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Republicans Should Use Tax Reform to Pursue the Real Deficit Driver: Entitlements

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In the weeks preceding the holiday recess, GOP congressional leaders passed two sweeping tax reform bills, hoping to produce a final version for President Trump to sign before Christmas.

Taken together, the bills cut taxes by nearly $1.5 trillion- including lowering the corporate rate to 20%- and attempt to mitigate the impact on the deficit through economic growth.

This belief that lower taxes stimulate the economy- last put into practice during the second Bush administration- has encountered resistance from deficit-minded conservatives and Democrats who fear that reduced revenue will exacerbate the deficit crisis.

“I say to my colleagues, particularly the deficit hawks…” Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a recent floor speech. “This bill is a deficit budget buster. We all know what will happen.”

Senator Schumer raised a valid point. Without accounting for economic growth, the Congressional Budget Office says the Senate bill would add $1.41 trillion to the deficit by 2027.

In the absence of sustained economic expansion, like the 3.3% growth rate in the recent third quarter, Republican tax reform will contribute to the national deficit. Adding to the deficit, ironically, is typically anathema to traditional conservative ideals.

But if tax reform leads to greater wage retention, and drives growth, Republicans should highlight the primary causes of the deficit, and fashion an argument for another GOP wish list item: entitlement reform.

By no means is the federal government strapped for cash. The Office of Management and Budget says that federal revenue for fiscal year 2018 will be $3.65 trillion.

This total, however, falls short of government spending of $4.09 trillion, creating a deficit of $440 billion. It is this figure, of course, that continues to drive federal debt toward $20 trillion.

But the annual deficit pales in comparison to the budget items that drive it: mandatory spending programs. These entitlements were established under so-called authorization laws, which require Congress to appropriate whatever funds are needed to keep the programs running.

Mandatory spending is currently estimated to be $2.535 trillion, or 62% of the federal budget, with the two largest items being Social Security and Medicare.

As the most expensive entitlement program, Social Security is estimated to cost $1.005 trillion in 2018. Funded through payroll taxes, Social Security collected more revenue than expenses until 2011 when 78 million baby boomers became eligible to draw from the program. Over the next 30 years, it is estimated that fewer workers will pay into Social Security, requiring 25% of its benefits to come from the federal government’s general fund.

Though smaller in total, Medicare is the second largest contributor to the deficit. In 2018, the healthcare program will cost $582 billion, and will derive 43% of its resources from the general fund.

To further exacerbate Medicare’s solvency issue, rising healthcare costs continue to make the program more expensive to administer, which will require future congressional leaders to allocate more funding for the program.

If taken together, Social Security and Medicare account for about $1.6 trillion in annual government spending. This total, however, would be inconsequential if these programs were self-sustaining. But they are, unfortunately, forecasted to fall short of their fiscal obligations, leaving taxpayers to pick up the tab through payroll and income taxes.

In comparison, the GOP tax bill is expected to add $1.4 trillion to the deficit over the next decade, or just over $100 billion per year by 2027. While this is a significant addition to the deficit, it is demonstrably less than the impact of entitlement spending, and may be partially offset by increased economic activity resulting from lower taxes.

Indeed, if tax cuts lead to economic expansion, Republicans have a convincing argument for entitlement reform. In such an instance, the GOP’s two-part rationalization should center on the efficacy of tax cuts, necessity of entitlement reform, and target young and middle-aged taxpayers who stand to lose the most from entitlement insolvency.

First, the GOP would provide Americans with a consistent reminder about the advantages of tax reform: increased take-home pay and (if present) economic growth. This message emphasizes the benefits of tax cuts and an expanding economy- two outcomes that quickly endear most voters to their congressional representative.

Republican’s second step is to a develop an engaging policy platform, aimed at the young and middle-aged, about the exigency of entitlement sustainability. While not the most enthralling topic, entitlement insolvency poses a threat to working Americans as they move toward retirement. By engaging their self-interest in the matter, a consistent GOP message on entitlement viability would create invaluable support for reforming public benefits.

So, if tax reform allows for greater retention of wages, and sustained economic growth, Republicans can harness their constituent’s interest in public retirement benefits through the lens of the looming deficit crisis. 

Such a strategy, if properly executed, could hand Republicans their greatest wish of all: entitlement reform.

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Americas

Decoding Pompeo’s words at US senate

Mohammad Ghaderi

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The CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who is nominee for Secretary of State, has recently mentioned meaningful words in his hearing at the Senate on Iran and the nuclear deal. In his words, he acknowledged that Iran was not after nuclear weapons even before the nuclear deal, nor will be in the future.

On the other hand, he has announced that he is seeking to fix and correct the nuclear deal with Iran! This is while the US President Donald Trump is scheduled to announce his final decision on Iran’s nuclear deal by May 12. “I want to fix this deal,” Pompeo said. “That’s the objective. I think that’s in the best interest of [the United States].”

At his recent Senate hearing, Pompeo has emphasized that as CIA Director, he didn’t find any evidences that Iran has violated the nuclear deal. At the same time, he believes that Tehran can’t expand its program shortly after the US withdrawal from the nuclear accord. He emphasized that his goal is to correct the nuclear deal with Iran. Pompeo said:

“If there’s no chance that we can fix it, I will recommend to the president (Trump) that we do our level best to work with our allies to achieve a better outcome and a better deal,” he said. “Even after May 12, there’s still much diplomatic work to be done.”

A simple decoding of Pompeo’s remarks suggests that, despite the opposition to the nuclear accord, he is trying to deal differently with this issue as the future US Secretary of State. Some analysts also believe that Pompeo has adopted such an approach to face the US Senators’ relative opposition to the White House’s withdrawal from the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).

In any case, according to Pompeo, Donald Trump may not make a final decision on the nuclear deal with Iran on May 12, and he will continue to consult with his European allies on what he calls “fixing the flaws of the JCPOA”.

Pompeo’s remarks indicate that the White House hasn’t come to a determined and clear decision on how to deal with the JCPOA yet. On the other hand, numerous consultations by representatives of the four countries, the United States, France, Britain and Germany, continues in silence.

Western sources have argued that these countries are consulting on the three controversial issue, namely “the Sunset clauses”, “limiting Iran’s missile power” and “extensive inspections of Iran’s military sites”. These sources claimed that the only remaining disagreement between the four countries is over deletion of the so-called Sunset clauses from the nuclear deal, and thus putting permanent limitations on Iran’s nuclear program.

Pompeo is currently the CIA director, and ironically, he was one of the foremost critics of the Iran nuclear deal when he served as a House Republican from Kansas. Trump fired Secretary of State “Rex Tillerson” over the raised disagreements, and picked Pompeo as his successor in March, just two months before the deadline on May 12 to decide whether to bring back sanctions that former President of the United States waived when the JCPOA was first implemented.

Before this, many Western politicians and analysts saw the nomination of Mike Pompeo for secretary of state by Trump as a sign of Washington’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal. Beyond that, John Bolton’s appointment as US national security advisor also sent a clear message to the international system that Trump is about to pull out of the nuclear deal with Iran.

John Bolton is now silent about the fate of the JCPOA! The silence seems very meaningful at the current time. It’s obvious that John Bolton is one of the main opponents of the nuclear deal with Iran, and he doesn’t even believe in negotiating with the European Troika on maintaining the JCPOA.

The important question, however, is whether Bolton’s silence reflects the continuing paradoxical and vague approach of the US towards the JCPOA? Or did Trump ask him to be silent in this regard and wait for the final results of their talks with Europe?

American senators still don’t have a clear picture of Trump’s final decision about the JCPOA. Meanwhile, some Republican senators like “Rand Paul” and “Jeff Flake” are worried about the costs and consequences of Trump’s decision to refuse joining other members of P5+1.

Most US senators tried not to mention the nuclear deal with Iran in their speeches during recent weeks. This is while some senators such as “Tom Cotton” and “Ted Cruz” strongly encourage Donald Trump’s government to pull out of the nuclear deal with Iran.

First published at our partner Mehr News Agency

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How Wikipedia Lies

Eric Zuesse

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The Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania

Did you know that Vice President Dick Cheney admitted that on 11 September 2001 he, as President George W. Bush’s brief stand-in during the 9/11 attacks that hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, issued an order (and it was carried out) to shoot down United Airlines Flight 93 while it was in the air near Pittsburgh? If what he said at the time was true, then the standard ‘historical’ account of the plane’s having been brought down as a result of action by the passengers, would be concocted, not history at all.

Here is the video-clip of V.P. Cheney on 9/11, making this claim and explaining why he gave that order: 

The Wikipedia article on Flight 93 provides the standard account, and fails even so much as just to mention the Vice President’a assertion and explanation that he provided on national TV at the time of the 9/11 events.

So: I edited the Wikipedia article by adding a sentence at the end of its opening paragraph, and by following that sentence with a brief second paragraph, and here is that entire two-sentence addition:

Vice President Dick Cheney alleged that he gave the order to shoot down Flight 93, and explained why when asked about it by Chris Wallace of Fox News as shown in this film-clip

Consequently, the account given below of what brought the plane down — an account inconsistent with what Cheney said — could be entirely false. 

On the web browser that I was using, the addition showed as having been successfully made in the Wikipedia article. However, to be sure, I opened the URL in a different browser, and this time my addition was absent. I then went back to the “Edit” page” and this time to the “View history” page, and clicked there on “(talk)” and found this message, which I saw virtually immediately after I had thought that I had inserted the new information:

Hello, I’m Shellwood. I wanted to let you know that I reverted one of your recent contributions —specifically this edit to United Airlines Flight 93— because it did not appear constructive. 

No other explanation for blocking my addition was provided. “Shellwood” was there saying that mentioning, and linking to the video of Cheney saying, that allegation, which Cheney made on 9/11 about how Flight 93 came down, is not “constructive” to Wikipedia-readers who want information about Flight 93.

Previously, even the BBC published the fact that Wikipedia is edited by the CIA.

Anyone who reads the present article is hereby welcomed to try making the same addition to that Wikipedia article, and I hope that one of the readers here will be able to get it accepted by the editors of that site, so that Wikipedia can be made at least moderately trustworthy, on at least that one article. Perhaps if enough people try, then Wikipedia will come to recognize that Wikipedia’s modus operandum isn’t merely a very successful system of propaganda, but that it’s also something of a PR problem for Wikipedia, which they’ll need to do something about, if they’re to be able to survive (or at least retain their credibility) at all. Blocking inclusion in an article, of a fact that disproves part of the ‘history’ (and here the most important part) which is told in that article, is unacceptable in anyone’s eyes.

As of today, April 20th, the Wikipedia article on Flight 93 does make one, and only one, mention of Cheney:

Vice President Dick Cheney, in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center deep under the White House, upon learning of the premature crash, is reported to have said, “I think an act of heroism just took place on that plane.”[2]

The link there, [2], goes to a CNN article, likewise published on 11 September 2001, which likewise presents Cheney as saying that he ordered the shoot-down of Flight 93:

After the planes struck the twin towers, a third took a chunk out of the Pentagon. Cheney then heard a report that a plane over Pennsylvania was heading for Washington. A military assistant asked Cheney twice for authority to shoot it down.

“The vice president said yes again,” remembered Josh Bolton, deputy White House chief of staff. “And the aide then asked a third time. He said, ‘Just confirming, sir, authority to engage?’ And the vice president — his voice got a little annoyed then — said, ‘I said yes.'” 

The phrase that Wikipedia is quoting from Cheney, “I think an act of heroism just took place on that plane,” appears later in that CNN article, out of context, when one of Cheney’s aides attributes the statement to Cheney, but, since CNN provided no context for it, no reader can intelligently interpret what it had been referring to, if, in fact, the aide did say that Cheney did say it.

Wikipedia grabbed that out-of-context, possibly apocryphal, Cheney-statement, and constructed their ‘history’ of the plane’s crash, upon it, despite the fact that Cheney, on 9/11, clearly stated that he had ordered Flight 93 to be shot down, and that the order was executed — in other words: despite the fact that Wikipedia’s account of what brought that plane down is incontrovertibly false, even on the basis of the most reliable evidence that Wikipedia itself links to on that matter. Such a ‘history’ is fiction.

So: any reader at the Wikipedia article who clicks onto its sources, can easily know that though the Wikipedia article presents a ‘history’ in which actions by passengers onboard Flight 93 caused the plane to crash there, that ‘history’ is fake, not at all real (though some allegations in that Wikipedia article might happen to be true).

This means that only readers who click through to sources can even possibly come anywhere near to knowing anything that’s at all reliable about the history of our time. And, of course, the longer that any event recedes into history, the more immovably fixed the lies become as being ‘history’. We live actually in a world of lies. If modern ‘history’ is fake, then ancient ‘history’ is even more so. What about the Bible? What about even recently written ‘history’ books?

If Wikipedia is the best that ‘the market’ can come up with for ‘a free press’ in a ‘democracy’, then democracy isn’t at all possible. Something vastly better than this is definitely needed. What’s displayed here isn’t democracy at all: it’s merely ‘democracy’. This means that all of the military invasions by ‘democratic’ countries (such as America), against other countries, are the actions by dictatorships, not actions against dictatorships (as is always claimed).

So, it’s actually rather easy to document that 1984 — the reality, and not merely the novel — has, indeed, arrived, in our time.

However, at least in our time, we possess — for the very first time in all of history — the ability to access, merely a click away, an allegation’s actual source, at least in articles such as the present one (since all sources here are linked). The people living in ancient times who were not themselves aristocrats (the people making the key governmental decisions) were unalterably 100% vulnerable to being deceived by aristocrats’ and clergies’ lies, deceived into doing whatever those decision-makers wanted to manipulate them into doing — such as “fighting for God and country!” Unfortunately, the percentage of today’s people who care enough to be skeptical of whatever other people are trying to sell, and to dig deeper than the mere assertions, even just to click onto a link, is too tiny for democracy to be able to function. Unless they become the majority, “democracy” will remain merely a word, not yet even near to being the reality, anywhere.

That, for example, explains why, despite common realities such as this, “74% [of Americans] view Israel favorably, vs. 21% for Palestinian Authority”. In order for the national aristocracy to control its mass of voters, it must first deceive its mass of voters; and, in America, they’re deceived, and have been so, for decades, at least.

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Americas

Poll Shows Americans Support the Invasion of Syria – What they Misunderstand About that War

Eric Zuesse

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The first even marginally trustworthy poll of American “registered voters” regarding the April 14th U.S.-and-allied missiles-invasion of Syria, shows an overwhelming 66% supporting the invasion (36% “Strongly” and 30% “Somewhat), and only 23% opposing (8% “Strongly” and 11% “Somewhat”).

When the 1,995 U.S. registered voters were asked further, in this Morning Consult / Politico poll, “How confident are you that the airstrikes in Syria will prevent the Syrian government from using chemical or biological weapons again?” only 30% are “confident” (8% “Very” and 22% “Somewhat”) and 57% are not (21% not “at all” and 35% “not too”). Obviously, all of the 30% who are “confident” on that are also believing that the Syrian government has been “using chemical or biological weapons” and the 57% who aren’t “confident” are expecting the Syrian government to continue using such weapons; but the only other option that the pollster offered was “Don’t know / No opinion” and perhaps any respondents who disbelieved the U.S. government’s allegations that the Syrian government has been using such weapons would have to be among the 12% who said “Don’t know / No opinion” (or else such respondents would have quit answering at that point, which was 3 questions into a 7-question poll: the stupid polling organization excluded even the possibility that a respondent believed the Syrian government’s denials that it had used such weapons — that’s how little consideration was offered regarding even the merest possibility that this invasion had been punishment of a non-guilty nation by guilty invaders: zero).

This invasion, like the one a year earlier, occurred when the U.S. and its allies said that Syria was guilty but didn’t provide any evidence of that, and when Syria and its allies said that those charges were lies and that the ‘rebels’ whom the U.S. and its allies supported had actually set up the incident in order for the U.S. and its allies to invade and overthrow the government. These invasions were lawless — based upon no legal process other than brute accusations, like in any common lynching or other mob-‘justice’.

The fact that this poll did not show close to 100% contempt by the American people regarding what the U.S. government and its two allies, UK and France, had just done, indicates not only that the American people are astoundingly ignorant that the U.S. and its allies are international outlaws and warmongers (which makes sense for a nation that invaded and destroyed Iraq 2003, Libya 2011 and has been trying to do it since 2011 in Syria), but that they are also astoundingly misinformed as to which side in this war is guilty, and which side is not. (Hint: It’s certainly not Assad, who is simply defending Syrian sovereignty over Syrian territory.) According to the standards that were set in place by the Nuremberg Tribunals following World War II, in which invasions for any other purpose than national self-defense are war-crimes, it’s not only the lie-based invasion and destruction of Iraq 2003, and the 2011 invasion and destruction of Libya, that constitute international war-crimes — there’s simply no power that’s enforcing international law: not policing, not prosecuting, not judging, and not legislating, at all, any such thing. The international outlaw regimes, U.S. and its allies, are simply international gangsters, and the American public overwhelmingly are bored about the whole thing, don’t really care whether they are the Nazis of today (and the U.S. government is even proud to be it, not only under Trump, but under Obama before him — all accepted, not resisted in any way, by the American public).

Poll-findings like this implicate the American public, and not only the American government, in such mega-crimes. Even the clear-cut national experience of having been lied into Iraq 2003 hasn’t taught the American people that we live in a gangster-regime. And now this regime has destroyed even the last vestiges of the authority that the U.N. once had.

Ironically, the core voter-base for the war-criminal U.S. President Trump seem to have strongly opposed the latest invasion. But, to judge from this latest actual poll in the matter, the American public strongly supports that invasion. Apparently, Americans can’t learn from even the most blatant experiences, such as having been lied into destroying Iraq in 2003 — a country that, like Syria, and like Libya, had never attacked, nor even threatened to attack, the U.S.

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