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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Romney may be running as the small government candidate, but his only real goal is to cut taxes.

The Tax Policy Center has carefully analyzed how much would come out of the pockets of the middle class and poor to support Mitt Romney’s top-heavy tax cuts for the rich. The numbers are appalling. But it’s likely Romney has no intention to pay for his tax cuts or to make his plan revenue neutral. Call it the Ronald Reagan feint.

Romney is promising tax cuts and believes that’s how he will get the vote. He probably thinks deep down that the tax cuts will generate more growth than anyone serious anticipates, just as Reagan did, but here’s no real evidence to support that, as much as his advisers try to claim otherwise. He says he is “supportive” of Paul Ryan’s budget, which will result in draconian cutbacks. But we shall see how often he talks about these details. He knows people don’t really believe what progressives say about these cuts, as Katrina vanden Heuvel has noted.

Romney is running an impressionistic campaign, not one of details. The impression is that he is for tax cuts and smaller government, which is appealing to many Americans. The details will come later, if they ever do.

Oddly enough, he is not genuinely running on austerity. Rather, he is the new leader of the old starve-the-beast school. Eventually government will be cut if taxes are cut first. That means he will use the austerity argument to chop up Social Security and Medicare to the degree he can when the time comes. And we may get some stimulus under Romney as president, but it will be the worst kind. We got stimulus under Reagan and George W. Bush, but tax cuts did not return America to a fast-growing, job-creating economy under Bush, and deficits were used under the tax-hating Reagan to create obstacles for new social programs and put heat on welfare. The nation never grew fast enough to bring the deficit down as a proportion of GDP in the 1980s and it left George H.W. Bush with a difficult agenda and still historically high unemployment.

Progressives should fight on the details, but they should also fight impressionistically on a bigger level. “Romney Hood” is effective because it is pitching the fight on tax breaks for the rich. Another effective criticism is that Romney is elitist. A third is that this approach was tried by George W. Bush and failed. On social programs, the Democrats show a weak hand when so many agree they need substantial cuts. Democrats have made austerity their big cause. Ironically, Romney, is in his offhand way, is just giving it lip service for now, when he is really just for tax cuts.

Of course, Romney as president will return to austerity to create pressure for cuts in key social services. He will not be able to make desperately needed social investment, and the nation will be seriously run down. But Romney’s trick in the election is to put austerity on a back burner and wait until he becomes president to address it. The opposition should make clear the consequences of such a president, but it needs to understand the battle of impressions as much as it does the battle of details. I write this as a details person myself. But the big issue is that tax cuts for the rich don’t mean prosperity for America. The history is clear, and so is the academic research.

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Jeff Madrick is the Director of the Roosevelt Institute’s Rediscovering Government initiative and author of Age of Greed.

Cross-Posted From Rediscovering Government.

The Roosevelt Institute is a non-profit organization devoted to carrying forward the legacy and values of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.

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  • 1.Why did Trump choose to hide certain specific files and not others at Mar-a-Lago? What were the criteria that Trump used to keep some files concealed and not others? Who selected those files? Did Trump consult or direct anyone in his selection of secret files? Trump was notorious for being too impatient to read his briefing papers, even after they had been drastically shortened and simplified. Is there the slightest evidence that he spirited these papers away so that he could consult or study them? Who besides Trump knew of the presence of the files he had concealed at Mar-a-Lago?
  • 2. Mar-a-Lago has an infamous reputation for being open to penetration even by foreign spies. In 2019, the FBI arrested a Chinese woman who had entered the property with electronic devices. She was convicted of trespassing, lying to the Secret Service, and sentenced and served eight-months in a federal prison, before being deported to China. Have other individuals with possible links to foreign intelligence operations been present at Mar-a-Lago?
  • 3. Did members of Trump's Secret Service detail have knowledge of his secret storage of the files at Mar-a-Lago? What was the relationship of the Secret Service detail to the FBI? Did the Secret Service, or any agent, disclose information about the files to the FBI?
  • 4. Trump's designated representatives to the National Archives are Kash Patel and John Solomon, co-conspirators in the investigations into Russian interference in the presidential election of 2016, the Ukraine missiles-for-political dirt scandal that led to the first impeachment in 2019, and the coup of 2020. Neither has any professional background in handling archival materials. Patel, a die-hard Trump loyalist whose last job in the administration was as chief of staff to the Acting Secretary of Defense, was supposedly involved in Trump’s “declassification” of some files. Patel has stated, “Trump declassified whole sets of materials in anticipation of leaving government that he thought the American public should have the right to read themselves."
  • The White House counsel failed to generate the paperwork to change the classification markings, but that doesn’t mean the information wasn’t declassified.” If Pat Cipollone, the White House legal counsel, did not “generate the paperwork,” was he or anyone on his staff aware at all of the declassifications? The White House Staff Secretary Derek Lyons resigned his post in December 2020. Did his successor, who held the position for a month, while Trump was consumed with plotting his coup, ever review the material found in Trump’s concealed files for declassification? Or did Patel review the material? Can Patel name any individual who properly reviewed the supposed declassification?
  • 5. Why did Trump keep his pardon of Roger Stone among his secret files? Was it somehow to maintain leverage over Stone? What would that leverage be? Would it involve Stone's role as a conduit with the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers during the coup? Or is there another pardon in Trump’s files for Stone, a secret pardon for his activities in the January 6th insurrection? Because of the sweeping nature of the pardon clause, pardons can remain undisclosed (until needed). Pardons are self-executing, require no justification and are not subject to court review beyond the fact of their timely execution. In other words, a court may verify the pardon was valid in time but has no power to review appropriateness. A pardon could even be oral but would need to be verifiable by a witness. Do the files contain secret pardons for Trump himself, members of his family, members of the Congress, and other co-conspirators?
  • 6.Was the FBI warrant obtained to block the imminent circulation or sale of information in the files to foreign powers? Does the affidavit of the informant at Mar-a-Lago, which has not been released, provide information about Trump’s monetization that required urgency in executing the warrant? Did Trump monetize information in any of the files? How? With whom? Any foreign power or entity? Was the Saudi payment from its sovereign wealth fund for the LIV Golf Tournament at Trump’s Bedminster Golf Club for a service that Trump rendered, an exchange of anything of value or information that was in the files? If it involved information in the files was it about nuclear programs? Was it about the nuclear program of Israel? How much exactly was the Saudi payment for the golf tournament? The Saudi sovereign wealth fund gave Jared Kushner and former Trump Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin $2 billion for their startup hedge fund, Affinity Partners. Do the Saudis regard that investment as partial payment for Trump’s transfer of nuclear information? Were Kushner or Mnuchin aware of the secret files at Mar-a-Lago?
  • 7.Did Trump destroy any of the files? If so, when? Did those files contain incriminating information? Did he destroy any files after he received the June subpoena?
  • 8.Were any of the secrets of our allies compromised? Has the U.S. government provided an inventory of breaches or potential breaches to our allies?
  • 9.Does the resort maintain a copying machine near the classified documents that Trump hid? Were any of the documents copied or scanned? Are Trump’s documents at Mar-a-Lago originals or copies? Were any copies shown or given to anyone?
  • 10.Trump’s lawyer Christina Bobb has revealed that a video surveillance system covers the places where Trump hid the files at Mar-a-Lago, and that the system is connected to a system at his other residences at the Bedminster Golf Club in New Jersey and Trump Tower in New York City. According to Bobb, Trump and members of his family observed the FBI search and seizure of his files at Mar-a-Lago, “actually able to see the whole thing” through their surveillance system. Who has that surveillance system recorded entering the rooms where the files were kept?

Kevin Bacon, right, in "The Following"

The aftermath of the August 8, 2022 search of the Mar-a-Lago club, former President Donald Trump’s Florida home, isn’t the first showdown between the FBI and a cult leader.

The Following, a 2013 Fox Pictures series, played out in similar fashion. Three seasons was enough for the producers and it’s been nine years since our introduction to Joe Carroll, English professor-novelist-serial killer, so there’s a spoiler risk -- but not enough to prevent the comparison.

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