When we last dropped in on the soap opera that is the White House — call it “As the Trump Turns” — I speculated that President Trump would start axing top officials shortly after the election. I had the scandal-scarred Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke as the likeliest to go first, with Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions probably second.
Sigh. Sessions went first, Zinke is still on the job, and now it looks like Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen may be the next to go. I had her at third on the list (with an asterisk for Sessions’ deputy, Rod Rosenstein, once Sessions left) so if this worked like March Madness, well, my bracket would be so busted.
When Democrats take over the House of Representatives next year, they will most likely inherit a strong economy. That’s a good thing, given how messed up the federal budget is.
The federal deficit hit $779 billion in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, amounting to almost 4% of the U.S. economy. Although the budget gap isn’t nearly as large as it was in the depths of the last recession, it’s alarming to watch the red ink deepen at a time when the economy expands steadily.
The enormous tax cut Republicans approved in 2013 is partly to blame for that problem; it reduced tax revenues as a share of gross domestic product to 16.4%, while federal spending remained a little above 20% of GDP. And as the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget pointed out, the tax cut didn’t cause a surge in federal receipts, as its supporters promised it would. Instead, the CFRB calculated, the change translated into a loss of 3.6% to 4.7% — and a more than 5% reduction in what the feds had been projected to take in prior to the tax cut.
There are two fundamental problems with President Trump’s latest attempt to throttle back the number of people — and particularly the number of Central Americans — trying to seek refuge in the U.S. In a proclamation issued Friday morning, Trump declared that asylum-seekers who crossed the border without permission — for example, by fording the Rio Grande instead of coming through an official point of entry — would be ineligible for consideration.
First, to shut the door to the desperate violates basic human decency and international norms of how asylum-seekers should be treated. Second, it is probably illegal, despite the contortions government lawyers have gone through to give it the veneer of lawfulness.
When the Supreme Court announced Thursday that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had fractured three ribs in a fall at her office, there was predictable anxiety among her admirers, not only for her personal well-being but also for the future ideological composition of the court.
Numb. That’s the only word for it. California awoke this morning to reports of another mass shooting, this time in Thousand Oaks, a suburban community that prides itself on being among the safest cities in America. More than 100 people, many of them college kids, were in the Borderline Bar & Grill country dance bar when a man dressed in black walked in with some sort of smoke-generating device and opened fire with a .45-caliber Glock handgun, killing 11 people inside and Ventura County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus, one of the first law-enforcement officers to arrive, before dying of a gunshot himself.
Pundits labeled 2018 the second “Year of the Woman,” a nod to the historic number of women that ran for office Tuesday. The first “Year of the Woman,” of course, was 1992, when Anita Hill was humiliated and ignored and five whole women were elected to the 100-person Senate. Twenty-six years later, the headlines are similarly rapturous. We elected more than 115 women, breaking a zillion records!
We owe these female candidates — and those who organized on their behalf — a debt of gratitude for expanding our vision, often at great personal risk.
But I’m not exactly running down the streets singing the “Star-Spangled Banner.” Since I simply cannot resist ruining a happy moment, dozens of women dotted across the country does not a revolution make. At press time, women had won 22% of the House seats, 12% of the Senate seats and 9% of the gubernatorial seats. We continue to make up 51% of the population.
For all the recent talk about the demographic and political shifts underway in Orange County, Tuesday was a snap back to reality. Yes, Democrats have made strides, but Republicans still dominated election day.
While it looks like Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) may have lost his seat after three decades and a Democrat will replace Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) in a district that spans Orange and San Diego counties, Republicans either held onto or won open seats that Democrats had hoped to take, including Mimi Walters (R-Laguna Beach) winning reelection and Young Kim taking the open seat currently held by Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton).
In the end Tuesday’s election results went about as expected, though not nearly as well for the Democrats as they had hoped. The took back control of the House, yes, but by a slim margin, and lost a couple more seats in the Senate. As waves go, well, it wasn’t exactly good for surfing.
So what now? The Democrats are in a position to effect change, but not necessarily in the manner they had hoped. With a split Congress, voters can expect little to get accomplished on significant issues. Immigration reform? Stalled. Repealing or adding tax cuts? Nothing doing. Changes to the Affordable Care Act? No prescriptions available.
Local soda taxes have been bubbling up all over the country as studies trickle in from places like Berkeley indicating that soda taxes really do decrease soda consumption. That’s good for public health advocates hoping to curb the rising rates of obesity and diabetes.