Sally Yates Was Right

In January, the Trump Administration rolled out a Muslim Ban. They said it wasn’t, but the courts put an end to it almost immediately. Almost…which means a lot of people got hurt in the process. Put an end to it…means the ban was unconstitutional and illegal.  The acting US Attorney General Sally Yates had said just that, and thus she couldn’t defend it, so fired she was. Still is fired. Now we know she was also right. The Administration has settled the first lawsuit filed by two Iraqis for this Muslim ban. So what will become of Yates? A hero to many already. I will be watching.

Musing – Christians and Exclusivity

Once in a while I have this urge to challenge some position or meme on social media. There are so many, and so meaningless, ones floating around every day that I don’t want to frustrate myself with the attempt. Some however stand out. Not because of the cleverness, or the position, but for the sheer stupidity. Today was one of those. Because of who posted it and the falsity, it got me thinking about the exclusivity of the conflict of being Christian and being untruthful, and I don’t understand.

The meme went something like this. It first stated an event followed by the line “no one seemed to care” followed later by another line “How come the media didn’t mind?” Posted by a self proclaimed Christian. Couldn’t help myself. In spite of knowing better, that it wouldn’t change anything, I pointed out the falsity… unless of course he could properly support. No fear since the statement itself and the posting thereof disproves it’s own conclusion. Logic. But he’s Christian, knowingly supporting a lie after the impossibility is made known, so it got complicated.

“No one” is indeed an extremely exclusive group. If anyone, just one single somebody seemed to care, the statement is false. Post the event followed by “no one seemed to care” means the poster seems or seemed to care…immediately making it false. Damn logic. But I knew it was false without the word play as I remember the event and I cared, so did most of my friends. But I regress. The issue rattling around my head all day has been about exclusivity. How can a person be Christian and lie? I find only the following options:

A non-Christian can lie or be truthful…free from morality entirely. Someone truthful can be either a Christian or non-Christian. Both have options. Personally I rate credibility well above Christian. But a liar can’t be Christian and a Christian can’t be a liar. Mutually exclusive. OK a Christian can lie but is he/she still a Christian? Being brought up in religion, I say no.

Closely related as I’m trying to understand the thought process behind what I’m seeing/sensing on social media, do Christians believe God checks Face-book? Would a Christian lie if their Father was looking over their shoulder and would know right off? From my old lessons I think we’re supposed to believe God is all seeing and all knowing. So he IS checking Face-book, and he knows it’s a lie. Somewhere, somehow there is a disconnect between reality and beliefs, and between the beliefs. The thought of getting away with one, even after the falsity is pointed out, may carry the day for some…temporarily suspending the all knowing all seeing belief. Perhaps it’s just a tale made for an unworthy human, non-believer. How would God know or care. Or lying for the good of the Religion, or God himself…perhaps believing even God himself might suspend a rule for benefit of religion or himself. But that’s not the God I was taught. Nor George Washington for that matter, telling on himself knowing punishment was forthcoming. Perhaps social media has created a massive credibility void. People can be or say whatever they want…suspended reality. Suspended beliefs. Suspended Christianity. Lying to advance the religion and/or the candidate your religion endorses. So the belief becomes suspended only when dealing with outsiders? I just don’t get it.

In the end I only have questions with no answers and don’t understand. Any help?

Solar Credit – Only the Wealthy need Apply

When most of us talk about income inequality we look at the big things, capital gains tax, treatment of carried interest, etc. But sometimes the little things count too. The Renewable Energy Credit is one of them.

We’re doing a solar project right now and a quick look at the tax credit discloses bias for the wealthy. In our case the cost of our 4kw project is roughly $13,000. As a result of

Here is a look at the Return on Investment. This data is from a more expensive vendor (but they had these nice graphics!) with the same 4kw production. Easy to see the benefits, even if financing in many cases.

that investment we’ll receive a federal tax credit of $3,900 making the final cost to us just $9,100. The payback in ridding ourselves of electric bills for the life of the system (25+ years) is substantial. The investment, while not the coolest thing we’re trying to make happen here, has moved up among our priorities because of it’s long-term payback guarantee. In the end it makes other things more affordable as it pays for itself, then pays us with an offset from electrical bills.

But what f we didn’t already have some money? What if our annual tax bill wasn’t large enough to claim the credit? The project would cost us more, perhaps as much as the full price of $13,000 would come from our pocket.  While the credit is intended to subsidize the development of the alternate energy industry and offset fossil fuel consumption, it is also written with a bias toward the wealthy which can also be called a bias against the poor.

Unlike some tax credits (Earned Income Credit for example) which are refundable credits, the Renewable Energy Credit is not. Instinct may be to downplay this since only tax payers can get a tax credit, but not so fast. The Renewable Energy Credit is a subsidy for the industry, it just passes through the consumer on it’s way to that industry. There is no reason it can’t pass through the poor equally as well as it passes trough the wealthy. In the end the federal tax expenditure is the same, the difference is that the wealthy obtain the long-term cost reduction (investment) for electricity and the poor either cannot or must do so at a greater cost i.e. a greater investment cost thus a much lower return on investment. Coupled with the economy of (investment/consumption) scale and the bias is even greater.  Larger home equals (usually)  larger consumption equals a larger investment which equals a greater tax credit.

Our government at work, creating a plan to help the renewable energy industry which is arguably a good thing, but doing so by offering the wealthy a far greater return on investment than the poor. This is a prime case of where at the same cost to the government, both the industry AND the energy affordability for the poor could be accomplished at the same time, with the same dollars…and not one penny more. A FREE opportunity to aid the poor along with the industry with the re-write of just a couple words.

If the Renewable Energy Credit remains, it should be made a “refundable” credit.

MSNBC Recognizing the Nonsense

MSNBC is right with us here at American Money Lies on the Weaponised Nonsense. If your following the dialog of the past couple days at all, this morning’s broadcast is worth watching. Scary to me, but nice to see we’re not the only team taking note.

A few more thoughts. I posted this when I saw it this morning. It’s not only obvious the man hasn’t much idea of how government works or what’s really going on around him, it’s a milestone in that real people and credible reporters are now saying it in public. There is a catch however. It creates an out.

Calling him ill and making this into a sickness opens the exit door. One with the sympathy we all feel when our acquaintances and/or family suffer from similar fate. Sympathy…instead of facing what the long history of facts and actions demonstrate… fraud, lying, cheating contractors out of payment, groping, multiple bankruptcies designed to save personal capital at the expense of others, and now what is shaping up to be likely collusion.  Oh I am sympathetic, just not much toward frauds, crooks and cheats.


Weaponised Nonsense

For all my author and reading friends, this is a great read…nothing to add from here. Start with this quote from the article…well worth a very short time commitment. Thanks for caring about the meaning of language.

Without language, there is no accountability, no standard of truth. If Trump never says anything concrete, he never has to do anything concrete. If Trump never makes a statement of commitment, Trump supporters never have to confront what they really voted for. If his promises are vague to the point of opacity, Trump cannot be criticised for breaking them. If every sloppy lie (ie: “Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower … This is McCarthyism!”) can be explained away as a “generality” or “just a joke” because of “quotes”, then he can literally say anything with impunity. Trump can rend immigrant families in the name of “heart”, destroy healthcare in the name of “life”, purge minority voters in the name of “justice”, and roll back women’s autonomy in the name of “freedom”. The constitution? Probably sarcastic. There are “quotes” all over that thing!

Tax Magic and Deficit Spending Battle

As a federal funding deadline nears yet again without a plan on the table, we’re starting to see bits appear. Nothing indicating a coherent strategy in spite of the campaign beginning almost two years ago. One of those bits is a Trump intent to cut corporate tax rates to 15%.

Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of the Treasury, claims this proposal would “pay for itself” through economic growth. He said a growth rate of 3 percent was achievable. Experts throw cold water on that idea, since there is no evidence that tax cuts pay for themselves.

The Tax Policy Center estimated in November that Trump’s 15% proposal, coupled with a repeal of the corporate Alternative Minimum Tax, could reduce revenue by nearly $2.4 trillion in the first decade.

To put that in context, that’s about $240 billion a year — which is almost as much as the $304 billion the government spent last year on income security programs such as food stamps, unemployment benefits and child nutrition.

The Republican chairman of the Senate Finance Committee seems to believe such a deep cut might not be well received by Mr. Trump’s party because of its potential to increase the deficit. So even this Republican’s concerns indicate the likelihood of the tax cuts to pay for themselves is about the same likelihood I expect Mexico to pay for the wall.

Pay attention this week. It will be interesting to watch the debate as the Senate and House majorities (both GOP) wrestle with their own critiques of deficit spending during the past 8 years and their double pronged approach to avoid a government shutdown (self imposed by their refusal to consider any budget put forth by President Obama in his last year) and their desire to give a legislative win of any type to this Administration in its first 100 days.

While we look on consider Mark Thoma’s perspective which I covered here during a debt ceiling debate in September 2013. He breaks the battle out for what it is…and it is not about tax revenue, spending, and the debt in spite of all the jargon:

“Politicians and the press often make it seem as though the long-run debt is the real issue, but if that were true we’d be hearing a lot more about using tax increases to close the budget gap. After all, our tax burden is not all that high relative to other countries, and there are ways to raise taxes that do not harm economic growth.”

This fight is really about folks who have and make a lot of money not wanting to pay tax at the expense of those less fortunate. Let’s face it, those businesses run by multi-million dollar/year CEO’s function off the national infrastructure just like all the rest of America. Thoma’s work, linked in his quote above, is a great read, well supported, and places this attempt to cut tax rates for the big boys in proper perspective.


The Wall

OK, now we know Mexico will pay for the wall. Done.

And from a reliable source

Media Support

A tumultuous week followed by a refreshing perspective on media from our German ally Angela Merkel.

Another tweet, again attacking the credibility of the media, the underlying message of go direct to the White House if you want the truth. Some of us prefer to hear multiple views even when we are aware of biases in the coverage. Take this very week as a positive example where those nasty media types broke a few facts we would otherwise not know of actions taken by our own government servants.

Not long ago we talked here about marginalizing the media. “Mostly subtle but effective in marginalizing the media, blackballing reporters who may not describe things the way Mr Trump perceives himself, and bombarding the public with false statements”

This tweet just one more step toward marginalizing the press. But as the Administration heads down this path it’s reassuring to see a powerful world voice speaking out in support and in respect for the press.

I stand by a free and independent press and have great respect for journalists,” Merkel said at an international security conference in Munich with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence in the audience. “We’ve always done well in Germany when we mutually respect each other.”

Nice to see some reason prevail in the free world.

Of Leaks and Whistles

Continuation of the Flynn flap takes us into an interesting public quarrel about leaks, what is good for the U.S. and what’s good for the Administration. Are they the same or different, and is it a leak if it’s blowing a whistle on actions placing the U.S security in jeopardy?

A look back before joining the public narrative has clarified my perspective. Beginning with Mr Flynn’s actions during the campaign we see he passed on completely false news via Twitter about Ms Clinton. 

Couple this with his being an intelligence professional, his leading “Lock her Up” chants at political rallies and we have a clear public case (not a leak) of deliberate lies promoted by Mr Flynn during his support on the campaign trail. He was dirty before his selection as National Security Adviser, yet selected by the Administration anyway.

We also know (not a leak) that the Russians worked to influence the 2016 election. They hacked DNC computers and released pilfered documents to media sources. This action by the Russians was encouraged by the GOP candidate during a televised debate and at multiple public rallies. Again not a leak. So we know of Russian involvement in the election and DNC hacking, and we know the GOP campaign team sent public adulation to the Russians and Wikileaks for doing so. There was also no doubt Mr Flynn was unreliable and untrustworthy, something already clear to the prior Administration. He was put into the position of National Security Adviser by this administration anyway. We saw this train coming.

We now know the the acting Attorney General (Yates) had advised the Administration of the event and associated risks weeks ago and no action was taken by the Administration in spite of already public knowledge of Flynn’s character and his being in a self inflicted compromised position. Was this a leak? Or when a public official has knowledge placing the public  (and the nation) does it become a duty to protect he public they serve? Add another public servant, the President, now having the same knowledge and failing (perhaps refusing) to take action. A leak, or whistle blowing?

The White House is framing this as Flynn mislead Pence verses the security risk and legal violation. In essence the Administration hired a guy to lie for them and didn’t like it when he lied to them.  Way too simple an explanation. Never mind the security of the nation and the likely illegality, the issue is being carefully boxed in as a Flynn-Pence issue coupled with a critique of leaks.

Directing focus toward the leaks does little to establish credibility for this Administration. In realty it detracts credibility given their support for and encouragement for leaks when the leaks detracted form others’ credibility.

But the real questions are yet to be answered. While we see no direct evidence supporting the Presidents knowledge of Mr Flynn’s calls, it is hard to perceive a senior official, long-time friend and supporter, interacting with a foreign power in complete isolation. So who else? And to what level? How many more fall guys before we see the full breadth and depth of this…There is certainly much more to come…

Meanwhile in the circle of leaks and whistles there is a balance. If information is damaging for the country it must be protected. If the information is damaging for the Administration in disclosing illegal activity or security risks for the country, of course the Administration would like it protected. In this case we have verified information of Administration acts which place the nation at risk of blackmail by an adversary like Russia. To use a line from candidate Trump in the clip above, the leakers performed a public service by revealing a scandal with no rival in United States history. It becomes the duty of any public servant to disclose.  First to the responsible party, in this case the President which Ms Yates did. If there is no action taken, then to the public. That is what I call whistle blowing, and I applaud it.



Free Market Capitalism?


For years the GOP has embraced the concept of free market capitalism with prices and services determined by the open market and consumers with the laws of supply and demand operating free from government intervention, price setting or other authorities.

But last week we saw a significant back step from that ideology when Nordstrom culled the Ivanka Trump line from their inventory. The reason is irrelevant, but per Nordstrom this was a business decision.

We’ve said all along we make buying decisions based on performance,” Nordstrom’s press spokesperson told Fortune magazine last week. “In this case, based on the brand’s performance, we’ve decided not to buy it for this season.”

Nordstrom’s action brought forth two major issues from our current GOP leadership, both deserve attention. One is a clear violation of ethical standards and U.S. law, and is what most agencies and citizens are focused on. But the other demonstrates open conflict with standing GOP principles, the very capitalistic ideology Republicans promote as the antidote for a sluggish economy.

The first response came to our attention with a Tweet direct from the White House:

Donald J. Trump ✔@realDonaldTrump
My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person — always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!
6:51 PM – 8 Feb 2017

So it seems OK to intervene in the law of supply and demand…at least when it is beneficial to ones own family. We might easily accept this in terms of spontaneously defending our own children, except the shilling for his daughters business continued with both (official representatives of the Administration and party) Spicer and Conway.

“I think this is less about his family’s business and an attack on his daughter,” Spicer said. “He ran for president. He won. He’s leading this country. I think for people to take out their concern about his actions or his executive orders on members of his family, he has every right to stand up for his family and applaud their business activities, their success.”

“Go buy Ivanka’s stuff,” Conway said, adding that consumers can buy Ivanka’s products online. Done so from her official position speaking on behalf of the White House.

Following social media threads I also see GOP supporters dismayed by the Nordstrom decision with many proffering pledges to boycott the business chain. Here’s one right leaning publication’s take:

Not to mention all the conservative customers who will now purposely avoid Nordstrom. And remember, that’s at least half of all Americans.”

For the record “at least half of all Americans” is an unsupportable alternative fact with just 29.8% of the electorate having voted for this Administration and accounting for current approval/disapproval ratings, all evidence the number remains well under “half” but that’s for another time.

What is important is the GOP abandoning their ideological principle of the Free Market. The market unencumbered with government intervention, price setting or other authorities appears to be fiction. Perhaps ideology is just an excuse to reduce regulation protecting us average consumers from pollution, false advertising, and other risks to enhance corporate profits. But when it comes to involvement and equity for their GOP elite, government intervention is just fine.

Of course many are focused on the ethical and legal violations surrounding the acts of business and consumer influence direct from the White House. That remains an important issue, more so when the actors have refused to divest themselves of the very business conflicts we anticipated. But we can’t lose sight of the right, all the way from the White House, to publications, down to GOP affiliated consumers themselves, acting in direct conflict to their very own economic ideology.

The signal to U.S citizens directly from an administration promising to drain the swamp and rid Washington of this very corruption is clear. What’s good enough for you isn’t good enough for their own elite. Or another way, what’s good for me, consumer protection, income security, free markets, health care and much more, is far too good for you average citizens.