VIP America

Rope

The Senate is preparing to vote on changes to the U.S. tax system that promise to fundamentally alter how we operate as a nation.

No one really knows what is in the Republican bill (they’re still making changes in the hours before the vote) but the outlines from all analyses so far indicate massive benefits to the rich at the expense of the poor and middle class. This was certainly true of the bill passed in the House that I noted recently.

With the GOP approach that gives tax credits for owners of private jets and the removes credits to teachers buying classroom supplies we will see inequality explode. We are moving to an America where a small number of people at the top are Executive Platinum frequent flyers and everyone else is down below, riding the dog, stuck in traffic.

Have you earned enough status to receive all of the perks in the Republican tax bill?

As Ronald Brownstein put it in the Atlantic, if you’re a white Baby Boomer, have a better chance to get your seat upgrade and bottle service. “The baby boom is being evicted from the penthouse of American politics. And on the way out, it has decided to trash the place,” he wrote. He noted that while the Boomer VIP status was ending, we’ll still be stuck behind their velvet rope for the next several years at least.

In the meantime, enjoy a Velvet Rope cocktail. Via Kindred Cocktails, the Velvet Rope is:

2 oz Rittenhouse Rye

.5 oz Velvet Falernum

2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

Orange twist

Stir over ice, strain into a chilled coupe, garnish with an orange twist

Cheers!

 

Puttin’ On The Ritz

Millionaire

The House has passed their Ayn Rand wet dream version of “Tax Reform” and now we wait to see what the Senate will do. Their plan is different and not as certain to pass as the House bill. But again, we are left counting on Republican dysfunction to avoid the disastrous effects of legislation.

The Republican tax reform provides exemptions for owners of private jets, but eliminates one for teachers buying school supplies for their classrooms.

Every analysis has said this benefits the rich at  the expense of the poor and middle class. Only America’s oligarchs-in-waiting benefit, finally getting on equal footing with their Russian counterparts. Even the non-partisan and non-fake news Associated Press came out with this lede the other day:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The ultra-wealthy, especially those with dynastic businesses — like President Donald Trump and his family — do very well under a major Republican tax bill moving in the Senate, as they do under legislation passed this week by the House.

Senators Orrin Hatch v. Sherrod Brown got into a very heated exchange over the bill during a Senate Hearing, with another Republican explaining how his hardscrabble roots mean he couldn’t be for the rich against the poor.

The bill would work to fulfill the longstanding GOP goal of destroying Obamacare, throwing some 13 million people off of their health insurance and making premiums more expensive for everyone else. It would also tax tuition waivers in a way that would severely damage graduate-school education. There are so many ways this bill weakens America, it almost seems it was planned by a foreign adversary. Fortunately none of them have any influence in our government.

While calling on your Senator to vote against the measure, have a classic Millionaire cocktail. This way, you can say you’re calling with a millionaire and maybe get your Senator on the phone quicker. Besides, if they’re only taking calls from billionaires, at least you have this pretty tasty cocktail.

I began with the classic recipe found in Ted “Dr. Cocktail” Haigh’s book Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails and modified for ingredients on hand.

1.5 oz Myers’s Dark Rum

.75 oz sloe gin (I used Greenhook Ginsmith’s version made with beach plums)

.75 oz apricot brandy (I used Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot liqueur)

Juice of 1 lime (1-1.5 oz)

Shake over ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with a lime wedge.

Cheers!

No Taxation Without Representation!

Diamondback

Independence Day this year carries a bit of melancholy with it as we watch the insanity emanating from Washington, D.C.

As David Frum put it in The Atlantic, “This is a Fourth tinged with sad ironies.” We are dealing with “a president mysteriously dependent on a foreign power—a president who lavishly praises dictators and publicly despises the institutions of freedom, not only the free press but also an independent judiciary and other constitutional restraints on his will.”

As we celebrate the Declaration of Independence we should remember that the Declaration is largely a list of grievances against the King of Great Britain, a list that interestingly carries echoes today for the governed and governors in the U.S.

A key concept expressed in the Declaration is no taxation without representation. It was one of the most fundamental slogans at the birth of the United States. Too often over the past few decades those four words have been separated, changing their meaning.

Our founders were not proto-Randians. They were not calling for no taxation, and that extreme view is coming home to roost. As The New York Times reported, conservative legislatures in Kansas, South Carolina and Tennessee have agreed to significant tax increases recently. Meanwhile Illinois faces the prospect of becoming the first state ever to lose investment-grade status from S&P after decades of fiscal mismanagement involving both parties. Perhaps America is getting the message it’s been waiting for.

While there has been a breakdown on our approach to taxation, it has a lot to do with forgetting the second part of the slogan and the consequent breakdown in representation.

As fashionable as it has become, this is not a rant about Gerrymandering. That is not to say it’s not an important subject. In the New Yorker, Lawrence Wright’s article “America’s Future Is Texas” notes how Texas’ redistricting really changed the bipartisan Gerrymandering game that led us to where we are now.

John Oliver also covered the topic very well on Last Week Tonight, and Barack Obama will devote his post-presidency to efforts at reforming the way political districts are drawn. Fixing the issue of Gerrymandering could go a long way toward solving the excessive polarization in our government, if not the country.

However, even the most evenhandedly drawn districts won’t solve the problem we face with representation today. As the Thievery Corporation reminds us, it’s a Numbers Game.

As I mentioned recently in “The Poisoning of Democracy,” the 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives has been the same number for essentially the past 106 years. (Essentially because it briefly went to 437 when Alaska and Hawaii became states in 1959, but dropped back to 435 in 1962.) It has remained at the level that was set by the Apportionment Act of 1911.

There is no specification for the number of representatives in the Constitution, though there was a guideline on equal representation and a maximum number of people per representative. Representation was therefore reapportioned after each census, so the number should have risen after the 1920 census, to 483 to be exact. However, concerns about immigrant waves settling in cities led to fights during the 1920s that finally resulted in the Reapportionment Act of 1929 which gave us the setup for the 435 representatives we have today.

As the population of the U.S. has grown while the number in the House has remained 435, the power of smaller rural states has grown at the expense of larger urban areas.

The original idea was a representative for every 30,000 people, the average now is 700,000 people per representative. But districts are not set up nationally, and 700,000 is more than the entire population of four states. I live in the second most populous county in NJ. At 639,000 people as of the 2010 census, it is bigger than Wyoming and Vermont. But, unlike Wyoming and Vermont, we do not get two Senators and three Electoral votes.

We probably don’t need one representative for 30,000 people, but one per 700,000 is too few, and a greater number of representatives would make it harder – if not more expensive – for special interests and lobbyists to control Congress the way they do now. It would be a way to take the power back.

The key question is not just how much we are taxed, but how that money is used. Today’s Congress is bought and paid for by powers that do not have the best interests of the American people at heart. The AHCA is an example of legislation that penalizes millions of Americans to reward insurance companies and the wealthiest with new tax cuts. The unrepresentative nature of our government today can be seen in the unpopularity in much of what Congress pursues, from gun control to the environment.

Despite all of the tri-cornered hat wearing and Gadsen flag waving over the past decade, the Tea Party Patriots missed a very important element in the “Don’t Tread On Me” approach, representation.

With the Gadsen Flag rattlesnake in mind, it is time for the people to take back the symbolism of our revolution and we can start with a Diamondback cocktail. Then we can fight to have all of our voices heard in the people’s House. From the Cold Glass blog, the Diamondback recipe is:

1.5 oz Rittenhouse 100 rye

.75 oz Apple Brandy

.75 oz Yellow Chartreuse

Dash of Peychaud’s bitters

Stir, strain into a chilled cocktail glass (optionally garnish with a cherry)

Happy Independence Day!

Cheers!

Scofflaw!

Scofflaw

A little more than 90 years ago, Henry Irving Dale and Kate L. Butler separately supplied winning entries in a national contest held by prohibitionist Delcevare King to coin a term for describing someone who drinks illegally. Kate and Henry split the $200 prize for the word “scofflaw.”

The definition of scofflaw has moved beyond simply someone who drinks illegally to a person who habitually flouts or violates the law, especially one who fails to pay debts or answer summonses.

The Scofflaw Cocktail was created, shortly after the word was coined, by a bartender named Jock at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris. While the fashionable drinkers in Paris, unaffected by Prohibition, could sip on delicious Scofflaw Cocktails, actual scofflaws in the U.S. looking for a drink were more often stuck with bathtub gin and rotgut rye. Scofflaws have always had a bit of a class distinction.

Every locality had its own enabler of scofflaws, or a scofflaw-in-chief, who supplied the booze, while often keeping the “good stuff” for themselves.

Although he may not drink, the current resident of the White House certainly fits the modern definition of scofflaw, and he’s hard at work steering the “good stuff” his own way. Even if you agree with Cheeto Mussolini that the President is the law, you can’t deny he is in violation of the lease on his DC hotel and, therefore, the foreign emoluments clause of the Constitution. The list of laws Trump has scoffed at over the years is a long one.

Back in Paris, however, in the birthplace of the Scofflaw Cocktail, our current scofflaw-in-chief proved a lot less popular than the drink, losing an election day tally in Harry’s New York Bar to Hillary Clinton 513 to 188.

Not long after the cocktail was created, one of the most notorious scofflaws of the era, Al Capone, started taking over Chicago. It took a good 70 years and the advent of Michael Jordan to finally separate the association of the word Chicago with a machine-gunning Al Capone re-enactment. New York is praying to avoid such a stain with Trump.

Hopefully, one thing these Scofflaws-in-chief might share in common is their undoing over taxes. For all of his murders, racketeering , etc., Capone was brought down on charges of tax evasion. Trump has been evasive about his taxes. Would they reveal extensive ties to Russia proving his collusion? Perhaps they would reveal how badly he has avoided paying taxes (though he says that makes him smart, and he’s already won, so it’s not clear his supporters would have a problem).

Even again today, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that President Donald Trump is still under audit and he wouldn’t say whether Trump will release his taxes for the current year.

So as we ponder the tax evading potential of a gratuitously law flouting Administration, it’s time to have a Scofflaw Cocktail.

Following along with Dr. Cocktail Ted Haigh in his book Vintage Spirits and Vintage Cocktails, the Scofflaw is:

1.5 oz rye

1 oz dry vermouth

.75 oz lemon juice

.75 oz real pomegranate grenadine

Shake, strain into a cocktail glass with a lemon twist

Cheers!