What We Read This Week: Our Investigative News Roundup
And How Home Owners Foot the Bill for Corporate Tax Cuts
The 2017 Trump-Republican tax rewrite has cost home owners $1 trillion, reports noted financial journalist Alan Sloan for ProPublica and Fortune magazine.
That massive number is the reduction in home values caused by the tax law that capped federal deductions for state and local real estate and income taxes at $10,000 a year and also eliminated some mortgage interest deductions.
The impact varies widely across different areas. Counties with high home prices and high real estate taxes and where homeowners have big mortgages are suffering the biggest hit, as you’d expect, given the larger value of the lost tax deductions. But as we’ll see, homeowners all over the country are feeling the effects.
Sloan based his analysis on research compiled: Mark Zandi, the chief economist of Moody’s Analytics; and Hugh Lamle, the retired president of M.D. Sass, a Wall Street investment management company.
Zandi’s numbers are broad — macro-math, as it were. Lamle is a master of micro-math. It was Lamle who first got Sloan thinking about home value losses by sending him an economic model that Lamle created to show the damage inflicted on high-end, high-bracket taxpayers in high-tax areas who paid seven digits or more for their homes.
Zandi, in turn, shows that because of the 2017 tax law, U.S. house prices overall are about 4% lower than they’d otherwise be. The next question is how many dollars of lost home value that 4% translates into. The Federal Reserve Board says that as of March 31, U.S. home values totaled about $26.1 trillion. Apply Zandi’s 4% number to that, and you end up with a $1.04 trillion setback for the nation’s home owners. (Zandi isn’t saying that house prices have fallen by an average of 4%. That hasn’t happened. What he’s saying is that on average, house prices are about 4% lower than they’d otherwise be.)
The biggest estimated value loss in percentage terms, 11.3%, was in Essex County, N.J., a New York City suburb. Of the four other counties that make up the five biggest-losers list, three are New York suburbs and one is a Chicago suburb.
Final note: Sloan also points out that the Treasury will get $620 billion of additional revenue over a 10-year period because people can’t deduct their full state and local taxes. And that, in turn, just about covers most of the 10-year, $680 billion cost of the income tax break that corporations are getting. So you can make a case that my friends and neighbors and co-workers in New York and New Jersey — and many of you all over the country — are paying more federal income tax in order to help corporations pay less federal income tax.
Popping Adderall, Sudafed
During the 2016 presidential campaign, when Donald Trump was under fire for repeated, derogatory remarks about Latin American immigrants, he attempted to prove that he was not bigoted by posting on his Twitter account a photo of himself eating a “taco bowl” in his Trump Tower office on Cinco de Mayo. The future president claimed in his tweet that the “best taco bowls are made in Trump Tower Grill,” further declaring “I love Hispanics!” in conclusion.
But on Saturday, one sharp-eyed Twitter user noticed something else in the 41-month-old tweet, reports Inquisiter.com. In the background, a desk drawer in Trump’s office is open. Visible inside the drawer are multiple boxes of the over-the-counter cold and sinus drug Sudafed.
For some reason, the type of Sudafed seen in the photo, which can be seen below on this page, is the type available only in the United Kingdom and Ireland, which contains somewhat different ingredients than the American version of the popular cold remedy.
Why would Trump keep at least three boxes of U.K. Sudafed in his drawer? On Sept. 9, a stand-up comedian and former staff member on Trump’s long-running NBC TV reality competition show The Apprentice posted the possible answer to this question on his own Twitter account.
“Trump snorted Adderall all through the day on ‘Apprentice’ he also ate the U.K. Sudafed like candy,” tweeted former Apprentice staffer Noel Casler.
Adderall is used in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. It is also used as an athletic performance enhancer and cognitive enhancer, and recreationally as an aphrodisiac and euphoriant.
How Russia Hacked U.S.
Recently revealed details about how an infamous Russian “troll farm” operated and its role in Russia’s disinformation campaign shed new light on Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential race, reports Business Insider.
One former troll, who was interviewed by the independent Russian news outlet Dozhd and went by “Maxim,” or Max, spoke of his experience working for the Internet Research Agency, a well-researched Russian company in St. Petersburg whose function is to spread pro-Russian propaganda and sow political discord in nations perceived as anti-Russia.
The secretive firm is bankrolled by Yevgeny Prigozhin, CNN reported, a Russian oligarch who is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Up to a third of the company’s staff was tasked with interfering in U.S. political conversation during the 2016 election, according to an investigation conducted by the Russian news agency RBC and detailed by another Russian news outlet, Meduza.
“Our goal wasn’t to turn the Americans toward Russia,” he added. “Our task was to set Americans against their own government: to provoke unrest and discontent, and to lower Obama’s support ratings.”