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imagesqtbnANd9GcRhlLTHok0fDiQpsx_IVQRQg-lVMpygkf1rEyJsns1mZT-bzjRXNo one cuts through Party of Trump bulls*it in Minnesota – and uncritical corporate media amplification of it – like the outstanding North Star Policy Institute.
 

Exempting Social Security income from the state income tax—even if it is somehow targeted to households with incomes under $120,000, as promotional material released by Senate conservatives suggests—is likely to benefit higher income seniors. That’s because low- and middle-income seniors are already paying little or no tax on their Social Security income because the first $32,000 of this income is already exempt and only a portion of the income above $32,000 is taxed on a sliding income-sensitive scale. Based on 2012 data, sixty percent of Social Security recipients already pay no tax on their Social Security income; the forty percent that pay any tax on Social Security income tend to be of relatively high income…
 
The second main feature of the conservative Senate tax plan is to reduce the state business property tax levy. A portion of this reduction—the exemption of the first $100,000 of taxable value—at least has the benefit of directing a sizeable share of the tax relief to the smaller businesses, as noted in a recent North Star article, but the elimination of the annual inflation adjustment to the state business property tax will direct the overwhelming bulk of tax relief to extremely high value businesses, with the top one percent of businesses by value getting 30.5 percent of the tax relief, while the bottom 75 percent of businesses by value get only 14 percent of the relief. In future biennia, the cost of eliminating the inflation adjustment is likely to grow rapidly and quickly surpass the amount of relief given through exempting the first $100,000 of value.
(North Star Policy Institute)

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trump10He obviously knows no shame.
 

The ubiquity of Goldman Sachs veterans across numerous presidencies throughout history, both Republican and Democratic, has been well documented. But Donald Trump sold himself as something different, an economic nationalist determined to rankle Wall Street. He even ran campaign ads savaging bankers like Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein for their role in a “global power structure.”
 
That populist smokescreen is long gone now.
 
Mnuchin and Donovan are just two of five Goldman expats in high-level positions on Trump’s team. Steve Bannon spent a limited time at Goldman Sachs, but White House assistant Dina Powell, who headed the bank’s philanthropic efforts, and National Economic Council director Gary Cohn, Goldman’s former president, had higher-ranking positions for a longer period. Jay Clayton, Trump’s nominee for the Securities and Exchange Commission, was a partner for Goldman’s main law firm, Sullivan and Cromwell.
(The Intercept)

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Gov. Dayton vetoes GOP assault on renewables

by Dan Burns on March 21, 2017 · 0 comments

solar2The Minnesota Party of Trump in the legislature has been pressing ahead with a radical-right agenda, despite what’s going down with their hero in the White House. Thankfully, in this state there is a remaining check and balance. From yesterday:
 

Since late January, Bluestem has chronicled the problems with HF234 in posts like “Are King Coal’s foxes to guard the co-op? HF234 would leave rural utility customers on defense” and “From our friends at CURE: tell Governor Mark Dayton: veto bill, protect solar in Minnesota.”
 
We are pleased as are so many friends that the governor chose to veto the bill today.
(Bluestem Prairie)

I’m adding some items that I’ve had sitting in my “environment” file for a while.
 

A five kilowatt rooftop solar installation now costs just $12,500 on average after tax credits, and pretty soon, installing one might soon be a matter of re-tiling your roof. Whether it’s right for you, however, depends in large part on how much sun your house gets. That’s where Google’s Project Sunroof comes in — launched just two years ago, it has now surveyed over 60 million US buildings in 50 states. That means there’s a good chance you can see the electricity production potential in your city, neighborhood and even specific house.
 
Google calculates the amount of sunlight on your roof based on “3D modeling of your roof and nearby trees,” weather patterns, the position of the sun in the sky during the year and shade from buildings, trees and other obstructions. That info is then converted to energy production “using industry standard models for solar installation performance,” Google says.
 
The results are surprising: 79 percent of all US rooftops are solar viable, meaning they have enough unshaded area for solar panels. Obviously, some regions are better than others — over 90 percent of homes in Hawaii, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico are technically viable, but even northern states like Pennsylvania, Maine and Minnesota are over 60 percent. Houston, Texas has the most solar potential of any US city, with 18.9 gigawatt-hours of total power generation capability if all roofs had solar panels.
(engadget)

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schoolsI admit that since the election I’ve generally seen fit to be somewhat measured when it comes to education issues. The Trumpkins won’t really be able to literally destroy public education, will they? As it turns out, they really do damn well plan to try.
 

The budget includes increases for the charter school fund, a new program for private school choice, and incentives for states to make sure some Title I dollars for low-income students follow them as they move among schools. The $1.4 billion in new dollars for school choice eventually will ramp up to $20 billion, the budget says, matching the amount Trump pledged to spend on school choice during his campaign.
 
“We will give our children the right to attend the school of their choice, one where they will be taught to love our country and its values,” Trump pledged at a rally in Nashville Wednesday evening.
 
The department overall would see cuts of $9 billion, which amounts to 13 percent of its “discretionary” budget (the part not including mandatory higher-education spending).
(The 74)

Don’t count on Congress changing this much. Plenty of Democrats there remain fans of the school deformer movement, despite the proven failure and corruption of its agenda. They will probably mitigate the cuts to public school spending somewhat, but won’t change the privatization initiatives to speak of.
 
Here’s where some hope that we can avoid total disaster comes from. (Don’t get me wrong, there will be plenty of opposition in urban districts, too.)
 
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trump2More on the budget proposal.
 

This is a “shock and awe” budget, designed to dazzle and confuse Trump’s political enemies and the general public. When Republicans on Capitol Hill dial back a few of its more extreme cuts, as is almost inevitable, the public will be expected to sigh with relief. That would be a mistake, since the result will almost certainly remain draconian.
 
Congressional Republicans will also demand cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Trump promised to defend those programs, but stay tuned: after ritual displays of ‘reluctance,’ followed by ‘negotiations,’ Trump will probably break that promise too.
 
Trump pretends to be a different kind of Republican, but his budget blueprint is ideologically consistent with the modern GOP’s hard-right extremism. It values death over life, and fear over hope. It tramples on the bonds that hold us together as one people. It sells off the environment, our shared inheritance. It rejects the fundamental American idea that a nation should be a community, a group of people who protect and look out for one another. It’s antagonistic to the very idea of government itself.
(OurFuture.org)

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american-trading3There has always been a concern that Pr*sident Trump “officially” finishing off the Trans-Pacific Partnership proposal would actually primarily be cover for even worse “trade” policy. A couple of items; what’s really going on right now is murky.
 

Given that recently released 2016 trade data shows that our $347 billion goods trade deficit with China represents almost 50 percent of our global goods trade deficit, what happened to the “get tough on China” trade mantra from the campaign? There’s been a lot of administration talk about renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). However, Trump’s promises to bring down the U.S. trade deficit and create more U.S. manufacturing jobs require attention to China trade.
 
Yet, one of the only first-day promises included in Trump’s Contract with the American Voter that was not fulfilled was declaring China a currency manipulator. The executive order flurry has not included the widely expected termination of negotiations for a U.S.-China Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT.) The treaty replicates key aspects of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the NAFTA pacts that Trump loves to bash.
 
The China BIT, started by the Bush administration and almost completed by the Obama administration, would make it easier to offshore more American jobs to China. It also would give Chinese firms broader rights to purchase U.S. firms, land and other assets and newly expose the U.S. government to demands for compensation from Chinese firms empowered to attack U.S. policies in extra-judicial tribunals. Everything Trump says he is against, so what gives?
(Common Dreams)

President Donald Trump has been conspicuously silent about the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) since taking office, so whether the administration comments on the pact’s March 15 fifth anniversary is being closely watched. Trump spotlighted the “job-killing trade deal with South Korea” in his nomination acceptance speech and on the stump, where he also often noted “this deal doubled our trade deficit with South Korea and destroyed nearly 100,000 American jobs.”
 
Trump’s approach to the pact was called into question when he appointed one of the Korea FTA’s most persistent promoters, Andrew Quinn, to be special assistant to the president for international trade, investment and development. When the deal was initially completed in 2007, Quinn, who played a role in FTA negotiations as counselor for economic affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, declared: “It’s a great agreement” that “demonstrated the effectiveness of the model, i.e., a comprehensive high-standard agreement.”
(Common Dreams)

There was in fact no comment from the Trump administration on the five-year anniversary.
 

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trump13Yeah, well, who needs something that works really, really well, right?
 

Among the programs reported to be on the Trump administration’s chopping block: the popular, cheap, effective Energy Star consumer labeling program from the Energy Department and the Environmental Protection Agency.
 
The United States spends about $57 million a year on the Energy Star efficiency standards program. Under Energy Star, scientists create guidelines and test new consumer goods for efficiency — new washing machines, for instance. The programs most recently launched standard is for electric vehicle chargers, which gives some sense of how far-ranging and modern this program is.
 
It’s also a huge money-saver. Since it was established in the 1990s, the Energy Star program has saved U.S. consumers some $360 billion, mostly in electricity and water costs. According to a program report, consumers and business saved $31.5 billion in 2014 alone, while costs were about $57 million. That puts the return on investment for taxpayers at about 550 to 1.
(Think Progress)

(I did most of this post before Trump’s budget proposal was released. Energy Star is indeed on the kill list.)
 

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trump14Though I’m not with the author on the schadenfreude, this is on the whole one of the best things I’ve seen so far on Pr*sident Trump’s budget proposal. Lots of informative links.
 

Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget will cut funding for programs that predominantly helps older Americans such as the anti-hunger program Meals on Wheels. Older (white) voters were key to Trump’s presidential victory.
 
The president’s proposed 2018 budget will severely harm rural communities. For example, while Trump was lying about helping coal miners and bringing back that dying industry, “his proposed budget will slash funds for the Appalachian Regional Commission, a federal-state agency founded in 1965 to promote economic development and infrastructure in some of the poorest parts of the United States,”as The New York Times has reported. These rural voters in red-state America were among Trump’s strongest supporters…
 
In total, Trump’s 2018 budget proposes hundreds of billions of dollars in cutbacks. As part of that plan, Trump and the Republican Party will take monies from the poor and other vulnerable populations and give them to the rich, the already bloated military and big corporations. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump promised his supporters he would “drain the swamp,” which was understood to mean driving lobbyists and special interests out of Washington. Instead, he is overflowing those fetid waters with financial payoffs for Wall Street and other gangster capitalists at the expense of the American people.
(Salon)

Comment below fold.
 
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trump14Something directly stating or at least very strongly implying that the Trump budget proposal, if passed, would end the Meals on Wheels program for seniors was a common sight on the Internet, yesterday. Per Snopes and others, that’s not accurate. Only a small amount of the program’s funding, it varies from place to place but apparently always less than 5%, comes from the Community Development Block Grant program that the Trump budget would eliminate. With need rising, this is certainly not the time to be considering any cuts from any source; quite the contrary. But most of the extraordinarily righteous work that Meals on Wheels does is not at immediate risk.
 

This brings us to the wide and fuzzy line between political hyperbole and outright falsehood. I suppose that headlines like “Trump would end funding for Meals on Wheels” or “Trump wants to starve seniors,” are on that line, at best. (Those aren’t real-world examples, just generalizations of what I’ve seen. They‘re not outright false. Federal funding for Meals on Wheels from CDBG would end, and the sociopathic Trump doesn‘t care if people are malnourished, except insofar as it might hurt him politically.) But the Trump proposal is, on the whole, indeed a savage assault, especially on the vulnerable.
 

Given the critical need to stop Pr*sident Trump and his vile minions, this is not the time to get hung up on prim niceties when making important points. I generally try to be a little more careful in my own blogging. But that doesn’t mean that that’s always the way to go. I don’t see a need to leave useful attention-drawing tactics aside, given what’s at stake. The other side certainly doesn’t. Quite the contrary.
 
Here’s a pretty detailed, yet relatively concise, article from the Washington Post that lays out what’s really in the thing.
 
Comments below fold.
 
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minnesota_state_capitolMaybe the GOP legislature could use some of the budget surplus to help out “school kids or senior citizens, the disability community” instead of looking to blow big chunks of it, yet again, on handouts for the rich man.
 

House Speaker Kurt Daudt said Tuesday he is having legislative legal and human resources staff examine whether a hefty pay raise for lawmakers is truly binding or if the Legislature can summarily turn it down.
 
The raise takes lawmaker salaries from about $31,000 to $45,000 beginning in July, a 45 percent jump that the Legislative Salary Council framed as a catch-up for years of stagnant pay…
 
“Think about if this is binding on us, it means I have to give, or we have to give legislators a pay increase when we can’t give that same kind of pay increase to school kids or senior citizens, the disability community, you pick your interest group that is frankly deserving of some increase,” Daudt said. “That’s the tough position it puts us in.”
(MPR)

In recent years, the low pay has made it more likely that people able and willing to be in the legislature have been financially independent, or retirees with solid pensions. That group on the whole tends to be conservative Republicans. Reasonable compensation could well produce higher interest in running among eager, high-energy, and just generally smart and impressive young progressives, and that is Daudt’s real concern.
 
The right-wing likes of Speaker Daudt have no idea how readily intelligent people see right through them. One sees manifestations of that all the time, among conservative politicians.
 
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