They passed the Budget!

Well, guess I was wrong. 

At a 51 – 49 vote, with the only dissent from the right being Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, the Republicans have their budget. And now they can move to Tax Reform, primarily by unlocking the use of Reconciliation, the tool that allows them to pass a bill with only 50 votes. Currently the tax plan itself is in a form of limbo, there have been plenty of proposals but little in the way of a concrete plan. Additionally Corker has signaled he isn’t going to vote for a plan that adds to the deficit, something the Senate has acknowledged will be part and parcel of theirs.

Which leaves me wondering if this can work, or if it’ll be another repeal debacle. We’ll see.

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Regarding the US Budget

At this stage of the year, the US congress has still not passed a budget, with Rand Paul and the Democratic party being the votes that are currently preventing it from passing. That is not exactly stopping it from passing the senate, but putting it into contention enough that thus far they have not put it to vote. I’ll repeat this, it is now over halfway through October and the US still has not passed a budget. This literally cannot continue, as otherwise the government will shutdown and no one wants that. not even Ted Cruz.

The problem with this budget is that not only is it extremely conservative, which naturally means the Democrats aren’t inclined to vote for it, it cuts large amounts from Medicaid and medicare and provides large dividends of that cut to the defense department. Now I won’t deny that their military does need to rebuild its equipment, arm its soldiers properly and so on, however given the lack of discretion and consideration with the military spending they already have, it’s still somewhat of a contentious position to take.

Additionally of course the republicans need a budget passed to actually make a move on tax reform, another poorly planned bit of (can I even call it this?) legislation that will likely balloon the deficit and the debt. I thought that was bad, but hey, what do I know right?

Anyway this is going to be annoying for a while, and if the republicans and the democrats can’t compromise for a bit it’s likely this will either pass due to Vice President Pence, or the government will shutdown again. Hopefully if that happens it won’t hit the global economy to badly, otherwise I’m gonna get the popcorn ready.

Europe’s current right-wing bent

Europe is currently dealing with another pair of elections which could have a significant impact in the long term on the EU’s future. The first is Austria’s, where the election was held on the 15th of October, with the Center-Right Sebastian Kurz winning the majority for his party. The second is the Czech Republics election held this weekend, with a potential front-runner being the Far Right populist party ANO, with its billionaire leader Andrej Babis.

Both are leading or have won their elections by following a particular pattern, the same one Macron won with in France, Trump with in the US, and the likes of Le Pen and Wilders from the Netherlands failed to properly utilize: the presented their campaigns as movements. Not the usual politics, but as a radical shift in nature. In reality, Kurz’s party is only further to the right on immigration and the like, and seemingly follows the party line in most everything else. Likely that will mean some difficulty for the EU, but thus far I haven’t seen anything to suggest he’s inclined to a Brexit scenario.

Babis from Prague on the other hand is a firm anti-EU candidate, despite the fact no one in the election made much noise regarding the EU at all, is known to be opposed to adopting the euro, opposed to integration and accepting refugees. If his party gets into power, and with the leading estimates of 25% it seems likely,  he lead another Center/Eastern European country with a disparaging view of the EU.

The point here really is that both campaigns ran on the idea of a movement, of change and of the people leading the nation, not a nebulous elite. People doubt the current status-quo, for good reason, and are currently willing to go with anyone who can motivate or scare them enough to go along with their ideas of change, or power.

Trump threatens Puerto Rico and targets Obamacare

Busy, busy, busy.

Today Trump has claimed that due to the already perilous situation Puerto Rico was in before Maria hit, FEMA and the military resources provided may move out of Puerto Rico for infrastructure and financial reasoning. Well he claims it’s that, more likely he’s annoyed by the bad press and the San Juan Mayor antagonizing him, so he’s threatening the whole territory. Given the sheer devastation from the Hurricane and yes the previous issues Puerto Rico was dealing with, if Trump pulls out FEMA and the military, people will die. I can’t tell if the region could even be maintained if they leave, as bets I can tell it would depend on whether other states in the area chip in to provide support.

But Trump wasn’t done today, as he signed an executive order requiring agencies to craft new rules, within present laws, to allow insurance agencies to provide cheaper, laxer plans. Basically, lean plans that healthy people will use to be insured, and promptly get kicked off of if they ever get sick. He claims this will give more people coverage, more likely this will hurt the individual market, potentially collapsing it, and harm god knows how many people. This is just petty, he can’t pass the repeal bill so now he’s trying to cripple the ACA by executive order, actions that he and the Republican party exhorted Obama for doing, attempting to craft law from the executive desk!

Some days man, I swear.

The Iran Deal

Trump has been making noise for some time now in regards to Obama’s INARA, colloquially known as the Iran Nuclear Deal, and his intent to de-certify it, pass the buck to congress and let them, in effect, sort it out. This is actually an interesting position to take, unintentionally perhaps as is often the case, but potentially this could actually be of use. To clarify, Iran is one of the biggest destabilizing forces in the Middle-Eastern region, supporting numerous militias and rebel groups, developing their own weapon systems besides their nuclear technology, and causing problems for any nation that doesn’t agree with their agenda and theological position (especially Saudi Arabia).

On the other hand, there really isn’t anything preventing the US from intervening in a number of these areas, bluntly or obliquely. The Iran Nuclear Deal handles, surprise, nuclear technology and armament. Nothing else. While there is an agreement not to place or enforce sanctions on the belligerent state, it’s hardly as if the United States, the United Nations and other states have no options in regards to punishing Iran for its actions.

Potentially, this course of action could give new leverage and control over the situation to the US and its allies, away from Iran and its proxies, and alter the current course for the region. Alternatively there could be war. This isn’t a simple situation, involving a president who doesn’t seem to grasp much of this, Generals who may believe open conflict is a better option than what they have, and a congress who struggles to talk to each other at the best of times, much less cooperate.

Interesting times.

Corruption in the White House

Yes, a corruption article. Except not, because I really don’t have anything to say about this.

Okay, so, today I’ve read articles outlining Vice President Pences’ wasting of taxpayer dollars by going to an NFL game, leaving because god forbid he let other people express their freedom of speech in a way he doesn’t explicitly agree with, and return to Washington, which cost, for the flight to Indiana alone, somewhere around $100,000, including transportation and security*. So yeah, bad but come on we’ve seen this before right (Price comes to mind)? Additionally, The Atlantic’s Norm Ornstein had a whole piece on flagrant corruption, willful tax dollar spending, hypocrisy and the like from Price, Pruitt, Mnunchin, Kushner and so forth. And it was a good read don’t get me wrong, but it just didn’t resonate.

It’s not that this isn’t bad, it’s just that this was completely expected, and the idea that some rich prick would come into the White House and waste money, time and international standing on nonsense and that his administration would follow suit was kinda one of the reasons a lot of people didn’t want Trump as president. From there the question really became, why are you shocked and why didn’t anyone put in some form of restraint on these guys before the came into office? This isn’t the first time this has happened (graft is hardly unique in the White House) so why weren’t their protections and limitations in place?

Well there are. They’re just not very effective when congress doesn’t really care. Which was also completely predictable. Just three more years of this folks.

 

*I wrote before that the flight cost around 100,000 total, this was just for the Indiana leg of the trip. Sorry

Slow Day(ish) 5 October edition

Given what happened in Vegas, the aftermath of Maria and the Catalan Independence Referendum (which apparently was a massive vote for yes, though I remain uncertain to the turnout), today seems to have slowed down a tad. As it stands, in the wake of each events, in Puerto Rico’s case Trumps visit being the recent event, compounding a severe struggle with rebuilding and surviving in the wake of Maria, it mostly seems to be a dya of reactions.

The Us congress for example is debating whether even to discuss gun regulation in the wake of Vegas, with what may be the only steps being made are a potential ban on Bump Stocks (with some Republican support) and a crack down on the suppressor bill being currently mulled in the house. How the latter will do is anyone’s guess at this point, and even then I doubt it would pass the Senate. Puerto Rico continues to struggle in the wake of Maria, the Mayor of San Juan attacking Trump after his visit to Puerto Rico where he complained about the debt rather than give hope to the people suffering there. I should not be nearly as numb to this stupidity as I am.

And the Catalan referendum happened, and the Spanish police were pretty brutal in it’s aftermath. That whole situation is complicated, while Catalonia in many ways really is a separate state, such as in regional operations, economy, culture and language, there are problems with the situation. Firstly, it was illegal, and while the regional government might have wanted it they didn’t seem to care that there were going to be consequences for this, secondly I question the turnout, according to previous studies its closer to about half, or even less than half, of the people of Catalonia who actually want to be independent. There was much more interest in a referendum being held than actually voting for independence, or even voting, which makes me wonder how committed the people really are to independence.

Still, looks like they’re gonna declare independence on Monday. See how that goes I guess.