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Bill Whalen: Individually, the Democrats who want to succeed Gov. Jerry Brown may struggle to govern. But collectively, John Chiang, Gavin Newsom and Antonio Villaraigosa have a skill set and agenda that works.
Jim Jenkins, News & Observer: Wait until Paul Ryan and his pals come for Medicare, Social Security. If Ryan and his breathless, tax-cutting Republicans in Congress had bothered to discuss their economic plan with the folks back home, they’d have found that people don’t care much about tax cuts for business and the rich, because they know the promises that the benefits will dribble down to ordinary folks are empty, little more than a political ploy and an insult to their intelligence.
Andy Jones: Holiday music is among the most personal and evocative holiday traditions, whether we harken to the herald angels, or the Godfather of Soul.
Lien Hoang: Vietnam may be communist, but American holiday consumerism has arrived there. In Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh City, Christmas is all the rage.
Take a number: 4,654
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest report on overdose deaths is mind-numbing: 63,632 in 2016 nationwide, up from 36,010 in 2007. Most who died were older than 25. But 5,376 people aged 15-24 died from overdoses, up from 3,550 in 2007. Yes, the Trump administration has declared a state of emergency. But the steps being taken are weak: “Try as the Trump administration might, there really is no good way to spin the president’s plan to fight the nation’s out-of-control opioid epidemic with a shoestring budget for treatment, a multibillion-dollar border wall and a redux of the ‘Just Say No’ campaign,” as we wrote in October. California’s death by overdose rate is below the national average. Still, drug overdoses claimed the lives of 4,654 Californians in 2016, second to Florida’s 4,728.
Mercury News: Cellphones have not been proven conclusively to pose a health risk. That is widely agreed upon among researchers. But more long-term studies are necessary to know for sure. California is playing it safe and urging caution, which is reasonable. But the clearer agencies can be about what we know and don’t know, the less vitriol will be aimed at scientists when solid conclusions evolve.
Bloomberg View: This is the time of year when workers expect even the stingiest boss to show a little heart. A proposal by the U.S. Labor Department, however, would make it easier for millions of restaurant owners to indulge their inner Scrooge. This month the department served notice that it intends to once again allow the practice of tip-pooling, which has been prohibited since 2011. That’s fine so long as the change is accompanied by a ban on management taking a cut. Diners tip for food and service, not to help owners defray costs.
Kansas City Star: Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback likely won’t be confirmed as the nation’s religious freedom ambassador in 2017. Kansans can be forgiven for being a bit impatient. President Donald Trump nominated Brownback to be the ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom in July. You’d think the Senate could have made up its mind, one way or another, by now. You’d be wrong.
Newsday, New York: Besieged by opinion polls showing voters already disapproved of the $1.5 trillion Republican tax plan by 2 to 1, and knew how lopsidedly its benefits flowed to the wealthy, the GOP made it worse. In the final negotiations between the House and the Senate, Republicans increased the giveaway to the richest Americans, lowering the tax on earnings of more than $500,000 from 39.6 percent to 37 percent and slashing tax bills for large-scale real estate developers. It’s as if the GOP, accepting it must pay a huge penalty in lost popularity with average Americans for this travesty, decided to get everything possible for the party’s donors.
Lexington Herald Leader: Republicans are celebrating a tax overhaul in which Berea College pays to make Trump and other billionaires richer. If that’s not the perfect metaphor for Trump’s first major legislative victory, we don’t know what is. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Rep. Andy Barr are blaming Senate Democrats for Berea being subjected to a 1.4 percent tax on its endowment. In truth, the historic Kentucky college, which provides tuition-free education to low-income students, got trampled by the Republicans’ rush to enact a plan on strictly party-line votes without public hearings or real vetting.
Charlotte Observer: Under current law, homeowners can deduct interest paid on mortgages up to $1 million on a first and second home. That will be lowered to $750,000, and homeowners will no longer be able to deduct interest on a home equity line of credit up to $100,000. It’s a long overdue recognition that it’s nonsensical for the government to subsidize the houses of rich Americans. If real estate experts are right, home prices will drop in the areas of the country with the most expensive real estate, maybe by 10 percent, maybe more.
Eugene Robinson: It would be hard to craft a measure more tailor-made to enrich Donald Trump and his family. If he wanted to avoid even the appearance of corruption, of course, Trump could decline to take this tax break or donate an equivalent amount to the Treasury. I doubt either of those things will happen.
Andres Oppenheimer: China is eating America’s lunch in Latin America – and Trump is helping. Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Latin America a week after Trump’s inauguration in what was his third visit there in three years. Trump has shown little interest in the region.
Paul Krugman: The Republican tax bill rewards people who are rich and naughty, which is not nice. The St. Nick you knew is on vacation, possibly permanently. In his place we have Republican Tax-Cut Santa, who has different priorities.
Michael Gerson: Almost all Trump’s accomplishments are the work of traditional Republican policy staffers and congressional leaders. Almost all Trump’s failures are functions of his character. And that isn’t going to change.
Dana Milbank: Trump just told the truth about the Affordable Care Act. He may wish he hadn’t. Trump, in a Cabinet meeting earlier Wednesday, let his fleeting encounter with honesty get the better of him when he read aloud the stage directions that called for Republicans not to advertise that they were killing Obamacare. “Obamacare has been repealed in this bill. We didn’t want to bring it up,” he said. “I told people specifically, ‘Be quiet with the fake-news media because I don’t want them talking too much about it.’ Because I didn’t know how people would … .” Trump didn’t finish that thought, but he said he could admit what had been done “now that it’s approved.”
“California should raise its corporate tax to 10 percent. The GOP will reduce the estate tax. California should establish an estate tax of about 10 percent on estates larger than $5 million. The rich will still get more of a tax cut than you or I. California should recapture the money that the oligarchs are giving themselves and use the funds for health care and social programs.” – Duane Campbell, Sacramento