Jan. 02

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New Senate: DEM 48             GOP 52

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Dem pickups: (None)
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Winners and Losers in 2017

In 2017, some people and groups came out ahead and some came out behind. Aaron Blake of the Washington Post has a nice list of winners and losers. Here it is:


In short, a long list. One winner Blake didn't mention is Donald Trump. He was inaugurated as president on Jan. 20, something virtually nobody thought was possible 2 years ago. Another winner Blake forgot is Russian President Vladimir Putin, who now has an asset in the White House. (V)

Ten Races to Watch This Year

The first week of January is the time for lists, and Politico has joined the fun. Its entry is a list of 10 races to watch this year. Here we go.

It's a long and varied list, but each of them is interesting for different reasons, and all are worth keeping an eye on. (V)

Trump Slams Pakistan

The new year was only five hours old when Donald Trump got out his phone and sent his first attack tweet of 2018. The winning target is...Pakistan, a new bugaboo for the President (like the USPS):

The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 1, 2018

This is a potentially justifiable assessment of America's relationship with the Pakistani government, which has certainly talked out of both sides of its mouth when it comes to combating terrorism. But hurling criticism at a foreign government via social media has yet to prove a productive approach to diplomacy. Further, it's fair to wonder if Trump even believes what he writes here, considering this tweet he sent just 10 weeks ago:

Starting to develop a much better relationship with Pakistan and its leaders. I want to thank them for their cooperation on many fronts.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 14, 2017

What, exactly, has changed between October 13 and yesterday? Well, one thing is that Team Trump has decided that withholding aid payments, like a $255 Million payment scheduled to be made to Pakistan, is a great way to advance and announce Trump's "America First" approach. So, Monday's tweet is probably not about foreign relations and, as is usually the case with Trump's "foreign policy," is actually meant to fire up the base and to let them know what MAGA action the President is taking this week. (Z)

Top Ten Twitter Hashtags of 2017

Twitter has announced its most tweeted-about accounts of 2017. Donald Trump will be thrilled to learn that he is #1, though less happy to learn that eight of the top 12 are either Barack Obama (#4), or else frequent critics of his (Rep. Ted Lieu, D-CA, at #5; Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, at #6; Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, at #7; Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, at #9; Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, at #10; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, at #11, and Rep. Adam Schiff, D-CA, at #12).

The social media platform also listed its Top 10 hashtags of the year. Other than #2, #4, and #10, the President is definitely not going to be too happy about this one:

  1. #Resist
  2. #MAGA
  3. #ImpeachTrump
  4. #TrumpTrain
  5. #WomensMarch
  6. #NotMyPresident
  7. #BlackLivesMatter
  8. #NoDAPL
  9. #TakeAKnee
  10. #BoycottNFL

"DAPL" is "Dakota Access Pipeline." In any event, the President has often sent tweets that clearly violate Twitter's terms of service. These lists, however, make clear why he will never, ever get suspended or booted—he is an absolute machine when it comes to driving traffic to (and on) the platform. (Z)

Government vs. Government

Democrats in high-tax states are stewing over the Republicans' tax bill that sticks it to them by limiting the longstanding deduction for state and local taxes. But they are not completely powerless here, and are seriously thinking of fighting back. It is a long tradition that big companies and wealthy individuals exploit loopholes in the federal tax code to their advantage, but state governments rarely, if ever, do this. That may change now. One plan that is getting consideration is for states to set up charities whose mission is to help the poor in ways that the state government normally does. Then the state legislature could pass a law saying that donations to these charities up to the amount of state income tax the donor must pay can be credited to against their state tax liability.

For example, if someone owed $30,000 in state income tax and $10,000 in local property tax, the person could "donate" $30,000 to the official state charity and not have to pay any state income tax. This donation to a charity is fully deductible for federal tax purposes. The person could then use the $10,000 allowable deduction on the federal form to deduct property tax. The net result would be that the person pays the same federal and state tax as before the tax bill was passed. The state would get less money, but the charity would help the poor so the state wouldn't have to spend as much and the poor would get the same amount of help as before.

Republicans would see red if some state passed such a law, but as with all loopholes, it might be technically legal. After all, it is up to states to determine what is deductible or creditable against state taxes. The federal government really doesn't have any say in that. As long as the charity the state set up passed muster as a valid charity, donations to it would probably be deductible for federal tax purposes. Of course, as in so many cases, the Supreme Court would probably have the final word. But a decision that said: "Nope, you are using a loophole to defeat the purpose of a law" could rebound and hit many rich people who use all manner of loopholes to circumvent many laws. (V)

What's Going on in Iowa?

Donald Trump crushed Hillary Clinton in Iowa, winning a 10 point victory with 51% of the vote to her 41%. And since he's taken office, he's delivered the bacon (in a state that loves its pork, ideally corn-fed). The economy there is humming along, unemployment has dropped to 3%, and residents of stand to benefit handsomely from the tax bill.

And yet, The Donald has somehow turned toxic in the Hawkeye State. Experts in Iowa politics say he wouldn't have a chance there if the caucuses were held today. Those experts include Ann Selzer, who is the guru of Iowa polling, and may be the best pollster in American politics. She has Trump's approval rating in Iowa at 35%, lagging his very pedestrian national approval rating by several points. Congressional Republicans are doing even worse, with just 34% of residents saying they plan to back the GOP in November's midterms. The special election results in Iowa in 2017 (all for seats in the Iowa house of representatives), where the Democrats went 2-1 and way outperformed 2016 in all three cases, tell the same tale.

Exactly what has soured Iowans on Trump is something of a mystery. It could be his anti-trade pact maneuvering, which has certainly hurt the state, although that part of his agenda was not a secret when the ballots for president were cast. It could be the efforts to undermine Obamacare, since the insurance exchanges definitely benefited many Iowans. Again, though, Trump's plans on that front were not a secret, and besides that it was really the legislature that killed the exchanges in Iowa. It could be the tax bill, which many Iowans find unfair, though the decline of Trump's approval ratings predates the bill by months. Point is, there's no thesis that satisfactorily explains what is happening. The only thing that is certain is that both Republicans and Democrats are working furiously to figure it out, the latter so they can try to replicate it, and the former so they can try to fix it. (Z)

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