Thursday, December 21, 2017

Vladimir Putin - Investor of the Year

Donald Trump - or Der Trumpenführer, if you prefer since I will never use the title "president" in conjunction with his name - continually boasts about the record high stock market and how well investors have done over the last eleven months.  He, of course, ignores the way the market had been soaring under Barack Obama and the role that Obama played in setting the stage for future market increases.  And as foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman, points out, Forbes or some other financial publication will likely be naming an "investor of the year" for 2017.  But the man who has likely reaped the biggest return on his investment made in 2016 and into 2017 is likely Vladimir Putin.  Putin, who has an ego as big as Trump's, and who views himself as Russia's new Tsar, wants to return Russia to its lost glory days on the international arena and to check America's power.  For his investment in meddling in the 2016 presidential election (by some estimates it was a paltry investment of $500,000), Putin has seen America diminished on the global stage and torn asunder domestically by Trump and the GOP Congress who seem obsessed with plundering the nation environmentally and financially to benefit 1% of the population.  None of this will make America great again.  Here are highlights from Friedman's column:
At the end of this banner stock market year, you can bet that major business publications will be naming their investor of the year. You can stop now. I have the winner, and nobody is even close when it comes to his total return on investment: Vladimir Putin, the Russian president.
A recent report in The Washington Post, quoting intelligence sources, said Putin may have spent less than $500,000 to hack our last election and help (though Hillary helped much more) Donald Trump become president. And Putin’s payoff is Trump’s first year: a president who is simultaneously eroding some of our most basic norms, undermining some of our most cherished institutions and enacting a mammoth tax bill that will not make America great again.
If you assume, as I do, that Putin wants to see an America that is not an attractive model for his own people or others to emulate, and that he wants an America run by a chaos president who cannot lead the West, then Trump is his dream come true, whether or not there was any collusion between them.
Just do the math:
On norms, we’ve grown numb to a president who misleads or outright lies every day. Different newspapers measure this differently. The Washington Post says Trump has averaged 5.5 false or misleading claims every day in office, putting him on pace for 1,999 in his first year. According to The Times, Barack Obama told 18 “distinct falsehoods” over his entire eight-year presidency, while Trump, in his first 10 months in office, “has told 103 separate untruths, many of them repeatedly.”
[I]t’s chilling to imagine what four years and 8,000 lies or misleading statements from Trump will do to trust in government in America — and how deeply that will filter into society, giving permission to anyone and everyone to lie with impunity.
In terms of institutions, Trump has personally disparaged the F.B.I., the C.I.A. and the Justice Department. His head of the Environmental Protection Agency has turned the E.P.A. over to the fossil fuel industry. Ditto at Interior. His I.R.S. is being starved of funding to do its job. And his secretary of state is gutting the State Department, shedding our most experienced diplomats and replacing them with … no one.
The Treasury secretary’s economic “analysis” of the G.O.P. tax bill consisted of a one-page — fewer than 500 words — assessment, claiming that the $1.5 trillion plan would more than pay for itself, assuming a whole set of perfect circumstances come true. Your kid’s third-grade book report was longer than the Treasury’s analysis of our biggest tax overhaul in 30 years.
And then there’s the future: Putin never could have dreamed up this deformed Trump-G.O.P. tax bill, but it is precisely how you don’t make America great again. . . . .
First, we’ve always educated our citizens up to and beyond whatever the main technology of the day was — when it was the cotton gin, that meant universal primary education; when it was the factory, that meant universal high school; and now that it is the computer and artificial intelligence, it should be some form of postsecondary education for all — and then lifelong learning. . . . . Instead, this bill will spend money preserving unfair tax breaks for hedge fund billionaires and shrinking the inheritance tax on their heirs.
Second, we invested in the best infrastructure — roads, rail, ports, airports, telecom. This tax bill not only makes no provision for that, it actually erodes such investments in many states.
Third, we had the best rules to incentivize risk-taking and to prevent recklessness. I am all for cutting corporate taxes — and payroll taxes — but I’d offset them with a carbon tax that would simultaneously combat climate change and stimulate renewable energy, the next great global industry, to make us more resilient and innovative. It never occurred to Trump.  Trump and his allies actually tried to get rid of all the regulatory subsidies to stimulate wind, solar and electric car production . . . .
On health care regulations, though, the whole G.O.P. bought into Trump’s nonsense, eliminating the Obamacare requirement that all individuals buy health insurance. It means we are returning to socialized medicine. Now lots of healthy young people, and others, will forgo health care, and when they get sick, they’ll go to hospital emergency wards to get treated — and those of us with health insurance will pay for their care through higher premiums or higher hospital bills. That’s called socialism.
Fourth, we had, in the last century, the most open immigration policy to attract the most high-I.Q. risk-takers, the people who often start new business, as well as high-energy lower-skilled workers. I don’t have to tell you where Trump is on that.
Fifth, we had the most government-funded research to push out the boundaries of science so our companies could pluck the best ideas — witness the internet and GPS — to start new industries. The surge in the deficit created by this tax bill will curtail precisely such research.
So there you have it: a tax “reform” bill that defies all five principles that made us great for two and half centuries.
Even Putin surely could not have imagined that Trump would be this foolish and the G.O.P. this cynical. It’s just the extra dollop of caviar on Vladimir’s Christmas blini.

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