Mid-Day Digest

Nov. 29, 2017


  • North Korea’s Rocket Man does it again, but Trump has already responded.
  • Making Christmas Merry Again at the White House is a welcome change.
  • The Senate is making progress on tax reform, but there’s still a ways to go.
  • Michael Bloomberg’s megalomania knows no bounds. With his fortune, that matters.
  • The FBI knew of some Russian hacking and kept quiet for over a year.
  • Seattle has been saved from a vengeful and punitive income tax.
  • A transgender who did what to whom? Try sorting this out…
  • Plus our Daily Features: Top Headlines, Memes, Cartoons, Columnists and Short Cuts.


“Let us recollect that peace or war will not always be left to our option; that however moderate or unambitious we may be, we cannot count upon the moderation, or hope to extinguish the ambition of others.” —Alexander Hamilton (1788)


Rocket Man Launches and Trump Responds

Rocket Man is at it again. North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un test-fired another intercontinental ballistic missile on Tuesday, and it reached the highest altitude yet of any of the regime’s previous missiles. This latest launch shows that the North Koreans have developed an ICBM with more than enough range to reach Washington, DC. Adding to the concern, intelligence agencies now believe that the rogue nation is less than a year away from completing its nuclear program.

While it’s clear that Kim is continuing the saber-rattling for geopolitical gain, there is no question that the stakes have risen exponentially. Just six months ago the concern was over an ICBM with the capacity to hit Guam; now the entirety of the continental U.S. is under threat. As a result, there has been an increase in calls for military action, although Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sought to calm that rhetoric, saying, “Diplomatic options remain viable and open, for now. The United States remains committed to finding a peaceful path to denuclearization and to ending belligerent actions by North Korea.”

The threat of landing a nuclear-tipped missile in a U.S. city may still be outside the capacity of the North Koreans, but the greater worry may be that of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack over the continental U.S., which could effectively knock out the electric grid for millions of Americans. It’s hard to overestimate just how disastrous the impact would be.

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump responded by announcing new “major sanctions” that will be imposed against North Korea. He tweeted, “Just spoke to President Xi Jingping of China concerning the provocative actions of North Korea. Additional major sanctions will be imposed on North Korea today. This situation will be handled!”

As we’ve long argued, the key to reining in and stopping the Kim regime is through China. Beijing must be convinced that Pyongyang’s rogue regime presents the greatest threat to regional and world stability and be willing to allow U.S. military intervention should it come to that.

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Making Christmas Merry Again

By Jordan Candler

Now that the Grinch (read: Barack Obama) is no longer in the White House, the phrase Merry Christmas is fashionable again. The last administration took a politically correct approach to the celebration of Christ’s birth, namely by refusing to promote the word Christmas whenever possible. He used the phrase in speeches, but that was the extent to which he communicated it.

As Gary Bauer reports, “For eight years, Barack and Michelle Obama were unable to bring themselves to use those words. There were ‘season’s greetings’ and ‘happy holidays,’ but ‘Merry Christmas’ never made it on the Christmas card.” Tony Perkins notes too that Obama “famously wanted a ‘non-religious Christmas’” and even attempted to purge from the White House a nativity scene that has been customary there for half a century. Enter Donald Trump.

A year ago, the incoming president pledged, “We’re going to start saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.” And he’s certainly staying true to his word. This year’s Christmas card and the White House in general are devoid of any political correctness. The card unashamedly wishes everyone a Merry Christmas and the White House decorations are truly something to behold. Having a president who acknowledges the reason for the season is one of the many reasons America is finally optimistic again.

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Top Headlines

  • U.S. economy expanded at a brisk 3.3% pace in third quarter (Associated Press)

  • Trump wins in court over his pick to lead the CFPB (Fox News)

  • Schumer, Pelosi cancel meeting with Trump following his tweet (The Washington Free Beacon)

  • Senate tax bill gaining momentum with some GOP holdouts (NPR)

  • Trump backs ObamaCare payments as part of tax cuts deal (The Washington Times)

  • North Korea fires new ballistic missile (BBC)

  • Hawaii to resume Cold War-era nuclear siren tests amid North Korea threat (Reuters)

  • Matt Lauer fired from NBC News over inappropriate sexual behavior (New York Daily News)

  • Second ex-staffer accuses Democrat Rep. John Conyers of sexual harassment (The Detroit News)

  • NPR chief news editor departs after harassment allegations (NPR)

  • Policy: Don’t believe the Democrat attacks on tax reform. Here are the facts. (The Daily Signal)

  • Policy: Get government out and let markets work in health care (Manhattan Institute)

For more of today’s news, visit Patriot Headline Report.

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The Senate’s Taxing Debate

By Lewis Morris

What if there was a tax cut and nobody got anything out of it? A corporate tax rate cut that is too shallow to stimulate growth, or individual rate tinkering that leaves people exactly where they started, or maybe worse? This is one potential outcome that lay ahead as the Senate does battle over its version of tax reform this week. That plan cleared the Budget Committee Tuesday. Now for the next test.

There are some places of agreement between the House and Senate versions of the tax cut bill, but it is the areas of disagreement that could still sink the whole plan.

The Republicans hold a vote margin in the Senate that leaves little room for error. Only if the GOP works in lock-step are they likely to have a shot at success. Their track record for 2017 has not indicated that this level of cohesion is likely.

One of the voices of unity is actually Rand Paul. The man who helped sink the first ObamaCare repeal bill because it didn’t go far enough is now calling for Republicans to get on board with the tax plan and not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Paul supports the tax bill in large part because it repeals the individual mandate for which he fought. We’re glad he’s come around.

In some ways, anything that promises to change the nation’s 74,000-page tax code sounds good. Everyone wants to pay lower taxes. However, it’s at moments like this when people actually start throwing out proposals that the backsliding and broken promises begin.

Paul calls for unity, but other Republican senators have their own plans. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin opposed the House package from the start. He is holding out support in the Senate in exchange for changes to how pass-through entities are handled to help larger small businesses be competitive with corporations.

Susan Collins of Maine wants to tinker with the widely agreed-upon 20% corporate tax rate (President Donald Trump claims he will not accept any rate higher than 20%). She wants to bump it up to 22% in order to keep at least a portion of the state and local tax (SALT) deduction, which she believes will help middle-class earners. The Senate plan calls for repealing SALT completely, a deduction that flows up the tax food chain, not to low or middle-class earners. The Tax Policy Center found “about 10% of tax filers with incomes less than $50,000 claimed the SALT deduction in 2014, compared with about 81% of tax filers with incomes exceeding $100,000.”

Johnson and Collins are but two examples of the haggling that is going on right now in Washington. Bob Corker of Tennessee is another. Worried about the federal deficit, Corker reportedly worked out a deal “in principle” for a “trigger” that revokes some tax cuts if revenues dip too low. We have a better idea: How about spending triggers? Corker’s foolish pitch would not only fail to address the spending problem, it would remove the economic incentives provided by tax cuts because those cuts could be gone soon.

The GOP leadership is desperately in need of a victory to close 2017. To what lengths they will go to achieve it is hard to say. Thanks to the convoluted tax code, virtually every promise made to one constituency cuts another constituency short. That’s not to mention the rules the Senate has made for itself regarding how to “pay for” a tax cut. This does not lead to a cohesive tax package.

Or a particularly conservative one. For example, there’s the bubble tax proposal — a 6% surcharge for families making between $1.2 million and $1.6 million. After that, they are charged at the top rate of 39.6%. The idea is to earn back what upper income taxpayers save by paying a 12% marginal rate on earlier income. This puts their effective tax rate at 45.6%, or 49.4% if you consider the ObamaCare individual mandate that remains in the House bill.

Republicans should be embarrassed to be seriously considering a bubble tax bracket, a scheme that is all politics and no substance. In fact, many believe that it will come back to bite them in the future. The Reagan tax cuts of 1986 included a bubble tax bracket for much the same reason — to level out the amount wealthy taxpayers paid by charging more later based on what they saved earlier.

The outcome, as noted by Investor’s Business Daily, was disastrous. Democrats railed against the supposed unfairness of the bubble tax, and then pushed for a tax increase that used the current bubble rate as a baseline for a top rate hike. That was in 1990, and tax hikes just got bigger and bolder for the next decade.

There is no reason to think that Democrats won’t go the same route again. The CBO score on the tax package did not bring Republicans any good news. But that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Democrats immediately started using it as a cudgel to beat the supposedly heartless lackeys of the rich across the aisle. Whether it’s passed or not, Democrats’ rallying cry for the next elections will be to hit the GOP for tax cuts.

But there’s hope. As The Wall Street Journal notes, “For all the drama, the real news is that the GOP is moving toward the most pro-growth tax reform in 30 years, developed in an open process under regular order. This is no time to go wobbly.”

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For more of today’s memes, visit the Memesters Union.



For more of today’s top cartoons, visit the Cartoons archive.



For more of today’s columns, visit Right Opinion.


Jonah Goldberg: “The philosopher John Rawls famously offered a thought experiment he called the ‘original position.’ Imagine you are in some kind of limbo waiting to be born into our world. Hidden behind what he called a ‘veil of ignorance,’ you have no idea what ‘kind’ of person you will be… If there’s a good chance you’re going to be born poor, you might see the point of having certain protections for the poor. If there’s a 50 percent chance you’ll be born a woman, you’ll probably reject the model of society found in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale.’ In short, the veil of ignorance allows us to see justice through the lens of self-interest. I don’t like or agree with everything Rawls and his fans have done with this thought experiment, but the original position is nonetheless a useful way of thinking about society. We live in a moment beset by tribalisms, from partisanship to myriad forms of identity politics. All of them work on the assumption that neutral rules are unfair or unjust because my tribe is somehow especially noble or your tribe is especially evil. The original position is not as original to Rawls as some believe. In fact, it’s embedded in the very idea of classical liberalism, because it presupposes that we should all be equal in the eyes of God and the government, and that therefore the rules of the society should be fair for everybody — and applied to everybody equally. It’s a simple principle, but everyone wants to make it complicated these days.”


“Newspapers have degenerated. They may now be absolutely relied upon.” —Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

Selective outrage: “John Conyers is an icon in our country. He has done a great deal to protect women — Violence Against Women Act.” —Nancy Pelosi

The BIG Lie: “I never used [my Fauxcahontas persona] to get ahead. I never used it to get into school. I never used it to get a job.” —Elizabeth Warren

Braying Jackass: “Deep thought: maybe conservatives are turning against learning because learning is incompatible with modern conservative ideology.” —Paul Krugman

Journalism 101: “Jesus Wouldn’t Approve of Trump Selling Christmas MAGA Hats For Double The Price.” —Newsweek headline

Sore loser: “I think a woman’s place is in the resistance. [Hillary Clinton] won the election. … She did win and I’m not going to give that up.” —Joy Behar

Faux conviction? “I think resigning was probably the right thing [for pervert Anthony Weiner] to do.” —Al Franken in 2011

Friendly fire: “Franken is right — he has much to do to regain Minnesotans’ trust. It may not be possible. As he continues his reflection, we urge the senator to consider what is best for Minnesota and to weigh that more heavily than what might be best for his political career.” —Minneapolis Star-Tribune editorial

Uh… “Don’t get in the elevator with [Rep. John Conyers]… Every female in the press corps knew that… Now people are saying it out loud.” —ABC’s Cokie Roberts

A rare voice of reason: “I think if you ask any person on the street, do you think the action that CBS took with Charlie Rose was appropriate? Or Louis C.K., or anyone else in Hollywood, Harvey Weinstein, they would say, ‘Yes, they took the right action.’ Why can’t we do the same thing in Washington?” —Democrat Rep. Kathleen Rice

And last… “A government shutdown would ensure the safety of female congressional staffers.” —Todd Starnes

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Mark Alexander, Publisher

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