On a near daily basis, the White House provides countless examples, big and small, of its unparalleled incompetence. From not being aware that Obama’s staff would have to be replaced at the end of his term; to its botched travel bans; to holding a strategy session on North Korea in the middle of the Mar-a-Lago dining room; to its press secretary hiding amongst shrubbery to avoid questions about his boss firing the director of the F.B.I., each day of the Trump administration is like an Advent calendar of tragicomic mishaps.
Of course, when it comes to Team Trump’s ineptitude, few things compare to its failed attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare, which the president vowed on the campaign trail to do on “day one” and which his party, the one that controls Congress, has been vowing to do since the moment Obamacare was signed into law more than seven years ago. For those who are visual learners, it’s been the equivalent of watching a 3-second clip, played on loop, of someone falling down a flight of stairs and hitting every single step on the way down, over and over again. On the bright side, everything else the White House does—or fails to do—looks practically virtuosic, by comparison. That’s really the only way to explain this recent Axios report, headlined “Tax reform shocker,” outlining all the progress the administration has supposedly made on tax reform:
The White House actually seems to have its act together on tax reform. Activists and business leaders who've been meeting with Gary Cohn,Steven Mnuchin,Marc Short & Paul Teller from legislative affairs, and Sean Spicer (who’s leading the comms strategy), all tell us the same thing: They’re surprised about how much planning and organizing the White House has already done, given its ham-handed approach to the health-care rollout.
You know the bar is really, really low when it comes as a surprise that the people who are trying to pass comprehensive tax reform, which hasn’t been done in 30 years, are planning and organizing. The tax reform team is even “engaging C.E.O.s across the country, looking for them to hold town halls, do media appearances, and write letters to their employees explaining the benefits of tax reform,” we are told. Groups like the Business Roundtable and the Koch brothers’ network are “fired up” about the project, which Trump himself is reportedly going to pitch “aggressively” by “barnstorming the states he won in November.” The White House is even expected to “float a few tax policy trial balloons in August.”
But before you start grading the Trump administration on a cartoonishly large curve, it’s worth noting just a few caveats, one of which is the fact that nobody has agreed on “how (or if) to pay for all these tax cuts.”
“Some in the White House would happily just blow out the deficit,” Axios’s Jonathan Swan writes, “but Leadership suspects most Republicans wouldn't be on board with that.”
Recent analysis by the Tax Policy Center shows Trump’s plan costing some $7.8 billion over 10 years, which in some circles is considered a large sum of money. Forget about that—and really, it’s a very minor detail—and Team Tax Reform is totally ready to rock.
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Trump’s “Made in America Week” derailed in entirely predictable way
Happy “Made in America Week”! Monday marks the kickoff of the White House’s latest “theme week,” following in the footsteps of “Workforce Development Week,” “Technology Week,” and “Infrastructure Week,” the latter of which was mocked by Goldman Sachs C.E.O. Lloyd Blankfein on Twitter. This time around, the administration plans to highlight its commitment to products made in the United States by inviting companies from all 50 states to the White House to show off products that were produced stateside, and encouraging more companies to follow suit. It’s a tricky talking point to broadcast effectively when the president and First Daughter both own companies that for years have outsourced manufacturing of their products to countries like China, Mexico, and Bangladesh. Fortunately, communications guru Sean Spicer already has an answer at the ready for the haters and losers who would think to bring that stuff up:
Not everyone is convinced. “Made in America Week is the epitome of President Trump’s hypocrisy,” Daniel Wessel, spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, said Monday. “Trump says we need to make more products here in America, but he outsources his own products and Ivanka Trump makes her products exclusively in foreign factories [putting] his own interests and profits ahead of those of American businesses and workers. . . . Instead of lecturing us, Trump should try setting an example.”
In related news, NBC Newsreports that the administration took steps today to allow 15,000 more H-2B visas to be issued for temporary seasonal workers this year, which just so happens to be the type of visa that much of the Mar-a-Lago staff is on. This comes as Trump has moved to limit H-1B visas and sharply decrease legal immigration in general. But it’s O.K., because apparently it’s all part of the “America First” plan; a senior Department of Homeland Security official told NBC News that increasing the number of these visas will help “American business”—like, for example, Mar-a-Lago—“continue to prosper.”
Larry Fink is afraid
“There are still dark clouds we have to face,” the BlackRock founder and C.E.O. said in an interview with Bloomberg News on Monday, noting that the U.S. economy is growing even slower than expected and will probably only expand at 2.4 percent in the second quarter. As a reminder, the Trump administration has claimed that under its tutelage, the economy will experience growth of at least 3 percent annually, a prediction most recently shot down last week by Fed chair Janet Yellen.
Surprise: the Trump administration opposes rule that would allow class-action lawsuits against banks
Donald Trump ran for president on a populist platform that involved claims that he was going to stop Wall Street from “getting away with murder” and was going to stand up to the “handful of large corporations and political entities” that have “robbed the working class.” Shockingly, it turns out those might have just been talking points. So it probably shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise that his administration has come out against a rule that would prevent banks and credit-card companies from forcing consumers to air their grievances through private arbitration. Per the Wall Street Journal:
The Trump-appointed acting head of the national banking regulator urged the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Monday to delay a rule barring mandatory arbitration requirements between financial firms and customers, escalating a fight between the two regulators. Acting Comptroller of the Currency Keith Noreika Monday asked C.F.P.B. Director Richard Cordray to halt the rule, which could ease the way for class-action litigation against companies, until his office can assess the data behind the rule and verify it won’t put banks in financial risk.
Noreika, you may recall, is the guy Team Trump used a somewhat brazen backdoor move to elevate to his current position without the necessity of Senate approval, a process that would have brought to light many of his potential conflicts of interest as a longtime financial services employee.
Bobby Flay is going public
Attention Food Network fans: why just watch Bobby Flay on TV when you can take part in his I.P.O.?
Mr. Flay said he is planning to offer shares to the public in his Bobby’s Burger Palace, a fast-casual restaurant chain that competes with such burger-centric concepts as Shake Shack and Five Guys. He will use the proceeds of the share sale—which he hopes will reach $15 million—to expand the chain nationally and internationally. Up till now, Mr. Flay, a 52-year-old chef who is especially beloved for his shows on the Food Network, hasn’t sought investors in his restaurants, which also include such high-end concepts as Bar Americain in New York and Uncasville, Conn.; Bobby Flay Steak in Atlantic City, N.J.; and Mesa Grill in Las Vegas. “We love the idea of going public,” he said, adding that the investment opportunity will “allow my fans who watch me on TV and my customers to participate in the growth.”
S.E.C. Upholds Dismissal of Wells Fargo Insider Trading Case (Reuters)
Citigroup Chooses Frankfurt as New European Trading Hub (Bloomberg)
His presidency in crisis, Trump takes a break to play fireman (The Hive)
Hampton Creek’s Entire Board Leaves Except for C.E.O. (Bloomberg)
Bacon Prices Are 80 Percent Higher This Year (Grub Street)
KKR Positions Successors to Kravis and Roberts (Financial Times)
Reebok Mocks Trump in Twitter Post Over Brigitte Macron Remarks (Bloomberg)
Jeff Bezos is officially coming for Blue Apron— and investors are fleeing (The Hive)
Greece to Sell Bonds for First Time Since 2014 (Financial Times)
Bear Turns Heads by Riding in Motorcycle Sidecar, Waving to Onlookers (UPI)