Matt Taibbi, The War in the White House
Months of palace intrigue have pitted the D.C. establishment and Jared Kushner against Steve Bannon – and made Trump more dangerous than ever.

It’s not quite Taibbi’s most famous attack, casting Goldman Sachs as a vampire squid –

The world’s most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.

but this teardown of the mess at the White House is pretty close, and Bannon and Cohn are both Goldman products:

The revelations of the past month show the Trump White House to be a kind of bizarro version of Real World or Amish in the City – a bunch of loutish out-of-towners granted undeserving residence in a classy downtown mansion wired in every corner for the world’s amusement. Ditsy Kellyanne Conway rubs her feet on the furniture, blabbermouth Sean Spicer loses battles of wits to Rob Gronkowski in the press room, and grandpa Rex Tillerson spends every episode hiding from the press, maybe behind the new gold drapes (they really changed the color of the Oval Office drapes). The remaining zoo animals are split in a perfectly disgusting caricature of the modern American political divide. On one side rests Bannon, a fascistic creep who represents the tens of millions of “deplorables” who rallied to Trump because he validated their zombie-movie fantasies about armies of wormy Mexicans staggering up the isthmus (“tremendous infectious disease is pouring across the border,” as Trump put it).

Bannon hasn’t been fired, and Trump’s recent bleatings about rewriting trade deals are supposedly due to his continuing influence. But there are many reports that Bannon has lost influence to Kushner and former Goldman Sachs deputy Gary Cohn, a noted monster of the financial-crisis era who represents the opposite vile brand of American politics, a Wall Street kleptocracy that has spent decades robbing Main Street blind through bubble economics and sleazy asset-hoovering schemes like sub-prime-mortgage fraud.

If there’s a better metaphor for the depressing nonchoice of modern Western democracy than the intramural struggle for influence between these two arch-fiends, it’s hard to imagine. Bannon and Cohn, two bilious, overweight ex-Goldman bankers, now sit on either side of the throne, each whispering his respective villainous ideology into the president’s ears.

It’ll be backlash ethnic nationalism against sociopathic finance capitalism, foreigners-suck versus screw-the-poor, depending on Trump’s mood. That’s assuming the president hasn’t been distracted by some insane civilization-imperiling military adventure recommended to him by “adults” like Defense Secretary James Mattis, Homeland Chief John Kelly and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. Who’s really running things in the Trump White House? The more we hear, the less we seem to know, but none of the choices seem to be good. ‘Round and 'round the bowl we go; God knows when we will hit the bottom.


Trump’s Banksters and the Rollback of Dodd-Frank

Donald Trump has ordered a rollback of regulations over Wall Street, including the Dodd-Frank Act, passed in 2010 to prevent another too-big-to-fail banking crisis.

Perhaps Trump thinks that we’ve forgotten what happened when Wall Street turned the economy into a giant casino, and then – when its bets went sour in 2008 – needed a giant taxpayer funded bailout.

Maybe Trump thinks Americans forget losing their jobs, homes, and savings in the fallout.

Many people who voted for Trump got shafted. I hope they haven’t forgotten that while they suffered, not a single bank executive went to jail.  

Trump supporters need to join with Democrats and progressives in stopping this rollback, and holding Trump accountable.

The biggest banks are far bigger today than they were in 2008. Then, the five largest had 25 percent of U.S. banking assets. Today they have 44 percent. 

If they were too big to fail then, they’re too big period now. 

Getting rid of Dodd-Frank triples the odds of another financial crisis. 

Meanwhile, Trump has brought more banksters into his administration than any in any previous administration – mostly, from Goldman Sachs. 

The head of Trump’s economic council is Gary Cohn who was president of Goldman Sachs. Other Goldman alumni include Trump’s right hand man, Steve Bannon, Trump’s pick for Treasury, Steve Mnuchin, Trump’s pick for the securities and exchange commission, Jay Clayton and another White House advisor, Dina Powell. 

Now remember, a decade ago, Goldman Sachs defrauded investors and ripped off its customers and it’s paid nearly $9 billion in government fines. 

Many of Trump’s banksters were there at that time. 

Don’t let Trump and the Republicans endanger our economy again. Let’s not make the same mistake twice.
Trump's economic adviser says Trump had nothing to do with Friday's strong jobs report
Gary Cohn doesn't think the strong jobs report was because of President Donald Trump.
By Bob Bryan

– According to Gary Cohn, the head of Trump’s National Economic Council, there’s no reason to credit Trump for the strong report.

– “Look, there’s clearly a good February as part of the number. I’m not going to deny that,” Cohn said. “But on the other hand, when you look at what we’ve been doing here at the White House and all of the CEOs that we’ve brought in — whether it be Exxon or Sprint or Intel — they’ve promised enormous amounts of jobs and job creation in the United States. Those hirings have not been done yet. Those are future hirings.”

– Thus the beat in the February report, according to Cohn, is on the back of the recovery from the past eight years under President Barack Obama.

“So we’re still living on the hirings from the normalized economic growth that’s built into the system here,”

The Only Real “Centrist” Agenda

With Steve Bannon on way out, official Washington is jumping for joy that Gary Cohn – the former president of Goldman Sachs who’s now running Trump’s National Economic Council, along with Dina Powell, another influential Goldman Sachs alumnus,  – seems to be taking over Trump’s brain.

As CNBC puts it, Cohn will push “more moderate, business-friendly economic policies.” The Washington Post says Cohn is advocating “a centrist vision.” The Post goes on to describe “The growing strength of Cohn and like-minded moderates" as revealed in Trump’s endorsement of government subsidies for exports, and of corporate tax cuts. Says the Post: “The president’s new positions move him much closer to the views of … mainstream Republicans and Democrats.”

In reality, Cohn, Powell, and other Wall Streeters in the Trump White House are pushing Trump closer to the views of Wall Street and big business – views that are reflected in the views of “mainstream” Republicans and Democrats only to the extent the “mainstream” is dependent on the Street and big corporations for campaign money.

These views aren’t “centrist,” and they’re not sustainable. More tax breaks for the rich and more subsidies for big corporations aren’t much better for America than xenophobia.

Wall Street and corporate America seem not to have learned a thing from what’s happened over the past year. Do they really believe the anger, rage, hate, racism, and nationalism that welled up during the 2016 election was a random, passing phenomenon, like a particularly bad hurricane?

If so, they’re wrong. These sentiments came from a shrinking and ever more anxious working class. From millions of people so convinced the game is rigged against them they were prepared to overthrow the established order in order to get fundamental change. From voters whipped up into a fury over tax breaks and subsidies and bailouts for those at the top – socialism for the rich – but who for years have been getting the harsh losing end of the capitalist stick: declining wages, mass firings, less job security, emptying towns and cities, and their children with even lower and fewer prospects.  

They came from people who during the Great Recession lost their jobs, homes, and savings, as Wall Street got bailed out for its wanton greed, and not a single top Wall Street executive went to jail.

The so-called “centrist” policies that Wall Street and big corporations are now happily promoting via Gary Cohn and Dina Powell won’t reverse these sentiments. They’ll add to them, because these were same sort of the policies that got us to this point.  

There’s a better alternative. It’s to make it easy for people who lose their jobs to get new ones that pay at least as well, through wage insurance;  expand the Earned Income Tax Credit and raise the minimum wage so every job pays a living wage; invest in great teachers and great schools, along with a system of lifelong learning, and high-quality early childhood education; and provide Medicare for all.

And pay for all of this with a 2 percent tax on wealth over $1 million and a carbon tax. While we’re at it, get big money out of politics.

Here’s a  “centrist” agenda that big business, Wall Street, and the rest of America should agree on because it (or something very much like it) is the only way to move forward without inviting even more inequalities of income, wealth, and political power – and ever more vicious backlashes against such inequities.

If Wall Street and big business used the 2016 election as a teachable moment, they would realize this.
Donald Trump’s top economic advisor is about to get a $284m payday from Goldman Sachs
Gary Cohn’s jump from Goldman Sachs to Donald Trump’s administration is helping him unlock more than $284m (£227m) in bonuses, shares and other investments through the Wall Street bank. Cohn is selling his Goldman stock as it trades near a record high on speculation Mr Trump’s policies – on which he will advise – will be a boon for the bank.


Keep yourself motivated. You’ve got to be motivated, you’ve got to wake up every day and understand what that day is about; you’ve got to have personal goals - short term goals, intermediate goals, and long term goals. Be flexible in getting to those goals, but if you do not have goals, you will not achieve them.
—  Gary Cohn

DC has made comics fun again!

In 1984.

Blue Devil by Gary Cohn, Dan Mishkin, Paris Cullins and Pablo Marcos.

Yes, this comic series was fun and goofy and the equivalent of SIMON AND SIMON with just one Simon and a silly blue superhero suit. It was about the only DC title I read back in the day, though I’d eventually pick up Byrne’s MAN OF STEEL once that launched (and of course DARK KNIGHT). But those days before…
Here's what's at stake as Trump moves to unravel Dodd-Frank
By James Rufus Koren

President Trump signed an executive order Friday that calls for his administration to review the landmark Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act, with an eye toward revising or eliminating parts of the 2010 law.

An administration official told reporters that the law “in many respects was a piece of massive government overreach” and that some of the rules within the law, passed in the wake of last decade’s financial crisis, “may have even been unconstitutional.”

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

The administration official who previewed Friday’s executive order said the law had, among other things, created “new agencies that don’t actually protect consumers.” That’s a not-so-subtle swipe at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency created by the Dodd-Frank act that has been a strict enforcer of consumer protection laws and that has crafted a bevy of new rules that apply to mortgage lenders, banks, credit card companies and other financial firms.

The bureau’s rules have made it less attractive — though not illegal — for mortgage lenders to make some types of risky loans that went bad and sparked last decade’s financial crisis. The bureau also been working on rules that would prevent banks and other financial firms from blocking class-action lawsuits by consumers and would require payday lenders to do more underwriting.

The bureau and its director, Richard Cordray, have been targets of Republican lawmakers, who argue that the bureau has been overly aggressive in enforcing rules and that its power should be crimped. Trump advisor Gary Cohn suggested in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that Trump may seek to replace Cordray, though Cordray’s term doesn’t expire until the middle of next year.

Proprietary trading

Dodd-Frank put limits on the kind of bets banks can make on their own behalf — also called proprietary trading. (Proprietary trades in mortgage-backed securities led to huge losses for banks in the lead-up to the financial crisis.) Under those limits, often referred to as the Volcker Rule after former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, banks also are not supposed to make investments in certain riskier asset classes.

The rule was meant to prevent banks from taking too much risk, though it’s been criticized for making it harder for banks to hold certain types of securities that customers might want to buy. JPMorgan Chase chief Jamie Dimon famously criticized the rule, saying regulators would need a psychiatrist to help determine whether a trade was proprietary.

(Continue Reading)
Mnuchin: Trump has 'no intention' of releasing his tax returns
Without President Donald Trump’s tax returns, it would be impossible to fully understand how the new tax reform proposal would affect the president and his family's business empire.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday that Americans have “plenty of information on” President Donald Trump’s taxes and should not expect his tax returns to be made public as the White House pushes its tax reform package.

Breaking with decades of political tradition, Trump refused during last year’s presidential campaign to release his tax returns, explaining that he was under audit. The IRS has said publicly that there is no regulation prohibiting an individual under audit from releasing their tax returns, but Trump has said that he will not release his, on the advice of his lawyers, until the audit is complete.

Without Trump’s tax returns, it would be impossible to fully understand how the tax reform proposal rolled out Wednesday by Mnuchin and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn would affect Trump and his family’s business empire. But speaking to reporters in the White House briefing room, Mnuchin said the public already has learned enough about Trump’s finances.

Trump presenta su plan de recorte de impuestos, para el que se prevé un largo camino

Por Amanda Becker y Ginger Gibson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - El presidente de Estados Unidos, Donald Trump, propuso el miércoles reducir la tasa impositiva de las empresas y el gravamen a los beneficios repatriados por las corporaciones, en un plan que el Gobierno consideró como histórico y que podría tener un largo camino en el Congreso.
El proyecto, que además incluye aumentar la deducción estándar que los estadounidenses pueden solicitar en sus declaraciones de impuestos, reducir el número de tramos impositivos y eliminar el gravamen sobre el patrimonio, se conoce tres días antes de que Trump cumpla 100 días en el poder.
Las propuestas fueron presentadas en la Casa Blanca por el asesor económico de Trump, Gary Cohn, y el secretario del Tesoro, Steven Mnuchin, quienes denominaron el plan como “los principios centrales” que serían trabajados con el Congreso para alcanzar una ley que pueda ser aprobada.
Mnuchin afirmó que los recortes planeados se pagarían solos a través del crecimiento económico, la reducción de las deducciones de impuestos y el cierre de lagunas en la ley.
“Nuestra meta es hacer a las firmas estadounidenses las más competitivas en el mundo”, dijo. “El presidente está determinado a desatar el crecimiento económico para las compañías”, agregó.
Aunque los republicanos controlan tanto la Cámara de Representantes como el Senado, algunos aspectos de las propuestas de Trump podrían ser difíciles de vender, sobre todo para los “halcones” fiscales de su propio partido.
El presidente de la Cámara de Representantes, el republicano Paul Ryan, comentó en una reunión de lobistas y abogados que había visto un adelanto. “Nos gusta mucho. Nos pone en la misma página, estamos de acuerdo en un 80 por ciento y sobre el restante 20 por ciento estamos en la misma cancha”.

Algunos analistas dijeron que los inversores eran conscientes del largo camino a recorrer antes de que se apruebe una reforma tributaria.
“El mercado no interpretará el plan negativamente, pero hay obstáculos en ese rumbo, como todo lo que dice o hace Trump”, aseguró Andrea Bakhos, directora gerente de Janlyn Capital en Bernardsville, Nueva Jersey.
El plan reduciría la tasa del impuesto de la renta de las empresas públicas del 35 al 15 por ciento y del 39,6 al 15 por ciento la tarifa fiscal máxima a negocios como pequeñas sociedades y firmas con propietario único, señaló Mnuchin.
El secretario del Tesoro también afirmó que Trump estaba proponiendo que las corporaciones repatríen sus ganancias en el exterior con una tasa muy por debajo del 35 por ciento actual. No dijo cuál sería la tasa, pero aseguró que el Gobierno trabajaba con el Congreso para que fuera baja.
Las firmas estadounidenses mantienen alrededor de 2,6 billones de dólares en el exterior que están libres de impuestos y que sólo pagarían tributos si son repatriados. Trump propone la repatriación, pero a una tasa más baja.
Si es promulgada, la medida podría producir un alza extraordinaria en los ingresos que podría ser canalizada al gasto en infraestructura, lo que podría atraer los votos demócratas.
Para las personas, simplificaría los retornos de impuestos al reducir el número de tramos a tres desde siete (10, 15 y 35 por ciento) y duplicaría la deducción estándar disponible a los contribuyentes que no desglosan sus deducciones.

Trump's tax plan is missing a number of important details

(Win McNamee)
The White House rolled out the opening salvo of President Donald Trump’s massive tax cut plan Wednesday, but the one-page set of bullet points was  missing some significant details.

The plan, laid out by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, called for three new income-tax brackets, with rates of 10%, 25%, and 35%, down from the current seven brackets.

What the plan does not detail are the income levels associated with each bracket. Currently, for instance, a joint filing couple making between $18,650 to $75,900 pays a 15% marginal rate. It’s unclear where that level of income would fall under the Trump plan. 

For instance, if the new bracket for the 10% rate only extends to married couples making up to $75,000 annually, Americans making $75,001 could see that additional income be taxed at the 25% marginal rate instead of the 15% rate.

In response to a question, Cohn said a family of four making $60,000 would have a lower tax rate, but did not provide further details.

Another key missing detail pertains to the repatriation tax. The one-time tax would allow companies to bring profits held overseas back into the US at a lower tax rate.

This isn’t a new idea: A similar repatriation was carried out under President George W. Bush in 2004. Unlike the earlier proposal, which taxed the money coming back in at 5.25%, the new plan released on Wednesday did not provide any detail on the rate.

Republican congressional leaders said the initial plan “will serve as critical guideposts for Congress and the Administration as we work together to overhaul the American tax system.” But many economists decried the lack of details in the Trump plan.

“Nearly six months after the election, the administration’s tax proposals amount to less than a single side of paper,” Paul Ashworth, chief US economist at Capital Economics, said in a note to clients following the release.

“The best that can be said is that the president is laying out his opening bid in what could prove to be a very long and fraught negotiation,” Ashworth continued.

Citi analysts said the announcement was an “an underdelivered ‘big announcement’ from the Trump administration.”

Or as Brookings Institution economist and New York Times columnist Justin Wolfers put it, “I have been to interpretive dance performances which contain more detail on the tax code.”

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Solid U.S. Job Market May Be Undercutting Trump's Tax-Cut Case

President Donald Trump’s economic team says it won’t be satisfied until Americans workers earn more – and aggressive tax cuts are essential for those fatter paychecks.

But with unemployment at its lowest rate since before the financial crisis, the world’s biggest economy may already be nearing top speed. That means a big fiscal boost resulting from tax changes could stoke inflation to levels that would prompt the Federal Reserve to raise borrowing rates faster than anticipated. If that happens, Trump’s ambitious growth goals could be jeopardized.

The unemployment rate now sits at 4.4 percent after U.S. employers hired more workers than expected in April. But wages were a soft spot, climbing just 2.5 percent from a year earlier. In an interview Friday with Bloomberg TV after the figures were released, senior White House adviser Gary Cohn said the administration wants to see wages rise faster.

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“We’re doing OK, but you see from the data, we’re doing OK with jobs that don’t pay that much,” said Cohn, director of the National Economic Council. “We need to bring back the manufacturing jobs that pay a lot. We need to bring back the service jobs that pay a lot.”

Cohn along with other administration officials say their plans to revise the tax system, cut regulatory red tape and negotiate better trade deals will convince more companies to stay or return to the U.S., spur more higher paying jobs and ultimately increase consumer spending. They say that will help to lift economic growth to 3 percent within two years, a rate not seen on an annual basis in more than a decade.

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“So we’re doing a very big tax cut. We need it,” Trump said during an interview with Bloomberg News on May 1. The U.S. economy’s “not growing, it’s not growing at all. We need something – we need a stimulus.”

Stimulating Demand

The question is whether the U.S. economy is even capable of growing at that level without overheating, economists say. And the scant details included in the Trump administration’s tax plan released last week are creating uncertainty about how much growth the cuts can actually generate.

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One way to boost growth through tax reform is by stimulating demand, said Douglas Elmendorf, a former official at the Fed and the Congressional Budget Office, who is now dean of Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. But demand isn’t nearly as weak as it was in 2009, when the U.S. government rolled out a $787-billion stimulus package, he said.

The economy was also arguably in deeper trouble in 1986, when Ronald Reagan pulled off what some called the biggest overhaul of the U.S. tax system in history. The economy was coming out of a recession only a few years before, and while the jobless rate was coming down from its peak, it was still about 7 percent.

The situation isn’t nearly as dire now. “Any increase in demand spurred by tax changes will be very much offset by tighter monetary policy,” said Elmendorf.

“The other way to spur economic activity and boost jobs is by creating structural economic changes that boost the potential output of the economy, for example by increasing capital investment,” he said. Whether the administration can do that depends on hundreds of specific features of the tax plan that they have not spelled out.

Individual Cuts

Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin released an outline of Trump’s tax plan on April 26 that borrowed heavily from the president’s campaign themes. The plan would cut tax rates for all businesses to 15 percent. The current corporate tax rate is 35 percent, though many companies trim their bills via various deductions and credits.

For individuals, Trump wants to consolidate the existing seven tax rates to three, with a top rate of 35 percent, down from the current 39.6 percent.

Former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said earlier this week in an interview on Bloomberg TV that the Trump administration’s plans to cut personal tax rates appear ill-timed and may do little to spur a higher rate of economic growth.

“Why not think about improving the efficiency of the corporate tax code, or doing infrastructure that I think would have more direct effects on supply and potential output than a personal tax cut?” Bernanke said.

Laffer Curve

The Trump tax plan didn’t specify many pay-fors to balance the cuts, but said it would eliminate individual deductions other than those for home-mortgage interest and charitable giving. It also called for eliminating unspecified “tax breaks for special interests.”

Still, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget released a rough estimate that Trump’s plan could cost the government $3 trillion to $7 trillion over a decade – potentially “harming economic growth instead of boosting it.” White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney has dismissed cost estimates of the plan, saying there’s not enough detail for accurate projections.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a White House spokeswoman, said Friday during a press briefing that she wasn’t ready to comment on whether the cuts in a tax package should be offset so they don’t add to the deficit.

Economist Arthur Laffer, who advised the Trump campaign, first popularized the notion that tax cuts spur growth in jobs and the economy – and thus pay for themselves – in a 1974 meeting with Ford administration officials. His simple “Laffer Curve” formula, sketched on a paper napkin, jumpstarted the supply-side and trickle-down economics ethos that underpinned the 1986 Reagan tax cuts. The formula didn’t appear to work, as the federal budget deficit soon ballooned.

The administration may also be prevented from reaching its growth goal by demographic shifts that are holding back labor productivity, according to Peterson Institute for International Economics senior fellow William Cline.

“In the ideal world of the supply side economist, the kind of tax cut you want is the kind that would create its own demand immediately and would not be inflationary,” said Cline. “The evidence for that kind of tax cut is not very strong.”

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The Goldman Sachs executive picked to be Trump's deputy treasury secretary has dropped out

(Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)
Jim Donovan, a Goldman Sachs executive, has withdrawn his name from consideration to be deputy treasury secretary, according to Politico’s Ben White.

Donovan was nominated on March 14 and was one of a handful of Goldman alums named to administration positions, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn.

According to Politico, Donovan told the White House he was removing his name from consideration this week because of family concerns.

Donovan provided a statement to Politico:

“I am deeply honored by President Trump’s decision to nominate me as deputy secretary of the US Department of the Treasury. However, at this time I want to focus on my family, and I can no longer accept it. I hope to be able to serve this administration in the future and fully support President Trump and Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s ongoing work to reform the tax system and grow the US economy.”

Tony Sayegh, a Treasury Department spokesman, told Business Insider that Donovan had been an “enormous asset” to Mnuchin since he was nominated but that the secretary understood his decision.

“Secretary Mnuchin offers Jim his support and friendship as he focuses his attention on his family,” Sayegh said. “Jim has been an enormous asset to the department helping recruit and fill many of the senior jobs at Treasury. The secretary appreciates Jim’s continued support of the president and his administration.”

Donovan is a longtime GOP fund-raiser, helping to gather donations for presidential candidates Mitt Romney in 2012 and Jeb Bush in 2016.

At Goldman, Donovan has held various roles in the investment banking and investment management divisions.

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The weird theory that turns Trump's tax cuts for the rich into a middle-class benefit
President Trump’s tax plan, or what we know about it anyway, is a bonanza for rich people. “This is a middle-class tax bill,” Gary Cohn, Trump’s chief economic adviser, told CBS This Morning. “We’re eliminating the deductions that were added to the tax legislation over the years to favor the wealthy. Read more