Politics

A TAKE ON THE NORTH KOREA-TRUMP SITCH THAT STARTED LIGHT BUT GOT REAL DARK, REAL FAST

Header photo credit: U.S. Department of Defense 

I can’t decide if Twitter jokes about nuclear war makes me want to laugh or cry, and really that’s the best description I can think of for Twitter – and the internet world in general.

So I’m coming off working my first freelance job, and it was very exciting but a little draining for someone who, until now, has considered wearing pants with zippers to be the greatest triumph of any given day. So I almost considered skipping this, because I knew it would have to be about the whole Trump-North Korea thing and I just wasn’t ready to put on my journalist hat. But then I realized, infusing humor and drama into politics is what I do best. So I’m going to give you a Casual Cool Hip Take on the Trump-North Korea dramz.


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Millennials, social media

I AM A MILLENNIAL AND I WILL DESTROY EVERYTHING YOU LOVE

I loom over you on a mountain of discarded participation trophies.


I was born in 1995, so the lines are a little rough but essentially I am (by and large) on the tail end of the millennial generation. But given my voracious and insatiable need for validation, my living at home with my parents, and my eternal neck pain from craning downwards to look at my phone, I’d say that I am.

Screen Shot 2017-08-06 at 7.36.31 PM

Source: Twitter // Ha…ha…

We’ve all heard that, right? Young people are being bombarded by articles. This blog was inspired by a Twitter Moment: “A Thinkpiece Generator for Attacking Millennials” that encouraged people to go to Google and type in “Millennials are killing…” and see what autofills. When I did it, I received the following results.

And because I’m so dedicated to eradicating my narcissicism, I’m going to crop out how many favorites that tweet got…

(four)

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Humor, Politics, pop culture

JARED KUSHNER’S CLOSED-SESSION MEETING WITH SENATE INTELLIGENCE

Jared Kushner, senior adviser to the president, has stated, after his closed-session meeting with Senate intelligence staffers, “I did not collude with Russia.”


Photo source: Bravo via Jezebel


Do you remember when you were a little kid, and you did something wrong (broke a fancy glass; accidentally deleted a work file off your parents’ computer; failed a math test) and you had the rest of the afternoon to figure out a good-enough lie to tell to your parents when they got home?

And when they got home, you totally blew the secret because you told the lie in its shiny, well-packaged entirety before your parents even had a chance to discover what you had accidentally done. “And that’s why I failed that test,” you said, vibrating with your lie.

Your parents gave you a long, measured look before calling you on your shit. And even as you were telling it, you knew that they wouldn’t buy it. The truth is weird and messy and doesn’t make sense. Lies, especially lies that you’ve had enough time to concoct, are too clean.

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Politics

TRUMP’S LATEST TWEETS: RHETORIC TOWARDS WOMEN AND THE CONNOTATIONS OF “CRAZY”

Beyond simply ignoring or sidestepping questions about Trump’s Twitter actions, his communications staff, like Sarah Huckabee Sanders and First Lady Melania Trump, are endorsing it.


On Thursday morning, President Trump sent out a series of tweets directed at two of the co-anchors of Morning Joe, the MSNBC morning show, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. In the tweets, he accused the “poorly rated” show of talking badly about him and coming to Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Beach golf club. In the last tweet, he made a particularly low attack towards Brzezinski, saying that she was “bleeding badly from a face-lift.”

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Politics, Thinkpiece

BEHIND CLOSED DOORS

Header Image Source: CNN


Public figures like Caitlyn Jenner and Ivanka Trump are shying away from disclosing their political activities.

While promoting her new book, Secrets of My Life, Caitlyn Jenner sat down with Andy Cohen at Sirius XM Radio for a town hall-style meeting Wednesday, April 26. Jenner made headlines when she came out as transgender in 2015. In their discussion, Cohen steered the conversation towards politics—Jenner is famously a conservative Republican. Jenner said that she had been making trips to Washington, D.C. but that her influence in politics would be private and unseen.

It was a reiteration of the point she made the night before on CNN with Don Lemon. She said that she would not take up President Trump’s offer to go golfing after he revoked the former administration’s protection for transgender students. However, Jenner said she would go golfing with President Trump in private, because if she did it in public, her community would “go nuts” and ostracize her.

Besides the puzzling contradiction of going on public television to say that you will golf with President Trump in private, Jenner’s statement that much of her involvement in politics would be behind closed doors is troubling at best and dangerous at worst.

Jenner is markedly tone-deaf when it comes to issues of LGBTQ equality. On The Ellen Show, she did not express complete support for same-sex marriage, and that it was an issue that she used to be completely against as a self-identified “traditionalist.” Instead, she said that if “the word marriage is so important to you, then I can support that.” She claimed that the hardest part of being a woman was picking out “what to wear.”

These can be dismissed as tragically unfortunate choices of words, but the root of the issue is that Caitlyn Jenner is a person of immense privilege who wants to speak for, represent and negotiate on behalf of arguably the most disenfranchised and least privileged subsection of the U.S. population.

According to a 2016 Reuters article, “almost 60 percent of transgender Americans have avoided using public restrooms for fear of confrontation, saying they have been harassed and assaulted.” According to the Office for Victims of Crime, one in two transgender individuals are sexually abused or assaulted in their lifetime. 13 percent of African-American transgender people surveyed were sexually assaulted in the workplace, and 22 percent of transgender homeless individuals reported assault whilst staying in shelters.

And while Jenner is transgender, it cannot be denied that for 65 years she presented as a white, privileged man. And after she transitioned, she had unfettered access to the best surgeons and doctors, a private Malibu estate for recovery and no monetary restrictions. Some transgender people choose to not go through surgery, but for those that would like to the costs are usually prohibitive.

Jenner has also been largely isolated from the daily discomfort that many queer people experience every day—catcalling, harassment and discrimination. All of these things, combined with her inexperience with politics and her position as a conservative Republican who voted for Trump, make me uncomfortable that she might be the touchstone for Republicans and the representative of the LGBTQ community. That she would do it with no cameras, at private dinners and meetings behind closed doors is even more concerning.

It’s a sentiment echoed by Ivanka Trump in her interview with Gayle King for CBS News. “I don’t think that it will make me a more effective advocate to constantly articulate every issue publicly where I disagree,” she said. “And that’s okay. That means that I’ll take hits from some critics who say that I should take to the street. And then other people will in the long-term respect where I get to. But I think most of the impact I have, over time most people will not actually know about.”

This idea of silent impact does a few things. Firstly, it absolves people like Trump and Jenner from any responsibility. If you don’t know what they’ve done, you can’t blame them. Secondly, it’s impossible to hold them accountable for anything. If they never pledge any sort of action, it’s impossible to keep them in line. Lastly, it’s difficult expect them to operate within a rational, ethical framework because you have no idea what they’re doing.

And lastly, as a person with unparalleled influence and platform, you don’t get to be private. If Ivanka wanted to operate as a private citizen, she shouldn’t have moved to Washington, D.C. and taken a position in her father’s administration. When she made that deal with the devil, she gave up the right to be private. When you’re operating from the most powerful building in the world, the American public deserve to know what you’re up to. If Caitlyn Jenner wanted to remain private, she shouldn’t have dropped the tantalizing tidbits that she was taking meetings in Washington.

You can’t have it both ways. If you want public power, then you don’t get to wield it privately.

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Politics

THE AMERICAN HEALTH CARE ACT GOES TO VOTE TODAY, FRIDAY MARCH 24

Update 3/25: the American Health Care Act was pulled from the floor and did not go through the voting process. Speaker Ryan has stated that the Affordable Care Act will be the law for the “foreseeable future.” President Trump has since stated that he will wait for the ACA to “explode” and then create a “greater healthcare plan.”

Today, Friday, March 24, 2017, the House of Representatives will vote on the Affordable Care Act replacement bill—the American Health Care Act—with significant changes having been made last night and without the Congressional Budget Office analyzing those changes. Previously the CBO offered projections of, despite a decrease of ~$337 billion in the deficit, roughly 24 million people without coverage by 2026. Even by just repealing the ACA leaves 18 million people uninsured.

The bill underwent multiple changes after receiving severe blowback from all Democrats and several factions of Republicans. GOP moderates felt that the plan was too ill-thought and would leave too many people uninsured. GOP conservatives felt the bill did not go far enough, and dubbed it “Obamacare-Lite.” Those divides postponed the vote, which was supposed to take place yesterday. Ryan and other proponents of the bill did not want to go forward without the votes.

 

The new bill would defund Planned Parenthood. The rationale for this is restriction of abortions. However, Planned Parenthood puts no federal funding towards abortions. They do put federal funding towards reimbursement for services like birth control, contraception, and cancer screenings. Patients use public health programs, like Medicaid and Title X, go to places like Planned Parenthood that take that coverage. They use the programs, Planned Parenthood sends the claim to Medicaid (for example), which reimburses them, and then Medicaid sends the bill to the federal government. Abortions, which account for roughly 3 percent of all PP services, do not get reimbursed.

So when the GOP says that they will defund Planned Parenthood, they are doing it out of spite, because what they’re actually doing is stopping people from being able to use Medicaid for non-abortion services.

Vice President Mike Pence, formerly the Governor of Indiana, recently posted a photo of himself and the President meeting with the Freedom Caucus. The Freedom Caucus is made up of the GOP conservatives who are dragging their feet about the bill.

To get them on the side of voting yes, those in charge of the bill—House Speaker Paul Ryan, VP Pence, and even Trump—have struck a deal with the Freedom Caucus. If the Caucus agrees to the bill, the Essential Health Benefits list will be removed from the bill.

What’s the Essential Health Benefits?

It’s a holdover from the Affordable Care Act. It requires insurances to cover—at the bare minimum—the following 10 items:

  • Emergency Services
  • Hospitalization
  • Ambulatory patient services
  • Maternity and newborn care
  • Mental health and substance use disorder services
  • Prescription drugs
  • Rehabilitative and habilitative services
  • Laboratory services
  • Preventive and wellness services
  • Pediatric services

There has been no analysis on the future consequences on striking off the Essential Health Benefits because the CBO has not been given enough time to conduct research.

Trump has put pressure on the GOP to push this bill through. It would solidify his stance as a deal-maker—something he ran on during the campaign—and would show his control over the rapidly dividing Republican party. He has also threatened that the Republicans will lose their majority if the bill does not pass. That pressure has forced massive overhauls to the bill. House Republicans and Democrats are set to vote on a bill that they haven’t read in full, or had sufficient or significant research on.

But perhaps the scariest part of this whole thing is that photo that VP Pence Tweeted out. Him and the President meeting with the Freedom Caucus. With the strength of the Freedom Caucus, the American Health Care Act is that much closer to being passed.

A circle of wealthy, privileged, heterosexual cisgender white men, deciding the fate of women, minorities, cancer patients, those with mental illness, and the vulnerable. We might not have seen the finished bill, but we have seen enough of the consequences. The AHCA would mostly affect the elderly and sick—premiums would rise due to declining assistance—while the young, healthy and wealthy would see tax benefits. In addition, according to Forbes, over the next decade, the plan outlines an $880 billion tax cut, with $274 billion going directly to the richest 2%.

If the AHCA, the new healthcare plan, only benefits the young, healthy and wealthy, while leaving premiums rising, care decreasing, targeting the elderly and the sick, and ~24 million uninsured—then it’s possible that this isn’t the best plan.

But this is the world we live in—the decision of this small cluster of white men, for whom this healthcare plan will only benefit, will impact the rest of us.

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Politics

TRUMP’S 2005 TAX FORMS ON THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW AND WHY THEY’RE IMPORTANT

 

I didn’t watch The Rachel Maddow Show live when it was revealing Trump’s 2005 tax returns—because I don’t have a TV and also I probably wouldn’t have anyway—but I was scrolling through Twitter in the hours before, during and after, and from what I gathered, it was a bit of a letdown. After months of intense wondering about what Trump’s tax returns would reveal, the paltry two-page report from 2005 did not live up to the hype.

Celebrities tweeted that the reveal was unimpressive, and journalist Joe Scarborough suggested that Trump himself could’ve leaked the returns to distract from his current agenda, as well as to silence those still asking for the full receipts. David Cay Johnston, the journalist who first received the 1040, offered up that same theory as one possibility as well.

But just because the 2005 Form 1040 didn’t have any explosive revelations doesn’t mean that it’s not incredibly valuable in understanding Trump’s finances.

Because I care—about our country, and about you—I did some research so you don’t have to. I literally know nothing about tax returns, so I did some digging around to see what the hullabaloo is about.

The 1040 is the basic tax return system, documenting Trump’s annual income, his losses in income, and the amount of money he filed in taxes. Against an income of roughly $153 million, Trump reported $103 million in losses, which according to the Washington Post could include depreciation and sums carried over from previous years, and paid $38 million in taxes.

Here’s where things get interesting. Trump paid that $38 million in taxes because of something called the Alternative Minimum Tax, a parallel tax system that, according to the Wall Street Journal, is “designed to make sure that high-income individuals can’t use legal deductions and credits to avoid all income taxes.”

From what I’m able to understand, the AMT recognizes that, for most people, having roughly 67 percent of your income in loss (the $103 million loss against the $153 million income) would be detrimental. However, the AMT is designed for wealthy individuals, and forces them to pay taxes accordingly. Without the AMT, Trump would, due to his losses, paid a little over $5 million, according to David Cay Johnston—the investigative reporter who first had the tax returns dropped in his mailbox. $5 million is 3.5 percent of Trump’s income, which is less than half of what people who make $33,000 a year pay in taxes.

So the AMT prevented Trump from taking advantage of his losses and paying next-to-nothing (for him) in taxes. And the most interesting part is that Trump proposes to cut the AMT in his upcoming tax plan. Republicans in Congress, like Speaker Paul Ryan, want to get rid of the AMT in their next goal after healthcare. I don’t really understand why they would pursue tax cuts for the extremely wealthy, except that it would be a harkening back to Reaganomics.

In my VERY preliminary research—so if anyone has more information, please let me know—Reagan gave cuts on federal income tax and capital gains tax, along with a decrease in government regulation and government spending, with the idea that—with more capital—companies would invest more money into their spending, their workers and infrastructure. This is also called supply-side economics, which argued that economic growth comes from investing in capital. Reagan was dealing with stagflation, and from what I’m able to understand, his economics brought an end to that recession. And while Reagan saw a decrease in poverty, the level shot up after he left office to higher than before, and Reaganomics—while it did increase GDP—did not benefit the middle class in the way that it promised to. While still impressive, job creation under Reagan was lower than under Clinton and Carter.

But this isn’t an economics class, and even though when I wear a turtleneck and glasses I look like an economics professor who was Seventeen Again-ed, I’m not an economics professor.

 

So let’s focus on why Trump’s tax returns are important, even if they weren’t as flashy as one might’ve hoped. They’re important because they show us his motivation. Trump would’ve saved $33 million if the AMT were eliminated. That’s a pretty impressive amount. And while Trump has already claimed that utilizing tax loopholes makes him very smart, that’s still capital that is being lost in the economy. The GOP says that even with the elimination of the AMT, closing other tax loopholes will make up for that loss. But when we have a president who won’t release his full tax returns, how can we trust anything they say?

Releasing full tax returns would show exactly how much Trump has given to charity (he claims to be very charitable, and giving to charity is a tax write-off), from where he gets his income, and exactly what entities he might be beholden to. Since we don’t know any of this, we don’t know what policies Trump makes that would be beneficial to his benefactors or his businesses. We know nothing. Every presidential candidate since 1976, besides Gerald Ford who only released summary tax data, has released their tax returns. The Clintons have released tax information dating back to the 1970s. It alerts people to possible red flags and conflicts of interest. By withholding his own, Trump is hiding his own possible conflicts.

Johnston, towards the end of his interview with Maddow, said, “I’ve been at this for 50 years…Every time some high-level politician wants to hide something, it always turns out there’s a reason. They’ve got something to hide.”

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