Nel's New Day

March 26, 2017

Liberty Counsel Added to RICO Case

All the excitement about health care and Russia last week hid a major lawsuit against much of Jerry Falwell’s empire. A RICO suit has added its law firm, Liberty Counsel, that has pushed the “religious liberty” argument in hundreds of cases throughout the United States. This particular suit alleges that organizations growing from Falwell’s ministry helped an “ex-lesbian” flee the country with her daughter to avoid an order allowing her former partner have visitation rights.

Lisa Miller, a member of Falwell’s Thomas Road Baptist Church, consistently flouted a court order permitting her former partner, Janet Jenkins, to visit their daughter Isabella in 2009. Vermont finally gave Jenkins sole custody that year, but Miller disappeared on the day she was to turn Isabella over to the legal parent. Investigations showed that Miller had taken Isabella to Canada and then to Nicaragua.

Jenkins filed a civil RICO suit in 2012, alleging that the Thomas Road Church and Liberty University’s law school worked with Miller in 2008 to make her plans to flee the court order by leaving the country. Mennonite ministers, Timothy Miller and Kenneth Miller (no relation to Lisa) and Christian direct-mail firm Response Unlimited, a company distributing anti-Semitic newspapers, helped Lisa take Isabella out of the United States in September 2009.

Response Unlimited’s president, Philip Zodhiates, made a number of calls to Liberty Counsel on the day Miller fled. A month after Lisa and Isabella’s disappearance, Zodhiates emailed his daughter with directions about paying for the lease on Lisa’s home and a list of items to “rescue.” He wrote, “There is someone that can deliver all or some of these items in the next couple of weeks. If it was already packed in suitcases that’d make it much easier for them to transport.” Several church elders helped pack her things and send them to Nicaragua although Liberty Counsel and its chairman, Mat Staver, also Liberty Law’s dean, insisted that Lisa had packed and left with their knowledge or anyone connected with them.

Zodhiates was charged with kidnapping in 2014 for driving Lisa and Isabella to Buffalo in 2009 and then convicted last September. He was sentenced to three years in prison last week. Earlier, Kenneth Miller was sentenced to 27 months in prison in 2012 but didn’t begin his sentence until last year after exhausting all appeals. Timothy Miller cooperated with authorities beginning in 2011 and was sentenced last week to time served in prison, eight months in both the U.S. and Nicaragua, and one year’s probation.

The court has now granted Jenkins’ request to add Liberty Counsel, Staver, and Lisa’s other lawyer Rena Lindevaldsen, law professor at Liberty University, to the RICO suit. Co-founder of Liberty Counsel, Staver is a leading anti-LGBT crusader. His 2004 book Same-Sex Marriage: Putting Every Household at Risk describes homosexuality as a “destructive lifestyle” putting children at risk and the Boy Scouts a “playground for pedophiles.” To Staver, “the homosexual agenda” is “a direct assault on our religious freedom.” He has worked to criminalize gay sex and defended Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore after Moore unsuccessfully defied a federal court order legalizing same-sex marriage.

As the face of Liberty Counsel, Staver has participated in defending Kim Davis, the county clerk refusing to allow same-gender couples marriage licenses; appealing California’s ban on conversion therapy; opposing legislation that would protect LGBT people from discrimination; and filing amicus briefs against same-gender marriage.

Liberty Law and Liberty Counsel have always contended that “ex-gay” parents have the responsibility to commit civil disobedience instead of complying with visitation orders although Staver insists he “never counseled Lisa Miller to disobey court orders.” Despite his denials, he has used the case to advance his opinions with highly questionable assertions in fundraising letters:

“I can’t recall a more emotionally charged legal case than the one involving Lisa Miller and her precious daughter Isabella. What makes it even more intense is the fact that every American family has a huge stake in its outcome. After reading this letter, you will see ‘homosexual activism’ in a whole new light.”

He also accused Jenkins of forcing Isabella to take baths with her, and other evangelicals have accused Jenkins of molesting her daughter.

Jenkins and Lisa Miller had a civil union in Vermont in 2000, three years after they started living together, and then had their daughter Isabella in 2002. The girl was born in Virginia, but the family moved back to Vermont soon after the daughter’s birth and lived there until the two women separated in 2003. Miller moved back to Virginia and declared herself a born-again Christian and no longer a lesbian. Court battles determined that Vermont had jurisdiction in determining child custody: Miller had primary custody, and Jenkins had visitation rights. Miller was repeatedly held in contempt in both states for failing to enable Jenkins’ court-ordered visitation, and Jenkins was granted custody to ensure that Isabella could have contact with both parents.

The loser in the case is Isabella, soon to turn 15 and prevented from seeing one of her parents for almost a decade. In 2012, the New York Times reported:

“Her time in Nicaragua has often been lonely, those who have met her say, long on prayer but isolated. She has been told that she could be wrenched from her mother if they are caught. She has also been told that the other woman she once called “Mama” … cannot go to heaven because she lives in sin.”

While the far-right falsely accuses a loving mother of molesting her young daughter, evangelical pastors and other far-right Christians are convicted of pedophilia.  Maybe Jenkins’ case will free one young girl from the victimization that she has suffered for the past eight years.

March 25, 2017

Health Care Won—At Least for Now

Eighteen days ago, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) talked to reporters about the newly introduced health plan written behind closed doors, probably by aides:

 “We will have 218 votes. This is the beginning of the legislative process. We’ll have 218 when this thing comes to the floor. I can guarantee you that.”

Yesterday, just seven years and one day after the Affordable Care Act was passed, the GOP plan, distorted during the past few days by providing even fewer services than the original, died. House Republicans had entered over 50 bills to kill the ACA, many of them passing after the GOP gained a majority in the chamber, but Ryan was positive that the GOP takeover of both Congress and the executive branch would guarantee his success. Yet the Party of No is helpless in the face of Yes. Their work involved no stakeholders, and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) followed his usual pattern of bullying threats instead of actually selling the bill.

Massive loud protests against the repeal of the health plan, steadily growing in popularity, pushed more moderate representatives to vote against the bill for fear of retaliation in their own district from people who would lose coverage. The Koch brothers’ promised to defend anyone voting no when they ran for re-election after DDT said that no voters would lose the next election. By the end of the debacle, only 17 percent of voters supported Ryan’s plan.

DDT blinked and lost the game of chicken. He canceled the vote rather than suffer the embarrassment of losing, but it’s obvious that he lost. With no experience or clout to lead his party, DDT lobbied 120 congressional members, “left everything on the field” in negotiations, and lost. In his ghost-written book The Art of the Deal, DDT claimed, “You have to be very rough and very tough with most contractors or they’ll take the shirt right off you’re back.” He repeats that the negotiator needs “to be willing to walk away or, more precisely, convince the people you’re negotiating with that you are.” DDT didn’t realize that legislators aren’t contractors. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) did a training session for the House Freedom Caucus on DDT’s book, complete with poster.

During his campaign, DDT managed to con voters into believing that he knows “the art of the deal,” that he can be the closer. Ezra Klein explains why DDT as president is a loser:

“Trump is not a guy who makes particularly good deals so much as a guy who makes a lot of deals — many of which lash his name and reputation to garbage products…. He licenses his brand and lets others worry about the details of the products. Trump’s partners often end up going out of business and his customers often end up disappointed, but Trump makes some money, and he gets his name out there, and it’s all good.”

DDT wasn’t alone in the Trumpcare con; he had company from Ryan, who Paul Krugman called “The Flimflam Man.” Ryan lied when he said that Trumpcare would lower premiums, end the “death spiral,” and increase choice. Premiums would have skyrocketed unless people chose junk insurance plans with no coverage, and the extra 24 million people without insurance, along with people who couldn’t afford full coverage, would cause a death spiral. Ryan proposed a tax plan for the rich under the name of health care and failed.

The bill began with a high “age tax”—raising premiums and expenses for older, working adults—and added the “mommy tax” that greatly added expenditures for maternity coverage while diminishing its availability. Asked about people living in a state that doesn’t require maternity coverage in insurance, OMB Director Mick Mulvaney said, “Then you can figure out a way to change the state that you live in.” He clarified his statement by saying he didn’t mean move out of the state but to change the law. Republicans also ridiculed other insurance benefits for over half the nation’s population. For example, Alice Ollstein tweeted about her Kansas senator:

“I asked Sen. Roberts if he supports scrapping Essential Health Benefits. “I wouldn’t want to lose my mammograms,” he snarked.”

Ollstein survived breast cancer discovered during a mammogram for preventative care. These are the people–no estrogen and largely white–who met to decide what services should be cut for women.

[A bit of humor….]

Trumpcare was so bad that Ryan’s only solution in getting it passed was speed. The cruel additions to woo ultra-conservatives by eliminating Essential Health Benefits was added only the day before Ryan hoped to call a vote. Among the items as unnecessary health care are maternity and newborn care, emergency room services, hospitalization, prescription drugs, mental illness care, laboratory services and pediatric services.

DDT’s “skill” is to always blame someone else. Finger-pointing shifted so fast that digits blurred. DDT with DDT’s his chief of staff Reince Priebus and Ryan, accusing them of faulty content and bad timing. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price also got blamed because he was put in the job to pass Trumpcare—although DDT assigned that job to Mulvaney. DDT claimed he wanted to start with tax reform that would have been “far less controversial.” (We’ll see!) Ryan was a popular scapegoat on the Fox network. The Wall Street Journal blamed the House Freedom Caucus for their “insisting on the impossible over the achievable,” and DDT took after this group too, telling them that he would tell their constituents that they were voting in favor of Planned Parenthood.

Despite 34 no votes from Republican representatives, DDT ultimately settled on the Democrats publicly when he whined that not one of them voted for Trumpcare, despite his failure to ask them for support. DDT and the GOP will continue to exaggerate any problems of the ACA, and the media will most likely focus on problems rather than the successes because a train-wreck films better than a satisfied person.  The GOP may also try to sabotage efforts to improve the ACA.

DDT is failing in office for the same reason that he succeeded in his campaign—weak party leadership. In a little over a day, he took a bill that no one likes and made it worse while alienating more members of his own party. In addition, he may have broken the law in his last-ditch try to save it. Tweets asking DDT supporters to call their representatives to save Trumpcare were sent by White House social media director Dan Scavino Jr, the official @POTUS account, and DDT’s personal account. The use of federal dollars, including paid White House Staff, in directly lobbying Congress to support or oppose a bill is against federal law. Press Secretary Sean Spicer used the Nixonian approach toward law by saying that the law is “not applicable to the president.” Scott Amey, general counsel at the Project on Government Oversight, disagrees because of the direct appeal to contact representatives in support of Trumpcare.

Hillary Clinton had a grand time tweeting the victories of people who need and like the “Obamacare” that DDT has daily excoriated in his daily message. Watching her is a reminder of how close the United State was to having a president who could “keep America great.”

DDT, Ryan, and the far-right Republicans aren’t the only losers with the downfall of Trumpcare. The wealthy won’t get their billions in tax cuts, and Wall Street won’t get the wealthy’s extra money. Insurance companies are also the losers, outside keeping funding for Medicaid. Big corporations would rejoice over getting rid of consumer protection rules that would have allowed them to vastly increase sales, marketing, and IRS deductions while selling junk insurance that wouldn’t have those “essential benefits”—like hospitalization.

One winner is DDT because Trumpcare would have lost over 1.2 million jobs—some people say as many as two million—that would have hurt his desire to be seen as the “jobs president.” GOP senators are winners because they don’t have to cast any votes on health care, at least in the immediate future. And constituents of Rep. Greg Walden, leader of the committee trying to destroy health care, are winners. In his rural district comprising two-thirds of Oregon, Trumpcare would have taken health insurance from 64,300 of his 684,200 constituents, almost ten percent of the people he represents. The remaining residents would have had far less access to the rural hospitals that need ACA money to stay open.

The next step is for Democrats to fight DDT’s “tax reform” shifting millions to himself and his wealthy friends. Meanwhile Democrats can introduce bills for improving ACA. The GOP won’t vote for them, but people will see that it can be fixed—and maybe vote blue in the next election.

March 24, 2017

DDT: Week Nine – Big Failure

Filed under: Donald Trump — trp2011 @ 7:46 PM
Tags: , , , , , , ,

When Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) signed S. 442 with $19.5 billion, the NASA Transition Authorization Act, I thought, “Finally! He did something positive!” Ha! Nope. With a $200 million increase (one percent), the bill is the first time the mission does not include earth science, including climate research, diverging from six GOP administrations and five Democratic ones. DDT’s budget from last week cuts out several NASA initiatives, including the Office of Education, and terminates the Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem (PACE), Orbital Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3), Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR), and CLARREO Pathfinder missions. Through monitoring and predicting weather, climates, and ecosystems, these four satellites help save lives and prepare the nation for long-term changes.

DDT did have a sort-of win this week when Anthony Trenga, a George W. Bush-appointed judge, ruled in favor of DDT’s Muslim ban, but the injunctions against it hold because the 4th Circuit Court will not hear DDT’s appeal until May. http://www.dailykos.com/stories/2017/3/17/1644630/-Nine-states-and-D-C-intervene-in-lawsuit-challenging-Obama-s-enhanced-fuel-efficiency-standards  DDT faces more litigation from his announcement of changes in fuel economy standards. In defense of the existing standards, nine states and the District of Columbia are suing the administration to preserve the requirement for auto manufacturers to achieve 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, saving both the environment and costs to car owners.

All things considered, DDT had a horrible week.

The biggest failure for both DDT and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) was Trumpcare’s failure, after Ryan postponed the bill on Thursday and completely pulled the bill today because it was short on votes. Ryan thought he could push it through in three weeks, passing it almost exactly one year after the Affordable Care Act passed Congress. DDT thought he could get the votes by threatening House Republicans with losing the 2018 election if they didn’t vote for it. He had already lied about convincing people to vote for the bill, and his threat picked up ten more “no” votes from representatives who wanted to completely destroy the Affordable Care Act.

Ryan decided that he could win over the scorched-earth naysayers by taking away ten Essential Health Benefits mandated for insurance coverage: outpatient care, ER visits, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, mental health and addiction treatment, prescription drugs, rehabilitative services, lab services, preventive care, and pediatric services. Far beyond “health care light,” the bill ended up being “health care no.” That change lost less far-right voters, and it failed even after DDT sent white supremacist Steve Bannon and congenital liar Kellyanne Conway to Capitol Hill on a mission of gathering votes and passing along DDT’s threat that he would drop support for health reform if they didn’t vote on Friday.

Another huge failure for DDT came Monday when FBI Director James Comey announced that President Obama didn’t wiretap DDT’s phones in Trump Tower, as DDT claimed, but that intelligence is continuing its investigation into the possible collusion between his campaign and Russia. DDT’s source for his false contention that Britain helped the former president in wiretapping, frequent Fox guest Andrew Napolitano, has disappeared, at least temporarily, from the network, and DDT looked like a fool during his press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel when he talked about it. Fox eventually said that the network “cannot confirm Judge Napolitano’s commentary.”

In an attempt to spare DDT more embarrassment, the Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), past member of DDT’s transition team and chair of the committee investigating DDT and Russia, has called off hearings to block testimonies from former DNI director James Clapper, former CIA Director John Brennan, and former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates. Nunes also backed down from his assertion that U.S. intelligence was “monitoring” DDT and his aides.

On Wednesday, the third day of hearings for DDT’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, the normally split Supreme Court overturned one of Gorsuch’s decisions in which he ruled that schools were not required to provide education for disabled students.

And DDT had other failures.

DDT, who said he would pick the “very best people,” selected Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State. During his recent Asian trip, Tillerson told the only reporter on board that he didn’t want the job but took it because “my wife told me I’m supposed to do this.” Not everyone agrees. Tillerson has dodged the press, refused to answer question, failed to defend his department from a one-third budget cut, threatened to attack North Korea without further diplomacy, bailed on some responsibilities in Asia because of “fatigue,” and then planned to visit Russia instead of attending a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels. About rejecting the press, Tillerson said, “I’m not a big media press access person. I personally don’t need it.” He also failed to hold a press conference for the release of the annual human rights report. It was the first time in the report’s 40-year history that this has happened. His inaction has also led to several vacant leadership positions in the State Department. And that was just the last week.

To Tillerson, diplomacy doesn’t work so the nation is vastly increasing its military budget. According to Tillerson’s version of diplomacy while ExxonMobil CEO,  he kept quiet and let governments manage their own domestic politics. This narrow definition of “diplomacy” strikes bargains on the basis of private interests. Missing are interviews, press conferences, social media, and speeches to simultaneously address and shape public and legislative opinion simultaneously in multiple countries. Without credibility from Tillerson and DDT, past allies won’t be supporting the U.S. in its hawkish moves.

DDT’s honeymoon with Wall Street may be over, gone from starry eyes to bloodshot realism. Tuesday was the biggest Dow Jones drop of seven consecutive days of decreases. On the same day, the nine biggest Wall Street firms lost $81.6 billion in value, and the wider banking industry fell about 4 percent—again the worst single day for banks since the Brexit vote in June. Last week, the Dow dropped 1.5 percent, the largest since last September. An uncertain future for Ryan’s health care plan has made Wall Street wonder if tax reform will follow the same pattern. Without the giant tax cuts for the wealthy, vast sums of money won’t be funneled back to the rich (aka investors). Tax cuts are bad for the economy but good for the bloated financial markets. With today’s 60-point drop in the Dow, Goldman Sachs stock was the worst of the 21 losing blue chips, down 1.5 percent.

DDT’s interview with the conservative Time came out with this striking cover (right). Some of his unbalanced (insane?) comments:

Evidence for President Obama’s wiretapping conspiracy: “I have articles saying it happened.”

Credibility in him: “The country believes me. Hey. I went to Kentucky two nights ago, we had 25,000 people in a massive basketball arena. There wasn’t a seat, they had to send away people.”

Belief in conspiracy theory that linked Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) father Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald: “That was in a newspaper [that] had a picture of Ted Cruz, his father, and Lee Harvey Oswald, having breakfast.”

Insistence on forming a committee to find the three million “illegal” voters costing him the popular vote victory against Hillary Clinton: “If you take a look at the votes, when I say that, I mean mostly they register wrong, in other words, for the votes, they register incorrectly, and/or illegally.”

A Gallup poll released Monday morning showed that DDT continues to break records across all age groups with his historic unpopularity. The Huffington Post reports that his job approval has fallen to an abysmal 37 percent, “lower than any other president at this point in his first term since Gallup started tracking the numbers 72 years ago in 1945.”  Among millennials, DDT’s approval rating is 22 percent.

 

How empty is the man inaugurated last January 20? The White House posted this “official” photo of the Oval Office in the White House 1600 Daily.

March 23, 2017

Deny Gorsuch for Supreme Court Justice

The Senate hearings for Neil Gorsuch ended today, and Republicans are already congratulating themselves for getting such a far-right justice after refusing to even speak to Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee almost an entire year before the end of his second term. “Unreasonable” and “obstructionist” are two popular terms from the conservatives who completely ignored Garland for almost a year while they claimed that Supreme Court justice decisions should never be considered during a campaign season. Yet the United States is in the midst of a campaign season: Dictator Donald Trump (DTT) declared his 2020 candidacy on the day of his inauguration, and he’s already holding rallies funded by his campaign donations.

Even worse, the evidence keeps piling up that DDT was not legitimately elected to his current office following testimony by FBI director James Comey and other reports from intelligence agencies. The strong suggestion of an impeachment for DDT began swirling even before he was inaugurated, and the daily occurrences of his conflicts of interest make the length of his term even more tenuous. Further, DDT’s behavior is make the United States increasingly unstable.

Just 45 percent favor Gorsuch’s nomination’s nomination for the Court, the lowest level of public support for a Supreme Court nominee since Robert Bork (31 percent) and Harriet Miers (44 percent). Even the Fox poll could find only a 49 percent approval for Gorsuch, and approval among women was only 42 percent. The Senate rejected Bork, and Miers withdrew under intense criticism. Gorsuch’s glib charm will almost surely not have the same result for him as Bork and Miers, but he’s no more deserving than they were.

Gorsuch’s philosophy as shown in Chevron is that unelected judges should have far more power to strike down regulations, a belief extremely popular with Republicans. He believes in blocking agencies from writing regulations that implement congressional laws signed by the president as shown by his opposition to a long-standing legal doctrine tried in a case involving Chevron. Even Antonin Scalia supported the importance of regulations that allow “flexibility, and appropriate political participation, in the administrative process.” Gorsuch wrote that liberals are focused on achieving goals, such as marriage equality, through litigation, but like other conservative judges, he supports the use of corporation lawsuits to strike down laws they oppose. The chart below shows that the only current justice farther right than Gorsuch is Clarence Thomas, but his rulings and writings may show that he’s even more right. Justice Thomas voted this week to overturn one of Gorsuch’s rulings.

Republicans are obsessed with replacing Antonin Scalia with an even more far-right justice. They conveniently forgot that they replaced Thurgood Marshall, one of the finest justices in history, with Clarence Thomas, who is severely flawed with conflicts of interest and other issues while he votes as far right as possible. The only “replacement” that Republicans made was choosing another man of color in Thomas.

Gorsuch’s history shows that he attacks women’s equality by putting employers’ preferences ahead of women’s rights, failing to protect women from pregnancy discrimination, eliminating women’s access to health care, and even denying women access to justice. During a discussion in Gorsuch’s law class, he said that employers should ask female applicants if they plan to start a family because women manipulate maternity leave policies at the company’s expense before resigning—a flagrantly illegal action. In the hearings, Gorsuch first denied saying this but then refused to state whether questioning women and not men about plans for adding to the family would violate the law.

In his writings, Gorsuch has argued against the legal principals of Roe v. Wade and disagrees with the right to privacy allowing legalized abortion. Removing that right removes constitutional rights for individuals to make decisions about sex, reproduction, and marriage. Gorsuch tends to bar women from litigating discrimination claims, going so far as to ignore U.S. Supreme Court precedent in his refusal. When he did take a case of sexual harassment, he ruled that it didn’t exist because the manager was also hard on the men—although UPS drivers testified that the manager was worse on the only female on the team.

Gorsuch’s opposition to substantive due process shows that he disagrees with the Supreme Court’s affirmation that a person’s right to liberty also protects their dignity, to life free of interference and to making personal decisions free of discrimination. As an “originalist,” he believes that this right is not in the Constitution although SCOTUS has disagreed with his position. Gorsuch prefers equal protection which denies medical aided death because of his belief in an inalienable right to life. The right to dignity was the basis for Justice Paul Stevens’ dissent to upholding Georgia’s anti-sodomy laws in Bowers v. Hardwick. Stevens maintained that federal judges have the responsibility to protect an individual’s right to decide “how he will live his own life.” Justice Anthony Kennedy used Stevens’ dissent to overturn sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas and to declare marriage equality in United States v. Windsor and later in Obergefell v. Hodges. Gorsuch could attempt to overturn these rights as well as Roe v. Wade because he doesn’t believe in “dignity.”

As part of the GOP culture of cruelty, Gorsuch ruled that a truck driver should die rather than leave his rig in sub-zero weather, that a woman recuperating from a bone marrow transplant should risk getting the flu rather than work from home for a short time, and that disabled children don’t deserve an education. He called the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in 2014, leading to a prolonged painful death, an “innocent misadventure” when he ruled that Oklahoma should continue its untested lethal injection protocol. He also wrote two separate opinions against blocking felons from possessing guns.

An examination of Gorsuch’s cruel votes shows that he almost always sides with the “big guys”—corporations and school systems rather than individuals. His strong support for corporations may come from his associates in his personal life. A lawyer at a Washington law firm in the early 2000s, Gorsuch represented Philip Anschutz and his companies. Anschutz successfully lobbied Colorado’s lone Republican senator and the Bush administration to get Gorsuch onto the federal appeals court in 2006. Now a multi-millionaire, Gorsuch is welcome among that wealthy at Anschutz’ ranch, and he is partners in a company with two of Anschutz’ colleagues. They are so close that Gorsuch has built a vacation home with them.

What Gorsuch says in the hearings means very little because GOP-supported candidates show that their answers mean nothing. Asked in his hearing about the right to vote being “a fundamental constitutional right,” Chief Justice John Roberts said, “It is preservative, I think, of all the other rights.” He said he had no issue with upholding the Voting Rights Act that he gutted eight years later. He also said, about having no agenda, “Judges are like umpires. Umpires don’t make the rules, they apply them.” That was before he pushed the court to the right in outlawing school integration, blocking Medicaid expansion, and allowing—not once but twice—unlimited secret corporate spending for political campaigns.

In the hearings, Gorsuch talked about judicial modesty and not being a “super-legislator,” but his rulings show that he has tried to establish law in ruling against employees in cases involving federal race, sex, age, disability and political discrimination and retaliation claims. In a count, it’s corporation 21, humans 2. There’s a very good reason that big special interests are spending millions of dollars in dark money to push his confirmation.

Republicans praise Neil Gorsuch because he writes well and concisely, because he calls himself a textualist or originalist, and because he votes for big business, big donors, and big bosses. He was hand-picked by the far-right Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation and has close ties to a conservative billionaire. These are all reasons that he should be opposed. It was rumored that some Democrats would vote to confirm him in exchange for a promise from the Republicans to keep the filibuster for Supreme Court justices. The argument that another candidate might be worse than Gorsuch is invalid because he’s on the far-right edge of current Supreme Court justices’ ideology. In addition, the GOP is not known for keeping its promises.

Keeping the filibuster is of no value if Democrats don’t use it. Democrats should live up to the party’s values and not support a Supreme Court justice who is anti-woman, anti-LGBT, anti-worker, anti-voting rights, anti-education rights, anti-civil rights, and anti-dignity. I want Democrats to develop the same “intestinal fortitude” as the far-right House Republicans who refuse to vote for the new health care act even after the president threatens them with losing their next election. I disagree with the views of these GOP representatives, but I want Democrats to stand for their values in the same way that these conservatives are doing.

Gorsuch will probably be a Supreme Court justice, but Democrats should not be complicit in putting him in that position.

March 22, 2017

Neil Gorsuch: SCOTUS Nominee, Unfeeling Fake ‘Originalist’

Filed under: Judiciary — trp2011 @ 9:55 PM
Tags: ,

Neil Gorsuch, nominee for Supreme Court Justice, is “polite”: that seems to be the consensus on both political sides. But that’s where the agreement ends. The farther right a Senator is, the more he likes Gorsuch, whereas moderates (aka Democrats) are painfully aware of how conservative he is—somewhere to the right of Antonin Scalia. During Gorsuch’s hearings in the Judicial Committee, a unanimous Supreme Court ruling showed how bad Gorsuch is. Four progressives and four conservatives agreed to overturn Gorsuch’s ultra-conservative decision from the 10th Court of Appeals.

The case concerns the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), requiring public schools obtaining federal funding to provide a “free appropriate public education” to certain students with disabilities and bring meaningful education to disabled students. In a lawsuit from an autistic student, parents sought tuition reimbursement from a specialized school for children with autism. Gorsuch’s opinion in Thompson R2-J School District v. Luke P. ruled that educational benefits “must merely be ‘more than de minimis,’” Latin meaning “so minor as to merit disregard.” Gorsuch defined IDEA as requiring education with a little more than nothing, which can be a student sitting in a chair until aging out of the system. The eight justices agreed that a school district’ plan for a disabled student be “reasonably calculated to enable the child to achieve passing marks and advance from grade to grade.” Even if the student cannot achieve these marks, the district must do more than the “little more than nothing” standard that Gorsuch required.

The justice nominee defended himself by saying he was “bound by circuit precedent.” Either he is ignorant or lying: in a 1996 opinion, Gorsuch’s court had already ruled that the “benefit” mandated by the IDEA must be more than de minimus. Gorsuch’s opinion added the word “merely” to the ruling which changed the meaning of the decision.

Far Right Views Demonstrated by Gorsuch:

Limited Disabled Rights: In another case about disabled rights, Gorsuch ruled against Assistant Professor Grace Hwang fired by Kansas State University because they denied her a short leave after she had spent her six months leave recovering from a bone marrow transplant for cancer. Concerned that a flu epidemic would endanger her compromised immune system, she had asked to briefly work at home. Gorsuch ruled against Hwang before any evidence was presented about whether her employer would suffer an undue hardship if she were briefly gone. Instead, Gorsuch ruled her request as unreasonable; he claimed that “showing up” was an essential job function and that the Rehabilitation Act should not “turn employers into safety net providers for those who cannot work.” Hwang had “showed up” for the previous 15 years and was able to telecommute during the epidemic. Hwang died two years after Gorsuch ruled against her.

Support of Voter Suppression: As an admirer of Hans von Spakovsky, Gorsuch shows himself a supporter of voter suppression.  Von Spakovsky, special counsel to Associate Attorney General Brad Slozman in 2005, he managed the process to approve Georgia’s strict voter-ID laws, created, according to state Rep. Sue Burmeister to stop fraud by having fewer black voters. A conservative lawyer on the review team was secretly coached by von Spakovsky to achieve voter suppression in the state. Now von Spakovsky has called Gorsuch “the perfect pick for Trump.” Gorsuch’s role model, Antonin Scalia, said that the Voting Rights Act had led to a “perpetuation of racial entitlement.”

Rejection of Civil Rights: Gorsuch’s supervision of the Civil Rights Division during George W. Bush’s time showed serious politicization and lax enforcement of civil rights laws. Nine U.S. attorneys-general were fired because they didn’t find and prosecute voter fraud, even without evidence, leading to the resignation of AG Alberto Gonzales in 2007. During that time, DOJ cases included defense of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, the Defense of Marriage Act, the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping program, and detention of prisoners at Guantanamo.

Support of Bush’s post/11 Policies: In the Justice Department, Gorsuch defended such actions as opposing the rights of Guantanamo Bay prisoners to sue in federal court; blocking the release of photographs showing abused prisoners by U.S. military personnel in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison; and supporting “enhanced interrogation” (aka torture).

Less Rights for Prisoners: Gorsuch tends to rule against prison inmates bringing complaints about the conditions of their confinement.

Belief in Strong Executive Powers: His emails show that Gorsuch is in favor of the warrantless surveillance program and the method of bypassing the Detainee Treatment Act’s provision banning torture.

Anti-LGBT Positions: Although Gorsuch has never made a ruling on same-gender marriage, his position as “originalist” is code for anti-LGBTQ people because this community isn’t mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. He did reject a transgender woman’s discrimination claim, filed because her school had denied her access to the women’s restroom.

Majority of Rulings in Favor of Corporation against Employees: Gorsuch has consistently upheld arbitration even in flawed contracts, stating, “I just don’t see … how we might rightly rescue [the plaintiff] from the consequences of his choice.” The point is that people frequently cannot make purchases, get loans, or find employment if they refuse to sign a clause mandating arbitration, a secret resolution with arbitrators hired by the companies being protested and allowing corporations to bypass the judicial system. This forced arbitration eliminates the possibility of class action suits and cannot be appealed. An issue that Gorsuch would hear is whether the National Labor Relations Act can bar class action waivers; he has already opposed this position in his general aversion to agreeing with agencies.

Case of the Frozen Truck Driver: Gorsuch ruled in favor of firing Alphonse Maddin, a truck driver who worked for TransAm. In sub-zero temperatures, the brakes on Maddin’s trailer locked from the cold, and his truck cabin’s heat was broken. He called for the company’s road service at 11:17 pm and waited for two hours while his torso and feet grew numb. He called again, and they told him to wait. Thirty minutes later he unhitched the trailer to find heat and lost his job. Maddin filed a complaint with OSHA because the Surface Transportation Assistance Act prohibits a firing if “the employee has a reasonable apprehension of serious injury to the employee or the public.” TranAm claimed the statute didn’t cover Maddin because his trailer was operable. The majority of the panel ruled for Maddin; Gorsuch ruled against him because it was a “simple” case with no ambiguity. Instead he told him that Maddin had either two choices—take the trailer or wait for help to arrive. There was no sympathy in Gorsuch’s statement when he said that the company “permitted him to sit and remain where he was and wait for help.” Gorsuch then provides an inappropriate analogy concluded with “Good luck.”

Defendant’s Right to Counsel: A defendant wanted to take a 10-year prison term for a guilty plea on a second-degree murder charge, but his counsel refused to represent him if he took a deal. The defendant was convicted at trial of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole. The 10th Circuit ruled that the defendant’s rights were violated, but Gorsuch dissented.

Religion over Employees’ Rights: Gorsuch thinks that for-profit corporations are human beings and entitled to religious freedom and free speech. In that way they can deny their workers health care insurance, discriminate against customers, and spend millions to influence elections.Through his beliefs he has denied workers in cases about sexual harassment, workplace safety, and unfair labor practices. Gorsuch was one of the judges who allowed Hobby Lobby to deny contraceptive insurance for workers although it was mandated by law because the law would “burden” the company’s religious rights. Gorsuch finds the “religious freedom” law to be a “super-statute” above all other laws. He disagrees that contraceptive use is “a private matter of individual choice.”

Erasure of Death with Dignity: The nominee also opposes “death with dignity,” allowing terminally ill people the right to take drugs to hasten their deaths, now legal in six states. In 2006, Gorsuch, a Catholic, wrote The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia in which he opposes these practices, including the death with dignity, an opinion that he holds to this day.

Defunding Planned Parenthood: Gorsuch was in the minority in a Utah case that attempted to defund Planned Parenthood, relying on heavily edited videos from anti-abortion advocate David Daleiden in his attempt to smear Planned Parenthood. Six conservative states failed to defund Planned Parenthood because of the videos, and again Gorsuch was in the minority in supporting the defunding.

These are some perspectives that Gorsuch has evidenced. More about the nominee in the next part.

March 19, 2017

DDT Supporters Start to Lose—Everything

 

A campaign argument from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) to voters was “what do you have to lose?” People voting for DDT almost uniformly said that they wanted a “change.” Now they have a change, and DDT’s policies are proving that everyone except those in the highest income levels will most likely lose.

DDT won with 80 percent support from white evangelical Christians, but some conservative faith leaders are beginning to question the validity of DDT’s policies. Over 100 Christians, many of them conservative, wrote a letter to congressional leaders about how DDT’s cut of $10.1 billion for the International Affairs Budget will damage humanitarian programs abroad.

“With just 1 percent of our nation’s budget, the International Affairs Budget has helped alleviate the suffering of millions; drastically cutting the number of people living in extreme poverty in half, stopping the spread of infectious diseases like HIV/AIDs and Ebola, and nearly eliminating polio. As followers of Christ, it is our moral responsibility to urge you to support and protect the International Affairs Budget, and avoid disproportionate cuts to these vital programs that ensure that our country continues to be the ‘shining city upon a hill.’”

Progressive Sister Simone Campbell wrote that DDT’s cuts “disproportionately affect the same group of people — women, people of color, and all at the economic margins.”

Mick Mulvaney, architect of DDT’s budget and OMB director, has tried to explained that punitive cuts for vulnerable populations are really “compassionate” because people should not pay for services to others unless it’s for a “proper function.” He didn’t explain that this function is for building “the wall” and increasing the military by ten percent. He also said that the cut to Meals on Wheels was only three percent when the federal government actually pays 35 percent.

A five-minute search on the Internet would show Mulvaney positive quantifiable results for Meals on Wheels and another project he wants to slash, after-school programs that provide meals.

Meals on Wheels: 26 of 48 states would save money for Medicaid with an expansion in the program of one percent by keeping seniors out of nursing homes. Florida could trim as much as $11.5 million, and Pennsylvania could save $5.7 million. Overall, the nation would pay only $8 million for this  one-percent expansion.

After-School Meals: feeding hungry children costs $.80 a meal. Several studies show that these programs improve student grades, attendance, and school participation.

DDT has taken five trips to Mar-a-Lago since becoming president for a grand total of about $16.5 million, but there are no concrete results for his personal entertainment. Any meetings there could easily be at the White House. Meals on Wheels could feed 5,967 seniors for a year for that amount. After school programs could feed 114,583 poor children for a year for the same amount. Among the 2.4 million people served by Meals on Wheels are 500,000 veterans. The cost for feeding them for a year could be covered by a little over one month supporting DDT’s family in New York.

A tweet: “Trump golfing at Mar-a-Lago costs $10 million/mo. The National Endowment for the Arts costs $12 million/mo. Guess which is being cut?”

Mulvaney’s “compassionate” budget will eliminate the 50-year-old program, National Endowment for the Arts. The basis for this legislation is that a great country comes from an enlightened and unfettered citizenry:

“Democracy demands wisdom and vision in its citizens. It must therefore foster … access to the arts and the humanities, designed to make people of all backgrounds and wherever located masters of their technology and not its unthinking servants.”

An early NEA decision was to foster local and regional economies in individual states: the approximately $400 million—25 percent of it targeted to rural communities—returns more than $704.2 billion to the nation’s economy, about 4.23 percent of the GDP. This is more than construction ($619.8 billion) or transportation and warehousing ($483.5 billion). In 2015, NEA funding provided audiences of 33 million people to “30,000 concerts, readings and performances and 5,000 visual and media arts exhibitions,” according to statistics. The NEA makes cities and towns better place to live and extends education, helping students get higher grades and stay in school. Maintaining DDT’s New York home where his wife and son live costs over $4 million a month; NEA costs the average taxpayer $.46 a year.

The budget also used “compassion” to whack $580 million a year from NIH because the 21st Century Cure project gets $480 million to research cures for 10,000 diseases including cancer, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. Oddly enough, the charge to taxpayers doesn’t go away, but it can’t be spent unless Congress okays it.

What do blacks have to lose with DDT? He answered this campaign trail question in his budget: elimination of the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, the Choice Neighborhoods program, and the Self-help Homeownership Opportunity program, SHOP which DDT calls “lower priority programs.” Mulvaney calls this compassion.

The facts belie a demand for the ten-percent increase in military and outright elimination of many programs or cuts of 31 percent to slowing down climate change.

  • The U.S. spends more on military than China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, France, India, and Germany — combined. Yet the U.S. spends far less per capita than other countries on initiatives that DDT cuts.
  • Eliminated programs are more valuable to West Virginia’s coal miners and Detroit’s single mothers, referenced by Mulvaney as not needing them, than the ten-percent increase in military. DDT’s budget cuts funding for early-childhood education, public housing, transit, food assistance, and job training as well as programs that help people in West Virginia and many surrounding states to find jobs. It also cuts the federal agency, the Chemical Safety Board,  that investigated the 2014 chemical spill outside Charleston leaving 300,000 people without drinking water for five days.
  • On top of DDT’s budget cuts is a huge regressive tax cut which gives money only to the wealthy while Mulvaney talks about worrying about coal miner and single mothers. His argument about trying to protect these people in a budget that takes all their services makes no sense.
  • The budget doesn’t reduce the deficit, which DDT had promised to do.

Mulvaney demands “results,” but the U.S. has spent $4 trillion to establish new regime that don’t work instead of repairing U.S. infrastructure and providing jobs for people in this country. The Pentagon is decades behind in a congressionally-mandated audit, and in 2015 alone Army accounting couldn’t support $2.8 trillion in third quarter adjustments and $6.5 trillion in year-end adjustments. In just that one year, $125 billion in administrative waste was identified, double what DDT budget wants for a Department of Defense increase.

The GOP Trumpcare will kill 17,000 people a year, more people in three months than foreign terrorists have killed in the U.S. since—and including—the 9/11 disaster almost 16 years ago. And far more deaths will ensue from DDT’s budget attack on poor people. Those not forced out of their homes may have no heating assistance.

DDT has joined with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to attack people with student debt by rolling back a regulation from President Obama preventing extortionist fees on student loans for late payments. Before this went into effect, students were charged up to 16 percent even if people paid with 60 days of defaulting. For example, a woman with an $18,000 loan was charged $4,500 in fees when she was 18 days late in paying.

Robert Reich wrote about DDT’s theme of unnecessary cruelty in his policies: his budget attacks the poor at a time when the majority of people suffer greater poverty than they have in almost a century; his Trumpcare adds not only to their poverty of people in the U.S. but also to their deaths; his Syrian refugee and Muslim ban does nothing to protect people from terrorism; and his dragnet approach toward driving immigrants out of the country loses some of the nation’s most productive members and keeps other equally important people from coming to the United States. DDT has no reason for this cruelty other than his business style—create chaos and rule through persecuting people.

Fox’s Howard Kurtz wrote, “The swamp fights back,” referring to the backlash against DDT’s budget, including assistance for food, affordable housing, banking, job training, home heating oil bills, and legal counsel. When DDT said he would “drain the swamp,” people believed that he meant the bureaucracy that destroys jobs and moves money to the wealthy. Evidently the “swamp people” represent people DDT had promised to protect only a few months ago.

There is nothing Christian about any of DDT policies and nothing Christian about conservatives calling those who believe in human rights “swamp people.”

March 18, 2017

A Few Snippets about DDT

It’s been a hard week for Dictator Donald Trump–nothing is worse for him than ridicule. Here are a few pieces that emerged from the past.

Only Yesterday: To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a visit from Ireland’s Prime Minister Enda Kenney, DDT mispronounced Fionnuala Kenny, the Prime Minister’s wife, and read “Remember to Forget” that he called an “Irish proverb.” It happens to be written by Nigerian poet, Albashir Adam Alhassan. During the same day, he insulted German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The man inaugurated on January 20 managed to offend two world leaders in one day.

How do past Trump supporters feel about their vote? This man tells it all. As James Walker, 31, said: “This is the first step: showing up and being honest.”

Working Is Hard! Rex Tillerson cut his trip short to South Korea due to fatigue after he said that the U.S. might go to war with North Korea: “The policy of strategic patience has ended.” It is only his second trip as Secretary of State. When Hillary Clinton held that position, she traveled Total miles traveled 956,733 miles and 401 days to 112 countries. We know about Tilleron’s actions only from the Korean press because he took only one reporter from an obscure conservative outlet with him and that person is not sending back any reports. Tillerson is 64 years old; Clinton was 66 in the last year of that position and 68 when she ran for president. Perhaps DDT should have selected a younger man—or a woman—for the job.

 

 

Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton, made this assessment after a recent visit to the Capitol City.

  1. Washington is more divided, angry, bewildered, and fearful — than I’ve ever seen it.
  1. The angry divisions aren’t just Democrats versus Republicans. Rancor is also exploding inside the Republican Party.
  1. Republicans (and their patrons in big business) no longer believe Trump will give them cover to do what they want to do. They’re becoming afraid Trump is genuinely nuts, and he’ll pull the party down with him.
  1. Many Republicans are also angry at Paul Ryan, whose replacement bill for Obamacare is considered by almost everyone on Capitol Hill to be incredibly dumb.
  1. I didn’t talk with anyone inside the White House, but several who have had dealings with it called it a cesspool of intrigue and fear. Apparently everyone working there hates and distrusts everyone else.
  1. The Washington foreign policy establishment — both Republican and Democrat — is deeply worried about what’s happening to American foreign policy, and the worldwide perception of America being loony and rudderless. They think Trump is legitimizing far-right movements around the world.
  1. Long-time civil servants are getting ready to bail. If they’re close to retirement they’re already halfway out the door. Many in their 30s and 40s are in panic mode.
  1. Republican pundits think Bannon is even more unhinged than Trump, seeking to destroy democracy as we’ve known it.
  1. Despite all this, no one I talked with thought a Trump impeachment likely, at least not any time soon — unless there’s a smoking gun showing Trump’s involvement in Russia’s intrusion into the election.
  1. Many people asked, bewilderedly, “How did this [Trump] happen?” When I suggest it had a lot to do with the 35-year-long decline of incomes of the bottom 60 percent; the growing sense, ever since the Wall Street bailout, that the game is rigged; and the utter failure of both Republicans and Democrats to reverse these trends — they give me blank stares.

Kevin Drum at Mother Jones asks if DDT is trying to fail so that he can blame everyone else:

  • A health care bill so gratuitously brutal it seems almost intended to fail.
  • A budget that’s very plainly just a piece of performance art designed to outrage liberals.
  • A new immigration order so similar to the first one that Trump must have known it would be blocked in court.
  • A funding request for a border wall that’s basically a demand for a blank check that Congress will never pass.
  • A string of conspiracy theories (illegal voting, Trump Tower wiretaps, Obama is masterminding leaks) seemingly designed to waste congressional time.
  • And, of course, an endless series of hollow executive orders, bombastic tweets, and sob stories about the media mistreating poor Donald.

DDT’s employees excuse for what they do is right out of childhood. Democrats complained that Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly didn’t answer questions about deportation policies, the Muslim ban, and the White House response to Rep. Steve King’s (R-IA) white supremacist remarks. Democrats were frustrated because of his false claims when they had photos as proof—that he wasn’t going after Dreamers or that ICE agents were taking immigrants out of churches and hospitals of that he wasn’t separating children from mothers. His comment to reporters:

“I don’t deport anyone. ICE doesn’t deport anyone. The law deports people.”

Sounds like children who say, “I didn’t hit Johnny—the stick hit Johnny.” Now we have the same response from the head of Homeland Security. It sounds as if he might be getting ashamed.

Now we know that DDT’s staff is totally incompetent. On White House’s 1600 Daily, they posted a piece from Washington Post entitled “Trump’s budget makes perfect sense and will fix America, and I will tell you why.” Reasons:

  1. They can’t read.
  2. They didn’t read it.
  3. They don’t understand satire.

The first two paragraphs:

“Some people are complaining that the budget proffered by the Trump administration, despite its wonderful macho-sounding name, is too vague and makes all sorts of cuts to needed programs in favor of increasing military spending by leaps and bounds. These people are wimps. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney has called it a ‘hard power budget’ which is, I think, the name of an exercise program where you eat only what you can catch, pump up your guns and then punch the impoverished in the face. This, conveniently, is also what the budget does.

“This budget will make America a lean, mean fighting machine with bulging, rippling muscles and not an ounce of fat. America has been weak and soft for too long. BUT HOW WILL I SURVIVE ON THIS BUDGET? you may be wondering. I AM A HUMAN CHILD, NOT A COSTLY FIGHTER JET. You may not survive, but that is because you are SOFT and WEAK, something this budget is designed to eliminate.”

The piece continues by delineating all the outrageously unreasonable cuts in DDT’s budget and then finishes:

“Feed children just to feed them? What are we, SOFT? No. No we are not.

“AMERICA WILL BE STRONGER THAN IT HAS EVER BEEN! Anyone who survives will be a gun covered in the fur of a rare mammal, capable of fighting disease with a single muscular flex. RAW POWER! HARD RAW POWER GRRRRRR HISSS POW!

“It will be great.”

This excerpt from the author, Alexandra Petri, is about the White House posting:

“The White House believes in me, and the White House is not full of careless people who skim headlines looking for the ones that sound sort of positive and then send them out in their daily briefing newsletter hoping for the best haaa ha ha nope ha ha these are the minds who control war and peace and the budget and things ha ha ha it’s fine ha ha oh god help.”

Unfortunately, postings on the White House 1600 Daily missed this delightful piece of satire regarding the bigly crowds at the inauguration.

Two months after DDT’s inauguration: 497 positions are awaiting nomination, 36 are awaiting confirmation, and 20 nominations have been confirmed. Maybe DDT is just waiting for a recess so that he can put everyone into these positions without bothering without confirmations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 17, 2017

DDT: Week Eight – Embarrassment

The Rachel Maddow Show dropped a shiny object drawing attention away from Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT) disastrous Trumpcare plan earlier this week in a special on the two pages of 2005 income taxes that had mysteriously been left in the mailbox of David Cay Johnston. People poo-pooed that the information would appear this way, but he theorized that DDT might have been responsible for the release. The copies definitely state “Client Copy,” meaning that it could come from only Melania Trump or DDT. Within a day, many pundits are agreeing that DDT had cherry-picked this one year and that he had a prepared faux outraged response. Fake outrage?

This tax return shows that DDT paid $36.3 million in income tax on his $153 million income for that year, the vast majority of taxes coming from the tax code alternative minimum tax (AMT). That law dates back to 1969 because 155 people making more than $200,000 paid no income tax for the prior three years and requiring eligible taxpayers to calculate their taxes in two ways—regular income tax and taxes under AMT—and pay the higher amount. With the AMT, DDT owed the government 25 percent, or $31 million; without the AMT he would have paid $5 million of the $150 million, less than 3.5 percent which is less than the half of taxpayers who make under $33,000 are required to pay. DDT’s tax plan calls from complete elimination of the AMT which would reduce government revenue $412.8 billion in the first decade and another $700 billion in the next. More than 60 percent of people who make between $500,000 and $1 million pay the AMT, compared to the two percent who make under $200,000.

Muslim ban: The day before DDT’s new travel order (Muslim Ban 2.0) was scheduled to go into effect, three hearings in Hawaii, Maryland, and Washington state challenged its constitutionality. A Hawaii judge put a restraining order for the entire country on the order; DDT said that he couldn’t speak ill of the judge to avoid being criticized by the “fake news.” U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson said that parts of DDT’s new order violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause and referred to the “illogic of the Government’s contention” that it discriminates for only a “small fraction” of the 50 predominantly Islam nations. At a rally in Nashville (TN), DDT called his second order “a watered-down version of the first,” giving even more argument to overturning it—just like the comment from Stephen miller, senior White House advisor, that the second order would have the “same basic policy outcome.” A federal appeal would go to the 9th Circuit Court where DDT’s first order was rejected. A Maryland court largely agreed with Hawaii. The Third Circuit also prevented the deportation of an Afghan man granted a special visa for helping the U.S. in that country at great personal risk. Former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee told DDT to ignore the court orders.

Sales Pitch for Dirtier American Cars: Following the pattern of hiring coal miners to attend DDT’s rallies during his campaign, employers paid autoworkers to attend DDT’s speech this week, some even bused to the event at which DDT announced the end of fuel efficiency standards. There is no evidence that his executive order will increase cars; in fact, it may make them less salable in other countries. Consumers will pay $98 billion more, even after higher vehicle cost, mostly from greater fuel use. DDT moved on to Andrew Jackson’s The Hermitage in Nashville (TN) where most of the media ignored the 15,000 people protesting him.

DDT Budget: His first budget proposal, called “skinny” because like DDT’s other proposals it is short on detail, does, however, prove past assumptions on DDT’s priorities—more military/business and less everything else. The GOP Congress didn’t like it, but they pointed out that it had little hope of survival with them. In addition to this information, the budget also cuts Amtrak, reduces funding for the IRS, closes small airports in Alabama and Mississippi, and cuts money for the Coast Guard, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), FEMA, etc.   [visual – Budget priorities]

DDT’s Wiretapping Claims: Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr and ranking Democrat Mark Warner issued a statement that they have no evidence supporting DDT’s wiretapping claims. Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that DDT is sticking by his claims, however, and extended the false accusation to Obama’s use of the British spy agency GCHQ to surveil DDT. GCHQ called Spicer’s allegations “nonsense and “utterly ridiculous,” and both Spicer and national security advisor H.R. McMaster had to officially apologize to Britain for Spicer’s comment. Even US AG Jeff Sessions, DDT’s lapdog, said that the former president didn’t wiretap Trump Tower. For “proof” supporting DDT’s claims about the wiretapping, Spicer read comments from Fox’s Bret Baier and Sean Hannity and other media that reported inquiries into DDT’s campaign aides and Russian officials. Asked about the wiretapping on Fox, DDT either lied to Tucker Carlson on Fox or leaked classified information when he said that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)’s servers were hacked under President Obama.

DDT’s Russian Connection: In a Fox network poll, 66 percent of people in the U.S. think that Congress should investigate Russian interference in the presidential election, the same number who want lawmakers to probe possible connections between the DDT campaign and the Kremlin. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes said he doesn’t see any connection between the two although he also thinks that there is no support for DDT’s claim about being wiretapped. Ranking Dem on the committee Rep. Adam Schiff, who has the same classified information about the campaign’s links to Russia, disagreed and suggested that they be “very precise” when discussing the issue. U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee plans to hold hearings about a link between DDT’s campaign and Russia on March 30.  

DDT’s Deportations: In a new poll, almost two-thirds of people in the U.S. prefer a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants instead of deportations. The U.S. Conference of Mayors lambasted DDT’s deportations, and mayors in cities across the nation have described the importance of immigrants to the improvement of their economy, labor force, and stability.

Health Care Plan: In trying to bring ultra-conservatives into the fold of voters, DDT agreed to give states the option of imposing working requirements for Medicaid recipients and block grant Medicaid instead of the cap system in the bill. DDT thinks that he’ll get the votes from the far-right; far-right members of the House aren’t so sure. Polls show that people are more supportive of “Obamacare” than Trumpcare.

More Mentally Ill People with Guns: http://www.self.com/story/trump-gun-access-mental-health-social-security  Earlier this month DDT signed a bill overturning a regulation requiring people who receive Social Security money for mental illnesses and those who have been deemed unable to handle their own financial affairs to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Now the House passed a bill to allow some veterans deemed “mentally incompetent” to own firearms. VA are prohibited from submitting records of veterans with several mental illnesses to the federal criminal background check system because to do so would cause them to be “stigmatized and isolated.” The future of this bill in the Senate is uncertain. The same bill also makes it easier to fire people from the VA.

DDT’s Current Campaign Rallies: Yes, DDT is in the midst of his campaign for 2020 allowing him to again sell his campaign merchandise. Once again, he’s trying to see how far he can go and keep his supporters. For example, he told them at a rally that he knows Trumpcare is worse for his supporters than for anyone else.

DDT’s style is to cause chaos. His only skills, other than making some people believe his lies, are suing people, putting his name on other people’s buildings, and collecting cash after declaring bankruptcy—not useful in running a government. He plans to give the Pentagon more authority on terror raids after the wide-publicized abysmal failure of the Yemen raid. That way he can continue to blame the generals for any problems while taking credit for successes. It’s time that the GOP leaders figured that out.

Today DDT met German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He refused her request for a handshake, called the U.S. “a company,” referred to a German press outlet as “fake news”(above), and repeated his lie about President Obama wiretapping his phones.  https://www.rawstory.com/2017/03/watch-angela-merkel-looks-in-horror-as-trump-accuses-german-reporter-of-being-fake-news/

And now DDT is gone to Mar-a-Lago for the sixth in seven weekends to lick his wounds and spend another $3.6 million of taxpayer money.

March 16, 2017

DDT’s ‘Skinny’ Budget: America Last

Filed under: Budget — trp2011 @ 9:18 PM
Tags: , ,

The top-line draft of fiscal proposals for 2018 from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has been released with deep cleaver cuts (except for the military), most of them general items, letting Cabinet members decide specifics. The ones that were specific in the $1.1 trillion budget were mostly small, typically under $500 million. For example, he eliminates the National Endowment of the Arts to save $148 million (29 DDT trips to Mar-a-Lago), the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting ($445 million), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. “About 25 percent of NEA block-grant funds go to rural communities and 54 percent to low-income areas,” according to The Washington Post. Devastated local TV and radio stations could no longer show the reality DDT show. These are some of the 19 eliminated independent agencies, those outside federal departments controlled by Cabinet members, to be defunded—including the Appalachian Regional Commission which covers a region of Trumpers that he promised to economically revive.

Congressional members have said that the budget is “dead on arrival,” setting up the scene for an internecine fight.

The general cuts, including many that hurt DDT supporters who believed that he would make their lives better:

Environmental Protection Agency: $300 million under earlier estimates which was 31 percent less than 2016 and which fires 3,200 employees. With over 50 EPA programs would be completely eradicated, DDT “discontinues funding for the Clean Power Plan, international climate change programs, climate change research and partnership programs, and related efforts.” Secretary of EPA, Scott Pruitt, removed a request to determine the extent to which methane oil and gas producers are leaking because he doesn’t believe that CO2 causes climate change. Industry requests caused him to consider the removal of a rule to prevent explosions and accidents at refineries and other industrial sites.

Department of Energy: The 5.6 percent cut is accompanied by the move of $1.4 billion, another five percent, to other programs to boost “nuclear capabilities.” Eliminated programs include the Weatherization Assistance Program, the State Energy Program, and the Energy Star program which sets energy standards and saves taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars. Co-sponsored by the Department of Defense, the Energy Star program cut equals two trips to Mar-a-Lago. Also gone is the DOE loan program for “limited, early-stage applied energy research and development activities” because “the private sector is better positioned to finance disruptive energy research.” Tesla was developed from one of these loans.

Department of Justice: The four-percent cut combines with increases in other DOJ programs such as incarceration and deportation.

Department of Labor: The $2.5 billion in cuts, a 21 percent drop, will significantly reduce funding for job training programs for seniors and disadvantaged youth. Gone will be the Senior Community Service Employment Program ($434 million) that helps low-income job seekers age 55 and older find work by pairing them with nonprofit organizations and public agencies. DDT said that only half the participants find unsubsidized jobs.  Job Corps, a program providing workplace training for disadvantaged youth, will be forced to close centers.

State Department and UAAID: The cut of 28 percent from last year eliminates U.S. funding to UN climate change programs including the Green Climate Fund. The $500 million committed for 2017 supports low-carbon and resilience project in developing nations. DDT will withdraw the $2 billion funding for the Paris climate program.

NASA: This agency, which studies climate and space, reports directly to the White House which has cut $102 million, four “Earth science missions.”

Department of the Interior: The agency that includes the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management which are vital to oil, gas, coal, wind, and solar energy development has lost 12 percent of its budget.

Department of Agriculture: The 20-percent cut in this budget eliminates the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program; the Community Services Block Grant; and NeighborWorks America, which supports neighborhood organizations that develop and maintain affordable housing. The agency’s water and wastewater loan and grant program, costing $498 million, has been cut.

The lucky ones—sort of:

Department of Defense: The only department with more money, DDT has allotted this one an additional $52 billion, an almost ten-percent increase.

Department of Commerce: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will keep its satellite program but lose “over $250 million in targeted National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grants and programs supporting coastal and marine management, research, and education including Sea Grant,” although the department got a ten-percent budget increase.

Only defense, homeland security against immigration, and commerce survived the giant whacks to the budget. Many voters, including those for DDT, decried the trillions of dollars sent to fight in the Middle East. Now DDT wants to siphon money to drastically pour into the military and immigration. Today, DDT asked Congress for $3 billion dollars for his mass deportation agenda that causes fear and chaos across the nation. Half the money would start building “the wall.” He wants to use the money for “the wall,” that even GOP congressional members don’t want and the private prison industry. As usual, DDT lives in a fantasy land because DDT had estimated the cost at $10 billion during his campaign and DHS had put it at $21.6 billion. Investment research firm Bertstein Research assumed higher, at $25 billion. Other speculations are even higher than that. Despite DDT’s promise that the money would come from Mexico, Mulvaney said about the $1.5 billion, “It’s coming out of the Treasury.”

What $3 billion could do to “make America great”: 45,000 new middle-class jobs in infrastructure; 184 new elementary schools; over 55,000 new kindergarten and elementary school teachers; tuition for almost 311,000 people at a four-year college per year; $10,000 in child care subsidies for 300,000 working class families; almost 337,000 Head Start slots for children; preservation and protection of 12,000 at-risk wildlife and plant species in the U.S. every year for the next 2.3 years; solar energy for almost 2.1 million households with solar energy; weatherization of 460,000 homes to save each household $283 each year; over 153,000 new AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers; 10 million life-saving HIV/AIDS treatments under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief; or one new Curiosity-type Mars rover with money left over.

Ways that DDT’s budget hurts rural U.S. (aka DDT supporters):

Fewer Job Prospects: The budget slashes $2.6 billion in infrastructure mostly in small communities, cuts subsidies for wind energy that has provided 102,000 jobs primarily in rural communities and pays rural landowners, and scaremongers immigration delivering essential roles in rural communities and tax bases.

Health Damage: Doctor shortages and hospital closures will increase in rural areas through DDT’s proposed Trumpcare as well as cuts in programs for rural primary care providers and anti-immigration programs. Affordable Care Act repeal will also worsen the opioid epidemic with only $500 million in his budget to tackle this addiction. DDT is also draining resources from this issue by eliminating the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Cuts to Basic Living Standards Such As Education, Affordable Housing, and Nutrition: The $1.4 billion increase in school vouchers will send students to failing private schools while his 15 percent cuts to successful programs such as teacher training, federal work-study, and after-school and summer-school programs for low-income students will damage public education. The $6 billion cut for affordable housing, including the elimination of the Community Development Block Grant, removes opportunities for repairing crumbling housing stock; helping seniors, veterans, and struggling individuals and families stay in their homes; and maintaining critical infrastructure systems that preserve residents’ access to clean water and protect them from toxic waste. Even a ten-percent cut in USDA rental assistance (see Department of Agriculture above) could make 27,000 families homeless, and two-thirds of NeghborWorks America serves rural United States.

More Hunger for Rural Children and Seniors: A high percentage of the three million people Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in 2015 for food live in rural communities. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price advocates slashing this program. DDT’s budget severely cuts Meals on Wheels; eliminates $200 million from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); and threatens other nutrition initiatives with a 21 percent cut to the USDA.

Reduction to Access to Justice and Jeopardy to Safety: DDT may eliminate grants to support intimate partner violence; survivors in rural areas have special difficulties from isolation and lack of transportation. The elimination of legal aid services would particularly impact rural communities and small towns. For example, the three principal legal aid service providers in Texas serve almost 140,000 low-income people, including almost 62,000 children, to protect them against wrongful eviction and denial of public assistance and services.

Other damaging cuts:

  • $3.9 billion from the Pell grant program proving tuition assistance for low-income college-bound students.
  • $2.4 billion that funds over 40,000 teacher positions.
  • $6 billion—a 20-percent cut—from cancer research.

Obviously, DDT lacks the competence and work ethic to prepare such a budget. It likely came from OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, who said that climate change research is “a waste of your money” and  “we can’t spend money on programs just because they sound good” about Meals on Wheels that feeds seniors. Mulvaney, worth $6.8 million in 2009, didn’t  pay over $15,000 in payroll taxes for a nanny because she just “helped my wife with the kids,” wants to eliminate Social Security and Medicare, claims that President Obama “manipulated” jobs data, and thinks that not raising the debt ceiling will have no “negative consequences.” He said that it wasn’t fair for coal miners or single mothers to pay the $1.38 a year for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. I guess he thinks that they don’t watch public broadcasting or listen to public radio.

There is far more news about the budget such as these 80 programs that lose funding.

 

March 14, 2017

Trumpcare: The GOP Killer Plan

The Congressional Budget Office has come out with the numbers for Trumpcare (excuse me, The American Health Care Act), and here’s the good news. The deficit could be lowered by $33.7 billion a year. Of course, that accomplishment come from moving costs to the state as well as taking people off Medicaid and government subsidies. For example, Oregon will have to pay 35 percent of health costs instead of the 95 percent that the federal government now covers.

The bad news for Trumpcare by the numbers:

  • 54 million individuals uninsured in ten years, double projections for ACA, according to a leaked White House analysis.
  • 24 million fewer people with coverage by next year.
  • 14 million more uninsured people in one year.
  • 14 million fewer people with Medicaid coverage in 10 years.
  • 7 million fewer people with employer-sponsored coverage in 10 years.
  • 2 million fewer people not buying health insurance each year.
  • 15-20 percent higher premiums in the first year than with ACA.
  • $880 billion cut from Medicaid over 10 years.
  • 15 percent of low income people without services to help women avert pregnancy because of defunding Planned Parenthood that results in thousands of more births. (Savings of $178 million for no care for these women would be offset by increase in Medicaid that pays for 45 percent of all U.S. births.)

Older Americans pay “substantially” more. At the same time, Trumpcare also takes away from the Medicare fund, causing it to become insolvent three or four years earlier than formerly projected unless positive action is taken.

Health insurance companies are encouraged to pay CEOs more because Trumpcare removes the ACA limit on corporate tax deductions for compensation. Under ACA, health insurance companies could deduct only $500,000 of the pay for each top executive making deductions for the companies only 27 percent instead of 96 percent. This limitation has been enough to buy dental insurance under the ACA for 262,000 people or pay the silver plan deductibles for 28,000. The 10 biggest insurance companies paid their top 57 executives a total of $300 in 2013. The provision to give them back the 96 percent was buried in six lines on p. 67, and even Tom Price, Secretary of Health and Human Services, seemed unaware of it until reporters inquired.

Republicans, claiming to be the part of smaller government, also have a provision in Trumpcare that employees without genetic testing as part of their workplace wellness programs can face large penalties in premiums. Existing federal laws don’t have this power because genetic privacy is protected. For example, the Kaiser Family Foundation could charge an additional $5,443 in annual premiums employer-sponsored family health coverage.

An oddity in Trumpcare is its obsession with lottery players, mentioned 11 times, the same number as Medicaid. Six of the 67 pages in the replacement plan focus on lottery winnings. Anyone getting at least $80,000 from the lottery or lotto would be kicked off Medicaid. To give you an idea of the savings, Michigan’s plan, withholding part of lotto winnings over $1,000 and not $80,000—saved $2 million.

Republicans have spent lots of time and energy criticizing the mandate that everyone purchase insurance. Trumpcare’s new system allows insurance companies to charge a 30-percent penalty after a break in purchasing coverage. It’s still a penalty: the only difference is that the money goes to insurance companies and not to the government. It also threatens destabilization of the individual insurance market.

Geographically, Trumpcare is disastrous for DDT supporters. The plan’s elimination of 0.9 percent for additional Medicare tax on wages and 3.8 percent surtax on investment income are only people in the top income stratum. John McCormick’s independent analysis of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) plan for Bloomberg states:

“Counties that backed him would get less than a third of the relief that would go to counties where Hillary Clinton won. The two individual tax cuts contained in the Republican plan to replace Obamacare apply only to high-earning workers and investors, roughly those with incomes of at least $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for married couples. Taxpayers in counties that backed Trump would see an annual windfall of about $6.6 billion, (an) analysis of Internal Revenue Service data shows. In counties that backed Clinton, it’d be about $21.9 billion.”

The refund of this tax to the wealthy is what keeps the deficit reduction only $33.7 million when the massive cuts to benefits, including Medicaid, should come to much more. Getting rid of ACA’s taxes and annual fees would reduce revenues to the federal government by $592 billion over ten years. Just one person in the top 0.01 percent, for example, will get an extra $197,000 if the bill passes, and people in the top one percent will each get $33,000.

How Trumpers—and people at the same income level—will suffer from Trumpcare: A 64-year-old person with an annual income of $26,500 pays $1,700 a year in annual insurance premiums. Trumpcare will change that annual premium to $14,600 for equivalent insurance. The math makes it an increase of $12,900.

Ryan has made two strategic problems. He tried to push the bill through the House in three weeks; the ACA took over 16 months to pass after four months of groundwork. He also failed to involve any stakeholders. To pass ACA, Democrats developed support by convening health-care groups, largely the same groups that now strongly oppose Trumpcare. In retaliation, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is trying to minimize opposition from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) as just another flawed interest group. Their 37 million members comprise over one-third of the U.S. population over 50 years of age and are likely to be DDT voters. Bush’s 2005 struggle to privatize Social Security failed after AARP’s opposition.

http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/why-the-white-house-isnt-sharing-health-care-numbers-its-own?cid=eml_mra_20170314   The White House has its own analysis of Trumpcare. A leaked report from Office of Management and Budget (OMB) shows numbers are even grimmer than those from CBO with 26 million people losing coverage within the next decade instead of CBO’s 24 million. Although the White House called that report wrong, it hasn’t released anything in its place. GOP-confirmed OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, in charge of the health care legislation instead of the Secretary of Health, called the CBO estimates “just absurd” and said that “I don’t believe facts are correct.” DDT may have moved Price because Mulvaney, a founding member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus and former South Carolina U.S. representative, is more conservative than either Ryan or Price.

Congress may also take both health insurance and pensions from retired coal miners. After 22,600 miners retired, the company in charge of their health care gave it to another company that declared bankruptcy and was relieved of responsibility for retiree health care. Both companies finally agreed to pay into a special fund for retiree health care benefits, but one of them stopped contributing. In addition, UMWA’s multi-employer pension plan, serving more than 90,000 retirees and their widows, became severely underfunded. The Miners Protection Act (MPA) uses federal funds to pay for threatened health benefits and strength the pension plan, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blocked its inclusion for his own constituents in an omnibus budget bill. The four-month extension of health benefits is due to expire on May 1, 2017 if Congress doesn’t act on the bill. Democrats wrote DDT for support in January, but he didn’t respond.

Yesterday Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) talked to some of these miners during a panel discussion in West Virginia. One of them thanked Sanders for his support regarding the bill and said to applause:

“I never dreamt that I’d get to thank you personally for the bill that you are co-sponsoring. I’m one of those miners that will lose his health care at the end of April if they don’t pass that law. I think it’s kind of ironic that a senator from the northeast takes care of my benefits better than someone like Mitch McConnell.”

Sanders told the crowd:

“The Republican bill, it should not be seen as a health care bill, because throwing millions of people off of health care [is not] health care legislation. What it should be seen as is a huge tax break for the wealthiest people in this country.”

Two months ago, DDT promised “insurance for everybody.” He and other Republicans claim insurance access to all—probably the same way that everyone has access to buy a Mercedes-Benz but don’t have the money. Price claimed that Trumpcare would “cover more individuals at a lower cost.” The only way that they can be right is for people to be consigned to crappy insurance plans that may not even cover hospital costs, just as they were before the ACA. To show how obvious DDT is about killing ACA, he sent out an email asking people to “share your Obamacare disaster story.” They have no interest in any success stories or needs from “hard-working Americans like you,” but people have been sending them anyway.

The clearest description of Trumpcare has been provided by comedian John Oliver..

 

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