Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America are generally encouraged by reports suggesting CIA Director Mike Pompeo may soon replace Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State and Sen. Tom Cotton would be tapped to lead the CIA. They also discuss the latest lurid allegations against Minnesota Sen. Al Franken and longtime “Prairie Home Companion” host Garrison Keillor. And they react to the reporting on Matt Lauer’s misbehavior, including the nugget that he had a special button under his desk that would lock his door.
Archives for November 2017
FCC Commissioner Explains Push to Roll Back Net Neutrality
On December 14, the Federal Communications Commission is expected to roll back Obama-era internet regulations, a move that one commissioner says will reinvigorate broadband innovation and reduce the government’s influence over the internet while keep important consumer protections in place.
“We have five commissioners at the FCC. Each commissioner gets to cast their own vote their own way. I’ll be voting ‘yes’ in favor of this plan. So we should know right then as soon as the gavel strikes where the votes are and the public will get to see it,” said Brendan Carr, who was nominated to the FCC by President Trump earlier this year. He was confirmed and sworn in to his post in August.
The FCC effort is in response to a 2015 decision to apply Title II of the 1934 Communications Act to the internet. Democratic appointees controlled the panel at the time and made the changes out of fears that internet service providers, or ISP’s, would soon be in a position to demand the purchase of services at whatever prices they wished.
Known as net neutrality, Carr says the new rules badly misapplied laws designed to address telephone service and actually wound up with the federal government micromanaging the internet and its providers.
“[Title II] arises from the 1930’s and was designed to regulate the Ma Bell telephone monopoly. It’s not designed to regulate a fast-moving, competitive marketplace. Pursuant to that re-classification, it then adopted a series of open internet rules,” said Carr.
Other than keeping some consumer protections, Carr says the policing of the ISP’s will effectively revert to the way the internet operated before 2015. Nonetheless, opposition to the plan is fierce.
Critics fear the major ISP’s – AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon – will force smaller players out of the marketplace and be free to burden consumers with mandates and higher prices.
Some activists go so far as to accuse FCC Chairman Ajit Pai of murdering democracy through this initiative.
“There is a lot of fear-mongering out there. Someone wrote me, saying that without the FCC’s Title II, Justin Bieber never would have been discovered online because he was discovered through YouTube videos. He was discovered long before the FCC’s 2015 Title II decision.
“I get it. This is the internet. This is the government being in this space. People are naturally reacting very passionately but it’s misplaced at the end of the day,” said Carr.
For casual internet users, perhaps little seems to have changed since 2015. So what impact has net neutrality had in the past two years?
“Over the last two years, we’ve seen a decline in investment in broadband networks as a result of the Title II re-classification.
“We’ve also seen ISP’s that were going to upgrade the networks, that were going to deploy new antennas, to get get new services out there pull back on those new deployments. We’ve seen some innovative new offerings from providers that have been kept on the shelf because of this massive regulatory overreach that’s associated with Title II,” said Carr.
He says reverting to the previous standards, known as Title I, many of these frustrations will fade away.
“We’re going back to the model we had in 2015. There’s a lot of confusion about eliminating all protections that consumers have online. Far from it. There are numerous consumer protections that are going to be at the core of net neutrality that are going to stay in place, just like we had them in 2015,” said Carr.
In fact, Carr says Title II actually eroded key consumer protections provided by the Federal Trade Commission and the current FCC proposal would revive them,
“By reversing Title II, we re-vest the Federal Trade Commission with authority to protect consumers that come into place because of that.
“Relatedly, consumers care passionately about their personal information and privacy online. The FTC is the nation’s premier enforcement body when it comes to online privacy. But again, because of Title II, that authority as it applies to ISP’s has been carved out. We haven’t had those protections for the past two years. We’re going to get more privacy protections as a result of this vote,” said Carr.
One of the great fears of those opposed to the current FCC plan is that rolling back net neutrality would give too much power to internet service providers. For example, they’re concerned providers could force you to use their products as a condition of being a customer and then jack up prices as much as they wish.
Carr says he’s heard that concern but doesn’t think there’s much evidence that it will happen. He says net neutrality did nothing for the price of internet service.
“Title II is not the thin line between where we are today and some of those stories that you’re talking about, price regulation for instance. Title II, right now, is not directing the prices ISP’s charge. Title II is not stopping them from offering bundled services or a curated internet experience.
“We didn’t see it before Title II. We’re not seeing it during Title II. There’s other reasons for that, including competition, fear of subscriber loss from engaging in that conduct. Those other reasons that we’re not seeing will stay in place after Title II. It’s a misplaced view of what Title II is doing right now,” said Carr.
Carr believes all sides will benefit from the government taking more of a hands-off approach to the internet.
“I don’t think there’s going to be a downside after moving forward with this. I think ISP’s are going to continue to invest, consumers are going to continue to have a free and open internet. And the edge providers – like NetFlix, Twitter and Facebook – are also going to continue to be able to benefit from a free and open internet,” said Carr.
Tax Cut Momentum, Kim’s Ominous Missile, NBC Fires Lauer
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America are very cautiously optimistic about tax reform getting done after the Senate Budget Committee approved the Senate bill and several of the likely holdouts now seem ready to pass it. They’re also concerned following the latest North Korean missile test, which seems to indicate the communist regime could hit the U.S. mainland with a nuclear-armed ICBM. And they react to NBC firing longtime “Today” host Matt Lauer over sexually inappropriate actions.
Economy Depends Upon Tax Cuts Becoming Law
The Senate Budget Committee approved a tax reform bill along party lines Tuesday, sending legislation to the Senate floor that a key fiscal conservative lawmaker says is vital to pass if Americans want to see the economy continue growing and eventually booming.
The vote in the committee was 12-11, and included ‘yes’ votes from Sens. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn. The bill already cleared the Senate Finance Committee and will now be considered by the full Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell admitted Tuesday that getting to 51 votes in favor of the bill is still a work in progress, but Rep. Dave Brat, R-Virginia, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, says Republicans must push this bill across the goal line or the economic consequences will be severe.
“Our economy needs it and you see every day on the financial channels that if anyone hiccups and there are two ‘no’ votes then the market goes down,” said Brat, contending that investors are bullish because they are assuming tax reform will get done.
“That’s an objective reality that’s out there. This is baked in the cake and if we don’t come up with these tax cuts, the economy will not continue to grow like it has been. It’s been flying high and consumer expectations are high and that’s where we want to keep it,” said Brat.
The effort to sway moderates took a bit of a hit this week, when the Congressional Budget Office, or CBO, estimated that the Senate bill would add $1.4 trillion to the national debt over ten years and would hurt middle class and poor Americans the most.
Brat is firing back on multiple fronts, first challenging the CBO’s recent history of badly inaccurate estimates.
“I think that’s probably based on the teachings of Karl Marx. They’ve been wrong so many times on every thing they do,” said Brat, noting a recent report on health care costs in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“The CBO said Obamacare was going to lower the cost of health care. Now the premiums for a family are $30,000. The deductible is $9,000. So you’ve got to pay $39,000 before you see one dollar of insurance. There’s CBO’s infinite wisdom on scoring the costs of these things,” said Brat.
Despite the frequent criticism of capitalism, Brat says world history proves the free market is the surest path out of poverty.
“Is capitalism good for the poor or is communism and command systems and top-down (better)?” said Brat. “The history of nations is the history of poverty unless you have capital accumulation.”
Brat says the GOP approach of allowing deductions for all capital will not only be a boon for business owners but will likely mean more money in pockets of employees. He says that’s a far cry from the Democrats calling for higher taxes and much higher spending.
“They want to increase $10 trillion, increase spending $11 trillion and they end up with more debt than wee do in our tax piece even after they they raise taxes $10 trillion in the Progressive Caucus budget and tax plan,” said Brat.
While confident Republicans have a good plan, Brat says they need to do a better job of messaging.
“I wish the mainstream media was more fair in the messaging and our team needs to do a much more aggressive job of messaging about the benefits of free markets,” said Brat.
Sen. Johnson and Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, had earlier said they could not support the existing Senate bill because it provided far more benefits to corporations than to small businesses. Johnson says he’s encouraged by some changes made to address his concerns.
Brat says Johnson and Daines are right that pass-through businesses that file at the individual rate need more help in the legislation. He says the House worked to beef up tax breaks for those small businesses, including just a nine percent tax rate on the first $75,000.
He also says Americans will be helped by married couples paying just 12 percent on income below $90,000. The next bracket, 25 percent, stays in place up to $260,000.
Brat would like to see more help for small businesses, but he says math is a real challenge for the GOP in making all of this work.
“There’s about $6 trillion in tax cuts and $4.5 trillion in pay-fors, so on net they know there’s only so much you can put around, so you want it to be as pro-growth as you can be,” said Brat.
But Brat says time is of the essence and Republicans need to get the job done.
“They all know we have to have these tax cuts go into effect,” said Brat. “It’s going to be a net win for everybody.”
Good Riddance to Gutierrez, Project Veritas Flop, Trump & ‘Pocahontas’
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America are thrilled to see Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez planning to leave Congress and take his toxic, divisive immigration rhetoric with him. They also slam Project Veritas for trying to plant a fake accusation against Roy Moore with the Washington Post in an attempt to discredit the Post’s earlier stories on Moore. And they they sigh as President Trump takes a political shot at Elizabeth Warren by calling her ‘Pocahontas’ while honoring Navajo Code Talkers from World War II at the White House, not because Warren doesn’t deserve criticism for her suspect claims of Cherokee heritage but for injecting politics into a a ceremony that should have been free of it.
Women to Demand Answers on Congress ‘Slush/Hush’ Fund
Accusers and activists will be in Washington on Wednesday, demanding the resignations of three members of Congress and an end to the Capitol Hill practice of secretly settling sexual harassment claims with taxpayer money.
On Wednesday, the Media Equality Project will insist upon action and answers at a 10 a.m. press conference at the National Press Club. Those expected to appear include four different accusers of former President Bill Clinton. Radio talk show host Melanie Morgan will also be there, just weeks after accusing Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., of harassing her multiple times after a television debate.
Longtime talk host Blanquita Cullum plays a leading role in organizing the press conference. She says one goal is to put the heat on Franken to resign, along with Reps. John Conyers, D-Mich., and Joe Barton, R-Texas.
Franken is accused of groping multiple women, including radio host Leann Tweeden, who also accuses Franken of forcibly kissing her. Conyers reportedly settled a sexual harassment complaint with tax payer money. Barton was in the headlines last week when nude pictures he texted to a woman he was not married to were leaked online.
“There are members we feel have dishonored their office and the American people by conduct unbecoming an elected official. As you can see, it’s not partisan. We feel that way about the left and the right. We’re out there saying it’s not the politics of the right and the left. It’s the politics of the right and the wrong,” said Cullum, who has hosted radio programs on the east coast and now hosts “The Hard Question” based in Chicago.
Perhaps even more galling to Cullum and others involved with the Media Equality Project is the idea of lawmakers secretly paying off sexual harassment victims with taxpayer dollars.
“The other thing we’re going to demand is the release of the list of the slush/hush fund that taxpayers funded to the amount of $17 million over the past 10 years, covering up their private sexual peccadilloes, fights that have involved members from both sides of the aisle and some very high-ranking chiefs of staff,” said Cullum.
“One thing the members have forgotten is who their real bosses are. We hired them. It’s our money that’s paid for it. We feel it’s the right thing for them to do to let us know what we’ve been paying for. And if it’s something bad, they need to go,” said Cullum.
In the spirit of bipartisanship, Cullum says the group has invited leaders and activists from both parties and both chambers to be part of the press conference. So far the response from lawmakers has been tepid.
“We reached out to many members of Congress to meet with us and to be there with us, some of them high-profile Republicans. They say, ‘No, no, no. We want to handle it in-house.’ In other words, even though they know that it’s wrong and they’re out there on the cameras, some of them won’t show up with us because they don’t want a target on their backs too,” said Cullum.
Cullum says sexual harassment and even assault have taken place in Washington politics for a very long time, but she she says the American people should demand better.
“You have to understand that when you raise that arm and you take that oath that you’re committed to serving. If we can’t have America on a better ethical standard, what does that say for our direction? If we let this go, if we let this pass, what does that mean for our children?” asked Cullum.
“Those people are making decisions about your life, my life and everyone’s that’s listening’s lives in the United States. And you can’t trust them because they’re going to lie to you,” she added.
Cullum also has tough words for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” said Conyers was entitled to due process before she determines whether Conyers ought to stay in office. She also claims to be unaware of any accusers despite the settlement papers and another accuser who abandoned settlement negotiations.
“She puts the ‘ick’ in politic. She should be ashamed of herself. It reminds me of the old George Orwell ‘Animal Farm.’ All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others. In other words, if he’s going to help her politically, she’s going to close her eyes to this stuff,” said Cullum.
Cullum says if Pelosi keeps running interference for Conyers, her job should be on the line as well.
“If she doesn’t take that position too, she needs to go too because she’s aiding and abetting bad conduct,” said Cullum.
On Monday, Franken apologized to any women who felt mistreated during their encounters with him, but insisted the best way for him to proceed was to rebuild trust with his constituents by doing his job.
Cullum says that’s not an option.
“It’s too late. The innocence is broken there. We know who he is. He can apologize all he wants but would you really trust him from now on?” said Cullum.
Bill Clinton may not be in office but his longtime accusers, including Juanita Broaddrick, Paula Jones, and Kathleen Willey will be at the press conference. Cullum says it’s time for those victims to get the respect they deserve and did not get at all during the Clinton administration.
“Those women were victims and they were very brave to step out against a press and a machine that was ready to make them bimbos, they were going to be ‘nuts or sluts. They’re there to shine the light of what that abuse can cause,” said Cullum.
She says the Clinton accusers were vilified with the most horrible of epithets and their physical health has suffered. She says the children of some Clinton accusers use different last names to escape the stigma that the media and political operative attached to them.
Cullum does not buy the sudden media epiphany in which they suddenly realize Clinton was a predator and probably should have been forced to resign. She says the media need to apologize to the women and do a much more professional job of vetting accusations in the future.
As for the perpetrators currently serving in Washington, Cullum says she hopes the time for tolerance for such unprofessional behavior is over.
“Americans have a standard of ethics. We’re not always perfect. Everybody has something to hide. But when you’re doing the job that you asked us for and you blatantly abuse it, you need to go,” said Cullum.
Power Struggle, Pelosi’s Lame Conyers Defense, Losing Friends Over Politics
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America discuss the fight between left and right over who should head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and whether President Trump gets to make that decision and why the Constitution makes this an easy call. They also shake their heads as House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi offers a pathetic and hypocritical defense of longtime Rep. John Conyers, who reached a settlement to end a sexual harassment allegation and has also been accused by other women. And they respond to the Twitter proclamation of New York Times columnist Charles Blow that he cannot be friends with anyone who supports President Trump.
Black Friday Political Gifts
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America are in the Christmas spirit as they push aside the Thanksgiving leftovers to go shopping for timely, helpful gifts for various political figures. They generously announce what beautifully wrapped presents they have for President Trump, Chief of Staff John Kelly, various members of Congress and others.
What We’re Politically Thankful For
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America look through a rough and often disturbing 2017 to find three things they’re each thankful for in politics and beyond this year. From some important accomplishments to the arrival of an important new figure in Washington to the bravery of people in different walks of life, Jim and Greg find some silver linings in our toxic political culture. Happy Thanksgiving! There will be no podcast on Thursday. Please join us again on Friday.