REPORTS: Paul Ryan to Hang Up His Gavel

House Speaker Paul Ryan points to exit

House Speaker Paul Ryan has apparently had enough of this shit.

As Tim Alberta and Rachael Bade report for Politico today, it appears that Ryan is not going to run for re-election in 2018:

Despite several landmark legislative wins this year, and a better-than-expected relationship with President Donald Trump, Ryan has made it known to some of his closest confidants that this will be his final term as speaker. He consults a small crew of family, friends and staff for career advice, and is always cautious not to telegraph his political maneuvers. But the expectation of his impending departure has escaped the hushed confines of Ryan’s inner circle and permeated the upper-most echelons of the GOP. In recent interviews with three dozen people who know the speaker—fellow lawmakers, congressional and administration aides, conservative intellectuals and Republican lobbyists—not a single person believed Ryan will stay in Congress past 2018. [Pols emphasis]

The Politico story makes it sound like Ryan is pretty close to definitive on his Congressional future…but he doesn’t want to say it out loud just yet:

The speaker can’t afford to admit he’s a lame duck—his fundraising capacity and deal-making leverage would be vastly diminished, making the House all the more difficult to govern. When asked at the end of a Thursday morning press conference if he was leaving soon, Ryan shot a quick “no” over his shoulder as he walked out of the room.

Ryan still wants to push forward with his big entitlement reform plan, which is a big reason why he is being so quiet about his political future, but it sounds like he’s just plain sick of Washington D.C. and the current state of the Republican Party. As Alex Shepard writes for New Republic:

He’s unsurprisingly tired of dealing with all of the crap that being speaker entails, including the never-ending power struggles and infighting. According to the report, Ryan would use his final year as speaker attempting to fulfill the dream he’s had since he was going to keg parties in college: entitlement reform.

There is an element of “you can’t fire me, I quit!” to all of this. Ryan is on the verge of passing sweeping tax reform, but he is also heading into the toughest stretch of his speakership. He’s facing a tougher than expected challenge from Randy Bryce, who has become a darling of the left over the past several months. And, perhaps most importantly, he’s about to oversee an expected bloodbath in the 2018 midterms.

It’s only going to get worse from there, which Ryan’s friends and associates acknowledge: “The best part of this scenario, people close to the speaker emphasize: He wouldn’t have to share the ballot with Trump again in 2020,” Politico writes. [Pols emphasis]

Well, yeah, there’s that. Nobody wants to play with President Trump anymore — particularly when there is a massive Democratic wave on the horizon.

Republicans Say They Have a Tax Plan…Plan

Perhaps someone will type this up before Republicans try to vote on their tax plan.

As the Washington Post reports, Congressional Republicans are indicating that the House and Senate have come to some sort of agreement on a tax plan that could (potentially) make it through both chambers to the desk of President Trump:

House and Senate Republican leaders have reached an agreement in principle that would lower the corporate tax rate to 21 percent beginning in 2018, a person briefed on the discussions said, part of a compromise $1.5 trillion tax plan they hope to vote into law by next week.

The agreement would also lower the top tax rate for families and individuals to 37 percent, a change that would deliver a major tax cut for upper-income households…

It’s unclear if all Senate Republicans support the changes, and Republicans can only afford to lose one GOP more vote if they hope to pass the agreement next week, as Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) already opposes the measure. [Pols emphasis]

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has expressed concern about lowering the top tax rate, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has complained that Republicans did not do more to further expand the Child Tax Credit. But neither has said whether they would oppose the bill.

Republican leaders seem to be fairly confident that they have an agreement in place, though it’s not yet clear if they have the votes to support a final proposal that is expected to be approved by a “conference committee” made up of leaders from both chambers. Staffers are also still working to finalize a draft bill, which would need to be examined by the Joint Committee on Taxation to ensure that it abides by Congressional budget rules.

Republicans are hoping to hold a vote on their wildly-unpopular tax plan sometime next week — before Alabama Democrat Doug Jones is sworn in to replace Republican Luther Strange in the Senate.

Classic “Con Man Cory” Two-Step On Net Neutrality

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

CBS4 Denver reported on a rally this weekend urging the Trump administration’s Federal Communications Commission to reject a proposal to weaken FCC rules mandating “net neutrality”–in general, the requirement that all internet traffic be routed equally with no preferential treatment of origin:

A rally downtown on Saturday was the latest attempt to raise awareness for “Net Neutrality” days before a vote by the Federal Communications Commission expected to reverse the policy, supporters say the move will affect how consumers see online content…

The rally at Skyline Park featured multiple speakers in the afternoon arguing the internet is a utility that should available to all. Companies could charge content providers to get their material available at a faster rate, supporters say. Smaller businesses or independent sites may be at a disadvantage against larger corporations or major media outlets.

“What Net Neutrality protections, if they are overturned, would do is essentially make it so the internet is no longer a free and open place,” said Caroline Fry, another rally organizer.

But if Colorado internet users were hoping U.S. Senator Cory Gardner will intercede on their behalf, guess again:

“The FCC’s rule not only circumvents the lawmaking process, but also the very people who are responsible for the Internet’s evolution and success,” said Sen. Cory Gardner in a statement back in 2016.

Gardner has also said in past statements that the internet should not be regulated by a government agency using old rules but instead new legislation should be passed to address concerns of slowing speeds or blocking content to consumers.

With only a few days now until the FCC votes on net neutrality, if Sen. Gardner wants to provide an updated statement now is the time. The most recent response on the issue we could find is from a few months ago, in a response to a constituent as posted to reddit:

While I support consumers’ ability to access the Internet, [Pols emphasis] I had serious concerns that the FCC’s 2015 attempt to prevent Internet companies from blocking or slowing consumers relied on a 1930s portion of law, which was never intended to regulate the Internet. Using outdated regulation to police Internet companies threatens innovation and investment in the Internet. The FCC’s latest decision provides a new opportunity to find a way forward on bipartisan legislation that permanently prevents companies from blocking or slowing consumers…

Sen. Michael Bennet’s straightforward response in the same post, “I believe we should work together to protect net neutrality” and praising the 2015 FCC rules now under threat, is much more reassuring for activists working to protect net neutrality than Gardner’s view–shared by basically no one–that this proposal is a “new opportunity” for the most dysfunctional Congress in modern American history to pass legislation to protect net neutrality after it’s rolled back.

If you understand that Cory Gardner is making promises nobody has any expectation of keeping, this is fine.

But especially after the year we’ve had, let’s please not be under any delusions.

Felon Elected to Greeley City Council – Opponent Sues

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Eddie Mirick was just elected to the at-large seat on Greeley’s City Council.  Mirick  has a 1978 felony conviction for forgery, which he lied about when he filled out the paperwork to run for City Council.  The charter of Greeley, a “home-rule” city, specifically does not allow anyone convicted of a felony to be elected to City Council. Yet Mirick was elected, and City Council members have seated him, and are letting the court decide whether he will be allowed to serve.

Mirick’s eligibility to serve on City Council will be decided in District Court, pending the result of a lawsuit filed by Mirick’s opponent, Stacy (Deb) Suniga.

Mirick (3rd from left) on Greeley for a Stronger Economy’s FB ad

The makeup of Greeley’s City Council will affect the balance of power between oil and gas interests vs. the public health of residents, in one of the most fracked cities in America.

Mirick is a veteran, and lives with physical disabilities. He is active in charities and community groups. And he strongly supports oil and gas development in Greeley.  Mirick benefitted from over $65,000 spent for cable TV ads from a shadowy Denver group: “Greeley for a Stronger Economy (GSE)*”.  Mayor John Gates, and two other candidates for Greeley City Council:   appointed member Brett Payton, who won his seat against opponent Lavonna Longwell by a grand total of 2 votes. (after recount), and Ward 3 candidate Michael Fitsimmons were also promoted by GSE advertising.

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Americans Really, Really Hate GOP Tax Plan

In a nutshell, here’s what Americans think of the Republican tax plan.

The Republican tax plan has a whole lot of problems. According to a new poll, Americans absolutely don’t like the GOP tax scam — and that was before news came out that Senate Republicans screwed up language in the bill that could ultimately make corporations fare worse than ever before.

Business Insider sums up the results of a new CBS poll out today:

The Republican tax bill just got hit with another doozy of a poll on Thursday, adding to the growing amount of data showing Americans don’t like the bill.

A new CBS News poll found that 35% of Americans approve of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), while 53% disapprove. While approval was unsurprisingly split along party lines, independents were also opposed to the plan, with 33% approving rate and a 52% disapproving…

…The poll also suggested that Americans weren’t buying into the GOP argument that the plan was designed as a middle-class tax cut. Only 31% said it would help the middle class, while 69% said it would help wealthier Americans most and 76% said it would benefit corporations.

Also, just 28% said they believed businesses would create more jobs because of the TCJA, while 64% said they would not.

As John Harwood reported for CNBC earlier this week on a different poll from Quinnipiac University, Republicans are not seeing a political benefit to their sloppy bill-drafting:

The poll shows Americans oppose the Republican tax-cut effort by nearly two-to-one, as 29 percent approve and 53 percent disapprove. That’s a worse showing than Obamacare ever recorded, and more unpopular than former President Bill Clinton‘s tax increase plan when it passed in 1993. [Pols emphasis]

Just as daunting are results showing that most Americans don’t buy the core arguments Republicans have offered for their plans. Moreover, debate over the issue has harmed the party’s reputation…

…As a result, consideration of the matter has handed Democrats a fresh advantage over Republicans. In August, Americans split evenly over which party handles tax issues better. Now, Democrats hold an eight-percentage-point edge, 47 percent to 39 percent.

Watch out for that wave, Republicans.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (December 7)

A date which will live in infamy. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

President Trump is trying to preemptively blame Democrats in the event of a government shutdown this weekend, once again banking on media outlets to pretend that Republicans don’t already have majorities in both the House and Senate. As the Washington Post reports, a potential government shutdown would be YUGELY costly to the American economy:

America could lose billions of dollars in economic activity if the federal government shuts down this December, a new report says.

On Wednesday, S&P Global analysts said a shutdown would cost the economy about $6.5 billion per week, or about 0.2 percent of gross domestic product growth in the fourth quarter of 2017, as the impact of furloughing federal employees ripples across the country.

“If a shutdown were to take place so far into the quarter, fourth-quarter GDP would not have time to bounce back, which could shake investors and consumers and, as a result, possibly snuff out any economic momentum,” the report says. “The timing could not be worse.”

Lawmakers have until the end of Friday to reach an agreement to avert the shutdown. The House is slated to vote Thursday on a short-term deal to keep the government open while a longer spending agreement is negotiated, but the risk of shutdown looms.

 

► The tax plan that Senate Republicans rushed through in a floor vote early Saturday is apparently chock full of conflicting and confusing proposals that may actually make things worse for corporations in the United States.

Dylan Scott of Vox.com explains how Senate Republicans apparently screwed up language about the corporate alternative minimum tax.

 

President Trump on Wednesday announced plans to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem — a decision that has significant foreign policy repercussions. Protests quickly broke out in Jerusalem following the announcement.

 

► Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken will resign his seat in the coming weeks in the wake of more sexual harassment accusations.

From Franken’s pending resignation, to Alabama’s Senate election and a decision by former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen to seek an open seat in Tennessee, there’s already a lot of movement to consider for 2018. Chris Cillizza and Eric Bradner take a look at the shifting Senate landscape in a story for CNN.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Gardner Gets Mercilessly Mocked on “Tonight Show”

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) was introduced to a national late-night audience when he was lampooned in a caricature on “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon” on Monday.

An actor portraying Gardner appeared during host Jimmy Fallon’s monologue to “answer” a few questions about the Republican tax plan approved by the Senate in the early hours on Saturday. Fallon asks the mock Gardner several questions about who benefits from the GOP tax plan; in response, Gardner’s character mutters a bunch of nonsensical phrases, such as “tax breaks” for “dolphinfluffin” and “gastrointestinal strudel noodle.” The joke is that Gardner cannot actually articulate concrete reasons for supporting the Senate tax plan — which, of course, is not that far removed from reality.

Jump ahead to about the 2:00 mark below for the Gardner bit:

Rushed Republican Tax Plan is Full of Holes

What? No good?

Congressional Republicans are rushing to complete a tax plan that is leakier than a Michael Flynn testimony.

Early Saturday morning, Senate Republicans rammed through a tax bill that was full of nearly-incomprehensible text scribbled in the margins. The rhetoric might have sounded good to GOP interest groups, but the result was legislation that, as written, is a veritable nightmare for Americans and their accountants. As Politico explains:

Republicans’ tax-rewrite plans are riddled with bugs, loopholes and other potential problems that could plague lawmakers long after their legislation is signed into law…

Some provisions are so vaguely written they leave experts scratching their heads, like a proposal to begin taxing the investment earnings of rich private universities’ endowments. The legislation doesn’t explain what’s considered an endowment, and some colleges have more than 1,000 accounts. [Pols emphasis]

In many cases, Republicans are giving taxpayers little time to adjust to sometimes major changes in policy. An entirely new international tax regime, one experts are still trying to parse, would go into effect Jan. 1, only days after lawmakers hope to push the plan through Congress.

“The more you read, the more you go, ‘Holy crap, what’s this?’” said Greg Jenner, a former top tax official in George W. Bush’s Treasury Department. “We will be dealing with unintended consequences for months to come because the bill is moving too fast.” [Pols emphasis]

Rep. Mike Coffman Tweeted this image in early November. Maybe he just skimmed it.

As NPR reports, the AMT problem alone is going to be hard to solve:

As with the individual AMT, the corporate AMT aims to keep large businesses from avoiding too much of their tax bills through deductions and credits.

Keeping the corporate AMT while also cutting the corporate tax rate, experts say, could create a situation in which the revised corporate tax code undermines some of the new benefits the bills create for businesses.

Both the House and Senate must now agree on one piece of legislation before they can send the bill to President Trump, and there are some significant differences of opinion that could yet derail the whole thing. The New York Times breaks down some of the major disagreements, which include the alternative minimum tax (the House says cut it, but the Senate says no); what to do with numerous itemized deductions; how to deal with pass-through businesses; and a potential repeal of the so-called “Johnson amendment” (the House wants it repealed, but the Senate does not).

Republican rhetoric about their tax plan’s benefit to the economy is not holding up with actual business interests. Small business owners and the coal industry are among those that are terrified of the Republican tax plan. As CNN explains:

Coal CEO Robert Murray warns that if the Senate version of tax reform is enacted by President Trump he’ll be destroying thousands of coal mining jobs in the process.

“We won’t have enough cash flow to exist. It wipes us out,” Murray told CNNMoney in an interview on Tuesday.

Murray, a fierce supporter of Trump’s efforts to revive coal, condemned the Senate bill as a “mockery” that would inflict a devastating tax hike on beleaguered coal mining firms as well as other capital-intensive companies.

Let’s hurry up and finish this tax plan, they said.

What could go wrong?

Report: The Republican Tax Plan Does NOT Pay for Itself

UPDATE: The reality that the huge losses in revenue from cutting taxes by $1.5 trillion will not be made up automagically by increased revenues resulting from the economic growth spurred by the tax cuts undercuts literally decades of insistence by Republicans that this is a workable policy. And it also throws Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado’s own contention about the House’s version of the legislation into disarray. Coffman’s words here are quite simply wrong:

The Tax Foundation (TF), a respected nonpartisan think tank, expects the bill to lead to 3.5% higher GDP over the long run, generating economic growth that will increase federal tax revenue by nearly a trillion dollars over a decade, adding, “depending on the baseline used to score the plan, current policy or current law, the new revenues could bring the plan close to revenue neutral.”

Aside from the dubious claim that the bill would, in the worst case, increase the deficit by $1.5 trillion…

Sorry, Rep. Coffman, but as it turns out that idea isn’t so dubious. The right-leaning Tax Foundation’s analysis of the House bill was not corroborated by other research–and the only people who ever seriously believed this tax cut plan would ever be “revenue neutral” either didn’t look at the bill or didn’t care to look honestly at it.

Case in point.

—–

One of the most oft-repeated talking points for Republicans about their tax plan is that it would create so much growth in the economy that it would pay for itself over time. This is a favorite soundbyte designed to make Republicans feel better about the fact that they are promoting legislation that would increase the national debt by more than a trillion dollars.

The big news out of Washington D.C. this afternoon comes from a Joint Committee on Taxation analysis that in no uncertain terms blows the “pays for itself” idea out of the water. As CNN explains:

Republicans have made a very big deal pitching their tax reform plan as an elixir for economic growth.

But a new nonpartisan analysis of the Senate tax bill suggests that while it will spur some additional economic growth, it won’t be nearly enough to compensate for the full cost of the bill’s provisions, which include tax cuts for businesses and individuals.

Here’s why this is such a problem for Republicans, as Steve Benen writes for MSNBC:

Senate Republicans intend to cut taxes by about $1.4 trillion, and once their plan is fully implemented, they’ll leave a $1 trillion hole in the federal budget.

Ordinarily, GOP officials respond to reports such as these by insisting that the numbers are misleading because they failed to take “dynamic scoring” into account. In other words, Republicans believe that to get an accurate assessment of tax plans, one must account for the fact that tax cuts super-charge the economy, which means more growth, which means more revenue, which means a lower overall price tag.

But that argument doesn’t work today: the Joint Committee on Taxation, which is the official congressional scorekeeper on tax bills, relied on dynamic scoring in its analysis.

The JCT played the game by Republican rules, and the regressive tax plan is still $1 trillion short. The claims Republicans are making to justify their tax breaks are, according to Congress’ official accounting, wrong. [Pols emphasis]

It’s not yet clear whether this new report from JCT will impact the decision of Congressional Republicans to move forward on their tax plan, but this just got a lot more complicated for diehard conservatives who insist that cutting the federal budget is a fundamental imperative. No Republican can vote for this plan and simultaneously claim that they are still “fiscal conservatives” concerned about adding to the national debt.

As it turns out, 2+2 does not equal 5.

Rep. Scott Tipton Just Makes Stuff Up About GOP Tax Bill

UPDATE: We’d be remiss if we failed to note again that Rep. Scott Tipton’s vote for the House GOP tax bill was also a vote to eliminate the wind power production tax credit, which plays a key role in high-paying jobs at the Vestas wind tower manufacturing plant located in his district. We have yet to see Tipton comment about this rather important detail, but we understand why he omitted it from this op-ed.

Since this wasn’t about, you know, the facts.

—–

Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez).

In a guest op-ed in the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent today, Rep. Scott Tipton of Cortez calls out strongly for passage of the so-called “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.” Strongly, but missing the one thing his pitch really needed: accuracy.

In my travels around the 3rd Congressional District, I have met and spoken with many hardworking Coloradans who are living paycheck-to-paycheck. They are single parents who work two jobs, seven days a week, but still cannot pay their bills. They are small business owners on Main Street, who are weighed down by federal regulations and a tax code that punishes them for being successful. They are families who are forced to make the difficult decision of paying their mortgage or putting food on the table.

Despite the pleas for help from their constituents, some lawmakers in Washington voted to keep our current, harmful tax code in place. There are some in Congress who would prefer to preserve tax loopholes for special interests and tell Americans how they should spend their money, rather than deliver relief for families and job creators. These are the same individuals who have characterized the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act as a tax cut for the rich, despite independent analysis that shows it will help Americans at every tax level, especially Americans at the low and middle-income level. [Pols emphasis]

As we have discussed repeatedly as the GOP tax bill has been under debate in the U.S. House and now the Senate, the claim that this is meant in any meaningful way to “help Americans at the low and middle-income level,” is simply not true. Referring again to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center’s analysis of the House bill, which is the version Tipton is extolling in today’s op-ed, the facts are clear:

The House bill that passed on Thursday could save Trump and his family over $1 billion, per an NBC News analysis. Key provisions like eliminating the alternative minimum tax (which cost Trump $31 million in his leaked 2005 return), ending the estate tax, cutting the top tax rate for pass-through businesses, and raising the top income threshold for individuals, all directly benefit the rich…a growing minority would see a tax increase over the years, especially if temporary provisions in the bill expire. By 2027, the bottom 40 percent of earners would see almost no average change in their tax bill at all versus current law. Nearly half of the bill’s benefits would go to the top 1 percent. [Pols emphasis]

As 9NEWS correctly noted in their comprehensive look at the Senate version of the tax bill, the numbers are even worse with the legislation currently under debate–with over 50% of taxpayers paying more in 2027 than they do today, and the overwhelming majority of the benefits still going to the wealthiest Americans.

But no matter which version of the GOP tax bill you look at, Tipton’s claim that “it will help Americans at every tax level, especially Americans at the low and middle-income level” has no factual basis. The only people being “especially” helped by this bill are wealthy individuals and businesses. It’s possible that Scott Tipton, whose net worth in 2014 was estimated somewhere north of $6 million, is far enough out of touch with “middle-income” Americans that he imagines himself to be one.

But he’s not. The majority of voters in Tipton’s district, on the other hand, are.

To whom Scott Tipton just told a whopper of a lie.

Denver To DC: Stop The #GOPTaxScam

With the U.S. Senate preparing to vote on legislation that will increase the deficit by an estimated $1.4 trillion, gut health reform, and raise taxes for millions of middle-class families to give tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, activists, policy groups, and concerned Coloradans from around the state rallied in Denver to urge a no vote on the so-called “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.”

“The tax plan is really going to hurt a tremendous number of people,” said Carol Hedges of the Colorado Fiscal Institute. “It’s going to hurt working families, graduate students, teachers, millions of people who make up the backbone of the American economy. This is legislation that will help the rich, and hurt the rest of us. I am deeply worried about the damage this legislation will do and I urge Senator Gardner to oppose it.”

“I live in the mountains above Boulder and I am here today to protest against this irresponsible tax plan,” said Boulder resident Joan Hemm. “My husband is disabled. He is on Social Security disability insurance, he is on Medicare, and I am on a health plan provided by the Affordable Care Act. It’s like dominoes—if this tax plan goes through, we’re just hit in every way imaginable. And because we don’t make over $75,000 per year, we’ll be paying more taxes on top of it! This will be devastating for my family.”

“Income tax policy is really about values and vision,” said retired college professor Katherine Amato. “Dealing with my own major medical expenses, I was extremely lucky to have the medical cost deduction available to me to help offset the rising cost of care. Now I am cancer-free, and for the first time in years won’t have to claim a medical deduction this year. I will gladly pay a small amount more to ensure this vital benefit remains available to all Americans who need it.”

“As usual, Sen. Cory Gardner is refusing to state his position on a bill that will have devastating consequences for his constituents—this time it’s the disastrous Republican tax scam. We remember when he refused to tell the truth to Coloradans about his fervent support for ending health care coverage for hundreds of thousands of his constituents earlier this year,” said Manny Lopez del Rio of ProgressNow Colorado. “We can’t trust Gardner to stand up for Coloradans, but we can show him that he’ll be held accountable for turning his back on us. Colorado is watching this disaster unfold, Sen. Gardner, and we won’t forget.”

Yes Virginia: Tax Bill Takes From Poor, Gives To Rich

UPDATE: 9NEWS took the unusual step of a second try at analyzing the GOP tax bills–and this time reporter Brandon Rittiman goes into commendably greater detail, and gets the bottom line much closer to right:

We explained that under the House bill, about seven percent of taxpayers in unusual situations would pay more taxes instead of getting a cut. That number jumps to 24 percent of taxpayers after a decade, according to the Tax Policy Center, which is often cited by members of both political parties.

That increase over time is largely due to the fact that the GOP plan does less to adjust deductions for inflation each year…this effect is much more severe in the early Senate version of the bill. [Pols emphasis]

In fact, the TPC analysis of the Senate version figures that slightly more than half of taxpayers would see a tax increase after a decade.

Like we said. Kudos to 9NEWS for taking another look at this, and giving their viewers a vastly more accurate snapshot of where the legislation is as of now.

Accurate, and troubling.

—–

A “Verify” segment from 9NEWS last night is provoking much discussion today, giving what appears to be a diametrically opposite answer to the big question about the Republican tax “reform” bill to most analysis–is the GOP really about to pass a bill that hikes taxes on the middle class in order to give tax cuts to the rich?

9NEWS’ Brandon Rittiman says no–and it’s a bit of a head-scratcher.

NO, IT DOESN’T RAISE TAXES ON THE MIDDLE CLASS TO FUND TAX BREAKS FOR THE WEALTHY

Numerous Democrats both on and off Capitol hill have made the claim that the GOP bill will raise taxes on the middle class in order to give a tax break to the rich.

The Washington Post (which gave this claim four “Pinnochios”) traced this back to a Democratic talking point that seems to have gone through a tortured game of telephone.

In fact, the GOP tax bill gives almost everyone a tax cut, which is why it comes with a steep price tag…

9NEWS is putting a very large amount of stock for this claim on a fact-check performed by the Washington Post on November 2, which corrected a math error from a number of Democrats about a previous version of the bill. But since then, numerous other studies have come out showing that large portions of the middle class will indeed pay more in taxes while the rich pay less–CNBC reported last week:

…The Tax Policy Center said that while all income groups would see tax reductions, on average, under the Senate bill in 2019, 9 percent of taxpayers would pay higher taxes that year than under current law. By 2027, that proportion would grow to 50 percent, largely because the legislation’s personal tax cuts expire in 2026, which Republicans did to curb budget deficits the bill would create. [Pols emphasis]

Curiously, 9NEWS cites an older study from the same nonpartisan Tax Policy Center analyzing the House-passed bill instead of the newer study analyzing the Senate bill–which appears to be substantially worse in terms of hiking taxes on the middle class down the road. But the biggest problem is with the blanket claim that the bill “doesn’t raise taxes on the middle class to fund tax breaks for the wealthy” is that they are apparently only looking at the 2018 tax year. Obviously, the bill affects much more than next year’s taxes. And as these studies clearly indicate, millions of middle class families paying more not less is baked in the proverbial cake.

Given that the tax bill’s details are a moving target subject to change at any time, and indeed have changed even since 9NEWS put up this “Verify” segment last night, we feel some cause to give the benefit of the doubt. But we just can’t find any way to accurately claim this bill doesn’t take from the middle class to give to the rich. Especially considering the proposed undermining of the Affordable Care Act and the inevitable program cuts that will be forced in the future due to over a trillion dollars of new deficits, that is not a “verifiable” statement anybody can stand behind.

And it’s not likely to age well.

Local TV Ratings Drop; Will Campaign Budgets Adjust?

Oooh…look at all the fancy knobs

There’s bad news today for local television news stations in Colorado, as Joanne Ostrow reports for “The Know” (which is connected to the Denver Post):

TV stations suffered market-wide, double-digit declines in late newscast viewership in the November 2017 ratings sweeps. The decline in people using television, a factor for a decade, continues.

“That’s something that’s scary for all of us,” KMGH news director Holly Gauntt said.

All of Denver’s late newscasts lost viewers: KUSA-Channel 9, while still the market leader, was down 28 percent at 10 p.m. KDVR-Channel 31, was down 12 percent at 9 p.m., down 16 percent at 9:30 p.m. and down 16 percent at 10 p.m. KCNC-Channel 4 saw a 20 percent drop at 10 p.m. KMGH-Channel 7 dropped 22 percent at 10 p.m.

KUSA’s decline of 28 percent, down from a 3.09 rating last November to 2.23 this year, translates to a loss of nearly 15,000 viewers.

We probably don’t need to tell you that the primary reason for the ratings decline is the proliferation of digital devices connected to the Internet tubes. The drop in local TV viewership is not a new phenomenon, of course, but the steady rate at which eyeballs are straying from televisions in the Denver/Boulder market (the 17th largest in the country) could remake the landscape of local political advertising at some point in the near future. Television advertising is a top priority for political campaigns, and we wouldn’t expect a significant change in 2018 — big money campaigns, like many organizations, can be slow to react to market changes — but we wouldn’t be surprised if things start to look different in 2020.

The news isn’t all bad for local TV, however, as Ostrow continues:

On the plus side, KUSA proved that patience is a virtue when it comes to “Next with Kyle Clark.” That non-traditional 6 p.m. news show had a resurgence in the ratings, beating the competition with a 2.26 rating.

Considering that 9News at 10:00 pm has a 2.88 rating, “Next With Kyle Clark” is doing well to nab a 2.26 figure for November.

Sorry Beer Lovers, Tax Bill Won’t Make Your Suds Cheaper

Full price, so drink up.

As the Denver Post’s Mark Matthews reports:

They aren’t toasting yet, but Colorado beer-makers are abuzz about one piece of a tax package in Congress that would benefit brewers — especially the microbreweries that have become intrinsic to the state’s identity.

Under the Senate tax proposal, domestic breweries that produce less than 2 million barrels a year would see their taxes reduced from $7 to $3.50 per barrel for the first 60,000 barrels they produce per year.

If the measure passes — and that’s still a big if — it would be a boon for Colorado’s nearly 350 breweries, the overwhelming majority of which fall into that category.

Notwithstanding the fact that there is nothing in the legislation to replace the lost revenue from this tax cut, or for that matter any more than a token amount of the large revenue losses projected from the so-called “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act”–the latest CBO estimate is a mere 12% of the bill is paid for–you might have the notion that halving the tax on the first 60,000 barrels from your favorite local brewer would at least lighten the load on a six-pack by a commensurate amount.

Except no, sorry:

“We have never positioned this bill as a bill that would give better prices to consumers,” said Bob Pease, president and CEO of the Boulder-based Brewers Association. [Pols emphasis]

No discount for you, beer lovers: now brewer industry representatives cross-their-heart promise that they’re not going to pocket this extra money, but re-invest it–and the benefits will “trickle down” to beer consumers, much like a good craft brew itself within a couple hours of being drunk. Like so many of the tax breaks in this legislation, the losses in tax revenue are plain to see, while the benefits go to much smaller “targeted” groups of people opaque to everyone except the beneficiaries.

Who, unlike your average middle-class Joe Six Pack set to lose under this legislation, have really good lobbyists! So when you hear about the “beer tax break” at your local bar, and you probably will, let the boys know it’s not about the consumer side of the equation.

Get More Smarter on Monday (November 20)

Be thankful that you won’t have to watch the Denver Broncos on Thursday. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

The Tax Turducken that is winding its way through Republicans in Congress may be stopped short in the Senate because it’s just too unwieldy. As the Washington Post explains:

As the tax debate heads into a one-week, Thanksgiving-imposed timeout, the project hangs by a thread in the Senate. A handful of Senate Republicans will determine its fate. The challenge for Republican leaders is that those swing votes have conflicting priorities.

On one side are senators demanding changes adding to the cost of the bill; on the other, deficit hawks are raising alarms about the price tag of a measure that arguably has burst its seams.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) objects to the last-minute decision by Republican tax writers to include a repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate — a critical source of revenue for the bill. And Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) wants more generous treatment for pass-through businesses. Meanwhile, Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), among others, have said the bill’s deficit impact could cost their support.

In a Sunday appearance on ABC’s “This Week,” Collins said the move to scrap the individual mandate will cause insurance premiums to spike, wiping out whatever middle-class benefit the bill might otherwise deliver. She stopped short of declaring herself opposed to the Senate bill, because she expects it to change, but she called the mandate repeal the “biggest mistake.”

 

► The Keystone XL pipeline cleared an key regulatory hurdle today, as NBC News reports:

The Keystone XL pipeline cleared a major hurdle on Monday after a Nebraska regulator approved an alternate route for the $8 billion project.

The Nebraska Public Service Commission voted to approve TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline in a 3-2 decision that cleared a regulatory hurdle for the proposed 1,179-mile pipeline that would link Canada’s Alberta oil sands to U.S. refineries.

Nebraska was the only state that had yet to approve the pipeline’s route, and Monday’s decision appeared to pass that final regulatory challenge. But the move could still be challenged in court.

Last week, the Keystone Pipeline spilled more than 200,000 gallons of oil in South Dakota — more evidence to back up critics who believe the pipeline is fundamentally unsafe for local communities.

 

► President Trump has decided to put North Korea back on a list of state sponsors of terrorism. Former President George W. Bush removed North Korea from the list in 2008.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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