Fact check: Donald Trump’s State of the Union address analyzed

Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech continued Trump’s tradtion of telling tall tales. Let’s separate Trump’s fake news from the facts.

Tax cuts

We enacted the biggest tax cuts and reforms in American history. Our massive tax cuts provide tremendous relief for the middle class and small businesses.

A typical family of four making $75,000 will see their tax bill reduced by $2,000 – slashing their tax bill in half.

This April will be the last time you ever file under the old broken system – and millions of Americans will have more take-home pay starting next month.

The tax cut signed into law last month is not the largest in American history, but the eighth largest, at about 0.9% of the gross domestic product. In 1981, Ronald Reagan signed the largest cut, at 2.89% of GDP.

The $1.1tn tax cut will mean lower taxes for every income bracket in 2019, but it is misleading to suggest that those cuts will last for everyone.

Over time the cuts disproportionately save money for the wealthiest. Some of the tax cuts phase out in 2025, meaning that by 2027 Americans earning less than $75,000 will see tax increases. More than 75% of the savings will go to people who earn more than $200,000, according to Moody’s, or about 5% of taxpayers.

The top 1% of earners will save hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, through the cuts, according to the Tax Policy Center. The president’s family could save as much as $11m, according to an analysis by the New York Times. The tax plan also eliminated the estate tax, which only affected a few thousand families with extraordinary wealth.

The stock market

Small business confidence is at an all-time high. The stock market has smashed one record after another, gaining $8tn in value. That is great news for Americans’ 401k, retirement, pension, and college savings accounts.

It’s true that the stock market is booming: the Dow Jones surpassed a record 26,000 points and saw its fastest-ever 1,000-point gain during the last year.

The stock market is not the economy, however, and does not reflect marginal wage gains and growing inequality. A Federal Reserve report published last year, for instance, found that the wealthiest 1% of American families controlled 38.6% of the country’s wealth in 2016.

Coal, energy and cars

We have ended the war on American energy – and we have ended the war on clean coal. We are now an exporter of energy to the world.

Thanks to a natural gas boom over the last 15 years, the US has become a global energy power. This success of natural gas – cheaper, more accessible and cleaner than coal – has marginalized the coal industry, limiting Trump’s efforts to save the industry.

Coal jobs and production declined for decades, collapsing 33% from 2011 to 2016, according to studies by Columbia University and the Department of Energy, due to competition from natural gas, automation and a shift away from coal in Asia.

Trump has tried to resurrect coal’s fading fortunes. He rescinded a rule that tried to keep coal mining waste out of waterways; ordered a revocation of Obama’s Clean Power Plan; and lifted a ban on mining leases on federal land. In 2017, coal exports increased compared to 2016, according to the Energy Information Association. Still, there has only been about 1% growth in coal jobs over the last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The phrase “clean coal,” coined by the coal industry, is itself controversial. The term applies not to any coal itself but power plants that remove heavy metal pollutants in the burning process and bury carbon emissions in the earth. Even such “clean” coal-fired plants still emit large levels of pollutants.

Many car companies are now building and expanding plants in the United States – something we have not seen for decades. Chrysler is moving a major plant from Mexico to Michigan; Toyota and Mazda are opening up a plant in Alabama. Soon, plants will be opening up all over the country. This is all news Americans are unaccustomed to hearing – for many years, companies and jobs were only leaving us.

Chrysler is not moving any plant from Mexico; it is keeping the Mexican factory and investing in a Michigan one. Toyota-Mazda have planned for a $1.6bn factory in Alabama, to open in several years. Several of the plans Trump is touting have been in development for several years and the US has steadily increased jobs since 2010, according to the same Bureau of Labor Statistics figures the president earlier cited.

Read the complete article on The Guardian newspaper web site.

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Donald Trump’s big test in 2018 – The Economist video

The ninth in The Economist series of films previewing some of the big themes of 2018 considers America’s mid-term elections. A bad result for Donald Trump could lead to his impeachment. Can he unite and rally Republican voters?

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross benefits from business ties to Putin’s inner circle

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross Jr. has a stake in a shipping firm that receives millions of dollars a year in revenue from a company whose key owners include Russian President Vladimir Putin’s son-in-law and a Russian tycoon sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department as a member of Putin’s inner circle.

Ross, a billionaire private equity investor, divested most of his business assets before joining President Donald Trump’s Cabinet in February, but he kept a stake in the shipping firm, Navigator Holdings Ltd., which is incorporated in the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific. Offshore entities in which Ross and other investors hold a financial stake controlled 31.5 percent of the company in 2016, according to Navigator’s latest annual report.

Among Navigator’s largest customers, contributing more than $68 million in revenue since 2014, is the Moscow-based gas and petrochemicals company Sibur. Two of its key owners are Kirill Shamalov, who is married to Putin’s youngest daughter, and Gennady Timchenko, the sanctioned oligarch whose activities in the energy sector, the Treasury Department said, were “directly linked to Putin.”

Another powerful owner is Sibur’s largest shareholder, Leonid Mikhelson, who controls an energy company that was also sanctioned by the Treasury Department for propping up Putin’s rule.

In the aftermath of the election, investigations by Congress and the U.S. Justice Department have explored potential business ties between Russia and members of the Trump administration. While several of Trump’s campaign and business associates have come under scrutiny, until now no business connections have been reported between senior Trump administration officials and members of Putin’s family or inner circle.

During his confirmation process, Ross was asked repeatedly about his business ties to Russia, mostly related to his former role as vice chairman of the Bank of Cyprus, which has a long history of financing Russian oligarchs. “The United States Senate and the American public deserve to know the full extent of your connections with Russia and your knowledge of any ties between the Trump Administration, Trump Campaign, or Trump Organization and the Bank of Cyprus,” a group of five Democratic senators wrote Ross after the hearing but prior to his confirmation. Ross responded briefly to a question submitted for the hearing, saying the Russians who invested in the bank “were not my partners,” but he didn’t respond to the senators’ letter.

Commerce and conflict

The commerce secretary’s indirect business connection with Putin’s son-in-law and oligarch allies emerges from an examination of public records and a leak of millions of offshore financial documents from the Bermuda law firm Appleby obtained by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and its global network of media partners. They represent the inner workings of Appleby from the 1950s until 2016. The files include documents from Appleby’s corporate services division, which became independent in 2016 under the name Estera.

The leaked files showed a chain of companies and partnerships in the Cayman Islands through which Ross has retained his financial stake in Navigator.

The fact that Ross’ Cayman Islands companies benefit from a firm controlled by Putin proxies raises serious potential conflicts of interest, experts say. As commerce secretary, Ross has the power to influence U.S. trade, sanctions and other matters that could affect Sibur’s owners. Likewise, Sibur’s owners, and through them, Putin himself, could have the ability to increase or decrease Sibur’s business with Navigator even as Ross helps steer U.S. policy.

Richard Painter, who served as chief ethics lawyer during the George W. Bush administration, said Ross might have to recuse himself from a range of sanctions decisions. He added that while there was no inherent violation in Ross’ holdings, the Navigator arrangement warrants closer scrutiny.

Read the complete article on the Internation Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

Image source: International Consortium of Investigative Journalists

The Artless Dodger

Jack Dawkins, better known as the Artful Dodger, is a character in the Charles Dickens novel Oliver Twist. Dodger is a pickpocket, so called for his skill and cunning in that respect. He is the leader of the gang of child criminals, trained by the elderly Fagin.

The Artful Dodger is characterized as a child who acts like an adult.

Today the world has The Artless Dodger, a child who acts like an adult but, unlike the Artful Dodger, is completely lacking in skill and cunning.

Donald Trump: pointing the way toward … more of the same, actually. Photograph: Timothy A Clary/AFP/Getty Images

The Art of The Schlemiel

Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters

Donald Trump’s time in office had been a spectacular failure, like a schlemiel. Here’s a very short list of promises made by Donald Trump which have stalled in legislation.

Call for an international conference to defeat ISIS
Repeal Obamacare
Increase visa fees
Move U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem
Replace J-1 Visa with Inner City Resume Bank
Cut taxes for everyone
Eliminate the carried interest loophole
Impose death penalty for cop killers
Enact term limits
Appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary Clinton
Make no cuts to Medicare
Make no cuts to Social Security
Make no cuts to Medicaid
Eliminate Common Core
Add additional federal investment of $20 billion toward School Choice
Open up libel laws
Build a safe zone for Syrian refugees
Close parts of the Internet where ISIS is
Bring back waterboarding

There are many, many more promises which the Donald has uttered and has failed to pass through legislation at this point in time in office. His “Art of the deal” book should have been titled “The Art of The Schlemiel”.

Schlemiel, noun, (US, slang) an awkward or unlucky person whose endeavours usually fail.

Report says Donald Trump hates ‘everybody at the White House’.


‘Unfit and incapable’: Donald Trump at the White House. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

A report in Vanity Fair magazine, citing two sources, claimed Donald Trump had vented to his longtime security chief, Keith Schiller: “I hate everyone in the White House! There are a few exceptions, but I hate them!”

The journalist Gabriel Sherman also wrote that several people close to the president told him that Trump was unstable, “losing a step” and unraveling. Such concerns appear to be reaching a critical mass. NBC News reported that Tillerson had referred to Trump as a moron. The president insisted the story was false, but challenged Tillerson to an IQ contest.

Then Senator Bob Corker became one of the few Republicans on Capitol Hill to openly denounce Trump, though it is widely suspected that he speaks for many colleagues. During a Twitter clash last Sunday, Corker wrote: “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.”

In an interview with the New York Times, the senator from Tennessee said: “I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him … He doesn’t realise that we could be heading towards world war three with the kind of comments that he’s making.”

He also told the Washington Post on Friday that Trump had “castrated” Tillerson with remarks about his attempts to talk to North Korea.

Thomas Barrack Jr, a billionaire who was the top fundraiser for Trump’s election campaign, said he has been shocked and stunned by some of the president’s incendiary rhetoric and tweets.

“He thinks he has to be loyal to his base,” Barrack told the Washington Post. “I keep on saying, ‘But who is your base? You don’t have a natural base. Your base now is the world and America, so you have all these constituencies; show them who you really are.’ In my opinion, he’s better than this.”

If anyone can get through to Trump, it may be Barrack, one of his oldest friends. Rich Galen, a Republican strategist, said: “That got everybody’s attention because he’s buddy and spoke at the Republican convention. So there seems to be some change. That’s part of what’s feeding it.”

McMullin agreed that Trump seemed rattled by the recent criticisms from Tillerson, Corker and Barrack. “He probably understands their remarks represent a new stage of acceptance setting in across the country, even among his supporters, that he is unfit and incapable.

“That, I think, is inspiring his accelerated efforts to throw red meat to his base to shore up their support. I expect that to continue, if not intensify, and to result in increasing political challenges for the GOP as 2017 and 2018 elections approach and in years to come.”

Evan McMullin, a former CIA operative and independent presidential candidate, wrote via email to The Guardian: “I think the president’s actions on healthcare and Iran are the latest examples of his standing political strategy, which is to throw red meat to his base in order to maintain his base, as evidence of his unfitness and inability to govern mounts.

“If anything, his use of this tactic seems to be accelerating as it becomes increasingly clear, even to some of his closest friends and political allies, that he is failing.”

Read the complete article in The Guardian newspaper online.

Trump golfs while Puerto Ricans die. Nice balls, Donald.

It’s an island. Lots of water you know. Lots. The most water you’ve ever seen. That island isn’t like Texas or Florida you know, which as you know are part of the US. My team is the best. Excellent. I’ve got the greatest team. Believe me. Everything is fine.

#LyingDonald

Trump continues to dig himself a huge hole golfing instead of being Presidential.

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