The Senate Needs to Bring the Hammer Down on Sen. Corker

In a Wall Street Journal report this morning, it was revealed that Sen. Corker (R-TN) filed tax amendments going back to 2007 to report $7m of previously undisclosed income.  Sen. Corker sits on the powerful Senate Banking Committee and its jointly responsible for ethics and oversight of the financial sector.

While a thorough investigation still needs to be completed, it is only reasonable to demand that the Senate strip Sen. Corker of his role and press all available charges against him for these transgressions against the American people.  The integrity of the financial markets is paramount to a strong, fair economy.  What Sen. Corker has demonstrated is a blatant disregard for the principles that guide this country.

The Federal Government has long felt that mandatory minimum sentencing for minor drug crimes was “essential” for a strong America.  How many kids have had their lives ruined for having a little bit of weed on them?  Someone who has benefited from insider knowledge, cheated the American people by lying on his tax return, and done nothing to strengthen the public’s trust in one of the country’s most important industries should be locked up.

Sen. Corker has done far more damage to this country and should be punished accordingly.  It is encouraged that you take the time to contact your Senators and press them for a swift, thorough investigation.  You can do so by clicking here.

Sen. Cruz Focuses on the Big Issues

The Republicans are well on their way to losing the 2016 Presidential Election.  With the candidates continuing to produce over-the-top slogans about issues that have already been decided, it is safe to assume most Americans will be abstaining from the election or voting blue.

Last week’s debate – the debacle that it was – did not advance the GOP cause.  Getting mad at the media for asking garbage questions (even if correct) did not communicate leadership, it communicated hostility.  Maybe messages like Sen. Cruz’s tweet above are more effective than we give them credit for, but at the end of the day, the people who get excited by this type of stuff already live in echo chambers.

Ahead of Tonight’s GOP Debate – A New Budget Deal

The breaking news Tuesday out of Washington was that Congressional Leaders reached a Federal budget deal that would prevent a shutdown of the Government for the next two years.  The budget allows for minor increases in public spending for both 2016 and 2017 (approximately 1.5% each year) and removes the cap on the debt ceiling through 2017.

Members of the GOP Freedom Caucus – predictably – were upset at the deal, calling it a “backroom deal.”  While the Freedom Caucus is quick to lament any spending whatsoever by the Federal Government, the individual members appear to not understand that starving the Federal government and forcing it into shutdown is not going to benefit the US in any way.  Yes, there absolutely needs to be control around the budget process, but the US cannot continue to tempt fate every six months.

The implications of this budget deal are an interesting turn of events within Congress.  Speaker John Boehner, who just a few months ago appeared to be very publically defeated by the extremists in his own party, used his resignation to fuel the deal.  Agree or disagree with the deal, it is still truly amazing what politicians can get done when they are no longer campaigning for reelection.  Speaker Boehner’s deal also makes life significantly easier for Rep. Paul Ryan who will likely be the next Speaker of the House.  Though Rep. Ryan will be unable to support the deal, taking the issue off the table gives him a lot more time.

The budget deal will be a topic of great interest in tonight’s third GOP debate.  Sen. Ted Cruz has already been very vocal about “hating” the deal, so expect him as well as the others, to continue that rhetoric.  The GOP hopefuls are currently 100% focused on pandering to ultra-Conservative voters from a select number of states so the assumption is that they will continue to serve these groups huge helpings of red meat (even though this may now cause cancer).

Who will win this debate is anyone’s guess.  Trump will continue to have outrageous soundbites, Carson will continue to speak in his ‘not entirely sure what I am saying as I say it’ manner, Jeb will continue to avoid his last name.  Undoubtedly, this debate will continue the GOP circus that we have seen for the past few months.

What can we hope for?  Well, several GOP candidates should go the way of the dodo after this debate.  If the Democrats were able to eliminate Sen. Jim Webb and Gov. Lincoln Chaffee after just one debate, the GOP should see more than just Gov. Perry and Gov. Walker out of the field.

For the sake of the GOP the following candidates should suspend their campaigns tonight:

  • Jim Gilmore (0%)
  • George Pataki (0.4%)
  • Rick Santorum (0.7%)
  • Bobby Jindal (0.7%)
  • Lindsey Graham (1.2%)
  • Chris Christie (2.4%)

None of these individuals have a shot at being President of the United States.  All they are doing is further embarrassing the GOP and distracting voters.  There is no reason to continue running.

 

The Dems Debate – What did we learn?

October 13th, 2015, the Democrats have finally started their race for the White House.  After seemingly hundreds of Republican debates, speeches, and interviews, it was nice to hear from the “other side of the aisle” for a change.  In contrast to what, at times, has felt like a GOP circus, the debate between Democrat candidates felt more relaxed and balanced.

That, however, does not mean that the night was without issue.  CNN’s debate format was confusing and poorly enforced.  Anderson Cooper did not have any control over the forum and was consistently run over by the candidates.  In many responses, the Democrat hopefuls were able to get to full Speech on the Washington Lawn mode while Cooper meagerly uttered “thank you” in the background.  It was not a good look for CNN, but it was also not the organization’s worst look.

Being clever is an artform.  Throwing reporters on stage that identify with a particular racial group (African American, Hispanic) to ask the hard questions related to their races came off as tone deaf.  It smelled of an organization that was attempting to pander to certain groups rather than actually challenge the candidates.  It was both poorly conceived and poorly executed.

The Rapid Reaction

Clinton and Sanders both landed exactly where they were predicted to land.  There are many, many outlets praising these two candidates as the obvious victors so there is no need to parrot those statements.  Sanders brought his fiery conviction and dedication to his cause; his supporters would be proud of his performance.  Clinton showed that despite being involved in almost every scandal that could be brought to the table, she is still a polished debater and a talented politician.

Martin O’Malley wins the award for Best Performance by an Unknown Politician.  As the Governor of Maryland, O’Malley was able to lean on his implementation of a number of the planks that the Democrat Party has set as a national agenda.  He was excited and had clear talking points (specifically on green energy and infrastructure).  O’Malley isn’t going to replace Sanders or Clinton any time soon, but may have put himself firmly in the race for the Vice President position – likely of Clinton – with his performance.

A VP with Executive experience and a clear pet project would be a very good running mate for Clinton.  O’Malley’s VP chances will ultimately be hindered by being from a state (Maryland) that is somewhat inconsequential with regard to the Electoral College and, additionally, the fact that Maryland is also on the east coast.

The Time to Stop

As with the GOP debates, there were candidates that were overmatched and clearly not prepared for prime-time (see Perry, Rick).  Senator Webb and Governor Chafee were unnecessary additions to the debate and when each reviews his performance, should be embarrassed enough to hang up the gloves.

Senator Webb spent a significant amount of his limited time complaining about not getting enough time to speak.  When he did speak, his points landed somewhere between forgettable and baffling.  Specifically when asked “What enemy is he most proud of?”  Senator Webb replied “the soldier in Vietnam that threw a grenade at him, but he isn’t around anymore to say it.”

Viewers can, rightly, take this from that response:  Senator Webb is most proud of killing a stranger, who was likely a farmer or some other peasant, in a foreign country, fighting for reasons that he did not fully understand.  This was a disgusting response by the Senator.

Governor Chafee was equally as bad in his performance.  While he spent the majority of the time doing a terrible Senator Palpatine before he reveals that he is a Sith Lord impression, it was his final statement that was sure to cause an issue with the residents of one particular state.  Noting that he “turned around Rhode Island” was one of the most laughable statements that any politician has made, Republican or Democrat.

Rhode Island continues to recover in spite of the terrible leadership it has received over the past 10 years.  Governor Chafee’s four years in office left no significant policies or accomplishments in his wake.  In fact, his approval ratings were so low at the end of his first term, he didn’t consider running for office again.  It is disingenuous to state that Rhode Island has been turned around when it is still very much trying to recover.

Biggest Winner

The real winner tonight was the Democratic Party itself.  CNN moderation and murderous Senator Webb aside, the party came across as very much sane.  As the Republican Party continues to waffle around petty social issues that have already been resolved, the Democrats laid out clear paths to move the country forward.  Sure, Senator Sanders’ plan would require significant tax increases, but at a minimum he gave voters something tangible to think about.

Republicans at this stage are still indicating that they need to “tap into America’s greatness and break the Washington machine.”  What the GOP fails to realize is that the Washington machine has already been broken and that, in itself, is the issue.

Image: CNN

Understanding Syria

The conflict in Syria is spawned one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent memory.  Millions of both pro and anti Assad refugees are fleeing the war torn region for the greener pastures of Europe.  Assad’s administration is waging open war on several fronts, but to truly understand the conflict, it is important to understand the players, who roughly break down into the following groups:

  • Pro-Assad militias and the Syrian Armed forces
  • Anti-Assad militias (broken into multiple factions), but supported by the Coalition forces
  • ISIS / ISIL
  • The Russian and Iranian Armed Forces

Assad’s forces are now being openly supported by the Russian Armed Forces, a new development in the conflict.  With Russian bombers hitting both ISIS and Anti-Assad groups, the mixture of tensions has begun to escalate.  Further, Russian President Putin has indicated that he is sending 150,000 troops into Syria to support Assad’s ground forces.

This change flies directly in the face of the US-led Coalition’s approach in Syria – one that has sought to train “moderate” rebel groups and provide bombing support when needed.  Several analysts have noted that the US-led strategy has been to funnel ISIS toward Assad’s forces.  This means bombing ISIS when they are too close to Anti-Assad militias, but avoiding direct conflict with ISIS when the group is engaged with the Syrian military.

Senator John McCain is not afraid to hide the intentions of the US-led Coalition: collapse of the Assad Government before the removal of ISIS.  This approach would ensure a new Government could be picked that would be more open to playing ball with Western powers.  This also allows for a “2 birds with 1 stone” victory.  Removal of a labelled Dictator and removal of a terrorist organization.

On paper, Senator McCain loves this approach, but Russia’s new involvement will alter the US-led strategy quite a bit.

Most importantly, a link must be discovered to the age old driver of these conflicts: energy.  Early signs point to the proposed Qatari  gas pipelines to Europe which would reduce reliance on Russian gas.  Assad, a Russian supporter, just happens to be at the crossroad of these conflicts for power.

 

Middle-East-map” by W123Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons.

Overseas Profits Could Drive Infrastructure Spending

Noted in an article on Reuters, the 500 largest US Corporations hold around $2.1 Trillion in profit overseas.  The argument that these companies make is that the profits have been produced outside of the US and, therefore, have been subjected to non-US tax laws.  US tax law currently allows these profits to remain tax-free if the profits stay overseas and the company believes that the capital will be used on international operations.

Where this gets tricky is when tax strategists are able to route earnings through global tax havens that allow these companies to claim “foreign taxes paid” while taking advantage of the countries with extremely low or non-existent corporate income tax rates.  US Corporations have long advocated that the 35% rate held in the United States is too high relative to international tax standards and puts American businesses at a disadvantage.

There is a lot of truth to that belief.  Higher income taxes encourage tax strategies such as these to avoid paying the tax.  American businesses that derive the majority of their earnings through domestic operations are also at a disadvantage relative to their more international peers (See Domestic Manufacturing) given their inability to take advantage of the same strategies.

What the United States needs is a comprehensive plan to settle this issue that is both beneficial to US citizens and the corporations generating the earnings.  One potential solution is to tie a smaller tax rate to the capitalization of a US Infrastructure Bank.  A tax rate of 10% on repatriated funds, for example, could raise billions of dollars in capital for such a bank that could then be loaned / granted to projects throughout the United States.

Taking this idea a step further, allowing US corporations to deduct up to 50% of the taxes owed on the repatriated funds for use on short-term, capital investments in domestic operations or research and development would help drive the type of activities that lead to both job creation and economic growth.

To illustrate, image a US corporation that has generated $10B in profits overseas that wishes to repatriate some of those funds.  This business may decide to bring back $2B in profits under the proposed plan triggering a $200M tax charge.  This business, wanting to expand an existing factory could then elect to use $100M of the tax charge on their capital plan while sending the remaining $100M to the Infrastructure Bank.  The remaining $1.8B is free to use as the organization sees fit.

Under the current environment, this economic activity may not take place!  A plan such as this opens up a significant number of doors for capital investment in the United States.  Our country is in need of innovative ideas that put politics on the back burner, global tax reform should be one of those ideas.

Boehner Resigns: Another Crack in the GOPs Base

Since Mitt Romney’s loss to President Barack Obama in the 2012 Presidential Election, the GOP has been in a state of duress. Mainstream Republicans lost important seats and positions to more extreme members of the Tea Party.  The base of power shifted left toward Gay Marriage and LGBT rights.  The GOP was, correctly, painted as “old,” “out of touch,” and “evil.”

Speaker John Boehner stood at the front of the Republican old guard.  As the leader of the GOP in the House, Rep. Boehner was uniquely positioned to control the order of events.  While the Office of the President gets more press, it is Congress that truly runs the country by building policy, laws, taxes, and regulations.  Setting the agenda of the country and the positioning of the Republican party is a power that few others will ever know.

This is a truly significant turn of events.

The Republican party must evolve in order to continue existing.  The party itself has remained steadfastly focused on minority pockets of the US population, chief among them, the highly religious south.  A mainstream party that is very Conservative is not what the United States needs.  The Republican party has sought to keep the status quo and to avoid coming to terms with the true issues of the age.  Change is far to rapid to ignore.

Hoping that “someone else” takes care of issues like Climate Change, Poverty, and Energy is a cowards way of handling the Republic’s affairs.  This country deserves better from the Republicans party and if the current crop of GOP leaders cannot deliver the ideas and programs that will move this country forward, they should be voted out of office.

Gov. Scott Walker Ends His 2016 Bid

Running a national campaign is not cheap and for Gov. Scott Walker, the expenses finally caught up with him.  Choosing to end his bid now does highlight a smart financial decision on the part of the Governor.  Rather than hanging on to a lost cause and racking up mountains of debt, the Governor is taking a path that better positions him to be a Vice President.

Noting as much, Gov. Walker stated in his suspension speech:

I encourage other Republican presidential candidates to consider doing the same so that the voters can focus on a limited number of candidates who can offer a positive, conservative alternative to the current front-runner

While this is a direct attack towards Donald Trump, it can also be seen as a show of support for Gov. Jeb Bush.  Gov. Walker understands that positioning is everything and the GOP, rightly, understands that Gov. Walker has a very attractive “conservative” record (one that made him an early front-runner).  He also, correctly, recognizes that dollars sent to candidates at the bottom of the polls are being wasted if the candidate is just going to drop out in a few months.

A Bush-Walker ticket would look very good on paper to some members of the Republican party.  Trump, Fiorina, and Carson all lead the pack, but when push comes to shove, these individuals may not represent what the GOP is looking to present to the country.

Of the potential VPs currently in play, Gov. Walker has to be considered the leader of the pack.

Hillary’s “New” Personality on Ellen

Hillary 2.0 (or 3.0?) joined Ellen DeGeneres to launch her new personality polished with “humor” and “being more approachable.”  It is a sad state of affairs when, mid-campaign, a candidate realizes they need to be anyone but themselves.  Unfortunately for Hillary, her true personality is far more similar to Mitt Romney’s robotic appearance than it is to 2008’s campaigning Barack Obama.

There is nothing more out of character than Hillary Clinton – at 67 years old – saying “Pantsuit up!” on Twitter.  Did she write that? No.  Did she think of that? No.  Is this going to win over undecided voters? No. Hillary’s image problem is not that she is not approachable or isn’t funny, it’s that she has not maintained a position in years nor has she really revealed who she truly is.  Hiding behind a plastic image only works for so long.

Everything is smoke and mirrors with Hillary.  Her reaction to the issues with her email server started with a level of defiance and disinterest that felt reflective of an individual that was more bothered that anyone had the audacity to question how she worked than anything else.  Now that the “play nice” media has realized there is way more fire than smoke with the server, Hillary is in apology mode.  It may be too little too late.

If Hillary is going to win this election, something that felt like an absolute certainty just a few months ago, she needs to be herself.  There is a distinct lack of authenticity in everything she does.  She isn’t the likable lady you call on Sunday morning to girl chat about your weekend.  She doesn’t have that card to play and should stop wasting everyone’s time attempting to do so.

What Hillary does have is a far more interesting story.  She has been in Bill’s shadow for years.  Bill messes up and gets more popular, Hillary exists and the public hates her more.  That must really bother her.

What can she do?

Own who she is.  “I’m paving the way for more women to rise up in a world dominated by men.  I had to take the gloves off.  I had to do things I am not proud of.  I’m paying the price so that others may enjoy the purchased goods.”

That is who she actually is.  Come out and say it.  Own it and her positions.  The country is ready for that – just look at how the public is embracing Donald Trump.

Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Nearing Defcon 1

With the latest information regarding Hillary Clinton’s private email server showing that there was indeed classified materials in the contents, one has to wonder how much longer merely “damage control” will work for the Clinton campaign.  Noted in the New York Times, two of the emails amongst the tens of thousands were even flagged as “Top Secret” by Federal investigators.  While there are still questions about how these classifications were derived, the story is not following the path that Clinton’s team laid out at the beginning of the year.

Not to be outdone, however, Clinton has remained defiant in her defense of the use of the private email server.  While this public show of confidence may play towards many of Clinton’s supporters, there are now many whispers among the Democratic Party worried about crumbling foundation.

What was called, just three months ago, a coronation, is now beginning to be a search for another candidate.  Bernie Sanders may not appeal to mainstream, moderate voters yet so perhaps the field is clearing for someone such as Vice President Joe Biden or former Vice President Al Gore.

If either one of these individuals tossed their hat in the ring, it could spell the end of Hillary’s run.  That has to have Clinton’s people in a panic internally.