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Those Trump-GOP tax rate cuts come with big buts

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan listens as

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan listens as President Donald Trump speaks about tax reform legislation on Thursday, Nov.  2, 2017. Republican lawmakers unveiled plans for a massive revamp of the U.S. tax code on Thursday.  Credit: Getty Images / Drew Angerer

Crunched by the numbers

President Donald Trump touted the tax overhaul plan unveiled by House Republicans as the “biggest tax cut in our history.” So what’s the catch?

For one thing, “This is basically taking money from Long Island and New York to subsidize tax cuts for the rest of the country,” said Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford.)

The plan slashes rates for corporations, small businesses and individuals. It pays for those reductions, in part, by axing deductions for state income taxes and limiting them for mortgages and property taxes, reports Newsday’s Tom Brune.

The bills’ authors said it would make taxes so simple that nine of 10 taxpayers could submit a postcard-sized form. But figuring out who wins and who loses is complicated.

As Trump pledged, the plan wouldn’t reduce tax breaks for 401(k) and IRA retirement accounts. The standard deduction would double. But personal exemptions and deductions for items such as medical expenses, student loan interest, alimony payments and moving expenses are among those that would disappear. For the plan at a glance, click here.

A $2 billion hit?

The Long Island Association said the loss of homeowner-related tax breaks would result in a roughly $2 billion annual hit to the Nassau and Suffolk economies, reports Newsday’s Yancey Roy.

The $10,000 cap on property tax deductions “is virtually useless to Long Islanders, who on average pay more in property taxes and state income taxes than any other region in the country,” said Kevin Law, CEO of the pro-business group.

For newly purchased homes, the mortgage interest deduction would only apply to loans up to $500,000.

The take-way: Mercer in reverse

Publicity-shy Long Island billionaire Robert Mercer, who lets his money do the talking in Trumpian Republican politics, is stepping back.

Mercer announced he is selling his stake in Steve Bannon’s Breitbart News to his daughters and has cut off support for Milo Yiannopoulos, the alt-right provocateur and Breitbart alumnus recently revealed by BuzzFeed to be even cozier with white nationalists and neo-Nazis than was previously known.

Mercer is also giving up his co-CEO post at Renaissance Technologies, where his political activity generated internal strife. In a letter to staff, Mercer said he was a victim of “mischaracterizations,” such as “intimations that I am a white supremacist.”

Mercer won’t fade from the news just yet. There’s a Russia probe tie: a data company he finances that worked for Trump’s campaign put out a feeler to WikiLeaks for hacked Hillary Clinton emails. There’s also a $7 billion dispute between Renaissance and the IRS. See Dan Janison’s column for Newsday.

Clovis and out

Sam Clovis, a former Trump campaign official who has become a figure in the Russia investigation, has withdrawn his nomination as the Agriculture Department’s chief scientist.

It was revealed this week that Clovis supervised George Papadopoulos, a campaign foreign policy adviser who has admitted to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian intermediaries last year, and encouraged him to visit Russia.

ABC News reported that the White House had no idea before media reports about the Papadopolous case that Clovis had appeared before special counsel Robert Mueller’s grand jury.

Not well-executed

Sayfullo Saipov could face a death penalty if convicted in the terrorist truck rampage that killed eight people in lower Manhattan Tuesday. What won’t help prosecutors: Trump’s tweet that Saipov “SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY!”

Presidents typically don’t comment on pending criminal cases because their statements could help the defense argue improper political influence. Trump’s Twitter blast “will make the prosecutor’s job of securing a fair, unbiased and untainted jury more difficult,” said Hofstra University professor of legal ethics Ellen Yaroshefsky.

Trump’s campaign comments that deserter Bowe Bergdahl deserved to be executed have complicated those sentencing proceedings.

Meanwhile, Trump has dropped the idea of sending Saipov to Guantánamo Bay for a military trial, tweeting that “statistically that process takes much longer than going through the Federal system.” See Emily Ngo’s story for Newsday.

Douglass recognized even more

Trump was mocked for comments in February that 19th century ex-slave and abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass has “done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more.”

On Thursday, he signed an order creating a commission to honor Douglass’ 200th birthday next year. It gives the White House a change of subject from defending Confederate memorials.

Descendants of Douglass criticized chief of staff John Kelly earlier this week for voicing the “false narrative” that Confederate general Robert E. Lee was an “honorable man,” Newsweek reported.

Fake government

What a mess. First the president hews to sentimental correctness by rooting for the death penalty for a terrorist, possibly jamming up prosecution. Then he acts as if the Justice Department under his hand-picked attorney general isn't part of his own administration.

Tweeted today; "Everybody is asking why the Justice Department (and FBI) isn't looking into all of the dishonesty going on with Crooked Hillary & the Dems."

Well, no, not everybody, but the distraction must seem necessary to the president. 

'The only one that matters'

Laura Ingraham asked the president on Fox News if he was concerned there weren't enough of his own hires in the State Department to carry out his agenda.

"Let me tell you, the one that matters is me," Trump said. "I'm the only one that matters, because when it comes to it, that's what the policy is going to be. You've seen that, you've seen it strongly."

What else is happening

  • Trump nominated Jerome Powell to replace Janet Yellen as Fed chair when her term ends in February. Powell, a moderate, was first named to the Federal Reserve Board by President Barack Obama. He was also an investment banker and an official in the George H.W. Bush administration.
  • Preparing to visit Asia, Trump stated his support for Japan, which he called a "warrior nation," and termed the North Korea crisis "a thing I think we will solve."
  • Gary Cohn, Trump’s chief economic adviser and an also-ran for Federal Reserve chair, said Thursday he’s still a Democrat.
  • Trump complained in a radio interview and evening tweets that Hillary Clinton should be investigated and said, “Where is our Justice Department?” He pounced on new assertions by former Democratic National Committee chairwoman Donna Brazile that Clinton seized control of the DNC and its fundraising before her primary battle with Bernie Sanders was decided.
  • Don’t expect Trump to tone down his “fire and fury” rhetoric about North Korea while on his Asia trip, said National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. “I don’t think the president really modulates his language — have you noticed him do that?” McMaster told reporters at a briefing.
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions is facing new questions about Russia contacts and connections from his role as an adviser to Trump’s campaign. He minimized them when he testified under oath during his Senate confirmation hearings.
  • Separate from Mueller’s investigation, the Justice Department has identified more than six members of Russia’s government involved in hacking the Democratic National Committee’s computers and may file charges next year, The Wall Street Journal (pay site) reported.
  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is urging Democrats to knock off talk about impeaching Trump and stay focused on policy battles as a better strategy for the 2018 midterm elections, Politico reports.
  • Trump’s Twitter account was “inadvertently deactivated” due to human error by a Twitter employee on Thursday and was down for 11 minutes before it was restored, the social media company said.

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