Donald Trump’s Biggest GOP Critics Are Very, Very, Very Sad

HuffPost

Donald Trump’s Biggest GOP Critics Are Very, Very, Very Sad

Eliot Nelson,  HuffPost    June 4, 2017

Whither the Never Trumper?

It’s been a difficult few months for the small but outspoken group of prominent Republican consultants, operatives and media figures who opposed Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Since Trump’s inauguration, these party renegades have had to come to terms with the political ascension of a man hellbent on sabotaging a party and an agenda they’ve worked decades to promote.

Put simply: The Never Trumpers have been better. If you’re envisioning a bunch of people in business attire swaddling themselves in bed all day, you wouldn’t be far off.

“I’m emotionally unwell,” quipped Jeb Bush’s former communications director, Tim Miller, “but I’m doing my best.”

“I guess there’ve been some points that haven’t been as brutal as others,” said Meghan Milloy, a co-director of Republicans for Hillary. “It kind of fluctuates day to day based on the news cycle.”

A lot of people and things aren’t faring well during the Trump presidency ― immigrants, women, Muslims, refugees, the LGBTQ community, European Union officials, workers, people with pre-existing conditions, Syrian civilians, arctic ice sheets, Sean Spicer, diplomatic protocol officers, endangered species, journalists and Seth Rich’s family, to name a few. In such an environment, one isn’t inclined to feel much sympathy for a group of GOPers estranged from their party establishment. Far worse fates can befall a person than not landing a West Wing office or being unable to nab GlaxoSmithKline as a lobbying client because that person isn’t tight with Jared Kushner.

But let’s spare a moment for the Never Trump Republican, if only because it’s a significant development when so many of the biggest detractors in the ruling party are disillusioned and in disagreement over whether there is anything to be done about their predicament.

The Never Trumpers interviewed for this piece were uniformly appalled by the fire hose-like stream of White House scandals inundating the news. But they’re more despairing over the president’s abandonment of key conservative principles, along with a sense that he has blown the opportunity to advance the principles he does support.

“It’s frustrating for me as a conservative,” said former Ted Cruz spokesman Rick Tyler. “We were told if we won the House and got our speaker in there that all of these wonderful things would happen and that wasn’t true.”

Those “wonderful things” include efforts to overhaul the tax code, repeal Obamacare and gut Wall Street regulations ― ambitions that the Trump administration’s myriad organizational shortcomings and the investigations into Russian connections have largely sidelined.

As if Trump’s own goals weren’t agonizing enough, Never Trumpers fret over the president’s ongoing rhetoric targeting longheld conservative principles. Rick Wilson, a veteran GOP consultant and pundit, took particular umbrage with the president’s proposed budget.

“You can’t pretend that proposing a giant, budget-busting, fantasy math budget like they proposed is fiscal conservatism,” Wilson said, adding that he wasn’t surprised that the president abandoned “most [fiscal] conservative principles and engaged in a narcissistic daily temper tantrum.”

“We’ve got a president who’s telling companies what they can and can’t do, where they can and can’t move, where their workers can and can’t go. [Conservatives] complain about the size of government all the time. To administer Trumpism, you’re going to have to wildly expand the role of government in the private sector,” he said.

The president’s embrace of Russia and confrontational attitude toward NATO hasn’t exactly earned himself plaudits from this crowd, either.

“In foreign policy, he’s moving in exactly the opposite direction as Ronald Reagan did,” said Liz Mair, a Republican communications consultant who has previously worked with would-be Republican presidential candidates Scott Walker, Carly Fiorina and Rick Perry.

Things could’ve been different, of course. Many of these Never Trumpers were once well-positioned for White House jobs, having worked for lawmakers who went on to run in 2016, or taking part in 2016 Republican primary campaigns directly. That a bunch of people they see as utterly incompetent are now occupying these dream gigs only compounds the hurt.

“The problem with this team on all levels is they haven’t done the work of putting out a communications plan to inform the country of what it is they’re trying to do,” said Tyler. “They don’t have plan. It’s just a continuous campaign.”

“I can’t imagine if I were somebody who was supposed to be working on something important like policy or presenting the president’s image,” echoed Mair. “Working in communications, a lot of complaints I hear are, ‘Oh my God, their communications operations!’ and I’m like, ‘What the fuck did you people expect?’”
Working in communications, a lot of complaints I hear are, ‘Oh my God, their communications operations!’ and I’m like, ‘What the fuck did you people expect?’ Liz Mair, Republican communications consultant

Some members of the Never Trump movement are trying to combat the trends that led to this despair. After the November election, Meghan Milloy and her Republicans for Hillary co-founder Jennifer Pierotti Lim rechristened the organization Republican Women for Progress. The group, according to its co-founders, seeks to restore the socially progressive, economically conservative brand of Republican once personified by Nelson Rockefeller by recruiting, training and promoting female Republican candidates.

“One big problem is that there aren’t many women in leadership,” said Milloy, “and I think that’s due in large part to the fact that the GOP doesn’t have the support organizations and actions in place like EMILY’s List that specifically cater to women.”

Pierotti Lim said female lawmakers in Congress have proven more willing to “chart their own course” and not walk in lockstep with the president, citing Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), among others. Republican Women for Progress aims to cultivate that approach.

“I think a few Republican women have been able to walk the line of not being 100 percent supportive of the Trump administration,” Pierotti Lim said.

But Milloy and Pierotti Lim’s relative optimism is in short supply. Few Never Trumpers believe there is much hope for a near-term correction of the political and demographic trends that contributed to Trump’s rapid takeover of the GOP.

“From an ideological standpoint, the center of gravity is moving toward the populist right,” said Miller. “I don’t see us swinging back.”

A number of Never Trumpers told HuffPost that Trump’s election prompted a sobering realization: that the largely academic brand of conservatism they support ― actively small-government and interventionist ― doesn’t sync with the beliefs and outlooks of many Republican voters.

“American conservatism has become anti-liberalism,” said veteran conservative commentator Charlie Sykes. “It is united by hating the media and hating the left ― as opposed to supporting small government.”

White House officials dismissed the criticism as textbook wound-licking from people whose side lost.

“The President is holding his promises to the American people by growing the economy, creating jobs, protecting our boarders [sic] and ensuring that every American is safe and prospering,” a White House spokesman said in a curiously spelled statement provided to HuffPost.

Republican officials in Congress also expressed frustration with the criticism, citing a need to deal with the inescapable reality of Trump’s presidency and his support among an overwhelming majority of Republicans.

“We certainly appreciate their advice on Twitter,” quipped one senior GOP aide.
It’s suicidal, it’s self-destructive, it’s a time bomb waiting to go off that will ruin their careers and political legacies Rick Wilson, GOP consultant and pundit

Never Trumpers aren’t unsympathetic to the political bind in which Trump has placed his congressional colleagues.

“I think they’re in a tough spot,” said Miller, who cited polling showing Republican support for the president in the high 80s. “The base of the Republican Party and the people that these Congress folk respond to ― the small-dollar donors, the people who knock on doors, the people who are engaged in the political process ― they overwhelmingly want them to support Trump and his agenda.”

However many more Never Trumpers were exasperated by the relative absence of elected Republicans standing up to Trump.

“I have maintained my entire political career that the Republican Party is one of the most gutless collections of individuals on the planet,” said Mair. “They are some of the most spineless individuals on the planet.”

Others warned that the party will suffer political consequences for inaction.

“I remain absolutely convinced that [Trump] remains unfit for office, but that does not mean that I think anyone will take steps to do anything,” said Sykes, adding that anyone who assumes otherwise “fundamentally misunderstands the nature of the current Republican Party.”

“This is a party that rolled over and nominated Donald Trump despite all their doubts,” he continued. “With every passing day it becomes the defining characteristic of this party that they won’t stand up to Donald Trump and that many of them on a daily basis find ways to pretzel themselves into rationalizing his conduct.”

Rick Wilson was no less blunt in his assessment.

“It’s suicidal, it’s self-destructive, it’s a time bomb waiting to go off that will ruin their careers and political legacies,” he predicted. “Every one of them who comes out and talks about how they’re small-budget conservatives and want to balance budgets should be struck by lighting.”

But, hey, it’s not all bad ― or at least as bad as they thought. Most praised a number of Trump’s Cabinet picks, in particular Secretary of Defense James Mattis and United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley.

“There are a few areas where he’s proving to be not 100 percent horrible,” said Mair. “Everybody’s got to find some bright spots in their day.”

Wilson was more Zen about the situation.

“When you expect the worst,” he said, “you get precisely what you expected.”

Michael Bloomberg, U.S. mayors vow to meet Paris targets even without Trump

CBS News

Michael Bloomberg, U.S. mayors vow to meet Paris targets even without Trump

By Katiana Krawchenko, CBS News     June 2, 2017

Leading members of the U.S. Conference of Mayors announced Friday they are unified in their bipartisan opposition to President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, and affirmed their commitment to meet environmental goals despite the president’s decision, while across the Atlantic, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg made a similar vow.

“We don’t need Washington to tell us,” the Republican mayor of Burnsville, Minn., Elizabeth Kautz said. “We’re going to do it because it’s the right thing to do.”

The non-partisan organization is made up of all 1,408 mayors of American cities with populations greater than 30,000.  Speaking on behalf of his counterparts, Jon Mitchell, a Democrat from New Bedford, Mass., argued while it’s hard to quantify the exact level of carbon emissions that cities have achieved, he believes what is clear is that initiatives have long been underway in cities across the country. He listed LED lighting, proliferation of solar technology, and the promotion of bike share programs as examples of how cities across the nation are doing their part to help.

“Virtually every city in America is doing these things,” Mitchell said. “And to the extent that any of these initiatives are cost prohibitive, most of the states have incentive programs in place to fill the market gaps. So, regardless of what the president says, these things are not going to slow down. The commitment is there and the rationale is compelling.”

That’s precisely the attitude Bloomberg took in building his own coalition of local officials, businesses and other groups to help reach climate benchmarks. After meeting in Paris Friday with French President Emmanuel Macron and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, Bloomberg announced his foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, will help coordinate a U.S. effort called “America’s Pledge” and will submit a societal NDC – nationally determined contribution – in lieu of a government one.

He’s pledged to provide the $15 million that he says the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat will lose from President Trump’s withdrawal from the pact.

“Americans don’t need Washington to meet our Paris commitment, and Americans are not going to let Washington stand in the way of fulfilling it,” he said. “That’s the message mayors, governors, and business leaders all across the U.S. have been sending.”

It remains unclear how Bloomberg’s newly formed group and the U.S. Conference of Mayors will work together, if at all.

The White House appeared to encourage cooperation among state and local entities Friday afternoon, when Press Secretary Sean Spicer said they have the right to govern as they please.

“If a mayor or a governor wants to enact a policy…they’re accountable to their own voters and that’s what they should do. We believe in states’ rights and so, if a locality, municipality or a state wants to enact a policy that their voters, or their citizens believe in, then that’s what they should do.”

“Let me tell you that the mayors won’t quit, because for us – we live close to our people and we care about the environment,” Burnsville Mayor Elizabeth Kautz said. “We care about energy efficiency and we want to make sure that people know that mayors won’t quit.”

Bloomberg said he has asked Macron and Hidalgo to convey to other national leaders that the United States, “through strong action by local leaders, businesses, and investors, remains committed to fulfilling the Paris Agreement” and that the United Nations has been receptive to his proposal.

Paris Exit Was ‘Victory Paid and Carried Out’ by Republican Party for the Koch Brothers

EcoWatch

Paris Exit Was ‘Victory Paid and Carried Out’ by Republican Party for the Koch Brothers

Lorraine Chow   June 2, 2017

The 22 Republican senators who sent a letter to President Donald Trump last week urging the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement received more than $10 million dollars in campaign funds from fossil fuel interests.

The two-page letter was signed by a number of Republican heavyweights from coal/gas/oil-rich states, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma and Ted Cruz of Texas.

The Guardian calculated that the 22 senators received a total of $10,694,284 from oil, gas and coal money in just five years. (See the breakdown below.)

However, that sum does not even come close to the amount of undisclosed funds coming from the deep pockets of Charles and David Koch’s coal, oil and gas conglomerate, Koch Industries, and other outside groups.

As the Guardian explains:

“Visible donations to Republicans from those industries exceeded donations to Democrats in the 2016 election cycle by a ratio of 15-to-1, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. And that does not include so-called dark money passed from oil interests such as Koch industries to general slush funds to re-elect Republicans such as the Senate leadership fund.

“At least $90m in untraceable money has been funneled to Republican candidates from oil, gas and coal interests in the past three election cycles, according to Federal Election Commission disclosures analyzed by the Center for Responsive Politics.”

Jeffrey Sachs, professor of economics and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, shared recently his views on Trump’s climate walkout.

In an interview with Bloomberg Surveillance, Sachs referenced the senators’ letter and specifically cast blame on the billionaire oil barons for pulling the strings of Republican party leaders such as McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, who both supported exiting the Paris accord.

“This is the victory paid and carried out for 20 years by two people, David and Charles Koch,” Sachs said. “They have bought and purchased the top of the Republican party. Trump is a tool in this.”

Notably, most of the Republican signatories of the letter do not support the belief that human activity contributes to climate change.

During an appearance on MSNBC, Democratic Sen. Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts explained why he thinks his Republican colleagues do not believe in the science of climate change.

“This Conservative party in the United States is funded by the Koch brothers [and] it’s funded by the coal industry,” Markey said. “[They] insist that Scott Pruitt—the Attorney General of Oklahoma that actually sued the EPA 19 times on clean air, clean water, soot, mercury issues—becomes the head of the EPA in our country.”

The 22 Republican signatories’ funding from Big Oil, Gas and Coal in the past three election cycles (2012, 2014 and 2016):

James Inhofe, Oklahoma

Oil & gas: $465,950 + Coal: $63,600 = $529,550

John Barrasso, Wyoming

Oil & gas: $458,466 + Coal: $127,356 = $585,822

Mitch McConnell, Kentucky

Oil & gas: $1,180,384 + Coal: $361,700 = $1,542,084

John Cornyn, Texas

Oil & gas: $1,101,456 + Coal: $33,050 = $1,134,506

Roy Blunt, Missouri

Oil & gas: $353,864 + Coal: $96,000 = $449,864

Roger Wicker, Mississippi

Oil & gas: $198,816 + Coal: $25,376 = $224,192

Michael Enzi, Wyoming

Oil & gas: $211,083 + Coal: $63,300 = $274,383

Mike Crapo, Idaho

Oil & gas: $110,250 + Coal: $26,756 = $137,006

Jim Risch, Idaho

Oil & gas: $123,850 + Coal: $25,680 = $149,530

Thad Cochran, Mississippi

Oil & gas: $276,905 + Coal: $15,000 = $291,905

Mike Rounds, South Dakota

Oil & gas: $201,900 + Coal: none = $201,900

Rand Paul, Kentucky

Oil & gas: $170,215 + Coal: $82,571 = $252,786

John Boozman, Arkansas

Oil & gas: $147,930 + Coal: $2,000 = $149,930

Richard Shelby, Alabama

Oil & gas: $60,150 + $2,500 = $62,650

Luther Strange, Alabama (Appointed in 2017, running in 2017 special election)

Total: NA

Orrin Hatch, Utah

Oil & gas: $446,250 + Coal: $25,000 = $471,250

Mike Lee, Utah

Oil & gas: $231,520 + Coal: $21,895 = $253,415

Ted Cruz, Texas

Oil & gas: $2,465,910 + Coal: $103,900 = $2,569,810

David Perdue, Georgia

Oil & gas: $184,250 + Coal: $0 = $184,250

Thom Tillis, North Carolina

Oil & gas: $263,400 + Coal: $0 = $263,400

Tim Scott, South Carolina

Oil & gas: $490,076 + Coal: $58,200 = $548,276

Pat Roberts, Kansas

Oil & gas: $388,950 + Coal: $28,825 = $417,775

Are You Proud to Be an American Today?

Esquire

Are You Proud to Be an American Today?

The Rose Garden’s dumbest moment on record.

Charles P. Pierce   Jun 1, 2017

It used to be the young bucks and their T-bones, or the welfare queen with her Cadillac, who were leeching off good, hard-working Real Americans. It turns out Ronald Reagan was modest. On Thursday, in a speech that was such a towering pile of complete horseshit that it may well reach the moon, President* Donald Trump told the country that the rest of the world is now the craftiest welfare queen of them all.

I didn’t think he could top his ghastly American Carnage inaugural address for sheer fact-free and paranoiac mendacity, but he managed to do it on Thursday. By announcing that the United States was withdrawing from the groundbreaking Paris Accords regarding the world climate crisis, the president* wallowed in rank, xenophobic victimhood while basking in the scattered applause of the otherwise unemployable yahoos whose self-respect is sufficiently low that they still work for him. Any doubt that Steve Bannon is running this White House now, either personally or through his finger-puppet, obvious anagram Reince Priebus, now has evaporated. The transformation of the American government into a Breitbart comments thread is complete.

It was appalling. It was condescending. It was awful content delivered by a dolt who wouldn’t know the Paris Accords from a baguette without the shoddy talking points that someone put in front of him. For example, he read off a fanciful list of “consequences” for adhering to the Paris Accords down through the next decades. Afterwards, Ali Velshi, a welcome addition to the MSNBC cast of regulars, pointed out that the president* was reading from a debunked report that presumed in its analysis that the U.S. would fulfill every one of its agreed-upon conditions while no other participating country would fulfill any of theirs. This is not surprising. The president* would have read a commercial for hair-replacement if someone had put it in front of him.

The least objectionable element of the speech was its utter internal incoherence.

The United States will cease all implementation of the non-binding Paris Accord and the draconian economic and financial burden the agreement imposes on our country.

Paris was a non-binding and ineffective agreement, but it was “draconian” nonetheless. The economy is booming under his leadership, but the Paris Accord was destroying it at the same time. This was a speech written by a fool, to be delivered by a fool, with the presumption that a great percentage of its target audience is made up of fools.

But the really noxious stuff was the attempt at transforming a worldwide agreement to combat an existential threat to life on this planet into what he stupidly called a scheme to redistribute our wealth to China, as if we’re all not going to be buying our solar panels from China for the next 50 years because of this cluck. The really noxious stuff was all that simpering about how the rest of the world is playing us for suckers and laughing at us, as though the rest of the world doesn’t think we’ve lost our mind as a nation simply by electing a vulgar talking yam. The really noxious stuff was all his crocodile tears about the Forgotten People, as though a lot of them are not suffering through drought, or losing their houses to floods and to landslides, about which he and his people care nothing at all.

The rest of the world applauded when we signed the Paris agreement. They went wild. They were so happy, for the simple reason that it put our country, the United States of America, which we love, at a very, very big economic disadvantage. A cynic would say that the obvious reasons were for economic competitiveness and their wish to see us remain in the agreement is that we continue to suffer from this self-inflicted economic wound.

You see what’s happening. It’s pretty obvious to those who want to keep an open mind. At what point does American get demeaned? At what point do they start laughing at us at a country? We want fair treatment for our citizens, and fair treatment for our taxpayers and we don’t want other leaders and other countries laughing at us any more.

It was a speech written by an angry child, to be delivered by an angry child, with the assumption that its targeted audience was made up of angry children, too. And it was of a piece with that lunatic Wall Street Journal op-ed from Tuesday in which H.R. McMaster and Gary Cohn pretty much decided that international diplomacy is nothing more than a larger-than-usual barrel of cannibalistic crabs.

Not content to have lined the United States up with the anti-science side of the most pressing global issue of our time, he brought up Scott Pruitt, the head vandal at EPA, after the speech, so that Pruitt could say great things about him, and actually talk about freeing the government from “special interests” without his tongue turning to sand. (Pruitt, you may recall, is the guy who, while Oklahoma’s attorney general, literally passed an oil company letter along to the EPA by signing his name to it. He also doesn’t believe that human activity causes the climate crisis.) The idea that these people put together a party in the Rose Garden to celebrate the withdrawal of American leadership in the world leads me to believe that they’d host a barbecue to celebrate a public execution.

None of that matters. While the president was speaking, as it happens, a huge chunk of Antarctica was preparing to break off. Meanwhile, Wednesday was the first day of hurricane season, and this president*, who cares so much about the duties of his office and the people of this great land, still hasn’t bothered to appoint a FEMA director yet. The nonsense he spewed on Thursday doesn’t matter, either, even if it continues to gull the suckers out in the sticks. The oceans are not listening to him.

Let’s understand why Illinois has the highest property taxes

Columnists

Let’s understand why Illinois has the highest property taxes

Phil Kadner, Columnists       June 1, 2017 

Chris Kennedy, a Democratic candidate for governor of Illinois, ripped this state’s property tax system as “corrupt” and “extortion,” joining a chorus that now includes just about every politician in Illinois.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner was elected, in part, because he denounced this state’s property taxes as the highest in the nation.

Rauner has called for a property tax freeze and Democrats in the state Senate voted to do just that in the most recent session of the state Legislature, although the two-year cap they wanted wasn’t sufficient to gain Republican backing.

None of this posturing is new. Governors and state legislators have been screaming about high property taxes in this state for 30 years, and except for Dawn Clark Netsch, who ran for governor back in 1994, few have been willing to point out the real problem.

Property taxes are high because the state has failed to fulfill its constitutional mandate to fund public education.

This mandate was once considered so important that Article X of the Illinois Constitution is devoted to it. Netsch understood its importance because she was a member of the 1970 Constitutional Convention that wrote it.

“A fundamental goal of the People of the State is the educational development of all persons to the limits of their capacities,” the Article states.

“The State shall provide for an efficient system of high quality public educational institutions and services. Education in public schools through the secondary level shall be free. There may be such other free education as the General Assembly provides by law.

“The State has the primary responsibility for financing the system of public education.”

That’s a clear language. The goal is to educate every child in this state to their fullest potential and it is the state’s primary responsibility to fund that system of education.

Yet of all the money actually spent on public education in Illinois, this state contributes only 26 percent. Since state lawmakers have deliberately failed to adequately fund education, as directed by the Constitution, property taxpayers must pick up 67 percent of the cost.

At one point, under Gov. Jim Thompson, the state paid about 40 percent of the tab, but that was a long time ago.

Due to that reliance on property taxes, this state has the largest spending gap between poor and wealthy school districts in the nation.

Because property taxes are high, people who own homes and businesses in this state are pretty angry. Many of them don’t understand why property taxes have increased so much or how their property tax bills are calculated.

In the meantime, governors and state legislators continue to use property taxes as a campaign gimmick, while actually forcing them to skyrocket.

Democrats in the state Legislature pushed through a long-sought and needed school funding formula reform this spring, but failed to address the real issue: The lack of money for education.

The school funding mess in Illinois is a result of bi-partisan mendacity, which is another way of saying elected officials lie whenever they talk about education funding.

While they talk about freezing property taxes, they say nothing about adequately funding the state’s public schools. Relying on property taxes to finance education means the poorest communities in Illinois have less money to spend on their schools and suffer under the highest property tax rates.

It’s a system rigged to benefit wealthy homeowners and wealthy communities, while punishing the working class and small businessman. And it allows elected leaders to escape their constitutional obligation while spending your tax money on other things.

People whine that Illinois has no budget, but this state has shirked its responsibility for decades and few cared because only disadvantaged children suffered. The property tax system is corrupt.

Email: philkadner@gmail.com

Green energy has a bright future — even without Trump

Yahoo Finance

Green energy has a bright future — even without Trump

Rick Newman June 2, 2017

President Donald Trump is trying to revive the coal industry and extend the lifespan of the oil business. But renewables like solar and wind power are still likely to thrive.

By withdrawing the United States from the 2015 Paris climate accord, Trump has made the United States the only advanced economy that lacks a commitment to curb carbon emissions caused by the burning of fossil fuels. But many energy analysts think coal is doomed anyway, because businesses and governments are shifting rapidly toward cleaner-burning fuels that are coming down in price. Oil has a longer shelf life, due to its use as a transportation fuel, but will still most likely decline as alternatives like battery-powered electric vehicles become cheaper and more efficient.

While most of the press attention focuses on energy policies formed in Washington and other capitals, an arguably more important shift has been going on among investors who think renewable energy sources—especially solar and wind—are now viable investments likely to pay respectable returns.

“The consensus among asset managers is that prices are coming down and this is a technology play,” says Matthew Weatherley-White, managing director of investing firm the Caprock Group. “There’s a lot of smart money here.”

That distinction as a technology play is important, especially with regard to solar. That means cost is likely to decline indefinitely as usage increases, the same pattern consumers have gotten used to from microprocessors that get smaller, faster and better, even as the price drops. The famed “Moore’s Law”—the doubling of processing power roughly every 18 months—doesn’t necessarily apply to energy technology, but the general principle does. As the technology catches on, scale ratchets up, prices come down and capability improves.

Battery technology, which is essential for electric vehicles, is also improving, though perhaps at a slower pace than solar panels. Wind power follows a different paradigm, with larger blades being more efficient, but also more expensive. Yet all of these technologies have scaling advantages over commodities such as oil and coal, which by definition become more scarce, and more expensive, as consumption reduces supply. Fracking has changed the equation for oil, to some extent, because it has increased supply. But there’s still a cost to pulling it out of the ground.

The development of renewable energy has been subsidized by governments in the United States and other countries, and even by state and local policies, such as tax credits for electric vehicles and access to high-occupancy lanes for anybody with a car that meets stringent emission standards. And there are two important tax breaks Congress passed in 2015 that Trump doesn’t seem so bothered by—one for solar, and one for wind and other renewables. Before 2015, Congress had traditionally extended those incentives for just one year at a time, leaving investors unsure of their long-term benefit. But the 2015 law put them in place for 5 years, giving investors a stronger incentive to bet on renewables.

“The big spook was that Trump would rescind those credits,” says Weatherley-White. “But he hasn’t even talked about that.”

Government subsidies have undoubtedly helped establish a market for renewables, but costs have now dropped enough that in some instances they’re competitive with the cost of coal or natural gas. And if cost isn’t a factor, government officials and business leaders are much more keen to invest in energy facilities likely to pollute less, since that aligns with public opinion and provides better options if the need to curb emissions grows more acute in the future.

Trump loves to stick up for coal miners, even though solar workers in the United States now outnumber them by more than 2-to-1. In fact, there are now slightly more Americans employed in renewable-energy jobs (about 750,000) than in coal and oil (about 675,000). Natural gas, a cleaner-burning fossil fuel viewed as a bridge between carbon and renewables, accounts for about 400,000 US jobs.

Since 2010, the number of solar-panel installations in the United States has surged by more than 1,600%, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. At the same time, the average cost of solar energy to consumers has fallen by more than 70%. Wind-power capacity in the United States has doubled since 2010, according to the American Wind Energy Association, with prices falling by nearly the same proportion as solar. Natural gas and coal prices have dropped during the same time frame, though not as dramatically.

By some measures, renewables are now cost-competitive with fossil fuels, a trend that should intensify as renewables become more popular. It’s difficult to directly compare the cost of different types of energy, since there can be big regional variations and costs pop up all along the supply chain, from drilling well to power plant to residential outlet. Solar panels are more effective in some climates than others, for instance, and fossil fuels are usually cheaper when they’re closer to where they’re burned. But the World Economic Forum said recently that most nations will reach “grid parity” within a few years, with renewables matching or undercutting fossil fuels on price. Since that is likely to happen with or without government help, Trump’s fondness for the fuels of the last century won’t hold back the fuels of the next.

Confidential tip line: rickjnewman@yahoo.com 

Who really pays if Trump quits the Paris accord

Vox on CNBC Politics

Who really pays if Trump quits the Paris accord

Vox, Jim Tankersley  June 1, 2017 

No laid-off coal miners will get their jobs back if President Trump pulls the United States from the Paris accord on climate change. No extra oil rigs will sprout in the Gulf. There is no employment upside to an “America First” retreat from global leadership on one of the few issues that can accurately be described as a potentially existential threat to humankind.

There is only the profound immorality of abdication — of gleefully passing a mounting problem on to our children, and on to the poor.

Reports suggest Trump is set to fulfill a campaign promise and withdraw the US from the agreement, which aims to put the world on a path to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. Trump tweeted on Wednesday that he will announce a decision soon; when he makes it, he will almost certainly cast the departure in terms of job growth, particularly for the coal industry.

There is no evidence, though, to suggest the Paris deal is holding back coal or any other industry in America today. Trump’s position amounts to nothing more than a dollop of false hope for downtrodden coal communities, in exchange for a ton of additional risk heaped on everyone, particularly the poorest people in the world.

As more carbon accumulates in the atmosphere, and global average temperatures continue to rise, the odds of calamitous future environmental outcomes increase. Swamped cities, scorched crops, pandemics — nothing you would wish upon your children, or anyone else’s

“It is a decision made for domestic political purposes that puts the livelihood and lives of millions of people in developing countries at risk,” says Trevor Houser, a former climate negotiator for President Barack Obama who is now a partner with the Rhodium Group. “This is a craven, symbolic political move without any direct benefits for the constituents he’s targeting.”

The Paris agreement is only a step toward the reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions that scientists roundly agree is necessary in order to reduce the most catastrophic risks of climate change. But it is a crucial step, won through years of diplomatic grunt work, including a sustained effort to rebuild American climate credibility that had been torched by the Bush administration.

“It’s morally reprehensible to walk away from climate action.  It’s an act everyone will recall as kids gasp for air during heat waves, as homes are wiped out by larger storms, as larger fires displace homes, and as droughts lead to crop failure.” -Keya Chatterjee, US Climate Action Network executive director

The agreement will persist even if Trump pulls America from it, as he is reportedly set to do. But the accord will be weakened, and, much more importantly, so will the fragile international coalition to fight what Jason Bordoff, a Columbia professor and former climate adviser to Obama, calls “one of the most global problems.”

Ideally, the current administration would be pushing partner countries to strengthen their commitments under the agreement; instead, it is giving them an excuse to slack off.

The decision will punish the poor

For the global poor, the reduced ambition could prove disastrous. The World Bank estimates climate effects could push 100 million people worldwide into poverty over the next 15 years. A recent report from the Climate Impact Lab projects that the most damaging effects of climate change will be concentrated in “hot, poor countries” in regions such as Latin America and Southeast Asia, and in sub-Saharan Africa, where climate change is already associated with falling crop production due to record-setting drought.

“In our benchmark estimate,” the authors write, “average income in the poorest 40% of countries declines 75% by 2100 relative to a world without climate change.” Richer, cooler countries in Europe tend to fare better, but, notably, not the United States. It would suffer economically — and on the international stage.

“It’s morally reprehensible to walk away from climate action,” says Keya Chatterjee, the executive director of the US Climate Action Network. “It’s an act everyone will recall as kids gasp for air during heat waves, as homes are wiped out by larger storms, as larger fires displace homes, and as droughts lead to crop failure.”

It won’t create jobs

Trump has said the agreement gives “foreign bureaucrats” control of America’s energy reserves. (It doesn’t.) He’s cast it as a job killer. (It’s not.) Many US corporations support the agreement, including some large oil and gas companies, like Exxon Mobil. Clean energy advocates worry that stepping away from the deal would hamstring renewables here, which are growing so fast that there are now twice as many solar jobs as coal jobs in the US.

“It’s the equivalent of a president saying, ‘There’s no future for the US in medical research,'” says Josh Freed, the clean energy vice president at the centrist think tank Third Way. “The president is purposely giving up on an entire sector that could drive global economic growth.”

The most notable corporate support for exiting the deal comes from the coal industry, which is hoping against hope — and the economics of low-cost natural gas — that a complete abandonment of emissions-reduction efforts will lead to an industry renaissance. It’s a last gasp, and unlikely to work, as Houser and Bordoff wrote in a detailed recent analysis.

And it will hurt American leadership

Once Trump quits the deal, he will inflict lasting damage on American foreign policy efforts, well beyond collaboration on environmental issues.

The agreement is in many ways emblematic of how leaders in Washington — on both sides of the aisle — have long viewed America’s role in the world. It does not commit the US to a go-it-alone effort. To the contrary: It leverages promised US emissions cuts to win pledges from the world’s fastest-growing carbon polluters, China and India, as well as other Western and developing countries.

By exiting, Trump would forfeit that leverage. He would return the US to its days of being distrusted by the international community on the issue, and further the belief, particularly in Europe, that America is an unreliable partner.

A future administration could take steps to rejoin the agreement — or to reengage in global climate talks, if Trump walks away from them entirely. But the damage would linger. In Copenhagen in 2009, efforts to forge an international climate deal were hampered, in part, by the deep-rooted suspicion Obama’s team (including Houser) faced from European, Chinese, and other negotiators in the wake of the Bush administration’s foot-dragging on emissions reductions.

It took years, and a batch of controversial regulations issued by the Environmental Protection Agency, to rebuild that credibility and pave the way for Paris. To now quit that agreement would, Houser says, “be the second time Lucy has pulled the football.” The world might not give us a chance for a third.

Commentary by Jim Tankersley, policy and politics editor at Vox.

Single-payer healthcare plan advances in California Senate — without a way to pay its $400-billion tab

Los Angeles Times Essential Politics

This is Essential Politics, our daily look at California political and government news. Ballot measures California Legislature. Reporting from Sacramento.

Single-payer healthcare plan advances in California Senate — without a way to pay its $400-billion tab

Patrick McGreevy June 1, 2017

A proposal to adopt a single-payer healthcare system for California took an initial step forward Thursday when the state Senate approved a bare-bones bill that lacks a method for paying the $400-billion cost of the plan.

The proposal was made by legislators led by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) at the same time President Trump and Republican members of Congress are working to repeal and replace the federal Affordable Care Act.

“Despite the incredible progress California has made, millions still do not have access to health insurance and millions more cannot afford the high deductibles and co-pays, and they often forgo care,” Lara said during a floor debate on the bill.

The bill, which now goes to the state Assembly for consideration, will have to be further developed, Lara conceded, adding he hopes to reach a consensus on a way to pay for it.

Republican senators opposed the bill as a threat to the state’s finances.

“We don’t have the money to pay for it,” Sen. Tom Berryhill (R-Modesto) said. “If we cut every single program and expense from the state budget and redirected that money to this bill, SB 562, we wouldn’t even cover half of the $400-billion price tag.”

Berryhill also said the private sector is better suited to provide healthcare.

“I absolutely don’t trust the government to run our health system,” he said. “What has the government ever done right?”

Lara’s bill would provide a Medicare-for-all-type system that he believed would guarantee health coverage for all Californians without the out-of-pocket costs. Under a single-payer plan, the government replaces private insurance companies, paying doctors and hospitals for healthcare.

The California Nurses Assn., which sponsored the bill, released a fiscal analysis this week that proposed raising the state sales and business receipts taxes by 2.3% to raise $106 billion of the annual cost, with the rest proposed to come from state and federal funding already going to Medicare and Medicaid services.

Sen. Ted Gaines (R-El Dorado Hills) called the plan “reckless” and said the taxes would hurt businesses and families while financially crippling the state government.

“It’s offensive to the people who have to pay for it,” he said.

Some Democrats felt the bill was rushed and undeveloped. Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) withheld his vote on the bill on grounds it does not provide enough detail of what a single-payer system would look like.

“This is the Senate kicking the can down the road to the Assembly and asking the Assembly to fill in all of the blanks,” Hueso said. “That’s not going to happen this year.”

Lara said action is required because of what is happening in Washington.

“With President Trump’s promise to abandon the Affordable Care Act as we know it — for one that leaves millions without access to care — California is once again tasked to lead,” he told his colleagues.

He said his father recently had heart bypass surgery but went through the emergency room for help after his insurance company initially turned him down.

Even if the bill is approved, it has to go to Gov. Jerry Brown, who has been skeptical, and then voters would have to exempt it from spending limits and budget formulas in the state Constitution. In addition, the state would have to get federal approval to repurpose existing funds for Medicare and Medicaid

How Fox News dealt with CBO saying 23 million would lose coverage under the AHCA

Vox

How Fox News dealt with CBO saying 23 million would lose coverage under the AHCA

We watched every instance in which Fox News had to confront the number.

Updated by Alvin Chang    May 31, 2017

The morning after a nonpartisan analysts reported that the Republican replacement for Obamacare would cause 23 million people to lose their health insurance — many of them in the reddest states — Fox & Friends invited President Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, onto the show.

The exchange went like this:

BRIAN KILMEADE (host): 23 million will lose insurance. True or false?

MULVANEY: False. If you look at the methodology, they assume that folks who were on Medicaid, which is free, will choose to get off Medicaid when the mandate goes away. Now you tell me if this sounds like the real world.

STEVE DOOCY (host): Sure. And I know the [Congressional Budget Office] looked at it. Millions of Americans are not going to buy insurance if they don’t have to because they don’t want to.

It was one of the rare instances Fox & Friends mentioned the “23 million” number, but a quintessential example of how the Fox News Channel has often covered the devastating CBO analysis — by obscuring details and blaming the source, which is similar to how right-wing news sites cover this administration.

Mulvaney does both, saying CBO erred in saying people would voluntarily leave Medicaid. He (and the hosts) fails to mention that the bill kicks low-income adults without children off Medicaid and makes it easier for states to kick people off the program.

It’s part of a pattern on Fox News, which often framed the CBO score in two ways. The first was that the CBO analysis is wrong, or that CBO has been unreliable in the past. The second is that Obamacare is failing and this bill gives people the freedom to escape that failure.

Not thinking too hard about the human cost

As my colleague Jeff Stein writes, this bill is a bigger liability for Republicans than Trump’s scandals. It’s what Democrats are campaigning on and what seems to have the most resonance, perhaps because people don’t want to be in the traumatic situation of having to choose between financial ruin and medical treatment.

Many of those who stand to lose insurance live in states that voted heavily for Trump. The bill hurts a host of demographic groups that support Trump — including older Americans, those who live in more rural areas, and areas suffering most from the opioid crisis.

The CBO scores get at the heart of these fears.

So the injection of these numbers into the AHCA debate caused a dissonance on several Fox News shows. When Fox & Friends had to confront these numbers, the reaction was to minimize the CBO analysis. For example, in March, after the first CBO report, Kilmeade acknowledged that Trump voters would be hurt but assured them this was part of a larger plan:

They say the people that are going to be hurt most under the current plan, the way the calculus is done by the CBO, are Americans between the age of 50 and 64. Right before Medicare, the older part and last leg of their career. That translates into mostly Trump voters.

But then you factor in the fact that this is a three-phase plan. The second phase is when [Health and Human Services Secretary] Tom Price is supposed to theoretically sit there and put in regulations that’ll make this more of a conservative project.

Host Ainsley Earhardt questioned the CBO, saying:

Here’s the thing. Donald Trump says the Democrats are the ones that put us in this mess. They are complaining about this.

Can you really trust the CBO? Can you trust the report?

Jonathan Gruber, the architect of Obamacare, he said blatantly — we played the sound bites for you yesterday — he said we can trick the CBO, call them mandates and not taxes, and they will pass this thing through.

Then on May 4, the House prepared to vote on the second version of the AHCA without a CBO score showing the policy’s impact. That morning, Doocy confronted the “24 million” number by saying it’s better because it “reduces taxes and stuff like that”:

When you saw that figure a month or two ago, where something like 24 million would wind up losing their health care: That is a great political ad for the Democrats, whoever is going to run against any of the Republicans coming up in 2018.

But here’s the thing: What if it’s — the hope for everybody is this is actually better. Reduces taxes and stuff like that.

And ultimately, when it comes to politics, this is going to redeem Speaker Paul Ryan. Plus, it’s going to give President Trump his first big — and it is big — legislative win.

I’m largely focusing on Fox & Friends because it has one very important viewer — President Trump — who has praised the show multiple times, and even thanked them for helping him win the presidency. It is the inner monologue of a president who has aggressively criticized most other media outlets for their reporting of his presidency.

Some shows on the network were slightly more nuanced, saying that people will choose to be uninsured because Obamacare will no longer mandate people to have insurance.

The bottom third also suggests the new version of the bill protects people with preexisting conditions. It does not.

There was little talk of why the mandate existed in the first place, and the mechanism the AHCA uses in its place: a penalty for people who want to buy insurance on the marketplace after a lapse in coverage.

Painting the CBO — and subsequently the media — as biased

Occasionally a guest would be on a Fox News show to represent the opposing viewpoint, and they would defend the 24 million number, though almost immediately a conservative guest or the host would reframe the discussion around CBO’s credibility or Obamacare’s failure. But it was this inherent conflict — between left and right, between “them” and “us” — that framed the coverage around the CBO report.

After watching the nearly 100 times people on Fox News confronted these numbers, the CBO report stopped feeling like a number describing humans. Rather, it felt like a political concoction — a number whipped up to make Obamacare repeal harder.

In fact, media outlets and experts who cited the CBO score were also treated with contempt. Below is a screenshot of a segment on how unfairly the mainstream media is treating the AHCA after the CBO score:

It’s cruel to disorient people like this

American health care is complicated. This AHCA debate is complicated. Yet it’s these complicated details that determine the cost and quality of care for our bodies.

So when nonpartisan analysts say that a bill will cause 23 million to lose insurance in 10 years and make costs skyrocket for older and poorer Americans, it should clarify our political opinions.

But Fox News has taken advantage of television as a medium to try to convince its viewers that “23 million” is a partisan tool, not an evidence-based projection. It’s basing its rhetoric on personality, on partisanship, on tribalism, and insisting that people trust them, not the mainstream media or the nonpartisan analysts who are desperate to take down Donald Trump.

Let’s put it this way: When our satellites tell us a powerful hurricane is headed toward us, it’s irresponsible not to tell everyone to get out of the way. But convincing the people that the tools are malfunctioning, that the hurricane isn’t coming their way, that the rest of the news reports are wrong? That’s cruel.

Renewable Energy Growth, 40 Years Ahead of EIA’ s Forecast

EcoWatch

Renewable Energy Growth, 40 Years Ahead of EIA’ s Forecast

By Sun Day Campaign     May 30, 2017

The latest issue of the U.S. Energy Information’s (EIA) Electric Power Monthly (with data through March 31) reveals that renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar—inc. small-scale PV, wind) accounted for 19.35 percent of net U.S. electrical generation during the first quarter of 2017. Of this, conventional hydropower accounted for 8.67 percent, followed by wind (7.10 percent), biomass (1.64 percent), solar (1.47 percent) and geothermal (0.47 percent). Combined, non-hydro renewables accounted for 10.68 percent of total generation.

Yet, just five years ago, in its 2012 Annual Energy Outlook, EIA forecast: “Generation from renewable sources grows by 77 percent in the reference case, raising its share of total generation from 10 percent in 2010 to 15 percent in 2035 … The share of the total electricity generation accounted for by non-hydropower renewable generation increases from about 4 percent in 2010 to 9 percent in 2035.”

If one assumes growth continuing at about the same annual rate as during the 25-year EIA forecast period (2010-2035), renewables would not be expected to reach 19.35 percent until roughly the year 2057—40 years from now.

EIA’s 2012 report further forecast: “Wind [electrical generating] capacity increasing from 39 gigawatts (GW) in 2010 to 70 GW in 2035.” A corresponding chart illustrates that projection and also shows solar reaching 24 GW of capacity in 2035.

In reality, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s latest Energy Infrastructure Update, with data for the first three months of 2017, wind generating capacity already totals 84.59 GW while utility-scale solar has reached 25.84 GW (and this does not include distributed small-scale systems such as rooftop solar). *

“Thus, not only has renewable energy’s share of total domestic electrical generation nearly doubled in the past seven years, it has reached a level of output that EIA—just five years ago—did not anticipate happening for another four decades,” Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign, noted.

“While one might conclude that EIA’s methodology is seriously flawed, it is also safe to say that renewables—especially solar and wind—are vastly exceeding expectations and breaking records at an astonishing pace.”‘

This is clearly evidenced by comparing 2017 to 2016 year-to-date. During the first quarter of 2016, renewables provided 17.23 percent of total generation versus 19.35 percent in 2017. Actual generation by renewables is 9.70 percent greater than just a year ago. In particular, solar (i.e., solar thermal, utility-scale PV and distributed PV) has ballooned by 34.1 percent, wind has expanded by 11.4 percent, conventional hydropower has grown by 7.7 percent and geothermal has increased by 3.2 percent. Only biomass has declined year-on-year—by 1.6 percent.

* Note that generating capacity is not the same as actual generation. Electrical production per MW of available capacity (i.e., capacity factor) for renewables is often, but not always, lower than that for fossil fuels and nuclear power. The total installed operating generating capacity provided by utility-scale renewables in 2017 is now 19.5% of the nation’s total for the first three months of 2017 (according to the latest U.S. FERC figures) whereas actual electrical generation from renewables for the same period is roughly 19.4 percent. However, both of these figures understate renewables’ actual contribution because neither EIA nor FERC fully accounts for all electricity generated by smaller-scale, distributed renewable energy sources. FERC’s data, for example, is limited to plants with nameplate capacity of 1 MW or greater and thereby fail to include distributed sources such as rooftop solar.