How December Could Make or Break the Trump Presidency
Donald Trump is unique among modern Presidents in that he has no significant legislative accomplishments to show for ten months after taking office. Year one is when Presidents usually make their mark, especially if they came into office with unified control of the government, as Trump and his party did. Presidents in the first year of their first term are often at the peak of their popularity, have the biggest margins in Congress, and are free from the scandals and intense partisanship that start to gather around them later and make governing ever more difficult. By the second year, a President’s legislative agenda becomes complicated by the hesitancy of members of Congress to take risky votes as midterm elections approach, particularly if a President is unpopular. The math is stark: on average, modern Presidents have historically lost thirty House seats and four Senate seats in their first midterm elections.
Trump is governing well below the optimal levels of recent successful first-year Presidents. In 1981, Ronald Reagan’s first year in office, Reagan was so personally popular that he was able to convince a Democratic-controlled Congress to pass a major tax cut. In 1993, Bill Clinton used a Democratic Congress to pass a major economic plan, the Family and Medical Leave Act, gun legislation, and NAFTA, though his signature health-care bill eventually failed. (The political cost was high: in midterm elections the following year, Clinton lost his Democratic Congress for the rest of his Presidency and was later engulfed in scandals that slowed his agenda.) In 2001, George W. Bush, who also started with a Congress controlled by his own party, passed a major tax cut and a significant rewrite of federal education policy, two pieces of legislation that came with significant support from Democrats. Barack Obama came into office, in 2009, with large Democratic majorities, high approval ratings, and a massive economic crisis, all of which he leveraged to pass the most ambitious first-year agenda of any President since Lyndon Johnson, including an enormous economic-stimulus package and major reforms of the financial regulatory system and health care. (The final version of Obamacare, after some drama, was actually signed into law in March of his second year.)
Trump’s first year has been different. He has a record low approval rating. He is mired in scandal. And he, so far, has no major legislative accomplishments. He looks like a President in his eighth year rather than one in his first. All of this makes December crucial for the White House.
From now until the New Year, Congress will be jammed with legislative activity that may make or break Trump’s first year in office. Most of the attention has focussed on Trump’s tax-cut legislation, which is deeply unpopular according to public-opinion polls but which Republicans believe is essential to pass in order for them to have something to show for the year. But there are many other politically consequential bills that must be passed in the weeks ahead. On December 8th, the money to fund the federal government runs out. Staff members for the four top Democratic and Republican leaders have been meeting with the White House for weeks to negotiate a deal. On Tuesday, these leaders—Paul Ryan, Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, and Chuck Schumer—will meet with Trump at the White House about the issue.
Schumer and Pelosi have been maneuvering for this moment all year, and they have significant leverage. The Republican Party, despite unified control of Congress, does not have the votes to pass bills to fund the government in either the House, where many conservatives refuse to support annual appropriations bills, or the Senate, where they need sixty votes but have only fifty-two Republicans. For several years, a coalition of mostly Republican defense hawks, who want higher levels of Pentagon spending, and Democrats, who want higher levels of discretionary spending, have joined forces to provide the votes for the annual appropriations bills. Pelosi and Schumer will not deliver those Democratic votes without extracting a price from Trump and Republicans.
There are three major pieces of legislation that Democrats want: a bipartisan fix for Obamacare, a legislative fix for the Obama-era DACA program that Trump recently ended, and the extension of a popular health-care program for children—SCHIP—that recently expired.
Some liberal Democratic senators have said that they won’t vote to fund the government unless the DACA fix is included, though that is not yet a Party-wide position. As for the Obamacare fix, which is known as Alexander-Murray, after the two senators who negotiated it, the current version of the G.O.P. tax-cut bill includes a repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate, which would hobble Obamacare rather than fix it. The politics for Trump are tricky. Senator Susan Collins, of Maine, a shaky vote on the tax bill, has hinted that she wants the bipartisan health-care legislation passed as the price for her vote on any tax bill that repeals the mandate. Schumer has said that passing a mandate repeal would blow up the Alexander-Murray Obamacare fix. In other words, Schumer is not going to help pass the health-care fix as a way to grease the skids for McConnell to secure Collins’s vote on tax cuts. Trump is likely going to have to give ground on one or more of these Democratic priorities.
“Any Republican senator who thinks they can pass the individual mandate [repeal] and then turn around and get Murray-Alexander passed is dead wrong,” Schumer said on November 15th, after McConnell added the Obamacare-mandate repeal to the Republican tax bill.
The last time Trump cut a deal with Schumer and Pelosi was in May, when the leftover spending bills from the previous year were negotiated and passed to keep the government operating through the end of the fiscal year. In fact, this was arguably the most significant piece of legislation of Trump’s first year, and it was widely considered to be an enormous success for the Democrats because it included high levels of discretionary spending opposed by Trump and no funding for the border wall that he requested. Trump was so angry about the coverage that he tweeted that perhaps there needed to be a government shutdown the next time the two sides entered spending negotiations. “The reason for the plan negotiated between the Republicans and Democrats is that we need 60 votes in the Senate which are not there!” Trump said in a series of tweets. “We either elect more Republican Senators in 2018 or change the rules now to 51%. Our country needs a good ‘shutdown’ .”
Tuesday’s meeting at the White House between Trump and congressional leaders from both parties is meant to avoid a December 8th government shutdown. How much Republicans are willing to give Democrats may depend on the status of the G.O.P. tax bill. There are at least half a dozen G.O.P. senators with serious policy concerns regarding the tax proposal. And there are three Republican senators—John McCain and Jeff Flake, of Arizona, and Bob Corker, of Tennessee—who dislike Trump so much that they may be looking for reasons to oppose any legislation that empowers his Presidency. Republicans already have a ready-made conservative reason: the proposed tax changes will increase the deficit by $1.5 trillion.
If the tax bill is cruising through the Senate—McConnell wants a vote next week—there may be less incentive for Republicans to risk a shutdown. But if it dies next week, or is delayed, Trump will be under intense pressure to avoid ending the year with no major legislative accomplishments—and the chaos of a government shutdown. In order to keep the government running, Trump would have to strike another deal with Pelosi and Schumer and sign a bipartisan spending deal that includes major Democratic priorities.
As a result, Trump would end his first year in office with no Republican legislative accomplishments and two deals with Pelosi and Schumer that boost the Democratic agenda. If that seems likely to happen, it would enrage conservatives and the Republican base. For Trump, December could be the month that makes or breaks his first year in office.
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November 24, 2017 at 11:23PM
App Review: Drop Aims to Help Users Earn Free Gift Cards
A few years ago, Derrick Fung, the CEO of Drop, noticed some distinct characteristics in millennial spending habits. This tech-savvy sect, he realized, is willing to spend more money on frivolous things like expensive coffee and Uber — but they’re also more likely than previous generations to switch loyalty if that means saving some money.
With that in mind, he set out to create a platform that earns credits for purchases regardless of which bank, credit card or loyalty program you belong to.
“We focus on this demographic because we believe there really was a gap in the market from a rewards perspective,” Fung said. “We decided to build on top of the existing debit and credit cards because there are already too many rewards programs on the market, and we were really trying to consolidate them into one main program called Drop.”
Here’s how the app works and my experiences using it.
A Bumpy Rollout
Drop is a Canadian-based company that launched in July, 2016 to users in Canada. It expanded to the United States in October of 2017 and has more than 500,000 users to date. Most recently, moments before the launch of the app in the US, Drop received over $5 million in venture capital funding. With its headquarters in Toronto, this company plans to expand outside of the US and Canada in the near future.
But there has been backlash. During its initial rollout in the US, some customers were upset that certain qualifying purchases didn’t earn them points, and others were unable to redeem their points when the company froze a number of accounts from users who had quickly accumulated a large number of points. Communication from the Drop support team was also extremely poor during this time, with user queries going unanswered for days.
Drop then changed its terms and conditions to specifically exclude “repeat purchases, high-value purchases, purchases of gift cards, and purchases made for business or corporate purposes.” While that may have eliminated the heaviest Drop users, the company also later increased the limitations on acquiring points by adding an earning limit of 5,000 points ($5) per week.
While at least these issues appear to have been settled, the question of privacy and security also exists when it comes to Drop. The app requires you to connect it to your credit and debit cards by providing the personal credentials you use to log into your bank accounts, something that more than a few people are uncomfortable doing. There’s no way around this requirement, so while there’s been no reports of security issues to date, if you’re not keen on connecting your bank to a third party system, this app might not be right for you.
How It Works
Drop removes the need to have numerous brand-specific cards or accounts — all the rewards are generated in-app.
The app lets users shop for a bunch of different brands on one cohesive platform; they may earn points by simply using any debit and credit cards that are linked in the app. Drop is different from other loyalty programs in that it pushes merchants to fund the points, as opposed to typical credit card programs where the fee is paid by the merchants to accept whichever program you’re participating in.
1. Download the app. Drop is available for free through iTunes and Google Play for iPhones and Androids respectively; you can also sign up through links on the company website.
2. Link Cards. After downloading and opening the app, Drop will prompt you with a screen of participating banks (all major US banks participate). From here, you can log into all banks where you hold a debit or credit card, and you can link your PayPal account as well. Drop is fully-bank encrypted and your bank login credentials are never stored on Drop’s servers. The company states that the app uses security to ensure all data is securely transmitted and not susceptible to interception.
3. Select Your Favorite Brands. When you initially set up the app, you will be prompted to choose five of your favorite brands. These are the brands that you’ll earn Drop points on whenever you use your linked cards. Choose carefully as you won’t be able to change these five choices again — at least for now. Options include Starbucks, Uber, Seamless, Walgreens and many more well-known companies which change out periodically.
4. Earn Drop Points. The best part about Drop is that it’s effortless: While you continue spending at your favorite places, you earn points that are independent of the bank loyalty program you’re already participating in. Meaning, there’s no interruption of your daily spending habits.
5. Redeem Limited Time Offers. There are also additional limited-time offers that you can activate. These offers come in various forms, like earning points for signing up with a company like Harry’s Razors to earning points per dollar spent at places like Amazon, Whole Foods, Lululemon and dozens more retailers. (Drop uses an algorithm to tailor certain offers and rewards for users based on their spending habits.)
6. Unlock Rewards. 1,000 points = $1, so the more points you rack up, the more valuable they become. Users can unlock rewards once they’ve reached the value of the offers. For example, Starbucks has a $5 gift card redeemable for 5,000 points. The offers range in value and size and as of publication date, American Airlines is offering the largest reward with $100 towards your next trip, redeemable for 100,000 points. Drop users receive an email when redeeming the points, which includes a code specifically for the points redemption reward.
7. Collect Bonuses. There’s a bonus tab on the app where users can get extra points by doing simple things like connecting a Facebook account or becoming an Ambassador after five of your friends sign up with your invite code. My personal favorite bonus is the Drop game, Supercharge, which is activated after you spend on any offer five times. Supercharge is basically the pre-smartphone game Snake — ensuring every millennial kid can make money the way they always wished they could.
I would like to see the company improve on the first five offers users choose after signing up. Users can never change these so you’re locked in at these five places. But they have so many limited-time offers — from so many varying companies — that this isn’t really an issue.
In addition to expanding to the US from Canada in a little over a year after its conception, they have plans to roll out in countries like Brazil, Australia, the UK — “countries where there’s this concept of cross-merchant rewards,” Fung said, adding, “We’re really just modernizing the traditional program which is more physical card, point-of-sale integration. We’ve gone directly to the consumer to get the data as opposed to relying on the merchants. We’ve made redemption as simple as clicking a button on the phone.”
Drop is the first app of its kind and offers a new spin on a loyalty program tailored for millennials and their specific spending habits. The app has changed the points system game by removing the need for another account or card. The cross-merchant aspect of this app makes it easily accessible for members to access and redeem points.
And although Drop got some well-deserved backlash regarding security and its retroactive changes to its terms and conditions and spending limit, the app is helpful for those trying to earn a little extra for spending nothing more than they would otherwise already be spending. While the 5,000 points per week limit equates to only earning $5 in gift cards per week, it’s still $5 towards your next Venti latte at Starbucks or any of the qualifying merchants.
I will continue using the app because it’s simple to use and doesn’t require much more than downloading the app, connecting your cards and spending money. And when you want to redeem, you simply log in and redeem your reward of choice. I engage with it often — be it through activating offers, redeeming points or racking up bonus points via the Supercharge — and I find myself logging in just to check how many points I accumulated since my last login.
In essence, Drop is paving the way for a new points system and I’m looking forward to seeing how the company grows and adapts in a world where points, miles and loyalty programs are becoming the norm for spending (and earning) money.
Featured photo by @LAMPhotography via Twenty20
Do you use Drop? Let us know in the comments, below.
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November 24, 2017 at 10:01PM
Need a Boeing 747? Alibaba’s Taobao Just Auctioned Off Two of Them
China uses auction platforms to sell the assets of bankrupt firms. In this case, Taobao sold two Boeing 747s. Luke Sharrett / Bloomberg
— Dennis Schaal
You can buy almost anything on Taobao, China’s biggest e-commerce platform, even a jumbo jet.
While most Chinese consumers traffic the Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. app for groceries, clothes, or the odd knickknack, SF Airlines Co. took Taobao shopping to a whole other level on Tuesday.
The Chinese carrier bid more than 320 million yuan ($48 million) for two Boeing 747 freighter planes, according to the Xinhua News Agency, which cited the seller: the Intermediate People’s Court of Shenzhen City. A third plane failed to sell.
“Online auctions are a good way to handle the property of bankrupt firms,” Long Guangwei, the court’s vice-president, said to Xinhua. The jets originated from Jade Cargo International, the Taobao listings show.
Taobao’s court auction platform is a trove of assets from cities across China, with real estate, industrial equipment and vehicles — in various states of repair — up for bids. Taobao, which translates roughly as “digging for treasure,” also auctions off bad loans from Chinese companies.
Alibaba dominates e-commerce in China, with Taobao and the company’s other shopping platforms accounting for more than 75 percent of online retail sales in 2015.
©2017 Bloomberg L.P.
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November 24, 2017 at 09:31PM
Review: American Express Lounge — Sydney (SYD)
American Express operates seven Centurion lounges in the US, and most have gotten rave reviews. Could the American Express international lounge at Sydney Airport keep up? The verdict is: Not exactly, but it’s still worth a visit.
The lounge is easy to find, with signs throughout the terminal, an icon on the digital map kiosks and a huge billboard perched over the security lines. It would have been impossible to get to my gate without seeing it.
Fortunately, I saw another sign before the security line that led to an unexpected bonus. Express Path — an expedited security screening line — is available to cardholders of The Platinum Card from American Express. I showed my card to the uniformed worker next to the sign and breezed through to the shortest queue in the terminal.
A sign at the lounge’s front counter lists the 15 different American Express cards that allow entry, 11 of which are exclusive to Australia. US-based travelers can access this lounge with The Platinum Card from American Express, The Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN and the Amex Centurion card.
Check-In and Layout
After showing my Platinum card along with our boarding passes to the attendant, my guest and I were quickly on our way in. The layout of the lounge is a long rectangular room, with tall tables and stools in the center and seating areas to the sides. At the other end are the food and beverage options.
A lone TV (thankfully on mute during a Cops-style show) hangs on a side wall. Toward the front are monitors with flight information, as flight departures are not announced by the staff.
One side of the seating areas features framed photos of American Express’s long history. The other provides a close-up view of various aircraft at their gates. While tastefully appointed, the narrow room did feel cramped. The chairs were mostly roomy, but the tables tiny; and as more and more passengers entered prior to their evening flights, the room filled with a constant low din. The crowds also put pressure on the wait for the bathrooms, which while roomy, were a one-at-a-time operation.
Electrical outlets were plentiful, though a little tricky to access along the floor. The free Wi-Fi clocked in at pleasantly fast speeds of 26.31/36.37 Mbps.
Unlike the Centurion lounges I had visited, here there were no showers, massages or chaise longues.
Food and Beverage
My guest and I have almost exact opposite diets (she vegetarian and fish, and me meat and no fish) and both found plenty to snack on — snacks, not the full chef-inspired meal you get at a Centurion lounge.
All the prepared foods were more banquet quality than restaurant quality, but the disappointment was tempered by the variety and quantity of cold options.
Whether you wanted to make a sandwich, assemble a salad, sample whole fresh fruit or stack up on cheese and crackers, you could find it here.
The beverage offerings showed a little more creativity and flair, with regional wines (including a delicious sparkling wine) offered up alongside draft beer, quality liquors and the usual soft drinks. All was complimentary, the downside being that aside from the soft drinks, every item had to be served by the lone bartender.
A custom coffee bar was a nice touch as well.
The condition of the lounge was excellent, and the service was attentive, with used glasses and dishes whisked away quickly. Food seemed to be replenished regularly, and the staff was all polite and professional.
I would visit the American Express Lounge at Sydney Airport again, but I would first check out other lounges there to see who might provide a more relaxed and luxurious experience.
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November 24, 2017 at 09:15PM
Bruce Springsteen Talks with David Remnick
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November 24, 2017 at 09:08PM
Step Inside the SR-71 Blackbird’s Cockpit With a Veteran Pilot
The SR-71 Blackbird is an icon of the Cold War. The supersonic spyplane was seen as an aircraft that the Soviets couldn’t match — a symbol of American prowess.
It’s also an AvGeek’s dream — the SR-71 has a huge amount of extra equipment that isn’t found on a normal passenger jet. The plane, first introduced into service in 1966, would fly at 80,000 feet and supersonic speeds to avoid detection by the enemy.
The Warzone unearthed some old videos of veteran Blackbird pilot Richard Graham giving an in-depth tour of the spy plane’s dual cockpits. Filmed by by aviation videographer Erik Johnston, Graham goes into extensive detail about the hundreds of controls, dials, gauges, switches and screens that he had access to as the pilot.
About 14 minutes into the video, Graham shifts back to where the surveillance equipment is located, which is actually a completely separate area from the forward cockpit. Interestingly enough, the two cockpits weren’t connected, so Graham and his navigator had to receive physicals before every flight to ensure they had a clean bill of health — if one of them had problems, neither would have full control of the aircraft.
Graham goes into even more detail about the massive J-58 engines built by Pratt & Whitney:
And if you really want to go deep, the pilot gives an hour-long interview reciting the aircraft’s history and some of his experiences at the helm of the legendary aircraft.
H/T: The Warzone
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November 24, 2017 at 08:35PM
Taxi Drones Could Take Flight in Dubai in 2018
E-Hang’s CEO Hu Huazhi with the E-184 drone. Qilai Shen / Bloomberg
— Dennis Schaal
A Chinese startup has developed a flying car that it plans to roll out as soon as next year.
EHang Inc.’s E-184 drone can carry one passenger in its small cockpit, but the firm says it’s working on a model that can carry two. EHang’s Chief Executive Officer Hu Huazhi says they’ll be in operation as “taxi drones” in Dubai in 2018 — as long as they get approval from regulators there.
Four battery-powered propellers lift the drone off the ground, and it’s equipped with fully-automated navigation, according to CEO Hu. Passengers select a pre-programmed flight path and then strap in for the ride. The E-184 has a cruising speed of up to 100 kilometers (62 miles) an hour and can stay in the air for 25 minutes, the company says.
It’s currently being tested at EHang’s headquarters: a disused theme-park on the outskirts of Guangzhou, southern China, a city that’s at the vanguard of the country’s push to move away from cheap, low-end manufacturing and toward cutting-edge technology.
“We will start mass production of our passenger drones at the beginning of next year,” Hu told Bloomberg TV. “We also plan to install fully automated production lines to enlarge manufacturing capacity in 2018.”
EHang has big ambitions — it wants to develop a network of taxi drones around the world. The company plans to sign deals in Saudi Arabia, Singapore and “several European cites” next year, the CEO said.
©2017 Bloomberg L.P.
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November 24, 2017 at 08:06PM
Deal Alert: Flights to Hawaii From $336 Round-Trip
Airfare deals are typically only available on limited dates. We recommend you use Google Flights to find dates to fly, then book through an online travel agency, such as Orbitz or Expedia, which allows you to cancel flights without penalty by 11pm Eastern Time within one day of booking. However, if you’re using the American Express Platinum Card, you’ll need to book directly with the airline or through Amex Travel portal to get 5x MR points. Remember: Fares may disappear quickly, so book right away and take advantage of Orbitz or Expedia’s courtesy cancellation if you’re unable to get the time away from work or family.
This Black Friday, Hawaiian Airlines is advertising flights to Hawaii from $357 round-trip. That’s pretty good, but we found even more competitive fares starting at just $336 round-trip from west coast cities to the 50th state. Meaning, a slew of other airlines have matched these deals: Six airlines are offering round-trip fares from six west coast departure airports to four Hawaii airports for under $370 round-trip — and these probably aren’t the only deals out there.
Available dates for under $400 round-trip fare are available for departures from this Sunday through mid-May. We recommend using Google Flights to search for deals from your airport. If you aren’t set on a particular Hawaiian island, enter “Hawaii, United States” in Google Flights to explore a variety of destinations.
Airlines: Hawaiian, Virgin America, Alaska, American, Delta, United
Routes: SJC/OAK/LAX/SFO/PDX/DEN to OGG/HNL/LIH/KOA
Cost: $336+ round-trip in economy
Dates: late November 2017 to mid-May 2018
Booking Link: Orbitz or Expedia
Pay With: The Platinum Card from American Express (5x on airfare), Chase Sapphire Reserve, Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, Citi Prestige (3x on airfare) or Chase Sapphire Preferred (2x on travel)
Here are a few examples of what you can book:
San Jose (SJC) to Honolulu (HNL) for $336 round-trip with Hawaiian:
Oakland (OAK) to Kahului (OGG) for $336 round-trip with Hawaiian:
Los Angeles (LAX) to Honolulu (HNL) for $356 round-trip on American:
Los Angeles (LAX) to Kahului (OGG) for $356 round-trip with Virgin America:
Los Angeles (LAX) to Honolulu (HNL) for $356 round-trip with Virgin America:
Portland (PDX) to Honolulu (HNL) for $362 round-trip with United:
Denver (DEN) to Kona (KOA) for $362 round-trip with Delta (Basic Economy):
San Francisco (SFO) to Kona (KOA) for $362 round-trip with Delta (Basic Economy):
Maximize Your Purchase
Be sure to use a credit card that earns additional points on airfare purchases, such as the American Express Platinum Card (5x on flights booked directly with airlines or American Express Travel), Chase Sapphire Reserve, American Express Premier Rewards Gold or Citi Prestige (3x on airfare) or the Chase Sapphire Preferred (2x on all travel purchases). Check out this post for more on maximizing airfare purchases.
Featured image by JTB Photo/UIG via Getty Images.
If you’re able to score one of these tickets, please share the good news in the comments below.
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November 24, 2017 at 07:55PM
A (Not So) Lovely Day Out
Explain Yourself: Liam Walsh, Cartoonist
In this—the first edition of the “Explain Yourself” video series, in which New Yorker writers, artists, and cartoonists reveal the inspiration or thought process behind their work—the cartoonist Liam Walsh discusses one of his most popular cartoons.
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November 24, 2017 at 07:15PM
Editors’ Picks: Gift guide for every type of adventurer
‘Tis the season to give wisely: Here is our handpicked list of the the most innovative, useful and sustainable travel gifts this holiday season.
The season of gift-giving is upon us again—but don’t just grab for the same-old tired choices from years past. Get the adventurers in your life something they’ll actually use (and like!) and, in some cases, even do some good in the world.
From the photography-lovers to the beach addicts, the outdoor enthusiasts to the tech junkies, there’s something here for everyone. From a Kickstarter bracelet filled with sand from the Arctic and a mini drone you can operate with hand gestures, to a next-generation hammock and a campstove that charges your phone, these are our editors’ picks for gifts for all the adventurers on your list.
The post Editors’ Picks: Gift guide for every type of adventurer appeared first on Adventure.com.
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November 24, 2017 at 06:49PM