Nel's New Day

October 19, 2018

DDT: Week 91 – Violence against Reporters Acceptable

After passing a tax cut for big business and the wealthiest, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) decided that the ballooning deficit is “disturbing.” The GOP solution is to reduce “entitlement programs”—the ones that taxpayers funded and the Republican legislators siphoned off to pay for the military and huge tax cuts for the wealthiest. Voters might want to consider this plan when they vote.

DDT has threatened to protect the Mexican border with military and overturn his shiny new trade agreement with the country if they don’t stop a caravan of Honduran immigrants crossing Mexico. He also plans to cut off foreign aid to Honduras, saving the United States a grand $127 million, equivalent to about a year of DDT’s weekend getaways. The differences of opinion in the White House led to a fight between Chief of Staff John Kelly and National Security Adviser John Bolton when Bolton dared to criticize DHS director Kirstjen Nielsen’s inability to keep immigrants from crossing the border.

Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and WaPo reporter, wrote about the importance of freedom of the press, the Saudis murdered him, and DDT is protecting Saudi Crown Prince MBS. After denying his death for weeks, Saudi Arabia claimed that he got in a “fist-fight”—presumably with the 15-person death squad sent with a bone saw into the Saudi embassy—and sadly died. DDT called the assumption “credible.” Photos show that members of the murder squad have close ties to Mohammed, including four of them who served as his guards during his visit to the U.S. last March–this 59-year-old man against 15 strong men possessing a bone saw. Here is the piece of trash that Saudi Arabia released. DDT lamented, “This one has caught the imagination of the world, unfortunately.” Everytime he is asked about Khashoggi’s death, DDT says that he doesn’t want to lose $100 billion of arms sales. Now one of the murder squad of 15 has mysteriously died in a car crash.

DDT has restricted access to any information about the murder of Khashoggi by refusing to share any of this information with the Senate. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) described the situation “disappointing.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was derisive about the Saudi story, but most Republicans are covering for DDT by smearing Khashoggi’s reputation using conspiracy theories spread by the radical right-wing press that falsely accuse him of being sympathetic to Islamic terrorism. The GOP support for Saudi Arabia has even erased their memory that 15 of the 19 hijackers attacking the U.S. on 9/11 were Saudis. Saudi Arabia went so far as to claim that 9/11 was an Israeli plot.

Only after Saudi Arabia delivered $100 million to DDT as support for stabilization in northeastern Syria, did DDT agree that Khashoggi was probably dead. The State Department denied any relationship between the money and Mike Pompeo’s discussions with the Saudis about Khashoggi. Saudi Arabia has followed a pattern for paying off countries to support its foreign policies, and it may pay off Turkey for a joint investigation into the murder. Saudi Arabia is looking more and more like ISIS

In his rally this past week, DDT entertained his audience by praising Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MT) for his physical assault on a Guardian reporter. For the first time, DDT openly cheered a violent act against a journalist in the United States when he expressed his approval of Gianforte because he “body-slammed a reporter.” Gianforte pled guilty to the charge of assault and was sentenced to four days in jail which was changed to 40 hours of community service and a mandated anger-management course. The Guardian US editor, John Mulholland, said:

“The president of the United States tonight applauded the assault on an American journalist who works for the Guardian. To celebrate an attack on a journalist who was simply doing his job is an attack on the first amendment by someone who has taken an oath to defend it.

“In the aftermath of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, it runs the risk of inviting other assaults on journalists both here and across the world where they often face far greater threats. We hope decent people will denounce these comments and that the president will see fit to apologize for them.”

A bizarre continuing story this week focused on the Interior Department where the IG, in the midst of four separate investigations into its secretary, Ryan Zinke, seemed to be fired. HUD Director Ben Carson emailed information about her replacement with Suzanne Israel Tufts, one of his own employees who is a DDT political appointee with no experience in government work. After a report was released showing that Zinke violated his department’s policy on travel, White House officials said they knew nothing about these personnel transactions. Interior Department spokeswoman said that Carson’s email “had 100 percent false information” and the long-term IG is staying.

Zinke permitted his wife to travel in government vehicles while she was assisting in a campaign for a political candidate, tried to make her a “volunteer” to justify his actions, told the department’s top lawyer to lie to the public about the situation, and ordered his security detail to drive an associate to the airport. His decision to take an unarmed security detail on his overseas vacation cost taxpayers $25,000. Other investigations include Zinke’s involvement in a Montana land deal and two Connecticut tribes’ application to open a new casino. Interior Department officials also objected to the new political appointee as the Interior’s IG.

The story didn’t end there, though.  HUD said that the information was just a “mistake” and that Tufts had a job interview for IG elsewhere in the government. She didn’t show up for the appointment and then resigned her HUD position. Although she hadn’t come to her HUD job for the past two months, she had been regularly paid. All of this drama and revelation in less than a week.

More drama came from the First Lady’s self-pity party when she called herself “the most bullied person” in the world during an interview. In 2009 Minnesota GOP Senate candidate Karin Housley compared then-First Lady Michelle Obama to the chimpanzee from 1951’s movie Bedtime for Bonzo. And Michelle Obama did not parade in a cheap “I really don’t care” jacket like Melania Trump did. The GOP has a decade-long record of describing the Obama family as simians. (BTW, Trump also said that her jacket was a putdown on the press.)

Senate Democrats have again learned that they cannot trust their GOP counterparts. They agreed to quick confirmation of 15 more DDT judicial nominees so that they could recess for campaigning. Republicans stayed in Washington to hold hearings on more nominees and claimed that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) had agreed to these hearings. She didn’t. The handful of Republicans attending Wednesday’s hearing moved them forward.

Last Sunday, DDT’s 60 Minutes interview addressed the people he does and does not trust. Here’s a summary:

Asked about climate change, DDT again dragged out his Uncle John and their conversations to prove that he knew best. John Trump, who died in 1985, worked in electronics and X-ray machines. DDT said that he didn’t talk about his uncle about climate change, but he has “a natural instinct for science.”

Farmers—DDT’s base—have a better instinct about climate change, and they are concerned. They may not need to worry about tariffs stopping them from shipping soybeans; almost a foot of rain has turned their crops into a bog. Their fertilizer is running off into the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico to create a dead zone the size of New Jersey that destroys the shrimping industry. Soil is annually disappearing at two to three tons an acre but regenerates at only a half-ton each year. Less soil means less protein in a kernel or pod, and corn becomes higher in starch. Corn yield can also drop by one half within 50 years. Des Moines Water Works faces $100 million in improvement costs because of toxic agricultural chemicals. Minnesota crops are either washed out or weedy. Kansas now requires 100 acres of prairie grass for a calf instead of 40 acres. The huge Ogallala Aquifer, vital to cattle feedlots, is down 150 feet at Dodge City in a little over a half century and may be gone in 20 years. Corn can’t be grown in western Kansas because of the heat.

More people in North Carolina are accepting the fact of climate change after two overwhelming hurricanes in rapid succession. While DDT hosted an insane rant from Kanye West in the Oval Office, needy people are without food, water, and electricity. FEMA director Brock Long told them to be patient, and Florida’s governor Rick Scott, running for U.S. Senate, said that “everyone just needs to help each other.”

Once again, the Republicans have failed, and midterm elections are 18 days away.

June 27, 2018

Democracy in the United States – Gone?

With Justice Anthony Kennedy’s resignation from the Supreme Court and the GOP stolen seat for Neil Gorsuch, no one will have to wonder about decisions from the Supreme Court: they will always favor Christian and business conservatism. Gone are any careful deliberations about the constitutionality of the cases. The five conservative justices will legislate from the bench according to their united radically right-wing ideology. An appointment from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) can ban legalized abortions and contraception, reverse LGBTQ rights, promote discrimination against minorities and women, and increase capital punishment and solitary confinement.

Despite Kennedy’s conservative leanings and his decision to appoint George W. Bush as president in 2000, Kennedy was the swing vote to legalize marriage equality and preserve—to some extent—Roe v. Wade.  On the other hand, he overturned DC’s handgun ban, allowed unlimited finance restrictions, and set in place the destruction of equal voting right. Recently he supported discrimination against Muslims and Christian opposition to abortions and birth control. The week of his resignation after 30 years in the U.S. Supreme Court, Kennedy contributed to the taint of the “Robert Court.”

Despite Republicans ranting against legislating from the bench, the conservative justices made conservative law today in deciding against public-sector unions. The decision of Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees permits workers to take union protection for free despite the fact that the small fees they paid has no political influence. The takers, including Mark Janus, won. Even conservative Antonin Scalia, who died before he could hear the case, wrote in 1991 that public sector unions could compel agency fees. Forcing unions to help nonmembers who do not pay them, “mandated by government decree,” would be constitutionally problematic. [Left: Janus was the name for a two-faced god of transition.]

For 41 years, public sector unions could levy fair-share fees to pay for workers interests.  The only intention of the five conservative justices is to break the union in their goal to protect large businesses and hurt working people. The loser in this case is the future for women and young people in the nation because union workers have greater wages—up to 20 percent more. The winner is the group of foundations funded by rightwing billionaires such as the Koch Brothers and the DeVos family who want to make money from privatizing the public sector. Their actions cost people more because privatization always costs taxpayers more money. Therefore people have lower wages while paying more money for everything.

The restrictions in Janus follows the courts’ history of blocking worker freedom. Nineteenth-century courts ruled that workers’ collective action infringed on employers’ freedom of commerce guaranteed by antitrust laws. The Supreme Court’s ruling in Lochner v. New York (1905) decided that labor protections such as maximum-hour laws violated workers’ freedom of contract. The Depression of the 1930s encouraged courts to give labor protections, but the GOP soon gained success in destroying these rights, actions that greatly expanded since their success in electing Ronald Reagan.

Although the Janus ruling may feel like doom, Shaun Richman, a veteran union organizer, warned that the ruling might require public employers to allow multiple unions competing for workers instead of negotiating with just one. If unions go to great lengths to show that they are the best worker advocates, the results could be more union militancy and power.

“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,”  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said two years ago when President Obama nominated a Supreme Court justice eleven months before the next president would be inaugurated. His position was that no nominee should be considered in an election year, and he refused a hearing for the nominee. For over a year, the Supreme Court was sometimes tied because of only eight justices voting on rulings. The next Congress is only six months away, but McConnell has abandoned his former belief. “We will vote to confirm Justice Kennedy’s successor this fall,” he said on the Senate floor with no idea of who that nominee will be.

Much has been said about the standard of whether a nominee will overturn Roe v. Wade, but McConnell’s standard is an approval by the NRA. In an interview with Fox, he said that he “can’t imagine that a Republican majority in the United States Senate would want to confirm, in a lame duck session, a nominee opposed by the National Rifle Association [and] the National Federation of Independent Businesses.” McConnell also told a crowd at a campaign rally:

“One of my proudest moments was when I looked at Barack Obama in the eye and I said, ‘Mr. President, you will not fill this Supreme Court vacancy.’”

The United States, which claims to be a democracy, now has a bogus president, a bogus Supreme Court justice, and a senate leader who decides which nominees can be confirmed.

Two days ago, the Supreme Court sent a gerrymandering case from North Carolina back to a trial court for further examination. Emboldened by other recent Supreme Court non-decisions on gerrymandering, North Carolina Republicans are asking SCOTUS to use the 2017 map plan that would inordinately favor the GOP.

DDT is fortunate that the media is not concentrating on some of the worst news for the United States because of DDT’s horrific policy separating children and families, his Russian scandals, and the recent disasters of the Supreme Court. During the time of President Obama, conservatives railed against the growing national debt after the president saved the U.S. economy that tanked from George W. Bush’s decreased taxes, $5 trillion wars, and the corruption of subprime mortgages. The last budget from President Obama, the one for 2017, increased the national debt by only $672 billion, a lot of money but much less than the projected deficit from DDT’s first budget in 2018. DDT’s first deficit is $1.233 trillion—almost twice that from President Obama—and his next year is about the same. DDT blamed President Obama for doubling the national debt after he took over Bush’s excesses, but now DDT is doubling President Obama’s debt.

Continuing deficits from tax cuts for the rich and big companies will come with increased dependence on foreign investors that weakens the world power of the U.S. Usually drastic debt increases result because of war and poor economy; the U.S. has neither at this time. After President Obama made progress in decreasing the deficit, however, Republicans’s huge tax cuts moved the nation to higher debt levels and erased its ability to respond to emergencies. Instead of addressing the problem, the GOP wants to make permanent the temporary taxes for individuals after 2026 to create even greater debt. Also contributing to greater debt and decline in the economy is DDT’s trade war with China, Mexico, Canada and Europe.

The GOP solution for the debt in the coming year will be to shred the safety net and established programs that people have paid into for decades. DDT ran on a campaign of preserving Medicare and Social Security, but the 2019 budget proposed by the GOP House now have drastically cuts many programs, including Medicare and Social Security, in order to pay for its tax cuts. Presenting these priorities that hurt the GOP voting block of older U.S. citizens is a brave move less than five months before Republicans try to keep the House majority in the midterm general elections. Republicans knew that the tax cuts could drive up the deficit, but they are now crying that the biggest domestic problem are debts and deficits. The GOP budget, called “A Brighter American Future,” goes back to House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) desire of privatizing Medicare which supposedly reduces Medicare by $537 billion over the next decade. Considering that privatization always costs more than government programs, that’s a big slice out of health care for its recipients.

A new law that permits additional Medicare benefits for people with multiple chronic illnesses is a move toward privatization. These benefits may include home improvements such as wheelchair ramps, transportation to doctor’s offices, home delivery of hot meals, and other social and medical services. The catch is that only people with MedAdvantage programs, contracted with private companies, will have this “advantage.” Those who subscribe to traditional Medicare won’t have them available because Congress waived the requirement that all plans offer the same benefits for those with chronic illnesses.

Ryan is blaming God for taking benefits for people:

“Catholic social teaching … cautions us against allowing the state too great a reach into civil society. This is about saving souls, not dollars.”

Ryan’s college education was provided by his survivor’s benefits from the “state” after his father died. At the same time Ryan began “dreaming” about destroying Medicaid when he was “drinking out of kegs.” He plans to spend his last six months taking more money from people like him and ordered his team to provide reconciliation instructions to fast-track the budget without Democratic votes in the Senate—probably in the lame-duck session after the elections.

This June, the Supreme Court ended with a bang.

December 11, 2017

GOP Plans to Destroy Democracy with Its Tax Bill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few goals of the GOP “tax” bill:

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

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

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

May 3, 2017

Trumpcare, A ‘Moral Monstrosity’

Filed under: Health Care — trp2011 @ 11:18 PM
Tags: , , ,

Sarah Palin’s warnings about “death panels” in government health care are coming to fruition with the GOP version, supposedly up for a vote in the House tomorrow right before congressional members disappear for another two-week vacation. The difference from what she said a few years ago, however, is that her own party, not the Democrats, is creating the death panels. In House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) desperation to pass the “repeal and replace” of the Affordable Care Act, he has blatantly lied about what’s in the Trumpcare bill.

Unlike Ryan’s claims, these are the facts:

  • The GOP plan would raise out-of-pocket costs.
  • The GOP plan will hurt people between the ages of 40 and 65.
  • The GOP plan will remove the ACA benefits to Medicare.
  • The GOP plan will strip coverage from some of the 24 million who got it under the ACA.
  • The GOP plan allows states to strip pre-existing conditions from health insurance.

In every congressional district, at least tens of thousands will lose coverage while the rest of the people will face premium hikes of 15 to 20 percent and deductible increases of 60 percent.

GOP North Carolina Rep. Robert Pittenger told people who live in states that deny pre-existing conditions through waivers that they should move to another state.  Last year he said that protests in Charlotte were caused by people who “hate white people” after the police fatally shot a black man.

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) said that “good people” don’t have serious or life-threatening pre-existing conditions. These people “lead good lives”—they’ve “done things the right way.” These people are also half the population, those who can be denied health care because of any medical condition existing before enrolling in health insurance—like asthma or pregnancy.  Some of his constituents wrote him about being some of these “bad people“—such as being born with cerebral palsy or being in an automobile accident.

Rep. Fred Upton (MI) opposed the bill until he sold out for $1.6 billion a year in a high-risk pool, at least 90 percent less than necessary to make it viable. High-risk pools, recommended for the sickest five percent of people insured in small-group and individual markets, have a history of failure. States limited people from enrolling in them or using the coverage. People in these pools also face much higher premiums—up to twice as much—as people in the individual market and very high deductibles. High-risk pools can allow annual or lifetime limits on coverage, something not permitted in the ACA and have coverage exclusions for up to 12 months, meaning that people have no insurance for that time. California’s plan had only a three-month waiting period for coverage for pre-existing conditions but had a $75,000 annual limit and a $750,000 lifetime limit. Florida’s high-risk pool was such a disaster that it froze new enrollment in 1991, a situation that lasted for almost two decades. Before the full implementation of the ACA in 2011, these pools in 35 states covered only 226,600 people with net losses of $1.2 billion. Of nonelderly adults, 52 million people in the nation have pre-existing conditions which would make them uninsurable. And these pools don’t help the other 90 percent of the people forced to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in premium “surcharges.”

People on Medicare may also be affected by Trumpcare.  The ACA provided free preventative screenings such as mammograms and colonoscopies as well as an annual free wellness visit. Another provision closed the “doughnut” hole, the coverage gap in prescription drugs that beings when insurer’ and beneficiaries’ combined costs for drugs reached $3,700 and ends at $4,950 for catastrophic coverage. By this year, people have to pay 40 percent for brand-name drugs and 51 percent for generics in that hole which was scheduled to close by 2020 when beneficiaries would be responsible for 25 percent of the cost after the deductible. A repeal without replacement could eliminate this help for people on Medicare.

The ACA helped Medicare become more solvent because of its cost-cutting provisions, including a reduction of federal payments to Medicare Advantage plans. Keeping ACA would keep Medicare would be in the black for 11 years longer than before ACA’s enactment, but its repeal would add $80 billion a year to Medicare spending. The government may make up the losses with higher Medicare premiums, deductibles, and cost sharing for beneficiaries.

The GOP bill still exempts congressional members and their staffs from losing popular aspects of the Affordable Care Act. Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) claimed that there would be a later vote about the exemption.The fast-track consideration came without posting the bill text and without a Congressional Budget Office analysis about the bill’s effects.

House Minority Chair Nancy Pelosi (R-CA) said today before the vote:

“Forcing a vote without a CBO score shows that Republicans are terrified of the public learning the full consequences of their plan to push Americans with pre-existing conditions into the cold. But tomorrow, House Republicans are going to tattoo this moral monstrosity to their foreheads, and the American people will hold them accountable.”

With its provision to eliminate ACA taxes on the wealthy, Trumpcare is the first move to drastically cut taxes for the few percent.

Trumpcare would also

  • Tie subsidies to age instead of income and geographic location.
  • Charge higher premiums to people in the 50s and early 60s, as compared to younger consumers—at least five times but more if states get waivers for a higher ratio.
  • Cut $800 billion from Medicaid support.
  • Permit states to require able-bodied adults to work for Medicaid.
  • Give waivers to states to exempt people with pre-existing conditions and allow insurers to provide insurance without the 10 essential health benefits—most of the parts of health insurance.
  • Allow caps on some of the health benefits.
  • Repeal tax credits in 2020 that help some people pay deductibles and make co-payments.
  • Stop the requirement for larger companies to provide affordable insurance to their employees.
  • Permit high-risk pools (see above).

An unwritten part of the GOP platform is that poor people are to blame for their poverty, and the rest of the population, which shrinks daily, can thrive without them. Uninsured people actually cost the system more than when they are covered. Even worse, however, the GOP belief is totally unethical. The current president promised all these people that he would take care of them. These people voted for him because they believed his promises. Now he’s thrown them away while continuing his lies that he will “mandate” coverage for pre-existing conditions and provide subsidies.

The GOP members of the House who are getting out of Washington immediately after the vote might want to avoid their constituents in their home districts. Although the House can avoid a CBO analysis of the Trumpcare effects, Senate budgetary rules require a score before they vote. At that time, people will find out the estimated impact of the measure.

July 31, 2015

Travesties in Friday News Dump

The last day of the traditional work day is known in the media as “Trash Day,” according to the classic TV series “West Wing” description of the Friday news dump. The tactic is to “dump” bad news or documents on that day so that media scrutiny would be minimized. Here are some of the Friday dump day travesties:

 

Black Women’s Equal Pay Day was last Tuesday: July 28, 2015, is the day when black women caught up with the salary that white men made in 2015. In other words, black women had to work 575 days to match the pay that men made in 365 days. Black women make 64 percent of white men, but Native American women salaries are far worse—at 59 percent of white men’s salaries.

What Voting Problems?! A Wichita State University mathematician asked for Kansas voting machines to be audited because of suspicious patterns in electronic returns, but government officials don’t want anyone to know about its problems. When Beth Clarkson, chief statistician for WSU’s National Institution for Aviation Research, made calculations after last November’s election, she found a “statistically significant” pattern in which the percentage of GOP votes increase according to how big the precinct is, even where other demographics don’t agree. She said that this anomaly happens across the country. Forced to file a lawsuit against state Secretary of State Chris Kobach for documentation, she still hasn’t been able to get the information.

Walker Rides High on Hypocrisy. In an op-ed for the Des Moines Register, presidential candidate and Wisconsin’s GOP governor, Scott Walker, wrote, “You can tell a lot about a person by the company they keep.” His reference was to how Hillary Clinton spent time in meetings with union bosses, who he calls “big-labor special interests,” as she will “shun everyday” people. Walker is headed to a luxury hotel in Southern California with other GOP presidential candidates—Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio—to attend the Koch brothers annual summer conference for Freedom Partners with 450 of the wealthiest donors on the far-right.

An Environmental Award for Rick Scott Is a Joke. The governor has  one of the worst environmental records in the history of Florida—and that’s saying something—and banned state employees from saying “climate change.” He decimated funding for important departments and projects while appointing developers and land use lawyers to their boards. They gave employees bonuses for speeding up permit approval and suspended Connie Bersok who refused to violate state law by approving development in the state’s wetlands. Chair of the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida giving Scott an award for his “conservation work” is Rodney Barreto—wealthy businessman, lobbyist, chair of the South Florida Super Bowl Committee, and Jeb Bush appointee.

McConnell Shows Game Plan for 2017: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) plans to use reconciliation to bypass the 60 votes necessary to overturn the Affordable Care Act. The purpose of reconciliation is reducing the deficit, and repealing the ACA would increase the deficit. The far-right Heritage Action group suggests replacing an official score of a repeal with a GOP invented score.

GOP Women Posted Graphic Illustration of Lynching on Facebook. The official Facebook page of the Oklahoma Federation of Republican Women briefly showed an image of a lynched black man until complaints led to its withdrawal. The text read, “The KKK was formed by the Democrats to keep control over black Americans. The Democrats of today just traded ropes for welfare.” In 2013, over 40 percent of food stamp recipients were white. The number of food stamp beneficiaries who are black has declined every year from 2001 through 2010; in 2013, only one-fourth of the recipients were black. Even if more beneficiaries were black, there is no excuse for using either the illustration or the text.

Pro-Israel, Anti-Iran Agreement Organization Pays to Take Democrat Senators to Israel on a Propaganda Tour: Lobby group AIPAC led the United States into a war with Iraq, and now it wants the United States to start a war with Iran. That’s why they are sending 40 members of Congress, several of them Democrats, to Israel this coming month to listen to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explain why they should vote with him instead of the President of the United States. Legislators prefer to meet with Netanyahu rather than their own constituents. AIPAC is spending at least $50 million to persuade people to vote against the Iran agreement.

Super PAC Carly for America Is Coordinating with Presidential Candidate Carly Fiorina: The Supreme Court ruling allowing almost unlimited money in donations to political candidates through super PACS also mandated no communication between the organizations and the individual campaign efforts of political candidates. Yet the super PAC for Fiorina, confusingly called “Carly for America,” has invited its supporters to join a conference call with the candidate Carly Fiorina while including the necessary legal notice that Carly for America “is an independent expenditure committee and not authorized or coordinated with any federal candidate or candidate’s committee.” The super PAC also performs candidate campaign functions such as managing rapid response to press questions, rolling out endorsements of the candidate, funding grassroots organizing, and organizing advance work for Fiorina’s appearances. Fiorina isn’t alone in crossing the line: presidential candidate and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry delivered his anti-Donald Trump speech at a July 22 event hosted by his super PAC, Opportunity and Freedom PAC.

Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) Lecture Nuclear Physicist on Nuclear Weapons. Last week, Cruz and Johnson accused Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz of knowing less that they did about Iran’s possible nuclear weapons and the threat of an imaginary Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) weapon to take out the nation’s electronic grid. First, the senators accused Moniz of not knowing what an EMP was because he had said he did not know the 2008 Congressional report recommendations. Cruz claimed to be “stunned” at what he considered Moniz’s ignorance about the subject. Then he refused to allow the nuclear physicist, longtime MIT professor, and holder of a PhD in theoretical physics from Stanford to answer a question before accusing him of “refusing to answer the question.” Far-right articles claim that the EMP could easily leave “9 out of 10 Americans dead,”but the Federation of American Scientists stated that this would require a “large device” detonated about 300 miles above Wichita at the altitude of the International Space Station.

Alabama’s governor, Robert Bentley, Appointed Matthew Brown to the State Department of Education: The new appointee is a fundamentalist Christian who hates the public school system and has sworn that his children will never attend public school. Bentley said, “Matthew brings a unique perspective to the position.” His perspective is to starve the public education system through vouchers and charter schools, which Bentley strongly supports through taking $30 million from public schools.

Medicare Turned 50 Yesterday: That’s the good news. The travesty is the GOP attempts to eliminate health care for the elderly and disabled. Presidential candidate Jeb Bush is leading the charge to”figure out a way to phase out this program for [younger people] and move to a new system that allows them to have something.” Backlash led a Bush spokesman to say that Bush wanted only modest reforms. Conservatives say they want to shift the current “defined benefit” program providing specific protections and levels of financial security to a “defined contribution” that distributes money according to a pre-determined formula and require seniors to shop for coverage. What they really want is to end Medicare’s guaranteed health care.

Cruz Tells Code Pink That “Truth Matters” Before He Lies: After pointing out the importance of truth, Cruz said that both Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei and President Rouhani “explicitly said they are developing nuclear weapons. There is no doubt about it.” Code Pink’s co-founder Medea Benjamin said, “That is absolutely false.” Benjamin speaks the truth, but Cruz told Benjamin not to interrupt him. Conservatives failed to report the statements but said that Cruz “crushed” Code Pink. [Insight into Cruz: one of his favorite superheroes is Rorschach, the mentally unstable killer in Alan Moore’s Watchman who lives by his own moral code and exacts severe—maybe psychotic—punishment for anyone who violates it.]

pigs flyTexas Displays Judicial ActivismAfter anti-LGBT activists couldn’t get the 17,000 signatures required to put Houston’s anti-discrimination measures to a vote, the Texas Supreme Court suspended the ordinance, ruling that it either be repealed or put before voters. The court couldn’t do this legally, but it made the ruling. Do conservatives find this judicial activism—which they profess to hate? Will they object? Do pigs fly?

Congress Passes Short-term Highway Funding Bill: The Senate has passed a funding bill to continue the Highway Trust Fund for six years but pays for only three, providing $45 billion spread out for the six years over the gasoline tax. They not only refused to increase the gas tax to levels of 20 years ago but also could not work anything out with the House, that passed only a three-month extension of the funding. The Senate made a bipartisan refusal with 18 Democrats and 15 Republicans voting against it. Great comment from Oregon’s senior senator, Ron Wyden:

“I said to a friend this morning with apologies to the elephants: When the elephants lock tusks, it’s never dull.”

States cannot possibly plan for major transportation projects and prolong maintenance on dangerously damaged roads and bridges with short-term fixes, and this is the 34th “fix” since 2009—an average of five each year. After the recess, the two congressional chambers will have to tackle the problem again. And the Iran deal. And the appropriations bill. And Planned Parenthood. And anything else that has nothing to do with jobs. And the infrastructure suffers because Congress hands out the money in dribbles and drabs.

 

April 15, 2015

Tax Day: Bad, Good, Ugly

Filed under: Budget — trp2011 @ 9:11 PM
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On Tax Day 2015, far fewer people waiting in line because of electronic filing. Wealthy people increasingly pay less and less since the 90-percent tax rate for the richest filers in the 1950s. Every time that the GOP controls Congress, the wealthy benefit from additional tax breaks, and corporations get more subsidies. Every year, the United States has less and less investment funds for the infrastructure, education, climate change, job creation, etc. Corporations have dropped their share of federal revenues by almost three-fourths since the almost 40 percent in 1943 to only 11 percent now. The less that the wealthy and corporations pay, the more the bottom 80 to 90 percent of the people have to shell out.

The corporate tax rate may be 35 percent, but their actual payment is about 13 percent, less than a large percentage of people pay. Some companies pay no taxes. FedEx made profits of $5 billion between 2010 to 2012 and received $10 billion in federal contracts between 2006 and 2012, yet paid no income taxes. With billions of dollars in profit, Verizon and Pfizer paid no taxes while receiving billions of federal tax refunds. In 2013, corporate tax breaks cost U.S. taxpayers $176 billion in revenue, $1,328 per household. These corporate tax breaks have more than doubled since 1993. More is spent on corporate welfare than traditional welfare. Tax breaks, 17 percent of benefits going to the top 1 percent of households, are equal to more than the entire U.S. discretionary budget each year. The revenue loss of over $1 trillion each year is over 1.6 times the 2013 budget deficit.

estate tax

Instead of trying to close loopholes on Tax day, House Republicans are arranging a gift for the top 0.02 percent of U.S. households. Calling the estate tax the “death tax,” GOP members of the House announced a vote to repeal the tax on 4,700 estates out of 2.6 million deaths—one-fifth of one percent. The median household net worth was only $81,200 in 2014. Instead of paying the 40-percent rate, this 0.02 percent owe a rate of only 16.6 percent estate tax, because it applies to only an estate’s value of over $5.43 million. No taxes are required for the first $5.43 million.

If the law isn’t changed, the estate tax will bring in $246 billion in the next decade. Less than 1 percent of federal revenue, “it is significantly more than the federal government will spend on the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Environmental Protection Agency combined,” according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. A common complaint is that the estate tax hurts small and family businesses, including farms. In 2013, the 20 farms and businesses worth under $5 million paid a tax rate of 4.9 percent.

While House Republicans care for the wealthy, they have a budget to eliminate food stamps for 11 million people through a 34-percent reduction. That $125 billion cut from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) will cost the economy 286,000 jobs. As families have less to spend on food, that reduced purchasing power ripples through the economy, translating into job losses not just in grocery and retail stores but also in trucking, warehousing, food manufacturing, farming, and other industries. Money for the wealthy does nothing for job creation, but a woman testifying about her past experience receiving food stamps said, “Without this program, I wouldn’t have been able to start my new career.” Just one week of the proposed estate tax cuts could feed more than 337,000 children for a year. The GOP answer to helping hungry people is charity. I suggest leaving both laws the way they are and create a GoFundMe collection for the top 0.02 percent who pay estate taxes.

This year’s Tax Day is memorable because Congress passed a sane law to end to the annual need for Medicare “doc fixes”–and in a grandly bipartisan manner. Only eight of 100 Senators voted against the bill, two of them the declared GOP presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. The House passed the bill by 392-37. The bill got out of Congress just hours before Medicare providers would have had a 21-percent cut in payments.

The new law also funds the Children’s Health Insurance Program and community health centers for two more years. Republican Senators also failed to get a “repeal Obamacare” amendment attached to the bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the bill’s passage is a sign that Congress is “back to work” under Republican leadership. And it took them only 105 days. (More details about the new law here.)

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) spent his time on Tax Day introducing a bill to recoup $590 billion from 83 companies using offshore tax havens to avoid paying taxes. Senator Elizabeth Warren called on lawmakers to break up big banks and change tax rules that benefit Wall Street.

Abraham Lincoln died 150 years ago today. He is the “Republican” who the GOP drags out into the media to show how wonderful today’s GOP members are. Here is the tweet from the GOP to commemorate his death:

abraham lincoln

And that’s Tax Day 2015.

October 29, 2013

Re Heathcare.gov Issues

Imagine living in a country where the government pays for your major medical expenses without a lot of registration, picking an insurance company, and checking on possible subsidies. In this country you wouldn’t shop for insurance; you’d just register. If you live in the United States, you already have this—if you’re over 65. It’s called Medicare, and it’s popular. Most people don’t worry about socialism; they’re just grateful that they have basic insurance. It doesn’t cover everything, but it’s much better than no insurance at all.

There’s one reason that everyone in the United States doesn’t have the same insurance—insurance companies. With their lobbying power and the Tea Party selfish craziness of the Tea Party, we have settled for a “better-than-nothing” solution. Republicans would like to get rid of Medicare, too, but the majority of their constituents are either on or near the program.

During the federal government shutdown, we rarely heard the  word “glitch.” Since the media forgot how the far-right tried to destroy the country, they are in full attack mode against the Affordable Care Act.

As satirist Andy Borowitz wrote, “A nation that waited several decades for health insurance is becoming increasingly infuriated by a Web site that is wasting minutes of its time, reports from across the United States confirm.” Actually,  the country has been waiting for over 70 years to have a watered-down version of health care.

For the second time in a decade, the government launched a health care website Back in 2005, the launch online shopping for Medicare prescription drug programs was three weeks late. A review of the 1-800 Medicare phone number indicated that the agency “only responded to calls accurately and completely only about two-thirds of the time.” An annual booklet sent out to seniors called “Medicare & You” contained “inaccurate details about some of the prescription plan choices.” Stories about the poor launch of the 2005 reform were back on page 17 of the Washington Post; problems with HealthCare.Gov are typically front-page news.

When Medicare Part D (the prescription addition to Medicare) premiered, it was far less popular than Obamacare. Part D started out with a 21 percent favorability. Since then, it has a 90 percent popularity.

On the floor of the House, Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) tried to remind Rep. Tim Griffin (R-AR) and other GOP members of the House of events eight years ago, five years before the Tea Party elected Griffin. The Democrats didn’t like George W. Bush’s Medicare drug program with its huge gap without insurance and the fact that drug prices could not be negotiated. Yet they convinced their constituents to enroll instead of whining through 40+ bills to get rid of Part D. Griffin tried to defend the GOP by claiming that they have co-sponsored proposals, but Pascrell pointed out that there no legitimate alternatives. Maybe that’s why Griffin has said he won’t be running in the next election.   

The media has joined the GOP in denigrating the Affordable Care Act:

CBS told the story of a woman who was forced off a $54 per month policy for one that cost ten times as much. The cancellation letter gave the Affordable Care Act as the reason. The woman’s “junk insurance” didn’t even cover hospitalization, and it gave her only $50 for a procedure. For example, if she needed a $2,000 MRI, the insurance paid only $50, leaving the balance for her to pay.

Most of the policies being canceled were sold after the ACA became law: insurance companies knew they were selling policies that failed to comply with Obamacare. Customers were not told that these policies would have to be replaced. Because of GOP pressure, grandfathered policies are allowed yearly limits on coverage while they are not required to offer a “essential health benefits” package.

NBC News reported that “50 to 75 percent of the 14 million consumers who buy their insurance individually can expect to receive a ‘cancellation’ letter or the equivalent over the next year because their existing policies don’t meet the standards mandated by the new health care law.” The White House had told Congress that in 2010 that policies after 2014 could not unfairly burden customers. The law keeps policies from canceling coverage when a person becomes ill, imposing lifetime limits on benefits, eliminating all benefits for a particular condition, and reducing the cap for covered services each year. People actually benefit because enrolling through an exchange may cost them less, especially if they get subsidies.

CNN  interviewed people trying to get onto the health care website. When a women responded that she really liked what she saw, the host immediately moved on to someone else. Like all the other media, CNN is clogging the website by playing with it. If everyone stayed off of it except people who actually need the information, it might work better.

Fox’s Sean Hannity found six people willing to misrepresent reasons for their dislike of Obamacare. A couple who complained about not growing their construction business by keeping employees under a certain number of hours has only four employees. Proving health insurance is required only for businesses with 50 or more employees. A woman who complained about her rates going up hadn’t bothered to check the exchange. If she had, she would have found a 60-percent reduction from pre-Obamacare market. Another couple with the same complaint said that they also had not gone to the exchange but instead went to an insurance agent because they oppose Obamacare. The exchange would save them 63 percent of their bill.

Hannity also hosted Dr. Marc Siegel who complained that too many people have access to health care. He said that not everyone can get into his office to see him because of health insurance. “There’s a shortage of doctors. So what do they do? They’re going to pay us less.”

On Mike Huckabee’s program people complained about rate increase. One of them who said that her rates went up was unemployed and eligible for Medicaid. She said, however, that she wouldn’t take it because someone else might need it more.

Meanwhile the GOP members are just flat-out lying:

  • Real cost of the website: $70 million, not Fox’s guess of $634.
  • Website not designed to deceive customers: The site lists the actual cost to people before listing cost without subsidies.
  • No interference from the White House: Contractors denied Rep. Darrell Issa’s accusation that the administration botched the website development by making the “political decision” to mask the costs of insurance premiums online.
  • No HIPPA Violation: No breach of privacy because the website doesn’t ask for health information.
  •  No delay in individual mandate: The only delay is the sign-up deadline, not when people receive the insurance.

Basic facts about the Affordable Care Act:

  • The federal government is operating marketplaces in 36 states, and 14 states and the District of Columbia are operating their own marketplaces.
  • Marketplace plans offer five levels of coverage—catastrophic, bronze, silver, gold, and platinum—ranging from less generous to more generous.
  • Individuals with family income from one to four times the federal poverty level (about $26,000 to $94,000 for a family of four)—and who are not eligible for other qualified coverage—are eligible for tax credits to help cover the cost of a plan, based on the silver plan.
  • The tax credit caps the amount an individual must pay for the second-lowest-cost silver plan at a certain percentage of family income, ranging from 2 percent of income at the poverty level to 9.5 percent of income at four times the poverty level.
  • Increased competition has lowered the cost of premiums in the individual market, meaning that the U.S. will pay $190 billion less than expected and lowering the ten-year deficit by $300 billion.
  • An additional 700,000 people will gain coverage over the earliest projection.
  • Of young people on their parents’ plan, 63 percent belong to the GOP as compared with 45 percent who register as Democrats.

Almost 80 years ago, Social Security got to a rocky start, beginning with employers reporting earnings with no name or SSN. Four years after the Act went into effect, syndicated columnist Drew Pearson tried to create panic by claiming that people would never receive their benefits. Now the entire situation is an obscure historical footnote.

Almost 700,000 eligible seniors refused to sign up for Medicare less than 50 years ago because they mistakenly thought that they were giving up Social Security. Some segregated Southern cities had no participating hospitals because Medicare required that they comply with the new Civil Rights Act. Originally doctors billed patients directly, causing long waits for the seniors’ reimbursements.

The enactment of government-financed income tax sent people over the edge because of the forms’ complexity. After one-hundred years, people still complain but most accept, especially when they think about the many government benefits from the country’s infrastructure. No politician has emerged victorious for the past century in getting rid of the progressive tax.

In less than a decade, the Affordable Care Act will be a success, and most people—even those elected to Congress—will not remember any problems in its inception. Or maybe there will be a better solution by then—universal health care.

August 30, 2013

Bullying Has Long-lasting Effects

safe spaceYou’d think that school officials would want to protect all of their students, wouldn’t you? You’re wrong, at least in Rutherford County (TN). When the national and state ACLU asked that students and teachers be permitted to hand “Safe Space” posters, the school board turned them down. Vice Chairman Wayne Blair said that there is no need for the posters.

GLSEN’s 2011 survey showed that at least 90 percent of students in Tennessee heard the word “gay” used in a negative way or other homophobic remarks. They also heard negative remarks about a person’s gender presentation. Students weren’t the only ones talking like this; 30 percent of students heard the school staff commented negatively on an individual’s gender expression, and 23 percent heard the staff use homophobic remarks.

Many Tennessee students are also verbally and physically bullied: 88 percent of LGBT youth were verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation, and 64 percent were harassed because of their gender presentation. Worst of all, almost no LGBT youth had access to necessary support at school. Only 3 percent attended a school with a comprehensive anti-bullying program that specifically includes LGBT youth. While 87 percent could identify one supportive staff member, only about a third could identify many.

Posters won’t solve all these problems, but the school board refused even this small attempt at helping LGBT youth because of the terms “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender,” stating that they were of an inappropriate sexual nature. The school board’s attorney also accused the terminology of being inappropriately political.

Without any school support, LGBT youth may have nowhere to go for help. A 2011-2012 survey shows that approximately 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBT: of those, 68 percent said they had experienced family rejection, and 54 percent said they had experienced abuse in the family.

The bullying that the school board denies has far-reaching effects for both the bully and the victim. According to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry, bullies who were also victims have the biggest problems as adults—14.5 times more likely to develop panic disorder and 4.8 times more likely to experience depression. are 18.5 times more likely to have had suicidal thoughts, and females are 26.7 times more likely to have agoraphobia.

Previous research from Finland found the same adverse long-term outcomes, particularly anxiety for victims and antisocial personality disorders for bullies.

A newer report in Psychological Science shows the same affects as well as difficulty in keeping a job and poor social relationships. Because they had greater difficulty saving money, they were more likely to be poor. Those who were both bullies and victims are six times more likely to be diagnosed with a serious illness or psychiatric disorder and to regularly smoke. Bullies also have a greater chance of riskier behavior and criminal records.

The hatred for LGBT rights from the religious right and schools was evidenced in a hate crime last Sunday in Orlando (FL). Three men taunted a women walking along a sidewalk, calling her “lesbian” and “dyke” before they got out of the car and raped her. One of the men supposedly said, “I’ll show you how a real man feels.”

A gay Iraq war hero was booed and shouted in San Antonio for supporting anti-discrimination laws for sexual orientation and gender identity. A Tennessee church expelled an entire family because they wouldn’t reject a lesbian daughter. Bryan Fischer, American Family Association spokesman, wants the United States to follow Russia in its anti-LGBT laws which arrest and imprison people even for appearing to be or supporting of LGBT people.

Ex-gay therapist Jerry Mungadze continues the cruel stereotypes with his system of determining who is gay or possessed by demons by asking people to use crayons to color in a picture of the human brain. Black, gray, or brown—that’s possessed. And—of course!—pink proves a person is gay.

In Virginia, gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, currently the state’s AG, wants to bring back the anti-sodomy law. Tom Tomorrow’s black humor shows how doing so would impact people:

comic

After a Pennsylvania county clerk issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Gov. Tom Corbett filed a legal brief against the action—because the state AG refused to stop the licenses. The legal team compared these licenses for LGBT couples to allowing 12-year-old children to be married. As usual with gaffes like this, Corbett has called the analogy “inappropriate,” according to Corbett’s spokesman.

Even after the Supreme Court struck down DOMA as unconstitutional, the Veterans Administration refused to provide federal benefits to veterans’ legally married spouses. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said that the law explaining these benefits define spouse and surviving spouse as someone of the opposite sex. Fortunately, a federal judge in California, Consuelo B. Marshall, declared the VA’s decision is unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court didn’t even begin to overturn the 1,038+ unconstitutional federal laws that discriminate against same-sex couples. At this time, Social Security will give benefits only to married same-sex couples who live in states and other jurisdictions that recognize marriage equality. State and federal government will continue to model bullying for everyone in the United States, costing taxpayers a millions of dollars.

Even Wal-Mart has decided to allow health benefits to same-sex partners of its 1.3 million workers, in keeping with 62 percent of Fortune 500 companies. The VA might take note.

Note: The IRS is following the spirit of the Supreme Court anti-DOMA ruling. Legally married same-sex couples in the United States have achieved marriage equality for federal tax purposes no matter where they live even if they reside in a state that does not recognize the union. U.S. Treasury secretary Jacob J. Lew issued the following in a press release:

“This ruling also assures legally married same-sex couples that they can move freely throughout the country knowing that their federal filing status will not change. Under the ruling, same sex couples will be treated as married for all federal tax purposes, including income and gift and estate taxes. The ruling applies to all federal tax provisions where marriage is a factor, including filing status, claiming personal and dependency exemptions, taking the standard deduction, employee benefits, contributing to an IRA, and claiming the earned income tax credit or child tax credit.”

Refund claims can still be filed for 2010, 2011, and 2012, and some people may have special circumstances that allow them to file such claims for earlier years. Earlier today, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that legally married same-sex couples will receive the same treatment under Medicare as opposite-sex couples.

March 12, 2013

When Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) ran for U.S. vice-president only a few months ago, he said that a Romney/Ryan win would vindicate their plans to rape raping the country of all resources and shred the entire safety net. Instead, Barack Obama won re-election by more than 50 percent of the popular vote—the first time since FDR in 1944, the Senate netted two additional Democratic seats over 2010, and the House gained a majority of Democratic votes, leaving it in Republican hands only because of state gerrymandering.

Either Ryan has a short memory or he doesn’t believe what he said, because he has proposed another budget, more restrictive and farther to the right than the last one. Its $4.6 trillion cuts during the next decade come mostly from eliminating health care with its subsidized insurance exchanges and Medicaid expansions, turning Medicare into a voucher program with private insurers for anyone under 55, and doing away with Wall Street regulatory plans.

The voucher system defense by the Ryan Plan author is a semantic maze. On Fox News, Ryan told Chris Wallace: “[I]t’s not a voucher. It’s premium support. Those are very different. A voucher is you go to your mailbox, you get a check and you go buy something. That’s not what we are saying.” In fact, seniors would get a government subsidy instead of a guaranteed Medicare benefit. Ryan coined the word “voucher” for his plan before pollsters told him not to use that term. He also told Wallace that the GOP won the right to do this because it won the senior vote.

At the same time, the GOP plan cuts the top income tax rate to 25 percent from 39.6 percent. This 14.6 percent cut is over double Romney’s proposed 7 percent cut, that wiped out $5 trillion of revenue. The only way to cover these losses is to increase taxes for the bottom 99 percent of the nation’s population.

Big Oil’s donations to Paul Ryan to get him re-elected have paid off. The budget plan retains the tax breaks for these companies ranked as the most profitable companies in 2012. Tax breaks haven’t increased jobs: four of the Big Five dumped 15,200 jobs between 2006 and 2011. It won’t increase oil production: they produced 3 percent less oil in 2012 compared to 2011. They aren’t paying their fair share of taxes. Three of the companies averaged a 16-percent tax rate in 2011. Their revenues bought back their own stock to enrich top executives, boards of directors, and biggest.

Although Ryan claims that his plan will help the economy and the unemployment rate, Ezra Klein said:

“Ryan’s budget … won’t create jobs this year and will likely cost jobs in the years to come by putting the economy on a steep austerity ramp. There’s no housing policy for the millions of families in foreclosure and no way to read Ryan’s budget without assuming massive cuts to student-loans programs. As for medical costs, fully 59 percent of Ryan’s savings come from new cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare or other health-care programs–and that omits the $800 billion in Medicare cuts he keeps from Obamacare. The nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that cuts on the order of what Ryan is proposing will mean around 35 million people lose their health-care coverage.”

Ryan’s goal isn’t actually to reduce deficits and debt. If it were, he would not eradicate revenue. As Klein said,

“The problem is that these ideas are not, on their own, popular. In fact, they’re deeply unpopular, and considered quite radical. That’s why Newt Gingrich rejected Ryan’s initial budget as “right-wing social engineering” — it is, in a very serious sense, an effort to use policy reform re-engineer the relationship individuals have with their governments, their communities, and their families. But presented on their own, Ryan’s plans scare people.”

In addition to the full repeal of President Obama’s health care law, it asks for limits on medical malpractice liabilities, transfers safety net programs—including food stamps—to states, and lowers the corporate tax rate to 25 percent. The big five oil companies–BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Shell–made a combined record profit of $118 billion in 2012 on top of a record profit of $137 billion in 2011. These companies also have a total of nearly $72 billion in cash reserves. Ryan’s tax cut would give the companies an additional $2.3 billion annually.

The House budget plan also authorizes the 1,700-mile Keystone XL oil pipeline, estimating that it will create 20,000 new jobs. In reality, TransCanada projects that the construction will create a maximum of 3,900 jobs, only 10 percent hired locally, and only 35 jobs existing after two years.

In arguing that he is concerned about “the well-being of the American people,” Ryan ignored the fact that the oil provided by Keystone XL is already in the U.S., mostly in the Midwest. Redirecting it will raise prices in the Midwest. In addition, the oil from Keystone XL isn’t for the U.S.: the pipeline lets Canadian oil producers export the crude oil in the Gulf of Mexico, saving their own country the environmental risks. The crude will be refined in Port Arthur and then shipped out of the country at great—and tax-free—profit for oil companies.

Earlier this year, Congress passed a law that they approve a budget by the April deadline. If they fail, their salaries will be held in escrow until a budget is passed or the current Congress ends at the beginning of 2015. Fortunately for them, the two chambers don’t have to agree in order for Congressional members to get their wages: each chamber can pass its own budget plan without the other one agreeing.

Ryan’s plan does increase spending in one area—defense. And he does have a novel way of making money for the country: he wants to sell off public lands because ”too much public land” is a serious problem.

Derek Thompson wrote: 

“Paul Ryan’s new budget is quite long, but its thesis can be stated briefly. If you cut spending on the poor to the bone and radically change the U.S. government’s promises to help needy people pay for health care, it is remarkably easy to balance the budget.”

The GOP’s plan is based on “massive, unrealistic” spending cuts, according to Michael Linden, Director of Tax and Budget Policy at Center for American Progress. Medicaid would face $1 trillion cuts in the first decade, while education and workforce training programs would get cut in half and transportation funding would be reduced by nearly 25 percent. The plan would also require deep cuts in other vital domestic programs.

Instead of trying to help the people in the United States through building the economy and decreasing the unemployment rate, Paul Ryan has one goal, and he has admitted it when he introduced his budget plan:

“This to us is something that we’re not going to give up on, because we’re not going to give up on destroying the health care system for the American people.”

He should have added that he won’t give up until he destroys the United States.

November 29, 2012

Stop the GOP in Rolling Back Our ‘Entitlements’

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:20 PM
Tags: , , , , , ,

Let’s solve the whole deficit by rolling back Social Security and Medicare–that’s what the GOP insists. Just do away with the safety net, and the country will have no problems. As always, they’re wrong. Social Security and Medicare are not the cause of the deficit.

Raising the age for Medicare and voucherizing Medicare would shift costs onto needy people, lead to worse health outcomes, and drive people into poverty. Without enough money to pay for their health care, people will postpone treatment, resulting in higher costs because the health situation will require greater expenditures.  People cut from Medicare rolls would just end up on Medicaid or other government safety nets. A study by the Kaiser Family Foundations estimates that the net federal savings in 2014 of $5.7 billion would cost individuals, employers, and states $11.4 billion—twice as much. Also raising the age of Medicare would save very little because younger seniors, those between 65 and 67, require the least health care.

Raising the “full retirement age” for Social Security would be equally useless. About half of the beneficiaries start drawing benefits at age 62; a total of two-thirds begin their benefits before age 65. Full retirement age is already 66 and scheduled to increase to age 67. Deficit hawks use the excuse of increased life expectancy to increase the age for Social Security and Medicare to 67.  Half the people in the United States, however, particularly the poor and working-class people whose earnings are at or below the median, have a life expectancy at 65 that is unchanged since the 1970s.  In the poorer regions of the U.S., specifically the South, black males have a life expectancy of less than 65, sometimes as low as age 59.  

Former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY) wants to raise the age for Social Security because it was “never intended as a retirement program” because life expectancy when it was founded was only 63. Yet in 1940, people who got to age 65 still lived for many years. It’s just that more people are living to the age of 65 now, inflating the statistical life expectancy ages. In fact, life expectancy is dropping in the United States.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is now negotiating to decrease the deficit. Consider his past plans. He proposed raising the retirement age to 70 and implemented progressive price indexing as well as privatizing the program. Ryan’s plan would effectively cut benefits for all except 30 percent of the beneficiaries.

Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit because it is fully funded. It’s not an “entitlement program” because people pay into that specific program. With the $2.6 trillion surplus, Social Security can pay at 100 percent for the next 25 years and 75 percent after that. There is no deficit in Social Security; Republicans just want to use it for a cash cow to give money to the wealthiest people in the country.

Changes now can make Social Security self-supporting in perpetuity. Payroll taxes are collected only up to $110,100 in 2012, putting the burden on low- and middle-income workers. Eliminating that cap would allow Social Security to pay full benefits for the next 75 years, according to a Congressional Research Service report. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) tried to raise the cap last year, but both the GOP and the media ignored his attempts preferring to continue the myth of the “bankrupt” Social Security.

Medicare is also in good shape according to the Medicare Trustee’s annual report from April 2012. “The Hospital Insurance (Part A) Trust Fund has sufficient reserves to pay out the full amount of Medicare Part A benefits until 2024—the same projection made in last year’s report.  Should nothing else change, and the Trust Fund reserves be depleted in 2024, the Trust Fund would still receive sufficient income from the payroll taxes and other revenue through which it is funded to pay 87% of anticipated Part A expenses.” The report is based on a poor economy; projections will improve with the economy.

The future of Medicare would be even rosier if the GOP were willing to curb health care costs. Bargaining for drug prices would save billions. The Independent Payment Advisory Board, created as part of Obamacare to help Medicare control costs, could provide a theory of necessary medical treatments. These are not “death panels,” and the GOP wouldn’t care anyway because they are willing to take people off Medicare and let them die.

The problems with Social Security funding began when Bush borrowed heavily from its surplus to hide the fact that federal taxes didn’t accrue enough revenue to pay for his wars and tax cuts. Wall Street’s failures increased Social Security costs while reducing its revenues. The government owes the Social Security Trust Fund the interest for the money that the government borrowed from the $2.6 trillion surplus, but opponents (think GOP) believe that the government is not obligated to pay this interest. The budget deficit was caused by the wars, the lower taxes, and the Wall Street failures, but conservatives want to blame Social Security.

In fact, the government has borrowed more from the Social Security surplus than it has from any other source in the world, including China. As a result, Social Security now “owns” nearly 18 percent of the federal debt, making it the largest single holder of US debt. The government owes almost twice as much to Social Security as it does to China and Hong Kong.

House Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) provided some insight to the GOP Social Security views in a recent NPR interview: “We are going to have to come to grips with the fact that these programs cannot exist if we want America to be what we want it to be.” In other words, the GOP doesn’t want to help people.

Another program that expires if Congress does nothing about it is the unemployment insurance extension. Conservatives don’t want to give one cent to all the people that they call “slackers,” but there’s an important reason for continuing this extension. Extending the current level of jobless benefits from states and federal government throughout the next year will add 300,000 jobs, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.  Cutting off this extension will leave 2 million people without any benefits on January 1 and another 900,000 within the next three months.

The demise of Hostess Brands is a prime example of why we need to keep Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the unemployment insurance extension. The company is doing just fine, thank you. They have 110 potential buyers salivating to take over the company, complete with Ho Hos and Ding Dongs—not to mention the infamous Twinkies. The court has given permission to give bonuses up to $1.8 million to the company’s top executives while all 19 corporate officers and “high level managers” must be employed for the next year. If all goes well, two of the officers will get even more bonuses in addition to their high salaries. CEO Gregory Rayburn, the “restructuring expert,” receives $125,000 a month.

While these corporate leaders, who drove the business into the ground, are making millions, 15,000 workers have lost their jobs, and none of the workers will get retiree benefits that they were promised. These people paid into the safety net; they deserve to receive them now. All of us deserve these benefits instead of giving the money to the wealthy.

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