Nel's New Day

November 19, 2018

Midterm Elections: A Postmortem

Filed under: Elections — trp2011 @ 11:43 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

EPA/CHRIS TODD

The midterm elections of 2018 are winding down. Only two House races are still undecided, a Georgia Republican ahead by 29 votes out of over 280,000 votes and a Utah Democrat with a 739-vote lead with 270,000 votes. Without those two decisions, Democrats gained 38 seats to have the majority of 233 to the 200 GOP seats. Georgia will definitely go to a recount. In the Senate, four Democrats lost their seats, and two Republicans lost theirs. With the determination that Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott took the U.S. Senate seat, the Senate settled in with 52 Republicans out of 100 as it waits for the election in Mississippi on November 27. Usually, that state would automatically pick a Republican, but Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (left) has made a poor showing lately, seeming to laud lynching and criticized the legality of black college students voting.

Now that Republicans won three important races—Florida’s governor and U.S. senator and Georgia’s governor—Scott and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) decided that the elections are not rigged. The question will always be there, however, as the winning GOP Florida candidate for senator and Georgia candidate for governor control the elections that they won.

An opinion piece by Abe Rakov in conservative USA Today states:

“We’re seeing Republican politicians run a political strategy to manipulate who can vote and, ultimately, remake the electorate in their favor. They’re trying to rig our elections because they don’t think they can win any other way. It’s cheating, it’s wrong and it’s anti-democratic.

“Jason Kander and I started Let America Vote in 2017 to create political consequences for politicians who try to stop eligible voters from voting. Over 65,000 people across the country have signed up to volunteer to help us in that effort. Through this November and beyond, Let America Vote is going to fight back against these proposals because our democracy is bigger than politicians who will do anything to win an election.”

Florida GOP Influence over Voting:

Scott kept the painfully inept election supervisor Brenda Snipes in her position after many missteps, one of which took her to court. Kitty Garber, research director and co-founder of the nonpartisan Florida Fair Elections Coalition, said that Snipes’ “behavior has disproportionately harmed Democratic candidates. When absentee ballots go missing in largely Democratic Broward County, you can be sure that most of them belong to Democratic voters.”

Scott also tried to use law enforcement to control the voting process and filed several lawsuits.

Truthout did a detailed analysis of data available in the election to show how computer software can manipulate voter outcome and what happened in Florida.

Absentee ballots may not have been counted if they were locked in a mail facility after the Florida man sent pipe bombs through the USPS.

The pastor of a church posted this sign when it was used as a polling place:

Don’t vote for Democrats on Tuesday and sing, ‘Oh how I love Jesus’ on Sunday.”

Georgia GOP Influence over Voting:

The GOP may use voter suppression in Georgia as a model for future efforts.

Brian Kemp, the candidate for governor and coincidentally state secretary of state, “doxed” 291,164 absentee voters by posting their personal details online for anyone to download. “Doxing” has become a common harassment practice of posting people’s personal information, including addresses, phone numbers, and even Social Security numbers.

Some voters waited over four hours to vote in suburban Atlanta. The state installed only three voting machines in a Fulton County polling place; Atlanta is in Fulton County. In other areas, the voting machines were broken or automatically registered Kemp’s name when voters selected his opponent.

Kemp refused to have any paper trail for the voting machines.

Voters also faced intimidation in several states:

Texas (where Rep. Beto O’Rourke narrowly lost to Sen. Ted Cruz by 220,000 votes out of 8.3 million): An election judge was filmed screaming at a black voter and threatening to call the police when the voter asked where she was supposed to vote. The DHS had planned a “crowd-control” exercise near a Latinx neighborhood in El Paso but decided to cancel the exercise after critics pointed out its intimidation effort.

Virginia: A DDT supporter stood outside a polling place with a German Shepherd that barked at voters. A member of the GOP said that the man is a known, excited DDT supporter who would do no harm.

Idaho: Intimidating signs regarding student voting were posted at polling places.

Tennessee: Five or six men outside a polling place told voters they should not be voting.

Indiana: At least one voting machine refused to accept votes for Democrats.

Arizona: Republicans sued to keep mail-in ballots from being counted because the 15 county recorders done have the same standard for adjusting problems. Two counties being sued allow people to verify their signatures up to five days after the election; both are major Democratic-leaning urban counties. (Democrat Kyrsten Sinema finally won her election for U.S. Senate.)

Those who criticize Democrats for more wins or claim that Republicans are better because the Dems picked up “only” 38 to 40 seats in the House aren’t aware of the control on elections from the GOP gerrymandering. Wisconsin is a classic case. This chart tells it all: Democrats won in all state elections and cast more votes for people in the state legislature while losing almost two-thirds of the seats. State assembly Democratic minority leader Gordon Hintz pointed out the lack of competitive districts, the reason that a district court ruled the legislative maps unconstitutional. The case, Gill v. Whitford, went to the Supreme Court, which sent it back to a lower federal court. These maps

Richard Hasen wrote that Wisconsin’s continued gerrymandering is thanks to retired Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy. Last summer, the court unanimously determine that plaintiffs had not proved they had standing to sue because they didn’t suffer direct injury. In 2004, Kennedy demanding a “workable standard” to decide if partisan decisions on district crossed a constitutional line. The court managed to avoid making any decision about whether the U.S. Constitution forbids gerrymandering and, if so, standards for decisions. The Republicans in Wisconsin draw the districts to favor Republicans so that Republicans can continue drawing districts to favor Republicans.

A contrast in House districts can be found in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. After a court order mandated redrawing districts, Pennsylvania went from solidly GOP to one evenly split. North Carolina stayed overwhelmingly GOP with the Republican-drawn map despite an even split in party votes for the delegation members. Associated Press determined that more states have GOP-tilted districts than Democratic ones.

Karma came to the GOP sponsor of the restrictive North Dakota law mandating that no one (aka Native Americans) could vote if they didn’t have an ID with a street address. A Native American Democrat beat him in the election. And the Georgia secretary of state vote goes into a runoff on December 4.

This election breakdown as of November 16 shows the great diversity of Democrats in the 116th Congress, starting in January 2019. Of the 36 women additions to the House this coming year, one is a Republican.

 

 

November 13, 2018

Lawyers Winners of Elections, Other Lawsuits

The real winners of the midterm elections and the first 662 days of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) in the Oval Office are the lawyers. Nowhere has this been more obvious in the past week than in the South where Georgia and Florida Republican officials—candidates for offices—are screaming “fraud” and charging off to the courts.

During a campaign rally a few days before the 2016 presidential election, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) said, “I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election—if I win.” He won and accepted the electoral vote although not the popular vote—which he lost. Now he’s losing in at least three states and refusing to accept the midterm election races.

As Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s lead over his opponent Sen. Bill Nelson (D) dwindles, Scott, also the U.S. Senate candidate, has been joined by Rudy Giuliani and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to echo DDT’s cry of voter fraud despite disagreement from the state secretary of state, a Scott-appointed Republican. Scott didn’t object to GOP counties breaking his own emergency order when predominantly GOP Bay County, hit hard by a recent hurricane, allowed voters to illegally cast ballots by email.

Scott filed at least five lawsuits trying to defeat Nelson, including not counting all ballots received after Election Day which disenfranchises all overseas voters including veterans. Florida voters are now suing him for illegally abusing his position as governor to win his race for U.S. senator by stopping the counting of legal votes. Despite Scott’s lawsuits, Florida has started a machine recount of the vote and may have a manual vote if the difference in that election drops below 0.25 percent. Scott is ahead by about 12,000 votes in 8 million plus ballots before all have been counted; Florida’s gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum is behind GOP Ron DeSantis by about 40,000 votes.

In Georgia, former Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who resigned when he falsely declared himself governor-elect, has lost a lawsuit to block ballots. In this election of almost four million voters, his Democratic opponent, Stacy Abrams, is behind by about 58,000 votes, but a judge has ruled that provisional ballots must be counted because Kemp, in charge of elections, has not maintained voter information security, increasing the risk that his purge of over 700,000 names on the registered rolls was illegally “manipulated or mismanaged.” The court orders mandated publicity about a website for provisional ballot voters to find information about whether their provisional ballots had been counted and why. The judge stated that the ballots were rejected “through no fault of their own.”

Under Kemp, Georgia voter updates by people getting or renewing state driver’s licenses never moved into the state’s voter database, and they didn’t know that Georgia had illegally failed to register them to vote. State law mandates that provisional ballots are counted only if names are on the voter registration list where they may have been removed because of Kemp’s actions. The Help Americans Vote Act (HAVA) requires the provisional ballots be counted if voters are eligible to vote.

Another judge ordered Georgia to count 5,000 ballots rejected because voters didn’t complete date of birth when signing mail-in ballot envelopes and ordered the state’s vote counting to continue until Friday instead of ending today. As of Sunday, Abrams needed 19,000 more votes to trigger a recount and 21,000 more to force a December runoff. The almost 22,000 provisional ballots plus over 2,000 ballots coming from overseas and military brings the total of uncounted ballots to nearly 29,000.

The November 27 run-off for U.S. Senate pits Mississippi candidates Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) against Mike Espy, behind by 8,000 votes, for the final two years of a senate term because neither candidates garnered 50 percent of the vote. At a campaign rally four days before the midterm elections, Hyde-Smith responded to a man who praised her, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.” Mississippi recorded at least 581 lynchings of black people, about 12 percent of the 4,743 between 1882 and 1968 and the most of any state in the country. DDT-supporter Hyde-Smith repeatedly refused to answer questions by saying that she had issued a statement calling the remark an “exaggerated expression of regard.”

DDT already lost the U.S. Senate position in Arizona that went to the Democrat Krysten Sinema. Opponent Martha McSally was gracious in her concession, perhaps because she expects to be appointed to former Sen. John McCain’s position if Jon Kyle leaves in January.

A sour-grapes failed GOP candidate for the Arizona legislature is suing her winning opponent, U.S.-born Latina Raquel Terán, accusing her of not being a U.S. citizen. Alice Novoa already sued Terán in 2012 for the same (non)offense, and the case was dismissed because her attorney provided the birth certificate. Novoa avoided $650 in court fees with her claim that she doesn’t work and has no income.

Nonelection lawsuits:

Maryland opened to door to lawsuits involving DDT’s unlawful appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting AG for Jeff Sessions replacement. Brian Frosh, Maryland AG, asked a federal judge to remove Whitaker from that position because the appointment is unconstitutional. This request is part of the state’s ongoing lawsuit to force DDT to retain a key provision of the Affordable are Act, including protections for people with pre-exiting conditions. Maryland AG Brian Frosh declared that any action Whitaker takes regarding the ACA for the federal government would be invalid because he cannot legally serve as acting AG and asks for an immediate injunction. In 2014, Whitaker maintained that the U.S. Supreme Court’s upholding the ACA was one of the worse rulings in its entire history.

DDT believes that he is protected in Whitaker’s appointment by the 1998 Federal Vacancies Reform Act, stating that a president may temporarily fill a vacancy for a position requiring Senate confirmation with any senior official who has been in the department for at least 90 days. Another statute makes the deputy attorney general next in line at the DOJ. The lawsuit maintains that a more specific law takes precedence over a more general law. The AG also argues that DDT should have less flexibility in replacing the AG because a president under investigation could install a “carefully selected senior employee who he was confident would terminate or otherwise severely limit” the inquiry. Whitaker is justifying his position with an 1898 Supreme Court Case supporting the appointment of the acting U.S. consult in the country that is now Thailand when no one else was available after the Senate-confirmed consult was sick. The argument against this case is that the AG office did not become vacant through an unexpected emergency and several Senate-confirmed DOJ officials are available.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has also called for hearings to address “serious questions” about his appointment because of Whitaker’s outspoken opposition to the Robert Mueller investigation.

In a First Amendment lawsuit, CNN is suing the White House for stripping Jim Acosta’s of his press credentials. Acosta was targeted after false accusations of “laying hands” on a press intern. The accurate video shows her stepping into his space to grab his microphone and his saying, “Pardon me, ma’am.” Also included in the suit are tops aides John Kelly, Sarah Sanders, Bill Shine, the head of the Secret Service, and the officer who took Acosta’s pass. After a complaint was filed, the White House claimed that Acosta lost his credentials because he refused to give up his microphone.

The DOJ has also asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop lawsuits in three courts of appeal—the 2nd, the 9th, and the D.C.—to block President Obama’s DACA program where these courts allow the program to continue.

DDT’s administration is also facing a lawsuit accusing Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and a top deputy of sexism in determining their policy decisions. Filed in January, the lawsuit argues against DeVos’ prevention of Title IX guidance on handling campus sexual assault cases; the current filing adds that her decision was impacted by discriminatory and stereotyped views of women, based on evidence obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. These records show that the Department of Education obtained input from sources pushing inflated and widely discredited statistics about false rape allegations. Another source came from Candice Jackson, who provided a book  Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus (Laura Kipnis), that falsely described the Title IX guidance permitting women to seek legal recourse for “awkward sexual experiences” and then ask for protection from “sexual bogeymen.” Jackson also received information from Gordon Finley, part of the National Coalition for Men, who referred to the former Title IX guidance as a “war on men,” and she falsely maintained that 90 percent of sexual assault accusations come from misunderstandings or drunken regrets. Other sources provided prejudicial information to the department’s leaders about claims regarding sexual assault. DDT’s statements and behavior toward women also figure into the lawsuit’s amendment on sexism.

Two weeks ago, DeVos lost her court battle after she tried to end regulations helping defrauded students receive federal loan forgiveness and keep colleges from mandating arbitration for complaint resolution instead of going to court. President Obama’s consumer protections are now in effect.

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.

 

January 9, 2013

Health Coverage in 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:56 PM
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No one yet knows how many Republican governors are going to keep the poor in their state from getting health care, but Susanna Martinez of New Mexico isn’t one of them. She said that her state will follow Obama care that expands the Medicaid program to 170,000 low-income adults. About one-fourth of New Mexico’s population already receives Medicaid, but these people are primarily children, disabled, and extremely low-income adults. The 2014 expansion gives Medicaid to single adults with an annual income of $15,400 or in families of three with incomes of $26,000. The additional federal money will create jobs and help the state’s economy.

As of Monday, ten governors are refusing to allow more of the poor in their states to receive  federal health care:  C.L. “Butch” Otter (ID), Rick Perry (TX), Phil Bryant (MS), Mary Fallin (OK), Robert Bentley (AL), Nikki Haley (SC), Terry Branstad (IA), Bobby Jindal (LA), Dennis Daugaard (SD), and Paul LePage (ME). Otter, the most recent joiner of the governors’ “Death Panel,” is contradicting a unanimous recommendation from his appointed commission and will leave 107,000 people in his state without health care. In Idaho, 280,700 people, 18 percent of the population, are uninsured.

Scott may be moving into the “undecided” group. But just in case he decides against it, he’s covering himself by lying about the cost of the new plan. Florida has one of the highest rates of uninsured people; Obamacare would extend health coverage to approximately one million people. He has continually said that the Medicaid expansion would cost the state $26 billion in the next 10 years. This figure doesn’t consider the federal money that Florida would get by doing this which drops the state cost to $1 billion—over ten years. That’s $100 million a year.

The first report from Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) computed the amount using the false figure that the federal government would pay for only 58 percent of the cost, not the actual amount. Under Obamacare, the federal government would pay for the full costs of additional people receiving Medicaid for the first two years and then scale back to 90 percent of the expenditures by 2022. The federal funds would save the state hospitals and health care providers from paying for the poor’s medical bills. Later AHCA corrected its mistake, but Scott has ignored them. State spending on Medicaid would increase 2.9 percent while more than 20 million people would have health coverage.

According to reports from three states with Medicaid expansion, Obamacare would reduce deaths by 6.1 percent, especially among elders, non-whites, and residents of poorer counties. The governors refusing to put poor people in their states on Medicaid are following the philosophy of conservative economist Tyler Cowen: “We need to accept the principle that sometimes poor people will die just because they are poor.” In other words, “Let them die.”

While the Medicaid piece of Obamacare doesn’t go into effect until 2014, approximately 50 million Americans still lack health insurance. The changes for 2013 are mainly getting health facilities and government offices ready for the changes in the next year.

Last week eight more states were conditionally approved to establish their own health insurance exchange programs, making a total of 19 states and the District of Columbia. In addition, Arkansas and Delaware will run an exchange in partnership with the federal government. States that plan to partner with the federal government need to do so by February 15. If they don’t do it, the federal government will operate the exchange program.

Exchanges help people by providing comparisons of insurance costs and perhaps creating a lower cost of the health coverage.

These changes will be effective this year:

  • Preventative Services. Federal money for state Medicaid programs will offer preventative services for free or at little cost including tests for high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol; many cancer screenings including colonoscopies and mammograms; counseling to help people lose weight, quit smoking or reduce alcohol use; routine vaccinations; flu and pneumonia shots; and others.
  • Increased Medicaid Payments. Medicaid payments to doctors are now at the same level as Medicare.
  • Pilot Program for Bundling Services. Rather than have each service billed separately under Medicare, a flat rate would be paid for an episode of care.
  • Medicare Tax Increase. The wealthy are charged a 0.9% tax increase on individual income over $200,000  and couples over $250,000 to boost the Medicare trust fund.
  • Medical Device Tax. A new 2.3% tax on the price of medical devices doesn’t include hearing aids or corrective lenses but does include devices like defibrillators, pacemakers, artificial joints and others.
  • Medical Deductions. Taxpayers get a deduction only if total medical expenses add up to at least 10 percent.
  • Cap on FSAs. The limit for Flexible Spending Accounts will be $2,500.
  • Health Benefits Spelled Out. W-2 tax forms issued this year for wages paid in 2012 must now include a line on the form showing the benefit employees receive from their employer-sponsored health care.

Obamacare is set in motion and will proceed no matter how many times the House votes against it. Thanks to Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) this was the first bill introduced in the 113th Congress on January 3.

August 27, 2012

Cut Defense; Leave NOAA, FEMA, Safety Net Alone

The GOP convention was intended to be the big story for this week until Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) brought abortion and rape into the dialog and dug up the GOP’s position. The biggest story, however, is Tropical Storm Isaac which probably will become a hurricane before landfall somewhere in the Gulf Coast states.

Gov. Bobby Jindal cancelled his speech at the GOP convention to get back to Louisiana because of the threat to New Orleans, and Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott dropped out of the convention to protect his state. Nobody knows Isaac’s actual destination when it’s predicted to his land early Wednesday morning. Governors of Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana have started evacuations in their states and joined Scott in declaring emergencies.

The irony of the Isaac story is that Republicans have received early warning after trying to drastically cut funds for disaster preparedness and response. Their continuing resolution 2011 budget shrank funding for the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association’s (NOAA) Operations, Research, and Facilities by $454.3 million. The National Weather Service, part of NOAA, lost $126 million; FEMA dropped $24.3 million with FEMA state and local programs losing $783.3 million. Fortunately, this budget didn’t stick.

As part of last August’s Budget Control Act, Republicans agreed to make it easier to fund disaster relief but then reneged on this agreement. This isn’t new. Back in his 2009 response to the State of the Union, Jindal ridiculed the stimulus for having “$140 million for something called volcano monitoring.” Jindal is governor of a state that has hurricanes, not volcanoes. Not everyone else in the United States is in the same situation.

NOAA warned Congress that Republican cuts would stop them from warning people about hurricanes five to ten days out because of its aging satellites. Without the funding, the United States could go up to 18 months or even longer without any satellites.  If that were to happen, the Republicans might not know a hurricane is imminent for their 2016 convention.

Even when NOAA doesn’t want extra money for a project, Congress refused to allow them to make their activities more efficient. Last fall, when NOAA wanted to reorganize its existing climate capabilities and services into a “single point of entry” for users, Congress said no. NOAA cannot be permitted to “more efficiently and effectively respond to the rapidly increasing demand for easily accessible and timely scientific data and information about climate that helps people make informed decisions in their lives, businesses, and communities.”

The idea was that efficient, up-to-date information is important because of the likelihood of more droughts, floods, and storms; Republicans can’t admit that climate is changing. Since Congress turned down NOAA’s proposal, the organization has announced the last year and last half year are the hottest on record. The second half of this past June saw at least 170 all-time high temperatures either broken or tied. As of July 3, 56 percent of the contiguous U.S. experienced drought conditions, the largest percentage in the 12-year record of the U.S. Drought Monitor. During the June 2011-June 2012 period, each of the 13 consecutive months ranked among the warmest third of their historical distribution for the first time in the 1895-present record. The odds of this occurring randomly is 1 in 1,594,323.

When disastrous tornadoes hit Missouri, Republicans threatened to hold up any assistance until there were cuts in other places. The same for Virginia’s earthquake and the east coast’s Hurricane Irene.  A year ago House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) demanded that “that no more money be allocated for disaster relief unless it is offset by spending cuts elsewhere”—until he asked for FEMA money for his own district a month later.

If Republicans don’t get the FEMA aid that they request, they are angry. When FEMA refused a request for federal aid for wildfire victims in Oklahoma, Gov. Mary Fallin called a government agency’s rejection letter “bureaucratic” and “cruel.”

If anything is “bureaucratic” and “cruel,” it’s the Republicans’ refusal to allow states’ residents to get the health care from the federal government that costs the states nothing. Texas is a prime example: the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has now upheld Texas’s decision to deny women any health care through Planned Parenthood or other clinic that simply makes referrals for abortions.  The court decision will deny health care to at least 50,000 women.

Texas has also refused to accept the federal money that would provide Medicaid for people with salaries between one-fourth of the poverty level and one and one-fourth of the poverty level. Because of Gov. Rick Perry’s arrogance and indifference, families making between $5,000 and $25,000 will not qualify for Medicaid or any other remedy from the Affordable Care Act. That’s bureaucratic and cruel.

If Republicans want FEMA help for people who need assistance, they need to allocate funds for it. They also need to revise their position in denying all people any safety net except the wealthy—who don’t need it. And they need to stop using their personal morality to control women.

Where can the government get the money to help people? Defense expenditures went from $583.38 billion in 2003 when we were in two wars to $711.42 billion in 2011 when we were no longer in war. About a half century ago, Dwight Eisenhower said, “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.” We are now living in Eisenhower’s nightmare.

If Republicans want small government, they should start with the defense budget. Support the programs that actually help people, such as the safety net and NOAA.

April 30, 2012

To Confused Conservatives: Why Women Aren’t Happy with You

What a view from conservatives regarding women’s rights! “Senate Democrats Plan another Trap for Mitt Romney with Female Voters,” reads the headline for Alexander Bolton’s “article” in the conservative publicationThe Hill.  What is the trap? Proposed legislation to more easily create equal pay for the genders. The Paycheck Fairness Act, blocked by Republicans two years ago, would prohibit employer discrimination in talking about other employers’ wages in both the same offices and other offices of the company. A woman could allege wage discrimination is she’s paid less than a man working for the same job for the same employer. That’s the “trap” causing Bolton to cry “foul”:  sending a bill up for a vote that mandates equal pay is trying to trap the poor Republicans.

These are the same conservatives who probably consider the Violence against Women Act (VAWA) to be a “trap” because it tries to protect all women, not just specific classes. Thirty-one male senators voted against VAWA; several of the others voted for it only because they think that the House will remove some of those “special classes” of women from protection. Calling the existing VAWA “controversial,” the men of the House were very sure to have women—specifically Sen. Kay Hutchinson (R-TX) and Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL)—front and center to introduce the “uncontroversial” bill that eliminates certain classes of women. Or maybe they were just embarrassed to admit that some women deserve to be sexually assaulted.

After the House passed a bill taking Affordable Care Act funding to pay for keeping the federal student loan interest rate the same, Rep. John Boehner is trying to persuade anyone who will listen that this has nothing to do with women. The “slush fund,” as Boehner dismisses it, pays for hundreds of thousands of screenings for breast and cervical cancer. Mr. Boehner, those are women’s parts so the loss of funding hurts women.

In giving marching orders to House Republicans for the “reconciliation” of the budget, Reps. Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Jeb Hensarling sent a memo telling their colleagues to increase the defense budget while reducing food stamps. That’s another blow against women who are trying to find food for their children. The three House Republican leaders ignore the facts that the budget was settled last summer during the debt crisis and that they voted for this budget. Because Democratic senators arguing that the Budget Control Act counts as a budget with no need for an additional spending plan for 2013, the House Republicans are considering a seldom-used reconciliation process, hoping that Democrats won’t stick to last summer’s law and won’t have their own plan.

Republicans should use a mirror to see how offensive their behavior is. On a Meet the Press panel talking about the “war on women” yesterday, Republican strategist Alex Castellanos immediately interrupted Rachel Maddow when she said that women in this country make 77 cents for each dollar that men make and then continued to interrupt everything she said. She finally called him out on his “stylistic issue,” calling it “condescending,” after he said, ” I wish you are as right about what you’re saying as you are passionate about it. I really do.” The look on his face showed that he still didn’t get it. As Jason Easley wrote, “The goal was to put Rachel Maddow in her place, and to stop the ‘hysteria’ from the ‘girls’ who don’t understand that because men say so there is no war on women and pay gap.”

After Hilary Rosen mistakenly said that Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann, doesn’t work and then repeatedly apologized, saying that she meant Ann didn’t work outside the home, the Republicans thought they were home free. When Ann Romney went out on the campaign trail to make a speech, this is what she said: “I love the fact that there are women out there who don’t have a choice and they must go to work and they still have to raise the kids.” When she suggested that she understood poor families, she said that she and Mitt had to sell some of their stocks to get by in college. Her husband had already suggested that young people can start businesses the same way that he did, by borrowing $20,000 from his parents—back when $20,000 was equivalent to perhaps ten times what it is now.

Republicans around the country also ignore women’s needs. Florida Gov. Rick Scott is willing to drug-test welfare applicants before they can get any benefits although this costs the state. He also took $2 million from health care providers to give to the fake “crisis pregnancy centers” that keep women from having abortions no matter what their needs. His most recent attack on women is to veto $1.5 million for Florida’s rape crisis centers because he thinks it duplicates existing services. The majority of the existing services, however, are education and prevention; the $1.5 million would have gone to working with actual victims.

Ohio has a proposal to rearrange funding for women’s clinics, putting Planned Parenthood last. Local health departments get the top funding priority, followed by federally qualified community health centers, and then private care centers. The end result of the reprioritization leaves thousands of Ohio women with no birth control, cancer screenings, or STI testing and treatment. Although women could go to a private care center, not everyone who works at this private care center will provide birth control. “You would have to be an established patient, and it would depend on the doctor,” said the receptionist at Lower Lights Health Care center. Ohio plans to move funds meant to help cover contraception to groups that decide on a case by case basis whether or not they want to provide contraception.

Even candidates don’t take women seriously. Recently a woman asked State Attorney General Rob McKenna, Republican candidate for Washington governor, how he would vote on the Reproductive Parity Act, a bill that would expand insurance coverage for abortions in the state insurance plan as long as the plan covers maternity care as well. At first McKenna accused her of trying to “bushwhack” him by asking the question and asked her if she were being honest. When she tried to address the question, he snapped at her and said, “Why don’t you go get a job?” The woman runs “youth empowerment” programs at the YMCA.  Again a Republican man tried to shut up a woman by  being contemptuous to her.

In his speech at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, President Obama described the Republican position: “Jimmy [Kimmel] got his start years ago on ‘The Man Show.’ In Washington, that’s what we call a congressional hearing on contraception.” No war on women? Thing.progress has produced a video collage of comments during the past few months. For another piece of black humor, check out this video from the Funny or Die website as women counsel Rick Santorum for aborting his campaign.

And these are just the most recent Republicans actions against women!

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