The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 was primarily about saving corporations billions, but, of course, Donald Trump and the G.O.P couldn’t sell the legislation on the slogan “Google needs more money.“ Instead, they claimed that the bill was really about the middle class, whose lives (and bank accounts) would inevitably be improved when these magnanimous companies shared the wealth not only with top executives and shareholders, but with average workers. More than a year after the passage of the historically unpopular law, the White House continues to embrace this trickle-down fantasy, declaring in a “fact sheet” released yesterday titled “American Workers Are Thriving Thanks To President Donald J. Trump’s Middle Class Tax Cuts” that the T.C.J.A. has resulted in “big bonuses.” And by big, they mean, on average, a penny.
According to the Economic Policy Institute’s Larry Mishel, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employer Costs for Employee Compensation shows that “bonuses actually fell $0.22 between December 2017 and December 2018 and the average bonus for 2018 was just $0.01 higher than in 2017.” While a number of companies made ring-kissing announcements after the bill was signed into law claiming it had allowed them to dispense modest one-time bonuses, a number of these had reportedly been in the works long before the legislation was passed. What’s more, as Mishel notes, the trend toward giving out bonuses rather than raises “started taking off four years ago,” and hasn’t exactly been great for employees, considering they’re not permanent.
While the White House continues to insist to this day that bonuses—big ones!—were handed out at companies across America all thanks to the T.C.J.A (née the Cut Cut Cut Act), it has backed away from putting an exact number on the rewards now that the actual data is out. When the administration was selling the plan, it claimed the average American family would wake up to an extra $4,000 in its pocket, and maybe even up to $9,000. Those figures were provided by Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers, whose chairman, leading light Kevin Hassett, argued during the shutdown that furloughed workers should consider the (unpaid) time off a free vacation.
Anyway, enjoy that penny—don’t spend it all in one place!
If you would like to receive the Levin Report in your inbox daily, click here to subscribe.
Lifting sanctions on a Russian oligarch’s metals company worked out pretty well for Mitch McConnell
Rusal, the aluminum company partially owned by Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, announced plans to invest around $200 million to build a new aluminum plant in Kentucky just months after the Trump administration removed it from the U.S. sanctions list. The new aluminum plant, slated to be built in the home state of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, will be the biggest new aluminum plant constructed in the U.S. in decades. Rusal will have a 40 percent stake in the facility.
The U.S. removed Rusal from its sanctions list in January, after the Treasury Department struck an agreement with the company that saw Deripaska, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, reduce his stake in the company to below 50 percent and lower his voting rights to below 35. The agreement requires the companies to report any contact between Deripaska and company affiliates, including members of the board. McConnell was among the advocates for lifting sanctions on Rusal, arguing that the deal with Treasury would maintain pressure on Deripaska personally without disrupting global aluminum supplies.
Some experts say that Deripaska could still be able to wield influence over his companies behind the scenes, given that the deal struck with the Treasury gave commodities firm Glencore, which has done business with the oligarch for years, some of his shares. Another company that picked up a stake in his companies? Russian bank VTB, which also goes by the nickname “Putin’s piggy bank.”
White House starting to wonder if historically unqualified Fed picks might not get confirmed by Congress
Despite the fact that Stephen Moore, who owes the I.R.S. five figures, and Herman Cain, who has spent the last several years hawking virtually worthless penny stocks, supposedly still have the support of the president—(if not the Senate)—the White House is said to be prepping plans C and D:
The White House is interviewing candidates to potentially replace Herman Cain and Stephen Moore as Donald Trump’s picks for the Federal Reserve Board, the president’s top economic adviser said . . . Trump has privately said he knows Cain would have trouble getting confirmed, but wants to wait for the F.B.I. to finish its background check before he makes his decision on whether to formally nominate him, people familiar with the matter have said.
Moore, a senior fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation and longtime Trump supporter, has faced scrutiny over a dispute with the I.R.S., which claimed he owes more than $75,000 in taxes and other penalties related to deductions he claimed for child-support payments to his ex-wife.
In a statement, National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow said both men still have Trump’s backing, and they are going to “let things play out in the vetting.”
Trump Cabinet secretary sets a new record for confirmation-to-investigation
The Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General on Monday confirmed that it has opened an investigation into allegations of conflict of interest and other violations during Bernhardt’s tenure as the agency’s deputy secretary . . . The confirmation comes less than a week after the Senate confirmed Bernhardt to his position.
The disclosure was made in a letter to Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., and Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M. Last month, the lawmakers asked the inspector general to look into whether there was anything improper about Bernhardt’s participation in regulatory activity that affected former clients. Bernhardt previously chaired the natural-resources practice at lobbying and law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck . . . McCollum and Udall requested an investigation following a New York Times report on Bernhardt’s involvement rolling back wildlife protections, which would benefit his former clients in the California farming industry. The Times later reported that Bernhardt continued doing work for a former client, the Westlands Water District, several months after affirming he had stopped lobbying.
An Interior spokesperson told CNBC that Bernhardt “is in complete compliance with his ethics agreement and all applicable laws, rules, and regulations.”
Mick Mulvaney’s Master Class in Destroying a Bureaucracy from Within (N.Y.T.)
Facebook’s scandal-ridden year gets a fresh glimpse in massive exposé (CNBC)
Finance’s Top Earners Don’t Work at a Bank (W.S.J.)
Trump Stirs Alarm That He May Be Giving China a New Trade Weapon (Bloomberg)
Trump rolls out details for his White House Correspondents’ Dinner counter-rally (Politico)
Burning Man’s Future in Question Amid Fight with Government Agency (W.S.J.)
T-Mobile-Sprint Deal Runs into Resistance from D.O.J. Anti-Trust Staff (W.S.J.)
Who Goes Public When? Tech Companies Maneuver to Stand Out in the Horde (N.Y.T.)
“Neighbors in the Belhaven area of Jackson, Mississippi, said they have been finding plates of mashed potatoes in locations including porches, mailboxes, and on top of vehicles.” (U.P.I.)
— What happens if Trump realizes that Stephen Miller is the border crisis?
— How the L.A. Times rose from the near-dead
— Is the Biden campaign dead on arrival?
— Did China create a racist A.I. to track Muslims?
Looking for more? Sign up for our daily Hive newsletter and never miss a story.