Liquid error: undefined method `select!' for #<ContentNode::ActiveRecord_Associations_CollectionProxy:0x0000561fbb4a0c78> Did you mean? select _select!

Posts from

Fox News tells Americans to stop complaining about their shrunken tax refunds

Josh Israel

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

As Americans begin to prepare their 2018 federal tax returns, many are facing the unpleasant surprise that their tax refunds will be smaller this year or that they may even owe money to the government. This comes despite — or perhaps because of — the tax bill passed by the Republican Congress in late 2017 and signed by President Donald Trump, which Trump falsely promised would give everyone a tax cut, but actually raised taxes on many middle class Americans.

On Wednesday, Fox & Friends attempted to spin the situation, blaming taxpayers who should have somehow known to have adjust their withholding a year ago and should have saved more.

Noting that the average tax refund has dropped 8.4 percent since last year, guest and Fox Business Network host Charles Payne claimed Americans should have used their “fatter paychecks” more wisely.

“Here’s the thing. For the most part, the IRS is telling everyone that they just simply did not make the proper adjustments on the withholding at the beginning of the year. So they have been making all of this money,” he said.

More ...

Mulvaney says Trump may still force another shutdown despite adequate funding

Josh Israel

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

President Donald Trump’s acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said Sunday that the administration “absolutely cannot” rule out another government shutdown — even though he also claimed that there is plenty of money already available for Trump to build his unpopular wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Bipartisan congressional negotiators are running out of time to reach an agreement on legislation to keep the government funded after the current three-week continuing resolution expires on February 15.

Trump ran for president in 2016 on a promise that he would build a wall along the entire southern border and that it would be funded entirely by Mexico. After Mexico refused, Trump has demanded $5.7 billion in U.S. taxpayer funding this year to begin construction on the project.

Earlier this year, he forced the longest partial government shutdown in the nation’s history in an unsuccessful attempt to get Congress to appropriate that money.  But Mulvaney said on Sunday that Trump can legally build the wall even if he does not get new appropriations.

On Fox News Sunday, Mulvaney vowed that Trump is going to build the wall, period. “We’ll take as much money as you can give us. And then we’ll go off and find the money someplace else — legally — in order to secure that southern barrier. But this is going to get built, with or without Congress.”

More ...

House Republicans resort to wacky excuses to reject ending Trump’s shutdown

Josh Israel

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

House Republicans are offering a series of strange justifications for refusing to join their Democratic colleagues in supporting legislation that would end President Trump’s government shutdown, which is about to set a record as the longest ever.

Democrats passed a series of bills this week to reopen parts of the federal government that are currently closed due to the partial shutdown, with only a few Republican votes joining in support of the legislation.

While Trump has vowed to veto these bills unless Congress gives him billions of taxpayer dollars for a border wall he promised would be funded entirely by Mexico, lawmakers could override a presidential veto if two-thirds of the House and Senate backed the bills.

Instead, House Republicans have offered a litany of excuses for their opposition to bills, which were crafted to match bipartisan Senate spending bills endorsed by the body last year. While some played on the notion that the House should never give the Senate what it wants, many noted that their pet pork projects were not adequately funded — and thus, they preferred to let government agencies including Treasury, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture, and Interior continue to be shuttered with no funding whatsoever.

The gripes shared during the House debate included:

Dead House members wouldn’t like the process.

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) argued that even though the bills received overwhelming support from senators from both parties last year, they should be rejected because the House was not involved. “The other side wants to claim that these bills are bipartisan, but they are clearly not bicameral, and they have no input from the 435 House Members,” he said. “Some of the great House appropriators of our time on both sides of the aisle would probably be rolling over in their graves right now if they knew of such a move to take up Senate spending bills without any House input.”

More ...

Not just Hill interns: Public office pays so little, it’s the realm of the rich and retired

Josh Israel

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

When Arnie Arnesen was elected to the New Hampshire state House of Representatives in 1984, she was 31 years old and pregnant. “I couldn’t afford infant daycare,” she remembers, “so I showed up and breastfed on the floor of the House.”

Her district was well northwest of the state capitol, so the combination of the commute and her legislative duties kept her more than a little busy: “How do you have a job where you’re traveling down to Concord — an hour and a half each way, three days a week — and think you could have a life? I took it as an opportunity even though it was a financial liability.”

For her hard work, Arnesen received a $100 salary from the state’s treasury — per year.

The state’s lawmakers have never gotten a pay raise. Since 1889, the New Hampshire constitution has set the salary for its state legislators at $200 per two-year term (about $5,500 in today’s money). “When they put the $200 in the constitution,” Arnesen said, “that was half the average wage of a New Hampshire worker. It reflected a reasonable salary, but that’s never changed. And the question is why not? They don’t want young people [or] diversity.” The result, she says, is that over her four terms in the House and in the decades since, the state legislature has been almost exclusively “made up of the rich, the retired, and the remunerated — because they don’t need the cash.”

More ...

House Democrats have a plan to actually drain the swamp. Senate Republicans are going to hate it.

Josh Israel

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

House Democrats gained at least 40 seats in the November 2018 midterm elections, in part based on their promise to fight the culture of corruption that festered under the GOP’s control. As they usher in the 116th Congress on Thursday, the new House Majority plans to hit the ground running with two packages to actually drain the swamp and take on the for-profit Trumpadministration. But with Republicans still controlling the Senate, one of those packages is likely going to run into the massive anti-reform roadblock that is Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

As promised, incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and her new majority plan to kick off the new Congress with a major sweeping anti-corruption bill — designated as H.R. 1 — and a series of House rule changes (H. Res. 6) that will address weaknesses in the House’s own operating policies.

Alex Tausanovitch, associate director of the democracy and government reform team at the Center for American Progress, called the rules changes a “down-payment on their efforts to fight corruption” that “shows they’re serious about taking on this culture of corruption we’ve seen proliferate in the past few years.” [ThinkProgress is an editorially independent project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund].

Those changes include a prohibition on members of Congress — like indicted New York Rep. Chris Collins (R) — serving on corporate boards, mandatory annual ethics training for all members, an expanded ban on sexual relationships between members and staffers, a new ombudsman for whistleblowers, and a formal ban on non-disclosure agreements (which have been used to conceal sexual harassment).

More ...

These companies claimed the GOP tax bill would ‘boost jobs.’ Now they’re laying off employees.

Josh Israel

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

In the lead-up to the enactment of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act, Donald Trump’s massive tax cut that mostly benefited rich people and big corporations, a coalition of powerful business interests formed with one major priority in mind: slashing the corporate tax rate. The Reforming America’s Taxes Equitably (RATE) Coalition comprised dozens of companies and trade groups that all insisted lowering corporate taxes would mean more jobs.

A ThinkProgress review found that about half of RATE Coalition’s members have made layoffs since the law’s enactment. In other words, not only did the expensive tax cut not bring more jobs, it couldn’t even forestall significant job losses.

In 2017, the RATE Coalition’s website identified 32 companies and trade groups who had come together around the singular mission to “reform the tax code, making it fairer and simpler and improving the prospects of growth and jobs in the U.S. economy by reducing the corporate income tax rate to make it more competitive with our nation’s major trading partners.” Together, they constituted a 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organization (first launched in 2011) and promised that a corporate tax rate reduction would “boost job creation and economic growth.”

Their membership list was a who’s who of Big Business: Aetna Inc., AT&T, Altria Client Services, Association of American Railroads, Boeing, Brown-Forman, Capital One, Cox Enterprises, CVS Caremark, Edison Electric Institute, FedEx, Ford, General Dynamics, Home Depot, Intel, Kimberly-Clark, Liberty Media, Lockheed Martin, Macy’s, National Retail Federation, Nike, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Reynolds American, S&P Global, Southern Company, Synchrony Financial, T-Mobile, UPS, Verizon, Viacom, and Walmart.

More ...

The GOP strategy to make the midterm elections about bigotry pretty much failed

Josh Israel

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

After President Donald Trump won in 2016 on a platform of nativism, xenophobia, racism, and a false promise that Mexico would fund a giant wall along the U.S.’s southern border, he and his party apparently believed that appeals to bigotry and division were the way to win elections. But while the White House, GOP party committees, allied outside groups, and midterm candidates employed an array of dog-whistle and plainly racist attacks against Democratic candidates, it did not have the desired results in last week’s 2018 midterms.

There were certainly instances in which racist candidates and divisive tactics were successful. Former Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) appears to havfe eked out a very narrow win against a black Democrat whom he compared to a monkey. Indicted Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) won after smearing his Christian opponent, a Latino-Arab American, of secretly being a “radical Muslim” and a “security risk.” Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) was victorious in a close race against an opponent he tied to a convicted cop-killer with race-baiting ads. Though it was much closer than his previous wins, white supremacist Rep. Steve King (R-IA) held onto his House seat.

But on a larger scale, the attacks mostly flopped.

Xenophobic attacks against Tom O’Halleran (AZ-1)

Republican challenger Wendy Rogers challenged first-term Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ) over his opposition to Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda. Her ad called Honduran refugees “invaders” and warned that if O’Halleran and Democrats won, the borders would be “opened” and “our America” would be “gone forever.” Voters didn’t buy it, and they re-elected him easily.

Anti-Asian attacks against Andy Kim (NJ-3)

Rep. Tom MacArthur (R) lost to Democrat Andy Kim, a national security expert whose parents immigrated from South Korea. The New Jersey GOP sent a racist mailer to voters in the district using images of a fish market juxtaposed next to Kim’s name written in a font similar to Chinese take-out restaurants, and a prominent GOP super PAC ad accused Kim of being “not one of us.” In a debate, MacArthur refused to denounce the attacks and suggested Kim was falsely crying racism to get sympathy.

More ...

What you can do to protect your right to vote in hard times

Josh Israel

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

Marc Solomon is a long-time political strategist who literally wrote the book on the campaign to bring marriage equality to America. So when he moved to New Jersey, registering to vote was an important priority for him. The state’s arcane law requires handwritten voter registration applications, and the registrar’s office in his county incorrectly read his last name as “Soloman.” Trouble ensued.

When he attempted to obtain a vote-by-mail ballot, his request was rejected because the registrar could not match his Social Security number with his (incorrectly spelled) name. While this administrative error was likely inadvertent and may be rectifiable before Election Day — unlike many of the obstacles American citizens can face in their effort to exercise their right to vote — Solomon is hardly alone in finding his participation in Election 2018 may take some extra effort.

And while the battle to make sure that no citizen is disenfranchised will play out now and in the future at the ballot box, in the courts, and in legislatures, Common Cause National Campaigns and Digital Director Jesse Littlewood told ThinkProgress, that there are several steps everyone can take to make sure their vote counts in the November 6 elections.

More ...

After blowing up the deficit with tax cuts, these Republicans want credit for fiscal responsibility

Josh Israel

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

“The federal fiscal burden threatens the security, liberty, and independence of our nation,” the 2016 Republican party platform warned. To get off “the path to
bankrupting the next generation,” they vowed to “fight for Congress to adopt, and for the states to ratify, a Balanced Budget Amendment.”

Now that the GOP controls Congress and the White House, however, the party has apparently abandoned these principles. Rather than move toward a balanced budget, the GOP majority and President Trump instead have massively increased the budget deficit they once decried, thanks in large part to the tax bill they passed. And yet that has not stopped Republicans from audaciously running on a balanced budget again in 2018.

A ThinkProgress review of House Republicans running for re-election in districts deemed competitive by the Cook Political Report found 18 of them explicitly call for a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget on their current campaign re-election websites, yet also voted for massive Trump tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. The plan is predicted cost the government more than $1 trillion in revenue, massively increasing the current budget deficit.

Thirteen of those lawmakers also voted for the 2018 omnibus spending bill, which cost another $1.3 trillion. Combined, these helped swell the annual federal budget deficit (which was $584 billion in Fiscal Year 2016) to an estimated $1 trillion starting next year.

The hypocrites include:

  1. Rep. French Hill (AR-2). Hill voted for both the tax cuts for the rich and the omnibus spenidng bill. Still, he complains on his campaign site that “Washington spending is out of control and bankrupting our country,” and boasts, “While in Congress, I have co-sponsored two versions of balanced budget amendments to the U.S. Constitution to bring our spending in line. We must take the necessary steps to ensure that all taxpayer dollars are being used wisely, and we can no longer kick the can down the road on mandatory spending. Our children and grandchildren depend on us to solve our debt problem and give them a brighter future.”
  2. Rep. David Schweikert (AZ-6). Schweikert voted for the tax cuts for the rich. Yet he warns that “Our national debt is out of control,” and says, “Throughout his term, David has also sponsored real reforms like a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution that would mandate that Congress balance the budget each year.”
More ...

Trumpcare breaks every promise Trump made about health care

Josh Israel

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

On the campaign trail, one of Donald Trump’s most oft-repeated promises was that he would repeal the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, and replace it with “something terrific.” This mythical, magical, secret plan was largely left to the imagination of voters, but he did make a few claims about what it would include.

Trump promised that his replacement would be “a lot less expensive” for consumers and for the government. “You know who makes the money with Obamacare? I don’t know if you know. The insurance companies,” he explained.

On 60 Minutes in September of 2015, Trump vowed that everyone would be covered if he won. “I am going to take care of everybody. I don’t care if it costs me votes or not. Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now.”

Pressed for specifics, he explained that “people are going to be able to go out and negotiate great plans with lots of different competition with lots of competitors with great companies and they can have their doctors, they can have plans, they can have everything.”

Trump reiterated his pledge that every American would get coverage at a February 2016 MSNBC town hall. “We’re going to take care of them. We’re going to take care of them. We have to take care of them. Now, that’s not single payer. That’s not anything. That’s just human decency.”

More ...

New NAFTA Must Create an Economy for All

New NAFTA Must Create an Economy for All

Union Matters

Support the Equality Act

From the AFL-CIO

Rep. David Cicilline and Sen. Jeff Merkley last week reintroduced the Equality Act in the 116th Congress. A landmark piece of civil rights legislation, the bill would extend comprehensive protections to LGBTQ working people.

Currently, private employers in 29 states can legally fire workers based solely on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Equality Act would ensure that civil rights protections are extended equally to LGBTQ Americans.

Amending existing federal civil rights laws, it would explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in education, employment, housing, credit, federal jury service, public accommodations and the use of federal funds.

More than 70% of Americans—including a majority of Republicans—support passing the kinds of protections found in the Equality Act.

The Equality Act’s record number of co-sponsors in the House of Representatives is 239.

 “No one’s civil rights should depend on the ZIP code they happen to be in at the moment.” —Pride At Work Executive Director Jerame Davis

More ...