Trump Border Wall an Asinine Reason for Longest Government Shutdown Ever…There’s no end in sight to this monumental blunder some echo-knuckleheads talked the prez into, where he’s boxed himself in over the unpopular shutdown of his own making by being so stubborn about his impractical Trump border wall.  How much damage is he willing to do just to please his rabid Trumpeter base?  See thoughts & articles all about this towards the end, with our selected hit song at the bottom for the Trump border wall.  But part 3 always features news about the economy, so we’ll start with that.

Tax Code

This WaPo editorial posted below advocates for a more fair tax code.  Granted, we need the wealthy to build buildings, invest in plant & equipment, & provide jobs by employing workers.  But the escalating wealth gaps that define our modern age is more reminiscent of the late 19th Century Gilded Age, so a more progressive tax code could be the right remedy for our times, helping reduce deficits (gundlach-economy-ocean-debt) while resetting the framework for lifting middle class workers.  Here is the op-ed from how-house-democrats-can-advocate-for-a-fairer-more-effective-tax-system:

THE DEMOCRATS’ recapture of the House of Representatives has broadened the debate over tax policy beyond the cut, cut, cut mind-set that prevailed during the previous two years of Republican domination in Washington. It is too late to undo the GOP-authored tax bill that passed in 2017. Repealing or replacing it is also off the table as long as divided government prevails. Still, the Democrats can use their platform in the House to advocate a fairer system that brings in more revenue than the current one. Their focus should be on eliminating or reducing the biggest source of favoritism toward the rich in the current code: the preferable treatment of capital gains and dividends. These forms of income are accrued overwhelmingly by the highest-earning households and reward activity that is, in principle, no worthier morally, or useful economically, than laboring for a wage or salary. 

Yet the top marginal rate for ordinary income is now 37 percent, while it is only 23.8 percent for capital gains and dividends. Favorable treatment of this type of income — which the 2017 tax bill perpetuated but did not create — is a major reason for the anomaly, famously noted by billionaire Warren Buffett , that some billionaires pay lower tax rates than their secretaries. It’s probably also why newcomer Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) struck a nerve with her off-the-cuff proposal to tax all income over $10 million at 70 percent — which, given how much of the wealthy’s income comes in non-wage forms, could be a big deal if it applied to capital gains and dividends, but perhaps not so earthshaking if it did not.

Heavily favoring ownership of capital enables the accumulation of great fortunes and, accordingly, greater inequality of wealth, which is probably even more damaging to the social fabric than inequality of year-to-year wages, salaries and bonuses. We’re not against family wealth, per se — it has founded many a museum and university. But it’s possible to have too much of a good thing, and current tax law may be doing just that. Certainly, the 2017 bill’s near-elimination of the estate tax, which affected precious few households in the first place, should be a high priority for reversal by the Democrat-controlled House. Two additional changes would also dramatically improve tax fairness while raising significant sums for the Treasury. 

Under current law, profits on sales of inherited assets are taxed based on the price when inherited, not when first acquired by the decedent; ending this “stepped-up basis” giveaway for wealthy heirs would raise $105 billion over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Eliminating a mere two percentage points of the differential between the tax rates on capital gains and ordinary income, and adjusting tax brackets, could raise another $81.4 billion over 10 years, CBO says. Meanwhile, increasing the Internal Revenue Service’s enforcement budget by $500 million from its fiscal 2018 level of $11.4 billion would net the government $35.3 billion over 10 years. Most of that would probably come from wealthy taxpayers who can afford to game the system. There! We just made the United States more egalitarian and cut future deficits by $220 billion (or paid for that much-needed spending). And we did it without breaking a sweat or reducing anyone’s incentive to make productive investment.

Healthcare Coverage

Whether we finally go the GOP route of repeal & replace, having a marketplace solution with more competition from the private sector, or the Dem wish of some sort of universal coverage like Medicare for all, the key to our country’s financial solvency comes down to lowering costs.  America has by far the most expensive healthcare system in the world, & we can’t even see the second-place country with a periscope.  Check out the current dilemma inside jp-morgan-health-care-industry-prices.  We certainly can’t stick with the status quo & the American people know it, as seen in this poll posted from the article 7-in-10-say-us-health-care-system-has-major-problems-or-is-in-a-state-of:

A large majority of Americans surveyed in a new poll released Monday believe the U.S. health care system is in a state of crisis or has major problems. A Gallup poll showed that 70 percent of respondents believe the health care system has significant issues, compared to 30 percent who said it has no problems or minor problems. The numbers are similar to the same poll from a year ago when 71 percent of Americans said the system was in a state of crisis. Roughly 70 percent of Americans who responded to the pollsters have viewed the health care system as being in a state of crisis over the last decade, though the views of the two major parties have split sharply in recent years. Those who identify as Democrats have more consistently rated the health care system as a major problem in the Gallup poll. Monday’s poll found 84 percent of Democrats believe it’s in a state of crisis, up from 76 percent a year ago and 63 percent in 2016. Among Republicans, 56 percent say the health care system has major problems, down from 71 percent a year ago and from 80 percent in 2016. The two parties have offered different solutions on how to address the health care system moving forward. Some progressive Democrats have floated a universal health care system, while Republicans have unsuccessfully sought to repeal and replace ObamaCare. Democrats seized on health care as a main talking point during the midterm campaign, which was ongoing during some of the polling. The party went on to pick up 40 seats and take back the majority in the House. Monday’s poll surveyed 1,037 people between Nov. 1-11, 2018. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Opioid Deaths Surpass Fatal Car Wrecks

The prez is claiming the situation on the southern border is a crisis due to trying to justify his foolish shutdown.  If we want to see a real crisis, it can be found in this article inside death-by-opioid-overdose-more-likely-than-by-vehicle-crash-for-the-first:

Americans are now more likely to die from an opioid overdose than from a vehicle crash for the first time in history, according to a new report. The National Safety Council released new data this week that found opioid overdoses are now the fifth most likely cause of death, with the odds of dying from an overdose at 1 in 96. The odds of dying in a motor vehicle crash are 1 in 103. The council cited an increased influx of the drug fentanyl in a statement on the data, according to NPR. Fentanyl, a synthetic drug often trafficked on the black market from Mexico and Canada, is often combined with heroin or another drug, and has been repeatedly tied to the nationwide opioid crisis. The Centers for Disease Control last month named fentanyl as the deadliest drug in the U.S., saying it was involved in nearly one-third of deadly overdoses in 2016. U.S. life expectancy declined overall in 2017 due to an increase in drug overdoses and suicides. The National Safety Council data found that the chances of death by suicide are 1 in 88. The most likely cause of death for Americans remains heart disease, with 1 in 6 odds, closely followed by cancer.

Location Location Location

Where the good jobs are located in places like the most vibrant coastal cities, the middle class can hardly afford the rent there.  Then from the heart of the Midwestern rust belt in Gary, Indiana, houses are being offered for $1. Think about that, the same home that could be bought for a buck in Gary would be worth millions in San Francisco.  Really!  So the rapidly increasing wealth/wage gaps are not only based on incomes, education, occupations, ancestry, connections or stock portfolios, but also by geographic locations.

There are so many of those factory towns & rural areas across the American landscape who’ve lost their economic vitality & have no means of bringing it back.  So overall the economic stats are skewed by rapid economic growth in selected cities, places where homelessness has become a much bigger problem as revealed in excerpts below from research-details-rapid-increase-homelessness-certain-u-s-cities.  Economic data like unemployment rates & job/GDP growth can’t adequately measure the disparities, distortions & despair representing the real economy & real people out there.  It’s sort of a sick society for so many:

Across some of the biggest U.S. cities, rent prices are continuing to rise for lower-income Americans. Meanwhile, an estimated 553,000 people experienced homelessness in 2018, according to Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) data. And a recent Zillow study — which estimated the number of homeless people in America to be closer to 661,000 — found a specific correlation between rent affordability and the rate of homelessness at a certain threshold: “Communities where people spend more than 32 percent of their income on rent can expect a more rapid increase in homelessness.” Alexander Casey, a policy advisor on Zillow’s Economic Research team, explained to Yahoo Finance that “15% of the U.S. population lives in areas where a staggering 47% of the homeless population lives. And these are areas where rents are 29% higher on average than the rest of the U.S. And most of these communities are already past this 32% tipping point.” Zillow researchers clustered different communities together based on “how they’re experiencing rising poverty rates, existing homelessness, homelessness rates, and declining affordability.”

The places where people are most at risk of homelessness, according to the study, included New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Boston, “which all have crossed the 32 percent affordability threshold.” The three U.S. cities with the most homeless people in 2018 were New York (78,676), Los Angeles (49,955), and Seattle (12,112), according to the most recent HUD data. A 2016 Wall Street Journal report highlighted that while overall homelessness in America was declining, the homeless population in these cities and others had risen rapidly since 2010. “We attribute a great majority of homelessness to rent affordability,” Megan Hustings, interim director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, told Yahoo Finance. She added that gentrification plays a big role in it, along with public housing developments in urban areas being torn down and the overall “continuous decline of affordable housing units.”

Robotics & AI

I’ve often said our government needs to become far more proactive in laying the groundwork for the creation of new occupations on a mass scale for the modern age, while ensuring workers are properly guided & given the skills to fill these new careers that need to pay a livable wage.  We’re going to be pressed into inventing these new professions in the coming decades, since so many existing jobs are soon to be automated out of existence.  AI will be a game-changer in many ways, hopefully far more positive than negative, but we’d better start brainstorming answers for all the displaced workers: artificial-intelligence-automation-jobs-robots.

A Brick in the Wall, a Cog in the Wheel

You’ve probably heard expressions like the big get bigger or the big fish swallow the little fish.  Failure to develop & enforce antitrust laws have paved the way for oligopolies/monopolies to form in various industries, actually diminishing free market competition as small business can’t compete on a level playing field.  And employees working for these mammoth & impersonal corporations tend to be locked into cookie-cutter positions, lacking say over their roles or leverage over their status & pay.

Existing inside the culture of these corporate monoliths, employees tend to feel detached from the sense their efforts are actually pivotal to a business’ success.  The song at the bottom we selected because of the Trump border wall, but it could also describe the plight of workers slaving away for some faceless corporation, where all in all you’re just another brick in the wall.  The system has evolved to where large corporations have learned to exploit laborers, suppliers & smaller competitors, so we need to help swing the pendulum back towards the middle ground: davos-david-brooks-the-rich-have-become-too-powerful.

But as these excerpts below from economists-struggle-to-find-ways-to-limit-harm-from-monopolies highlight, government leadership has largely been missing from enforcing the foundation for competitive markets.  The sense of frustration being felt out in the heartland stems from the cold reality the American Dream has been greatly undermined, when it’s become so difficult & costly to start a business, while employees find their hard work doesn’t necessarily translate into a higher purpose with higher incomes.  Workers often have a far greater sense of motivation & ownership when they either own the company or work for smaller firms:

Two things have pushed the antitrust issue to the fore — economists have started to cite excessive market power as a drag on growth and wages, while energized activists are rising up to challenge lax regulation that allowed a wave of mergers in the past few decades. Along with rising awareness of the market power problem, there’s a growing realization that the traditional approach to antitrust won’t be enough to correct things. Not only do regulators fail to consider many of the broad implications when deciding which mergers to allow, but the government lacks tools for dealing with monopoly power after companies become large and dominant. One of the most interesting papers presented in Atlanta was by the University of Pennsylvania’s Ioana Marinescu, an economist who has done a lot of recent research on market concentration and market power. Writing with law professor Herbert Hovenkamp on the effect of mergers on labor markets, the authors proposed a new approach to antitrust. Whereas defenders of the traditional approach focus on consumer welfare as the benchmark of market power, Marinescu and Hovenkamp recommend that courts and regulators also consider the degree to which mergers give companies more power to suppress wages.

But Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist Nancy Rose gave a presentation emphasizing the difficulty of using merger enforcement to counter market power. It’s true, Rose noted, that antitrust enforcement has eased in recent decades, and that it could be tightened up. But formidable institutional barriers will limit the effectiveness or the policy even under the best of circumstances. To stop companies from merging, regulators have to take them to court, and plead their case to judges whose understanding of the economics involved is hazy at best. (Also, as Rose might have been too polite to point out, companies themselves can often hire expensive consultants to argue their case.) Thus, merger enforcement is costly and difficult. There are other limitations of merger enforcement beyond the ones mentioned by Rose. Often, mergers end up raising prices, in spite of corporate promises not to. But because the Federal Trade Commission doesn’t conduct a systematic review of mergers after the fact, this generally goes unnoticed and unpunished.

Some Good News

At least on the international stage, there are a number of encouraging developments in some vitally important categories: 7-charts-that-show-the-world-is-actually-becoming-a-better-place-2019-1#7-conflicts-are-on-the-decline-7.  America’s leadership has helped facilitate many of these positive trends, which the world cannot afford to have us abandon our critically important global role.

What About the Contractors?

It’s bad enough that 800,000 federal employees aren’t getting paid, especially since they’re like most Americans living paycheck to paycheck.  But an even larger number of federal contractors also aren’t getting paid, & for them there are no provisions to receive back pay, so they’re really getting the shaft: government-shutdown-contractors-janitors.

See the Terrain

These interesting pics inside us-mexico-border-wall-photos-maps-2018-5#more-than-one-century-60-million-and-2-million-cubic-yards-of-dirt-later-this-is-what-smugglers-gulch-looks-like-now-8 show some daunting logistical challenges of building a wall along the border.  And yes indeed, there really is a crisis along the border as explained in this article us-immigration-migrants-trump-border-crisis.

More Articles on the Trump Border Wall & the Repercussions of this Absurd Government Shutdown are found in these links:

It’s also going to stress the economy: https://www.businessinsider.com/government-shutdown-gdp-consumer-spending-us-economic-impact-2019-1

And for the prez to drag this out is both stupid & heartless: http://time.com/5489927/donald-trump-shutdown-logic/

He could stop this nonsense, but irresponsibly refuses to do so: http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/01/trump-refuses-only-3-ways-to-end-government-shutdown.html

See the cover of the NY Daily News with toddler Trump throwing a temper tantrum: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-new-york-daily-news-cover_us_5c35793ae4b05b16bcfbc810

More Trump border wall articles that aren’t live links, but easy enough to find on the search engines:

theguardian/trump-mexio-border-wall-dangerous-illusion

mediamatters/trump-s-fox-advisers-keep-telling-him-he-s-winning-shutdown-which-why-it-wont-end-any-time-soon

usatoday/government-shutdown-2019-veterans-groups-call-end-stalemate

usatoday/shutdown-unpaid-workers-side-jobs-damage-national-security

Here are good WaPo articles to search if you wish:

washingtonpost/please-help-donald-trump-find-work-during-the-shutdown

washingtonpost/trumps-shutdown-strategy-continues-show-all-signs-failure

washingtonpost/in-the-white-house-waiting-inside-trumps-defiance-on-the-longest-shutdown-ever

washingtonpost/trump-just-blew-up-his-own-absurd-spin-about-shutdown

washingtonpost/trump-owns-this-shutdown-debacle

washingtonpost/trumps-pitiful-powerlessness

washingtonpost/how-will-trump-wishcast-latest-polling-data

And other news sources with insights:

nytimes/opinion/trump-immigration-myth

msn/source-trump-admin-doubles-estimate-of-shutdown-cost-to-economy

msn/as-shutdown-drags-on-federal-workers-flock-to-food-pantries

msn/doug-schoen-if-trump-wants-to-have-even-a-chance-of-winning-in-2020-he-needs-to-end-the-shutdown-now

dailykos/The-Great-American-Shutdown-Debacle

dailykos/Even-FOX-News-Can-t-Avoid-How-Badly-the-Trump-Shutdown-is-Going-Over-with-the-American-People

dailykos/The-Top-5-Reasons-That-The-Trump-Shutdown-Is-Still-Going-On

thehill/trump-created-a-competition-of-crises-the-border-or-the-shutdown

thehill/Trump-shares-article-blasting-federal-workers-calling-for-long-shutdown

thehill/cnns-gergen-trump-discouraging-next-generation-from-civil

Polling

Despite whatever nonsense is being spewed by Trump, Americans by a nearly 2-to-1 margin blame him & his party for the shutdown.  And that only makes sense, since the prez told Schumer & Pelosi a month ago the shutdown was on him & he’ll take the blame.  Plus before Christmas Congress had worked out a continuing CR to keep the government running, but Trump nixed it at the last minute after listening to some xenophobic echo-heads complaining.  Also, if the wall were really so important to the GOP, they had two years to pass something while they still had both chambers of Congress.  This article posted from polls-cnn-post-trump-blame-disapproval-border-wall-democrats shows those poll numbers released over the weekend:

New polls from the Washington Post-ABC News and CNN released Sunday revealed who most Americans think bear much of the blame for the longest government shutdown in US history: President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans. For 23 days, negotiations between congressional Democrats and Trump have stalled over the president’s demands for funding to build a wall along the southern border. In an Oval Office address last week (which Mother Jones blogger Kevin Drum fact-checked here), Trump called the situation at the border a humanitarian crisis and, up until Friday, repeatedly suggested he would declare a national state of emergency to free up money for the wall. On Saturday night, Trump called into Jeanine Pirro’s Fox News show to say he had an “absolute right” to call for a national emergency and criticized Democrats for spending time away from Washington during the shutdown. Trump told Pirro he had “no idea” if he could come to a deal to end the shutdown with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). “I’d rather see the Democrats come back from their vacation and act,” Trump told Pirro. “I’d like to see them act responsibly, and they’re not acting responsibly.

But the majority of Americans don’t appear to agree that Congress’s Democrats are to blame. The Washington Post-ABC News poll of 788 people, with a margin of error of 4.5 points, found that 53 percent of Americans said the partial shutdown was mostly the fault of Trump and Republicans, versus 29 percent who thought congressional Democrats were responsible. Two-thirds of those polled disapproved of Trump using presidential powers to declare a state of emergency to fund the border blockade. Meanwhile, a CNN poll of 848 adults, with a margin of error of 4.1 points, showed that 55 percent of respondents thought the president was more responsible for the shutdown than Democrats. Fifty-six percent of those polled opposed building a wall, while more than half of respondents didn’t think the situation on the southern border was a crisis. There are signs that the the president’s obstinance is striking the wrong chord with the public: Since December, his disapproval rating has risen five points to 57 percent, while his approval rating remains at 37 percent—10 points below Ronald Reagan’s low in 1982. 

More articles here on recent polling trending against the prez:

This first one from the Trump-friendly Quinnipiac poll reports only 2% said his wall speech last week changed their minds:

https://www.mediaite.com/online/winning-trumps-big-primetime-oval-office-address-swayed-exactly-two-percent-of-the-electorate-on-the-wall/

https://www.inquisitr.com/5249207/trumps-favorite-poll-shows-hes-in-low-job-approval-territory/

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2019/1/15/1826540/-Gallup-Poll-Trump-Down-37-59-in-Job-Approval?utm_campaign=recent

https://thehill.com/policy/finance/425503-poll-nearly-40-percent-say-they-have-been-affected-by-shutdown-firsthand

Short Bits

Maybe the biggest problem with the 2016 election, other than Russia discrediting the election with the possible assistance of the Trump campaign, is 60 million Trump voters may have voted for a phony caricature of a successful business tycoon: an-insider-from-the-apprentice-on-how-the-show-made-donald-trump.

Support for this mammoth bill breaks along partisan lines & would hit a dead end in the Senate, but there is plenty of needed stuff in here: nancy-pelosi-election-reform-bill-save-democracy.

Both have demonstrated a propensity to be racist nudniks: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/01/steve-king-and-donald-trump-share-same-beliefs/580288/.

A week ago I listed 50 reasons not to support Elizabeth Warren:  https://www.thevoracs.com/elizabeth-warren-decides-to-run/.  Well, here’s another list of 50, this next article being an intriguing list of 50 moments from this unthinkable presidency: https://www.theatlantic.com/unthinkable/.

Kasich

More than a decade ago, Kasich had his own show on Fox News when he was considered a solid conservative.  Today he’s just been hired by CNN.  With essentially the same views as years before, conservatives now consider him more a RINO or liberal, the reason being over the past decade the echo has shifted conventional conservative ideology waaaaaay to the extreme right.  In this article posted from john-kasich-republican-party-adapt-new-america-solve-problems-column, he accurately points out the American people want their political leaders to be doers, where they find some way to stop fighting each other long enough to work together on bipartisan solutions:

It’s a new year and almost two decades into a new century, yet so much about American life and our political leadership — notably in my own Republican Party — seems stuck in the 1950s. While nearly every aspect of the world around us has been changing, sometimes with breakneck speed, and while the complexion and complexities of our  demographics have shifted so dramatically, those who fancy themselves as leaders are plodding far behind the march of time. Sadly, too many Americans are content to plod along with them. Perhaps they think denial is protection from the change that swirls around them. No doubt they’re threatened by the new diversity of voices that have joined the public chorus, by the long-ignored problems that a new generation wants to solve, by an unsettled world that no longer follows America’s lead. But they’ve learned absolutely nothing from their skunking in the midterm elections. They didn’t watch, or chose to ignore, the new Congress being sworn in the other day. It was a more energetic, diverse and self-assured group than those chambers have seen before.

But ignoring change like that won’t stop it. And failing to find solutions to our problems will only lead to greater challenges down the road. A case in point: Opponents of Obamacare ask how such a thing came to be, oblivious to the fact that their own inaction is to blame. By ignoring giant holes in America’s health care system and failing to find a ways to fix them with hard work and compromise, they watched that vacuum filled with a behemoth they deplore. Yet people like these at all levels of government find themselves caught on the same, well-worn treadmill time and again. By failing to come up with fresh ideas and real solutions for our most vexing problems, congressional Republicans, the White House and other power structures in Washington let those problems fester or reluctantly patch them up with half-baked solutions that only make things worse. That same change-ignoring inertia holds back progress in our states.

Think of the problems that cry out for solutions: health care, immigration, deficits and debt, income inequality, urban violence, drugs, climate and environment, free trade, prescription costs,  infrastructure decay, cybersecurity, education and workforce readiness, student debt … how many pages do I have to go on? These aren’t new problems, but many have grown worse. And none can be ignored any longer in a younger, more diverse and more demanding America that’s increasingly impatient with the old way of thinking. This emerging leadership won’t be put off, ignored or disenfranchised, but I’m confident that they will be open to new ideas and the kind of commonsense approaches that truly solve problems — and solve them for all Americans, not just a privileged few. In this changing world, successful leaders must look each problem squarely in the eye, listen to their customers, and realize how dramatically those customers have changed. No one will survive by practicing politics the way Sears or RadioShack practiced retail, stuck in the 1950s while the world moved on with Amazon, Uber and others who have broken the mold. For Republicans, this means breaking their own self-made mold of being naysayers instead of doers. It means designing market-driven, center-right solutions that actually solve problems while revealing their compassion.

We’ve done that in Ohio. For example, we worked to expand access to technology for Ohioans with developmental disabilities, helping them use those advances to improve the quality of their lives. We made important progress improving our health care system by providing incentives that encourage providers to focus on quality care rather than quantity. We added more than 568,000 jobs over eight years, shedding Ohio’s “Rust Belt” image by replacing our government-run development bureaucracy with a private, not-for-profit economic development effort managed by industry experts — in the process becoming the focal point for a new “Knowledge Belt.” There’s no reason the same formula can’t be applied nationwide. It’s time for Republicans in our state capitals and Washington to get in step with the fast-moving parade. Otherwise, they’ll lose. Because there’s one thing we learn from parades: Anyone falling behind gets swept up by those guys who follow the horses.

Another Brick in the Trump Border Wall

A song in recognition of the president’s intransigent position demanding funding for his silly wall before reopening government: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WK5WLq4pBFg