Trump Vows to Take On NRA, Boasts of Willingness to Rush Shooter

President Donald Trump said Monday that he’s willing to take on the National Rifle Association though he doubts they will resist his response to the high school massacre that killed 17 people in Florida earlier this month.

Trump, in a freewheeling discussion with governors at the White House that lasted more than an hour, also said he would have run into the school unarmed to try to confront the attacker, contrasting his hypothetical response with sheriff’s deputies who didn’t enter the building during the rampage.

The president’s evolving responses to the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, have been largely consistent with the outlook of the NRA, particularly an emphasis Trump has put on arming school teachers. The organization has been a strong political ally of the president, spending $31 million in the 2016 election either to support Trump or attack his opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“Don’t worry about the NRA, they’re on our side,” Trump said during the meeting with state governors, adding that he had lunch over the weekend with NRA Chief Executive Officer Wayne LaPierre and top lobbyist Chris Cox. “But sometimes we’re going to have to be very tough and we’re going to have to fight them.”

Businesses are rushing to cut ties to the NRA. Among the companies that severed deals with the NRA: Avis Budget Group Inc., Best Western International Inc., Chubb Ltd., Delta Air Lines Inc., MetLife Inc., Symantec Corp. and United Continental Holdings Inc. Others are under intense social media pressure to follow.

Trump suggested the country also should make it easier to involuntarily commit people to psychiatric institutions and open more such facilities.

“In the old days you’d put him in a mental institution, a lot of them, and you could nab somebody like this,” Trump said, referring to the accused Florida shooter, Nikolas Cruz. “Hopefully he gets help or whatever, but he’s off the streets.”

QuickTake: The U.S. Gun Debate Explained

“We’re going to have to start talking about mental institutions,” Trump said, complaining that states had closed too many “because of cost.”

Trump reiterated disparaging comments about the armed sheriff’s deputy assigned to the school who didn’t enter the school while the shooting was taking place, saying he “choked” under the pressure of the situation. He also referenced a CNN report that several other armed sheriff’s deputies who were among the first officers to arrive at the school didn’t initially enter.

"I really believe, you don’t know until you’re tested, but I think I’d, I really believe I’d run in even if I didn’t have a weapon,” Trump said.

Monday’s meeting at the White House was a wide-ranging discussion of ideas to address gun violence at schools. Suggestions ranged from a possibly new rating system for violent videos to arming teachers to filling schools with smoke during an attack to make it harder for a shooter to find targets.

Trump has called for changes in the wake of the Feb. 14 shooting at the Parkland high school. He has voiced support for expanding the background check system to include more mental health information, raising the age for the purchase of some guns to 21 from 18, and regulatory action ending the sale of “bump stocks.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders injected a bit of uncertainty on the president’s backing for raising age limits, saying the president is “supportive of the concept” but the idea is “still being discussed” and the president’s position will depend on the final form of legislation.

Trump has signaled support for a bipartisan bill from Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas, known as Fix-NICS. It would penalize federal agencies that fail to report relevant criminal records that would bar someone from purchasing a firearm under current law to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Trump told the governors the administration is “going to strengthen” the measure.

Concealed Weapons

The background checks legislation stalled in a Senate committee, but elements of it passed in the House, paired with a requirement opposed by gun-control advocates that every state recognize licenses to carry a concealed handgun issued by other states. NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker said the concealed carry law is the group’s top priority but the NRA would support the background check bill even without the added provision.

The House is waiting for the Senate to act, according to a senior Republican aide. Senate leaders haven’t indicated plans for considering the legislation.

Trump has been most vocal about a controversial proposal to allow some “talented” teachers to carry concealed firearms in schools. He has indicated that state governments might take the lead. Trump says “hardening” the schools would make them less attractive targets for a potential assailant.

“Armed Educators (and trusted people who work within a school) love our students and will protect them,” Trump posted on Twitter last week. “Very smart people. Must be firearms adept & have annual training. Should get yearly bonus. Shootings will not happen again – a big & very inexpensive deterrent. Up to States.”

‘Less Tweeting’

Trump on Monday reiterated his call for states to move forward without federal action.

“States can do most of this and we’ll back you up,” Trump said. “We’ll help you no matter what your solution is,” adding “my attitude is get it done and get it done properly.”

The White House is also considering the idea of using restraining orders to take firearms away from people considered dangerous as part of its response to the Parkland shooting, two people familiar with the matter said.

Jay Inslee, the Democratic governor of Washington, endorsed such an approach, saying his state has had success with so-called extreme risk protection orders. Inslee, though, pushed back on Trump’s idea of arming people at schools. “Educators should educate,” he said, adding that law enforcement and teachers do not support such a move.

“Let’s just take that off the table and move forward,” Inslee said. “I would suggest we need a little less tweeting here and a little more listening.”

Florida Governor Rick Scott unveiled a proposal last week to raise the age requirement for purchasing semiautomatic rifles to 21, and allow some guns to be temporarily confiscated from people deemed mentally unstable by a judge.

Scott has said he’s opposed to arming teachers, but supports increasing the number of law enforcement officials in schools. State legislators in Florida are considering proposals to allow for some school officials to be trained to carry concealed weapons. At the White House meeting on Monday, Scott also noted that students will be able to get more mental health counseling and he aims to have threat assessments in schools.

The Parkland massacre has “created momentum to make sure that something happens this time,” Scott said.

Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP, which operates Bloomberg News, serves as a member of Everytown for Gun Safety’s advisory board and is a donor to the group. Everytown for Gun Safety advocates for universal background checks and other gun control measures.

    Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-26/trump-says-ready-to-take-on-nra-in-response-to-florida-shooting

    Remingtons Bankruptcy May Be the Tip of the Iceberg

    Firearms companies face declining sales, falling stock prices and tremendous debt. Gunmaker American Outdoor Brands Corp., formerly known as Smith & Wesson, has seen its stock plummet by almost half from 2017. On Monday, Remington Outdoor Co., an iconic, 200-year-old American firearms manufacturer, announced it’s planning to file for bankruptcy.  

    With Republicans in control of Washington, there’s little chance of firearm regulation—even in the face of Wednesday’s massacre in Florida. When Barack Obama was president or Democrats controlled Congress, gun sales would generally rise after a mass shooting for fear of more restrictive laws. The gun lobby pushed these worries despite a lack of significant legislative effort by the Obama administration. Now that Donald Trump is in the Oval Office, fear of new gun laws has receded, industry executives have said. And so have sales, hurting both retailers and manufacturers such as Remington.

    In December, James Debney, chief executive officer of American Outdoor, said “fear-based” buying of firearms had stopped. According to data collected by the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, a barometer for firearms sales, January 2018 was the slowest in gun purchases since 2012. Even on Thursday, after gunmaker stocks rose in premarket trading, shares headed back down by afternoon. (The assault rifle used in the Parkland high school attack was a Smith & Wesson AR-15, police said.)

    Following gun stores and manufacturers, the next victim of the industry’s political success could be distributors. Because most are privately owned, earnings data are hard to come by. Still, company debt can offer a glimpse into their financial health. The declining performance of a $140 million loan to distributor United Sporting Cos., for example, suggests there may be a problem. 

    United is a private equity-owned holding company whose subsidiaries include Ellett Brothers and Jerry’s Sport Center, two gun distributors that work with more than 30,000 independent retailers across all 50 states (Sturm, Ruger & Co. says 15 percent of its sales are to the two subsidiaries). They distribute hunting and shooting-sports products, including handguns, ammunition, silencers and holsters. In 2016, Jerry’s was named “distributor of the year” by Marlin Firearms, a company owned by Remington.

    A $140 million loan extended to United fell to less than half of its face value last year, according to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings by the loan’s holder, the business development company Prospect Capital Corp. 

    Since Prospect makes loans to private companies but has issued shares to the public, it’s required to disclose its financials, even when the companies on the hook for the loan are not. In Prospect’s annual report for 2017, the company said a fair value of its loan to United was almost $47 million—about 33 percent of its face value. That was down from 94 percent in its report for the quarter ended March 31, 2017.

    Michael Grier Eliasek, a director of Prospect, said in the securities filing that United had been hit by a cyclical slowdown in gun sales, as well as by the bankruptcy of a major customer, sporting goods retailer Gander Mountain. 

    United and Prospect didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

    “When there are elections that go a certain way, there tends to be a slowdown in sales to the firearms sector for the first six or nine months or so, and then there’s a more of a normalization thereafter,” Eliasek said in an August conference call when he was asked about the writedown, which at that time was 59 percent of face value. 

      Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-16/remington-s-bankruptcy-may-be-the-tip-of-the-iceberg

      Campaign Workers Unionize Just in Time for Midterm Elections

      Several Democratic congressional campaigns have agreed to bargain collectively with the Campaign Workers Guild, a new union trying to organize election campaign staff in what may be a first for national politics.

      The CWG announced Monday that it had secured a union contract with the campaign of Wisconsin activist Randy Bryce, the leading Democratic challenger to Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan in this year’s midterm elections.

      Campaign staffers are the latest professional targets for labor organizers. While overall U.S. unionization remained at a record-low 10.7 percent, last year saw membership in the overwhelmingly non-union professional and technical services sector grow by close to 90,000 members, bringing the total number of unionized American workers to 14.8 million, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. 

      The CWG’s effort is a first for congressional campaigns, which are staffed largely by contract and short-term workers operating in what are often high-pressure work environments.

      “There’s no question that it’s exploitative work,” said Rutgers University labor studies professor Janice Fine, who’s worked on local and national election campaigns. “It’s premised on the idea that young people will work 24-7 in a selfless — and often dangerously selfless — way, and that culture has been passed on for generations.”

      Among the issues the union said it seeks to take on are hours that approach eighty per week and wages that are below $15 an hour.

      Under the agreement with Bryce’s campaign, workers will get paid time off and earn at least $3,000 per month. The negotiated contract covers eight employees and includes a third-party reporting process for sexual harassment and monthly health insurance reimbursement of up to $500, the campaign said. “Randy is a candidate who practices what he preaches,” said Bryce spokeswoman Lauren Hitt.

      Additional House campaigns and one gubernatorial campaign have also recognized the CWG and are negotiating contracts, according to the union’s vice president, Meg Reilly. “We’re starting with Democratic candidates because there’s obviously an explicit disconnect between the Democratic platform and how Democratic candidates treat their workers,” she said. She declined to identify the other campaigns citing ongoing negotiations.

      The CWG and its members are following the lead of progressive non-profits. Some of them, such as the Center for American Progress and Lambda Legal, have agreed to bargain collectively with their employees in recent years. Last fall, the Vermont Democratic Party, whose new executive director is a former union political director, voted to
      collectively bargain with its staff, who have affiliated with the United Steelworkers Union.

      CWG’s ultimate aim is a collective bargaining agreement that would cover all Democratic campaigns for local, state, and federal office and those for progressive ballot measures. 

      The Democratic National Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee didn’t immediately provide comment in response to inquiries about the union. In a Monday evening post on Twitter, DNC Deputy Chair Keith Ellison, a Minnesota congressman, shared an open letter from the union and said, "The progressive movement needs to live up to its values. We have to treat our organizers with respect and dignity."

      The Republican National Committee referred an inquiry to the National Republican Congressional Committee, which didn’t immediately respond. Ryan’s campaign declined to comment.

      CWG’s Reilly said the national Democratic Party will ultimately benefit from campaign workers who don’t burn out and instead benefit from a sustainable career. “We’re simply fed up with that argument that we should sacrifice our health, our well-being, our time with our family, in order to placate the concerns of candidates,” she said.

        Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-12/campaign-workers-unionize-just-in-time-for-mid-term-elections

        Sessions Ending Obama-Era Policy That Ushered In Legal Weed

        Attorney General Jeff Sessions is rescinding an Obama-era policy that helped states legalize recreational marijuana, throwing a wet blanket on the fledgling industry during what could have been a celebratory week.

        The Justice Department will reverse the so-called Cole and Ogden memos that set out guardrails for federal prosecution of cannabis and allowed legalized marijuana to flourish in states across the U.S., according to two senior agency officials. U.S. attorneys in states where pot is legal will now be able prosecute cases where they see fit, according to the officials, who requested anonymity discussing internal policy.

        Shares of pot companies plunged as news of the policy change surfaced, though many began to rebound after investors weighed the potential impact.

        The change comes at a high point for the weed industry. California, the biggest U.S. state and sixth-largest economy in the world, launched its legal marketplace on Jan. 1. Sales in California alone are expected to reach $3.7 billion in 2018, according to estimates from BDS Analytics. 

        Seven other states and the District of Columbia have also legalized cannabis for adult use. Twenty-one additional states have voted to allow the plant to be used for medicinal purposes. The market is expected to skyrocket from $6 billion in 2016 to $50 billion by 2026, according to Cowen & Co.

        Sessions, a Republican from Alabama, has long been opposed to marijuana, equating it with heroin. But this is the first action he’s taken that deviates significantly from the Obama administration. Many in the industry said the news is unsurprising but disappointing.

        “While dismantling the industry will prove impossible, the move by Sessions will sow more seeds of uncertainty in an industry that already has its fair share of risks and unknowns,” said Chris Walsh, vice president of Marijuana Business Daily. “Businesses could be in for a bumpy ride amid this uncertainty, and we certainly could see some types of regional crackdowns or delays in upcoming medical or recreational cannabis markets.”

        Shares Plummet

        The Bloomberg Intelligence Global Cannabis Competitive Peers Index dropped as much as 24 percent after the Associated Press first reported the Justice Department plan. Most companies in that group are small. Still, there are a few big names that could be hit by the changing policy. 

        Constellation Brands Inc., which sells Corona beer and Svedka vodka in the U.S., got involved in the cannabis industry in October when it acquired a minority investment in Canopy Growth, a Canadian marijuana company. Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. has also made its way into the Green Rush. It fell as much as 5.7 percent after the news, the biggest intraday drop since May. 

        A tightening of enforcement also would be felt in Canada, where the cannabis industry has blossomed. Ontario’s Canopy Growth fell as much as 19 percent to C$29.06 in Toronto, while Aphria Inc. plunged as much as 23 percent to C$16.59. ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF, the first pure-play pot ETF to be listed in the U.S., dropped as much as 9.7 percent, the biggest intraday decline since May.

        Fear and Doubt

        Sessions’s policy may cause investors to think twice before putting their money into the Green Rush, according to Adrian Sedlin, founder of Canndescent, a marijuana cultivation and branded-flower company.

        “Fear, uncertainty and doubt will rip through our industry like a California wildfire because of this,” he said. “Whatever happens longterm, this will retard and limit capital flows into the industry for the foreseeable future.”

        The move is likely to sow confusion among consumers and state officials, and may spark a backlash if state-approved retailers are prosecuted. Sixty-four percent of the U.S. population now wants to make pot legal, according to a Gallup poll released in October.

        But it’s too late to stop the industry from growing, said Laura Bianchi, a partner and director of cannabis, business and corporate transactions and estate planning at Rose Law Group in Scottsdale, Arizona.

        “To undo this industry would be like closing Pandora’s box once it’s been opened,” she said. “It would be a Herculean effort that would undermine another Republican cornerstone, which is the importance of states’ rights.”

        Senators React

        Senator Cory Gardner, a Republican from Colorado, where marijuana is legal, said in a tweet that Sessions’s move contradicts what he told the senator before his confirmation.

        “I am prepared to take all steps necessary, including holding DOJ nominees, until the Attorney General lives up to the commitment he made to me,” Gardner said.

        Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, said Sessions’s actions are an affront to medical patients who need to use the plant as medicine. 

        “Parents should be able to give their sick kids the medicine they need without having to fear that they will be prosecuted,” she said in a statement. “This is about public health, and it’s about reforming our broken criminal justice system that throws too many minorities in prison for completely nonviolent offenses.”

        Still, the federal policy change may not actually hurt business much at all. Entrepreneurs starting marijuana businesses have already been working under risky circumstances. The plant has remained federally illegal, meaning most large companies — including banks — have shied away. Instead, the business has relied on state regulators, many of whom previously said they would defend the industry through any federal crackdown. 

        “We’re not overly concerned that a change in DOJ policy around cannabis will be meaningfully disruptive to legal adult use cannabis states, given the vocal support offered by these state-level AG’s,” said Vivien Azer, a Cowen & Co. analyst who covers the industry.

          Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-04/sessions-said-to-kill-obama-policy-that-ushered-in-legal-weed

          Senate Passes Tax-Cut Bill in Milestone Move Toward Overhaul

          Senate Republicans narrowly approved the most sweeping rewrite of the U.S. tax code in three decades, slashing the corporate tax rate and providing temporary tax-rate cuts for most Americans.

          The 51-49 vote — achieved just before 2 a.m. Saturday in Washington and only after closed-door deal-making with dissident senators — brings the GOP close to delivering a much-needed policy win for their party and President Donald Trump. 

          After the vote, Trump said on Twitter that he looks forward to signing a final bill before Christmas. Vice President Mike Pence tweeted that a pre-Christmas tax cut would be a “Middle-Class Miracle!”

          Before it goes to Trump, lawmakers will have to resolve differences between the Senate bill and one the House passed last month, a process that could begin Monday. Although both versions share common top-line elements, negotiations on individual provisions inserted to win votes, particularly in the Senate, may be protracted and difficult. The final product will end up being a central issue in the 2018 elections that will determine control of Congress.

          “We’re going to take this message to the American people a year from now,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said after the vote.

          Speaking in New York on Saturday, Trump also predicted the tax package would be a winner for Republicans in the 2018 midterm elections. “We got no Democrat help and I think that’s going to hurt them in the election,” Trump said at a fundraising event.

          Read about the sticking points between Senate, House bills.

          Both the House and Senate measures would cut the corporate tax rate to 20 percent from 35 percent — though the Senate version would set that lower rate in 2019, a year later than the House bill would. Also, the Senate bill, unlike the House version, would provide only temporary tax relief to individuals, ending tax cuts for them in 2026. Both bills are expected to add more than $1.4 trillion to the federal deficit over 10 years, before accounting for any economic growth.

          Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, who had cited concerns over the bill’s effects on federal deficits, was the only Republican dissenter. McConnell rejected revenue scores that suggested the bill’s tax cuts would add to the deficit. He predicted it would be a “revenue producer” by stimulating economic growth. Congress’s official tax scorekeeper this week said otherwise.

          The House and Senate bills also align on the contentious issue of individual deductions for state and local taxes: They’d eliminate all but a deduction for property taxes, which would be capped at $10,000.

          Mortgage Interest

          But they differ on the home mortgage-interest deduction; the House bill would restrict that break to loans of $500,000 or less with regard to new purchases of homes. The Senate legislation would leave the current $1 million cap in place.

          They also differ — narrowly — on the tax rates they’d apply to multinational companies’ accumulated offshore earnings. The House bill would tax those profits at 14 percent for earnings held as cash and 7 percent for less-liquid assets. The revised Senate bill contains a lengthy section that has no direct mention of the rates, but a person familiar with the Senate plan said they’d be 14.5 percent for cash and 7.5 percent for less-liquid assets.

          Senate Republican leaders muscled the sweeping legislation through the chamber less than two weeks after releasing the bill draft. Many GOP lawmakers, including Corker and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have expressed concerns that the party has little to show so far before next year’s congressional elections, after the collapse of an Obamacare repeal earlier this year and no action on issues ranging from immigration to infrastructure.

          ‘Working Families’

          Trump expressed gratitude to McConnell and Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch for steering the measure through the Senate.

          “We are one step closer to delivering MASSIVE tax cuts for working families across America,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

          Republicans were able to bring the legislation to a vote using Senate rules that allowed them to approve it with a simple majority, therefore without any Democratic support. The GOP controls just 52 votes in the chamber, eight shy of what’s typically needed to move controversial measures that draw delaying tactics by opponents.

          Narrow Majority

          That narrow majority made it important for Senate leaders to try to hold every member’s vote; moderate Senator Susan Collins of Maine used that leverage to secure various concessions, including an agreement to enhance an individual deduction for large unreimbursed medical expenses through the end of next year. The House bill would eliminate that tax break.

          Democrats decried the bill’s deficit impact and complained they were shut out of the process to help draft the measure. They cited research showing that the legislation primarily benefits the nation’s highest earners and business owners, and will bleed federal revenues in a way that hurts domestic programs.

          “At a time of immense inequality, the Republican tax bill makes life easier on the well-off and eventually makes life more difficult on working Americans, exacerbating one of the most pressing problems we face as a nation — the yawning gap between the rich and everyone else,” said Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York during debate on the bill.

          ‘Back of a Napkin’

          Schumer noted that a set of last-minute revisions to the bill changed it in ways that had yet to be analyzed by the Joint Committee on Taxation, Congress’s official scorekeeper for the effects of tax legislation. “Is this really how Republicans are going to rewrite the tax code? Scrawled like something on the back of a napkin?”

          McConnell said the bill, the first text of which was introduced on Nov. 20, went “through the regular order.” He dismissed complaints like Schumer’s. “You complain about process when you’re losing,” McConnell said.

          Attention now shifts to a House-Senate conference committee — a specially appointed, temporary panel that will be charged with hashing out the differences in the bills and preparing a final version for both chambers to consider. Party leaders will select a small group of lawmakers, likely from the House and Senate tax-writing panels in each chamber, who would then be approved by each chamber.

          That work could start as early as Monday, with many high-stakes issues to be worked through. The deadline of Dec. 31 is an artificial one, though — aimed partly at securing a victory well in advance of the 2018 congressional elections. Republicans would have until the end of 2018 before they lose their ability to clear final passage in the Senate without a filibuster.

          Expensing Provision

          Both bills share some key central elements: They both almost double the standard deduction for individual taxpayers while eliminating personal exemptions. They both allow companies to fully and immediately deduct the cost of their spending on equipment for five years. But the Senate version would slowly step down the expensing provision after the five-year period — a feature that the House bill doesn’t provide for.

          Yet there are many differences — ranging from the taxation of business income to the amount set for the child tax credit — and Senate negotiators may have the upper hand during talks. That’s because the wafer-thin two-vote majority in the Senate will make it harder to usher a final bill back through that chamber.

          The House bill would consolidate the current seven individual tax brackets to four, leaving the top tax rate at 39.6 percent. The Senate bill would have seven brackets — with lower rates, and a top rate of 38.5 percent. Studies have shown that many of the tax bill’s benefits would go to the highest earners — and some middle-class taxpayers might actually pay more — a finding that could impact the House-Senate talks.

          The Senate bill includes a repeal of Obamacare’s mandate that most Americans have health insurance or pay a penalty. The House bill does not.

          Pass-Through Businesses

          Senators approved a 23 percent tax deduction — subject to certain limitations — on business income earned from partnerships, limited liabilities and other so-called pass-through businesses. The House version would create a 25 percent tax rate for such business income — with restrictions on which businesses could qualify. Small businesses would get extra relief under the House legislation as well.

          The House bill would also eliminate the estate tax, while the Senate version would limit the tax to fewer multimillion-dollar estates, but leave it in place. And after 2025, the limits would lift.

          Under current law, the estate tax applies a 40 percent levy to estates worth more than $5.49 million for individuals and $10.98 million for married couples. The Senate bill would temporarily double the exemption thresholds. The House bill would double the exemption thresholds, and then repeal the tax entirely in 2025.

            Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-12-02/senate-passes-tax-cut-bill-in-milestone-move-toward-overhaul

            Key GOP Senator Susan Collins Lays Out Her Demands for Tax Bill

            Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine said Monday she’s opposed to two tax breaks for the wealthy that her party leaders are pushing for, indicating that her vote won’t be easy to win on President Donald Trump’s top legislative priority.

            “I do not believe that the top rate should be lowered for individuals who are making more than $1 million a year,” Collins said during an interview with Bloomberg News. “I don’t think there’s any need to eliminate the estate tax.”

            Repealing the estate tax and cutting the individual rate from 39.6 percent for top earners “concern me,” she said, adding that she’s conveyed her opposition to party leaders.

            Collins, a moderate Republican who played a decisive role in thwarting several iterations of Obamacare replacement legislation, offered her most pointed comments on her priorities for a tax bill to date.

            She added that the structure of the estate tax — a 40 percent levy applied to estates worth more than $5.49 million for individuals or $10.98 million for couples — means it avoids hitting “the vast majority of family-owned businesses and farms and ranches.” She said she’s open to adjusting the cutoff level slightly upward.

            The White House and GOP leaders released a tax framework last month that calls for a top individual rate of 35 percent and leaves room for tax committees to add another rate above that. It also proposes the repeal of the estate tax. The House Ways and Means Committee is scheduled to release its version of a tax bill on Wednesday. Collins said the Senate will likely offer a tax bill that differs from the House version.

            Collins’s demands are important because Republicans have only 52 seats in the 100-member Senate and little hope of Democratic support — they can’t afford to lose more than two members to get a bill passed. 

            Still, she said: “There is far more outreach on the tax bill” than there was on health care.

            Collins declined to say she’ll oppose a tax bill that adds to the deficit, in contrast to her colleague Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee. But she said she cares about the debt and doesn’t want the tax bill to “blow a hole” in the deficit. She argued that “certain tax cuts done right will increase economic growth” and produce revenue.

            “I hope very much to be able to support a tax reform package," Collins said. "It’s very difficult — I’m not going to say I can guarantee that because I don’t know what’s going to be in it.”

              Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-30/key-gop-senator-susan-collins-lays-out-her-demands-for-tax-bill

              Americans Are Officially Freaking Out

              For those lying awake at night worried about health care, the economy, and an overall feeling of divide between you and your neighbors, there’s at least one source of comfort: Your neighbors might very well be lying awake, too.

              Almost two-thirds of Americans, or 63 percent, report being stressed about the future of the nation, according to the American Psychological Association’s Eleventh Stress in America survey, conducted in August and released on Wednesday.  This worry about the fate of the union tops longstanding stressors such as money (62 percent) and work (61 percent) and also cuts across political proclivities. However, a significantly larger proportion of Democrats (73 percent) reported feeling stress than independents (59 percent) and Republicans (56 percent).

              The “current social divisiveness” in America was reported by 59 percent of those surveyed as a cause of their own malaise. When the APA surveyed Americans a year ago, 52 percent said they were stressed by the presidential campaign. Since then, anxieties have only grown.

              A majority of the more than 3,400 Americans polled, 59 percent, said “they consider this to to be the lowest point in our nation’s history that they can remember.” That sentiment spanned generations, including those that lived through World War II, the Vietnam War, and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. (Some 30 percent of people polled cited terrorism as a source of concern, a number that’s likely to rise given the alleged terrorist attack in New York City on Tuesday.)

              “We have a picture that says people are concerned,” said Arthur Evans, APA’s chief executive officer. “Any one data point may not not be so important, but taken together, it starts to paint a picture.”

              The survey didn’t ask respondents specifically about the administration of President Donald Trump, Evans said. He points to the “acrimony in the public discourse” and “the general feeling that we are divided as a country” as being more important than any particular person or political party.

              Yet he and the study note that particular policy issues are a major source of anxiety. Some 43 percent of respondents said health care was a cause. The economy (35 percent) and trust in government (32 percent) also ranked highly, as did hate crimes (31 percent) and crime in general (31 percent). 

               

              “Policymakers need to understand that this is an issue that is important to people, that the uncertainty is having an impact on stress levels, and that stress has an impact on health status,” Evans said, pointing out that the relationship between stress and health is well-established

              • And keeping up with the latest developments is a source of worry all its own. Most Americans—56 percent—said they want to stay informed, but the news causes them stress. (Yet even more, 72 percent, said “the media blows things out of proportion.”)

              The APA survey did find, however, that not everyone is feeling the same degree of anxiety. Women normally report higher levels of stress than men, though worries among both genders tend to rise or fall in tandem. This year, however, they diverged: On a 10-point scale, women reported a slight increase in stress, rising from an average 5.0 in 2016 to 5.1 in 2017, while the level for men dropped, from an average 4.6 to 4.4. 

              Racial divides also exist in reported stress. While the levels among blacks and Hispanics were lower in 2016 than the year before, they rose for both groups in 2017, to 5.2 for Hispanic adults and 5.0 for black adults. Among whites, meanwhile, the average remained the same, at 4.7. 

              The report also notes that many Americans are finding at least one healthy way to feel better: 53 percent reported exercising or doing other physical activity to cope. Social support is also important,  Evans said. “Third,” he says, “I think it’s really important for people to disconnect from the constant barrage of information.” 

              1. The 2017 Stress in America survey was conducted by the Harris Poll on behalf of the APA. It was conducted online between Aug. 2 and Aug. 31, and had 3,440 participants, all ages 18 and up living in the U.S. It included 1,376 men, 2,047 women, 1,088 whites, 810 Hispanics, 808 blacks, 506 Asians and 206 Native Americans. Data were then weighted by age, gender, race/ethnicity, region, education and household income to reflect America's demographics accurately. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish.

              Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-01/americans-are-officially-freaking-out

              NFL Players and Owners Push Back Against Trump Comments

              President Donald Trump accelerated his criticism of the National Football League on Sunday by saying fans should consider not going to games, sparking strong objections from players and owners including a longtime friend and contributor.

              Robert Kraft, chairman and chief executive officer of the NFL champion New England Patriots, said he was "deeply disappointed” by Trump’s comments Friday that “son of a bitch” players who refuse to stand during the national anthem to protest treatment of minority citizens should be released by their teams.

              Players locked arms, knelt or raised fists during today’s pregame renditions of the anthem, which were broadcast live at all games by the Fox and CBS networks. Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan, who donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee last year, locked arms with his players before his team’s game against the Baltimore Ravens in London. Several other owners joined their players on the field while most of the Pittsburgh Steelers stayed in their locker room during the anthem.

              Trump, speaking to reporters on his return to Washington Sunday night, said he was “not at all” encouraging a boycott with a morning tweet that read, “If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!”

              “They can do whatever they want,” Trump said. “I’m just telling you from my standpoint I think it is very disrespectful to our country.” He also said the player protests “are a big reason” the league’s television ratings have fallen.

              Buffalo Bills players kneel before their NFL game on Sept. 24.

              Photographer: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

              The criticisms, directed primarily at black athletes, came after Trump repeatedly equated the actions of both sides after the death of a woman who was protesting against a demonstration by neo-Nazis, white supremacists and Confederate heritage groups in Charlottesville, Virginia.

              They also come at the start of a critical week for some of Trump’s key legislative priorities, with Republicans’ latest and possibly last attempt to repeal and replace the Obamacare health care law on the brink of defeat and negotiations beginning in earnest on a tax package.

              Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin defended Trump’s comments and called on the NFL owners to enact a rule requiring players to stand during the national anthem.

              “This is about respect for the military and the first responders and the country,” Mnuchin said on ABC’s "This Week” program. “They have the right to have their First Amendment off the field. This is a job and the employers have the right, when the players are working, to have rules."

              Owners’ Support

              Trump’s new campaign also may jeopardize the support he has enjoyed since the early days of his campaign from a number of CEOs and NFL owners — one of whom, Woody Johnson of the New York Jets, was named Trump’s ambassador to the U.K.

              “There is no greater unifier in this country than sports, and unfortunately, nothing more divisive than politics,” said Kraft, who also donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural and sat with the president at dinner when he hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his Mar-a-Lago resort in February. “I think our political leaders could learn a lot from the lessons of teamwork and the importance of working together toward a common goal.”

              The national anthem protests began in August 2016, when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled before a pre-season game. Kaepernick was joined in his protest by some teammates and players on other teams as the season progressed.

              Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the 49ers in March and hasn’t been signed by another team, although the protests have continued this season.

              US President Donald Trump walks towards Air Force One in New Jersey on his way to Alabama on Sept. 23.

              Photographer: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

              ‘Lack of Respect’

              NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, without mentioning Trump, said Saturday that “divisive comments” weren’t helpful.

              “The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture,” Goodell said in a statement. “Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game, and all of our players.”

              Trump himself was once owner of the New Jersey Generals of the long-defunct United States Football League, which fought a losing battle against the NFL.

              Colin Kaepernick, center, with Eli Harold and Eric Reid kneel during the anthem prior to a game in Oct. 2016.

              Photographer: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

              ‘Little Ding’

              The president also raised eyebrows Friday by saying that penalties for hard hits in the NFL are “ruining the game,” as the league attempts to respond to evidence of long-term brain injury causing premature deaths and disability to some of its players.

              Trump’s comment came a day after news that Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots player convicted of murder who hanged himself in a Massachusetts jail in April at age 27, had been found to suffer from a severe case of the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) associated with repeated concussions.

              Trump made similar comments about the NFL at least twice in 2016, deriding concussions as “a little ding on the head” and lamenting the demise of “violent, head-on” tackles.

              A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that all but one of 111 former NFL players whose brains had been inspected had evidence of CTE, which can only be diagnosed post-mortem.

                Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-24/trump-promotes-nfl-boycott-as-stalwart-ally-kraft-leads-pushback