Weekly Review — December 28, 2017, 2:09 pm

Weekly Review

Tax deformer

Three days before Christmas, US president Donald Trump held a signing ceremony for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which will provide middle-class households with an average tax break of $900 and will give the top one percent of earners an average savings of $90,000, an amount greater than the income of 70 percent of Americans. “We did a rush job,” said Trump, explaining that he wanted to sign the bill before Christmas so that he would not be criticized on the television news he reportedly watches for up to eight hours a day.[1][2][3][4][5][6] Trump signed the bill into law with a large black marker; said that the press had given him “no credit” for signing more legislation than any other president in “the history of our country,” which he had not done; and added that he had some “beautiful pens” on his desk that he wanted to give to the boom-mic operators in his office, whose industry-wide average income in 2013 was about 0.3 percent of the additional annual tax savings the president is expected to receive.[7][8][9] Trump, who has said the tax reform was “for the middle class” and would cost him “a fortune,” flew to his private club in Palm Beach; told a table of members that they “all just got a lot richer” from the bill, which allows corporate sales agents to take deductions for bar tabs; and traveled to West Palm Beach, where he played golf at one of his private courses and then visited a local fire station. “How’s your 401k,” Trump asked a group of firemen, who under the new law will no long be able to take deductions for the cost of cleaning their uniforms.[10][11][12][13] Trump tweeted that companies had begun “showering their workers with bonuses”; a spokesperson for Wells Fargo, whose CEO made 527 times the average salary of a US bank teller in 2016, said the company would raise its minimum wage from $13.50 to $15 per hour; the CEO for AT&T, who received $16.1 million in stock awards and $5.7 million in non-equity incentives on top of his $1.8 million salary in 2016, said the company would give 200,000 employees a $1,000 bonus; an AT&T spokesperson confirmed that the company planned to lay off at least one thousand workers; and the former director of the Puerto Rican budget office said that the tax bill would raise the price for companies on the island manufacturing high-end goods, an industry that employs 75,000 workers and has an annual market value of about half the estimated cost of repairing the 200,000 homes damaged by Hurricane Maria.[14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23] “MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!” tweeted Trump, who in the 1980s banned Christmas trees from the lobby of one of his Manhattan apartment buildings as part of an effort to drive out longstanding elderly tenants and replace their homes with a luxury tower. “Business is looking really good for next year.”[24][25]

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In the early Eighties, Andy King, the coach of the Seawolves, a swim club in Danville, California, instructed Debra Denithorne, aged twelve, to do doubles — to practice in the morning and the afternoon. King told Denithorne’s parents that he saw in her the potential to receive a college scholarship, and even to compete in the Olympics. Tall swimmers have an advantage in the water, and by the time Denithorne turned thirteen, she was five foot eight. She dropped soccer and a religious group to spend more time at the pool.

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Progress is impossible without change,” George Bernard Shaw wrote in 1944, “and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” But progress through persuasion has never seemed harder to achieve. Political segregation has made many Americans inaccessible, even unimaginable, to those on the other side of the partisan divide. On the rare occasions when we do come face-to-face, it is not clear what we could say to change each other’s minds or reach a worthwhile compromise. Psychological research has shown that humans often fail to process facts that conflict with our preexisting worldviews. The stakes are simply too high: our self-worth and identity are entangled with our beliefs — and with those who share them. The weakness of logic as a tool of persuasion, combined with the urgency of the political moment, can be paralyzing.

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On a balmy day last spring, Connor Chase sat on a red couch in the waiting room of a medical clinic in Columbus, Ohio, and watched the traffic on the street. His bleached-blond hair fell into his eyes as he scrolled through his phone to distract himself. Waiting to see Mimi Rivard, a nurse practitioner, was making Chase nervous: it would be the first time he would tell a medical professional that he was transgender.

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In the summer of 2016, when Congress installed a financial control board to address Puerto Rico’s crippling debt, I traveled to San Juan, the capital. The island owed some $120 billion, and Wall Street was demanding action. On the news, President Obama announced his appointments to the Junta de Supervisión y Administración Financiera. “The task ahead for Puerto Rico is not an easy one,” he said. “But I am confident Puerto Rico is up to the challenge of stabilizing the fiscal situation, restoring growth, and building a better future for all Puerto Ricans.” Among locals, however, the control board was widely viewed as a transparent effort to satisfy mainland creditors — just the latest tool of colonialist plundering that went back generations.

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