Nel's New Day

May 10, 2017

Jason Chaffetz: Epitome of the GOP

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 11:10 PM
Tags: , , , , , ,

Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) may be almost gone, but he will live on as the epitome of the GOP leadership. Vinson Cunningham describes some of his characteristics, and photographer Bill Clark captured a representative image.

Chaffetz seemed like an independent person last October when Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) revealed his privileged sense of depravity by talking about indiscriminately  grabbing “pussy.” In response, Chaffetz seemed to take the high road when he rescinded his endorsement of DDT:

“My wife and I, we have a fifteen-year-old daughter, and if I can’t look her in the eye and tell her these things, I can’t endorse this person.”

At that time he also had much more to say about the “awful place” the nominee had put the country in and his “abhorrent and offensive” language, but his position about DDT lasted only two and a half weeks before the 180-degree turned Chaffetz into a DDT supporter. His excuse was that Hillary Clinton was “that bad.” As House Oversight chairman, he has focused for years on trying to make Clinton’s life miserable in endless Benghazi inquisitions. None of the expensive endeavors turned up any illegal action, but Chaffetz isn’t through. Returning from re-election this past January, Chaffetz opened an investigation into Clinton’s emails, hoping for criminal charges, and Comey’s firing inspired him to expand the scope of his search for something—anything—that might be illegal in Clinton’s private server.

Faced with unconstitutional conflict of interest charges for DDT, Chaffetz mentally shrugged his shoulders and said, “He’s already rich. He’s very rich. I don’t think that he ran for this office to line his pockets even more. I just don’t see it like that.” Pushed to investigate the $400 million deal between Jared Kushner’s family and the Chinese, Chaffetz said:

“I don’t see how that affects the average American and their taxpayer dollars. Just the fact that a staff person’s family is making money? It’s not enough.”

Chaffetz referred to “these other little intrigues about a wealthy family making money” as “a bit of a sideshow.”

Soon after DDT’s inauguration, Chaffetz proposed a bill that would allow Republicans to sell off public lands. A bipartisan backlash caused him to say that he was withdrawing the bill because his constituents objected. That was February 2. Eight days later the bill was referred to a subcommittee.

During public appearances during “Trumpcare”s first attempt this year, Chaffetz maintained that people could pay for their health care if they didn’t buy a new iPhone. First, the cost of an iPhone won’t pay for health care. But then came the discovery that Chaffetz’s $738 iPhone—and its services—came from campaign funds. This would be illegal if he used it for person business, but he hasn’t answered any questions about whether he does. Then came his attack on Rosie O’Donnell after Chaffetz’s Democratic opponent for 2018, Kathryn Allen, raised over $200,000 in just two days.

Another part of Chaffetz’s history is his failure to become a Secret Service agent. He claimed that he was rejected because he was too old, but then-Assistant Director Edward Lowery sent an email saying about his application, “Some information that he might find embarrassing needs to get out. Just to be fair.”

The kitchen apparently got too hot for Chaffetz at an April town hall meeting in his home Utah district. The people who attended scolded him for not investigating administration corruption, including DDT’s appointment of Michael Flynn for national security adviser. Chaffetz whined about how his constituents in his deep red district were there only to “bully and intimidate” him and called them “paid protesters.” Then he said he wouldn’t run for re-election in 2018 and might even leave Congress before then. Chaffetz claimed that he wanted to return to the private sector and be with his family. “I started poking around to see what I might be worth and what sort of possibilities are there,” he said in an interview. And then he avoided Congress and his constituents by a month-long leave after foot surgery. Distancing himself from DDT at this time could let him run for governor or even president in 2020.

The House was so desperate for votes on their cruel “repeal and replace” health care bill that Chaffetz showed up on an expensive metallic scooter to cast his vote denying tens of millions of people the same health insurance that he will keep. His district is in the top ten of districts with the most people relying on the Affordable Care Act. Clark’s photograph perfectly presents the GOP cruelty of a “repeal and replace” vote for ACA in the House with the slick, gleeful Chaffetz framed against marble walls and elaborate chandeliers.

With Clinton in the White House, Chaffetz could have stayed gleeful while the Fox network filmed him constantly leading highly visible investigations about Clinton’s conflicts of interests and abuses of power. Like many other Republicans, Chaffetz hasn’t figured out how to work in a government controlled by the GOP. They are accustomed to dealing with opposition in a world where they preen in front of the cameras as victims; they don’t know what to do when the opposition comes from within. Even worse for the Republicans is that the corruption comes their own party—and much of it from their own president.

Stephanie Mencimer writes: “Jason Chaffetz is so ambitious that his last name is a verb.” She explains that “to Chaffetz” means to throw a former mentor under the bus to move ahead, something that people such as presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr. and House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy. Other Republicans carry Chaffetzing farther. DDT claimed that Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, and Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, had come to DDT asking for Comey’s firing, but people familiar with the occurrence said that DDT summoned the two of them to the White House after he decided to fire Comey. They followed his orders, and DDT tried to put the blame on them when the scheme backfired.

According to over 30 White House officials, however, DDT had become increasingly furious about Comey’s appearing in public, especially to talk about Russian involvement in U.S. politics, especially during the past week. The Washington Post has provided extensive information about events leading up to the firing and such questions as why Sessions was involved in the firing when he recused himself from anything dealing with Clinton’s emails, the ostensible reason for the firing, and Russia, the probably reason behind the firing.

The firing and the GOP support behind him reflects how Chaffetz views his job—that he has sworn allegiance to the Republican party over any loyalty to his country. The question is how long the Republicans will continue to support DDT over their country’s best interests. In an analysis of senators’ responses, only 12 of them actively defended DDT for the firing while another fifteen said that DDT’s actions raised concerns about a lack of information or the timing of the firing. Another 21 senators were vague, likely waiting to see which way they should jump after the dust settles. This is the congressional body responsible for confirming the replacement for Comey. Much to DDT’s amazement, the Democrats were overwhelming angry about the firing because of its apparent intent to stop the investigation into his relationship with Russia.

DDT’s possible business dealings with Russia may be the major issue that emerged from Monday’s Senate hearing and Comey’s firing. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) asked former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper if he had any “concern” about a DDT business interest in Russia. Clapper’s ultimate answer upon being pressed is that he could not comment on that question “because that impact an investigation.” That was an open hearing; the Judiciary Committee may pursue the question in closed meetings.  Thus far, there is a murky background to DDT’s Russia business interests that he has denied.

Basically, Chaffetz well represents the Republican leadership—cruel, self-centered, hypocritical, cowardly, dishonest, ignorant, and loyal only to those who can give him something. We’ll watch him to see where he pops up next.

May 5, 2017

DDT: Week Fifteen – Disasters Continue

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) now has his name on Trumpcare—although the bill is far from passing—but he told Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during a press conference that health care in Australia is better. For once, DDT is right: Australia’s universal health care system gives citizens free access to doctors and public hospitals paid for by the government, and it costs nine percent of the GDP compared to the 17 percent cost in the United States.

At least one GOP representative is in trouble with his local press about his yes vote for Trumpcare. A headline in the Buffalo News read, “Chris Collins admits he didn’t read health care bill.” Collins told CNN that he didn’t read the entire bill  and then the Buffalo News that he didn’t know that the bill took $3 billion from his state. Rep. Mark Sanford (R-NC) didn’t read it either, but he said he “turned through every page.” In 2010, he GOP signed “Pledge to America” that they will read bills and publish the text online at least three days before a vote so that “bills are debated and discussed in the public square.” With Trumpcare no reading, no posting, no three days.

More Disastrous Healthcare Information: Like a bad oil leak, the news from the bill keeps oozing out. Rape, domestic violence, sexual assault, Cesarean sections, and post-partum depression can all be classed as pre-existing conditions. Victims will have the choice of reporting any attacks against them or keeping their insurance. Medicaid, slowly eradicated by Trumpcare, covers half the babies born in the nation and 60 percent of people in nursing homes.

The lies keep coming. “We’re not taking a benefit away. Nobody on Medicaid is going to be taken away.” Falsehood by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). “Premiums will be coming down.” Falsehood repeated three times in two sentences by DDT. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/tweet-day-can-we-even-call-it-lying-anymore Kevin Drum wrote about DDT and GOP politicians saying whatever they want with no pretense of hinting at facts or searching for data. Trumpcare won’t benefit the rich, and Trumpcare won’t do away with protecting pre-existing conditions, and the lies keep rolling. Politicians’ lies are killing people to protect their ideologies.

The protests against Trumpcare started immediately, several of them in DDT’s home town of New York City where he returned for the first time since he was inaugurated. And where DDT blew off a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull who had flown 10,000 miles to meet with him. 

DDT’s New Vacation Spot: Unwelcome in New York and too hot in Florida this time of the year, DDT moved on to his estate in Bedminster (NJ) where he claims he’ll save the country money. His trip this weekend costs $840,000—enough to cover Medicaid for 4,000 people–in addition to the over $25 million that’s he’s spent at Mar-a-Lago. This website is keeping track of DDT’s vacation expenditures.

Easy Peace in Middle East: DDT declaimed that the Israel government and the Palestinian Authority “get along unbelievably well… They work together beautifully.” While DDT hosted Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas at the White House, DDT said there could be “no lasting peace” unless all Palestinian leaders spoke out against hate. Evidently Israelis can keep on expressing hatred. Last week, DDT said, “There is no reason there’s not peace between Israel and the Palestinians—none whatsoever…. It’s something, frankly, maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years.” Maybe like other things that he ended up finding “complicated.

No Comfort for Poor: On his photo-op “listening tour,” DDT’s HUD Secretary Ben Carson said that public housing is too good for poor people. He thinks that it should not provide a “comfortable setting” which makes people want to “stay here.”

No DDT Celebration for Latinos: Today is Cinco de Mayo and the first time in 16 years that the White House has not celebrated the day. Instead, a reception has been relegated to a building next door and hosted by VP Mike Pence.  

Swamp Spreading: http://www.politico.com/story/2017/05/03/trump-lobbying-ban-transition-237850  DDT ‘s bragged that he has a five-year rule that people leaving the government can’t sign up as lobbyists seems to be failing. Nine people leaving his transition team have signed up as well as two people who left his administration, one who he fired.

DDT Departures:  “You’re fired.” DDT’s latest  Apprentice moment was directed at Sebastian Gorka because he can’t pass the security clearance. He’s gone, but not forgotten, because the man with ties to neo-Nazis and former editor of ultra-conservative Breitbart.com says that he’ll stay  with DDT’s administration with the other “alpha males.” He’s the third DDT employer to leave the National Security Council. Former DDT nominee and bigot Mark Green has also taken his name out of contention for Army Secretary, whining about “false and misleading attacks.”

Tax Reform: Press Secretary Sean Spicer said last week that 401ks aren’t “intact” with the new DDT plan until DDT “clarified” what he said. But who know what’s true if DDT says something.

Win for Poor People: Five Supreme Court justices ruled that the Fair Housing Act allows the city of Miami to sue two banks, Bank of America and Wells Fargo, for riskier and more costly mortgages to minorities than white borrowers.

Protection for Immigration: New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner has called on ICE to stop arresting undocumented immigrants at the state courthouses because it undermines the justice system. He wants to add these places to a list of “sensitive locations”—including hospitals, schools, and houses of worships—where ICE supposedly cannot arrest people. Gov. Chris Christie is not happy with Rabner.

The Extinction of Diplomacy: DDT will cut 2,300 U.S. diplomats and civil servants—nine percent of the workforce. Secretary Rex Tillerson doesn’t want to make eye contact with anyone—and now there won’t be anyone there.

State Department Called Out on Ethics Violations: First the State Department advertised Mar-a-Lago and, having been forced to take its commercial down, now  promotes Ivanka Trump’s new book. Like the Mar-a-Lago ad, it was taken down after a talk about ethics violations. Lack of appointments has left the department without people who understand the constitution and the law.

Vetting Not a DDT Strength: DDT has hired Steven Munoz as assistant chief of visits, an important State Department position. The 28-year-old has a staff of ten and is responsible for organizing visits of foreign heads of state to the U.S. and arranging meetings with the president. When Munoz was a Citadel military college students several years ago, he was accused of multiple sexual assaults by several male classmates. A school investigation found that “certain assaults likely occurred,” but a local prosecutor refused to seek an indictment. The year after Munoz graduated in 2011, he was also under investigation when he worked for Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign and banned from the Citadel campus. Munoz may now attend public events at the school but has only limited interaction with students. After employment with a political consulting firm hired by DDT, Munoz worked for DDT’s inaugural committee and then moved to the State Department on January 25. Except for Munoz’ lawyer, no one—not the White House, State Department, Citadel, etc.—is making any comment. In President Obama’s administration, even a drunk driving case or registering as a lobbyist kept people from employment consideration. DDT is not commenting about its vetting process. [Photo from OccupyDemocrats]    also

Vetting Michael Flynn: DDT tried to blame President Obama for not vetting his fired National Security Advisor, but insiders said that DDT did vet Flynn—“very casually.” DDT also knew about Flynn’s nefarious connection with Turkey and hired him anyway. Rachel Maddow discussed how everyone—including DDT, Mike Pence, Jeff Sessions, and Sean Spicer—lied about Flynn’s criminal activities. Sally Yates may provide more information about the issue when she testifies before a Senate panel next week.

DDT Ad Campaign Pulled: Just 185 weeks before the next presidential election, DDT released his first TV ad and was forced to withdraw it for violations of military policy. The original video includes DDT shaking the hand of National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, in uniform, at Mar-a-Lago. DDT had planned to spend $1.5 million to air the ad. Once it was revised, CNN still refused to air it because of its graphic branding CNN, among other mainstream media organizations, as “fake news.”

So Sad: Emails recently obtained through the Freedom of Information show DDT’s involvement in searching for a tweet showing that his inauguration crowd was one-third the size as the audience for President Obama. Soon after the inauguration, National Park Service director, Michael T. Reynolds, was pressured to give DDT photos supporting his false claim that up to 1.5 million attended the event.

Budget Deal: The best news from last week may have been the bill that Congress sent to DDT to keep the government running until September 30. No wall. No new money for immigration deportation. No cuts to Planned Parenthood or “sanctuary cities.” Another $30 billion to non-defense programs over sequester level. None of DDT’s $18 billion non-defense cuts. A $2 billion funding increase for the National Institutes of Health. A $17 million increase in energy efficiency. Protection of 99 percent of the EPA budget with increase in clean energy and science funding plus no staff cuts. Health benefits for retired miners that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) with miner constituents has fought for years. A $2 billion in disaster funding for California, West Virginia, Louisiana, and North Carolina because of flooding. Increased funding for transit infrastructure. Wildfire funding for Western states of $407 million. Funding the Northeast Amtrak rail corridor, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Head Start, and an early education program for disadvantaged kids. A $295 million bailout to cover a Medicaid funding shortfall in Puerto Rico. Healthcare subsidies continue. Withdrawal of almost 180 “poison pill” riders. The “great negotiator” lost everything except $12.5 billion in military with an extra $2.5 billion if he ever figures out a strategy for defeating ISIS.

More tomorrow!

 

May 4, 2017

Make America Suffer Again

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

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

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

Trumpcare winners:

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

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

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

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

At the same time, Mike Pence ridiculed the Democrats:

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

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

Perhaps most prescient is DDT’s 2014 tweet:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 3, 2017

Trumpcare, A ‘Moral Monstrosity’

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

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

Unlike Ryan’s claims, these are the facts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trumpcare would also

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

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

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

April 28, 2017

DDT: Week Fourteen, More Failures

The quarterly GDP report just came out, and the average 0.7 percent increase is bad news for news for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) who bragged that his leadership would move the gross domestic product skyhigh. Instead the GDP for his first quarter is the worst in three years. Why do people vote for Republicans? In a statement of how DDT is struggling, he said, “I thought it would be easier.” This is DDT’s classic statement as he reflects on his first 100 days. “I loved my previous life. I had so many things going.” Many other people wish he were back in his previous life too after his string of failures.

Alienation of South Korea: After picking a fight with North Korea, DDT attacked South Korea by threatening to terminate the U.S. trade agreement with South Korea because the five-year-old accord was “a horrible deal” that has left America “destroyed.” To make things worse, he told South Korea that they should pay the $1 billion for the U.S. missile-defense system, Terminal High-Altitude Air Defense (Thaad), to be installed in South Korea as protection against a North Korean attack.

Flynn’s Failure: When Michael Flynn, National Security Adviser for 24 days, started the chant of “Lock her up” about candidate Clinton last summer, he said that he’d be in prison if he did one-tenth of the things that she had done. Maybe he will be incarcerated. The investigation into Flynn has already shown that he likely took money from Russia without notification to the U.S. after the Pentagon warned him against doing it and that his work for Turkey has a Russian connection. Meanwhile, DDT is trying to cover for Flynn’s illegal activities by refusing to release any information about him. Now the Pentagon has joined the investigation into Flynn, and DDT’s AG Jess Sessions has recused himself from the whole problem. Maybe if FBI James Comey had been more worried about real treason and not Hillary Clinton’s emails?

The Wall: Press Secretary Sean Spicer is trying to cover for DDT’s backing off from his main promise by saying that it was a priority and not a demand, but DDT tweeted that the drug problem will never be solved without a wall. Yet 56 percent responses to a poll agree that DDT hasn’t accomplished much, and 47 percent of the blame goes to DDT. The GOP gets 25 percent blame and Democrats only seven percent. At the same time, the majority of people—a number that is growing—oppose building the wall, and an increasing number want money put into infrastructure instead. Texans oppose the wall as much as Mexico on the possibility of making Mexico so instable that it becomes another Venezuela as well as flooding and sewage in the Rio Grande River.

Tax Increases: DDT may have hoped that his shiny new tax plan would distract from his other problems, but it’s going downhill fast. Presenter and Treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin knows that it gives cuts to the wealthy but can’t guarantee that “no one in the middle class is gonna pay more.” At least DDT will get a big cut with his own plan. A 65-year study by the Congressional Research Office found no correlation between cutting taxes and economic growth.

Latest Executive Order Overturned: Judge William Orrick, of the federal Northern District for California, has blocked DDT’s threat to cut off funds to sanctuary cities if they refuse to cooperate with immigration authorities. A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked an executive order by Donald Trump which threatened to cut off funds to sanctuary cities that refuse to cooperate with immigration authorities. The injunction retains the right to identify sanctuary cities and withhold certain grants but cannot alter the way federal funds are spent because that power lies within the congressional, not the presidential, branch of government. The Justice Department said that the order applies only to the failure in sharing citizenship information as required by law and three federal grants that require compliance as a pre-condition. Orrick said that this defense is worthless because law already permits it, leaving no purpose for the executive order. He also said that DDT’s rhetoric and surrogate statements, including those from the AG, contradicted the interpretation that the Justice Department tried to place on it. Orrick said:

“The President has called it ‘a weapon’ to use against jurisdictions that disagree with his preferred policies of immigration enforcement, and his press secretary has reiterated that the President intends to ensure that ‘counties and other institutions that remain sanctuary cites don’t get federal government funding in compliance with the executive order.'”

Press Secretary Sean Spicer had said that the administration stood behind its threats to eliminate law enforcement funding to those cities. The federal government is now trying to decide on a definition of “sanctuary” jurisdictions.

Massive Donor Errors for Inauguration: Inauguration Donor Fraud?: Follow the rubles. A crowdsourced data project at HuffPost found massive mistakes in DDT’s final campaign report with the was filled with mistakes—missing addresses, vacant lots used for addresses, anonymous or fake names, etc.—showing that even basic checks on accuracy were made.

Failure of Conservative Press Control: Unhappy with the sometimes factual reporting in the mainstream press, DDT has been wooing the far-right outlets and frequently failing. After they didn’t support his healthcare plan, he called them to the White House last Monday to tell them—gently, for him—to shape up. It wasn’t a success: they’re still complaining about the lack of attention that DDT has given them despite his favoritism. They’re also upset that they were told to leave their phones outside the room and not to report on what was said until 30 minutes into the meeting. The result was bad press from conservatives about DDT’s communications team. 

Empty Rooms: Cite Priebus: The Senate has confirmed 26 of DDT’s picks for his Cabinet and other top posts, but he’s nominated only 37 people for 530 other vacant senior-level jobs requiring Senate confirmation.

Disappearance of Zombie Healthcare Bill—Again: Once again, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) couldn’t get the votes for the revised healthcare bill. The ultra-conservatives loved it because it takes insurance from more people, but the more centrist GOP members balked. One embarrassment for the GOP is that the failed bill exempted members of Congress and their staff: they can keep all their benefits. Once this fact came to light, GOP representatives talked about changing their minds about piece of the bill.

No Budget: The House passed a one-week extension on passing the budget to keep the government functioning for another seven days. The reason may be to prevent a shutdown on DDT’s 100th day tomorrow. The GOP House follows the pattern of teenagers who do no school work and then ask for an extension. And the action saves DDT the embarrassment of a government shutdown on his 100th day.

The United States has become so racist—including some law enforcement officials—that Sanya Gragg has published a book on the “talk” with black children: what they should do to stay ALIVE. Momma, Did You Hear The News?, a picture book for small children, gives this directions if they are confronted by the police, even if they’re just innocently walking down the street.

  • A – Always use your manners
  • L – Listen and comply
  • I – In control of your emotions
  • V – Visible hands always
  • E – Explain everything

Something else that white children don’t have to face.

Much more about DDT’s last week, but tomorrow is his 100th day—and lots more for another post.

Meanwhile, cheers for recently retired GOP Judge GOP Judge Doug McCullough, who resigned from the North Carolina Appeals Court a month before his date of mandatory retirement to allow the Democrat governor to replace him. McCullough is disgusted with the legislature’s blatant attempt to strip the new governor of any appointment abilities, going so far as to pass a bill to reduce the court from 15 to 12 so that newly elected Roy Cooper cannot fill any vacancies. An attempt to override Cooper’s veto leaves the governor with a small window of opportunity. Cooper’s new appointment, Judge John Arrowood, is the first openly gay member of the North Carolina court of appeals. McCullough is a man with ethics.

April 26, 2017

Announcement of Tax ‘Reform’ (aka Tax Cuts for Wealthy) to Cover for Flynn, Trumpcare

Almost all the news today has been about the new tax plan from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). The time is probably to divert media coverage from the scandal surrounding DDT’s former National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, and the struggles of the new Trumpcare health plan that he said would pass the House today. At this time, the conservative Freedom Caucus is on board with Trumpcare because it removes healthcare from many people, but the moderates haven’t confirmed that they will vote for it yet. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has enough trouble figuring out how to keep the government open past Friday without passing the budget that has not even been considered.

Retired Army Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell under George W. Bush, said that Flynn is either “one of the dumbest individuals who’s ever lived or … he really had some nefarious purposes.” Even GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), chair of the Oversight Committee, admitted that Flynn might not have complied with the law, but he blamed former President Obama after DDT refuses to reveal any documents about vetting, hiring, and dismissing Flynn for his 24-day tenure with the current White House administration. Flynn became the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2012 but left in 2014, over a year before he took the undisclosed payment from Russia’s state-owned news agency, Russia Today, in December 2015. Chaffetz has said that he won’t be running for re-election in 2018 and that he may resign from Congress before that.

By “nefarious purposes,” Wilkerson wrote that he meant activities ranging from “taking money for influencing your government on behalf of another government, to using your influence with the President and his cabinet on an issue for another government whom you are privately advising, even if pro bono. “The $33,000 that Flynn received for a speaking engagement in December 2015 was not on his application. Chaffetz said.

“I see no evidence or no data to support the notion that Gen. Flynn complied with the law. He was supposed to seek permission and receive permission from both the secretary of state and the secretary of the Army prior to traveling to Russia to not only accept that payment, but to engage in that activity.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), top minority member on the Oversight Committee, said that Flynn’s negligence on his SF86 forms could be punished by up to five years in prison but that decision was not up to the congressional committee. Flynn’s secret conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, is being investigated by the House Intelligence Committee, which Chaffetz said would take the lead on examining whether those contacts themselves were inappropriate. Last month, he asked for immunity in exchange for immunity from prosecution, but neither committee has accepted his offer.

Another high official, DDT’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, has also filed applications with omissions such as dozens of foreign contacts, including those with Kislyak and Russian bank CEO Sergey Gorkov in December. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) tweeted earlier this week:

“Dear Jared Kushner: Lying on the SF-86 security clearance form is a crime. Michael Flynn hired a lawyer. You may also want to hire a lawyer.”

Back to the tax plan. Here it is—all 226 words, including the title:

 

2017 Tax Reform for Economic Growth and American Jobs

The Biggest Individual And Business Tax Cut in American History

Goals for Tax Reform

  • Grow the economy and create millions of jobs
  • Simplify our burdensome tax code
  • Provide tax relief to American families—especially middle-income families
  • Lower the business tax rate from one of the highest in the world to one of the lowest
  • Individual Reform

Tax relief for American families, especially middle-income families:

  • Reducing the 7 tax brackets to 3 tax brackets for 10%, 25% and 35%
  • Doubling the standard deduction
  • Providing tax relief for families with child and dependent care expenses

Simplification:

  • Eliminate targeted tax breaks that mainly benefit the wealthiest taxpayers.
  • Protect the home ownership and charitable gift tax deductions.
  • Repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax.
  • Repeal the death tax.
  • Repeal the 3.8% Obamacare tax that hits small businesses and investment income.

Business Reform:

  • 15% business tax rate
  • Territorial tax system to level the playing field for American companies
  • One-time tax on trillions of dollars held overseas
  • Eliminate tax breaks for special interests

Process:

Throughout the month of May, the Trump administration will hold listening sessions with stakeholders to receive their input and will continue working with the House and Senate to develop the details of a plan that provides massive tax relief, creates jobs, and makes America more competitive — and can pass both chambers.

 

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin claimed that 100 people in his department worked on the tax plan, making it about two words per person. Lily Batchelder, former chief tax counsel of the Senate Finance committee, tweeted that the plan was “immensely costly and regressive.”

Benefitting from DDT’s plan are the popular “pass-through entities,” 94 percent of all companies in the nation by 2011, that distribute profits among owners instead of paying corporate taxes. Owners then have these profits taxed as normal income. This organization is popular not only with small companies but also highly profitable ones such as major law firms, hedge funds, and real estate developers. The Trump Organization is a pass-through that would greatly benefit from DDT’s plan, as would all his friends. At this time, 70 percent of income from these corporations goes to the top one percent of people in the nation. Today, Mnuchin said that the new 15-percent rate would be only for small and medium-sized businesses with no definition of “medium.” A business worth $5 million is considered “small.” The plan would allow high-wage workers into pass-through entities by setting themselves up as S corporations to “sell” their freelance services.

A comparison to DDT’s tax plan is Gov. Sam Brownback’s 2012 tax cuts in Kansas which ended up being a monumental failure. The state’s credit rating has been downgraded and suffers from an ongoing budget crisis, including horrific cuts in such vital areas as education, from a $1.1 billion shortfall. The GOP is now rebelling against the governor, voting to undo the cuts and almost overruling Brownback’s veto. When Kansas completely exempted pass-through profits from state income tax, a large number of people filed for the break, but few new jobs were created. In 2016, Kansas had the fifth worst employment growth in the nation, and its economy has grown at half the national rate. The state’s credit rating has been downgraded and suffers from an ongoing budget crisis, including horrific cuts in such vital areas as education, from a $1.1 billion shortfall. The GOP is now rebelling against the governor, voting to undo the cuts and almost overruling Brownback’s veto.

Research showed that the Kansas plan, now proposed for the United States, merely encourages people to play the system. DDT’s system could take 20 percent from their taxes According to the conservative Tax Foundation, dropping the rate to 15 percent would reduce government revenue by $2 trillion over a decade, or about 5 percent. Allowing pass-throughs to pay the lower rate would add another $1.5 trillion loss of revenue to the country. DDT claims that his plan will increase economic growth. Alan Cole, a staff economist for the Tax Foundation, stated that the country’s annual growth rate could add about 0.12 percent, which, he said, isn’t a good trade for a cost of $1.5 trillion. “This would be Kansas on steroids,” Eric Toder, co-director of the Tax Policy Center, said about DDT’s plan.

Without looking at DDT’s tax returns, we can almost guarantee that he would vastly benefit from his tax plan. He reports owning more than 200 LLCs, and his approximately 500 businesses are almost all pass-throughs. So much for his promises of helping the “little guys.”

April 25, 2017

Zombie Health Care Bill Returns

Filed under: Health Care — trp2011 @ 9:40 PM
Tags: , , , ,

After petulantly demanding his “beautiful wall” for the past week, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) blinked and withdrew his demand last night. That leaves the specter of his health care—if at first you don’t succeed, try try again—and make it worse. That’s the case with DDT’s latest incarnation he wants for at least one legislative notch on his first 100 days.

The deal tries to bring in the ultra-right wing of the House by allowing waivers for states that want to charge higher—far higher—premiums to the 52 million people with pre-existing conditions that can include depression, obesity—even pregnancy. This is a partial list of how much could be added to regular health insurance premiums for different conditions. [Note: These costs aren’t the premiums; they’re the extra!]

  • Breast Cancer: $28,660
  • Pregnancy: $17,060
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis: $26,180
  • Lung cancer: $71,880
  • Diabetes: $5,510
  • Drug dependence: $20,140
  • Asthma: $4,270
  • Metastatic cancer : $142,650

With the new bill, states could also exempt the Essential Health Benefits from insurance if they could show that it would lower premiums, increase the number of people insured, or “advance another benefit to the public interest in the state.” Essential Health Benefits: care outside the hospital, emergency services, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, mental health and substance use disorder services, prescription drugs, rehab services, lab services, preventive care and chronic disease management, and pediatric services. These covers almost all health care needs, meaning that insurers can disallow all health care in health insurance or make it so expensive that people would choose to go without the insurance.

Another waiver available to the states under the proposed law would loosen restrictions on higher premium charges for older people over those for younger people. In addition, the bill would provide high-risk pools for people who couldn’t afford insurance, but these have been proved failures, underfunded by government with poor coverage and high costs.

DDT has promised everyone that “Obamacare” is a disaster, and he has plans to make sure that he’s right. Instead of leaving it alone, he is working on regulations that help the insurance companies and hurt the consumers.

  • The sign-up period is cut in half, from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15, 2017 instead of lasting until Jan. 31, 2018.
  • Insurance companies can refuse to sell policies to consumers who fail to make all their premium payments this year instead of a 90-day grace period before losing their insurance.
  • People who need to obtain coverage after the open enrollment must provide documentation that they have had such life changes as marriage, having a child, or moving.
  • The IRS stopped its plans rejecting tax returns if people did not say whether they had coverage.
  • Advertising for the Affordable Care Act, available until January 31, 2017, was pulled immediately after DDT’s inauguration: although enrollment was ahead of the previous year through mid-January, the final 2017 enrollment was down four percent.
  • Coverage may be less comprehensive with less coverage, lowering the value of tax credit subsidies for premiums.
  • Tax subsidies may be reduced so that premiums won’t be affordable for low- and middle-income people.

DDT has also threatened to cut off cost-sharing reductions paid to insurers covering the poorest enrollees. In addition to great instability, DDT’s “plan” will cause premium costs to skyrocket in addition to increased costs for taxpayers.

And DDT can do worse:

  • Broaden or narrow the definitions of some of the 10 broad benefit categories  which de facto eliminates them.
  • Depress enrollment by drastically expanding the definition of “hardship” which exempts people from the individual mandate.
  • Drop the former administration’s legal defense of an ACA rule mandating contraception coverage.
  • Impose work requirements on low-income people on Medicaid expansion.
  • Carry through with the promised 17.9 percent cut in the HHS budget.
  • Let the software and personnel architecture crumble.
  • Allow disastrous waivers to states for “experiments.”

An example of the last problem could happen in Kentucky. The state developed an exemplary health care system, but it lost many of its gains with a GOP governor, Matt Bevin, who wants to administer vision and dental Medicaid through punishment. Desperate to gain back the bad publicity he received with his threat to take health care from 18 percent of his residents, he set up “MyRewards Accounts” in which poor people will be required to meet a list of prorated behavioral requirements for their health care. People on Medicaid will lose their vision and dental care with paying premiums and a $1,000 deductible. Bevin says that they can earn back these costs with such good behavior as job training, health screening, smoking cessation, volunteering, and educational programs.

Linking accounts to work comes from a misconception about people who need Medicaid that Bevin and millions of others hold. In Kentucky, only 15 percent of people on Medicaid are abled adults—in fact, almost 50 percent are children—and most of these adults are already working, looking for work, or in school. Of the others, three-fourths are caretakers for a family member. That’s a small number of people for a massive expensive and invasive database which will be privatized.

Bevin’s plan would give negative “MyRewards” chits, actually fines, for going to the emergency room too often. For example, the first visit would cost $20 and would go up to $75 by the third visit. The ER can be the only health care for a person who cannot find a provider who accepts Medicaid. The plan also fails to understand the loop of how less-covered people are sicker and sicker people are less able to work.

The cockamamie idea comes from Medicaid restrictions by Vice President Mike Pence when he was governor of Indiana. Pence got his idea from Seema Verma, the current administrator of Medicare and Medicaid Services. Although some employers use wellness incentive programs, they are positive and not punitive like Pence’s and Verma’s plan that keeps people from any health care if they don’t accomplish the goals.

Insurers must set their premiums in the market exchanges for 2018 by June 21, 2017. Dana Milbank wrote:

“’The evidence is strong that the ACA is not dying of natural causes, but with the president’s recent comments it’s clear that it could die of suspicious causes,’ says Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan outfit that studies health care. In the current environment, insurers ‘are just not going to stick around and take big risks,’ Levitt tells me. ‘They’ll just take their marbles and invest elsewhere. It would be a very rational decision.’”

Before DDT put his little hands on the health care system, it was healthy. The credit-rating agency Standard & Poor found “marked improvement” in the individual market for most Blue Cross Blue Shield insurers that were forecast to be “close to break-even margins” in 2017. Disruptive actions, however, block the market’s stability and cause insurers to either raise their prices or just leave it.

DDT may be playing a dangerous game. A Kaiser poll revealed that 61 percent would blame DDT and the GOP for any upcoming problems with the Affordable Care Act, compared with 31 percent who would blame President Obama and the Democrats. DDT’s new regulations make it “Trumpcare.”

The end result of DDT’s new regulations is like a teacher telling students that they will fail a class and then changing their answers to make sure it happens. And a majority of people in the U.S. disagree with destroying “Obamacare”: 61 percent want “Obamacare” kept and fixed, and a larger number—79 percent–want DDT to make the current law work and not fail. In addition, 62 percent want nationwide minimum insurance coverage standards, and 70 percent want mandatory protection for pre-existing conditions. These figures show a marked increase after the GOP’s pitch for “Trumpcare” since DDT’s inauguration.

The conservative Freedom Caucus may be on board with DDT’s new plan. Tomorrow we may find out what the other Republicans in the House think of taking health care away from their constituents.

March 25, 2017

Health Care Won—At Least for Now

Eighteen days ago, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) talked to reporters about the newly introduced health plan written behind closed doors, probably by aides:

 “We will have 218 votes. This is the beginning of the legislative process. We’ll have 218 when this thing comes to the floor. I can guarantee you that.”

Yesterday, just seven years and one day after the Affordable Care Act was passed, the GOP plan, distorted during the past few days by providing even fewer services than the original, died. House Republicans had entered over 50 bills to kill the ACA, many of them passing after the GOP gained a majority in the chamber, but Ryan was positive that the GOP takeover of both Congress and the executive branch would guarantee his success. Yet the Party of No is helpless in the face of Yes. Their work involved no stakeholders, and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) followed his usual pattern of bullying threats instead of actually selling the bill.

Massive loud protests against the repeal of the health plan, steadily growing in popularity, pushed more moderate representatives to vote against the bill for fear of retaliation in their own district from people who would lose coverage. The Koch brothers’ promised to defend anyone voting no when they ran for re-election after DDT said that no voters would lose the next election. By the end of the debacle, only 17 percent of voters supported Ryan’s plan.

DDT blinked and lost the game of chicken. He canceled the vote rather than suffer the embarrassment of losing, but it’s obvious that he lost. With no experience or clout to lead his party, DDT lobbied 120 congressional members, “left everything on the field” in negotiations, and lost. In his ghost-written book The Art of the Deal, DDT claimed, “You have to be very rough and very tough with most contractors or they’ll take the shirt right off you’re back.” He repeats that the negotiator needs “to be willing to walk away or, more precisely, convince the people you’re negotiating with that you are.” DDT didn’t realize that legislators aren’t contractors. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) did a training session for the House Freedom Caucus on DDT’s book, complete with poster.

During his campaign, DDT managed to con voters into believing that he knows “the art of the deal,” that he can be the closer. Ezra Klein explains why DDT as president is a loser:

“Trump is not a guy who makes particularly good deals so much as a guy who makes a lot of deals — many of which lash his name and reputation to garbage products…. He licenses his brand and lets others worry about the details of the products. Trump’s partners often end up going out of business and his customers often end up disappointed, but Trump makes some money, and he gets his name out there, and it’s all good.”

DDT wasn’t alone in the Trumpcare con; he had company from Ryan, who Paul Krugman called “The Flimflam Man.” Ryan lied when he said that Trumpcare would lower premiums, end the “death spiral,” and increase choice. Premiums would have skyrocketed unless people chose junk insurance plans with no coverage, and the extra 24 million people without insurance, along with people who couldn’t afford full coverage, would cause a death spiral. Ryan proposed a tax plan for the rich under the name of health care and failed.

The bill began with a high “age tax”—raising premiums and expenses for older, working adults—and added the “mommy tax” that greatly added expenditures for maternity coverage while diminishing its availability. Asked about people living in a state that doesn’t require maternity coverage in insurance, OMB Director Mick Mulvaney said, “Then you can figure out a way to change the state that you live in.” He clarified his statement by saying he didn’t mean move out of the state but to change the law. Republicans also ridiculed other insurance benefits for over half the nation’s population. For example, Alice Ollstein tweeted about her Kansas senator:

“I asked Sen. Roberts if he supports scrapping Essential Health Benefits. “I wouldn’t want to lose my mammograms,” he snarked.”

Ollstein survived breast cancer discovered during a mammogram for preventative care. These are the people–no estrogen and largely white–who met to decide what services should be cut for women.

[A bit of humor….]

Trumpcare was so bad that Ryan’s only solution in getting it passed was speed. The cruel additions to woo ultra-conservatives by eliminating Essential Health Benefits was added only the day before Ryan hoped to call a vote. Among the items as unnecessary health care are maternity and newborn care, emergency room services, hospitalization, prescription drugs, mental illness care, laboratory services and pediatric services.

DDT’s “skill” is to always blame someone else. Finger-pointing shifted so fast that digits blurred. DDT with DDT’s his chief of staff Reince Priebus and Ryan, accusing them of faulty content and bad timing. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price also got blamed because he was put in the job to pass Trumpcare—although DDT assigned that job to Mulvaney. DDT claimed he wanted to start with tax reform that would have been “far less controversial.” (We’ll see!) Ryan was a popular scapegoat on the Fox network. The Wall Street Journal blamed the House Freedom Caucus for their “insisting on the impossible over the achievable,” and DDT took after this group too, telling them that he would tell their constituents that they were voting in favor of Planned Parenthood.

Despite 34 no votes from Republican representatives, DDT ultimately settled on the Democrats publicly when he whined that not one of them voted for Trumpcare, despite his failure to ask them for support. DDT and the GOP will continue to exaggerate any problems of the ACA, and the media will most likely focus on problems rather than the successes because a train-wreck films better than a satisfied person.  The GOP may also try to sabotage efforts to improve the ACA.

DDT is failing in office for the same reason that he succeeded in his campaign—weak party leadership. In a little over a day, he took a bill that no one likes and made it worse while alienating more members of his own party. In addition, he may have broken the law in his last-ditch try to save it. Tweets asking DDT supporters to call their representatives to save Trumpcare were sent by White House social media director Dan Scavino Jr, the official @POTUS account, and DDT’s personal account. The use of federal dollars, including paid White House Staff, in directly lobbying Congress to support or oppose a bill is against federal law. Press Secretary Sean Spicer used the Nixonian approach toward law by saying that the law is “not applicable to the president.” Scott Amey, general counsel at the Project on Government Oversight, disagrees because of the direct appeal to contact representatives in support of Trumpcare.

Hillary Clinton had a grand time tweeting the victories of people who need and like the “Obamacare” that DDT has daily excoriated in his daily message. Watching her is a reminder of how close the United State was to having a president who could “keep America great.”

DDT, Ryan, and the far-right Republicans aren’t the only losers with the downfall of Trumpcare. The wealthy won’t get their billions in tax cuts, and Wall Street won’t get the wealthy’s extra money. Insurance companies are also the losers, outside keeping funding for Medicaid. Big corporations would rejoice over getting rid of consumer protection rules that would have allowed them to vastly increase sales, marketing, and IRS deductions while selling junk insurance that wouldn’t have those “essential benefits”—like hospitalization.

One winner is DDT because Trumpcare would have lost over 1.2 million jobs—some people say as many as two million—that would have hurt his desire to be seen as the “jobs president.” GOP senators are winners because they don’t have to cast any votes on health care, at least in the immediate future. And constituents of Rep. Greg Walden, leader of the committee trying to destroy health care, are winners. In his rural district comprising two-thirds of Oregon, Trumpcare would have taken health insurance from 64,300 of his 684,200 constituents, almost ten percent of the people he represents. The remaining residents would have had far less access to the rural hospitals that need ACA money to stay open.

The next step is for Democrats to fight DDT’s “tax reform” shifting millions to himself and his wealthy friends. Meanwhile Democrats can introduce bills for improving ACA. The GOP won’t vote for them, but people will see that it can be fixed—and maybe vote blue in the next election.

March 24, 2017

DDT: Week Nine – Big Failure

Filed under: Donald Trump — trp2011 @ 7:46 PM
Tags: , , , , , , ,

When Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) signed S. 442 with $19.5 billion, the NASA Transition Authorization Act, I thought, “Finally! He did something positive!” Ha! Nope. With a $200 million increase (one percent), the bill is the first time the mission does not include earth science, including climate research, diverging from six GOP administrations and five Democratic ones. DDT’s budget from last week cuts out several NASA initiatives, including the Office of Education, and terminates the Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem (PACE), Orbital Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3), Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR), and CLARREO Pathfinder missions. Through monitoring and predicting weather, climates, and ecosystems, these four satellites help save lives and prepare the nation for long-term changes.

DDT did have a sort-of win this week when Anthony Trenga, a George W. Bush-appointed judge, ruled in favor of DDT’s Muslim ban, but the injunctions against it hold because the 4th Circuit Court will not hear DDT’s appeal until May. http://www.dailykos.com/stories/2017/3/17/1644630/-Nine-states-and-D-C-intervene-in-lawsuit-challenging-Obama-s-enhanced-fuel-efficiency-standards  DDT faces more litigation from his announcement of changes in fuel economy standards. In defense of the existing standards, nine states and the District of Columbia are suing the administration to preserve the requirement for auto manufacturers to achieve 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, saving both the environment and costs to car owners.

All things considered, DDT had a horrible week.

The biggest failure for both DDT and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) was Trumpcare’s failure, after Ryan postponed the bill on Thursday and completely pulled the bill today because it was short on votes. Ryan thought he could push it through in three weeks, passing it almost exactly one year after the Affordable Care Act passed Congress. DDT thought he could get the votes by threatening House Republicans with losing the 2018 election if they didn’t vote for it. He had already lied about convincing people to vote for the bill, and his threat picked up ten more “no” votes from representatives who wanted to completely destroy the Affordable Care Act.

Ryan decided that he could win over the scorched-earth naysayers by taking away ten Essential Health Benefits mandated for insurance coverage: outpatient care, ER visits, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, mental health and addiction treatment, prescription drugs, rehabilitative services, lab services, preventive care, and pediatric services. Far beyond “health care light,” the bill ended up being “health care no.” That change lost less far-right voters, and it failed even after DDT sent white supremacist Steve Bannon and congenital liar Kellyanne Conway to Capitol Hill on a mission of gathering votes and passing along DDT’s threat that he would drop support for health reform if they didn’t vote on Friday.

Another huge failure for DDT came Monday when FBI Director James Comey announced that President Obama didn’t wiretap DDT’s phones in Trump Tower, as DDT claimed, but that intelligence is continuing its investigation into the possible collusion between his campaign and Russia. DDT’s source for his false contention that Britain helped the former president in wiretapping, frequent Fox guest Andrew Napolitano, has disappeared, at least temporarily, from the network, and DDT looked like a fool during his press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel when he talked about it. Fox eventually said that the network “cannot confirm Judge Napolitano’s commentary.”

In an attempt to spare DDT more embarrassment, the Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), past member of DDT’s transition team and chair of the committee investigating DDT and Russia, has called off hearings to block testimonies from former DNI director James Clapper, former CIA Director John Brennan, and former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates. Nunes also backed down from his assertion that U.S. intelligence was “monitoring” DDT and his aides.

On Wednesday, the third day of hearings for DDT’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, the normally split Supreme Court overturned one of Gorsuch’s decisions in which he ruled that schools were not required to provide education for disabled students.

And DDT had other failures.

DDT, who said he would pick the “very best people,” selected Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State. During his recent Asian trip, Tillerson told the only reporter on board that he didn’t want the job but took it because “my wife told me I’m supposed to do this.” Not everyone agrees. Tillerson has dodged the press, refused to answer question, failed to defend his department from a one-third budget cut, threatened to attack North Korea without further diplomacy, bailed on some responsibilities in Asia because of “fatigue,” and then planned to visit Russia instead of attending a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels. About rejecting the press, Tillerson said, “I’m not a big media press access person. I personally don’t need it.” He also failed to hold a press conference for the release of the annual human rights report. It was the first time in the report’s 40-year history that this has happened. His inaction has also led to several vacant leadership positions in the State Department. And that was just the last week.

To Tillerson, diplomacy doesn’t work so the nation is vastly increasing its military budget. According to Tillerson’s version of diplomacy while ExxonMobil CEO,  he kept quiet and let governments manage their own domestic politics. This narrow definition of “diplomacy” strikes bargains on the basis of private interests. Missing are interviews, press conferences, social media, and speeches to simultaneously address and shape public and legislative opinion simultaneously in multiple countries. Without credibility from Tillerson and DDT, past allies won’t be supporting the U.S. in its hawkish moves.

DDT’s honeymoon with Wall Street may be over, gone from starry eyes to bloodshot realism. Tuesday was the biggest Dow Jones drop of seven consecutive days of decreases. On the same day, the nine biggest Wall Street firms lost $81.6 billion in value, and the wider banking industry fell about 4 percent—again the worst single day for banks since the Brexit vote in June. Last week, the Dow dropped 1.5 percent, the largest since last September. An uncertain future for Ryan’s health care plan has made Wall Street wonder if tax reform will follow the same pattern. Without the giant tax cuts for the wealthy, vast sums of money won’t be funneled back to the rich (aka investors). Tax cuts are bad for the economy but good for the bloated financial markets. With today’s 60-point drop in the Dow, Goldman Sachs stock was the worst of the 21 losing blue chips, down 1.5 percent.

DDT’s interview with the conservative Time came out with this striking cover (right). Some of his unbalanced (insane?) comments:

Evidence for President Obama’s wiretapping conspiracy: “I have articles saying it happened.”

Credibility in him: “The country believes me. Hey. I went to Kentucky two nights ago, we had 25,000 people in a massive basketball arena. There wasn’t a seat, they had to send away people.”

Belief in conspiracy theory that linked Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) father Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald: “That was in a newspaper [that] had a picture of Ted Cruz, his father, and Lee Harvey Oswald, having breakfast.”

Insistence on forming a committee to find the three million “illegal” voters costing him the popular vote victory against Hillary Clinton: “If you take a look at the votes, when I say that, I mean mostly they register wrong, in other words, for the votes, they register incorrectly, and/or illegally.”

A Gallup poll released Monday morning showed that DDT continues to break records across all age groups with his historic unpopularity. The Huffington Post reports that his job approval has fallen to an abysmal 37 percent, “lower than any other president at this point in his first term since Gallup started tracking the numbers 72 years ago in 1945.”  Among millennials, DDT’s approval rating is 22 percent.

 

How empty is the man inaugurated last January 20? The White House posted this “official” photo of the Oval Office in the White House 1600 Daily.

March 14, 2017

Trumpcare: The GOP Killer Plan

The Congressional Budget Office has come out with the numbers for Trumpcare (excuse me, The American Health Care Act), and here’s the good news. The deficit could be lowered by $33.7 billion a year. Of course, that accomplishment come from moving costs to the state as well as taking people off Medicaid and government subsidies. For example, Oregon will have to pay 35 percent of health costs instead of the 95 percent that the federal government now covers.

The bad news for Trumpcare by the numbers:

  • 54 million individuals uninsured in ten years, double projections for ACA, according to a leaked White House analysis.
  • 24 million fewer people with coverage by next year.
  • 14 million more uninsured people in one year.
  • 14 million fewer people with Medicaid coverage in 10 years.
  • 7 million fewer people with employer-sponsored coverage in 10 years.
  • 2 million fewer people not buying health insurance each year.
  • 15-20 percent higher premiums in the first year than with ACA.
  • $880 billion cut from Medicaid over 10 years.
  • 15 percent of low income people without services to help women avert pregnancy because of defunding Planned Parenthood that results in thousands of more births. (Savings of $178 million for no care for these women would be offset by increase in Medicaid that pays for 45 percent of all U.S. births.)

Older Americans pay “substantially” more. At the same time, Trumpcare also takes away from the Medicare fund, causing it to become insolvent three or four years earlier than formerly projected unless positive action is taken.

Health insurance companies are encouraged to pay CEOs more because Trumpcare removes the ACA limit on corporate tax deductions for compensation. Under ACA, health insurance companies could deduct only $500,000 of the pay for each top executive making deductions for the companies only 27 percent instead of 96 percent. This limitation has been enough to buy dental insurance under the ACA for 262,000 people or pay the silver plan deductibles for 28,000. The 10 biggest insurance companies paid their top 57 executives a total of $300 in 2013. The provision to give them back the 96 percent was buried in six lines on p. 67, and even Tom Price, Secretary of Health and Human Services, seemed unaware of it until reporters inquired.

Republicans, claiming to be the part of smaller government, also have a provision in Trumpcare that employees without genetic testing as part of their workplace wellness programs can face large penalties in premiums. Existing federal laws don’t have this power because genetic privacy is protected. For example, the Kaiser Family Foundation could charge an additional $5,443 in annual premiums employer-sponsored family health coverage.

An oddity in Trumpcare is its obsession with lottery players, mentioned 11 times, the same number as Medicaid. Six of the 67 pages in the replacement plan focus on lottery winnings. Anyone getting at least $80,000 from the lottery or lotto would be kicked off Medicaid. To give you an idea of the savings, Michigan’s plan, withholding part of lotto winnings over $1,000 and not $80,000—saved $2 million.

Republicans have spent lots of time and energy criticizing the mandate that everyone purchase insurance. Trumpcare’s new system allows insurance companies to charge a 30-percent penalty after a break in purchasing coverage. It’s still a penalty: the only difference is that the money goes to insurance companies and not to the government. It also threatens destabilization of the individual insurance market.

Geographically, Trumpcare is disastrous for DDT supporters. The plan’s elimination of 0.9 percent for additional Medicare tax on wages and 3.8 percent surtax on investment income are only people in the top income stratum. John McCormick’s independent analysis of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) plan for Bloomberg states:

“Counties that backed him would get less than a third of the relief that would go to counties where Hillary Clinton won. The two individual tax cuts contained in the Republican plan to replace Obamacare apply only to high-earning workers and investors, roughly those with incomes of at least $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for married couples. Taxpayers in counties that backed Trump would see an annual windfall of about $6.6 billion, (an) analysis of Internal Revenue Service data shows. In counties that backed Clinton, it’d be about $21.9 billion.”

The refund of this tax to the wealthy is what keeps the deficit reduction only $33.7 million when the massive cuts to benefits, including Medicaid, should come to much more. Getting rid of ACA’s taxes and annual fees would reduce revenues to the federal government by $592 billion over ten years. Just one person in the top 0.01 percent, for example, will get an extra $197,000 if the bill passes, and people in the top one percent will each get $33,000.

How Trumpers—and people at the same income level—will suffer from Trumpcare: A 64-year-old person with an annual income of $26,500 pays $1,700 a year in annual insurance premiums. Trumpcare will change that annual premium to $14,600 for equivalent insurance. The math makes it an increase of $12,900.

Ryan has made two strategic problems. He tried to push the bill through the House in three weeks; the ACA took over 16 months to pass after four months of groundwork. He also failed to involve any stakeholders. To pass ACA, Democrats developed support by convening health-care groups, largely the same groups that now strongly oppose Trumpcare. In retaliation, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is trying to minimize opposition from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) as just another flawed interest group. Their 37 million members comprise over one-third of the U.S. population over 50 years of age and are likely to be DDT voters. Bush’s 2005 struggle to privatize Social Security failed after AARP’s opposition.

http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/why-the-white-house-isnt-sharing-health-care-numbers-its-own?cid=eml_mra_20170314   The White House has its own analysis of Trumpcare. A leaked report from Office of Management and Budget (OMB) shows numbers are even grimmer than those from CBO with 26 million people losing coverage within the next decade instead of CBO’s 24 million. Although the White House called that report wrong, it hasn’t released anything in its place. GOP-confirmed OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, in charge of the health care legislation instead of the Secretary of Health, called the CBO estimates “just absurd” and said that “I don’t believe facts are correct.” DDT may have moved Price because Mulvaney, a founding member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus and former South Carolina U.S. representative, is more conservative than either Ryan or Price.

Congress may also take both health insurance and pensions from retired coal miners. After 22,600 miners retired, the company in charge of their health care gave it to another company that declared bankruptcy and was relieved of responsibility for retiree health care. Both companies finally agreed to pay into a special fund for retiree health care benefits, but one of them stopped contributing. In addition, UMWA’s multi-employer pension plan, serving more than 90,000 retirees and their widows, became severely underfunded. The Miners Protection Act (MPA) uses federal funds to pay for threatened health benefits and strength the pension plan, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blocked its inclusion for his own constituents in an omnibus budget bill. The four-month extension of health benefits is due to expire on May 1, 2017 if Congress doesn’t act on the bill. Democrats wrote DDT for support in January, but he didn’t respond.

Yesterday Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) talked to some of these miners during a panel discussion in West Virginia. One of them thanked Sanders for his support regarding the bill and said to applause:

“I never dreamt that I’d get to thank you personally for the bill that you are co-sponsoring. I’m one of those miners that will lose his health care at the end of April if they don’t pass that law. I think it’s kind of ironic that a senator from the northeast takes care of my benefits better than someone like Mitch McConnell.”

Sanders told the crowd:

“The Republican bill, it should not be seen as a health care bill, because throwing millions of people off of health care [is not] health care legislation. What it should be seen as is a huge tax break for the wealthiest people in this country.”

Two months ago, DDT promised “insurance for everybody.” He and other Republicans claim insurance access to all—probably the same way that everyone has access to buy a Mercedes-Benz but don’t have the money. Price claimed that Trumpcare would “cover more individuals at a lower cost.” The only way that they can be right is for people to be consigned to crappy insurance plans that may not even cover hospital costs, just as they were before the ACA. To show how obvious DDT is about killing ACA, he sent out an email asking people to “share your Obamacare disaster story.” They have no interest in any success stories or needs from “hard-working Americans like you,” but people have been sending them anyway.

The clearest description of Trumpcare has been provided by comedian John Oliver..

 

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