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  • Glenn Sonnenberg

Musings from the Bunker 11/17/20


Good morning!

Every week Karl Sussman asks that I mention football. I’m pleased that another sport is providing much needed entertainment, particularly in the coming cold months. I only hope that they are not shut down due to COVID-related issues. As I write this, I’m watching USC v. Arizona. I care less about the game than that it is even happening (PS: it was an ugly win). I keep watching the players, refs, trainers, and others, masked and not, in a sport that defines high contact and floating exhaled aerosols. We’ll see how long college football lasts…

As for pro football, I’m not sure football in LA will join basketball and baseball with national championships. The Chargers are performing like the Chargers of old and, while the Rams have had some success, it’s going to be a tough road to the Super Bowl for them too. My money is on a far greater likelihood of USC making it to the PAC-12 playoffs and (maybe/hopefully) one of the top bowl games.

THE PHASES OF THE TRUMP FADE-OUT

This post-election phase is the craziest since 144 years ago in the Hayes/Tilden debacle. The 2000 election and Bush v. Gore was childsplay, with aggressive, yet good faithed debate about a difference of less than 500 votes in Florida. Here, there is no sense of graciousness by the defeated candidate, many of his minions refuse to acknowledge the result and continue to spread the ridiculous claims of fraud, and multiple states and tens of thousands of ballots are disputed (again, with little evidence of anything wrong). This will play out in phases. Here they are:

  • Phase 1—Who won? We already know this already, but it will play out to later this month before Phase 2.

  • Phase 2—Grand kabuki of allegations of fraud, disruption of our democratic systems and the mollifications of the hurt feelings of a petulant nine-year-old, ended by a quasi-concession—all while Mr. Trump raises more money. He will never concede this “stolen election,” but he will step aside to appear statesmanlike to avoid further acrimony.

  • Phase 3—The victory tour. He will inevitably need to fly around and do Fox News shows (you know, the network he now claims is too liberal). This phase will include more score-settling and firings. He also will announce his interest in 2024, so he can try to control the Republican field for the next couple of years. My bet is that his influence will wane by the time of the 2022 election and he will fade into the oblivion he has earned.

  • Phase 4—The Trump version of “Holy Week,” where he will pull out the stops during Christmas week to demonstrate his commitment to Christian values in pandering to the evangelicals.

  • Phase 5—Time to cash in. This period, beginning during the week after Christmas and continuing through the inauguration, will be Trump, the “ultimate deal maker” handing out pardons to the grifters, liars, sycophants, tax-evaders, perjurers, and con-artists in his circle. We will hear familiar names, names we’ve never heard of, and names that will be sources of future business.

  • Phase 6—The inauguration. I can’t begin to guess what form this takes; although I find it unlikely that the “Greatest Man Never to be a Loser” will be at the ceremony.

But in the meantime, as Mr. Trump increasingly demonstrates his selfishness and tone-deafness to COVID, we should start thinking about what might happen shortly after Joe Biden takes office.

WHAT SHOULD HAPPEN SOON AFTER JANUARY 20?

  1. President Biden will have a full plate come January 20th. Traditionally, historians talk about a president’s “first 100 days.” But things happen faster now. What are the things he should tackle in his first month in office? Here’s my partial list:

  2. Establish an aggressive program to address COVID. This is already underway…thank the lord… I believe this leads to a mandatory mask mandate, limits on large gatherings and provision for periodic geographic shut-downs when there are spikes in cases.

  3. Develop a plan for vaccine distribution. And make it clear and understandable as to roll-out, process, timing, and eligibility. Today this seems overly opaque and unclear. We need a national advisory each week on behavioral recommendations and updates on vaccinations and new therapies. With knowledge is power. And with knowledge is less politics.

  4. Appoint a bipartisan commission to examine the Affordable Care Act. It’s pretty clear now to most people that we need health care and that the health care of each one of us affects the others. Put the most knowledgeable folks from the political world and the public health world in a room and give them 60 days to propose five fixes (or any number) to refine the ACA where it’s weak. Include federally subsidized portability of health care when leaving a job and a “public option.”

  5. Propose a new stimulus package. We need to get money in the hands of people who need it most. Too many people have lost jobs as a result of the pandemic, the solution for which must be the most important government objective—but helping those most in need is a close second.

  6. Move to reverse the Trump tax cut. Propose going back to the 39.6% marginal rate, increase the corporate tax rate, and reinstate the state and local tax deduction. This alone will reduce our annual deficit and optically demonstrate a desire to raise taxes on the wealthiest.

  7. Address immigration reform. Perhaps this needs to be initiated via a bipartisan task force. Perhaps just throw something out there (something close, perhaps, to the George W. Bush plan that was floated 15 years ago), that will strengthen the borders, create a path to citizenship for those already here, particularly the Dreamers, empty the immoral detention centers, and reunite families.

  8. Make a proposal for restructuring of the tax code. Get rid of the treatment of carried interest (why should hedge fund managers pay less tax on their earned income than the rest of us?). Consider raising the rate on capital gains. Consider a higher marginal tax rate over $1MM in income. And while they’re at it, consider universal income for those earning less than a certain maximum. Andrew Yang was right.

MORE IDEAS FOR A BIDEN CABINET

I’ve received more suggestions for the Biden cabinet. Some have suggested Elizabeth Warren for Justice and not Treasury. Any Warren position, however, seems unlikely. If she is appointed, the Republican Governor will designate her successor.

Some have said Buttigieg belongs at Veterans Affairs; others say the UN. Some have suggested Mayor Garcetti for HUD or Transportation. What a fun parlor game…

AS THE DAYS WEAR ON

People are trying to guess when this crazy unfounded series of claims of a fraudulent election will pass. Here are the dates to watch:

November 20, Georgia recount completed

November 30, Wisconsin recount completed

December 8, Last date for states to send slates of electors (the “safe harbor” date)

December 14, Date the Electoral College vote will occur

My gut is that the pressure will mount on November 21 for the President to concede, assuming the Georgia count will, as expected, confirm the result. So, circle that date! I think the flurry of lawsuits will be knocked down one-by-one this week and next, forcing even the President’s most ardent supporters in Congress will acquiesce.

Cross fingers,

Glenn


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