Trump Still Has No Tax Reform Plan to Pitch

Trump Still Has No Tax Reform Plan to Pitch

By Yuval Rosenberg

Bloomberg’s Sahil Kapur writes that, even as President Trump prepares to push tax reform thus week, basic questions about the plan have no answers: “Will the changes be permanent or temporary? How will individual tax brackets be set? What rate will corporations and small businesses pay?”

“They’re nowhere. They’re just nowhere,” Henrietta Treyz, a tax analyst with Veda Partners and former Senate tax staffer, tells Kapur. “I see them putting these ideas out as though they’re making progress, but they are the same regurgitated ideas we’ve been talking about for 20 years that have never gotten past the white-paper stage.”
 

Health Secretary Tom Price Under Fire for Use of Private Jets

U.S. Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) listens to opening remarks prior to testifying before a Senate Finance Committee confirmation hearing on his nomination to be Health and Human Services secretary on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 24, 2017. REUTERS/Car
CARLOS BARRIA
By Michael Rainey

Back in 2009, Tom Price spoke out against House Democrats who wanted to spend $550 million on private jets for lawmakers to use. A Republican representative from Georgia at the time, Price told CNBC that the purchase of the jets was “another example of fiscal irresponsibility run amok.” Now Secretary of Health and Human Services, Price seems to have changed his mind about the virtue of government officials using private jets at taxpayer expense. Just last week, Price used a chartered private jet to travel to three HHS events — including one at a resort in Maine — at an estimated cost of $60,000, Politico reports. 

While previous HHS secretaries typically flew commercial, reports indicate that Price has been traveling by private jet for months. “Official travel by the secretary is done in complete accordance with Federal Travel Regulations,” an HHS spokesperson told Politico.

Critics on Twitter have been harsh:

Social Security Benefits Due for a Bigger Bump in 2018

U.S. Social Security card designs over the past several decades
© Hyungwon Kang / Reuters
By Michael Rainey

In a few weeks the Social Security Administration will announce its cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, for 2018. Inflation data for the month of August suggests that the adjustment could be the highest in five years, possibly over 2 percent, according to the Washington Examiner. Adjustments for the past five years have been relatively small: The cost of living adjustment for 2017 (announced last October) came in at a modest 0.3 percent, and the adjustment for 2016 was zero. Some retirees have complained in the past about small COLAs, but it’s worth remembering that higher adjustments are driven by higher inflation, which is bad news for people living on fixed incomes.

Americans Are Less Satisfied with Government Now Than a Year Ago

By Yuval Rosenberg

Gallup finds that just 28 percent of Americans are satisfied with the way the nation is being governed, down from 33 percent a year ago. And as we approach some potential fiscal battles, it's worth noting that the lowest satisfaction levels since Gallup started updating the measure annually in 2001 came in 2011 (19 percent) after a debt ceiling showdown that led to the U.S. credit rating being downgraded by S&P analysts and in 2013 (18 percent) during a federal government shutdown. 

Maybe Don’t Count Out Obamacare Repeal Just Yet

File photo of a demonstrator holding a pamphlet outside a "Defund Obamacare Tour" rally in Indianapolis
© Nathan Chute / Reuters
By Yuval Rosenberg

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) told reporters on Friday that he’s getting close to securing enough votes to pass the last-ditch ACA repeal and replacement bill he’s put forth with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Dean Heller (R-NV) and Ron Johnson (R-WI).

“I am pretty confident we’ll get there on the Republican side,” Cassidy said. “We’re probably at 48-49 [votes] and talking to two or three more.” And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has asked the Congressional Budget Office to estimate the effects of the Cassidy-Graham bill, which would speed up the scoring process.

Of course, those last two or three votes have been the challenge for the GOP all along, and they may not be any easier to round up this time. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who voted for a prior repeal bill, said Friday that he won't support this one. Plus, opponents are already stepping up their criticisms about the effects of the bill. And time is running out: Cassidy and his colleagues only have until September 30 to pass the bill this year under a process that would require only 50 supporters in the Senate. So while the Obamacare repeal may still have life, it remains a longshot.