RIP, USA.

It’s not entirely hyperbolic to say that the latest GOP tax scam could be the final nail in the coffin of the American dream. If the bill is signed into law, it will show that the oligarchs and the con artists are in full control. And our democratic republic may never recover.

Remember when Republicans were outraged when President Obama signed a stimulus bill to dig us out of the Great Recession created by free market GOP policies? Remember the wave of Tea Party candidates in 2010 who were elected based on promises to cut the burgeoning national debt?

Well, when the GOP took control of the Senate, the House and White House at the beginning of this year, they had an opportunity to cut the debt – now $20 trillion and climbing. After all, the economy is now at what most economists consider full-employment. The increased tax revenue from all of those employed individuals, combined with careful budget cuts, could have been used to reduce deficits.

But, now that the GOP is in control, deficits and debt no longer seem to matter.

Almost immediately after assuming control, Republicans actually increased spending by adding $700 billion to the Pentagon budget despite the fact that an audit by the Department of Defense Inspector General could not account for $6.5 trillion in military spending!

Then, after the House passed a so-called tax “reform” bill, the GOP-controlled Senate used a parliamentary trick to pass a gigantic tax cut for corporations and billionaires – a move that will add at least $1.5 trillion to the national debt over the next 10 years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. More precisely, the GOP plans to take $1.5 trillion from ordinary working families and give it to billionaires and large corporations!

So, despite the fact that the nation is still buckling under the deficits and debt created by the last GOP-fueled recession, the GOP plans to push through a highly unpopular tax bill (a recent poll shows that 59 percent of Americans oppose the bill) based on the widely debunked theory of trickle-down economics. It’s a bill that will affect virtually all of us – most of us negatively. And it’s likely to lead to an economic meltdown even worse than the Great Recession.

Of course, the bill’s very wealthy benefactors have little reason to worry. After all, if the tax scam does lead to an economic crash, they are unlikely to be affected. They seldom ever are. For billionaires, most economic downturns represent years-long Black Fridays in which everything is on sale – yet another opportunity to buy low and eventually sell high. And, by the time the national debt becomes a real problem, they can simply relocate and steal from the citizens of another country.

On the other end of the economic spectrum, ordinary working Americans have been promised a much smaller tax cut. Even that will disappear after a few years. But the cuts for billionaires and large corporations will be permanent.

It’s fitting that the Senate bill was passed at 2 a.m. Like thieves in the night, the GOP raided the homes of working people taking portions of their incomes, their access to affordable health care, even their access to public lands.

This Should Explain A Lot.

As the GOP Congress continues to push a tax plan that is based on the lie that it will create jobs by cutting taxes on large corporations and the very wealthy, I think it’s important to understand how the tax “reform” plan came about. In reality, it was spawned decades ago by the libertarian billionaires who now fund Republican candidates. And it was released on an unsuspecting public by the conservative-controlled Supreme Court with its rulings in the Buckley v Valeo and Citizens United v FEC.

In the first of these decisions, the Court ruled that money = free speech. In effect, that gave the wealthy the ability to choose political candidates. In the second case, the Court ruled that corporations = people. And, since large corporations are controlled by wealthy executives and shareholders, the decision gave them even more power to choose candidates and to sway election results.

Not surprisingly, the Koch brothers and a few other billionaires seized the opportunity.

Until those Supreme Court decisions, the Kochs, Sheldon Adelson, the Mercer family, the Prince family, the DeVos family, and others had, for the most part, been unable to buy elections. Even when David Koch ran for president on the Libertarian Party ticket in 1980, he could not use his billions to gather votes. So he chose a different strategy. He vowed to use his money to place candidates in state and local offices then bide his time until those people could work their way into higher offices.

The Supreme Court decisions gave him the opportunity to accomplish in a few years what might have taken decades.

Billionaires and corporations now control more than 30 state legislatures through the American Legislative Exchange Council, which writes most of their legislation. Billionaire-sponsored candidates now control the US Senate and the House of Representatives. Billionaire-backed candidates have proliferated in the court system. And with the help of the Russians, a billionaire-backed candidate now sits behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office. (At least when he’s not golfing or spending his time – and taxpayer money – at one of his resorts.)

Given all of this, it seems that a look at David Koch’s Libertarian Party platform from 1980 might shed further light onto the GOP tax plan and the GOP vision for the future of the United States. Here are some excerpts from that platform:

• “We urge the repeal of federal campaign finance laws, and the immediate abolition of the despotic Federal Election Commission.”
• “We favor the abolition of Medicare and Medicaid programs.”
• “We oppose any compulsory insurance or tax-supported plan to provide health services, including those which finance abortion services.”
• “We also favor the deregulation of the medical insurance industry.”
• “We favor the repeal of the fraudulent, virtually bankrupt, and increasingly oppressive Social Security system. Pending that repeal, participation in Social Security should be made voluntary.”
• “We propose the abolition of the governmental Postal Service. The present system, in addition to being inefficient, encourages governmental surveillance of private correspondence. Pending abolition, we call for an end to the monopoly system and for allowing free competition in all aspects of postal service.”
• “We oppose all personal and corporate income taxation, including capital gains taxes.”
• “We support the eventual repeal of all taxation.”
• “As an interim measure, all criminal and civil sanctions against tax evasion should be terminated immediately.”
• “We support repeal of all laws which impede the ability of any person to find employment, such as minimum wage laws.”
• “We advocate the complete separation of education and State. Government schools lead to the indoctrination of children and interfere with the free choice of individuals. Government ownership, operation, regulation, and subsidy of schools and colleges should be ended.”
• “We condemn compulsory education laws … and we call for the immediate repeal of such laws.”
• “We support the repeal of all taxes on the income or property of private schools, whether profit or non-profit.”
• “We support the abolition of the Environmental Protection Agency.”
• “We support abolition of the Department of Energy.”
• “We call for the dissolution of all government agencies concerned with transportation, including the Department of Transportation.”
• “We demand the return of America’s railroad system to private ownership. We call for the privatization of the public roads and national highway system.”
• “We specifically oppose laws requiring an individual to buy or use so-called “self-protection” equipment such as safety belts, air bags, or crash helmets.”
• “We advocate the abolition of the Federal Aviation Administration.”
• “We advocate the abolition of the Food and Drug Administration.”
• “We support an end to all subsidies for child-bearing built into our present laws, including all welfare plans and the provision of tax-supported services for children.”
• “We oppose all government welfare, relief projects, and ‘aid to the poor’ programs. All these government programs are privacy-invading, paternalistic, demeaning, and inefficient. The proper source of help for such persons is the voluntary efforts of private groups and individuals.”
• “We call for the privatization of the inland waterways, and of the distribution system that brings water to industry, agriculture and households.”
• “We call for the repeal of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.”
• “We call for the abolition of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.”
• “We support the repeal of all state usury laws.”

The Putin-led meddling in the 2016 elections by the Russians represents a very real threat to our democracy. But no greater threat than that of our billionaire-controlled GOP government.

Manafort = Trump’s Mini-Me.

Former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his business partner, Rick Gates, have been indicted with 12 counts including conspiracy against the US, conspiracy to launder money, false statements and failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts. These are serious charges and, likely, they would not have been filed if the special counsel was not certain that he could obtain convictions.

As serious as those charges are, it’s important to note that Trump could well be guilty of many of the same things.

With regard to money laundering. Trump mysteriously received multi-million-dollar loans from Deutsche Bank – a bank fine $10 billion for Russian money laundering – after failing to obtain business loans from every large bank in the US. In addition, Trump sold multiple properties to Russian oligarchs at prices dramatically higher than market value.

As for failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts, Trump’s name appeared 3,450 times in the Panama Papers – leaked documents that exposed financial accounts associated with offshore tax havens. It’s possible that his name appears simply because of the wide range of his international business activities. But why else would his name be listed if he was not involved in tax evasion?

Though Manafort’s indictment doesn’t include criminal activity with criminal mob figures, it has been reported that Manafort has ties to Russian mobsters. Likewise, it has been long reported that Trump has ties to mobsters. Indeed, given the fact that he is a developer in New York City and in New Jersey, it would be surprising if he didn’t.

Both Trump and Manafort have enjoyed lavish lifestyles. And both men have faced financial setbacks – failures that made them desperate enough to engage in illegal activity.

And though Manafort is charged with conspiracy against the US based on his failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts, serving as an unregistered agent of the pro-Russian government of Ukraine, and false and misleading statements regarding the foreign agent registration act, it pales by comparison to potential charges against Trump.

Trump’s conspiracy likely involves working with a US rival to undermine our democracy and to steal the highest office in the land. So far, much of the evidence is circumstantial, but that evidence is overwhelming.

Consider the number of Trump associates who reportedly have ties to Russia: Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos, Michael Flynn Sr, Michael Flynn Jr, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Carter Page, Roger Stone, Felix Sater, Michael Cohen, Erik Prince, and Donald J. Trump himself.

America first? More like Russia first.

Keeping Track Of The Trump/GOP Agenda.

Voters and the media are all too aware of The Donald’s Twitter rants and the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in last year’s election. But while we’ve been distracted by the noise, here’s what Trump and the GOP have been doing in the shadows and away from the spotlight:

They passed and signed a bill overturning an Obama initiative to prevent the mentally ill from purchasing guns.

Trump signed an executive order withdrawing the United States from the Paris accords on climate change. We are now one of only 3 nations in the world – the others are Syria and Nicaragua – who are not part of the effort. And Nicaragua only refused to sign because they didn’t think the effort went far enough.

The administration has empowered ICE to arrest and deport thousands of undocumented workers, which has resulted in the separation of families and made it difficult for fruit and vegetable growers to find enough help for harvest.

Trump announced the end of DACA for the “Dreamers” who were brought to the US as children. Now the White House is making funding of a border wall a condition for signing a new bill that would allow Dreamers to stay in the US – the only country they know.

Trump pardoned former sheriff Joe Arpaio who was convicted for criminal contempt of court after refusing to stop racial profiling of Latinos. Arpaio also boasted of running a “concentration camp” for prisoners. Some even died while in custody.

Trump praised the actions of extreme dictators in Russia, Turkey and the Philippines.

Trump refused to denounce Nazis and white supremacists for the violence in Charlottesville while, at the same time, giving them a voice in the administration.

The DOJ announced that it is ending a program to track domestic terrorists.

They dramatically increased defense spending despite audits that have shown extensive waste and a lack of DOD oversight.

They attempted to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with parliamentary tricks and no debate – an action that would have drastically cut Medicaid, defunded Planned Parenthood, and denied health care access to tens of millions of Americans.

They cut payments to insurance companies that compensate them for losses created by the pent-up demand for health care of new ACA enrollees.

After Congress failed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the administration defunded publicity campaigns for ACA enrollment and shortened the enrollment period in an attempt to reduce participation in the ACA marketplaces.

Trump signed an executive order to further undercut the ACA by allowing insurance companies to offer bare bones plans that will effectively encourage the youngest and healthiest people to leave the program and make it financially impossible for insurance companies to offer affordable coverage to those who most need it, especially those with pre-existing conditions.

Trump cut subsidies to help pay the cost of health insurance for low income Americans.

Trump is also considering incentives for employers to set aside money to help employees pay insurance premiums, a move designed to allow them to end traditional employee insurance benefits.

Congress has thus far failed to extend CHIP, which provides health care to millions of poor children who are not eligible for public assistance.

The House passed a bill which would cut $39 billion from SNAP, the food stamp program for the poor.

The House passed a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks and making doctors vulnerable to prison.

They have packed the court system with young, extreme right-wing, anti-choice judges and justices.

Trump has violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution by profiting from foreign guests staying in his Washington, DC hotel.

Trump signed an executive order which allows employers to deny contraceptive coverage to employees forcing tens of thousands of women to pay for contraceptives themselves.

The EPA announced it is ending the Obama era clean energy rules which is designed to replace dirty fuels that contribute to climate change.

The EPA and NASA removed all references to climate change from their websites.

The administration increased the number of mining and oil drilling leases on federal lands, which will allow uranium mining in the Grand Canyon watershed.

The administration has refused to protect Walruses under the Endangered Species Act. At the same time, the administration is considering delisting Gray Wolves, Grizzly Bears and other species.

Trump has waged a name-calling war against the leader of North Korea, putting us on the precipice of nuclear war. Even if only conventional weapons are involved, millions of people would die on the Korean peninsula.

Trump restored many of the Cold War era restrictions on Cuba.

Trump’s proposed budget would make deep cuts to most government agencies, including Health & Human Services, the EPA, the State Department, the Agriculture Department, the Army Corps of Engineers, the National Institutes of Health, the Commerce Department, the Education Department, HUD, the Department of Transportation, the Department of the Interior and FEMA.

Trump’s proposed budget would eliminate numerous programs, including National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grants and programs that support coastal and marine management. It would cut funding for new transit programs, Amtrak, the UN’s Green Climate Fund, and the Clean Power Plan.

Trump’s proposed budget would make deep cuts to the popular Meals on Wheels program for shut-ins.

Trump has decided to “decertify” the treaty with Iran – an action that will almost certainly accelerate Iran’s nuclear program.

The Interior Department has proposed cutting the number and size of our national monuments.

The administration has proposed opening the Arctic, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, to oil drilling.

Congress and the administration have proposed a tax “reform” bill that will give massive cuts to multinational corporations and the wealthy, provide a tax “holiday” for corporations that have stashed billions offshore to evade taxes, and eliminate the Estate Tax which only affects the very wealthy.

If you don’t think all of that is bad enough, consider the fact that the Trump-led GOP also hopes to replace public education with for-profit private schools, to replace our efficient Medicare program with vouchers and to privatize Social Security, effectively ending safety nets for the elderly and the poor. Or consider the millions spent on Trump’s weekly golf outings at his own properties. Or the millions spent on personal trips in private jets by his cabinet members.

This administration and this Congress are quietly doing everything in their power to undermine the health of our nation, our planet and the well-being of its citizens, except the most wealthy and the most powerful. My advice to voters and the media alike: Stop being outraged by Trump’s Twitter rages and start paying attention to the actions that he and his government are taking behind the scenes.

My Trump Obsession.

Many of my friends and acquaintances have raised questions regarding my near constant blog posts, Facebook posts and Tweets about Trump. I’ve been told, “Hillary lost. Get over it.” That they had to “put up” with Obama for 8 years so “Why can’t I just shut up and give Trump a chance?” I’ve been asked, “Don’t you have something else to worry about?” I’ve been called a “libtard,” a “snowflake” and a “loser.”

Some have questioned my patriotism. Others have even questioned my sanity. Many would prefer that I ignore the current state of our democracy and go back to posting family and travel photos on Facebook.

Here’s my response: Trump and his followers are unlike anything seen in our country since the end of the Civil War. Their hatred has further divided an already broken political system. They have not only turned Democrat against Republican. They have turned Republican against Republican, state against state, friend against friend, man against woman, brother against brother, Christian against Muslim, Christian against Christian, heterosexual against homosexual…and the world against the US.

In order for others to truly understand my obsession, I need to delve into a bit of history – some of which you probably already know.

When I first became aware of “The Donald” in the eighties, he was considered a small-time developer in New York City. His few properties made a statement only in regard to their gaudy decor and the many lawsuits against his company for racial discrimination and failure to pay suppliers. It soon became known, at least in Manhattan, that he had ties to organized crime. Those rumors were soon confirmed when he dived into the gambling industry…an industry long connected to organized crime. Yet, in a telling display of his business acumen, he was one of the few casino owners to ever go bankrupt.

His only success was his ability to call attention to himself and his “glamorous” lifestyle. That led to his role as a business mogul on “The Apprentice” in which he reveled in the opportunity to unleash his inner bully. Had it not been for that reality show (more precisely, an un-reality show) and an accomplished ghost writer who wrote “The Art of The Deal,” Trump likely would have faded into obscurity long ago, especially when the real estate crash of 2008 made him financially toxic to virtually every lender – except to the Russians and a German bank involved in Russian money-laundering.

How did he rise from those ashes to the White House? That is a question that will be debated for generations.

The reality is that, in an attempt to become relevant, he led the “birther” movement, claiming Obama was an illegitimate president. When Obama responded at the White House Correspondents Dinner, Trump was humiliated and infuriated. As a longtime racist and bully, he felt the need to strike back. So he began his presidential campaign based on racist attacks on Mexicans, refugees, Muslims, and women.

The heart of his campaign was to push aside political correctness, encouraging like-minded racists and misogynists to say and do what they had long felt, but were afraid to say. This quickly became apparent at all of his political rallies with chants of “lock her up” as well as verbal and physical attacks on protesters who were Latino or black. Of course, there were also relentless verbal attacks on the news media.

At any other time in our nation’s history, his fomenting of violence, his bullying tactics and his name-calling of other candidates, would have repulsed the majority of Americans and permanently ended his political aspirations. Instead, the more despicable his words and actions became, the more his popularity grew among white people who somehow felt oppressed by their white privilege and majority religion.

Not even a video of him bragging about grabbing women by the pussy harmed his popularity. Many even applauded his verbal attack of a Gold Star family – likely because of their skin color and their religion.

In a move that far exceeded Nixon’s Watergate transgressions, he unethically and illegally encouraged Russia to hack his political opponent’s emails. And it is now abundantly clear that his election night win was illegitimate. He obviously took office as the result of the interference of our nation’s greatest rival. Worse, given the dozens of connections between Trump’s campaign and Russia, it appears increasingly likely that his campaign colluded with Russia in order to win.

There has been no greater assault on our democracy since WWII.

If his lack of character and the illegitimacy of his position weren’t enough, Trump has made no effort to bridge the political divide. Instead, he has gone out of his way to further divide us. And his nomination of unqualified and lunatic fringe people to his cabinet and heads of federal agencies has turned our nation into a Kakistocracy – a government run by the worst, least qualified and most unscrupulous citizens – people like Betsy Devos, Ben Carson, Scott Pruitt, Tom Price, and Jeff Sessions.

Trump and his administration have taken every opportunity to enrich themselves and their families. He has emboldened the worst among us – racists, white supremacists and neo-Nazis. His administration has not only tried to cut access to healthcare and withdrawn from the Paris accords on climate change. It has rolled back regulations protecting clean air, clean water and endangered species. It has plans to reduce the size of national monuments in order to sell drilling and mining rights to extraction industries. It has plans to cut funding for Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, even food programs for needy children in order to give tax breaks to the wealthy and large corporations.

Most problematic of all is the fact that Trump has essentially replaced our State Department and traditional diplomacy with his Twitter rants. His name-calling and cyber-bullying have led our nation to the brink of war with a nation led by a similar man-child – a war that would lead to the deaths of millions.

Am I obsessed with Trump? Damn right I am! As should be anyone in their right mind.

How Russia Stole Our Conscience.

Though the Robert Mueller investigation has not yet been completed, it’s clear that Russia meddled with our election. Disregarding possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, and the many meetings between Trump associates and Russian operatives, we’re already certain that Russia controlled the election outcome using a variety of techniques for the benefit of Trump and other Republican candidates.

Here’s what we know so far:

Russian hackers stole information from the email servers of Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee – information that was used by the Trump campaign and other Republican candidates. These crimes alone were far more serious than Watergate (the break-in and cover-up that resulted in the resignation of President Richard Nixon).

And the computer break-ins were just the beginning of Russian interference on behalf of Trump and other Republicans.

Russian oligarchs donated millions to Republican PACs and Super PACS to help the re-election of Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republican candidates. Hundreds of Russian operatives secretly set up fake social media accounts designed to circulate anti-Clinton propaganda. Russians bought advertising on Facebook and Twitter to attack Clinton. Russia created dozens of “news” websites to publish false and misleading stories designed to undermine Clinton’s campaign. And Russia’s RT Television Network and Sputnik News Agency ran hundreds, if not thousands, of anti-Clinton “news” stories.

In addition, Russia hacked into voter data in several swing states, changing addresses and other information to cause registered Democrats to be turned away from the polls. There are even indications that Russia actually changed votes from Clinton to Trump in at least three swing states. (As Bill Palmer pointed out in his Palmer Report, it is statistically impossible that election results in those three swing states would all three go to Trump by the exact same one percent margin after all of the polls showed Clinton with substantial margins just days before.)

Russia’s actions not only prevented Clinton from winning. Their result was to install an occupant in the White House committed to the deconstruction of the government of Russia’s greatest adversary. Whatever you think of Der Gropenfuhrer himself, you must admit that his appointments have resulted in a kakistocracy – a government run by the worst, least qualified, and most unscrupulous citizens.

For example, the Department of Justice is led by a known racist. The Department of Energy, which controls our nuclear arsenal, is led by someone who previously called for dismantling the department without even knowing what it does. The Department of Education is led by a woman who never attended a public school and has spent millions to replace public schools with religious schools and for-profit private schools. The EPA is led by someone who prioritizes religion over science and who has repeatedly sued the agency he now heads on behalf of the fossil fuel industry. Most recently, Trump appointed a climate change denier with no background in science to lead the nation’s cutting-edge science agency – NASA.

The list of such appointees is quite lengthy.

In an act of extreme cruelty and hubris, the administration and the Republican-controlled Congress tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would cause more than 22 million Americans to lose access to affordable health care. Failing that, they sabotaged the health care law by cutting its funding.

They have withdrawn from the Paris climate accords, which puts our entire planet at risk. Trump has dropped protections for the LGBTQ community, women, minorities and immigrants who were brought to the US as children. He has vilified Muslims and banned refugees from seven Muslim-majority nations. He refused to hold Nazis and White Supremacists accountable for the violence in Charlottesville. And he ordered the deportation of women and children who are refugees from widespread violence in several Central American nations, placing their lives in serious jeopardy.

Further, Congress is poised to vote on tax reform that will give huge tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy. At the same time, the proposed budget is expected to cut funding for numerous safety net programs, such as those designed to provide food for poor children, the elderly and the disabled.

Considering the impact of all these actions, one has to conclude that Russia not only stole our election. They stole our collective conscience.

Yet most Republicans still refuse to acknowledge Russia’s role in the election results, likely because doing so would undermine the legitimacy of their gains in 2016. Likewise, they refuse to implement changes in order to prevent foreign interests from dictating election results again. As a result, we can’t be certain that the same type of meddling won’t take place in the 2018 and 2020 elections.

One wonders how those same Republicans would react if such interference stole an election from them.

Feeding The Rich And Starving “The Beast.”

The top 10 percent control 76 percent of the nation’s wealth. Yet a new study* found that the bottom 99.9 percent pay 175 times as much income tax as the top 0.1 percent! That’s because the wealthy use a variety of tax shelters, both offshore and in tax havens such as Delaware and South Dakota. In addition, our largest, multinational corporations dodge taxes by moving their headquarters offshore (at least on paper) and by parking large sums of cash in offshore tax shelters.

Obviously, tax reform is sorely needed, and it’s the next big item on the Trump agenda. But, with Trump and the GOP in charge, don’t expect it to benefit you. While true reform would be almost universally welcomed, the people shaping the process are all billionaires and multi-millionaires with ties to Wall Street.

What are the chances that they will introduce a bill to benefit ordinary working-class Americans?

The short answer is zero if you look at the framework being considered by the administration as reported by Politico. For example, the administration is planning to raid your 401k savings account by forcing you to pay taxes on the money up front. Other proposals include eliminating the mortgage interest deduction for homeowners, eliminating federal deductions for the money you pay for state and local taxes, and eliminating charitable deductions. All of these proposals will result in a substantial tax INCREASE for ordinary Americans. They will also punish the poor by eliminating incentives for taxpayers to donate to charities.

Even more worrying are the tax rates being proposed.

At the heart of the “reform” is a plan to reduce the number of tax brackets from 7 to 3. That, alone, will punish taxpayers at the bottom of each bracket.

Of course, there is plenty of good news in the plan for the wealthy. The new plan would repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax – a boon to many well-off households. It would repeal the estate tax, a tax that currently applies only to 2 out of every 100 estates. (The tax is levied only on the portion of an estate’s value exceeding $5.49 million per person.) The plan would repeal the tax on investment income that helps pay for Obamacare. And it would cut the top marginal rate for the wealthiest Americans from 39.6 percent to 35 percent.

The Tax Policy Center estimates that the administration’s tax “reform” plan will cut taxes by $6 trillion over 10 years with almost half of the savings going to the top one percent.

And if you’re an executive for a large corporation, the news is just as good.

Though the current top marginal corporate rate of 39 percent is one of the highest in the world, very few US corporations actually pay that rate. Indeed, according to the 2015 ranking by World Bank, the total corporate tax burden for US corporations as a percentage of profits is tied with Tanzania for 64th in the world! And our corporate taxes as a percentage of GDP are lower than 22 of 32 of the world’s most advanced nations. Yet the Trump plan would cut the corporate tax rate to just 15 percent, making it one of the lowest tax rates in the world. The plan would also create a territorial tax system permitting multinational corporations to pay tax only on income earned in the US. Just what they need – yet another tax dodge! Additionally, Trump’s proposed tax plan would gift multinationals a one-time reduced tax on the trillions of dollars currently being held offshore.

The Center for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates that the cuts in corporate taxes alone will deprive the federal government of at least $2 trillion in the next 10 years! The administration’s belief is that the cuts in revenue will be offset by a yuuuge spurt of business growth. But that belief is wildly optimistic. Indeed, except in times of deep recession, there is no evidence that tax cuts grow the economy. And, following 8 years of private sector job growth, we are most certainly not in a recession.

If this plan – or anything approaching it – is approved, Grover Norquist will finally realize his dream. The federal government will be starved to the point where he can “drown it in a bathtub.”

* Study by John Hatdioannides of the Cass business school, Marika Karanassou of Queen May University and Hector Sala of the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona and IZA in Bonn.

What Is The Real Goal Of Trump’s Rallies?

Almost immediately after his inauguration, Donald Trump filed the paperwork for his 2020 campaign. And with the election barely over, he has continued to campaign. For what reason?

Some believe that he is simply addicted to the adulation of crowds. But every president draws crowds. And every president benefits from Americans’ respect for the office. (At least every president until now.) I believe the real reason for the rallies is more sinister than mere narcissism. I believe he is trying to further divide the nation; to destroy any remaining credibility for the mass media; to create a personal army of supporters that is immune to the facts; to create an army that is loyal to him, and him alone.

One need only listen to his rhetoric and read his tweets to see his plan in action. He continues to call any news stories that are not complementary to him “fake news.” He calls the Mueller investigation a “witch hunt.” And he continues to foment fear and violence. At his latest rally in front of an adoring West Virginia crowd, he accused his “enemies” of trying to steal his office, asking if they are just going to stand by and watch. That leads me to wonder what he suggests as an alternative to watching. Violence?

Those around him certainly think so.

Trump’s supporters continue to chant “lock her up” in reference to his former election rival. If you dumpster dive (or should I say, Trumpster dive) into the posts of his followers on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere on the Web, you will see numerous threats of violence toward Trump’s political opponents, especially from the so-called “Alt-Right” trolls. White House subordinates like Stephen Miller verbally berate anyone who dares to question or challenge Trump’s political pronouncements. Often they go further.

For example, Trump ally, Roger Stone, recently tweeted: “Robert Mueller plans a takedown of @realDonaldTrump based on trumped up charges but sadly will only begat extreme violence and his own take-down…”

Mueller, Congress, Democrats and the media should take such threats with some seriousness. Many of Trump’s supporters are, after all, heavily armed – many of them are members of the NRA. They are the same kind of bullies who stood behind Cliven Bundy just itching for an excuse to fire on federal officers who were in the process of executing a lawful court order.

If they’re willing to do that for a deadbeat rancher like Bundy, imagine how they’ll react to the sight of the fear-monger-in-chief being led out of the Oval office in handcuffs.

They’ll almost certainly be ready for war, which is likely what his orangeness is counting on. In fact, he is acting exactly like hundreds of despots before him – creating enemies both external and internal; turning citizens against one another; raising doubts about the Constitution; creating distrust of our institutions including the media, the courts and Congress; telling his followers that the “elites” are against them and only he can be trusted to fix things.

I believe Trump presents a very real threat to the future of our nation and the planet.

Now, I expect that many of you will consider this to be hyperbolic. But we’ve never had a president like this before. Yes, we’ve had candidates like George Wallace, David Duke and other equally despicable people. But, though virulently racist, even they seemed more principled than Trump. (They weren’t serial liars and they didn’t look to use the government for personal financial gain.) More to the point, they were soundly defeated. Yet just because our nation has survived other serious challenges is no reason to take this threat lightly. You need only look at the alarm sounded by the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect which draws parallels between Trump and Hitler, noting that Trump has created his own media, exploited youth at a rally, endorses police brutality, demonizes people who believe, look or love differently, stripped vulnerable people of their families, jobs and ability to live, and believes Congress should change its rules to give him more power.

And, if that’s not compelling enough, consider the current sorry status of Venezuela, a nation that modeled its constitution and government after ours. In Venezuela everything changed as the result of a financial crisis and a constitutional convention. (By the way, a Koch brothers’ effort is nearing the number of states required to call for a constitutional convention in the US.)

If dictators can take control in democratic countries such as Venezuela, Philippines and Turkey, a prospective dictator – even one as stupid and outrageous as Donald Trump – could take control here.

An Open Letter To Congress.

Dear Senators and Congressional Representatives:

We understand that it’s hard work to win an election. There’s the fundraising, the canvassing, the fundraising, the travel, the fundraising, the public appearances, the fundraising, the baby-kissing and the butt-kissing, the fundraising, the debates, the fundraising, the media interviews, and, of course, the fundraising.

We also believe that, by electing you, we afford you a great honor – the honor of representing us in our seat of government. Given that, we should expect you to appreciate that honor and to do what you can to live up to your campaign promises. We expect you to follow in the footsteps of our Founding Fathers – people like Franklin, Hamilton, Jay, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe and Washington – to do what’s best for us and our nation.

Unfortunately, that seems to be an increasingly quaint and naive notion as evidenced by an exhaustive study by Professor Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Professor Benjamin Page of Northwestern University.

Gilens and Page collected data on your policy decisions from 1981 to 2002. Their report, “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups and Average Citizens,” concluded that economic elites (the top 1%) and business groups (lobbyists) have substantial impact on your decisions while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little to no influence on your decisions.

In short, the professors found that our democratic republic has become an oligarchy, defined as a small group of people having control of a country or organization. But the Gilens-Page study only confirms what many of us already suspected.

For example, we have seen how members of Congress have prioritized the profits of defense contractors over the needs of our military and over reason itself. We’ve noticed how you repeatedly vote to increase weapons spending despite the fact that the Pentagon cannot account for its spending of more than $7.3 trillion, and despite the fact that our defense budget is greater than that of the next 7 countries combined (5 of which are close allies). And we suppressed our frustration as we watched you vote to require the US Army to purchase tanks and other weapons systems it no longer uses or needs.

We’re all too aware that you seem far more concerned with the profits of pharmaceutical companies and health insurance companies than with the economic and physical health of your constituents. We aren’t blind to the fact that 40 of the lawmakers in your midst held $23 million in shares of health insurance companies as they voted to take health care coverage away from millions of Americans.

We’ve seen how you passed laws prioritizing the desires of Wall Street over the needs of Main Street. For example, in 1999, you voted to deregulate banks, clearing the way for them to gamble with our deposits and pension funds. That decision led to the financial crash and Great Recession of 2008. And yet your GOP members are intent on repealing the regulations enacted to prevent such an event from ever happening again.

We’ve also observed that the majority in Congress is working to eliminate regulations designed to keep our air, water and food clean in order to improve the bottom lines for their large corporate sponsors.

Of course, we have noted that such decisions also improve your campaigns’ bottom lines. Those large corporations reward you with large amounts of money for your re-election campaigns. They pay for junkets to exotic places. They give you tickets to concerts and other galas…the kinds of gifts few ordinary voters can afford.

And though you readily do the oligarchs’ bidding, you hide from your constituents. You avoid town halls. You send letters to constituents that are based on lies. And you have the unmitigated gall to ask your constituents for their money and their support!

Here’s an idea: Instead of beginning fundraising for your re-election campaign the minute you get into office, why not just do the right thing? Why not vote for policies that will help the vast majority of your constituents? Why not vote for better schools, better health care, better roads, safer bridges, better mass transportation and cleaner energy? Why not balance the budget by raising taxes on the fortunate few and cutting taxes for those who are struggling? Why not crack down on those who avoid paying their fair share through the use of offshore tax havens? Why not open your doors to all of your constituents? Not just those with the most money to offer.

Why don’t you treat the office as though you’re in it to serve? Why not prioritize country over party and people over money?

If you do that, believe us, we’ll notice. We’ll ignore your opponents’ attack ads. We’ll contribute to your campaigns. And we will almost certainly vote for you again. And, if you lose to someone better, you can leave office with your head held high knowing that you’ve done everything you can to represent us. You can take solace in the fact that our Founders never intended for public office to become a permanent position. (They sure as hell didn’t expect our nation to become an oligarchy in the mold of Putin’s Russia!)

As reported in John Avlon’s book, Washington’s Farewell, when the father of our nation, George Washington bade farewell to public service, he warned of three things: Hyper-partisanship, excessive debt and foreign wars.

Unfortunately, our nation is now burdened with all three. You may not be personally responsible for creating those burdens. But you can be responsible for ridding us of them…if you just do the right thing.

A Tsunami Of Coincidences.

As more connections between Russia and the Trump camp are exposed, Republicans would have you believe that they are mere coincidence, the product of successful people who operate multinational businesses. That’s an explanation only the chronically naive and the willfully ignorant could accept.

Following is a list of just those connections that have been identified. Even if no further relationships are uncovered, you have to be extraordinarily suspicious of this administration.

For example, President Trump met with Russia’s UN ambassador in 1986 and began pursuing business deals in Russia shortly afterward. The head of Russian-American Chamber of Commerce is a Trump associate. Trump has numerous connections with Russian oligarchs who have rented office space at the Trump Tower and purchased a Florida estate from Trump at nearly three times its value. Trump’s business was rescued during the Great Recession as the result of huge loans from Deutsche Bank after every US bank and other European banks refused to loan him money. (Deutsche Bank was under investigation for allegedly participating in a Russian money-laundering scheme until the Department of Justice suddenly ended the investigation after Jeff Sessions became the Attorney General.)

One of Trump’s former business partners is a Russian Mixed Martial Arts fighter who is also a friend of Putin’s. Trump held the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow hosted by a Russian oligarch who is friends with Vladimir Putin. At that time, it was reported that he met with Putin.

During the campaign, US intelligence agencies were alerted to the existence of a Russian dossier on Trump by British agent who feared it would allow the Russians to compromise the candidate. Trump’s campaign financier, Robert Mercer, has reported business ties to a Russian oligarch. (It must be noted that virtually all Russian oligarchs are friends with Putin.) Also, during the campaign, it was discovered that there was a mysterious Internet connection between members of the Trump campaign and Alfa Bank, the largest private commercial bank in Russia.

Following his inauguration, it was reported that Trump tried to lift the sanctions on Russia. He also called the Preet Bharara, the US attorney who was in the midst of prosecuting a case involving money-laundering. When Bharara refused Trump’s phone call, he was fired by Trump and, following his firing, the case was settled out of court.

President Trump took the extraordinary step to meet with the Russian Foreign Minister and Ambassador in the Oval Office. During that meeting, he leaked classified information about Israeli surveillance of ISIS and told Russians that, having fired that “nutjob” Comey, he was under less pressure.

Further, Trump’s name appeared in the Panama Papers more than 3,500 times. These papers were the result of a long-time investigation into tax evasion through offshore shell corporations, many of them involving Russian oligarchs.

And those are just Trump’s connections to Russia. There are many more involving his cabinet and political associates.

We all know about the investigations into Trump’s former National Security Adviser, General Michael Flynn. He had numerous meetings with the Russian ambassador before and after the election. He was paid to appear on Russian TV and for several speaking engagements in Russia.

Vice-president Pence, who led the Trump transition team following the election, recommended Flynn as the National Security Adviser despite being alerted by the Justice Department that Flynn may have been compromised.

Attorney General Jeff Session failed to disclose multiple meetings with the Russian ambassador during his confirmation hearing, which resulted in him recusing himself from the Flynn-Russian investigation. Nevertheless, Sessions advised Trump to fire FBI Director James Comey.

As a CEO, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson negotiated a deal between Gazprom, the Russian government-owned gas company, and ExxonMobil which would go into effect if sanctions were lifted. In recognition of his efforts, Tillerson received the Order of Friendship Award from Putin. Tillerson also has a personal relationship with the president of Rosneft, the government-controlled oil company.

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross is a one-third owner of a Cypress bank known to hide money for Russian oligarchs. The other two bank owners are known allies of Putin’s.

The brother of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, a friend and confidant of Putin’s. And it was her husband’s company (Spectrum Health) that was linked to the mysterious Internet connection between the Trump campaign and Alfa Bank.

It was recently revealed that Trump son-in-law and very special White House adviser, Jared Kushner is a “person of interest” in the Trump-Russian investigation for having numerous undisclosed meetings with the Russian ambassador before and after the inauguration. Purportedly one of those meetings involved an attempt to set up back-channel communications with the Russian government.

Former Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort, is a former business partner with Ukrainian oligarchs who received sweetheart deals from Putin. He is also a former business associate with a former Russian intelligence agent who is a friend of Putin’s. Manafort was a campaign adviser to a Ukrainian presidential candidate with ties to Putin. And he was a paid lobbyist for Turkey, which is run by a dictator tied to Putin.

Carter Page, who served as a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, met with the Russian ambassador in 2016. He has had multiple contacts with a Russian spy. His business partner is a Russian oligarch. He also owns shares in Gazprom and has met with leaders of Rosneft.

It has been reported that J.D. Gordon, who served as a national security adviser to the Trump campaign, also met with Russian ambassador and then-Senator Jeff Sessions at the Mayflower Hotel during the Republican national convention.

Longtime Trump associate and former campaign adviser, Roger Stone, has received money for numerous appearances on Russian television. More disturbing is the fact that Stone admitted to meeting with Wikileaks and the Russian hackers known as Gucifer over the release of emails from the Clinton campaign and Democratic organizations.

Felix Sater, a Trump business associate pleaded guilty in a stock fraud scheme with ties to the Russian mafia. He was also indicted in a stock fraud scheme with a convicted felon who brokered a $150 million deal with a hedge fund tied to Putin. That same hedge fund invested in the Trump Soho hotel.

Michael Cohen, the longtime lawyer for Trump’s businesses and Trump’s personal attorney, is associated with two Russian-leaning Ukrainians who are now under investigation by the Ukraine for treason.

Last, but not least, Donald Trump, Jr. has business ties to numerous people with Russian connections.

As I wrote at the beginning of this article, you might dismiss one or even a dozen such connections between Trump and Russia as coincidence; the result of operating a multinational company. But I now count more than 50. To dismiss that many as mere coincidence defies logic.