Nel's New Day

December 1, 2016

The Plague Returns

It has been exactly 25 years since the identified beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the United States. Initially it was called GRID (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency), but the name morphed into Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, the last stage of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Infection (HIV). Originally thought to be non-existent until 1981, research now shows that its development may have come for the harsh colonial practices in French Equatorial Africa of forced labor, unsafe injections and vaccinations with unsterilized needles, and the use of “bushmeat” for food during the beginning of the 20th century.

A false sense of morality kept conservatives from stopping the onslaught of the disease during Ronald Reagan’s reign because they thought that AIDS was limited to gay men despite the fact that half those infected were non-gay. As president, Ronald Reagan didn’t even use the term “AIDS” in public for almost five years in spite of the thousands of people dying from the disease, and he failed to give a speech on the epidemic for another two years. Federal laws even kept people with AIDS from being permitted to fly on commercial airplanes.

In the past 25 years, 650,000 people in the United States died of AIDS and hundreds of thousands more were stigmatized. More people might have died if AIDS activists had not taken to the streets to force research on drugs, awareness policies, and help from the government. A new book from David France, How to Survive a Plague, chronicles the pain, frustration, anger, and work from activists over the 15 years in which the government fought them from saving lives following his Oscar-nominated documentary film four years ago.

Andrew Sullivan writes in The New York Times:  

“Here again are the manifestations of terror: the purple cancerous lesions of Kaposi’s sarcoma, fatal when they migrated to your lungs; toxoplasmosis — a brain disease that turned 20-somethings into end-stage Alzheimer’s patients; pneumocystis carinii, which flooded your lungs until you drowned; cytomegalovirus, which led to blindness, so that young men in AIDS wards were ‘hugging walls and scraping the air to find their nurses’; molluscum contagiosum, covering the body in ‘small, barnacle-like papules’ that oozed pus; peripheral neuropathy, with which a mere brush of a sheet against your skin felt like an electric shock; and cryptosporidiosis, a parasite that took over people’s gastrointestinal tract, slowly starving them to death. It’s been over a decade since those Latin nouns were household words in gay life, and reading them still traumatizes.”

The brave activists fought for help, and the fight extended survival time from 18 months to 22 months after a long nine years. Deaths geometrically increased as drugs failed and researchers refused to try new ones. Yet the gay men stayed at the center of organizing drug trials and meeting with pharmaceutical executives after they made their point by taking over their offices.

Author France not only writes brilliantly but also exhaustively researches his subject. As a journalist, he was a part of the fight during these 15 years, first at the biweekly New York LGBT newspaper Native and later undercover at the New York Post where he was soon fired after the editor “found out you’re gay.”

Cynthia Carr writes:

“France’s book focuses on the science: the work of early caregiver-researchers like Dr. Joseph Sonnabend and his activist-patient Michael Callen; the search by AIDS patients for illegal—or even homemade—cures; the dithering at agencies like the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) that were supposedly studying treatments. Ultimately, center stage goes to the small group of activists who created the Treatment Action Group (TAG), an offshoot of ACT UP, and who managed to work their way inside the pharmaceutical industry. By 1996, fifteen years after the first reports of a “gay cancer,” antiretroviral drugs called protease inhibitors were allowing many patients to manage an HIV/AIDS infection. What becomes clear in How to Survive a Plague, above all, is that it needn’t have taken so long—to put it mildly.

plague“Unknown to any doctor or patient, at that point, scientists had already discovered the retrovirus that causes AIDS. Yes, early in 1983, at the Institut Pasteur in Paris. I’ve always found this to be one of the most shocking stories to emerge from the plague years, and France is not the first to tell it: how American scientist Dr. Robert Gallo tried to take the credit for this discovery after French scientist Dr. Luc Montagnier sent him samples of what would later be called HIV. Long story short, this delayed both meaningful research and the release of an antibody test.

“Then, when that first antibody test did become available, in 1985, most gay men refused to take it for fear that they would lose their jobs, their housing, and their health insurance. Most cities, including New York, had no gay-rights legislation in place. In fact, gay sex was still illegal in many states. That year, twenty state legislatures debated quarantining people with AIDS, while Republican congressman William Dannemeyer introduced a raft of homophobic legislation, including a bill that would give a long prison term to any gay person who tried to donate blood. There was simply no upside to taking the test. There were no treatments.”

“Say No to Drugs” was the mantra of the 1980s thanks to Nancy Reagan, and just owning syringes was illegal in many states.  Other countries controlled the AIDS epidemic. The German government provided funding to gay community NGOs and invited them to develop their own prevention projects. Britain publicized the problem through a campaign of “AIDS: Don’t Die of Ignorance.” Western countries created needle-exchange programs, distributed free syringes, and developed opiate-substitution treatment. Germany had needle-vending machines, and England and Wales distributed 25 million free syringes each year by 1997. In the United States, however, where 40,000 people develop HIV annually, the ban on federal funding for needle exchanges remained until 2009 and then was replaced in 2011 after the Tea Party swept over Congress.

With the new Trump/Pence administration, HIV and AIDS cases could soar. People would lose their medications through the disappearance of the “pre-existing condition” of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Southern states have had the highest rates of new HIV diagnoses but refused federal Medicaid funding which could provide HIV meds.

When Mike Pence became governor of Indiana, the state experienced its worst HIV outbreak in its history, worsened by Pence’s decision to maintain the state ban on needle exchanges and slash funding for HIV testing facilities. This is the same governor who just gave away $7 million of public taxes to keep 1,000 jobs at Carrier in the state. Pence also tried to defund Planned Parenthood, a key HIV test source. Blamed for the HIV outbreak, Pence prayed about the problem.

Pence campaigned for Congress in 2000 by promising he would take funding away from HIV/AIDS drug research to put into organizations that would prevent LGBT behavior. He wrote, “Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.” His policy is to “cure the gay” and ignore HIV.

If Tom Price is confirmed for health secretary, he would control federal programs responsible for conducting HIV/AIDS research, education, treatment, and prevention. The Department of Health and Human Services oversees the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which is tasked with developing policy to combat HIV nationally. Price is a member of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons that questions whether HIV causes AIDS. He also wants to erase the ACA, slash Medicaid funding, and privatize Medicare.

When Ebola became a threat in the United States with a very few cases, President Obama took action and stopped it. The first observed case of AIDS in the United States was followed by 15 years of ignoring the issue or joking about it. The new administration, backed up by an ultra-conservative Congress, will most likely cause HIV diagnoses and AIDS deaths to soar.

Today is the 29th annual World Aids Day, always on December 1, dedicated to raising awareness of the disease caused by HIV. You can commemorate the day by reading How to Survive a Plague, because the election of Trump and Pence pretty much guarantees that the epidemic will return.

July 16, 2015

Congress to Decide between Iranian War, Peace

Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC) has declared that his first priority is to represent Jesus. He could start by supporting the Iran deal to bring peace and persuade his Christian GOP colleagues to do the same. But that’s not going to happen. The instant that a deal was announced, Republican presidential candidates led the charge against peace in a deal among six countries that would curb Iran’s nuclear program and significantly limit the country’s ability to produce a nuclear weapon for over ten years. (Details here.)

walker

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (above), who declared his presidential candidacy on the day that the deal was announced, said, “President Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran will be remembered as one of America’s worst diplomatic failures.” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) doesn’t expect Congress to approve the deal. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush called the agreement appeasement. Rick Santorum called the deal a “catastrophic capitulation.”

Kerry and Zarif, photo Thomas Imo

The deal took 19 days and four missed deadlines before Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, appeared at Secretary of State John Kerry’s working quarters at midnight Monday. Kerry flew 400,000 miles to prevent the tenth country from getting the bomb in the first successful dealings with Iran since its 1979 revolution. In addition to containing the country’s ability to produce a bomb for at least a decade, it provides for permanent, broader U.N. inspections to monitor Iran’s declared and suspected nuclear facilities, even after the deal expires. The combination of restrictions and time frames from ten to twenty-five years gives the international community more insight into Iran’s program and capabilities.

War hawks in the U.S. will complain that Iran can still enrich uranium, yet it’s at a minimum level, with the number of centrifuges cut by two-thirds. Some Congressional members, accompanied by Israel and the Gulf sheikhdoms, insist on zero facilities instead of one. The Iran deal will not diffuse deep sectarian and political rivalries in the Middle East with Sunni concern about Iran become a player instead of a pariah, but that was not the goal. Under the deal, Iran can reclaim between $100 billion to $150 billion of its oil revenues from foreign banks. Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, denounced the deal before the details were released.

Yet U.S. involvement in the Middle East is already overwhelming—air wars in Iraq, Syria, and Libya as well as selling arms to Saudi Arabia to wage its war in Yemen. The deal creates no renewal of U.S. diplomatic relations with Iran. Lifting sanctions on Iran will open international markets to Iran’s population that has more than doubled since 1979, but U.S. businesses will be limited in trading with Iran because of sanctions tied to human-rights practices and support for terrorism. If Iran breaks the deal, the U.S. still has a military option.

Congress has 60 days to review the deal with Iran. It can vote for a resolution of disapproval that President Obama has promised to veto. An override of his veto requires two-thirds vote in each chamber. GOP legislators have reasons to vote against the deal, oil prices being one of them. Prices in the United States began to fall in June as the deal came closer to fruition, shrinking to $54 a barrel this past week, and more oil availability from the Middle East forcing down the oil market may bring the price of gas down to below $2 a gallon by the end of the year. The International Energy Agency estimates that Iran could add 800,000 barrels a day to the global market within months of the lifting of sanctions, but immediate relief could come from the 30 million barrels of Iranian crude in storage and ready for sale. A general rule is the two-thirds of the cost of gas comes from the crude oil cost and the remaining one-third comes from taxes, refining, distribution, and marketing. Republicans like to claim, however, that the president is completely responsible for higher costs of gas. They won’t want to see the price go down in the Obama administration.

Any deal from the president is described as a “bad deal” to Republicans. Presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said that the deal is “a possible death sentence for Israel,” but he hasn’t read it. He added that reading it didn’t’ matter because visits to the Mideast made him know that he didn’t like the details. The GOP belief that any international interaction is a “bad deal” goes back to the opposition to the Hot Line Agreement, in which Moscow and Washington could communicate directly during emergencies such as the Cuban missile crisis. The right opposed then-President Nixon going to China and called it “appeasement,” just as they are describing the deal with Iran.

The biggest influence on conservative members of Congress is Netanyahu. Some congressional leaders put Israel’s prime minister above the President of the United States in their loyalties. Last year, presidential candidate Graham told Netanyahu that Congress would “follow his lead” in reinforcing sanctions on Iran despite President Obama’s refusal to do so. Last March, Netanyahu spoke to both chambers of Congress after House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) invited him without notifying the president, a breach of protocol. His speech was intended to persuade congressional members and the people of the United States against Iranian negotiations. At this time, President Obama is offering additional military aid to Israel beyond billions of dollars to help build Israel’s Iron Dome and provide ammunition that killed the people in Gaza last summer. Netanyahu may be willing to sell out his principles for more billions of dollars from the United States.

Soon after Netanyahu’s speech, 47 U.S. senators, led by Tom Cotton (R-AR) sent a letter to Iran, explaining that they might as well not make the deal because any future president could negate it. The letter also claimed—erroneously—that there could be no agreement unless Congress passed it by a two-thirds vote. To this next breach of protocol—and possibly a treasonous act—Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif wrote that Cotton’s letter was a “propaganda ploy” meant to undermine Obama. Yesterday the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Wednesday told Congress to reject the nuclear deal with Iran.

The Republicans have a history of sabotaging U.S. welfare to elect their candidates. When President Jimmy Carter thought he had a deal with the new Iranian president to release 52 hostages in 1979, the Reagan campaign went behind Carter’s back arranging with the Iranian radical faction to keep the hostages in captivity until after the Reagan v. Carter presidential election in 1980. Iranian extremists released the hostages on January 20, 1981, the moment that Reagan was inaugurated, and pointed out that Reagan must keep his agreement to ship weapons to the radical forces. The result was deaths of thousands of people throughout the world, especially in Central America where Reagan took money from the Iranians to destabilize Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador. Those areas have still not gained stability after Reagan’s actions. Carter’s loss in the election led to the appointment of Justice Antonin Scalia and the elevation of William Rehnquist to Chief Justice. One reason for the GOP to keep Iran closed to the U.S. is to cover Reagan’s actions.

Although Netanyahu has expressed strong opposition to the Iran deal, not everyone in Israel supports his position. Israel is also a dangerous country with undeclared chemical warfare capabilities and between 75 and 400 nuclear weapons. It is also one of four nuclear-armed countries not recognized as a Nuclear Weapons State by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the others being India, Pakistan, and North Korea. Because Israel never signed the NPT, the country does not have to submit to inspections. Israel’s attack on Gaza last summer and its takeover of the Palestinian West Bank shows that the country will use any means to defeat other countries, whether warranted or not.

The GOP refuses to admit that, like almost every problem in the U.S. during the 21st century, Iran’s expansion of its nuclear program can be traced back to the Bush/Cheney administration. With 164 centrifuges in 2003, Iran wanted to negotiate with the U.S. to remove the sanctions blocking the growth of the country’s middle class. Cheney said, “We don’t talk to evil,” and Iran built 5,000 centrifuges in the next two years. The country had 8,000 by the time that Bush/Cheney left. Now Cheney is lobbying to add another war to the ones they started during their administration instead of letting this generation try to achieve peace through diplomacy.

Polls, even one from the conservative Fox network, consistently show approval of the deal, but Republicans spreading lies that may reverse the surveys. Yet conservatives ignore their constituents and oppose the deal because they are convinced that the U.S. should rule the world and dictate the behavior of all countries. That’s what led us into the wars with Afghanistan and Iraq that almost wiped out the U.S. economy.

A comparison between Iran and the United States:

iran v. u.s. nuclear weapons

The only purpose of the Iran deal is to reduce the possibility of Iran getting a nuclear weapon. In opposing the Iran deal, Congress has three alternatives: kill the deal and do nothing else, leaving few restraints on the growth of Iran’s nuclear program; declare war and ignite a catastrophic regional conflict; and increase sanctions, which looks like the first option. Without a deal, Iran has a much better chance of building bombs. Increased sanctions are useless because U.S. business dealings with Iran are already limited and the rest of the world will leave the U.S. standing alone.

As conservatives continue to posture without reading the deal, Congress is in charge of deciding whether the United States will go to war with Iran. And the media focus on Iran will cause Scott Walker, the 15th presidential candidate, to stay in the shadows—at least for a while.

May 11, 2015

GOP: Disregard Infrastructure, Sell off Public Lands

America is the most exceptional country in the world! And the richest! That’s the bragging point from the far right. That’s true if you consider that our “exceptional” infrastructure is 16th in the world. “Crumbling” is the term most often used to describe the bridges and highways over a half century old, an out-moded transit system, etc. For years, the American Society of Civil Engineers has given the nation’s infrastructure a D+ or worse. Every time the issue comes up, the GOP claim that they can’t afford to pay for necessary repairs—sort of like a cheapskate home-owner who won’t replace a leaky roof or disintegrating foundation.

With only 20 days before the Highway Trust Fund is set to expire, no congressional vote has been set up to extend the law and let the DOT distribute what little funds it has left to states. Congress is used to short-term fixes: it has passed 32 extensions within the past six years. That’s an average of over five each year which eliminates planning for any big projects. The sensible approach to raising the requisite $478 billion over ten years would be an increase in the gas tax that has stayed the same for 23 years, but the majority of legislators have signed the “no tax” pledge from Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform.

When Republicans were more pragmatic, they liked infrastructure spending because the economy loved jobs for fixing dams, bridges, and roads. These were jobs that couldn’t be outsourced to another country and brought millions of federal funds to create good-paying jobs with visible results. Now, however, the GOP wants to shrink the economy because a good economy would make President Obama look good. For over six years, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has led the charge to make the president look bad, no matter how his efforts damage the United States.

This week is “Infrastructure Week,” according to a coalition of labor, business and transportation advocacy organizations. Last week, the GOP in both congressional chambers agreed to a budget resolution intended to cut transportation funding by 20 percent. After the GOP voted down a budget of $820 billion over ten years, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced a $1-trillion plan that would create 13 million jobs. Even that sum doesn’t take care of the problem: the American Society of Civil Engineers estimated that $1.6 trillion more than what the country currently spends is need to repair the nation’s infrastructure by 2020. Instead of taking the plan out of committee, Sanders offered the $478-billion plan which was voted down by a unanimous veto of Republicans. President Obama is so desperate to six the infrastructure that he supports a plan to let corporations escape paying some taxes by bringing their $2 trillion stashed overseas backed at a highly reduced tax rate.

Comparing the United States to other countries shows how the nation ignores its infrastructure. While the U.S. spends less than 2 percent of its GDP in this area, other countries provide far more—for example Europe, 5 percent; China, 9 percent, and Canada, 10 percent.

There are a variety of reasons that the wealthy—which includes most of congressional legislators—are unwilling to invest in U.S. infrastructure and its job creation.

Narcissism: Paul Piff and his colleagues have several studies showing that the wealthy believe they are entitled to have a position of status over everyone else, a belief that has grown during the past 30 years as “upper-class” people tend to behave more unethically than average citizens. The greater the concentration of wealth, the less a society invests in infrastructure. Between 1968 and 2011, the U.S. investment in infrastructure dropped by 60 percent.

Rejection of Poor: As the wealthy fail to see how their actions affect people, they build up a resentment of the poor and imagine  abuses that these so-called “lazy” people inflict on the rich. Legislators also destroy job development, for example, the $447-billion jobs bill in 2011 that would have added about two million jobs. Congress filibustered Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) “Prevention of Outsourcing Act,” at the same time that one million jobs were being sent offshore, and they temporarily blocked the “Small Business Jobs Act.” While campaigning last fall, McConnell was asked how he would bring jobs to Kentucky. He said, “That is not my job. It is the primary responsibility of the state Commerce Cabinet.” The safety net for the poor costs $370 billion; the tax avoidance of the wealthy costs $2.2 trillion. These are the people who are getting government handouts without working for them.

The Wait for the Free Market: Conservative analyst Michael Barone said, “Markets work. But sometimes they take time.” Thirty-five years later, people are still waiting. Starting in 1984, the Treasury Department decided that most tax cuts lose revenue; more recent studies find no connection between tax rates and economic growth. Evidence shows that cutting taxes on the rich fails to stimulate job creation; the wealthy just stash their money out of the country. Raising taxes on the rich does increase jobs as shown by Kansas and Minnesota. Tax cuts in Kansas destroy the state whereas tax increases on the wealthy in Minnesota have led to higher wages, low unemployment, and rapid business growth.

Instead of increasing taxes on the wealthy or stopping outsourcing and tax havens offshore, GOP members of Congress hope to make money by selling off the country’s resources. During the recent debate about the 2016 federal budget, legislators voted on a number of symbolic (fortunately non-binding) amendments. Amendment 838, introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), would “establish a spending-neutral reserve fund relating to the disposal of certain Federal land.” This translates into funding state efforts to take over, sell, and transfer federal land to private interests. Murkowski said the plan would “improve our conservation systems.”  It passed by 51 to 49 votes with three GOP senators–Lamar Alexander (TN), Kelly Ayotte (NH), and Corey Gardner (CO)—defecting to the Democrat side.

Both conservatives and progressives oppose the plan as conservative groups such as the Montana-based Backcountry Hunters and Anglers joined environmentalists in criticizing the vote.  Although the measure does not apply to “any land that is located within a national park, within a national preserve or a national monument,” the resolution allows the sale of national forests, national memorials, wildlife refuges, and wilderness areas. The nonprofit League of Conservation Voters (LCV) explained:

“It would allow states to take control of some of our most cherished places and sell them off to private interests for oil and gas drilling, logging, mining, and other development. Industrial-scale oil and gas development could destroy the pristine nature of the Arctic Refuge’s coastal plain forever, damaging natural habitats and harming the wildlife that calls the area home. An oil spill in this region would not only directly harm polar bears, but would also contaminate their habitat. Even without an oil spill, some level of pollution and habitat fragmentation from oil and gas activities is inevitable with expanded development.”

Last February, Murkowski, with her co-GOP senator, also introduced the Authorizing Alaska Production Act (S. 494) to open up the refuge’s coastal plain to oil and gas development. Four among her top five 2013-14 campaign contributors are in the oil and gas industry: ConocoPhillips; PG&E Corp.; Edison Chouest Offshore, a marine transport firm supporting U.S. Gulf’s deepwater oil and gas industry; and Van Ness Feldman, a leading energy law firm whose clients include American Electric Power, Puget Sound Energy, and Houston natural gas energy company Kinder Morgan. Her 2014 LCV national environmental scorecard is a perfect zero.

The resolution may violate the Property Clause, Article IV, § 3, cl. 2 of the Constitution: “The Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States.” States can’t sell federal lands no matter what Congress rules.

Ronald Reagan’s executive order, issued a year after he became president, tried the same move as Murkowski when it established the Property Review Board to review federally managed public lands for potential disposal. Six years later, Reagan said:

“The preservation of parks, wilderness, and wildlife has also aided liberty by keeping alive the 19th century sense of adventure and awe with which our forefathers greeted the American West. Many laws protecting environmental quality have promoted liberty by securing property against the destructive trespass of pollution. In our own time, the nearly universal appreciation of these preserved landscapes, restored waters, and cleaner air through outdoor recreation is a modern expression of our freedom and leisure to enjoy the wonderful life that generations past have built for us.”

rooseveltOver a century ago, Republican president, Theodore Roosevelt, set aside more federal land, national parks, and nature preserves than all of his predecessors combined. He established the U.S. Forest Service and placed 230,000,000 acres under public protection. In 2008, he said:

“The time has come to inquire seriously what will happen when our forests are gone, when the coal, the iron, the oil and the gas are exhausted, when the soils have been still further impoverished and washed into the streams, polluting the rivers, denuding the fields, and obstructing navigation…. It is time for us now as a nation to exercise the same reasonable foresight in dealing with our great natural resources that would be shown by any prudent man in conserving and widely using the property which contains the assurance of well-being for himself and his children.”

Teddy would be disappointed in the GOP of today.

June 2, 2012

Back to Reagan?

As people get older, they talk about the “good old days,” which always drives younger people crazy. When I started teaching, the older teachers talked about how much better the kids were when they started teaching. Now that we have such sophisticated technology, we talk about how kids were better off when they had to make up their own games rather than just facing a screen. And in politics? There is that worship of Ronald Reagan from the far-right conservatives. Do we miss Reagan? Maybe. Here are some of his quotes and actions, many of them from a Dana Milbank column:

Labor unions: “There are few finer examples of participatory democracy.” The right to join a union is “one of the most elemental human rights.” Collective bargaining “played a major role in America’s economic miracle.”

Regulations: Reagan signed a law establishing efficiency standards for electric appliances and an update to the Safe Drinking Water Act punishing states that didn’t meet clean-water standards.

Retirement: Reagan expanded Social Security in 1983 and imposed taxes on wealthy recipients. He also signed what was at the time the largest expansion of Medicare in its history.

Debt: Reagan increased taxes several times after his initial tax cut, embraced much higher taxes on investments than current rates, and signed 18 increases in the federal debt limit.

Tax Reform: Reagan’s Tax Reform Act of 1986 shifted a large part of the tax burden from individuals to corporations and exempted millions of low-income households from federal income taxes. Reagan called it “a sweeping victory for fairness” where “vanishing loopholes and a minimum tax will mean that everybody and every corporation pay their fair share.”

Bruce Bartlett, a former domestic policy adviser in the Reagan White House, says fairness was the touchstone for the Tax Reform Act. “Ronald Reagan agreed to raise the capital gains tax rate from 20 percent to 28 percent, because he agreed with the Democrats that capital gains and ordinary income ought to be taxed at the same rate,” says Bartlett, author of The Benefit and the Burden.

Expansion of the federal government: Reagan enlarged the federal workforce and the federal budget, added the Department of Veterans Affairs (one of the largest Cabinet agencies), and pursued a military buildup that would be impossible under spending limits proposed by congressional Republicans.

Welfare: Reagan championed the earned-income tax credit, a program for the working poor that takes more children out of poverty than any other program. [Budgets proposed by today’s Republicans would cut or eliminate the credit.] He also said that bus drivers should not pay a higher proportion of their income in taxes than millionaires, a precursor to President Obama’s “Buffett Rule.”

Compromise: Reagan compromised routinely on arms control, the size of government, taxes, and other matters. His autobiography criticized “radical conservatives” for whom “ ‘compromise’ was a dirty word.” He continued: “They wanted all or nothing and they wanted it all at once …. I’d learned while negotiating union contracts that you seldom got everything you asked for.”

“[The expansion of the Social Security bill is] a clear and dramatic demonstration that our system can still work when men and women of good will join together to make it work. In this compromise we have struck the best possible balance between the taxes we pay and the benefits paid back. Any more in taxes would be an unfair burden on working Americans and could seriously weaken our economy. Any less would threaten the commitment already made to this generation of retirees and to their children.

LGBT Teachers: “Whatever else it is, homosexuality is not a contagious disease like the measles. Prevailing scientific opinion is that an individual’s sexuality is determined at a very early age and that a child’s teachers do not really influence this.” [And that was when he was a governor before 1975!]

It’s time for conservatives to follow in the image of Ronald Reagan! Let’s follow these “Reagan Rules.”

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