When the Republican Party claimed to be fiscal conservatives and constitutionalists; Roger (Stone) and me

You don’t need to think too far back to remember a time when the Republican Party touted the idea that they were the party of fiscal responsibility. They also said they were constitutionalists or originalists.

This is not to say that the Republicans were always pure about such subjects. They took great joy in quickly turning the Clinton budget surpluses into deficits with the Bush tax cuts of 2001.

The Trump Republican Party, however, makes the Bush budget deficits look like small potatoes. Donald never thought much of the Bushes anyway.

The corporate-oriented tax cut that the congressional Republicans and Donald Trump pushed through at the end of 2017 never got much past the starting gate in terms of public relations. Corporations were the main beneficiaries, and mostly they just used their savings to buy up and therefore drive up the value of their stocks. The middle class that politicians are supposed to love got token savings; some received no benefit at all – particularly in states (like New York) where residents have routinely benefited from deductions for state and local taxes.

The tax cuts supercharged the national economy for a few months, but that stimulus (remember how Republicans hated federally financed stimuli?) is already fading. Tax cuts are usually helpful for dealing with recessions, but that option is now foreclosed when the next recession eventually arrives.

Trump’s Chief-of-Staff/Budget Director/Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Mick Mulvaney, opined recently that “nobody cares” about deficits anymore. Which seems like something that is appropriate to say for someone who is helping running a federal government that is looking at TRILLION dollar annual deficits for as far as you can possibly see into the future.

I know, many of the progressive Democrats in Congress, including several who are running for president, also seem to be cool with unbridled deficit spending.

This would seem to be a good time to mention Donald Trump, who said during the 2016 election that eliminating the federal deficit would be easy and that he would do so in eight years. For the record, the federal deficit has increased two trillion dollars since he took office. More recently Trump said he doesn’t worry about such things because he won’t be in office.

There is no free lunch. Massive federal deficits mean massive amounts of interest payments for all those borrowed funds. The cost is approaching one half trillion dollars per year – just for the interest. Less debt could mean fewer taxes or spending some of the savings on something more important than lining the pockets of the nation’s creditors.

Perhaps even more important in the long run than those pesky debts is the fact that Republicans have rushed headlong into throwing the Constitution into the trash bin.

Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution states that no money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law…” Trump’s effort to build his wall along the US/Mexico border includes the declaration of a national emergency to appropriate money without an action approved by Congress.

That’s a pretty serious part of the Constitution to violate. If enacted, the national emergency authorization to spend federal money would mean that the president could operate by fiat.

The law authorizing national emergencies provides that Congress can cancel a national emergency by majority vote of both houses of Congress, with the concurrence of the president. If, as Trump has done, the president vetoes the congressional rescinding of the declaration, a two-thirds vote of both houses is required to override the veto.

In recent congressional votes on the national emergency issue, just 13 (out of 197) Republican House members voted to rescind the action. Just 12 (out of 53) senators voted to rescind the emergency. So a veto override will not happen.

The overwhelming majority of Republican members of the 116th Congress (225 out of 250) voted to ignore the Constitution and to allow the president the right to appropriate funds without congressional approval. Who knows where such action might lead?

The issue will be litigated, and it is possible that the Supreme Court will ultimately rule in favor of following the Constitution. With five of the nine justices having been appointed by Republican presidents, even that decision is not a slam dunk.

So when you hear a Republican telling you they are fiscally conservative, or telling you they are constitutionalists, ask them where they stand on these consequential issues. The old “conservative” Republican Party, the party of Ronald Reagan, is gone. Conservative philosophy has been turned on its head.

And a final footnote: how incredible it is that not a single Republican officeholder or party leader rebuked Trump when he once again, this past weekend, attacked the record of the late Senator John McCain, a true American hero.

Roger and me

Last Sunday, within a span of four hours, I received two emails from political bad-boy Roger Stone. I have never met Roger Stone. Up until now there have not been any communications between us.

The first email, arriving at 7:31 AM, stated simply that Roger was “asking for help.” “I am proud of the fact that President Donald Trump … praised me for my “guts” recently when I said I would not under any circumstances bear false witness against him…
Due to the fake news media attacks on me over the last two years, … reports online that I am wealthy are entirely false.
I have no choice but to come right out and ask you for your help…
Whatever you can send… would be a Godsend. The use of these funds is strictly limited to my legal defense. None of this money is utilized for my personal use.

P.S. Again, please don’t be fooled by multiple online stories which claim falsely that I am so rich that I do not need your help. In fact, my life is in your hands.

The second email was more stark. The message was pretty much the same, but the headline was more concise: “I am on the verge of bankruptcy.”

I found these emails troubling. As we all have watched the swirling controversies during the past couple years concerning Trump allies’ connections with the Russians, and as these controversies have also gotten into various allegedly illegal financial schemes, the focal point of all these suggested crimes has been emails sent back and forth between and among the parties to the scheming. And now here I am, the recipient of emails from Roger Stone, a member of the Trumpkin indictee syndicate.

I therefore am publicly declaring that I will voluntarily, without being asked to do so by anyone, preserve all my email communications with the aforementioned Roger Stone. I am prepared to turn the emails over to the proper legal authorities if requested. This is my obligation as a United States citizen.

The Green New Deal — big on ideas, but with no details

The 2018 blue wave that brought a strong Democratic majority to the House of Representatives in 2018 unleashed all sorts of interesting things. It also jump-started the 2020 election.

The new House in the 116th Congress brought many eager and ambitious young members, a great development. New ideas and new vigor are important. One Democrat, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat from Queens, New York City, has dominated press attention concerning the freshman class. For the party’s sake it would help if more of the new members of the caucus received some of the focus. Continue reading

Next time, say no to Trump

This a guest post by Steve Banko, a highly decorated Vietnam veteran who has also served his country in positions in federal, state and local government.

By Steve Banko

Before anyone gets dizzy taking victory laps regarding the reopening of our government, this would be a good time to recognize the real engine behind the reopening. It was the air traffic controllers who spread the pain of the shutdown to the general public and thus impressed Congress and the White House with the critical need to stop posturing and reopen governmental services. Continue reading

Off to the races for 2020, with some interesting new developments

Well, we are nine days into 2019, so it’s about time that the 2020 election began. Not! For historical reference, John F. Kennedy announced his bid for the 1960 presidency in January 1960. Everything moves faster these days.

We are, for the moment, talking primarily about the Democratic contest for the presidential nomination. On the Republican side John Kasich and maybe Mitt Romney would probably love a shot at Donald Trump, but that seems highly unlikely. There have been reports about some states (South Carolina comes to mind) where the native Republicans are looking to short circuit even the chance of a challenge to Trump by eliminating primaries. That seems so fitting giving the authoritarian ways of the party’s leader. Continue reading

Civility and trust don’t come easy

Back in the days when a real Republican was President of the United States, people like Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush ruled the land with strength, grace and eloquence. Democrats fought Republicans over policy, but could still occasionally work together. Compromise was not a dirty word.

That seems so long ago, but as the nation honors the memory of H.W. this week there have been lots of commentaries about how it used to be. Reagan talked about a “city upon a hill.” Bush spoke of “a thousand points of lights.” They were trying to inspire the country by speaking of charity and volunteerism. Continue reading

As the dust settles, reviewing the 2018 elections and taking a small peek at what comes next

Poor Rick Scott. All those tens of millions of dollars of his own money, and it might not have been enough to buy a Senate seat in Florida. Maybe just $10 million more would have done the trick.

Or maybe he will wind up winning the re-count. It is Florida, after all, where they are pretty good at screwing up recounts and getting rolled by Brooks Brothers riots. The Supreme Court may be standing by to deliver another Republican victory if it gets to their desks. Continue reading