Nel's New Day

January 17, 2018

Say No to Medicaid Work Requirements

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 10:32 PM
Tags: , , ,

While the media obsesses about the coarse language of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), the GOP has found ways to destroy the health and lives of people throughout the United States. Republicans claim that they don’t have enough money for nine million children’s health care in the CHIP program after they gave over $1 trillion to big corporations and the wealthy. A growing number of people are going uninsured after DDT’s work to ruin the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Now they want work requirements and payment for Medicaid, a program created in 1965 to help people with limited income obtain health benefits that includes nursing home care. The only eligibility for participation was the level of income. The last few years of expanded Medicaid in some states has shown remarkable advantages to everyone–$3.4 billion of reduced unpaid bills in its first two years. Healthier people are better able to pay more taxes, and the increased treatment for substance abuse greatly reduced rates of robbery, aggravated assault, and larceny theft.

A major problem for tens of millions of people in the past week is the decision to allow states to impose a work requirement for people on Medicaid, primarily minorities. Seema Verma, the person in charge of this plan, helped design the Indiana Medicaid expansion that required recipients to make monthly payments. The basis for this decision is not to improve health—although that is the claim—but to siphon more money from the poor to the wealthy. Behind this plan are the Koch brothers, the Mercers, the Ricketts, and other multi-billionaire families, already benefiting from millions of dollars after the GOP tax plan.

These decision-makers ignore the fact that at least half of all non-disabled adults with Medicaid already work, and 80 percent of them live in households where at least one adult works. Of those who don’t work, 36 percent are ill or disabled; 30 percent are caregivers; 15 percent are students; and nine percent are retired. Of all the Medicaid recipients, only one-third are non-elderly adults and spend under twenty percent of total costs.

The new guidelines make “suggestions” for these classifications other than the “able-bodied adult” but don’t mandate them. To continue getting health care, these people, many of whom have trouble navigating the system, will be forced to get a doctor’s letter proving that they are within the requirements for exemptions. Doctors are responsible for deciding who lose their insurance in many cases because they must determine who is “medically fragile.” As for pay, those who cannot meet the monthly payments will then lose their coverage.

DDT’s administration announcement about the loss of Medicaid based on lack of “work” was preceded by the Treasury Department’s proposal to reduce federal rules requiring banks to provide mortgage financing in minority neighborhoods. Rules will be expanded to businesses and infrastructure projects that don’t serve the poor.

Ten states have already applied for waivers: Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin. Kentucky was the first to be accepted. Until Kentuckians elected a GOP governor, its Medicaid program was a shining example for the nation, and people loved it. The state’s adult uninsured rate fell from 18.8% in 2013 to 6.8% in 2015. Unfortunately, voters didn’t connect the program with “Obamacare” and rejected the Democrats in the 2014 election, much to their current disappointment. The result is this Medicaid proposal with these mandates:

  • Monthly charges from $1 to $15 that increase in the third year, as much as four percent of income;
  • Loss of insurance with a six-month hiatus before requesting enrollment following failure to pay for two months unless the person completes a financial or health literacy course;
  • Disenrollment for not timely reporting changes to income or employment or making false statements regarding work for six months unless the person completes a health or financial literacy course;
  • Requirement of 20 hours weekly of employment activities for most adults;
  • Waiver of non-emergency medical transportation for adults;
  • Addition of a high deductible health savings account (funded by the state) to existing capitated managed care coverage with an incentive account to purchase extra benefits by specified health-related or employment activities (aka quitting smoking, losing weight, and/or exercising);
  •  and/or up to half of any remaining annual deductible funds;
  • Mandatory Medicaid premium assistance to purchase cost-effective employer sponsored insurance after the first year of Medicaid enrollment and employment for adults and their Medicaid and CHIP-eligible children;
  • Use of federal Medicaid matching funds for short-term Institution for Mental Disease (IMD) services for non-elderly adults in certain counties;
  • Removal of a proposed expansion of presumptive eligibility sites to county health departments and certain safety net providers.

If, like me, your eyes have glazed over at the complexity of these mandates, you will understand that the waiver’s goal is to greatly decrease the number of people on Medicaid and manage their personal behavior, not to make their health better. The huge cost of administering such convoluted regulations puts the money into administration instead of helping people with no money for the government to help pay for program administration.

Kentucky expects to save almost $500,000 a year with the new program, but that comes from making 95,000 people uninsured. Those are the people who will get their health care in hospital emergency rooms that will cost the state more than they save. In typical GOP doublespeak, Verma said, “We see moving people off Medicaid as a good outcome because that means they do not need the program anymore and have transitioned to a job or can afford insurance.” In the same way, the Clinton administration said changes to welfare would encourage “needy” people to find work, move out of poverty, and up the economic ladder. None of those advantages happened. TANF assistance dropped, and more people moved into poverty.

Gov. Matt Bevin said that he will drop 400,000 people off Medicaid if he doesn’t get his way to require work for the health insurance plan for the poor. Kentucky is already one of the unhealthiest states in the nation, ranking worst in cancer death rates, the second-highest smoking rate, and seventh highest obesity rate. Eight of the 13 counties in the U.S. with the largest declines in life expectancy are in Kentucky.

People who support the waivers staunchly declaim that only “able-bodied” people will be affected. Yet the exception in the new rules apply only to those who have gone through the rigorous and restrictive process of obtaining Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Their definition of disability:

“The inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.”

Seriously disabled people who fail this stringent definition are considered healthy and able to work, according to Republicans. Left out of the disabled definition are people with cancer, substance abuse, mental health disabilities, and other health issues. Last year, 10,000 people died while they waited for their appeals to be processed. The waivers would stop any Medicaid help for wheelchairs and other medical equipment, caregivers, and—of course—“non-emergency medical transportation.”

White people will benefit from the waivers because states can provide exemptions from work requirements in areas of high unemployment. Thee areas tend to be rural, more likely populated with white people, because they have fewer job opportunities, less reliable transportation, and fewer social services. Black people living in cities will be more burdened in the waivers.

Moms Rising listed more serious problems in a work requirement for Medicaid, a program that composed of 62 percent female and one-third children:

“This misguided policy punishes the most vulnerable members of our society and has the potential to cause millions of people to lose their health coverage just when they need support the most. It will perpetuate poverty and inequality, jeopardize the health of families, disproportionately harm women, undermine our economy, and do little to help anyone find or keep a job.

“[Work requirements] push people to accept low-paying, short-term jobs that provide no long-term stability, and they punish seasonal and hourly workers who may lose health coverage if their hours change suddenly….

“Ultimately, the only outcome of implementing work requirements will be that tens of thousands of low-income people will lose access to health care, making it that much harder for them to find jobs. Not to mention that this is just the first of many anticipated cuts to Medicaid and other essential programs that Republicans in Congress and the White House will put forward to pay for their outrageous tax law….”

As with most DDT dictates, the waivers will face court cases because the goal of the Medicaid program is to encourage work. The argument that “work promotes health” is as twisted as the German statement “Arbeit macht frei” (“work sets you free”) above the entrances to Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps.

Advertisements

January 14, 2018

Fill the Swamp

All presidential nominations expired at the end of 2017, but these are some people Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) wants for his legacy.

Appointments:

Robert Weaver, nominee to head up the $6 billion federal agency Indian Health Service (HIS) overseeing medical care for over two million Native Americans, has been found to “misrepresent” his work at St. John’s Regional Medical Center (Joplin, MO) in Senate confirmation hearings. He described his “entry level” job as “variously hospital administration positions.” Copies of his employment records were destroyed in a tornado, but no one at the hospital at that time can remember him. Asked about his IHS experience, a DHS spokeswoman said Weaver needed the system as a child.

Andrew Wheeler has reemerged as nominee for deputy administrator of the EPA. Called “overwhelmingly unfit for such a crucial position,” he worked for the lobbying company that supported Murray Energy in erasing environmental regulations at EPA. Wheeler is accompanied by other unfit nominations, including Kathleen Hartnett White, head of Council on Environmental Quality; Barry Lee Myers, head of NOAA; and Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), administrator of NASA. White, for example, thinks that science should not “dictate policy.” Lee owns a weather company and hopes to privatize NOAA. Bridenstine has no scientific credentials and wants to defund research into climate change which he denies.

Thomas Homan, acting head of ICE and nominee for Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security, was picked by DDT because he looks “nasty” and “mean.” Some of his outstanding features:

  • He arrested both parents with a sick infant and a ten-year-old girl with cerebral palsy on their way to the hospital as well as arresting a transgender domestic abuse survivor at the courthouse where she was requesting a protective order against her abusive ex-partner.
  • He supervised a department allowing the removal of medications of a Dreamer before ridiculing him for his disability and failing to investigate thousands of sexual assault complaints by detained immigrants. ICE agents have given people unnecessary strip searches, forced them to eat moldy food, and denied pain medication for debilitating diseases.
  • He told DOJ that he wanted to sue and possibly imprison anyone responsible for complying with any of his agency’s demands.

Until DDT came into his life, Homan didn’t seem to be an extremist; he was set to retire. Obama officials say, “None of us recognize this guy.” Criticized by ICE hardliners, he switched to being tough and unyielding—just what DDT wants.

Kevin McIntyre, long-time corporate attorney for energy companies, was appointed as chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC), the nation’s top energy regulatory agency with no need to be confirmed. This past week FERC, with four DDT appointments of five members, unanimously rejected Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s proposal to support struggling nuclear and coal power plants. Perry wanted utility companies to pay all plants, no matter how obsolete, “for all their costs and all the power they produce, whether those plants are needed or not.” FERC also supported the right of New York state to oppose the Constitution Pipeline. Other states—Virginia, North Carolina, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania—are also opposing pipelines on the basis of their impacts. Nebraskans are again appealing the route that the state Public Service Commission picked for the Keystone Pipeline.

Marie Royce, wife of the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has been nominated for assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) announced his retirement from Congress at the same time. He is the eighth committee chair and the 31st House Republican to resign thus far. Term limits would cause him to lose the chair position. Believing he could not win, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) is another of the Republicans leaving the House  although it is rumored that he might run in an adjoining district if GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) resigns. Hunter suffers from ethics investigations for misuse of campaign funds but says he doesn’t plan to resign.

Taylor Weyeneth, a 24-year-old former low-level campaign worker, is being elevated from deputy “drug czar” to a White House liaison role with the agency that coordinates the government’s multibillion dollar anti-drug initiatives and the opioid epidemic curbs.

On the Judicial Side:

In a confirmation hearing this past week for a seat on the 5th Circuit Court, Kurt Engelhardt defended two of his rulings against women in sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination cases. In one case, a Rite Aid employee said that male co-workers brushed up against her, cupped her breasts, and asked to go home with her. Engelhardt rejected the case because the harassment was neither “severe nor physically threatening and the plaintiff liked her job and performed well in it.” When asked about whether “cornering an employee [is] not physically threatening?” Engelhardt waffled for a while before he said he did not remember the specifics of the case.

In another case, a woman was fired two weeks after giving birth following bed rest for the last 16 weeks of her pregnancy because of complications. She declared discrimination because a male colleague was not fired although he took medical leave for the same length of time because of a gangrenous toe. Engelhardt ruled for the employer because “the fact that plaintiff’s absence was cause of pregnancy does not dispense with the general requirement that employees must show up for work.” In the hearing, he said that he didn’t remember the specifics of that case either although his ruling was that she wasn’t treated any worse than the man who was not fired.

During a speech to the Federalist Society, Engelhardt praised the dissent of Justice Clarence Thomas in Lawrence v. Texas, striking down sodomy laws, as “one man’s submission of personal preference in favor of adherence to constitutional principle.”

In the hearing for Howard Nielson, nominated as federal district judge in Utah, questions addressed his defense of California’s Prop 8, the ballot initiative recognizing marriage as only between a man and a woman. He had argued that homosexuality was a choice and that Judge Vaughn Walker should have recused himself for being gay and in a long-term relationship. Nielson said that he was only using his clients’ arguments and that he had called homosexuality a “maladjustment,” not a choice. Later Nielson co-wrote an amicus brief in Obergefell v. Hodges that legalized marriage equality.

Nielson also worked in the Office of Legal Counsel for George W. Bush and defended the “torture memos.” He wrote a memorandum to remove protections for people in custody under the Geneva Conventions, arguing that the protection of civilians in enemy custody or detention applies only to civilians held on U.S. territory. His position that the U.S. could torture civilians outside its boundaries would mean that others could do the same to U.S. civilians outside their countries’ boundaries.

Civil rights leaders argue that Thomas Farr, nominee for a North Carolina federal court, is “a product of the modern white supremacist machine.” Counsel to former Sen. Jesse Helms, great fan of racial segregation, Farr defended voter oppression, a serious problem in the area over which Farr would preside. During Farr’s work on the Helms campaign, postcards were mailed to 100,000 black voters telling them that they could be arrested and prosecuted if they voted because were ineligible to vote. Despite Farr’s denial about involvement, an investigation showed differently.

Stuart Kyle Duncan is back as nominee for the 5th Circuit Court. Staunchly anti-choice and pro-Christian control, he maintained that harms to a lesbian mother who lost her parental rights were “overstated.” He also argued for the voter suppression laws against blacks in North Carolina before the Supreme Court and represented Hobby Lobby as lead counsel to remove women’s reproductive rights. Duncan claims to have been Appellate Chief in Louisiana and then the Solicitor General, but that job doesn’t exist. Instead he worked for a private firm, making hundreds of thousands from taxpayer funds. Also troubling is his connection with the religiously conservative Alliance Defending Freedom, a hate group.

DDT’s failed judicial nominees are sticking round. Highly ignorant and bigoted Brett Talley stayed as the deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Policy, which oversees DOJ’s vetting of candidates for judicial nominations, and dumb-as-a-post Matthew Petersen is on the FEC to help determine the enforcement of campaign finance laws.

Sexual Misconduct:

Top on the week’s list is DDT. According to the conservative Wall Street Journal, DDT’s lawyer Michael Cohen paid $130,000 to former adult-film star Stormy Daniels (aka Stephanie Clifford) a month before the 2016 election to shut her up about a sexual encounter with DDT. The newspaper had reported before the election that Playboy model Karen McDougal was paid $150,000 by the DDT-supporting National Enquirer to conceal her story of a 2006 affair with DDT, a year after DDT’s marriage to Melania.

Missouri GOP Gov. Eric Greitens has been accused of having an affair with his hairstylist and then threatening to release nude photographs of her if she publicized the relationship. At their initial sexual encounter, he taped her hands to exercise rings and blindfolded her before taking the nude photos. Greitens admitted the affair but refused to talk about the blackmail. He switched from the Democratic party to being a Republican after he said he was running for governor.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin called for the resignation of the state’s GOP speaker of the house, Jeff Hoover, after information was released about Hoover’s secret settlement of a sexual harassment claim by a woman staff member. Hoover resigned as speaker but stayed on the legislative body.

And on it goes.

 

January 4, 2018

What Government Shutdown? GOP Needs Democrats

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 8:04 PM
Tags: , , , ,

In Congress, last September was supposed to be a difficult time—except Republicans put off the hard decisions until December. Busy with the destructive tax bill, they moved it to January. It’s January. Without passing a long-term spending bill by January 19, the government shuts down. The GOP can’t agree on what they want to do so both congressional chambers need Democrats, especially because the Senate requires 60 votes to move the spending bill forward unless Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) kills the filibuster. The new year has brought another Democratic senator to Washington, making the GOP majority 51-49. And the world is focused on a new “tell-all” book about how the friends of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) thinks he is a fool, an idiot, or mentally deranged–or all three.

Major problems for Congress:

Spending Caps:

The strict sequestration law to control the budget passed in 2011 and needs congressional approval for any increases. Part of congressional members wants to lift the cap to help people, and others want far more money to throw at the military. A third segment of legislators don’t want to raise the caps at all. DDT wants an extra $100 billion over the existing $549 billion for the Pentagon. To support this increase, Democrats want the equivalent sum for domestic spending such as housing programs, Pell grants, and food and job assistance. Without a decision on spending caps, Congress cannot make any decisions about the spending bill.

“Dreamers”:

Some Republicans say that they want to help the young people who were illegally brought to the United States involuntarily, but they have shown no evidence of following through, many of them afraid that constituents opposing the idea won’t re-elect them. At risk is the DACA program, eliminated by DDT last fall, that permits vetted young undocumented immigrants to get jobs and go to school. At the start of December, 34 House Republicans signed a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) calling for a vote before the end of 2017 on legislation to protect DACA recipients, but Ryan promised to take up the issue in January if they passed the tax bill. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) helped pass the horrible tax bill because he was told that he could stay in the room during any discussion of the issue.GOP Sen. Marco Rubio (FL) joined Flake (AZ) in supporting Dreamer legislation, but they both have a reputation for caving in at a crisis vote.DDT waffles about saving the Dreamers—as he does with all other policy—and now demands his wall in exchange for protecting them. Over two years ago, Paul Ryan promised he would not bring any immigration bill to the House floor that wasn’t supported by a GOP majority, but he wasn’t facing a government shutdown then.

Children’s Health Insurance Program:

CHIP, the program for nine million children close to poverty, was saved until March while the tax bill was in play. For some Republicans, helping children is one of those programs that they oppose.

The Affordable Health Care Act:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) pried a vote for the tax bill from Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) by promising that people would be keeping their health care. Without the yes votes from Flake and Collins, the tax bill would have failed. Conservatives who hate domestic spending reject the Alexander-Murray Obamacare stabilization bill, which has lost some of its value after the tax bill removed the individual mandate for everyone to purchase health care. Collins wants two years of cost-sharing reduction payments and a “reinsurance” programs. Like Flake, she isn’t going to get what she was promised for her vote.

Disaster Relief:

Another postponed issue from last year is the $81 billion package to give aid for Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Florida, and Texas after a series of destructive hurricanes and the massive wildfires in California. While DDT held an opulent party at Mar-a-Lago for hundreds on New Year’s Eve, one-half the people in Puerto Rico are still without electricity.

Surveillance Reform:

Because of disagreements, Congress passed a short-term extension of electronic surveillance in Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The conservative Freedom Caucus voted for the tax bill with McConnell’s promise that they could offer amendments to a FISA reauthorization that limits the collection of communications of foreigners abroad with people from the U.S. without a warrant. The Freedom Caucus maintains that this law violates constitutional protections.

Infrastructure:

Even worse in January is the possibility that DDT may introduce infrastructure into the swampy mix. The GOP has already given $1.5 trillion that they don’t have to the wealthy and corporations, leaving nothing for infrastructure so that DDT’s “infrastructure package” relies heavily on state expenditures. States have been increasingly impovrished as the federal government lays more fiscal responsibilities on them while giving money to the military and wealthy. The reduction of deductions for taxpayers in the new tax bill benefiting the wealthy and corporations will make them more unable to pay additional taxes to states.

Debt Ceiling:

Once Republicans survive the spending bill—or shut down the government again—they need to move forward to raise the debt ceiling by March. They have just increased the debt by $1.5 trillion, but the conservative caucus will certainly balk at an increase in the debt ceiling without spending cuts. The current leadership think that not increasing the debt ceiling is not a big problem because the U.S. can refuse to pay the bills that it already incurred or offer to pay less. If Congress passes the spending bill in January but fails to deal with raising the debt ceiling, the country faces another government shutdown in March. DDT has said that a “good shutdown” can benefit the nation. Even the possibility of failing to meet the nation’s fiscal responsibilities in 2011 led to a four-percent drop in the stock markets and a first-time ever downgrading of ratings which increased the percentage of loan interest. Support for the controlling GOP decreased, and the international community criticized the “dangerously irresponsible” actions of the U.S. government. 

Cuts to Entitlement, including Those That Are Earned:

Republicans bragged that the $1.5 trillion deficit would not exist because of magnificent growth in the economy, but they plan to cover the money with cuts to Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare. That may be the big fight this year when the white people who supported DDT and other Republicans discover that their vote means less money for living and health care.

The top four GOP and Dem congressional leaders met yesterday and said that the meeting was “positive and productive,” meaning “pointless.” A major question is whether the Republicans can convince people to put off the Dreamers and other issues by promising them that they will pass legislature in this area. DDT has slowed down negotiations on the spending bill because he hasn’t issued specific demands for his wall while the DHS talks about technology and personnel instead of a 30-foot high wall for 2,000 miles. Republicans hope that the spending bill will be independent of immigration; Democrats are pushing for its inclusion. Hopefully, the Democrats understand that not including the Dreamers in the spending bill will leave them in the cold and headed toward Mexico.

Since McConnell pushed through the GOP-owned punitive tax bill for most of the people in the U.S. by keeping the Democrats away from any participation, he is asking for “a renewed spirit of comity, collegiality and bipartisanship.”

Republicans plan to spend $10 million selling the new tax plan so that they can get re-elected in 2018. The above chart comparing the tax cuts from President Obama’s first full year and DDT’s tax bill make be difficult to spin as an advantage of DDT’s bill:

Congress has two weeks before a possible government shutdown. If the GOP operates as usual, they’ll wait ten days to do anything about the spending bill and then panic while blaming the Democrats.

December 21, 2017

Disastrous Tax Bill Leads to GOP Fractures over Spending Bill

In their contempt for democracy, the Republicans, the epitome of “makers” exploiting the so-called “takers,” passed their social reform bill in the dead of night to benefit large businesses and wealthy people. The process, carried out in great haste with extreme chaos and negligence, allowed for neither hearings nor debate—not even the opportunity for congressional members to examine the 1,097 pages. If one considers democracy, the way that Republicans passed the bill may be even worse than the contents. If the tax bill were a good deal for most of the people in the U.S., Republicans wouldn’t have to lie about it. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) summarized the GOP position when he said, “It’s always fun when you win” about his defeat of the people who voted for him. “Fun” also means that he gained billions of dollars from the tax bill.

“Fun” for DDT also means destroying Puerto Rico. The tax bill requires the federal government to treat the territory in the same way that it treats foreign countries in bringing operations and jobs to the U.S. from overseas. Forty-seven percent of PR’s GDP comes from manufacturing, primarily pharmaceuticals and medical devices generating revenue from patented drugs and technologies. The 12.5 percent tax levied against profits in PR for “intangible assets” of U.S. companies abroad plus a minimum of ten percent tax on their profits abroad, as in foreign countries, means that businesses will pay more to operate in PR than on the U.S. mainland. It will cost U.S. citizens their jobs and destroy PR’s economy after DDT went to the island to complain about the cost of recovery from Hurricane Maria, something he did not do at any of the summer’s disasters on the mainland.

DDT may not have his “fun” of signing the bill until January 3 because he is afraid to let the 2010 “pay-as-you-go” law automatically cut Medicare and other programs. These would take effect in 2018 if he signed it in 2017. To avoid bad press, he is hoping that Congress will waive these cuts by 2019. Spending caps went into effect under a GOP-created law in 2011 and have received two two-year waivers–also from the GOP. The most recent one expired on October 1, 2017, and Republicans didn’t get around to lifting it again.

To pass the waiver, the GOP needs Democrats who are raw from the GOP pushing through the tax bill and plan to negotiate for restoration of the health-insurance mandate, due to expire in 2019. The schedule is not set, but Congress will most likely not pass this bill by the end of this week while they struggle with other expiring laws, like the spending bill that keeps the government from shutting down.

One vote to transfer the Great Society into Ayn Rand’s idea of plutocracy came from Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) who earlier gained the support of her constituents when she refused to vote for an earlier bill because it would drive at least 13 million people off health insurance. The new bill does the same thing, but she claimed that her vote was okay because Congress would shore health insurance markets and undo Medicare cuts guaranteed by the tax bill that she supported with her vote. Even after House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said that the House wouldn’t support the deal, she voted for the tax bill. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who made the promise to Collins, is not known for truthfulness. Collins decried media coverage as “unbelievably sexist” because it describes her as being “duped.” She may have to eat her words after discovering that’s exactly what happened.

After the beautiful togetherness and self-backslapping of GOP leaders following the tax bill’s passage, Republicans are back to fighting over the spending bill that must be passed in two days to avoid a government shutdown. Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) described the altercation following the joint communion for the tax bill:

“It’s kind of like leaving the hospital, just finding out you’re cancer free, and getting run over by a Mack truck.”

Ryan already refused to allow Collins’ funding for the Affordable Care Act in this year’s spending package. Gone—at least temporarily—is the agreement for legislation to reduce health care premiums for nine million people without government subsidies. House Republicans refuse to address Collins’ proposal to continue the health care subsidies without attaching Hyde Amendment language prohibiting the use of federal funds for abortion. Democrats oppose this demand because it expands the existing amendment by discouraging private insurers from covering abortions. Insurers must keep funds for insurer subsidies separate from abortion services, but Republicans want more. Many Republicans are totally against the ACA, and abortion makes a good excuse to block Collins’ proposal. Collins and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) have withdrawn their bill for these subsidies until next year’s full spending bill.

The stopgap also fails to address funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) reauthorization and funding for Community Health Centers. Without CHIP, nine million children lose their health insurance, even those in the middle of such serious problems as cancer treatment.

In the Senate, at least eight Democrats or independents must support all Republicans for a stopgap measure to overcome a filibuster. Without a stopgap measure, the federal government shuts down at midnight Friday. GOP leaders want a bill that expires on January 19, 2018 to stop the shutdown. They call is the “CRomnibus” proposal, but House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has other names for it:

“Some people are calling it the ‘punt’-ibus, just punt this down the road. I call it the ‘none’-tibus because it’s not going anywhere.”

The GOP House leadership had trouble with its representatives from large blue states because the tax bill penalized their residents disproportionately by reducing deductions for state property and income taxes. Now GOP representatives from Texas and Florida are opposing a bill without the $81 billion disaster bill. Lawmakers in states badly hit by hurricanes vow to stay in Washington until they get their disaster funding. Conservatives object because the disaster relief isn’t paid for by cuts in other parts of the budget, a scenario that takes everyone back to the fight over funding after Superstorm Sandy in the Northeast. Democrats in the Senate oppose the disaster bill because, according to the Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) “still does not treat Puerto Rico, California and the U.S. Virgin Islands as well as Florida and Texas.”

In another contentious issue, the GOP had planned to take a separate vote tomorrow to reauthorize Section 702 spying powers under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act for three weeks. After opposition from the Freedom Caucus today, that plan was dropped. Schumer agreed, saying that they need a clean spending bill:

“We cannot do a short-term funding bill that picks and chooses what problems to solve. We have to do them all together, instead of in a piecemeal fashion. It has to be a truly global deal. We can’t leave any of those issues behind.”

The Republicans claim that they can’t shut down the government because it would ruin their win with the tax bill. They have 48 hours pass a bill in the House, send it to the Senate who might make changes if they pass it and then send it back to the House who will then have to agree. That’s before the bill gets sent to the president for signing. The 2880 minutes are ticking away.

December 19, 2017

Tax Bill a Lump of Coal for the Holidays

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 10:05 PM
Tags: , , ,

During his campaign, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) promised to bring coal back, and he’s lived up to his promise: most people in the United States will get a lump of coal in their holiday stockings, thanks to DDT and the GOP. This morning, 227 Republicans passed a disastrous social reform bill, masked as tax cuts, in opposition to all Democrats and 12 other Republicans. Their desire was to “do something,” just as serial killers want credit for their negative actions. GOP leadership is preening over a bill that has only 33 percent support among the public with 66 percent of the nation knowing that it benefits the wealthy rather than the middle and lower classes.

After its success in the House, the tax bill ran into a small glitch because the rush in the Senate kept it from living up to requirements that would avoid any filibustering. Tonight the Senate is working on a revised bill that will go back to the House after it passes the Senate. There is little hope that the bill will fail.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) claims that the GOP made major accomplishments in 2017. Other than potentially passing a bill with less than one-third approval and packing the courts with judges who believe in discrimination, the GOP Congress has no other successes. The greatest accomplishments have been in energizing the Democrats. Thus far they have far more viable candidates than the Republicans and flipped the Virginia House of Delegates with a 50-50 tie between the two parties. The last recount resulted in a Democrat winning by one vote to change 16 seats from red to blue. [Update: After a court decided that one of the the discounted votes is for a Republican, the result is a tie. In that case, the winner may be chosen by drawing a name for a glass bowl. The loser may then seek a second recount. A Republican win would leave the Virginia House of Delegates with a 51-49 majority for the GOP.]

McConnell blamed the negative polling for his tax bill on the press and Democratic resistance. Yet the media, except for the far-right such as Fox and Breitbart, publishes the facts—such as the revisions of the bill to capture both chambers of Congress gives 83 percent of the tax cuts to the top 1 percent by 2027, an increase of 62.1 percent with the original Senate bill. Over one half the people in the United States will pay more in taxes. Even in the bill’s first year, the top 20 percent gets almost two-thirds of the bill’s benefit.

The tax cut fails four Republican rules:

  • It increases the debt by at least $1.5 trillion—or possibly more.
  • It doesn’t benefit the middle class.
  • The wealthiest, including DDT), are the primary beneficiaries.
  • It likely won’t supercharge the economy, according to independent experts in the field.

DDT had promised to get rid of the carried interest loophole that gives massive tax breaks to managers of private equity funds, venture capital funds, and hedge funds. Instead of paying taxes at the higher rate of ordinary income, they can use the low rates of capital gains. The new tax bill allows them to continue saving money with that practice if they hold the investment for at least three years.

House Speaker Paul Ryan claimed that the bill would deliver revenue neutrality, simplicity, and fairness. None of those happened—not even simplicity. The tax bill still has seven tax brackets, and the revision of “pass-though” income in businesses confuses even most tax experts. The business revision will create many jobs for people who magically become independent contractors or part of LLCs.

Fairness? The bill gives breaks to businesses owned by trusts. The marriage penalty returns because the maximum deduction of ten thousand dollars for state and local taxes is the same for individual filers and for couples. And far more.

Robert Reich lists other flaws in GOP arguments about their tax plan:

It won’t make U.S. corporations competitive with foreign corporations, which are taxed at a lower rate. (1) With all the loopholes for U.S. corporations, they pay the same as foreign-based corporations. (2) Most other countries require a “Value Added Tax” on top of the tax. (3) Other countries will cut their tax rates to be competitive. (4) Most corporations benefiting aren’t “American” because over 35 percent of their shareholders are foreign, 20 percent of the employees are foreign, and U.S. citizens work for foreign-based corporations. (5) The “competitiveness” of U.S. corporations depends on U.S. workers, diminished in education, health, and infrastructure through shrinking public investments. (6) Profits of U.S. corporations, already at record levels, are used to buy back stocks and raise executive pay—the same thing that corporations will do with the $1 trillion that the GOP is giving them.

Big corporations and the rich won’t use the investment to invest and create more jobs. (1) Job creation doesn’t trickle down as proved by Reagan and George W. Bush’s tax cuts. (2) Demand for goods and services causes corporate expansion and new jobs. The middle class and poor could provide this demand if they had additional money, but the rich, far more benefited by the bill, won’t create this demand. (3) Financing the wealthy by losing health coverage for 13 million low-income people and subsequent cuts in Social Security and Medicare won’t create more jobs.

Small businesses will have no incentive to invest and create more jobs. (1) At least 85 percent of small businesses earn so little they already pay the lowest corporate tax rate. (2) The larger rewards for big business will give them more ability to squeeze out small firms and force them out of business.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin repeated the myth that “wages will go up” because of “lowering business taxes.” Businessman and former mayor Michael Bloomberg said that “sitting on a record amount of cash reserves: nearly $2.3 trillion. It’s pure fantasy to think that the tax bill will lead to significantly higher wages and growth.”

A prize last-minute tweak that originally appeared in neither the House nor the Senate costs less-advantaged people $418 billion. Known as the “Corker Kickback,” because Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) was against the bill until that provision was put in, allows real-estate developers through LLCs to deduct twenty percent of the income that these properties generate. Corker denies that he knew about that provision in the bill because he hadn’t read it before he changed his vote. Corker said: “Deficits matter. They’re a greater threat to us than North Korea or [the Islamic State].” Now he’s willing to take almost $2 million away from poorer people with his vote for the tax bill. Only the Republicans could turn tax cuts into such an unpopular bill.

Corker isn’t alone in supporting the bill that pays him back. Twenty-three other leading GOP lawmakers responsible for crafting the bill will also see this windfall, but they were supporting the tax bill before the change.

DDT will make even more money off this part of the tax bill. Once the tax bill goes into effect, people who voted for DDT may have concrete proof of how he and the GOP will cheat them just as DDT swindled contractors without promised pay or students at Trump University with dishonest marketing. Without DDT’s releasing his tax returns, people are highly unlikely to believe that his own taxes are going up, a claim that received four Pinocchios for falsehood.

Vice President Mike Pence also lied about the tax bill to avoid going to the Middle East at this time. It’s natural that he would want to avoid the hostility that he would face after DDT claimed Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the Western Wall as belonging to Israel. Thus Pence said he was postponing the trip to break a tie on the bill. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has gone back to Arizona for the holidays and won’t be present for the vote. That leaves 99 people left in the Senate for the vote, making a tie impossible.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) tried to blame Democrats for any of the bill’s problems. The GOP refused to allow any participation from Dems, and it is doubtful that Dems could keep Republicans from paying back all the wealthy donors who have been buying the GOP for years.

DDT supporters are clinging to their choice, many of them even with the possibility of paying higher taxes and health care premiums. Will they stay loyal when DDT breaks another campaign promise and tries to take away some of their Social Security and Medicare?

[Update: After a court decided that one of the the discounted votes is for a Republican, the result is a tie. In that case, the winner may be chosen by drawing a name for a glass bowl. The loser may then seek a second recount. A Republican win would leave the Virginia House of Delegates with a 51-49 majority for the GOP.]

December 15, 2017

The Tax Bill Would Destroy Our Nation’s Future

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 11:13 PM
Tags: , , ,

The new tax bill, approved by a joint Senate/House committee in both congressional chambers, is ready for votes in both chambers this coming week with no experts testifying and no Democratic support.

Benefits for corporations: The permanent drop to 21 percent—40 percent of the rate during the 1950s—saves them $1 trillion in a decade. Corporations have not indicated any desire to invest these savings in the economy. Foreign income by U.S. companies would be tax-free. These cuts are permanent; those for individuals expire in nine years. Corporate cuts disproportionately help the wealthy because they are the share-holders.

Benefits for the wealthy: The highest tax rate for married couples making over $470,000 has been dropped 2.6 percent to 37 percent although DDT had said the bill would not cut taxes on the rich. DDT had said that his wealthy friends were complaining. Overall, 47.5 percent of taxpayers have an average increase of $150 in taxes, and 31.3 percent may get a reduction with an average of $1,500. This doesn’t reflect the cost of health insurance premiums.

Cuts for tax deductions: Only $10,000 in state, local, and property taxes can be deducted on federal income taxes, causing property values to fall in high-tax cities and leaving less money for public schools and infrastructure. The bill also prohibits taxpayers from prepaying next year’s state and local income or property taxes to prevent people from deducting them from 2018 taxes.

Increase in insurance premiums: The disappearance of an individual healthcare mandate will cause premiums for people not on the Affordable Care Act to rise and 13 million more people to be without health insurance in a decade. The elimination of the mandate doesn’t occur until 2019.

No estate tax under $22 million: Currently heirs don’t pay estate taxes under $11 million for married couples, but the new tax doubles that amount.

A 20-percent reduction for “pass through” companies: In S corporations, LLCs, partnerships, and sole proprietorships, income is “passed through” to the business owner’s individual tax return. The new bill invites a plethora of sham businesses for salaries to allow people to deduct 20-percent of their income up to $315,000 tax-free.

Drop in AMT (alternative minimum tax) for individuals: The tax began in 1969 to keep wealthy families from lowering their tax bill to almost nothing through credits and loopholes. The AMT level had not been changed, and couples earning over $84,500 may end of paying the AMT. The proposed threshold is $500,000.

No corporate AMT tax: This tax has kept corporate taxes close to 21 percent.

Drop in mortgage interest deduction: This deduction would be reduced from up to $1 million in mortgage loans to a cap of $750,000 for new loans.

Business perks: Additional tax relief for owners of engineering and architectural firms and the elimination of any change in capital gains treatment of home sales are among appeasements to business lobbyists and congressional champions.

Items left in place: The student loan deduction, the medical expense deduction, and the graduate student tuition waivers; retirement accounts such as 401(k) plans;

Churches, synagogues, mosques and other nonprofits (the Johnson Amendment stays in place) can’t get political and endorse candidates in elections or collect money for them with undisclosed donations.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who promised he would not vote for any bill that raised one penny of the national debt, is now in favor of a bill that increases the debt at least $1 trillion dollars (100 trillion pennies). Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who was earlier opposed to dropping off health insurance, seems fine with the bill predicted to do that to 13 million people. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who caved on the last bill because he was promised that he could stay in a room where DACA might be discussed, is expressing doubt, but he can be expected to give in. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) who voted against an earlier bill because he didn’t get enough money for his own business in Wisconsin must have gotten the money because he stated that the probably non-existent “economic growth” will be the way that “most Americans benefit from this tax reform.” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) now approves after the new bill slightly expands a child tax refundable credit by $300 from $1,100. The child tax credit, doubling to $2,000, would phase out at $400,000 in earnings for married couples, up from the current $110,000.

Over 30 years ago, the 1986 tax reform bill may have dropped the corporate tax rate to 34 percent, but the reduction was covered by eliminating or reducing business tax breaks. Congressional sentiment was to have fewer tax loopholes and shelters for the rich to avoid an increase in the deficit. The capital gains increased from 20 percent to 28 percent because of the bipartisan belief that these taxes should be at least commensurate with ordinary income for workers. Not ideal, but far superior to the today’s GOP view of tax “reform” of giving money to rich individuals and businesses, taking from the poor, and driving up the deficit with the goal of eliminating earned benefits such as Medicare and Social Security.

The tax bill is like an oil spill: it will keep oozing bad news. Egregious pieces of the Senate bill may remain such as a tax exemption for cruise ships that dock in Alaska, a favor for Sen. Dan Sullivan; allowing luxury car dealerships to deduct interest on loans to showrooms for Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY); and a tax deduction for $10,000 of private school tuition.  A deduction for domestic manufacturing is gone, encouraging companies to move offshore. Fossil fuel drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge stays.

Republicans have had enough time to play with their largely disliked tax scam bill, but they ignored CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program), insurance for 9 million poor children, that expired at the end of September. GOP leaders such as Sen. Orrin Hatch (UT) have sneered at people who need this insurance because they don’t work hard enough. Because of their indifference, young people won’t play basketball or join a dance team because they can’t afford an annual physical. Thousands more won’t have access to dialysis, surgery, or chemotherapy because the GOP believes that these children don’t deserve help. Meanwhile, they’re putting the same children into debt with a bill that gives money to the wealthy.

If the GOP wants to put the nation into debt by $1.5 trillion, they could stop child poverty, as Rachel West explains:

“According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the 5.7 million poor families with children would need an average of $11,400 more to live above the poverty line in 2016. In total, the income needed to boost these families—along with the additional 105,000 children who were not living with their families—above the federal poverty level is about $69.4 billion per year in today’s dollars. Over ten years, that adds up to about 46 percent of what Congress plans to spend on its tax plan. There would be so much money left over after we boosted these kids out of poverty that the United States could also pay tuition and fees for all of them to get an in-state education at a four-year public university, and it still wouldn’t costs as much as the tax plan. If Congress wanted to really let loose, and spend just 12 percent more than the tax bill does—for a total of $1.74 trillion—we could completely eliminate all poverty in America.”

Using the $1.5 trillion in this way would give a real boost to the economy. People could afford to buy things that other people would need to manufacture; people could buy services that would create more jobs. With all these jobs, the taxes would vastly increase in an upwardly spiral movement instead giving businesses the opportunity to take their $1 trillion out of the country.

Giving almost $1.5 trillion to the wealthy and businesses also takes away any chance for fixing the crumbling infrastructure throughout the United States. The bill gives no opportunity to repair highways, bridges, airports, railways, water and sewage plants, electrical grids—the list has grown more and more as taxes dropped in the last half century. Now the Republicans expect states to fix all the infrastructure form their meager state budgets, already weakened by increasing federal demands on them.

In the Washington Post, Fareed Zakaria wrote about the bill if it passes:

“The medium- and long-term effects of the plan will be a massive drop in public investment, which will come on the heels of decades of declining spending (as a percentage of gross domestic product) on infrastructure, scientific research, skills training and core government agencies. The United States can’t coast on past investments forever….

“United States has almost 56,000 bridges with structural problems (about 1,900 of which are on interstate highways), and these are crossed 185 million times a day….

“In 1977 the federal government provided 63 percent of the country’s total investment in water infrastructure, but only 9 percent by 2014. There’s so much congestion in America’s largest rail hub, Chicago, that it takes longer for a freight train to pass through the city than it takes to get from there to Los Angeles.”

The GOP tax bill would provide more of the same—more money for the wealthy taken from everyone else–and destroy any opportunity for a brighter future.

December 11, 2017

GOP Plans to Destroy Democracy with Its Tax Bill

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 9:26 PM
Tags: , ,

In darkness, secrecy, and haste, the Republicans in Congress created an ill-conceived bill erroneously labeled as Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (SCAM). The proposed evil law is designed to restructure the social structure of the United States by confirming the nation as a kleptocracy—rule by thieves. The law would take money from almost all the people in the lowest 80 percent, those with the least resources, while giving huge amounts to the top of the food chain and the huge corporations. It dehumanizes people with a class structure that evaluates everyone on economic productivity and exterminates those considered unsuitable. Republicans have moved toward this system in the past decade by removing poor people, women, and minorities from the voting rolls.

In just one example of the GOP cruelty, opening the Arctic national wildlife refuge to oil and gas drilling may destroy the primary food source, caribou, for the Gwish’in people and perhaps the tribe itself. CBO estimates that the government will gain $145 million with drilling, equivalent to a year’s worth of DDT’s weekend trips.

Billionaire Robert Mercer, who bought the presidency for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), said that “a human being is only worth as much as they can earn,” that he’s worth thousands of times more than a school teacher because he makes that much more money than school teachers do.Pervasive GOP language—“makers and takers,” “anchor babies” (but not for the wealthy Russian women who come to the U.S. to give birth); “job creators” (for companies that keep moving overseas and firing people); etc.—describes Republicans’ disdain for the “underclass.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) is reluctant to fund CHIP, health insurance for poor children, because it would “help people who won’t help themselves—won’t lift a finger—and expect the federal government to do everything.” These are the people who have a minimum wage of $7.25 in many states because Republicans think that they don’t deserve higher wages. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) determines that people with huge estates should need to pay taxes on them “as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.” Back to the $7.25 minimum wage that won’t even get them into a movie. And it’s the spending by the majority of people in the nation that drives the economy, not giving money to the wealthy who store it in other countries.

The sole aim of this egregious bill is to kill everything that came out of the New Deal. In the four decades after Herbert Hoover almost completely destroyed the nation, laws tried to stop employers from abusing workers and destroying the environment. They set in motion strategies to support those who could not help themselves and initiated the way to equal economic opportunity. Prosperity for people at the bottom means economic growth. It changed the GOP philosophy that protection of the rich, ruling by businessmen, and slashing taxes and regulations would create national prosperity, beliefs that drove the nation into the Great Depression. Looking at Kansas since the GOP instated this philosophy again demonstrates its failure.

FDR was president for almost four terms and followed by a Democrat for another one. By the 1950s, the standard of living in the nation was the best it had been before—and the best since then. Ignoring the facts, the GOP set out to do away with the philosophy and succeeded in eliminating the high standard of living. In the 1970s, the GOP began moving the nation’s assets to the rich through deregulation. Businesses were encouraged to attack the media, education, politics, and courts—just as in current times. Wealth moved upward.

Between 1946 and 1980, “pre-tax” incomes (ownership of assets, public and private pensions, and disability and unemployment insurance) grew from the bottom up, with an increase faster for the poorest adults than the top 20 percent. Those at the bottom 20 percent doubled their incomes whereas the top one percent increased 47 percent. In “post-tax” income, the bottom 20 percent gained a 179 percent hike over these 34 years.

The FCC regulation requiring news to be balanced, equitable, and honest disappeared in 1987, and biased news outlets such as Fox appeared, calling themselves “fair and balanced.” The GOP began to drive out the “RINOs,” Republicans in Name Only, who might support social welfare, regulations, taxes, or compromise. Between 1980 and 2014, pre-tax incomes dropped 25 percent for the bottom 20 percent while the top one percent incomes went up 204 percent, and the top 0.1 percent increased 320 percent. After-tax income for the bottom 20 percent was a four-percent increase. Post-tax income for those between the bottom 50 percent and the top ten percent rose 49 percent. By 2015, the top 1 percent of families took home more than 20 percent of income. Wealth distribution was 10 times worse than that: the families in the top 1 percent owned as much as the families in the bottom 90 percent. By 2015, the top one percent owned 40 percent of the wealth, equal to assets for the bottom 90 percent.

The “tax” bill is part of the GOP objective to eradicate the middle class by concentrating more income and wealth with the existing rich. Republicans will start by eliminating Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. This year’s Senate tax bill starts begins the process by triggering a federal law, PayGo, that limits Medicare to four percent of the annual budget. The $1.5 trill deficit in the bill will them more ammunition when they claim that the country cannot afford the deficit that they created by giving huge sums of money to the wealthy and corporations. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) said:

“We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit… Frankly, it’s the health care entitlements that are the big drivers of our debt, so we spend more time on the health care entitlements because that’s really where the problem lies, fiscally speaking.”

Rep. Rod Blum (R-IA) echoed Ryan by saying that “we have to have welfare reform.” Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA) said, “If we pass tax reform, we have to have welfare reform.” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) stated that the plan had always been “to do two things,” because “the driver of our debt is the structure of Social Security and Medicare for future beneficiaries.” No mention that the GOP is creating the huge debt themselves. The common cry from Republicans is that the government should not help people by “paying people not to work” (Ryan), people who “suffer on welfare” (Higgins); etc. Yet almost 90 percent of working-age parents receiving food stamps are back to work in a year, and two-thirds of people who receive them are children, people with disabilities, and people too old to work. Back to their inability to save because of the $7.25 minimum wage. And “welfare” to GOP legislatures is Medicare and Social Security.

A huge irony of the bill’s process come from the excessive complaining from the GOP about what they perceived as the “rushed” process of the healthcare bill seven years ago. The following chart shows the difference between the way that Democrats follow the “regular order” of Congress and that the way that Republicans ignore it.

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) described the social engineering of the tax bill:

“It’s really designed to reorder our representative democracy. What they will do with these massive tax breaks is they will buy each other up in more mergers, which will concentrate markets and make it much more difficult for small businesses and workers. They’ll also pay each other off and give each other more bonuses, which they will use to purchase political influence in Washington and state capitals all over the country….

“This is really, I think, more about reordering our society, creating a hereditary aristocracy in the United States and really taking our country and leading it down a path where we will one day see a very tiny group of very, very, very rich elite people in an ocean of desperate people just trying to hang on and make it every single day—not too much different from countries that we see around the world, like Honduras, where I recently visited.”

A few goals of the GOP “tax” bill:

  • Kill off the weak by removing health insurance, Social Security, and the safety net;
  • Make education for only the advantaged through deductions for the wealthy and voucher systems;
  • Restrict income to only the wealthy;
  • Encourage corporations, with profits already at an all-time high, to shelter more assets offshore;
  • Take homes from more people;
  • Make the United States a theocracy by allowing untaxed churches to promote candidates;
  • Destroy the infrastructure and make the climate untenable;
  • Move more wealth upward.

Republicans are desperate to pass the bill because donors are withdrawing money from them until they complete the task. They openly support an alleged pedophile for the Senate because they are also desperate to get his vote. With no empathy or desire to preserve a democracy, the GOP will bulldoze this bill as far as they can through fraud, lies, and any other nefarious actions possible.

DDT promised people he wouldn’t touch Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. People believed him, and he was elected. Will they believe the next conservative who makes these false promises?

November 27, 2017

December – GOP Breaking Point

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 11:23 PM
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

With 15 days of work left before their holiday hiatus at the end of December, Congress may face a far more difficult task than in September unless they shuffle everything down the pike, as they did two months ago. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and the Republicans have more than a full plate for its few working days.

Government shutdown: The lights in the government go off on December 8 without further action on the spending bill. Spending caps cause trouble for this bill, so House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) may float another short-term bill, something that the Republicans lambasted Democrats for doing before the GOP was in power. The 2011 Budget Control Act set 2018 caps which will automatically go into effect in January without a deal to raise them. No legislation has been written, and the Senate needs at least 60 votes, meaning at least eight Democrats.

Without a change in the law, defense programs get only $549 billion, and nondefense programs are limited to $516. DDT and the GOP haws want over $600 billion for defense, and Democrats want the same increase in nondefense spending.

CHIP: The Children’s Health Insurance Program for nine million children and 370,000 pregnant women in poverty expired at the end of September, and funding may end up in the December spending bill. The program is running out of money for the first time since it was created two decades ago.  The expenditure of $15 billion for CHIP is vital for preventative health care, but families are already receiving notice that their children can no longer have this coverage.

DACA: The deadline for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, allowing some undocumented immigrants brought into the country as children to work and attend school without fear of deportation, isn’t until March, but Democrats may force the issue as part of the spending bill.

Tax cuts: At least 50 GOP senators must sign off on a bill that increasingly gouges people the poorer they are. Then the bill has to go to the House which either signs off on it or creates its own version and then sends it back to the Senate for approval. At least eight GOP senators don’t like the bill, each for his own reason, but they may end up caving in because donors are insisting that the GOP Congress do SOMETHING! Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) wants to repeal with healthcare individual mandate, and Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) oppose that part of it because the loss of the mandate may destabilize health care markets. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) refuses to vote in favor of the bill unless he gets more perks for his personal small business. Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) are leading the charge in opposing the $1.5 trillion increase in the deficit.

To keep the vote for tax cuts to a simple majority, the increase in deficit can be no more than $1.5 billion. As senators consider tweaks to keep some of the reluctant GOP senators in line, the deficit goes up, requiring that other cuts be made. One suggestion is to just eliminate all the cuts for individuals—not businesses—in the bill’s final year.

The popularity of the tax cut bill is going down and may shrink even more with the Congressional Budget Office report that poor people are hurt even worse than previously thought. People making less than $30,000 a year could be worse off by 2019, and those earning $40,000 will be losers by 2021. By 2027, most people earning less than $75,000 are worse off. In addition, the increase in health insurance premiums will take four million people off any plans by 2019 and 13 million by 2027. The rest of the people, 38 percent of the population, will keep getting tax cuts. The chart below indicates the amount that the government will reap from different salary groups—for example, the group of people making under $10,000 will pay an additional $1,540,000,000 whereas those making over $1 million a year will gain $34,100,000,000. The negative sign before the amount means less revenue for the government and shows that the poor pay for the rich.

FISA: Without a bill, this surveillance program expires at the end of the year, but bipartisan opposition to a “clean” renewal of warrantless spying comes from those who believe in privacy. At this time, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act permits the government to collect emails and texts from foreign spies, terrorists, and other overseas foreign targets without warrants. Proposals have been cleared by the House Judiciary Committee and Senate Intelligence Committee, but neither has gone to a floor vote. The conservative House Freedom Caucus has pledged opposition because it violates the Fourth Amendment.

Flood Insurance: The House has passed its version of reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Program, renewing it for five years, updating federal flood mapping requirements, and bolstering a new private flood insurance market. The Senate, however, has made no plans to address the House bill. The NFIP is $25 billion in debt.

Emergency disaster aid: The $44 billion package for Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands is too small, according to some Republicans from Texas, although it’s added to another $50 billion. Conservatives will demand that cuts elsewhere pay for the $44 billion. The budget from DDT goes only to these places for hurricane relief; DDT has offered not one cent to the Western states ravaged by wildfires.

Iran: The 60-day deadline after DDT’s October statement that the nation is not in compliance with the agreement comes in December. Leading Republican senators want to keep the deal but pass legislation to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons after the deal expires. DDT will need to waive sanctions to keep the nuclear pact intact.

All these decisions are set against the background of ethics proceedings for continuing sexual assault and harassment accusations and a December 12 election to determine whether Roy Moore joins the Senate. Rep. Al Green (D-TX) has promised to force a vote to impeach DDT before the end of 2017.

In The New Yorker, Ryan Lizza writes that December is the make or break time for DDT:

“Year one is when Presidents usually make their mark[.] By the second year, a President’s legislative agenda becomes complicated by the hesitancy of members of Congress to take risky votes as midterm elections approach, particularly if a President is unpopular. The math is stark: on average, modern Presidents have historically lost thirty House seats and four Senate seats in their first midterm elections. Trump’s first year has been different. He has a record low approval rating. He is mired in scandal. [And] he looks like a President in his eighth year rather than one in his first. … He is unique among modern Presidents in that he has no significant legislative accomplishments to show for ten months after taking office.”

What’s missing from this list of must-dos? Restricting bump stocks or closing the domestic violence loopholes in the gun laws.

November 20, 2017

Tax cuts: The GOP Has to Do Something!

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 11:16 PM
Tags: , ,

The U.S. public can give thanks this week because Congress can’t do any damage to us; they’ve all gone home for thanksgiving.  They’ll be back next week, however, when the Senate takes up the House bill that raises taxes on everyone except the wealthy and corporations. Even the conservative publication Forbes thinks that congressional tax “reform” is crazy: it has published a piece called “GOP Tax Bill Is the End Of All Economic Sanity In Washington.”

“There’s no economic justification whatsoever for a tax cut at this time. U.S. GDP is growing, unemployment is close to 4 percent (below what is commonly considered “full employment”), corporate profits are at record levels and stock markets are soaring. It makes no sense to add any federal government-induced stimulus to all this private sector-caused economic activity, let alone a tax cut as big as this one. This is actually the ideal time for Washington to be doing the opposite….

“The GOP’s insanity is compounded by its moving ahead without having any idea of what this policy will actually do to the economy. The debates in the Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees and on the House floor all took place before the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis and, if it really exists, the constantly-promised-but-never-seen report from the Treasury on the economics of this tax bill.”

On CNN, Budget Director Mick Mulvaney promised that “the president is not going to sign a bill that raises taxes on the middle class, period.” Yet this is what the Senate tax bill does.

 

Information about tax cuts keeps trickling out with these disasters after this post on Nels New Day. Gone are tax credits for plug-in motor vehicles, deductions for medical expenses and moving expenses, write-offs for tax preparation, most tax benefits for college in student loans and tuition waivers for graduate students, deductions for theft or loss of valuables—even in wildfires. Although low-income housing keeps its small subsidy, the bill ends the tax-free status of bonds for financing and repair, which has the same affect as dropping the subsidy. Affected by this loss are all private enterprises serving the public interest such as airports and waste disposal facilities.

A huge drawback to the GOP tax bill is that it continues to move manufacturing offshore. The bill allows manufacturers to pay nothing to the U.S. for its products. CEOs won’t bring foreign profits into the U.S. when their taxes are based on the country where factories are located. The GOP fantasy is that these companies will invest in U.S. jobs. They have not done this in the past, and they have blatantly said they won’t do it with the proposed tax bill. The 15 corporations benefitting most from the 2004 tax holiday cut over 20,000 jobs and reduced their research spending.

A basic GOP premise of tax cuts is to punish blue states and reward red states that already get back more than they pay in federal taxes. The punitive measures come from curtailing or eliminating the deductibility of state and local taxes and dropping the home mortgage interest deduction. Congress also refuses to provide any assistance for the billions of dollars lost to wildfires in the West while giving tens of billions to Texas and Florida for help after hurricane damage. Puerto Rico, which can’t help Republicans win a presidency, will get funding but only through loans.

Republicans claim that dropping health insurance mandates from the Senate bill, but people who get subsidies will continue to buy the insurance. There will be no savings for the government.

Other losses in deductions:

  • Alimony: No longer deductible for decrees after 2017.
  • College boosters: No longer deductible if for eligibility in buying seats at games or preferences such as prime parking places.
  • Employee achievement awards.
  • Employer-provided housing: A cap of $50,000 salary.
  • Home sale gains: Qualification requires the home to be the primary home for five of the past eight years instead of two of the past five years.
  • Office day care center.
  • Rare disease research.
  • Stadium bonds (DDT promised to do this to the NFL).

Winners:

REUTERS/Mike Segar TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY – RTSO7UI

  • Businesses because they receive three-fourths of the benefits.
  • Owners of jets and golf coursesThe savings on each of these are minimal compared to lost benefits, but it should keep Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) satisfied.
  • Churches that can campaign for political candidates.
  • Anti-abortion activists because people can name fetuses as beneficiaries of 529 college savings plans. The tax bill defines “child in utero” in personhood terms as “a member of the species of homo sapiens at any state of development, who is carried in the womb.” Law already covers the 529 accounts, but the bill throws the door open to making all abortion illegal.
  • Inheritors for 5,500 estates that drops not only tax on the estate but also on any capital gains on inherited taxes until they are sold.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) tries to convince the people that the new plan is “fair” and “simple” because taxes can be filed on a postcard. Yet the card has no instructions on the card to explain what should be put in a line—i.e., what is a savings plan?—and even asks for the Social Security number to be put on the back of a card that gets put into the mail, available for anyone to see it. And people pay more taxes.

VP Mike Pence sounded sincere when he lied to a Wall Street CEO gathering. He claimed that workers could keep more of their money (false) and companies are incentivized to bring jobs back to the United States (false). Instead of eliminating loopholes, the tax bill leaves them only for the wealthy. According to Ivanka Trump, people can use their tax cuts to hire a tutor to teach their children the Mandarin Chinese language. Gary Cohn, DDT’s multi-millionaire economic advisor, cheerfully claimed that people can use their $1,000 in tax cuts for remodeling the kitchen or buying a new car.

Bruce Bartlett, an expert in supply-side economics serving under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush, said, “There has never been a tax cut in American history in which taxes were raised on the poor to benefit the wealthy. I don’t know of any other country that has done anything remotely like this.” After 1986 tax cuts, wages fell for ten years. Most Republicans have no answer for the failure of tax cuts although Mulvaney tried to explain that the world is different now.

When Bill Clinton raised taxes on top earners from 31 percent to 39.6 percent in 1993, the economy boomed. It created 23 million jobs and grew the economy for 32 straight quarters, at that time the longest expansion in history.

According to a Quinnipiac poll, only 25 percent of people like the GOP tax plan, and only 16 percent think it will reduce their taxes. Thirty-five percent expect their taxes to increase. Only 24 percent say it will help the middle class the most, while 61 percent think that the wealthy benefits most.

This photo shows the GOP position toward tax cuts that take money away from most of the people to benefit the wealthy. The “King of Foreclosure” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and his ultra-wealthy wife admire new bills with his name emblazoned on it.

The Republicans have only one reason to destroy the U.S. economy with their tax cuts: get their donors back. If they don’t pass something, nobody will fund their campaigns. In their reality, better to pander to donors than help the hundreds of millions of people in the United States.

The Senate tax bill has differences from the House bill that may cause trouble when Congress returns next week. Three defectors to the tax bill will sink it. Here’s a partial score card of concerned senators:

  • Susan Collins (ME): She opposes dropping the health care mandate, the “biggest mistake,” because it causes insurance premiums to drastically rise.
  • Ron Johnson (WI): A conservative, he owns a small business and wants more perks for it. His demand will increase the deficit and take the amount into an area 60 instead of 50 votes.
  • Bob Corker (TN) and Jeff Flake (AZ): They don’t like the $1.5 trillion—or more—deficit.
  • Lisa Murkowski (AK): She also doesn’t like dropping the individual mandate but said that “one should not assume this is a precondition for my support for the tax bill.” She likes the Arctic oil drilling in the bill.
  • Rand Paul (KY): He might back out without the repeal of the individual mandate.

It’s all a crap shoot; in the meantime we have Thanksgiving.

November 3, 2017

Tax Cuts: Who Matters to Republicans in Congress

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 11:26 PM
Tags: , ,

The big GOP tax plan was to be released on November 1, but problems delayed it–perhaps because it wasn’t written and because Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) insisted it be called “The Cut Cut Cut Act.” As Stephen Colbert pointed out, at least he didn’t spell the bill with three Ks. So far, the name has been DDT’s only contribution to the tax “reform” bill; all the other disasters come directly from GOP legislators. Most Republicans and all Democrats were left out of the process that had $5.5 trillion in tax cuts over the next decade while adding $1.5 trillion to the deficit. The proposed bill emerged on November 2 to more publicity than the fast-developing investigation into DDT’s connection to Russia.

As always, DDT was largely ignorant about the nuts and bolts, but he loved the idea of filing taxes on post-card sized papers. DDT was so excited that he kissed the form, but like other relationships, it rapidly disappeared. House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) said that people won’t be filing taxes on the card. DDT will need to go back to his love affair with the flag.

At the very end of 429-page document is a roll-back of a 1954 law that prevents the endorsement of political candidates in tax-exempt houses of worship, but the GOP pride of the bill is a permanent corporate tax rate reduction from 35 percent to 20 percent to benefit companies’ owners. Stockholders will become wealthier without taking any action. Only half the people own stock, and most households own very little. Households in the top 1 percent get 36 percent of their income from financial assets, and the 400 wealthiest households get almost 75 percent of their income from capital gains and dividends. The bottom half of the population will enrich the top half, especially the top 1 percent.

Lowering corporate tax rates also leads to increasing CEO pay and stock buybacks. Profits were not used in either investment or increasing wages and hiring. George W. Bush’s “repatriation” of stashed offshore profits went to shareholder payouts. Today’s enormous deficit comes from Bush’s tax cuts and war—which DDT plans. The corporate cut will cost almost $7 trillion in the next two decades with only $1.4 trillion offset from individual taxpayers.

When Bill Clinton raised taxes on top earners from 31 percent to 39.6 percent in 1993, the economy boomed. It created 23 million jobs and grew the economy for 32 straight quarters, at that time the longest expansion in history.

Winners:

  • The maximum rate for small business is lowered to 25 percent, giving a huge advantage to real estate companies, hedge funds, and private equity funds.
  • Eighty-five percent of this tax cut goes to the top 1 percent of earners because true small businesses don’t make enough to be taxed more than 25 percent.
  • The repeal of the estate tax over $11 million saves the wealthy $170 billion and comprises about 11 percent of the cuts. Estates grow when stock prices increase because of a drop in corporate tax.
  • Taxes owed on $2.6 trillion in profits are cut from 35 percent to 12 percent.
  • Fully three-fourths of tax cuts are directed at businesses and large estates.
  • The top 1 percent, those earning at least $733,000 a year, will each annually receive $130,000.

Losers:

  • The special low tax rate for lobbyists, corporate lawyers and wealthy business owners isn’t available for people who work for a salary or hourly wage.
  • Education, job training, and social services lose $200 billion.
  • The loss of jobs comes from wealthy corporations encouraged to outsource jobs in the U.S. and shift profits offshore through slashed tax rates on foreign profits.
  • The slightly expanded child tax credit from $1,000 to $1,600 expires after five years, followed by increases in taxes, whereas the 20-percent corporate rate is permanent.
  • Even Republicans who tend to “spin” advantages of their bills can’t promise that taxes won’t be increased on middle-class families.
  • Deductions for mortgage interest on new homes stops at $500,000 instead of $1 million. Two heavy hitters, the National Association of Home Builders and the National Association of REALTORS, oppose this provision.
  • Deductions for property taxes ends at $10,000.
  • State income taxes won’t be deducted, causing double taxation.
  • Raising the “standard deduction” $11,300 to $24,000 for married couples while eliminating personal exemptions hurts families with multiple children.
  • Itemized deductions on charitable contributions will continue, but others disappear: property and casualty losses, student loans, the adoption tax credit, teachers’ $250 out-of-pocket expenses for the classroom, alimony payments, and medical expenses. Because the medical deduction doesn’t start until costs over ten percent of income, poor people are the biggest losers, especially because they can no longer deduct nursing home costs.
  • People with disabilities will face more barriers: small businesses will no longer receive a credit for making their businesses more accessible or hiring disabled people.
  • People who earn less than $23,700 a year might expect a tax cut of only $80 a year.
  • About 13 million filers making under $100,000 will have tax increases, a number that will grow as benefits are phased out.
  • The repeal of credits for drug companies to develop new treatments hurts people with rare diseases.
  • Other repealed credits are for electric vehicles and rehabilitation of old or historic buildings, that created 2.4 million jobs and returned $1.20 for every taxpayer dollar.
  • Over one-third of taxpayers have incomes below their standard deduction and personal exemptions.
  • DDT has also pulled any DACA solution from the bill.

Flaws in GOP tax cuts:

  • Giving unearned benefits to people who own or inherit financial assets is not good for growth or productivity. Allowing companies to write off the full value of new capital investments instead of spreading it over years gives a one-time jolt without future growth. The deficit of $1.5 trillion could fund all federal education spending, job training, the threatened Environmental Protection Agency and the State Department, homeless assistance, and welfare many times over.
  • The supply-side economics giving cuts to businesses to create jobs may have worked during the Reagan administration when the highest tax rate was 70 percent—twice what they are now. Now corporations won’t add jobs for products until there is a demand, and giving the bulk of the tax cuts to the wealthy doesn’t create that demand.
  • The growth can also be hurt by an increase in U.S. debt because investors get concerned when the debt-to-GDP-ratio is over 100 percent. That concerns translates into higher interest rates on bonds. The increased debt also takes money from building infrastructure and other job-creation uses.
  • The more than $100 billion in tax cuts to the top 1 percent of earners could fund food stamps (SNAP) and other federal nutrition programs.

The biggest debate about the tax bill may be dropping the corporate tax rate. Although less than half of the people think that taxes on businesses are too high, 60 percent of them want to lower corporate taxes. The going current rate for these taxes may be 35 percent, but most of them don’t pay more than 15 percent. Some examples of corporate tax cheats.

 

DDT blatantly threatened Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and economic adviser Gary Cohn for any glitches in passing the tax cuts. Before he left on his 12-day trip to Asia, DDT said that they will be staying back from the trip to Asia to remain vigilant and making sure the tax cuts pass. So if I have any problems, I will be blaming Mnuchin and Cohn. Believe me, they’ll be hearing from me.” He gave the same spiel about former HHS Secretary Tom Price who is not longer with the administration. Cohn’s arguments will be interesting; he’s already told people that they can use their $1,000 savings to remodel their kitchens or buy new cars.

“Conservative leaders would have slammed this Big-Government Budget under Pres. Obama. Now, they demand Republicans in Congress vote for it,” tweeted Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI). “2011-2016: Principles! 2017: End justifies the means.” The “ends” are getting back donations that dried up after the GOP continually failed to pass any major bills.

A huge winner from the bill is the man who can sign it into law. John Cassidy described how DDT can benefit in three ways:

  • The proposed bill eliminates the individual alternative minimum tax (AMT) legislated to stop the very rich from abusing loopholes. In 2005, DDT paid $31 million because of the tax on his income of $152.7 million. Without the AMT, he would have paid $7.1 million—five percent of his taxable income at an 80-percent reduction.
  • The proposed flat rate for pass-through income would benefit DDT in his hundreds of unincorporated businesses. His $67.4 million in income from these businesses in 2005 would have been subject to the 39.6 percent rate, but his unexplained losses have probably disappeared by now. The proposed bill drops his tax rate to 25 percent.
  • Abolishing the estate tax would eliminate a possible $800 million that his heirs would have to pay from his potential $2 billion of unsheltered assets. When DDT promised people a “big, beautiful Christmas present,” he meant that the gift would be for himself.

Republicans are still tweaking the tax bill. One idea is repealing the individual mandate to purchase health care. The other cuts $81 billion from tax breaks for individual taxpayers by changing the way that the bill measures inflation and move taxpayers into higher-tax brackets more quickly. Again, the proposal would hurt middle-class taxpayers and leave the wealthy to collect their money. Kevin Brady said that more changes would come next week.

Kansas proved that the GOP tax plan won’t work. Children paid for that disaster in the state; they will pay for the disaster in the United States if the bill passes.

Next Page »

AGR Daily 60 Second News Bites

Transformational News In 60 Seconds; What Works For Seven Future Generations Without Causing Harm?

JONATHAN TURLEY

Res ipsa loquitur ("The thing itself speaks")

Jennifer Hofmann

Inspiration for soul-divers, seekers, and activists.

Occupy Democrats

Progressive political commentary/book reviews for youth and adults

V e t P o l i t i c s

politics from a liberal veteran's perspective

Margaret and Helen

Best Friends for Sixty Years and Counting...

GLBT News

Official news outlet for the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table of ALA

The Extinction Protocol

Geologic and Earthchange News events

Central Oregon Coast NOW

The Central Oregon Coast Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW)

Social Justice For All

Working towards global equity and equality

Over the Rainbow Books

A Book List from Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table of the American Library Association

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

%d bloggers like this: