David Cay Johnston

Weisselberg out in Scotland: First indication that indictment affects Trump Organization operations

Allen Weisselberg, the indicted Trump Organization executive, was removed today as a director of Donald Trump's golf resort in Aberdeen, Scotland, public records show. The move is the first to indicate how the indictment is affecting operations of the Trump Organization.

His removal comes as Scottish lawmakers and Avaaz, a global do-gooder organization, are pushing for an "unexplained wealth" inquiry into how Trump got the money to buy and refurbish both of his money-losing Scottish golf courses.

A 2018 British law lets investigators examine company and personal financial records to determine sources of money and riches that they deem suspicious. It's been called the McMafia law.

Trump's Aberdeen course lost nearly $1.5 million (£1.1 million) in 2019, up slightly from 2018. The property has lost money for seven years in a row.

The course also has an interest-free loan from the Trump Organization of $61.1 million (£44.4 million), disclosure documents show. Manipulating interest expenses is a common tax avoidance technique that can justify criminal charges of tax fraud unless executed with extreme care.

There are only two ways Weisselberg could be removed as a director of the Trump International Golf Club Scotland, Ltd. Weisselberg could have done so on his own. In that case, his lawyers may have advised him to do so for reasons not yet clear.

The other way would have been on orders from Donald Trump and executed through his sons Don Jr. and Eric, who remain as the only directors. That, too, may indicate a criminal defense strategic move. Since Weisselberg remains on the Trump Organization payroll it almost certainly does not suggest a split between the interests of Weisselberg and his boss.

The move suggests that Trump may be trying to make sure only he and his family members exercise any legal control over the Trump Organization.

Removing Weisselberg would not block or limit any Scottish inquiry or the investigation by the New York County district attorney's special grand jury, which on July 1 indicted Weisselberg and the Trump Organization.

The New York indictment detailed a calculated 15-year scheme using two sets of books to cheat the federal, state, and city governments out of more than $800,000 of taxes.

Weisselberg and the Trump Organization face 15 counts of grand larceny, tax fraud, and conspiracy. Weisselberg could get 15 years on conviction, but he also could get probation without even home confinement. None of the crimes Weisselberg is charged with come with a mandatory prison sentence upon conviction.

Weisselberg pleaded not guilty when brought in handcuffs before a state judge in Manhattan. The judge released the 73-year-old chief financial officer of the Trump Organization on his own recognizance.

The 25-page indictment is the first in what I'm sure will be multiple cases as prosecutors try to persuade insiders that they will be better off turning state's evidence than sticking with Trump.

Those who agree to help prosecutors early on get the best deals, often involving no prison time. Those who hold out may face prison even if they eventually cooperate. The indictment signals that prosecutors have solid evidence against tax cheats in the Trump Organization as well as anyone who took part in manipulating business records cold should they choose to seek their indictment.

As I read it, the indictment hints at future charges against Trump's two oldest sons, Ivanka Trump and Weisselberg's son Barry, who runs the ice rink and carousel in Central Park for Trump.

Mayor Bill de Blasio is trying to cancel that lucrative contract and another Trump has for a municipal golf course.

Ivanka was a Trump Organization vice president when she was paid more than $700,000 in consulting fees, which may be a disguised gift subject to tax.

Barry Weisselberg got a free apartment near Central Park, a car, and other perks on which his ex-wife has said no taxes were paid. Jennifer Weisselberg is cooperating with prosecutors, supplying them with extensive financial documents.

Donald Trump and his lawyers have tried to minimize the criminal charges while not disputing that Weisselberg received $1.7 million in noncash compensation that was never reported to tax authorities as required by law.

I critiqued Trump's cavalier attitude in this earlier column.

The United Kingdom requires private companies, like the Trump Organization, to make more disclosures than American law requires, including total revenue (called "turnover") and profits, fees paid to directors, dividends paid to owners, and loans outstanding.

In America, only companies with publicly traded stock or bonds must make such disclosures. As Donald Trump's personal property, the Trump Organization and its more than 500 affiliated enterprises are not required to make similar public disclosures in America.

How Congress — and your wallet — subsidize the richest Americans

ProPublica scored a fantastic scoop when it obtained and meticulously analyzed 15 years of raw income tax data on the wealthiest Americans. This leak of Internal Revenue Service records is by far the biggest and most important tax news in the 55 years that I've reported on taxes.

Thanks to the leaker, we now know beyond any doubt that the endless claims America has a progressive income tax system are bunk. A progressive system means that the more you make, the greater the share of your income you pay in taxes. Back in 2005, I got the George W. Bush administration to acknowledge that the system stops becoming progressive near the top.

But, unfortunately, ProPublica shows that it's even worse than what I reported back then.

Working people pay a larger share of their income in tax than the wealthiest of the wealthy. The top marginal tax rate on labor income is almost double that of capital gains.

A system in which people who gross about $330 a week pay a much higher tax rate than someone who makes billions each year is not just regressive; it's an outrage.

Jeff Bezos, the richest man in America, paid no income tax in 2007 and 2011. He doesn't dispute that.

Bezos was not alone. Multi-billionaires Elon Musk, Michael Bloomberg, Carl Icahn and George Soros all pulled off the same trick at least once in recent years, ProPublica reported after analyzing the IRS data. Warren Buffet pays less in tax than millions of Americans, something he and Soros have said is wrong.

Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor and owner of the financial data and news business bearing his name, paid over five years an income tax rate lower than that of the poorest half of American taxpayers.

Bloomberg Pays Just 3%

On his income tax returns, Bloomberg reported making $10 billion. Yet, he paid just 3%.

The bottom half of income taxpayers averaged $17,200 of income in 2017 and paid 4%.

A system in which people who gross about $330 a week pay a much higher tax rate than someone who makes billions each year is not just regressive; it's an outrage. It violates principles of taxation that date to the Old Testament and ancient Athens.

I couldn't help but notice that my wife, a charity CEO, and I pay a higher income tax rate than Bezos, Bloomberg and Buffett.

By the grace of Congress, those billionaires get to take unlimited losses when they make losing stock investments while Jennifer and I—and you—can deduct only $3,000 a year. So even if my wife and I live into our 90s, we will die with losses we never got to deduct.

That's just the kind of unfairness Professor Dorothy A. Brown compellingly demonstrates in her insightful and readable new book The Whiteness of Wealth.

Until now, the Wealth Defense Industry—armies of accountants, lawyers and wealth managers who specialize in using trusts, tax loopholes, off-shore corporations and foundations to benefit their 0.05% clients—tricked people. They pointed to posted tax rates, not actual rates paid by the super-super-super rich, and asserted with cherry-picked data that the rich pay a lot.

Salaried Workers Pay More

The granular data ProPublica obtained proves that the tax rates Congress puts in the law and the tax rates people pay only match up for working Americans in the bottom 99.5%.

Congress taxes workers much more heavily than billionaire capitalists who, ProPublica showed, can live income tax-free.

All of the people ProPublica wrote about are white men. Professor Brown of Emory University shows how our existing tax system favors wealth above income and discriminates against Black Americans. The design of our tax system plays a significant role in the vast wealth disparities between white Americans and people of color.

ProPublica's reporting backs her up. It showed that for most Americans, annual income taxes far exceed yearly increases in wealth.

Good Debt

At the apex of American wealth, you can live tax-free, as I showed many years ago. That is thanks to rules favoring the rich, loopholes Congress refuses to close and minimal enforcement of our tax laws against the plutocrat class.

One simple technique is borrowing against your assets. Congress doesn't count that borrowed money as income.

For example: Let's say you're a 60-year-old founder-CEO holding $10 billion of stock in your company, which grows in value at a modest rate of 5%, or $500 million, a year. You determine that you can live comfortably on $50 million a year.

You then borrow that money, putting that much of your holdings up as collateral.

Do you see where this is going? You can borrow and live on $50 million a year every year for the rest of your life without paying a cent of federal income tax.

It gets better. The IRS determines interest rates on intra-family loans. The current rates are next to zero, less than even our modest inflation rate. Given that, why would anyone sell stock and pay a 20% tax rate to buy a yacht or a new jet when they can borrow against themselves almost interest-free and watch their stocks keep rising in value?

Hunting for the Leaker

The Biden White House announced late Tuesday that law enforcement is hunting for the leaker, who faces up to a decade in prison.

Whoever dared to do this should be hailed as a national hero on a par with Darnella Frazier, the fearless teenage girl with a steady hand who last summer recorded the slow, agonizing murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

We should be building statues to honor this leaker, if he or she is ever identified, just as we should erect one to honor Remy Welling, the IRS corporate auditor whose leak to me 17 years ago proved corruption in the Silicon Valley stock options system.

Thanks to ProPublica and its source, maybe Americans will at long last wake up and realize that our federal income tax, as currently designed, is a massive subsidy system for the super-rich.

And the source of those subsidies for Bezos, Bloomberg, Buffett, Musk and other multibillionaires? That would be you.

Here's the truth about COVID inflation

Lots of luck right now trying to find a bicycle for under a thousand dollars. And if you insist on building a new house right now the price of lumber will be dear, adding perhaps $4,000 to construction costs for a typical home.

But don't assume that ruinous inflation is on the way. It's not. These are just temporary bumps and those who just wait a bit will see prices fall back.

It may be hard to appreciate this given all the scary stories in the news about inflation, stories that often lack context and nuance. But don't be scared.

And don't pay attention to the brief ups and downs in the price of stocks because half of American stock trading is done not by investors but by traders whose computers move so fast they can be in and out of a stock in less than a second. Besides, stocks don't make goods or services so they aren't part of the economy that creates jobs and produces paychecks.

Yes, the news is full of unsettling stories about inflation, but if you read carefully, you'll notice that the talk is about prices rising perhaps 4% this year. Not a big deal.

Indeed, the highest inflation rate ever in our country was 29.8% in 1778. Since 1913, the highest rate was 19.7% in 1917, according to Investopedia. In 1946, inflation was 18.1%

In 1979 and 1980 combined, prices rose by a quarter. Now that would be scary today, but that is not what is happening.

Post-WWII Boom

This is more like 1946 when soldiers and sailors came home and wartime rationing left huge deficits in people's demand for goods. No cars or trucks had been built in America, other than to prosecute World War II, since 1941. People were getting married, so they needed homes and apartments and there was a boom in babies that lasted until the end of 1964. That made prices soar even though the economy fell into a brief recession as we moved from a wartime economy to a peacetime economy.

That was then; this is now. The pent-up demand from the pandemic is for only 15 months, not almost four years as in the 1940s.

Also, today, we have 8.2 million fewer jobs than before the Covid pandemic. We should have added another three million or so jobs since the coronavirus first appeared in America. That means millions of households are struggling just to pay the rent and eat. But for the social safety net spending under both Trump and Biden, we would be in a very deep recession. Instead, our economy grew 6% in the first quarter, roughly double the growth under Trump in his first three years.

Working, Spending Less

At the same time many millions of households, a large majority of them, continued working. Their spending fell, however, because they didn't have to go into work. They stopped going out to restaurants as they ate at home. Dry cleaners saw their customers evaporate. These people deferred spending on vacations and big purchases like cars and trucks.

Some of those who kept on working paid down or paid off their debt. Others added to their savings. In both cases they are primed to spend. That will mean a surge in consumption, but it won't last.

'Price Indifferent'

These folks can afford to be what economists call price indifferent. They may not be happy about it, but if the price of a bicycle doubles, they can just hand over the money. That won't go on for long. Bicycles are still being manufactured and once the surge in demand is fulfilled retailers will no longer be able to charge premium prices.

For the 12 months ending in April overall inflation, before adjusting for seasonal factors, was 4.2%, according to the government Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's the highest rate in this century, but it's not ruinous.

Used Car Prices Zoom

Prices of used cars and trucks accounted for a third of the inflation in the past 12 months. These prices were up 10% in April, the government reported. Prices surged because people who have put off buying used vehicles rushed to market as the economy and jobs began opening.

The prices of some foods are up right now because after 15 months of limited mobility, some shortages of crop workers and weather, both droughts and deluges. Trump's tariffs that savaged the price of American soybeans and enriched Brazilian soybean farmers also played a role.

These are temporary effects. We always see such temporary effects after a major shock to the economy.

We still have a shortage of money in the hands of most Americans. Purchasing by those who were able to save a great deal more during the pandemic in the short term is causing this blip of inflation.

Think Peaches vs. Plums

This is pretty much the same effect we see when bad weather ruins the peach crop and prices rise so much that many people decide to eat plums, apricots or apples instead. Likewise, when a bumper crop of peaches hits the market and prices fall, people by fewer plums, apricots and apples.

The key reason inflation is not going to turn long-term and ruinous is the huge excess cash held by those toward the top of the income and wealth ladders. They have far more cash than can be profitably invested. Just a year ago there was serious talk the banks might start charging people to hold their cash, which we have seen in a very limited fashion in Europe.

America is so awash in cash, though highly concentrated cash, that banks pay a tiny fraction of 1% on savings accounts. If you have $25,000 in your bank it may pay just 20-cents interest each month.

That's because demand for cash in the business world is extremely weak compared with the oceans of greenbacks being held in checking, savings and money-market accounts.

Every day, banks pitch mortgages to people with solid credit scores at about 2% interest. Back in the early 1980s, mortgages ran 12% to 14%.

So, if all the flowers budding in the warming Spring weather are making you desire a new bicycle, just hold off for a bit. Ride your old bike, arrange to borrow your neighbor's or take a walk. As soon as the people who are price indifferent have fulfilled their demand for new bikes, prices will fall back.

How the US Postal Service helped deliver a win to Amazon in defeat of union

After the failed union vote at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama, the critical postmortems ignored a reality that may result in another election: Amazon cheated.

And Louis DeJoy, the Trump-era holdover dismantling the U.S. Postal Service, helped.

A National Labor Relations Board hearing on Friday will consider a request for a new vote sought by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. The union complaint alleges a campaign of intimidation to pressure employees to reject the union.

The labor board has a long history of looking the other way when given evidence of cheating by employers in union elections. But this time may be different because of who helped cheat — from local on up to national officials.

The Jeff Bezos company installed a drop box to collect votes on company property despite being told by the labor board staff not to do so.

Drop boxes were placed with the connivance of the service led by DeJoy. Former President Donald Trump installed this high-rolling donor to worsen mail delivery during the fall presidential election Trump was hellbent to win. Less mail, less votes; less votes, less competition, perhaps.

Here, we use the pejorative connivance because the drop box installed inside Amazon's Bessemer parking lot did not carry any postal insignia.

Amazon can leverage the Postal Service because Amazon has fattened it.

The Postal Service generated nearly $4 billion in revenue from Amazon in 2019 and counted an eye-popping $1.6 billion of that in profit. The volume of business Amazon delivered grew bigly last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

This reliance on Amazon for high profits likely explains why, beyond his well-documented anti-union animus, DeJoy would help Amazon fight the union.

A pro-union worker, Jennifer Bates, told reporters last month that colleagues at the Bessemer Fulfillment Center were reluctant to deposit ballots in the mysterious drop box that suddenly appeared in the parking lot.

Workers Feared Amazon

"Some of the people are afraid to put them in there," Bates said. "The 'yes' voters feel that Amazon will probably try to steal their ballots."

Labor lawyer Brandon Magner tweeted: "If Amazon did install these mailboxes, or if they exercise control over the mailboxes, such as having a key to the ballot box, that would clearly merit setting aside the election if the union were to lose."

During the voting, from Feb. 8 to March 29, Amazon demonstrated just how crucial controlling the Bessemer warehouse parking lot — and what went on inside it — was to the company.

'Coercion and Intimidation'

The union made the following claims:

  • Amazon hired police officers to patrol the parking lot and surveil interactions between employees and union organizers. The constant presence "created an atmosphere of coercion and intimidation thereby interfering with the right of employees to a free and fair election."
  • The company used local government officials to change policies governing employees exiting the workplace. Amazon got the timing on a traffic light located outside the facility changed so union organizers wouldn't have much time to approach departing workers.
  • Workers were forced to sit through hours of mandatory indoctrination meetings. These sessions, often are used by companies to scare workers into believing their jobs will disappear if they vote for a union. The tactic is often effective with workers who have not yet experienced the benefits of collective bargaining.

Without a union, individual workers have no power. And while some who voted against the union told journalists after the vote that Amazon paid them well, the issue is whether it should pay them even better along with improving their benefits and work rules.

Record Profits

Last year, Amazon reported a profit of $24.2 billion before taxes, up from $13.9 billion in 2019 and almost 10 times its 2016 pretax profit.

Amazon pays little in federal income tax. In 2020 its "effective federal income tax rate of just 9.4%, less than half the statutory corporate tax of 21%." So said Mathew Gardner of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy earlier this year when Amazon announced its latest financial success.

Amazon has been so successful that a dollar invested when it first sold stock in 1997 has now grown to $2,300, making it one of the most fantastically profitable investments even in this era of high profits in high tech.

While the company doesn't want to share more of its gains with the blue-collar Americans whose labor makes its profits possible by quickly fulfilling orders, it does lavish money on its executives. One reason to favor the top is that the way Amazon pays executives provides a stealth financial and tax subsidy.

Costly Stock Options

The company showered so many valuable stock options on its highest-paid people that the tax savings alone came to more than $600 million last year, Gardner calculated.

Stock options save companies on corporate income tax. The companies get to deduct their value even though the cost is borne by existing stockholders. The stockholders' share of the company is diluted by the new shares given to executives. In other words, it's a tax deduction that costs the company nothing.

Options are also a form of compensation that cost the company nothing, unlike the hard cash it must pay out to rank-and-file workers like those at the Bessemer warehouse.

What's most troubling about this union election is that a federal government corporation worked with management against the workers. That's a troubling sign of authoritarianism.

Remember Amazon worked in concert with the Postal Service to install the drop box to collect ballots on company property. The service acted after staff at the labor board, the federal agency tasked with protecting the rights of American workers in the private sector, told them they couldn't do it. But just as it pressured workers, Amazon pressured the service into pleasing Bezos, the richest person in America.

No Answers

Dave Partenheimer, a postal public relations manager, would not talk about who ultimately gave the go-ahead to install the drop box in the Amazon warehouse parking lot.

Partenheimer declined to say whether the service knew that the labor board already denied Amazon's request for such a drop box. He also declined to identify who ultimately approved installation.

Instead, Partenheimer reiterated an earlier statement about a "Centralized Box Unit [CBU] with a collection compartment" being "suggested by the postal service as a solution to provide an efficient and secure delivery and collection point."

The labor board isn't talking about the drop box either, at least not while it considers the 23 separate objections filed by the Retail Store, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

Labor board spokeswoman Kayla Blado declined to comment on whether the Postal Service has the authority to supersede her agency's decisions. She would not even confirm that the agency did, in fact, deny Amazon's request to have a ballot drop box installed on its property.

DeJoy Strikes Again

The persistent controversy about the drop box and the Bessemer vote overall, however, parallels the madness that surrounded mail-in ballots during the last presidential election. DeJoy ordered the removal of mail sorting machines in the run-up to the vote, while the rest of the Trump administration whined about the supposed inability of the Postal Service to properly deliver ballots.

Trump also complained throughout his four years in office that the Postal Service was subsidizing Amazon. This was to advance his attacks on the aggressive reporting by The Washington Post, which Bezos owns, but whose newsroom he has never influenced according to the top editor and reporters working there.

We now know that the prices Amazon paid generated outsized profits for the Postal Service, exposing yet another Trump lie only a few Americans, like DCReport readers, know.

Fought Mail-in Votes, Then Didn't

At first, Amazon fought hard to block mail-in voting in the General Election. It dismissed the potential dangers of in-person voting during the pandemic. Then it reversed course and challenged the ability of the Postal Service to deliver mail-in ballots in a timely fashion. Taken together it was a classic case of Amazon talking out of both sides of the company's mouth.

Lisa Y. Henderson, the labor board's acting Region 10 director, dismissed the company's contradictory arguments in January and ordered that balloting be conducted by mail.

How the labor board rules, and whether the long list of federal rules that hobble union organizing, will be addressed by President Joe Biden's administration. Decisions will be crucial to whether Americans as a whole prosper, or we continue to create inequality through policies that tilt heavily to the side of business owners and investors.

The struggle between American workers and the bosses has been, and continues to be, fantastically lopsided.

The Economic Policy Institute's Unequal Power Project, for instance, notes an "inherent imbalance in bargaining power between employers and employees" that creates "a lack of freedom in the workplace."

Pro-union workers at Amazon's Bessemer warehouse remained undaunted after losing the initial vote, declaring, "This battle has just begun."

"I'm not discouraged," Linda Burns told reporters after losing the vote by a more than 2-to-1 margin. "This is the beginning. [Jeff] Bezos, you misled a lot of our people. We're going to fight for our rights."

Co-worker Emitt Ashford said if the labor board does order a new election, "We would see a change in the tide now that people have the information."

"We would win," he said.

A new plan to combat money laundering starts by beefing up an existing federal crime-fighting department

Money laundering, both for terrorist finance and tax evasion, threatens national security. Now a private group that watches the quality of anti-money laundering efforts has put forth a smart plan to modernize and upgrade our government's capacity to track illicit cross-border financial transactions.

This is news you will be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.

Global Financial Integrity has a plan, and it's a good one, to better America's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. FinCEN, as it's known, is a critical government agency housed at Treasury and staffed heavily with IRS financial sleuths. It doesn't get nearly the respect or budget it deserves.

Global Financial Integrity is itself an underappreciated Washington nonprofit funded by a host of sources including the Ford Foundation and five governments, though not the United States. On a budget of not much more than $1 million per year, it has done solid work calling attention to the growing problem of illicit finance.

At least $40 trillion of illicit money sloshes around the globe…maybe $50 trillion.

Jim Henry, DCReport's economics correspondent, has spent decades documenting the flow of illicit money. He estimates from analysis of official banking and trade documents that at least $40 trillion of illicit money sloshes around the globe. The total may be $50 trillion.

To get an idea of the gigantic size of that bag of corrupt money consider this: Henry's lower-end estimate almost equals the combined annual economic output of the world's two largest economies, America and China.

Global Financial Integrity, in a report titled "Enhancing National Security by Re-imagining FinCEN," makes these recommendations:

  1. Give the FinCEN director a seat on the Deputies Committee of the National Security Council (NSC) to raise the agency's stature within the national security community.
  2. Create within FinCEN a National Anti-Money Laundering Data Center for advanced data collection, synthesis, analysis, and distribution to law enforcement for AML activity.
  3. Establish a "Manhattan Project" to identify, develop and use state-of-the-art technologies needed to fulfill the technology for that data center.
  4. Launch within FinCEN a National Anti-Money Laundering Training Center which will be an anti-money laundering knowledge and education hub for FinCEN staff, financial institution regulators, law enforcement at the federal, state, and local levels and for both state and federal prosecutors.
  5. Create a Strategic Analysis Team to examine emerging and long-term trends in money laundering methods and computer technologies to counter those threats.

Those are superb ideas all. But will Congress care?

A core problem with hunting for terrorist finance is that the tools used to sift through billions of transactions involving trillions of dollars are the financial equivalent of trawling the ocean bottom for cod. Trawlers catch plenty of cod, but they also drag in many unwanted species.

Tax Cheats Off the Hook

The George W. Bush administration was averse to a serious hunt for big-league tax cheats. It disconnected from a nascent movement by major countries to coordinate their tax policies, a boon to tax cheats. It even refused to hire 80 more IRS investigators to hunt for transactions by Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups in the wake of 9/11.

Source: UN Office on Drugs and Crime

The official excuse was that taxpayers couldn't afford an extra $12 million in spending. That is an absurdity when trillions were being spent on the wars in Afghanistan, still underway, and Iraq. But the funding denial made perfect sense if you knew that anti-money laundering nets catch tax cheats along with terrorists. And since the political donor class is rife with tax cheating, catching tax cheats can be inconvenient for politicians in power, and fellow party members, as a Congressional staffer recently reminded me.

In writing about money laundering in casinos since 1988, in my coverage of taxes since 1995, and on terrorist finance after 9/11, I developed a deep appreciation for the unsung work of FinCEN – and recognition of its weaknesses.

More People, Better Tech

What is needed now to strengthen FinCEN: more staff, super-sophisticated computers on par with the National Security Agency, and, most of all, adding a seat for FinCEN at White House National Security Council meetings.

A FinCEN director once told me that given enough time and resources his staff could find a single $19.99 credit card transaction anywhere in the world. The 9/11 attacks were cheap, costing only about $100,000. We shouldn't forget that relatively small expenditures can be used to cause enormous harm.

To find the little transactions behind big attacks in the future FinCEN needs enormous computer power to separate golden nuggets of fact from the massive overburden of routine financial transactions. FinCEN also needs to be set free to find not just terrorists, but tax cheats.

With trillions of dollars of illicit money in the hands of criminals, kleptocrats, and terrorists, and hundreds of billions of dollars of federal income taxes evaded each year, it's long past time to upgrade FinCEN.

Former Yale psychiatrist sues university — says she was fired for efforts to expose Trump's mental illness

As Dr. Bandy X. Lee's frequent publisher, we, the editors of DC Report.org. believe she has made vital contributions to our understanding of public mental health and the damaging effects of a deeply mentally ill individual, Donald Trump, holding the most powerful position in the world.

Trump's delusions, which are well-documented and go back decades, have resulted in the spread of baseless conspiracy theories, numerous acts of deadly violence and the failed attempt to overthrow our government on Jan 6. These assaults continue although there are indications that some Trump followers who embraced his delusions appear to be recovering from their own temporary loss of rationality and mental well-being.

Yale University fired Dr. Lee, an established professor on its medical school faculty, citing the misnamed "Goldwater Rule." That policy directs mental health professionals to hold their tongue about the mental well-being of officials, something American citizens do every day around their kitchen tables, in public forums and on national television. To deny the citizenry the insights of educated mental health professionals is more than absurd, it is an attack on the very principle of American democratic self-governance.

Trump's delusions, which are well-documented and go back decades, have resulted in the spread of baseless conspiracy theories, numerous acts of deadly violence and the failed attempt to overthrow our government on Jan 6. These assaults continue although there are indications that some Trump followers who embraced his delusions appear to be recovering from their own temporary loss of rationality and mental well-being.

Yale University fired Dr. Lee, an established professor on its medical school faculty, citing the misnamed "Goldwater Rule." That policy directs mental health professionals to hold their tongue about the mental well-being of officials, something American citizens do every day around their kitchen tables, in public forums and on national television. To deny the citizenry the insights of educated mental health professionals is more than absurd, it is an attack on the very principle of American democratic self-governance.

All Americans should be deeply disturbed at Yale's implicit attack on robust public debate by punishing Dr. Lee and seeking to intimidate other well-informed mental health scholars about our elected leaders and their fitness to hold office. This is especially so for any president because his finger is on the nuclear button.

We have published more than 40 articles by Dr. Lee and expect to carry more of her work. We believe every one of her opinion columns and interviews falls well within the boundaries of the highest standards of responsible journalism. Her writing also advances our mission, which is to cover what politicians do, not what they say, and to encourage citizens to act like the owners of our government.

Lawsuit Filed

On Monday, Dr. Lee filed a lawsuit against Yale for wrongful termination, as the student-run Yale Daily News reported today, March 23.

Her complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Connecticut, asserts that "Yale violated its contractual obligations to Dr. Lee and violated the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Yale further committed the tort of negligent misrepresentation by not adhering to its policies on academic freedom, upon which Dr. Lee had relied."

We hope that the trustees and academic leaders at Yale University cease their attack and acknowledge their error and that they embrace the fundamental principle of American democracy which depends on rational and reasoned debate, not dogma like the misnamed "Goldwater Rule."

Her lawsuit notes that the American Psychiatric Association reinterpreted its "Goldwater Rule" shortly after Trump became president.

'Gag Order'

"The reinterpreted Goldwater Rule created a gag order, recommending that its members not comment on public figures… even where there is a responsibility to society to protect public health," unless these politicians have submitted to psychiatric evaluation, her complaint states, noting that the APA is a voluntary professional organization of psychiatrists, not a regulatory body with government powers. She was last a member of that organization in 2007.

Dr. Lee says, and we agree, that the APA's new interpretation of the rule is "in conflict with [the] duties, responsibilities, and role in the interest of public health in light of her belief that Donald Trump posed a dangerous threat to this country and the world. For this reason, she held an ethics conference at Yale in April 2017 with some of the most respected members of her profession. This conference initially had approximately two dozen attendees and then drew national attention and led to the public-service book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President."

That book became a New York Times bestseller.

While Yale did not sponsor the conference, Dr. Lee discussed the conference in advance with Yale, and Yale provided an auditorium without charge, making her firing all the more incoherent and indefensible academically, politically and morally.

Dr. Lee's more than 40 opinion pieces and interviews, some of them co-authored by other eminent authorities in mental health, can be read by clicking on this DCReport.org link.

DCReport is a reader-supported nonprofit and advertising-free public service journalism organization led by former senior and widely respected journalists from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and other serious news organizations.

Gov. Abbott and other Republicans are letting power companies get away with highway robbery

The pocketbooks of electricity customers across America are under renewed assault by politicians and friends in the electric power generation business.

Unless America restores a sound economic and legal principle that has protected both consumers and electricity companies for more than a century, Texans and the rest of us can expect bigger and bigger electric bills and possibly more ruinous price gouging.

Odds are you haven't heard that in the news. No one announced it, and most journalism is about covering official announcements. At DCReport we look at facts and decide what we think you need to know. Policies and facts affecting how much you pay for electricity each month are typically news only after a crisis, not as an ongoing news story.

Regulation of electricity is based on the principle of "just and reasonable" rates. That means consumers pay prices they can afford while investors are assured a reasonable profit, typically a 10% or so return on their assets. Half the states still follow this principle, but half do not.

'Unjust, Unreasonable'

This principle is so thoroughly enshrined in American law that courts have held that when a utility earns a single dollar more than earned, the profit is "unjust and unreasonable."

Texas politicians last week delivered the latest blow to this sound economic principle following the winter freeze debacle that left millions without power and, eventually, water.

Texas electricity producers charged an extra $47 billion during the Feb. 14-19 freeze. Only $10 billion of extra charges were imposed in all of 2020.

It turns out that a third of these extra charges were bogus. Yet amazingly, Texas regulators plan to let power producers keep the $16 billion they improperly overcharged.

$550 for Every Texan

The overcharges average $550 per Texan. Steal that much just once in the Lone Star state and you can get a fine of up $2,000 plus a six-month stay at the local sheriff's gray-bar hotel.

Harsh as Texas is on criminals, it goes all soft and fuzzy when it comes to businesses ripping off millions of people for $550 each.

The mistake enabling the overcharges was made by the grid operator, the Energy Reliability Council of Texas. Six of the council's seven members, who do not live in Texas, said they were resigning.

The $16 billion of improper overcharges took place during the final 33 hours, the company that monitors compliance with the Texas rules revealed. Not correcting this "will result in substantial and unjustified economic harm," wrote Chris Bivens, a vice president of Potomac Economics, the Texas market monitor.

$9,000 per Megawatt Hour

Ironically, about $1.5 billion of the overcharges were paid to electric generating station owners to produce electricity in freezing weather, according to Potomac Economics.

For those 33 hours producers sold power at the maximum allowable price of $9,000 per megawatt-hour. The average cost of producing each megawatt ranges from roughly $11 to $37 dollars depending on what fuel is used.

During the freezing weather, the costs of generating power did not go up much or at all. But so many power plants shut that those still running were allowed to boost their prices sky-high.

The typical residential customer in America uses electricity by the kilowatt. For a megawatt, a unit 1,000 times greater, the typical residential cost is in the range of $130.

But Texas electricity generators charged almost 75 times that much. Price markups on that scale are so one-sided that the law treats them as unconscionable, and judges often refuse to enforce such contracts.

Too Complicated

Correcting the overcharges would just be too complicated, Arthur C. D'Andrea, the Texas Public Utilities Commission chairman, announced. "It is impossible to unscramble this sort of egg," D'Andrea said last week.

That's nonsense. It's actually easy.

Letting the excess charges stand would also be bad for attracting digital industries to Texas, a major goal of Gov. Greg Abbott. His administration is courting Silicon Valley firms because California housing prices are so high it's hard to attract young workers. But digital industries require electricity that is both reliably available and predictably priced and Texas just proved it can't deliver.

Electricity shortages are almost certain to worsen in the next few years, as we reported on Feb. 19.

Evidently, PUC chairman D'Andrea didn't get the governor's memo on bringing digital firms to Texas.

Regulation is a dirty word to Abbott and other top Texas officials, Republicans all. But because of its unique nature, electricity regulation is crucial because the modern world runs on it and it is created and used in the same instant.

Electricity is what most distinguishes us from the ancients. People in ancient Athens, Rome and other cities had paved streets, lodging houses, restaurants, retail shops and even resorts. What they lacked were the electrons needed for automobiles and jetliners, night lighting, elevators, refrigerators and computers.

Texans Facing Bankruptcy

Some Texans are faced with depleting their savings, drawing money from their retirement savings, mortgaging their homes or filing for bankruptcy even though they used the same or less power during the freeze as on other days.

The Texas rules, which I've warned about for 15 years, are clear, the failure to follow them was blatant and the plan to let producers keep the $16 billion of overcharges is unfair, unnecessary and, if litigated, likely to be found unconscionable.

It's reasonable to wonder whether the regulators, all political appointees, made a convenient mistake, in effect subtly telling generating plant owners:

"Fellas, stuff your saddlebags with all you can and ride over to the bank with your ill-got gains while we sightless sheriffs take a nap."

That may sound cynical, but utility regulation is a revolving door everywhere. Commissioners who set electricity rates and grid rules overwhelmingly come from the executive offices at utilities where they return after their stints as public officials. Consumer advocates are as rare as snow in Houston.

The Ghost of Enron

The problem with electricity overcharges extends far beyond Texas, but it began there in the mid-1990s with lobbying by Enron, the fundamentally corrupt energy price manipulator that later went bankrupt.

Enron persuaded the Texas legislature in the mid-1990s to fundamentally change the way electricity is financed and sold. The idea was that while distributing electricity is best done by a monopoly so multiple power lines are not needed everywhere, there's no natural monopoly in generating power. That's more than reasonable — on the surface.

Eventually, half the states decided to replace vertically integrated electric utilities which generated, transmitted and distributed electricity. Instead, independent firms would generate power and bid to sell it to distribution companies in so-called single-price auctions.

Enron argued that when there was more demand for power than expected prices would spike and those spikes would attract new investors who would build more power plants and in the long run prices would come down.

'Single-Price' Auctions

I've yet to meet a businessperson eager to invest in a business where it takes years to go from concept to operation with the expectation that future profits will be smaller than today.

The biggest flaw in the Enron idea, however, is that idea is that doing the opposite is faster, cheaper and comes with less risk while virtually guaranteeing fat profits. You can read our DCReport stories here and here as well as here and here.

Enron sold Texas lawmakers on "single price" electricity auctions.

Here's how a single-price electricity auction works. The grid operator, in this case, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, calls for bids to supply power for periods that can be as long as a year and as short as a few minutes. Bidders offer to sell power at whatever price they chose.

When bidding closes, everyone whose bid is at or below the price needed to supply all the juice the market needs wins. The winning bidders also get the highest price bid. So even if the average bid was, say, $100, if the highest winning big was $9,000 then every winner gets the $9,000.

Lose-Lose Deals

That means a hydroelectric dam operator with costs of maybe $120 per megawatt-hour can bid one penny to ensure their bid is a winner and then collect thousands of dollars. So, when they throw open the floodgates to make turbines spin, it's almost as if greenbacks instead of water flow like Niagara Falls.

What Wall Street investors figured out, as I did, was another flaw in the Enron plan.

Owners of a single power plant must bid low enough to make sure their electricity is purchased, but owners with a fleet of electricity generators can bid strategically to jack up prices.

Experiments with college students, simple bots and actual bidding records showed years ago that this is exactly what happens, as explained my 2007 book, Free Lunch.

There are rules against this kind of manipulation, which is why grid operators hire independent market monitors like Potomac Economics. But some market monitors have been less than diligent while others have had their advice ignored as right now in Texas.

On top of this, in one of his first official actions as president in 2017, Donald Trump signaled to Wall Street that fleet owners were pretty much free to manipulate electricity markets, the subject of the second story DCReport published.

As for unscrambling that egg, the task that Texas PUC Chairman D'Andrea says is too hard, here is one way of several ways to restore fairness.

The Texas PUC can reject charges that exceed the pre-crisis price during those 33 hours. The independent power producers all keep detailed time and price records and can issue revised invoices. They can also sue the state if they want, knowing they risk being tossed out for trying to enforce unconscionable contracts.

Undoing the improper excess charges involves accounting and math but since, unlike the ancients, we have electricity to power computers it's not all that hard to make the calculations necessary to uphold the just and reasonable principle.

There's a sad truth behind some terrific new income statistics

We have stunningly good news today: Wages in 2020 grew at by far the fastest rate in the last 45 years.

The bad news: It's a statistical anomaly caused by Donald Trump's lethal mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic. The scourge wiped out almost eight million jobs held by lower-paid workers and only two million better-paying jobs.

The worse news: Two Republican senators who publicly profess their Christian faith to win over voters want to oppress millions of people trapped in poverty. With straight faces, they call their plan the Higher Wages for American Workers Act.

The good news starts out this way—in 2020, average wages grew a stunningly robust 7.2% over the previous year.

More than 80% of the 9.6 million jobs that disappeared in the pandemic paid in the bottom quarter of wages. Wipe out those jobs and the statistics on wages show an increase.

That's by far the greatest one-year growth in wages in the past 45 years. In fact, it's 80% more than the fastest previous year's wage growth, analysis of Census data shows.

Typical Pay

The better measurement, however, is the median wage. It indicates what the typical worker makes. The median marks the halfway point in wages with half of workers making more, half less. The median wage grew 6.9%, a new report by the Economic Policy Institute shows.

EPI is a nonprofit research organization that advocates for poorly paid workers and regularly issues The State of Working America report with lots of interactive graphics. I've checked its work and always find it rock solid.

The obvious question is how could wages skyrocket during a pandemic that created the worst joblessness since the Great Depression? How could wages rise at all since by the end of May more than 42 million Americans, a quarter of those with any paid labor, had filed for jobless benefits?

Just beneath the surface, we find a compelling and distorting fact: More than 80% of the 9.6 million jobs that disappeared in the pandemic paid in the bottom quarter of wages. Wipe out those jobs and the statistics on wages show an increase. What's surprising is that the increase is only about 7%.

America's low-paid jobs are disproportionately held by women, especially those with children and little education, and by minorities. In real terms, these groups have been losing ground for years even as the economy keeps growing.

But by killing their jobs, at least until the pandemic is over and recovery is complete, the data in wages paid were distorted by the fact that most of those who are out of work were in the bottom half of the pay ladder.

Forgotten Americans Forgotten

What was it that Trump promised The Forgotten Men and Women? Oh yes, "The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer." Well, he forgot about them and in addition to a real jobless rate of about 10% plus more than a half-million Americans needlessly dead. Had Trump followed sound public health advice, as we saw South Korea do, the coronavirus butcher's bill would be only about 10,000 dead Americans.

So how to alleviate the misery of America's working poor?

Senators Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) say they are coming to the rescue. In a display of chutzpah and cluelessness that is extraordinary even for rich white men in high government positions, they call their bill the Higher Wages for American Workers Act.

Their bill's provisions are at odds with their professed devotion to a religion that imposes as a core duty alleviating the suffering of the poor. Cotton is a Methodist. Romney belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Cotton and Romney say the Biden administration plan for a $15 minimum wage in 2025 is way too much money. They propose a minimum wage of $10 an hour in 2025.

How much higher would real wages rise under the Cotton-Romney plan?

$12 A Week

Given the expected rate of inflation, that $10 an hour in 2025 would mean about 30-cents more in real pay than the current federal minimum of $7.25 an hour. That's $12 a week more for a full-time week. The current minimum wage has been in place since 2009 under legislation signed by President George W. Bush. Inflation since 2009 has shaved roughly a buck off each hour's minimum wage.

Measured back to President George W. Bush, the Cotton-Romney plan leaves workers worse off in 2025 than in 2009.

Now watch the news and see if the record rise in median and average wages is reported. Where it is, pay close attention—especially in reports by Fox News and its like—whether they say the increase is a statistical anomaly or proclaim a miracle wrought by Trump.

Having read this at least you won't be fooled.

The case for expelling Marjorie Taylor Greene from Congress

Let's put in perspective the atrocious conduct of freshman lawmaker Margorie Taylor Greene. She is the pistol-toting congresswoman from Georgia who wants to put a bullet in Speaker Nancy Pelosi's head.

Any private employer would have fired Greene immediately. Failure to do so would expose a private company, a nonprofit or any other employer to ruinous damages. What if Greene reached into her purse and used her Glock, or if a fellow QAnon fan were to fulfill these homicidal impulses.

Any decent human being would get a court order to keep Greene from being on the loose with a gun in her person.

But Greene works in the people's House. Under our Constitution, she can't be fired; she can, however, be expelled.

Our Constitution requires a two-thirds majority vote to expel Greene. That will happen only if 59 of the 211 House Republicans have the basic human decency to expel a member with murder, religious bigotry and anti-Semitism in her heart, a lethal weapon in her purse and a stated desire to overthrow the government in which she serves.

Expulsion, however, almost is certainly not going to happen.

It's not what the Republican Party's de facto leader, Donald Trump, wants. Trump endorsed Greene, untroubled by her racist and anti-Semitic screeds and her spouting of QAnon craziness.

Examples? Labeling Democratic Party leaders as pedophile cannibals was one. Another was her inane assertion that California's wildfires were caused by a Jewish space laser financed by the Rothschild banking family.

Unrepentant Trump

But why would this, or anything else Greene has done, dissuade Trump? He is so self-centered and disloyal that he tried, and failed, on Jan. 6 to overthrow our government.

That attack on our Capitol left five people dead, including two police officers, and 140 police injured. In this Trump is like Greene – he is utterly unrepentant.

We now know that the attack on our Capitol and the hunt to kill Pelosi, then Vice President Mike Pence and others was the result of premeditation by rebels. Planning began just days after a large majority of American voters decided by Nov. 3 that Joe Biden would be our next president.

We also know that Trump riled up the crowd that January morning and told them he would go with them to the Capitol. Then he ducked out, hiding out in the White House, gleefully watching on TV the attack.

Trump was so enthralled by the mob violence on his behalf that he wouldn't take his eyes off the TV to answer frantic telephone calls from members of his own political party who feared they were about to be executed.

What better evidence that with Trump, like every other mob boss and dictator, loyalty is a one-way street?

Coward Kevin McCarthy

As Trump plots revenge and hopes for a return to the White House, his ally is traitor Kevin McCarthy. The California Republican who is House Minority Leader could whip votes to oust Greene. But if he did, he might well be ousted as minority leader.

McCarthy is so weak he cannot bear the thought of that humiliation; cannot imagine being stalwart in defense of our Constitution. News reports indicate Trump uses a sexist epithet to describe McCarthy who only confirms the implication of the disgusting term by his conduct.

McCarthy shares with Trump the ability to speak out of four sides of his mouth. He muddies otherwise clear waters about where he stands, what he believes and what he will do.

Of all the scoundrels that Trumpism has inflicted in America, few will be judged more harshly by history than McCarthy. He is a coward who chose loyalty to Trump ahead of his office. He is doing Trump's bidding by helping Greene cling to the office she does not deserve.

Five Members Expelled

Only five House members have ever been expelled, three for joining the Confederacy and waging war on the United States, two for corruption.

Greene clearly fits under the rebellion category. She is no less a traitor than John B. Clark and John W. Reid of Missouri and Henry C. Burdett of Kentucky, who all stood with the slave-owning Confederacy in 1861.

Any Republican who votes to keep Greene is making clear that they are as vile and disloyal as she is. A vote to retain Greene is a vote of utter disrespect for our Constitution and a violation of each representative's oath to defend our Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Harassing a Fellow Lawmaker

Greene is utterly unrepentant. Last week, Greene and her staff harassed a co-worker of equal rank, Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.). It's significant that Greene is white and spouts racist tropes while Bush, who represents St. Louis, is Black.

Greene, in a tweet, said Bush was the agitator. So did Greene's chief of staff, promising he'd release a video to prove it. No video has appeared.

Bush told MSNBC that Greene approached her from behind while "ranting loudly into her phone" and "not wearing a mask." Bush said she called out for Greene to put on her mask, as House rules require, prompting Greene and her staff respond by berating her.

Bush is having her Congressional office moved away from Greene's. Providing Bush with armed escorts seems within the bounds of reason.

It is terrible to have to brand an entire political party this way, but it is what the facts demand. This is a tragedy not for the GOP so much as America, where our Constitution hangs as if by a thread and the Republicans are sharpening scissors.

What happened to Republican lectures about the need for those in high office to have moral standards? How about Republican themes of taking personal responsibility?

The awful truth is that those were never principled stands, just mere slogans no different in substance than the catchy phrases and jingles used to sell bubble gum and shampoo.

Featured image: Screengrab of Marjorie Taylor Greene campaign video

QAnon and evangelicals: Republicans baptized in crazy

Donald Trump is out, but parts of the Republican Party warmly embrace his dark legacy of white supremacy, the crazy QAnon conspiracy and civil war wrapped in faux Christianity.

Like Trump, these fake Christians reject turning the other cheek in favor of threatening or promoting violence.

The problem here isn't partisan politics, but public mental health. DCReport has covered extensively the mental-health debacle thanks to Dr. Bandy X. Lee, Harper West and other experts on how delusions spread like viruses, with Trump being a carrier.

The evidence of craziness seems to be found entirely in the Republican Party. We looked for, but have yet to discover any Democratic Party leaders pushing baseless conspiracy theories or urging civil war.

Readers who have found such material, please send links via our DCReport Tipline.

Here are some of the ways that Republican leaders reveal their affinity for the anti-democratic nature of Trumpism and QAnon, its attendant conspiracy theory:

  • In California, the Sacramento County Republican Party elected to its Central Committee a Proud Boys member who has advocated violence.

"Illegal immigrants should have their heads smashed into the concrete," a 2018 post by an antifascist group quotes Perrine as saying.

Perrine didn't deny this call to violence, he only insisted that he's not a racist.

He told the newspaper, "They can call me a Nazi all they want, and I know I have plenty of friends of all races that don't always agree with me, but they still love me.

"The Proud Boys that I affiliate with are all working men, all married men, they all have good jobs, they all believe in God."

Only after The Bee reported this did some Republicans in the California capital come to their senses and demand Perrine's ouster.

  • Oregon's Republican Party this month aligned itself with conspiracy theories as well as denouncing all 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for inciting the murderous attack on our Capitol.
  • Texas' GOP uses a QAnon conspiracy phrase—We Are The Storm—in its new logo.

The slogan comes from a poem, not crazies, according to the Texas party chairman, Alan West. He is the former congressman from Florida and retired military officer known for making bizarre statements. In 2011, he wrote, "When I see anyone with an Obama 2012 bumper sticker, I recognize them as a threat to the gene pool."

Arizona GOP for Trump, Still

Texas GOP Twitter Page

  • Arizona's GOP retweeted messages in December asking if people were ready to die for Trump and his baseless claim that he really won in 2020. The original Stop The Steal tweet was deleted, but the party's official Twitter account still refers to a person who says he's ready to die for Trump. It states: "He is. Are you?"
  • You might think that the party leadership in the Grand Canyon state, long a bright red jurisdiction, would examine its position after Democrats won both U.S. Senate seats and Joe Biden beat Trump in Arizona.

While the GOP added registered voters in 2020, it lost in ballots cast. Instead of reassessing, however, Arizona's Republican leaders decided to enforce Trumpian purity. On Jan. 23 the Arizona GOP censured three leading Republicans for not embracing Trumpian madness: Gov. Doug Ducey, former U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain. The widow of Sen. John McCain said she considers the censure a badge of honor.

Party leaders also re-elected the erratic and autocratic Kelli Ward as the Arizona GOP leader. She said her party suffers from "people who have been namby-pamby, lie down and allow the Democrats to walk all over them."

The party retweeted a menacing message. It is one of many from a Republican who holds himself out as a Christian despite tweets that are aggressively contrary to New Testament teachings about love, doing good to others and turning the other cheek:

"The Arizona Republican Party is still Trump country in all districts. Weak self-righteous sanctimonious Rs are on notice."

"Satan-Worshipping Pedophiles"

Arizona state Sen. David Farnsworth acknowledged last fall to the Arizona Mirror, a news website, that he believes the QAnon conspiracy theory but with a twist.

He said some Republicans have joined the top Democrats who, he imagines, run a global Satan worshipping cabal of pedophiles Trump is singlehandedly trying to bring down. Farnsworth told audiences that Arizona's Department of Child Safety is covering up, or complicit, in child sex trafficking.

Meanwhile, the FBI says QAnon is a domestic terror threat.

Other delusional beliefs so deeply and broadly infect the Arizona GOP that its leaders blame antifascists for joining in when our national Capitol was violently invaded by a murderous mob of Trumpers on Jan. 6.

  • Mentioned earlier, the Oregon Republican Party went further. It adopted a resolution asserting, "The violence at the Capitol was a 'false flag' operation designed to discredit President Trump, his supporters, and all conservative Republicans; this provided the sham motivation to impeach President Trump in order to advance the Democratic goal of seizing total power."

That's as crazy as QAnon.

Antifascist Nonsense

The FBI calls that nonsense, but you don't need law enforcement to know that the idea is ridiculous.

Saying Trumpers and Antifa jointly attacked our Capitol is like saying Trump is in league with Bernie Sanders. Believing, as the Oregon GOP leadership does, that the insurgents were lefties posing as Trumpers moves the party well into the realm of delusion.

  • In Hawaii, the official Republican Twitter account claims war is being waged against its members' values. And its relentless attacks on news organizations that check facts and correct mistakes include many fabrications.

Witness this Inauguration Day tweet: "Will you be joining PBS in calling for internment and re-education camps also?"

Nothing in the news clips it tweeted came close to substantiating the tweet, nor did the full PBS report.

There is a glimmer of hope that reality plays a role in the Hawaii GOP. On Sunday, Jan. 24, the state party's communications vice-chair, Edwin Boyette, resigned after sane Republicans complained about his tweets supporting QAnon.

Building a Theocracy

It's not just Trump purity that many GOP influencers are pushing. There is also their brand of Christianity, which promotes racial animosity, hatred of Democrats, intolerance and would subvert our Constitution to create a theocracy.

Consider Jenna Ellis, one of Trump's television lawyers who was paid at least $173,900 by his campaign. Ellis has met with GOP leaders in several states making fact-free claims that Trump won in November.

Ellis has a long and well-documented history of just making self-aggrandizing claims. She has a checkered career and her accomplishments are negligible, but Trump got one look at her on television and was enchanted.

Some principled Republicans see no future in a party swaddled in craziness. On Monday Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, a conservative with a level head, announced that he won't seek a third term in 2022 because of what he called partisan gridlock.

While it's true that compromise is rare on Capitol Hill, intransigence traces back to anti-taxer Grover Norquist declaring, "Bipartisanship is just another name for date rape" and Trump repeatedly retweeting QAnon-supporting craziness.

Like Flake, a Libertarian whose family founded Arizona, Portman would face a primary challenge from the crazy wing of the GOP if he seeks third term.

Here is the message Republicans must take from failed coup attempt: Trump biographer

Here is the message Republicans must take from the violent mob Donald Trump sent to attack our Capitol Wednesday in his failed coup attempt:

Break completely from this crazy, seditious, wannabe dictator now. Hold him to account, preferably by prompt removal from office via the 25th Amendment or a rapid impeachment and conviction. He must be arrested and criminally prosecuted for trying to overthrow our government. More than a few traitors have been executed for such a crime.

What are the consequences of Republican leaders failing to denounce Trump totally and back up denunciations with action?

Trump and his dangerous and armed mob will become millstones around your necks. And your failings will brand you as traitors unfit to hold public office.

For the Josh Hawleys, Ted Cruzes and other seditious Republican senators and representatives any further defense of Trump should end of your political careers and your acceptance in civilized society.

Expel Seditious Legislators

Both the House and Senate, which with the Georgia runoff election results are under Democratic Party control, should exercise their authority to expel these and other seditious lawmakers if they say another word defending Trump or challenging the certification of Joe Biden as the next president.

That's not overreach; it's a Constitutional duty.

The mob Trump coerced to lay siege to our Capitol broke into the building, occupied and looted the Senate chamber, engaged in hand-to-hand combat with uniformed Capitol Police, broke into the floors of Congress and rifled through lawmakers' desks. These all are criminal acts for which Trump is responsible.

At least one person was shot and killed inside the Capitol, though we don't know at this writing whether a criminal looter or a police officer fired the weapon.

Thank goodness someone had the presence of mind to gather up the state certifications of the November election results, denying Trump another opportunity to attack the Biden inauguration.

Trump Still Seeks Overthrow

If you doubt Trump still wants to overthrow our government, just watch his one-minute video from the White House Rose Garden made as the siege was under way. Trump asserted yet again the Big Lie that "everyone knows" the election was stolen because he won in a landslide.

While Trump did, in passing, tell the mob to go home, it was only a sort of suggestion. His core message to his riot squad was that "so bad and so evil" people stole the election. His real message to the rioters:

Never give up trying to end our democracy and keep me in power.

Click to view the full video, which was taken down by Twitter.

That the crowd did not disperse proves his words hollow. Instead, live television carried voices of rioters vowing violence, promising to press on. As the sun set and darkness enveloped the Capitol grounds, where were federal law enforcement other than the Capitol Police?

Trump put at risk the life of his own vice president, Mike Pence, on whom he painted a target during his incitement of the rioters. He endangered the next two people in line for the presidency, Nancy Pelosi, House speaker, and Chuck Grassley, Senate president pro tem.

Representative Linda Sanchez, a California Democrat, told MSNBC she instructed her family on where to find her will in case the riots claimed her life.

Warning Proved Right

About five years ago, I warned repeatedly that if Trump became president our democracy could end. I also said if Trump lost election, his presidency would end badly. While I couldn't predict precisely what would happen, I was certain that Trump would not leave office peacefully.

Now we have seen what I anticipated: mayhem provoked by Trump, his namesake oldest son and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. This cannot stand.

Give the siege today, there can be no doubt that Trump remains a wannabe usurper, plain and simple. In rallying the mob to march on the Capitol, he:

  1. Committed sedition, a federal crime in conspiracy with the rioters and Don Jr.
  2. Advocated the overthrow of our government, another felony
  3. Incited insurrection

Add in the provocative words of Giuliani, who told the mob there would be "trial by combat."

Their own words establish a criminal conspiracy, a crime punishable by imprisonment for five years or more.

The videos from the Capitol also showed a banner hanging over the platform being built for the inauguration of Joe Biden in two weeks. Here is what the insurrectionists declared: "We the people will bring DC to its knees. We have the power."

Stopping Further Coup Attempts

They do not have that power, but we also cannot just wave this off. Authorities must exercise their power to indict, try and upon conviction imprison all of the hundreds of criminals who assaulted our democrac. The insurrectionists forced lawmakers into hiding and necessitated armed officers to hold off rioters at the House chamber door with drawn handguns aimed at a rioters visible through a broken window.

From Day One, Trump has violated his oath of office but never so dangerously as in his inciting violence, a local crime for which the local District of Columbia authorities should have him arrested the moment his presidency ends if not before.

Hours after the siege began, the Capitol was still not under the control of our government as rioters, some of them looters, roamed the building.

Trump has over the decades said multiple times that looters should be shot on sight. So why did Trump not call for that in his Rose Garden video tweet? Of course, it's because Trump is at one with the rioters and looters. They are Trump's mob.

Trump has not sent federal law enforcement to corral, arrest and identify the rioters. Instead, the governors of Maryland and Virginia sent state police riot squads to defend the Capitol.

Contrast that with

Trump's abusive assignment of the military to attack peaceful demonstrators so he could stage a June 1 photo op with a Bible at the church closest to the White House. Trump's failure to send authorities to quell the rioters is solid evidence of his complicity and support.

What to Do

It would be more than reasonable for Vice President Mike Pence and the cabinet to remove Trump immediately under the 25th Amendment. They must do this. However, while Trump promised "the best people" would populate his administration he intend installed such low-grade weaklings and incompetents that, sadly, this is likely a vain hope.

While time is short, it's more than reasonable for the House to impeach Trump a second time. There is no bar to impeaching Trump after he is out of office, but the way to defend our democracy is for the House to rapidly pass articles of impeachment and the Senate to take the issue up the same day and vote to convict and remove him.

And if neither of those occurs, then as soon as Trump is out of office, and his presumed immunity from federal prosecution ends, he must be indicted on District of Columbia level charges. He already is under investigation by federal prosecutors in Manhattan, a state grand jury in Manhattan, New York State attorney general and the district attorney in Fulton County (Atlanta) Georgia. These cases should proceed with all due speed.

There's a secret message buried in Trump's pardons everyone seems to have missed

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The 24 pardons that Donald Trump granted last week drew a lot of attention, but no one seemed to notice the message Trump sent by not issuing pardons. Trump's choices made it clear that he is a white-collar crime boss.

Trump pardoned four mercenaries who murdered Iraqi civilians, but not Jeremy Ridgeway the soldier-for-hire who plead guilty to manslaughter, testified against the others, and was sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison.

Trump pardoned Roger Stone, his dirty trickster confidant; General Michael Flynn his national security adviser who was on the Kremlin payroll; and his 2016 campaign manager Paul Manafort, but not Manafort deputy Rick Gates, who turned state's evidence and confessed to his crimes.

He also pardoned Rod Blagojevich, the former Illinois governor convicted of trying to sell a Senate seat. But there was no pardon for Michael Cohen, Trump's lawyer, and longtime fixer who confessed to committing felonies at the direction of unindicted coconspirator "Individual 1," identified in federal court as Trump.

A future president could use the pardon power to protect elaborate criminal schemes, to subvert the Bill of Rights, to frame political opponents, and even direct political murders.

The pardons of the mercenaries, who worked for Trump ally Erik Prince who supplies hired armies, of campaign aides Stone and Manafort, of Flynn and of Blagojevich carried a clear message. You can bet that lawyers for others considering ratting out Trump or who are already working with authorities to rein in the Trump crime family got the message.

The message: the boss takes care of friends and allies if they lie for the boss or keep silent, but does nothing for those who cooperate with law enforcement. Give Trump's many attacks on the FBI and other law enforcement, this should surprise no one, especially journalists -- and yet it eluded them.

Missing The Story

How is it that none of our major news organizations figured this out? Hint: they rely too much on the official version of events, official announcements and access instead of thinking and exercising reportorial authority, afraid they will be seen as tendentious. If Trump declared that the Sun rises in the West many news organizations would flee from reporting that was false, crazy, or nonsense, and some would focus on how the Sun only appears to rise, never mind that it appears to rise in the East.

The pardons issued so far and more that are no doubt coming in the next three weeks, raise grave questions about the future of our democracy that have received less comment than outrage over the brazen abuse of the pardon power, especially as part of a scheme to obstruct justice.

Think about what will happen the next time someone as lawless as Trump becomes president. Imagine a president with much more skill, smarts, and vigor than Trump, and one with better lawyers. A future president could use the pardon power to protect elaborate criminal schemes, to subvert the Bill of Rights, to frame political opponents, and even direct political murders so long as they were committed in federal jurisdictions so no state-level charges could be brought. The presidential pardon, remember, applies only to federal crimes.

Trump behaved last week exactly as any crime boss would act if he could exercise the powers of the American presidency: show mercy to criminals, especially criminals who have aided your crimes or whose supporters may be useful to you in the future but do nothing for those who did the right thing once they were caught and helped bring others to justice.

Trump Helps Cocaine Trafficker Buddy

This is exactly what Trump, as a private citizen, did in a series of extraordinary favors for a major international cocaine and marijuana trafficker with whom he had extensive and close business ties.

In that case, Trump sought mercy three-time felon Joseph Weichselbaum. The trafficker personally managed and piloted Trump's helicopter in the 1980s, supplied Trump with a fleet of helicopters to ferry high rollers to Atlantic City, and rented a luxury Manhattan apartment from Trump under an unusual lease that obscured how much rent was actually paid.

In a 1986 letter to the sentencing judge, Trump called Weichselbaum "a credit to the community." Trump wrote that Weichselbaum should serve no prison time for a long-running scheme in which the mules – people who drove cars and vans loaded with drugs from Miami to Cincinnati – got 20 years.

Read carefully, Trump's letter was really directed not at the judge, but at Weichselbaum.

Trump's clear message to his buddy: don't rat me out and I'll take care of you.

Trump took excellent care of his cocaine trafficker buddy. Weichselbaum spent just 18 months in a Manhattan prison, paid only a token sum on his $30,000 federal fine because he said he was broke and yet he moved into a $2.4 million double apartment at Trump Tower upon his release. Weichselbaum said the Trump Organization also gave him a new job -- as Trump's helicopter consultant.

Now is the time to demand that Congress act to protect us from a future lawless president so he or she cannot use the pardon power balm to criminal pals and an ax to eviscerate our liberties and our control of our government.

There's a secret message buried in Trump's pardons everyone seems to have missed

Defeated Donald Trump is already tearing our government apart

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America is entering a very dangerous time. For his next 11 weeks in office, Donald Trump will be in a position to exact revenge, a word that by his own account is his entire life philosophy. We should all hope that he goes into one of his down emotional periods for an extended time so that lethargy, not blind rage, dominates his behavior until Jan. 20.

Through phony charges of ballot-box stuffing, firing officials, issuing pardons to friends and family and other acts Trump can do great damage between now and Inauguration Day, when his shield against criminal prosecution vanishes. He can also hobble the transition to a Biden administration.

Trump's first act of post-election political vandalism came in the wee hours Wednesday morning. He claimed the election was being stolen (video at 8:00) through "a major fraud on our nation." He has yet to show a scintilla of evidence to support that lie.

One of the most destabilizing things Trump could do is refuse to release, or severely limit, funds to pay for the transition to a Biden administration.

That's the kind of immoral rhetoric that damages faith in democracy and furthers the goals of Vladimir Putin who aims to undermine every major democracy because he considers self-governance a joke.

Three Firings

On Friday, while the election outcome was still uncertain, Trump abruptly removed three high-level officials, two women, and a man of color.

In a reckless move, Trump forced the resignation of Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, who since 2018 had run the National Nuclear Security Administration, the agency whose duties include keeping high-grade radioactive elements, known as fissile material, out of the hands of terrorists and rogue states. Trump's Energy Secretary, Dan Brouillette, wanted to cut the budget for this work while Gordon-Hagerty sought increased funding.

Senator James Inhofe, a far-right Republican from Oklahoma, criticized the Trump administration for going soft on keeping nuclear materials from rogue states and terrorist groups. "People who should be doing all they can to support the critical work of the NNSA are instead trying to undermine it," Inhofe said in September.

After Gordon-Haggerty was ousted, Inhofe challenged the competency of Energy Secretary Brouillette, a rare break with the obsequious deference to Team Trump by Republican lawmakers over the past four years. The firing, "demonstrates he [Brouillette] doesn't know what he's doing in national security matters," Inhofe said.

Trump also fired Bonnie Glick, deputy administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, in what appears to be a move to ensure that Islamophobes exercise greater power in the agency.

The third appointee, Neil Chatterjee, was demoted, from the chairmanship of the powerful Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to being just one of the five commissioners. Running diversity training, which Trump generally banned by executive order, was behind the demotion, Chatterjee told the Washington Post. "Guilty as charged," he told EE News.

However, it wasn't diversity, but Trump's love of dirty coal that was behind Chatterjee's demotion, both Green Tech Media and The Wall Street Journal reported. Chatterjee had supported a tax on carbon, which economists across the spectrum have said for years would be the most efficient way to create incentives that speed the shift away from fossil fuels.

Spewing More Pollution

In his remaining weeks, Trump can also speed his many actions to spew more pollution under the guise of ending overly burdensome regulations. That's an issue DCReport has covered intensely for the last four years.

One of the most destabilizing things Trump could do is refuse to release, or severely limit, funds to pay for the transition to a Biden administration.

The General Services Agency is charged with funding the office needed to prepare for a new administration, including hiring hundreds of temporary workers, many of whom will end up working in the Biden administration.

And he could really hobble the new administration by refusing to provide or limit the availability of FBI agents and other investigators to run background checks on the roughly 4,000 political appointees of the incoming Biden administration.

Let's hope the next 70 some days are marked by golf, lazily watching Fox and Trump's now well-known executive incompetence so that the vandalism he does commit is random and repairable come 2021.

This is the face of radical-Republican contempt

Joe Biden just won more votes than anyone else in American history, but the next four years may go down in history as the stymied presidency. That's because it looks highly unlikely that the Democrats will get a majority in the Senate, leaving the chamber under the iron-fisted control of Mitch McConnell, patron saint of polluters and profiteers.

Even before noon on Jan. 20, 2021, Donald Trump will be in a position to do enormous harm that will complicate the Biden presidency. Indeed, we should expect Trump is already looking for ways to use his last eight weeks in office to punish our nation—or at least the states that voted for Biden.

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That assessment comes not from me, but from Trump himself. His life philosophy is a single word: revenge.

Trump wrote that in his book Think Big. Then he went on for 16 pages about how what gives him pleasure is ruining the lives of anyone who does not do as he asks. His long diatribe was intermingled with observations about his desires to do violence, especially against women, some of whom he has named like actress and talk show co-host Rosie O'Donnell.

"If you don't get even you are just a schmuck!" Trump, via his ghostwriter, wrote. "I really mean it, too."


Seething Trump

That Trump ruined the life of a woman executive at the Trump Organization simply because she declined, for solidly ethical reasons, to make a telephone call, you can imagine the vengeance he is thinking about as he smolders in his easy chair watching even as Fox News mocks some of his ridiculous claims about vote fraud and his winning the 2020 popular vote.

And if you think Trump might have changed his views against Christianity and renounced revenge since his book was published 12 years ago, consider this: At this year's National Prayer Breakfast he rejected forgiveness, a foundational tenant of the Christian faith he falsely claims to embrace.


But whatever havoc Trump can wreak in the next two months, McConnell will be in a position to do lasting damage until at least Jan. 3, 2023, the next date when Democrats might seat enough senators to make McConnell minority leader.

No respect

McConnell's conduct shows that has no respect for the will of the people, unless it matches his views. This is the same Mitch McConnell who declared that he wanted to make Obama's first term his only one and a failure, who sent three right-wing senators to plot against Obama on the night of Jan. 20, 2009, to ensure that the presidency of Barack Obama would be a one-term failure. As The Washington Post headlined a column by Jonathan Capehart, "Republicans Had It In for Obama Before Day 1."


That 2009 meeting, secret at the time but since acknowledged by most of the 14 participants, was just one example of how McConnell's evil lust for power has held back progress in America for most of this century. McConnell literally looks down his nose when asked by journalists about imposing his narrow mined and corporatist views on everyone else. A trust fund kid grown old and very rich, McConnell regularly displays his utter contempt for, our Constitution except for the parts that allow him to impose his will on America.

Just as McConnell refused to give an audience to Merrick Garland, the exceptionally qualified and centrist federal appeals judge whom Obama nominated for the Supreme Court, the senior senator from the Bluegrass state can refuse to confirm Biden's nominees to the cabinet and more than 1,000 other political appointments requiring the advice and consent of the Senate.

Power to block

Under Trump, McConnell has looked the way at the gross disregard for federal laws governing appointees. Just consider how Trump installed Matthew Whitaker as the de facto attorney general even though it violated our Constitution and a host of federal laws.

McConnell also has the power, assuming Republicans retain control of the Senate, to refuse any further coronavirus relief to be unemployed, landlords and small business owners. You can be absolutely sure that he will use his position to grant as little relief as possible while pushing for more of the lopsided coronavirus relief we saw last spring and summer when big business made out very nicely.

Elections have consequences. Welcome to the consequences of split government. Witness the power of one man—elected by just a portion of the people in a state with fewer than 5 million people—to thwart the will of the more than 71 million who voted for Biden.

Vengeful Trump and his Republican cronies are plotting to make life hell for everyone

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Joe Biden just won more votes than anyone else in American history, but the next four years may go down in history as the stymied presidency. That's because it looks highly unlikely that the Democrats will get a majority in the Senate, leaving the chamber under the ironfisted control of Mitch McConnell, patron saint of polluters and profiteers.

Even before noon on January 20, 2021, Donald Trump will be in a position to do enormous harm that will complicate the Biden presidency. Indeed, we should expect Trump is already looking for ways to use his last eight weeks in office to punish our nation — or at least the states that voted for Biden.

That assessment comes not from me, but from Trump himself. His life philosophy is a single word: revenge.

Trump wrote that in his book Think Big. Then he went on for 16 pages about how what gives him pleasure is ruining the lives of anyone who does not do as he asks. His long diatribe was intermingled with observations about his desires to do violence, especially against women, some of whom he has named like actress and talk show co-host Rosie O'Donnell.

"If you don't get even you are just a schmuck!" Trump, via his ghostwriter, wrote. "I really mean it, too."

That Trump ruined the life of a woman executive at the Trump Organization simply because she declined, for solidly ethical reasons, to make a telephone call, you can imagine the vengeance he is thinking about as he smolders in his easy chair watching even Fox News mocks some of his ridiculous claims about vote fraud and his winning the 2020 popular vote.

And if you think Trump might have changed his views against Christianity and renounced revenge since his book was published 12 years ago, consider this: at this year's National Prayer Breakfast where he rejected forgiveness, a foundational tenant of the Christian faith he falsely claims to embrace.

But whatever damage Trump can wreak in the next two months, McConnell will be in a position to do lasting damage until at least Jan. 3, 2023, the next date when Democrats might seat enough senators to make McConnell minority leader.

McConnell's conduct shows that has no respect for the will of the people unless it matches his views. This is the same Mitch McConnell who declared that he wanted to make Obama's first term his only one and a failure. sent three right wing Senators to plot against Obama on the night of January 20, 2009, to ensure that the presidency of Barack Obama would be a one-term failure. As The Washington Post headlined a column by Jonathan Capehart, "Republicans Had It In for Obama Before Day 1."

That 2009 meeting, secret at the time but since acknowledged by most of the 14 participants, was just one example of how McConnell's evil lust for power has held back progress in America for most of this century. McConnell literally looks down his nose when asked by journalists about imposing his narrow mined and corporatist views on everyone else. A trust fund kid grown old and very rich, McConnell regularly displays his utter contempt for, our Constitution except for the parts that allow him to impose his will on America.

Just as McConnell refused to give an audience to Merrick Garland, the exceptionally qualified and centrist federal appeals judge who Obama nominated for the Supreme Court, the senior senator from the Bluegrass state can refuse to confirm Biden's nominees to the cabinet and more than 1,000 other political appointments requiring the advice and consent of the Senate.

Under Trump, McConnell has looked the way at gross disregard for federal laws governing appointees. Just consider how Trump installed Matthew Whitaker as the de facto attorney general even though it violated our Constitution and a host of federal laws.

McConnell also has the power, assuming Republicans retain control of the Senate, to refuse any further coronavirus relief to be unemployed, landlords and small business owners. You can be absolutely sure that he will use his position to grant as little relief as possible while pushing for more of the lopsided coronavirus relief we saw last Spring and Summer when big business made out very nicely.

Elections have consequences. Welcome to the consequences of split government and the power of one man elected by people in a state with fewer than five million people to overcome the more than 71 million who voted for Biden.

Trump asserts dictatorial power over top government employees

In a major power grab, Donald Trump signed an executive order on Oct. 21 that asserts he has vast new authority to punish federal employees with demotions or firing without cause. It's a Trumpian assertion of a right to cronyism and personal fealty to him.

This executive order purports to grant Trump dictatorial-like power over thousands of career federal managers and executives. They are now at risk of losing their jobs and careers unless they blindly follow Trump's agenda with abject loyalty to his whims.

This Executive Order on Creating Schedule F In The Excepted Service, if allowed to stand, largely will overturn an 1883 law that was passed to reduce corruption among federal government executives by creating a career civil service based on documented merit. The Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act, passed in 1883 in the unexpected presidency of Chester A. Arthur, covers most federal employees, who earn promotion via competitive exams.

Instead of patronage positions, these civil servants are protected from demotion or firing for political reasons, though they can be disciplined for serious misconduct.

In effect, this would extend the rules governing the roughly 4,000 political appointees each president is entitled to hire — people who serve at the "pleasure of the president" — to apolitical career managers and executives.

The executive order states "faithful execution of the law requires that the President have appropriate management oversight regarding this select cadre of professionals."

In common language, this means Trump claims the ability to fire career public servants via Tweet. His executive order ignores 137 years of law and personnel regulations, allowing him to run roughshod over job protections for career government employees. Under the order, he can fire them on a whim.

Who is affected

One of the most prominent federal employees affected by this change is Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert. Trump first admired Fauci then called him an "idiot" and said last week he would fire him except for the political uproar it would cause. The order also covers officials, scientists and staff of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

This creation of "Schedule F" employees effectively gives the president the power to fire any current employees working in the broad categories as managers and executives covered by his order. He can treat them the same as private-sector workers whose employment, absent a personal or union contract, is "at-will."

Federal employee unions promptly denounced the order even though it is aimed at management, not line workers. Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) said he will develop legislation that would restore protections for federal employees. Boyd, whose district is in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, represents more federal workers than any other member of Congress.

If Trump's order stands it would be a major expansion of presidential power. Under threat of loss of employment and reduced or no retirement benefits, department heads might bend to Trump's mercurial whims. Any department head who pushes back would be subject to immediate discharge even if Trump's instructions were illegal.

The long-term consequences for our government would be disastrous. Many civil servants took federal jobs because they favored stable employment and a focus on their professional interests. Removing that security would make recruiting talent more costly and less successful. And for what? To satisfy the petulance of Donald Trump?

Whitlock case relevant

Trump acted just as DCReport published its investigation into the firing of Warren S. Whitlock, one of the highest-ranking civilians in the U.S. Army. Part One Why This Man Lost His Top Pentagon Civilian Job and Part Two Out On The Street After Two Secret And Illegal Investigations detailed the racism and machinations behind the removal of Whitlock, an equal opportunity and diversity specialist with a track record of successful changes to discriminatory government actions and policies. The broader impact was explained in Racism In The Pentagon And Higher.

In the Whitlock case, there is clear evidence of discrimination and unlawful termination. In future cases any possible protection someone like Whitlock may assert will not exist if Trump's executive order stands. Trump and the department heads he names will not need any reason whatsoever to fire anyone who is re-classified as an at-will worker.

"You're fired!" is of course the signature line of Trump's faux reality television shows that made him famous. Those who watched carefully noticed he sometimes fired the best performing person and praised those whose performance made them likely candidates for leaving the show. Not aired were scenes in which he demeaned people, ogled women including making one twirl for him, and engaged in other boorish sexist behavior.

The executive order reclassified many federal employees from regular civil service status to "excepted service" status if they are involved in policy-determining, policymaking or policy-advocating.

It's difficult, having studied the man for 32 years, to imagine a federal Qualifications Review Board would accept Trump a senior executive service member.

Political termites

A related strategy Trump undertook in 2017 to impose his will on career civil servants was detailed in my 2018 book It's Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America. Trump put in key management positions, the very lobbyists and executives who had worked against those agencies, contradicting his campaign promise to "drain the swamp" of special interests. Because they eat away at the substance of our federal government silently and generally unseen by the public I called those appointees "political termites."

This newest power grab by Trump is more of the same with a major addition. People who never signed up for tenuous employment at the pleasure of the president would become at-will employees with no job security.

This is exactly what the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act was supposed to prevent. That law was enacted when Vice President Chester Arthur unexpectedly became president after the assassination of James A. Garfield just six months into his term in 1881.

President Arthur had been a major gear in the corrupt Tammany Hall political machine in New York. His cronies scurried down to Washington licking their chops at all the graft they anticipated. To their shock, Arthur told his longtime pals to never again darken the White House. Arthur promised to run a clean administration, which he did, abandoning the old "spoils" system of hiring cronies and party loyalists and embracing the creation of our merit-based federal civil service.

Trump's executive order will certainly be challenged in federal court. But unless and until some judge blocks it, this executive order is in effect.

How Trump gets away without paying taxes

To understand how Donald Trump got away with paying little to no income taxes for many years, even after he forged at least one income tax return, it helps to first understand the risks wealthy Americans face for cheating.

Let's start with IRS audits of the 23,400 richest American households, average income $30 million each. In 2018 the Trump administration audited seven. You read that right—seven. That's an audit rate of 0.03%.

If American police detected murders at the same rate it would mean that they would become aware of just five of the 16,214 reported homicides that year. Of course, not everyone is a tax cheat, but audits are about detecting taxes due, whether through error or intent.

Under Obama in 2015, America's richest households were 270 times more likely to be audited than under Trump.

It also helps to know that about 1 million rich Americans didn't even bother to file income tax returns during Barack Obama's last years in office. America's tax police, the near toothless Internal Revenue Service, are so short-staffed that the inspector general says they aren't even trying to make the scofflaws pay the estimated $47.5 billion they owe.

There's no question Trump is a tax cheat because he has done it again and again. He cheated on New York City sales taxes in 1983, for which Mayor Ed Koch said Trump should have served 15 days in jail. He went to extreme, even farcical lengths to evade $3 million of payments he owed in lieu of taxes to New York City.

Trump has been tried twice for civil tax fraud. He lost both times, a story I broke four years ago but you may not know about because America's major news organizations have not reported it except for one passing mention in the wedding announcement section of The New York Times. Two years ago, however, that newspaper did an exhaustive report showing years of calculated gift tax cheating by two generations of Trumps. In recent weeks income tax information that newspaper reported revealed many badges of tax fraud.

So why hasn't Donald Trump been brought to justice? After all, everyday radio and television commercials tell us of the power the IRS has to garnish our wages, seize our bank accounts and even take our homes. Surely brazen tax cheats live in fear of arrest and losing their mansions, jets and yachts, right?

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This is the first of four articles examining the failure of our country to adequately tax and police the wealthy, like Donald Trump. Next: The suspected tax cheats our Justice Department does pursue, and why.

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Auditing the Working Poor

Now let's compare the audits of people in Trump's income class with the working poor, defined as households with incomes under $25,000. They were the subject of almost a third of all IRS audits even though average income was just $12,600.

The audit rate for poor families is 0.28%. That's nine times the audit rate for the richest Americans.

This is a dramatic shift from the recent past. Under Obama in 2015, America's richest households were 270 times more likely to be audited than under Trump, my analysis of IRS Data Book tables data shows. That year 8.16% of these households had their tax returns audited, not 0.03%.

These vast disparities are just one aspect of a many-sided story about the myth of the all-powerful IRS and how a particular class of rich Americans, a class that includes Trump, almost always wins when they play what in tax world is called audit roulette.

The cold hard truth is that the richest Americans today face a teensy-weensy risk of being detected if they cheat. The hardest tax cheating to detect involves people in a particular class. It is a class with privileges Donald Trump lobbied for and testified about to Congress. The taxpayers who are by far the hardest to identify as cheats share these characteristics the IRS is ill-equipped to address:

  • Own their enterprises lock, stock and barrel, giving them total control with no independent verification of revenue
  • File tax returns that appear on the surface to be accurate, even clean as a whistle
  • Make use of hundreds and in some cases thousands of separate corporations and partnerships in many different locations, a tax evasion helper that will be explained later in this series
  • Operate domestically and abroad where tax treaties, rules on delaying reporting income on tax returns and mismatches between rules of different governments create opportunities to hide money
  • Own commercial real estate because the gains from selling property are not automatically reported to the IRS, unlike wages and dividends

Trump fits those conditions to a T. Later in this series, we'll explore just how he always benefitted from the ways our Congress has instructed the tax police to operate.

Presidential Powers

Now add to all this Trump's powers as president. He appoints the Treasury secretary and the IRS commissioner, who had been a Beverly Hills specialist in helping suspected tax cheats avoid indictment. Trump also recommends how much money the IRS gets and how it will be allocated among various functions such as processing refunds and collecting unpaid taxes. This and more means Trump exercises enormous power and influence over which potential tax cheats, if any, will be found. Because he also appoints America's attorney general, Trump influences which suspected tax cheats will be prosecuted.

In addition, Trump's administration is violating an anti-corruption law enacted 96 years ago after the Teapot Dome scandal. That law gives certain people in Congress the same right he has to inspect any income tax return. At least three staffers on the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation work at the IRS just to inspect tax returns, especially those seeking individuals refunds of $2 million or more, for badges of fraud. Trump got a nearly $73 million refund; he recently confirmed the IRS wants it back.

Trump refuses to allow the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, which writes our tax laws, to inspect his tax returns. The committee is suing for access. It is the only known case of a tax return being withheld by any president since 1924 when Calvin Coolidge was president. That sentence is qualified only because the IRS is stalling on DCReport's Freedom of Information Act request for a single number – how many times has the IRS refused or declined to turn over a tax return request in writing by the appropriate lawmakers and staff.

Who Gets Audited

That 0.03% audit rate for America's richest families is misleading. It overstates the risks to people in Trump's situation.

Many in that highest income group have very limited opportunities to cheat. About a sixth of these rich Americans are CEOs of publicly traded companies or otherwise employed at huge salaries. Their pay is independently reported to the IRS. This means that they are more like Joe and Joan Sixpack whose taxes are withheld before they get paid.

Opportunities for workers to cheat almost nonexistent, even for those making more than $50 million in salary and bonus as more than 200 workers have each year under Trump.

We cite these facts to give you a lens through which to focus as this DCReport series examines the state of Trump's taxes and the capacity of the Internal Revenue Service, our national tax police department, to enforce the tax laws.

DCReport's investigation into how Trump and others like him enjoy robust opportunities to cheat on their taxes with little risk of detection shows how for decades Congress has handcuffed our tax police. It's as if your local mayor and city council told their police officers to focus on tricycle thefts, not violent crimes, and wouldn't pay for testing equipment and chemicals in the crime lab.

We relied in part on a database maintained by the TRAC, the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. DCReport donors generously contributed money to purchase access to that database and to pay a Rochester Institute of Technology student to organize the data for analysis. Much of the data TRAC gets had to be extracted from our government through litigation over the public's right to know what our government is doing.

Tax Prosecutions Vanishing

From various official documents and interviews with tax officials, tax defense lawyers and accountants we found our government operates a system of tax law enforcement with these features:

  • Tax prosecution, never a major government activity and generally slipping for decades, collapsed under Trump
  • In 2016, the last Obama year, the IRS referred 2,744 tax cases for prosecution. Since Oct. 1, 2019, the IRS has referred just 231 cases
  • Justice rejected 162 of those cases, or 70%, for "insufficient evidence," an extraordinarily and hard to believe justification since on average each case involved more than a year of detective work
  • Justice rejected an additional 28 cases because prosecuting suspected tax criminals isn't a "national priority"
  • Justice Department's own data shows it is pursuing just 29 new cases
  • More than half of IRS criminal cases in the last decade were about illicit proceeds from narcotics trafficking, money laundering and other criminal activity, not tax cheating by people who underreport their income from lawful activities or overstate their deductions
  • Last year Justice Department prosecutors obtained just 530 guilty pleas and convictions after trial, making the odds of an American adult being found guilty of a federal tax crime about one in 473,000
  • The public never heard about most of those cases because the Justice Department failed to publicize them
  • Almost 900,000 high-income Americans didn't even file a tax return in the last three years of Obama
  • Virtually no effort is being made to collect the estimated $47.5 billion these prosperous-to-rich Americans owe. An Inspector General report says the IRS already dropped 42,600 cases and it is unlikely that any of the others will be pursued

Defunding America's Tax Police

The reality is Congress has defunded America's tax police. The IRS in 2018 had less than half the resources it did, relative to the size of the economy, as when Ronald Reagan was president in 1988, my analysis of federal budget data shows.

Over several decades, as anti-tax activist Grover Norquist persuaded Republicans to sign ironclad pledges to never raises taxes, these same officeholders have worked to make sure the IRS doesn't have the tools or staff to make sure people and companies pay what the law says they owe. Trump personally lobbied for one key change creating an entitlement program for real estate investors that lets them live tax-free if they are rich enough and follow the rules, making his own tax behavior all the more curious.

The beneficiaries of this throttling of the tax police budget and hobbling its operations have been the thin and increasingly rich slice of Americans at the top, especially people who like Trump exert total control of their business affairs.

Republicans persuaded enough Democrats to go along in handcuffing our tax police through laws, some of them based on bogus testimony by people who said they were victims of abusive IRS tactics. By law, the IRS could not respond to the Senate testimony. Congress' Government Accountability Office later wrote a secret report that showed the hearings were unreliable, Ryan Donmoyer of Tax Notes Magazine revealed in 2000. However, subsequent investigations by The Wall Street Journal, Tax Notes Magazine, The Virginian-Pilot and by me when I was the tax reporter for The New York Times showed the hearings were a sham from start to finish.

In response to the 1997 and 1998 Senate Finance Committee hearings led by the late Sen. William Roth of Delaware, and other hearings, Congress imposed all sorts of restrictions on IRS audits. Here are three telling examples we will explore later in this series:

  1. IRS auditors who notice that a taxpayer reports income of under $100,000 but has mansions, fine art and more cannot use that to begin a "lifestyle audit." One man was caught only because a mistress, furious that he didn't keep a promise to buy her a condo, ratted him out to the IRS
  2. Corporations must be told in advance what issues will be examined. If auditors find along the way evidence of tax owed for other reasons they cannot expand the audit unless they uncover clear evidence of criminality
  3. While Congress authorizes what look to be major cash awards to whistleblowers who report tax cheating the program has added less than $1 to every $5,000 in taxes Uncle Sam collects and it takes more than a decade on average to pay these awards

The costs of these favor-the-rich policies even when they cheat are borne by the other 99% of taxpayers. Tax burdens could otherwise be eased through reductions in government spending for their benefit and in added federal debt.

Institutional Corruption

The Framers of our Constitution were concerned deeply with corruption, but not the way they think of it today. They were well aware of the personal venality that today permeates the news from supermarket tabloids to the network news programs. But the Framers focused on how to ensure against institutional corruption ruining our democracy and our society. Law professor Zephyr Teachout explained it in plain English in her book Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin's Snuff Box to Citizens United.

Congress pretty much has imposed on the IRS the same institutionally corrupt approach that New Jersey casino regulators employed when Trump dominated Atlantic City gambling.

New Jersey officials created the impression of zealous law enforcement by noisily going after small fries and others who lack the resources to fight back. Or the regulators announced actions raising questions about the behavior of casino owners in dealings with mobsters, cocaine traffickers and money launderers while working hard to avoid making inquiries that would expose wrongdoing by those at the top.

My first book, Temples of Chance, revealed this institutionally corrupt strategy with many examples like cheating novice roulette players at one Trump casino. Another tack was giving favors to gamblers connected to the Yakuza criminal gangs in Japan or the Medellín drug cartel. Casinos owned by Trump and others even extended credit, comped suites, provided liquor and sent limousines to empty the trust accounts of rich child gamblers.

Actually, Congress has gone much further to hobble America's tax police.

The IRS is so short-staffed it cannot even send refunds it acknowledges are owed from 2017 tax returns. Instead of a refund check, some beleaguered taxpayers have shown me form letter after form letter directing them to not ask about their refund for yet another 60 days. An IRS that is not even staffed to refund people's overpayments is going to have a much harder time enforcing the tax laws when it comes to sophisticated tax cheating.

E.R. Brydalski analyzed the TRAC data used in this report.

A primer for US senators: Here are all the questions our leaders failed to ask​ Amy Coney Barrett

After three days of Kabuki theater, a television mini-series produced by the Senate Judiciary Committee, did you learn anything that Judge Amy Coney Barrett didn't want you to know?

Really, it's not hard to frame questions that produce informative answers, including when the response is a dodge. Let me show you, starting here:

Judge Barrett, you testified your judicial philosophy is to follow the law as written. Can you please cite examples of where the law required you to render a decision contrary to your personal beliefs?

Notice how that is framed. Barrett can't swat it away, as she did so many questions as hypotheticals. It asked her to speak about the decisions she already rendered.

Judge Barrett, have you contemplated whether in a childbirth gone awry you would sacrifice your own life to save that of your youngest child, leaving your other children sitting behind you motherless, or whether to live so that your children would grow up under your care with one less sibling?

As a relatively new judge, appointed by Donald Trump to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals three years ago, Barrett has not written all that many opinions. Were the judge to respond that she has yet to encounter that issue here's the follow up:

Judge Barrett, have you given thought to how you would deal with that conflict, especially an irresolvable conflict, between your most deeply held beliefs and the law?

Framing Matters

Again, notice the framing. The question is not what you thought but have you thought about a conflict between personal beliefs and the law.

Were the nominee to say that she had not pondered this—which would be preposterous — then the line of inquiry shifts to how deeply she has thought about the law. If she says she has indeed thought about it the question to ask is, "What did you conclude, if anything?"

Next question:

Judge Barrett, have you talked in your Notre Dame law classes and other forums about resolving conflicts between personal beliefs and Supreme Court rulings your students must work under with when they become lawyers and jurists?

That's a question Barrett might try to slough off with the "I don't recall" diversion. To deal with that ask this:

Well then, Judge Barrett, let's assume I'm not a senator, but the most serious student in your class and that I hope to become a trial court judge or, like you, an appellate court judge. So, what do I do, professor, when confronted with a wide chasm, or worse a complete contradiction, between the law as decided by our Supreme Court and my beliefs?

Following Your Own Advice?

The goal here is to get her to talk about how she analyzes such conflicts as well as her advice. And if she gives her advice the obvious follow up is short and sweet:

Would you, Judge Barrett, always take your own advice?

How that question is answered — candidly, philosophically, or evasively — would give senators and the public insight into what is going on behind the mask that Barrett, like all judicial nominees, wears during such hearings.

I could go on with more questions like this but the point I want to make here is that nothing like this emerged from three days of hearings in what is supposed to be the most exclusive deliberative body in the world, the American Senate. Their questions indicate our senators don't respect that.

That so many bad questions were asked was unsurprising, but also shocking given that most Judiciary committee members are lawyers. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, a subsidy grabbing Republican, is the Senate's only pig farmer. The rest of them ought to know how to ask useful questions.

Judiciary Committee members in both parties should ask questions that probe the souls of nominees — simple, direct questions stripped of rhetorical filagree. Their questions should force nominees to instantly choose between dissembling, looking idiotic to other lawyers or telling the truth.

We would be wise to castigate every member of that committee, in person if you attend a political or social event, for making novice lawyers on their first day in a courtroom look good.

There's one other question I would have asked. It's based on my own life experience as the father of eight now grown children:

Awful Choices

Judge Barrett, obstetricians in troubled deliveries sometimes must make an awful choice between saving the life of the mother or the child. How would you weigh that choice?

Again, the framing is how to make a choice, not what choice.

Concise follow-ups would note that each year about 700 American women die in childbirth. So do about 21,000 of roughly 3.8 million infants.

More questions:

Judge Barrett, are laws that restrict the freedom of choices that doctors, the mother, or if incapacitated her spouse, make during troubled labor a proper exercise of the police powers of the state?

If the doctors conclude that someone will die why should the crude axe of state police power be applied at all?

If there is any role at all for exercising the state's police power in these tragic situations please articulate it.

Whatever her answer, smart follow up questions should focus on freedom, including the freedom to decide who will die. Framing questions in terms of liberty versus policing powers would be illuminating about the nominee's thoughts.

Another follow up:

Judge Barrett, have you contemplated whether in a childbirth gone awry you would sacrifice your own life to save that of your youngest child, leaving your other children sitting behind you motherless, or whether to live so that your children would grow up under your care with one less sibling?

If that sounds cruel let me note Barrett chose to use her children as props. She could have had them stay home playing with dolls and footballs.

Again, notice that the frame is not what would you decide, but have you thought about this. And trust me these are real-world questions that physician and parents must decide, preferably in advance, but all too often in the unexpected moment.

Asking Better Questions Lessons

Here's a recommendation to make all Congressional hearings less Kabuki theater and more a service to us, the people who own our government.

Every member of Congress, in both parties plus independents, should not ask another question until they have sat through a class, including role-play exercises, on how to frame questions.

Congress already has the perfect expert to teach this — Rep. Katie Porter, Democrat of California.

The freshman lawmaker, a former University of California Irvine law professor, frames only smart questions during House Financial Services hearings. No matter how witnesses reply, Porter is ready to follow so that we the people learn about the integrity of each witness or lack thereof.

Porter questions are free of flourish. Porter never preens. Instead, her five-minute examinations are packed tightly. Whether in interrogations designed to embarrass a mandarin like Jamie Dimon of Chase Bank or subtle sideways approaches that sneak up on the witness like the velociraptor who surprises the big game hunter in the original Jurassic Park film, she gets revealing responses.

Smart woman. Would that our senators were half as smart in asking questions.

Featured Photo: Screenshot from Washington Post television of Judge Amy Coney Barrett with most of her children at Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

Mike Pence told a whopper about Trump's economy -- which was plummeting before the pandemic

There's fresh evidence that the robust economy Donald Trump inherited from Barack Obama was faltering before the pandemic.

State personal consumption spending growth slowed sharply in 2019 compared to the year before, the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis reported Thursday morning. The growth rate plummeted by a fifth.

Personal expenditures grew in 2019 but by only 3.9%, down from 4.9% in the previous year.

Counting on Trump to sign a new relief package would be like trusting that he actually knows how to improve the economy for all Americans, not just the already rich.

This official data comes just hours after Mike Pence told a whopper about American incomes during the vice presidential debate Wednesday night, a lie that escaped the notice of our major news organizations. That's because no official announced the numbers and mainstream journalists rely way too much on what officials tell them instead of doing their own analyses of official government data.

Pence said, "the average household income for a family of four increased by $4,000 following President Trump's tax cuts."

Incomes Down, Not Up

In fact, the average income for the bottom 50% of income taxpaying households in 2018 averaged $300 less than in 2016, Obama's last year in office, as DCReport showed more than a month ago from the Trump administration's own official data. Please note this is not the poorest third of Americans but the poorest third of people who made enough to pay income taxes.

Less income under Trump wasn't limited to the poorest third of taxpayers.

Consider the 9% of taxpayers making $75,000 to $100,000. Their average income in 2018 was $128 lower than in 2016 after adjusting for inflation, my analysis of IRS Table1.4 shows.

Total income reported by all Americans did grow, but the benefits were highly concentrated near the top of the national income ladder.

In real terms income reported on tax returns increased by almost $1 trillion over those two years. On the surface that's good. But only those in the top 7%, those making more than $200,000 and up, saw their share of the national income pie grow. Every group making less had to get by on less.

Almost half of the trillion-dollar gain flowed to the 1%, those making $500,000 and up. But even among the one=ercenters the gains were not widely shared.

Just one in 285 taxpayers makes $1 million or more. This very rich and very tiny group took in three of every four dollars of increased income flowing to the one-percenters. Under Trumpian policies, it's good to be rich and very bad to be poor or middle class. But Lying Mike Pence bore false witness by telling you all people are doing well

Useful Maps

When it comes to increased spending in 2019 you can learn how your state did by looking over this useful series of graphic maps at this government website. The first map shows how much the rate of spending declined in 2019 compared to 2018. The data excludes money that state residents spend overseas.

The economic weakness under Trump, pre-pandemic, wasn't limited to the incomes of the vast majority or to spending by everyone. Job growth under Trump, pre-pandemic, ran about 3% below the rate of Obama after the Great Recession ended and job growth resumed in early 2010.

Candidate Trump promised to grow the economy by at least 4% annually and insisted that he could achieve as much as 6% growth in Gross Domestic Product, which measures our country's total economic output. Those of us who study these matters found Trump's claim either laughable or a lie. Time proved we were right as Trump underperformed the average of the previous 70 years.

In 2017, still basking in the glow of the Obama economy, our inflation-adjusted or real Gross Domestic Product grew 2.3% compared to 2016. Growth reached almost 3% in 2018 as the Trump/Radical Republican tax giveaway to big corporations gave a brief kick to economic growth. In 2019, however, GDP growth slid to under 2.2%

And Thursday morning brought the latest job loss numbers. Last week 840,000 Americans filed initial claims for unemployment benefits. There were also 464,000 claims for pandemic unemployment aid.

In all, 25 million Americans are without work right now and many more will join them soon because Trump decreed Tuesday afternoon that he would not sign any new coronavirus relief bill until after the election and then only if he wins. The stock market instantly sank, prompting Trump to do a partial flip-flop. But counting on Trump to sign a new relief package would be like trusting that he actually knows how to improve the economy for all Americans, not just the already rich.

Will Republican cultists die for their dear leader?

Donald Trump is covering up just how he and 18 White House aides and supporters got the coronavirus. That's the latest proof that he doesn't care about you or anyone else.

Instead of shooting someone on Fifth Avenue, spraying lead bullets out of a gun, Trump sprayed the deadly coronavirus with every word coming out of his unmasked mouth.

Among those whose lives are now at risk – the seven children of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who sat mask-less in the Rose Garden on Sept. 26 when Trump announced their mother was his Supreme Court nominee. As an exercise in atrocious judgment bringing children to a crowded event during a pandemic and not masking them should be enough to establish that Barrett is unfit to sit on any bench.

Then there's the infected Kellyanne Conway, who said that she quit the White House to be with her troubled teenage daughter.

And what about the 11-month-old baby of Kayleigh McEnany, Trump's press secretary? McEnany has tested positive after again and again showing her fealty to the imaged great leader by going mask-less. Does anyone doubt that if McEnany were a poor black or brown woman—or a Jew or Muslim in a Bible Belt county—that child protective services would be investigating whether to remove the infant Blake for her own safety?

Accepting sickness

This is what happens when a cult arises. The leader is special and believers most demonstrate without even being asked that the messages the leader conveys have been internalized. And if he uses tricks and deceits to fool the public you must go along to remain in his good graces even if it exposes you and your newborn to sickness, lifelong health problems and even death.

The reason, rationality and civil debate envisioned by our Founders and Framers have no place in Trump's anti-democratic cult. All that matters is loyalty to the leader, a loyalty that runs only one way.

As for lies, it's hard to top what Trump tweeted Monday before his skillfully timed departure from Walter Reed hospital, a staged event that consumed the entire evening news broadcasts of ABC, CBS and NBC.

Irresponsible

"Don't be afraid of COVID," Trump tweeted before the brilliantly staged pageantry began in what may go down as his single most irresponsible advice during the pandemic that has claimed more American lives in well under a year than combat in World War I, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.

That tweet, the flags and dramatic lighting at the White House as the sun set while Trump, his face and hair professionally pampered, posed triumphantly were all part of a propaganda pageant slicker than any event staged by Il Duce, Adolf or Trump's personal heroes, Putin and Kim.

When it comes to using images to kill rationality and stir cultish emotions, Trump has outdone even Leni Riefenstahl. Hitler, incidentally, at least had the smidgen of decency to not expose his beloved propaganda filmmaker to the risk of death by virus, as Trump did his photographer and videographer, among others, at the White House Monday evening.

Coverup

The Trump virus spreading coverup can be seen in the highly restricted contract tracing being undertaken by the White House medical staff. Trump has coronavirus tracers looking only for who was within death shot of his breath, but only since Thursday, Oct. 1.

That's after the Tuesday night debate in Cleveland where Trump and his family arrived late, were not tested and sat mask-less. Did they do it because they knew or had reason to suspect that at least one of them was infected? We don't know because the Trumps aren't talking about it. Eventually, we will find out.

We do know that, so far, Joe Biden and his family have tested negative. Trump's reckless disregard in exposing Biden to the virus is morally indefensible and verges on the criminal.

And what about Trump's rally in Duluth on Wednesday where he pumped up a crowd of mask-less fans?

Minnesota Public Health Department officials are telling the 3,000 attendees to self-quarantine if they were near the president. State Sen. Paul Gazelka, the majority leader, State Rep. Kurt Daudt, the House minority leader, are in quarantine. The My Pillow guy, who spoke at the rally, said he was never close to Trump that night.

Careless Trump believers

Three Minnesota Congressmen, Republicans all, flew back to Washington with Trump on Air Force One and then returned to the Gopher state on Delta Airlines in apparent violation of its rules for those exposed to the coronavirus. This is how disregard for the sanctity of human life spreads like waves from a rock dropped in a pond or, worse, that sinks after skipping across the surface like a candidate touching down for campaign rallies.

Oops, not rallies. Trump says his gatherings of fans are better described as protests against mask-wearing.

But he is using his departure from the hospital, no doubt against medical advice, in a crass appeal to raise money while discouraging people from following the well-established science of how to stop spreading the virus, knowledge that dates to the mid-)19th Century.

Trump Money Plea

That letter is the drugs talking. The powerful steroids Trump was given can make you rage with emotions and feel invincible for a time. I know because it happened to me a dozen years ago, a terrible side effect that afflicts some people given steroids for sound medical reasons.

Trump draws crowds because the majority of Americans have real economic grievances, as I've written about for decades including these recent DCReport pieces. Indeed, Trump ran for office using many of the phrases he heard me say on television about how Washington policies hurt 90% of Americans.

While he pledged in his inaugural address that "the forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer" his actions documented by DCReport show that he never gave them a thought.

Household staff at risk

Trump also pledged that "at the center of this movement is a crucial conviction: that a nation exists to serve its citizens" and "this American carnage stops right here and stops right now."

Trump doesn't care about the health of the nearly 100 White House household staff, many of them men and women of color, who served loyally one president and his family after another. He doesn't care about the Secret Service agents he made ride in an SUV so he could wave at his fans outside the hospital. When each Secret Service agent pledged to forfeit their own life it was to defend a president under assault, not preening for the television cameras. They are to him what you are, not a human being but an object to be used, abused and then conveniently cast aside or literally buried.

When he took office, Trump expressed a belief that "we are one nation – and their pain is our pain. Their dreams are our dreams; and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny."

Trump's lack of regard, lack of decency and rejection of medical science may give us one destiny, but it will be anything but glorious now that coronavirus cases have moved back up to 43,000 a day and rising.

"From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land," Trump proclaimed when he took office. "From this moment on, it's going to be America First."

And it is now first. It's America first in coronavirus deaths, in needless pain, in unnecessary economic suffering. Especially, Trump has made America first in unwanted death.

Will Republican cultists die for their dear leader?

Donald Trump is covering up just how he and 18 White House aides and supporters got the coronavirus, the latest proof that he doesn't care about you or anyone else.

Instead of shooting someone on Fifth Avenue, spraying lead bullets out of a gun, Trump sprayed the deadly coronavirus with every word coming out of his unmasked mouth.

Among those whose lives are now at risk – the seven children of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who sat mask-less in the Rose Garden on Sept. 26 when Trump announced their mother was his Supreme Court nominee. As an exercise in atrocious judgment bringing children to a crowded event during a pandemic and not masking them should be enough to establish that Barrett is unfit to sit on any bench.

Trump doesn't care about the health of the nearly 100 White House household staffers, many men and women of color, who have served loyally one president and his family after another.

Then there's the infected Kellyanne Conway, who said that she quit the White House to be with her troubled teenage daughter.

And what about the 11-month-old baby of Kayleigh McEnany, Trump's press secretary. She has tested positive after again and again showing her fealty to the imaged great leader by going mask-less. Does anyone doubt that if McEnany were a poor black or brown woman—or a Jew or Muslim in a Bible Belt county—that child protective services would be investigating whether to remove the infant Blake for her own safety?

Accepting Sickness

This is what happens when a cult arises. The leader is special and believers most demonstrate without even being asked that the messages the leader conveys have been internalized. And if he uses tricks and deceits to fool the public you must go along to remain in his good graces even if it exposes you and your newborn to sickness, lifelong health problems and even death.

The reason, rationality, and civil debate envisioned by our Founders and Framers have no place in Trump's anti-democratic cult. All that matters is loyalty to the leader, a loyalty that runs only one way.

As for lies, it's hard to top what Trump tweeted Monday before his skillfully timed departure from Walter Reed hospital, a staged event that consumed the entire evening news broadcasts of ABC, CBS and NBC.

Irresponsible

"Don't be afraid of COVID," Trump tweeted before the brilliantly staged pageantry began in what may go down as his single most irresponsible advice during the pandemic that has claimed more American lives than combat in World War I, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

That tweet, the flags and dramatic lighting at the White House as the sun set while Trump, his face and hair professionally pampered, posed triumphantly were all part of a propaganda pageant slicker than any event staged by Il Duce, Adolf or Trump's personal heroes, Putin and Kim.

When it comes to using images to kill rationality and stir cultish emotions, Trump has outdone even Leni Riefenstahl. Hitler, incidentally, at least had the smidgen of decency to not expose his beloved propaganda filmmaker to the risk of death by virus, as Trump did his photographer and videographer, among others, at the White House Monday evening.

Coverup

The Trump virus spreading coverup can be seen in the highly restricted contract tracing being undertaken by the White House medical staff. Trump has coronavirus tracers looking only for who was within death shot of his breath, but only since Thursday, Oct. 1.

That's after the Tuesday night debate in Cleveland where Trump and his family arrived late, were not tested, and sat mask-less. Did they do it because they knew or had reason to suspect that at least one of them was infected? We don't know because the Trumps aren't talking about it, but eventually, we will find out.

We do know that, so far, Joe Biden and his family have tested negative. Trump's reckless disregard in exposing Biden to the virus is morally indefensible and verges on the criminal.

And what about Trump's rally in Duluth on Wednesday where he pumped up a crowd of mask-less fans?

Minnesota Public Health Department officials are telling the 3,000 attendees to self-quarantine if they were near the president. State Sen. Paul Gazelka, the majority leader, State Rep. Kurt Daudt, the House minority leader, are in quarantine. The My Pillow guy, who spoke at the rally, said he was never close to Trump that night.

Careless Trump Believers

Three Minnesota Congressmen, Republicans all, flew back to Washington with Trump on Air Force One and then returned to the Gopher state on Delta Airlines in apparent violation of its rules for those exposed to the coronavirus. This is how disregard for the sanctity of human life spreads like waves from a rock dropped in a pond or, worse, that sinks after skipping across the surface like a candidate touching down for campaign rallies.

Oops, not rallies. Trump says his gatherings of fans are better described as protests against mask-wearing.

But he is using his departure from the hospital, no doubt against medical advice, in a crass appeal to raise money while discouraging people from following the well-established science of how to stop spreading the virus, knowledge that dates to the mid 19th Century.

Trump Money Plea

That letter is the drugs talking. The powerful steroids Trump was given can make you rage with emotions and feel invincible for a time. I know because it happened to me a dozen years ago, a terrible side effect that afflicts some people given steroids for sound medical reasons.

Trump draws crowds because the majority of Americans have real economic grievances, as I've written about for decades including these recent DCReport pieces. Indeed, Trump ran for office using many of the phrases he heard me say on television about how Washington policies hurt 90% of Americans.

While he pledged in his inaugural address that "the forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer" his actions documented by DCReport show that he never gave them a thought.

Household Staff At Risk

Trump also pledged that "at the center of this movement is a crucial conviction: that a nation exists to serve its citizens" and "this American carnage stops right here and stops right now."

Trump doesn't care about the health of the nearly 100 White House household staff, many men and women of color, who served loyally one president and his family after another. He doesn't care about the Secret Service agents he made ride in an SUV so he could wave at his fans outside the hospital. When each Secret Service agent pledged to forfeit their own life it was to defend a president under assault, not preening for the television cameras. They are to him what you are, not a human being but an object to be used, abused and when conveniently cast aside or literally buried.

When he took office, Trump expressed a belief that "we are one nation – and their pain is our pain. Their dreams are our dreams; and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny."

Trump's lack of regard, lack of decency, and rejection of medical science may give us one destiny, but it will be anything but glorious now that coronavirus cases have moved back up to 43,000 a day and rising.

"From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land," Trump proclaimed when he took office. "From this moment on, it's going to be America First."

And it is now first. It's America first in coronavirus deaths, in needless pain, in unnecessary economic suffering, and especially Trump has made America first in unwanted death.

Here's why we should hope Trump survives his fight with COVID-19

Donald Trump's late night tweet that he and his wife have contracted COVID brings to mind the word "hope" in four ways, all of them tests of the character of Americans.

First, we should hope he is telling the truth. Trump lies so often and easily that this could just be an excuse to hide from further debates with Joe Biden.

If it seems hard to imagine that Trump would lie about the pernicious virus that has killed more than 208,000 Americans just think about the more than 20,000 lies he has told since becoming our president. Sadly, Donald can never be trusted.

Second, we should hope that Trump and his much younger wife recover fully and are healthy again well before Nov. 3. America needs a clean referendum on Trump's presidency, not a vote about an ailing or even dead man.

Trump will lose the popular vote by at least 16 million ballots, hopefully by more than 20 million. Our democracy needs an unambiguous rejection of Trump. And voters need to disentangle themselves from his smack of moral jellyfish -- the blind, spineless Republicans who abandoned principle and their oath to defend our Constitution to toss themselves into his waves of political chaos.

Long Life

Third, we should hope that Trump lives at least as long as his crooked father, who died at 93. The president should experience his just desserts for a life of white-collar crime capped by his efforts to destroy our democracy just to serve his insatiable lust for money and his pathetic need for adulation.

Fourth, we should hope that as Trump endures the coming humiliation that he so richly deserves that the next administration doesn't let bygones be bygones. A Biden administration should offer leniency for those who confess fully and cooperate even as it vigorously prosecutes every single appointee who broke laws for Trump, criminal actions that threaten our health, our safety and most of all our liberty.

Even if Trump dies, the next president should not shirk from his duty to hold these domestic evil doers to account, he should not make the awful political and policy mistake Barack Obama made when he let corrupt bankers who brought down our economy a dozen years ago continue on their way because he feared it would interfere with restoring the economy.

The Golden Rule

No one should wish that Trump will, like his grandfather Frederick a century ago, become a pandemic victim. To think that way is be as immoral as Donald. Don't lower yourself. Awful and damaging as Trump has been, follow the ancient wisdom in Luke 6:31. "Do to others as you would have them do to you."

That Trump has never lived the Biblical Golden Rule speaks to his lack of character. Do not let his moral corruption infect your character. Be better. Be best.

Wishing death or illness on anyone conjures up the worst of human nature. We will not, we cannot, ever make America what it could be -- a society that ennobles free human spirit to become the best that our species can attain -- until we cleanse our own souls.

For America to endure we must actively embrace only good will towards all, even the vile Donald Trump.

Judging Others

That does not mean that we tolerate Trump's criminal conduct as a private citizen or while in office. We should show with our votes that giving succor to white supremacists, abusing the children of asylum seekers, letting polluters endanger us all, and signing a tax law that takes from the many to give to the rich few are un-American, indeed they are anti-American.

To live long and prosper as a nation, to live free, we must judge others as we would have them judge us. To do that we must develop both critical thinking skills and our moral character, a job that starts in the home and should continue in our schools, public and private. Then as adults we must apply our knowledge, always with caution because facts change, unlike principles.

We must hope that the ideas of the Enlightenment which inspired our revolution 244 years ago survive the manipulations by ideological marketing organizations which employ advertising techniques to sell us the political equivalent of fast food. We need reasoned and rational debate rooted in facts, not mindless chants like "lock her up" and attacks on journalists as enemies of the people.

We must hope that once we transition to back to normalcy that we will not forget the nightmare Trump has created. We must begin to grow into a better America, an idea and a society that will endure and inspire the whole world.

We must begin a never-ending search for the best possible leaders, women and men who we can trust to faithfully defend our Constitution, to at long last establish equal justice for all and to hold true to the principle that ours is a nation of laws, not men.

This man told the truth about the real Donald Trump — but no one listened

Of all the books about Donald Trump this year, the one that will help you best understand the man, his rise to power and his inability to carry out the duties of a president is by a journalist who has been dead for almost four years.

Without Compromise is a collection of columns by the late Wayne Barrett of the Village Voice, the first journalist to seriously cover Trump. Way back in 1979, when The New York Times was running puff pieces that helped propel Trump to national celebrity, Barrett revealed the real Trump with hard facts and moral clarity.

Just three of the 19 reprinted pieces are about Trump, but they are the foundation of all serious Trump coverage, so rich with lasting insight that they can reasonably be read as the alpha and omega of Trump coverage.

Trump has a pathological need to introduce an evil twist into every deal, what another real estate developer called Trump's 'moral larceny.'

When the Village Voice shut down two years ago, The New York Times having since seen the light on the Trump it so utterly failed to investigate during the 2016 campaign, noted that Barrett's "obsessive work on Donald J. Trump has become a resource for reporters covering the president today."

In cold, clear prose Barrett lays bare the rot behind Trump's carefully polished patina of success and respectability. The rest of the book is a college degree in corrupt politics and how journalists could, but largely don't, cover government.

Barrett was former Brooklyn schoolteacher and community organizer who wangled a job the Village Voice, the immensely profitable alternative weekly founded by Norman Mailer and three other journalists who couldn't abide the straitjacket of conventional 1950s journalism.

Life, Not Journalism School

Like many of our best journalists, Barrett didn't go to journalism school, though for years he would teach at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. His experience in Brooklyn about life beyond the glitter of Manhattan showed in his first Trump piece.

"Trump's problem isn't so much what he's done as how he's done it," Barrett wrote after spending 15 hours interviewing Trump and many more digging through government records in New York and Philadelphia, interviewing law enforcement sources, competing developers and politicians.

Barrett saw right off that Trump's money lust was not his worst attribute. Trump has a pathological need to introduce an evil twist into every deal, what another real estate developer called Trump's "moral larceny."

Trump, soon realizing Barrett was no lightweight feature writer he could romance, tried threats. When that failed, Trump turned to bribery, offering Barrett a free Trump Tower apartment.

"Trump was testing me," Barrett wrote, "to see what would work–convinced that either fear or the suggestion that I could have some undefined future relationship with his wealth or his influence could help shape the story. He had only to figure out what I wanted. Every relationship is a transaction."

It never occurred to Donald that some people are immune to flattery and threats and don't have a price. Nearly a decade later he tried the same strategies on me.

The three Barrett pieces in Without Compromise paint a more accurate, concise, and damning portrait of the man than the later work of any other journalist including me.

Eileen Markey chose the 19 pieces and rounded up notables in academia and journalism to write accompanying essays. Markey is one of many journalists who survived Barrett Bootcamp, the toughest journalism training in the country.

'You're Fired'

Barrett was an obsessively demanding boss, beloved by those who learned technique from him and put up with his famous yelling. Wayne called me once to basically say he needed to yell, and no one was around so I patiently listened to my friend for 90 minutes.

Once Barrett shouted at intern Marcus Baram, returning two hours late from a brief errand, "you're fired!" Baram, later a Fast Company masthead editor, smartly took his seat and got to work, Barrett soon forgetting his command.

Those who survived Barrett Bootcamp became some of the best journalists in New York. Among them: Timothy L. O'Brien of Bloomberg, Jennifer Gonnerman of The New Yorker, Errol Louis of NY1 television, Andrea Bernstein of WNYC, Jarrett Murphy of City Magazine, and Markey, his wife, who put together the anthology.

You can get an idea of how focused Barrett was on hard facts that matter from a story his wife Fran told my wife and me one night over dinner near Atlantic City, where we then lived and the Barretts had a summer home purchased with money from his 1992 book Trump: The Deals and The Downfall.

"Wayne came back from interviewing Trump and was regaling me with this lie and that by Trump and I kept asking him about the apartment – what's it like, Wayne?" Fran said.

"What? Oh, the apartment? It's big."

Truth's Surprising Consequences

Barrett did his work with such decency that after he died at age 71, the day before Trump took office in 2017, his memorial service was filled with politicians he had exposed, some of whom ended up behind bars. Both Governor Andrew Cuomo and Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, went on and on with praise for Barrett.

Schumer told stories of how, but for Barrett's journalistic policing when he first held office, he would never have made it to the United States Senate. Schumer said Barrett made him realize he was being seduced by money and "fancy women," adding that's why he married a Brooklyn cabbie's daughter

I visited Wayne at his Brooklyn townhouse one afternoon when the door was opened by Alan Hevesi, the former New York State comptroller who had gone to prison after Barrett exposed his criminal acts.

As the three of us ate lunch Hevesi told me he had no hard feelings. "I did it, Wayne nailed it down and reported it. How can I hold a grudge against a man who wrote the truth?" That's not the way Trump reacts.

Journalism, Barrett taught, is the only occupation where you get paid to tell the truth. That's a journalist's job, start to finish. Tell the truth as best they can uncover it. That's why Trump calls journalists the enemy of the people. He can't stand the truth. Without Comprise is nothing but truth.

House Republicans paint a labor vision that’s straight out of the 19th century robber barons era

Ten House Republicans who fashion themselves policy wonks are out with their diagnosis of what ails the American worker. Their proposed cure is a future that would be brutish, nasty and short.

The Hobbesian, dog-eat-dog policies the Republican Study Group proposes would enhance the power of those born to privilege, just so long as nothing knocks them off their comfortable perch.

The report proposes:

  1. No forgiveness of student loans even though our federal government authorized students to borrow huge sums to attend worthless commercial schools that went bankrupt, leaving them with no degree, just debt. The Republican plan lacks even the mercy provisions for debtors written into Hammurabi's Code almost 4,000 years ago, which wiped away debts when storms, war or corruption ruined a borrower's finances.
  2. A turn away from comprehensive higher education, especially liberal arts, to focus on technical skills and employability. Forget about developing the rigorous and thoughtful minds that enable young people to become informed citizens.
  3. Throughout, the report makes recommendations that would require a larger federal government workforce to police workers, students, poor people and immigrants.
  4. Empower workers by further weakening, if not eliminating, unions. The Republican Study Group report calls for workers to have more freedom to negotiate directly with their employers, a solution in search of a problem. "Our approach would unleash the full potential of the American people by refocusing labor policy to provide workers more control over their own future," the report states. Given that individual workers are mostly commodities, that's the equivalent of urging that each grain of wheat in a silo be free to negotiate whether it goes into the grist mill first or last.
  5. Get tough on the poor and immigrants, who are portrayed as greedy thieves who shirk work, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. The poor and hungry get the blame for high levels of what the report artfully calls "improper payments" despite evidence that mostly these are screwups by federal agencies, not applicants. Not a word, by the way, is said about thieving defense contractors, farmers and other business operators even though a link in the report is full of examples where such businesses benefit from fraud, waste and abuse.
The 66-page report, Reclaiming the American Dream: Proposals to Empower the Workers of Today and Tomorrow, is amazingly slipshod. Frankly, the study group, lead by Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) and its staff should be ashamed that they published such low-quality work.

Many hypertext links in the End Notes don't work, including the first. Others point to web pages that generate a "404" page missing response. While some End Notes refer to official data, many point to ideological marketing organizations like the Heritage Foundation and polemics based on a priori assumptions.

Anti-Unions Claim

Bizarrely, the report characterizes unions as holding down the compensation of members. That's absurd since the whole point of collective bargaining is to ensure that workers get fairly paid for their contribution to their employer's financial success.

Consider this lie on Page 32: "Under current law, union contracts set both a wage floor and a wage ceiling. As a result, individual workers cannot be given raises, including performance-based raises, by their employer."

No law is cited because none exists. And not one example of a contract that prohibits merit pay is cited in the report or in the right-wing newspaper article to which it links. I've negotiated a labor contract and I've read countless such collective bargaining agreements, none of which had prohibition of merit pay or bonuses. It's possible they exist, but the Study Group fails to show any evidence.

How revealing, though, that the Republican Study Group describes its imaginary prohibition on merit pay and bonuses as entirely a problem with unions rather than employers. The incentive to hold down pay lies with companies, not unions.

The report's attacks on labor unions as a detriment to members comes right out of the Donald Trump playbook in which making stuff up or distorting it without any respect for facts is the name of the game. Just make the claim and damn reality.

Contradictory Approach

Throughout, the report makes recommendations that would require a larger federal government workforce to police workers, students, poor people and immigrants. Many more auditors and investigators would be needed to investigate anyone who relies on what remains of America's tattered social safety net.

Implementing the proposed changes also would require massive investments in technology, primarily computers to both operate federal programs and to find people who abuse these benefits.

Neglecting to propose these expansions of investigative staff and computer systems makes the study group report empty rhetoric that reveals its members' mindset, favoring much more top-down power and punishment.

Attacking Working-Class Leisure

The report attacks not working, something a wealthy nation could reasonably aspire to achieve. "Among the civilian labor force, less than half of those who fail to complete high school are participating in the labor force," the report states, accurately.

Heaven forbid that people not work. This is on a theme with Trump, who throughout his 2016 campaign complained that too many Americans were not working.

Of course, there are many reasons people don't work, especially the "poorly educated" whom Trump often says he loves.

Those reasons include staying home to raise children, which Republicans used to hail as a virtue. Then there's caring for elderly parents or a disabled spouse or just enjoying leisure instead of chasing every last buck.

Unmentioned in the report are government policies that have driven down wages for the "poorly educated," an issue examined in my 2014 anthology DIVIDED: The Perils of Our Growing Inequality. For the many people whom nature or education made fit only for unskilled work, wages are now so low that it doesn't pay to get a job and can actually make you worse off.

We would have more people working if we moved to the shorter workweeks and mandatory paid vacations found in, say, Germany. That's anathema to the Study Group's perspective.

Tough Luck for Scammed Students

Another bizarre claim is that forgiving the debt of students swindled by corrupt fake colleges "would actually drive up the cost of college tuition and send the message that students who make irresponsible borrowing decisions will ultimately be bailed out by the federal government."

What of the responsibility of Congress, under both Democratic and Republican majorities, and presidents from both parties who enabled fake colleges and who put in place the harsh student loan rules that are also examined in my 2014 anthology DIVIDED. My 2008 bestseller Free Lunch tells of a student loan company that bought a Gulfstream jet to ferry members of Congress around gratis, the kind of institutional bribery that can distort the priorities of lawmakers.

Nowhere does the Republican Study Group propose the most obvious answer to America's higher education affordability issues. To prepare our young for the increasingly complex world of the future, we could simply restore the mid-20th century policies of making public higher education tuition-free or nearly so, an investment of tax dollars to build a prosperous and durable future.

Not everything in the report is without merit. The federal government operates, the study group says, 90 social welfare programs. Consolidating and simplifying those programs is a worthy goal. The report, though, is antagonistic to such programs, making any reader reasonably suspicious of changes the Study Group would seek.

This misunderstanding of the American students' and workers' needs should come as no surprise considering the signatories of this report. Nine are male. All ten are white.

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