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E.g., 8/29/2016
History mandates presidential candidates release tax returns, but not how many

Trump surrogate defends secrecy on tax returns

08/25/16 09:40AM

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, yesterday became the latest Republican to urge Donald Trump to release his tax returns, a once-routine step the GOP nominee refuses to complete.
Trump's son Eric, a prominent surrogate for his father's presidential campaign, presented a relatively new defense for non-disclosure during a CNBC interview yesterday.
Eric Trump said Wednesday it would be "foolish" for his father to release his tax returns and subject them to scrutiny by people who don't know what they are looking at.
"You would have a bunch of people who know nothing about taxes trying to look through and trying to come up with assumptions on things they know nothing about," Mr. Trump said on CNBC. "It would be foolish to do. I'm actually the biggest proponent of not doing it."
In the same interview, Eric Trump added, "I heard someone the other day, 'Oh well, Trump has ties to the mob.... If he released his tax returns you would clearly see that.' Are you guys kidding me? You learn a lot more when you look at a person's assets. You know how many hotels we have around the world. You know how many golf courses we have around the world."
At first blush, this may seem vaguely compelling. Tax law is complicated -- accountants and tax lawyers exist for a reason -- and for those unfamiliar with the substantive details, simply looking at tax returns without any background or context may lead to an incomplete picture.
But perhaps this can be the basis for some kind of compromise: if the Trump campaign doesn't want to share the candidate's returns with "a bunch of people who know nothing about taxes," would Trump aides be willing to disclose the materials to people who do know something about taxes? How about sharing the documents with people who have a detailed understanding of the issue, who can help explain the facts to the public?
Or is it more likely this has nothing to do with tax expertise and Eric Trump's excuse is just a ploy to rationalize unnecessary secrecy without modern precedent?
Chicago police cars, sit outside a police station Sept. 8, 2011 in Chicago, Ill. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty)

Trump's plan to end violence via 'tough' tactics faces questions

08/25/16 09:00AM

Donald Trump recently delivered a speech in which he declared that if he's elected, urban street crime will effectively disappear. "This chaos and violence will end and it will end very, very quickly," the Republican candidate boasted.
Fox News' Bill O'Reilly asked Trump on Monday night how, exactly, he intends to achieve this, pointing to urban violence in Chicago as an example of an intractable problem. The GOP nominee responded by saying he'd allow local police officers to become "very much tougher than they are right now."
In fact, Trump said he met this year with "very top police" officers in Chicago who assured him they could stop "much of this horror show" in just "one week." How? Through "tough police tactics."
There's now a question, however, as to whether or not Trump's conversation actually happened. The NBC affiliate in Chicago reported:
The Chicago Police Department denied Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's claim this week that he met with a "top" Chicago officer and argued the city's violence would not be solved with "tough police tactics."
"We've discredited this claim months ago," CPD spokesperson Frank Giancamilli said Tuesday in a statement. "No one in the senior command at CPD has ever met with Donald Trump or a member of his campaign."
The Chicago Tribune spoke to a Trump campaign spokesperson who said that when the candidate claimed to have spoken to "very top" officers in Chicago, he meant he spoke to officers who were "capable, smart and talented."
Which officers? Trump and his team don't know. How would they stop violence within a week? Trump and his team don't know that, either. What kind of policies would constitute "tough police tactics."? Trump and his team haven't said.
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in Cleveland, Ohio on Aug. 17, 2016. (Photo by Mark Makela/Reuters)

Clinton, Congress take aim at EpiPen price hikes

08/25/16 08:00AM

There's no doubt the EpiPen can be a life-saving device. The technology is pretty straightforward: for those suffering a dangerous allergic reaction, an EpiPen can deliver emergency epinephrine at a critical time.
The recent controversy, however, has nothing to do with the device's efficacy and everything to do with its price. Since Mylan bought the rights to EpiPen in 2007, prices have soared -- as have profits, corporate salaries, and the company's lobbying investments.
It's not just consumers who are crying foul; candidates and elected officials have also taken a keen interest of late. The Wall Street Journal reported late yesterday:
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton jumped into the fray over rapid price increases for the EpiPen, a life-saving injection for people who are having severe allergic reactions.
Mrs. Clinton called the recent price hikes of the EpiPen "outrageous, and just the latest example of a company taking advantage of its consumers."
In a written statement calling for Mylan to scale back EpiPen prices, Clinton added, "It's wrong when drug companies put profits ahead of patients, raising prices without justifying the value behind them."
Congress' summer break won't end for another two weeks, but lawmakers are nevertheless weighing in, too. For example, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee's antitrust panel, has called for a Federal Trade Commission investigation.
The Washington Post added that Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), the top two members on the Senate's Special Committee on Aging, sent a letter to Mylan's CEO yesterday requesting detailed information on the company's pricing practices.
Note, when it comes to official policymaking, there are two related tracks to keep in mind.

Wednesday's Mini-Report, 8.24.16

08/24/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* Earthquake in Amatrice, Italy: "Homes opened up, like dollhouses, revealing shards of life interrupted by the 6.2-magnitude earthquake before dawn Wednesday.... Amatrice, considered among the most beautiful of Italy's historic towns, has survived centuries of war, weather and earthquakes, but never one like this. 'Three quarters of the town is not there anymore,' Amatrice Mayor Sergio Pirozzi told state broadcaster RAI."
* Afghanistan: "Gunmen stormed the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul on Wednesday night, engaging with Afghan special forces who were responding to reports of gunfire and an explosion. A senior U.S. intelligence official told NBC News that the attackers 'got inside the compound,' but there were no immediate reports of casualties or hostages."
* Middle East: "Turkish tanks, American warplanes and Syrian rebels joined forces Wednesday in a major cross-border assault into northern Syria that quickly pushed Islamic State forces from a strategic border town, officials from the U.S. and Turkey said."
* Indiana: "An Indianapolis homeowner who called police to report an attempted armed robbery at his house was mistaken for the suspect and was shot in the stomach by the responding officer, authorities said."
* Federal aid for communities that need a hand: "Officials say 29 projects in nine Appalachian states and in Texas are being funded by nearly $39 million from a federal initiative aimed at stimulating economic development in U.S. communities hard hit by coal industry layoffs. Officials for the Appalachian Regional Commission and other agencies announced the projects Wednesday at a news conference in Huntington."
* The worthwhile executive action: "With its time in the White House winding down, the Obama administration plans to add yet another executive order to its list on Wednesday -- one that will bar companies from receiving federal contracts if they recently violated labor laws."