Monday, September 24, 2018

OPINION - Shields and Ponnuru 9/21/2018

"Shields and Ponnuru on Brett Kavanaugh allegations, Russia probe declassification delay" PBS NewsHour 9/21/2018


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Ramesh Ponnuru of The National Review join Amna Nawaz to discuss the week’s news, including the controversy surrounding the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, the decision by President Trump to push back his order to declassify Russia probe documents, and how the President could influence the midterm elections.

Amna Nawaz (NewsHour):  Now we turn back to the controversy surrounding the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

And to the analysis of Shields and Ponnuru.  That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Ramesh Ponnuru of The National Review.  David Brooks is away.

Gentlemen, welcome.

Let's jump right in.

The biggest story of the week, obviously, here in Washington, Judge Kavanaugh, right?  We're having this conversation at the unfortunate intersection of high-stakes politics and how we handle sexual violence in America.

Ramesh, the Republicans are in charge here, though, kind of running the show.  How are they handling it?

Ramesh Ponnuru, The National Review:  Well, I would say that things took a marked turn for the worse when President Trump decided that he was tired of being responsible and sober-minded, which must have chafed, and instead decided to attack Dr. or Professor Blasey Ford, saying that, if this was a real thing, she should have come forward decades ago, which anybody who's familiar with these cases understands is not the way these things work.

So I think that's a real black mark on the Republicans.  And I know a lot of Republicans, including Senator Collins, were really smarting over that remark and wanting to distance themselves from it.

On the other hand, you look at the Democrats, and they haven't been covering themselves in glory either.  Senator Feinstein's handling of the allegation, sitting on it for two months, essentially, was almost inexplicable.  And you have got various Senate Democrats who are pre-judging the case, saying that they — as Senate Republicans, some are, too — saying that they already believe the allegations without having heard anything.

Amna Nawaz:  Mark, what do you make of all this?

Mark Shields, syndicated columnist:  Well, let me agree with Ramesh, especially on President Trump.

If you're a Republican in 2018, and on the eve of an election that is increasingly looking pessimistic, by numbers and outlook, for the Republicans, the last thing you want to be talking about is women and sexual abuse and recalling of the Anita Hill hearings, and having as your spokesman a man who has been 19 times accused of sexual abuse or sexual harassment, the President of the United States, Donald Trump.

It's not a message you want, and it's not a messenger.  This is more than about Brett Kavanaugh.  This hearing that's coming up is essentially about David against Goliath, against — we're going to hear from Professor Ford for the first time.  And that will determine how the country responds.

But between — before then, I think the one indicator that has hit me is polls that suggests that women are more upset about the charges and the response of the Republicans than any other group.

And you will recall, in the 2016 election, Donald Trump carried women who had not been to college by a 61 to 34 margin, decisively.  Hillary Clinton carried a majority of women who had gone to college.  If women in — the non-college-educated women are responding to this charge and the sense that something is wrong and that — that this is a society that is indifferent and intolerant of women and the abuse they have suffered, this is nothing but bad news for the Republicans.

It's not where they want to be.

Amna Nawaz:  So, how do they handle this?  Part of this is about optics, right?  I mean, and we're talking there could be a hearing next week.  We don't know where this stands.

You have got three men who could be questioning Dr. Ford who were there back in 1991, right, questioning Anita Hill, and didn't handle it well back then.  How do they move forward?  How did they have the hearing that everyone says they're going to be moving towards to some degree and not alienate this group that Mark was just talking about?

Ramesh Ponnuru:  Well, I think one thing we all have to remember is, the optics actually have to take a backseat to the facts.

And it's going to be very hard to determine the facts.  But the senators need to go in and be seen to be going in, yes, but mostly to actually go in, trying to determine the facts.

We have got sworn statements now from Judge Kavanaugh, from Mark Judge, from an unnamed third party.  We will presumably get a third — get a sworn statement from the accuser as well, Professor Blasey Ford.  And then we're going to have to actually try to do what we can to figure out who's telling the truth.

Amna Nawaz:  Do you think that the way they have presented it so far enforces that message that we take this seriously, we have an intention to get to the bottom of this?

You're hearing some folks, like Mitch McConnell earlier today, we heard him in the show saying, Judge Kavanaugh is going to be confirmed.

Ramesh Ponnuru:  Right.

So I think it's one thing to say that, based on the evidence that you have heard so far, you are inclined to go with one or the other.  But I think it's a real mistake to close your mind to the possibility that you're going to get new information.  If that's the case, then you do have to ask, why are we having any hearings at all?

Amna Nawaz:  I want to bring up a poll too.  We have got some numbers to look at, Mark, and get your take on these.

Mark Shields:  Yes.  Sure.

Amna Nawaz:  This shows publicly, look, there has been an actual increase in opposition to Judge Kavanaugh over the last month, up nine points.

At some point, does he become a political liability?

Mark Shields:  I'm not sure he's a political liability.

I think that the subject is a political liability for Republicans.  And, obviously, if he's stayed with and sullied with it, yes, he becomes a political liability.

I think the hearing is — Ramesh is right.  The Republicans and the Democrats have basically taken their position, put on their uniforms, or at least the partisans have.  The group that has yet to make a decision on this will look at the hearings.  And the hearings will be determinate.

And it really isn't about Judge Kavanaugh as much as it's about Professor Ford.  I mean, is she believable?  Is she sympathetic?  Is she convincing?

And the President saying, why didn't she come forward, why didn't she go the FBI when she was 15 years old, first of all, it's not a — it's not a — I'm not sure that we're talking about a federal offense.  But, secondly, I mean, if anything we have learned, through the pain and torment of the Catholic clergy sexual abuse, is that people, out of pain, embarrassment, humiliation, a sense of fear, don't come forward.

I mean, the Department of Justice own numbers say that 22 percent of rape victims ever come forward.  And so that — but, really, it is David against Goliath.  And the focus is on her.  The question, is she believable?  Is she convincing?

I wasn't sure that Mark Judge had signed a sworn statement.

Ramesh Ponnuru:  He made a statement to the Judiciary Committee.  So, that is a potentially legally actionable document that is…

Mark Shields:  OK, because he showed no willingness to…

Ramesh Ponnuru:  He doesn't — but he doesn't want — yes, right.

Mark Shields:  He wrote a book on the subject, but he didn't want to — he doesn't want to talk about it.

Ramesh Ponnuru:  He doesn't want to talk about it anymore.

Amna Nawaz:  This is the other individual that Dr. Ford says was there in the room that day.


Mark Shields:  And his not testifying, seems to me, absolutely irrational.


Amna Nawaz:  Go ahead, Ramesh, yes.

Mark Shields:  Sure.


Ramesh Ponnuru:  One of the things that's most dismaying about this entire debate is that almost everybody's views about what did or didn't happen 36 years ago lines up perfectly with what they think ought to happen to Roe v. Wade now.

And that's not the way it ought to be.

FILM LEGENDS - Robert Redford, Sissy Spacek

"Film legends Robert Redford and Sissy Spacek on aging gracefully on-screen" PBS NewsHour 9/21/2018


SUMMARY:  In "The Old Man and The Gun," Robert Redford is a charming, well-dressed and friendly old guy -- who just happens to be a bank robber.  He and co-star Sissy Spacek join Jeffrey Brown for a conversation about their first time acting together, the benefits of aging, and the joy of being swept up in a scene.


"People start revealing things when they ‘feel that you really care’" PBS NewsHour 9/20/2018


SUMMARY:  Telling a person's story is not unlike being a biologist, says Jay Allison.  "You go out in the world and encounter actual life and you collect it...and you bring it back and you study it and then you figure out how to present it," he says.  Allison, an independent journalist who produces the Moth Radio Hour and founded, shares his Brief but Spectacular on finding stories.


DISASTERS - Jose Andres, Food First Responder

"When disaster strikes, Jose Andres brings hot food and hope" PBS NewsHour 9/20/2018

REF:  World Central Kitchen


SUMMARY:  Celebrity chef Jose Andres has been on the ground in the Carolinas this week, helping victims of Hurricane Florence.  As a "food first responder," Andres was also in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria tore through the island a year ago.  Jeffrey Brown talks with him about how he uses his knowledge of and passion for food to help create a new kind of activism, and offering nurturing to those in need.

UNITED STATES - Supporting Genocide?

"Yemen war’s civilian casualties trigger questions on Capitol Hill about U.S. support role" PBS NewsHour 9/20/2018


SUMMARY:  War in Yemen has killed at least 10,000 people and endangered millions more.  Now questions are being raised on Capitol Hill, and inside the State Department, about U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition and whether Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are doing enough to limit or prevent civilian killings.  Nick Schifrin talks with Larry Lewis of the Center for Naval Analyses.

AMERICA POLITICS - Republicans and Race

"GOP faces identity crisis as some candidates stoke racial divide" PBS NewsHour 9/19/2018


SUMMARY:  This year, a handful of GOP congressional candidates have openly expressed or supported racist views, opening up a divide in the party over how to address the issue and who Republicans want to be.  Lisa Desjardins takes us inside a Virginia Senate race, where candidate Corey Stewart is a polarizing figure.

KOREAN DIPLOMACY - Without the United States

aka North Korean Play-Book "How to Sucker the United States"

"Is new North and South Korea deal a significant step toward denuclearization?" PBS NewsHour 9/19/2018


SUMMARY:  A new joint agreement signed by leaders of North and South Korea marked their most significant progress toward peace to date.  Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-in pledged a "new era," with Kim agreeing to dismantle his main missile testing site, as well as his main nuclear weapons complex -- with conditions.  Yamiche Alcindor talks with Bruce Klingner of the Heritage Foundation and Jenny Town of 38 North.

PUERTO RICO - Post Hurricane Maria Update

"Puerto Rico’s beleaguered public schools face controversial reform after Hurricane Maria" PBS NewsHour 9/18/2018


SUMMARY:  Puerto Rico's school system was struggling long before Hurricane Maria struck a year ago.  But the disaster exacerbated deep problems, as schools were destroyed, thousands of children moved to the U.S. mainland and students struggle with trauma.  Now, special correspondent Kavitha Cardoza of Education Week reports, the system is at a crossroads as the schools chief advocates for charter schools.

"Families say Hurricane Maria’s death toll was preventable — and neglect is to blame" PBS NewsHour 9/22/2018


SUMMARY:  Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism, the Associated Press, and Quartz compiled an extensive database of nearly 500 victims of Hurricane Maria whose families say that mismanagement, poor communication and damaged infrastructure were to blame for the deaths.  Ana Campoy, Latin America reporter for Quartz, joins Hari Sreenivasan from Dallas.

TRUMP'S TRADE WAR - Vulnerabilities

"Who is more vulnerable in the escalating U.S.-China trade war?" PBS NewsHour 9/18/2018


SUMMARY:  China set out to retaliate against new U.S. import taxes on Chinese goods on Tuesday by saying it would levy tariffs on $60 billion worth of U.S. goods, ranging from agricultural products and machinery to chemicals.  John Yang talks with David Wessel of the Brookings Institute about the affected industries and the outlook for a resolution.

SYRIA - Deal Between Two Authoritarian Criminals

"How Russia and Turkey struck a deal to avoid imminent bloodshed in Idlib" PBS NewsHour 9/17/2018


SUMMARY:  Russia and Turkey agreed Monday to create a demilitarized zone in Idlib province between the Syrian opposition and areas under the Assad's regime control.  The agreement seems to save the region from a military assault and averts what was expected to be a humanitarian disaster.  Nick Schifrin reports.

AMERICAN POLITICS - Kavanaugh vs Ford

COMMENT:  This whole subject is a glaring spot light on male chauvinist attitude toward women, the woman is always at fault.  It is complete ignorance that sexual assaults are never easy for women to report precisely because of being attacked and not believed.

NOTE:  As of the dates in these articles, another accuser has come forward.

"Kavanaugh accuser ‘struggled’ with decision to go public, Washington Post reporter says" PBS NewsHour 9/17/2018


SUMMARY:  After having a confidential letter revealed in the press, Christine Blasey Ford came forward this weekend as the woman accusing Judge Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault more than 30 years ago.  Kavanaugh has issued a strong denial.  Lisa Desjardins reports, then Judy Woodruff talks with Emma Brown from the Washington Post, who was in touch with Ford for months before publishing her account.

"Kavanaugh allegations scramble confirmation outlook" PBS NewsHour 9/17/2018


SUMMARY:  President Trump defended nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Monday from allegations by Christine Blasey Ford that he sexually assaulted her decades ago, but also said Ford should be heard out.  Democrats have been quick to call for a delay, and a handful of Republicans have also voiced concern.  Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor share developments with Judy Woodruff.

"With Kavanaugh allegations, Democrats warn of repeating mistakes of Anita Hill hearings" PBS NewsHour 9/18/2018


SUMMARY:  President Trump defended Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh again on Tuesday from allegations by psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford that he sexually assaulted her while drunk at a party 36 years ago.  Meanwhile, senators jousted over a hearing set for Monday to question Kavanaugh and Ford.  Judy Woodruff talks with Lisa Desjardins and Marcia Coyle from the National Law Journal.

"Anita Hill on Kavanaugh: ‘Without an investigation, there cannot be an effective hearing’" PBS NewsHour 9/19/2018


SUMMARY:  President Donald Trump and key Senate Republicans said this week that an FBI investigation into Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh wasn’t necessary before a scheduled hearing next week about a sexual assault allegation made against him.

But Anita Hill, a law professor and author who famously accused Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his confirmation hearings 27 years ago, told the PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff that “without an investigation, there cannot be an effective hearing.”

Hill provided testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee back in 1991, after she had publicly accused Thomas, then a nominee.  The accusation, which he denied, upended his path to confirmation, but did not derail it: He was confirmed soon after and remains on the court to this day.

"Here’s how the FBI could probe the Kavanaugh allegations" PBS NewsHour 9/20/2018


SUMMARY:  Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who is accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault in high school, now says she might be willing to testify next week, but not on Monday as Senate Republicans want.  Amna Nawaz reports, then William Brangham and Lisa Desjardins join Judy Woodruff to discuss the fallout on Capitol Hill and what could be gleaned from an FBI investigation.

"Trump challenges Kavanaugh accuser’s credibility, dividing Republicans" PBS NewsHour 9/21/2018


SUMMARY:  After days of measured talk, President Trump fired off sharp words Friday about Christine Blasey Ford, the woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault.  Trump tweeted that if the attack was “as bad as she says,” charges would have been filed.  Ford has talked to the FBI about receiving death threats, as her lawyers negotiate potential testimony.  Lisa Desjardins reports.

"Sexual assault ‘myths and misinformation’ could muddy Kavanaugh hearing, psychologist warns" PBS NewsHour 9/21/2018


SUMMARY:  President Trump’s tweet challenging Christine Blasey Ford’s claims because she didn’t report it when it happened set off alarms for survivors and advocates.  In fact, most victims never report the sexual assault to law enforcement, says clinical psychologist Veronique Valliere.  She joins Amna Nawaz to talks about the complexities of reporting sexual violence.

"‘I felt that it was my fault’: A rape survivor shares her story of speaking out" PBS NewsHour 9/21/2018


SUMMARY:  The allegations against Brett Kavanaugh have compelled people to share their own experiences with sexual assault and why they didn't come forward.  When Chessy Prout was a freshman in high school, she was raped by a classmate.  She spoke to authorities, brought charges and suffered a backlash.  The author of “I Have the Right To,” Prout joins Amna Nawaz to discuss the shame she experienced.

TRUMP SPIN - Medicare

"Trump’s Fuzzy Medicare Math" by Eugene Kiely, 10/20/2018

NOTE:  Many of the table references in this article are to PDF downloads.  Go to article-link then to link to a table.

President Donald Trump on several occasions has taken credit for making Medicare “stronger.” In one instance, he said, “Medicare will be $700 billion stronger over the next decade thanks to our growth.”

In fact, Medicare’s finances have worsened since he took office, and economic growth is not expected to help the program as much as he claims:

  • The latest Medicare trustees report says the Medicare Part A trust fund, which covers payments to hospitals, will run out of money by 2026, three years earlier than projected just last year.  That’s partly because the tax cut law that Trump signed last year will reduce Medicare revenues and increase expenses.
  • Medicare remains on an unsustainable path.  The annual cost for all four parts of Medicare — including physician payments and prescription drugs — is expected to more than double from $710 billion in 2017 to $1.44 trillion in 2027, and general revenues will increase as a share of Medicare financing from 41 percent in 2017 to 49 percent in 2032.
  • The Congressional Budget Office in April estimated that economic growth could increase all payroll tax revenues, including Social Security, by $92 billion over the next 10 years.  That’s far short of Trump’s $700 billion figure, which he said was just for Medicare.
Financial Outlook Worsens

Trump made claims about strengthening Medicare — the health insurance program for senior citizens and the disabled — several times over the course of three days in early September.

In remarks at the White House on Sept.  5, Trump boasted that “we have done more as an administration than any other administration in already less than two years,” including on health care.  “We’re saving Medicare,” he said.

A day later, while campaigning in Montana for Republican Senate candidate Matt Rosendale, Trump said, “Matt Rosendale is going to make sure we’re not touching your Social Security and your Medicare is only going one way.  That’s stronger.”

On Sept. 7, the President made the specific claim about the impact of economic growth on Medicare.  His remarks came at a fundraiser for GOP Rep. Kristi Noem, who is running for governor of South Dakota against Democrat Billie Sutton.  The winner will replace outgoing Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard.

Trump, Sept. 7: Medicare will be $700 billion stronger over the next decade thanks to our growth.  And I will tell you that Billie Sutton, and people like Billie Sutton, Democrats with a very strong liberal leaning, they’re going to destroy your Medicare and they’re going to destroy your Social Security.  I’m leaving your social — it’s going to be left alone, your Social Security will be left alone.  We’re not touching your Social [Security], we’re just going to make it stronger.  We’re going to make the country stronger.  We pay for things through growth.  The way we’re growing right now will be able to pay for things that nobody thought possible.  Remember during debates they’d say, “How are you going to do it?” I said, “We’re going to do it through growth.”

Medicare and budget experts we contacted said Medicare’s financial outlook has worsened and economic growth is not expected to provide much help.

“If anything, some of the administration’s actions appear to be working in the opposite direction, at least as measured by the status of the Medicare Part A trust fund,” Juliette Cubanski, associate director of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Program on Medicare Policy, told us in an email.

Cubanski is referring to the Medicare trustees’ most recent annual report, which provides an updated projection on the financial status of the Hospital Insurance, or HI, trust fund.

Medicare is made up of four parts: Part A (payments to hospitals), Part B (payments to physicians), Part C (Medicare Advantage, or private insurance options) and Part D (prescription drug coverage).  Those parts are funded by two funds: the Hospital Insurance (HI) trust fund, which is funded primarily by a payroll tax paid by workers and their employers, and the Supplementary Medical Insurance (SMI) trust fund, which is funded primarily through general revenue and beneficiary premiums.

The Medicare Part A trust fund is designed to be self-supporting, but the trustee report warns that the financial outlook for the fund “has deteriorated as compared to the projections in last year’s annual report.”

The HI fund spent more on hospital payments than it received in income from 2008 through 2015, the report said.  Although the fund had a slight surplus in 2016 and 2017 and a balance of about $200 billion prior to 2017, the trustees say deficit spending will return this year and accelerate in the coming decade, exhausting the fund earlier than expected.

“The estimated depletion date for the HI trust fund is 2026, 3 years earlier than in last year’s report,” the report said.  At that point, Medicare would be able to pay only 91 percent of hospital expenses, as the table on page 29 shows.  (The SMI trust fund, because of how it is structured, cannot be depleted.)

The trustees, in part, cited the tax cut law as a reason the HI fund is expected to run out of money more rapidly than previously expected.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 that Trump signed in December repealed the so-called individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act, which requires people to have health insurance or pay a penalty.  The repeal, which is effective in 2019, is expected to increase the number of uninsured Americans and that, in turn, will increase Medicare Disproportionate Share payments made to hospitals that serve large populations of low-income people without insurance.

“[T]he percentage of people without health insurance is expected to increase.  Because the change in this percentage is a factor used in determining payments to Medicare disproportionate share hospitals for uncompensated care, these payments are expected to increase as well,” the trustees’ report said.

Also, about 8 percent of HI trust fund revenues come from a federal income tax on Social Security benefits.  But the tax cut law reduced the federal income tax rates, meaning a portion of Social Security benefits will be taxed at a lower rate and generate less income for Medicare, as explained in a July report by the Congressional Research Service on Medicare’s finances.

“A stronger economy is definitely one of the factors that could help to shore up the status of the Medicare Part A trust fund, since the majority of funding for that comes from payroll taxes,” Cubanski, of the Kaiser Family Foundation, said.  “But all of the factors that affect Medicare financing would have to be going in a positive direction, whereas the administration has taken other steps that have actually made Medicare’s funding situation worse.”

As we said, Medicare Part A is just one part of the program for seniors and the disabled.  In total, Medicare cost $710 billion in 2017 and about 41 percent of that was paid through general revenues (see Table II.B1).  Total Medicare expenditures will more than double to about $1.44 trillion by 2027, as illustrated by the CRS chart below, and the share of general revenues will increase to 49 percent by 2032, the trustees report said.

Separately, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, which Trump signed in February, will have a negative impact on all parts of Medicare, the trustees’ report said.

That law, among other things, repealed the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a 15-member board created by the Affordable Care Act to reduce Medicare costs.  As designed, the board would make recommendations for cutting spending that could only be overridden with a three-fifths majority of both houses of Congress, or Congress could institute its own reductions of an equal amount recommended by the IPAB.  (The IPAB had not yet been formed.)

“The expenditures in this year’s report are higher than last year’s mostly due to (i) the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, which eliminated the Independent Payment Advisory Board and removed payment caps for certain therapy services, and (ii) higher projected Medicare Advantage (MA) payments attributable to higher risk scores for beneficiaries enrolled in MA plans,” the report said.  (Risk scores are estimates of the cost of care for beneficiaries.)

Economic Growth Projections

As for Trump’s claim that “Medicare will be $700 billion stronger over the next decade thanks to our growth,” the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and Cubanski, of the Kaiser Family Foundation, were not aware of any economic projections that would improve Medicare’s finances by that amount.

The CRFB referred us to Table A-1 of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office’s April 2018 Budget and Economic Outlook, which projects the impact of economic revisions since June 2017 — including effects of newly enacted legislation and updated economic data.  The CBO projected that the economic changes will result in an additional $92 billion in all payroll tax revenues, which includes Medicare and Society Security, over 10 years.

More than half of the additional economic growth was the result of recently enacted legislation, specifically the 2017 tax act, the 2018 budget act and the fiscal year 2018 appropriations law, the CBO report explained.  “Updated data for key measures from the national income and product accounts (NIPAs) also led to economic revisions.  (The NIPAs, which are produced by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, track components of the nation’s economic output and income that CBO uses in its economic analyses)” CBO said.

So why did the President say Medicare will be $700 billion stronger over 10 years because of economic growth?

The White House told us that the President was referring to Medicare and Social Security, not just Medicare.  It said the administration’s policies will result in “extra economic growth that is on track to add more than $700 billion to Medicare and Social Security revenues.”

More precisely, the White House estimates that economic growth will generate an additional $858 billion more in payroll taxes over 11 years, from 2018 to 2028, compared with CBO projections.

The White House took the administration’s nominal gross domestic product projections for each year from 2018 to 2028 (Table 1 of the White House’s Mid-Session Review of its fiscal 2019 budget proposal) and applied the CBO’s payroll tax revenue as a share of GDP for each year (Table 4-1 of CBO’s Budget and Economic Outlook) to estimate total payroll tax revenues for those 11 years.  It then subtracted CBO’s payroll tax revenue projections from its own and got $858 billion in additional payroll tax revenue due to growth from 2018 to 2028.

But there are three problems with that logic, beginning with the fact that it doesn’t support what the President said.

First, the President said he strengthened Medicare by $700 billion over 10 years, but the White House gave us the impact of economic growth on all payroll revenues — including Social Security, which is the largest.

We found that the White House (see Table S-4) estimates $129 billion more in Medicare tax revenue than CBO (see tab 4).

So, Trump is wrong about the impact of economic growth on Medicare even by his administration’s own numbers.

Second, the White House projects higher payroll tax revenues based on sustained economic growth through 2028.  It projects real GDP will grow at an average annual rate of nearly 3 percent for the next decade — which is about a percentage point higher than most economic forecasters predict.

In August, CBO projected real GDP will grow 3.1 percent this year and 2.4 percent next year, but over the 10-year budget period, from 2018 to 2028, CBO projects an average annual growth rate of 1.9 percent.

The consensus among economic forecasters is that tax cuts and increased federal spending will stimulate the economy, but only in the short term, according to the CRFB.

For example, the most recent median forecast of the Federal Reserve Board members and Federal Reserve Bank Presidents, released June 13, is for 2.8 percent in 2018, 2.4 percent in 2019 and 2.0 percent in 2020.  But the “longer-run” median forecast is 1.8 percent.

Third, although Trump says “we pay for things through growth,” the additional payroll tax revenue generated by economic growth — even at the level projected by the White House — is a small fraction of the cost of Social Security and Medicare.

The administration’s proposed budget for mandatory programs (Table S-4) shows that it expects to spend $8.75 trillion on Medicare from 2019 to 2028, but take in only $3.6 trillion in Medicare payroll taxes.  As for Social Security, the administration expects to spend $13.66 trillion and take in only $11.6 trillion.

Budget experts say mandatory programs remain on track to consume an increasingly greater share of federal spending.

In its April report, CBO estimated that “spending for people age 65 or older in several large mandatory programs — Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and military and federal civilian retirement programs” — will increase from 38 percent of federal spending in 2018 to 45 percent in 2028.  (That does not include federal spending on interest.)

Marc Goldwein, senior policy director at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, told us in an email: “There has been no major Social Security or Medicare legislation enacted, so the programs are essentially on the same path they were on before the President took office.”

Monday, September 17, 2018

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 9/14/2018

"Shields and Brooks on Paul Manafort’s guilty plea, Trump’s Hurricane Maria denial" PBS NewsHour 9/14/2018


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including the guilty plea from Paul Manafort and deal to cooperate with the Mueller investigation, President Trump’s contentious remarks about Hurricane Maria, and slipping polls for the President ahead of the general election for control of the House and the Senate.

Judy Woodruff (NewsHour):  As the Carolinas grapple with Florence's destructive forces, President Trump sparked a new political storm after questioning the number of Americans killed in the aftermath of Puerto Rico's storm last year.

And the general election for control of the House and Senate has officially begun, a perfect moment for the analysis of Shields and Brooks.  That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Hello to both of you.

Mark, I'm going to start with the Paul Manafort plea.  He had said for months that he wasn't going to do this, but now he has.  He's pled guilty.  And he's cooperating with Robert Mueller.  We — it's clear there's so much we don't know, but what does this mean for the President, potentially?

Mark Shields, syndicated columnist:  It means bad news.

He is the — Paul Manafort is the person closest to the President, who was in the campaign, who was involved in a meeting at Trump Tower with the Russians, who was involved intimately in the convention preparations, to changing the platform of the — in a position on Ukraine.

So there's a lot.  Plus, he was the conduit, to the degree there was one, in the Trump campaign to the traditional Republican Party.  So, Paul Manafort is potentially a real problem.

Judy Woodruff:  David?

David Brooks, New York Times:  Yes, I agree.

It's striking to me how late in the process it is that this plea deal came.  Maybe Manafort was holding out.  But the fact that Mueller decided to accept and cut the plea suggests there's something there, either about Trump, about a member of Trump's family, about somebody else.

It suggests that Mueller is proceeding slowly, and — but very remorselessly.  And so it might not even be about Russia.  It's been interesting.  A lot of the indictments that have so far come down have not been about Russia.  They have been other things.  And there could be some other — some other law-breaking, potential law-breaking somewhere in Trump's past.

Judy Woodruff:  Yes, we will certainly watch and wait.

In the meantime, as I mentioned, Mark, this is the week in which we're waiting for this hurricane to hit the East, Southern, Southeastern coast of the U.S.  President Trump a surprise everyone with a tweet the other morning questioning the number of people who died in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria that hit Puerto Rico.

The outside experts, completely nonpolitical, had come to the conclusion, several of them, that it was around 3,000.  The President said that's not so.

It's not just Democrats, but Republicans in the state of Florida and elsewhere, who have come back and said the President's wrong.

What has he stepped into here?

Mark Shields:  He stepped into, Judy, and exposed himself as somebody whose ego is so out of check, whose narcissistic impulses are so total, that he could equate a personal tragedy of enormous dimensions, of some 3,000, now some estimates are as high as 4,000-plus, deaths in Puerto Rico to being a political conspiracy against him by the part of his political enemies.

As far as Republicans in Florida, Rick Scott, the governor, not surprisingly, spoke, said, it's not true.  He has been to Puerto Rico himself seven times.  He's made a big effort politically and governmentally to welcome the Puerto Ricans, the diaspora who've been moved to Florida as a result of that storm, who immediately become voters in that state.

But probably most telling was Ron DeSantis, the Republican nominee for governor, the Mini-Me of this campaign, the Donald Trump clone, self-styled, self-admitted, saying that he didn't agree with the President on this, which is — I don't know what it's comfortable to.  Breaking with the king?

And so it's — I would say that Trump has really, in this case, isolated himself and exposed himself.

Judy Woodruff:  Any positive calculus for the President here, David?


David Brooks:  No, hard to think of that one.

It almost makes you nostalgic to remember when he was bragging about his crowd size at the inaugural.  That at least — it was a lie, but at least it was a harmless lie.

Mark Shields:  That's right.

David Brooks:  This is a lie where you render nearly 3,000 Americans invisible, that you don't acknowledge their existence, and you don't even see them.

And so it's essentially telling the families of the people who died and those who died and anybody who cares about their fellow citizens that you can write them out of the history books, because their deaths make Donald Trump look bad.

Mark Shields:  Just one…

David Brooks:  And so it's almost pathological.

Mark Shields:  Go ahead.  Pardon me.

I agree.

Just one other thing, Judy.  The politics of disasters, natural disasters in this country, are very real.  To go back to Superstorm Sandy and even the 2012 election, when Barack Obama, the President, went to New Jersey, and Republican Governor Chris Christie, who was a big supporter of Romney's, thanked him publicly for the concern and the compassion that he and his administration had showed the people of New Jersey suffering.

And on the other side, it was George W. Bush's decline as a President in popular support really was accelerated by Hurricane Katrina, his apparent indifference, his endorsement of Michael Brown, "Heck of a job, Brownie," as FEMA just absolutely failed.

And I would just say this about political — about natural disasters.  There's no politics involved among people, whether it's red states or blue states, liberals or conservatives.  They look to the federal government, regardless of philosophy, for help, for effective, efficient, responsive help.

And Donald Trump, when he went to Texas after the great storm last year, the first thing he said was, what a crowd.  What a turnout, again making it about Donald Trump.

RUSSIA - Display of Necked Power

"Russia aims to impress and intimidate with its largest military exercise in decades" PBS NewsHour 9/14/2018


SUMMARY:  Not since the Soviet era has the Russian military showed off this much weaponry and tried to convince the world that the Russians are coming -- and they've already arrived.  Russian forces have this week conducted its largest war games in a generation, and got some help from China.  Nick Schifrin reports that the exercises are as much about projecting power as demonstrating it.

A VERY BIG SHOE DROPS - Manafort Cooperation and Russia Probe

Roomer:  "A British official reported he could hear Trump's screams from London."

"What will Paul Manafort’s cooperation mean for the Russia probe?" PBS NewsHour 9/14/2018


SUMMARY:  Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has agreed to a plea deal and to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.  Manafort is the fourth former Trump campaign aide to admit to federal crimes as part of the Russia probe.  William Brangham was in the courtroom and joins Judy Woodruff for an update.

2008 CRASH - Changed the World

"How the 2008 financial crisis crashed the economy and changed the world" PBS NewsHour 9/13/2018


SUMMARY:  Ten years ago this week, the collapse of Lehman Brothers became the signal event of the 2008 financial crisis.  Its effects and the recession that followed, on income, wealth, disparity, and politics are still with us.  Economics correspondent Paul Solman walks through those events and consequences with historian Adam Tooze, author of "Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World."

"FEAR" - Bob Woodward on Trump

"Trump ‘doesn’t understand the basics,’ says ‘Fear’ author Bob Woodward" PBS NewsHour 9/13/2018


SUMMARY:  Bob Woodward says key people in the White House say they spend a third of their time preventing bad things from happening.  In his new book, the veteran editor and reporter delivers a stunning and disturbing look inside the Trump presidency, exposing a chaotic White House, lead by a man who has said he believes the key to power is "Fear."  Woodward joins Judy Woodruff to discuss his reporting.

AMAZON RAINFOREST - Catastrophic Tipping Point?

"Amazon forest guardians fight to prevent catastrophic tipping point" PBS NewsHour 9/13/2018


SUMMARY:  In Brazil's Maranhao State, indigenous groups are battling a powerful logging mafia to protect the region's remaining and fragile Amazon rainforest.  After years of decline, deforestation is again on the rise, threatening a terrifying climate change tipping point.  Special correspondent Sam Eaton reports with support from the Pulitzer Center, in collaboration with The Nation, and PRI’s The World.


"To narrow toxic divides, students build bridges between faiths" PBS NewsHour 9/12/2018


SUMMARY:  As part of the Interfaith Youth Core, students and educators from colleges around the nation are coming together to find common ground while respecting differences.  Special correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gault sits down with founder and president Eboo Patel to examine how interfaith dialogue can be used to bridge racial divisions.

FDA - On e-Cigarettes

"FDA wants e-cigarette makers to extinguish use by kids" PBS NewsHour 9/12/2018


SUMMARY:  The Food and Drug Administration issued its toughest crackdown yet on the makers of electronic cigarettes that have become increasingly popular with young people.  Manufacturers now have two months to prove they can keep their e-cigarettes out of the hands of minors; it's already illegal for anyone under 18 to buy nicotine products.  William Brangham talks with FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb.

HURRICANES - Performance by FEMA, Trump on Puerto Rico, Climate Change

"How prepared is FEMA for Hurricane Florence?" PBS NewsHour 9/12/2018


SUMMARY:  President Trump has said the federal government in "totally prepared" for Hurricane Florence, but the federal reaction to Hurricanes Harvey and Maria last year have raised questions about the nation’s disaster response.  Judy Woodruff talks with former FEMA administrator Craig Fugate and Chris Currie, a Director of the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

"Flying into hurricanes, scientists search for more certainty" PBS NewsHour 9/12/2018


SUMMARY:  How do meteorologists and scientists make predictions about the power and trajectory of a hurricane?  Buckle up.  Science correspondent Miles O’Brien joins a crew of scientists who fly right into the eye of Hurricane Florence.

"Trump disputes Puerto Rico’s hurricane death toll.  Here’s how they are calculated" PBS NewsHour 9/13/2018

aka "Anything That Makes Me Look Bad is 'Fake News'"


SUMMARY:  In the months since Hurricane Maria, studies estimating the death toll in Puerto Rico have far exceeded the government's initial figure.  But President Trump is denying a conclusion that nearly 3,000 people died as a result of the storm, and defending the government's response.  John Yang talks with Philip Bump from the Washington Post.

"How climate change is ‘loading the dice’ for more perilous hurricanes" PBS NewsHour 9/14/2018


SUMMARY:  As Hurricane Florence was closing in on the Carolina coast this week, the role of climate change in intensifying weather was back in the national conversation.  Amna Nawaz talks with Radley Horton of Columbia University about the link between climate change and sea level rise and rising temperatures.

AMERICA'S LONGEST WAR - Afghanistan Stalemate?

"17 years on, is Afghanistan making progress toward peace?" PBS NewsHour 9/11/2018


SUMMARY:  For 17 years, the United States and its allies have remained in Afghanistan, fighting alongside Afghan forces, now against a strong Taliban insurgency.  Nick Schifrin looks at the continuing bloodshed, as well as some aspects of progress, then talks with former State Department officials Robin Raphel and Barnett Rubin about the standstill and prospects for peace.

TRUMP AGENDA - Corporations Before Citizens

"Trump’s EPA gives the oil and gas industry more leeway on climate-changing methane" PBS NewsHour 9/11/2018


SUMMARY:  The Environmental Protection Agency issued new rules making it easier for oil and gas companies to release methane, a potent greenhouse gas.  It's the Trump administration's third major step to roll back regulations aimed at combating global warming and climate change.  William Brangham learns more from Coral Davenport of The New York Times.

"How Betsy DeVos wants to defang rules for-profit colleges and reduce relief for borrowers" PBS NewsHour 9/11/2018


SUMMARY:  For years the for-profit college sector boomed, but consumer complaints about fraud led the Obama administration to crack down: Two major for-profit chains were closed, and new regulations provided more forgiveness for student debt.  Recently, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has been taking a very different approach.  Amna Nawaz talks with Anya Kamenetz of NPR about the changes.

VOTE 2018 - Final Primaries and Obama

"Amy Walter and Shawna Thomas on 2018’s final primaries, Obama on the campaign trail" PBS NewsHour 9/10/2018


SUMMARY:  Amy Walter from The Cook Political Report and Shawna Thomas of Vice News join Lisa Desjardins discuss the last week of primary voting before the midterm elections, President Obama making his presence felt on the campaign trail, plus the tightening race between Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Beto O’Rourke.

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION - Attack on International Criminal Court

aka "America is Not Accountable to the Rest of the World"

"Why the Trump administration is attacking the International Criminal Court" PBS NewsHour 9/10/2018


SUMMARY:  In his first official address, national security adviser John Bolton took aim at the International Criminal Court, but also at the Palestine Liberation Organization, announcing the closure of the PLO's office in Washington [DC].  Nick Schifrin joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the connection to Middle East peace efforts, and Bolton’s world view.

JOHN KERRY - Countries Taking Advantage of Trump

"John Kerry: Putin, countries like China ‘taking advantage’ of Trump" PBS NewsHour 9/10/2018


SUMMARY:  Former Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday he’s “never” seen an administration in as much disarray as President Donald Trump’s, and warned that other countries were “taking advantage” of the chaos in Washington.

“There are certain people who are readily and happily taking advantage of this President,” including China and Russia, Kerry told PBS NewsHour anchor and Managing Editor Judy Woodruff.  “I think people all over the world are holding their breath and wondering what’s next.”

Kerry criticized Trump’s foreign and domestic policies, saying the President had a “disdain for fact,” and argued that congressional gridlock and partisanship in the U.S. was having a “horrible effect” around the world.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

POLITICAL HUMOR - Florence and the Ratings Machine

Real Time 9/14/2018
with Bill Maher

"Millions could be without power.......ya, they're called Democrats."

Monday, September 03, 2018

FEDERAL COURT RULING - Kentucky's Medicaid Work Requirements

"A ruling against Kentucky’s Medicaid work requirements could affect other states" PBS NewsHour 9/1/2018


SUMMARY:  A federal judge recently ruled against Kentucky’s work requirement for Medicaid recipients after it became the first state to impose the policy.  The judge called the mandate “arbitrary and capricious” in a decision that could have an impact on other states looking to implement a similar policy.  Sara Rosenbaum, a professor of health law and policy at George Washington University, joins Hari Sreenivasan.

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 8/31/2018

"Shields and Brooks on John McCain’s patriotism, Florida election upsets" PBS NewsHour 8/31/2018


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including the service and sacrifice of Sen. John McCain, American political icon who died over the weekend, takeaways from Florida’s primary election, plus a warning made by President Trump to evangelical leaders about the stakes going into midterms.

Judy Woodruff (NewsHour):  But first of the analysis of Shields and Brooks.  That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

So, gentlemen, you just heard — you were sitting here, Mark, listening to Mark Salter remember his good friend John McCain.

What are you thinking right now?

Mark Shields, syndicated columnist:  Well, I mean, Mark Salter was more than a wordsmith or even an alter ego.  I mean, he was — he was John McCain.  They were inseparable in thought and word.

And I thought he expressed it well.  I mean, it’s an outpouring on the part of the nation, Judy, that is beyond presidential in its admiration, its affection and its sympathy.

And I think it gives everybody in politics, in public life pause.  I mean, what is it that this man had that made — that allowed him to touch so many people?

David and I have been lucky enough to spend our company in the — our time in the company of people who run for office, most of whom we like.  And I can tell you what everyone’s going through in their mind right now, whether they’re Democrats or Republicans or liberals or conservatives as they look at this outpouring of affection, and that is, damn it, I will never have a funeral like this.


Mark Shields:  It’s just remarkable.

Judy Woodruff:  And it’s affection, as Mark is saying, David, across party lines.

David Brooks, New York Times:  Yes.

And it’s for values.  And one of the things that’s interesting about McCain is, though he fought in Vietnam, he’s not really a Vietnam person.  He’s a World War II person.  He missed the ’60s.  He was in Hanoi Hilton.  So all the culture war and all the values shift, which was a lot about self, he never had that.

For him, it was about country, about self.  And I have been traveling around the country recently.  And I found so many people are really attached to their town or their community or their ethnic group, not so many who are attached to nation.

But that World War II generation and the people — the values of John McCain, he really was attached to nation.  And it really was service to nation above Arizona, above anything else, above the Navy.  It really was service to nation and a sense of, we’re all in the same nation, we must at — all at some level be brothers with one another, and then a life of true sacrifice for the nation.

I mean, it’s worth pointing out the guy could not comb his hair.  When they broke his arm, he could not get his arm — his arms up for the rest of his life to comb his hair.  And so that’s just a daily bit of sacrifice he did for the country as a whole.

Mark Shields:  Could I just add one personal note?

Judy Woodruff:  Sure.

Mark Shields:  And that that’s this, that Mo Udall, who was the Democratic — great Democratic congressman, environmentalist, and party leader, or Democratic leader from Arizona, befriended John McCain as a young member of the House.

John was in the minority.  He didn’t really know anybody in the House of Representatives.  Mo was a committee chair and influential.  The Arctic National Wildlife to save is his project.

And he befriended John.  He included John.  And John never forgot it.  They struck, forged a great friendship.  And Mo Udall, who was a giant, was — contracted Parkinson’s in 1980.  He was forced to leave the House a decade later.

And he lingered in the ravages of Parkinson’s for eight years, the last few of which he was crippled, uncommunicative, I mean, that terrible disease, that terrible scourge, on a cot in a veterans hospital in Northeast Washington.

And one person, public person, regularly went to visit him, without cameras, without reporters, to bring with him the news of Arizona, to read, even though he was unresponsive, about sports, about Indian American, national — Native American.  It was John McCain.

And that’s — that’s an incredible value.  And it’s great.  It’s a wonderful tribute to him.  And I just wanted to offer it.

ARCHAEOLOGY - Europe's Treasure Trove

"Europe’s dry summer yields an archaeological treasure trove" PBS NewsHour 8/31/2018


SUMMARY:  Prolonged, extreme heat in parts of Europe this summer has meant sweaty suffering for residents.  But one group celebrated the unusually warm and dry conditions: archaeologists.  Crop marks and glacial melt have revealed a treasure trove of historic landmarks.  Julia Griffin shares the intriguing discoveries of a summer swelter.

LOUISIANA - Incarceration Capital of America

"How ‘the incarceration capital of America’ embraced criminal justice reform" PBS NewsHour 8/31/2018


SUMMARY:  For decades, the state of Louisiana has been known as the incarceration capital of America.  But over the past year, the state has been trying to shed that reputation with new reforms that decrease the prison population and save money.  William Brangham went to find how it’s playing out for former prisoners, in a story produced by Frank Carlson in partnership with the Pulitzer Center.


"Harvard admissions case could determine the future of affirmative action" PBS NewsHour 8/30/2018


SUMMARY:  The Trump administration came out against Harvard University's admission practices on Thursday.  A legal battle brought by a group of Asian Americans against one of the most selective schools in the world is heading to federal court this fall, and is being widely watched across the country.  John Yang talks with Katie Benner of The New York Times about the future of affirmative action in higher ed.

RACE MATTERS - Implicit Bias

"This training uncovers the implicit bias in all of us.  Can it change police behavior?" PBS NewsHour 8/29/2018


SUMMARY:  Against the backdrop of simmering tensions over race and police violence against African Americans, police departments like the NYPD have introduced a relatively new training program aimed at teaching officers about implicit bias.  Special correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gault reports on the research behind “Fair and Impartial Policing” and whether it’s really effective.

TRUMP EPA - Lets Risk Children So the Pesticide Industry Can Make a Profit

NOTE:  On March 29, 2017, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt denied a petition to ban chlorpyrifos.  However, on August 9, 2018, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the EPA to ban the sale of chlorpyrifos in the United States within 60 days.

"The EPA isn’t taking its own advice on a pesticide that causes brain damage in children" PBS NewsHour 8/29/2018


SUMMARY:  After decades of research and debate, the EPA was on the cusp of banning all use of chlorpyrifos, a poison that attacks the nervous system.  But in 2017, then-EPA administrator Scott Pruitt delayed a decision by five years.  Science correspondent Miles O'Brien reports that fight is part of a larger battle over the use of scientific studies and industry pressure.