Nel's New Day

October 20, 2018

GOP, DDT Try to Pull Cons

As midterm election fever ramps up, the Republicans become more desperate with the thought of losing. Because over half the population supports the Affordable Care Act, GOP candidates and their leader Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) have decided to pretend that they support coverage of pre-existing conditions on all health insurance.

Last Thursday, DDT tweeted:

“All Republicans support people with pre-existing conditions, and if they don’t, they will after I speak to them. I am in total support. Also, Democrats will destroy your Medicare, and I will keep it healthy and well!”

These GOP candidates claiming to supported coverage of pre-existing conditions voted against the Affordable Care Act, and some of them are involved in legal challenges to the law. With his executive order to change the ACA, DDT already permitted insurance companies to not allow pre-existing conditions. In addition, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said that the GOP plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act after the midterms and reduce Medicare to cover ballooning deficits from deep tax cuts for the wealthy and big business. The underlying GOP goal is to strip almost everyone in the United States of any safety net while taking all power and giving the nation’s resources to the wealthiest and big business.

In another serious problem for DDT, the horrific scandal of a reporter’s murder in Turkey won’t disappear. Saudi Arabia commonly kills dissidents, but the murder of Jamal Khashoggi is unique: he was a U.S. resident who was tortured, dismembered, and murdered in an embassy on foreign soil. DDT is also supporting Saudi Arabia in its fantasy explanation of the murder, appearing to act as a PR person for the Saudi royalty. Vali R. Nasr, dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, said:

“This is a drastic break from American practice. It signals a very different foreign policy that does not hold governments accountable for things that are outside normal legal or ethical parameters. In effect, the U.S. is setting a new standard for itself.”

Vladimir Putin is well aware of the new standard for the U.S. that represents a double standard—punish Russia for its killing of a Russian but reward Saudi Arabia for its killing of a U.S. resident. DDT has been very clear, however, that he won’t hold foreign countries accountable for human rights, and now that lack of concern impacts a murdered U.S. resident with three U.S. citizen children. Not addressing Khashoggi’s murder removes the U.S. from the high ground when China tells the West to stop its false regard for human rights.

In addition to taking Saudi’s assurance that Khashoggi’s death came from a “fist-fight,” DDT is accepting Putin’s guarantee that Russia didn’t interfere in U.S. elections and Kim Jong-Un’s pledge that North Korea will denuclearize. Richard Haas, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said that the U.S. policy of “trust but verify” has been changed to “trust but look away.”

Conservative commentator Max Book wrote about DDT:

“This is the president who said it’s “great” that Xi is declaring himself ruler for life, praised Duterte for the ‘unbelievable job’ he was doing ‘on the drug problem,’ congratulated Recep Tayyip Erdogan for winning a rigged referendum that spelled the death of Turkish democracy, and declared his ‘love’ for Kim Jong Un of North Korea. When confronted by Lesley Stahl on 60 Minutes about Kim’s catalogue of crime — ‘repression, gulags, starvation’ — Trump was dismissive. ‘I get along with him really well,’ Trump said. ‘I have a good energy with him.’ He was equally blasé when Stahl asked him about reports that Putin is involved in ‘assassinations’ and ‘poisonings.’ He probably is, Trump conceded — but ‘it’s not in our country,’ so who cares? Britain can deal with Russian hit teams on its own.”

Boot concluded:

“This is a good time to be a dictator — and a dangerous time to be a dissident. Trump has given every despot on the planet a license to kill without worrying about the American reaction.”

Saudi Arabia has been paying for positive PR in the U.S. since 15 of 19 plane hijackers in the attack on the U.S. were Saudi nationals, but the amount of money poured into its effort escalated in 2017 to $27.3 million in lobbying alone after DDT’s inauguration to $27.3 million in lobbying alone. More money was given to universities, think tanks, and over 100 people registered as Saudi foreign agents in the U.S. who contacted media outlets over 500 times. The Saudis also had 45 contracts with FARA-registered firms. Agents contacted officials at the State Department almost 100 times in 2017 and over 200 congressional members with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) the most contacted. These congressional members received $390,496 for campaigns. In 2018, Saudi lobbyists fought to defeat a House bill that would end U.S. support for the Saudi war in Yemen, asking them to ignore the 10,000 civilians who were killed in Yemen.

DDT has been very upfront about how he is selling himself and the U.S. to gain money from the Saudis. And he has the blessing of fundamentalist Christians. Televangelist Pat Robertson wants people to “cool” it about the torture, dismemberment, and killing of Jamal Khashoggi because he’s just “one journalist.” What would Jesus do, according to Robertson? Profit from that probably nonexistant $100 billion of arms sales to Saudi Arabia so that they can kill thousands more civilians.

One reason that people voted for DDT was their belief that he is a great businessman. The New York Time researched proved that claim to be a myth, but he’s still bragging about his wonderful economy. Despite his cheerleading, cracks are appearing—the lowest housing sales in three years, retail sales down for the past two years, a volatile stock market, an increase in trade market deficits—some of the same signs that led to the deep recession of 2008, especially the falling housing prices that were the first evidence. George W. Bush failed to see the warning signs in 2006, just as DDT’s economic adviser Larry Kudlow thinks that the U.S. is booming. A few months before everyone became well aware of the 2008 recession, Kudlow said, “There is no recession coming.” Four months later, he wrote “The Therapeutic Power of Recessions.”

That recession didn’t have the problem of tariffs. A trade war with the U.S. already prompted luxury-car makers BMW AG and Daimler AG to warn about lower profits while Chinese consumers staying away from showrooms forced Jaguar Land Rover to temporarily shut a factory. Sales to Chinese dealerships fell for a third month in September. Steve Man, senior analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence in Hong Kong, said that this slump may be the biggest that auto manufacturers experienced in China, the world’s largest car market. GM, VW, and Honda are also decreasing in deliveries, and carmakers may have to close factories.

DDT promised to balance the budget in one year. He didn’t. The deficit blew up to $898 billion in the 11 months through August, exceeding the Congressional Budget Office’s forecast for the first full fiscal year after DDT was inaugurated. DDT’s deficit for the 11 months was one-third higher than the $674 billion for the same time during the previous year. While revenue gained one percent to about $3 trillion, spending rose by seven percent to almost $3.9 trillion. Thanks to the new COP tax cut law, revenue from corporations dropped $71 billion from a year before to $163 billion. The annual budget for President Obama’s last three years was $500 billion. Thanks to the GOP and DDT’s law and policies, the nation’s debt is growing out of control.

DDT’s family con jobs seem to have trickled down to son-in-law Jared Kushner, who has paid almost no income tax from 2009 to 2016 while quintupling his assets to almost $324 million. For example, in 2015, he made $1.7 million but declared $8.3 million in losses from his self-identified “significant depreciation” on real estate because the law allows scams with decline values on the books as properties appreciate. DDT, however, participated in illegal fraud to hide his and his family’s fortune from taxes.

DDT is so unpopular that the Trump name has been removed from a seventh building since DDT’s election, this one a condo tower at 200 Riverside Boulevard in Manhattan. Almost 70 percent of owners voted to take down the name after they were threatened with legal action 18 months ago when they made the decision. A judge ruled that the signage could go that’s what the residents wanted.

The Trump Ocean Club Panama also ripped DDT’s name off its sign after it evicted the Trump Organization. Ivanka Trump had lied about the number of units sold although the involvement of shell companies created difficulty in identifying why buyers had backed out. DDT’s family made millions on just this one project, an example of their system to lure investors into building projects and then walk away with the money when the projects collapse.

With his gullible base, DDT treats the United States like one of his scams, but most of us have no solution when he takes the money and leaves us bankrupt. And Congress will let DDT carry out his plans unless the electorate stops the GOP from controlling Congress. During the past half centuries, all the recessions have occurred while the president was a Republican with a supportive Congress.

August 17, 2014

Paul Ryan v. the Pope

The summer has brought struggles in Iraq, Israel/Gaza, and closer to home in Ferguson (MO) to the media, and Congress has gone into full-time fundraising. When they return, the budget will again hit the news media. As chair of the House Budget Committee, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) will be front and center of the discussion. While fundamentalist Christians use their religion as the main reason for their votes, Ryan, a Catholic, opposes the values that Pope Francis espouses when addressing the nation’s priorities in spending.

His favorite spin on removing the safety net for the poor in the past was that “the preferential option for the poor, which is one of the primary tenants of Catholic social teaching, means don’t keep people poor, don’t make people dependent on government so that they stay stuck at their station in life.” Two years ago, 60 theologians, priests, nuns, and social justice leaders protested the claim that his budget represented Catholic values.  They and many other Catholics feel that Ryan has betrayed his religious positions of helping vulnerable people, just taxation, and using the government for the common good. As Father Thomas J. Reese explained, “Our problem with Representative Ryan is that he claims his budget is based on Catholic social teaching. This is nonsense.”

Failing to persuade people that giving to the rich and abandoning the poor is a basic tenet of the Catholic church, Ryan decided to drop the religious approach in his more recent plan, “Expanding Opportunity in America.” He proposes “block grants,” although he doesn’t call them this, to states to replace the federal safety net. In addition, the program would be far more structured, forcing aid recipients to meet with case managers and sign contracts for short- and long-term goal. Paying for this new administrative bureaucracy will take benefits away from those who need them.

States wouldn’t do a better job of helping the poor. Politicians know that the federal government is vital in solving problems as indicated by the demand for federal aid to disasters such as super storms or tornadoes or chemical plant explosions. Congress created federal safety net programs because states were unable to solve these social problems. If Ryan succeeded in moving money to the states, the most conservative and anti-Washington ones would get more federal funding than the others. Of the 20 states with the highest levels of food stamp costs, 16 voted for Mitt Romney in the last presidential election.

In fact, states have a history of funneling federal monies for specific purposes into their general coffers. For example, Texas Gov. Rick Perry used $17.4 billion of the stimulus bill he hated so much to solve his deficit problems. Minnesota and Wisconsin were among states using the same tactic.

According to Pope Francis, “Each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society.” His proposal is to dismantle unjust economic and social systems, doing away with an unfettered capitalist market and any other system that uses people rather than serves them. He has prayed for “more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor.” Ryan doesn’t fit into this category.

As a PR move, Ryan toured schools, churches, and other groups to determine how they are trying to solve the problem of poverty. After this experience, he talked about stereotypic causes of poverty—drug abuse, teen parents, single mothers, absentee fathers, prison time, no higher education—in short, “a lack of productive habits.” Missing from his picture of poverty are college graduates unable to find work, longer-term unemployed without unemployment insurance, older people unable to get jobs because of their age, and people unable to support themselves and their children because of low minimum wages.

Ryan’s conclusion is still that people are poor because they made bad personal choices. He fails to understand that poverty in the United States today comes from a huge inequality in income. Ryan used social security benefits after his father died so that he could go to school; he should understand its importance.

As Bill Moyers pointed out, “Claiming you can solve poverty without money is like claiming you can solve drought without water.” Conservatives believe that the only way to have a strong national defense is to give vast amounts of money to defense contractors, but they think they can solve the problem of poverty by giving low-income people less funding. Low-income people spend most of the money on basic necessities like housing, food, fuel, health care and education; wealthy people take a large percentage of their money out of the country.

Ryan wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “The best anti-poverty program is economic growth.” Yet while the economy has grown 147 percent per capita since the 1970s, the average U.S. worker earns about exactly the same as 30 years ago when wages are adjusted for inflation. The 15-percent share of people in poverty is higher than in the early 1970s. Almost all the gains since that time went to the top: the richest 1 percent went from 9 percent of total income 40 years ago to over 20 percent now.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has joined Ryan in lying about poverty. He denies that raising the minimum wage or giving the poor more assistance would address poverty. Instead he wants “reforms that encourage and reward work.” That follows Ronald Reagan’s line that the best social program is a job, a theory that has contributed to the nation’s downfall. Jobs are important, both to economic well-being and self-esteem, but the number of working poor in the United States has steadily been growing. For almost 20 years, people on government assistance have been required to have jobs, meaning that more poor people have jobs. Approximately one-fourth of all American workers have jobs paying below what a full-time, full-year worker needs in order to live above the federally defined poverty line for a family of four.

A favorite mantra of conservatives is that poor people have no ambition. Yet many people work long hours at backbreaking jobs and still need a safety net. Poor people actually lack opportunity, beginning with good schools. The United States is one of three advanced countries that spend less on educating poor children and rich ones. Israel and Turkey are the only other two countries that have more teachers and less crowded classrooms in schools with more privileged students. The other countries have exactly the reverse.

Ryan’s budget would slash food stamp programs, leaving people hungry. It would cut scholarships, keeping poor youth out of higher education. It would only make life easier for the wealthy. It would reverse the Affordable Care Act, leaving people without any health care. It would eliminate low-income programs that work, including the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program that helps low-income pregnant women and children obtain fresh produce at farmers’ markets.

Ryan’s religion is the Republican party.

January 8, 2014

GOP Celebrates War on Poverty by Increasing Number of Poor

Fifty years ago today, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared “unconditional war on poverty in America” in his first State of the Union speech. As Johnson said, “The richest Nation on earth can afford to win it…. One thousand dollars invested in salvaging an unemployable youth today can return $40,000 or more in his lifetime.”

At that time, the poverty rate was 19 percent. Now it’s 15 percent. And that’s at the same time that the country is getting stingier, mostly with women and children. Not only did the GOP throw people off food stamps and other help through the sequester, but it also increased the inequity between wealthy and poor. Critics claim that the country has made no progress in Johnson’s “war.” Yet within six years, the rate dropped to 12.6 percent—until the government no longer considered it a priority.

Without the government programs such as food stamps, subsidized school lunches, and Medicaid, Columbia University experts figure that the rate would be 31 percent, almost one-third of the entire population.  Even with government assistant for the poor, the top one percent of people in the U.S. more than doubled their share of the national income in that 50 years, creating an inequality not seen since 1928 when the top one percent got 23.9 percent of all pre-tax income and the bottom 90 percent shared 50.7 percent.

In this election year—and the precursor to the 2016 presidential campaign—GOP potential candidates are most likely going to use the subject of poverty on the podium. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is also working to solve the problem through God—nothing more specific at this time. His idea of a war on poverty so far relies heavily on promoting volunteerism and encouraging work through existing federal programs. “Spiritual redemption: That’s what saves people,” Ryan said.

Ryan’s ideas revert back a couple of centuries to the “turkey basket” approach toward helping people when the poor had to count on charitable gestures, usually from a church. He mixes that philosophy with Adam Smith’s position that capitalism will bring a “universal opulence which extends itself to the lowest ranks of the people.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is trying to show that he is the first in the pack to address poverty, a much safer approach than the promotion of immigration reform that ended up dragging him down in the GOP. As usual, he attacked the issue by whining about the failures of the past. “After 50 years, isn’t it time to declare big government’s war on poverty a failure?” Rubio asked. He skipped over the facts that Republican presidents ruled the country during 60 percent of that time and that the reign of George W. Bush created a huge disaster with war expenses and tax cuts for the wealthy.

Thus far, Rubio, like Ryan, has no concrete ideas, but his agenda “would create an economy with more good-paying middle-class jobs and a government with less debt” as well as “repeal ObamaCare and … replace it with more affordable healthcare options.” He added, “[The agenda] would save and strengthen our retirement programs for future generations.” The GOP has been promising—and failing to provide—“good-paying middle-class jobs” since the 2010 election, and the party’s idea of strengthening retirement programs is to make seniors pay more for living and health care. Repealing health care is always the answer for GOP conservatives to make their mark.

Rubio is off to a bad start: yesterday he voted against moving the extension of unemployment benefits forward to a vote. His state of Florida also cuts off these benefits at an earlier stage, paying for only 16 weeks. Benefits are also lower than other states, and unemployed workers are out of work in Rubio’s state for the longest period in the nation. He is not alone in being a senator of a state in desperate need and still voting no: many GOP senators who also voted no, represent states with the highest unemployment rates in the United States.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is pitching a plan in Detroit to revitalize urban centers through “economic freedom zones” which would slash taxes for corporations. His austerity plan was rolled out in a new African-American voter outreach center office where the audience was largely white.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-VA) answer to eliminating poverty is to provide use federal funding for school choice. Incensed because New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has suggested that he would charge rents in the for-profit charter schools, Cantor has threatened to hold hearings about these rents. Cantor’s goal is to destroy public education by giving the government funding to private schools.

These GOP members of Congress agree, however, on eliminating extended unemployment benefits and shredding the safety net, including the huge reduction of food stamps. Their desire to repeal the Affordable Care Act includes their wish to wipe out Medicaid expansion for people at and below the poverty line. In addition, they oppose raising the minimum wage, a solution that would raise almost six million people out of poverty. As typical of conservatives, they promote a mix of tax breaks and privatization approaches in an attempt to repackage their old failed positions.

This morning, Arthur Laffer, economist adviser to President Reagan, argued on the Fox network that the minimum wage is actually the “black teenage unemployment act” because it keeps teens out of the labor force. Laffer is not alone; many conservatives see low-income workers as black and young. They’re wrong: 84 percent are over 20, and 57 percent are white. Almost half work full time.

Raising the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour would fulfill the GOP wish that people work for what they get. At this time, the minimum doesn’t keep a parent above the poverty line or make market rent in any state. In the 1960s, minimum wage, equivalent to $10.65 today, was enough to keep a family of three out of poverty. Worker productivity has increased so radically, that the minimum should be $18.30 to keep up with the 1960s. A $10.10 minimum would increase the GDP by $22.1 billion and support at least 85,000 new jobs.

Eighty percent of people in the country support this minimum, including two-thirds of GOP members. Two-thirds of the people support an increase to $10.25 per hour. Yet many members of the GOP want to lower, not increase, the minimum wage.

A history of the safety net during the 20th century shows that the objections to helping the poor come from the expansion of aid to minorities 50 years ago. The objections kept climbing to Mitt Romney’s complaint—in private—that 47 percent of people in the United States are “dependent upon government.” After his loss, Romney echoed the complaints of the 1960s when he accused Barack Obama of being re-elected because he “focused on giving targeted groups a big gift—so he made a big effort on small things. Those small things, by the way, add up to trillions of dollars.”

Romney lost, but his running mate, Paul Ryan, will probably run again. His budget decimates Johnson’s War on Poverty, harshly impacting women and people of color. It repeals the Affordable Care Act, takes food stamps from over 12 million people, and causes steep reductions in child care, Head Start, job training, Pell Grants, housing, energy assistance, Supplemental Security Income, and Medicare.

These are the programs used during the War on Poverty to bring some people out of poverty. These are the programs that GOP presidential wannabes want to erradicate. 

December 26, 2013

Stop Poverty

It’s been a half century since President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a “war on poverty.” Fifty years later, the income inequality in the United States is much worse. Poverty in other countries is obvious: we see films of people with no food living in cardboard boxes. But in the United States, many people think that the only reason for poverty is laziness. There’s a resentment that people in poverty still have cell phones and television sets. There’s the feeling, especially among conservatives, that truly poor people would be those in the cardboard boxes without food or possessions.

As the recession kept wages down and the middle-class shrinking during the past half decade, the people of the nation are going downward, making less and less while the wealthy have a rapidly increasing upward trajectory. Poverty in our country is malnutrition that leads to poor health with the effects passed on from one generation to the next. Poverty is losing a job and then a home so that they had to declare bankruptcy and move in with friends or relatives.

Greg Haufmann has found solutions from activists around the country:

Sister Simone Campbell, leader of “nuns on the bus” and anathema to Catholic Church directors who want her to concentrate on fighting abortion and marriage equality instead of helping the poor:  “Support an increase in the minimum wage to more than $11 per hour.” Of people below the poverty line, 57 percent of individuals and family members either worked or lived with a working family member in 2011. Walmart could pay its workers $12 an hour by raising its prices just 1 percent. That would cost each shopper an average of $12.50 for an entire year. year.

Coalition of Immokalee Workers: “Help end sexual harassment, wage theft, and forced labor in the fields—join the Fair Food Program today.” In the past, countless workers in Florida’s fields growing and harvesting oranges and tomatoes suffered daily humiliation and abuse ranging from wage theft to sexual harassment and even forced labor. A new program has set the highest human rights standards in fields today, working to stop its slavery in the 21st century. Publix Super Markets, a large supermarket chain across six Southern states, refuses to support the program.  Almost 100,000 people have asked CEO William Crenshaw to join the program to end slavery in Florida.

Ralph da Costa Nunez, president and CEO, Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness: “Make a Personal Commitment to Helping Homeless Families.” Over one-third–over 500,000—of people living in the U.S. in shelters are parents and their children. Family homelessness has increased by more than 13 percent in the past five years.

Dr. Deborah Frank, founder and principal investigator, Children’s Healthwatch: “Fund the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) at the maximum authorized level.” Insufficient heating and cooling is responsible for poor health, increased hospitalizations, and developmental delays in young children. Although current funding at $4.7 billion in 2014 won’t meet all the needs of people in poverty, it can help.

Sarita Gupta, executive director, Jobs with Justice/American Rights at Work and Co-Director, Caring Across Generations: “Support of a living wage and basic labor protections for home care workers.” Homecare workers compose one of the largest occupations in the nation, but many of them make below minimum wage. The “companionship exemption” excluded most homecare workers from basic labor protections for almost all other workers in the U.S. Two years after President Obama promised federal minimum wage and overtime protections for most homecare workers—and a year after the public comment period closed—there is still no new rule.

Judith Lichtman, senior adviser, National Partnership for Women & Families: “Urge Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act (H.R. 1286/S.631) and a national paid leave program.” More than 40 million workers in this country—and more than 80 percent of the lowest-wage workers—cannot earn a single paid sick day to use when they get the flu or other common illnesses. Millions more cannot earn paid sick days to use when a child is sick. For the average worker, taking off 3.5 unpaid days is equivalent to a month’s worth of groceries for the family. Because they do not have sick leave, they may be communicating contagious germs to everyone who comes in contact with the same items as the sick person—creating a chain of illness.

Tiffany Loftin, president, United States Student Association (USSA): “Increase regulation of private student loans and hold Sallie Mae accountable for its role in the student debt crisis.” Student debt was the only type of household debt that grew during the last five years. Each student owes an average of $27,000 by graduation. Sallie Mae, the largest private student lender, has high interest rates. The company fails to give borrowers their repayment options, promoting defaults on loans, and lends money at between 3.5 percent and 5 percent higher than it borrows.

Elizabeth Lower-Basch, policy coordinator, the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP): “Support Pathways Back to Work.” Subsidized and transitional jobs are the best way to give unemployed workers the opportunity to earn wages, build skills, and connect to the labor market, while also giving businesses an incentive to hire new employees when they might not be able to do so otherwise.

Marci Phillips, director of public policy and advocacy, National Council on Aging: “Invest in the Older Americans Act.” This proposed bill includes a number of programs that keep seniors healthy and independent in their own homes instead of in expensive institutions. Services include healthy meals, in-home care, transportation, benefits access, caregiver support, chronic disease self-management, job training and placement and elder abuse prevention, but funding has not kept up with the need, especially after the sequester.

Rebecca Vallas, staff attorney/policy advocate, Community Legal Services: “Tell Congress no cuts to Social Security and SSI through the Chained CPI.” The two-year budget didn’t touch these programs, but fight is not over. The debt ceiling crisis comes in January, very likely complete with extortion. Although Social Security now matches inflation, the method of determining cost of living is highly inaccurate for seniors. Those on low-income won’t be buying new houses and cars, measures that keep inflation down. Their money goes for food, utilities, and drugs—items that are more rapidly increasing in cost than the other items that lower inflation. In just one example, my water bill has gone up an average of 5 percent every year for the past 20 years, and the city plans on an increase of 50 percent in the next five years.

Jim Weill, President, Food Research and Action Center: “Tell Congress: Increase, Don’t Cut SNAP (Food Stamp) Benefits.” House GOP members who tried to pass a farm bill without any food stamps ignored the fact that most people in the country understand the importance of this program: 73 percent of voters believe the program is important to the country; 70 percent say cutting it is the wrong way to reduce government spending; and 77 percent say the government should be spending more (43 percent) or the same (34 percent) on SNAP. This support crosses parties, demographic groups, and rural, urban and suburban lines.

Debbie Weinstein, executive director, Coalition on Human Needs: “Tell Congress to stop harmful cuts to anti-poverty programs now.” Sequestration cut education, food programs, jobs, housing, and clothing programs. They keep people poor, cost jobs and stall economic growth for everyone.

Johnson’s attempts to alleviate poverty worked for almost two decades until Ronald Reagan became president. During this two terms, the country quickly began to lose the painful gains of the century: increased productivity benefited only the wealthy, poverty concentrated in inner cities with chronic joblessness and racial segregation, and trade union membership plummeted along with pensions. The U.S. led the industrialized world in child poverty and incarceration. The value of the minimum wage eroded. Conservatives blamed the resulting problems on Johnson’s Great Society and began its three-decade war on social spending.

The above solutions may sound complicated, but a letter to today’s Oregonian from Rex Burkholder simplified several solutions. He makes a lot of sense to me.

“Here are a few ideas I’d like to see Oregon’s business community get behind in their effort to end poverty:

  1. Decriminalize drugs. Addicts are ill and need help, not incarceration.
  2. Shut down lottery and video poker, poor returns on investment.
  3. Treat the mentally ill instead of putting them on the streets.
  4. Raise the minimum wage to its 1970s equivalent, about $15 an hour in today’s dollars.
  5. Spend our public infrastructure funds through a Civilian Conservation Corps-type program instead of using out-of-state contractors.
  6. Put shop class back into every high school. We still need carpenters, plumbers and other tradespeople.

“How to fund it? Legalize and tax marijuana. Less damage than tobacco or alcohol and lots of demand.”

March 12, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Derek Thompson wrote: 

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

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

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

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

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

November 29, 2012

Stop the GOP in Rolling Back Our ‘Entitlements’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 10, 2012

House Republicans Waste Taxpayers’ Monday

The United States is poor, right? We want limited government instead of providing a safety net for the people who live in this nation, right? We’re badly in debt and need to cut back on the budget, right? That’s the view from the Republican side of Congress. So what are they doing?

This week the U.S. House of Representatives Defense Appropriations Subcommittee approved over $948 million in funding for Israel’s various anti-missile defense programs. That’s almost $1 billion. Over two-thirds of the money goes to the anti-missile initiative, Iron Dome, and the rest to the short-range David’s Sling ($149.7 million), and the current long-range Arrow anti-ballistic missile system and its successor the Arrow 3 ($119.3 million).  The $948 million is $169 million more than President Obama requested, an increase of almost 20 percent, and would bring military aid to Israel to over $4 billion.

Today 218 Republicans in the House voted to override steep cuts to the Pentagon’s budget mandated by last summer’s debt deal, adding $72 billion to the Pentagon budget and covering that funding with massive spending reductions to food stamps and other social programs. The Republicans say that these cuts would reduce the deficit by $243 billion which shows how badly the safety net will be damaged.

In addition, the House Armed Services Committee voted for a $642 billion defense bill that calls for construction of a missile defense site on the East Coast at a cost of $5 billion, restores aircraft and ships slated for early retirement, and ignores the Pentagon’s cost-saving request for another round of domestic base closings. The committee rejected the Pentagon’s call to mothball 18 Air Force Global Hawk drones, and it restored four Navy cruisers slated for early retirement in next year’s budget.

Republicans insisted that the East Coast site is necessary in case Iran or North Korea develops an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of attacking the East Coast. Since the mid-1980s, the Pentagon has spent nearly $150 billion on missile defense programs (some people say $274 billion) and envisions another $44 billion over the next five years. The problem with all their work is that they have consistently failed in successfully creating any way to shoot down ballistic missiles.

Scientists had endeavored to equip a 747 with a powerful laser system that could knock ballistic threats out of the sky, but the Missile Defense Agency officially announced last February that it would abandon the study, citing scientists’ failure in trials to ever shoot down a missile. During testing of the laser technology in 2010, scientists failed to demonstrate that the defense system was effective at knocking out ballistic technologies. The failed testing also cost the federal government more than $100,000 per hour.  Just last month, the nation’s test of a new ballistic technology failed and crashed in the Sea of South Korea. No matter—lawmakers want to keep going because the government has already spent its billions of dollars on the program.

Republicans refused to permit Democrats to submit their alternative plan as an amendment. That proposal would have cut $24 billion in farm subsidies, saved $5 billion by reforming the National Flood Insurance Program reform, and raised $84 billion by imposing a “Buffet Rule” tax on the wealthy and increasing taxes on the five biggest oil and gas companies. Notice that just the last recommendation would more than cover the $72 billion Republicans want for the Pentagon, despite the constant conservative cry that the “Buffet Rule” tax is useless because it doesn’t raise any money.

Even the Pentagon knows that the House Republicans are wrong. Hours after the Armed Services Committee added money for the East Coast missile defense site and aircraft that the Pentagon didn’t propose, Leon Panetta told Congress that their actions were jeopardizing national security. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also said that the committee’s addition of up to $5 billion for a new East Coast missile defense site is not needed.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the House budget would leave 1.8 million people without food stamps and take away money for vaccinations, prenatal care, and nursing homes for seniors. Hundreds of thousands of children would lose health insurance and school lunches.

President Obama’s budget plan includes job-creation initiatives for infrastructure, job-training, and innovation. The cost is offset by raising $1.5 trillion over 10 years from the wealthiest taxpayers and closing some corporate tax breaks, chiefly for oil and gas companies. He also proposed a higher tax on dividend income of the wealthiest taxpayers, which would raise about $206 billion over 10 years.

Last March, all except ten House Republicans passed a budget that cuts deeply into domestic spending, transforms the tax code (translate as more tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations), and transform (translates as beginning to eliminate) Medicare and Medicaid.

House Speaker John Boehner and presidential wannabe Mitt Romney continue to claim that they are interested only in the economy and jobs. Perhaps true because their approach destroys the economy and eliminates jobs. Add to that the concept of Congress trying to tell the military what to do, and this country could be in a world of hurt if the nation takes the wrong turn six months.

Oh yes, that jobs’ approach for the House? Last night, the House voted 245-171 to stop the Justice Department from using taxpayer funds to actively oppose the Defense of Marriage Act, preventing marriage equality, as part of Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations legislation. Of course, the House is spending its own money to fight court cases and protect DOMA. Sixteen Democrats voted with the GOP for the amendment, while seven Republicans opposed it. The conservatives are playing for the vote: although the Justice Department is no longer defending DOMA in court, the Obama administration is still enforcing it.

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