A fertile gift, a moving embassy, and taxing questions

Did you hear about the most appropriate Christmas gift this year? Treasury Secretary Mnuchin owns a house in Beverly Hills and wanted some fertilizer for his organic roses.  Well, a government employee for the County of Los Angeles in the Mental Health Department got word of it somehow (mental telepathy?) and personally delivered a load of horse manure to Mr. Mnuchin’s house. Mnuchin was amazed when he got wind of it. He probably figured there must be a horse nearby. The donor, Robert Strong, is proud of the gift. Who can blame him? Do you know how much it costs to have a truckload of horse manure delivered to Beverly Hills? Don’t be fooled by Rodeo Drive; no horses reside anywhere near that stretch of pomposity.

Now if Mr. Mnuchin (or even Mr. Strong) needs more horse manure I invite him to come to “my” little ranch up at Pacific Palisades. With a big horse barn and a polo match on Sunday afternoons, if you bring a scoop shovel you can gather up a ton of fresh fertilizer. This offer might be more important for Mr. Strong in case he loses his government job for his generous gift to a Republican. Folks in their mansions in Bel Air and Palm Springs might pay him $10 a pound for this precious natural resource.

President Trump says we will build a new Embassy in the capital of Israel, Jerusalem. Amazingly, over 50 countries where we have embassies in their capital city are opposed to this decision. Palestinians are opposed because they say East Jerusalem is their capital. Well, to be ready in case they can ever become peaceful and deserve recognition as a country, with a capital, let’s build the embassy on the border between Jerusalem and East Jerusalem. Maybe Guatemala can do the same, and other countries to follow. Create an Embassy Row right on the border.

The Tax bill was signed into law before Christmas. You may not have decided if you’re happy or sad. Here’s one fact: despite a limit on deductions for mortgage interest, 96% of people with home mortgages are not affected, and neither are 100% of those who rent or have paid for their homes.

One argument is over the end of the individual tax cuts in 2027, while the corporate taxes are “permanent.” It seems that every critic of the tax bill is terrified that middle class taxpayers will lose all the benefits they have gained. Two questions: if Republicans are in control of Congress in 2027will they vote to continue the tax cuts? Or if Democrats are in control, will they vote to raise taxes on the middle class? The obvious answers to both those questions tell you the tax cuts are permanent.

Happy New Year.

Historic quotes by Will Rogers:

“Money, horse racing and women: three things the boys just can’t figure out.” DT #2679, March 7, 1935

“I thought they had the Jerusalem and Palestine thing pretty well settled as to whose it was.” DT #966, Aug 30, 1929

“It costs ten times more to govern us than it used to, and we are not governed one-tenth as good.” DT #1770, March 27, 1932

“We owe more money than any Nation in the World, and we are LOWERING TAXES. When is the time to pay off a debt if it is not when you are doing well? You let a Politician return home from Washington and announce, ‘Boys we lowered your taxes. We had to borrow the money to do it, but we did it.’ Say, they would elect him for life.” WA #161, Jan. 10, 1926

“There is a tremendous movement on to get lower taxes on earned incomes. Then will come the real problem, ‘Who among us on salary are earning our income?'” DT #1051, Dec. 8, 1929

Taxes, the FBI, and Alabama

Republicans say they will pass a Tax Reform bill this week. They started off with a clear intention of simplifying the income tax system but by the time a bunch of picky Senators and Congressmen got through with it, the jobs of our professional tax preparers are secure. Most of the various deductions remain. More people will pay no income tax and most others will pay less than before. But it’s not simple.

Have you noticed the economy is improving? The GDP is growing and the stock market keeps setting records. Folks are in a generous holiday spirit. We haven’t forgotten the victims of hurricanes, shootings, fires, opioids, and other sad events. But for most, 2017 has been a good year.

Did any Democrat in the 2016 Presidential campaign lie to the FBI? (We know that General Flynn on the Republican side admitted lying.) Well, let’s go back to May-June 2016 when everyone was wondering when the FBI would interrogate Hillary Clinton about her email server during her four years as Secretary of State. When the day arrived (July 4th weekend) everyone expected Mrs. Clinton to enter the FBI headquarters and be questioned personally by Director James Comey and other top FBI investigators.

That’s not how it worked out. Instead Clinton invited the top FBI investigator, Peter Strzok, (not Comey) to her house for tea and crumpets and idle chitchat. Strzok didn’t ask any questions about the email server, or top secret classified information, or the 30,000 deleted emails. He never let Mrs. Clinton mention anything about her term as Secretary of State. So did she lie to the FBI? There was no recording of the meeting, and since no substantial topics were discussed the clear answer is: No.

It seems that Strzok was also the chief fund-raiser within the FBI for the Clinton campaign, assisted by his mistress Lisa Page. Andrew McCabe, his wife, and a few others are involved in this puzzle. I hope my over simplification of the mystery is wrong. The Mueller investigation of Russian interference in our elections will get even more interesting in 2018.

In the Alabama Senate election, morals won, barely.  I think Republican Roy Moore could have won if he had borrowed the campaign promise Will Rogers used when he ran for President (as a joke) in 1928. “My only campaign pledge or slogan: IF ELECTED I ABSOLUTELY AND POSITIVELY AGREE TO RESIGN.”

Tax reform, sex and Russia

Did you know the Senate passed two Tax bills?

Republican Senators say, “Our bill is a tax cut for the middle class. The standard deduction will double, meaning most people will file on a postcard and half of them will pay nothing. It will cause more businesses to expand in America, increase wages, and grow the economy.”

Democrat Senators: “This bill will raise taxes for everyone making less than $75,000. Social Security and Medicare will be cut, while President Trump’s family will collect a billion dollars. The national debt will go up at least $1.5 Trillion by 2027, and you know how we hate increasing debt.”

Aren’t you glad the Senate gave us a choice?

Was there a new sex scandal this weekend? I’ve been watching football so I might have missed it. With all these old men (and a few young ones) in Congress, television and movies there seems to be no shortage of men who see themselves as irresistible.

Sex scandals are nothing new in Hollywood. In the early 1920s a young comic actor named Roscoe Arbuckle was accused, but never convicted, in a scandal that ruined his acting career. The movie industry hired Will Hays to clean up the movies. He was in there over twenty years, and there’s considerable doubt whether he had any lasting effect on the movies.

The Federal investigation of Russia’s influence on our elections got the first guilty plea, from General Flynn. He admitted he lied to the FBI about talking with a Russian diplomat after the 2016 election. That got me wondering: did anyone else involved in that election lie to the FBI?

Historic quote by Will Rogers:

“From the record of all our previous investigations it just looks like nobody can emerge with their nose entirely clean. I don’t care who you are, you just can’t reach middle life without having done and said a whole lot of foolish things. If I saw an investigating committee headed my way, I would just plead guilty and throw myself on the mercy of the court.” DT #2620, Dec. 28, 1934