Trump’s Tax Plan and Education

I did a fair bit of research on the impact of Trump’s tax plan on education policy on Friday and Saturday. For various reasons, it’s not going to pan out into an article, so I’ll park that info here.

One of the proposals in the bill is to tax private college endowments at the same level as foundations.

The Atlantic had a piece just a few weeks ago saying that such a proposal might enjoy bipartisan support. Others with liberal credentials have criticized the untaxed endowments in recent years.

Taxing the rich college’s endowment just the same as foundations would seem to be a Democratic plan, right? Even better would be a Robin Hood type scheme that would redistribute that money to colleges that primarily educate low income students or to the students themselves. But I can’t find any statements by Democrats in Congress supporting a plan like this. And it’s not like it’s never been discussed before. In 2016, the Senate Ways and Means committee had hearings on this topic and made 50 or so colleges provide them with reports about what they do with their endowments. There was plenty of time for the democrats on that committee or on the education committee to say something. None did. Not even Bernie.

I did a little on the plan to tax tuition grants, but not enough to write anything about it yet.

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Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely

I have thirty minutes to blog. Sorry, all, for my absence. It’s been busy. I had a writing deadline on Monday, doctors appointments (routine), a Halloween party for quirky boys and their moms, and some drama with Jonah.

Jonah’s adjunct writing teacher was fired in the middle of the semester, calculus is kicking his ass, and the advisement office is incompetent. He’s been working until 4am every night, so we’re talking him through this nonsense. Sigh. I’ll write more about the adjunct situation later.

20 minutes left. Okay, let’s talk about Weinstein, Trump’s Putin connections, and Donna Brazille’s revelations about Hillary. Most people aren’t wading into the details of Trump and Clinton. They are getting enough to know these people feel that they above the law and are getting rich. When they have to pay $10,000 in monthly payments and a deductible for their health insurance,  Manafort walks away with millions from the Ukraine.

And the abuse of power by the Hollywood power players is coming at the same time. These people who are honored on red carpets, that are celebrated and airbrushed on the celebrity news sources that never once mentioned this kind of crap, that are America’s royalty. People are realizing that their heroes are, in fact, disgusting perverts.

This is going to have an impact on our society and politics. When people become cynical, they lock themselves up in the homes and communities. They fear outsiders. They stop participating in government and then corruption increases.

This can’t keep going on.

(Later this afternoon… one more blog post. A fun one.)

The Evacuees Are On Their Way

I’m not talking about kneeling. I’m talking about importance stuff. I’m talking about the humanitarian crisis that is going to pull into JFK airport in the next week.

Yes, we can avoid thinking about humanitarian crisises in Syria and Yemen. Those people live there, and very few are coming here. It’s sad, no doubt, but most people quickly forget about it, because, hey! Prince Harry is getting engaged!

Puerto Rican are Americans. They can arrive without visas as soon as those planes are up in the air again. Some will come and stay with relatives. Others are just going to show up here. We are going to have to find room for three million people — more people than the population of several states — who may or may not have any resources or savings. In the next few weeks, they are going to arrive in New York City and Miami looking for housing, schools, food, and jobs. Are our cities ready for them?

It doesn’t look like Puerto Rico is going to be able to rebuild for years. Their shaky government and economic situation will make a bad situation worse. It’s too bad. It’s a lovely country with so much opportunity, especially for tourism.

Who Takes Credit for the Economy?

We’re planning on putting in a new kitchen. I think. I’ve got some pretty solid numbers on a complete gut and redo with some walls shifting, and I’m feeling ill. Maybe it’s better to just paint the cabinets and call it a day. We’re not going to start the kitchen until Jonah’s winter break is over in the middle of January, so I have plenty of time to obsess over the kitchen.

A contractor came last week to give us an estimate. As he measured the room, we did a little chit chat. I asked him how business was going. With a sheepish shrug, he said business has been booming since the election. He glanced over at me to see if I was going to throw him out of the house, and then kept measuring. He didn’t have to say it, but the message was implied — because business was so good, his prices were going to go up. Great.

So, can Trump take credit for this bounce in the economy and the stock market, or is this bounce part of the natural cycle of the economy that had already picked up during the Obama administration?

Inside the Trump Voter

A new survey from Public Policy voting did some interesting work on Trump voters. Thought I would share some of the findings:

  • Asked what racial group they think faces the most discrimination in America, 45% of Trump voters say it’s white people followed by 17% for Native Americans with 16% picking African Americans, and 5% picking Latinos. Asked what religious group they think faces the most discrimination in America, 54% of Trump voters says it’s Christians followed by 22% for Muslims and 12% for Jews.
  • Overall 89% of Americans have a negative opinion of neo-Nazis to 3% with a positive one, and 87% have an unfavorable opinion of white supremacists to 4% with a positive one. Just 11% agree with the sentiment that it’s possible for white supremacists and neo-Nazis to be ‘very fine people,’ to 69% who say that’s not possible. (I would have liked to have seen this question limited to the Trump voters. Curious.)
  • They asked about confederate statues, but their question phrasing was weak.
  • Ryan and McConnell’s approval rates have dipped to record lows, because of Trump’s attacks on them. You might not like those guys, but we need them to keep the mad man in check.
  • 57% of Republicans want Trump to run again in 2020; 29% want someone else That’s a lot. Be afraid.

Things Fall Apart

In Federalist Papers — the closest thing we have to an owner’s manual for our democracy — Hamilton wrote in pamphlet #1 that the world’s first democracy is an experiment. The rest of the world is watching us to see “whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force.”

Though Hamilton and Madison had their differences about the strength of the national government, they both consistently maintained that for democracy to work, people must act as reasonably as possible, keeping a break on passionate risky behavior that leads to demagogues and roving bands of mobs. But knowing how people are prone to risky, emotional behavior, they set up a system, which Madison defends in #10 and #51, that would keep emotions at bay and foster deliberation and slow action.

Their system has worked for almost 250 years. The system of government has been emulated to one extent to another by the 123 other democracies in the world. And now it feels rocky.

We have a president that holds rallies for no discernible reason other than solidifying his base and bolstering his ego. He tells them that the wall is going up or he’ll shut down government. Just him. One guy. He’ll shut it down.

Congress, one of Madison’s two checks on executive power, is slowly dealing with the fact that we have a mad man in the White House. They absolutely know that he’s crazy, but are afraid of alienating the idiot’s 62 million supporters. At some point, they’ll have to grow a pair or we’re in serious trouble.

Trump is the demagogue that scared the crap out of Hamilton and Madison.

Then we have other forces at work. Other anti-democratic forces that in the name of purity and light are also undermining our democracy.

Antifa are just a bunch of anarchists. Anarchists are punks. Children who don’t care if the streets are paved, or the social security checks are cut. They enjoy chaos.

There are those who take down statues in the dead of night with ropes and flashlights. Those are the cowards. I don’t give a crap about confederate war statues. Don’t like them? Take them down. No quarrel from me. But I do care about how this happens. There has to be discussion and votes and people voicing opinions. That’s how it is done.

Sure, some people are fed up with the results of the last election and with the Republican control of Congress. I get it. But democracy is better than its alternatives. Always.

All the anger, the name calling, all the negative energy is intense. It’s mobs. Virtual tar and feathers.

My Facebook page has schizophrenia. First, people loved Tina Fey. The next day, they post links to articles saying that she’s a racist and, in fact, all white people are racist, but don’t make black people tell white people how they are racist, because that’s a burden on black people, so white people have to figure it out for themselves or pay money to attend a conference where the black people will tell the white people how they are racist and then make YouTube videos making fun of the white racist people at their seminars. Honestly, I might be done with Facebook.

Democracy is undone by the Internet.

These forces are also willing to undermine First Amendment rights that we have worked damn hard to maintain. All in the name of purity and light. I’m ready to give a big fat donation to the ACLU, because I’m not down with any repression of free speech beyond the basic limits that we already have in place. We could still maintain our democracy with fewer protections of speech — other democracies have fewer protections — but I like our system.

This great experiment, let’s not fuck it up.

UPDATE: I don’t want to forget the one Facebook friend who said that people had to renounce racism using exactly her words on their Facebook wall. If they didn’t do that, she would de-friend them. Or the other friend who held up a sign that said people who were silent were racists.

Inside the White Supremist Movement

I don’t usually listen to podcasts. When I’m working at my computer, I prefer tomb-like quiet. My commute is one flight of stairs. And when I run, I listen to an embarrassing mix of country, rap, and Beyoncé.

But this morning I couldn’t run, because all my running bras were in the wash. So, I walked two miles instead. For some reason, power walks require podcasts, not an embarrassing mix of country, rap, and Beyoncé. I pulled up The New York Times’ podcast, The Daily (Tuesday, August 22) on Spotify.

Michael Barbaro interviewed Derek Black, a former white nationalist whose father was the former grandmaster of the KKK. Black grew up with those people. His father also ran one of the big white supremacist websites. Black started up his own blog for white supremacist kids at age 12.

In the podcast, he describes the ideas that are at the root of the movement. For example, he says that they don’t just hate black people. Anti-Semitism is a big part of their ideology, as we saw on display at Charlotteville. The members wouldn’t describe themselves as a hate group. They just think that the world would be better, if different people lived in their own zones. They oppose globalism. Lots more in the podcast.

And then he went to college. And his views changed. His views didn’t change because professors were indoctrinating him or yelling at him. No, his views changed because he became good friends with an observant Jew, who even knowing about Black’s political views, invited him every week to Shabbat services at his house. There, around the table, he talked politics and social ideas with the other guests. They slowly, over the course of the year and during many conversations, convinced Black that he was wrong about his ideas. They brought information and studies to show him that countered the arguments that he had grown up believing.

THAT IS HOW IT SHOULD HAPPEN. THAT IS HOW WE CHANGE PEOPLE’S MINDS. WITH CALM REASONABLE DISCUSSIONS. BY ENCOURAGING CONVERSATION, NOT BY SHUTTING IT DOWN. BY INVITING OPPONENTS INTO OUR HOMES AND SHARING IDEAS AND FOOD.

Okay, rant over.

Black walked away from the white supremacists. His family barely speaks to him anymore. And the pain of the rejection was palpable on the podcast.

He talked about the content of Trump’s speeches and pointed out lines — lines that were meaningless to me — that echoed and supported white supremacist messages. White supremacists, he said, were a small fringe movement, but some of their ideas have been absorbed by Republicans.

Why is this Black guy not a regular on CNN? He knows more about the movement than any of the other pundits that their show. I learned more from this podcast than I did from hours and hours of CNN viewing this week.