TLP Weekly Topics | Trump Org Charged in Financial Crimes

Week of June 28th

The Essential Three

Trump Organization charged with conspiracy, tax fraud and falsifying business records

Prosecutors in New York on Thursday charged the Trump Organization with running a yearslong off-the-books payment scheme allowing certain top employees — including its chief financial officer — to avoid paying taxes on that compensation.

That executive, Allen Weisselberg, also faces charges alleging financial crimes, including grand larceny in the second degree. That crime alone could bring a 15-year prison sentence.

Weisselberg has pleaded not guilty.

Remember that this investigation can trace its roots to George Papadopoulos lying to investigators about his conversations regarding hacked Hillary Clinton emails. Slowly but surely, this investigation is getting closer and closer to Trump himself.

Based on the allegations, it definitely appears that these charges are meant to “flip” Weisselberg, possibly against the Trump family itself.

CBO projects $3T budget gap this year thanks to pandemic

The federal budget gap will widen to $3 trillion this year, nearly triple the shortfall recorded just two years ago as the pandemic continues to grow the deficit, the Congressional Budget Office said in its latest 10-year projections released Thursday.

The shortfall is significantly wider compared with earlier projections, due to enactment of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package which Democrats approved in March without Republican support.

The gap totals about 13.4 percent of GDP, making it the second-largest discrepancy relative to the size of the economy since World War II and exceeded only by the 14.9 percent shortfall logged last year. After this year, the deficit is expected to average about $1.2 trillion through 2031.

Everyone focuses on the national debt, but the national debt really doesn’t matter. The rate of debt accumulation is possibly a concern, but the bigger concern is actually political polarization. As long as the US govt is stable, investors will be willing to lend the govt money, meaning the US can borrow money in virtual perpetuity. That’s another reason that political polarization and figures like Trump are so dangerous, as soon as investors no longer believe the US govt is willing/able to pay debt, the US economy is in very very very deep trouble.

U.S. Steps Up Planning for Emergency Afghan Evacuation

ABUL—U.S. officials have intensified planning for an emergency evacuation of the American embassy in Kabul amid concern that a worsening security situation in Afghanistan could imperil the remaining military and diplomatic corps, as well as other Americans.

The preparations are taking place as part of the U.S. withdrawal of Afghanistan, which the Pentagon said Friday would take place by the end of August. As part of the withdrawal, officials said, the U.S. military withdrew from Bagram air base, the centerpiece of American military operations in Afghanistan for nearly 20 years.

The plan to withdraw by the end of August represents a shift from earlier plans to remove all U.S. forces by as soon as this month.

Biden is taking a big political risk pulling out of Afghanistan. One one hand, he is right, it is time to go, on the other, it could backfire on him and make great fodder against him in 2024.

Healthcare/Society

Want Better Policing? Make It Easier To Fire Bad Cops.

If you're a Realtor, contractor, or insurance agent who engages in serious misbehavior, the state can strip you of the license that allows you to practice your profession. Occupational licensing rules often are strict. They include "moral turpitude" clauses that deny licenses to those with convictions—even for crimes that have little to do with the specific work license.

These rules mostly apply to private-sector workers. But many government employees—especially police officers, who have the legal right to use deadly force—have no licensing system. Overly aggressive and corrupt officers might get fired, but there's nothing stopping them from getting another policing job thanks to the power of the state's public-employee unions.

Economy/Business

Biden Weighs New Executive Order Restraining Big Business

The Biden administration is developing an executive order directing agencies to strengthen oversight of industries that they perceive to be dominated by a small number of companies, a wide-ranging attempt to rein in big business power across the economy, according to people familiar with the plans.

The executive order, which President Biden could sign as soon as next week, would direct regulators of industries from airlines to agriculture to rethink their rule-making process to inject more competition and to give consumers, workers and suppliers more rights to challenge large producers.

I’d bet money that this has little to no actual effect. The regulators often serve in the interests of the those same large corporations. “Regulatory capture” is alive and well nomatter who is President.

Unemployment lifeline disappears

It's not just the extra $300. A subset of workers around the country is getting shut out of the unemployment system altogether.

Driving the news: Of the 26 states cutting topped-up benefits, all but four are ending (or have already ended) the program that allowed self-employed, gig and freelance workers to collect jobless aid.

Why it matters: It's part of a grand experiment underway in states across the country: preemptively shutting off pandemic-era programs in an effort to coax people back to work as businesses say they can't find staff.

The Democrats have been trying to pretend for months that extra UI benefits aren’t discouraging work. The data are in, they are.

US hiring accelerated in June as workers earned higher pay

An an encouraging burst of hiring, America’s employers added 850,000 jobs in June, well above the average of the previous three months and a sign that companies may be having an easier time finding enough workers to fill open jobs.

Friday’s report from the Labor Department was the latest evidence that the reopening of the economy is propelling a powerful rebound from the pandemic recession. Restaurant traffic across the country is nearly back to pre-pandemic levels, and more people are shopping, traveling and attending sports and entertainment events. The number of people flying each day has regained about 80% of its pre-COVID-19 levels. And Americans’ confidence in the economic outlook has nearly fully recovered.

Expect to see higher bills as companies pass on higher wages to consumers.

Policy/Politics

Democracies Don’t Try to Make Everyone Agree

In his congressional testimony last week, General Mark Milley endorsed the underlying philosophy of Lit 130, which also happens to be the underlying philosophy of a liberal education: Read widely; listen to everybody; make your own judgment about what’s important. Here is how he put it: “I do think it’s important actually for those of us in uniform to be open-minded and be widely read.” The phrase widely read means that you can and should read things you disagree with. You can definitely read Marx without becoming a Marxist. You can read critical race theory without becoming a “critical race theorist,” however you define that. Doing both will help you become an educated person—or, as in Milley’s case, an educated soldier.

You can also read American history in this same spirit, the way you would read a great piece of literature, seeking to understand the complexities and the nuances, the dark and the light, the good and the bad. You can be inspired by the Declaration of Independence, horrified by the expulsions of Native Americans, amazed by the energy of immigrants and frontier settlers. You can understand that the United States is a great and unique country whose values are worth defending—and realize simultaneously that this same country has made terrible mistakes and carried out horrific crimes. Is it so difficult to hold all of these disparate ideas in your head at the same time?

The Senate’s Old-School Infrastructure Deal

There’s lots of agreement in Washington these days that Congress is broken. But beneath that consensus is a disagreement over what a less broken Congress would look like. You can see that in reactions to the bipartisan infrastructure deal that is taking shape in the Senate.

Many observers implicitly treat the back and forth, bargaining, gamesmanship, and deal-making that’s happening as though it were the problem. It shows things are out of control, the leaders aren’t in charge, the outcome is uncertain, everybody’s always throwing a tantrum, people are playing leverage games, and the whole thing could fall apart. But I think that, as an institutional matter, all of that is a good sign. That’s what Congress is supposed to be: an arena for bargaining and negotiation, ideally across party lines and in ways that yield up unusual coalitions to arrive at messy policy compromises. To see it happening, thanks to the constructive pressure created by the filibuster and the factional tensions that divide both parties, should make us hopeful that some of Congress’s dysfunction could be relieved in time. You may not like some of the substance of the deal of course, and this kind of deal will give everyone lots to dislike. But you’ll probably like some parts of it, and we should all appreciate the way it’s taking shape. This is what the solution looks like. It’s the perfectly polarized, leadership run Congress devoid of strange coalitions and moderating deals that is the problem.

See my article on Biden’s infrastructure plan. Click here.

America’s First Black Billionaire Wants His Reparations Check, Now

Robert L. Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television and America’s first Black billionaire, wants a check. He wants it from the government. And he wants it to come with an apology for slavery, Jim Crow, and hundreds of years of racism.

The 75-year-old media magnate owns several homes, heads an asset management firm, and was the first Black person to own a majority stake in an NBA team. He doubts that check will ever come, but he sees a new kind of reparations—being called by a different name so as not be “divisive” or “controversial”—happening already.

The new “reparations” is critical race theory education, it’s the housing grant program in Evanston, Illinois, it’s the $5 billion of targeted support and debt relief for Black farmers, and it’s the $50 billion in corporate pledges in the wake of George Floyd’s murder dedicated to combating systemic racism and inequality. (Even though just $250 million, or 0.5%, has actually materialized so far.)

San Jose Wants to Force Gun Owners to Carry Insurance and Pay Fees

On Tuesday, the San Jose City Council unanimously advanced a number of novel gun control proposals, including requirements that gun owners carry liability insurance and that they pay a fee to cover the public costs of gun violence.

"While the Second Amendment protects the right to bear arms, it does not require taxpayers to subsidize gun ownership," said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo in a Tuesday press release. "We won't magically end gun violence, but we will stop paying for it."

Could be seen as a means of internalizing negative externalizes of gun violence. Maybe.

What's Next For Voting Rights After The Supreme Court's Decision

The U.S. Supreme Court decided a major case on voting rights that essentially gutted what's left of the Voting Rights Act.

The court upheld two Arizona laws — one of which banned the collection of absentee ballots by anyone other than a relative or caregiver, otherwise known as "ballot harvesting." the other threw out any ballots cast in the wrong precinct.

"Obviously, the Supreme Court accepted our test and our reasoning and rejected the Democratic National Committee's attempt to micromanage state elections," Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said on NPR's All Things Considered on Thursday.

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