The two biggest ways Trump’s tax plan would benefit his family

The one-page outline of President Trump’s tax plan is sparse on details, but it does show he favors tax cuts that help business owners, and greatly benefit the wealthiest among them.

Two tax cuts in particular could be especially sweet for Trump himself and his children.

The first is his call to slash the business tax rate on pass-through entities to 15 percent from 39.6 percent.

Pass-throughs are businesses set up as sole proprietorships, S corporations and partnerships (e.g., LLCs, LLPs, etc.). They include everything from the corner grocery store and other Main Street businesses, to big accounting firms, medical practices and private investment partnerships like hedge funds.

They also happen to include most every entity in the Trump family’s vast financial portfolio — from golf clubs to hotels to real estate developments to Trump-branded products and ventures.

Pass-throughs are not taxed under the corporate code. Instead, their profits flow through to the owners, partners and shareholders, who then report and pay tax on them through their individual tax returns.

If Trump were ever to release his own federal returns from the past few years, we might be able to say exactly how his tax plan would benefit — or hurt — him directly. But Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stated categorically on Wednesday that the president has “no intention” of releasing them. He later went on to tell ABC’s “Good Morning America” that Trump’s tax plan isn’t about Trump’s returns, it’s about the American public’s returns.

Actually it’s about both.

How the Trump empire would benefit

Even without the specifics from Trump’s returns, it’s reasonable to assume that however much tax he pays at the top rate on his business income would fall by nearly two-thirds. For every $1 million in taxable income, he’d pay $150,000 under his own plan instead of $396,000 today.

Based on information from the top two pages of his 2005 returns, Steven Rosenthal, senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center, estimates that Trump might have saved $27 million if his business income at the time had been taxed at 15 percent.

Of course, any savings Trump would enjoy under his own proposals could be undercut, depending on what tax breaks the administration would support curtailing.

We know the Trump plan would kill itemized deductions except for mortgage interest and charitable contributions. But since deductible mortgage interest is limited and Trump’s charitable giving was shown to be underwhelming by Washington Post reporter and CNN contributor David Fahrenthold, those may not be big breaks for him.

What might be are his state and local taxes, which Rosenthal suspects made up a big chunk of Trump’s $17 million of itemized deductions in 2005. That’s because Trump was a resident of New York City, one of the highest taxed places in the country.

Beyond that, the Trump plan doesn’t detail what other breaks he’d support curbing. It simply says Trump wants to “eliminate targeted tax breaks that mainly benefit the wealthy” and “eliminate tax breaks for special interests.”

Again, without Trump’s tax returns, it’s impossible to say which breaks in those broad categories he relies on to reduce his taxable business income. Will he, for instance, propose eliminating tax breaks that benefit real estate investors and developers? Or will he support getting rid of breaks that might benefit him in his marketing and licensing deals?

A posthumous bonus for Trump’s children

The second tax break in the president’s plan that would be especially generous for the Trump family is a repeal of the federal estate tax.

Today, only the portion of an estate over $5.49 million is subject to the estate tax, at a top rate of 40 percent.

Given that Trump’s net worth is likely in the billions, estate tax repeal would mean his family would inherit a lot tax free unless he gives it all to charity before he dies.

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Ark. executions: What’s next after drug supply expires?

With Arkansas’ supply of lethal injection drugs expiring soon, the future of capital punishment in the state is unclear.

The state had planned to execute eight death row inmates in a span of 11 days in April before its supply of sedatives used in the process expired. The clock was ticking.

In the midst of legal battles with drug suppliers, inmates fighting to avoid executions and courts issuing temporary stays, Arkansas carried out only four of the eight scheduled executions.

According to J.R. Davis, spokesman for Gov. Asa Hutchinson, there will not be any more executions this month.

Davis said the state will work on procuring the drug again and will reschedule the executions when the stays and court cases are resolved.

Securing new doses of the drugs will be a challenge for Arkansas, but the state could also change the method used to execute inmates or halt them all at once.

Find other drugs?

Death sentences are still being handed down, but many states are not scheduling executions because authorities don’t have the drugs needed for lethal injection.

And pharmaceutical companies are now mounting legal challenges against the use of their products in executions, so Arkansas could fall into a years-long, expensive battle with those companies.

One manufacturer, West-Ward Pharmaceuticals, filed a brief in support of the eight inmates the state planned to execute in April, saying it tries to ensure its midazolam isn’t used in executions.

If states can’t get supplies of the three drugs needed for the lethal injection cocktail currently used, authorities may have to switch to a one-drug lethal injection and use drugs such as sodium thiopental and pentobarbital.

But not without running into some issues.

Manufacturers and European countries started withholding sodium thiopental and pentobarbital this decade, trying to prevent the use of them in executions.

The US Food and Drug Administration also hasn’t approved the use of sodium thiopental in the United States. The FDA recently seized a shipment of 1,000 vials that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice had purchased for its executions.

Postpone executions?

The Arkansas governor could also issue a moratorium on all executions.

Governors in other states have taken that step in order to reconsider their state’s death penalty or ask for a comprehensive review of the process.

One of them is Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, who stopped all executions in 2015.

The governor said the review was necessary and that his decision was not a way to express sympathy to the inmates.

“This decision is based on a flawed system that has been proven to be an endless cycle of court proceedings as well as ineffective, unjust and expensive,” Wolf said in a statement, The Philadelphia Tribune reported.

Currently, Colorado, Oregon and Washington also have moratoriums in place against the death penalty.

Change methods?

While the 31 states with death penalty laws use lethal injection drugs as the main method for executions, some of them have options.

In 18 states, authorities have at least one alternative, such as the gas chamber, hanging or a firing squad.

In Alabama, Florida and Virginia, inmates can choose the electric chair.

Only Utah and Oklahoma allow inmates to choose a firing squad.

In 2010, Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed by a firing squad in Utah. He was the third inmate in that state to be executed by that method since 1977.

It’s the last option for inmates in Oklahoma if all the other methods are either unavailable or ruled unconstitutional by a judge.

But in Arkansas there’s only one other option. The state may use electrocution if the lethal injection is “invalidated by a final and unappealable court order,” a state code says.

If authorities want to use another method, it would require lawmakers to change current state law or pass a new law.

State legislators in Mississippi passed a bill in April authorizing a firing squad, electrocution and the gas chamber as other means of execution if lethal injection was not available. The law takes effect next year.

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GOP’s health care push tests Democratic resistance

The most conservative congressmen in the country were a major roadblock in President Donald Trump’s first push to replace Obamacare. Now, a second attempt’s fate is in the hands of a moderate Republican faction — putting to the test the power of Democratic resistance.

Progressives have protested at those Republicans’ town halls, marched through major cities and filled lawmakers’ voicemails.

If they’ve convinced those lawmakers in swing districts their passion is real — and could cost them their seats in the 2018 midterms — it could translate into a long-term Democratic victory over conservatives in setting the nation’s health care policy.

As President Donald Trump makes another push to repeal Obamacare around the 100-day mark of his tenure in office, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Republicans appear to have solved their problems with hardline conservatives but haven’t yet rounded up enough support from moderates to give Trump the 216 votes he needs.

Already, the White House’s hopes of a vote this week were dashed, with mostly moderate Republicans either opposing the measure or refusing to take a public position and Ryan saying he won’t move forward with a bill that’s at risk of being defeated on the House floor.

“What we’re seeing is that the famed negotiator can’t deliver,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley of New York said at an event hosted by the liberal think tank Center for American Progress. “And the consequences are no longer limited to shareholders or investors. It’s the American people who suffer.”

While Trump and Ryan have the most on the line, the strategies and tactics that have driven the Democratic resistance to Trump — particularly on health care — in recent months also face a stress test.

A deal that got hardline conservatives on board with Obamacare repeal-and-replace legislation they’d previously opposed has left the bill’s fate solely in the hands of more moderate Republicans.

Those Republicans are the lawmakers who typically face the toughest re-election fights — and are the ones progressives have targeted most heavily through town hall protests and more.

“I spent the whole work period hearing from people pissed about pre-existing conditions,” one moderate lawmaker told CNN on Wednesday.

The progressive groups leading these protests — Indivisible chapters, MoveOn.org and others — say they’ve seen signs of turning enough moderates to block Trump and Ryan from ever moving an Obamacare repeal.

“You have anonymous Republicans walking around the Capitol and telling reporters they’re scared to vote for Trumpcare because they’ll lose their job,” said Indivisible chief communications officer Sarah Dohl.

Pointing to moderate Republicans from Colorado and Pennsylvania who have recently announced they oppose the new legislation, Dohl said: “Just look at Mike Coffman, Pat Meehan, who were previously ‘yes’ or undecided on Trumpcare last time around and have now announced they’re opposed — these are two men who have been endlessly pressured by local groups of constituents at home. The pressure is working.”

Two moderate lawmakers who had supported an earlier version of the bill say a new one with tweaks to appease the Freedom Caucus could cost the GOP their support.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Florida, said he is trying to understand how changes — in the form of a Rep. Tom MacArthur amendment — makes things better but has some concerns.

“There are a lot of red flags,” he said.

Another moderate House Republican, Brian Mast of Florida, told CNN he’s undecided on the latest health care tweak, saying he still needed to read it. He was a “yes” on the last version of the bill.

The MacArthur amendment gives states broader ability to opt out of Obamacare regulations and roll back protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions.

Rep. Charlie Dent, a moderate Republican from Pennsylvania, called it “an exercise in blame shifting.”

To be sure, the left isn’t casting a potential vote on health care as a do-or-die moment — saying they’ll have an opportunity to force moderate Republicans to pay a price in the 2018 midterms if they do repeal Obamacare and replace it with a law that removes cost protections for those with pre-existing conditions, among other changes.

“You will see the impact of the resistance in one of two ways: either this bill will fail, or voters will send many of the Republicans who voted for this bill packing in 2018,” said Anna Galland, the executive director of MoveOn.org.

“We hope it’s the first,” Galland said, “but the second is possible too.”

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Trump’s first economic report: 4 things to know

The Trump administration’s first economic report card publishes Friday.

The Commerce Department will release the first print of gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic activity, for the first three months of this year at 8:30 a.m. ET.

Here are 4 things to know.

1. Growth is expected to be low: Really low. The Atlanta Federal Reserve is predicting first quarter growth of just 0.2%. Private economists are projecting annual growth around 1%. Either way, that’s very low.

2. Why growth was weak to start the year: American shoppers didn’t open their wallets much. Retail sales declined in February and March on a monthly basis. Consumer spending makes up about two-thirds of US economic activity. Business spending also hasn’t ratcheted up this year.

3. The US economy is still in good shape overall: America looks poised for another year of sluggish growth. But other measures are looking good. Unemployment is very low at 4.5%. After the Great Recession ended in 2009, unemployment reached 10%. Wage growth is picking up and job growth has been strong in recent years. Gas prices are low. And although slow, this year will likely be the eighth straight year of growth.

4. Trump promises 4%. His team eyes 3%. The Fed sees 2%: President Trump promised economic annual growth of 4%. His Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, is hoping to get to 3% with tax reform and other measures. The Fed projects annual growth of 2% this year and in the coming years.

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The LA riots were a rude awakening for Korean-Americans

Chang Lee gripped his fingers tighter around the gun and screamed at potential looters from the rooftop of the small strip mall where he stood. The 35-year-old had never held a firearm before the LA riots. Lighting up the blocks around him, Lee could smell the fires burning in Los Angeles’ Koreatown.

“Where are the police? Where are the police?” Lee whispered over and over from his rooftop perch. Lee would not see law enforcement for three days — only fellow Korean-Americans, who would be photographed by news agencies looking like armed militia in what appeared to be a guerrilla race war on the streets.

It was April 30, 1992, and the city of angels raged in a second day of looting, armed assaults and arson in the wake of the acquittal of four white LAPD officers for use of excessive force in the videotaped beating of Rodney King.

The nearly weeklong, widespread rioting killed more than 50 people, injured more than 1,000 people and caused approximately $1 billion in damage, about half of which was sustained by Korean-owned businesses. Long-simmering cultural clashes between immigrant Korean business owners and predominately African-American customers spilled over with the acquittals.

The Rodney King verdict and the ensuing riots are often framed as a turning point for law enforcement and the African-American community. But it’s also the single most significant modern event for Korean-Americans, says Edward Taehan Chang, professor of ethnic studies and founding director of the Young Oak Kim Center for Korean American Studies at the University of California, Riverside.

“Despite the fact that Korean-American merchants were victimized, no one in the mainstream cared because of our lack of visibility and political power,” Chang said. “Korean immigrants, many who arrived in the late 1970s and early 80s, learned economic success alone will not guarantee their place in America. What was an immigrant Korean identity began to shift. The Korean-American identity was born.”

The 25th anniversary of the LA riots falls on the same day as Trump’s 100th day in office — and for the Korean-Americans CNN interviewed, the coincidence is significant.

“Twenty-five years ago, we learned a lesson in what the lack of political power and cultural misunderstandings between minority groups can do,” Lee said. “It can destroy us.”

Asian immigrants, once a conservative bloc, have steadily moved to the center and left of the political spectrum, especially as their US-born children identify with more liberal beliefs. Exit poll data show that since 1992, Asian-Americans have steadily moved further away from the Republican Party, shifting to the Democrats and independents.

In 2016, exit polls showed Asian-Americans broke 65% for Clinton to 27% for Trump. As the country’s fastest-growing immigrant group, the trends don’t bode well for the GOP, who lagged behind the Democrats in Asian-American engagement in 2016.

“What I’m hearing from Trump and the rise in hate crimes in this country is scaring me,” Lee said. “Los Angeles had this painful past. Now it’s time for minority ethnic groups to talk to each other, stay bound together, understand and support each other.”

‘They left us to burn’

Lee was the only son in his family, so as the riots spread into Koreatown, the duty of protecting his parents’ business fell on him. Lee left his own gas station unprotected.

In the middle of those three chaotic nights, Lee recalled watching the local news on a portable TV on the rooftop.

“I watched a gas station on fire, and I thought, boy, that place looks familiar,” he said. “Soon, the realization hit me. As I was protecting my parents’ shopping mall, I was watching my own gas station burn down on TV.”

That he ended up on a rooftop with a borrowed gun was never in Lee’s life plan. He had quit his job as an engineer at an aerospace company to pursue what he hoped would be life as an independent businessman, opening up three businesses in Koreatown.

“I truly thought I was a part of mainstream society,” said Lee, who immigrated with his family to the United States as a child. “Nothing in my life indicated I was a secondary citizen until the LA riots. The LAPD powers that be decided to protect the ‘haves’ and the Korean community did not have any political voice or power. They left us to burn.”

‘We were trapped’

Andy Yoo was confused. He stood on his apartment balcony, watching men his father’s age pace in front of the California Supermarket with long guns. To the seventh-grader, they looked like action figures in the war movies he’d seen. The boy thought, this must be war. Born and bred in Los Angeles, Yoo just didn’t understand who was fighting whom.

Yoo’s mother told him to get back inside. But his childhood curiosity kept getting the better of him, as he peeked out at the gunmen and the chaos outside the supermarket. He wanted to know how Koreatown in America could be equivalent to a war zone, with no police coming to help families like his.

The image of the gunmen on that supermarket rooftop would become the iconic, and enduring, picture of the LA riots.

Yoo’s balcony, his family’s car and the streets were covered in soot, as ash rained down from the fires across Koreatown. He also remembers police lining Crenshaw Avenue, cutting off access to the west side of Los Angeles.

“It was containment,” said Yoo, now a lawyer who works in Koreatown. “The police cut off traffic out of Koreatown, while we were trapped on the other side without help. Those roads are a gateway to a richer neighborhood. It can’t be denied.”

A shifting political bloc

That single childhood realization, the separation of Yoo’s community from the richer, white neighborhoods with a police barrier, drove Yoo to become a lawyer.

“I realized I needed to learn the law, learn the rules of this society. If you’re going to play the game you need to learn the rules and be a part of this system. What happened to us as children led to a political awakening in young Korean-Americans. We would help our parents as the American-born children of immigrants and not let what happened to them happen again.”

At the time of the riots, many businesses in low-income, majority-black neighborhoods like South Central were owned by Korean immigrants, who were able to purchase them for low prices from white owners who were leaving the neighborhood.

Tensions between the two groups came to a head on March 16, 1991, when Soon Ja Du, a Korean store owner, fatally shot Latasha Harlins, a 15-year-old African-American girl. Du accused Latasha of trying to steal a bottle of orange juice. The girl threw the juice on the counter and began walking away when Du shot her in the head. That incident, along with the acquittal of the officers who beat Rodney King, contributed to the anger that exploded on April 29, 1992.

In the wake of the riots, the nonprofit Korean American Coalition formed the Alternative Dispute Resolution Center to mend cultural tensions and resolve anger between the communities, Yoo said.

Today, the KAC center works with the diverse ethnic populations of Los Angeles County.

“We, the black and Korean communities, were pitted against each other without understanding each other. We have to engage each other. I learned that the powers that be will try to divide and conquer. This is why I’m engaged politically and why I’m a liberal,” Yoo said.

A race 25 years in the making

Robert Lee Ahn wasn’t sure he would ever see his father again. In 1992 the high school student lived in West LA, but his family’s business was based in Koreatown. Ahn’s father owned a real estate business in a strip mall and he had gathered with the tenants to protect their businesses as the riots spread. He watched the unfolding chaos on television, wondering why the police would leave his father alone as Koreatown burned.

Ahn saw his father on the second or third night, he recalled. “The community felt abandoned by law enforcement,” said Ahn, adding that the tenants managed to protect the strip mall from being set on fire. “They were deemed expendable. The reason was simple: a lack of political voice and political power.”

Ahn, 41, a former LA city planning commissioner, is now a candidate in the runoff race for the 34th congressional district seat, which includes Koreatown.

“That’s why I think my race is so important, because it’s the culmination of 25 years in the making,” he said.

Xavier Becerra vacated the seat to become California’s attorney general. In the primary with a field of more than 20 candidates, a strong Korean-American vote buoyed Ahn into the runoff where he’ll face state Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, a fellow Democrat. Gomez captured the most votes in the primary and has higher name recognition. But if Ahn manages to win, he’ll be the country’s first Democratic Korean-American congressman.

Ahn is clear that while his political ambitions may have originated from those days when he was a teenager, what propels him in his campaign now is trying to bridge minority groups and extend their political reach. Ahn points out that Koreatown today, a thriving economic engine for the city of LA, is home to more Latinos than Koreans or African-Americans. Ahn also doesn’t mince words about President Trump’s first 100 days in office, which he called divisive and frightening.

Latinos, African-Americans and Korean-Americans have “a lot more in common than differences,” Ahn said. “In the midst of this Washington chaos and uncertainty, I see an opportunity to coalition build and really improve the district.”

In Ahn’s congressional race, UCR Professor Chang sees the progression of Korean-American engagement, although he says, “we have a long way to go.” Only one Korean-American is in California statewide office and if Ahn loses, Congress will remain at zero representation for the community.

Twenty-five years after Lee’s gas station burned down, he is once again a businessman in Koreatown. He has since served as an LA planning commissioner, and calls members of the Latino and African-American communities his friends and colleagues.

Lee believes he managed to come back from the ashes because of one act by the community, a day after the fire that destroyed his business. Lee remembers that for some reason, perhaps out of shock, he began to pointlessly sweep the debris around the shell of the gas station.

“One by one,” said Lee, “neighbors came out to help. They were black, Korean, and Latino. 30 people. They gave me hope. They are my community. And it’s time again to stay bound together these next four years.”

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