Hillary And Russia

James Freeman at Best Of The Web on the WSJ discusses the issue of how much trouble the previous administration should be in over its investigation into The Donald’s campaign and administration.  He is taking issue with the NYT over their recent reporting:

The NYT lays out a dossier-free explanation of the genesis of the federal investigation of the opposition political party [NYT follows]:

During a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, made a startling revelation to Australia’s top diplomat in Britain: Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton. [Emphasis added]

You should read it all if you are a subscriber.  We would like to take a different issue with the NYT: the words startling and revelation.  This is not startling.  It is not a revelation.  If you picked the Patriots to win the AFC East [either 2016 or 2017] at the same time you were not nearly as safe as George.  Is there any sentient being that thinks that Russia and several other countries do not have political dirt on Hillary and The Donald?  Even if you are not certain that Russia hacked Hillary’s email you know that Russia is serious about spying and Hillary is careless.  Of course Russia has dirt on Hillary and The Donald.  The difference is that Hillary knows that the press will keep her dirt under the rug unless somebody like Russia forces the issue.  The Donald doesn’t seem to care about the dirt.  The leverage that the dirt on Hillary would give Russia might matter.

What we can’t understand is why a top diplomat from Australia would be surprised about this.  Was it George’s certainty?  Australia’s diplomats don’t seem very up on world events.  Or perhaps it is the NYT that isn’t up on world events.

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The Donald: 2017

There has been much discussion about evaluating or re-evaluating The Donald because of the things that have happened during the first year of his presidency.  Kevin Williamson at NRO finds it the year of lost opportunities.  Kevin concludes:

That 2017 has been a year of lost opportunities is an important failure for Republicans, who are likely to accomplish even less in 2018, when the prospect of congressional elections held in the shadow of Trump’s unpopularity will brighten the already visible yellow streak running down the back of Republican Washington.

Jonah Goldberg at NRO concludes that the accomplishments should not be attributed to The Donald.  He says:

To listen to Trump’s cheerleaders, the biggest obstacle to conservative victories is the party establishment, when in reality it looks more like it’s running the show.

Ramesh Ponnuru at NRO is much more positive.  He thinks The Donald has been a success on policy matters but hasn’t always made wise choices: Ramesh starts:

Gorsuch confirmed, ISIS defeated, taxes cut: The Trump administration has compiled a solid record of accomplishment in its first year, one that compares well with the records of many of its predecessors.

Daniel Henninger at the WSJ is close to Ramesh.  He says:

The two Trump presidencies exist as parallel universes. One is inhabited by Trump of Twitter, a character out of Rabelais’s novel “The Very Horrific Life of Great Gargantua.” Much of the American population is appalled by Trump of Twitter, who lives in a dark and deeply personal pool of feuds and fulminations. His first-year approval rating floated below 40%, while voters in Virginia and Alabama rejected his candidates, and him.

Existing alongside is a universe of solid, tangible economic success. Reporting on the season’s strong holiday retail sales, this newspaper noted that consumer confidence is at a 17-year high, with unemployment at a 17-year low—a time-frame that turns the Obama presidency into a forgotten memory.

We think it is simple.  The Donald has had an excellent first year.  Except for HW, and we could debate that, he has had the best first year since WWII.  So yes, Truman’s first year was better.

Deregulation is a big accomplishment for The Donald that is mentioned but didn’t make it in the quotes.  In addition we think he has done something that has not been mentioned that has long term importance.  He has not been reluctant to nominate “controversial” folks.  Over the past 40 years the press has made it difficult on GOP nominations.  Our explanation is that folks that are within one standard deviation to the right of center are acceptable but folks that are within three standard deviations to the left of center are acceptable.

Sidebar: Go to Wikipedia and normal distribution and click on standard deviation and coverage for background.  What it implies is that 34% of the folks to the right of center are acceptable but 49.8% to the left of center are.  We are not suggesting that there is any data to suggest that this is the exact ratios but we are convinced that it is a reasonable approximation.  End Sidebar.

We are glad to see the back of some of The Donald’s nominees but people like Betsy De Vos and Nikki Haley have been good and driven the left and the press wild.  See this hit piece on Betsy from the Washington Post.

We think The Donald’s nominees will help to dull the yellow streak that Kevin sees and will give next GOP president more leeway on appointments.   We make few predictions about the future but The Donald has one good year in the books.  With 2018 being an election year there will be even more challenges upcoming.

 

 

Facebook Irony

One of our friends reposted a Facebook item recently.  One of the reasons we started this blog was to be able to respond to foolish things on Facebook because it is too cluttered with political stuff.  We are sure there have been more foolish things but it is hard to imagine something more ironic.  Here it is:

Imagine instead of $1.5 Trillion Tax Bill, they had produced a $1.5 Trillion infrastructure bill.  Take about creating jobs!

Of course The Donald’s Immediate Predecessor (TDIP) did sign a $1.8 Trillion spending bill.  A supporter said:

“This is a bill that protects America, rebuilds it and invests in the future,” she said. “I think it’s a great bill; it’s a result of bipartisan effort [imagine that]. Let’s vote for it, and may the Force be with us.”

The result for TDIP:

With unemployment hovering near 10 percent nearly two years after President Obama signed his economic stimulus package, Mr. Obama is acknowledging that, despite his campaign promises, “there’s no such thing as shovel-ready projects.”

If TDIP can recognize it then everyone should.  Now we will wait for two years as the press gives the president the benefit of the doubt before starting to evaluate the tax cut.  That’s more irony in case you weren’t sure.

Marginal Tax Rates

Yea! Tax reform has passed.  It is mostly about the business side but the GOP has ended up with a reasonable bill on the personal side as well.  Of course the problem is that all the Democrats voted against reducing individual and business taxes so they need to try to explain their position. Jibran Khan (spell check does not like his first name!) has a useful summary over at NRO.

But is is easy to mess up.  Jim Geraghty’s Morning Jolt has this:

Looking at this chart, if you’re married and your joint taxable income is between $400,000 and $416,000 [actually $416,700], your tax rate is changing from 33 percent to 35 percent. (Quick, get your taxable income down to $399,000! Your tax rate will drop to 32 percent!)

Perhaps Jim is being sarcastic but the table isn’t really very useful unless you have an arithmetic addiction like your humble scribe.  Tax rates are marginal so the couple in Jim’s example would pay two percent more on $16,000 of their income or $320 but they would save money on almost every other dollar of taxable income except for the first $18,650.  Situations will vary because the new law changes the computation of taxable income but in the situation that Jim described the couple’s tax would be lowered by $15,558 under the new law.  Remember, tax rates are always marginal.

Essentially ever individual will pay lower taxes under tax reform.  Here is a CATO study that gussies up the results to allocate corporate tax benefits to individuals.  Because there are changes to rates and deductions there might be a few exceptions.  There won’t be many and anybody who says otherwise is misinformed.  And folks will continue to be confused about marginal rates and average rates.

Democracy In Primaries

This morning in the after-handball discussions we agreed with Jay Cost about the problems of primaries.  We identified the challenges of voting in Alabama today and then agreed that the final three in the presidential primaries were thoroughly unimpressive.  We didn’t know that Jay Cost (at NRO) had said about the same thing:

In my judgment, the top three finishers in 2016 among the two parties — Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Bernie Sanders — were manifestly unfit characters to serve as commander in chief.

Jay can be an honorary handball player.  He then says it would be nice to have a solution to this problem we have seen in several presidential primaries and many senate primaries:

It is advisable instead to find some wise, virtuous, and public-spirited intermediate body that will channel the interests of the people into a slate of candidates who can represent the true welfare of the nation.

Yes it would be advisable.  He goes on to say:

It is advisable instead to find some wise, virtuous, and public-spirited intermediate body that will channel the interests of the people into a slate of candidates who can represent the true welfare of the nation.

Perhaps Madison and Jefferson are looking for a new gig.  If not, we will offer our services to both parties.  We share Jay’s concerns about democracy but we don’t see asking smaller groups to make the initial decisions will be any better.  In fact one of the presidential problems is the initial primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire.  Our only solution is equally utopian.  We need a serious, diverse press that helps inform folks making those decisions.  We expect to see weak nominees continue at the state and national level because we don’t see a solution.

Yea Democrats, Boo Press

Al Franken is resigning under pressure from Democrats. The AP says:

Minnesota Sen. Al Franken’s departure from the Senate solves one problem for Democrats, demonstrating their will to push out one of their own when sexual harassment allegations pile up.

Good for the Democrats!  Neither party has covered itself in glory over policing its own but it has been a particular problem for the Democrats since Harry Truman left.  On the other hand, the press wants him to leave as the lion of the Senate.

Sidebar: Yes this is our less subtle dig at the Democrats as Ted Kennedy is often given that mantle.  Teddy is the one who left Mary Jo Kopechne to die, invented Borking, and had problems with females.  He is evidence of the difficulty that Democrats have in policing their own. End Sidebar.

He is a 66 year-old celebrity back bencher who is the poster boy for ballot integrity.  Yet one AP report we couldn’t find online called him a rising star.  Perhaps it was a subtle dig at the Democrats age problem.  Another AP report said:

Franken, 66, had gained respect as a serious lawmaker in recent years and had even been mentioned in talk about the 2020 presidential race.

We had not mentioned Al so don’t blame us.  We expect Cory or Kamala.  Perhaps there is hope for the Democrats but until the press comes around it seems unlikely.

Sexual Harassment

We saw a comment in the WSJ that we need to address.  We have avoiding the topic because it is too complex.  The function goes something like this: Our Anger (OA) = f(number of offenses, type of offenses, dates of offenses, credibility of complaints, power relationships, R or D, private sector or public sector, etc).  We find it too confusing to get involved because we don’t know any of the values of the parameters.  Sometimes we don’t even know the sign.

But when the WSJ said this:

The status quo ante on serious sexual harassment—which is to say, a lot of men got away with it—is over. The new status quo is that it will not be tolerated.

Based on the evidence to date it might be true in the private sector where there have been many firings but it doesn’t seem to be true in the public sector.  Of course, we can argue about the modifier serious but it seems that Al, Tom, and Roy were all involved in serious stuff to us although it would depend on how you judge OA.  Two of them are still office holders and the other is still a candidate.  Unless all three are dismissed shortly we would conclude that the status quo ante has not changed.