Nel's New Day

December 22, 2021

Fallout of Lord Manchin’s Anti-BBB Continues

The man who controls the fate of democracy and economy in the United States deserves another column. Sen. Joe Manchin (R-WY) has arrogantly stalled for months and used his personal needs to change the Build Back Better (BBB) act. He also preened about demanding bipartisanship for federal voting act to remove some of the state’s oppression before voting with all the Republicans and only one other Democrat to remove President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for large private businesses’ employees. Now his feelings are hurt.

During all these months, his colleagues and the people in the White House treated him with courtesy while changing and changing the parameters of BBB depending on which way Manchin’s hot air blew. Democrats finally got fed up after he said “no!” to the bill to help the nation’s people and its economy on the Fox network with no heads up to Democratic leadership and only 30 minutes warning to the White House. He pompously said, “They know the real reason what happened. They won’t tell you and I’m not going to.” He further claimed that it’s the “staff [who] put some things out that were absolutely inexcusable.”

A week ago, a conversation about Manchin’s opposition to the child tax credit was supposedly leaked. When a reporter asked about his position, Manchin called the question “bullshit.” In the midst of his whining this week, Manchin said he knew from the beginning, five months ago, that the negotiations would fail but he kept all the Democrats, including Biden, dangling at the end of his line.

Manchin also said that no one would make any concessions, despite the reduction of the bill by one half to $175 billion a year for ten years. For Manchin, Democrats shrank problems such as paid leave from 12 to four weeks and eliminated such major policies as Biden’s biggest idea to cut emissions, the Clean Electricity Performance Program. Manchin still opposes any paid leave: he claims people in West Virginia use it only to go deer hunting.

Manchin complained about a child tax credit being an “entitlement” and accused his constituents of using all the money for drugs. Parents receiving this tax credit since this spring’s American Rescue Plan have mostly used the money in these ways:    

  • 43 percent – pay down debts.
  • 20 percent – saved it.
  • 37 percent – bought food, clothing, housing, and child care.

Following Manchin’s skewed rationale, people should not receive wages. He also thinks it’s okay for people to have highly inflated stock increases—like he does—but any welfare should be highly restricted. West Virginians have noted the inequality between them and their senators; he bought a yacht for his Washington, D.C. home and drives a Maserati, costing three times the state’s annual median income. Will Bunch has this description of Lord Manchin.

A flotilla of activists to demand that he support the Build Back Better Act.

Last fall, protesters from West Virginia kayaked around Manchin’s yacht to beg for jobs, lower drug prices, climate protection, and other provisions in BBB. He assured them that the rich would pay their “fair share” and that the bill would be a success.

The latest protest to Manchin’s actions came from Josh Sword, president of the West Virginia AFL-CIO, who stated that BBB also helps the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund benefits for the state’s coal miners. Other BBB provisions are protecting collective bargaining and workers’ organizing, creating home care workers jobs, expanding senior and disabled care, and investing $4 billion in coal communities “to attract manufacturing companies that will provide good-paying, union jobs.”

The United Mine Workers also want BBB because the bill calls for alternative energy manufacturing in “coal-producing areas of the country.” Fossil fuel jobs will certainly keep declining, and BBB will give displaced workers a greater chance for replacement jobs. Since 2012, 45,000 coal mining jobs have been lost, many of them under DDT. Although Manchin has supported tax credits for equipment manufacturing in alternative energy industries, he now objects to BBB’s climate provisions such as subsidies for fossil fuel companies’ transition.

Manchin said he opposes BBB because of his made-up threats, but these are the real threats without BBB:

  • Child poverty increased by 40 percent, destroying parents’ ability to provide food, shelter, sustenance, and upward mobility necessary for the future of the United States. U.S. child poverty will continue to be the highest in the developed world, resulting in lack of health for children into their adulthood.
  • Lack of universal pre-kindergarten, making young people less likely to graduate from high school and attend college as well as making them more likely to be arrested, need welfare, and be unemployed as adults. Pre-K participants pay more taxes because they make higher wages.
  • No extended healthcare subsidies decreasing life expectancy. Infant and maternal mortality rates will continue to be far behind other developed countries.
  • Lack of childcare keeping 20 million women out of the workforce.
  • Continued high drug prices producing illness for people who cannot afford inflated costs for such medications as insulin controlling diabetes. As President Joe Biden pointed out, drug companies are selling a formula costing from $.10 to $10 to make at $560 to $650 a month, perhaps even $1,000.
  • Increased climate warming with ensuing biodiversity extinction, more erratic—and lethal—weather patterns, and rising seas.
  • A delay to the future costing higher interest rates.

Manchin depicts West Virginians as independent, undeserving of “entitlements,” but 32 percent of its residents’ personal income, higher than any other state in the nation, comes from the government—retirement, disability, medical, welfare, veterans, unemployment, education, and training.

Goldman Sachs responded to Manchin’s “No!” by predicting that his killing the BBB would shrink the GDP from three to two percent because failure to pass the bill had “negative growth implications.” The bill’s vision is pre-1981—good jobs for households and a focus on children, families, and communities.

Manchin’s requirement for any benefits is limited by absolute proof that they are needed, work requirements. The result is inaccessibility for people who need them, for example, work requirements for grandparents who care for their grandchildren to receive child tax payments. The myth that anyone looking for a job can get one is particularly false in states like West Virginia. His ideas also spend much of the money from recipients by paying for wasteful administration.

His eligibility limits to a small group of “deserving” people, according to Manchin’s standards, also are politically vulnerable. Wilbur Cohen, “father” of Social Security and Medicare, stated, “A program that is only for the poor—one that has nothing in it for the middle income and the upper income—is, in the long run, a program the American public won’t support… Programs for the poor make poor programs.”

Twp of the wealthiest men in history, Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller, believed in Social Darwinism—some people are inherently worthier than others because of “better” genes. They viewed themselves the fittest and the poor unworthy, lazy people who they had to push to improve their lives. Their perspective is representative of conservative, anti-government philosophy with a paranoia that people receiving government benefits may take advantage of their “betters.” Their solution is to make life so horrible for people in poverty that they will go to work. This was the thinking that opposed Social Security in 1935, despite the “benefit” is paid back from taxes that people on Social Security have paid. Opponents called it socialism. Others call it “entitlements” and refer to “makers” and “takers.”

As Franklin D. Roosevelt said in 1938, government has always benefits the wealthy the most:

“The first to turn to Government, the first to receive protection from Government, were not the poor and the lowly—those who had no resources other than their daily earnings—but the rich and the strong. Beginning in the nineteenth century, the United States passed protective laws designed, in the main, to give security to property owners, to industrialists, to merchants and to bankers….Because it has become increasingly difficult for individuals to build their own security single-handed, Government must now step in and help them lay the foundation stones, just as Government in the past has helped lay the foundation of business and industry.”

Wealthy companies still receive the bulk of subsidies, a type of socialism and welfare, and the Republicans gave big business and the richest people most of the tax cuts in its 2017 law.

To give Manchin a tiny bit of credit, he met on a conference call with the Democratic senatorial caucus Tuesday evening after Republicans again begged him to switch parties. Even as the majority Senate party, the GOP would still need his votes—an iffy thing with Manchin’s record of refusing to vote in favor of any bills except for blocking vaccine mandates.

At the Democratic meeting, Manchin said he still has “concerns,” but he talked. And Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) left open the possibility of an agreement although he still plans to bring BBB on a motion-to-proceed vote in the new year. Conservative billionaires and companies are still giving him massive donations to scuttle BBB, but Manchin may still be looking for a different kind of attention—such as saving the country. He already has the money.  And Christmas is coming.

December 19, 2021

Lord Manchin says ‘No!’

When I was a graduate student at a university in a small Kansas town, I lived in a shabby apartment infested with cockroaches. My cat would chase down one of the insects, catching it on the carpet and taking off one of the legs. It would crawl to the carpet’s edge reaching the wooden floor. You could almost see the sigh of relief before the cat batted it back onto the carpet. Once again, it crawled away from the cat who had taken another leg. The scene occurred time and time again until, finally, the the cat put the cockroach out of its misery. I thought about that torture when, over a decade ago, the Republicans demanded to erase important provisions, time and time again, from the Affordable Care Act. Time and time again, Democrats gave and gave to the Republicans for their support, but at the end, not one Republican voted for the watered-down bill they said they wanted.

The same process happened again over the Build Better Act (BBB), a bill that to help at least two-thirds of the people in the United States with jobs, childcare, etc. while not adding to the debt. Time and time again, the BBB has been watered down and stripped of important provisions, this time not because of Republicans but because two Democratic senators insist on demonstrating their power. Today, the bill may be dead after “Lord” Sen. Joe Manchin (R-KY) announced with much fanfare on Fox network and no notification to Democrats that he refuses to vote for the bill he had helped create.

Every time, the bill was close to passing, Manchin would put it off—later in the fall, then not until Christmas, and the most recent excuse, next year. Today, he pompously announced, “I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation.” His excuse this time was the national debt which Dictator Donald Trump (a Republican in case you’re forgotten) raised by $7.8 trillion during his four years. Of course, Manchin had not problem adding to the military bill each year, including the one for next year despite no idea where the money goes and the U.S. finally getting out of its two long wars started by George W. Bush, another Republican. He also damned “my Democratic colleagues in Washington [who] are determined to dramatically reshape our society in a way that leaves our country even more vulnerable to the threats we face.” (Manchin never bothers to explain anything he says.)

Manchin knows that no Republican will vote for BBB because of their fear that Democrats will gain votes by benefiting people. Without Manchin, the bill won’t have the 50 votes necessary to pass the Senate. As Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, pointed out, Manchin reneged on his promise last week to work for a compromise agreement after Democrats made one compromise after another, removing over half the bill’s expenditure. Before today’s declaration, Manchin had provided his own concept for the BBB, also costing $1.85 trillion.

Although Manchin claims he doesn’t want to spend the money for the bill, he said this week that his new outline costs the same. In fact, he doesn’t want the provisions that might cause him to lose any money, both from his businesses and his Republican donors. Manchin’s daughter, who works for a large pharmaceutical company, opposes regulations on drug prices; during her career, she has ensured that her employers gain massive profits by huge increases in drug prices. The BBB would save $700 billion during the next decade, but the pharmaceutical industry has spent $263 million on lobbying against the bill this year with millions more going to a dark money group. Manchin’s campaign received over $1.5 million from corporations opposed to BBB.

Manchin comes from one of the poorest states in the nation, and the BBB would benefit his constituents. His refusal removes a $300 monthly payment to families with children, a payment he supported for the $1.9 trillion pandemic aid package under nine months ago. Gone will be health coverage for 3.4 million more people. Medicare drug prices can’t be regulated. Slowing down climate change disappears, despite the state’s devastating floods. Manchin sees no need for paid family and medical leave although the U.S. is the only industrialized nation without these benefits. He had already decreased the time for this benefit to four weeks.

In 2018, Manchin’s net worth was $7.6 million and is higher now. The 2021 media household income in West Virginia is $51,615, almost $30,000 under the national average. The expanded child tax credit alone would cut poverty by 40 percent in the nation. Health care in West Virginia is abysmal: one-fourth of the people don’t have their natural teeth, the highest rate in the U.S., because they can’t afford dental care. Manchin says adding dental care to Medicare costs too much.

Also in West Virginia:

  • No state in the lower 48 is more vulnerable to flood damage.
  • Forty-six of the state’s roads are at risk of inundation.  
  • Sixty-one percent of its power plants are at risk, twice the national average.
  • Slanted trade deals destroyed one-third of its manufacturing jobs, and energy innovation destroyed most of its coal jobs, thus the entire industry. Wages and income for coal miners dropped from 16 percent of the state’s total labor income in 1982 to seven percent by the mid-1990s. 
  • A disproportionate number of the poorest parents without jobs live in the state.

With his wealth, Manchin complains about an “entitlement mentality” from providing child and health care for poor people on low wages. His participation in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) contributed to their drafting and spreading model bills to block labor unions, public-school funding, welfare, voting rights and environmental regulations. Senior lobbyist for ExxonMobil Keith McCoy called him the “kingmaker” on ridding legislation of emissions reductions and fossil-fuel companies’ taxes, including his own. Manchin claimed that Franklin D. Roosevelt, who created Social Security, never sent “a damn penny to a human being.” FDR talked about his “struggle with the old enemies of peace—business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.  They had begun to consider the government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob.” Those are the real “entitlements.”

Manchin’s family business makes millions of dollars by selling waste coal from abandoned mines to a power plant emitting air pollution at a higher rate than any other plant in the state. It’s a good reason for him to fight any changes slowing climate change. He claims it’s in a blind trust, but much of his earnings comes from outside that trust. Manchin wants coal power over clean electricity, a much cheaper alternative, and his state’s electricity costs increased five times more than the national average between 2010 and 2019.

With four percent of the population, the U.S. supplies 20 percent of global CO2 emissions. Oceans absorb carbon dioxide, making them more acidic which kills marine life. When there is no more room for absorption, the rest of it stays in the atmosphere for tens of thousands of years, keeping the earth hot. China’s President Xi Jinping  just announced the world’s largest wind-and-solar farm, generating four times the number of gigawatts that the U.S. does at this time. By 2025, unsubsidized solar power with battery storage in China will be cheaper than coal. Manchin has joined the Republicans in coming in second—or farther down—to China.

Manchin says BBB will add to inflation, but no legitimate study proves that. Instead, the bill cuts out-of-pocket costs for childcare, healthcare, housing, eldercare, and energy. And it would be paid by tax increases on large corporations, slashed under DDT and the Republicans.

In an attempt to excuse his refusal to support people with the BBB, Manchin cites fake Republican numbers. The Congressional Budget Office predicted BBB would add $36.7 billion a year to the deficit—compared to the annual $2 trillion DDT added—but the Treasury said the increased IRS enforcement in the bill would decrease the deficit. To persuade Manchin, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said the cost of making all the programs in the bill permanent for ten years would cost add almost $300 billion per year for ten years. That isn’t the bill that’s being voted on. Psaki said the goal was to “pay for the $2 trillion tax cuts that Republicans didn’t pay for.”

Democrats have been careful about criticizing Manchin for his close friendship with Republicans and rejection of Democratic bills because, after all, he is important as a member of the Senate Democratic majority—for this term. The Democrats’ struggle to work with Manchin and support him, however, is likely gone. While Republicans welcome Manchin with open arms, Democratic lawmakers recommend that they ignore him and proceed to vote on the bill in January, letting him show people in West Virginia that he will deny them all benefits. Other Democrats say he is clearly not “a man of his word” no matter how much he brags about having this characteristic. Manchin may have overplayed his arrogance.

December 18, 2021

House January 6 Hearing Opens Strange Can of Worms

A Florida man has the longest sentence thus far for violence at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 for emptying a fire extinguisher at Capitol Police officers before throwing it, a plank, and a long pole at them. The 54-year-old had agreed to between 46 and 57 months, but he arranged an online fundraising plea from jail stating lying about what happened. Earlier, he held media interviews depicting himself as a victim. At his sentencing, he said he was ashamed and that Dictator Donald Trump lied to him—like most other convicted rioters. Other sentences are listed here

This prison sentence happened during a turbulent week beginning with revelations by the House January 6 investigation committee regarding texts and emails, many of them secretly to and from former chief of staff Mark Meadows, regarding the GOP and DDT’s conspiracies to overthrow the legal election of President Joe Biden. After turning over almost 9,000 documents to the House and writing a book in which he said DDT had COVID for a week before he was hospitalized, Meadows tried to get back into DDT’s favor. DDT called Meadows “f**king stupid.”

Yesterday, three committee sources reported that former Texas governor and DDT’s Energy Secretary Rick Perry wrote a text to Meadows the day after the election in November 2020 pushing a strategy for three state legislatures to deliver their personally-chosen states’ electors presidential votes, in opposition to the legal votes. Perry denied writing the text, but several people confirmed the telephone number tied to the text belongs to Perry. It is also connected to a database registered to an Energy Department email address while Perry was the secretary for the agency. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) read the text at last Monday’s hearing:

“HERE’s an AGRESSIVE (sic) STRATEGY: Why can t (sic) the states of GA NC PENN and other R controlled state houses declare this is BS (where conflicts and election not called that night) and just send their own electors to vote and have it go to the SCOTUS.”

The committee wanted to ask Meadows about the text, but he refused to obey a subpoena to appear before the group in a long range plan of stalling. The House sent a charge of contempt against Meadows to the DOJ. The text’s “strategy” was to submit wrong electoral votes before all the legal votes in Georgia and Pennsylvania were counted, thus ignoring the will of the people.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), on the outs with DDT since his criticism immediately after January 6 about the insurrection, is using this weeks’ information to turn the tide against him. For almost a year, McConnell opposed any investigation into the insurrection, even orchestrating DDT’s impeachment to guarantee an acquittal. After this week’s hearing, he reversed this position and called the January 6 attack “a horrendous event,” adding “what they’re seeking to find out is something the public needs to know.” McConnell called the House members “participants.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) also tried to stop any investigation, first by appointing Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Jim Banks (R-IN) on the January 6 committee. After House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) rejected them, McCarthy used her action against her, and several subpoenaed witnesses call the committee “partisan” despite two GOP members, Liz Cheney (WY) and Adam Kinzinger (IL). Cheney had agreed Jordan shouldn’t be on the committee because he might be subpoenaed.

The ultra-conservative publication The Federalist, from the group with the same name that picked all DDT’s far-right, sometimes inexperienced judicial nominees confirmed by the GOP Senate, outed Jordan as the sender of this text read at the hearing:

“On January 6, 2021, Vice-President Mike Pence, as president of the Senate, should call out all electoral votes that he believes are unconstitutional as no electoral votes at all.”

This text to block Biden from the White House came from Joseph Schmitz, former U.S. Defense Department inspector general. Jordan complained because the full text was not read aloud. The remainder of it, unintentionally proving the idea’s illegality, would not have helped. Plotters maintain that the Constitution gave Pence authority to reject legal election results in exchange for GOP slates in some of Biden’s winning states.

Involved with Jordan and the conspiracy to overturn the election are five other members of the House GOP Freedom Caucus, co-founded by Meadows: Andy Biggs (AZ), Mo Brooks (AL), Louie Gohmert (TX), Paul Gosar (AZ), and Scott Perry (PA):

Brooks wore a bullet-proof vest while giving an inflammatory speech before the Capitol attack in which he urged the crowd to start “kicking ass.” He is now running for Alabama’s U.S. Senate seat.

Gosar, known for close relationships with white supremacists and an anime video depicting his killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-CA), called Pence’s certification of the Electoral College votes “sedition” and praised the violent rioters on January as “peaceful patriots.” After the conspiracy theory about a jet carrying ballots from Arizona to South Korea, Gosar’s chief of staff, Tom Van Flein, rushed to a Phoenix (AZ) airplane hangar parking lot to catch the plane.

Perry went to Jeffrey Clark in the DOJ after the election, promising him a list of voter fraud allegations for him to vet. He now heads up the House Freedom Caucus.

Gohmert sued Pence at the end of December for following the 1887 Electoral Count Act. Gohmert declared that Pence, with no authority or evidence, should decide which states’ votes were counted. He offered to drop the lawsuit if Pence did what Gohmert ordered. Both a Texas federal court rejected the case and a court of appeals refused to take the case. Gohmert is a candidate for Texas attorney general.

This week, the January 6 committee subpoenaed Phil Waldron, a retired Army colonel, for his spreading a strategy of elminating enough of Biden’s votes to put DDT back into the White House through his PowerPoint presentation. Waldron sent the presentation to Meadows and communicated with Meadows between eight to ten times as well as discussing his plan with other White House officials and members of Congress. 

This past week, Waldron spoke to a Louisiana state commission about voting reforms. His recommendation to count paper ballots by hand instead of machine-scanned and tallied was considered impractical. Voters in other states already mark paper ballots by hand, but they are scanned and tallied by machines. People at the meeting said they have trouble finding enough election workers, and the manual process would require far more. Plus, as this year’s problem ballot count in Arizona by a private company proved, people don’t always accurately count ballots. Waldron also recommended ballot-counting be streamed live online with ballots scanned and posted only so that voters can check their personal ballots for accuracy. Commissioners explained that this process could raise privacy and secrecy issues as well as delaying the election results. He was invited before his farcical theory to put DDT back in the White House.

The January 6 committee deposition from Roger Stone, a DDT friend who was pardoned for other convictions, lasted less than an hour until he invoked his Fifth Amendment right to avoid incriminating himself. In an interview with the media, he claimed he had done nothing criminal and said lawyers and security cost him $35,000. He asked for contributions to his “legal defense fund.” “Protecting” Stone at the hearing were six people, associated with the far-right anti-government-militia Oath Keepers, who also went inside the Capitol during the January 6 attack.

Other events of the week:

In an interview on CNBC News, MyPilllow CEO Mike Lindell said he has spent $25 million to spread the evidence-free claims of voter fraud and “will spend every dime I have” on the task. The January 6 committee wishes to investigate funding surrounding the day’s events.

On Steve Bannon’s podcast, DDT’s former trade adviser Peter Navarro implicated him in January 6 events while trying to exonerate DDT from blame. He called Bannon, indicted on a contempt charge for not testifying to the House committee, “the hero of January 6th and said, “You were the guy who had the … strategy to go up to Capitol Hill.”

John Eastman, author of a strategy to overturn the 2020 election who took the Fifth to avoid testifying, is suing to conceal data from his phone records with a lawsuit against both Verizon and the House January 6 committee. Four rally organizers are also suing to keep this data private.

Still trying to cover for DDT, Meadows lied to Sean Hannity on his Fox network show about DDT being a hero by ordering 10,000 troops for assistance. Meadows claimed, “The request was rejected—by Pelosi, by congressional leaders, by … the Capitol Police chief.” According to a Vanity Fair reporter embedded with the Defense Department the statement was an offhand remark, not a request. Evidence indicates that DDT made no request and the lies were to cover up for Army officials.

Fox hosts are back to protecting DDT on air. MSNBC Chris Hayes lumps them legislators following the same practice by calling them TOCOs, Trumpers On Camera Only. 

In one victory, both the House and the Senate unanimously voted for a bill permitting the Capitol Police chief to directly call for assistance from the National Guard. On January 6, DDT’s officials stalled for 187 minutes while people were wounded and killed before sending the Guard.

November 19, 2021

Today’s Events: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

The Good:

The House passed President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better (BBB) Act by 220-213 on its way to an uncertain future in the Senate. Seniors will benefit because Medicare can negotiate lower prices for some medications, saving Medicare $262 billion, and they will have coverage for new hearing aids every five years. Seniors and people with disabilities can also have more home healthcare services, and the bill increases wages and benefits for caregivers.

Drug prices are skyrocketing. Part of the $21.70 increase in Medicare comes from the $10 additional cost from the high price of the new Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm, $56,000 a year per patient. People in the U.S. pay almost three times as much for drugs as they would in dozens of other countries. Although critics express concern about less research and development of new drugs, pharmaceutical companies use billions of taxpayer dollars for R&D and spend more on advertising than on R&D. The drug industry is now flooding the media with ads claiming people with serious illnesses can’t get vital medications. Yet 93 percent of people—90 percent of Republicans—believe lowered prices won’t damage the ability to develop drugs.

Other benefits of the bill include free universal preschool for children ages three and four, gives four weeks of family leave (still much shorter than in most of the world), addresses climate change, and increases Pell grants for college tuition. Costs will be covered by increased corporate taxes and IRS enforcement. Other provisions include affordable housing investments and a cap of child care at seven percent of income. (Amounts above are for ten years, not one.)

Maine’s Jared Golden was the only “nay” vote; all Republican representatives voted against the bill.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the bill will cost about $1.7 trillion in the next decade, $170 billion a year. Funding for IRS reinforcement will decrease the deficit $127 billion by 2031. Lawmakers applauded the bill’s passage, clapping for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and chanting “Nancy, Nancy, Nancy.”

The Bad:

In opposition to the bill, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) spoke—frequently slowly—for eight hours and 28 minutes, the longest continuous speech in the House for over 110 years. His statements, sometimes rambling and incoherent, failed to mention the pandemic except for his perception that China was at fault. Yet he complained about such issues as reasonable costs for insulin, vital to save diabetics’ lives.

McCarthy’s delay means that the vote happened during the day, in much better media time, instead of late in the evening. He claimed he was “talking to the American people.” McCarthy assured “the American people” he would “always fight for you, fight for your family” while he is fighting for higher drug prices, no paid leave, greater housing costs, less health care, higher costs for education and child care, etc. Instead, he talked about Reagan’s missile defense initiative, his friend Elon Musk, and other non sequiturs in addition to a long detour into the painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware River which hangs in his office.  Although he criticized China, he praised the country, saying China wouldn’t force payment of taxes as Democrats did in the BBB bill.

McCarthy was briefly silenced during the speech. When he declared, “Nobody elected Joe Biden to be FDR,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) called out, “I did!” Another person said, “Me too.”

When McCarthy finished at 5:04 am (EST) on Friday morning, he yielded the floor to Pelosi who had left the chamber several hours earlier. A few sleepy Republicans applauded his endurance.

McCarthy’s only accomplishment with his speech was to delay the vote a few hours, but he’s working hard to show he deserves to be Speaker if Republicans take over the House in 2022. Mark Meadows, former chief of staff for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), is advocating DDT for that position; the Speaker doesn’t need to be an elected representative. DDT called the idea “very interesting.” He has already made clear that McCarthy hasn’t been his loyal supporter, especially after McCarthy said immediately after January 6 that DDT “bears responsibility” for the insurrection. (McCarthy spent the next nine months trying to walk back that statement.) DDT has repeatedly indicated that GOP leaders aren’t fighting the Democrats. Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) praised McCarthy after the speech for his “fight.”

On Steve Bannon’s radio show, however, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) blamed Republicans for the passage of BBB in the House because 13 of them helped pass the earlier infrastructure bill that has now become law. Gaetz described McCarthy’s speech as “a really long death rattle. The outcome was already determined as a consequence of poor leadership and poor strategy.”

House rules permit leaders to talk as long as they want when they are recognized for one minute of floor time. In 2018, Pelosi talked for over eight hours about the Dreamers bill for young undocumented immigrants. Ocasio-Cortez said if McCarthy “wanted to outdo [Pelosi], he should’ve done it in stilettos.”

The Ugly:

Kyle Rittenhouse, 18, walked free of any charges after illegally obtaining an AR-15-style rifle, crossing state lines, and searching for protesters in Kenosha (WI) with militia members when he was only 17. He killed two men, wounded another, and endangered two more in a claim of “self-defense.” Rittenhouse escaped counts of not only two charges of homicide and one of attempted homicide but also two of reckless endangerment for shooting at others, including a videographer.

Supporters, most of them encouraged by conservative media and social media, raised Rittenhouse’s $2 million bail soon after he was indicted. When out of jail, he was seen drinking in a bar and flashing white power signs while being “loudly serenaded” with the Proud Boys anthem. He also moved from one home to another without notifying the court. The bail was provided by hundreds of supporters responding to conservative news sites and social media, as well as from gun activists.

A question about his exoneration is what part the judge, highly sympathetic to Rittenhouse, and the even more supportive conservative media played in the “not guilty” verdict on all counts. The verdict cannot be appealed; it’s a done deal The judge has consistently appeared friendly to Rittenhouse and his defense while critical of the prosecution. After the reading of the verdict, the judge said he “couldn’t have asked for a better jury to work with.”

Rittenhouse escaped counts of not only two charges of homicide and one of attempted homicide but also two of reckless endangerment for shooting at others, including a videographer.

Rittenhouse claimed he was a trained EMT; he wasn’t. As a vigilante, he searched for people hostile to him and his militia group, claiming he was offering medical attention. His only prior experience with the rifle was firing 30 rounds during a weekend before heading to Kenosha. Prosecutors said that Rittenhouse’s self-defense claim was invalid because his use of deadly force was unreasonable.

Rittenhouse has jobs waiting for him: Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), under investigation for sex trafficking and other crimes, has offered the killer a congressional internship as has Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), censured by the House this past week for his anime cartoon threatening to kill Ocasio-Cortez and draw swords on Biden. Gosar tweeted he would “arm wrestle” Rep. Matt Gaetz in order to “get dibs for Kyle as an intern.” Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) offered an internship to Rittenhouse on Instagram and is using the verdict to celebrate with guns. He stated, “Be armed, be dangerous, and be moral.” [Right: What a congressional intern looks like.] 

DDT used the verdict in his fund-raising email, praising the acquittal and claiming the trial was “nothing more than a WITCH HUNT from the Radical Left” who “want to PUNISH law-abiding citizens, including a CHILD, like Kyle Rittenhouse, for doing nothing more than following the LAW.”

People can expect more worship of Rittenhouse. Fox network’s host Tucker Carlson sent a film crew to shoot footage for a documentary and plans to interview Rittenhouse next week.

The verdict announcement in favor of racist vigilantism lacked any surprise, even from those opposing Rittenhouse’s actions. He could, however, face federal charges for crossing state lines with the rifle. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) has called on DOJ to investigate the possibility.

And More Ugly: 

Thanks to DDT’s General Postmaster Louis DeJoy, who tried to block mail-in voting by horrible USPS delivery service, shipping will temporarily cost more for the holiday season between From October 3, and midnight Christmas Day, supposedly to cover “extra costs.” Prices go between $0.75 for flat rate boxes and envelopes to $5 more for packages as large as 70 pounds. Last year, the USPS raised costs for commercial customers; this year’s increase is for everyone.

DeJoy’s time in control of the postal service may be short-lived. Biden will not nominate Ron Bloom, the Democrat running the USPS board and DDT-supporter John Barger, for another term after their current ones expire on December 8, 2021. Bloom was surprised he was not re-nominated. The Senate must confirm Biden’s two nominees. When Barger’s and Bloom’s terms expires, the remaining seven board members will have three Biden-appointed members; one of DDT’s four appointments is a Democrat.  

April 24, 2019

‘A Serious Crime against America’

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has declared war on the U.S. Congress while treating members as if they work for him instead of being in a separate and equal branch of the government. The Robert Mueller investigation closed down soon after the Senate confirmed DDT’s new fixer, Bill Barr, as the U.S. attorney general—a position that is supposed to be independent of the President of the United States. Now DDT is trying to block every House investigation into his actions.

Details in DDT’s Finances: DDT’s accounting firm Mazars USA told House Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings (D-MD) that it would give him ten years of DDT’s financial statements if they received a subpoena after DDT’s former fixer, Michael Cohen, said that DDT had participated in possible bank fraud by inflating or deflating his assets to get loans and avoid real estate taxes. First, DDT’s lawyers threatened the firm with legal action if it follows the law and then sued Cummings to block the subpoena using the 1880 Supreme Court ruling in Kilbourn v. Thompson. That case was overruled by a 1927 decision.

Testimony from DDT’s Former White House Counsel: Trying to block Don McGahn’s testimony from Don McGahn by invoking executive privilege, DDT had earlier told McGahn that he could talk freely with Robert Mueller and failed to claim executive privilege in the release of the Mueller report. McGahn testified to Mueller that DDT told McGahn about DDT’s attempt to fire Robert Mueller. Not only does McGahn work in the government now, he worked for the people of the United States, not DDT. About McGahn’s declaring executive privilege, former federal counsel Jessica Roth said, “That ship has sailed.”

DDT’s Tax Records: Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is still dragging his heels in turning over DDT’s tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee, saying that he will decide by May 6. Committee Chair Richard E. Neal (D-MA) has a century-old law for his request. DDT’s lawyer wrote the Treasury Department to stop the tax returns from being handed over to House Democrats.

DDT’s Security Clearance Process: The Oversight Committee is also investigating whether people with drug, criminal, or financial problems received top-secret security clearances because of DDT’s demands. DDT’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is one of the clearance recipients. The House subpoenaed Carl Kline, the person responsible for giving clearances after people failed the vetting, who also retaliated against the woman who reported his actions. DDT told Kline, as he told other aides, to ignore all subpoenas to appear before the House committee. Cummings warned that Kline could be held in contempt if he doesn’t appear.

Today, the Washington Post published an op-ed about the need for a response to DDT’s actions that was written by former First Lady, U.S. Senator, Secretary of State, and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton:

Our election was corrupted, our democracy assaulted, our sovereignty and security violated. This is the definitive conclusion of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report. It documents a serious crime against the American people.

The debate about how to respond to Russia’s “sweeping and systematic” attack — and how to hold President Trump accountable for obstructing the investigation and possibly breaking the law — has been reduced to a false choice: immediate impeachment or nothing. History suggests there’s a better way to think about the choices ahead.

Obviously, this is personal for me, and some may say I’m not the right messenger. But my perspective is not just that of a former candidate and target of the Russian plot. I am also a former senator and secretary of state who served during much of Vladi­mir Putin’s ascent, sat across the table from him and knows firsthand that he seeks to weaken our country.

I am also someone who, by a strange twist of fate, was a young staff attorney on the House Judiciary Committee’s Watergate impeachment inquiry in 1974, as well as first lady during the impeachment process that began in 1998. And I was a senator for New York after 9/11, when Congress had to respond to an attack on our country. Each of these experiences offers important lessons for how we should proceed today.

First, like in any time our nation is threatened, we have to remember that this is bigger than politics. What our country needs now is clear-eyed patriotism, not reflexive partisanship. Whether they like it or not, Republicans in Congress share the constitutional responsibility to protect the country. Mueller’s report leaves many unanswered questions — in part because of Attorney General William P. Barr’s redactions and obfuscations. But it is a road map. It’s up to members of both parties to see where that road map leads — to the eventual filing of articles of impeachment, or not. Either way, the nation’s interests will be best served by putting party and political considerations aside and being deliberate, fair and fearless.

Second, Congress should hold substantive hearings that build on the Mueller report and fill in its gaps, not jump straight to an up-or-down vote on impeachment. In 1998, the Republican-led House rushed to judgment. That was a mistake then and would be a mistake now.

Watergate offers a better precedent. Then, as now, there was an investigation that found evidence of corruption and a coverup. It was complemented by public hearings conducted by a Senate select committee, which insisted that executive privilege could not be used to shield criminal conduct and compelled White House aides to testify. The televised hearings added to the factual record and, crucially, helped the public understand the facts in a way that no dense legal report could. Similar hearings with Mueller, former White House counsel Donald McGahn and other key witnesses could do the same today.

During Watergate, the House Judiciary Committee also began a formal impeachment inquiry that was led by John Doar, a widely respected former Justice Department official and hero of the civil rights struggle. He was determined to run a process that the public and history would judge as fair and thorough, no matter the outcome. If today’s House proceeds to an impeachment inquiry, I hope it will find someone as distinguished and principled as Doar to lead it.

Third, Congress can’t forget that the issue today is not just the president’s possible obstruction of justice — it’s also our national security. After 9/11, Congress established an independent, bipartisan commission to recommend steps that would help guard against future attacks. We need a similar commission today to help protect our elections. This is necessary because the president of the United States has proved himself unwilling to defend our nation from a clear and present danger. It was just reported that Trump’s recently departed secretary of homeland security tried to prioritize election security because of concerns about continued interference in 2020 and was told by the acting White House chief of staff not to bring it up in front of the president. This is the latest example of an administration that refuses to take even the most minimal, common-sense steps to prevent future attacks and counter ongoing threats to our nation.

Fourth, while House Democrats pursue these efforts, they also should stay focused on the sensible agenda that voters demanded in the midterms, from protecting health care to investing in infrastructure. During Watergate, Congress passed major legislation such as the War Powers Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1973. For today’s Democrats, it’s not only possible to move forward on multiple fronts at the same time, it’s essential. The House has already passed sweeping reforms that would strengthen voting rights and crack down on corruption, and now is the time for Democrats to keep their foot on the gas and put pressure on the do-nothing Senate. It’s critical to remind the American people that Democrats are in the solutions business and can walk and chew gum at the same time.

We have to get this right. The Mueller report isn’t just a reckoning about our recent history; it’s also a warning about the future. Unless checked, the Russians will interfere again in 2020, and possibly other adversaries, such as China or North Korea, will as well. This is an urgent threat. Nobody but Americans should be able to decide America’s future. And, unless he’s held accountable, the president may show even more disregard for the laws of the land and the obligations of his office. He will likely redouble his efforts to advance Putin’s agenda, including rolling back sanctions, weakening NATO and undermining the European Union.

Of all the lessons from our history, the one that’s most important may be that each of us has a vital role to play as citizens. A crime was committed against all Americans, and all Americans should demand action and accountability. Our founders envisioned the danger we face today and designed a system to meet it. Now it’s up to us to prove the wisdom of our Constitution, the resilience of our democracy and the strength of our nation.

This week, DDT said, “I’m the most transparent president in history” while he objects to all subpoenas about his taxes and financial affairs, vetting for security clearances, testimony for the Mueller investigation, and holds secret meetings.

George Conway, husband of top White House official Kellyanne Conway, said about Clinton’s op-ed: “I’m with her.” So am I.

October 1, 2018

Lindsey Graham Sets His Sights On Becoming First Lady

[A blog post from two women who have been friends for seven decades.]

A blogger wrote in 2017: “There is a certain wisdom that comes with age and Helen Philpot and Margaret Schmechtman show that they still got it. Helen and Margaret have been friends for more than 60 years and aren’t afraid to tell you their views on anything.” References go back ten years in such sources as Forbes and Atlantic.

[From Helen]: Margaret, did you know that women currently make up more than half the population in the US, but we are represented by a Congress made up of 80 percent men? Oh, and honey, it gets worse. Among other countries we are ranked 104th in the world when it comes to female representation in government. Five places behind Saudi Arabia! Hell, we’re almost 40 spots behind Iraq… Yes. You heard me: BEHIND IRAQ.

How long before men realize that women are their equals? After last week, we can probably make the argument that we are more than equal. Everyone of those GOP Senators expected an overly emotional, erratic and maybe even hysterical witness… and let me tell you Brett Kavanaugh did not disappoint. If I were Brett, I’d be worried that The Donald might now try to grab his pussy. Christine Ford managed to stay calm and respectful for 4 hours.   Brett couldn’t last 2 minutes before he came undone.  And speaking of undone, Lindsey Graham deserves an award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his portrayal of Donald Trump’s new girlfriend.  Move over Stormy Daniels. Hurricane Graham has arrived.

To be clear, Brett Kavanaugh is indeed innocent until proven guilty.  And it’s not search and destroy like Kavanaugh and Trump want us to believe.  It’s about making sure the truth comes out. Afterall, if there is nothing to find, then it doesn’t matter how hard you search.   When a woman finds the courage to speak about sexual assault, she deserves to be heard. And hearing her means taking the time to fully investigate in hopes of uncovering the truth.  And if that means men need to be a little scared, so be it. We women have been living scared all our lives. If you are worried for your sons, I have one piece of advice for you. Teach them to respect women.  Problem solved.

But I don’t even know why I am wasting my time writing this.  For the love of God, Republicans just elected a man who was videotaped bragging about assault. Are we really surprised they think a calendar showing exercise workouts during the 80’s is proof enough of innocence? If you are a Republican woman, I hope you are paying attention. It doesn’t matter how accomplished, how intelligent or how credible you are. You will be ignored, dismissed and even smeared if you stand between a Republican man and his path to power… regardless of what evidence you have or don’t have.  If it happens in their teens, it’s boys will be boys, and if it happens as adults, it’s just locker room talk.  Evidently Republicans are just fine electing men who sexually harass and assault women.

Honestly, how do Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins sleep at night? It’s been almost thirty years since the Anita Hill testimony, and we women continue to be ignored about sexual harassment, assault and rape at the hands of powerful men. There have been 52 total women in the United States Senate since its establishment in 1789.  And one of those women simply served for one day.  Until 2001, the most common way for a woman to become a US Senator was to be appointed following the death or resignation of a husband or father who previously held the seat.  Today there are 21 female Senators – 16 Democrats and 5 Republicans… well 6 depending on which column you place Lindsey Graham. Quite frankly, he lacks the humanity to be in either. Imagine how differently things could be if there were 50.

The late Governor Ann Richards liked to say, “Life isn’t one thing after another.  It’s the same damn thing over and over again.”  Well, I am tired of fighting this fight over and over again.  This November we have more women than ever running for elected office, and I for one plan to vote for them early and often. I mean it. Really.

Notes:

Note from Margaret – I think your humor missed the mark when you called Lindsey a girl.

Note from Helen – I called him Trump’s girlfriend which is very different.

Note from Margaret – Well.

Note from Helen – look up satire in your dictionary.

Note from Margaret – under H you might find hypocrisy.

Note from Helen – exactly my point. I’m sending pie.

Note from Margaret – second to the last paragraph, dear.

Note from Helen – I stand corrected and edited. I’m sending two pies. Howard’s favorite.

September 30, 2018

U.S. House: On Recess But Not Forgotten

The House of Representatives may be in recess to campaign for the next six weeks, but GOP members are still up mischief. Their vote to pass another round of tax cuts just before the November midterms gives an additional $3 trillion to the wealthiest people in the U.S. The vote of 220-191 included three Democrats; last year’s tax bill had no Democratic support. Part of the House tax plan costs come from the “Universal Savings Accounts” that has no limit for participation and permits withdrawal of funds before retirement. The shift of savings from taxable accounts primarily benefits the wealthy, the top one-percent of the population who can shift, on average, $9.5 million into tax-free accounts. The average 60 percent of people has $16,000 to shift.

After the last tax cuts, Republicans began to threaten slashing or even eliminating Medicare and Social Security because of the escalating deficit; this will cement that deal. The Republicans can’t campaign on the last tax cut: people believe the law benefits “large corporations and rich Americans” over “middle-class families” by a 2-to-1 margin, 61 percent to 30 percent. With 42 percent of people reporting that they are less likely to vote for a candidate who supports the GOP tax plan, compared to 36 percent in favor of those candidates, only 1,039 GOP TV campaign spots, under 12 percent of all GOP TV ads this year, mentioned the new tax bill. That bill was the only GOP accomplishment.

The House has departed at the same time that the Violence against Women Act lapses. Two weeks ago, the spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) reported negotiations with the Senate, but nothing has come of her promise. Even if the House took action, the GOP senate might oppose it. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the most unhinged supporter of Kavanaugh, is one of six GOP white men on judiciary committee who voted against VAWA in 2013. Graham’s state has the highest rate of women killed by men in 2014, twice the national U.S. average, with 92 percent of the female murder victims knowing their killer and 62 percent having been in an intimate relationship with the murderer. The leniency of court sentencing allowing the attackers back out on the street in a short time is one factor for South Carolina’s high rate of violence against women.

In addition to attempts to starve people by highly restricting food stamps, the farm bill awaiting House members’ return contains three climate and fiscal disasters for the United States:

  • Stop localities from regulating pesticides: This interactive map shows some of the places in danger.
  • Permit wealthy farmers to get crop subsidies: The new bill allows people making over $900,000 annually could give a loophole to exempt partnership, joint ventures, and other corporate farms.
  • Eliminate funding for the Conservation Stewardship Program: Gone would be offsets for some farmer costs such as crop coverings to keep soil and fertilizer in place over the winter, buffer strips that prevent severe soil erosion from storms, and hedgerows as habitat for wild bees and other beneficial insects.

Dark horse Rep. Beto O’Rourke (R-TX) is closing the gap between him and incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in the race for Cruz’s position. While the senate was forced to stay in session most of August, O’Rourke was crossing the state, going to all 99 counties, and again Cruz is stuck in Washington, D.C. while the House is in recess. In the last debate, O’Rourke pointed out his opponent’s absences:

“Within months of being sworn to service, your senator Ted Cruz was not in Texas. He was in Iowa. He visited every single one of the 99 counties of Iowa. He went to New Hampshire, South Carolina. He went to the Republican presidential primary states instead of being here. He shut down your government for 16 days in 2013. Too many people were getting too much health care in the United States of America.”

O’Rourke told the crowd that Cruz missed one-fourth of the vote in 2015 and one-half the votes in 2016 and finished by saying, “Tell me, who can miss half the days at work and be rehired for the same job going forward?” Cruz was so positive that the senate would vote on Kavanaugh over the weekend that he canceled a debate with O’Rourke today. After the week’s hiatus before a vote, Cruz tried to reinstate the debate, but O’Rourke said that he was already booked. Donations were double for O’Rourke than Cruz as of June 30, another bad sign. Cruz’s campaign was based on ridiculing O’Rourke, but every attempt backfired.

Not satisfied with just smearing his opponent, Beto O’Rourke, Sen. Ted Cruz is scamming older people to get campaign funds. Sean Owen wrote that his 88-year-old grandmother received what appears to be a summons from Travis County but is asking for donations to Cruz. He has a pattern of scamming people to get elected. To get people to the Iowa caucuses in 2012, Cruz sent mailers headed “VOTING VIOLATION” with a warning about “low expected voter turnout.” It purported to print the person’s voting scores, not available to the public in that state, and included a chart with false voting “grade” and “score” for the recipient and neighbors. The warning ended with the ominous statement: “A follow-up notice may be issued following Monday’s caucuses.””

Incumbent candidate Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and his wife have been indicted on 60 charges related to fraudulent use of $250,000 in campaign funds in 200 incidences of lavish vacations and dinners, conspiracy, wire fraud, and filing false campaign-finance reports.  Included in the information are at least five of Hunter’s “personal relationships” with photographic evidence. Hunter has denied the charges while he runs racist, anti-Muslim advertising against his opponent. He describes himself as a Christian conservative and committed family man.

New York voters may also get another chance to elect a potential criminal: Rep. Chris Collins, charged with insider trading, decided he will run for re-election this fall after claiming that he wouldn’t. He has an 80 percent chance of winning in the conservative district, according to fivethirtyeight.com.

DDT slammed the DOJ for indicting these two representatives before the mid-term elections. Long live the swamp!

Fearing rough competition to his race to become Florida’s governor, former Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) quit four months early to campaign—over 16 percent of the term that his voters expected him to serve. He might use the time to speak at more white supremacist conferences after the four times he addressed ones organized by the David Horowitz Freedom Center audiences. The organizer has said that blacks owe their freedom to whites and that the nation’s “only serious race war” is against white people. He told them that he admires “an organization that shoots straight … and is standing up for the right thing.” DeSantis started campaigning for the general election with the use of “monkey this up” when talking about his black opponent, Andrew Gillum. Tony Ledbetter, Volusia County GOP chair and paid employer for DeSantis’ campaign, posted a demand to move “animals … from our country.” Speakers at Horowitz conferences have made more disgusting comments about minorities, especially blacks. DeSantis resigned as administrator for a racist and Islamophobic Facebook group laden with conspiracy theories immediately after his affiliation was made public. Virginia GOP Senate candidate Corey Stewart remained as administrator.

Thanks to the laxness of the FEC, Rep. Mia Love (R-UT) violated election rules by keeping money raised for her primary campaign although she faced no challenge. Questioned about her actions, Love said she would keep the money and reclassify it later.

Taxpayers are still ponying up the money to pay for congressional members’ sexual assault settlements because Congress cannot agree on a law to stop it. Congressional workplace misconduct has cost taxpayers almost $15.2 million from 1997 to 2014. Does the Supreme Court have this arrangement to pay victims of sexual assault?

One wealthy donor is fed up with Republicans. Les Wexner, owner and CEO of L-Brands in Ohio, said he is “no longer a Republican” and spoke warmly about President Obama and his theme of bipartisan civility. Wexner said, “I was struck by the genuineness of the man; his candor, humility and empathy for others.” A year ago, Wexner had told his employees that he felt “dirty” and “ashamed” because of DDT’s response to violence at the Unite the Right rally that killed a person in Charlottesville (VA).

In the NYT, Timothy Egan wrote about the bargain that the GOP made with DDT:

“Republicans would get tax cuts for the well-connected and a right-wing majority on the Supreme Court, and in turn would overlook every assault on decency, truth, our oldest allies and most venerable principles. They expected Trump to govern by grudges, lie eight times a day, call women dogs, act as a useful idiot for foreign adversaries, make himself a laughingstock to the world….

“A lifetime of Republican pieties, put forth by the bow-tied best and brightest, has gone up in a poof. Free trade? It’s been swamped by America First. Balanced budgets, living within our means? Get to love the trillion-dollar deficit, courtesy of those tax cuts.”

GOP congressional members are willing to sell out every Republican value in a sycophancy to DDT including a belief in their party over country.

April 15, 2018

GOP Wants People to Go Hungry

Filed under: Congressional legislation — trp2011 @ 10:42 PM
Tags: , , ,

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is finally taking the lead in legislation—the one that helps shred the safety net—and House Republicans are following. DDT’s executive order allowing work requirements for people on food stamps is being replicated as part of the 2018 Farm Bill that does it one better by mandating that most adults between 18 and 59 be required to work part-time or enroll in 20 hours a week of workforce training to receive food stamp assistance. While some House conservatives want to take food from struggling families, they want to give more welfare to struggling farmers, especially if DDT’s threats of tariffs hurts them.

The plan budgets $1 billion per year to fund the training program expansion; cutting the hoped-for 1 million people could save the nation $500 million. The only good thing about the proposed bill is that it doesn’t include DDT’s budget proposal of cutting food stamps and replacing them with a box of non-perishable goods.

The concept of helping people become self-sufficient through training and well-paid jobs is excellent. Consider, however, that the GOP refuses to raise the minimum wage from $7.25, which pays below the food-stamp income level for millions of full-time jobs. Also, quality training programs such as subsidized employment can cost up to $10,000 a year per person, costing $15 billion a year to fund a national employment and training program. The think tank Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimated costs for training at $1 billion per month, not per year. Ten state pilot programs are intended to identify best practices, and USDA has not evaluated them yet. Other concerns for the mandatory employment, as Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) voiced, are unreliable transportation, low housing security, and shifting child care and medical schedules.

The GOP goal is to throw people off food stamps and ignore them if they become homeless or starve to death. Anyone failing to meet the criteria would be blocked for a year for the first time and three years for violations after that. Currently, people ages 18 to 49 must work or enroll in a training program for 20 hours a week to get benefits for more than three months every three years. The number of hours would be increased to 25 hours by 2026. This requirement covers 3.5 million of the over 40 million people receiving this benefit, almost nine percent. The new guidelines in the bill extends the age to 59 and includes all parents with school age children.

The object is to increase people working, but 58 percent of households receiving SNAP with at least one disabled adult are employed. Eighty-two percent of SNAP recipients worked in the year before or after enrollment.

DDT’s Reducing Poverty in America by Promoting Opportunity and Economic Mobility executive order ordered secretaries across the government to review the safety net from food stamps to Medicaid to housing programs in a search for new regulations, especially work requirements, and ways for states to have more “flexibility” for these programs. Flexibility, however, can be used to reduce states’ budget problems without helping people.

The executive order is meant to mimic what DDT sees as the success of the TANF “flexible” block grants, but he system created over 20 years ago to give lump sums to states has failed. In the early years of block grants, the labor market was strong, but the number of families helped immediately started to sag with an almost two-thirds loss by 2015 while the number of families with children in poverty increased from 5.1 million in 2000 to 6.5 million. The number of families with children in deep poverty increased by 50 percent. In 14 states, ten or fewer families receive cash assistance for every 100 families in poverty. The bottom half of this chart is comprised almost entirely of red states.

As fewer needy families receive assistance, the benefit levels drop to 20 percent less than in 1996. At the same time, housing cost have increased, and states spend little money to help people find and maintain work. Instead the block grants go to programs such as pre-K education or child welfare, freeing state funds for expenditure not related to safety nets. States have also lost 34 percent of the block grants’ value since its inception because their formulas have not changed, and the same formula has not been revised for population growth or economic conditions in each state.

DDT also claims that Kansas and Maine have shown success in food stamp work requirements because of “individuals who left welfare and … saw their income increase.” An audit of these two programs, however, shows that total resources of people cut off to SNAP participants dropped three percent within a year—and that was in a year when the economy was getting better.

The farm bill deadline is September, and, as usual in the current Congress, Democrats are kept out of the planning process. Republicans could pass a punitive bill for people on food stamps in the House, but a successful Senate vote requires Democratic support. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), Agriculture Committee chair, has said that he will not consider major SNAP changes.

Three reports from the Bipartisan Policy Center include restrictions on buying sugary drinks, increased incentive for buying healthy food, and coordination between SNAP and federal health programs serving low-income households. They do not suggest a change in eligibility rules.

Internal USDA emails from March suggest that DDT may support mandatory drug testing for food stamp recipient. Wisconsin considered doing this although federal rules prohibit states from adding requirements on SNAP-eligible families. A federal appeals court struck down Florida’s SNAP drug-testing law in 2014, ruling that it was a form of unreasonable search, and Georgia’ law also lost in court. Twelve states have requested permission for drug testing with none granted.

Republicans won’t care if their low-income constituents go hungry, but they may be influenced by the cuts for big corporations if they reduce foot stamps. Supermarkets and superstores get 81 percent of SNAP benefits although they are only 14 percent of companies accepting them. The loss for these companies could be $57.5 billion in the next decade. Wal-Mart alone gets 18 percent of food stamp profits, and Target comes in second with a $4.8 billion to $5.3 billion loss. Kmart closed over 150 of its stores last year, and Food stamp benefit cuts would take away $1.9 billion to $2.2 billion from their tills.

Big banks will also lose money if they distribute less government benefits, but they are paid for distributing cards, balance inquiries, declined for insufficient funds, withdrawals, penalties, fees, etc. The 2014 law changes gave even more money to the banks because it required additional software for controlling foods purchased and fraud. The money all goes to three companies.

The money spent on food stamps almost doubles the dollars in economic activity. Last year, $70 billion fed 40 million people, half of the population that is food-insecure. People complain about fraud, but the total is down to less than one percent of the expenditures–$700 million compared to the $125 billion of waste in the U.S. Department of Defense. The U.S. also loses $40 to $70 billion a year to offshore tax evasion, but the government spent its money on conducting 4,396 undercover investigation of food stamp fraud in 2012 with a 40-percent success. The true “welfare queens” in the United States are corporations that refuse to pay people a living wage while giving hundreds of billions to owners and shareholders.

Republicans want to cut food stamps for two reasons. They believe that anyone not in their “tribe”—all those wealthy people who are their donors—don’t deserve any help. House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) terminology of “makers” and “takers”—which he sort of apologized for—set the tone of denigrating all people who need government assistance. He may understand that people don’t want to be dependent on others, but the myth that people who use the safety net are users is prevalent in the conservative world. The use of “entitlement programs” for Social Security and Medicare is commonly among conservatives despite their being insurance programs that people pay into for their old age.

The second reason for cutting food stamps is the desperation that far-right Republicans feel as they run for re-election. Their gift of tax-cut money to the wealthy and large corporations has created a looming deficit, and their solution is to take the money away from the bottom 90 percent in the nation. Trying to cut food stamps is only their first step; a majority GOP Congress will be disastrous for almost everyone in the United States.

January 19, 2018

Polis Addresses Women’s March, Government Shuts Down

Filed under: Congressional legislation — trp2011 @ 11:03 PM
Tags: , ,

Each week, Vice.com has a one-sentence report on the past week of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) followed by details about the events:

“President Donald Trump denied that he said anything ‘derogatory’ after he called El Salvador, Haiti, and African countries ‘shitholes’; underwent his first physical as president, was declared healthy by the White House physician, even as independent doctors claimed Trump has a common form of heart disease; stayed mum about allegations of paying former porn star Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about their affair; called himself the ‘least racist person’; urged Americans to observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day by getting involved in their communities; spent MLK Day golfing at Mar-a-Lago; lambasted Democrats over DACA, which he deemed ‘probably dead’; reportedly refused to sit down with the Congressional Black Caucus’ leaders; tweeted out a broken link to his highly anticipated ‘Fake News Awards’; more than halved U.S. aid money to Palestinians; traveled to Pennsylvania to campaign for Rick Saccone; and tweeted that his stance on the border wall has never changed right after his chief of staff said it had ‘evolved.’”

Tomorrow morning, DDT intended to go to Mar-a-Lago for his celebration party costing $100,000 per couple; $250,000 will get couples not only the dinner and photograph with DDT for the lower price plus a round-table discussion with him. He has changed his plans and will stay in Washington, highly upset because the shutdown keeps him from “my party.” [Just wait for the tweets!]

Tomorrow, people will also be protesting DDT in the second Women’s March. Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), married to Marlon Reis, will march in Denver after his participation in last year’s Washington, D.C. event. Below is his letter to their three-year-old daughter. The couple also has a son, six-year-old Caspian Julius.  [An interview with Polis (left) from last April.]

Cora,

It’s already been one year — and almost a third of your life so far! — since we participated in the big Women’s March in Washington D.C. I’m excited to have the opportunity to march with you again this year in Denver!

I know at the age of three, you’re only just beginning to sense the importance of the fellowship we shared with millions of civic activists around the country last year, and that we will share again tomorrow. And while I’m sad that the first President you will know is not only an unacceptable role model but in many ways a representative of the past that we thought we’d left behind, I am heartened by how our community is responding and resisting.

I hope that as you grow up, you look back on these marches the same way I look back on the equal rights and anti-war rallies I attended with your grandparents when I was a kid. I hope tomorrow’s march helps open the door for you to a lifetime of joining with others to fight for a better, kinder, more equal world.

For all the great things about the world you were born into, there is still a lot of work to do. We still live in a state where a woman earns 81 cents to a man’s dollar. We still live in a nation where a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions is under attack. We still live in a place where sexual harassment and assault happen, and people blame the victim.

I entered public office because I believe in the power of public policy, changing the laws to reflect our values and create a better future. But policy is not the only thing that matters. Many of the problems we face today will not be solved through legislation or by politicians. They’ll be solved by people from all walks of life coming together to break stereotypes, break cultural barriers, and break glass ceilings.

That’s why we marched last year. That’s why we’re planning on marching tomorrow.

Despite the challenges and uncertainty of this moment in our history, there are reasons for hope all around you. From Susan B. Anthony to Rosa Parks to Dolores Huerta, to Colorado’s own Florence Sabin, we’re inspired by the strong women before you that have paved the path toward equality and justice. I’m proud you can look to your own family including your “Gramma” Susan Polis Schutz, who shattered the societal norms of her time to become a successful business woman and bestselling poet, even if she does feed you ice cream when she’s not supposed to.

This is just the start for you. I look forward to you living your life and building the future you desire. Hopefully the glass ceilings will be shattered by the time you get there. But if not bring a hammer.

Love,

Dad

The main Women’s March, on the anniversary of DDT’s inauguration, has moved from D.C. to Las Vegas with a Sunday event called “Women’s March Anniversary: Power to the Polls” to follow this year’s success in electing women across the nation.

Tonight the government will shut down until Congressional members can pass a spending bill. The first government shutdown since October 2013, this one makes history; it is the first shutdown when one party controls Congress and the White House and the first time that a president of the United States has explicitly called for a shutdown. During the last possibility of a shutdown in November, DDT had said privately that a good government shutdown would help him politically. Earlier in May, DDT tweeted, “Our country needs a good ‘shutdown’ in September to fix mess!” Shutdown threats under DDT are a little like facing someone with a gun who keeps threatening to kill you. Finally, you give up and tell the person to just shoot.

Republicans already postponed the spending bill for the past several months while trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act to take health care from people and pass its tax bill to benefit the wealthy and big business. In addition, DDT’s blow-up with obscene language about non-white countries cut down on the compromise that included a way for DACA youth to not be deported. Everyday that no bill passes about the Dreamers, hundreds of them are in danger. Democrats had given into Republicans on a number of issues, but the negotiations were unsuccessful after DDT rejected the bipartisan agreement.

To gin up more fear, DDT continues to lie about a shutdown being “devastating to our Military.” A federal law generally bars agencies from continuing to work at taxpayer expense during a shutdown, but that law provides major exceptions for military and intelligence operations, national security, and emergencies. During the 2013 GOP shutdown, Congress unanimously passed a law guaranteeing continued pay for military personnel. Yet Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) object to Sen. Claire McCaskill’s (D-MO) proposal to continue paying military personnel.

Shortly after midnight, the vote of 50-49 against the spending bill officially shut down the government. Following the vote, McConnell blamed the Democrats for hurting the military, ignoring people with addiction, and denying children with insurance while saying that he cared about DACA. He said that DACA doesn’t affect anyone until March although hundreds of young people are being deported daily. Only when Republicans want to get their own way does McConnell claim to care about programs that he has postponed for at least four months.

McConnell declared that he would keep calling for votes until Democrats voted for the continuing resolution until after Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) talked about the Democratic compromises were willing to accept, including funding for the wall, that were also accepted by the president–until he left the White House and the chief of staff called to say that the deal was off. At that point McConnell proposed a continuing resolution on February 8, conveniently after DDT’s State of the Union address on January 30 and turned down a three-day continuing resolution. McConnell’s postponement may fail because DDT said he won’t negotiate on DACA while the government is closed.

Tomorrow will be filled with conservative news blaming the Democrats for the shutdown. Over four years ago, DDT said that the president of the United States is at fault for any government shutdown. Four Republicans, including the senior Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) voted the bill, opposing short continuing resolutions in exchange for a long-term spending bill.

DDT will want a continuing resolution for the spending bill because it gives him the ability to change funding for intelligence priorities. The House bill sent to the Senate dropped a long-standing law that keeps the person in the Oval Office from spending unauthorized money on intelligence activities until a long-term bill passes and puts DDT in charge of these expenditures.

Tomorrow the women are marching, and the government is in shutdown. Happy anniversary, DDT!

[DDT’s 52nd week will be chronicled next week.]

 

November 30, 2017

History Shows Disaster of Tax Bill

Over a century ago, George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This saying applies to the disastrous tax bill moving through Congress. “The terrible, horrible, no good, very bad” tax raises for the poor and middle class (to paraphrase the title of Judith Viorst’s children’s classic) has passed the House, and another one, probably worse, has moved from committee to the Senate floor after GOP senators were bought off by bribes. Historian Robert S. McElvaine wrote this perspective from the past to illustrate the nation’s future: “I’m a Depression historian. The GOP tax bill is straight out of 1929.” The piece is subtitled “Republicans are again sprinting toward an economic cliff.”

“There are two ideas of government,” William Jennings Bryan declared in his 1896 “Cross of Gold” speech. “There are those who believe that if you will only legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea, however, has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous their prosperity will find its way up through every class which rests upon them.”

That was more than three decades before the collapse of the economy in 1929. The crash followed a decade of Republican control of the federal government during which trickle-down policies, including massive tax cuts for the rich, produced the greatest concentration of income in the accounts of the richest 0.01 percent at any time between World War I and 2007 (when trickle-down economics, tax cuts for the hyper-rich, and deregulation again resulted in another economic collapse).

Yet the plain fact that the trickle-down approach has never worked leaves Republicans unfazed. The GOP has been singing from the Market-is-God hymnal for well over a century, telling us that deregulation, tax cuts for the rich, and the concentration of ever more wealth in the bloated accounts of the richest people will result in prosperity for the rest of us. The party is now trying to pass a scam that throws a few crumbs to the middle class (temporarily — millions of middle-class Americans will soon see a tax hike if the bill is enacted) while heaping benefits on the super-rich, multiplying the national debt and endangering the American economy.

In 1926, Calvin Coolidge’s treasury secretary, Andrew Mellon, one of the world’s richest men, pushed through a massive tax cut that would substantially contribute to the causes of the Great Depression. Republican Sen. George Norris of Nebraska said that Mellon himself would reap from the tax bill “a larger personal reduction [in taxes] than the aggregate of practically all the taxpayers in the state of Nebraska.” The same is true now of Donald Trump, the Koch Brothers, Sheldon Adelson and other fabulously rich people.

During the 1920s, Republicans almost literally worshiped business. “The business of America,” Coolidge proclaimed, “is business.” Coolidge also remarked that, “The man who builds a factory builds a temple,” and “the man who works there worships there.” That faith in the Market as God has been the Republican religion ever since. A few months after he became president in 1981, Ronald Reagan praised Coolidge for cutting “taxes four times” and said “we had probably the greatest growth in prosperity that we’ve ever known.” Reagan said nothing about what happened to “Coolidge Prosperity” a few months after he left office.

In 1932, in the depths of the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt called for “bold, persistent experimentation” and said: “It is common sense to take a method and try it; if it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.” The contrasting position of Republicans then and now is: Take the method and try it. If it fails, deny its failure and try it again. And again. And again.

When Bill Clinton proposed a modest increase in the top marginal tax rate in his 1993 budget, every Republican voted against it. Trickle-down economists proclaimed that it would lead to economic disaster. But the tax increase on the wealthy was followed by one of the greatest periods of prosperity in American history and resulted in a budget surplus. When the Republicans came back into power in 2001, the administration of George W. Bush pushed the opposite policies, which had invariably produced calamity in the past. Predictably, that happened again in 2008.

Just how disastrous would the proposed reincarnation of the failed Republican trickle-down policies of the past be for the American people and the future of the nation? A few ways:

  • Repealing the estate tax, or, as Republicans have dubbed it, the “death tax.” But the estate tax is not a tax on the dead; it is a tax on their heirs. Repeal would reverse an important aspect of the American Revolution and establish an American hereditary aristocracy. If your estate is not above $11 million, your benefits from this portion of the GOP’s tax cut will be a nice round number: zero.
  • Eliminating deductions for state and local taxes. The GOP has called these deductions favoritism for people who live in high-tax states. In fact, ending deductibility of state and local taxes would tax income that has already been taxed away from a taxpayer. It is, quite simply, double taxation.
  • Repealing the Alternative Minimum Tax, which assures that wealthy people who hire accountants to find all the obscure ways to avoid taxes cannot escape taxation altogether. Repealing it would save Trump millions.
  • Extending the “pass-through” provision to noncorporate businesses, including some 500 entities Trump owns. It would allow the owners of these businesses to pay taxes at 25 percent, instead of 39.9 percent. This provision would allow Wall Street fund managers, among other very wealthy people, to pay a lower tax rate than many middle-class Americans pay.
  • Ending the deductibility of large medical expenses.
  • Taxing waived tuition for college students, ending deductibility for student loan payments, and even disallowing teachers from deducting what they spend on school supplies for their students.
  • Ending the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, which would cause 13 million Americans to lose health insurance and result in much higher premiums for those who do get insurance through the exchanges. The Congressional Budget Office has indicated that, if enacted, the Republican tax bill may force deep cuts in Medicare through a generally unknown budget rule that its deficits would trigger.

The analysis of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that people making less than $100,000 a year (approximately 80 percent of American households) will have their taxes increased while the millionaires and billionaires will make off like bandits.

In the 1920s, Republicans were in full control of the federal government and used that power to pursue their objective to “make the well-to-do prosperous.” It didn’t “leak through on those below.” In that decade, the mass-production American economy became dependent on mass consumption. For it to work, the masses need a sufficient share of the national income to be able to consume what is being produced.

Republican policies in the ’20s instead pushed to concentrate more of the income at the top. Nine decades later, Republicans are rushing to do it again — and they are sprinting toward an economic cliff. Another round of Government of the People, by the Republicans, for the super-rich will be catastrophic. The American people must call a halt before it’s too late.

Thank you, Mr. McElvaine

The deliberate $1.5 trillion deficit, tacked on to the massive deficits from George W. Bush’s wars and tax cuts, hobbles future generations. Instead of cutting back the deficit, the GOP is following the lead of a man who bragged that “I’m the king of debt.” DDT said, “I’m great with debt. Nobody knows debt better than me. I’ve made a fortune by using debt, and if things don’t work out … you go back and you say, ‘Hey, guess what? The economy crashed. I’m going to give you back half.’” The king of debt made money cheating workers and retired people by refusing to pay them and declaring bankruptcies while he took all the cream for himself. He plans to continue the practice for all the people in the United States, for example anyone with Treasury bonds who will get only half of their investment back if he gets his way.

DDT claims he will “make America great again,” but he is turning the nation into a place where people are leaving instructions to send their ashes to Republicans who vote to literally kill them. Zoey Salsbury has created a popular website for people who may die without healthcare or Medicare. (The tax bill cuts $25 billion from that healthcare program). She provides information about how to mail cremains to the congressional member of choice, suggesting that packages be sent to legislators’ district offices because the Capitol may block them, and offers assistance in writing wills to for this process.

DDT is gaining his own vision of the United States, a place where he can take at least $1 billion for his personal gain from the bottom half of the population.

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