First, the wonderful news: On Tuesday Democrat Doug Jones beat Roy Moore for the open U.S. Senate seat in deep red Alabama. Given Moore’s evangelical affiliation – and his preference for teenage girls and nostalgia for slavery — all one can say is Hallelujah. Although Trump campaigned for Moore, afterward Trump claimed that he knew Moore would lose. As the pathological liar on Saturday Night Live used to say, “Yeah, that’s the ticket!” In reality, it was a resounding defeat for Trump. It cuts the Republican majority in the Senate down to 51/49. It also augurs well for the Democrats to win House and possibly Senate majorities in 2018.
On the sexual harassment front, in a case of poetic justice, on Wednesday the Governor of Minnesota replaced resigning Senator Al Franken with Democratic Lt. Gov. Tina Smith. It’s not Mr. Smith but Ms. Smith goes to Washington. Democrats had been concerned that she would not run in the 2018 campaign for the seat, squandering the advantage of a Democrat filling the seat now and gaining name recognition. But Ms. Smith immediately affirmed she would run in the Fall.
Although Trump had criticized Al Franken for sexual misconduct, Trump seemed to think his sexual harassment issues had disappeared. Then last Sunday, Trump-appointed American ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, said that the women who accused Trump of sexual misconduct “should be heard”. Trump was furious. Any bets as to how long before Haley is fired?
On Monday, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) called on Trump to resign because of the many allegations of sexual misconduct against him. In response, Trump tweeted that Gillibrand would “do anything” for campaign contributions, implying that she was a prostitute. In return, USA Today said that Trump was “not fit to clean the toilets in the Barack Obama Presidential Library….” It’s hard to argue with that.
Trump’s tweet was not the only outrage.
On a 3-to-2 party-line vote, the Republicans on the Federal Communications Commission voted to end net neutrality. Because of course everyone wants the Internet operated to primarily benefit large Internet-connection providers like Comcast and Verizon. About the only good news is that may help end some remaining neutrality regarding Trump himself.
The Trump administration also prohibited the Center for Disease Control from using words like “science-based” and “evidence-based”, apparently on the theory that an agency based on science should not talk about science. If that reminds you of the language Newspeak in George Orwell’s novel 1984, you are not alone.
During testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday by Christopher A. Wray, the Trump-appointed FBI director, a number of Republicans attacked both the FBI and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. They claimed anti-Trump bias, but of course only demonstrated their own bias against the investigation. Why wait for the results you may not like when you can stop the whole process? Wray at lease defended the FBI, although not so much Mueller.
Still, in a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testified that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation was “not a witch hunt” and that he would only fire Mueller for good cause — and that no good cause exists.
As for tax cuts, the Republican Senate and House reconciled their different versions and the agreed-upon version seems certain to pass this week. It remains a bill that will massively increase the U.S. deficit and increase the gap between haves and have-nots. As before, the vast majority of the tax cuts go to corporations and the wealthy. As Billie Holiday sang, “Them’s that’s got shall get, them that’s not shall lose.” The corporation tax cuts are permanent; the individual tax cuts phase out by 2025.
The reconciled bill also still ends the individual mandate for Obamacare. A number of the currently healthy are expected to drop insurance coverage. That will make premiums rise for the others, causing some of them to drop coverage as well. This may result in up to 13 million more people without health insurance.
The tax bill still hurts Americans living in high-tax, high house prices states like New York and California. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that those tend to be states with Democratic majorities. Previously state and local income, sales and property taxes were fully deductible; those deductions will now be limited to $10,000 per year. Previously mortgage interest payments could be deducted on up to $1 million of debt; now that is being lowered to $750,000 of debt. In San Francisco, the median house price is $1.5 million. Here’s a list of what’s in and what’s out of the bill.
While Republicans are gleeful, the bill is the most unpopular piece of major legislation in decades. Republicans may find that that in 2018 the tax bill works against them in elections rather than helping them. This will be especially true if, as expected, the Republicans next turn to cuts in Medicare and Medicaid. As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad“. It’s the only explanation.