Nel's New Day

January 3, 2019

Shutdown, House Moves Forward

Day 13 of government shutdown: Thanks to the intransigence of Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT), ICE has immigration problems. Tens of thousands of immigration officers and agents have no pay while they show up for work at the Mexico border. Many judges and clerks in immigration courts, already backlogged by almost one million cases, have been sent home while over 2,000 migrants are taken into custody each day. Sixty-five of these border crossers are families and children who are being released in the streets of El Paso (TX), Yuma (AZ), and other border cities. The E-verify website to check on the immigration status of potential hires has been shut down.

In addition to delayed IRS refunds, the Emergency Food Assistance Program may have delayed delivery of food to soup kitchens, food banks, and pantries. Frozen guarantees to back loans from the Small Business Administration mean millions of small businesses lost access to federal assistance loans and technical assistance. Homebuyers will be delayed in getting mortgages. Access to marriage licenses in D.C. has been suspended.

Parks are filthy, restrooms are closed, and museums are closed. Because of health and safety concerns, campgrounds at the Joshua Tree National Park were closed. Areas around parks are losing an average $18 million a day from tourism, and the government is losing money from not collecting fees at the parks where people crawl over fences and gates. Staff shortages create a feeling of “lawlessness” in the parks.  [Trash at the Washington Monument.]

One of DDT’s arguments for the wall is his claim that the Obama D.C. home has a surrounding ten-foot wall. As usual, DDT is wrong. One of the Obama neighbors commented that DDT “has a very active imagination.” Fox “news” reported on DDT’s information but not the reality.

For the second time in a government shutdown, federal workers are suing in protest of the requirement that “essential” employees must work without pay. Some affected agencies, including the VA and Defense Department, have enough money to pay employees until next fall, but nine other departments and dozens of agencies have been closed except for “essential” individuals who not only won’t receive pay but can’t take vacations or sick leave. Even if employees are in the hospital, they can be fired for being absent without leave. Employees also sued during the 2013 shutdown, and the U.S. Court of Federal Claims required that employees must be paid twice their back pay because the government violated the requirement that employees be paid on time for their services.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, a woman elected as Speaker of the House for the 116th Congress, beat out Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) in a vote of 220-192 despite 15 Democratic dissidents. She celebrates her position in the 100th anniversary of women voting for federal candidates in the United States. Pelosi needed at least 216 votes for the position to obtain a simple majority of members on the chamber floor because one Republican was absent, one had not been seated, and three Democrats voted “present. Other votes went to Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL), 4 votes); Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), 2 votes; Rep. John Lewis (D-GA); Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-MA); and Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL). Two people who are not House members, former VP Joe Biden and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, each received one vote.

The Democratic and Blue Dog representative for my Oregon district, Kurt Schrader, voted for Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH). The super PAC for Schrader’s “No Labels” group spent over $2.5 million during the recent midterms to support vulnerable GOP House candidates trying to keep their position. Only half that amount supported Democrats. No Labels declared candidate DDT as one of their official “problem solvers,”  and No Labels tried to prevent Pelosi from becoming Speaker. Schrader maintained he wanted a younger House leadership before he voted for the 66-year-old Fudge for Speaker and supported older House representatives for other leadership positions.

The House promptly went to work today. In an effort to stop the shutdown, the House passed two bills with the support of a few Republicans. One package of six bills, passed by 239-192, funds agencies that are not considered controversial including the departments of Treasury, State, and Justice through the 2019 fiscal year at the end of September. The second bill, funding DHS through February 8, maintains the department’s funding at current levels which includes $3.1 billion for border security.

The first GOP senator has called for reopening the government with a CR that doesn’t give DDT his money for the wall. Cory Gardner (CO) suggested continuing negotiations after federal agencies open and “let Democrats explain why they no longer support border security.” Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) agreed with Gardner, but her opinion carries no weight because she never follows through with her promises. After the House passed a bill last month mandating $5.7 billion for DDT’s wall, the Senate approved a CR without that funding to keep the government open until February 8. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that no vote will occur without DDT’s previous sign-off. In essence, McConnell abdicated all the power of the Senate to the executive branch. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer pointed out that the House bills are the same as the ones supported in the GOP Senate Appropriations Committee.

Pundits like to talk about how disliked Pelosi is. In the most recent Gallup poll, she is rated more favorably at 38 percent than either Senate leader (Democrat Chuck Schumer from New York at 32 percent and GOP Mitch McConnell from Kentucky at 30 percent) with the same unfavorable rating, 48 percent, as McConnell. Outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) received a 34-percent favorable rating with his unfavorable 50 percent at two percent higher than Pelosi, but the media has had few comments about these ratings.

On fivethirtyeight.com, Perry Bacon wrote that all congressional leaders are unpopular. It’s the job and the fact that Congress is unpopular, but increasing partisan polarization has led to increasing partisan hatred of the leaders of the opposite party. As Bacon pointed out, any Democratic House Speaker will be disliked. Congressional leaders also receive negativity from the opposing party but little support of their own. The sexism adds to the mix: Pelosi is the only female congressional leader in the House or Senate, the country fails to elect a woman president, and almost half the states have never elected a woman for governor.

Republicans undoubtedly dislike Pelosi because she gets things done, including the vote for the Affordable Care Act. They complain that she is too liberal, but much of their distaste for the new House Speaker comes from her gender. The GOP wants women to vote for them, but they don’t want women in office. The 116th Congress is evidence of that philosophy.

The question is why some Democrats oppose Pelosi. Some might believe that she’s not progressive enough, although the 15 dissidents are so conservative that the Blue Dogs supported DDT before his election. Other Democrats blame her for their party losing Congress because they need someone to blame. Sometimes Democrats are offended when members of their party try to compromise while at the same time they excoriate the GOP for not working with the Democrats.

An overview of the House membership in the 116th Congress: Three Republicans come from districts that Clinton took in 2016, and 31 Democrats came from DDT-majority districts.

Today is a big milestone for DDT: it represents the longest period of time that DDT didn’t play golf since he was inaugurated. DDT hasn’t visited a golf course and one his personally owned properties for 39 days. Before that time, he spent 166 days at one of his golf clubs and another 22 days at one of his properties. President Obama didn’t hit even 100 rounds of golf until the end of his first term. On the campaign trail, DDT said that he wouldn’t be able to visit any of his properties while he was in office because “I’m going to be working for you.” The man who calls himself the best negotiator possible sat around the White House for two weeks and waited for Democrats to come talk to him.

November 20, 2018

Make Nancy Pelosi Speaker of the House

Filed under: Elections — trp2011 @ 9:51 PM
Tags: , , ,

A group of conservative Democrats elected to the 116th Congress—some of them new to the House—seem determined to sabotage the possibility of success for their party in a hard-won election. Their goal is to keep Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) from taking the gavel for Speaker of the House; some of them even ran on that promise.

Sixteen House Democrats signed a letter that stated:

“We promised to change the status quo and we intend to deliver on that promise. Therefore, we are committed to voting for new leadership in both our Caucus meeting and on the House floor.”

These are the people who signed the letter. Please note that Ben McAdams is ahead of GOP Mia Love, but the race has not yet been declared.

  • Anthony Brindisi (D-NY)
  • Jim Cooper (D-TN)
  • Joe Cunningham (D-SC)
  • Bill Foster (D-IL)
  • Brian Higgins (D-NY)
  • Stephen Lynch (D-MA)
  • Seth Moulton (D-MA)
  • Ed Perlmutter (D-CO)
  • Kathleen Rice (D-NY)
  • Max Rose (D-NY)
  • Tim Ryan (D-OH)
  • Linda Sanchez (D-CA)
  • Kurt Schrader (D-OR)
  • Jeff Van Drew (D-NJ)
  • Ben McAdams (D-UT)

The media touts these signatories as “moderate Democrats,” but they are conservative. Those already in the House voted at least 20 percent of the time with the wishes of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), and one of them supported DDT over 38 percent of the time. At least four of the eleven sitting representatives are listed as “Blue Dogs,” a caucus of conservative Democrats.

The letter from 16 people, primarily men, shows that they have no alternative for leadership and no goals other than “change.” DDT was elected because people wanted “change.” If Democrats are going to save the nation from the “Trump Party,” they need to operate as a unit. Keeping leadership from a person who has shown great skill at unity and success can guarantee that DDT and his base will destroy democracy.

Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), who was suggested as a candidate for Speaker, announced today that she is supporting Pelosi.

Joe Conason wrote the following piece about Pelosi that expresses my feelings. If you agree with Conason’s position below and one of the dissenters is your representative, please contact him or her to give your opinion. I certainly am.

The tiny faction of Democrats who aim to block Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s election as House speaker are only missing two things: a candidate of their own and a rationale that makes sense.

The easier problem is the absence of a candidate, even though the members who have been mentioned so far seem small when measured against Pelosi, who is often described with superlatives such as “formidable” and even “legendary.” And most of her declared opponents within the Democratic caucus are white men, so they may have trouble persuading colleagues that ousting history’s first female speaker to install one of them would be an uplifting change.

Presumably, that is why they have seized upon Rep. Marcia Fudge, a disgruntled Ohio Democrat who has suggested she might challenge Pelosi. But at age 66, Fudge hardly represents “generational change,” as one of her promoters claimed, and she may have trouble explaining why, as a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, its members have shot down her trial balloon. The heroic Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., for instance, says that Pelosi is “a great leader” whom he supports “more than 100 percent.”

Nor has Fudge articulated an inspiring charter for revolution. She calls Pelosi “an elitist,” whatever that may mean, and “a very wealthy person who raises lots of money from other wealthy people.” At the same time, she concedes that Pelosi “has been a very good leader,” and says, “I just think it’s time for a new one.”

But if Pelosi is a very good leader, then why do they need a new one, exactly? The hollow sound of Fudge’s critique echoes in the remarks of her fellow complainants. They say that Democratic leadership needs “new blood” or “new leadership.” They note their pledges to constituents to oppose Pelosi, although the reason behind those pledges has never been made clear either. Is it because Republicans keep smearing her?

The putative leader of the anti-Pelosi faction, Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., used to say that Pelosi had to go because the Democrats were losing elections. (That was sometime after he wrote a gushing letter in June 2016 thanking her for his appointment to the House Armed Services Committee.) Now he grumbles that she is “arrogant” for thinking “she’s the only person who can do this.”

She may not be the only one who can do this — lead the House Democrats against a would-be authoritarian president and his senatorial rubber stamps — but there is no evidence that anyone else available can do it nearly as well.

Forget the obvious fact that against the predictions of critics like Moulton, she led the caucus to a smashing midterm victory. Her qualifications are personal. She is seasoned, cool and not intimidated by any of her avowed adversaries in either party. She knows how to craft legislation and count votes, as she has proved repeatedly since President Trump entered the White House — most notably during last year’s budget negotiations, when she ate the Republicans’ lunch. Any Democrat who thinks replacing Pelosi will advance progressive goals should take a closer look at Moulton and his buddies. Deposing her would most likely deliver the gavel to Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., the resolutely centrist minority whip. (He is a year older than she is and not half the leader.)

It is remarkable that in this hour of constitutional confrontation, fomented by a president who violates his oath and endangers national security every day, a rump group of House Democrats insists its most important mission is to overthrow the woman who returned them to power. It is astonishing that this group plans to carry the grudge onto the House floor come Jan. 3, even knowing that it will lose a vote within the caucus by an overwhelming majority. (So far the group has 16 votes out of roughly 235, depending how a few lingering races are resolved.) And it is disturbing that they would ignore their duty to hinder Trump’s depredations, instead rupturing the only institution with the will and authority to oppose him.

There is a good reason that Republicans have sought to demonize this highly effective and determined woman. Unlike most Democrats, she has shown the ability to beat them. And that is the best reason to elect her.

Women were a strong movement behind electing the House majority of Democrats, and UnidosUS, a leading Latinx civil rights organization, has endorsed her as has the International Association of Fire Fighters and nine military veterans serving in the House. Pelosi managed to get the Affordable Care Act passed eight years ago, the issue that may have put the Democrats back into House leadership. Yet 14 men have decided to sign a letter that sends the message that a woman is not good enough for the position. These men should understand that their opposition to Pelosi with no justification may not keep the electorate that they need for the future.

September 13, 2017

DDT: Week Thirty-three – Natural Disasters Mixed with GOP Disappointment

Disaster—that is the word for 33rd week that Dictator Donald Trump spent as the White House resident. Houston suffered from Hurricane Harvey as Hurricane Irma, considered five times worse than Hurricane Andrew 25 years ago, ploughed through islands south of Florida and moved across the mainline to devastate large parts of southern states. Hackers into Equifax, one of the principal credit score providers in the nation, collected records, including Social Security numbers and birthdates allowing identity theft, from 143 million people. They also got credit card numbers from over 200,000 people and dispute documents with personal information for another 182,000 customers.

Between Harvey and Irma came the 8.1 earthquake on the southern coast of Mexico, the worst in 100 years, that killed at least 95 people. The death rate was much lower than the estimated 2,000 to 40,000 deaths with the 8.0 earthquake in Mexico because of better building codes and less populated areas for the earthquake’s site. A similar earthquake possible for southwestern California could kill thousands of people and be worsened if the proposed 2018 budget cuts funds for a seismic warning system as proposed. DDT ignored both the earthquake and the loss of at least three people after Hurricane Katia hit Mexico. Three weeks ago, DDT also refused to send any fire-fighting aid to Oregon although its 500,000 burning acres comprise one-third of the fires in the nation.

Congressional GOP members were devastated when (DDT) turned on them and made “Chuck and Nancy”—Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) (left) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), his new friends. DDT’s old friends “Paul” Ryan (R-WI), House Speaker, and “Mitch” McConnell (R-KY), Senate Majority Leader, got left in the dust at a meeting where DDT gave Democrats three-month extensions on the budget and the debt ceiling as well as the $15 billion disaster aid with no cuts in other areas. An hour earlier, Ryan had called the three-month debt-ceiling extension “ridiculous,” “disgraceful,” and “unworkable, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin also disliked the deal. The GOP will face another fight for the budget and debt ceiling before the December 8, 2017 deadline.

Pundits’ theories on why DDT agreed to the deal: he got bored, he thought conservatives wanted it, he thought it would clear the way for progress as in tax “cuts,” or he’s just hostile toward congressional GOP leadership. DDT’s support of North Dakota’s Democratic senators up for re-election this year at his rally last week supports the last idea. A question is how much longer the GOP will protect DDT.

DDT’s deal with Schumer and Pelosi moved so fast that he signed the bill into law within three days. Seventeen GOP senators and 90 GOP representative Republicans voted against it, including four House members from storm-ravaged Texas. Another 17 GOP representatives refused to vote. With GOP support, however, hurricane aid passed 88 days faster than it did for Superstorm Sandy.

Billionaire Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and White House budget director Mick Mulvaney were booed when they advocated for the bill; Mulvaney had led opposition to raising the debt ceiling when he was in the House. The booing continued after he wouldn’t promise Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) that DDT would not commit to reducing the debt ceiling in the December negotiations. Mnuchin left early after he said that people should support the bill for him personally and not for the policy. Ryan forgot he hated the bill and supported the legislation.

DDT rescinded DACA (the executive order allowing people illegally brought into the country involuntarily as children to get job permits) but made AG Jeff Sessions make the announcement. Sessions claimed that his job is to “enforce the law” and then defended DDT’s pardon of Arizona’s past sheriff, Joe Arpaio, who was found guilty of criminal contempt after he willfully violating a federal judge’s order to stop racial profiling. Unable to cope with his unpopularity after his anti-DACA ruling, DDT blamed Congress and said that he was just waiting for them to fix his own firing of 800,000 people so that they will take the hit from conservative voters.

Congress is willing to use millions of lives as extortion. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) wants to trade legal permanent dreamers’ residence for cutting immigration levels in half. Others want to trade the dreamers’ rights for DDT’s wall. Over 400 executives, many of them from the biggest companies such as AT&T and Microsoft, have signed a petition to protect the “dreamers.”  These CEOs know that purchases from Dreamers create more jobs and more profits for these companies that are the strongest base for GOP donations. Even members of DDT’s evangelical advisory board, who supported his racism, think that DDT’s DACA decision is wrong. Sixty-four percent of people in the U.S. back this program, including 41 percent of Republicans. And workers are needed to rebuild after massive losses from the nation’s disasters. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia are suing DDT for his DACA decision. An earlier lawsuit supporting DACA has a court hearing tomorrow. DDT has one fewer DACA recipient to throw out of the country: Alonso Guillen, 31, died rescuing people from Hurricane Harvey.

Special investigator Robert Mueller’s juggernaut about Russian involvement keeps moving forward as six current and former DDT aides, including Sean Spicer and Reince Priebus, may be interviewed. DDT tortured Spicer as much as, or more than, Saturday Night Live, as the press secretary was constantly forced to lie—beginning with the size of the inauguration crowd on DDT’s first day. The firing of former FBI director James Comey was a huge fiasco as Spicer passed along the party line of a DOJ recommendation for the act just before DDT told Lester Holt that he had long planned to fire Comey with “Russia” on his mind. DDT also tormented Priebus up to the time that he resigned. Both can use the Fifth Amendment not to testify, but there are always memos. Even the White House lawyer needs a lawyer.

DDT’s statement that he will give $1 million to relief aid for Hurricane Harvey as brought back the question of the donations to his inauguration fund that he said would be given to charities. The committee raised $107 million with no caps on individual contributions and selling “exclusive access” for over $1 million, but low attendance kept costs down. Charities were supposed to know who gets the money in April, but now Tom Barrack, head of the committee said that he will release details in November. Maybe the $1 million of DDT’s “personal money” will come from that source—or maybe it will go for Donald Trump, Jr.’s legal fees like DDT’s campaign funds. [$1 million sounds generous, but if DDT is worth $9 billion, it’s like a person with $1 million in net assets giving $90. Millionaires comprise less than ten percent of people in the U.S.]

Donald Jr. needs the legal assistance he’s getting from DDT’s campaign funds. This past week, he was interviewed by the Senate Judiciary Committee about his meeting over a year ago with Russians to “get dirt” on Hillary Clinton before the presidential election. He said that he was just checking into her “fitness” for the office. This was after a number of various excuses earlier.

Another DDT problem is the NAFTA negotiations. DDT has said that Canada and Mexico are being “difficult”; Canada is demanding that the U.S. eliminate anti-union “right-to-work” laws and pressuring both Mexico and the U.S. “to offer a year of paid family leave, as Canada does.” In the U.S., 29 states have passed laws eliminating rights of unions, and congressional Republicans have sponsored bills to make “right to work” in all states that will suppress wages, employment, and economic growth. DDT has already cut pay increases for federal employees, overturned overtime pay and worker safety rules, and put union-busters on the National Labor Relations Board which is supposed to protect workers. Trade agreements typically favor corporations over workers; Canada is trying to change that dynamic.

Pushed to the bottom of immediate concerns from the media is North Korea’s claim that it has a hydrogen bomb that can be loaded onto an intercontinental ballistic missile. Experts think that the bomb is actually a “boosted” atomic bomb with less power than a hydrogen bomb, but the U.S. is still goading North Korea with its summer “games.” The U.S. has joined Japan and South Korea in large-scale military drills with over 3,500 troops to simulate an invasion of North Korea and destroy the current regime. Last week’s North Korean missile tests were in response to South Korea’s three week-long military drills with over 75,000 combat troops accompanied by hundreds of tanks, armored vehicles, landing craft, heavy artillery, a full naval flotilla and flyovers by squadrons of state of the art fighters and strategic bombers.

DDT expects help from South Korea to protect the U.S. from North Korea after he lied about sending military resources to help them, ignored history by saying that they were part of China, told them that they had to pay for the U.S. missile-defense system, threatened to eliminate the trade agreement with South Korea, and failed to nominate an ambassador to South Korea.  After alienating Europe, DDT is also going to them for help. DDT’s following through on his threat to stop trade with countries doing business with North Korea would be “an economic tsunami beyond description,” according to NPR’s Ron Elving, and former George W. Bush staffer Taylor Griffin called the economic impact “apocalyptic.” The value of trade between China and the U.S. alone is $663 billion—and DDT’s purchases are part of that amount.

Chief of Staff John Kelly seems to be quieting DDT for the past weeks, but he got his cellphone back tonight when he railed against “Crooked Clinton” about her new book. We’ll wait to see if it’s the recurring trend.

 

May 4, 2017

Make America Suffer Again

The House passed its “We Don’t Care” bill this morning to take health insurance away from tens of millions of people in the United States. The 217-213 had 20 GOP “no” votes from those smart enough to know how furious their constituents would be with a “yes” vote. Only one of them belonged to the scorched-earth Freedom Caucus. Voters didn’t even have an analysis from the Congressional Budget Office to help them make a decision.

In their race to the bottom, the GOP also ignored the impact the 100+ million people who get insurance from employers. Because the bill allows large employers to offer the same benefits as state requirements, companies can skimp on benefit standards in states that get waivers to opt out of current ACA regulations. The same employers can also bypass any limits on out-of-pocket expenses for expensive illnesses and impose lifetime limits of cost. Premiums may cost less, as Republicans promised, people would have little health care covered. Congressional members and staff are lucky: the new bill exempts them from losing quality insurance.

In the time of DDT and the GOP, governance means voting for a bill that has a life-or-death impact with no information on costs and other affects. The legislators who voted for it hadn’t even read it and don’t want to know the outcome of their legislation that affects one-sixth of the U.S. economy. Republicans leaders didn’t let anyone read the legislation in advance. All people know about the bill is that gives massive tax breaks to the wealthiest in the nation and guts protections for everyone else. Now that it’s passed, people know what’s in the bill, and it looks even worse than previously believed.

Trumpcare winners:

  • The rich and corporations getting $600 billion in tax breaks.
  • Millionaires getting a $50,000 tax break each year for a total of $275 billion to the richest two percent.
  • The 400 richest families each getting an average $7 million each year.
  • Insurance companies getting $145 billion in tax breaks over ten years.
  • Drug companies rewarded with $25 million in tax breaks over ten years.
  • The richest two percent getting a $117 billion tax cut.

Trumpcare losers are the 24+ million low-income sometimes DDT supporters who lose health care (24 million) or people who will pay up to $13,000 more for premiums. No one will have protection from huge increases in drug costs, and the loss of $117 billion in revenue shortens Medicare’s ability to pay full benefits by at least three years.

Eight years ago, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) said this about the Affordable Care Act on MSNBC:

“I don’t think we should pass bills that we haven’t read, that we don’t know what they cost.”

At the same time, Mike Pence ridiculed the Democrats:

“Don’t blame us, we didn’t read the bill we voted for.”

In 2009, House Republicans had a fit about the possibility of voting for the ACA without a CBO score, and Ryan demanded that the CBO analysis be expedited before a vote. In fact, Congress and President Obama and spent 14 months writing that bill in 2009 and 2010 with dozens of hearings, committee markups, and consultation with the health care system that won support from hospitals and doctors while waiting for multiple CBO scores. No one in the health care system wants Trumpcare, and Republicans’ only rationale for voting in favor of the bill is that they promised to do it. Oh yes, and it gives massive cuts to the wealthy.

Perhaps most prescient is DDT’s 2014 tweet:

“It’s Thursday. How many people have lost their healthcare today?”

Today is Thursday, and we don’t know the affect of the House vote, but it’s sure to be tens of millions of people if the House bill passes the Senate.

According to DDT’s statements last Sunday, he hasn’t read the revised plan to satisfy the scorched-earth Republicans. On Face the Nation, DDT told John Dickerson that the bill keeps pre-existing conditions and “I mandate it.” Pressed for clarification, DDT added, “We actually have a clause that guarantees [protections to those with pre-existing conditions].” [No, “we” don’t.] The GOP bill clears the way for states to remove this benefit. DDT said that “Obamacare” “doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions.” [Yes, it does.] Even VP Mike Pence said that Republican policymakers are “keeping our promises to protect people who have pre-existing conditions.” Of course, he believed that Michael Flynn didn’t have anything to do with the Russians.

According to a Harvard study about the health care bill, Trumpcare would “effectively end enrollment in the insurance markets for families that make less than $75,000 a year.” In 2015, that was over 70 percent of the people in the United States.

Another population that would suffer from Trumpcare are students needing special education help. Medicaid provides schools districts with such services as physical therapists and feeding tubes as well as preventative care like vision and hearing screenings. Republicans voting to do away with these services may not know about this issue because the House did not allow any public testimony before the vote.

If DDT and Congress are successful in repealing the ACA, discrimination can be the law of the land. One section is the ACA stops federal funds from going to anyone or any group discriminating on the basis of race, skin color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. That includes pregnancy, sex stereotyping, gender identity; religious-connected providers could deny contraception, sterilization, in vitro fertilization, or anything else against “religious” beliefs. People could be turned away from emergency rooms for any reason. At this time, 20 percent of the hospitals in the nation have an affiliation with religion—up 50 percent since 2010, and many times small communities have only these hospitals. At the same time, the federal and state governments are rapidly closing non-religious clinics such as those operated by Planned Parenthood.

In addition to ethical reasons to keep and repair the ACA, its loss will result in the loss of 1.8 billion jobs.

Oregon’s only GOP representative was a leader in destroying the ACA. Greg Walden is now proud of his part in doing away with the small hospitals in his rural district and losing insurance for the largest number of people in his state. DDT acknowledged the part that Ryan and Walden played in taking insurance from Walden’s constituent when he said, “This is the group.” Walden’s district added more Medicaid recipients than any other GOP district and more than all except three Democrat-held districts. That makes it fourth out of 435 districts in helping people under the ACA.  One of Walden’s colleagues pointed out that 640,000 people with pre-existing conditions could lose their insurance, but Walden claimed, “We are protecting people with pre-existing conditions. Those conditions continue to be protected.” Either he has not read the bill, or he lies. People have said he’s a nice man. So sad.

The GOP is backing a losing horse with its argument for less government. A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds that a majority of people, 57 percent, thinks that government should do more—not less—to help solve the nation’s problems. That’s an increase of 14 percent in just two years and almost double the percentage since 1996. In that time the number of people who think that the government should do less has dropped by over one-third. A study from Baylor University has also found that more government enhances human happiness.

Last month the New York Times’ hired climate denier Bret Stephens. Now the NYT equates Ryan’s lie (“under no circumstance can people be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition”) and Pelosi’s statement (“up to 17 million children … who have pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied coverage by insurers” thanks to the ACA) as both “misleading.” It may be possible that Rupert Murdoch bought the newspaper while I wasn’t paying attention.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) (3rd L)  after signing legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and to cut off federal funding of Planned Parenthood at the U.S. Capitol January 7, 2016 in Washington, DC.

The bill that passed today and moved on to the Senate was even more draconian that the earlier bill, and that one got only 17 percent approval. Yet Republicans are celebrating their success at taking insurance away from 24 million people and allocating much higher charges for people with pre-existing conditions with cases of Bud Light rolled into the Capitol. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and the other GOP leaders are even giddier than they were over a repeal in January 2016. Following their beer-bust in the Capitol, Republicans took buses for more celebration in the White House Rose Garden, historically a place where bills are signed into law. Never before have House Republicans reveled in passing a bill that may not survive the Senate. And certainly not a bill designed to create misery for millions of people in the United States.

It’s a new time: Make America Suffer Again.

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.

June 13, 2015

TPP, McKinney – Updates

My sincerest apologies to Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Last week, I accused her of caving into voting for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Instead she might be the reason that it failed–thus far. As usual, she provides great leadership for her caucus while House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), can’t, according to Rachel Maddow, lead a hungry puppy to a hamburger.

pelosi

On the House floor before the vote, Pelosi said, “You cannot separate commerce and environment” in reference to the trade agreement allowing corporations to sue governments that “interfere” with their business—even if the government wants carbon reduction goals and other environmental legislation. She referenced Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) amendment that would “ensure that trade agreements do not require changes to U.S. law or obligate the United States with respect to global warming or climate change.”

The option to fast-track the TPP passed by two votes more than needed, 219-211, but fast-track can’t move forward without the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) that provides inadequate assistance to workers who would lose jobs or be injured by the TPP bill. That bill failed by a 302-126 vote. The GOP has called for a re-vote on Tuesday, but if it fails again, the option may die. If the entire package doesn’t pass, the bill goes to a joint conference committee to resolve differences between the House and the Senate. Each chamber will have to again vote on the compromise bill. Opposition to the TPP is increasing with a coalition of more than 2,000 groups opposed to Fast Track and the TPP—including women’s rights, labor, LGBT, environmental, civil rights, senior citizen’s groups and more—redoubling its efforts for next week’s fight.

A chief argument from proponents of the TPP is that it isn’t actually secret—although every legislator who has read it states that the document is classified. Ryan, however, finally admitted just how secret the TPP is. During his House Rules testimony, he said, “It’s declassified and made public once it’s agreed to.” He actually meant that the TPP would be declassified after Congress agrees to the fast-track option, but the fast-track up-or-down vote with no amendments and a pass by a majority of 51 in the Senate provides little oversight. The next two agreements being negotiated, TiSA and TTIP, are not even available to members of Congress who must go to a secret room to read the TPP.

Another big chunk of news last week came after twelve law enforcement officials went to a swimming pool because of a report from 911 about a fight. Eric Casebolt, the police officer supervising the other 11 police officers, resigned after videos of his brutalizing a teenage-girl in a bikini and his drawing his gun on other teenagers in bathing suits went viral.

Fox network dived into the pool fight by defending the police officer and denigrating all the black teens at the party, despite the fact that many of them lived near the pool and had passes to get in. One of the chief witnesses on Fox, cheered on by Sean Hannity, was Sean Toon, who claimed that “the police did nothing wrong” and that there were no racial overtones in the incident.

McKinney whte woman 2Further examination of videos taken on the day show that Toon and his wife, Shannon Barber Toon, most likely started the confrontation. Barber Toon was with the two women who called the teens “black f*ckers” and other slurs before initiating a physical attack on a 19-year-old girl. Grace Stone, a 14-year-old white McKinney resident, heard Toon say, “You should go back to the Section 8 [public] housing where you’re from because you don’t belong in our neighborhood.” Stone does live in the neighborhood.

When Toon was 18, he and friends abused and murdered animals housed in a rival high school’s agriculture center. A teacher in the program said, “Cows and pigs were cut and bruised, apparently beaten with wooden boards. And baby turkeys were slain, their limbs torn apart. It was brutal. There’s no way to describe it. I’ve never seen anything like it.” Toon was fined $300 and sentenced to 285 days in jail. The same year he was charged with “aggravated assault with a deadly weapon” and made a plea deal for 75 days in jail.

Tracey-Carver Allbritton, a woman involved in the attacks on the teens who started punching the top of the girl’s head while shouting racial slurs, was found through a Facebook profile linking her to the incident. She worked for a contractor with the Bank of America, that conducted an investigation to see if she was a bank employee. Allbritton’s employer, CoreLogic Inc, has provided financial and home loan information services to Bank of America since 2011, when it settled a $335 million lawsuit for racially discriminating against Blacks and Latinos in home mortgage lending. She is now on administrative leave.

In another fallout from the pool problem in McKinney, Karen Fitzgibbons, a fourth-grade teacher in Lubbock (TX) has been relieved of her duties after she posted this reaction to Casebolt’s resignation on Facebook:

“This makes me ANGRY! This officer should not have to resign. I’m going to just go ahead and say it…the blacks are the ones causing the problems and this ‘racial tension.’ I guess that’s what happens when you flunk out of school and have no education. I’m sure their parents are just as guilty for not knowing what their kids were doing; or knew it and didn’t care. I’m almost to the point of wanting them all segregated on one side of town so they can hurt each other and leave the innocent people alone. Maybe the 50s and 60s were really on to something. Now, let the bashing of my true and honest opinion begin…GO! #imnotreacist #imsickofthemcausingtrouble #itwasagatedcommunity”

Fox also invited Kisa Jackson to appear on the network after she blamed parents for the problems and justified Casebolt’s actions in a video. “It’s about, again, the parents, and teaching our children to respect authority figures.” She told host Fox host Steve Doocy that the parents needed to “take ownership” of their children’s actions. Omitted from the segment was the problem that police in Baton Rouge (LA) had in arresting Jackson’s son, Jalen Mills, after he punched a woman in the mouth. Investigators issued a felony arrest warrant for Mills, a defensive back on the Louisiana State University football team, after he failed to show up for a scheduled appointment and didn’t return phone calls. He was initially charged with second-degree battery and suspended from the team, but the charges were later reduced to a misdemeanor because prosecutors could not prove the woman suffered “permanent disfigurement or unconsciousness.”

That’s it: one temporary success and one vindication after Fox went quiet about the McKinney pool party.

September 13, 2013

U.S. Exceptionalism All Negative

Many in the U.S. have taken exception to Russia’s president Vladimir Putin taking exception at President Obama’s statement “I believe in American exceptionalism.” So how is the United States exceptional?

The health care in this country is exceptional because it’s costly with poorer outcomes than other countries. People in the U.S. spend almost 18 percent of the country’s GDP on health care, one and half as much as any other OECD country and twice as much as the average. 

health care expenditure

At the same time, about 50 million people in the U.S., almost 15 percent of the population. In other developed nations, 100 percent of the people have health care. In addition, many other people in the U.S. who have health insurance put off getting healthcare because of high deductibles and copayments. Obamacare  won’t solve the problem, but it attempts to remediate it. Personally I take exception to GOP members of the House who waste my taxpayer money by continually voting against helping people as they did again yesterday afternoon.

The U.S. is 33rd in life expectancy and 34th in infant mortality. This nation has the highest first-day infant death rate out of all the industrialized countries in the world—68 other countries. It is estimated that 45,000 people died each year because lack of access to medical care. People in the U.S. pay twice as much for medications as people in Canada or Europe, and 30 percent of every healthcare dollar is spent on administrative costs. In comparison, Taiwan spends a little over 6 percent of GDP on healthcare with better outcomes in some key indicators. Medicare in the U.S., a single-payer system similar to that in most other developed countries, has administrative costs of about 3 percent.

Adolescents die at higher rates from car crashes and homicides, and they have the highest rates of sexually transmitted infections. People in the U.S. have the highest incidence of AIDS, the highest obesity rates, the highest diabetes rates among adults 20 and older, the highest rates of chronic lung disease and heart disease and drug-related deaths.

The U.S. is the only industrialized nation in which workers are not legally entitled to paid leave—even vacation time. European nations typically provide five weeks; Germany gives almost seven weeks. Almost one-fourth of the U.S. workers get no time at all. Germany’s decreasing unemployment rate is 5.4 percent, and the average hourly wage has gone up more than 4 percent in the last three years. Wages in the U.S. have barely gone up, and the 7.4 percent unemployment rate is unhealthy for the economy. U.S. workers put in 1,800 a year while German workers work an average of 1,400 hours per year.

U.S. productivity rose by 80 percent from 1973 to 2011 while compensation went up barely 12 percent with no increase since 2000, despite a 23-percent productivity increase in that time.

The United States provides no maternity leave, compared to most of the other countries in the world.

paid-maternal-leave-by-country With a child poverty rate of 20-25 percent, the United States rates 34th out of 35 countries. (Romania is below the U.S.) Map

 child-poverty-rates

The United States is exceptional in having the most millionaires and billionaires who have collected more of the planets assets than any other country. Yet the U.S. is #27 in middle-class wealth. Adding all assets such as homes and bank accounts before subtracting liabilities such as loans and other debts gives the best indicator of individual and family prosperity. As the following chart shows, 26 other countries have a higher media wealth than the U.S.

Middle Class wealth

Incarceration is higher in the United States than in other countries such as Russia, Cuba, Iran, or China. The lock-up rate is ten times what it is in Norway and more than that in Japan and Iceland. Several states in this nation lock up people for debt, and private corporations count on “growth” models to increase their profits. In Arizona, for example, the state guaranteed full prisons when private companies built them.

 The U.S. has the highest gun ownership rates in the world and the second highest rate of gun deaths among industrialized nations. These two things are related, looking at developed nations shows that the higher the rate of gun ownership, the more people die from gun wounds.

The U.S. ranks 23rd in wage distribution, 22nd in gender equality, and 29th in intellectual property protection. The U.S. ranks 10th in purchasing power of minimum wage and 11th in minimum wage. The nation also ranks 125th in GDP growth per capita. Out of 24 nations, the U.S. ranked between 19th and 23rd in critical areas of health, education, and material well-being.

The United States is now 9th in the world in Internet speed, down one place from last year. South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Netherlands, Latvia, Czech Republic, and Sweden are above the U.S. Yet this country charges more for Internet use that these other countries.

The United States does rank first in the world in death by violence. The U.S. is also exceptional among the industrialized world for having the only president who claims the right to execute citizens without due process in the U.S. post-constitutional philosophy. For other ratings, check out the Global Competitiveness Report for 2012-2013.

In lashing out at Putin’s response to President Obama’s threatened attack on Syria, Putin wrote that claiming the exceptionalism of America is “dangerous”:

“We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”

Because of Russia’s vicious anti-LGBT laws that cause physical harm and death to those perceived to be LGBT, Rep. Nancy Pelosi used Putin’s words to attack him when she said:

“He says that we are all God’s children. I think that’s great. I hope it applies to gays and lesbians in Russia as well.”

In the nationalistic craving for U.S. exceptionalism, Pelosi and many others forget that LGBT people can be fired for their sexual orientation or gender identity in over 30 states, they cannot be married in 37 states, and the federal government is denying Social Security benefits to all married same-sex couples who do not live in one of the jurisdictions that have not yet legalized marriage equality. By comparison 14 countries in the world have legalized same-sex marriage.

Before getting into a contest about whether the United States is “exceptional,” people might work toward making it so—in a good way and not just in high rates of mortality, bad health, hunger, poverty, income inequality, and incarceration.

April 27, 2013

What’s Missing from Main-Stream Media, April 2013

While the main-stream media concentrates on the Boston bombing, here are a few items that they missed or slighted:

Mark Sanford: The former governor from South Carolina running for representative who said that he was hiking the Appalachian trail for five days while he visited his mistress in Argentina and trespassed in his ex-wife’s home after he was ordered not to do so had arrived at a new low. After the trespass was made public, he ran a full-page ad in the Charleston Post & Currier with his personal cell phone number, asking people to call him “if you have further questions.” A Democratic-aligned super PAC, House Majority PAC, included the number in a fundraising email. In retribution, Sanford published an unredacted list of all his callers’ phone numbers.

The candidate has become increasingly peculiar in his actions. Although he’s running against Elizabeth Colbert Busch, he had a debate with a full-size cardboard poster of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in Charleston. The image brings back the memories of Clint Eastwood and an empty chair at the GOP convention last summer.

Sanford debates poster

Colorado Voting Bill Mailer: Images caused problems for other conservatives, this time a group connected to Colorado’s Secretary of of State. The House has passed a voting bill to improve the state’s laws. It would allow people to register on Election Day, automatically send mail ballots to all voters, and stop fraud through a real-time voter database. Republican county clerks and Secretary of State Scott Gessler oppose the bill. Using the address of Gessler’s former firm, the “Citizens for Free and Fair Elections” have sent out political mailers using a purchased image.

Colorado mailer light skin

There is a change in the image, however, from the original. The dark-skinned face of a woman in the original photo by Mark Wilson (Getty Images) to show long voting lines in Montgomery County (VA) were in 2012 has been digitally replaced in the mailer with the photo of another woman who is much lighter skinned.

Getty dark skinn

Fox Latino friendlyFox News: In an attempt to appear “Latino friendly,” Fox News used a positive photograph featuring a Latina to illustrate its article headlined “‘Illegal Immigrant’ Dropped from Associated Press Stylebook.” Including quotes from racial justice organization The Applied Research Center, which publishes Colorlines.org, the article discussed the controversy referred to the term “illegal immigrant” as “controversial.”

But that was in Fox News Latino; FoxNews.com highlighted the story on its front page with a different photo and headline. The headline was switched to “AP Rules: Don’t Call Him an… ‘ILLEGAL?'”

fox Latino unfriendly

Later the headline was changed to “What’s in a Name? AP under Criticism for Nixing ‘Illegal Immigrant,'” but the photo stayed—just a bit smaller.

Mark Zuckerberg: Worth $13.1 billion following his creation of Facebook, Zuckerberg has agreed with the importance of changing from dirty fossil fuels to clean renewable energy. Now his new political group, which bills itself as a bipartisan entity dedicated to passing immigration reform, is spending big bucks on ads advocating anti-environmental causes including drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and constructing the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. It’s all in the name of business.

John-Mica_2-e1366991056439Washington, D.C.: The best piece of authoritarian patriarchy came last week from Rep. John Mica (R-FL). The topic was Washington, D.C., always at the mercy of Congressional whim, and its budget autonomy. Recently the city voted in favor of this by 85 percent. Unless both chambers of Congress pass a disapproval resolution which would then have to be signed by the president, the over 600,000 people in this city can decide how they spend the money that they pay into the city’s coffers.

Mica, a committee member who oversees the city’s budget, laughed at the vote and said:

“Well, when my kids were young teenagers, they always wanted budget autonomy too. But we always, you know, you allow them to go their own way, and if they get out of line, according to the Constitution, the Congress has the right to step in…As long as they are minding their P’s and Q’s, so to say, I think the government can back off. But we must remain vigilant.”

Pedro Ribeiro, Mayor Vincent Gray’s spokesman, responded to Mica, “Last time I checked, children don’t have a $6 billion local budget.”

Before he made this comment, Mica admitted the city’s finance management has vastly improved since the dissolution of a Congressional control board. After they took control of the House in 2010, the GOP tried to force the progressive district to outlaw abortion, reduce contraception access, sell more guns, block union membership, cut public transportation funds, and pay for private schools.

Washington, D.C., with almost the same population as North Dakota, has no representation in the Senate. Their one delegate in the House cannot vote on the floor. Its economy is larger than those of 14 states, and its residents pay $1.6 billion a year in federal taxes, more per capita than any state. Washington, D.C. is a prime example of taxation without representation that people fought to overturn almost 250 years ago.

Bangladesh Factory:  The most disastrous event of last week was the crumbling of the Rana Plaza building, housing a major Bangladeshi garment factory. Over 350 people have died, hundreds more are injured, and as many as 900 are still missing. This tragedy, the third in five months, is even worse than the fire at the Tazreen Fashion Factory last November that killed 112 garment workers.

The second-largest exporter of garments in the world, this country relies on garments for 80 percent of its exports. Duty free access offered by Western countries and low wages turned Bangladesh’s garment exports into a $19 billion a year industry. Sixty percent of the clothes go to Europe, 23 percent to the United States takes 23 percent, and another 5 percent to Canada. Gap, Walmart, and other retailers of cheap clothing have fought any reforms that could stop such disasters.

Bank employees in the building escaped the danger after a crack developed in the building because they were told to stay home the next day, but garment workers were ordered to return.

Two years ago, labor groups tried to get the factories and buyers to sign onto a plan that would establish independent inspections to replace the infrequent and often corrupt government inspections. Unsafe facilities could be shut down as part of legally binding contract signed by suppliers, customers, and unions. Companies would provide up to $500,000 per year to pay for the inspections.  All the companies—including Walmart, Gap, and Swedish clothing giant H&M—turned it down.

Walmart’s representative said it was “not financially feasible … to make such investments. Gap, which owns the Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic chains, said the company refused because it did not want to be vulnerable to lawsuits and did not want to pay factories more money to help with safety upgrades. H&M wants factories and local government to take on the responsibility.

After last year’s Tazreen blaze, the labor group tried again to get the independent inspector plan adopted, but the factories and the big brands would not agree. Siddiqur Rahman, former vice president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, denied the factories are responsible for killing the plan and blamed the buyers.

Companies claim that they do private audits. Those don’t work, according to a lobbyist for garment workers, because of their confidentiality. If a company pulls its business after safety problems, it won’t tell competitors who will continue to place orders which keeps the unsafe factory open.  Thus we continue to buy cheap and be complicit in killing hundreds of garment workers, almost all of them women.

November 20, 2011

GOP Presidential Candidates Gobble Social Justice

It’s almost Thanksgiving, and turkey is on the minds of a lot of people. Turkey  may not bring to mind just the food served on Thursday.  One definition of a turkey is a loser; another, in the case of a jive turkey, a double-crosser. The current crop of Republican presidential candidates reminds me of real turkeys, flocking and gobble-gobbling and strutting as they fan their tail feathers to conservative media and organizations. (Clue: Texas has lots of wild turkeys.)

The more overtly religious five candidates seem to consistently make the dumbest moves. Herman Cain can’t open his mouth—or just sit in a chair—without creating fodder for late-night comedians. Libya? Now what did the U.S. do in Libya? And who didn’t we like there? Newt Gingrich lost when he thought he could claim his high salary from Bush’s government was for being an “historian” for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, not an unlicensed lobbyist.

Rick Perry wanted to debate Rep. Nancy Pelosi about his new idea for “a part-time Congress where their pay is cut in half, their office budgets are cut in half, and their time in Washington is cut in half.” Even the most conservative Congressional members are nervous about his brainstorm. Either Perry forgot that Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) is currently Speaker of the House, or he believes that the Democrats will take the majority in the next election. Caught up in criticism, he cited recent reports of insider trading by Congressional members. “When you have routine insider corruption on Capitol Hill, when you have liberal opposition for freeing the economy of this country, when you have just total disrespect for family values, I would suggest to you that’s the reason Nancy Pelosi is running away from having a debate with me.” Perry forgot two other important pieces of information: Pelosi and her husband made less than a dollar on each of the 5,000 shares that they bought, and the rest of the insider traders outed were Republicans.

Cain remembered that God asked him to run for president, bringing the count up to three with Michele Bachmann and Perry the other two. Evidently God told Mike Huckabee that it was okay for him not to run this time. In Cain’s speech about God, he also blamed President Obama for canceling the space shuttle program; George W. Bush had done that in 2004. Considering his penchant for a bad memory, could he have the same health issues as Ronald Reagan without a wife to cover for him?

The first formal vote of 2012, Iowa, is less than six weeks away, and candidates have flowed into the state. (Don’t worry, Iowa. They’ll be leaving immediately afterward to head to New Hampshire.) Only Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman were absent from yesterday’s Thanksgiving Family Forum, sponsored by the James Dobson-founded Focus on the Family, a religious right powerhouse known for its bizarre cultural agenda; the National Organization for Marriage, perhaps best known for its unintentionally hilarious anti-gay commercials; and The FAMiLY Leader, an Iowa-based group of extremists that put together “The Marriage Vow” for GOP candidates, which argued, among other things, that slavery wasn’t that bad for African-American families.

The forum was about “social issues”—nothing hard like foreign policy. Held in the sanctuary of the First Federated Church of Des Moines, a church that has fought LGBT people for at least 15 years, it featured right-wing pollster Frank Luntz as a talk-show host. Gingrich received the loudest applause for his promise to restore the role of faith in American life. Either Iowans have the same short memories as Perry, or they chose to ignore Gingrich’s infidelity and three marriages.

Evangelical theology purports that until one’s heart has been broken, usually by one’s own sin, one will not be truly ready to receive Jesus as one’s personal Lord and Savior. Evangelical services often feature the tearful testimonials of those whose hearts are so broken; thus Luntz asked them to reveal the moments when their faith was most tested.

Ron Paul appeared the most uncomfortable, talking about an injury cutting short his high school track career, and Gringrich had to borrow a friend’s injured child. I’m guessing he didn’t want to talk about his first wife’s cancer because that was when he served her with divorce papers in the hospital after her surgery

Cain got to talk about when he was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, Rick Santorum berated himself for being emotionally distant from his youngest daughter who had almost died twice, and Bachmann revealed how her mother had to sell wedding gifts after the candidate’s father deserted the family.

Although Perry’s biggest problem was feeling “lost” when he left the Air Force at the age of 27, he was in his element with fundamental rites, something that doesn’t happen with any of the debates. Discussing the success of The Response, an event that brought 33,000 people together in Texas to pray for the country, he urged pastors to preach about values. “Somebody’s values are going to decide what the Congress votes on or what the president of the United States is going to deal with. And the question is: Whose values? And let me tell ya, it needs to be our values–values and virtues that this country was based upon by the Judeo-Christian Founding Fathers.” (Another part of conservatives’ revisionist history.)

Speaking of God in his life, Perry said, “I’ve been driven to my knees multiple times as the governor of the State of Texas, making decisions that are life or death–have huge impacts on people’s lives. The idea that I would walk into that without God Almighty holding me up would scare me to death.” Evidently God told him to kill those people whether they were innocent or not, including at least one person executed in violation of an international treaty.

In a preface to one question, Luntz explained that church-goers are happier than people who don’t go to church or pray, implying that liberals do neither. Gingrich agreed, saying that conservatives are “happy” while liberals are “angry” and “miserable.” Then his historian persona rolled in as he said that liberals were all products of the French Revolution.

“The French Revolution was an anti-clerical, anti-God rejection of the larger world in favor of secularism. It has dominated our academic world; our academic world supplies our news media, our courts and Hollywood. And so you have a faction in America today which believes things which are profoundly wrong. Now that is a fight; that’s not a passivity. And in a culture in which they know what they’re doing, and they are determined to destroy our value system, and we are passive and confused is a world in whichAmerica’s going to stay in deep trouble.” (More revisionist history.)

Bachmann accused the new health care law of forcing taxpayers to fund “chemical abortion” that she claimed was being “pushed” by Planned Parenthood. Many conservatives  don’t believe this, but the claim brings in votes and money. Private coverage for abortions may be almost nonexistent when the new health care law goes into effect which would make these candidates very happy.

Referring to the Occupy Movement, Gingrich quoted John Smith (of Pocahontas fame): “In 1607 in the first English speaking permanent colony, [Smith said] to the aristocrats who had paid their way and didn’t want to work: ‘If you don’t work, you won’t eat.’” He may have been confused about the “class” status of the current protesters. His vitriolic statement concluded with “Go get a job. Right after you take a bath.” I wonder if there are more openings at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for “historians.”

The candidates had an easy time in Des Moines last night. No questions about taking money from the government to advise its mortgage agencies, no questions about sexual assault or campaign fraud, no questions at all about embarrassing gaffes or long pauses. They all pretty much agreed to define “personhood” at conception, stop gay couples from adopting children, reverse restrictions of churches’ involvement in politics, and prevent same-sex marriage. People who think that the conservative movement is all about economics need to pay close attention to this showing of Christians demonstrating how they would turn the United States into a theocracy.

Sorry you missed the event? Check it out here. Otherwise wait until day after tomorrow when the full complement  of Republican candidates gathers at the DAR Constitution Hall (Washington, DC), 8pm ET, with sponsors CNN, The Heritage Foundation, and the American Enterprise Institute. Wolf Blitzer moderates; the topic focuses foreign policy and national defense.

Happy turkey!

April 21, 2011

Defense of Marriage for All



According to the conservatives, America is very poor, on the verge of being broke. But U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (pronounced “Baynor” and not how it looks phonetically) has decided to spend taxpayers’ money on his personal issue–The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Incensed because the Department of Justice (DOJ) is not defending the law before the U.S. Supreme Court, he has managed to pass a bill that will hire former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement and the King & Spalding law firm to defend the 1996 law that defines and recognizes marriage only as the legal union between a man and a woman. And he wants to take money from the DOJ to pay for his decision to fight at least eleven cases surrounding this issue.

When former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked the amount of this expenditure, Boehner didn’t answer. But the contract with the law firm shows that he is getting a discount for their services, $520 per hour instead of the usual $1000. According to the contract, the cap for the cost approved by House Republicans is $500,000 but can be raised “by written agreement between the parties with the approval” of the House. Compared to other government expenditures, this may seem a pittance, but a women who has been denied WIC monies for her starving child will think differently.

Although King & Spalding’s policies indicate its support for diversity, the conservative Focus on the Family is extremely pleased by the choice. They believe Clement has an excellent chance of winning the case before the Supreme Court. They might be able to show this chart to reveal the dangers of legalized same-sex marriage.

Currently Congress is moving forward with The Respect for Marriage Act to repeal DOMA. Sen. Herb Kohl (WI) has become the tenth and final senator necessary to move S.598 out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. (Maybe there is hope for Wisconsin!)

Update 4/22/11:  All of King & Spalding’s employees – lawyers and non-lawyers – are barred from advocating for the Respect for Marriage Act – the bill that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act – in the 112th Congress, according to the terms of the contract to defend DOMA that King & Spalding partner Paul Clement signed on the firm’s behalf on April 14. In 2010 King & Spalding had more than 800 lawyers and offices worldwide.

An excellent book about same-sex marriage that disproves many of the negative myths about it is M.V. Lee Badgett’s When Gay People Get Married:  What Happens When Societies Legalize Same-Sex Marriage (NYU, 2010).  A blend of personal stories from couples in the Netherlands and extensive data from several countries surrounding the issue of gender-neutral marriage, this provides political, social, and personal stakes in the fluid shifting of legally recognizing gay and lesbian couples. She discusses issues that I had not considered, such as the increased monogamy resulting from gay marriage decreasing the incidence of venereal disease. According to her research, more people get married in theU.S. than inEurope to obtain their health care situation and support their religious viewpoint. The Netherlands has a four-tiered system:  1) living alone; 2) living with someone else without written agreement which gives them certain rights; 3) partners; and 4) marriage.  The research also shows that marriage has not destroyed the institution of marriage.

On another subject, the White house has begun circulating a draft executive order that would require companies seeking government contracts to disclose contributions—including the secret ones—to groups that air political ads attacking or support candidates. This is its answer to the U.S. Supreme Court decision that allows corporations to donate unlimited monies anonymously to candidates. The Koch-owned companies may be impacted by such an order.

Progressives also need your help in supporting the new version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). Introduced by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)—HR 1397—and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Mark Kirk (R-IL)—S. 811, the bill would make it illegal to fire, refuse to hire or refuse to promote an employee based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.  Currently, it is legal to fire someone because of their sexual orientation in 29 states, and it is legal to fire someone because of their gender identity in 38 states. PFLAG encourages everyone to contact their representatives and senators to educate them about the importance of passing this bill.

Tomorrow’s blog for Earth Day will be cheerier!

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