Nel's New Day

May 14, 2017

DDT: Religion, Mother’s Day

Evangelicals may not be as supportive of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) as in the past, but the far right Christian nationalists (aka white supremacists) are still clinging to him. Their heritage is creating an extensive private school system after Brown v. Board of Education (1954) ordered desegregation. Because of that, Jerry Falwell, Sr. developed his fame in founding and defending the “segregation academies.” When the federal government blocked tax-exempt status for private segregated schools in 1971, religious schools burgeoned throughout the South with the sole goal of preventing racial mixing. At the same time, the evangelicals fought to keep sex discrimination by opposing the ERA and then developed a strong political stance against legal abortion, sex education, and contraceptive access. Collaboration of corporations, that wanted a government that gave them money, and religion, that oppose civil and voting rights, made a strong voting bloc. The evangelicals ignored DDT’s sexual assaults and multiple divorces as long he used virulent racist rhetoric.

Another evangelical argument in support of DDT is their belief in the rapture. DDT believes in chaos, and evangelicals think that he is God’s weapon to bring the righteous closer to the event that will destroy the world and raise the believers to Heaven. They began to worship DDT when he pushed the conspiracy theory that President Obama was born in a foreign country and that he is secretly a Muslim. An international capitalist with investments in over 20 countries, DDT became a symbol for anti-globalism to conspiracy theorists. As a result, DDT is in the center of racist, anti-woman conspiracy theorists. He alone can make the United States into an all-white nation. Their solution is to burn down the country, and DDT is willing to carry out their plans.

As Valerie Tarico  points out, DDT supporters view him as a kind of god, with great similarity to the one in the Old Testament. He incessantly tries to prove his power to people, even rigging his microphone so that his voice sounds powerful. As an insatiable attention seeker, he displays the same characteristics that the bible demands that people grovel before him and prove their loyalty, just like DDT demanded of former FBI Director James Comey before he fired him. Like the Old Testament god, DDT is cruel and sadistic as well as racist and prejudiced. They both reject the handicapped and demean women. Revenge is also a strong characteristic of both DDT and the evangelical god, and the bible is as contradictory as DDT. Science in the bible is garbage, but both of them promise riches for following them. Biologist Richard Dawkins summed up Jehovah in a sentence: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” Yup, that’s DDT. Except for the fiction.

Evangelicals have used the bible to justify DDT’s actions such as extreme vetting. A panel at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) conference was titled: “If Heaven Has a Gate, a Wall, and Extreme Vetting, Why Can’t America?” In The Guardian, Arwa Mahdawi provided other suggestions for following the bible:

  • Marry your rib: Conservatives used the myth of Adam marrying Eve, made from Adam’s rib, to prevent marriage equality so they could take the story to its logical conclusion.
  • Pay taxes with magic fish: Peter did it after Jesus told him to catch a fish that would have money for taxes in its mouth. 
  • Offer up virgin daughters to be raped as in Sodom: Enough said.

Today Mother’s Day is celebrated in 40 countries around the world. Most people see the day as just another commercial enterprise and don’t realize that it began in the 1850s when a women formed clubs to improve sanitary conditions and try to lower infant mortality by fighting disease and curbing milk contamination. During the Civil War commemorated the day to mourn their fallen soldiers. They also tended wounded soldiers and worked for peace. In 1870, Julia Ward Howe, composer of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” issued a widely read “Mother’s Day Proclamation” calling for women to take an active political role in promoting peace.  [More history here.]

Before speaking at great length about football during his graduation address at the evangelical Liberty University, founded by Jerry Falwell and now operated by his son, DDT spoke briefly about today’s celebration:

“And especially this weekend, let’s make sure we give a really extra special thanks to the moms. But in all of this excitement don’t forget that tomorrow is Mother’s Day, right? I had a great mother, she’s looking down, now but I had a great mother. I always loved Mother’s Day.”

The man of family values, representing the party of family values, didn’t see his wife, the mother of his son, or his son on Mother’s Day. DDT was busy golfing with his buddies at the Trump National Golf Course in Virginia, four states away from his wife and son, on his 21st golf excursion in 112 days since he was inaugurated. He did tweet:

 

“Wishing @FLOTUS Melania and all of the great mothers out there a wonderful day ahead with family and friends!”

He picked “friends” over family.

Melania Trump tweeted this photo of her and Barron, her son with DDT, with the message: Happy Mother’s Day!

May 10, 2017

Jason Chaffetz: Epitome of the GOP

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 11:10 PM
Tags: , , , , , ,

Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) may be almost gone, but he will live on as the epitome of the GOP leadership. Vinson Cunningham describes some of his characteristics, and photographer Bill Clark captured a representative image.

Chaffetz seemed like an independent person last October when Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) revealed his privileged sense of depravity by talking about indiscriminately  grabbing “pussy.” In response, Chaffetz seemed to take the high road when he rescinded his endorsement of DDT:

“My wife and I, we have a fifteen-year-old daughter, and if I can’t look her in the eye and tell her these things, I can’t endorse this person.”

At that time he also had much more to say about the “awful place” the nominee had put the country in and his “abhorrent and offensive” language, but his position about DDT lasted only two and a half weeks before the 180-degree turned Chaffetz into a DDT supporter. His excuse was that Hillary Clinton was “that bad.” As House Oversight chairman, he has focused for years on trying to make Clinton’s life miserable in endless Benghazi inquisitions. None of the expensive endeavors turned up any illegal action, but Chaffetz isn’t through. Returning from re-election this past January, Chaffetz opened an investigation into Clinton’s emails, hoping for criminal charges, and Comey’s firing inspired him to expand the scope of his search for something—anything—that might be illegal in Clinton’s private server.

Faced with unconstitutional conflict of interest charges for DDT, Chaffetz mentally shrugged his shoulders and said, “He’s already rich. He’s very rich. I don’t think that he ran for this office to line his pockets even more. I just don’t see it like that.” Pushed to investigate the $400 million deal between Jared Kushner’s family and the Chinese, Chaffetz said:

“I don’t see how that affects the average American and their taxpayer dollars. Just the fact that a staff person’s family is making money? It’s not enough.”

Chaffetz referred to “these other little intrigues about a wealthy family making money” as “a bit of a sideshow.”

Soon after DDT’s inauguration, Chaffetz proposed a bill that would allow Republicans to sell off public lands. A bipartisan backlash caused him to say that he was withdrawing the bill because his constituents objected. That was February 2. Eight days later the bill was referred to a subcommittee.

During public appearances during “Trumpcare”s first attempt this year, Chaffetz maintained that people could pay for their health care if they didn’t buy a new iPhone. First, the cost of an iPhone won’t pay for health care. But then came the discovery that Chaffetz’s $738 iPhone—and its services—came from campaign funds. This would be illegal if he used it for person business, but he hasn’t answered any questions about whether he does. Then came his attack on Rosie O’Donnell after Chaffetz’s Democratic opponent for 2018, Kathryn Allen, raised over $200,000 in just two days.

Another part of Chaffetz’s history is his failure to become a Secret Service agent. He claimed that he was rejected because he was too old, but then-Assistant Director Edward Lowery sent an email saying about his application, “Some information that he might find embarrassing needs to get out. Just to be fair.”

The kitchen apparently got too hot for Chaffetz at an April town hall meeting in his home Utah district. The people who attended scolded him for not investigating administration corruption, including DDT’s appointment of Michael Flynn for national security adviser. Chaffetz whined about how his constituents in his deep red district were there only to “bully and intimidate” him and called them “paid protesters.” Then he said he wouldn’t run for re-election in 2018 and might even leave Congress before then. Chaffetz claimed that he wanted to return to the private sector and be with his family. “I started poking around to see what I might be worth and what sort of possibilities are there,” he said in an interview. And then he avoided Congress and his constituents by a month-long leave after foot surgery. Distancing himself from DDT at this time could let him run for governor or even president in 2020.

The House was so desperate for votes on their cruel “repeal and replace” health care bill that Chaffetz showed up on an expensive metallic scooter to cast his vote denying tens of millions of people the same health insurance that he will keep. His district is in the top ten of districts with the most people relying on the Affordable Care Act. Clark’s photograph perfectly presents the GOP cruelty of a “repeal and replace” vote for ACA in the House with the slick, gleeful Chaffetz framed against marble walls and elaborate chandeliers.

With Clinton in the White House, Chaffetz could have stayed gleeful while the Fox network filmed him constantly leading highly visible investigations about Clinton’s conflicts of interests and abuses of power. Like many other Republicans, Chaffetz hasn’t figured out how to work in a government controlled by the GOP. They are accustomed to dealing with opposition in a world where they preen in front of the cameras as victims; they don’t know what to do when the opposition comes from within. Even worse for the Republicans is that the corruption comes their own party—and much of it from their own president.

Stephanie Mencimer writes: “Jason Chaffetz is so ambitious that his last name is a verb.” She explains that “to Chaffetz” means to throw a former mentor under the bus to move ahead, something that people such as presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr. and House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy. Other Republicans carry Chaffetzing farther. DDT claimed that Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, and Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, had come to DDT asking for Comey’s firing, but people familiar with the occurrence said that DDT summoned the two of them to the White House after he decided to fire Comey. They followed his orders, and DDT tried to put the blame on them when the scheme backfired.

According to over 30 White House officials, however, DDT had become increasingly furious about Comey’s appearing in public, especially to talk about Russian involvement in U.S. politics, especially during the past week. The Washington Post has provided extensive information about events leading up to the firing and such questions as why Sessions was involved in the firing when he recused himself from anything dealing with Clinton’s emails, the ostensible reason for the firing, and Russia, the probably reason behind the firing.

The firing and the GOP support behind him reflects how Chaffetz views his job—that he has sworn allegiance to the Republican party over any loyalty to his country. The question is how long the Republicans will continue to support DDT over their country’s best interests. In an analysis of senators’ responses, only 12 of them actively defended DDT for the firing while another fifteen said that DDT’s actions raised concerns about a lack of information or the timing of the firing. Another 21 senators were vague, likely waiting to see which way they should jump after the dust settles. This is the congressional body responsible for confirming the replacement for Comey. Much to DDT’s amazement, the Democrats were overwhelming angry about the firing because of its apparent intent to stop the investigation into his relationship with Russia.

DDT’s possible business dealings with Russia may be the major issue that emerged from Monday’s Senate hearing and Comey’s firing. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) asked former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper if he had any “concern” about a DDT business interest in Russia. Clapper’s ultimate answer upon being pressed is that he could not comment on that question “because that impact an investigation.” That was an open hearing; the Judiciary Committee may pursue the question in closed meetings.  Thus far, there is a murky background to DDT’s Russia business interests that he has denied.

Basically, Chaffetz well represents the Republican leadership—cruel, self-centered, hypocritical, cowardly, dishonest, ignorant, and loyal only to those who can give him something. We’ll watch him to see where he pops up next.

May 2, 2017

DDT’s Licence to Discriminate

Filed under: LGBT Issues — trp2011 @ 9:39 PM
Tags: , , , ,

“As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect LGBTQ citizens.” That’s what Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) said at the Republican National Convention almost a year ago. Immediately after DDT’s inauguration, his press secretary said:

“President Donald J. Trump is determined to protect the rights of all Americans, including the LGBTQ community. President Trump continues to be respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights, just as he was throughout the election.”

In his 15th week in office, DDT plans to sign another executive order, this one removing all rights that he can from LGBTQ people. It is labeled “religious liberty,” the term that allows anyone to discriminate against not only LGBTQ people but also anyone else based on what people call their “religious beliefs.” DDT waited until after his first 100 days in office to make this move. Supposedly his daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, talked DDT out of signing the hateful order in early February, but super-“religions” VP Mike Pence worked with administration officials to “rewrite” the order. New verbiage is very little different from the original, according to people who have seen it. With Pence involved, discrimination is not surprising: when he was governor of Indiana, he signed a “religious freedom” bill that had to be redone because of millions in lost revenue to the state.

The grand signing is scheduled for Thursday, National Prayer Day, in front of a proud Pence and other conservative leaders. The original draft order, leaked on February 1, was highly criticized as government-licensed discrimination and quietly disappeared. Thursday is also the day that Leonard Leo, DDT’s adviser to select Neil Gorsuch for Supreme Court, receives the annual Canterbury Medal from the Becket Fund—a “religious freedom” activist group.

DDT has already shown animosity toward the LGBTQ population through his selection of Cabinet members and other administration leaders. AG Jeff Sessions consistently opposes legal protections for LGBT people and voted against the 2009 Hate Crimes Prevention Act, protections for LGBT survivors of sexual violence under the Violence Against Women Act, and the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. He led the support for the amendment to a constitutional amendment that would have kept same-gender couples from marrying. Sessions’ Hate Crime Subcommittee protects people only on the basis of “religious beliefs or background.” Sessions also withdrew the lawsuit against North Carolina over House Bill 2 that included discrimination regarding which bathrooms could be used by transgender people. At the same time, he “persuaded” Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to revoke early guidance on equal access to facilities for transgender students, stopping lawsuits regarding the rights of transgender students.

Other DDT discrimination against LGBT people:

  • LGBTQ content was removed from White House and Department of State websites on the very first day of Trump’s presidency at the same time that other federal websites kept its content.
  • DDT’s Muslim and refugee ban is a death sentence for many LGBTQ people seeking safety in the United States.
  • DDT’s State Department sent two anti-LGBTQ organizations as the only civil society representatives to the UN annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). This UN commission is important to LGBT rights because of its recommendations. Both DDT delegations rely on fake science and fabricated data to support their views.
  •  DDT’s appointment to lead the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services, Roger Severino, has said that transgender equality is “the radical left using government power to coerce everyone, including children, into pledging allegiance to a radical new gender ideology.”
  • DDT revoked the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Act that removed mandates from companies receiving labor contracts that included the removal of LGBTQ rights. Less than two months earlier, the White House had declared that “the executive order signed in 2014, which protects employees from anti-LGBTQ workplace discrimination while working for federal contractors, will remain intact at the direction of President Donald J. Trump.”
  • LGBTQ questions measuring sexual orientation and gender identity disappeared from the upcoming 2020 U.S. Census because, according to the Department of Commerce, there was “no federal data need” to measure numbers of LGBTQ people.
  • DDT nominated for Army Secretary a LGBTQ-hater, Mark Green, who referred to being transgender as a “disease.” If confirmed, Green would replace, Eric Fanning, the first openly gay may to be the Secretary.
  • DDT’s recently hired Department of Agriculture employee James Renne helped orchestrate an anti-LGBT purge of longtime LGBTQ government employees during the George W. Bush presidency.

A leaked copy of an earlier draft executive order, “Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom,” may be similar—if not as bad as—the order to be revealed later this week. The four-page draft covers “any organization, including closely held for-profit corporations” and protects “religious freedom” in every walk of life: “when providing social services, education, or healthcare; earning a living, seeking a job, or employing others; receiving government grants or contracts; or otherwise participating in the marketplace, the public square, or interfacing with Federal, State or local governments.” It creates wholesale exemptions for people and organizations who claim religious or moral objections to same-sex marriage, premarital sex, abortion, and trans identity as well as curtailing women’s access to contraception and abortion through the Affordable Care Act.

Language specifically protects the tax-exempt status of any organization that “believes, speaks, or acts (or declines to act) in accordance with the belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, sexual relations are properly reserved for such a marriage, male and female and their equivalents refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy, physiology, or genetics at or before birth, and that human life begins at conception and merits protection at all stages of life.” To summarize, the February order said that “Americans and their religious organizations will not be coerced by the Federal Government into participating in activities that violate their conscience.”

The definition of “religious exercise” extends to “any act or refusal to act that is motivated by a sincerely held religious belief, whether or not the act is required or compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief.” It lists specific beliefs and gives governmental protection to those who have those beliefs. The language seems similar to last year’s law from Mississippi, declared in violation of both the Establishment Clause and the Equal Protection Clause. The original draft exempted people or organizations from complying with the Affordable Care Act’s preventative-care mandate that includes contraceptive coverage and require insurance not be required to cover abortion or “subsidize[s] plans that do provide such coverage.” The government could also not take action against federally funded child-welfare organizations, such as those providing foster, adoption, or family support services, if they deny services based on “the organization’s religious beliefs.” The order would allow federally-funded organizations to refuse services to LGBTQ people to the point of removing children from their homes.

The ACLU is prepared to sue whenever DDT signs the order. His mandate violates federal law and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution as well as licensing individuals and private parties to violate federal law. In addition, it could violate the 1st Amendment regarding religion and state. Such an order uses a set of beliefs about sexual orientation and gender identity to control everyone.

As Nico Lang wrote about the upcoming order:

“LGBT people, for lack of a better word, would be screwed. This order, if it were to be signed, would allow employers to fire workers on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, permit doctors to deny life-saving services to trans people, and enable landlords to refuse housing to same-sex couples. It would realize the worst fears of the LGBT community by relegating us to second-class citizens.”

Conclusions: DDT never keeps his promise unless it gets him money or good press, and one of his basic goals is to overturn anything that President Obama did. Fourteen percent of LGBTQ people—mostly gay white men—voted for DDT because they love guns and hate minorities. We’ll see if DDT keeps their loyalty after he signs the order.

April 25, 2017

Zombie Health Care Bill Returns

Filed under: Health Care — trp2011 @ 9:40 PM
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After petulantly demanding his “beautiful wall” for the past week, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) blinked and withdrew his demand last night. That leaves the specter of his health care—if at first you don’t succeed, try try again—and make it worse. That’s the case with DDT’s latest incarnation he wants for at least one legislative notch on his first 100 days.

The deal tries to bring in the ultra-right wing of the House by allowing waivers for states that want to charge higher—far higher—premiums to the 52 million people with pre-existing conditions that can include depression, obesity—even pregnancy. This is a partial list of how much could be added to regular health insurance premiums for different conditions. [Note: These costs aren’t the premiums; they’re the extra!]

  • Breast Cancer: $28,660
  • Pregnancy: $17,060
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis: $26,180
  • Lung cancer: $71,880
  • Diabetes: $5,510
  • Drug dependence: $20,140
  • Asthma: $4,270
  • Metastatic cancer : $142,650

With the new bill, states could also exempt the Essential Health Benefits from insurance if they could show that it would lower premiums, increase the number of people insured, or “advance another benefit to the public interest in the state.” Essential Health Benefits: care outside the hospital, emergency services, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, mental health and substance use disorder services, prescription drugs, rehab services, lab services, preventive care and chronic disease management, and pediatric services. These covers almost all health care needs, meaning that insurers can disallow all health care in health insurance or make it so expensive that people would choose to go without the insurance.

Another waiver available to the states under the proposed law would loosen restrictions on higher premium charges for older people over those for younger people. In addition, the bill would provide high-risk pools for people who couldn’t afford insurance, but these have been proved failures, underfunded by government with poor coverage and high costs.

DDT has promised everyone that “Obamacare” is a disaster, and he has plans to make sure that he’s right. Instead of leaving it alone, he is working on regulations that help the insurance companies and hurt the consumers.

  • The sign-up period is cut in half, from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15, 2017 instead of lasting until Jan. 31, 2018.
  • Insurance companies can refuse to sell policies to consumers who fail to make all their premium payments this year instead of a 90-day grace period before losing their insurance.
  • People who need to obtain coverage after the open enrollment must provide documentation that they have had such life changes as marriage, having a child, or moving.
  • The IRS stopped its plans rejecting tax returns if people did not say whether they had coverage.
  • Advertising for the Affordable Care Act, available until January 31, 2017, was pulled immediately after DDT’s inauguration: although enrollment was ahead of the previous year through mid-January, the final 2017 enrollment was down four percent.
  • Coverage may be less comprehensive with less coverage, lowering the value of tax credit subsidies for premiums.
  • Tax subsidies may be reduced so that premiums won’t be affordable for low- and middle-income people.

DDT has also threatened to cut off cost-sharing reductions paid to insurers covering the poorest enrollees. In addition to great instability, DDT’s “plan” will cause premium costs to skyrocket in addition to increased costs for taxpayers.

And DDT can do worse:

  • Broaden or narrow the definitions of some of the 10 broad benefit categories  which de facto eliminates them.
  • Depress enrollment by drastically expanding the definition of “hardship” which exempts people from the individual mandate.
  • Drop the former administration’s legal defense of an ACA rule mandating contraception coverage.
  • Impose work requirements on low-income people on Medicaid expansion.
  • Carry through with the promised 17.9 percent cut in the HHS budget.
  • Let the software and personnel architecture crumble.
  • Allow disastrous waivers to states for “experiments.”

An example of the last problem could happen in Kentucky. The state developed an exemplary health care system, but it lost many of its gains with a GOP governor, Matt Bevin, who wants to administer vision and dental Medicaid through punishment. Desperate to gain back the bad publicity he received with his threat to take health care from 18 percent of his residents, he set up “MyRewards Accounts” in which poor people will be required to meet a list of prorated behavioral requirements for their health care. People on Medicaid will lose their vision and dental care with paying premiums and a $1,000 deductible. Bevin says that they can earn back these costs with such good behavior as job training, health screening, smoking cessation, volunteering, and educational programs.

Linking accounts to work comes from a misconception about people who need Medicaid that Bevin and millions of others hold. In Kentucky, only 15 percent of people on Medicaid are abled adults—in fact, almost 50 percent are children—and most of these adults are already working, looking for work, or in school. Of the others, three-fourths are caretakers for a family member. That’s a small number of people for a massive expensive and invasive database which will be privatized.

Bevin’s plan would give negative “MyRewards” chits, actually fines, for going to the emergency room too often. For example, the first visit would cost $20 and would go up to $75 by the third visit. The ER can be the only health care for a person who cannot find a provider who accepts Medicaid. The plan also fails to understand the loop of how less-covered people are sicker and sicker people are less able to work.

The cockamamie idea comes from Medicaid restrictions by Vice President Mike Pence when he was governor of Indiana. Pence got his idea from Seema Verma, the current administrator of Medicare and Medicaid Services. Although some employers use wellness incentive programs, they are positive and not punitive like Pence’s and Verma’s plan that keeps people from any health care if they don’t accomplish the goals.

Insurers must set their premiums in the market exchanges for 2018 by June 21, 2017. Dana Milbank wrote:

“’The evidence is strong that the ACA is not dying of natural causes, but with the president’s recent comments it’s clear that it could die of suspicious causes,’ says Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan outfit that studies health care. In the current environment, insurers ‘are just not going to stick around and take big risks,’ Levitt tells me. ‘They’ll just take their marbles and invest elsewhere. It would be a very rational decision.’”

Before DDT put his little hands on the health care system, it was healthy. The credit-rating agency Standard & Poor found “marked improvement” in the individual market for most Blue Cross Blue Shield insurers that were forecast to be “close to break-even margins” in 2017. Disruptive actions, however, block the market’s stability and cause insurers to either raise their prices or just leave it.

DDT may be playing a dangerous game. A Kaiser poll revealed that 61 percent would blame DDT and the GOP for any upcoming problems with the Affordable Care Act, compared with 31 percent who would blame President Obama and the Democrats. DDT’s new regulations make it “Trumpcare.”

The end result of DDT’s new regulations is like a teacher telling students that they will fail a class and then changing their answers to make sure it happens. And a majority of people in the U.S. disagree with destroying “Obamacare”: 61 percent want “Obamacare” kept and fixed, and a larger number—79 percent–want DDT to make the current law work and not fail. In addition, 62 percent want nationwide minimum insurance coverage standards, and 70 percent want mandatory protection for pre-existing conditions. These figures show a marked increase after the GOP’s pitch for “Trumpcare” since DDT’s inauguration.

The conservative Freedom Caucus may be on board with DDT’s new plan. Tomorrow we may find out what the other Republicans in the House think of taking health care away from their constituents.

April 18, 2017

DDT’s Missing Tax Returns, More IRS Info

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 7:24 PM
Tags: , , , ,

Your federal income tax payment is due today, April 18. Technically, April 15 is the legal deadline, but not when that date is on a weekend. Then the date is pushed back because of Emancipation Day, the anniversary of freeing slaves and celebrated only in Washington, D.C. on April 16 every year. Its public employees had April 17 off because the 16th was on a weekend so taxes were then due on April 18. Taxpayers in Maine and Massachusetts don’t have to pay state taxes until tomorrow because of Patriots’ Day, a legal holiday celebrated on the third Monday in April, but their federal taxes are still due today.

April 15 was still a day of protest. In the past, Tea Party members led small groups to oppose payment of taxes for all the government benefits that they receive. This year, opposition came from people representing the 74 percent of the population who want Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) to release his tax returns. DDT may have ignored North Korea in his weekend tweets, but he addressed the marches in 200 cities and at least 48 states with at least 120,000 people. The number was probably much higher than that because several cities undercounted its crowds. Seattle and Washington, D.C. each numbered at least 25,000. DDT’s response was that he didn’t need to release his returns because he had already won the election, trying to cover up the continuing ramifications of his massive financial connections including collusion with Russia. He called the marches “small” and accusing the protesters of being “paid.”

The myths of small crowds and paid protesters began with the National Women’s March and the airport protests over Trump’s first Muslim ban during his first two weeks in office and continued for every gathering. Last February, Breitbart started the lie that George Soros is funding the protest movement.

Even hundreds of protesters marched at Mar-a-Lago where DDT vacationed for the seventh of 13 weekends since his inauguration brought out hundreds of people. His trips have cost taxpayers more than President Obama’s trips over his entire eight years, and Palm County (FL) alone has been charged $2 million for his trips. They chanted “Pay! Your! Taxes!” and waved signs calling him “Chicken in Chief” because of DDT’s shift in 40 years by refusing to release his returns. “Chicken Don” symbols replaced the women’s march pussy hats.

Debbie Wehking, a 66-year-old a school principal from Miami, said:

 “He needs to show us his tax returns so that we can tell who’s influencing his decisions, who he owes money to, who he’s doing business with — really so we can figure out whether he needs to be impeached.”

DDT was forced to take a longer route to his golf club to avoid the crowds. In Washington, D.C. a sign stated, “My taxes pay for your golf.” His claim that he cannot release his tax returns no longer holds any water because this is a new return. Also, presidents and vice presidents are automatically audited every year but still made public. In another opaque movement, DDT will no longer release White House visitor logs.

Republicans like Oregon’s representative Greg Walden claim that DDT should have his privacy. Others say that it doesn’t matter or that no one cares contradicted by the marches. Over one million people have already signed this petition.

Last year, individuals paid 49 percent of all federal tax revenues with businesses paying only nine percent of the $3 trillion. Worker and employer payroll taxes, commonly called Social Security and Medicare, account for another 33 percent, and another 3 percent comes from excise taxes with the last five percent labeled as “other.” Business taxes were down from an average of 14 percent last year, and huge corporations like GE and PG&E may pay absolutely nothing. Up to 118 individual breaks benefit companies and the wealthy by almost $1.15 trillion, and 80 corporate breaks net them $185.2 billion.

Technically, the federal corporate income tax is 35 percent, which the GOP wants to drop by over 50 percent. Yet the average taxation for 258 profitable Fortune 500 firms over eight years was 21.2 percent, and 100 of them paid zero taxes in at least one of those years. For example, major polluter North Carolina-based Duke Energy netted $18.2 billion in those eight years and paid no taxes for seven of them while getting $482 billion rebates. That makes their tax rate a minus 2.6 percent.

At least 23 percent of income taxes go to the military, not counting veterans benefits, debt from earlier wars, etc. Yet only 22 percent for this amount is for pay and benefits; almost half of military taxes go to multinational corporations making billions in profits. Domestic needs such as education and the safety net get far less money. [visual] For example, in 2015 taxpayers gave just one corporation, Lockheed Martin, $36 billion, 80 percent of its entire revenues. That money was six times the amount for all foreign aid in 2016.

How government spends your taxes:

  • Defense: 15 percent, not counting veterans benefits and almost 50 percent higher than 20 years ago. [visual]
  • Health care: 13 percent.
  • Interest payments: 6 percent, because of the $20 trillion in national debt largely caused since the George W. Bush tax cuts and wars.
  • Income security: 13 percent, including retirement and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families at its lowest level since 1998.
  • Benefits for veterans: 5 percent for 22 million veterans.
  • Education: 3 percent.
  • Social security: 24 percent.
  • Medicare: 15 percent.
  • Foreign aid: under 1 percent.
  • Other: Under 5 percent, including crop subsidies, space travel, highway repairs, and national parks.

Republicans want to eliminate many of the programs above, but they would be hurting their own constituents. GOP-managed states, aka red states, typically get more federal money back than they send to Washington. Nine of the 11 states that get more than $2 back for every dollar sent to Washington, D.C. are red, and eight of the ten states most dependent on federal funding are red. South Carolina, the queen of federal welfare, gets the most money: for every $1 that the state pays in federal taxes, it receives $7.87. One legislator said, “If you shut down 25 percent of all the federal dollars coming into South Carolina, the economy of South Carolina would collapse.” The federal $59.4 billion sent to South Carolina in 2014 was nine times the state’s annual General Fund budget. South Carolina was ranked the eighth most dependent state in Social Security payments. The state also has the ninth highest level of poverty with almost 28 percent of its children living in poverty along with a horrible health care system, bad public schools, climate-changing coal fired plants with no regulations, lower drinking water standards and other ways to damage its residents.

Only one of the least-dependent ten states, those receiving less money from the federal government that it sends, is red. In short, the lower the financial benefit of federal government in a state, the more likely it is to vote for federal government.

The practice of sending more federal money to Southern states than the government receives is an inheritance from the 20th century when that region voted Democrat, and senior members of Congress sent federal money to their states with contracts, projects, and installations. The other part of the equation is the extreme poverty in those areas. The need for a “safety net” in red states requires hundreds of billions of dollars annually to help the neediest because their own states won’t provide aid.

GOP-controlled red states belie the fantasy that cutting taxes drives growth. Blue states accomplish growth from investments in education, infrastructure, urban quality of life, and human services. These states have nine of the 10 top-ranked universities in the country, the highest median household income in nine of ten states, the greatest generation of technological innovation, and the highest average life expectancy. Despite globalization, local conditions of education, research and development, and promotion of idea exchange and talent development are vital. North Dakota’s oil helped its economy, but it looks more like Saudi Arabia than Silicon Valley. Hubs of “blueness” like Austin (TX) can exist in red states, but are forced to fight against government repression of wage rules and public investments.

Possibilities for blue states? A Bluexit (“Bloo-ksit”) along the lines of Brexit, the British exit from the European Union. If red states want only the U.S. military, paper currency, and the national anthem determined at the federal level, blue states can keep its resources to build up its cities and states.

Happy Tax Day!

April 16, 2017

Different Kinds of Facts?

 

If the major goal of a newspaper is to create controversy, the Register-Guard (Eugene, OR) seems to have succeeded with Anna Katharine Mansfield’s “Puzzling over Trump’s Truth,” reprinted from the Washington Post. It is the umpteenth attempt to explain to those who don’t support Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) why he’s actually telling the truth—emotional truth, according to Mansfield–and received several “questioning” letters to the editor in response.

Mansfield’s premise disagrees with the accusation that DDT is considered a liar by “much of our logic-based, Enlightment-indoctrinated society” because these people use evidence to determine truth. The professor of winemaking who got her certificate in Christian theology education from Sewanee-University of the South, a place that evidently has sent certificates online, talks about “truths” other than factual ones, which she calls “nonfactual truths.” She explains it as “an ability to understand that stories are true, even when the primary elements of the story are not historical fact.” Evidently that’s where taking DDT “seriously, not literally” emerges.

One of her examples of an “emotional truth” is the belief that DDT, not Hillary Clinton, won the popular vote last November. She continues with another “truth” that the mainstream media isn’t trustworthy because it doesn’t represent the conservative point of view. Going back to President Obama, she tries to explain that the belief that is a Muslim or communist explains how it’s believable that he could interfere with DDT even if there is no proof. Mansfield wrote:

“Tom Forman, chief executive of reality TV shows like ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,’ said in a recent NPR interview that Trump is a master at ‘being directionally correct.’ Trump knows, Forman said, how to amplify what viewers already know to be true, what they ‘know in their bones.’ That’s emotional truth, and factual truth can’t touch it.”

Mansfield claims that sometimes DDT should tell the truth when “logic is called for” but not in “minor issues” because our society needs “emotion-based truth.” It is highly unfortunate that the leader of the (hopefully) most powerful nation in the world can operate without evidence in any part of his commanding.

Personally, I’m terrified that the country is being led by a philosophy that evidence isn’t important because the “emotional truth” of these people carries the same weight as proof-based information and personal feelings based on nothing are equal to education.

A letter from John Blondigen perhaps better states my concern:

So, in the interests of balance, here are emotional truths that I hold dear:

  • I don’t believe the economic health of the fossil fuel industry is more important than the health of the world’s climate.

  • I don’t believe that in a country this wealthy, people should lack medical care because of an inability to pay. The purity of some congressman’s free market ideology is less important than anyone’s health.

  • I refuse to go back to a time when only heterosexual white men were first-class citizens. I remember those times, and they weren’t great.

  • I won’t lead the cheers for the use of deadly force to prove anyone’s toughness.

  • And I absolutely refuse to renounce fact for the sake of indulging anyone’s emotional truth.

Other comments to the article from the Washington Post:

This is an excuse for wishful thinking and rampant confirmation bias. There are dangers to such sloppy sentimental thinking.

“Emotional truth” as opposed to “factual truth” has, since the Enlightenment, been simply called ignorance.

Donald Trump’s lies don’t qualify as myth. They are, quite simply, lies. If an individual finds “emotional truth” in the statement that “white is black and black is white,” then I am probably more interested in getting him/her a scrip for Thorazine than granting him/her the succor that comes with validating a delusion.

If more citizens of our country sought both spiritual guidance and scientific knowledge, we would not be living with such a narrowly educated and cold-hearted leader in the White House.

[The article] boils down to, if it “feels right” I should believe it, regardless of any and all evidence to the contrary, and my opinion should be as valid as any other. If that is true, then Dr. Mansfield, I assume, believes we should give deference to flat Earthers, anti-vaxxers, moon landing conspiracy proponents, and any other believers of things she may be less sanguine about.

The error here is in the false equivalency. Emotional truth is individual. Logical truth is universal. To give equal credence to both would destroy society. My emotional truth is not the same as yours , thus there would be no structure. So, although I will defend to the death, the right of a Jesus person to his own personal truth, for the sake of our country, our society, and our planet, logical proof must prevail.

If tRump supporters hold everyone else in the world to certain moral standards of behavior, yet throw those standards away for their president, then we have no basis for communication. They are willing to accept ANY un-Christian act from him, and still consider him God’s chosen candidate. They ignore all of the lessons of the bible (which is SUPPOSED to be the basis of their faith).

Followers of DDT’s “emotional truth” are losing faith in their leader, shown in Tumblr’s “Trumpgrets” and Facebook’s “IregretvotingforTrump.” The Twitter feed “Trump Regrets” also retweeted those sorry DDT voters. Disappointments: not locking up Hillary Clinton, putting Jared Kushner in the White House, dismissing information about Russia, in general not following his (hot air) promises. They’re also amazed that the GOP health plan raises their premiums and DDT is deporting their family members instead of those “bad hombres.” Their “emotional truth” has now clashed with DDT’s beliefs—military dominance, intimidation, and accruing wealth. The question for their “emotional truth” is whether the economy implodes, resulting in another shift of “emotional truth.”

Some evangelical Christians may not accept DDT’s “emotional truth.” Ten percent left their church by mid-November, and 15 percent of all church-going people left their church because they think that DDT politics has become too divisive. The two groups were DDT supporters with pastors who didn’t and those who disagreed with DDT-supporting pastors. A review of data indicates that progressive and moderate evangelicals left their church after its takeover by the right-wing.

Now I’m just waiting for all those articles that explain to DDT supporters the “emotional truth” of the DDT opposition.

April 15, 2017

DDT: Week Twelve – Successes, Failures

Filed under: War — trp2011 @ 9:11 PM
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DDT: Week Twelve Successes, Failures

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) made a few inroads last week in his goal of destroying life for people in the United States:

Elimination of Planned Parenthood: DDT privately signed the congressional revocation of a President Obama order. States may now deny Title X family planning funds to pay Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers although no federal money can be used for abortions. The congressional vote in favor of this overturn was so narrow that VP was called in to break a tie in the Senate.

Follow the Money: DDT is making money off bombing Syria and ruining the health of people, especially children. Each of the 59 missiles fired at Syria to make DDT look better costs over $1 million to replace, and DDT has stock in Raytheon, the company that makes the missiles. Last week, Secretary of EPA Scott Pruitt allowed the continued use of the dangerous pesticide chlorpyrifos, described in here. It’s popular on golf courses, but there is no proof that DDT ordered Pruitt to continue its use of chlorpyrifos to please his golf course management.

DDT Staffers: No longer loyal to him, DDT’s staffers become irrelevant. DDT no longer knew who Carter Page and Paul Manafort are after their investigations for Russian involvement. On the same day that Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort left the campaign, he received $13 million in loans from two DDT companies, one led by a Ukranian-born billionaire and the other by a DDT economic adviser. About Steve Bannon, his former top staffer, DDT said, “I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late.” About the growing friction among White House staffers, DDT said, “Steve is a good guy, but I told them to straighten it out or I will.” DDT also lied when he said he didn’t know Bannon until he joined the presidential campaign; they’ve known each other for six years.

Department of Homeland Security Failure: The government demanded that Twitter release the identity of an anonymous user, Twitter sued the DHS, and DHS dropped its demand. DHS wanted to know who was tweeting inside ICE information through @alt_uscis, an account created by current and former Citizenship and Immigration Services employees. Twitter lawyers cited the right to Free Speech, claiming that “identifying the user “would chill the expression of particularly valuable political speech.’” A Freedom of Information Act request has been filed for records about who ordered the DHS demand.

Easter Egg Roll: The lack of organization at the White House even affected the traditional Easter celebration, now scheduled for April 17, the day after Easter: they forgot to order the eggs until a company reminded them. Of the 40,000 ordered (about half those ordered for 2016), the White House will sell 22,000. Tickets weren’t sent out to the usual school children, members of Congress, and the military. And they forgot about entertainment. At the last minute, PBS Kids and the Children’s Television Workshop, programs that DDT’s budget defunds, were asked to send children’s characters. Last year’s audience was 37,000, but only 20,000 are expected this year. Prepare yourself for photos of this year’s attendance complete with competitive arguments about this president had the largest number coming to the event.

After attending the past two dozen Easter Egg Rolls at the White House, Maryland educator Natalie Rebetsky bought 1,000 wood eggs (above) with the message “Protect Our Children’s Future 2017″ and sold them for $15 on her GoFundMe page. All profits went to PBS and the National Endowment for the Arts.

DDT has also canceled the White House Easter Prayer Breakfast. President Obama began the tradition in 2010 by inviting Christian leaders for a service in the East Room to participate in singing, prayers, and a sermon. The president then talked about Easter’s significance to him. The White House did hold a Passover seder last Monday night, but DDT wasn’t there. His Jewish daughter, Ivanka, and her Jewish husband also skipped the event that President Obama started in 2009. The former president hosted the seder every year, and, in 2012, added a video message to Jews throughout the world wishing them Chag Sameach (Happy Festival).

Remarkable story of the week: DDT bombed Syria as a favor to his daughter, Ivanka, according to her brother Eric.

No one is sure why DDT takes the actions he does, but they are frightening. At this time, he’s on the verge of causing World War III with his threats toward North Korea. As two bullies—DDT and Kim Jong Un—play a game of who’s strongest, Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, is urging both of them to back off from a catastrophe:

“We call on all parties to refrain from provoking and threatening each other, whether in words or actions, and not to let the situation get to an irreversible and unmanageable stage. If a war occurs, the result is a situation in which everybody loses and there can be no winner. It is not the one who espouses harsher rhetoric or raises a bigger fist that will win.”

Saturday, North Korea celebrated the Day of the Sun on the 105th anniversary of the country’s founder’s birth, by displaying new long-range missiles that could someday threaten continental America while a U.S. aircraft carrier group headed to the region. This morning North Korea defied DDT’s threats of “military options” by firing an unidentified ballistic missile that exploded almost immediately after launch. Secretary of Defense James Mattis said that DDT was aware of the test but has no comment, leaving DDT uncharacteristically quiet.

Seoul and Tokyo are at the most at risk if North Korea retaliates to U.S. preemptive actions if North Korea uses a missile with sarin nerve gas. Meanwhile, Russia is moving S400 anti-aircraft missiles to Vladivostok, just eight miles from North Korea, in a massive military mobilization.

After dodging the draft, DDT wants to be a respected part of the military—one reason that he chose many current and past military members for his Cabinet and other senior officials. Having failed at his first attempt to lead  the botched raid in Yemen, he abandoned the responsibilities of a commander-in-chief:

“What I do is I authorize my military. We have given them total authorization and that’s what they’re doing and, frankly, that’s why they’ve been so successful lately.”

As the U.S. approaches a military junta, DDT’s military has doubled the deployment of forces in Syria in the past month and may send more. Hundreds of U.S. soldiers were sent to Mosul with more in Kuwait, and “military advisers” move closer to the front lines. To avoid asking Congress for permission to wage war, as required by the Constitution, he expanded the areas for conducting military operations without constraints or oversights. Almost three months ago, he gave Mattis permission to declare large areas of Yemen active areas of hostilities, removing the need from the military for any permission for strikes. The result is a much higher level of “acceptable collateral damage” (dead civilians). DDT’s military has executed 70 airstrikes in Yemen, double those in all of 2016. DDT gave the same authorization for Somalia and may also follow that up in Libya. To top off these decisions, DDT gave the Pentagon permission to conceal any information about “forces in or out of Iraq and Syria.”

As DDT inspired the press to talk about 86 Syrian people supposedly killed by a chemical attack from their president, Bashar Assad, he killed 1,472 civilians in his Syria and Iraq during just March. During March a year ago, 196 civilians were killed. DDT’s strikes included those on a school and a mosque in Syria along with a building in west Mosul with the three to five civilian fatalities each day indicating a change in the way the U.S. conducts strikes putting civilians much more at risk.

The result from the increased number of civilian casualties from these U.S. strikes is increased failure in the counterterrorism campaign. Because the U.S. is far more cavalier about who it kills, civilians in the Middle East are afraid of U.S. planes, and jhadi recruitment has a more successful technique. Cuts in the State Department have left little diplomatic efforts. DDT is left with only his bravado and military, a policy guaranteed to make the situation far worse.

Now DDT is also threatening North Korea. In talking about DDT’s threats to North Korea, Wang Yi said:

“The United States and South Korea and North Korea are engaging in tit for tat, with swords drawn and bows bent, and there have been storm clouds gathering. If they let war break out on the peninsula, they must shoulder that historical culpability and pay the corresponding price for this.”

DDT loves the military might of the United States—and wants to increase it by at least ten percent. His promise during the campaign was to “bomb the shit out of ISIS.” A war in North Korean is DDT’s way for him to dodge all the bad publicity of budgets, personal finances, loss of safety regulations, etc. He will have created his own 9/11 and Iraq War.

April 5, 2017

Sexual Assault Awareness Month: DDT Defends O’Reilly

April is Sexual Assault Awareness month. In keeping with presidents in the past, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) issued a proclamation to honor this event:

“We dedicate each April to raising awareness about sexual abuse and recommitting ourselves to fighting it. Women, children, and men have inherent dignity that should never be violated…. “As we recognize National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, we are reminded that we all share the responsibility to reduce and ultimately end sexual violence. As a Nation, we must develop meaningful strategies to eliminate these crimes, including increasing awareness of the problem in our communities, creating systems that protect vulnerable groups, and sharing successful prevention strategies.”

During DDT’s campaign, a 2005 recording shows him bragging about his committing sexual assault in which he said, “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ‘em by the p***y.” Eleven women came forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct, and one is currently suing him for defamation after the controversy.

After the sexual-assaulter promised that his administration “will do everything in its power to protect women, children, and men from sexual violence,” DDT defended Fox network host, Bill O’Reilly, after the New York Times’ article about his harassment of women, including the $13 million paid to settle claims to five women. Five days into Sexual Assault Awareness month, DDT declared that O’Reilly is a “good person” and declaimed that “I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.” Advertisers were so disturbed with the revelations, that included information from other women who didn’t sue him, that over fifty companies, including major automobile manufacturers such as Mercedes-Benz, have dropped their advertising for the O’Reilly show. DDT also said, “Personally, I think he shouldn’t have settled.”

As a fan of Fox, DDT gets all his false information from them such as all that wire-tapping that didn’t exist. He is so obsessive about watching the cable that his schedule shows that he doesn’t being any presidential activity until almost 11:00 in the morning. DDT has attended baseball games with O’Reilly and been a regular guest on his show, giving him an interview airing on Fox during its Super Bowl pregame bowl.

DDT brags about referring to the Fox owner, Rupert Murdoch, by his first name. Since the presidential election, the two men frequently communicate. In the past, Murdock mentored DDT’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Murdoch’s former wife, Wendi Deng, made DDT’s daughter Ivanka a trustee of the Murdoch children’s fortune until Ivanka dropped out of this role a few months ago.

In saying that he thinks that neither O’Reilly nor Ailes did anything wrong, DDT is probably not lying. He thought that he also did nothing wrong in assaulting women. A 2015 survey found that one in three women have been sexually harassed at work, and 71 percent of them did not report the harassment, partly because powerful men can block their job prospects. Like O’Reilly, DDT denied that he did nothing wrong and would sue women who made claims against him.

Last year DDT defended former Fox CEO Roger Ailes after a number of his female employees reported his sexual harassment.  “I think they are unfounded just based on what I’ve read,” Trump said. “Totally unfounded, based on what I read.” Ailes was forced to resign from Fox News just one week after that interview. Julie Roginsky has recently filed another sexual harassment suit against Ailes. The FBI is investigating him and other Fox executives for using corporate funds to pay off the company’s sexual harassment victims. DDT defended Mike Tyson against his 1992 rape charges as well as billionaire whose private jet was nicknamed “The Lolita Express” and Joe Paterno who ignored Jerry Sandusky throughout years of the assistant coach’s sexual abuse of young boys.

O’Reilly has spent two decades at Fox being verbally abuse to female staffers, punishing them for refusing sexual advances, and appearing to masturbate while on the phone with them. Seventeen years ago, producer Andrew Mackris’ sexual harassment lawsuit accused him of describing his sexual fantasies about her and urging her to purchases a vibrator. If she told anyone about this, he said, she would “pay so dearly that [she’d] wish she’d never been born.” Mackris received $9 million by issuing a joint statement with O’Reilly that “no wrongdoing whatsoever” had occurred. She has not worked in television news since then. In 2011 Rebecca Gomez Diamond settled for an undisclosed amount. One of the settlements came because one of the women had recorded telephone calls with O’Reilly.

 

Transcripts from a custody hearing between O’Reilly and his ex-wife in 2014 show that their daughter once saw her father choking her mother and dragging her down the stairs.

In response to the NYT article, O’Reilly played the victim when he said, “Just like other prominent and controversial people, I’m vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity.” His next cover was that he “would do anything to avoid hurting [my children.]” The question might be the identities of “prominent and controversial people” other than DDT.

Last week, DDT “honored” National Autism Day after he spread the falsehoods that vaccines cause “horrible autism” and that there’s a “tremendous increase” in the number of autism cases. After his intense ridicule of journalist Serge Kovaleski, he skipped over honoring Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month in March. DDT has until September 15 to figure out how to work around Hispanic Heritage Month after his racist attacks, including the ones against a Latino judge.

March 25, 2017

Health Care Won—At Least for Now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[A bit of humor….]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 19, 2017

DDT Supporters Start to Lose—Everything

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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