Historian: This Tax Bill is Straight Out of 1929

But it goes back even further than Silent Cal Coolidge.  As historian Robert McElvaine notes the subject of trickle down economics was the point of William Jennings Bryan’s 1986 “Cross of Gold” speech.

“There are two ideas of government,” William Jennings Bryan declared in his 1896 “Cross of Gold” speech. “There are those who believe that if you will only legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea, however, has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous their prosperity will find its way up through every class which rests upon them.”

I find studying American history to be strangely comforting because the same impediments to better government and economic and racial justice keep getting raised by the enemies of democracy.  Now that might sound depressing because, well, we keep fighting the same impediments to better government and economic and racial justice.  But the fact that the malefactors of great wealth are so persistent with bad ideas that never work does make them very predictable.  And while we seem to be taking two steps back right now, that’s because for many years we took many steps forward.

In short, despite the absolute blithering nonsense the modern GOP is trying to push on the American people as “improvements”, the pendulum always swings the other way and real progress is made.

During the 1920s, Republicans almost literally worshiped business. “The business of America,” Coolidge proclaimed, “is business.” Coolidge also remarked that, “The man who builds a factory builds a temple,” and “the man who works there worships there.” That faith in the Market as God has been the Republican religion ever since. A few months after he became president in 1981, Ronald Reagan praised Coolidge for cutting “taxes four times” and said “we had probably the greatest growth in prosperity that we’ve ever known.” Reagan said nothing about what happened to “Coolidge Prosperity” a few months after he left office.

In the aftermath of Reagan the country wasn’t awake enough to even wish for another FDR.  In the rubble of George W. Bush, some people finally hoped aloud for the emergence of an FDR.  Now, with the full attack on our democracy being perpetuated by the full force of the Republican party a massive movement of angry and aware voters are ready to be activated.  Virginia was a sample.

If we do indeed crawl back into a recession, or a depression, there will be national wave  that will resemble the 1932 wave.  For a more recent example, it will resemble the absolute marginalization of the Republican party that has taken place in California.

The craziest thing is, as Matt Yglesias notes in Vox, the worst consequences of the current bill could be averted by just cutting the corporate tax rate to 25% rather than 20%.  They just don’t know what they’re doing.

Do GOP Senators Talk to Each Other or are We Just Rubes?

They all come around, although they do have to delude themselves sometimes in order to do so.  But if they couldn’t delude themselves they wouldn’t be Republicans so… see Marco Rubio

But Susan Collins says she’s received assurances from Mitch McConnell that no cuts to Medicare will happen or she wouldn’t vote for the bill.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) told reporters at a breakfast Thursday morning that she secured “a personal commitment” from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) that Congress would avoid deep automatic cuts to Medicare and other federal programs that would be triggered by the costly tax bill up for a vote this week.

How McConnell can give assurances on that is a good question since it would take a 60 vote margin in the Senate to waive PAYGO rules that would trigger those cuts.  This is a game of chicken with Medicare, that people, even Trumpsters, do not like.

After sounding like she was on board, Collins went on to list a few more requirements she has for her vote.  She says she has a bunch of amendments she wants that have to be in there.

“It would be very problematic for me if the SALT deduction is not in the bill,” she said. “It’s extremely important to me. It would be very difficult for me to support the bill if I do not prevail.”

But the way this bill is being jammed through the meat grinder without hearings and with promises being made that may not be able to be kept, Collins may just have to vote on faith.

Of course if Collins is the only GOP no on the bill, then it doesn’t matter and she can go ahead and just safely vote no to protect herself and the bill can pass with 51.

It’s all a Trumpian disaster.

The Laugh Track – One of Those 1950s Things That Made it an Awful Time

Having a great time reading “The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels, and the History of American Comedy” by Kliph Nesteroff.

He notes something absolutely stunning about the sad and sick development of the laugh track, first in radio and then in television and its ubiquity in broadcasting because it comforted executives that didn’t know what was funny and projected that audiences wouldn’t either.

Nesteroff says that the laugh track was almost adopted in movies as well.  Unthinkable huh?  Imagine the great movie comedies of the 50s and 60s with laugh tracks.  Better yet, don’t.

The film Cat Ballou, a 1965 comic western with Lee Marvin and Jane Fonda actually created a version of the film with an added laugh track.  They sent it to a handful of  drive-in theaters (remember them?) to see if that would fly.  Thankfully it didn’t.

That was almost as disturbing as anything I’ve read about our government, war, finance or any of those lesser issues of our time.

God I hate laugh tracks.

For extra credit:  the first sit-com on network TV to not use a laugh track in the modern era was a 1973 show called “Adam’s Rib” with Ken Howard and Blythe Danner based on the Hepburn/Tracy movie.  It was cancelled after one season.  It was ballsy and sadly didn’t take at that time. Many great shows in that early 70s era like “All in the Family” and “Mary Tyler Moore” were shot in front a live audience and “sweetened” with laugh tracks.  It wasn’t until around 2000 that shows trusted the audience enough to do one camera shoots with no laugh track.  See “Malcolm in the Middle”, “30 Rock” et al.


There’s a Reason They’re Republicans

And they always come around to protect their party’s phony baloney jobs.

They benefit from the fawning mainstream media that always loves to normalize conservative thinking (even Nazis), even if they themselves understand it’s wrong.  Media has bent over backwards for decades to be nice to conservatives because of the rabid “anti-liberal media” backlash they would get if they didn’t.  But really, as we all know, that weird, misspelled anger will come anyway.  No matter how many glowing pieces about conservatives the NYT runs they will be the enemy.  No matter how much the WaPo tries to be fair to GOPers, they are hated and demonized.

The Trump/Moore/Bannon era gave these efforts to push noble Republicans forward a new mission and energy.  So many figures on the TV that were so wrong during the Bush years are trotted out to pile on Trump/Moore/Bannon.  They make nice noises now but I never forget that Jennifer Rubin and David Frum are not good people.

And for elected politicians it’s just a festival of love for any Republican who has said even one word of denunciation of Trump.  Corker, Flake, Collins, Murkowski, McCain et al. are looked at as the saviors of democracy, even though they’ve done almost nothing to actually stand in the way of Trump’s idiocracy.  All you have to do is one thumbs down and you’re a hero.  But they all come around.

They all prove over and over again why they self-identify as Republicans in 2017 even after the decades where they too watched the steep decline of that party, their echo chamber in the media and their oligopolistic donors, into the party of Trump/Moore/Bannon.  Silence, or even the occasional whisper, is acceptance.

The thought that “certainly Susan Collins can’t go along with this” is almost always proven naive.

As I mentioned yesterday in regards to Lindsay Graham, the main reason that Republicans of all stripes are pushing a terrible tax bill forward is because they’ve been given an ultimatum by their donors that if they don’t get this done they’ll find other candidates in 2018 and beyond.  This is the definition of being beholden to the handful of massively powerful billionaires that have been the major funding sources of Republican/conservative causes for a long time now.  Most people know them by name now, if you pay attention to news media, despite their efforts to remain in the shadows or anonymous.

Koch Brothers
Robert Mercer
Sheldon Adelson
Ricketts Family
Foster Friess
Paul Singer
Ken Langone
Woody Johnson
Peter Thiel

Between them and a coterie of lesser billionaires that contribute to fund numerous super pacs, GOP politicians are almost entirely dependent on that source of money.  Your Aunt Millie who sends $10 to a politician or a cause because they heard about them on Rush Limbaugh is such an afterthought in Republican circles, completely overshadowed by the ready cash these whales have to blow at a moments notice.

So yeah, if Susan Collins wants to continue a career in politics she too has to come around on a tax bill that will negate her much ballyhooed bravery on the ACA.

Even John McCain, who is looking at eternity and legacy rather than another campaign, is likely to go along, in order to not have his soul eternally damned where it matters for him – at the RNC.

None of these supposed moderate or rational Republicans will move a meaningful finger to stop Roy Moore from taking a seat in the senate or go against their party when it matters.  Tax cuts for the donors and their estates matter more than any other issue in Republican ideological circles.  It’s everything to them.

They’ll go down with the ship and allow the country to emulate Kansas before they’ll jeopardize their sweet, sweet billionaire donor honeypot.

Another Rich White Guy Loses His Job

Pretty dramatic stuff when you tune into a show you watch every weekday morning (not me, but many people) and one of the anchors there for decades isn’t there anymore, just like that.  His co-workers sadly announce that he’s gone – not dead, not sick –  fired!  Because he did something, we’re not sure what.

Starting to be a little like the blacklist era, no?

We believe the anti-Communists.

Lindsay Graham on Tax Bill: I think it’s a delicious mint julep, but if it turns out to be a poop cocktail then just vote us out

On MSNBC just now Graham essentially said that he thinks “the loud people” saying the tax bill will hurt the middle class and poors and bust the budget are wrong.  But if they’re right then “we’ll be voted out and we should be.”

What he didn’t say is that if he’s wrong and the rich really are the beneficiaries of this outrage, as the CBO and every independent tax organization says, then Graham and pals will have such massive war chests from their gratefully even more wealthy donors that they’ll be able to buy endless bullshit ads convincing the public that they did get a tax cut and roses too.  It’ll be downright un-American to vote against the great leaders that voted for this bill.

Democracy in Danger: Net Neutrality, CFPB, Tax Delusions and Koch Bros. Buy Time

Trump’s election alarmed those who already had their antennae up for fascism and kakistocratic idiotic governing, it also awakened many slumbering people going about their business of being apathetic towards whether government even mattered.  It even nudged some of the media to actually reexamine what their mission is in the world and move away from the muck of bothsidesism and horse race politics.

But not nearly fucking enough.

And when the people in power get really motivated to do long term damage to institutions and norms there’s damn few trusted voices to sound the klaxon and say “hey lookie over here! This ain’t right!”

So we all know about how Trump turned our elections on its head by not releasing taxes, or any legitimate medical information, ignoring all norms on conflicts of interest and making the emoluments clause and the 25th Amendment the most searched phrases on Google for months.

With no legislative victories the GOP is even more desperate to enact a tax bill that is a major boon for their donors at the expense of most of the country and potentially the entire economy.  Only 1 of 42 economists thinks the GOP plan will help the economy.

The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau is just the latest government agency designed to protect the citizenry, being twisted to protecting the foxes as they rampage through the henhouse.  This derangement is fixable when sane people get control of government again, and should be stopped if at all possible, but some of the attacks on democracy and effective government are even more disturbing because they may not be easily reversible.  Some even reinforce and entrench themselves so that they self-perpetuate anti-democratic norms.

Trump’s worst “accomplishment” should actually be credited to Mitch McConnell in installing a younger, less collegial Antonin Scalia.  Gorsuch is no less of a conservative ideologue than his predecessor, and much more disliked, already.  But they’ve rammed through the system and into the judiciary an entire array of new judges that are religio-conservative ideologues, at best, and completely unqualified at worst.

Conservatives have long seen the judiciary as the real trenches where laws are made and values are protected.  Politics may move back and forth like a pendulum, but if you have the Supreme Court and the federal appellate courts you can continue to push a pro-corporate, anti-consumer, anti-worker, anti-democratic ideology that continues the societal inequality they believe is proper governance.

But they also figured out the lessons of Goebbels and Goering that whoever has control of the means of distribution of ideas and news can dominate a society, even though they are a minority.  They can even get people to vote against their own best interest by being blinkered by bullshit.  And though they have Fox News and talk radio they’ve sought to take control of more media outlets by consolidating ownership of media and buying up outlets.  So conservative media moguls like Sinclair Broadcasting expand their propaganda into more and more markets.  The Koch Brothers get into media by buying Time, Inc.  The Trump administration tries to force a sale of CNN.  No doubt if it comes to it, a conservative friendly buyer will emerge wearing sheep’s clothing, saying they have great respect for a democratic media.

Russian bot farms demented the 2016 election by infecting the internet with their agit-prop misinformation, but that wasn’t enough so now a full attack on net neutrality rules threatens to change the one truly democratic information distribution medium.  It’s not even a slippers slope, if ISPs can control which sites can flow and how fast, and which can be buried, or just cost more, then we are irreparably fucked.

Combine that control over the dissemination of information and the ability to control the voting rolls and you can kiss the republic promised to us in 1776 goodbye.

No kidding, this is how a group of people who hold a viewpoint only accepted by and benefiting a few can dominate a society.

Cuba is Very, Very, Very Difficult

To not bury the lede, I’ve never been anywhere that I wanted to leave as much as I wanted to leave Cuba.  For about 36 hours before we were “wheels up” I counted us down to “extraction.”

Which is all a shame, of course.  I wanted to have a great time and love Cuba.  I could not.

The people are fine.  There’s a lot of hucksterism as if the entire country is a version of a de-electrified Times Square with characters who noodge you to take a picture with them for money.  Between the taxi drivers who solicit you, the storekeepers who solicit you, the restaurant hype-men who solicit you and then ultimately the faux-quaint, colonially dressed thieves who steal your money for a picture it’s one long grift.


These two felons troll one of the squares in Old Havana in their native garb and charge New York prices for their “service.”  It was our last morning before extraction and we were doing our final shopping excursion for souvenirs.  These women approached us and bum rushed us into photos.  I figured, “what could they want, a couple of pesos, it’s all in fun.”  After we took the three pictures they asked for 10 CUC (convertible pesos, even the money is complicated) per picture.  I laughed, thought, “okay, you got a New Yorker – kudos ladies, kudos!”  I took out 40 CUC, they grabbed it, smiled and walked away.   Thieves!

Thank goodness I had to get rid of that stupid money anyway.   One of the women had a pronounced moustache.  Thief with a moustache!

The people that we met that were wonderful all had sad stories about how they would like to be able to leave to have opportunity.  Our guide around the town one day, Sr. Luis Flanagan (I shit you not, his grandather was Irish and the man’s face looked like it would have fit right in in a bar in Queens, backing up his claim) had spent 8 years in prison for trying to cross the Gulf of Mexico to Florida.  A wonderful musician we met through the music festival we were there to attend was heartbreaking in his plea for help to get a scholarship to an American school so he may be able to study the music he loves in America.  The three most common things we heard from Cubans was:

  • Spend your money with me
  • Our government is awful, I cry at night because I can’t leave this island
  • My favorite revolutionary is Che, Che is my man!

Everybody, no matter how much they bemoan the present government has their favorite revolutionary.  Mostly Che.  But also Camilo Cienfuegos, one of the big three leaders of the revolution that we Americans have never heard of because he died in a mysterious plane crash in 1959.  Luis Flanagan claims Cienfuegos is still alive and living in Florida because he would not go along with the direction of the revolution he saw Che and Fidel taking it.  People here will tell you that the original evolution was a true people’s revolution.  It was only after America turned its back on Cuba that the Soviets stepped in and everything went south.  History backs up that version.

Nobody likes the Castros.  Understandable.  Fidel had to actually run the country and wore out his welcome.  If he had died in 1967 and Che had run the country into the ground Fidel’s likeness would be hung from every taxi rear view mirror today.

The food was uniformly lacking.  We had a couple of okay meals, but in general the food was disappointing and of low quality even in nice places.  Articles warn you to stay away from the street food and government run restaurants because they get the worst quality ingredients, understood.  One morning we went to one of the big hotels to get breakfast because that was the most problematic meal.  (In all of Havana there was no such thing as a breakfast place, a bakery, a coffee shop where you could get a to-go cup of coffee and a pastry, or an egg sandwich, anything remotely breakfasty.  There is no walking around with a cup of coffee.  It doesn’t exist.  Again, ponder a country where there is no such thing as a cup of coffee to go, or a cup of coffee more than 3 ounces.  If you add up every cup of coffee I drank in country over 4 days it probably didn’t add up to one single Starbucks grande.  This may seem petty, but it goes to quality of life.)  So we went to a big hotel thinking they must have a breakfast situation that an American or European would recognize.  For 22 CUC (expensive) there was a buffet breakfast that we indulged in.  But even there at this large, central hotel that would be getting the best provisions the government can offer, the meal was unsatisfying.  They passed off a stale roll with some sugar on it as a doughnut (seriously).  They promised boxes of American cereals, but those boxes were just props, there were no Fruit Loops or Frosted Flakes.  The fruit they offered was wan and unsweet.  Shouldn’t Cuba be able to grow decent pineapples and watermelons?  You would think.  They can’t.

But the biggest offense was just the sense of discomfort because of sanitation issues, a pervasive bad smell in the streets (and in our apartment) and a lack of creature comforts like, say toilet paper.

Our apartment ran out of toilet paper sending us on a city-wide search for that same simple product of fairly common provenance, elsewhere anyway.  For 24 hours we went into every store and asked but they did not have any toilet paper.  We would ask anyone we could grab on the street where we could procure some fucking toilet paper and they would say they didn’t know.  “Do they not use toilet paper?” we started to wonder.

We grabbed toilet paper from the better public facilities that had it (although not all do, and some have no seats as well, to be covered later).  It’s hard to express how what should be a pleasant trip can be ruined by uncertainty about something as simple as toilet paper.

Our travails over toilet paper ended when the apartment’s housekeeper came and restocked our bathrooms.  Relief, literally!  Then a few hours later our water supply stopped.  Toilet paper, but non-functioning toilets.  Frustrating!

About those charming old cars.  They’re there.  We rode in a Studebaker. And spent a day travelling outside of Havana in a 1952 Ford miraculously still on the road.


Not one of these cars is equipped with a simple seat belt.  Ralph Nader would have hated it there.  There are also many motorcycles and I think I saw one legitimate helmet over 4 days.  Mostly Cuban bikers wear the equivalent of the leather helmets worn in the 1929 Yale/Harvard football game.

There are plenty of newer cars too.  My first trip from Jose Marti airport was a disappointing commute in a 2015 Audi.  I saw Audis, Hyundais, Toyotas, Nissans, and some off brand cars too – the Geely and other Chinese made cars and some Soviet made cars too.  All in all the cars, trucks and busses belched nasty diesel fumes everywhere.

I was awakened by a rooster at 6:00AM one morning.  In Havana.

Our day trip to Vinelas, a rural valley three hours from Havana was very interesting.  It was indeed odd to be travelling on highways sharing the road with horse drawn buggies like one huge Amish country.  The sight of horse drawn buggies on the highways was only eclipsed in oddity by the sheer numbers of people standing by the sides of the highway hitchhiking.  Entire families looking for a ride by the side of the highway.   Also unfamiliar was the number of apparently stray animals both in the city and in the country.  Havana is full of cats and dogs that just wander the streets, shitting.  They have no pooper scooper laws there and it wouldn’t help because we saw very few animals actually on leashes.  On the plus side we didn’t see any mice or rats in Havana – it must be the cats.  (Although we did see two dead bird larcasses in the street, no explanation for that.) When you leave Havana you see stray dogs, cats and horses.  Even the farm animals are just there on the side of the road, cattle, goats and horses, grazing with no apparent owners around.  In Vinelas you can add chickens to the mix.  Chickens (of many breeds) were everywhere mixing with the cats and dogs.  Here’s a sample of that.  Cats, chickens and dogs coexisting peacefully.


By the way, everybody I asked about race relations said there were no problems.  Cubans run the gamut from black to white and every shade in between and they claim there are no race issues.  That was cool.  Also, it should be noted as a massive plus that everywhere we went people felt safe at all hours of the day and night.  There were few police and most were unarmed.  You see soldiers in uniforms throughout the country, but they are unarmed.

Back to bathrooms because that ultimately was the straw that broke the shitting camel’s back.  Besides our problems in our apartment there were persistent break downs in public as well.  The below three toilets were sitting outside a public bathroom at a rest stop on the road outside Havana.  I told my travelling companions that that was the public toilet and for a moment they believed me.  That’s how bad it is.


At that same rest stop I approached the actual men’s room and saw the female attendant outside drop a roll of toilet paper on the not very clean floor.  I kept going inside and saw that there was no paper inside the stall.  She handed me the roll that she had just picked up off the floor.  O-kay.

In another instance a bathroom at a well travelled tourist site had no seat.  Ladies, how is your hovering technique?

In a very nice building, where they were holding a reception for the music festival we were attending, a lovely function with great live music, the men’s room toilet had no seat and the top of the tank was a piece of cardboard from a box of local beer.  The sink in that bathroom was a virtual art installation because it did not have running water or a faucet or handles.  Just an inert, useless piece of porcelain sticking out of the wall.

The final, final, final straw was in our waterless apartment on the morning of extraction.  There was a persistent bad odor in the apartment that just haunted me everytime we came back to it.  I finally figured out what it was that last morning.  In the kitchen was a sugar bowl, a bowl of salt and bowl of coffee, provided for the guests to use, I guess.  Each of those containers had tops on them.  In addition to the sugar, salt and coffee was a small cruet of oil, which was open to the air.  The oil inside was rancid and there was a layer of flies at the top.

That smell  had so permeated my clothes that everything I brought to Cuba went right into the laundry upon return.  I even cleaned my shoes with Clorox when I returned because the streets were so third world dirty.

And that’s the bottom line about Cuba.  It is a decidedly third world country without the mitigating force of capitalism that would make a tourist’s experience any better than the average citizen.  In that way they have achieved the equality espoused by the revolution.  Whether citizen or tourist you will cry, despair and hope to leave.