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Columnists
Commentary: Trump may be slipping, but he can still play a crowd

A brief confession: the only “reality TV” I ever watch is sports. Real, unscripted contests, I mean. Professional wrestling I gave up after eighth grade when the storylines became too predictable to be funny. I never saw “Jersey Shore” or “The Apprentice.”

So it’s been a year of surprises.

From what I could gather, “Jersey Shore” featured morons in wife-beater undershirts competing for the charms of a dimwit with breasts the size of Ocean County. No need to watch, I grew up in New Jersey.

“The Apprentice” was a scripted melodrama featuring a New York tycoon famous for tabloid sex scandals pretending to hire and fire scheming contestants largely based upon ... what? Beats me. A real business magnate would have better things to do. But then, a genuine capitalist hero wouldn’t have gone bankrupt running casinos, would he?

So I never saw the Donald Trump phenomenon coming. Good grief, the man has gold-plated toilets. He discussed his daughter as a “piece of ass” on the radio with Howard Stern. How could anybody take him seriously?

I suppose because millions of Americans never got wise to pro-wrestling storylines: A Yankee George Wallace come to save them from the Kenyan Muslim usurper is how they saw it, and still do.

That said, another form of infotainment I’ve personally boycotted is the White House “tell-all” book — gossip-mongering and score-settling leaked by disaffected aides to an author seeking what Nicholas von Hoffman once called “arrestingly irrelevant detail.”

Joan Didion dubbed such narratives “political pornography.” Goodness, don’t people get enough White House infighting on the evening news?

So the runaway success of Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” has also surprised me. I’d have thought normal people were all-Trumped-out.

Of course, the president himself virtually guaranteed the book’s success by threatening to cancel its publication — legally impossible under the First Amendment. Ditto Trump has threatened to sue Wolff and his publisher. He’s about as likely to engage LeBron James in a fistfight.

Remember when the president vowed to sue all 20 women who claimed he had grabbed them? That lawsuit’s also never happening. See, if you sue somebody, you have to face cross-examination. Trump can never risk that.

Indeed, the president’s bluster about Wolff’s book has been so self-defeating it’s enough to make you wonder if he hasn’t got a piece of the action. At the rate “Fire and Fury” is selling, Wolff could end up buying Mar-a-Lago. Trump’s being in on the scam would also explain the sheer political stupidity of giving a journalist like Wolff unfettered White House access in the first place.

That said, my resolve was wavering until a friend posted a few pages on Facebook describing Trump’s post-inauguration visit to CIA headquarters. Cheered on by White House staffers seated in the front row, the president told his bewildered audience a story of divine intervention.

“God looked down and said we’re not going to let it rain on your (inauguration) speech. And in fact when it first started I said, ‘Oh no’ ... First line I got hit with a couple of drops and I said ‘Oh no, this is too bad,’ but ... the truth is it stopped immediately and then it became really sunny and I walked off and it poured right after I left.”

This isn’t something Sloppy Steve Bannon or Kellyanne Conway whispered to Michael Wolff. There’s a transcript, and video of both speeches.

The choices are: A) Trump is fabulating, or B) Trump is delusional.

Google it if you doubt me. A steady drizzle started when Trump began to speak and continued throughout. The sun never appeared, and it also never “poured.” Total rainfall that day was less than a tenth of an inch. When Grandpa starts rattling on like that, it’s time to take away his car keys.

Anyway, reading even that much of Wolff’s book rendered me bilious and fatigued. So more power to him, but I’ll take a pass. See, a guy who will lie to your face about the weather has no concept of truth. Any time Trump uses phrases like “believe me,” “honestly,” “trust me” or “to tell you the truth,” it’s a dead giveaway: Everything that follows is make-believe.

If you haven’t yet figured that out, perhaps you can’t.

Also, here’s the deal: Anybody that needs to go on TV to brag about being a “stable genius” is definitely neither. Just as a smart person confident of his innocence in the Russia investigation would lay off special counsel Mueller and await vindication. But Trump can’t do that.

Trump’s political gifts are instinctive cunning and a hunger for adulation. He understands people’s secret resentments because he shares them. He has a middle school bully’s knack for name-calling, and absolutely no shame.

If he’s slipping, as Wolff reports, Trump can still play a crowd.


Columnists
Commentary: We all win with the federal tax cut and reforms

Congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump have passed a landmark tax reduction and reform bill. Democrats, mainstream media and other leftists are spreading misinformation about the effects.

Let’s set the record straight.

First, “The new law is larded with provisions custom-made for the rich and superrich while offering mere crumbs for the middle class.” This version of a lie told by many comes from Democrat Alan Blinder, who also said, “it may be the most regressive” tax cut ever.

Even the very liberal Tax Policy Center admitted that the vast majority of taxpayers will see a tax cut or no change from the new law, while some of the rich will face increases.

The non-partisan Tax Foundation found that the bill will lower taxes for all income groups and the great majority of Americans. It estimates the annual savings for middle-income Nevada families at $610.

Blinder’s progressivity complaint is particularly disingenuous. Taken as a group, households earning less than $40,000 don’t pay any income taxes at all, according to the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation. That is, federal taxes and other income transfer measures have already made public policy in the aggregate so “progressive” that any real tax reform must cut taxes for middle- and high-income taxpayers and for businesses.

Analyses from the Cato Institute, the Tax Foundation and the Tax Policy Center show that middle-income taxpayers will indeed enjoy the largest savings.

Second, “Few Americans buy into the ‘trickle down’ argument that tax benefits showered on corporations will translate mostly into higher wages and vastly faster economic growth.” Again, per Blinder, with agreement by the statist progressives at Associated Press and elsewhere.

The non-partisan Tax Foundation estimates that the tax reform and reduction will increase U.S. gross domestic product by 1.7 percent, which is more than $400-billion per year. It will do so by adding 339,000 full-time equivalent jobs while raising the wage rate 1.5 percent. These benefits are greatly due to the fact it will increase capital investment by 4.48 percent.

An all-star team of economists from Stanford and other elite institutions suggested that the boost to the economy would be four percent. And other top economists have concurred.

Robert Barro of Harvard, one of the nine, last week published his estimate that, “These changes imply a [seven percent] long-run increase in both corporate output per worker and real wages paid to workers. This is ‘trickle-down economics’ at its best – raising wages by cutting corporate taxes.” He further estimates the tax reforms will increase output per worker by six percent in real terms, meaning also a real increase of six percent per person in incomes and living standards.

Barro concludes: “cutting income taxes on individuals will power economic growth in the short run, and reforming them for businesses will do the same over the long haul. Together they add up to more investment, increased output and higher wages for millions of Americans.”

“Third, the tax cuts blow a large hole in the federal budget, and most Americans think the deficit is already too large.” Again, per Blinder with even more overstated versions from AP, nearly all Democrats and the rest of this Greek chorus.

These folks obsess about the deficit and debt but are oblivious to the real issue: That American government has become so large that its very size is destructive of the public interest by diminishing aggregate human wellbeing and fairness. Government at all levels spends too much, regulates our lives and businesses too extensively and intrusively, taxes us too much, and borrows too much.

The solution to all this government over-reach is to reduce the size, scope and reach of government relative to our economy and our lives. Of course, to show their lack of creativity and good faith, as soon as one suggests this, they react with shrieks that doing so will throw granny off a cliff, toss children into the gutter under an oncoming bus, etc.

Utter nonsense. At the Controller’s office, we have shown that the solution is to reverse the mistakes that got us into this mess. That is, we need to restore robust economic growth by growing government slower than the economy for a long time to come.