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Inside a new plan to combat international money laundering

Money laundering, both for terrorist finance and tax evasion, threatens national security. Now a private group that watchdogs the quality of anti-money laundering efforts has put forth a smart plan to modernize and upgrade our government's capacity to track illicit cross-border financial transactions—news you will be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.

Global Financial Integrity has a plan, and it's a good one, to upgrade America's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. FinCEN, as it's known, is a critical government agency housed at Treasury and staffed heavily with IRS financial sleuths. It doesn't get nearly the respect or budget it deserves.

Global Financial Integrity is itself an underappreciated Washington nonprofit funded by a host of sources including the Ford Foundation and five governments, though not the United States. On a budget of not much more than $1 million per year, it has done solid work calling attention to the growing problem of illicit finance.

At least $40 trillion of illicit money sloshes around the globe...maybe $50 trillion.

Jim Henry, DCReport's economics correspondent, has spent decades documenting illicit money flows. He estimates from analysis of official banking and trade documents that at least $40 trillion of illicit money sloshes around the globe. The total may be $50 trillion. To get an idea of the gigantic size of that corrupt money bag consider this: Henry's lower-end estimate almost equals the combined annual economic output of the world's two largest economies, America and China.

Global Financial Integrity, in a report titled "Enhancing National Security by Re-imagining FinCEN," makes these recommendations:

  1. Give the FinCEN Director a seat on the Deputies Committee of the National Security Council (NSC) to raise the agency's stature within the national security community.
  2. Create within FinCEN a National Anti-Money Laundering Data Center for advanced data collection, synthesis, analysis and distribution to law enforcement for AML activity.
  3. Establish a "Manhattan Project" to identify, develop and use state-of-the-art technologies needed to fulfill the technology for that data center.
  4. Launch within FinCEN a National Anti-Money Laundering Training Center which will be an anti-money laundering knowledge and education hub for FinCEN staff, financial institution regulators, law enforcement at the federal, state and local levels and for state and federal prosecutors.
  5. Create a Strategic Analysis Team to examine emerging and long-term trends in money laundering methods and computer technologies to counter those threats.

Those are superb ideas all. But will Congress care?

A core problem with hunting for terrorist finance is that the tools used to sift through billions of transactions involving trillions of dollars are the financial equivalent of trawling the ocean bottom for cod. Trawlers catch plenty of cod but they also drag in many unwanted species.

Tax Cheats Off the Hook

The George W. Bush administration was so averse to a serious hunt for big-league tax cheats, it disconnected from a nascent movement by major countries to coordinate their tax policies, a boon to tax cheats. It even refused to hire 80 more IRS investigators to hunt for transactions by Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups in the wake of 9/11.

The official excuse was that taxpayers couldn't afford an extra $12 million in spending, an absurdity when trillions were being spent on the wars in Afghanistan, still underway, and Iraq. But the funding denial made perfect sense if you knew that anti-money laundering nets catch tax cheats along with terrorists. And since the political donor class is rife with tax cheating, catching tax cheats can be inconvenient for politicians in power, and fellow party members, as a Congressional staffer recently reminded me.

In writing about money laundering in casinos since 1988, in my coverage of taxes since 1995, and on terrorist finance after 9/11, I developed a deep appreciation for the unsung work of FinCEN – and recognition of its weaknesses.

More People, Better Tech

What is needed now to strengthen FinCEN: more staff, super-sophisticated computers on apar with the National Security Agency and, most of all, adding a seat for FinCEN at White House National Security Council meetings.

A FinCEN director once told me that given enough time and resources his staff could find a single $19.99 credit card transaction anywhere in the world. The 9/11 attacks were cheap, costing only about $100,000. We shouldn't forget that relatively small expenditures can cause enormous harm.

To find the little transactions behind big attacks in the future FinCEN needs enormous computer power to separate golden nuggets of fact from the overburden of routine financial transactions. FinCEN also needs to be set free to find not just terrorists, but tax cheats.

With trillions of dollars of illicit money in the hands of criminals, kleptocrats and terrorists, and hundreds of billions of dollars of federal income taxes evaded each year, it's long past time to upgrade FinCEN.

Former Yale psychiatrist sues university -- saying she was fired over her efforts to expose Trump's mental illness

As Dr. Bandy X. Lee's frequent publisher, we, the editors of DC Report.org. believe she has made vital contributions to our understanding of public mental health and the damaging effects of a deeply mentally ill individual, Donald Trump, holding the most powerful position in the world.

Trump's delusions, which are well-documented and go back decades, have resulted in the spread of baseless conspiracy theories, numerous acts of deadly violence and the failed attempt to overthrow our government on Jan 6. These assaults continue although there are indications that some Trump followers who embraced his delusions appear to be recovering from their own temporary loss of rationality and mental well-being.

Yale University fired Dr. Lee, an established professor on its medical school faculty, citing the misnamed "Goldwater Rule." That policy directs mental health professionals to hold their tongue about the mental well-being of officials, something American citizens do every day around their kitchen tables, in public forums and on national television. To deny the citizenry the insights of educated mental health professionals is more than absurd, it is an attack on the very principle of American democratic self-governance.

We believe every one of her opinion columns and interviews falls well within the boundaries of the highest standards of responsible journalism.

The "rule" is itself of dubious provenance, relevance and is outdated. And yet one of America's leading universities clings to this orthodoxy in firing Dr. Lee, after 17 years on its medical school faculty, for using her knowledge to advance and widen human understanding of public mental health and the deleterious effects of having a popular leader who suffers from delusions that are well documented.

All Americans should be deeply disturbed at Yale's implicit attack on robust public debate by punishing Dr. Lee and seeking to intimidate other well-informed mental health scholars about our elected leaders and their fitness to hold office. This is especially so for any president because his finger is on the nuclear button.

We have published more than 40 articles by Dr. Lee and expect to carry more of her work. We believe every one of her opinion columns and interviews falls well within the boundaries of the highest standards of responsible journalism. Her writing also advances our mission, which is to cover what politicians do, not what they say, and to encourage citizens to act like the owners of our government.

Lawsuit Filed

On Monday, Dr. Lee filed a lawsuit against Yale for wrongful termination, as the student-run Yale Daily News reported today, March 23.

Her complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Connecticut, asserts that "Yale violated its contractual obligations to Dr. Lee and violated the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Yale further committed the tort of negligent misrepresentation by not adhering to its policies on academic freedom, upon which Dr. Lee had relied."

We hope that the trustees and academic leaders at Yale University cease their attack and acknowledge their error and that they embrace the fundamental principle of American democracy which depends on rational and reasoned debate, not dogma like the misnamed "Goldwater Rule."

Her lawsuit notes that the American Psychiatric Association reinterpreted its "Goldwater Rule" shortly after Trump became president.

'Gag Order'

"The reinterpreted Goldwater Rule created a gag order, recommending that its members not comment on public figures… even where there is a responsibility to society to protect public health," unless these politicians have submitted to psychiatric evaluation, her complaint states, noting that the APA is a voluntary professional organization of psychiatrists, not a regulatory body with government powers. She was last a member of that organization in 2007.

Dr. Lee says, and we agree, that the APA's new interpretation of the rule is "in conflict with [the] duties, responsibilities, and role in the interest of public health in light of her belief that Donald Trump posed a dangerous threat to this country and the world. For this reason, she held an ethics conference at Yale in April 2017 with some of the most respected members of her profession. This conference initially had approximately two dozen attendees and then drew national attention and led to the public-service book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President."

That book became a New York Times bestseller.

While Yale did not sponsor the conference, Dr. Lee discussed the conference in advance with Yale, and Yale provided an auditorium without charge, making her firing all the more incoherent and indefensible academically, politically and morally.

Dr. Lee's more than 40 opinion pieces and interviews, some of them co-authored by other eminent authorities in mental health, can be read by clicking on this DCReport.org link.

DCReport is a reader-supported nonprofit and advertising-free public service journalism organization led by former senior and widely respected journalists from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and other serious news organizations.

How the deep-freeze power debacle is going to cost Texans billions

The pocketbooks of electricity customers across America are under renewed assault by politicians and their friends in the electric power generation business.

Unless America restores a sound economic and legal principle that has protected both consumers and electricity companies for more than a century you can expect bigger and bigger electric bills and possibly the ruinous price gouging as Texans face right now.

Odds are you haven't heard that in the news. That's because no one announced it and most journalism is about covering official announcements while at DCReport we look at facts and decide what we think you need to know. Policies and facts affecting how much you pay for electricity each month are typically news only after a crisis, not as an ongoing news story.

Harsh as Texas is on criminals, it goes all soft and fuzzy when it comes to businesses ripping off millions of people for $550 each.

Regulation of electricity is based on the principle of "just and reasonable" rates. That means consumers pay prices they can afford while investors are assured a reasonable profit, typically a 10% or so return on their assets. Half the states still follow this principle, but half do not.

'Unjust, Unreasonable'

This principle is so thoroughly enshrined in American law that courts have held that when a utility earns a single dollar more than it is entitled to, the profit is "unjust and unreasonable."

Texas politicians last week delivered the latest blow to this sound economic principle following the winter freeze debacle that left millions without power and, eventually, water.

Texas electricity producers charged an extra $47 billion during the Feb. 14-19 freeze. Only $10 billion of extra charges were imposed in all of 2020.

It turns out that a third of these extra charges were bogus. Yet amazingly, Texas regulators plan to let power producers keep the $16 billion they improperly overcharged.

$550 for Every Texan

The overcharges average $550 per Texan. Steal that much just once in the Lone Star state and you can get a fine of up $2,000 plus a six-month stay at the local sheriff's gray-bar hotel.

Harsh as Texas is on criminals, it goes all soft and fuzzy when it comes to businesses ripping off millions of people for $550 each.

The mistake enabling the overcharges was made by the grid operator, the Energy Reliability Council of Texas. Six of the council's seven members, who are residents of other states, said they were resigning.

The $16 billion of improper overcharges took place during the final 33 hours, the company that monitors compliance with the Texas rules revealed. Not correcting this "will result in substantial and unjustified economic harm," wrote Chris Bivens, a vice president of Potomac Economics, the Texas market monitor.

$9,000 per Megawatt Hour

Ironically, about $1.5 billion of the overcharges were paid to electric generating station owners to produce electricity in freezing weather, according to Potomac Economics.

For those 33 hours producers sold power at the maximum allowable price of $9,000 per megawatt-hour. The average cost of producing each megawatt ranges from roughly $11 to $37 dollars depending on what fuel is used

During the freezing weather, the costs of generating power did not go up much or at all. But so many power plants shut down that those still running were allowed to boost their prices sky-high.

The typical residential customer in America uses electricity by the kilowatt. For a megawatt, a unit 1,000 times greater, the typical residential cost is in the range of $130. But Texas electricity generators charged almost 75 times that much. Price markups on that scale are so one-sided that the law treats them as unconscionable and judges often refuse to enforce such contracts.

Too Complicated

Correcting the overcharges would just be too complicated, Arthur C. D'Andrea, the Texas Public Utilities Commission chairman, announced. "It is impossible to unscramble this sort of egg," D'Andrea said last week.

That's nonsense. It's actually easy.

Letting the excess charges stand would also be bad for attracting digital industries to Texas, a major goal of Governor Greg Abbott. His administration is courting Silicon Valley firms because California housing prices are so high it's hard to attract young workers. But digital industries require electricity that is both reliably available and predictably priced and Texas just proved it can't deliver. Electricity shortages are almost certain to worsen in the next few years, as we reported on Feb. 19.

Evidently, PUC chairman D'Andrea didn't get the governor's memo on bringing digital firms to Texas.

Regulation is a dirty word to Abbott and other top Texas officials, Republicans all. But because of its unique nature electricity regulation is crucial because the modern world runs on it and it is created and used in the same instant.

Juice is what most distinguishes us from the ancients. People in ancient Athens, Rome and other cities had paved streets, lodging houses, restaurants, retail shops and even resorts just as we do today. What they lacked were the electrons needed for automobiles and jetliners, night lighting, elevators, refrigerators, and computers.

Texans Facing Bankruptcy

Some Texans are now faced with depleting their savings, drawing money from their retirement savings, mortgaging their homes or filing for bankruptcy even though they used the same or less power during the freeze as on other days.

The Texas rules, which I've warned about for 15 years, are clear, the failure to follow them was blatant, and the plan to let producers keep the $16 billion of overcharges is unfair, unnecessary and, if litigated, likely to be found unconscionable.

It's reasonable to wonder whether the regulators, all political appointees, made a convenient mistake, in effect subtly telling generating plant owners: "Fellas, stuff your saddlebags with all you can and ride over to the bank with your ill-got gains while we sightless sheriffs take a nap."

That may sound cynical, but utility regulation is a revolving door everywhere. Commissioners who set electricity rates and grid rules overwhelmingly come from the executive offices at utilities where they return after their stints as public officials. Consumer advocates are as rare as snow in Houston.

The Ghost of Enron

The problem with electricity overcharges extends far beyond Texas, but it began there in the mid-1990s with lobbying by Enron, the fundamentally corrupt energy price manipulator that later went bankrupt.

Enron persuaded the Texas legislature in the mid-1990s to fundamentally change the way electricity is financed and sold. The idea was that while distributing electricity is best done by a monopoly so multiple power lines are not needed everywhere, there's no natural monopoly in generating power. That's more than reasonable–on the surface.

Eventually, half the states decided to replace vertically integrated electric utilities which generated, transmitted and distributed electricity. Instead, independent firms would generate power and bid to sell it to distribution companies in so-called single-price auctions.

Enron argued that when there was more demand for power than expected prices would spike and those spikes would attract new investors who would build more power plants and in the long run prices would come down.

'Single-Price' Auctions

I've yet to meet a businessperson eager to invest in a business where it takes years to go from concept to operation with the expectation that future profits will be smaller than today.

The biggest flaw in the Enron idea, however, is that idea is that doing the opposite is faster, cheaper and comes with less risk while virtually guaranteeing fat profits. You can read our DCReport stories here and here as well as here and here.

Enron sold Texas lawmakers on "single price" electricity auctions.

Here's how a single-price electricity auction works. The grid operator, in this case, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, calls for bids to supply power for periods that can be as long as a year and as short as a few minutes. Bidders offer to sell power at whatever price they chose.

When bidding closes, everyone whose bid is at or below the price needed to supply all the juice the market needs wins. The winning bidders also get the highest price bid. So even if the average bid was, say, $100, if the highest winning big was $9,000 then every winner gets the $9,000.

Lose-Lose Deals

That means a hydroelectric dam operator with costs of maybe $120 per megawatt-hour can bid one penny to ensure their bid is a winner and then collect thousands of dollars. So, when they throw open the floodgates to make turbines spin, it's almost as if greenbacks instead of water flow like Niagara Falls.

What Wall Street investors figured out, as I did, was another flaw in the Enron plan.

Owners of a single power plant must bid low enough to make sure their electricity is purchased, but owners with a fleet of electricity generators can bid strategically to jack up prices.

Experiments with college students, simple bots and actual bidding records showed years ago that this is exactly what happens, as explained my 2007 book, Free Lunch.

There are rules against this kind of manipulation, which is why grid operators hire independent market monitors like Potomac Economics. But some market monitors have been less than diligent while others have had their advice ignored as right now in Texas.

On top of this, in one of his first official actions in 2017 Donald Trump signaled to Wall Street that fleet owners were pretty much free to manipulate electricity markets, the subject of the second story DCReport published.

As for unscrambling that egg, the task that Texas PUC Chairman D'Andrea says is too hard, here is one way of several ways to restore fairness. The Texas PUC can reject charges that exceed the pre-crisis price during those 33 hours. The independent power producers all keep detailed time and price records and can issue revised invoices. They can also sue the state if they want, knowing they risk being tossed out for trying to enforce unconscionable contracts.

Undoing the improper excess charges involves accounting and math but since, unlike the ancients, we have electricity to power computers it's not all that hard to make the calculations necessary to uphold the just and reasonable principle.

Argument senators using against raising the minimum wage 'is actually silly': expert

Imagine Washington announcing today that for the next three decades your pay will increase each January. You'll get a boost to cover inflation plus 10-cents more an hour. That means your real pay next year, before taxes, will be $4 more per week.

Ask yourself, would you even notice an extra $4 a week in gross pay? Would you feel like playing by the rules and being a good worker was worth it?

Well, that's what has happened to the typical American worker since 1990, but no one announced it back then. And it's happened as unions have been pretty much destroyed, representing only about one in 15 private-sector workers.

As a middle-aged widow who lost her job and took minimum-wage work at a major national retailer to feed herself and her son, who live together in a town with low-cost housing, told me:

"You can't make ends meet on the minimum wage no matter how much you try. It is just not possible."

Republicans and some Senate Democrats claim that raising the minimum wage will kill jobs and force small businesses to close. That's not what past actual experience shows, at least not on this planet.

That's the prime reason Congress and President Biden must raise the minimum wage.

As private-sector unions have faded away, wages have fallen in tandem. The numbers and the pain of people like the widow show that Congress must step in, acting as a proxy union for the lowest-paid workers by raising the floor on wages in America. If lawmakers fail then taxpayers should expect rising costs for welfare to cope with social pathologies. We should all expect popular support for our tattered democracy will wither even more, putting our liberties in danger.

Inflation Toll

The story I pulled from the official data shows things are much worse than just the awful fact that the minimum wage has been stuck since 2009 at $7.25 an hour, its value being eroded by inflation even as America grows ever richer.

Each year, I do detailed analyses of W-2 wage and salary reports that employers send to the Social Security Administration. Its computers add up every filing and then a report shows how many people make how much in broad pay categories whether they had one employer or many.

What the wage data show is disturbing. America is becoming two nations separate and unequal, one with a minority of workers who are prospering, some making each year enough for a hundred families for a lifetime. Across the income divide more than 130 million workers struggle.

Republicans and some Senate Democrats claim that raising the minimum wage will kill jobs and force small businesses to close. That's not what past actual experience shows, at least not on this planet.

Faulty Argument

That argument is actually silly because it assumes that prices never increase so if wages go up businesses must fail. Nonsense. But should you find a dealer advertising new cars today at 1990 prices please let me know.

What the facts show that since 1990 our national wage pie, adjusted for inflation, has grown much bigger. Adjusted for inflation it was $8.8 trillion in 2019, up from $5 trillion in 1990.

But the way the wage pie was cut into slices changed significantly.

Let's look first at workers who always earn only the minimum wage. Such people exist, though they are not common.

In 1990 the minimum wage was $3.80. Adjusted for inflation it would have to have risen to $7.48 in 2019 just to stay even. But the minimum wage was only $7.25, the same as today. In absolute terms these workers are worse off, their meager slice of income pie shrinking.

In 2019 half of America's 169 million workers made less than $35,000; a third made less than $20,000. Only one in three workers earn more than $1,000 per week.

$620 a Week

What about the typical worker? That's measured by examining median pay; half make more, half less. In 2019 the median wage was $34,250 or $620 a week.

That's a real increase since 1990 of $5,712. That sounds good until you realize that in round numbers it works out to that dime an hour raise every January.

How about the average wage which includes those with ginormous paychecks? Real average pay rose by $12,225 to $51,916. That's two dimes and a penny more per hour each January. How much would you notice an extra $8.40 a week – before taxes?

Now let's turn to the extremely well paid, people whose pay increases alone meant they gorged on wage pie while most everyone else got crumbs.

Let's consider all workers making $1 million or more, roughly one in every thousand workers. Their share of the national wage pie rose mightily, from 3 cents in 1990 to a nickel in 2019. That leaves everyone else with a smaller share of the pie to divvy up.

What about the super-paid workers who made $10 million or more in 1990 and 2019 using 2019 dollars.

More Super-Rich

The number of super-paid workers is for sure small. But it grew five-fold from 739 to 4,024.

Their average gross pay increased from just shy of $2 million to almost $2.5 million. Simply put in 2019 they got six days of pay for five days of 1990 work.

Also, a record 222 of these workers were paid more than $50 million in 2019, averaging $89 million each.

Even if we assume that employers pay these top earners what they are worth, a society whose rules and regulations lavish every more pay on those to the top while hardly growing wages for two-thirds or more of the workforce is neither stable nor enduring. The chasm between the super-paid and everyone else is huge and widening and can destroy support for democracy, as we saw with the failed coup on Jan. 6.

Without unions to bargain for workers pay simply is not going to improve. Indeed, our government has put downward pressure on wages through the welfare "reform" act President Bill Clinton signed, which flooded the market with women who have few job skills and little education, a stealth subsidy for many employers because they could pay less. The child tax credit for working parents has morphed over time into a subsidy for employers who now capture its benefits by not raising pay. Those are just of many anti-worker policies our government put in place during the past 40 years.

Congress can fix this. It has to step in as a proxy union for powerless workers and raise the minimum wage. If we could afford a minimum wage in the 1960s that's equal to about $12 an hour today then we can afford to raise our pay standards in today's much wealthier America.

And to those small businesses that say they will fold if they have to pay their workers more there is an answer: Raise prices.

If you can't afford to pay a living wage and you can't raise prices, your business is already failing so put it out of its misery. You can always start a new business in the future -- and with people making more money your chances of success will be much better because more customers will have more money to spend.

There's a sad truth behind some terrific new income statistics

We have stunningly good news today: Wages in 2020 grew at by far the fastest rate in the last 45 years.

The bad news: It's a statistical anomaly caused by Donald Trump's lethal mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic. The scourge wiped out almost eight million jobs held by lower-paid workers and only two million better-paying jobs.

The worse news: Two Republican senators who publicly profess their Christian faith to win over voters want to oppress millions of people trapped in poverty. With straight faces, they call their plan the Higher Wages for American Workers Act.

The good news starts out this way—in 2020, average wages grew a stunningly robust 7.2% over the previous year.

More than 80% of the 9.6 million jobs that disappeared in the pandemic paid in the bottom quarter of wages. Wipe out those jobs and the statistics on wages show an increase.

That's by far the greatest one-year growth in wages in the past 45 years. In fact, it's 80% more than the fastest previous year's wage growth, analysis of Census data shows.

Typical Pay

The better measurement, however, is the median wage. It indicates what the typical worker makes. The median marks the halfway point in wages with half of workers making more, half less. The median wage grew 6.9%, a new report by the Economic Policy Institute shows.

EPI is a nonprofit research organization that advocates for poorly paid workers and regularly issues The State of Working America report with lots of interactive graphics. I've checked its work and always find it rock solid.

The obvious question is how could wages skyrocket during a pandemic that created the worst joblessness since the Great Depression? How could wages rise at all since by the end of May more than 42 million Americans, a quarter of those with any paid labor, had filed for jobless benefits?

Just beneath the surface, we find a compelling and distorting fact: More than 80% of the 9.6 million jobs that disappeared in the pandemic paid in the bottom quarter of wages. Wipe out those jobs and the statistics on wages show an increase. What's surprising is that the increase is only about 7%.

America's low-paid jobs are disproportionately held by women, especially those with children and little education, and by minorities. In real terms, these groups have been losing ground for years even as the economy keeps growing.

But by killing their jobs, at least until the pandemic is over and recovery is complete, the data in wages paid were distorted by the fact that most of those who are out of work were in the bottom half of the pay ladder.

Forgotten Americans Forgotten

What was it that Trump promised The Forgotten Men and Women? Oh yes, "The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer." Well, he forgot about them and in addition to a real jobless rate of about 10% plus more than a half-million Americans needlessly dead. Had Trump followed sound public health advice, as we saw South Korea do, the coronavirus butcher's bill would be only about 10,000 dead Americans.

So how to alleviate the misery of America's working poor?

Senators Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) say they are coming to the rescue. In a display of chutzpah and cluelessness that is extraordinary even for rich white men in high government positions, they call their bill the Higher Wages for American Workers Act.

Their bill's provisions are at odds with their professed devotion to a religion that imposes as a core duty alleviating the suffering of the poor. Cotton is a Methodist. Romney belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Cotton and Romney say the Biden administration plan for a $15 minimum wage in 2025 is way too much money. They propose a minimum wage of $10 an hour in 2025.

How much higher would real wages rise under the Cotton-Romney plan?

$12 A Week

Given the expected rate of inflation, that $10 an hour in 2025 would mean about 30-cents more in real pay than the current federal minimum of $7.25 an hour. That's $12 a week more for a full-time week. The current minimum wage has been in place since 2009 under legislation signed by President George W. Bush. Inflation since 2009 has shaved roughly a buck off each hour's minimum wage.

Measured back to President George W. Bush, the Cotton-Romney plan leaves workers worse off in 2025 than in 2009.

Now watch the news and see if the record rise in median and average wages is reported. Where it is, pay close attention—especially in reports by Fox News and its like—whether they say the increase is a statistical anomaly or proclaim a miracle wrought by Trump.

Having read this at least you won't be fooled.

There is a distressing fact hidden in seemingly terrific new income statistics

We have stunningly good news today: wages in 2020 grew at by far the fastest rate in the last 45 years.

The bad news: it's a statistical anomaly caused by Donald Trump's lethal mishandling of the coronavirus. The pandemic wiped out almost eight million jobs held by lower-paid workers and only two million better-paying jobs.

The worse news: Two Republican senators who publicly profess their Christian faith to win over voters want to oppress millions of people trapped in poverty. With straight faces, they call their plan the Higher Wages for American Workers Act.

The good news starts out this way—in 2020, average wages grew a stunningly robust 7.2% over the previous year.

That's by far the greatest one-year growth in wages in the past 45 years. In fact, it's 80% more than the fastest previous year's wage growth, analysis of Census data shows.

The better measure, however, is the median wage. It indicates what the typical worker makes. The median marks the halfway point in wages with half of workers making more, half less. The median wage grew 6.9%, a new report by the Economic Policy Institute shows.

EPI is a nonprofit research organization that advocates for poorly paid workers and regularly issues The State of Working America report with lots of interactive graphics. I've checked its work and always find it rock solid.

EPI's latest by Elise Gould and Jori Kandra is available here.

So, the obvious question is how could wages skyrocket during a pandemic that created the worst joblessness since the Great Depression? How could wages rise at all since by the end of May more than 42 million Americans, a quarter of those with any paid labor, had filed for jobless benefits?

Just beneath the surface, we find a compelling and distorting fact: more than 80% of the 9.6 million jobs that disappeared in the pandemic paid in the bottom quarter of wages. Wipe out those jobs and the statistics on wages will show an increase. What's surprising is that the increase is only about 7%.

America's low-paid jobs are disproportionately held by women, especially those with children and little education, and by minorities. In real terms, these groups have been losing ground for years even as the economy keeps growing.

But by killing their jobs, at least until the pandemic is over and recovery is complete, the data in wages paid was distorted by the fact that most of those who are out of work were in the bottom half of the pay ladder.

What was it that Donald Trump promised The Forgotten Men and Women? Oh yes, "The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer." Well, he forgot about them and in addition to a real jobless rate of about 10% plus more than a half-million Americans needlessly dead. Had Trump followed sound public health advice, as we saw in South Korea, the coronavirus butcher's bill would be only about 10,000 dead Americans.

So how to alleviate the misery of America's working poor?

Senators Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) say they are coming to the rescue. In a display of chutzpah and cluelessness that is extraordinary even for rich white men in high government positions, they call their bill the Higher Wages for American Workers Act.

Their bill's provisions are at odds with their professed devotion to a religion that imposes as a core duty alleviating the suffering of the poor. Cotton is a Methodist. Romney belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Cotton and Romney say the Biden administration plan for a $15 minimum wage in 2025 is way too much money. They propose a minimum wage of $10 an hour in 2025.

How much higher would real wages rise under the Cotton-Romney plan?

Given the expected rate of inflation, that $10 an hour in 2025 would mean about 30-cents in real pay than the current federal minimum of $7.25 an hour. The current minimum wage has been in place since 2009 under legislation signed by President George W. Bush. Inflation since 2009 has shaved roughly a buck off each hour's minimum wage. Measured back to President George W. Bush, the Cotton-Romney plan leaves workers worse off in 2025 than in 2009.

Now watch the news and see if the record rise in median and average wages is reported. Where it is, pay close attention—especially in reports by Fox News and it's like—whether they say the increase is a statistical anomaly or proclaim a miracle wrought by Donald Trump.

Having read this at least you won't be fooled.

Yes, Texas is in bad shape -- here's why it's only going to get worse

The misery and death in Texas, where the state electric grid was taken down by unusual but predictable cold weather, underscore the misguided conservative Republican values of less regulation, devil-may-care burning of fossil fuels, dangerous tax cuts and unfettered trust in markets as the universal problem solver.

In Texas, the blame for the unheated homes, the dark urban skylines and winter water shortages is on just one politician—Greg Abbott. He has been governor of the Lone Star state for more than six years.

Abbott gained notoriety in the past few days for making the ridiculous claim that Texans are freezing because windmills fail in the cold. The fact is that they are running just fine in such spots as Iowa, Minnesota, Alaska, Finland and even Siberia.

Texas didn't require that natural gas pipelines be built in anticipation of severe weather, didn't require sufficient natural gas storage for electric power plants and didn't insist that the electric grid itself be hardened against severe heat and cold.

The reason Texans are freezing is that Texas:

  • Failed to require that natural gas pipelines be built in anticipation of severe weather
  • Didn't require sufficient natural gas storage for electric power plants
  • Neglected to insist that the electric grid itself be hardened against severe heat and cold, more of which is certain as climate change generates raucous weather

What did Abbott do? He appointed all three members of the Texas Public Utility Commission who failed to ensure adequacy of the Texas electric grid for all weather.

Inadequate Reserves

Abbott's commissioners, embracing his anti-regulatory philosophy, did not require adequate power generation reserves. That's crucial. When electric generators go down in extreme weather, accidents or even planned maintenance, there needs to be plentiful additional capacity to ensure the juice flows.

The savings from cheapskating in this area are quickly overwhelmed by the damage done by blackouts and days without power in either extreme cold or extreme heat.

Allowing utilities to slash the size of their staffs, especially line workers, compounds a disaster.

The set-up for this disaster began years before Abbott was born in 1957. Two decades earlier, during the Great Depression, Texas exempted itself from the then newly established federal regulation of electricity reliability and pricing.

Separate Power Grid

Most of Texas has its own power grid that doesn't connect to the massive Eastern U.S. or Western U.S. grids. The Panhandle and most of East Texas are on the Eastern Interconnection. The El Paso area is connected to the Western grid.

The rest of the state is under the system operator laughably named Electric Reliability Council of Texas, better known as ERCOT. Significantly, those areas connected to the rest of the country have not had issues.

That the Texas grid was not designed for predictable severe weather and lacked backup generating capacity has been known and documented for years. Yet under Abbott, the situation festered.

A blistering assessment of the Texas situation was provided to DCReport by two deeply informed electricity experts, Larry Kellerman, managing director of private equity investor I Squared Capital, and Robert McCullough, an independent utility economist in Oregon. They said:

Larry Kellerman utility investment adviser Larry Kellerman

"The unfortunate state of the ERCOT power system can be summarized in two words: systematic unpreparedness. The origins of this disaster included the lowest reserve margins in North America, ignoring basic maxims of preparing for bad winter weather, and a market design that rewards shortages at the cost of consumers."

Kellerman's firm is a $24.5 billion private equity fund that invests in modernizing electric utility systems. McCullough is feared by utilities because of his ability to cut through their obfuscations with killer facts and smart financial analysis.

Getting Worse

The problems that Kellerman and McCullough documented in their report are only going to get worse so long as Abbott does what he has been doing. The governor comes up with crazy lies like blaming the proposed Green New Deal for his state's current electricity fiasco. His Republican allies in the legislature, by the way, are just as dishonest about the reasons the juice stopped flowing.

Indeed, anti-regulation ideology is so deep in the heart of Texas that Abbott's predecessor, Rick Perry, the Trump Energy secretary, says Texans would rather freeze without electric power than let Washington regulate their grid.

Robert McCullough utility economistRobert McCullough

Texas will have a terrible shortfall in its capacity to generate electricity at least through 2024, a National Electricity Reliability Council report shows. That means extreme hot or cold weather will result in more blackouts just when people most need air-conditioning or heating.

Texas fully embraced the idea of electricity markets to make for a stronger and more efficient electric system. It did so under auction rules sold to the Texas legislature by lobbyists for Enron. You remember Enron? It was the utterly corrupt, electricity-price manipulating Texas company whose top executives were tried and imprisoned after the company collapsed.

Some 14 years ago, I exposed the Enron-designed "electricity markets" for rules that inherently made prices rise, allowing power profiteers to gouge their customers' wallets.

Defenders of the Enron design of electricity auctions say that higher prices will prompt consumers to reduce their use of juice during peak demand periods. But without a convenient price change notification system how would you know that the price of power jumped 10-fold from five minutes ago?

Poor Economics

How can consumers respond to prices they don't know are rising – or falling. The only honest and economically sound answer is they can't. Abbott and his ill-informed appointees don't understand that, and don't want Texans to understand.

Kellerman and McCullough said Thursday the theory that "mandating even higher prices" will prevent blackouts "is simply poor economics." In Texas, the "widespread blackouts show that mandating high prices during emergencies has not created an incentive to build enough generation, make sure that it is operational during extreme weather or served consumers adequately."

And they note that the "privilege—not the inherent right—to participate in ERCOT's power marketplace" comes with a responsibility to apply well-established investment, design and operation practices "necessary to assure operational integrity during inclement weather."

Instead, the regulators appointed by Republican governors produced "a 20th-century solution for what should no longer be a 21st-century problem."

The cheapest and smartest way for electricity profiteers to fill their pockets is to eliminate generating capacity. Buying a fleet of power plants and then shutting one down allows profiteers to rig electricity markets so their profits balloon, as I showed here and here.

From $30 to $9,000

In Texas electricity that last week cost $30 soared to $9,000 once the bitter cold brought down much of the grid.

I've written about electricity regulation for more than four decades and taught its fundamentals for eight years to graduate business and law students at Syracuse University.

In 2006 in The New York Times, I showed how vulnerable the Texas electricity "market" is to manipulation by profiteers.

Creating electric grids that aren't up to the task is one of the ways that profiteers benefit,]. No American politician has done more to help profiteers than Abbott.

That Texans seem bewildered about their plight even though the problems have been known for years is not surprising. Texas utilities felt free under Abbott and his two Republican predecessors, Rick Perry and George W. Bush, to attack honest journalism about the electricity situation in Texas.

One giant Texas utility, Reliant, assigned multiple executives to harass a Galveston newspaper reporter who wrote accurate pieces about facts that the Houston-based utility wanted to hide from its customers.

One thing Texans should know is that going forward more deadly disasters caused by a lack of electricity generating capacity are predictable. The North American Electric Reliability Corp., assigned by Congress in 2005 to monitor reliability, found that only two of the 21 electric grids it studied will lack enough capacity to meet demand in 2024. That is a very short time in which to increase generating capacity.

The Canadian system serving Ontario province will be short 615 megawatts of capacity. The Texas shortfall will be six times that at 4,819 megawatts.

That electric generating capacity shortfall equals all the power needed to serve about 3.1 million homes. Texas has almost 10 million households.

When the predictable blackouts happen in the future will Texans know who is to blame for their misery? Or will they believe official fairy tales about wind turbines freezing up and the Green New Deal which as of now is only an idea?

A disturbing look at how easy it is for the rich to dodge their taxes

The rich aren't like you and me, at least not when it comes to being taxed. Thanks to Congress, the U.S. has two income tax systems, separate and unequal. One is for workers. The other is for business owners with extra favors for real estate investors.

Last week we examined one aspect of federal tax unfairness, how earning today and then delaying payment of taxes for decades converts the burden of the federal income tax into a profit center.

This week we'll look at another aspect of unfairness – unverified income.

Congress doesn't trust you and others who labor, whether as ditch diggers or CEOs. Congress requires your employer to tell the IRS exactly how much you are paid and to withhold your income, Social Security and Medicare taxes before you get the money you earned. Your bank reports interest earnings of more than $10 per year. Your mutual fund or stockbroker do the same for dividends and capital gains.

The opportunities to cheat are especially easy and hard to detect for those in real estate, especially on an international scale. If Donald Trump comes to mind you've got the picture.

Business owners are an entirely different story. Congress trusts them.

Instead of verifying their incomes and withholding taxes upfront, Congress trusts these Americans to scrupulously tell the Internal Revenue Service about every dollar they earn. And it doesn't require them to pay their taxes upfront, either, although there are some rules on paying taxes every 90 days, rules easily skirted by those business owners who also draw a salary, or have a spouse who does, or who report less than their actual income.

You're Scrutinized, Your Boss Isn't

If workers underreport their income the IRS knows. It just compares what's on your tax return to the W-2 your employer sent to our government. So too for the 46 states with income taxes, all of which share information with the IRS.

But a business owner runs only a small risk of detection for underreporting. And the opportunities to cheat are especially easy and hard to detect for those in real estate, especially on an international scale. If Donald Trump comes to mind you've got the picture.

Tax cheating in real estate is easy because, unlike the way paychecks are reported, there is no national computer system that gathers up real estate information and notifies the IRS. Investigations into real estate tax dodges are rare. There are records of real estate sales, but matching them to tax returns is an arduous process, unlike the automated system for wages, interest, dividends and in recent years stock market capital gains.

Properties for Money Laundering

Five years ago in Newsweek, I was the first journalist to show that around the world wealthy people were parking money in apartments, many of which came with special deals so little property tax was due. Buying apartments is a smart way to hide and launder money, whether in New York, San Francisco, Melbourne, Singapore or Paris. And the risk that income tax authorities will poke into your affairs? About the same as the sun rising in the West tomorrow.

A similar issue arises with the art and collectibles markets. For years, prices have been rising much faster than inflation or the global economy. A big reason is that these markets are unregulated and records are skimpy. That makes them near perfect for evading taxes, money laundering and hiding wealth. That's the premise of Riviera, the artsy Amazon Prime dramatic series starring Julia Stiles.

Much of the art and collectibles from Old Masters to Rauschenbergs and Bugattis to 17th Century Stradivarius violins are stored in massive underground vaults in the U.S., Switzerland, Singapore and other jurisdictions known for being friendly to tax cheats. No one is enjoying these creations, but you are paying to keep them in dark, air-conditioned rooms by bearing the taxes the owners evade.

IRS Barred from Investigating

Congress has taken steps to make sure people who use the art, collectible cars and real estate to launder money and take untaxed profits won't get pinched by our tax police. Congress took away much of the authority IRS agents had to investigate people based on obvious discrepancies between the income on their tax return and their lifestyle.

Years ago a just-retired IRS agent told me a story about the value of such audits. While training a recruit they were randomly assigned to inspect the books of a Manhattan diner. Everything appeared to be in order. The man's modest income on his tax return pretty much matched his business records.

But as the agents walked out they noticed a flashy European car pull up. A woman in a sable coat and diamonds got out, walked past them into the diner and embraced the owner. The agent took down the license plate and started digging, turning up a mansion in the suburbs, a yacht and other signs of a lifestyle that cost many multiples of the reported income.

'Thanks, Sen. Roth!'

Today that agent would probably be stopped. Why? Because of the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998. While Congress didn't outright ban so-called "lifestyle audits," it did make such inquiries difficult to justify so they have largely faded away.

Audits began fading after Ronald Reagan left office, and the trend accelerated after 1997 and 1998 hearings by Sen. William V. Roth Jr. (R-Del.) investigating supposedly zealous IRS agents who harassed decent taxpayers. The stories the witnesses told were horrific. The testimony was also one-sided because Roth, best known as the father of the tax-free Roth IRA, knew that by law the IRS could not respond. The TV networks, big newspapers and magazines all lapped it up.

After the hearings, Tax Notes Magazine, The Virginian-Pilot newspaper, The Wall Street Journal and I in The New York Times showed that the testimony was self-serving nonsense that bore little resemblance to the facts. That didn't make the networks, magazines or much else.

That 1998 law should really be called the Tax Cheats Relief Act of 1998.

Tax Gold in Real Estate

There are obvious ways that penny-ante operators chisel on their taxes. There are mom-and-pop retailers who don't ring up every cash sale on the cash register, for example.

But the big tax money is in real estate.

I have held in my hands papers showing the transfer of roughly a billion dollars worth of real estate from one generation of a family to the next between 10 AM and 2 PM on a single day. The parents acquired the property in the 1950s so huge capital gains are built in. The tax upon sale would easily be north of $100 million.

If the property was a gift to descendants then gift tax would be owed, also north of $100 million.

I saw proof that the IRS knows that neither tax was paid. But the service has done nothing to enforce the law against the parents, who possibly were valuable intelligence assets during the Cold War.

This failure to enforce the law is as much a scandal as the IRS dropping its criminal investigation into at least $100 million of untaxed annual income flowing to one of the Koch brothers, as DCReport revealed in 2019.

Audit Poor People Instead

What the IRS has done, as directed by Congress, is intensify audits of the poor. One in three households with income of less than $25,000 is audited at nine times the rate for the 24,300 households making $10 million, as DCReport showed in October.

For the rich real estate family, there is even better news than super-low audit rates.

Congress, in a further sign that while it doesn't trust workers it does trust business owners, put in place a rule requiring the IRS to challenge any transfers of property within three years. If the IRS doesn't audit within that tight window of time then the gift tax return is accepted as filed even if our government was shorted $100 million.

This short time limit is absurd and undemocratic because an IRS study early in this century found that undervaluing gifted real estate is endemic. In some states, every large gift tax return audited showed significantly undervalued property.

In contrast, the working poor get a harsh deal. If the IRS determines that they made a simple math error they can be barred for two years from the Earned Income Tax Credit, America's major program to help impoverished children. If something worse is found the bar can last a decade.

Double Standards

That's two standards of justice separate and unequal, one is for rich real estate families, the other for the families who cut the grass and take out the trash in their buildings. But don't expect a 14thAmendment challenge in court to succeed. That's because our Constitution gives Congress virtually free reign to tax. Indeed, tax lawyers refer to tax favors as almost religious in nature—"given by the grace of Congress."

Audits of business owners are slowly fading away. In the last two decades, Congress has pared, trimmed and ultimately slashed the IRS budget for tax law enforcement. When economic and population growth and inflation are taken into account the IRS has been cut in half since the turn of the century.

The rate of audits is down and so is the amount of time spent on audits. Years ago some IRS wags saw this trend building and came up with a metaphor to the marketing of watery low-calorie beer. They started referring to the IRS policy of "audit lite."

That term may need updating. Unless the IRS gets a bigger budget and unless Congress stops some of these unwarranted favors for rich tax evaders, tax cheats who own their business, invest in real estate or traffic in art can look forward to a future that's audit free.

Senate GOP's miserly relief proposal shows again that they only care about white Americans

Joe Biden wants a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package, Senate Republicans only a third that much. Both propose too little for too short of a time period. Even more important, both propose too little for where it is needed most.

The Republicans say America just can't afford more relief. Their skimpy plan would provide nothing for renters facing eviction, just the latest sign of how since Trump the Republicans have chosen to become the party of white skin privilege since its Black and Latino renters most at risk of eviction.

The GOP would also do little for small business, offering only a dime on the Biden dollar. To reopen schools, the Republicans offer just 12 cents to each Biden dollar. For the jobless, they would provide just 34-cents to the Biden dollar.

The economic carnage from Trump's incompetent and malicious response to the coronavirus has been concentrated in poor and minority neighborhoods.

Complaints that America can't afford the Biden relief package ring hollow. The Trump-Radical Republican tax cuts—passed in December 2017 without a single vote from a Democrat—used borrowed money to bestow $2.4 trillion in tax savings to large corporations and rich individuals along with crumbs to the 99%. Biden's tax plan would raise $2.1 trillion over 10 years, taking back much of the savings from large companies and individuals making more than $400,000 per year.

Welfare for the Rich

The COVID relief package Donald Trump signed into law last spring was heavily weighted to those who didn't need help. As the graphic below shows, such excess cash nearly doubled from when Trump assumed office and last May. Only a little of that money has been withdrawn and spent, an indication that federal aid was just welfare for the rich.

Institutional Money Funds Soar Cash parked in institutional money market funds used by corporations almost doubled between Trump becoming president and soon after

During the pandemic, many millions of American households have reduced their debts and increased their savings because they had continued to be employed while their spending dropped. They don't need relief.

Since your spending is my income, and vice versa, the people suffering because of the drop in spending do need help. Think of restaurant workers, barbers, gym trainers and retail store clerks.

Invisible Suffering

In a nation whose political and economic power structure is largely white, and in which large numbers of Americans have few to no minorities as neighbors, it's easy for those suffering the most to be invisible.

One of the striking patterns I've noticed in print and broadcast interviews with COVID deniers, the people who reject masks and social distancing, is that they are overwhelmingly white and often say they don't know anyone who died from the virus. These people let their anecdotal experience trump what the data show.

It's easy to never notice the depth and breadth of American poverty because it's highly concentrated in neighborhoods with aging houses and apartments, little bus service and often far from good jobs. There's plenty of rural poverty, too, which is even less likely to be noticed by the majority culture.

The data show the tremendous suffering in places like Rochester, N.Y., a once fabulously rich city. These days every sixth Rochester resident subsists on less than half the income needed to escaping poverty. For a family of four, that's $1,000 per month or less, hardly enough for a single person to survive on. Rochester is far from alone among once rich cities turned poor.

$25,000 a Year

The official federal poverty measure, created when Lyndon Johnson was president, is badly outdated. It assumes that an income of about $500 per week or about $25,000 per year is enough for a family of four to escape poverty. That's not even true in rural areas where housing is dirt cheap.

A newer and much more reliable poverty measure called ALICE should guide Congress.

ALICE is an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed – people who work but don't have savings and find it hard to make ends meet, a concept developed by the nonprofit United Way. Think of the majority of American households who have less than $1,000 in savings and often nothing at all.

ALICE indicates that to meet basic needs a family of four in moist urban areas needs about $1,200 per week—more than $62,000 per year. That's not much less than the median household income these days of about $68,000.

$10 Million a Year

For perspective, a third of American households make less than $25,000, 90% make less than $134,000 and the fastest growth is among the $10 million-and-up class that now has more than 24,000 households.

The economic carnage from Trump's incompetent and malicious response to the coronavirus has been concentrated in poor and minority neighborhoods. In large part, that's because close to two-thirds of higher-income Americans have jobs they can do from home, only about 9% of lower-paid workers enjoy that privilege. And many of these lower-paid workers are deemed essential, risking their health and sometimes dying so we have clean floors in hospitals, food on grocery store shelves and other fundamental services.

Many of those hardest hit are workers who show up and do their jobs but have had their hours cut or their jobs eliminated. That's where relief needs to be concentrated – extending jobless benefits and making sure people aren't evicted, which can make them homeless and set them back financially for years.

Families Facing Eviction

As many as 40 million families are at risk of eviction because they can't pay the rent. Miles long lines of cars at food giveaways shown in television news reports attest to the depth of the income problem from those made jobless by the pandemic.

Relief needs to help both renters and their landlords.

Black and Hispanic renters are "twice as likely as white renter households to be behind on housing payments and twice as likely to report being at risk of eviction," Sophia Wedeen of Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies found.

Giving poor renters cash grants to cover their rent would be the cleanest way to help landlords avoid foreclosure. That would also save on the social costs of dealing with people who become homeless, lose their household furniture and may not recover for years.

Loan Thieves

That first round of help also attracted hordes of thieves. The suspected thefts exceed $4 billion. A rapidly growing list of borrowers are now charged with making up vast numbers of employees so they could get Payroll Protection Plan loans that don't have to be paid back. One North Carolina man was indicted for fraudulently collecting $5.5 million using 12 companies with wildly inflated payroll numbers.

One of the greatest needs is for more and longer-lasting jobless benefits including an expansion of eligibility. I've talked to small business owners whose operations are seasonal and failed before the pandemic or otherwise fell between the cracks in qualifying for the $400 per week in jobless benefits and the $600 per week that was in the initial relief bill.

Congress should make the $400 per week of federal jobless benefits open-ended just like the pandemic's effects are open-ended. Otherwise, as the pandemic drags on because the Trump administration failed to plan for distributing vaccines there will be another vote in Congress on extending relief. Take care of it all. Now.

Trump’s pathetic attempt to revive American manufacturing was a stunningly dismal failure

Now that his term is finally ending, let's examine Donald Trump's performance on a key promise he made four years ago—to bring back manufacturing jobs, especially from China and Mexico, and thereby raise wages. Evaluation first, then a grade.

Last summer U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer praised several companies that had planned to move jobs offshore but then reconsidered or announced production would move back to the United States. The "era of reflexive offshoring is over," he claimed in a New York Times op-ed last May.

None of this is supported by facts. Indeed, Team Trump's policies encouraged offshoring jobs, not that you'd likely know that from following the news.

No 'blue-collar boom,' not even before Trump's incompetent pandemic response threw millions onto the unemployment lines.

In his State of the Union address last year Trump proclaimed a "blue-collar boom" in jobs. It was fact-free nonsense. It didn't happen, not even before Trump's incompetent and malicious pandemic response threw tens of millions of people, including many factory workers, onto the unemployment lines.

"Even before the coronavirus outbreak, the promised benefits of the president's $1.9 trillion tax cuts hadn't materialized and manufacturing had fallen into a slump," Rep. Don Beyer, a Virginia Democrat, wrote in a report. "After a brief upturn in 2018, manufacturing had fallen into a slump by the first quarter of 2019."

Factory job losses continued in 2020 as the chart, from our federal government's Bureau of Labor Statistics data, shows:

Our trade in goods with Mexico had a negative shortfall of almost $103 billion in the first 11 months of last year. That's 75%worse than the $59 billion shortfall under Obama in 2016.

Using 2019 as the benchmark, to avoid pandemic effects, the shortfall grew by 72% compared to 2016. That shows the abject failure of Trump's Mexico trade policy measured on his terms.

Job Quality Suffered

Under Trump job stability and quality–pay, fringe benefits working conditions–suffered.

"Job quality in the U.S. remains tepid," the Coalition for Prosperous America reported this month. The coalition promotes balanced trade deals. Jeff Ferry, the coalition's chief economist and creator of its Job Quality Index, said on Jan. 8 that "restoring the health of our manufacturing sector is the best way to restore prosperity to millions of middle class and struggling Americans."

Trump's 2016 campaign promises about manufacturing jobs raised the hopes of people who worked in the 91,000 American factories that have closed since 1997 under Congressional policies that in some cases subsidized moving jobs offshore.

But the carnage continued. In the two years from 2016 under Obama through 2018 under Trump 1,800 American factories closed.

1,800 U.S. Factories Shut

Overall, the U.S. has suffered a net loss of more than 91,000 manufacturing plants and nearly 5 million manufacturing jobs since 1997. Nearly 1,800 factories have disappeared during the Trump administration between 2016 and 2018.

Trump's 2017 tax cut added to those subsidies by enabling American firms to earn untaxed or minimally profits so long as they invest offshore.

Minorities were hardest hit by the loss of factory jobs to China. Scott estimated that 958,800 minority factory workers were displaced with wage-related losses of $10,485 per worker – and that was in 2011. Today jobs and pay are worse, not better, for blue-collar minority workers.

Weak Demand

The problem with Trump's promise and the wish for more factory jobs is with the two sources of such jobs manufacturing jobs.

One is the diminished demand for goods, which in turn reduces the demand for workers to make, package, ship and market those goods. The other: What manufacturing there is is being done with fewer workers.

Demand is weak because 90% of Americans—before the pandemic—were losing ground as the cost of living grew faster than their incomes and job security evaporated in one industry after another.

The failure of political leaders in both parties to adapt to the shift from factory jobs that paid well because of union contracts to moving manufacturing work offshore began long before Trump. So did the rise of low paid unskilled and semi-skilled jobs has devastated the finances of most families. Trump promised voters he would reverse these trends.

Lower Incomes

The vast majority, the bottom 90% of Americans, had less real income in 2018 than in 1973, the peak year for the share of production jobs in union shops. The 2018 households collected 4% less money than the 1973 households, the equivalent of having no income for the last two weeks of 2018.

Even worse for most Americans incomes fell under Trump despite his baseless claims, often uncritically repeated in news reports, of a huge rise in incomes.

In 2018 the nearly 87 million taxpayers making less than $50,000 had to get by on $307 less per household than in 2016, the year before Trump took office, my analysis of the official data shows.

That 57% of American households were better off under Obama contradicts Trump's often-repeated claim he created the best economy ever until the pandemic. To be sure there was a lot of income growth, but it was largely among the fast-growing ranks of $1million and up households. Their numbers grew 27% in 2019 compared to 2016, IRS data show.

The economic pain for the vast majority can be seen in broad economic changes that disfavor manufacturing workers, especially those in the 97,000 factories that have closed since 1997. Overall manufacturing workers make more than service workers.

Service Jobs vs. Factory Jobs

In December the average weekly wage for manufacturing workers was $955, compared to $823 in the service sector. That's an $8,700 annual difference. Factory workers are also more likely to have retirement plans, including the fast-disappearing traditional pension, making their total compensation even greater.

And thanks to Bill Clinton and the late Herman Cain, since 1993 the minimum wage for wait staff has been frozen at $2.13 an hour—just $1.18 in today's money. Food server is the fifth most common job in America. Whatever these workers get above that comes from tips.

With most workers in the lower-paying service sector, and wages for all but the top 25% or so of workers flat to falling for decades, people simply do not have the capacity to buy more manufactured goods. The advent of 7-year zero-interest loans for new cars and trucks doesn't hint at that, it screams that demand is weak.

Increased Efficiency, Fewer Jobs

The second factor in shrinking manufacturing jobs is efficiency.

In December America had 12.3 million manufacturing jobs, the same as in the summer of 1941 which was before America entered World War II. Back then America had 204 million fewer people than now.

Factory jobs peaked at 19.5 million in 1979 when Jimmy Carter was president. There were 103 million fewer Americans then.

In 2020 we lost 577,000 manufacturing jobs, a huge toll not just on those workers but on the communities where they are concentrated.

The U.S. has experienced a net loss of manufacturing plants (establishments) in every year since 1998.

Fewer workers can make more goods because refining manufacturing processes enables owners to use capital rather than labor to make things.

Capital Replaces Labor

Professor Robert Ashford, my colleague at Syracuse University College of Law and an advocate of paying all workers partly with shares of stock, explains how capital replaces labor with a simple story: A poor young man gets a job hauling sacks of grain across town and out of his meager pay saves enough money to buy a donkey. Now he can carry more grain sacks which means he can save more so he buys a cart for the donkey to pull. With his even greater income, he next buys a truck to haul tons of grain each day. Along the way, labor is performed by capital in the form of a donkey, a cart, and a truck.

When steel was first created in India about 3,000 years ago it took years of labor to create one ton of steel. Today it takes under 40 minutes of labor. The high cost of steel is why in the ancient world the commanders of conquering armies were far more interested in tribute paid in steel than gold and jewelry. The efficiency of steelmaking today is why the ranks of steelworkers have shriveled, especially in the last half-century.

Similarly, American lumber mills that in the mid 20th Century required hundreds of men now operate with only a dozen or so workers, including front office staff, thanks to computerized cranes and saws paired with lasers that measure logs to get the maximum yield in board feet of finished lumber.

The efficiency trend is likely to accelerate, not diminish. Trump's rhetoric about manufacturing jobs is as hollow as proposing a job stimulus by banning earth moving equipment to create jobs for men wielding shovels. Or demitasse spoons.

China Loses, Vietnam Gains

A related problem was Trump's intense focus on China. It missed how America's trade imbalance with Vietnam is growing and how rising labor costs in China are causing it to lose factory jobs to Vietnam.

"Vietnam is gaining massive traction into the US manufactured goods business," said the Coalition's Kenneth Rapoza. That's because labor is cheaper in Vietnam than in China so even many Chinese firms are shifting production there.

The key trend, Rapoza wrote: "China is slipping in our supply chains, but Mexico and Vietnam are largely taking their place."

So, overall, and considering only the period before the pandemic began, Trump's rhetoric got him votes from gullible citizens in 2016 but fewer jobs and less pay, the opposite of his promise.

The grade Trump earned on reshoring manufacturing jobs and raising pay?

F.

Pulitzer winner believes we are now fighting the Second American Civil War

The second American Civil War has begun.

No official announced Trump's Civil War. That's the reason our major news organizations dance around the awful truth using obfuscating language.

But we don't need a press release to recognize that Donald Trump directed his white supremacist followers to attack another branch of our national government on Jan. 6—after years of undermining the judiciary and, in the executive branch, the intelligence, law enforcement and public health agencies.

Trump apologists will quarrel with the word "directed." Yes, Trump spoke, as he often does, out of four sides of his mouth when he said he would march with them to our Capitol where recordings show people shouting that they were invited by the president, that they were doing his will. It is the message the mob took that matters compounded by his video during the siege expressing his love for the insurrectionists.

That Trump will not attend the inauguration of Joe Biden should make you shudder. Without him on the outdoor platform rebels hellbent on overthrowing our government could assassinate Biden and Kamala Harris with no risk to their messianic and delusional leader.

We face danger from more than the lawless Trump mob that attacked our Capitol.

This is why police and National Guard will flood that zone on Jan. 20. And it explains why Biden and Harris insist on being sworn in outdoors, to signal that fear has no place in the land of the free and home of the brave.

And it's not just government buildings that now require extra protection from disloyal and self-righteous Americans who love Trump more than our Constitutional liberties. Mosques, synagogues and some churches, especially black churches, will be vulnerable to attack by those who want to make America white again, many of whom claim to be Christians but are in fact the embodiment of evil.

Trump's mob will not win this war. No matter what buildings they attack, what leaders they assassinate, they cannot win because there are not enough of them to destroy the United States of America in favor of a dictatorship under Trump, his children or anyone else.

Making America Endure

Eager and willing as Trump's army is to assassinate Vice President Mike Pence, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, as well as Biden and Kamala Harris, our freedom and continuity of our government does not hinge on any individual. Our nation endures so long as we sustain a broad and deep commitment to the six noble purposes articulated in our Constitution's preamble especially the promise to perfect our union over time.

If you don't know those six purposes please click here and read the 52 words again and again until you memorize them. And take note as you do that riches are neither mentioned or hinted at in the Preamble, while liberty, the general welfare, and justice are along with their products—peace and tranquility.

Still, even though the outcome of Trump's Civil War is certain, his band of domestic terrorists can and already have imposed enormous and lasting damage on our society.

These true believers in Trumpian rule can dissuade many from peaceful and joyful mingling in houses of worship, government buildings, sports arenas and political venues. While Biden and Harris are brave, millions will hold back because of their rational fear of violent attack. Doubt that? How eager are you to visit on vacation or ride a bus in Jerusalem? Kabul? Baghdad?

Our nation's capital is an armed camp today. So are the downtowns of many of our state capitals. Law enforcement and the intelligence community sift through plots organized on the Internet in the hope of disrupting attacks before they occur. The police and soldiers are backups for the inevitable failures to prevent attacks.

Among the Attackers

We also need to recognize that we face danger from more than the lawless Trump mob that attacked our Capitol and have menaced our state capitols.

We now know that the insurgents attacking our Capitol included active-duty military and police officers. Dozens of people on FBI terrorist watch lists were among the attackers, evidently not being watched at all closely. There are disturbing indications some members of Congress, Republicans all, may have helped the attackers scout the Capitol, pointing out hidden offices of Democratic Party leaders.

One Republican lawmaker openly encouraged rebellion. Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, outfitted in camo, riled up the Trumpian mob before its attack. Another, Republican Lauren Boebert of Colorado, tweeted out the location of Speaker Pelosi while she was being hunted with plans, one of them texted, to put a bullet in her head on television. Think about what America would be like today had the insurgents assassinated Pence, Pelosi and others by firing squad or hanging them from the gallows they set up outside the Capitol.

Brooks and Boebert must be expelled from the House if their vile and disloyal actions are to have consequences. Failure to do this will only give succor to others tempted by traitorous opportunity.

Even more disturbing, some Democratic lawmakers say that on the day before our Capitol was sacked they observed a few of the most extreme Republicans giving guided tours to people who turned out to be insurgency leaders. Now, they worry that this was a scouting operation supported from within. The coming investigations will tell us the facts, especially if prosecutors are smart about leveraging those who gave such tours in return for lessening the severe sentences they deserve.

That we may have a Fifth Column in Congress immediately alarmed their unwitting collaborators from the dominant economic force in America, big corporations. From American Express and AT&T to Tyson Foods and United Parcel Service, many big companies stopped, at least for now, aiding and abetting these faithless enemies of our Constitution with campaign contributions.

We live in strange times when we need help from soulless corporations to defend our liberties. To be sure, they acted out of self-interest. Under a dictatorship, corporate directors and executives would be forced to bend to the will of an unelected and unaccountable autocrat who could eviscerate their privileges and plunder their wealth.

Disloyalty and oath-breaking by officials also marked the 1860s, when some representatives, senators and federal judges used their office to wage war on the United States. Until they were stopped. Texas lawyer Barbara Radnofsky tells some of this compellingly in her concise book A Citizen's Guide to Impeachment.

Our Noble Purpose

The costs of Trump's Army waging war on our government will drain resources from improving America, from perfecting our union.

To secure our safety, National Guard troops sleep on the cold marble floors of America's Capitol. Fences and walls will become ubiquitous, a twisted outgrowth of Trump's lie that he would build a wall, to fencing and other barriers, metal detectors and other protections against domestic terrorists.

Trump's Civil War did not begin with the murderous attack on our Capitol. It dates to at least August 2017 when his violent thugs marched in Charlottesville, Va., shouting Nazi slogans. "Jews will not replace us" and "blood and soil," they chanted while marching past a synagogue. The next day one of them drove his car into a crowd, killing Heather Heyer, the first fatality in Trump's Civil War.

What these rebels heard the next day, what instilled them with bravado, was not Trump's confusing comparison between anti-Semitic racists and the counter-demonstrators, but this line about themselves—"very fine people."

Don't make the mistake of thinking there is no Second Civil War just because all is peaceful where you are. Six days before rebels bombarded Ft. Sumter on April 12, 1861, The New York Times reported that an attack was imminent. But once the fighting began, there was no battle of Grand Rapids, no skirmish in Rochester, no siege in Cincinnati. In some states, such as Oregon, all regular Army were withdrawn and volunteers maintained military outposts and kept watch on Confederacy sympathizers.

That is how wars take place. People may be sipping espresso in sidewalk cafes or picnicking beside a stream while soldiers fire on one another within earshot.

As we prosecute this war on Trump's militias and half-organized renegade insurgents, we must give no quarter in terms of criminal prosecution, especially for seditious conspiracy and murder. Where they fire their arms we must respond with lethal force as the laws of war allow. But we must be better than the attackers.

We must take care not to give Trump's army a perverse victory by destroying the soul of America, by losing sight of our nation's great purpose. We must not descend into a militarized safety zone. Instead, we must build up the institutions we have damaged with decades of malign neglect—schools, colleges, public health, law enforcement as guardians instead of warriors, and the public furniture from parks to bridges that make life pleasant and commerce efficient. We must make our union more perfect through caring for our citizens, providing the tools for stable and prosperous lives and vigorous debate about the way we want to order our liberty.

We must keep in our hearts and our politics the fundamental purpose of our government—to ennoble the human spirit with liberty and fraternity so that our people can attain the best that our nature makes possible.

Make no mistake: Trump's insurrectionists were there to kill Pence, Pelosi -- or whoever they could find

The mob Donald Trump sent to sack the Capitol on Jan. 6 intended to assassinate Vice President Mike Pence, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others, admissions by some of those captured, as well as photographs, videos, texts and tweets show.

The attackers came with a gallows and noose, ready to seize Pence, Pelosi and other lawmakers, police and journalists, among others. "Murder the Media" was scratched on a door.

Once the mob overwhelmed police and broke into the Capitol, pro-Trump lawyer L. Lin Wood, sent this inflammatory tweet on the insurrectionist Parler site:

"Get the firing squads ready. Pence goes FIRST."

Had Trump's mob proved competent to capture and murder our lawmakers, it would have given Trump cover to suspend habeas corpus. That would have allowed him to lock up his perceived enemies while ignoring their right of access to the courts, lawyers or anyone else.

Our Constitution at Article I Section 9 provides that "The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it."

While President Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus because America was under attack by the Confederacy, Trump perverts that necessity by having his own goons attack, creating a pretext to jail his enemies and seize dictatorial power.

Trump's Coup Effort Goes On

While Trump's coup has not so far succeeded, his effort to overthrow our government clearly is not over. Law enforcement agencies are asking for public help to prevent armed insurrections, especially on Jan. 15, 17 and 20, the latter Inauguration Day in Washington.

UPDATE: After this article was posted ABC News revealed that an FBI bulletin alerted law enforcement to armed actions planned "at all 50 state capitols" between Jan. 16 and Jan. 20.

Zealots infected with Trump's delusional belief that he won the November election in a landslide and the presidency is being stolen from him harbor crazy ideas. Some describe Joe Biden and other top Democrats as baby-raping cannibals. Others call Republicans traitors, as with the angry mob that surrounded Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) at Washington's Reagan National Airport.

Others assert that Democrats, whom they call socialists and communists, plan to destroy the Bill or Rights and deliberately force millions of people into joblessness. Crazed posts like this are all over extreme rightwing websites:

"Trump is done. America is on life-support. Stop living in fantasy land. The world shall fall to communism unless each of us stands up RIGHT FUCKING NOW!"

Civil War

Insurrectionists are also planning their next attack on our government. They're not doing it in secret, but telling journalists, writing on Internet webpages and forums right out in the open that they want a second Civil War.

As Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Julia Terruso tweeted, quoting a man on his way to the Jan. 6 rally: "We wait for Civil War. It will be next. You have to prepare for the worst, and the worst will come because the left is pushing it."

In remarks riling up the insurgents on Wednesday, Trump, Don Jr., Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), Rudolph Giuliani and Ginny Thomas (the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas) all clearly violated the federal law against seditious conspiracy. It provides, emphasis added:

"If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both."

As soon as Biden is sworn in Trump loses his immunity from prosecution for this and other crimes which I described in an earlier article.

People can be heard on videos shouting "bring us Pelosi" and calling her vile names. Rioter Cleveland Grover Meredith Jr. arrived in Washington with what he called "a shit ton of 5.56 armor-piercing ammo" and other weapons, an FBI affidavit shows.

A Bullet for Pelosi

Meredith texted that "putting a bullet" in Pelosi's head was one part of his criminal plans. In classic Trumpian style, Meredith also texted an uncle that he was just kidding.

A public repository of links to siege videos has been started at Google docs. While it has only one video at this writing, it is more than an hour-long and filled with scenes of attacks on and threats against police.

Sadly, the siege is being excused, justified or outright dismissed as an insurrection by a majority of House Republicans and a significant minority of Senate Republicans. Rep. Brooks, wearing camo at the Wednesday "Save America Rally" urged the mob to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden's November election victory. For that Brooks should be expelled by the House.

"Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass," Brooks told the crowd before it marched off, incongruously, toward the Capitol to a Village People anthem.

There are indications that people with deep knowledge of the many unmarked rooms and hideaways in the Capitol helped the invaders. Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C,.) said, "I have an unmarked office that you have got to know exactly where it is," and yet invaders did and broke in.

"They didn't go to where my name was. They went where I usually hang out," Clyburn said. "That to me indicates that something untoward may have been going on."

Given surveys showing Trump enjoys wide and deep support among police, it would be criminal, but not surprising, if the coup conspirators included Capitol Police officers.

Police officers, firefighters, state lawmakers and combat veterans were among the Trump mob that laid siege to the Capitol.

Donald Trump signals his coup attempts aren't over

The violent mob Donald Trump sent to attack and loot our national Capitol receded during the night, but his efforts to overthrow our government continue. Trump signaled in a Tweet that even after he leaves office his criminally seditious behavior will persist.

This is "only the beginning of the fight to make America Great Again!" Trump declared at 3:49 AM Thursday an aide Tweeted after Twitter locked Trump's own account for spreading dangerous lies.

While Trump's middle of the night statement also promised a peaceful transition of power when Joe Biden is inugurated on Jan. 20, it came without a critical word about the chaos and violence Wednesday by fanatical Trumpians in California, Kansas, Georgia, Oregon, Washington and Utah.

These enemies of America should be shown no mercy in prosecutions by our Justice Department.

Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, among others, defended or excused Trump's solicitation to mob violence. Six senators and a majority of House Republicans voted to reject the certified election results from several states. I think Hawley should be ousted by the rest of the Senate, not the least because Hawley gave a raised fist in solidarity with the mob as he entered the Capitol Wednesday.

Trump's baseless claims that he won by a landslide in November -- for which he produced no evidence in 60 failed lawsuits, -- are believed by a large share of Republicans. A poll during the siege found that 45% of Republicans support the mob attack while more than two-thirds of the GOP believe the violence and looting pose no threat to our democracy.

If other polls support this finding it is a powerful measure of how much enduring damage Trump has inflicted on our democracy by promoting disrespect for the rule of law. That Republicans of all people would support lawlessness and violence after decades "law and order" sloganeering shows the fervor for authoritarian rule among members of that party.

Propaganda favoring Trump plays a major role in the willingness of many Republicans to excuse Trump's criminal behavior and contemptuous violation of his oath of office.

Primetime hosts on Rupert Murdoch's Fox News repeatedly told the lie Wednesday evening that Capitol invaders were not Trumpian thugs, but antifa posing as Trump supporters or at least some of them were antifa. Fox News even posted a story excusing Trump's attempted coup. Fox politics writer Brooke Singman wrote:

"Trump said 'these are the things and events that happen,' referring to violent protests that sent the U.S. Capitol Building into lockdown, when a 'landslide victory' is' vicously [sic] stripped away from great patriots,' while urging America to 'remember this day forever.'"

Felonies Trump Committed Wednesday

Trump's remarks at the rally, where he told the mob to go to the Capitol while he headed in the other direction to the security of the White House, make him liable on Jan. 21 for prosecution for at least three federal crimes, as I reported Wednesday: inciting insurrection, sedition and advocating the violent overthrow of the government, as well as criminal conspiracy charges and local District of Columbia criminal charges.

Adding to the liability for criminal charges over the attack were the words used to rile up the crowd by his son Don Jr. and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who called for "trial by combat."

While some Capitol Police engaged in combat with the attackers, and one lone uniformed agent was forced to retreat up stairways as a menacing crowd closed in on him, some Capitol Police held doors open for the invaders and others smiled at them, video showed.

Had the invaders been black instead of white it is likely the attack would have been met with batons, handcuffs and even indiscriminate gunfire by Capitol Police. As CNN reporter Omar Jimenez tweeted "I saw more arrests during protests in Minneapolis this summer than I have watching people storm the US Capitol."

That conduct raises questions about whether racist and fascist groups have infiltrated the Capitol Police, just as they have many local and state police agencies.

Extensive video, including Congressional security cameras, can be used to identify the perpetrators of the first sacking of our Capitol since the British attacked in 1814. Every one of these insurrectionists must be identified, arrested, indicted, tried and if convicted given long prison sentences.

The most important question that should be asked of Merrick Garland, the federal appeals court judge Biden is nominating to be attorney general, is whether he will commit to ensure the prosecution of every one of these criminals.

Other than making deals to leverage some perpetrators into admitting their guilt to the most serious crimes tin return for slight –slight -- reductions in sentence, these enemies of America should be shown no mercy in prosecutions by our Justice Department. They also should all be tried in Washington, D.C., where they committed their many felonies.

Beyond the District of Columbia

A variety of actions by Trumpians from Atlanta to the Pacific Northwest on Wednesday showed how deeply the Trumpian desire to overthrow our government permeates American society. Posing as "patriots," these people spout conspiracy theories, make remarks showing they lack even a junior high school civics understanding of our Constitution and many of them call for violence against minorities, notably Muslims and Black Americans.

Some of what these American brown shirts did Wednesday:

Armed Trumpians marshaled outside the Utah Capitol in Salt Lake City, while in Sacramento police arrested 12 Trumpians.

In Oregon, Trump's Proud Boy thugs fought outside the state capitol, prompting police to declare an unlawful assembly. A woman burned Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, in effigy.

In Olympia, Wash., Trumpian thugs broke down the fence at the governor's official mansion while Gov. Jay Inslee and his family were inside, shouting and waving blue Trump banners.

In Georgia, armed Trump thugs gathered outside the Capitol, prompting state police to hustle Brad Raffensperger, the top state elections official, out of the building, partly out of concern about the presence of a former KKK leader who now directs one of Trump's faux patriot support groups. Officials in Fulton County, which surrounds much of Atlanta, suspending vote counting because of safety concerns.

Trump's thugs also harassed random people. In Los Angeles a black woman walking down the street was surrounded by a score of Trump's thugs who menacingly demanded that she declare who she voted for in the November elections.

In Topeka some demonstrators, echoing Trump's baseless claims that he really won the November election by a landslide, entered the state Capitol, but were peaceful.

On an American Airlines flight from Texas to Washington "flight attendants are struggling to control a plane full of Trump supporters as they display a pro-Trump projection and harass others passengers bound for DC," freelance journalist Maranie R. Staab reported, posting video to authenticate her story.

That a poll found many Trumpers support the insurrection Wednesday is not surprising if they rely only on supposed new organizations that act as propaganda arms of Team Trump.

Fox News hosts on Wednesday evening described the violent mob not as Trump supporters, but leftists posing as Trumpians, a conspiracy theory with even less factual basis than Trump's delusional claims of election fraud.

What Trump made clear early Thursday morning is that after his term ends on Jan. 20, he will continue his efforts to overthrow the government he swore on oath to defend.

The question of the day is what will Democrats, now that they control the House, Senate and White House, do to protect our democracy? Will they decide to let bygones be bygones and move ahead, or will they do their duty and bring Trump and those who committed crimes on his behalf to justice.

President's coup deserves prosecution: Pulitzer Prize-winning Trump biographer

Here is the message Republicans must take from the violent mob that Donald Trump sent to attack our Capitol Wednesday in his failed coup attempt:

Break completely with this crazy, seditious wannabe dictator now. Hold him to account, preferably by prompt removal from office via the 25th Amendment or a rapid impeachment and conviction. He must be arrested and criminally prosecuted for trying to overthrow our government, a crime for which we have executed more than a few traitors.

The consequences of Republican leaders failing to totally denounce Trump and back up their denunciations with action? Trump and his dangerous and armed mob will become a millstone around your collective necks. And your failings will brand you as traitors unfit to hold public office.

For the Josh Hawleys, Ted Cruzes, Tom Cottons and other seditious Republican senators and representatives, any further defense of Trump should mark not just the end of your political careers, but the end of your acceptance in civilized society.

Expel Seditious Senators and Representatives

Both the House and Senate, which with the Georgia election results are now under Democratic Party control, should exercise their authority to expel these and other seditious lawmakers if they say another word defending Trump or challenging the certification of Joe Biden as the next president. That's not overreach, that's a Constitutional duty.

The mob that Trump riled up to lay siege to our Capitol, broke into the Capitol, occupied and looted the Senate chamber, engaged in hand-to-hand combat with uniformed Capitol Police, broke into the floors of Congress and rifled through desks, all criminal acts for which Trump is fully responsible. At least one person was shot and killed inside the Capitol, though we don't know at this writing whether a criminal looter or a police officer fired the weapon.

Thank goodness that someone had the presence of mind to gather up the state certifications of the November election results, denying Trump another potential opportunity to attack the inauguration of President Biden.

Trump Still Seeks Overthrow

If you doubt that Trump still wants to overthrow our government, just watch his one-minute video from the White House Rose Garden, made as the siege was underway. Trump asserted yet again the Big Lie that "everyone knows" the election was stolen because he won in a landslide.

While Trump did, in passing, tell the mob to go home, it was only a sort of suggestion because his core message to his riot squad was that "so bad and so evil" people stole the election. His real message to the rioters: never give up trying to end our democracy and keep him in power.

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1346928882595885058

That the crowd did not disperse shows how hollow his words were. Instead, live television carried voices of rioters vowing violence, vowing to continue seeking to overthrow our government. And as the sun set and darkness enveloped the Capitol grounds, where were federal law enforcement other than the Capitol Police?

Trump literally put at risk the lives of his own vice president, Mike Pence, on whom he painted a target during his incitement to the rioters, as well as the next two people in line for the presidency, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Grassley, the Senate president pro tem.

Representative Linda Sanchez, a California Democrat, told MSNBC that she told her family where her last will and testament is just in case the riots turned murderous.

Warning Proved Right

Four and five years ago, I warned again and again that if Trump became president our democracy could end. I also warned that if instead voters ended his time in office his presidency would end badly. I said and wrote back then that while I couldn't predict precisely what would happen, I was certain that Trump would not leave office peacefully.

Now we have seen the violence that I anticipated, violence provoked by Trump, his oldest son and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. This cannot stand.

Give the siege today, there can be no doubt that Trump remains a wannabe usurper, plain and simple. In rallying the mob to march on the Capitol, he committed sedition, a federal crime in conspiracy with the rioters and his son Don Jr. He clearly advocated the overthrow of our government, another felony. And he incited insurrection, a third federal crime.

Add in the provocative words of Giuliani, who told the mob there would be "trial by combat."

Their own words establish a criminal conspiracy involving Trump, his son and his lawyer, a crime punishable by imprisonment for five years or more.

The videos from the Capitol also showed a banner hanging over the platform being built for the inauguration of President Joe Biden in two weeks. Here is what the insurrectionists declared: "We the people will bring DC to its knees. We have the power."

Stopping Further Coup Attempts

They do not have that power, but we also cannot just wave this off. Authorities must exercise their power to indict, try and upon conviction imprison all of the hundreds of criminals who assaulted our democracy, forcing lawmakers into hiding, forcing law enforcement with guns drawn to hold off rioters at the House chamber door with drawn handguns aimed at a broken window.

From Day One, Trump has violated his oath of office but never so dangerously as in his inciting violence, a local crime for which the local District of Columbia authorities should have him arrested the moment his presidency ends—at noon two weeks from today—if not before.

Hours after the siege began, the Capitol was still not under the control of our government as rioters, some of them looters, roamed the building. Lawmakers were forced into hiding.

Trump has over the decades said multiple times that looters should be shot on sight. So why did Trump not call for that in his Rose Garden video tweet? Of course, it's because Trump is at one with the rioters and looters. They are Trump's mob.

Trump has not sent federal law enforcement to corral, arrest and identify the rioters. Instead, the governors of Maryland and Virginia sent state police riot squads to defend the Capitol.

Contrast that with Trump's abusive assignment of the military to attack peaceful demonstrators so he could stage a June 1 photo op with a Bible at the church closest to the White House. Trump's failure to send authorities to quell the rioters is solid evidence of his complicity and support.

What to Do

It would be more than reasonable for Vice President Mike Pence and the cabinet to remove Trump immediately under the 25th Amendment. In my view, they must do this. However, given the fact that while Trump promised "the best people" would populate his administration he installed such low-grade weaklings and incompetents that, sadly, this is likely a vain hope.

While time is short, it's more than reasonable for the House to impeach Trump a second time. There is no bar to impeaching Trump after he is out of office, but the way to defend our democracy is for the House to rapidly pass articles of impeachment and the Senate to take the issue up the same day and vote to convict and remove him.

And if neither of those occurs, then as soon as Trump is out of office, and is presumed immunity from federal prosecution ends, he must be indicted on District of Columbia level charges. In addition to the crimes he is already under investigation for by federal prosecutors in Manhattan, a state grand jury in Manhattan, New York State attorney general and the district attorney in Fulton County (Atlanta) Georgia. All of these cases should proceed with all due speed.

There's a secret message buried in Trump's pardons everyone seems to have missed

The 24 pardons that Donald Trump granted last week drew a lot of attention, but no one seemed to notice the message Trump sent by not issuing pardons. Trump's choices made it clear that he is a white-collar crime boss.

Trump pardoned four mercenaries who murdered Iraqi civilians, but not Jeremy Ridgeway the soldier-for-hire who plead guilty to manslaughter, testified against the others, and was sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison

Trump pardoned Roger Stone, his dirty trickster confidant; General Michael Flynn his national security adviser who was on the Kremlin payroll; and his 2016 campaign manager Paul Manafort, but not Manafort deputy Rick Gates, who turned state's evidence and confessed to his crimes.

He also pardoned Rod Blagojevich, the former Illinois governor convicted of trying to sell a Senate seat. But there was no pardon for Michael Cohen, Trump's lawyer, and longtime fixer who confessed to committing felonies at the direction of unindicted coconspirator “Individual 1," identified in federal court as Trump.

A future president could use the pardon power to protect elaborate criminal schemes, to subvert the Bill of Rights, to frame political opponents, and even direct political murders.

The pardons of the mercenaries, who worked for Trump ally Erik Prince who supplies hired armies, of campaign aides Stone and Manafort, of Flynn and of Blagojevich carried a clear message. You can bet that lawyers for others considering ratting out Trump or who are already working with authorities to rein in the Trump crime family got the message.

The message: the boss takes care of friends and allies if they lie for the boss or keep silent, but does nothing for those who cooperate with law enforcement. Give Trump's many attacks on the FBI and other law enforcement, this should surprise no one, especially journalists -- and yet it eluded them.

Missing The Story

How is it that none of our major news organizations figured this out? Hint: they rely too much on the official version of events, official announcements and access instead of thinking and exercising reportorial authority, afraid they will be seen as tendentious. If Trump declared that the Sun rises in the West many news organizations would flee from reporting that was false, crazy, or nonsense, and some would focus on how the Sun only appears to rise, never mind that it appears to rise in the East.

The pardons issued so far and more that are no doubt coming in the next three weeks, raise grave questions about the future of our democracy that have received less comment than outrage over the brazen abuse of the pardon power, especially as part of a scheme to obstruct justice.

Think about what will happen the next time someone as lawless as Trump becomes president. Imagine a president with much more skill, smarts, and vigor than Trump, and one with better lawyers. A future president could use the pardon power to protect elaborate criminal schemes, to subvert the Bill of Rights, to frame political opponents, and even direct political murders so long as they were committed in federal jurisdictions so no state-level charges could be brought. The presidential pardon, remember, applies only to federal crimes.

Trump behaved last week exactly as any crime boss would act if he could exercise the powers of the American presidency: show mercy to criminals, especially criminals who have aided your crimes or whose supporters may be useful to you in the future but do nothing for those who did the right thing once they were caught and helped bring others to justice.

Trump Helps Cocaine Trafficker Buddy

This is exactly what Trump, as a private citizen, did in a series of extraordinary favors for a major international cocaine and marijuana trafficker with whom he had extensive and close business ties.

In that case, Trump sought mercy three-time felon Joseph Weichselbaum. The trafficker personally managed and piloted Trump's helicopter in the 1980s, supplied Trump with a fleet of helicopters to ferry high rollers to Atlantic City, and rented a luxury Manhattan apartment from Trump under an unusual lease that obscured how much rent was actually paid.

In a 1986 letter to the sentencing judge, Trump called Weichselbaum “a credit to the community." Trump wrote that Weichselbaum should serve no prison time for a long-running scheme in which the mules – people who drove cars and vans loaded with drugs from Miami to Cincinnati – got 20 years.

Read carefully, Trump's letter was really directed not at the judge, but at Weichselbaum.

Trump's clear message to his buddy: don't rat me out and I'll take care of you.

Trump took excellent care of his cocaine trafficker buddy. Weichselbaum spent just 18 months in a Manhattan prison, paid only a token sum on his $30,000 federal fine because he said he was broke and yet he moved into a $2.4 million double apartment at Trump Tower upon his release. Weichselbaum said the Trump Organization also gave him a new job -- as Trump's helicopter consultant.

Now is the time to demand that Congress act to protect us from a future lawless president so he or she cannot use the pardon power balm to criminal pals and an ax to eviscerate our liberties and our control of our government.

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