Editor's Note: Every Friday, Tom Keane offers up assorted observations, conundra and miscellanea about the week that was. Here's his round-up for the week ending Dec.1, 2017.
It was the week when we said goodbye to Matt Lauer and Garrison Keillor and hello to a brand-new long-range missile from North Korea.
Policy wonks. Dinner table conversations were rife with heated discussions of the GOP’s proposed tax bill, with family members arguing strenuously over state and local tax deductibility, cuts to the corporate tax rate, a proposed new rate for pass-through businesses, and umm … hey, how about those Patriots?
The Granite State beckons. Yeah, taxes are dull. Still, one proposed rule change has big implications for states – such as Massachusetts – with an income tax. For a long time, those states have been able to mitigate the sting of their own taxes by essentially getting the feds to pay for a chunk of it. That’s because state and local taxes are deductible on your IRS return. That now looks to go away, meaning the effective state tax rate (depending on your tax bracket) will jump by a third. I know. States with such taxes -- others include California and New York -- think they’re such great places to live that folks don’t mind paying more. Maybe. But at some point – especially if Bay State voters pass the so-called millionaires’ tax increasing the top rate from 5.1 percent to 9.1 percent — the incentive to move a few dozen miles to New Hampshire becomes pretty compelling.
Deep state. We saw this week the truly bizarre spectacle of two individuals claiming to be in charge of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. One was named by the CFPB’s outgoing head. The other was named by the president. A district court (in a decision subject to appeal) finally sided with the White House. As it should have. Look, I’m no fan of Trump. But he is president and a president should get to select members of the administration. The alternative? Members of the bureaucracy choosing their own successors? A new ruling class, immune from political control? Not a good idea at all.
And when’s the next recession? The funny thing about the good ole days is that we never realize they’re the good ole days when we’re living through them. So I know you probably won’t believe it, but really: These are the good ole days. The Commerce Department just released figures that showed economic growth at 3.3 percent for the third quarter -- a three-year high. Most stunning: That’s basically the maximum potential at which the U.S. economy can run, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. In other words -- and quite literally -- things can’t get better than they are right now. Enjoy it while you can.
The Comeback Kid? The conventional wisdom says Alabama senatorial candidate -- and alleged pedophile -- Roy Moore should be out of the race. The GOP establishment has turned on him, the media attacks have been unrelenting, and his Democratic opponent Doug Jones has been mounting an advertising blitzkrieg. Yet with less than two weeks to go, Moore still holds on to a lead. If he wins, it will be a lesson in how to respond to sexual harassment allegations: In the face of all evidence, ignore, deny and attack. Moore has done so, making the allegations sound merely like dirty politics. And who else has successfully deployed that strategy? Donald Trump last year. And in the early 1990s – amidst his own “bimbo eruptions‘’ – then-candidate Bill Clinton.
An ugly turn. Speaking of ignore, deny and attack, members of Congress seem to be taking a cue from Moore’s campaign. South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn has been defending fellow Congressman John Conyers by arguing that all the women alleging sexual harassment by Conyers -- who is African-American — are white. And a lawyer for Conyers is questioning why House leader Nancy Pelosi is calling for him to resign while not saying the same about the white Sen. Al Franken. Great. Now it’s about race. In America, I guess, it’s always about race.
Pretend mad. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said he was angry at his schools’ chief, Tommy Chang, for not earlier releasing news about a damning IRS audit of the Boston Public Schools. Angry? He should be grateful. The audit recounted under-the-table payments and financial mismanagement and cost the city almost $1 million in fines and penalties. If it had been released just a few weeks earlier – that is, before the mayoral election – it would have been just the kind of political bombshell challenger Tito Jackson could have ridden to victory.
Goodbye Main Street. The Boston City Council approved a proposed ordinance banning plastic bags and imposing a 5-cent fee on paper bags with handles. Let’s see: Pass a law boosting the cost of shopping at local retailers and making it less convenient. If I’m Amazon, all I can say is: Great!