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Asian nations pulled into China's orbit as Trump puts America first

Mon May 1, 2017 | 8:13am EDT

By Martin Petty and Manuel Mogato | MANILA

Across Asia, more and more countries are being pulled into Beijing's orbit, with the timid stance adopted by Southeast Asian nations on the South China Sea at a weekend summit a clear sign this fundamental geostrategic shift is gathering momentum.

U.S. President Donald Trump's flurry of calls at the weekend to the leaders of the Philippines, Thailand and Singapore might cheer those who fear his predecessor Barack Obama's "pivot" to Asia has been abandoned in favor of an "America First" agenda.

But White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said the conversations were aimed at lining up Asian partners in case tensions over North Korea lead to "nuclear and massive destruction in Asia", and mentioned no broader strategic goal.

Southeast Asian nations will need more than that to convince them the United States still has their backs.

In the meantime, some are leaning closer to China, soft-pedalling quarrels over the disputed South China Sea and angling for a slice of Beijing's "One Belt, One Road" infrastructure investment program to compensate for the U.S. abandonment of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact.


White House expects vote on healthcare bill this week

Source: Reuters

Mon May 1, 2017 | 9:18am EDT

Top White House officials on Monday said they expect a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives this week to pass Republicans' latest plan to overhaul the nation's healthcare system.

"We're convinced we've got the votes," White House economic adviser Gary Cohn told CBS News. In a separate interview with the network, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus said: "I think it will happen this week."


Read more: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-healthcare-idUSKBN17X1Q2?il=0

Joe Biden says he won't run for President in 2020

Source: International Business Times

01 MAY 2017 AT 09:11 ET

While speaking at an annual state Democratic Party dinner Sunday in New Hampshire, former Vice President Joe Biden said he won’t run for president in 2020. The dinner was organized to honor the country’s first all-female, all-Democratic congressional delegation in Manchester.

His speech to the New Hampshire Democrats, in which he spoke about restoring dignity to politics and winning back working class voters, raised speculations that the former vice president would try making another presidential bid in the 2020 elections. However, Biden put a rest to all such speculation, saying: "When I got asked to speak, I knew it was going to cause speculation. Guys, I'm not running,” Biden clarified while the audience applauded.

But as soon as Biden made that statement, the audience booed and at least one person shouted "Run, Joe Run," before he could continue with his speech.

Biden said he wouldn’t run for public office. Instead, he was ready to start campaigning and raising money in order to help get Democrats elected at every level of governance. He also endorsed some of his post-White House policy work, which included chairing the Biden Institute at the University of Delaware.

Read more: http://www.rawstory.com/2017/05/joe-biden-says-he-wont-run-for-president-in-2020/

Trump Campaign Going Up With $1.5 Million Ad Buy Promoting First 100 Days

Source: Talking Points Memo

By CAITLIN MACNEAL Published MAY 1, 2017 7:40 AM

President Donald Trump’s campaign on Monday morning announced a $1.5 million ad buy to tout his first 100 days in the Oval Office. The buy includes a 30-second television ad and digital ads, the Trump campaign said in a statement unveiling the ad buy.

The television ad promotes Trump’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, claims that Trump has created jobs in the U.S., and touts his work to undo regulations passed under President Barack Obama.

“You wouldn’t know it from watching the news,” the narrator says in the ad as the screen flashes “FAKE NEWS.” “America is winning, and President Trump is making America Great Again.”

The ad buy promoting Trump’s first 100 days came after Trump repeatedly tried to downplay the 100-day mark. Trump also pushed for Congress to move forward on a bill to repeal Obamacare by the 100-day mark, but Republican leaders have still not been able to bring the bill to a vote.

Read more: http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/trump-campaign-ads-first1200-days

Donald Trump Has a New Favorite Dictator: Rodrigo Duterte


Donald Trump Has a New Favorite Dictator: Rodrigo Duterte

First there was Putin. Then there were Erdogan and El-Sisi. Now President Trump has invited the Philippines’ murderous president over for a visit.

SCOTT BIXBY 05.01.17 1:05 AM ET

As President Donald Trump basked in the adulation of his most fervent supporters at a campaign-style rally on Saturday, reiterating the populist rhetoric that fueled both his political rise and anxieties that he yearned to flout democratic norms, his administration released yet another piece of evidence that suggests he feels a kinship with leaders who do exactly that.

In a readout of a phone call conducted earlier on Saturday, the White House press office announced that Trump had invited President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines to visit the White House. The invitation, made at the end of what the press office called a “very friendly conversation,” is an embrace of a figure who has been condemned by other world leaders and by human rights organizations as a violent thug.

Duterte was swept into power after vowing that he would eliminate crime in the Philippines within six months—a promise that has come to fruition in the form of an organized campaign of extrajudicial murder of suspected drug dealers, carried out in large part by police officers who receive cash payouts in exchange for executing suspects on the streets of the nation’s cities and towns.

More than 7,000 people were killed in Duterte’s “war on drugs” in the first six months after he took office, according to interior police statistics, many of them innocent bystanders or children earning money as low-level drug runners. Public “drug watch lists,” prepared by local officials on the basis of hearsay, rumors, and even personal grudges, are shared with municipal police, who report being paid an average of $200 per “job” in a country where the average annual income is less than $5,400.

Critics of Duterte’s policies have been accused of being in the pocket of drug lords; politicians who speak out against the war have been arrested on drug charges or had the budgets for their security details slashed, exposing them to the same contract-style killings that have claimed thousands of Philippine lives.


Trump's populism has nothing to do with helping the people who voted for him - By E.J. Dionne Jr.

By E.J. Dionne Jr. Opinion writer April 30 at 8:10 PM

If words could bring legal actions, “populism” would sue for aggravated abuse. And President Trump would be a co-defendant.

In a season of dispiriting tidings, few habits have been more infuriating than the ease with which political commentators of all stripes have applied the P-word to Trump. Trump has courted this with old-fashioned union-hall rhetoric about his devotion to “hard-working men and women.” Trump claimed during his campaign that he would curb tax breaks for the wealthy, and his chief of staff gamely insisted on Sunday that the carried-interest loophole for hedge-fund managers was still “on the table.” We’ll see. Trump also said he’d rip up trade treaties and be vigilant against the flight of jobs to China — pronouncing its name in a menacing way.

But as is the case with everything involving Trump, his words had no connection to thought. They were all about the effect they would have. Trump had warned us about this in bestsellers where he admitted that he uses words primarily to get the deal he wants.

This hasn’t stopped the cruel mistreatment of the concept of populism, invoked again and again to turn Trump into a latter-day William Jennings Bryan (a deeply religious and, on most things, very progressive figure who would likely be appalled by Trump) or Pitchfork Ben Tillman. That Trump spends almost all of his time with very wealthy people and only appears truly happy when he’s at one of his resorts never seems to lower his populist score. The defense is to ask: Why can’t a rich guy speak for the people?

Well, yes, Franklin D. Roosevelt was called a traitor to his class. But Trump is nothing of the sort. Just take a look at the net worth of those staffing his administration. We now know that what he said during the campaign to win blue-collar votes in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin was disconnected from any intentions he had — or, alternatively, that he never pondered the meaning of his words until he got elected.


Taxes will go up. Heres why. - By Robert J. Samuelson

By Robert J. Samuelson April 30 at 8:05 PM

Let’s be clear: America is an undertaxed society. Our wants and needs from government — the two blur — exceed our willingness to be taxed. This has been true for decades, but it’s especially relevant now because the number of older Americans, who are the largest beneficiaries of federal spending, is rising rapidly. Unless we’re prepared to make sizable spending cuts (and there’s no evidence we are), we need higher taxes.

To the extent that President Trump’s proposed “tax reform” obscures or worsens this inconvenient reality, it is a dangerous distraction. We cannot afford large tax cuts, which are pleasing to propose (“something for nothing”) but involve long-term risks that are not understood by the president or, to be fair, by economists. Piling up massive peacetime deficits is something we haven’t done before. We cannot know the full consequences.

Of course, Trump proposes some good ideas. Tax rates would drop for businesses and individuals. Many deductions would end. Some tax relief would go to low- and middle-income households with children — a deserving group. There are also familiar complaints. Too many benefits, it’s said, go to the wealthy. (A similar plan by candidate Trump channeled nearly half the cuts to the richest 1 percent, said the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.)

But the plan’s fatal defect is its effect on the publicly held federal debt. In 2016, this was $14 trillion, or 77 percent of the economy (gross domestic product). “During only one other period of U.S. history — from 1944 through 1950, because of the surge in federal spending during World War II — has that debt exceeded 70 percent of GDP,” the Congressional Budget Office says. Under present policies and reflecting the older population, the CBO projects the debt to reach $25 trillion and 89 percent of GDP by 2027.

Just how much Trump’s tax plan would add to this is unclear. We don’t yet have sufficient detail to judge. But the amount could be considerable. Lower rates aren’t matched by revenue-raising provisions. The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget puts the likely 10-year cost at $5.5 trillion with a range from $3 trillion to $7 trillion.


Trump's Tax Cuts May Be More Damaging Than Reagan's

Steven Rattner MAY 1, 2017

As a young New York Times reporter nearly four decades ago, I helped chronicle the rollout of what proved to be among our country’s greatest economic follies — the alchemistic belief that huge tax cuts can pay for themselves by unleashing faster economic growth.

Buoyed by this idea, Congress passed the largest tax reductions in history just seven months after Ronald Reagan’s inauguration. I was deeply skeptical of the illogical notion that tax cuts could somehow pay for themselves, so much so that I was attacked by name on the Wall Street Journal op-ed page. That, in turn, caused consternation among my editors in an era when reporting was meant to be less analytical.

Nonetheless, I felt no joy as the plan immediately made a bad economy worse.

Now comes Donald Trump, essentially trying to revive that same supply-side credo (famously branded “voodoo economics” by George H. W. Bush) with his proposal for $5.5 trillion of tax giveaways, mostly for business. Even some of the outsize personalities that I encountered in 1981 are back, most notoriously the concept’s godfather, Arthur Laffer, who advised the Trump presidential campaign.


On the Power of Being Awful - By Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman MAY 1, 2017

The 100-day reviews are in, and they’re terrible. The health care faceplants just keep coming; the administration’s tax “plan” offers less detail than most supermarket receipts; Trump has wimped out on his promises to get aggressive on foreign trade. The gap between big boasts and tiny achievements has never been wider.

Yet there have, by my count, been seven thousand news articles — O.K., it’s a rough estimate — about how Trump supporters are standing by their man, are angry at those meanies in the news media, and would gladly vote for him all over again. What’s going on?

The answer, I’d suggest, lies buried in the details of the latest report on gross domestic product. No, really.

For the past few months, economists who track short-term developments have been noting a peculiar divergence between “soft” and “hard” data. Soft data are things like surveys of consumer and business confidence; hard data are things like actual retail sales. Normally these data tell similar stories (which is why the soft data are useful as a sort of early warning system for the coming hard data). Since the 2016 election, however, the two kinds of data have diverged, with reported confidence surging — and, yes, a bump in stocks — but no real sign of a pickup in economic activity.

The funny thing about that confidence surge, however, was that it was very much along partisan lines — a sharp decline among Democrats, but a huge rise among Republicans. This raises the obvious question: Were those reporting a huge increase in optimism really feeling that much better about their economic prospects, or were they simply using the survey as an opportunity to affirm the rightness of their vote?

Well, if consumers really are feeling super-confident, they’re not acting on those feelings. The first-quarter G.D.P. report, showing growth slowing to a crawl, wasn’t as bad as it looks: Technical issues involving inventories and seasonal adjustment (you don’t want to know) mean that underlying growth was probably O.K., though not great. But consumer spending was definitely sluggish.


Trump's invitation to Duterte is a sign of the times

By Ishaan Tharoor May 1 at 1:00 AM

Over the weekend, the White House announced that President Trump had invited President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines for a visit to Washington, following what was deemed a “very friendly conversation” over the phone between Trump and his counterpart in Manila.

Despite the close ties between the United States and the Philippines, the move surprised Trump's critics and allies. In his 10 months in power, Duterte has become one of Asia's most controversial leaders. He has presided over a vicious drug war that has seen thousands killed by extrajudicial hit squads — encouraged, say critics, by Duterte's explicit orders. Last week, a Filipino lawyer filed a complaint at the International Criminal Court, accusing Duterte and 11 other Filipino officials of mass murder and crimes against humanity. (Duterte has shrugged off the filing and said it will not deter his campaign.)

The complaint takes into account the killings of 9,400 people stretching back to 1988, when Duterte became the mayor of the southern city of Davao and began making his reputation as a tough guy willing to do anything to crack down on crime. “The situation in the Philippines reveals a terrifying, gruesome and disastrous continuing commission of extrajudicial executions or mass murder,” read the complaint. An estimated 8,000 people have been killed since Duterte became president last summer.

None of this seemed to faze the White House. In the readout of the phone call, the only mention of Duterte's astonishing record of violence seemed to be a positive one. It said that the two leaders “discussed the fact that the Philippines is fighting very hard to rid its country of drugs, a scourge that affects many countries around the world.”

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