supposed to be free to deliberate and select the appropriate candidate based on the available information. Being legally bound to vote for a specific candidate beforehand vitiates the entire system.

    “But we’ve decided to scrap their thinking, and amended the Constitution to elect senators by popular vote,” — well, that’s sort of my point: we specifically amended the Constitution to do that. We have never amended the electoral college provisions to incorporate this new approach.

    Of course, the irony here is that “original intent” is traditionally much more of a conservative position (the number of arguments Scalia shot down because of what the “Founders” thought, well, this poor English major can’t count that high). I am much more inclined to think that the constitution should be interpreted flexibly in light of modern mores, as so much has changed that the founders couldn’t possibly have foreseen. So it is funny that the roles seem to be reversed here.

    My issue here goes back to the posts of a few weeks ago on the EC: when you do away with the “independent” electors, it magnifies the effect of the allocation of power from large states to small ones, so you end up with a halfway-to-true-democracy but with small-state votes counting more. Just seems to make more sense to either do it the original way (independent electors), or to scrap the whole thing and go pure democracy, because we’ve ended up with a hybrid that sort of defeats the original purpose.

  124. That’s fascinating article, Rhett.

    I don’t expect the “replace”ment that comes after “repeal” will be all that different, but we’ll see.

    I also think that the author does an admirable job portraying the understandable resentment that a $42k household, with a $6k annual deductible, has for people who may not work and collect Medicaid. Totebag types tend to think that harboring such resentment makes them bad, uncaring people.

    Politically, it’s interesting because conservatives have long feared that the party offering the biggest handouts would enjoy an unbreakable lock of popular support among their beneficiaries. Meanwhile, liberals have long feared that the election could always be won by the candidate who had a significant fundraising advantage from moneyed interests.

    2016 proved both groups wrong.

  125. “Just seems to make more sense to either do it the original way (independent electors), or to scrap the whole thing and go pure democracy, because we’ve ended up with a hybrid that sort of defeats the original purpose.”

    Nah, keep the same allocation of electoral votes, just eliminate the “College.” Each state secretary certifies their state’s election results and sends it on to the U.S. Senate. I guess we’d still have to work out what happens in the event of a tie, or if no candidate holds a majority.

  126. I don’t expect the “replace”ment that comes after “repeal” will be all that different

    Then was all the complaining about Obamacare just so much hot air? Price’s plan is, as I understand it, the most conservative and it’s just a mild rework of Obamacare.

  127. “Then was all the complaining about Obamacare just so much hot air?”

    Hard to say. There’s a lot of variation in the complaints, and the obvious solutions to one will usually exacerbate another.

    I still favor the sale across state lines, though.

  128. “the threshold for paying FICA tax ”

    I’d been under the impression that all earned income was subject to FICA for anyone not exempt from FICA (e.g., I believe certain government workers are exempt). But I took a look at DS’ 2015 W-2, and while he had some money withheld for state and fed income tax, the boxes for SS wages and SS tax withheld are blank.

    I didn’t find anything online that explicitly listed an income threshold, but the SSA website tells me “In the year 2016, you must earn $1,260 in covered earnings to get one Social Security or Medicare work credit and $5,040 to get the maximum four credits for the year.”

    So I’m guessing that if you don’t make enough in a quarter to get a credit, you don’t need to pay the tax either. But that would seem to make it tough on employers who might not know early in the quarter if an employee will make enough that quarter to earn a credit.

    Can anyone shine more light on this?

  129. @Finn — It’s $400 — you can find it by looking up “self-employment” taxes for independent contractors:

    “What are SE taxes?

    This is the 15.3% tax on earnings that is the self-employed equivalent to Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes withheld from employees’ checks and usually noted as FICA on pay stubs. That tax is required when any self-employed worker’s net earnings exceed $400.” — see http://www.bankrate.com/finance/taxes/teen-jobs-and-tax-issues-1.aspx

    I remember actually tracking this down on the IRS website last year.

  130. DS earned more than $1600 last year, but still had no FICA withholding, per his W2, although he wasn’t self-employed.

    I need to pay close attention to his 2016 W2. He’s been working more hours this year.

  131. Finn there is a li5mired exemption from fiCA for students who get paid for work they do at their school. You can Google the details. He could also submit a w4 and have zero fed and state withholding, but you would still need to file a tax return for his Roth Ira contributions.

  132. “Drain the swamp”? You must’ve written this before his cabinet appointments, akin to wetlands restoration for Goldman Sachs, started

  133. Yeah, Rocky, I personally disagree with the politics of many of the appointees. But there is at least a reasonable argument on the other side — i.e., that the various government agencies have gotten too big and too “green” or too “whatever” and so it is appropriate to appoint people who will carve them back. Whether you think the Dakota Access Pipeline should go through or not, there are at least two sides to that discussion.

    But I just do not seeing any other “side” to the notion that our top-ranking guy in charge of the nation’s security should be someone who personally disclosed classified material.

  134. I don’t think there are two sides to the discussion about whether Rick Perry as Secretary of Energy should be holding a paid board position on a company that he will be regulating.

  135. I don’t understand how this “foreign meddling” in the election is being portrayed by the media. We have had insidious propaganda wars with foreign powers for ideological and political reasons for decades. Whether it was simply to just weaken the US’s moral authority or to actually push a specific agenda, it’s been going on for ages. There was infiltration or accusations of foreign infiltration in many of our domestic movements- black panthers, environmentalists, etc. There were Cuban agents infiltrating the Cuban American efforts trying to discredit the embargo. The fact that the Russians were trying to embarrass the DNC, because they decided Hillary’s hawkishness was not in their interests doesn’t surprise me at all. I find the headlines blaring that the ELECTION was hacked irresponsible. I think it is more accurate to say that the Russians have been trying to influence American public opinion using any means necessary to be more accurate. We should always be paranoid about that on all sides.

  136. @Mafalda: I agree the “election hack” language is too strong, and that this is basically the modern equivalent of what’s been going on since time immemorial. My concern is the total denial by the incoming Administration — when your response is to deny something ever happened, it makes it tough to figure out how it happened and find ways to prevent it from happening again. Now, politically, I understand the need for a public denial to avoid undermining the legitimacy of your own presidency. But, damn, you’d better be having some highly secret meetings with the intelligence community and the tech folks to figure out how to prevent this from happening again. This really should not be a partisan issue, although it is obviously playing as such — this time it was the Democrats, but who knows who the next target will be? Heck, we know they have similar stuff from the Republicans that they haven’t released yet; who knows when they might use that threat to extort some action/inaction?

  137. I think this is quite different from foreign infiltration of political groups because the reach is so much wider. In the old days, the only thing that would be analogous would be if some foreign power had stolen massive amounts of paper documents and then published them in the majors papers without attribution to the foreign power. I don’t know of anything like that being done in the US.
    This needs to be dealt with. If we don’t do anything, it will be open turf. In the next election, it could easily be China doing similar things to make sure the Republicans are defeated. It could be really scary, because the stuff published doesn’t even have to be real – it could just be “close to real”. In the current fact-free environment, there is a lot of damage that can be done on a widespread basis.

  138. “But, damn, you’d better be having some highly secret meetings with the intelligence community and the tech folks to figure out how to prevent this from happening again.”

    Prevent what from happening again? They hacked private unsecured servers and email accounts like the laughable “presidentclinton.com” right around the time Hillary and her lackeys were insisting that there’s no reason to believe the Russians would have hacked her private server.

    There’s no need to have a highly secret meeting with the tech folks. The tech folks have said all along that private servers can be hacked.

  139. Also, is anyone on the Democratic side suggesting that, just maybe, perhaps, at least part of the problem was the CONTENT of the hacked emails? The rigging of the Dem primary for Hillary, the blatant collusion between Hillary and the mainstream press, etc.?

    When we say “this can’t happen again” are we just saying that the DNC corruption should never be brought to light?

  140. What do you mean by “dealt with?” In the bad old days we tried to make sure key people were not “blackmail-able” or subject to “outing of undesirable” behavior so that foreign agents couldn’t use that against us. I think now people have to be aware that emails can be exposed and used against us.

  141. Milo, the problem of a foreign power hacking emails is much much much larger than what was in the emails. I should be surprised that given your background that you don’t think so, but I am not surprised given your posts this election.

  142. Well, no one seems to be trying to make sure that Trump isn’t outable, that’s for sure.

    Seriously, every big organization, including the political parties, have communications that are embarrassing. I do not want foreign powers trying to grab things that look embarrassing and them dumping them out to the press. Yeah, the press should know better, but they don’t. And all it look take would be for the Chinese to start outing things from Trump’s business dealings that merely look suspicious. What if they grabbed emails with his tax attorney for example? Or records of negotiations. A lot of things can be taken out of context and made to look bad. Or even falsified in ways that are hard to trace.

    And to me, it matters that is is a foreign power, quite a bit.

  143. Dell – I think it’s a big deal, and it’s an ever-present threat. I think I made my views on that pretty clear in our discussions about Hillary’s private server, and many responded that they didn’t care, it was no big deal, not a real threat, the culture’s just different at the State Dept. Now they turn around and are screaming that this is a really big deal!

    Yes, it is.

  144. “What if they grabbed emails with his tax attorney for example? Or records of negotiations. A lot of things can be taken out of context and made to look bad.”

    Well, there’s no need to speculate. The NYT actually did that by illegally publishing a portion of Trump’s tax return.

  145. @Milo, of course not. I am highly confident that you can hack anyone’s emails and find something embarrassing and humiliating — look at the Sony scandal. The problem is when the selective release of that information becomes a “tool” in the playbook to influence the election, and no one seems to care. You want to take all of that stuff and stick it on Wikileaks and let the people decide who is more corrupt, be my guest.

    But, honestly, it blows my mind that another country has intentionally tried to tamper with the election, and the response is, basically, “who cares, serves you right, you don’t want bad stuff published, don’t write bad stuff” — by the very party who used to portray Russia as the Great Satan. How would you feel if things had gone the other way, and Putin had decided to take down the Republicans?

  146. lol Milo. Here’s Trump’s latest tweet.

    If Russia, or some other entity, was hacking, why did the White House wait so long to act? Why did they only complain after Hillary lost?

  147. My understanding is that Obama was afraid that it would be seen as beyond-the-pale too partisan if they made those claims before the election. Certainly the administration was making it clear that they thought it was the Russians – there were lots of articles to that effect. But they didn’t want to say that it was a purposeful effort to throw the eleciton. I think he put too much trust in the ability of people to see that for themselves.

  148. I do recall being really worried about what the Russians were up to before the election. It made me feel very anxious, in a way I haven’t felt since the stock market was in free fall in 2008.

    The best thing Trump could do, if he wants to look presidential, is to acknowledge this, say it is a very serious threat for the future and he is taking it seriously, and then let the agency review publish its findings. Otherwise, he will always be questioned on this. He needs to get past it in order to get trust from people. The people in congress who are calling for review do NOT want to question the legitimacy of the election and have stated that. They just want to know what happened so it can be prevented in the future.

    And if you think we are taking this too seriously, compare what happened after the Sony hack by the North Koreans. Our administration was very vocal about that hack, saying it threatened our freedom of expression, and imposed additional sanctions on North Koewa

  149. This editorial, by a conservative radio show host, expresses a lot of what I also believe. I do not agree with Charlie Sykes ideas, but I do agree with his opinion that this election was about the death of ideas.

  150. I don’t think the Wikileaks even mattered anywhere near to the extent that this post-game analysis is suggesting. Most people weren’t even paying attention to them. I bet if you found 10,000 people who voted for Obama in 2012 and Trump this year, and asked them to describe what was in the leaked emails, you could probably count on two hands the number of people who could give you a coherent answer.

  151. Milo, that is not the point. We won’t ever know what the exact effects were, and I don’t think many of us want to go back and redo the election. What matters is that a foreign power meddled in our sovereign elections, in a way that appears that they wanted to influence our outcomes. Not only do we need to make sure it doesn’t happen in the future, and that may include some punishment, but the American people need to understand it so 1) they can feel more trust in our process, and 2) they can learn how to mentally guard against this sort of campaign in the future.

  152. Mooshi – You and LfB, in your total shock about this, seem to be at odds with Mafalda’s viewpoint that this is nothing to be surprised about. I’m not claiming any expertise here, so I’m wondering if you both really think that this is so unprecedented?

  153. It is shocking that the president elect isn’t able to handle this in a presidential way. And by shocking, I mean that it is shocking that we are in this situation with this man. Not that Trump is acting Trumpish.

    Charles Sykes is right, but he and his ilk have some responsibility here.

  154. MM do you think the US government is not meddling in other sovereign elections and/or their affairs to influence the outcomes? Isn’t that what Snowden proved that not only was our government spying on its own citizens but on other governments. Do I believe that Russia was behind some of the hacks? Yes I do and I expect that other countries are trying to the same. Just as I expect our country and its allies are hacking into their servers. I don’t really know anyone who is shocked by this revelation. So what response should our government have? Should it threaten war? Should it release what we’ve found to prove to those governments that we can do the same? Do I want the President and President elect to make a speech condemning it, sure but the real work is in making the technology safer.

    Did the Wikileaks make some people not vote for Hillary? Probably but that is not going to be quantifiable.

  155. Kate – As LfB suggested, you can’t reasonably expect Trump to respond that this was a serious and deliberate act by the Russians, or whatever you want him to say, when people like the outgoing Senate Minority Leader, and others, are trying to suggest that the leaked emails are the basis for his election.

    I think you’re just going to have to trust that both parties are probably going to be a lot more careful with what they transmit unsecured. And if they don’t, after all this, they deserve to lose.

  156. I have a patient who needs a new power wheelchair. I saw him this morning and he told me it is being delivered this afternoon. He said it’s all because of Trump: “Trump said he was going to whip the VA into shape, and by golly he’s doing it!” Yes, he really said “by golly”.

  157. It isnt that they are hacking into our systems although of course we don’t want that either. It is that they tried to influence the outcome in a widespread way. No country ever be comfortable with that. Again, compare our response to the release of hacked information from Sony, which was similar in many ways although not influencing something as major as an election. We imposed sanctions and our government forcefully condemned it, saying it threatened freedom of expression. I don’t see anything similar here – and both Obama and Trump need to do it.

  158. And Milo, what is your response to Sykes editorial? As a conservative, do you agree with him or not?

  159. DD – I read a reference to some poll that a not-insignificant percentage of Americans believe that Trump is already President.

  160. “what is your response to Sykes editorial”

    Not much, really. What’s his thesis? That many people in this country are extremely partisan and therefore willing to overlook significant flaws in their party’s nominee because the view the alternative as worse? Not exactly a profound observation.

    He also talks about “fake news,” and yeah, there’s some conspiracy BS out there floating around. I sometimes stumble across comments online written by people who apparently seem to believe that Obama banned anyone from saying “Merry Christmas.” And there are plenty more examples, and a lot of people who believe them.

    But legitimate news organizations have been dabbling in fake news for years. Just a couple examples that come to mind are the doctoring of George Zimmerman’s 911 call to make his initial assessment of Trayvon Martin seem racially motivated. That was by NBC. And then I think it was Katie Couric and her team who hosted some sort of sit-down discussion about gun control, and they blatantly edited the footage in such a way to make the gun rights advocates seem like bumbling idiots who couldn’t answer a simple question when, in fact, they had provided a very reasonable answer. And there’s no punishment for that. Couric is still a news anchor or something, as far as I know.

    Then there’s semi-legitimate news sources, like the Daily Show, which liberals adore, and they have a long history of editing their interviews with conservatives to not only make their subjects appear like buffoons, but to give the appearance of changing the content of their answers. Their defense is that they’re just a comedy show, but then they jump right back into making their viewers feel like they’re being fed wise insight.

    2016 might have just been a year where some outlets on the other side finally found some effectiveness at fake news, and only now is this issue supposedly a huge national crisis over which we’re all required to do some “soul searching.”

  161. “You and LfB, in your total shock about this, seem to be at odds with Mafalda’s viewpoint that this is nothing to be surprised about.”

    I am not *remotely* shocked that Russia tried it, or that it worked. Nor would I be shocked to find out that we and everyone else are doing exactly the same thing.

    I am shocked at the response — or, more to the point, the lack thereof. That the national security and political import of something like that is not just being shrugged off, but with a denial that it ever happened. And that even those who do agree it happened focus on the content of the emails (with a “tant pis, you don’t want people to see your dirty underwear, don’t write emails”), rather than the bigger issue of what Russia is trying to do and how we are vulnerable to so many other countries in so many other ways. I mean, I am not a Reagan fan, but jeez Louise, can you imagine what his response would have been to Russia overtly trying to influence an American election? How are we not even rattling sabers over this, sending stern-but-meaningless messages, opening congressional investigations that prove nothing but make a lovely show of things? We’re not even pretending that we actually care about this.

    Look, I get the “so there’s your comeuppance” argument, haha, emails aren’t so insignificant now, are they? But that goes both ways: anyone who thinks protecting our country against cyber threats is so important that Hillary should be in jail for what she did should be leading the charge now that we have actual evidence of actual bad people obtaining and using private emails with the specific intent to F with our elections. But those are the very people who are denying this even happened. If there is hypocrisy involved, there’s plenty to go around.

    All that said, I totally get the point that there are the political concerns about being seen to legitimize claims that the election was invalid. But this gets back to the Sykes article: when you favor individual political interests over the national interest, sometimes you win the battle but lose the war. Because if they’ll do it for you, they’ll do it against you.

  162. So I read a lot of different sources, and sometimes even I get taken in by fake news, and usually if I have something in the back of my mind, I’ll do a quick Google verification before I post it on here or on FB or something. But what’s this story about China hacking into U.S. Steel’s systems and stealing their proprietary steelmaking recipes. Then one of their companies used it to make, among other things, windmills or something that, get this, they sold to Massachusetts taxpayers. It appears that this is true, so I’d like to see whoever is in charge get tough on that sort of cyber espionage.

    If Russia had somehow actually “hacked the election,” as many in the media hysterically claim (as in made the voting machines spit out false totals), I’d be with you in my outrage toward them and incredulity about the lackadaisical response. But given the controversial circumstances surrounding Hillary’s emails, and given the actual corruption that Wikileaks exposed, you can’t fault us for being just a little bit grateful that someone brought it to light. Personally, I couldn’t believe that when someone like Wasserman Schultz is exposed as someone who rigged the primary election and was forced to resign, the Party was so ho-hum about it that they saw no reason why she shouldn’t just go work for Hillary’s campaign in a senior position, which is what she was doing all along, anyway. The Clinton Camp was so corrupt, they didn’t even care that this part of their corruption was exposed. And Donna Brazile is still the interim party chair!

    This is why, to many Americans, it feels like the system is so rigged and crooked that, if it takes Wikileaks and the Russians to shine a light on it, well, at least someone did. Because it’s obvious that the Democrats expect us to be angry at messenger while paying no mind at all to the corruption that he exposed.

  163. I’m still concerned that the Russian hack of the RNC will result in blackmail against Republican politicians at many levels, and we won’t even know about it because Wikileaks hasn’t released it (because duh, then it wouldn’t be useful for blackmail.)

  164. Rocky – It’s certainly a concern, I agree. If it’s true, though, it would need to be pretty salacious if it’s going to matter. The usual — womanizing/philandering, talking about grabbing women by the pussy — it’s lost its impact. If they’re planning on blackmailing him with anything, the girl had better be like 12 or under.

  165. Milo – I agree with everything you said at 1:10. I held my nose and voted for Hillary because I just found Trump so distasteful. But the reaction of the left and the media has been such the height of hypocrisy and obvious bias that I’m kind of glad all this is happening and we are seeing that the NYT and CNN are just the other side of Fox news. Even NPR- which I am a huge fan of has just gone off the rails in their hysterical reporting.

  166. “No, not Trump — congresscritters.”

    I’m just wondering how that would work. Any blackmail from a foreign government would somehow likely have to involve the White House or State Dept — the Executive branch, one way or another. And Trump/Preibus/Bannon/Conway/Ivanka/Kushner/Tillerson have no reason to protect any particular congressman, or even a senator at this point. I think they would just as soon “drop him like a hot rock,” to paraphrase Mitch McConnell’s comment about the possibility of Trump winning the nomination, and install a generic Republican-in-waiting.

  167. This isn’t gloating, just marveling at history. I was watching these videos last night, and I can’t believe how young Hillary looks, and SO different. The makeup, the bangs!!! My 9 yo sat down next to me and asked “Who is that?”

    And Lordy did she have an Arkansas twang!

  168. Well, Trump looked a lot different 30 years ago too. I mean really, few of us look really fabulous as we approach and pass 70, y’know?

  169. Rocky – She looks FAR better now. At the debates, she looked poised and in control and elegant. In 1992, she looked like the girls in 7th Grade who teased their bangs and were experimenting with way too much eye shadow or whatever it is that turns her eyelids blue and paints black lines around her eyes.

    Trump certainly looked a lot different:
    http://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/scalefit_630_noupscale/55b6934a1700002600565a36.jpeg?cache=rlrjpn4cfn

    But my feeling is that he probably wouldn’t have had the same political success if he still looked late 40s. I feel like his age necessarily softens and almost neuters the aspects about him that would otherwise seem more threatening — it’s a sexual thing on a subconscious level. The same is probably true of Bill Clinton.

  170. Bill Clinton hasn’t looked at all well for several years now. I do wish that Trump would give up on the fake tan; he looks almost normal in that picture.

  171. If they’re planning on blackmailing him with anything, the girl had better be like 12 or under.

    “The only way I can lose this election is if I’m caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy”.

    Edwin Edwards the 50th Governor of Louisiana.

  172. RSM- – I’m curious about your comment about NPR- I know they’ve lost most of their public funding, but I thought they were funded by a lot of foundations that were mostly politically progressive, as well as “listeners like you” meaning small donations. Are you saying they are largely funded by th Koch brothers? That’s the first time I’ve heard that.

  173. That many people in this country are extremely partisan and therefore willing to overlook significant flaws in their party’s nominee because the view the alternative as worse?

    But extremely partisan in a way that is all out of proportion to any actual policy differences. I’ll use Obamacare again as an example – the actual differences between the ACA and the 7 republican replacement plans are fairly minor in comparison to all the angst and caterwauling.

  174. This. Exactly this:

    That is why the Democratic complaints about the hacking are so vague. The hackers didn’t steal votes (so far as we know.) The Democrats can’t properly argue that the public shouldn’t know about how their nomination process was unfair. The Democrats got caught, and they are trying to deflect by pointing at who caught them. This is the lament of the Scooby-Doo villain Pietro: I would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn’t been for you meddling hackers.

    http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/442991/hillary-clinton-globalism-democrats-corruption-russian-hacking-deflect

  175. I’ve fallen for a couple of them, too, Rocky. What often happens is you’re just casually checking your FB news feed, and you see the headline that someone has shared, or sometimes even a sponsored post. You don’t even read the article or pay it much thought, but the headline gets filed away right into the back of your head.

    At least neither of us has stormed any restaurants with an assault rifle and started popping off rounds. Yet.

  176. LOL at the fake outrage on the right about the DNC influencing its own primary so that a non-Dem doesn’t get the nomination but it being totally cool that Putin (Putin!) is influencing the national election.

  177. Milo,

    There are two separate issues:

    1. What came out came out and it is what it is.

    2. If some kid in a basement in Peoria hacked then he should be arrested for violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. If a state actor is causing mischief then there needs to be a proportionate response.

  178. If their rules permitted Sanders to compete, then it is corruption to rig the system against him. It’s also a violation of the agreements under which they accepted donations, among many other agreements. It’s corruption to have the supposedly neutral head of the party obviously colluding with one particular candidate.

    That’s why this beauty had to resign:

    ” If a state actor is causing mischief then there needs to be a proportionate response.”

    Absolutely. Let’s get to the bottom of this.

  179. I’ve fallen for a couple of them, too, Rocky.

    I don’t think I have. I am always pointing them out to others though. A while back there was a giant lottery jackpot and someone was spreading a meme on Facebook that if you split the jackpot among every American everyone would get 3 million dollars and we could end poverty. They were in my office trying to explain it. I’m like, you’re off by 6 decimal places everyone would get $3 not $3 million. They hadn’t even questioned it.

    Then there is the flood of anti-Trump nonsense. It’s pretty clear what is real and what is click-bait nonsense (almost all of it.)

  180. I don’t think I’ve ever Liked and written Yes under one of the many promises to gain a chance at winning a huge, luxury RV, but I’ve seen many, many people who are smarter than me do just that.

  181. Milo,

    I assume you agree the RNC was doing pretty much the same thing in trying to keep Trump out, they just failed at it?

  182. “I assume you agree the RNC was doing pretty much the same thing in trying to keep Trump out, they just failed at it?”

    I don’t know that they were. The reason they had 17 candidates, and the Democrats had four (that I can name) is that the Democrat Party was eager to rig it for Hillary long before it got started. I don’t know that the RNC was ever that organized. I don’t think they were feeding debate questions in advance to any particular candidate.

  183. Yah, I am sure the RNC was playing the same game. That is what political parties do. That is why they exist. It used to be done in smoke filled rooms, now it is done via email. In fact, I am actually suprised that anyone was surprised or shocked at the emails. To me, that is far sillier than the idea that we shouldn’t be upset that a foreign state is trying to meddle via hacking.
    Read some political histories and learn how the political parties used to operate. You will be shocked, shocked I say.

    If we want a system with completely transparent selection of candidates, there are far better ways than via political party. Maybe when we have the constitutional amendment to abolish the Electoral College, we can take care of that one too.

  184. Mooshi – if they want to go back to smoke-filled rooms, they’re allowed to. But they’ll need to first change their own rules.

  185. Milo,

    The other day you claimed that Chelsea was embezzling from the Clinton Foundation. And you seemed to actually believe it. I see a million crazy stories about Trump that aren’t true. I easily discount Krugman et al’s crazy rantings. What is it about the Chelsea story that caused you to find it credible?

  186. The DNC isn’t a governmental entity. If a non-Dem doesn’t like how they do things, they are free to form their own entity. Bernie should go forth and do his own thing. I am sure the Millennials will be big donors and support his cause.

  187. By embezzlement, you mean using the Foundation to pay for her wedding? I guess I’m keen to believe that because it’s referenced, and not disputed, in an email conversation with John Podesta.

    It’s easy enough to do. “Hey, look, we’re inviting a lot of Foundation donors, let’s just call the whole thing a fundraiser and expense it accordingly.”

    Look, Trump was fined by Palm Beach for his flagpole, and the fines accrued to $100k. So he settled with the town, which was not exactly hurting for cash, to instead pay $100k to some charity for veterans. (“Oh we love our troops, don’t we folks?”) He paid it out of his “Foundation.” I believe that one because he’s disclosed it.

    So I’m not saying he’s totally clean.

  188. It’s easy enough to do. “Hey, look, we’re inviting a lot of Foundation donors, let’s just call the whole thing a fundraiser and expense it accordingly.”

    You think “using foundation resources” means they expensed her entire wedding?

  189. That one email that is supposed to be proof of her using the Clinton Foundation doesn’t even make sense for reasons that have been outlined before. It truly doesn’t since Chelsea shouldn’t be paying tax on any gifts, so it calls in to question your conclusion.

  190. Look, Trump was fined by Palm Beach for his flagpole, and the fines accrued to $100k. So he settled with the town, which was not exactly hurting for cash, to instead pay $100k to some charity for veterans. (“Oh we love our troops, don’t we folks?”) He paid it out of his “Foundation.” I believe that one because he’s disclosed it.

    I actually can’t quite wrap my head around why that’s wrong. If you donate money in lieu of a fine, you still get to deduct it, right?

  191. He isn’t the foundation. You can’t commingle like that and use it to pay a fine for a different person or entity. Especially when that foundation has a special tax exempt status. It doesn’t matter where the money originated (Trump or a different donor). This is kind of conflicts 101.

  192. I don’t think Podesta is an idiot, so if there had been nothing to it, he would not have been lamenting the potential fallout.

  193. I don’t think Podesta is an idiot, so if there had been nothing to it, he would not have been lamenting the potential fallout.

    The tone seems more “the bosses daughter using company resources: personal assistants, color copier, etc. for her wedding.” Than they expensed a $3 million wedding to the foundation.

  194. But you are willing to believe that Chelsea was using foundation money to pay her taxes from gifts based on this email that according to your interpretation says that unequivocally. THAT ISN’T RATIONAL.

  195. He isn’t the foundation. You can’t commingle like that and use it to pay a fine for a different person or entity.

    Google says you can’t deduct a fine but you can deduct a donation. If Palm Beach agreed to the donation, they implicitly signed off on someone getting the deduction. If he paid $100k out of pocket and deducted it, paid $100k to the foundation (and deducted) then they paid…

  196. Yes, I believe that when Podesta is worried about the Clintons breaking the law, it’s a safe bet that the Clintons are breaking the law.

  197. “Color copier”?

    Seriously?

    Sure. Haven’t you ever worked with someone planning their wedding?

  198. Milo,

    Here is the difference. I can read something about Trump in the New York Times and take it for what it’s worth. The breathless vapors about the $100k donation are really just a whole lotta nothin’. Yet, for some reason, you read about Chelsea and immediately jump to the worst possible conclusion.

    Don’t you think that maybe, just maybe, you’ve been exposed to too much negatively biased Clinton coverage such that your impression of them is entirely rational?

  199. Doesn’t matter Rhett. He isn’t allowed to take the foundation money to pay a different person or entity’s obligation. For legal and tax purposes, it is a totally different person. It doesn’t matter if he gets the same tax result. And if he did, query why he did it. Why not pay it properly? Is he really that sloppy? It so, that should concern us. And if he did it to get a tax advantage, that should also worry us. Maybe not as much as Chelsea using foundation money to pay some non-existent gift recipient tax, but a little.

  200. He isn’t allowed to take the foundation money to pay a different person or entity’s obligation.

    Palm Beach converted it from a fine to a donation. Obviously, paying a fine with your foundation is totally wrong. I’d be interested to know what exactly the rules are in terms of “suggested” donations.

  201. Rhett – my understanding is that the for profit business had to settle with the local govt. No way is the IRS the going to allow that money to be considered a donation from the non-profit. It is form over substance. They can call it whatever they want, but it was a settlement of a legal dispute.

  202. They can call it whatever they want, but it was a settlement of a legal dispute.

    What they call it makes a big difference. If the company paid a fine and tried to deduct it then that’s totally wrong and illegal. If they made a donation then they could deduct it without issue.

  203. “Yet, for some reason, you read about Chelsea and immediately jump to the worst possible conclusion.”

    I don’t think expensing wedding costs to the Foundation is the worst thing in the world. At the same time, after 25 years of watching Bill and Hillary Clinton’s antics, I don’t think it’s irrational to figure that they squandered their benefit of the doubt a long, long time ago.

  204. I don’t think it’s irrational to figure that they squandered their benefit of the doubt a long, long time ago.

    This isn’t Bill and Hillary, it’s their daughter.

  205. It helps if there’s some tangential thread of truth to fake news. The reason that Rocky was fooled about Koch Public Radio is that the Kochs did make an enormous donation to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC (I think it was that one). So people’s minds have been prepped to believe it.

    And Rocky mentioned it on here a couple months ago, and it sounded plausible enough to me that I didn’t question it, so I’m just as guilty, in a way.

    It’s an interesting topic.

  206. At the same time, after 25 years of watching Bill and Hillary Clinton’s antics

    They haven’t done anything Trump hasn’t done:

    * Sexyally assault women, lied about it, threatened to ruin them – check
    * dubious investments – check
    * questionable real estate deals – check

    You sure seem to have something against them that can’t be explained rationally. If it was nearly the acts alone, you’d object to each equally.

  207. Rhett – there are so many excellent tidbits in that article, but this is an important one:

    “Several of the people I spoke to see Clinton as lacking in humanity. It’s not just that they don’t like her—they also feel, on some level, that she doesn’t like them.”

  208. Biden has done some shady stuff and people LOVE him and his folksy ways. I bet most people cannot even name the shady stuff Biden has done. Because it got so little attention. People like Bill more than HRC. Which is nuts. HRC has an ambition that isn’t flattering in a woman.

  209. “What matters is that a foreign power meddled in our sovereign elections, in a way that appears that they wanted to influence our outcomes.”

    I wonder if the Iranian students who took the hostages in ’79 intended to influence the 1980 election, because they were a huge reason Carter lost.

  210. Kate – bill is easier to be captivated by if you’re looking to give someone the benefit of the doubt, or just forgive the past, or whatever. But with him there’s a realism, a humanity, a connection (and the same is true for Trump), where you feel like he’s on your side, even if you disagree with him. It’s harder to stay angry with him.

    But Hillary doesn’t have that. I think she’s cursed with the same traits as Ted Cruz.

  211. There is a humanity about Trump? The guy who made fun of a disabled person and insulted the family of a fallen soldier? Some humanity.
    Trump has been around NYC as long as I have. He is a celeb whose deepest longings are to be in the celeb mags. There is not a trace of humanity in the man. His sway over people is that of a con man. I honestly don’t think even his wives liked him. Look at Melania, glowering in every photo.

  212. I don’t think she is like Ted. Everyone hates him including those who know him well. Many people report that Hillary is delightful on a one on one basis and is a good boss. Most women of her generation aren’t professionally successful without having had to ice themselves off. Bill and Trump get to run around and literally grab women by the you know whats. But Hillary must maintain complete composure at all times lest she be called shrill or emotional. And then she gets flak for that. She really couldn’t win. The only other acceptable older professional persona for women is the Ina Garten type.

  213. Milo,

    So she’s like a liberal Ted Cruz? I get that. Cruz makes me skin crawl. He’s like a Jermey Irons character come to life:

  214. There is a humanity about Trump?

    Yes, he wears his narcissistic personality disorder on his sleve. He is who he claims to be. Other politicians put so much effort into faking it – pretending to be who they are not.

  215. Kate,

    I don’t think Bill helped. Look at Dennis Thatcher – a business man with a little family money who almost never gave an interview and stayed out of the way. The same is true for Joachim Sauer aka Herr Doktor Merkel.

    Maggie Hassan’s husband was the principal of Philips Exeter Academy, a solid respectable non-political job. Her son has cerebral palsy. I think America is totally ready for President Hassan. Hillary was just a little too ambitious based on her husbands merrits. If she’d been born 5 or 10 years later she might have been president in her own right. But, as it was, it just rubbed a lot of people the wrong way.

  216. Lost the sentence at the end of the first paragraph:

    Voters seem to want a femal leader with a very solidly employed husband who stays out of the limelight.

  217. “Voters seem to want a femal leader with a very solidly employed husband who stays out of the limelight.”
    I realized when I read this that I would have to google Nikki Haley’s husband’s name. I did recall that he deployed to Afghanistan sometime during her governorship. But he otherwise is out of the limelight. I don’t know her kids’ names, either.

  218. “Hillary was just a little too ambitious based on her husbands merrits.”

    This strikes a chord with me, although it’s only part of the reason for my lack of regard for HRC. Mostly it’s political, but her style certainly plays into the picture, as it does with all political figures.  Here’s an anecdote. Over the years I’ve tried to improve my public speaking style by modeling it after public figures, particularly women. HRC was someone I picked for this purpose, but I soon realized that her style was unappealing in a way I might describe as wooden and humorless and fake. Since I already leaned towards wooden and humorless in my professional persona, I knew I needed to steer away from using her as a role model.

    Remember the post we had on charisma?

    Charismatic behavior can be broken down into three core elements: presence, power, and warmth.

    HRC doesn’t really display all these core elements.

    I can’t say I like Trump, but he does exhibit a level of humanity in the way he presents as so openly flawed.  He probably appears to be more open in that way, which is in a way appealing.  Although no doubt both candidates rated high in the icky factor.

    “People like Bill more than HRC. Which is nuts. HRC has an ambition that isn’t flattering in a woman.”

    Relying on that argument seems old and tired. Many ambitious women find supporters among all types of people.

  219. 2 things for today:

    1. What is going on in North Carolina? How is what they are doing acceptable?

    2. Trump’s conflicts. He has cancelled the press conference and it will never be rescheduled. His kids who are supposed to be handing his businesses sit in on transition and govt meetings. He seems to need his kids as handlers but they are in no way acceptable to run the country and his business. He needs the cash flow from his business for their lifestyle and isn’t giving anything up. Discuss.

  220. Kate, in many countries of the world, the leader mixes business and leadership and sees their position in government as a way to enrich him or herself. Putin and his cronies are a good example but there are many more. Outside of Western Europe and Japan, it is the norm. No one cares. No in Russia cares except some pesky reporters. I think we have now entered that norm. Notice how no one cares except some reporters.

  221. If I didn’t have kids coming up on draft age, I would just put my fingers in my ears for the next 4 years. But given the hardliners that Trump has chosen, and the degree of provocation he has already engaged in, I suspect we will be in a war or two pretty quickly.

  222. Is anyone on this list going to the march in Washington the day after the inauguration. Many of the women I know locally through my kids friends are going, also some of the women I know from the ped cancer world. So now I am thinking of going but can’t figure out logistics. I never was a march kind of person so I don’t know how these things work

  223. “Kate, in many countries of the world, the leader mixes business and leadership and sees their position in government as a way to enrich him or herself.

    Yeah, politicians never do that here.

    It’s a gray area from what I’m seeing. If Trump’s kids are not on the government payroll and if the Trump enterprise happens to profit from government policy, but no laws were violated, what can be done? Should new laws be enacted?

  224. I think the conflicts of interest concerns are legitimate, but I don’t know that there’s anything to be done or that should be done. I think there’s a valid argument that we want the Presidency open to anyone, including businesspeople, and not just career lawyer/bureaucrats.

    I also reject the argument that it’s unprecedented. Washington was one of the richest men in the country and an active planter; I have to imagine that there were trade agreements with Europe that affected the value of his holdings, or that the interest in protecting shipping against piracy benefitted him personally.

  225. The latest trial balloon floated (actual public interview, not scuttlebutt) is that Trump plans to put Ivanka and Jared on the white house payroll, because he and his lawyers believe that the nepotism prohibition (instituted post Robt Kennedy, btw) does not apply to White House staff/advisers. Ivanka is going to have to serve as his hostess, anyway, because Melania and Barron are probably not going to live in DC – the current office plans (this is “reporting”, not public statement) at the White House have repurposed the usual office/staff assigned to the First Lady. Sometime next year I expect it will be made official for unspecified family/educational reasons. Kellyanne Conway talked about the great sacrifice the kids will be making, stepping away from the business in their prime earning years.

  226. “Kellyanne Conway talked about the great sacrifice the kids will be making, stepping away from the business in their prime earning years.”

    We’re all blessed to have them. ;)

  227. Kellyanne Conway makes me gag. But Ivanka is much more personable than Melania. She’ll make a better hostess. I’m always kind of surprised at how poor Melania’s English is given how many years she’s been in this country.

  228. Mooshi, I have several friends going to the DC march, but they’re all staying in private homes. Oh hey Milo! If I go, can I stay at your house? :-) :-)

    I’m going to the Denver one.

  229. I have to imagine that there were trade agreements with Europe that affected the value of his holdings, or that the interest in protecting shipping against piracy benefitted him personally.

    Well, and that other thing.

  230. Nope. In fact, I am betting if it weren’t for some ironclad prenups, Melania would be divorcing Trump. She clearly wants no part of this.

  231. I wonder what she liked to do all day before she was a Secret Service protectee — shop, eat at fancy restaurants? I can imagine she might be going crazy now that every store she wants to visit and cleared and guarded before she strolls in to browse.

  232. Spends time with Barron, travels to their various homes, goes to galas, shops. I think she leads a pretty typical rich NYC lady life. Hopefully the SS won’t be too burdensome for her or Barron. I think keeping him in NYC is probably good.

  233. If Barron does have certain types of special needs, as has been speculated, it might be devastating to uproot him. I also think that Trump may step down during his term if he finds the role too confining or burdensome. Although he personally does not appear to be an advance planner, I am sure his older kids have already given thought to exit strategies that will let him go out a winner.

  234. Here is Barron at Trump Tower:

    ?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

    Zuckerberg has at the very least 10x as much money as Trump. He lives here:

    I’ve heard that people identify more with Trump’s wealth and find the SV minimalist fake modesty offputting.

  235. Re: people identifying with Trump’s version of wealth – he is like every 6 year old’s idea of what rich looks like.

  236. Trump favors Eastern European women, and I think they’re the ones mainly responsible for all the gold (not that he minds). But if he’d married some dowdy WASP from Brookline, Trump Tower would be a renovated pre-war building, their triplex would be full of faded and dusty Louis XIV couches, and the TRUMP name would be on a subtle little plaque at the door.

  237. FWIW, I may be going to the march with DD (probably drive to a metro or take the MARC train down) — have a spare bedroom available!

  238. A group of deplorables have decided to march on Washington as well. At last report, they’re about 300 miles south of Seattle.

  239. Kate, if they stay in NYC, they better friggin’ pay for the security and disruption. NYC sent a bill for 35 million to cover security since the election up to the inauguration, and only got a small fraction of that amount reimbursed. It isn’t fair to hold a city hostage to the security needs of Little Barron Trump.

  240. It was largely Ivana who was responsible for the gold plated Trump style. She was also the one who called him The Donald. I don’t think the subsequent wives have had as much impact.

  241. Rhett, there’s tons of fussing about Zuckerberg’s plans. He lives in a section of Palo Alto called Crescent Park, an area that was always rich and upscale. He wants to buy a ton of other houses in the Crescent Park neighborhood and have kind of a compound for his friends and family. He’s not suggesting razing the houses or anything. But the city is still fussing because having all the neighborhood houses owned by one guys is…I don’t know, bad in some way. It, uh, undermines the neighborhood feel, or something.

    Now, when Marissa Mayer built herself a massive house over by the old Roller and Hapgood mortuary, people had a fit and I could kind of see the issue. But if Zuck wants to buy a bunch of houses and keep the structures modest, I think people are complaining for no good reason.

  242. I think people are complaining for no good reason.

    Oh, they have a reason: The pure unadulterated joy that comes for bitching and moaning.

  243. Oh, I can totally see why people would object to such a land grab by zuckerberg. Its a prime piece of land and with zuckerberg owning everything, there is no possibility of anyone else ever getting to buy a piece of land in the area unless there is a reversal of fortune for him. There is much to be said of diversity and balance of power in any area. I zuckerberg own most of it, he also has the most power to pass regulations regulations regarding land use etc.

  244. no possibility of anyone else ever getting to buy a piece of land in the area

    Isn’t that it the point of owning land?

    The folks in PA seem to want to live in a suburban version of a Manhattan co-op, where your right to buy, sell or change anything requires the communitiy’s approval.

  245. MM – I think all federal tax payers should pick up the cost of security. It should be a federal thing, not a state or local thing. We all have a vested interest in keeping Barron safe.

  246. Kate, will tell that to our lovely Congress. NYC spent $35 million, and got reimbursed $7 million by Congress. My DH says that if Congress wants security on the cheap, fine, deBlasio should only give Trump Tower that level of security

  247. “What is going on in North Carolina? How is what they are doing acceptable?”

    The second questions seems to assume it is acceptable.

    Apparently the NBA decided it’s not acceptable. DS decided it’s not acceptable and knocked all NC schools, e.g., Duke, off his list.

  248. “I also think that Trump may step down during his term if he finds the role too confining or burdensome.”

    This is somewhat consistent with my prediction that he won’t run for re-election.

    I really hope he doesn’t step down. Paraphrasing Alec Baldwin as Trump, “Mike Pence. The reason I won’t be impeached.”

  249. ““Kate, in many countries of the world, the leader mixes business and leadership and sees their position in government as a way to enrich him or herself.
    Yeah, politicians never do that here.”

    Yeah, here the more acceptable model is to wait until you’re out of office, then make a killing.

    Perhaps that’s one thing that hurt Hillary, that they’d made their killing while she was still planning to run.

  250. Maybe Barron and Melania should move somewhere in the rural West and get him a tutor. Security costs for taxpayers would be much lower, and the federal government might become more willing to help with the cost of protection against wildfires that occur in part due to how the government manages BLM/national forest land.

  251. “Maybe Barron and Melania should move somewhere in the rural West and get him a tutor.”

    Yeah, that ain’t happening. If they just wanted a secure fortress, they could have that in the White House. Or camp David. But I don’t think they’re really the outdoorsy types. I think camp David will be empty for a few years.

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