Nel's New Day

March 30, 2019

DDT: Week 114 – Off the Rails without Attention to the Barr Report

This week should have been all about the release of the Mueller investigation, now known as the Barr Report after he put out four pages of misleading information for the real report that might have been almost 1,000 pages long. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) did start off with self-congratulatory claims for misleading information but managed to wander off track into the weeds and infuriate the GOP members of Congress.

Presented with a friendly—and irrational—court decision to nullify the Affordable Care Act, DDT ordered his AG lapdog to not defend the law because his own plan is better. He has no plan so he told GOP legislators to prepare one: they are refusing. Republicans even told DDT to drop his elimination of the ACA because healthcare issues brought a majority Democratic House. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) called DDT to tell him that his plan won’t work, and two cabinet members, HHS Secretary Alex Azar and AG Bill Barr, disagreed with destroying the ACA. Yet DDT is calling the GOP the “party of health care” when he plans to destroy healthcare for tens of millions of people.

Effects of no ACA and no other health plan:

Two million young people will no longer need to be covered by their parents’ plans.

Twelve million people in poverty could be taken off Medicaid.

The number of uninsured people would increase by 21 million people, or 70 percent. Some states will suffer more; for example, Kentucky, state of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, will see an increase of 151 percent in uninsured to 379,000 people.

Medicare beneficiaries, as many as 60 million, would face higher costs for medical care, premiums, and medications. The coverage gap on medications, slowly closing because of ACA, will open up again, and people will pay more for preventive care such as wellness visits and diabetes checks. Cuts in government payment for hospitals and other providers, including private Medicare Advantage plans, will increase premiums. An experimental program to save money for 12 million people may disappear. Medicare’s revenue may drop by $346 billion without the ACA.

As many as 133 million U.S. residents with pre-existing conditions could be denied insurance coverage—52 million people—or face far higher premiums. These include common medical issues such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Being a woman was a “pre-existing condition” before the ACA because females could be denied health coverage or charged higher premiums. Before ACA, women were charged at least 30 percent more than men but denied maternity coverage.

Up to 171 million people will no longer be protected from caps used by insurers and employers to limit costs in coverage each year or for a lifetime.

Hospitals and doctors can lose $50 billion with the disappearance of health insurance. Rural areas may need to close hospitals, giving people less heath care for more money.

People forced back into junk health plans with little coverage will end up in medical bankruptcy, the #1 reason for bankruptcy in the United States.

The DOJ declaration that ACA is unconstitutional may give $1 billion to a Florida healthcare executive on trial for Medicare and Medicaid fraud. Lawyers filed a motion for dismissal for accusations of kickbacks, fraud, and services that were not provided or medically unnecessary with the claim that the DOJ claimed that these offenses are unconstitutional. They want a mistrial. Either prosecutors contradict DDT’s position or agree with the executive’s claim that he should be exonerated. Releasing him from charges could result in everyone else convicted of this fraud under the ACA would demand release.

While DDT waits for the courts to destroy more people’s lives with lack of health care, a judge has struck down DDT’s rule to expand insurance plans not meeting the ACA requirements. The ruling references permission for small businesses and self-employed people to gather for association health plans. Lower costs in the “junk” plan means highly reduced health coverage, something that the ACA originally blocked.

In another health-related case, a federal judge threw out DDT’s Medicaid work requirements in Arkansas and Kentucky. Judge James E. Boasberg ruled that the purpose of Medicaid is to extend health care benefits to low-income people, and the work requirements don’t fit with this goal.

A federal judge overturned DDT’s attempt to open 120 million acres in the Arctic Ocean and parts of the Atlantic Ocean for fossil fuel drilling and declared his action illegal. Plaintiffs had argued that presidents may issue bans to withdraw from offshore oil leasing and development, but other presidents are not permitted to reinstate that development. Only Congress can take that action. Appeals could face the 9th Circuit Court and perhaps the Supreme Court. Oregon has also passed a law blocking drilling off its coast.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court blocked a lethal injection in Texas because the prison refused to permit a Buddhist priest to be with a man in the death chamber. Last month, the same court allowed the death penalty to be executed on an Alabama convict for the same reason. Brett Kavanaugh changed his position about religious freedom for all religions in a month.

More bad press followed DDT and his Education Secretary Betsy DeVos with public protests that they had cut the entire $17.6 million budget for Special Olympics. DeVos made a fool of herself trying to defend the action in a congressional hearing and later explaining that she really liked the program after DDT claimed that he had “overridden my people” to give money to the program. DeVos joins at least 19 other DDT cabinet members to end up under the bus. No matter what, the decision isn’t theirs: only Congress can authorize the final budget.

DeVos had not only eliminated 29 education programs essential to kids with disabilities, including after-school programs for low-income kids, professional development for teachers, and mental health services, but is also attempting to convince people that bigger classes sizes are better for students.

After threatening to close “large chunks” of the southern border, DDT now says he will close the entire border to all trade if Mexico “doesn’t immediately stop all illegal immigration coming into the United States.” Five million people can lose their jobs if he goes through with his threat, and millions more can lose their health care and cheaper prescriptions obtained in Mexico. He also plans to slash almost $500 million in aid to Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras in a misguided attempt to cut down on the number of migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. His plans will exacerbate current problems of violence, poverty, and lack of jobs—driving more migrants north. The U.S. doesn’t give funding to the government; it provides for programs, many of them administered by nonprofit groups trying to stop migration.

DDT said that pointing machine guns at immigrants seeking asylum would be more efficient than a wall. He also said, “I wouldn’t want to do it,” but he’s also known for changing his mind hourly—and maybe some of his followers will follow through on the suggestion. DDT is already “housing” immigrants in cages under a bridge.

In a follow-up to the closeness between the airline industry and acting FAA chair Daniel Elwell, ProPublica published emails between Elwell and his industry buddies showing how he protects them. Appointed as deputy administrator on June 26, 2017, Elwell continued his “support” of his former lobbying clients. On his federal financial disclosure, Elwell failed to list clients who paid him $282,500 in 2016 and part of 2017. Unlike other oversight agencies, the FAA both regulates and promotes the airline industry; Elwell takes the latter much more seriously. A Senate committee has scheduled Elwell to testify on airline safety next Wednesday.

“How Donald Trump Inflated His Net Worth to Lenders and Investors,” a must read, details his financial lies that could lead to charges of fraud and corruption.

A federal judge ordered the DOJ and FBI to turn over former FBI Director James Comey’s memos so that he can determine whether to release them to the public.

Twitter, which allows world leaders to violate their terms of service because of being “newsworthy,” may start labeling DDT’s tweets as “offensive” if others would not be allowed to send them.

Putting people at risk of identity theft and fraud, FEMA gave personal data of 2.3 million disaster victims to an outside contractor. Information included birth dates, partial Social Security numbers, full names, addresses, and financial information with details of banking information.

February’s national debt of $234 billion was 46 percent higher than for the entire year 2007, making an average monthly deficit under DDT at $117 billion, higher than the average monthly deficits during President Obama’s both terms. DDT said both said “I love debt” and promised to eliminate the national debt.

Polls in states that supported DDT in January 2017 are now opposed to him, shown by approval ratings above and below 50 percent:

  • Pennsylvania: 1/17: +10; 2/19: -7
  • Ohio: 1/17: +14; 2/19: -5
  • Michigan: 1/17: +7; 2/19: -15
  • Wisconsin: 1/17: +6; 2/19: -14
  • Iowa: 1/17: +9; 2/19: -10
  • Florida: 1/17: +22; 2/19: -2
  • Arizona: 1/17: +19; 2/19: -6
  • North Carolina: 1/17: +17; 2/19: EVEN
  • Georgia: 1/17: +18; 2/19: -1

DDT hoped that the Barr Report would help his ratings, but he’s in exactly the same place he was before its release—42 percent approval and 55 percent disapproval. Nothing seems to help him.

July 9, 2018

New SCOTUS Justice Nominee, Continuing Lawsuits

The suspense is over, and the work begins. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has nominated Brett Kavanaugh, anti-abortion activist, as his choice for a Supreme Court Justice, perhaps because the sitting judge on the D.C. Circuit Court believes that a sitting president should not be indicted. I will write more about him later. In the meantime, U.S. courts keep chewing away at federal injustices:

The U.S. Supreme Court, soon to be reconfigured to the right, delivered a final statement for 2018 on gerrymandering when it kept the redrawn legislative districts by returning the case to a North Carolina court that tried to reduce racial gerrymandering. Democrats are the majority voting bloc in the state, but the GOP controls ten of the 13 seats in the House of Representatives and a veto-proof majority in the General Assembly. The Supreme Court could still hear the case again if an appeal from Republicans returns the issue to the higher court. Legislators are also trying to move the court to the right by increasing the number of judges. But they can’t finish this process by the fall election—I hope!

Today DDT lost another round in the separation of children and families when a judge refused long-term detention of migrant families except in cases when parents are detained on criminal charges. Judge Molly M. Gee said the administration’s attempt to change the 1997 Flores agreement requiring the release of children within 20 days was “a cynical attempt” to shift immigration policymaking to the courts in the wake of “over 20 years of congressional inaction and ill-considered executive action that have led to the current stalemate.” In another federal case, 54 migrants under the age of six, scattered from California to New York, will be secretly returned to their parents tomorrow, half the number who were removed from their parents. Tomorrow is the court’s deadline for all the youngest migrants to be returned to their parents. The court has mandated that the remainder of children over five years old, perhaps 2,900, must be reunited by July 27.

The DOJ dropped charges against the last 38 protesters of the 200 arrested at the inauguration of DDT. Prosecutors managed to get one guilty plea to a felony and another 20 to misdemeanors in 18 months after turning the lives of hundreds of people upside down.

A federal judge has ruled against a Tennessee law that suspends or revokes driver’s licenses of people too poor to pay court costs or traffic fines because the law violates constitutional due process and equal protection clauses. The ruling does not affect other states, but it sets a precedent for other similar rulings. Over four million drivers have lost their licenses for failure to pay these charges in only five states—Texas, Michigan, North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee.

A judge in the Southern District of New York ruled that the lawsuit opposing the citizenship question in the 2020 census can go forward amid “strong” evidence DDT acted in bad faith. Also granted was the request for discovery that will bring to light the background for this decision. Judge Barbara Underwood wrote:

“By demanding the citizenship status of each resident, the Trump administration is breaking with decades of policy and potentially causing a major undercount that would threaten billions in federal funds and New York’s fair representation in Congress and the Electoral College.”

ICE cannot systematically detain migrants fleeing persecution from their home countries, according to a judge in the Federal District Court of D.C. who pointed out that the U.S. government requires these applicants to be freed when appropriate. Under DDT, parole rates have gone from over 90 percent to “nearly zero.” Judge James Boasberg has ordered individualized reviews for all asylum seekers before denying parole in a case affecting over 1,000 asylum seekers denied parole in Detroit, El Paso, Los Angeles, Newark, and Philadelphia. ICE has held one of the plaintiffs for over 18 months after he fled Haiti and passed his credible fear interview and then a judge granted him asylum in April 2017.

A ballot initiative already passing review for the fall ballot by the Michigan Court of Appeals will go to the state’s Supreme Court. A Republican and business-backed group are challenging the initiative to create an independent commission to draw legislative districts with advice of consultants and public hearings. Gerrymandering in Michigan, as in a majority of other states, has caused Republicans to take over state legislatures despite a majority of Democrat voters in some states.

A federal judge blocked Kentucky’s Medicaid work requirements because they did not consider whether these would violate the provision of health care to the most vulnerable people. The disagreement comes from whether the requirement furthers the program’s goals. Up to 95,000 people could lose Medicaid coverage within five years with these requirements. Kentucky was the first state to create these work requirements, and three other states—Indiana, Arkansas, and New Hampshire—had received federal approval. Seven other states have submitted proposals.

Gov. Matt Bevin retaliated against people on Medicaid by cutting Medicaid dental and vision benefits to almost 500,000 people, some of them children. In Kentucky, Medicaid covers about 1.4 million people, almost half of them children. Federal funding provides for 80 percent of the $11 billion dollars for the program. Bevins’ order may violate the judge’s ruling about Medicaid.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been named as a possible witness in the federal corruption trial of an Alabama coal executive and two politically connected attorneys in Alabama. The case is about an alleged conspiracy to bribe a state legislator to limit the EPA’s cleaning up a Superfund site. The legislator, Oliver Robinson, has already pled guilty to taking bribes from Drummond Coal that were facilitated by the two attorneys at a major Birmingham law firm. Other witnesses include several state legislators as well as Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), recently returned from a PR trip to Russia, and Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL). As a senator, Sessions tried to intervene with the EPA to stop the cleanup at the Superfund site after conferring with the Drummond lawyers; the law firm and coal company were Sessions second- and third-largest contributors to his senate campaign, a great deal after Sessions intervened. The DOJ has been overseeing the case while Sessions is AG.

After a number of losses in court, including being sent to take remedial law classes, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach will no longer represent himself in court during his appeal for contempt in court and a ruling of unconstitutional for requiring people to show proof of citizenship in voter registration. Kobach’s office will be lead counsel. Furious because he lost a straw vote to gubernatorial competitor Gov. Jeff Colyer, Kobach accused his opponent of voter fraud by paying 106 people to vote.

A federal judge issued an injunction against a 2015 Arkansas law that bans abortion pills. Earlier the U.S. Supreme Court had refused to hear a case against the law. After Planned Parenthood presented new evidence, the judge indicated that it may prevail in the case. A federal judge also blocked Indiana’s new requirement that medical providers report patient information to the state after treating women for complications from abortions.

Last week, people celebrated the separation of the United States from the reign of George III. In another eight years, the U.S.—if it still exists—will celebrate the 250th anniversary of this document. Until then, consider the similarity between the actions of George III and DDT:

  • DDT ignores laws and court decisions he doesn’t like—anti-nepotism, Russia sanctions, emoluments clause, the Affordable Care Act—the list goes on.
  • DDT blocks laws in the Congress, such as ones about immigration, if he disapproves.
  • DDT wants to be a dictator like China’s Xi Jinping, while a majority of Republicans want to postpone the next presidential election.
  • DDT demonizes immigrants with extreme punishment. Consider the Declaration’s complaint about George III: “he has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither….”
  • DDT tries to prevent a legal investigation into ties between Russia and his campaign through attempts to weaken U.S. confidence in the FBI, the intelligence services, and the justice system as a whole.
  • DDT “has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.”
  • DDT has ordered “Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures” by sending National Guard troops to the border with Mexico.
  • DDT is stopping “Trade with all parts of the world” and “imposing Taxes on us without our Consent” with tariffs and alienation of allies.
  • DDT “has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people” through expanding offshore drilling, risking wildlife and oceans, and destroying economies of states bordering oceans.
  • George III also suffered from a mental illness.

DDT has just nominated a Supreme Court justice while he is being investigated not only for his involvement in Russian election meddling but also for illegal payoffs to women with whom he had affairs, defamation, and his illegal activities with his personal charitable foundation. He might also be charged, both civilly and criminally, with perjury by signing at least four annual federal tax returns swearing that the organization wasn’t used for political and/or business purposes although evidence shows that he lied. Yet DDT thinks he’s above the law, and his new Supreme Court justice may agree with him.

June 5, 2018

Supreme Court Winds Up Year, More Court Cases

Mondays in June mean decisions from the Supreme Court. This week the justices gave extremely narrow rulings on two major case, leaving both sides dissatisfied. The first, dealing with whether religious beliefs can be used to discriminate against others, concerned a Colorado baker who would not sell a wedding cake to a gay couple. The ruling came out on the side of the baker but left no decision for the legality of allowing religious beliefs or free speech rights as justification for refusing services to LGBTQ people. The Supreme Court decision, with only Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsberg dissenting, claimed that the members of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission showed “religious hostility” which “cast doubt on the fairness and impartiality of the Commission’s adjudication of Phillips’ case.”

Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Kristen Waggoner for the baker approved of the statement that “government hostility toward people of faith has no place in our society,” a ruling that may also be used to assert that hostility from people’s faith likewise has no place in the United States. She refused to answer a question about future rulings if the baker again refused to sell a wedding cake to a same-gender couple. Using state anti-discrimination laws requiring public businesses to equally serve all potential customers, several courts have turned down self-identified artists such as florists, bakers, and photographers who claim violation of their rights if they have to give business to same-gender couples, a claim that this ruling doesn’t decide.

Author of the ruling, Anthony Kennedy, wrote that LGBTQ people “cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth.” He added that future cases “must be resolved … without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market.” According to the ruling, the U.S. has a “general rule” that religious and other objections “do not allow business owners and other actors in the economy and in society to deny … equal access to goods and services.”

In dissension among justices, Gorsuch and Alito asserted that the Supreme Court cannot tell a baker “that a wedding cake is just like any other,” using sacramental bread as an analogy. Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer disagreed, stating that a wedding cake doesn’t change just because “a vendor like Phillips invests its sale to particular customers with ‘religious significance.’ ” Kagan referenced a 1968 decision requiring a barbecue restaurant owner to serve black customers despite his claim that his religion opposes racial equality.

The cake people failed to get a ruling that the Constitution protects discrimination, but it does give states the right to legislate against discrimination, including against LGBTQ people. The ruling against religious animus is an interesting comparison to the religious animus in DDT’s travel ban, another Supreme Court ruling to be released this month.

In a case about the DOJ imprisoning an undocumented migrant girl so that she could not get a legal abortion, the Supreme Court gave a mixed ruling. It declared the lower court’s ruling to be moot and therefore not binding because the girl had already had an abortion but declined to sanction the opposing lawyers to the DOJ for what the DOJ called deception because the procedure was rushed through before the DOJ could appeal to the Supreme Court. The high court has never before been petitioned to sanction lawyers. The decision in this case does not affect an ongoing class-action case about the rights of immigrant teens in government custody to obtain abortions. DOJ is declaring the case a win for them, but the narrow ruling was for only one girl who had already had an abortion.

The Supreme Court is also due to consider whether to review a Washington state Supreme Court decision that a florist could not legally decline to provide flowers to a same-gender wedding. Major decisions in June concern partisan gerrymandering and DDT’s travel ban.

The Supreme Court refused to address an Arkansas law that ends the use of medication abortions in the state and closes two of the state’s three abortion clinics because they perform only medical abortions. Doctors who provide medication abortions must have a contract with a specialist who has hospital admitting privileges, a burdensome, unnecessary mandate because complications are extremely during the use of two pills in the first nine weeks of pregnancy and can easily be dealt with in an emergency room or hospital. A three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit Court had earlier upheld the Arkansas law, but Planned Parenthood will appeal the case to lower courts. U.S. District Judge Kristine G. Baker temporarily blocked the law, saying that it was “a solution in search of a problem.” Two years ago, the Supreme Court overturned a Texas law requiring doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges in a local hospital.

In a more positive ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that police need a warrant to search a person’s property, specifically vehicles parted on a driveway or carport. The 8-1 decision followed a 2013 ruling that police may not bring drug-sniffing dogs to the front porch of a home without a search warrant. Samuel Alito said that a search is reasonable because “the vehicle was parked in plain view in a driveway just a few feet from the street.”

Other rulings outside the Supreme Court:

A Manhattan Supreme Court judge has ruled that Donald Trump must have a seven-hour deposition before January 31, 2019, as part of the defamation lawsuit by Summer Zervos, who accused Trump of groping her in 2016. July 13 is the deadline for both parties to issue demands for documents with September 13 the deadline for responses. The case goes to trial after June 7, 2019.

A Maine judge ordered Gov. Paul LePage to start voter-approved Medicaid expansion after he missed the April 3 deadline to file a plan with the federal HHS. After LePage vetoed the expansion in legislature five times, he argued that he couldn’t implement a law not funded by the legislation although the state has a $140 million surplus.

Felony charges have been dropped against ten people arrested protesting DDT’s inauguration because the government failed to turn over evidence it got from Project Veritas, known for James O’Keefe’s doctored videos. The judge barred the government from bringing back the charges in the future. A D.C. jury is deadlocked regarding three others involved in the protest. Forty-seven people of the original 200 charged are still facing court cases, but no defendant has been convicted.

And new cases:

Ambridge Event Center, which managed an event center owned by the Holy Rosary Church in Portland (OR), is suing the church for almost $2 million because its anti-LGBTQ bias hurt business. The negative press from the company’s inability to rent to a PFLAG chapter lost business from government and businesses that believe in equality. If Ambridge worked for the church, the law violation is employment discrimination; if Ambridge is a renter, the church violated the law with housing discrimination. Oregon’s exemption for religious groups applies only if “the use of facilities is closely connected with or related to the primary purposes of the church.” Ambridge has gone out of business.

Rustem Kazazi, a 64-year-old Cleveland resident, is suing U.S. Customs after customs agents at an airport took the family’s life savings–$58,000—that he was taking to Albania to help his family and buy a vacation home. The agency’s website says that there is no limit to the amount of money brought into or taken out of the U.S., but the agents refused to return Kazazi’s money although the family, all four citizens, was not charged with any crime. Agents also refused him a translator, strip-searched him, and gave him a receipt without the amount of money they took. A month after the money was taken, the agency wrote them, claiming that the money was “involved in a smuggling/drug trafficking/money laundering operation.” The letter also reported $770 less than Kazazi had been carrying. The federal government took over $2 billion in assets from people in 2017.

Phoenix is suing the government over the proposed census question on citizenship for fear of losing federal funds and marginalizing residents.

The American Federation of Government Employees, representing 700,000 workers, is suing DDT after he signed an executive order severely restricting the time employees may spend on union activity. The lawsuit claims his order violates the First Amendment and oversteps his constitutional authority. The order restricts “official time” for union leaders to represent workers during work time in grievances about unfair labor practices or disciplinary actions during work time, a guarantee provided by Congress 40 years ago.  The order still allows individuals to work on their grievances while on duty but without union assistance. Administration says that the change could save up to $100 million a year—equivalent to about two-thirds of DDT’s weekend junkets. Other orders instruct agencies to restrict unions in contract negotiations and fire employees more rapidly.

The League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa and ISU student Taylor Blair are suing Iowa’s secretary of state over the state’s voter ID law “apparently timed to disrupt the June 5 primary elections.” Facebook advertisements had stated that “Iowa voters will be asked to show a form of valid identification,” omitting the information that voters without ID could sign a form swearing to their identity and then cast a normal ballot. Another part of the lawsuit claims that the secretary of state’s website omitted some ID permitted under the law, such as an Iowa student identification plus proof of address.

Worried about getting DDT’s conservative judicial nominations approved after the midterms, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has reduced the August recess from four weeks to one week. Another theory for the change is that Democrat senators, defending 26 Senate seats this year, will be hobbled by less time to campaign while their Republican opponents have a free field. The GOP has nine incumbents on the ballot, including Nevada’s Dean Heller who is struggling with re-election.

May 12, 2018

DDT: Weeks 67-68 – While We Paid Attention to Foreign Affairs

The last two weeks have seen monumental decisions by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), including his withdrawal from the Iran deal and his upcoming talks with North Korean president, Kim Jong-Un. Another media focus has been the revelations of “pay to play,” as DDT’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen collected millions of dollars from huge businesses in exchange for access to DDT.

Before these events, however, the media spent several days protecting Sarah Huckabee Sanders after the fundraising correspondents’ dinner, largely maintaining that the media’s comedian Michelle Wolfe had unfairly attacked the White House press secretary. The truth she told about the media being instrumental in electing DDT probably infuriated them.

“He has helped you sell your papers and your books and your TV. You helped create this monster and now you are profiting from him.”

Not all the media criticized Wolfe;  New Yorker’s Masha Gessen’ critique of the media was as clear as that expressed by Wolfe.

All the warm fuzzy expressions about Sanders disappeared, however, after she protected Kelly Sadler for her vile comment about Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) objection to Gina Haspel, nominee for CIA director, that it was irrelevant because “he’s dying anyway.” Sanders didn’t object to Sadler’s comment–just to the leak. objection was not to the comment, but to a leak. Sadler made her statement three days after Melania Trump kicked off her “Be Best” program, promoting kindness in children.

Chief of staff John Kelly is also taking some heat from the media. Trying to gain DDT’s support after calling him an “idiot,” Kelly went on NRP to lambaste immigrants from Mexico because they are poorly educated, don’t speak English, come from rural areas, and cannot assimilate into society. Unfortunately for Kelly, genealogical researcher Monica Pattangall researched his family tree. Seven of Kelly’s eight great-grandparents immigrated to the U.S., and three of Kelly’s four great-grandfathers were unskilled workers. The fourth was a cooper. They came to the United States because they wanted a better future for themselves and their children. Great-grandfather Giuseppe Pedalino could not read, write, or speak English, and great-grandfather John Marco also did not speak English for at least ten years. Marco and his second wife, who could not speak English for over 30 years, lived with their daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren, one of them the chief of staff’s mother. Kelly’s family has all the characteristics that he doesn’t want in immigrants, but he became the top aide to the man elected as president of the United States. Kelly also claims that women are more emotional than men, ironic considering his bosses temperament of his boss, and wanted the ex-wives of then-White House staff Secretary Rob Porter to talking about their abuse.

After almost total silence for other a year, First Lady Melania Trump launched “Be Best,” her program to help the vulnerable children. “Children deserve every opportunity to enjoy their innocence,” Ms. Trump. She expresses a concern about the well-being of children and released a booklet complete with her photograph—that was copied from a 2014 Federal Trade Commission pamphlet by President Obama and his wife, Michelle, called, “Talking to Your Kids.” Melania Trump fought back against the criticism with a statement against what she called “baseless accusations” on “a day meant to promote kindness and positive efforts on behalf of children.

On the same day that she touted kindness to children, AG Jeff Sessions announced that ICE will separate every family who tries to cross the border, including ripping infants and toddlers away from their mothers. Last fall, HHS discovered that they had lost almost 1,500 children that ICE had taken from their parents. As if that wasn’t enough cruelty to children, on the same day DDT asked Congress to shred the $9 billion Children’s Health Insurance Program by $7 billion, removing almost 80 percent of funding earmarked for children living close to poverty in the United States.

Teacher of the Year Mandy Manning has a different perspective on immigrants and took the opportunity of her award acceptance at the White House to hand letters from her students to DDT. She teaches English in Spokane (WA) to refugee and immigrant high school students when they first arrive in the United States. She wrote in her application:

“In the current political climate, anti-immigrant and anti-refugee rhetoric is rampant. As soon as my students arrive, they are afraid they will have to leave. Most of my students come to the U.S. seeking safety, but they don’t always feel safe here. This makes it hard for them to share and learn from others….

I am here for refugee and immigrant students, for the kids in the gay-straight alliance, and for all the girls.”

The letters expressed their feelings of happiness to contribute to their new country and the shame of having from the nation’s leader speaking poorly of them. During her acceptance appearance, Manning wore activist pins for LGBTQ, trans, and women’s rights. In his speech, DDT refuted Manning’s message by talking about the importance of teaching CITIZENS (in all caps on the teleprompter) instead of Manning’s students.

Another ICE tactic is stealing money. Six months ago, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) took over $41,000 in cash without a civil asset forfeiture case from a U.S. citizen who saved the money for years for a medical clinic in Nigeria. They refuse to return the money until she agrees not to sue them for taking her money. Taking money from innocent people is so prevalent that state and local governments take billions of dollars from people without charging them with crimes.

Perhaps DDT should have kept his former HHS Secretary Tom Price. Now Price is agreeing with the CBO that repealing the health care mandate “drives up the cost for other folks within that market.” DDT’s policies are also driving up the number of people without health insurance.

Much was made of the 49 questions that investigator Robert Mueller wanted to asked DDT. DDT tweeted, “No questions on Collusion,” but he ignored the one about cooperation between the Russian government and DDT’s campaign. Largely ignored, however, is that DDT’s lawyer Jay Sekulow wrote them. The questions are listed here.

People may be pleased that Cambridge Analytica, the software company that helped DDT win electoral votes, is no more. The closure, however, can only benefit the company: it registered the new company, Emerdata Limited, last year and now can no longer be sued.

“Trade wars are good and easy to win,” according to DDT, except when they aren’t. Caught up in global hostility toward him, DDT has postponed more tariffs against steel and aluminum. Details here.

DDT’s personal physician Harold Bornstein, fed up with DDT, stated that DDT personally dictated the 2015 letter ostensibly from Bornstein to praise DDT’s fantastic good health. The letter came after DDT consistently attacked his opponent, Hillary Clinton, with the statement that she wasn’t healthy enough to be president because he will do anything to win anything. Borstein told the story after DDT’s longtime bodyguard raided the doctor’s office and took all DDT records with no signed form or request from DDT and told Bornstein to take down a picture of Bornstein and DDT.

DDT’s tweet that threatened to remove credentials from the press came immediately after Fox & Friends said he should do just that. During his campaign, DDT said he would never remove credentials, but his mind now equates negative news with his concept of “fake news.”

Any infrastructure plan has died as all its supporters have left the White House.

Louisiana may start a trend of increasing the number of the homeless by moving old people out of nursing homes. Letters went out to 37,000 Medicaid recipients, 20,000 of them in nursing homes, telling them that they could lose their benefits. The closure of nursing homes could also leave 25,000 people unemployed. In the richest country in the world, the wealthy and huge corporations are gaining trillions of dollars from the GOP tax cut while old people are turned out on the streets.

Only Charlotte (NC) is admitting that it is willing to host the 2020 GOP convention; several of the others have rejected the event because of concerns about violence and security concerns.

Drugs stocks shot upward this past week after DDT broke another campaign promise to lower drug costs. DDT already put a drug company executive in charge of Department of Health and Human Services and now announced that he won’t permit Medicare to negotiate prices. He claimed that he would lower drug costs by encouraging use of generic prescriptions that often don’t work as well as the original, promoting competition in pricing, calling on other countries to increase their prices—in short, doing nothing about skyrocketing prices that are gouging patients. Pharmaceutical companies have benefited from the $26 million they spent last year in lobbying to keep their high prices.

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Chuck Grassley (R-IA), told Supreme Court justices considering retirement that they should immediately announce so that the current Senate can replace that person before the November midterm election. He seems to be concerned that Democrats would use GOP tactics to hold up confirmation hearings for GOP nominations.

Believe it or not, to be continued!

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.

June 22, 2017

Senate Trumpcare: ‘Mean and Meaner’

After weeks of secrecy, the Senate version of Trumpcare is out, and police dragged protesters from the hall outside from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) door. Many of them were disabled in wheelchairs and on respirators. Over 40 people were attacked and arrested, and photographs showed blood on the floor of the hall. Photographs and video here. These protesters aren’t alone: Trumpcare has only a 17 percent approval rate in the country and no majority in any of the 50 states.

 SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

GOP senators said that their bill would not be as cruel as the House bill passed last month, but it is more “mean,” to use a word from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Republicans said that they had to pass a repeal of “Obamacare” to keep their promise, but it leaves most of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) bones while taking away the flesh. Four senators have criticized Trumpcare because it doesn’t do enough damage to most of the people in the United States.

The sole purpose of the bill was to take money out of health care for women, the poor and low income, the elderly, the sick, and any health person who becomes injured in order to give massive tax cuts to the wealthy, the health care companies, and the pharmaceutical corporations. People with incomes over $200,000 are the ones who benefit. The rich get over $600 billion while people on Medicaid lose over $800 billion. Forty percent of the tax cuts go to the top one percent: multi-billionaire Warren Buffet said that his tax bill would drop about $680,000 with the bill, a 17 percent reduction on his taxes. The top 20 percent will gain 64 percent of the cuts. No date is listed for the giveaway to the wealthy, but it’s retroactive to last December.

The pharmaceutical industry would gain $28 billion from Trumpcare to add to its massive profits, $83 billion last year alone. These companies are also among the biggest offshore tax dodgers; Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Merck are three of the top ten U.S. corporations avoiding U.S. taxes.

In essence, Trumpcare is only an income-distribution plan.

The bill will meet the requirement of lowering the deficit by a few billion because people will no longer have the benefits of the ACA. Like the House bill, the senate Trumpcare will take insurance from tens of millions of people, remove guarantees for pre-existing conditions, and force massive increases in premiums and deductibles.

Bill highlights:

  • No ACA mandates.
  • Elimination of taxes for wealthy and corporations.
  • Disappearance of Medicaid expansion throughout the next few years. In eight states—Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Washington—phasing out Medicaid automatically ends any expansion and cuts off currently enrolled people.
  • Limits on Medicaid spending with per capita caps or block grants for states, allocating a specific amount of money no matter what the actual costs of care are. Caps are tied to general rate of inflation, meaning a smaller percentage of the actual cost of care each year. States can also use this funding for purposes other than health care.
  • Waivers allowing states to sell insurance without the Ten Essential Benefits that include hospitalization, emergency care, mental health, lab tests, maternity and pediatric care, etc. People can pay lower premiums to get minimum health care from insurance, leaving them with much higher medical costs. Low- and middle-income Americans will spend significantly more for less coverage.
  • Elimination of tax credits by 2020.
  • Repeal of ACA’s cost-sharing subsidies by 2019. Until then subsidies are reduced to 350 percent of the poverty line from 400 percent, providing help to fewer people. People would have to spend as much as 16.2 percent of their income on premiums instead of no more than 9.5 percent.
  • Reduction of covered medical costs to 58 percent, down from the ACA 75 percent.
  • Shift to Medicaid spending growth to general inflation rate, much lower than medical costs inflation.
  • Work requirement for Medicaid recipients except elderly, pregnant women, and people with disability.
  • Elimination of Medicaid payments to Planned Parenthood.
  • Limitations on insurance for abortions, making it almost impossible to purchase.

Most of the 13 senators on the committee who supposedly wrote the 142 pages of Trumpcare were not aware of its contents during the process. [These 13 white men average over 60 years of age and more than $1 million in assets.] One member, Sen. Mike Lee (UT), said on Tuesday that he had not seen the bill that is “apparently being written by a small handful of staffers for members of the Republican leadership in the Senate.” Trumpcare must get a vote by the end of next week, according to McConnell. He will allow no testimony from experts and no input from the public. The debate will be limited to ten hours.

Republican senators claim that their bill stops denial of insurance for people with pre-existing conditions. In reality, premiums will be too high for people to afford. An analysis of the bill shows that older people could see their premiums increase by more than 700 percent.

Women will suffer from Trumpcare with lack of birth control to maternity coverage. Medicaid now pays for half of all births in the United States, including two-thirds of unplanned births. Women in the U.S. have some of the worst maternal health and mortality outcomes in the industrialized world, and life expectancy for women is going down.  Trumpcare allows the nation to return to the days when only 11 states required maternity coverage on individual and small-group markets. At that time, 88 percent of individual plans failed to provide maternity coverage.

Another highly vulnerable population is disabled and elderly people living in nursing homes who depend on Medicaid. With federal spending reduced by 25 percent, states will be able to cover millions of fewer people. Medicaid also pays for opioid treatment in the current epidemic. Trumpcare allocates $2 billion in 2018 for treatment and recovery services but nothing beyond. Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) have requested $45 billion over the next ten years, and experts say that $19 billion a year is needed for the addiction crisis that results in hepatitis C, HIV, and bacterial endocarditis.

Rural people will be hard hit with Trumpcare. Their hospitals are partly keep afloat by Medicaid funds because hospitals are required to care for people whether they have insurance or not. At least 79 rural hospitals have closed since 2010, and another 700 are at risk. Trumpcare wants to remove $834 billion in Medicaid, and DDT takes another $610 billion cuts with his budget. The loss of hospitals means not only less health care but also fewer jobs and lowered property values.

Republicans complained about the secrecy of passing the Affordable Care Act when the ACA had over 100 hearings and involved hundreds of interested parties during more than a full year. Both the House and the senate bills for Trumpcare were more secret than the Russian hacking. Democrats always clearly stated the purpose for the law, but Trumpcare supporters can’t even come up with a logical reason for the bill. They just repeat that they want to repeal “Obamacare.”

Hopefully, senators will have to face constituents during the summer recess. Twenty GOP senators represent 14 states that accepted Medicaid expansion. Over 30 percent of people in Sens. John Kennedy’s Louisiana, John Boozman and Tom Cotton’s Arkansas, and Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul’s Kentucky are Medicaid beneficiaries. More than one-fifth of those living in eight of the other states with Republicans senators are enrolled in Medicaid.

In explaining the House Trumpcare bill, used as a pattern for the senate bill, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) said:

“It will allow insurance companies to require people who have higher health care costs to contribute more to the insurance pool that helps offset all these costs, thereby reducing the cost to those people who lead good lives, they’re healthy, they’ve done the things to keep their bodies healthy. And right now, those are the people who have done things the right way that are seeing their costs skyrocketing.”

Using Brooks’ statement as a guideline, he should tell Rep. Steve Scalise (R-SC) after he was received at least three surgeries from the recent shooting in Alexandria (VA) that he should have done a better job keeping his body healthy. Scalise now has at least one pre-existing condition—and probably many more—from the shooting. Fortunately, however, the people losing health care are paying for his health insurance.

The Republicans have trapped themselves. They can’t pass a repeal of the ACA if it needs 60 votes in the senate so they put it into a reconciliation process that requires only 50 votes. They can’t pass a reconciliation measure if it doesn’t have the budgetary savings as the House bill so they cut hundreds of billions of dollars that have helped people. They can’t “add some money to it,” as DDT suggested. So they end up with another bill that, added to the House bill, is “mean and meaner,” as Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) said. [Right: Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaking on the floor of the senate.]

The 142-page bill is available on line.

July 21, 2015

Kasich: ‘Moderate’ GOP Candidate with Bad Reproductive Rights Record

Today’s late entry into the GOP presidential campaign, John Kasich, has had such a low profile that he looks better than the collection of crazies stumping the country for the GOP presidential nominee. Conservatives should love him—investment banker, Fox network commentator, budget hawk, blue-collar background, past legislator, and governor of the must-win state of Ohio for the president. His short fuse, however, may bring more excitement to the fight, currently among the field of 15 men and one woman who desperately want to be winners. For example, he prompted a walkout after yelling at a wealthy donor at a Koch brothers-sponsored conference. He told a BP employee in a meeting that oil and gas companies deserve to “have a bad reputation.” He added, “Oil companies are liars and they are going to be screwed.”

His anger is so obvious that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) accused the 63-year-old candidate of having “a hair-trigger temper.” Like candidate Scott Walker, Kasich cuts out anyone who disagrees with him. Conservative activist Matt Mayer said:

“When you criticize Kasich, you’re sort of dead to him. That’s the way it works.”

Kasich may have a better chance than when he first ran in 1999, but a downside to the incumbent-defeating state senator, congressman, and governor is that the people of Ohio voted out his signature law rolling back public sector workers’ collective bargaining rights, worse than Walker’s law in Wisconsin. “Ohio’s law … gives city councils and school boards a free hand to unilaterally impose their side’s final contract offer when management and union fail to reach a settlement,” New York Times’s Steven Greenhouse wrote. Kasich’s law also applied to police and firefighters, who were exempted from Walker’s law. Backlash cut Kasich’s approval-disapproval rating from 30 to 46, and the Ohio constitution allowed voters to put the law up for approval or disapproval. Despite his campaigning for the law, Kasich lost by 61 to 38 percent.

The 16th candidate  also opposed his own party to accept the Medicaid expansion with the argument that helping the poor is a Christian action. In the 21st century, this is an anti-GOP position. He even went farther when he claimed that limited government advocates had to do more to help the less fortunate. He presented this position at the Koch brothers event, but Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley were quick to disagree. Kasich even told the New York Times that the GOP is waging a “war on the poor.” He said that his “most important mission” was to convince conservatives that “when some of us are doing better, it is essential that we begin to figure out how to help people who are not doing better.” Preparing for his campaign, he told people to “read Matthew 25″ about feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. His arguments make the GOP uncomfortable because religious arguments to help people makes cutting those programs far more difficult.

The Ohio legislature refused to expand Medicaid so Kasich bypassed them. He went to the state “Controlling Board,” created to handle adjustments to the state’s budgetary flow and asked them to let the federal Medicaid money come into the state. When two appointees indicated that they would vote against Kasich, he simply replaced them with a final count of 5-2 in favor. Lawsuits against his action failed with the state Supreme Court upholding Kasich’s actions. A former president was Kasich’s justification:

“Reagan was fiscally responsible, but he was also pragmatic and compassionate. When we consider what Reagan would do, let’s also remember what he did do—expand Medicaid.”

Kasich’s win raised his popularity poll to 55 percent approving of his job performance, compared to 30 percent disapproval. Lawsuits against his action failed when the state Supreme Court upheld Kasich’s actions, and he won his next election with a 31-point victory.

Kasich has followed the GOP position in his support of a mentor program receiving Ohio taxpayer funding from “Community Connectors” required that the schools partner with both a church and a non-profit business and signing a bill that stopped Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency programs for at least two years. Worst, however, may be Kasich’s elimination of women’s reproductive rights.

Ultrasounds are required at least 24 hours before women who can receive oral contraception or an IUD because Ohio law equates preventing pregnancy to abortion. All women having abortions must also have ultrasounds, even if doctors find these unnecessary.

Restrictions on women’s clinics have caused Ohio to lose seven of its 16 clinics since 2011 putting the state second in closures behind Texas. That was before the latest set of highly restrictive laws attached to the state’s budget bill, one which mandates that clinics have an emergency patient transfer agreement with a hospital no more than 30 miles away. One new Ohio law forbids public hospitals from accepting such transfer agreements although Ohio law forbids public hospitals from accepting such transfer agreements. Another one law closes a Dayton clinic waiting for two years for a state variance allowing it to operate without this agreement by requiring that the clinic get a variance within two months.

These new laws are piled on top of the ones from two years ago, defunding Planned Parenthood, moving state funding from real reproductive health facilities to faith-based, anti-choice “crisis pregnancy centers, and requiring that doctors have partnerships with private hospitals—highly difficult because most private hospitals in Ohio are religious ones. Two years ago, a law stripped funding from rape crisis centers that give clients any information about abortion services and requires doctors to give women seeking abortion information about the presence of a “fetal heartbeat.” Kasich has made life harder for women in keeping from getting pregnant, having abortions, and keeping their children because the budget cuts for welfare services to single mothers went to the crisis pregnancy centers.

As conservatives in Ohio struggle to pass a 20-week abortion ban, they fail to consider that Ohio law defines fertilization as dating from the first day of the woman’s last menstrual period, actually about two weeks before true contraception. That means that Ohio could have an 18-week abortion ban as conservatives have tried to impose on the state.

Kasich imposed a policy in which counselors at rape-crisis clinics are legally prohibited from referring victims to abortion providers, even though terminating an unwanted pregnancy is still legal. The governor has not explained why the gag rule is necessary.

On the national level, Kasich’s chances are slim to none. Ranked at 12th in national polls, he hasn’t topped three percent in any of them, keeping him out of the first debates, awkward because the first one on August 6 is in his home state. Only George Pataki rates below him in the latest PPP polling. His chances and position put him in the same arena with former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, who continually pointed out the failures of the GOP base in his 2012 GOP run for president. Kashich’s team includes two key consultants for Huntsman. The Washington Examiner’s Philip Kline wrote that conservative voters should “punish [Kasich] for his expansion of President Obama’s healthcare law.” Other conservative pundits such as Avik Roy, who works for Rick Perry, and Jason Hart, Watchdog.org reporter, agree with Kline.

Republicans from defense hawks to protectors of corporate tax breaks were upset with Kasich, then U.S. representative when he helped broker an agreement with President Clinton and congressional Republicans to balance the U.S. budget in 1997. How long Kasich will last, no one knows. His campaign 16 years ago ended in July 2000 because Bush had much more money than he did. When Kasich dropped out 16 years ago, he said about Bush’s slogan, “This business of compassionate conservative, I wish I’d thought it up.” Now he’s co-opted the description.

June 27, 2015

Subsidies for Healthcare–For Now

The day before the Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land, it kept the healthcare subsidies for low-income people in King v. Burwell. Thanks to a 6-3 decision, over 6 million people are able to keep their health insurance because the Supremes didn’t allow four words to restrict subsidies to only the states with their own healthcare exchanges. For the second time in three years, conservatives hate Chief Justice John Roberts for retaining the law that expanded health care to an additional 16.4 million people although Justice Anthony Kennedy also voted with the more progressive block of four justices. Roberts wrote, “Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them.”

Hospital operators and insurers largely supported the court’s decision to keep the subsidies that remain in the 34 states using the federal exchange as well as the other states that have either their own exchanges or a combination. The lawsuit was financed by a conservative group, Competitive Enterprise Institute, that found four unlikely plaintiffs who are eligible for subsidies but just don’t like the law. GOP members of the House have voted over 50 times to repeal the law and plan to continue the repeals in lieu of passing laws that would help people.

The court’s decision made the law more secure than if the conservatives had not brought the lawsuit because it holds that the subsidies are a permanent part of the ACA that can be changed only by Congress. Before the ruling, a president might have blocked the ACA by executive action; now changes must be made by a majority vote in the House and a 60-vote margin in the Senate.

Two years ago, Scalia used the term “legalistic argle-bargle” for the court’s rationale in keeping the ACA. In this dissent, he maintained that Roberts’ reasoning was an act of “interpretive jiggery-pokery.” A great irony is that dissenters Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito declared that the ACA intended subsidies for all eligible consumers regardless of state or federal exchanges three years ago in NIFB v. Sebelius. This year the three of them moved 180 degrees away from their earlier position in opposing the ACA.

The conservative viciousness toward the ruling, although not surprising, was still disgusting. Fox host Andrea Tantaros called the “judiciary, John Roberts included, is now just the water boy for the welfare state.” Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro drew his comparison from the erotic novel/movie Fifty Shades of Grey when he tweeted, “The Roberts Court took the ACA to its Red Room of Pain and then alternatively tortured it and made love to it until it complied.” On Glenn Beck’s The Blaze, Wayne Allyn Root wrote that Roberts’ decision shows that he is being blackmailed by the Obama administration.

GOP presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) called the Supreme Court decisions to give health care to low-income people and legalize marriage equality as “some of the darkest 24 hours in our nation’s history.” To him, it’s much worse than the Civil War, two world wars, the attacks on the World Trade Center—I could go on and on.

Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX) believes he has found a way to punish the Supreme Court justices for its decision: he has introduced the “SCOTUScare Act,” requiring “the Supreme Court and all of its employees to sign up for Obamacare.” As many other people—including conservative members of Congress—fail to understand, no one “signs up” for the ACA. The law simply protects people from some unreasonable provisions of insurance companies—lifetime caps, denial because of pre-existing conditions, and skyrocketing premiums not used for medical needs.

Former Texas governor and GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry is a classic example of the GOP approach toward health care for low-income people. Called out for having the largest number of uninsured people in his state—one out of five Texans without health insurance—he said, “We make access the real issue.” Texan uninsured are four times less likely to have regular health care and more likely to die of health-related problems. Insurance would improve their overall health by 7 to 8 percent.

“Texas has been criticized for having a large number of uninsured,” Perry said. “But that’s what Texans wanted.” By not expanding Medicaid, 1.5 million Texans, with a median income of $833, are denied health care. In that state, non-disabled parents must earn less than $,500 for a family of four to gain the existing Medicaid. Texas has lost about $10 billion a year for the expanded program with Texas paying only seven percent of the cost, but Perry said that even $1 in the name of “Obamacare” was a dollar too much.

Many GOP members in Congress know that the King ruling saved them from disaster because they had no plans if they had won. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) smiled at the ruling, and a GOP congressional member said “that fight could have killed us.” The candidates now  focus on electing a GOP president to get Congress closer to repealing Obamacare. They talk about putting the patient back in charge of their health care—all patients, that is, except women.

Candidates may wish to use caution, however, in using anti-healthcare for their platforms. In April, an Associated Press-GfK poll showed that 56 percent of the people wanted a ruling in favor of subsidies in contrast to the 39 percent opposition. Another 51 percent wanted Congress to subsidize premiums in all states. In CBS News/New York Times polling, 47 percent of people approve of ACA, the highest percentage thus far and more than the 44 percent who oppose the ACA.

A question is why so many people are opposed to the ACA when so few people are actually affected by it. The relentless pounding from conservatives against the law is a big reason, but even more, people blame the ACA for any problem in the health care system. Too few doctors? Rising costs of premiums and health care? Deductibles too high? It must be Obamacare. Premiums go up every year, but the cost has increased less since the law went into effect. Out-of-pocket costs are going up faster than wages, but that didn’t start with the law. Higher deductibles began before the law. Most people don’t remember the problems before the ACA’s protections went into effect, and the conservatives work every day to erase their memories.

uninsured

The SCOTUS ruling helped over 6 million people, but it didn’t do anything for the 4.3 million people prohibited from getting coverage in the 22 states that refuse to expand Medicaid. Ten of these states are former Confederate states, and most are former slaveholding states. About 61 percent of the people in the Medicaid gap live in Florida, Texas, Georgia, and North Carolina. In the states with expanded Medicaid, early detection and treatment of chronic diseases such as diabetes saves money from more advanced costs. Hospitals in states with expanded Medicaid save money by reduced uncompensated costs of treating the uninsured. Baton Rouge General Medical Center Mid Center (Louisiana) recently had to close its emergency room. It’s also notable that many GOP presidential candidates come from states that reject healthcare for low-income people.

Another 36 million people earn too much for Medicaid eligibility and can’t afford health insurance. The solution for this would have been the single-payer system that the Republicans proposed over two decades ago but refused under President Obama because they didn’t want to make him look successful.

Satirist Andy Borowitz wrote a column four years ago, entitled, “Republicans: Trillions Could Be Cut from Budget if We Eliminate Empathy – Humanity Also on Chopping Block.” The problem with satire is that it is sometimes true. Borowitz has brilliantly described the GOP position of 2015. He attributed this statement to then Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), who lost his position to another legislator with even less humanity, but the problem remains:

“Once congressional Republicans eliminate such empathy-laden budget items as lunches for poor children, medicine for the indigent and oxygen for seniors, … we can move from cutting empathy to cutting humanity.”

“With humanity removed from the budget, he said, ‘That’s where the real savings come in.’

“By eliminating the food, medicine and oxygen necessary to sustain human life, ‘We will reduce the single biggest drain on the U.S. economy: people.’”

In a supreme touch of irony, Chief Justice John Roberts held up the marriage laws of Kalahari Bushmen, the Han Chinese, the Carthaginians, and the Aztecs as examples of “a social institution that has formed the basis of human society for millennia.” The Bushmen are Botswana’s poorest citizens, the Chinese are hated by most conservatives, the Aztecs believed in human sacrifice, and the Carthaginians followed a polytheistic religion—possibly with infant sacrifices.

With these societies used as models for the conservatives, the GOP has truly lost its humanity.

March 23, 2015

Happy Birthday, ‘Obamacare’

Today is the Affordable Care Act’s fifth birthday. For five years, most of the GOP legislators have been making predictions about the law’s leading the entire country to wrack and ruin. The following dozen failed predictions show how all these people have been wrong:

happy birthday Failed Prediction #1 – Americans won’t enroll in the ACA: The demand was so great that the website sometimes crashed from the heavy usage. About 8 million people signed up for private insurance coverage in 2014, and the number rose to 11.4 million in 2015. While it was hard to sign up for health care on the exchanges last year, it was harder to be uninsured or underinsured.

Failed Prediction #2 – The ACA won’t meet its enrollment goals: In its first two years, enrollment totals exceeded preliminary projections.

Failed Prediction #3 – Insurers will want no part of the ACA system: Many insurers see the ACA as a major growth opportunity that lets them expand in the individual market.

Failed Prediction #4 – The ACA will cause the economy to suffer and kill jobs: In one press conference, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) used the phrase “job-killing” an average of every two minutes while talking about the ACA. Yet the U.S. has had 59 consecutive months of job growth since October 2010, the longest stretch of time in history.  National data also shows no indication of employers hiring people under 30 hours a week to avoid the ACA insurance mandate. The average length of the work-week, which dropped during the recession, recently matched pre-2010 levels. Using interviews with major U.S. employers, Bloomberg found that the law “is putting such a small dent in the profits of U.S. companies that many refer to its impact as “not material” or “not significant.” It decided that “the biggest entitlement legislation in a generation is causing barely a ripple in corporate America.”

Failed Prediction #5 – People who enrolled wouldn’t pay their premiums: Again the GOP was wrong. Five months into last year, over 91% of the 8 million consumers who enrolled through an ACA exchange marketplace paid their premiums.

Failed Prediction #6: People would see exorbitant premiums: Those who qualify for tax credits through the insurance exchange pay an average of $82 per month for premiums—one-fourth of the expenditure without financial help. More people who changed from individual insurance to exchanges have lower premiums.

Failed Prediction #7 – Premiums will shoot up next year: State-by-state information shows that more insurers coming to the market are pressuring prices to go down. In 2015, premiums for the ACA’s mid-level plans rose by an average of 2 percent. In 48 major cities, prices for these benchmark plans actually fell by 0.2 percent, compared to the 10-percent increases before the ACA.

Failed Prediction #8 – The ACA helps only those with coverage: Republicans are wrong.

Failed Prediction #9 – The ACA will lead to a “net loss” on overall coverage: Boehner argued that fewer people had health insurance after the health law’s insurance expansion than prior to it, but the uninsured rate has dropped by one-fourth. In Minnesota it’s gone down by 40 percent, and in some cities the number will shrink by 60 percent in cities with expanded Medicaid. People who would not get subsidies still got the same insurance plans by going to an insurance broker. Boehner also ignored the expansion of 9.1 million enrollees on Medicaid.

Failed Prediction #10 – The ACA will lead to higher deficits and a weaker fiscal footing for the nation: The GOP, the party that actually raises the deficit, told the country that “Obamacare” would “bankrupt” the country. In April 2014, the Congressional Budget Office reduced its budget forecast by $100 billion, less than it expected to spend during the first projection in January 2010. The CBO reduced its 10-year estimate of ACA cost by 20 percent and its Medicaid costs attributable to the law by 8 percent, partly because people with health insurance no longer rely on the emergency room for health care.

Failed Prediction #11 – Americans will end up hating the coverage they receive through the ACA: A new Gallup poll shows that 71 percent find their coverage through exchanges to be good or excellent, and another 19 percent said the coverage was fair. Only 9 percent gave it a poor rating.

Failed Prediction #12 – “Obamacare” will mostly sign up people who already have insurance:  A Kaiser Family Foundation survey finds that 57 percent of enrollees previously lacked insurance.

More failed projections: there is no “death spiral,” or “death panels,” or “rate shock.” Not one prediction has lived up to scrutiny. And not one prominent Republican is willing to admit the failed predictions or even explanations for these mistakes and misjudgments. Instead, they’re still busy trying to repeal the law.

Facts will not change the minds of many in opposition, as Jonathan Chait pointed out:

“Suppose you strongly objected to the idea that your city should own a bunch of buildings where people can go borrow books for free. (Some people do!) If you couldn’t persuade a majority of fellow citizens of your conceptual objections to libraries, you might try arguing that the library scheme was doomed to collapse in cost overruns, or that nobody would ever use them, or that shelves of heavy books would be routinely toppling over and killing small children. But the fact is that running buildings where people can check out books, and running exchanges where people can purchase basic health insurance packages, are both things that governments can do.”

One GOP complaint is that “Obamacare” helps only the poor. It is true that the poorest people get free Medicaid, and those up to an income of $94,000 a year for a family of four can get tax credits. People who receive insurance from their employees are having their coverage paid by “other people’s money.”

Employer-sponsored insurance get tax deductions, giving the largest benefits to those who earn the most money as compared to the ACA which gives the most to those who earn the least. For example, newly-announced presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) premiums, up to $40,000 for the year for his family, were paid by his wife’s employer, Goldman Sachs. Cruz will be shopping for health insurance because his wife has taken an unpaid leave while he runs for president.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) may have summarized the GOP complaints with this comment on the floor of the Senate: “It’s time for the White House to stop celebrating [the ACA] and start thinking about the people.” Huh?

What’s ahead for the Affordable Care Act?  After voting dozens of time to repeal the ACA, the GOP is trying to pass a budget that would double the uninsured rate and eliminate $1 trillion in tax revenue that pays for the law. Republicans have no plan to help the millions of families losing affordable medical care if they succeed. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has only one suggestion: he urged state lawmakers to stop state insurance exchanges if the Supreme Court rules that this as a requirement for the ACA. That’s what he told state legislators last week during a conference call organized by the conservative think tank Foundation for Government Accountability.

If the Supreme Court were to rule for mandated state exchanges, subsidies in the mostly blue states would continue while millions of consumers in GOP-run states would go without. Michigan and Ohio are intending to set up the exchanges that Ryan warns against because no one should do what the White House wants, even if it puts constituents in jeopardy.

Missouri is a prime example of problems with GOP legislators. GOP legislators have threatened to filibuster any Medicaid expansion bill and Bob Onder, a new state senator, has proposed a bill to keep an insurance company from selling policies in the state if it accepts federal subsidies sold on the federal health exchange. The state refuses to accept billions of federal dollars to offer Medicaid coverage to approximately 300,000 uninsured residents. Onder said, “To expand Medicaid would only put further stress on a system that’s already strained,” Onder said. A single mother with two children must make less than $3,700 to get Medicaid, and rural hospitals are facing either huge cutbacks or closure because the state refuses Medicaid expansion.

aca cowThe GOP-led legislature, however, has passed a bill to insure cows in the state. It would subsidize up to 70 percent of farmers’ premium payments for dairy insurance. The House passed it by 110 to 49, and the Senate did better at 31-2. Rep. Jeremy LaFaver (D-MO) called it the “Affordable Cow Act” because insurance subsidies for cows are fine but “not for people.”

Maybe some day, Republicans will figure out that “Obamacare” should be called “GOP Cares.”

Republican_Obamacare

February 20, 2015

Who Votes for These People?!

Legislators can make laws for everyone, which is why their ignorance is frightening. Some snippets from the past few weeks:

In South Dakota, state Rep. Isaac Latterell wrote a piece on his website called “Planned Parenthood Worse than ISIS and Lying About It.” Apparently dissatisfied with the low-key approach to the subject, he changed the title to “Planned Parenthood Beheading Children and Lying About It.” Somehow he believes that abortions “behead unborn children.” Part of his post (more here) included New York Times columnist David Brooks’ statement:

“A beheading … is not just an injury or a crime. It is an indignity. A beheading is more like rape, castration or cannibalism.”

Planned Parenthood only does first-trimester abortions; it doesn’t do “dismemberment abortions” done only by doctors outside Planned Parenthood and for the serious health issues.  Only three percent of Planned Parenthood services are abortion-related.

PlannedParenthoodPeople who think that GOP legislators ignore science need to note top issues on Tom Kirby’s website. The Georgia state representative wants to guarantee that embryos are not forced to glow in the dark. To preserve the “ethical treatment of embryos,” he is calling for a ban on the mixing of human and jellyfish DNA. He also introduced a bill to prevent any “attempt to create an in vitro human embryo by any means other than fertilization of a human egg by a human sperm.” Asked by a reporter about why people would mix human and jellyfish DNA, he replied, “To make them glow in the dark is the only thing I know of.” He hasn’t seen any evidence of this problem, but he said that people had told him about it. This isn’t a new thing for Kirby; two years ago he posted a video on YouTube talking about banning human-animal hybrids.

Montana has a lot of serious issues too. The Tea Party in the state is very worried about access to guns and has introduced bills to prepare for the National Ammunition Shortage, establish Armed Militias in Every Town, and create “home guards” (local paramilitary groups) across the state which could be mobilized by sheriffs for whatever reason they choose without the governor’s consent. The Tea Party in Montana thinks that they would be safer if concealed weapons were allowed in “Bars, Banks, and on Campuses.” The bill does exclude bars on campuses.  Two other bills propose the nullification of all federal gun laws and allowing hunting with silencers. Chasing a running animals burdens the hunters’ freedom, according to the bill’s sponsor.

yogaLest you think that they concentrate only on firearms, however, they also focus on the body by requiring that the anus, nipples and areolae be fully concealed with “a fully opaque covering” and prohibiting “simulated genitalia.”  State Rep. David Moore’s bill is in addition to a law against indecent exposure. He also thinks that “yoga pants should be illegal in public.”

Montana finds education important, so another bill is called “Encourage Critical Thinking in the Classroom.” Based on the sponsor’s position that “the scientific community has not resolved or answered the questions related to the origins of all life or the origin of our universe,” the bill allows public school teachers legal immunity if they want to teach “alternative” theories.

Last December, the Montana legislature mandated a dress code for women in the legislature, requiring them “to be mindful of necklines and skirt lengths” and also to wear only “dress blouses or suit-like dresses” and never “jersey or fleece material” or leggings.

A Mississippi GOP state representative is against education funding because blacks on welfare checks are allowed to go to school. Gene Alday, who helps to rule the poorest state in the union with some of the worst schools, objects to improving schools for his “town where all the blacks are getting food stamps and what I call ‘welfare crazy checks.’ They don’t work.” He also complained about having to wait at an emergency room where the poor go for treatment because the legislators refuse them Medicaid from the Affordable Care Act:

“I liked to died. I laid in there for hours because they (blacks) were in there being treated for gunshots.”

Former Texas governor and presidential candidate Rick Perry said that the people of his state want 22 percent of their residents to be uninsured. In New Hampshire, he said, “Texas has been criticized for having a large number of uninsured. But that’s what Texans wanted.” When Perry rejected Medicaid expansion funds from the Affordable Care Act, he denied coverage to 1.5 million people with a median income of $833. Texas law denies Medicaid to non-disabled parents unless they earn less than 19 percent of the poverty level–$4,500 for a family of four. Seventy percent of uninsured Texans are in working families with 40 percent living below the poverty level.

Obviously ignorance isn’t confined to state legislatures. Nationally, GOP members of Congress have tried to drag the country back a century or two. Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA), who unexpectedly replaced Majority Leader Eric Cantor less than a year ago, wants to go back a couple of centuries by modeling its educational system after the ancient Greeks. The U.S. could eliminate education funding, he said:

“Socrates trained Plato in on a rock and then Plato trained in Aristotle roughly speaking on a rock. So, huge funding is not necessary to achieve the greatest minds and the greatest intellects in history. The greatest thinkers in Western civ [sic] were not products of education policy.”

Brat proposes putting “private sector folks into every one of our schools, get the CEOs in the schools and move beyond this just narrow policy debate and really have a revolution.”

Currently, federal law targets $14 billion to schools and school districts in places with high poverty density based on the number of students living in these communities. The GOP proposal would give states the option to allocate funding to poor students wherever they live. It would remove $75 million from the Los Angeles schools while increasing funding for Beverly Hills by $140,000. The proposal passed committee with no hearing.

As “bomb trains” filled with oil randomly explode as they travel the country, Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials, wants people to drop the “misperception” that “our current tank cars are not safe, that our industry does not have a safe record.” The Modesto Bee, a newspaper in Denham’s district, published an editorial that “Delays on safer rail cars are unacceptable” and called for elected representatives to insist on rules for cars and deadlines to replace all tank cars in the United States. Denham disagrees with the National Transportation Safety Board that the existing rail cars pose “unacceptable public risk.”

Greg Saxton, chief engineer for rail tank car manufacturer Greenbrier, claims the industry can meet the deadlines, but Sen. John Thune (R-SD) calls the deadlines “unattainable,” disagreeing with Saxton, engineer of the largest tank car manufacturer. Meanwhile the industry wants to keep all the old cars and add new ones while it also privately lobbies against new braking systems, safer oil, and any speed limits for the trains. You can check out this map to see how close you are to the bomb train blast zones.

The most head-shaking policy that a Tea Partier wants to push, however, may be from new senator Tom Tills. Elected by North Carolinians, he wants to remove the requirement that food servers wash their hands after using the bathroom because he’s against regulations. Instead, he would require these places of business to post signs announcing that they don’t require employees to wash their hands. It seems that regulations are in the eye of the beholder.

Truly amazing, however, was Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) support of Sarah Palin for president if she chooses to run. And if he reruns for senator, he will “absolutely” call on her for help.

These are just a few of the crazies currently in the news!

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