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Vox Sentences: More like NaahhFTA, amirite?

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A flurry of Trump administration activity ahead of the 100-day benchmark.


Really stretching the definition of “plan” here

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin And National Economic Director Gary Cohn Brief The Media At The White House Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images
  • Today the Trump administration released its “tax plan.” By “plan,” we mean a single-page, double-spaced document that leaves out crucial details like which tax rates apply to whom. [Washington Post / Damian Paletta]
  • What’s in the quasi-plan? Some highlights: a reduction of the current seven tax brackets to just three (10, 25, and 35 percent); a doubling of the standard deduction; repeal of the Obamacare 3.8 percent surtax on investment income; a cut of both the corporate tax rate and the tax rate paid by pass-through companies to 15 percent (the latter of which would personally help Trump a lot). [Vox / Dylan Matthews]
  • The administration is also working through how to increase the value of the current child and dependent care credit and possibly make it refundable, which would benefit lower-income families who pay little to no federal income tax. [Washington Post / Danielle Paquette, Damian Paletta]
  • Refundability would be good, but Trump’s previous child care plans, which weren’t refundable, would have done next to nothing for poor people. [Tax Policy Center / Lily Batchelder, Elaine Maag, Chye-Ching Huang, Emily Horton]
  • One of the big new proposals in the “plan” is eliminating the federal deduction for state and local taxes, a big subsidy to blue states with high income and sales tax rates. [NJ.com / Jonathan D. Salant]
  • Despite tweaks like that, the outline is very similar to the plan Trump released on the campaign trail. The Tax Policy Center projected that plan would cut federal revenue by $7.2 trillion over 10 years, and would give rich people the largest tax cuts. [Tax Policy Center / James R. Nunns, Leonard E. Burman, Jeffrey Rohaly, Joseph Rosenberg]
  • The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget projects that the just-released plan would be a little cheaper, but at $5.5 trillion over 10 years, the cost is still astronomical. [Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget]
  • If the ultimate bill that comes out of this scores as increasing the deficit, that could complicate passage for procedural reasons. If a bill increases the deficit outside of a 10-year budget window, then it cannot be passed as a reconciliation bill, and would need 60 votes to pass the Senate. With only 52 Republicans in the Senate, that means either eight Democrats would have to get on board or else Republicans would have to part with the legislative filibuster. [The Hill / Naomi Jagoda​]

Revenge of the sanctuary cities

Ronen Tivony/NurPhoto via Getty Images
  • Last week, the Department of Justice threatened to cut off funding for law enforcement to several jurisdictions with “sanctuary city” laws protecting undocumented immigrants. [Vox / Dara Lind]
  • Trump has long promised to crack down on sanctuary cities to force their compliance with White House immigration policies, particularly the administration’s efforts to ramp up deportations. [The Atlantic / Garret Epps]
  • Yesterday, a judge in San Francisco temporarily blocked the Trump administration’s sanctuary city crackdown, arguing that Trump’s executive order on the subject is, in fact, executive overreach because only Congress has the authority to place conditions of that nature on spending. [New York Times / Vivian Yee]
  • Conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin writes of the White House’s counterargument: “The government employed what can only be described as a ridiculous defense. In this case, the government claimed that the executive order had no real meaning and was only an exercise of the ‘bully pulpit.’ President Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the plain language of the order say otherwise.” She describes it overall as a “a humiliating loss for the administration” and “a sweeping defeat,” as “[o]nce again, a horribly and sloppily drafted executive order came back to haunt the White House.” [Washington Post / Jennifer Rubin]
  • Trump, true to form, lashed out over the decision, and vowed on Twitter that he’d fight all the way to the Supreme Court. [New York Times / Peter Baker]
  • But that’s Twitter. In an official statement, the administration was more calm and collected, writing that sanctuary city leaders “have the blood of dead Americans on their hands.” [Politico / Cristiano Lima]
  • If you’re wondering, by the way, what exactly a sanctuary city is, there’s no clear definition (which is part of why the executive order was struck down). But in practice, they are cities and counties that limit their cooperation with immigration enforcement. In Washington, DC, for example, there’s a law barring police officers from asking about a person’s residency or immigration status unless they are investigating a crime involving immigration status. [Vox / Liz Scheltens, Dara Lind​]

Trump may withdraw from NAFTA afta all

Trump NurPhoto / Cheriss May via Getty Images
  • The Trump administration is reportedly drafting a plan for the US to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement, which has been in effect since 1994 and which phased out many tariffs as part of a massive redefinition of the trade relationships between the US, Mexico, and Canada. [New York Times / Mark Landler]
  • Trump campaigned on renegotiating trade deals, including NAFTA, but has quickly demonstrated how little he actually knows about them. He’s shown remarkably little interest in the details of trade agreements, focusing instead on the bare fact of whether we’re running a trade deficit/surplus. [New Yorker / Jeffrey Rothfeder]
  • That’s especially worrying since trade policy doesn’t actually have much to do with the trade balance. [Peterson Institute / Joseph Gagnon]
  • On NAFTA specifically, Trump has waffled. On the campaign trail he called it “the worst trade deal” the US had ever signed, but seemed to be shifting his stance last month when he signaled that he might seek to renegotiate aspects of NAFTA rather than pull out of it entirely. [New York Times / Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Alan Rappeport]
  • But he’s also engaged in escalating trade provocations with Mexico. Early on, the administration floated the idea of a border tax on Mexico to help fund the wall Trump wants to build across the US-Mexico border. Mexico’s foreign minister suggested the country might respond with levies on certain US imports, which could be intentionally aimed at hurting regions of the United States that rely on exports to Mexico. [Newsweek / Reuters]
  • And this week, Trump slapped new tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber and threatened that Canadian dairy could be next. The lumber tariff in particular has been called a “wrinkle to Nafta talks.” [New York Times / Ian Austen, Peter Baker]
  • If Trump ultimately signs an executive action notifying Canada and Mexico that the US has begun the withdrawal process, it will trigger a six-month leaving process. Some speculate that Trump may sign both an intent to withdraw and an order notifying Congress of his intent to renegotiate NAFTA. He is not obligated to leave simply by giving Canada and Mexico notice, so he could attempt to leverage having both options. [Washington Post / Damian Paletta​]

Miscellaneous

  • An Oregon engineer has been fined $500 by the state for writing "I am an engineer" in an email. [Vice / Jason Koebler]
  • Stephen Bright and his group the Southern Center for Human Rights don't have the name recognition of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Bright, now age 68, made only $38,000 in 2015. But he's also won three Supreme Court cases and is one of the South's most effective lawyers at combating racial injustice. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution / Bill Rankin]
  • Why are Netflix and Rashida Jones outing sex workers to their families and the whole world without their consent? [Reason / Elizabeth Nolan Brown]
  • Walmart has a new approach for getting its customers to save money. It treats every dollar saved in the “MoneyCard Vault” — a savings feature on its prepaid debit cards —as an entry into a lottery. The more you save, the higher your odds of winning. [The Atlantic / Rob Walker]
  • Icelandic has barely 300,000 native speakers. It doesn't make sense for Apple or Amazon to make products like Siri and Alexa recognize it. Could that kill the language altogether? [AP / Egill Bjarnason]

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