Thursday, September 28, 2017

Deficits Stopped Mattering On January 20

With the GOP (nominally) in charge of the government, suddenly deficit spending is super okay again when there's not a black Democratic president around to blame it on.  Don't take my word for it though, just ask Republican lawmakers who now freely admit that's the case.

In 2001, when surging budget surpluses fueled hopes of extinguishing the national debt, a pitched battle broke out over President George W. Bush’s proposed $1.6 trillion tax cut.  
Nevermind that the tax cut’s 10-year tab was supposed to leave behind more than $3 trillion in surpluses — Democrats and some Republicans said that the tax cut was just too large. 
Fast forward to President Trump’s Washington, where the budget deficit for this fiscal year is expected to near $700 billion and the federal debt has topped $20 trillion.
A new tax cut is emerging to rival those of the Bush years, and the deficit hawks have hardly peeped. 
It’s a great talking point when you have an administration that’s Democrat-led,” said Representative Mark Walker, Republican of North Carolina and the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, a group of about 150 conservative House members. “It’s a little different now that Republicans have both houses and the administration.” 

Here's the hard truth: Deficit spending is always acceptable to the GOP as long as anyone darker than a wine cork doesn't benefit from it.

For years, Republican lawmakers lamented the soaring national debt, pressing for spending cuts and clinging to the mantle of fiscal responsibility. But last week, Senate Republicans hammered out a deal to allow for as much as $1.5 trillion in tax cuts, betting that supercharged growth will make up for lost revenue, a potentially dubious prospect. The tax plan outlined Wednesday by the White House and Republican leaders in the House and Senate could cost more than $2 trillion over the next decade, according to a preliminary estimate by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
This month, the majority of Republicans in the House and the Senate voted to raise the debt limit without doing anything to rein in spending. 
Republican lawmakers are pushing to increase military spending by tens of billions of dollars, topping even Mr. Trump’s request for a beefed-up military. Democrats are sharing in the fiscal intemperance, lining up behind a “Medicare for all” proposal despite having no definitive plan for how to pay for universal, government-provided health coverage. 
And as Congress mulls large tax cuts, the tabs for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria keep rising. 
When Mr. Bush took office and pushed for a big tax cut, the fiscal outlook was strong. The Congressional Budget Office in 2001 was projecting $5.6 trillion in budget surpluses over 10 years
Now, the budget office forecasts that deficits will total $10.1 trillion over the next decade. The deficit is expected to top $1 trillion a year in 2022 and keep growing from there. Federal debt held by the public is at the highest level since shortly after World War II, at 77 percent of the gross domestic product.

And that's if Trump doesn't crash the economy (which given this tax plan and massive austerity cuts to follow that scenario becomes virtually certain).   We'll be lucky to get through the next four years without stacking up another $10 trillion to throw in the hole, and 99% of it will go to the wealthiest people and corporations on earth.

The Kansas disaster is coming to a state near you in 2018 unless we stop these guys.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

BuzzFeed News's Jason Leopold gives us the latest instance of the Trump regime's passive-aggressive foot-dragging in confounding investigators, as the Treasury Department's forensic accounting team has been locked out of FBI intelligence files for months over an unexplained "mishap", which they discovered as they raced to help track the terrorists behind June's London Bridge attack.

The lack of access for personnel within the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network — never before reported — cost anti-terrorism forces on both sides of the Atlantic crucial time in identifying and pursuing the people and networks around the attackers, according to sources and documents reviewed by BuzzFeed News. 
Sources said the lack of access has also hindered the Congressional inquiry into President Donald Trump and Russia. The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network — FinCEN for short — has not turned over all the records that the Senate Intelligence and Finance committees requested as part of their probes into the 2016 election. While the agency did send over about 2,000 pages of banking and other financial information to the Intelligence committee in March, officials said they are still waiting for additional information on transactions between specific people. Sources declined to name those people or describe the transactions. 
Accusing the Treasury Department of making it impossible for Congress to “follow the money,” Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, of Oregon, announced last week that he would would block the confirmation vote on Trump’s nominee to be Treasury’s assistant secretary for intelligence and analysis, Isabel Patelunas, until the remaining documents are produced. 
The Treasury Department did not respond to specific questions from BuzzFeed News about FinCEN’s response to terrorist attacks or Congressional requests, but issued a statement saying in part that its “employees obtain and maintain access to the tools needed to support our partners in law enforcement, the intelligence community and foreign counterparts.” 
FinCEN’s skill at following the money has proven valuable in past terrorist attacks. After the 2013 bombing of the Boston Marathon, one FBI official told BuzzFeed News, the “names searches FinCEN did were far more effective and thorough than what we had been doing when it came to identifying the attackers” and mapping the terrorist network tied to them. 
Two explanations have emerged for why FinCEN personnel have been locked out. The problem was either a retaliatory move in an increasingly nasty power struggle with the Treasury Department’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, which controls the digital keys to classified computer networks, or it was a bureaucratic snafu regarding the keys’ timely renewal. 
Members of Congress who have been briefed on the situation say it needs to be fixed immediately. FinCEN’s lack of access puts America’s national security at “grave” risk, said Republican Steve Pearce, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Terrorism and Finance. As a result of the shut-out, “FinCEN was unable to effectively respond to critical, time-sensitive requests for information from law enforcement partners, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” Pearce wrote on June 9 in a previously undisclosed letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Pearce, whose office declined to comment beyond what is in the letter, wrote that the problem was “bewildering” and “unacceptable.”

But if you're trying to stop an investigation into the White House and the guy in the Oval Office, denying the FinCEN team access to classified material is the easiest way to stop the sleuthing dead in its tracks, particularly if the trail leads to a foreign adversary like Moscow.

It's not the crime that gets you, it's the cover-up.

And speaking of cover-up, the Daily Beast crew does some digging on the "Russian front companies bought Facebook ads" story and found that Russian agents were pretending to be a real Muslim advocacy group on Facebook with the intent of damaging Hillary Clinton and riling up right-wing voters.

The Facebook group United Muslims of America was neither united, Muslim, nor American. 
Instead, sources familiar with the group tell The Daily Beast, it was an imposter account on the world’s largest social network that’s been traced back to the Russian government. 
Using the account as a front to reach American Muslims and their allies, the Russians pushed memes that claimed Hillary Clinton admitted the U.S. “created, funded and armed” al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State; claimed that John McCain was ISIS’ true founder; whitewashed blood-drenched dictator Moammar Gadhafi and praised him for not having a “Rothschild-owned central bank”; and falsely alleged Osama bin Laden was a “CIA agent.” 
Sources confirmed that the imposter account bought Facebook advertisements to reach its target audience. It promoted political rallies aimed at Muslim audiences. And it used the Twitter account “muslims_in_usa” and the Instagram account “muslim_voice” to pass along inflammatory memes under cover of the UMA. The Twitter account has been suspended, and the account on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, was shuttered at around the same time as the Facebook page. 
The Kremlin-backed trolls did all this while simultaneously using other accounts to hawk virulently Islamophobic messages to right-wing audiences on Facebook, such as an August 2016 Twin Falls, Idaho rally demanding, “We must stop taking in Muslim refugees!” Taken together, the newest revelation of Russian propaganda on Facebook shows the sophistication of the Russian “active measures” campaign to influence the U.S. voting public.

“Russia knows no ends and no limits to which groups they would masquerade as to carry out their objectives,” Rep. Eric Swalwell, a Democrat on the House intelligence committee, told the Daily Beast.

It's amazing that all the Russians had to do was to buy Facebook ads and drop right-wing garbage fake news memes on Instagram so your racist uncle would send it to everyone he knows.  Low-information FOX News morons happily voted as a direct result.

Ahh, but it wasn't just Islamophobia that the Russians were exploiting on Facebook to help stir up trouble.  It was much easier to exploit race and target it at those who would hear.

At least one of the Facebook ads bought by Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign referenced Black Lives Matter and was specifically targeted to reach audiences in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, sources with knowledge of the ads told CNN.

Ferguson and Baltimore had gained widespread attention for the large and violent protests over police shootings of black men. The decision to target the ad in those two cities offers the first look at how accounts linked to the Russian government-affiliated troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency used geographically targeted advertising to sow political chaos in the United States, the sources said.

Facebook has previously said that roughly one-quarter of the 3,000 ads bought by the agency were geographically targeted, but it has not revealed any specific locations. Facebook has also not revealed which demographic groups and interest groups were targeted by the ads.

The Black Lives Matter ad appeared on Facebook at some point in late 2015 or early 2016, the sources said. The sources said it appears the ad was meant to appear both as supporting Black Lives Matter but also could be seen as portraying the group as threatening to some residents of Baltimore and Ferguson.

Pisses me off that we lost America to these assholes, and they had help from the Russians.  Even before Trump entered the race they were manipulating American voters.


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