Posted on December 21, 2017 in Countdown

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Isolated at the UN

To those who have observed our Commander in Chief over the last year, it is not surprising anymore to see him lash out. To those who understand, you know, the world, it came as no surprise that when the UN Security Council held a vote on whether the US should reverse its decision recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the vote was unanimous, except for the US of course. And the US “no” vote has veto power. This is just one of some four dozen vetoes the US has cast to shield Israel from accountability for its actions, including illegal takeover of Palestinian lands. But upon hearing the news that the international community wasn’t done with this, and that the UN General Assembly (where the US has no veto power but where resolutions can’t be enforced) will be taking this up, Nikki Haley announced that the US will be “taking names” of those who vote against the US, and Trump threatened to cut off US aid over these votes. Well, we hope Haley brought more than a post-it note to take down those names, because the vote was 128-9 with 35 abstentions. When we’re this out of step with humanity, it might be time to stop threatening to punish the rest of the planet, and to look in the mirror and see what we might be doing wrong. Also, our chief diplomat and the leader of the free world would be better served acting like diplomats and leaders instead of school-yard bullies.  


Failing our DREAMers

Back in September we started a countdown within Countdown to Trump’s 6-month deadline for Congressional action on DACA. Don’t hold your breath just yet—there won’t be a deal on DACA until after the new year.  Minority Leader Chuck Schumer expressed hope for “[a] bipartisan proposal with both [the] DREAM [Act] and border security in the bill” next year. In keeping with how Congress swaps favors, the resulting legislation will likely be saddled with other deals, such as US-Mexico border security funding and sanctions against “sanctuary cities,” in order to secure Republican support. Unfortunately, Senate Republicans—still in the majority—seem in no rush to re-instate already-eroding protections for the nation’s nearly 700,000 DREAMers—and all indications from the Senate suggest Democrats have given up on a clean DREAM Act—a bill that would not include extraneous policies. Nonetheless, eleven governors from both parties wrote to Congress this week urging representatives to save DACA. As we approach the March 5 deadline, it will become increasingly critical that Americans express their support of a clean DREAM Act to pass early in 2018. See our Action Alert on the topic.


Hoping to get some of that trickle down

You may have heard the House and Senate approved a new tax bill. Notably, not a single Democrat voted for the bill in either chamber. In the haste of pushing the bill through, Republican Senators made math mistakes, rewrote sections of the bill by hand, and quickly forced a vote. They probably didn’t want their fellow conservatives to realize that the law will decrease federal government revenue by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, likely increasing the nation’s deficit—a longtime boogeyman of self- professed fiscal conservatives on the right.  Although there’s debate about when he will sign, be sure that once Trump signs it, the 700+ page law will go into effect. Be sure to get the accountants in your life a gift ahead of tax season. Regarding the real impact of the law next year, check out this helpful comparison calculator. In the long-run, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimates that households earning $50,000 to $75,000 would pay on average $30 more than today. However, households earning over $1 million would pay $23,000 less in taxes than today. Indeed, much of the controversy around the bill surrounded its benefit to the top 4% of income earners, who arguably weren’t in need of the breaks in the first place.


A Palestinian Teenage Girl

Ahed Tamimi is a 16-year old Palestinian girl, and her videos have been going viral for years, as she fearlessly confronted heavily-armed Israeli troops in her village of Nabi Saleh in the occupied West Bank. But after a new video showed her getting physical with Israeli occupation troops she was pushing out of of her neighborhood, she was arrested by the Israeli military. While some in mainstream coverage described her actions as “provocative,” fewer focused on the fact that she was on Palestinian land, and that Israeli troops were there to serve an illegitimate occupation that is actively destroying Palestinian society. We think occupation is, among many things, provocative. But the worst take came from former Israeli ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, who tweeted that the Tamimi family “may not be a real family,” and accused them of dressing up kids in “American clothing” and paying them to “provoke” Israeli soldiers on camera. Dear Michael Oren: The Tamimi family is a real family. Also, whatever backwards image you have in your head about Palestinian kids, know that jeans and t-shirts aren’t costumes they put on to impress you; these are their real clothes, like kids all over the world. And instead of fantasizing about Palestinian children getting paid to resist occupation, perhaps you should be more concerned about those getting paid to occupy and oppress in the first place.


Trump’s National Security Strategy

It’s hard to put Trump and “strategy” in the same sentence, given the President’s tendency to fire reckless, unadvisable tweets at all hours of the day, but he did release his official “National Security Strategy,” so we had to put that sentence together. But when you see the Washington Post reporting that Trump “may not have read” his own national security strategy, you realize we’re back in la la land where we belong. So how is this strategy document different from previous administrations’? For starters, it fails to note the seriousness of climate change as a threat to our world. Instead, it focuses on “countering an anti-growth energy agenda” (it’s about time someone stood up to the anti-growth lobby). The document also officially lets Israel off the hook, criticizing conventional wisdom held for “generations” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict being “understood as the prime irritant preventing peace and prosperity in the region.” The document now says “Israel is not the cause of the region’s problems.” Um, no sane person ever suggested Israel was the source of all problems in the region, but to pretend their US-enabled occupation of Arab lands, regular disregard for borders and historic abuse of Palestinian rights isn’t a major strategic problem for the US in the region is just willful blindness, in line with the “climate change isn’t real” fantasy. Oh, did we mention they took nuclear non-proliferation off the agenda too? If you want to read more of this impressive document, it’s here.