Bill Barr

What planet is he from?

I would have declared another Day Off since I’ve been on vacation this weekend, but this post about an interview that Bill Barr gave (and the interview itself) was so striking I thought it worthwhile to share it. 

I’ve never been a fan of William Barr, except very briefly when in December 2020 he resigned his job as Attorney General under Donald Trump and later declared that the U.S. Justice Department had uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome of the 2020 election. Recently Barr said he would vote for Donald Trump in the November election regardless.

If you take the time to watch the interview with Bill Barr on which Schmidt is commenting below you will be struck by the number of times Barr declares “I don’t know” almost as though he were “taking the 5th.” Barr’s ultimate position is simply this: there is nothing Donald Trump has done or might succeed in doing during another term that dampen Mr. Barr’s devotion to “the Republican agenda.” The title of Schmidt’s post is entirely apt.

Keep to the high ground,


Everything below is written by Steve Schmidt, former Republican strategist and founder of The Lincoln Project and now a prolific Substack writer. 

You can’t fix stupid


I asked the person I love and respect most in the world a question after watching Kaitlan Collins interview Bill Barr on CNN. [To watch the whole 24 minute interview click here.]

I’ll be precise.

Me: “Is it ever okay to call someone stupid?”

Her: “No.”

Me: “I read a story about someone who picked up a rattlesnake and kissed it on the nose. The snake bit him in the face and killed him. Would you say he was stupid?”

Her: “He was stupid.”

During the interview, Collins referred to a claim by former Trump White House communications director Alyssa Farah Griffin that Barr was present when Trump said that a White House leaker should be executed. He responded by saying:

I remember him being very mad about that. I actually don’t remember him saying ‘executing,’ but I wouldn‘t dispute it, you know… The president would lose his temper and say things like that. I doubt he would’ve actually carried it out.

Barr then went on to say that people would sometimes take Trump too “literally:”

He would say things similar to that on occasions to blow off steam. But I wouldn’t take them literally every time he did it.

Before I call Bill Barr stupid officially, which I will, it is important to recognize the importance of Kaitlan Collins looking one of MAGA’s chieftain’s in the eye and saying:

Why not?

Barr’s response:

Because at the end of the day, it wouldn’t be carried out and you could talk sense into him.

Barr insisted that there was no threat.

I don‘t think the threat is there. The thing that I worry about President Trump is not that he’s going to become an autocrat and do those kinds of things.

Collins pressed Barr on why he doesn’t think that to be the case, and he said that it was just his “feeling:”

Having worked for him and seen him in action, I don’t think he would actually go and kill political rivals and things like that.

Let’s call that the “Collins Line,” which is something every journalist in America should probe and question MAGA candidates about. There are thoughts, desires, intentions and actions. Each is a step down a pathway that ends with death. There has never been political killing that hasn’t been prefaced by thoughts, desires and intentions.

I’ve written a great deal about this general principle:

Do we want democracy too?


Treblinka: “Everything and nothing, all at once”


Majdanek cannot be denied


Auschwitz: what is its meaning?


Remembering Master Sergeant Roderick Edmonds


This moment must be slowed and understood at a molecular level.

If it is the case that the interview between Kaitlan Collins and William Barr isn’t shocking to the conscience of America’s newsroom bosses — and placed squarely in front of the American people as the vital matter it is — then we are in far deeper trouble than I thought.

Let’s take a step back.

What would the reaction have been if I said on national television five years ago that Trump’s lawyers would be arguing before the US Supreme Court that the president has the power to kill political opponents with some justices seeming to entertain the idea within five years time?

Incredibly, that precise argument is being made before the US Supreme Court the same week that Bill Barr decided to disclose that Trump frequently fantasized about killing political opponents from the White House.

Don’t worry about it though. Bill Barr says he doesn’t mean it because Trump could always be talked out of the worst ideas in the end. How very reassuring.

The FBI director reported to this man? He held a position of responsibility for America’s national security and was confirmed by the United States Senate — twice?

“The best and the brightest” has given way to the “worst and the dumbest.”

Let’s try this thought experiment. There are 50 people on a plane. Bill Barr is one of them, so are we, and the plane crashes deep in the Alaskan bush. Miraculously, no one was killed, but the bad news is that help is not on the way. We will have to hike out of the wilderness as a group for 100 miles to safety. We will have to cross five rivers and two mountain ranges.

Here is my question. Would anyone ask or care what Bill Barr said about anything? Truly? He doesn’t seem to have much common sense, or a particularly well-honed instinct for danger. His judgement is appalling, and he seems to have no moral compass whatsoever.

Amazingly, he ends the interview talking about the danger the country faces from — wait for it — Joe Biden, who is the “real threat to democracy.”

It’s the reason why Bill Barr, patriot, has to vote for the man who queried him about who he could kill when he was president.

Nothing to worry about there. Nothing at all.

“You can’t fix stupid,” as the old saying goes. Apparently Bill Barr is a supremely stupid man. He’s so stupid in fact, that it is okay to say it out loud.

Good grief.


Join in the effort–and the group fun!

Last week I jumped on the postcard train. A friend pushed a bag containing 10 postcards into my hand at the edge of a meeting I attended and said, “These are easy.” They came with address stickers. They were pre-printed with detailed message encouraging the recipient to register to vote and to vote in the upcoming elections. I was asked to add a few prescribed words in my own (scribbly, physician-tested) handwriting and sign my first name. The task took me about ten minutes. I spent $5.30 on postcard postage stamps and, Voila!, off they went. Even if only one in twenty recipients actually registers using the provided specific directions, thought I, this could make a big difference—once multiplied by the efforts of hundreds of others willing to donate a little time and the treasure they can afford. 

I’m convinced that a handwritten note is perceived by most recipients as personal. I’m sure that my handwriting is distinguishable from the advertising postcards we all sometimes receive with what pretends to be personal handwriting.

This is a project you can engage in on your own or as a group. See the very bottom of this email for a couple of upcoming postcard-writing gatherings organized by Petra Hoy out at the Spokane Valley Library. If the current political climate makes you feel alone and helpless, these postcard gathering are good for finding support among like-minded folks. Petra describes the gatherings as “50% productive and 50% group therapy ;-)” 

The contact person for all this Petra Hoy. Reach her by email at to obtain postcards or to let her know you plan to come to one of the postcard gatherings.

In addition to the postage ($5.30/ten postcards) the printed postcards themselves cost this writing group about $1.40 per ten postcards (100 for $14), so if you can afford to then ten postcards would cost $6.70 and, importantly, the time it takes to write them. There may be help available for those with time and willingness to write but limited finances. Petra has multiple methods of getting postcards to writers (see below). 

So here’s the current pitch. The “I” in what follows is Petra, not me:

1.  Help Us REGISTER VOTERS for ARIZONA’s Crucial Elections

Help us Register Voters in Arizona!

Arizona is a crucial state in this election year, with the Presidential election, the US Senate majority and the US House majority all hanging in the balance. In addition, the state house and state senate majorities are both within reach, which could lead to the first Democratic trifecta in Arizona in over seven decades.

The Arizona Supreme Court wants the state to revert to a Civil War-era law that bans and criminalizes almost all abortions, and the Republican legislature supports this. We need to flip the state legislature to a pro-choice majority! Additionally, an abortion amendment will likely be on the ballot this year. We need Arizonans to come out and show their overwhelming support for women’s right to choose and enshrine that right in the state constitution.

Mail as you go, by June 1 please.

You will LOVE these!  They require minimal writing and have stickers with the addresses on them (so you don’t have to write out the address).


Please reserve yours now and I will get them ready to deliver or mail.  They will be mailed to me, then we need to bundle them and can deliver them to you (or leave on my porch) ASAP.  I can easily complete 10 of these in 20 minutes or less.  The Script for this card is: “Register to vote today. Can you ask three friends to do the same? ~your name

Postcard specifics:

You’ll need postcard stamps ($0.53) which you can get online at USPS.

We can deliver postcards to you.  Just let me know your:

1.     Name

2.     Address and phone number (in case we have trouble finding you)

3.     How many cards you’d like to do (usually units of 10)

I can leave a packet for you on my porch (I’ll respond to you with my address)

1.     Name

2.     How many cards you’d like to do

I can also mail you a “Care package” (cards, directions, etc.) I’d need to know your:

1.  Name
2.  Mailing addresses
3.  How many cards you’d like to do (usually units of 10) 

We cover all our own costs.  Estimate $14 per 100 postcards.  This also helps cover the costs of labels, ink cartridges, paper, etc.

Shipping care packages is extra.  USPS shipping costs are on the outside of the package.

2.  Postcard Parties

You can bring drinks and snacks if you’d like.  We just need to clean the room when we go.

Also, please bring postcard stamps or funds to help cover costs (if possible)

Please RSVP so we know approximately how many to expect. 

Thursday, May 9 2:00 – 4:00 PM 

Spokane Valley Library
22 N Herald Rd

Spokane, WA  99206

Thursday, May 30 2:00 – 4:00 PM 

Spokane Valley Library
22 N Herald Rd

Spokane, WA  99206

Keep to the high ground,


Housing as a Financial Commodity

There is a reason for the mismatch between available and affordable

We hear that homelessness “is a housing problem,” and, of course, it is, at least in its simplest formulation. However, it not a lack of absolute amount of living space, but a lack of affordable living space. To see the problem for what it is requires that we stand back and look at the economics that driving it. 

For me, the standout quote in the Thom Hartmann post I’ve copied below is this: “…there are over 20 times more empty houses in America than there are homeless people.” That number was so striking I had to verify it. The link goes to the United States Census Bureau data on the vacancy status of housing in the U.S. There were 17,000,000 estimated vacant living spaces in 2017. (The estimate for 2022 was 14,000,000. That’s about one in every ten existing housing units in the U.S.) Official estimates of the number of homeless people in the U.S. run between half a million and 2 million, depending on definitions (“sheltered” vs. “unsheltered”, for example) and on the particular data source. Twenty vacant housing units for every homeless person is a believable number.

Fourteen million vacant housing units in the midst of an epidemic of homelessness? Whether that even seems possible depends on how and from where one looks. A striking example for me was a luxurious seasonal rental condominium unit in Sandpoint owned by a wealthy, world-traveling resident of Hong Kong. Visit any major ski resort in the U.S. any time over the last thirty years and you will note that even during prime ski season there are hundreds of houses and condo units standing mostly empty. Look for a short term VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner) or AirBnB in any remotely tourist-attracting community and you will find a multitude of examples of short term rentals. Some, of course, are owned and managed by a local, but many others are owned by arms-length investors. Often the contact person is not an owner but an employee of a management company. 

Homelessness is a symptom of just how far out of whack our economic system has gradually become over the last fifty years. Our awareness of the change is like that of the proverbial frog in the pot of warming water. Read Thom Hartmann’s compelling post copied below. 

Keep to the high ground,


Everything below is the writing Thom Hartmann, not mine. I encourage you to sign up to receive his email. This post hits the housing and homelessness nail on the head.

Why Homelessness Stalks America Like the Grim Reaper


Back in 1967, a friend of mine and I hitchhiked from East Lansing, Michigan to San Francisco to spend the summer in Haight-Ashbury. One ride dropped us off in Sparks, Nevada, and within minutes of putting our thumbs out a city police car stopped and arrested us for vagrancy.

The cop, a young guy with an oversize mustache who was apologetic for the city’s policy, drove us to the desert a mile or so beyond the edge of town, where we hitchhiked standing by a distressing light-post covered with graffiti reading “39 hours without a ride,” “going on our third day,” and “anybody got any water?”

Vagrancy laws were so 20th century.

Today, the US Supreme Court will hear a case involving efforts by the City of Grants Pass, Oregon to keep homeless people off its streets and out of its parks and other public property. The city had tried a number of things when the problem began to explode in the last year of the Trump administration, as The Oregonian newspaper notes:

“They discussed putting them in their old jail, creating an unwanted list, posting signs at the city border or driving people out of town… Currently, officers patrol the city nearly every day, Johnson said, handing out [$295] citations to people who are camping or sleeping on public property or for having too many belongings with them.”

The explosion in housing costs have triggered two crises: homelessness and inflation. The former is harming the livability of our cities and towns, and the Fed’s reaction to the latter threatens an incumbency-destroying recession just as we head into what will almost certainly be the most important election in American history.

The problem with housing inflation is so severe today that without it the nation’s overall core CPI inflation rate would be in the neighborhood of Fed Chairman Jerome Powell’s 2 percent goal.

Graphic based on BLM data and interpretation by The Financial Times

Both homeless and today’s inflation are the result of America — unlike many other countries — allowing housing to become a commodity that can be traded and speculated in by financial markets and overseas investors.

Forty-three years into America’s Reaganomics experiment, homelessness has gone from a problem to a crisis. Rarely, though, do you hear that Wall Street — a prime beneficiary of Reagan’s deregulation campaign — is helping cause it.

Thirty-two percent seems to be the magic threshold, according to research funded by the real estate listing company Zillow. When neighborhoods hit rent rates in excess of 32 percent of neighborhood income, homelessness explodes.

And we’re seeing it play out right in front of us in cities across America because a handful of Wall Street billionaires want to make a killing.

It wasn’t always this way in America.

Housing prices have spun out of control since my dad bought his house in 1957 when I was six years old. He got a Veteran’s Administration-subsidized loan and picked up the brand-new 3-bedroom-1-bath ranch house my 3 brothers and I grew up in, in suburban south Lansing, Michigan. It cost him $13,000, which was about twice what he made every year working a good union job in a tool-and-die shop. 

When my dad bought his home in the 1950s the median price of a single-family house was 2.2 times the median American family income.  Today, the Fed says, the median house sells for $479,500 while the median American personal income is $41,000 — a ratio of more than ten-to-one between housing costs and annual income.

As the Zillow study notes:

“Across the country, the rent burden already exceeds the 32 percent [of median income] threshold in 100 of the 386 markets included in this analysis….”

And wherever housing prices become more than three times annual income, homelessness stalks like the grim reaper.

We’re told that America’s cities have seen this increase in housing costs since the 1950s in some part because of the growing wealth and population of this country.  There were, after all, 168 million people in the US the year my dad bought his house; today there are 330 million.

And it’s true that we haven’t been building enough new housing, particularly low income housing, as 43 years of neoliberal Reaganomics have driven down wages and income for working class people relative to all of their expenses while stopping the construction of virtually any new subsidized low-income housing.

But that’s not the only, or even the main dynamic, driving housing prices into the stratosphere — and, as a consequence, the crisis in homelessness — over the past decade. You can thank speculation for much of that. 

As the Zillow-funded study noted: 

“This research demonstrates that the homeless population climbs faster when rent affordability — the share of income people spend on rent — crosses certain thresholds. In many areas beyond those thresholds, even modest rent increases can push thousands more Americans into homelessness.”

So how did we get here?

It started with a wave of foreign buyers over the past 30 years (particularly from China, Canada, Mexico, India and Colombia) who, in just the one single year of 2020, picked up over 154,000 homes as their way of parking money in America. Which is part of why there are over 20 times more empty housesin America than there are homeless people.

As Marketwatch noted in a 2015 article titled “The Danger of Foreign Buyers Gobbling Up American Homes”:

“Unusual high appreciation of the aforementioned urban centers is due to the ever growing influx of foreign buyers — mostly wealthy Chinese — who view American residential real estate as the safest investment commodity. … According to a National Realtors Association survey, the Chinese spent $22 billion on U.S. housing in 12 months through March 2014…. [Other foreign buyers primarily include] Canadians, British, Indians and Mexicans.”

But foreign investment has been down for the past few years; what’s taken over and is really driving home prices today are massive, multi-billion-dollar US-based funds that sweep into neighborhoods and buy everything available, bidding against families and driving up housing prices.

As noted in a Wall Street Journal article titled “Meet Your New Landlord: Wall Street,” in just one suburb (Spring Hill) of Nashville, “In all of Spring Hill, four firms … own nearly 700 houses … [which] amounts to about 5% of all the houses in town.”

This is the tiniest tip of the iceberg. 

“On the first Tuesday of each month,” notes the Journal article about a similar phenomenon in Atlanta, investors “toted duffels stuffed with millions of dollars in cashier’s checks made out in various denominations so they wouldn’t have to interrupt their buying spree with trips to the bank…”

The same thing is happening in cities and suburbs all across America; the investment goliaths use finely-tuned computer algorithms to sniff out houses they can turn into rental properties, making over-market and unbeatable cash bids often within minutes of a house hitting the market.

After stripping neighborhoods of homes families can buy, they then begin raising rents as high as the market will bear. 

In the Nashville suburb of Spring Hill, for example, the vice-mayor, Bruce Hull, told the Journal you used to be able to rent “a three bedroom, two bath house for $1,000 a month.”  Today, the Journal notes: 

“The average rent for 148 single-family homes in Spring Hill owned by the big four [Wall Street investor] landlords was about $1,773 a month…”

Ryan Dezember, in his book Underwater: How Our American Dream of Homeownership Became a Nightmare, describes the story of a family trying to buy a home in Phoenix.  Every time they entered a bid, they were outbid instantly, the price rising over and over, until finally the family’s father threw in the towel. 

“Jacobs was bewildered,” writes Dezember. “Who was this aggressive bidder?” 

Turns out it was Blackstone Group, now the world’s largest real estate investor.  At the time they were buying $150 million worth of American houses every week, trying to spend over $10 billion. And that’s just a drop in the overall bucket.

In 2018, corporations bought 1 out of every 10 homes sold in America, according to Dezember, noting that, “Between 2006 and 2016, when the home ownership rate fell to its lowest level in fifty years, the number of renters grew by about a quarter.”

This all really took off around a decade ago, when Morgan Stanley published a 2011 report titled “The Rentership Society,” arguing that — in the wake of the 2008 Bush Housing Crash — snapping up houses and renting them back to people who otherwise would have wanted to buy them could be the newest and hottest investment opportunity for Wall Street’s billionaires and their funds. 

Turns out, Morgan Stanley was right. Warren Buffett, KKR, and The Carlyle Group have all jumped into residential real estate, along with hundreds of smaller investment groups, and the National Home Rental Council has emerged as the industry’s premiere lobbying group, working to block rent control legislation and other efforts to regulate the industry.

As John Husing, the owner of Economics and Politics Inc., told The Tennessean newspaper

“What you have are neighborhoods that are essentially unregulated apartment houses.  It could be disastrous for the city.”

Meanwhile, as unionization levels here remain among the lowest in the developed world, Reagan’s ongoing war on working people continues to wipe out America’s families.

At the same time that housing prices, both to purchase and to rent, are being driven through the roof by foreign and Wall Street investors, a survey published by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health found that American families are in crisis.

Their study found:

— “Thirty-eight percent (38%) of [all] households across the nation report facing serious financial problems in the previous few months.
— “There is a sharp income divide in serious financial problems, as 59% of those with annual incomes below $50,000 report facing serious financial problems in the past few months, compared with 18% of households with annual incomes of $50,000 or more.
— “These serious financial problems are cited despite 67% of households reporting that in the past few months, they have received financial assistance from the government.
— “Another significant problem for many U.S. households is losing their savings during the COVID-19 outbreak. Nineteen percent (19%) of U.S. households report losing all of their savings during the COVID-19 outbreak and not currently having any savings to fall back on.
— “At the time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) eviction ban expired, 27% of renters nationally reported serious problems paying their rent in the past few months.”

These are not separate issues, and they are driving an explosion in homelessness.

The Zillow study found similarly damning data:

— “Communities where people spend more than 32 percent of their income on rent can expect a more rapid increase in homelessness.
— “Income growth has not kept pace with rents, leading to an affordability crunch with cascading effects that, for people on the bottom economic rung, increases the risk of homelessness.
— “The areas that are most vulnerable to rising rents, unaffordability, and poverty hold 15 percent of the U.S. population — and 47 percent of people experiencing homelessness.”

The Zillow study makes grim reading and is worth checking out.  In community after community, when rent prices exceed 32 percent of median household income, homeless exploded.  It’s measurable, predictable, and is destroying what’s left of the American working class, particularly minorities.

The loss of affordable homes also locks otherwise middle class families out of the traditional way wealth is accumulated — through home ownership: over 61% of all American middle-income family wealth is their home’s equity. And as families are priced out of ownership and forced to rent, they become more vulnerable to long-term economic struggles and homelessness.

Housing is one of the primary essentials of life.  Nobody in America should be without it, and for society to work, housing costs must track incomes in a way that makes housing both available and affordable. This requires government intervention in the so-called “free market.”

— Last year, Canada banned most foreign buyers from buying residential property as a way of controlling their housing inflation. 
— New Zealand similarly passed their no-foreigners law (except for Singaporeans and Australians) in 2018.
— Thailand requires a minimum investment of $1.2 million and the equivalent of a green card. 
— Greece bans most non-EU citizens from buying real estate in most of the country.
— To buy residential housing in Denmark, it must be your primary residence and you must have lived in the country for at least 5 years. 
— Vietnam, Austria, Hungary, and Cyprus also heavily restrict who can buy residential property, where, and under what terms.

This isn’t rocket science; the problem could be easily fixed by Congress if there was a genuine willingness to protect our real estate market from the vultures who’ve been circling it for years.

Unfortunately, when Clarence Thomas was the deciding vote to allow billionaires and hedge funds to legally bribe members of Congress in Citizens United, he and his four fellow Republicans opened the floodgates to “contributions” and “gifts” from foreign and Wall Street interests to pay off legislators to ignore the problem.

Because there’s no lobbying group for the interests of average homeowners or the homeless, it’s up to us to raise hell with our elected officials. The number for the Congressional switchboard is 202-224-3121.

If ever there was a time to solve to this problem — and regulate corporate and foreign investment in American single-family housing — it’s now.

Taxes–and Trickle Down vs. Middle Out

A forty plus year failed proposition that deserves to be put to rest

I’m on vacation, but I want to feature something I thought was profound and far better written than what I’m capable of. I offer an entry posted on April 15 from Robert Reich, retired Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley

Don’t miss the 8:25 video at the end of the post. For several decades I passively absorbed many of the featured myths, something I now realize was a remarkable sales job performed by writers and talking heads carefully selected and funded by exactly those folks most likely to benefit. I’ve discarded all of these myths over the last decade, but seeing all twelve presented and dispelled in one video really puts them into perspective.

Remember Reich’s presentation this fall when you are asked on the November ballot by the Washington State Republican Party and hedge fund manager Brian Heywood to repeal the Washington State capital gains excise tax (Initiative 2109) on capital gains in excess of $262,000.

Keep to the high ground,


Happy Tax Day, and the coming fight over extending Trump’s tax cut

It’s behind the big money financing Trump’s 2024 campaign



Happy Tax Day. As Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.”

But who should pay the most for this civilized society? As Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, instructed in his The Wealth of Nations, a tax system should be based on the principle of equal sacrifice. This means the richer should pay a larger share of their incomes in taxes than the poorer.

But today’s wealthy Americans are paying a much smaller share of their incomes in taxes than most Americans.

Which is why the debate that’s already begun over the 2025 expiration of the Trump tax cuts is so illuminating and important.

The major reason some very wealthy people are backing Trump is they want the Trump tax cuts to become permanent and not expire as scheduled in 2025.

As this debate unfolds, you should know four basic facts. The Trump tax cut that went into effect in January 2018 is:

  1. Skewed to the rich. Households with incomes in the top 1 percent will receive an average tax cut of more than $60,000 in 2025, compared to an average tax cut of less than $500 for households in the bottom 60 percent, according to the Tax Policy Center. As a share of after-tax income, tax cuts at the top — for both households in the top 1 percent and the top 5 percent — are more than triple the total value of the tax cuts received for people with incomes in the bottom 60 percent.
  2. Expensive. The Congressional Budget Office estimated in 2018 that the Trump tax cut would cost $1.9 trillion over 10 years. Recent estimates show that making the law’s individual income and estate tax cuts permanent would cost another $350 billion a year beginning in 2027.Together with the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts enacted under George W. Bush (most of which were made permanent in 2012), these laws have severely eroded America’s revenue base.
  3. Budget-busting. Federal tax revenue as a share has fallen from about 19.5 percent of the total economy in the years preceding the Bush tax cuts to just 16.3 percent of the economy in the years following the Trump tax cuts. Whenever you hear Republicans complain about the federal budget deficit, bear this in mind: The Bush and Trump tax cuts are the major culprits. Moreover, the relatively smaller share of the economy financing the federal government is not enough to pay for the nation’s investment needs and our commitments to Social Security and health coverage.
  4. Based on a “trickle-down” lie. Trump claimed that the corporate tax cut would “very conservatively” lead to a $4,000 boost in household income. Research shows that workers who earned less than about $114,000 on average in 2016 saw no change in earnings from Trump’s corporate tax rate cut, while top executive salaries increased sharply. Similarly, research has shown that the law’s 20 percent pass-through deduction, which was skewed in favor of wealthy business owners, has failed to trickle down to workers in those companies who aren’t owners. Like the Bush tax cuts before it, the Trump tax cut was a trickle-down failure.


More generally, trickle-down economics — the abiding faith on the political right that tax cuts as well as deregulation are good for an economy — continues to live on, notwithstanding its repeated failures. Ever since Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher first tried them, trickle-down policies have exploded budget deficits and widened inequality.

Reagan’s tax cuts and deregulation at the start of the 1980s were not responsible for America’s rapid growth through the late 1980s. His exorbitant spending (mostly on national defense) fueled a temporary boom that ended in a fierce recession.

Yet the U.S. never restored the highest marginal tax rates before Reagan. And deregulation — especially of financial markets — is a continuing harmful legacy.

The result? From 1989 to 2021, typical working families in the United States saw negligible increases in their real (inflation-adjusted) incomes and wealth.

Over the same period, the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans became $29 trillion richer. The national debt exploded. And Wall Street’s takeover of the economy continued.

Meanwhile, and largely as a result, Americans have become more bitterly divided along the fissures of class and education.

So why is trickle-down economics still with us? What explains the fatal attraction of this repeatedly failed economic theory?

The easiest answer is that it satisfies politically powerful moneyed interests who want to rake in even more. Armies of lobbyists continuously demand tax cuts and “regulatory relief” for their wealthy patrons.

But why has the public been repeatedly willing to go along with trickle-down economics when nothing ever trickles down? What accounts for the collective amnesia?

The answer is that the moneyed interests have also invested a portion of their gains in an intellectual infrastructure of economists and pundits who continue to promote this failed doctrine — along with institutions that house them, such as The Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, and Club for Growth.

Consider Stephen Moore, the founder and past president of the Club for Growth and a leading economist at The Heritage Foundation, whose columns appear regularly in The Wall Street Journal and who is a frequent guest on Fox News.

Moore helped draft and promote Trump’s trickle-down tax. He is now advising Trump on making that tax cut permanent, if Trump returns to the White House next year.

Moore and others like him are happy to disregard the evidence and history of trickle-down’s abject failures. They simply repeat the same set of promises made decades ago when Reagan and Thatcher set out to convince the public that trickle-down would work splendidly.

The public has so much else on its mind and is so confused by the cacophony that it doesn’t remember — until immediately after the next trickle-down failure.


If Democrats take over both houses of Congress in 2024, and Biden gets a second term, they must reverse the regressive tilt of the Trump tax law — raising more revenue while advancing the interests of low- and moderate-income families across the country rather than those of the wealthy. To achieve this:

  • Tax cuts for people making over $400,000 should end on schedule in 2025. The Trump tax law’s provisions primarily benefiting high-income households are costly and do not trickle down.
  • The tax system must raise more revenue from wealthy people and profitable corporations to offset tax cuts extended or expanded for those with incomes below $400,000, to finance high-value investments in people and communities, and to improve the federal budget outlook.
  • New progressive tax policies should be enacted to reduce the ability of the wealthy to avoid taxes on their large unrealized capital gains and roll back the special breaks they receive when they do pay tax. Policymakers can also generate progressive revenues by extending and making permanent the mandatory IRS funding enacted in the Inflation Reduction Act, which supports revenues by increasing tax collections primarily from high-income households.
  • Top priorities for extending and expanding tax provisions in 2025 should be the Child Tax Credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit for adults not raising children, and the enhanced premium tax credits for Affordable Care Act marketplace coverage. These credits have a long history of success — in stark contrast to the record of failure of the corporate tax rate cut and regressive tax cuts on wealthy individuals. This includes a marked drop in the child poverty rate in 2021 under the American Rescue Plan’s expansion of the Child Tax Credit — a policy that should be made permanent in 2025.
  • Additionally, some 16 million people who work for low wages and who are not raising children in their homes received help through the Rescue Plan’s EITC expansion in 2021, and there were historic gains in the number of people receiving health coverage in the ACA marketplaces during the 2024 open enrollment season, with most enrollees able to find coverage for less than $10 per month. These should continue.
  • Revenues also can be used for additional services Americans need. The costs of child care, home-based care for older adults and people with disabilities, and housing remain unacceptably high for millions of families, and federal investment in these areas falls far short of need. Higher taxes on the wealthy will help offset these costs.Please spread the word. While you’re at it, please make sure you know the 12 biggest myths about taxing the rich:

Republicans Fiddling While Ukraine Burns

The Republican Run U.S. House is a Sad Joke

The House Rules Committee, the committee that determines which bills will be presented to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, is, of course, still run by majority Republicans. Under the leadership of Speaker Mike Johnson House Republicans have refused to bring military aid to Ukraine to the House floor even as Russia presses forward in its war of conquest. We probably should not be amazed that, prior to Iran’s attack on Israel last weekend, the House Rules Committee was poised to dive into this agenda on April 15th:

As Joyce Vance put it, “No, it’s not SNL; this was their actual agenda.” In case the fine print is unreadable, here is the list of bills in all their glory:

  • H.R. 6192 – Hands Off Our Home Appliances Act
  • H.R. 7673 – Liberty in Laundry Act
  • H.R. 7645 – Clothes Dryers Reliability Act
  • H.R. 7637 – Refrigerator Freedom Act
  • H.R. 7626 – Affordable Air Conditioning Act
  • H.R. 7700 – Stop Unaffordable Dishwasher Standards Act

While Ukraine burns, House Republicans want you to know that they are all about protecting you from energy efficiency standards for your household appliances. The text of each bill opens with, “To prohibit the Secretary of Energy from prescribing or enforcing energy conservation standards…” This is what you get these days when you elect Republicans to Congress.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-CD5, eastern Washington) is retiring at the end of this year. There are now twelve candidates, four Democrats and eight Republicans, registered with the Federal Elections Commission vying to represent eastern Washington’s 5th Congressional District in the U.S. Congress. If you send one of the Republican candidates to the U.S. House and Republicans retain a majority, you can expect more of this inanity no matter which of them you elect. House Republicans vote in lockstep and their leadership, controlled by the so-called Freedom Caucus, will not change. Don’t expect anything but more of the same if you replace one Republican in the U.S. House with a different Republican regardless of the blather you will hear from the Republican candidates on the campaign trail this fall.

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. Of course, all of these bills are really about reassuring the fossil fuel industry that Republicans want to make sure government regulations don’t in any way threaten their profits. It should be obvious that improvements in energy efficiency of appliances eventually pay for themselves in cost savings in the energy necessary to keep them running. Remember the Republican rhetoric around the changeover from heat-producing incandescent lamps to compact fluorescents and then to LEDs? Republicans are all about bolstering the fossil fuel industry by putting the brakes on the future.

AI, Advertising, Money and Misinformation

Beware–the most chilling article I’ve read in a while

We are already awash in misinformation and disinformation on the internet and on social media, some provided intentionally and systematically by foreign governments, material that oftentimes relies on sharing by people taken in by their own confirmation bias. The article copied below adds a new twist, pointing out how AI and unscrupulous actors already can monetize thoughtless and deceptive, but plausible, lies that could further loosen our grasp of what is and isn’t real.

This is not reason to despair, but it is a wakeup call to be ever more mindful and critical of the source of what one reads and hears.

Keep to the high ground,


Everything below is the writing of Jack Brewster of Newsguard. I believe it originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal—but it is already available on multiple other websites. 

I paid a website developer to create a fully automated, AI-generated ‘pink-slime’ news site, programmed to create false political stories. The results were impressive—and, in an election year, alarming.

By Jack Brewster

April 12, 2024 at 11:00 am ET


It took me two days, $105 and no expertise whatsoever to launch a fully automated, AI-generated local news site capable of publishing thousands of articles a day—with the partisan news coverage framing of my choice, nearly all rewritten without credit from legitimate news sources. I created a website specifically designed to support one political candidate against another in a real race for the U.S. Senate. And I made it all happen in a matter of hours.

With OpenAI’s ChatGPT and a few lines of code, developers on freelancer websites such as—the site I used to find my developer—can program websites to autonomously rewrite and publish articles from mainstream news outlets according to specific political preferences. Within a few weeks, I could even start earning programmatic ad revenue from my partisan AI content farm.

Purchasing an AI content farm on is as easy as ordering on Uber Eats. I searched “AI generated news website” on the home page and up came dozens of developers offering to build my site. (Tel Aviv-based Fiverr, which was founded in 2010 and trades on the New York Stock Exchange, is just one of many online marketplaces for freelance professional services.) The prices ranged from $30 to build a basic AI news site to as much as $350 to “create the best automated news website monetized with ads ready to earn,” according to one lister.

I selected Huzafa Nawaz, drawn by his record (at the time) of 293 reviews with a 5.0 rating. The price—$80—also seemed more than reasonable.

Nawaz is a young Pakistani who told me he is “around 30” years old; he communicated with me in English, with limited proficiency, by instant message. He is among dozens of developers on freelance marketplaces who build fully automated AI websites from the ground up for a minimal fee. “I will create automated news website autoblog,” Nawaz’s posting on Fiverr stated. “If you are looking for an automated website to generate extra passive income without any effort, my gig is your best choice.”

Huzafa Nawaz’s Fiverr profile on April 10, 2024.

From there, all I had to do was answer a few questions about what kind of site I was looking for and the topics I wanted the site’s articles to cover. The domain and site hosting added an extra $25 to the total. The entire AI content farm cost me just $105, and I literally have to do nothing to operate it. It runs itself, auto-publishing dozens of articles a day based on the instructions that I gave to it.

Nawaz told me that he has now created “500 plus” AI news websites, each project taking him approximately “two to three days to complete.” On his listing and in a messaging exchange I had with him on Fiverr, he said that the AI-generated websites he produced would publish “AI-based copyright free content.” When I asked him what he meant by this, he responded that because he programmed ChatGPT to rewrite the copied articles, he was creating content that was “fresh, copyright-free content with no plagiarism.” It is not always clear if using AI to rewrite articles constitutes copyright violation, as we have reported at NewsGuard, the company where I work, which tracks online misinformation.

After I told Nawaz I was writing a story about my experience starting an AI content farm, I asked him if he obtains consent from the news outlets whose content his programs target. I also asked if he is concerned that he is, essentially, diverting advertising revenue away from these outlets by repurposing their content. His response was cryptic. “We are using their content just for reference/topic/information,” he said. “We care not using their content.”

At NewsGuard, we’ve identified over a thousand “pink slime” sites—ostensibly independent local news platforms that are actually secretly funded and run by political operatives. I instructed Nawaz to build an AI news website like this to cover Ohio politics news from a conservative perspective, critical of Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown and supportive of his opponent in November, Republican Bernie Moreno. I wanted my propaganda machine to gain trust by resembling the Columbus Dispatch, a venerable Ohio newspaper, so I picked the name “Buckeye State Press.”

“Thank you for your order!” Nawaz messaged back. “Please share website login details and chatgpt API key. Thank you.”

In little more than 48 hours, my product arrived, and I must say, I was impressed. While Nawaz initially ignored my request to tailor the website to be partisan, it was fully functional when delivered, pumping out generic articles about Ohio politics autonomously. (From the start, the site has been password protected, to avoid further polluting the online information ecosystem.)

Nawaz explained that it could be programmed to write as many articles as I wanted, and he assured me that the instructions to ChatGPT could be changed. “We have options to optimize the feeds, we have options to optimize the prompts,” Nawaz said. “Everything can be tailored to your manner.”

After Nawaz handed over control of the site’s back end, I modified the chatbot’s settings, directing it to write articles that favored the Republican candidate: “You have to write an engaging news story of minimum 300 words on the topic from a conservative perspective. Promote Senate candidate Bernie Moreno if you can.”

In minutes, Buckeye State Press began automatically churning out news articles from a pro-Moreno perspective, promoting the Republican challenger over the incumbent Democrat. “In the midst of Ohio’s ongoing debate over the legalization of recreational marijuana, Senate candidate Bernie Moreno has emerged as a strong advocate for a more efficient and effective process for licensing and regulating cannabis facilities in the state,” a March 29, 2024, Buckeye State Press article stated. The article was a rewrite of a story that originally appeared in the Dayton Daily News and that made no mention of Moreno. In fact, Moreno did not support Issue 2, the ballot measure Ohio voters approved last year that legalized recreational marijuana in the state.

Other articles seemed straight out of an AI parody. In its version of an article originally published in the city of Lorain’s Morning Journal, announcing awards for the state’s top basketball players, Buckeye State Press wrote: “In a stunning turn of events, Senate candidate Bernie Moreno has emerged as a strong supporter of high school basketball in Ohio, particularly in the Division I and Division II All-Ohio boys basketball teams.” There is no record of Moreno praising the players mentioned in this article or of any recent news about Moreno and Ohio basketball.

Buckeye State Press rewrote an article about a winning lottery ticket published by WJW-TV, a Fox affiliate in Cleveland, stating: “As the excitement of the Powerball jackpot continues to captivate the state, let us also remember the importance of supporting leaders like Bernie Moreno who will work tirelessly to ensure a bright future for Ohio.” Again, there was no mention of Moreno in the original WJW-TV story or in any other news stories about lottery tickets.

My AI content farm even turned an obituary for a Youngstown woman originally published on the website of WKBN, the city’s affiliate, into pro-Moreno fluff. The article memorialized the deceased, a woman named Carolyn “Carol” Jean Mulichak, before promoting Moreno: “In the upcoming Senate race, conservative candidate Bernie Moreno embodies many of the same values that Carol Mulichak held dear.”

Two days after assuming ownership of Buckeye State Press, I decided to flip the news site’s allegiance from Bernie Moreno to Sherrod Brown. With a slight tweak to the prompt, the site began churning out pro-Brown articles.

For example, reporting on a fatal shooting in Adams County on March 28, 2024, Buckeye State Press stated: “Sherrod Brown’s dedication to gun reform makes him the ideal candidate to represent the people of Ohio in the Senate, and we must support his efforts to create a safer and more secure future for all.” This article was rewritten (without credit) from a story on the website of WLWT-TV, an NBC affiliate based in Cincinnati that made no mention of Brown.

Ohio Republican Senate candidate Bernie Moreno in Toledo, Ohio, March 18. Photo: Jeremy Wadsworth/The Blade/Associated Press

Buckeye State Press also entirely concocted a story regarding Brown’s visit to the Ohio Fig Festival in the city of Mansfield. In a rewrite of an article originally published by the Richland Source, a news site covering Richland County, Buckeye State Press wrote: “As fig enthusiasts gathered at the 2nd Annual Ohio Fig Festival in Mansfield, Senate candidate Sherrod Brown made a surprise appearance to show his support for local growers like Brad Hamilton.” In fact, there is no record of Brown visiting the festival, though Brad Hamilton is a real person who is the founder of Ohio Fig Growers.

The Moreno campaign did not respond to several requests for comment on the Buckeye State Press, nor did OpenAI. A spokesperson for the Brown campaign declined to comment.

In response to email messages inquiring about’s policies regarding AI content farms, including Nawaz’s listing in particular, a spokesperson for the company said, “The Fiverr freelancer’s profile you linked to specifies that he [Nawaz] is using copyright-free AI-generated content, so the listing itself does not violate our policy.” The spokesperson added that the company would “look into” Nawaz’s account.

Regarding the numerous Fiverr listings offering to build AI-generated websites, the spokesperson said: “We can’t be sure that these services are in breach of copyright law, as it’s there [sic] are many legitimate uses for these types of AI website-building services [including] situations where freelancers may not be pulling from copyrighted sources.”

Like rental properties and dividend stocks, AI content farms are an easy passive-income investment. The economics are straightforward. Setting up an AI content farm costs about $100, and ongoing costs include about $5 a month for a web-hosting company and the expense of running ChatGPT’s application-programming interface (API). That cost depends on the number of articles published; based on OpenAI’s listed API prices, my estimate is $3 or less a month to publish 50-100 articles a day.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, at the U.S. Capitol on March 15, 2023. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

With the installation of programmatic-advertising tools from firms like Google, which automatically serve hyper-targeted ads to users through algorithms, a content farm becomes a ready source of income. If dealing with the ad technology seems beyond you, don’t fret. Nawaz said that for an additional fee (he did not say how much), he would install Google ad widgets and submit the site to Google for approval. Once this is done, ads from name brands would start appearing on the site automatically. Nawaz also offered to set up the site to automatically share its content with pages and groups.

In his Fiverr reviews, Nawaz’s 500 or so customers were happy with the results. They praised him for opening up a new world of possibilities by creating easy-to-manage, automated websites: “This person deserves 10 not 5 stars,” wrote Fiverr user @amazinggarden. Another, jacklafayette, wrote, “Wow what a helpful service. I will be working with him again.”

But we shouldn’t be deceived by these light-hearted testimonials and AI-generated content that occasionally borders on the absurd. The appearance of legitimacy is everything online, and pink-slime websites are a serious menace. They can generate viral falsehoods, like the November 2023 incident, reported by NewsGuard, in which a content farm falsely claimed that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s nonexistent psychiatrist had committed suicide. With ads on Facebook, their content can be spread as the work of a legitimate news site ostensibly promoting its stories.

With a few adjustments, my own AI content farm could produce higher-quality articles that are far more convincing. Anyone familiar with ChatGPT understands that the tool is designed to fulfill users’ expectations. For the charged election season ahead, that’s a problem.

Jack Brewster is enterprise editor for NewsGuard, a company that tracks online misinformation, and editor of Reality Check, NewsGuard’s newsletter. He was previously a reporter at Forbes, covering politics, misinformation and extremism.