The Week on Planet Trump: Puerto Rico Suffers and a Tax Plan for Rich...

Monday: Maria Hits Puerto Rico

As of Saturday, the death toll rose from 7 to 9 fatalities linked directly with Maria, Rosselló confirmed. Among them, two sisters swallowed by water and muck in their backyard in Utuado.

The number is still on the rise. According to the National Weather Service some areas of Puerto Rico received more than 38 inches of rain by Saturday, and the deluge went on, producing harsh conditions and complicating rescue work.

Many prayers were focused on Quebradillas, a coastal municipality whose almost 90-year-old river dam started to crack, provoking the evacuation of 80,000 people who never knew their lives were in danger.

Governor Rosselló had warned early on there might be a blackout for four days. But on the fifth day little had improved.

Truth is, not even the governor has enough signal, making the flow of information with the media scarce. He has not been able to establish communication with all the municipalities.

Pablo, Venes, The Daily Beast

Tuesday: The Madman Theory

To apply some version of the Madman Theory to the North Korean problem, however, as Trump seems inclined to do, is foolish. The nuclear alert that Nixon attempted in 1969 was “ineffective and dangerous,” Sagan and Suri concluded in their article. It is not clear if Brezhnev even understood what Nixon was trying to communicate. Also, the nuclear-armed American planes involved in Giant Lance risked crashing into one another. Trump and his advisers talk loosely about preparing for a “military option” against North Korea. By this they seem to mean a preëmptive war, even though military analysts believe that such a conflict would claim more than a million lives in South Korea in its opening phase, while also exposing American cities to the possibility of a nuclear attack. If Kim Jong Un believes that Trump is rash enough to initiate a first strike, he may accelerate his missile and nuclear-bomb tests and deployments. North Korea’s missile-testing binge this year has increased the odds of an accident. One of Kim’s rockets could veer off course and kill civilians in Japan or elsewhere. The result of such a calamity could conceivably be a war.

Steve Coll, The New Yorker

Wednesday: Groundhog Day

With three Republicans opposed to the current repeal-and-replace legislation and several others on the fence, party leaders announced they would not hold a vote on the bill sponsored by Sens. Bill Cassidy and Lindsey Graham ahead of a critical Sept. 30 deadline. Leadership had weighed putting the measure on the floor despite the opposition, with some senators wanting fellow lawmakers on the record and others against holding a vote that was predetermined to fail. Ultimately, Republicans decided to shelve health care and move on to their nascent effort to overhaul the tax code.

James Arkin, RealClearPolitics

Thursday: A Tax Plan for the Rich Not Voters

A recent ABC/Washington Post poll shows where public opinions stand at the outset of the tax-cut debate. And 28 percent of the public supports Trump’s tax plan, against 44 percent opposing it. This does not reflect the barely revealed details about the proposal, but it is a useful baseline for gauging what Americans believe about Trump and his plans for taxes.

But that is only the beginning of the bad news. The poll finds that Americans support cutting taxes for middle- and lower-income Americans by large margins (78-19), and opposes cutting taxes for the affluent by nearly as wide a margin (33-62). The poll doesn’t even ask about a policy that would combine lower taxes for the rich with higher taxes for the middle-class — perhaps because the results would be so lopsided, or maybe because they worry voters would get so angry, they would punch the pollsters in the face.

Alas, this heinously unpopular outcome seems to be what the GOP policy is likely to deliver. Various iterations of the Republican plan have described ambitions for several trillion dollars’ worth of cuts for businesses and high-income earners. However, Republicans in Congress were only able to agree on a budget authorizing $1.5 trillion worth of tax cuts over the next decade. That is not a trifling sum — adjusted for inflation, it is about four-fifths the size of the 2001 Bush tax cut. But it is a small fraction of the size of the tax cuts Republicans wish to fit into it.

Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine

Friday: HHS Secretary Tom Price Resigns

Trump, who was reportedly outraged when he learned of Price’s frequent-flying habits, told reporters on Friday morning that he would make a decision on Price’s future later that day. Reports from behind the scenes, however, indicated that Price’s fate was set in stone. Not only did the secretary have a cooled relationship with Trump and few allies within the White House, he could not deliver on the main thing Trump wanted from him: rallying the votes and support needed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Price’s behavior may not surprise those who have followed his career over the years: while he was in Congress, he was investigated for potential insider trading, with S.E.C. investigators focusing on his unrestrained personal stock trading based on information he gleaned while serving on the House Ways and Means Committee. It may also not surprise anyone who’s followed the Trump Cabinet thus far: both Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke have also been scrutinized for their similar use of government-funded private jet travel.

Tina Nguyen, Vanity Fair

Saturday: A Tax Plan for the Rich

Accounting for all the changes to the individual income-tax code, the Trump tax cut is not much of a tax cut at all. The reductions for the middle class are so small and the tax increases for the upper-middle class significant enough that the plan actually raises money compared with current law. The very wealthiest and corporations, on the other hand, get cuts worth trillions. “It kind of looks like a free lunch, that everybody’s better off,” said Len Burman, an economist at the TPC and Syracuse University. “The thing that’s surprising about this is that there are some groups that don’t get to share in the $3- or $4 trillion of tax cuts.”

Anne Lowrey, The Atlantic

Sunday: Worse than Katrina

I, like everyone else, had seen the tremendous work of Trump's homeland security team in hurricanes in Houston and Miami just weeks before. In some ways, I had convinced myself that Trump was a bit player in this tragedy.

No longer. A good man who has empathy, or even knows how to pretend to have it, would not make the unfolding tragedy about himself. A confident President would not accuse Puerto Ricans of wanting "everything done for them." A self-reflective leader able to critically assess would question and push his team to send more resources and get the federal response moving. A strong Commander-in-Chief would know that his main duty is not to praise himself or lash back because of a bruised ego, but to use his global platform to provide two key needs: numbers (responders, commodities, ships, food, water, debris removal, etc) and hope.

Juliette Kayyem, CNN

 

 

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