Nov. 09

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New Senate: DEM 48             GOP 52

New polls:  
Dem pickups: (None)
GOP pickups: (None)

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Takeaways from the Election

Yesterday we had election takeaways from The Hill. Here are some more:

NPR: New York Times: CNN: WaPo conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin: The Federalist:

The majority opinion seems to be that the elections, especially in Virginia, were no fluke and if the Democrats can keep up their enthusiasm (which Trump may help them do), they could surf a blue wave next year. (V)

What Happened in Virginia?

Politico had a slightly different take on the "takeaways" bit, asking more than a dozen close watchers of Virginia politics to share their thoughts in a single sentence, and then in a brief essay. Here are some of the highlights:

Again, there is a clear majority opinion that the Democrats are on the upswing, and that Tuesday night was a little bit about the Republicans, and a lot about Donald Trump.

Another way to look at the Virginia gubernatorial election is just to note the raw numbers of votes the Democratic and Republican candidates have gotten in recent years. Here they are, rounded to thousands:

Year Democrat Republican
2009 819,000 1,164,000
2013 1,070,000 1,013,000
2017 1,405,000 1,173,000

What we see is clear: The Republican vote on Tuesday was about where it normally is. The Democratic vote jumped by 300,000 votes. In other words, the Democratic enthusiasm carried the day for the blue team. If they can hold onto this for a year and get turnout to jump in 2018, they might be able to take over the House. (Z & V)

Cohn: Democrats Shouldn't Be Counting Their Chickens Quite Yet

Many pundits, including those listed above, see a Democratic wave coming up next year. The New York Times' number cruncher, Nate Cohn, isn't so sure. In the five special House elections this past spring, the dominant party won all of them, although the Democrats did better this year than in the 2016 House elections. Before Democrats get too excited about Virginia, Cohn points out that it has become a blue state, with both senators and four of the past five gubernatorial winners being Democrats. Also, Hillary Clinton carried the state and so did Barack Obama, twice. Cohn also notes that in 15 of the 16 House of Delegates districts where the Democrats currently lead, Clinton won. In essence, just as the Democrats lost four special House elections because they were playing in deep red territory, their successes on Tuesday may be due to their playing on a blue field instead of a red one.

Cohn notes that while the Democrats are making great inroads with affluent formerly Republican suburbanites, they are making little progress in white working-class areas. These are still Trump territory and unless the Democrats can find a way to move the needle there, in his view, they may make modest gains in 2018, but not enough to flip the House. (V)

Election Day Brought Numerous Firsts to Many States

The big news on election day happened in Virginia and that overshadowed numerous firsts in other elections, major and minor, all over the country. Traditionally, the overwhelming majority of elected officials have been white men, but that is starting to change. Here is a list of some "firsts," that is, elections in which someone broke a new barrier, however small.

Some of these are pretty small and others are big (like mayors in Hoboken, Seattle, and St. Paul), but they show that America is changing, however slowly. This, of course, is what Donald Trump's supporters see all around them and fear. The America they grew up with is no more, and is not coming back. (V)

Trump Kowtows to Xi

Donald Trump delivered a much-anticipated address in, China, on Wednesday, and he was quite laudatory when it came to business practices he had previously slammed:

I don't blame China. After all, who can blame a country for being able to take advantage of another country for benefit of their citizens? I give China great credit. But in actuality I do blame past administrations for allowing this out of control trade deficit to take place and to grow. We have to fix this because it just doesn't work; it is just not sustainable.

This portion of the speech has excited much comment, but really the only surprising thing is that anyone is surprised by what Trump said, as he is the world's most famous paper tiger (complete with the correct hair color). Of course he is full of piss and vinegar when he's on Twitter or ensconced in the safety of the White House. But when was the last time he stared down a world leader (or, for that matter, a member of Congress) and told them what's what face-to-face? You could count the number of times that's happened on one hand, and have roughly five fingers left over. Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of Trump's election; at this point we know what we've got, and anyone who cannot foresee what he will do has not been paying attention. (Z)

The Tax Bill Has Winners and Losers

We now have our first official notification that the Republicans' tax bill has winners and losers. The original plan was to have only winners (i.e., cut everyone's taxes, even if only by a small amount). However, to make the bill nearly revenue neutral (give or take a trillion dollars), some tax expenditures had to be killed and people who used them heavily may end up with higher taxes. The nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation has released a report detailing the winners and losers. It is a patchwork, because it matters who uses which of the deductions that have been axed, but some general patterns have emerged.

By 2027, when all the changes in the bill go into effect, almost 20% of all taxpayers would see a tax increase. Of the people making between $50,000 and $75,000, 9% would see a tax increase of between $100 and $500 and 14% would see their taxes go up by more than $500. In the $75,000 to $100,000 range, by 2027 only half the people will get a tax cut of $500 or more, but 18% would see a tax increase of more than $500. Among the top 1%, 66% would get a tax cut of more than $500 but 33% would see a tax increase of more than $500. Of course, all this is subject to change as the House Ways and Means Committee engages in some high-stakes sausage making this week. (V)

Tax Bill Hits Rough Waters

From the beginning, the Republicans' grandiose plans for changing the tax code were going to be a tall order. And as we get closer to the end of the year, and thus GOP leaders' announced deadline, things do not appear to be getting any easier.

To start, the Senate will release its version of the tax bill today, with a lot of differences from the House version. The Senators want to keep some amount of estate tax (as opposed to eliminating it), create five or six or seven tax brackets (as opposed to four), and will cut corporate taxes even more aggressively. Perhaps the biggest difference, however, is that the Senate bill will eliminate all deductions for state, local, and property taxes. This reflects the different imperatives of the Senate versus the House. There are essentially no Republican senators who fear the voters' wrath when it comes to killing these deductions, since the people who would be affected are represented almost exclusively by Democrats (CA, NJ, NY, MD, and MA would be the five hardest-hit; all have two Democratic senators). On the other hand, there are plenty of GOP Representatives in blue states who know they'll get killed if these deductions go the way of the dodo. Given that the House passed their tax bill by only four votes, a version that eliminates all of these deductions seems unlikely to make it.

And speaking of House members, Tuesday's election results have some of them feeling skittish. And skittish politicians generally do not like to stick their necks out on controversial legislation. So, many GOP members have begun pushing back against the bill. For example, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who is usually a reliable vote for Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), but who is also staring down the barrel at a tough re-election campaign, announced on Wednesday that, "I cannot endorse changes that may make the tremendous burden felt by California taxpayers even worse. Tax reform should lower taxes for all taxpayers, regardless of where they live."

There's also blowback from stakeholders outside Congress, like the conservative Club for Growth, the National Association of Realtors, the National Federation of Independent Business, the American Forest and Paper Association, and the libertarian Americans for Prosperity (AFP). AFP is mostly just a front for the Koch Brothers, who were furious about the elimination of a loophole that they like to use very much. House GOP leaders, who pretty much take their marching orders from the Kochtopus, have agreed to dramatically roll back the proposal. Now, a change that was projected to produce $140 billion in revenue will instead produce just $7 billion. Needless to say, that blows a big hole in the finances that will need to be patched with $133 billion from somewhere else.

And finally, Donald Trump is trying to sell the bill, at least a little bit, by declaring that he's a "big loser" under the GOP plan. This is not remotely true. Either he (1) is lying, (2) doesn't actually know anything about "his" tax bill, or (3) is simply taking this opportunity to advise us that he's a big loser, and the tax bill is incidental. It's probably not number 3, but numbers 1 and 2 are even money. In any event, a "woe is me" pitch that is also incorrect/dishonest is probably not the most effective way to win the hearts and minds of voters. At this point, there is no question that GOP leaders would prefer he just kept quiet. One wonders if it is a coincidence that his staff arranged for the President to be on the other side of the world while all this sausage-making is underway. (Z)

Why Trump Will Never Lose His Supporters

Politico Magazine has a long piece on why Donald Trump will never lose his core supporters. Its reporter spent time in places like Johnstown, PA, a depressed coal mining town that went solidly for Trump because he promised to bring back coal and steel jobs. Now 10 months into his presidency, the people there see that he is never going to bring back those jobs, but they don't blame him for it. When the reporter asked people how they would feel if, after 4 years, nothing changed, they said they would still love him. When pressed about what his has done for them, the answer was that he hates and battles people they hate, including Democrats, establishment Republicans, the media, Black Lives protesters, and most of all, kneeling NFL millionaires, whom they see as ungrateful and disrespectful. In other words, it is all about the culture wars, not economics or even policy. It's all about hate and he hates the people they hate. You can't eat hate, but it is a good second choice after food.

Many of the respondents don't have a clue what they are talking about. One of them said: "Everybpdy I talk to realizes it's not Trump who is dragging his feet. Trump's probably the most diligent, hardest-working president we've ever had in our lifetimes. It's not like he sleeps in till noon and goes golfing every weekend, like the last president did." When the reporter told him that Trump golfs a lot more than Barack Obama, he was surprised. He added that 99% of his TV time is on Fox News. He thinks CNN is definitely fake news. Interviews with many more people gave the same impression, with others saying that his declarations of success are what matter, not actual success. For people who don't understand why his supporters aren't shaken by anything Trump says or does, this article is valuable reading material. (V)

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