2017

On Trump's Meeting with Lavrov Today - Time To End The Appeasement of Russia

This morning we released the following statement to the media and our community: 

When President Trump meets with Vladimir Putin’s most senior aide at the White House today, it is essential that the President use this time to raise concerns about Russia’s rising ambitions on the global stage. Among the issues that should be on the agenda:

• Russian interference in the elections and internal politics of the United States and Europe
• Russia’s violation of the INF nuclear treaty (link)
• The imperative of returning Crimea to Ukraine, and cessation of its adventurous military operations in the region
• Rising Russian support of the Taliban in Afghanistan (link), and escalation in Libya (link)
• Russia’s establishment of a military installation in Nicaragua (link)
• And of course, the need for Russia to stop propping up Syria’s murderous dictator, and prolonging the Syrian Civil War

“While Americans should be very concerned about Russia’s intervention in our election last year on behalf of Donald Trump, what is far more worrisome is President Trump’s unwillingness to challenge Russia’s rising ambitions on the global stage since becoming President” said NDN President Simon Rosenberg.

“In another age we would call President Trump’s early approach to Russia “appeasement.” Today, President Trump has an opportunity to demonstrate to the American people that he is capable of standing firm against this rising global threat from a newly ambitious Russia. His failure to raise these matters with FM Lavrov and demand a change in Russia’s course would send a signal to the world that America supports Russia’s newly aggressive stance. Such an approach is of course unacceptable, and would give additional fodder to those who have been argued that Trump can be friends with Putin or be President of the United States - but he cannot be both.”

Update: So the meeting happened.  Lavrov brought along Ambassador Kislyak, thought to be the chief Russian spymaster in the US.  These two men helped lead the Russian campaign to elect Trump.  And Our President met with them without any other American in the room - no translator, no press, no national security council staff.  Just Putin's top aide, and the Russian spymaster in the US.  How Kislyak was allowed into the Oval Office is beyond comprehension.  And of course the White House's read out of the meeting was milquetoast, and neglected to mention Kislyak's presence.  And of course did not mention anything about the ongoing Russian interference campaign in the US or in Europe.  Pure, clear, mighty appeasement it is. 

Update: So I took to Twitter and elaborated on this piece a bit.  Well worth your time.  Biggest issue in American politics today. 

"No Normal Time" - A Special Note from Simon

Dear Friends,

Some days it is important to note just how unusual, and pernicious, American politics has become. Sally Yates’ testimony today reminds us that our President and his allies are under an unprecedented investigation for treason and active collusion with a hostile foreign power. The House passed ACHA and its emerging budget strategy is an extraordinary betrayal of everything Donald Trump campaigned on; would do clear, measurable harm to tens of millions of Americans in order to give tax cuts to the wealthiest among us; and as Paul Krugman argues today in the New York Times represents a degree of direct lying about policy that is also unprecedented in modern American history. More stories of rank and unprecedented corruption by the Trump family once again dominate our headlines this morning. And just this morning our President took to Twitter to discuss golf and once again give clumsy cover to the Russian attack on the American homeland (and French, German and many others) last year. These things are not normal, or okay.

While there is good news out of France this morning, we cannot forget just how extraordinary this moment in American politics is. There is no “business as usual” option here, a sense that things will somehow settle down to something resembling “normal politics.” This is why we’ve so aggressively advocated that Democrats start to make these matters – the appeasement of Russia, the corruption, the epic malevolent lying, the denigration of democratic norms – front and center in their negotiations with Trump and the GOP. We cannot segregate off traditional policy considerations from these broader areas of concern as doing so will be in its own way a form of appeasement and acceptance.

We also have recently advocated that the RNC be challenged to take far more aggressive steps in combating the reoccurrence of foreign attempts to influence our elections that FBI Director Comey predicted will come. The RNC and thus the entire Republican Party and all of its members played a significant role in mainstreaming the Russian operation in the US last year, and were thus critical to its success. This shameful legacy needs to be confronted by the current leadership of the RNC, and steps taken to work with willing Democrats to create a united political front against foreign interference in our elections.

These are no ordinary times. History tells us that in times like these many well-intentioned people will fail to understand how extraordinary the moment is, and to allow wishful thinking to overwhelm good sense. We in America don’t have a lot of experience with this kind of politics, so perhaps it is understandable. But let me be as clear as day – this organization will not stop challenging those in power to meet this worrisome moment head on and with force equal to what is coming at us. Creativity, strategic thinking and good old fashioned courage are required now. And we are going to do our part in making sure that America comes out of this time stronger, wiser and more just than before. We hope you will continue to partner with us in these consequential days ahead to assure that it is so.

Best,

Simon

Monday, May 8th 2017 From Washington, DC

Video: Simon joins Fernand Amandi, Roger Stone on Trump's first 100 days

NDN President Simon Rosenberg joined WIOD's Fernand Amandi and Roger Stone to discuss the first 100 days of Trump's Presidency.  It is well worth watching.  

Backgrounder: Budgets, Health Care and Trump's Great Betrayal

With attention returning to budgets and the US economy, NDN has assembled some of our work on these matters over the past few months.  We hope you find these analyses helpful.  

Trump's Tax Plan is Aimed at the 2018 and 2020 Elections, Not U.S. Competitiveness, Rob Shapiro, NDN.org, 4/26/17. Trump's claims that damage from higher deficits will be minor compared to the benefits for US competitiveness, economic efficiency, and tax fairness are nonsense, and the real agenda here is the 2018 and 2020 elections.

Release: Still no 2017 budget from GOP, or proposal from White House, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 4/26/17. While the President’s revenue outline today is a late but welcome development, it cannot be given serious consideration outside the eventual full budget proposal that is usually submitted to Congress in February.

Trump puts foreign investors first by supporting the Republican tax plan, Rob Shapiro, The Hill, 3/28/17. Rob weighs in on the very real problems of the House GOP's proposed border adjustment tax.  

Trump's Great Betrayal, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 3/23/17. President Trump is pursuing policies deeply at odds w/his pledge to help every day Americans. It should become known as "The Great Betrayal."

Column: 5 Ways Trump Could Stop Obama's Expansion, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 3/23/17. There just isn't a lot of justification for the market's optimism that Trump's economic policies - Maralagonomics - will keep the Obama expansion going.

Memo: In A New Global Age, Democrats Have Been Far Better for the US Economy, Deficits, and Incomes, Chris Murphy and Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 2/21/17. In a new memo NDN finds that over the past generation of American politics Democrats have been far better for the economy, deficits and incomes. 

Steve Bannon, Meet Russell Pearce, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 2/21/17. If history is a guide, Trump's efforts to institutionalize xenophobia and ramp up immigration enforcement could disrupt businesses, hurt the US economy and tear apart families. The blowback could be significant and cause lasting damage to his Presidency.

If you would like to read more of Rob's other recent work, be sure to review our backgrounder "Rob Shapiro on the Economy."

Trump’s Tax Plan Is Aimed At the 2018 and 2020 Elections, Not U.S. Competitiveness

President Trump wants to cut the tax rate for all American businesses to 15 percent, and damn the deficit. If you believe him, any damage from higher deficits will be minor compared to the benefits for US competitiveness, economic efficiency, and tax fairness. The truth is, those claims are nonsense; and the real agenda here is the 2018 and 2020 elections. Without substantial new stimulus, the GOP will likely face voters in 2018 with a very weak economy – and tax cuts, especially for business, are the only form of stimulus most Republicans will tolerate. Moreover, if everything falls into place, just right, deep tax cuts for businesses could spur enough additional capital spending to help Trump survive the 2020 election.

Let’s review the economic case for major tax relief for American companies. It’s undeniable that the current corporate tax is inefficient – but does it actually make U.S. businesses less competitive? The truth is, there’s no evidence of any such effects. In fact, the post-tax returns on business investments are higher in the United States than in any advanced country except Australia, and the productivity of businesses is also higher here than in any advanced country except Norway and Luxembourg.

The critics are right that the 35 percent marginal tax rate on corporate profits is higher than in most countries. But as the data on comparative post-tax returns suggest, that marginal tax rate has less impact on investment and jobs than the “effective tax rate,” which is the actual percentage of net profits that businesses pay. On that score, the GAO reports that U.S. businesses pay an average effective tax rate of just 14 percent, which tells us that U.S. businesses get to use special provisions that protect 60 percent of their profits from tax (14 percent = 40 percent of 35 percent).

Tax experts are certainly correct that a corporate tax plan that closed special provisions and used the additional revenues to lower the 35 percent tax rate would make the overall economy a little more efficient. But lowering the rate alone while leaving most of those provisions in place would have almost no impact on the economy’s efficiency – and the political point of Trump’s plan depends on not paying to lower the tax rate.

Finally, would a 15 percent tax rate on hundreds of billions of dollars in business profits help most Americans, as the White House insists, since 52 percent of us own stock in U.S. corporations directly or through mutual funds? The data show that most shareholders would gain very little, because with 91 percent of all U.S. stock held by the top 10 percent, most shareholders own very little stock.

Moreover, the proposed 15 percent tax rate would cover not only public corporations but also all privately-held businesses whose profits are currently taxed at the personal tax rate of their owners. So, Trump’s plan would slash taxes not only for public corporations from Goldman Sachs to McDonald’s, but also for every partnership of doctors or lawyers, every hedge fund and private equity fund, and every huge family business from Koch Industries and Bechtel, to the Trump Organization.

There is no doubt that the President’s tax plan would provide enormous windfalls for the richest people in the country. Beyond that, it may or may not sustain growth through the next two elections, since even the best conservative economists commonly overstate the benefits of cutting tax rates. But the truth is, there aren’t many other options that a Republican Congress would accept.

This post was originally published on Dr. Shapiro's blog.

 

Column: Democrats should put Russia, corruption and tax returns on agenda w/Trump

Today, US News and World Report published Simon's latest column,“Standing Firm.” In the column Simon recommends that in the coming negotiations with President Trump on a wide variety of issues – including the budget, debt ceiling, infrastructure, improving the Affordable Care Act and even matters of war and peace – Democrats should add three more important issues to the agenda:

1. Full presidential cooperation with the various probes into Russian interference in U.S. politics.
2. Commonplace financial transparency - release of tax returns, public audit of Trump's holdings.
3. Cessation of presidential use of his private businesses for matters of state.

To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can Simon's previous US News columns here.

Column: The End of Innocence: Trump's Fantasy World Crashes Hard Into The Real One

Today US News published Simon's latest column,“The End of Innocence: Trump's Fantasy World Crashes Hard Into The Real One.”

An excerpt –

"In the coming days, Trump's willingness to shed his clear admiration for Putin and Russia will be central to our emerging Syria policy, and to Trump's broader foreign policy vision. It is also perhaps the most important indicator of his willingness to shed the childish fantasy world his campaign constructed that is causing his early presidency to fail. Whatever Trump believed about Putin, and whatever transactions have gone down between them, Putin is anathema to the American creed. He is working to weaken America and the West on the global stage, advance autocracy as an alternative to democracy, undermine the global consensus about the need to find a better energy paradigm than one based on fossil fuels and has been Assad's funder and partner and thus is directly responsible for the greatest humanitarian crisis in generations. There is a strong argument to be made that defeating Putinism is the most significant challenge facing our new president. And because of this Trump will have to choose. He can be president of the United States or a friend of Putin's. He cannot be both."

To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can Simon's previous US News columns here.
 

Trump's Great Betrayal

A new statement from NDN’s Simon Rosenberg:

“Candidate Donald Trump promised every day Americans his Administration would fight for them. Two months into his Presidency it is clear he has no intention of following through on his promise. These early months of the Trump Presidency could become known as “The Great Betrayal.”

Fair? Let’s take three simple examples:

Health Care – Candidate Trump promised health reform that would cover everybody, lower costs and not cut programs like Medicare and Medicaid. The House GOP health care bill he has endorsed and promoted would dramatically increase the number of uninsured (25m, 7% of US population); would increase costs for everybody, particularly for older people; and would savagely cut Medicaid. His plan would make tens of millions of those people he pledged to fight for sicker and poorer, while giving hundreds of billions of new tax cuts to wealthy people like those he hangs out each weekend at Mar-a-Lago.

Few proposals in American history could do as much harm to working people as the health care plan championed by Donald Trump these past few weeks. It is literally the opposite of what he promised he would do.

His Budget – The partial budget document Trump released last week would make massive cuts in education and job training, transportation and infrastructure, simple environmental protections and many other programs critical for working people to live good and decent lives. Whether working people would get a tax break for all of this is unclear as he hasn’t released a complete budget. But if his budget follows the strategy of his health care plan expect the benefits to flow to those already wealthy with little left for those struggling to get by.

His Staff – Despite his campaign rhetoric, the Trump Administration led by the wealthiest collection of Americans to every lead an American Administration in the modern era of American politics, and perhaps ever. It is full of Wall Streeters, including 5 former executives of Goldman Sachs. Working class champions are as hard to find in the early Trump Administration as those immigration documents of Melania’s he promised back in August.

Based on what he has done in his first months in the White House, it is now clear that Donald Trump lied to the American people about his intentions as President. Rather than championing the working man, Donald Trump has backed proposals that would transfer hundreds of billions of dollars from every day Americans to those already wealthy and well off. It is an astonishing and historic betrayal of the people he promised to serve, leaving tens of millions sicker and poorer and even more with reduced life opportunities. Donald Trump hasn’t shown respect to those he pledged to fight for, he has shown them hostility and contempt. He is far more venal Robber Baron than virtuous populist, far more Calvin Coolidge than Andrew Jackson, far more an oligarch than a man of the people.

I am positing for others to debate that no President in American history as veered as far from the core promises and message of his campaign as Trump has in his first few months. It is Trumpian in its scale, something that I hope becomes known as “The Great Betrayal.”

Column: 5 Ways Trump Could Stop Obama's Expansion

In his new US News column,“5 Ways Trump Could Stop Obama's Expansion,” Simon warns that Trump’s economic policies are more likely than not to derail the long Obama expansion.

According to Simon, there are 5 steps Trump is taking that are likely to weaken growth and hasten a recession:

• Labor market disruptions
• Loss of tourism
• Making America sicker and poorer
• The weakening of the global trade system
• A reckless budget

An excerpt from "5 Ways Trump Could Stop Obama's Expansion" –

"If the president's plans provide huge tax benefits to those already well off – as Bush's did – and create massive deficits, the net result will harm the U.S. economy and the nation's fiscal integrity. The hugely regressive nature of the Trump-Ryan health care bill is a sign of where the GOP is going, and it should worry everyone concerned about a strong, healthy American economy.

So, growth or recession? If the president just kept current economic policies in place, the U.S. would probably be headed for a few more years of growth, possibly even strong growth. But the president isn't keeping those policies in place, and I worry that what he is trying to do will in aggregate threaten our economy more than help it grow.

Our president has made a good living catering to wealthy Americans and foreigners. While that strategy may have worked as a private business, the American people and their economy can prosper only if the tide is lifting all boats, not just those docked at Mar-a-Lago. And that just isn't where America is headed now. So count me as worried about our economic prospects, and the ability of Trump to sustain a long and durable expansion left for him by his predecessor."

To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can Simon's previous US News columns here.

For more of NDN's work on the Democrats and Republicans' stewardship of the US economy, please review our memo, "In A New Global Age, Democrats Have Been Far Better for the US Economy, Deficits, and Incomes."

"The President Didn't Release A Budget Today" - Statement from Simon Rosenberg

“The President did not release a budget today. Budgets have income and expenditures, surpluses and deficits. This document had none of that. It only detailed the expenditure side of a small portion of the overall budget, which we will apparently not see for another two months. That it has taken the Trump Administration so long to come up with this partial proposal, and is so far behind in producing the traditional document we use to run our nation, should be a concern for all Americans. Being months late on budget blueprints and attacking the government’s system for tracking the economic impact of budgets and legislation (the CBO) is not something global markets and investors traditionally reward.

One reason it is taking so long for this White House to produce a budget is that it is almost certainly proving impossible to translate the President’s promises into a budget that will pass a fiscal laugh test. President Trump has promised to radically reduce revenue to the federal government, while significantly increasing DOD, DHS and VA spending and not touching Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Even with the draconian cuts in domestic programs the Administration offered today it is reasonable to assume that the Administration’s budget, if we are to ever see it, will propose historic increases in the federal deficit and no proven strategy for growth. The last Republican President also significantly reduced revenue and increased defense spending. It brought us a Great Recession, income decline and a ten-fold increase in the annual deficit. Why this strategy will work for President Trump when it didn’t work for President Bush is something that needs some discussion in the days ahead.

Finally, it should be noted that over the last generation of American politics it has been Democrats who have presided over job growth, rising incomes, lower annual deficits and soaring stock markets. During this time two consecutive Republican Presidents brought us recessions, income decline and higher annual deficits. When it comes to the strategy for how to make economies grow and lower deficits the public should be looking to the Democrats and not to the Party of Trump.”

- Simon Rosenberg, President, NDN

For more on the performance of the two parties since the end of the Cold War see this recent memo from NDN.

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