Democracy #Featured

The Trump Cycle: Blather, Reince, Repeal

American Heroes Week is firmly in the rear-view mirror. But as we celebrate our heroes – Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, John McCain and every Senate Democrat – it’s important to remember that every American can be a hero every day simply by living a positive, moral, thinking, compassionate, empathetic, reflective life and acting on those values every day. Even a child knows that these behaviors are in everybody’s interests.

And then there’s the current administration in Washington. They talk about those values, but most of the time they fail to live up to them. This past week is a prime example.

The Republican healthcare crash and burn (or maybe not) should not surprise anyone who understand how insurance works and how much having health coverage affects other life decisions. A bill that would take coverage away from upwards of 22 million people or that would allow states to let insurance companies sell ‘cut-rate’ policies that cover… well… nothing, or have sky-high deductibles is not a bill that should even be written, much less voted on.

And yet.

The clear, unequivocal truth is that after 7 years of bleating and babbling, the Republican Party still had no idea how to solve or improve the health insurance issue in this country. And the president (shudder) showed that he doesn’t have any political or persuasive skills he can call on to get legislation done. All he knows is to threaten, and tweet-shame, and complain to Boy Scouts that it’s everybody else’s fault except his. His ignorance of policy and his drive to get anything passed simply to say it’s been passed is dangerous, as last week showed. His leadership skills are likewise impotent and very few, if any, legislators fear his wrath.

But that’s what happens when a minority of people elect an unqualified outsider who doesn’t know how to do the job of being this country’s leader.

That would be a full week for most presidents, but the palace intrigue that resulted in both Sean Spicer and Reince Priebus exiting the administration because of Anthony Scaramucci’s appointment is the stuff of farce. I have some respect for Spice now because after reading Scaramucci’s rant against Priebus it looks like old Sean has a good grasp of Scaramucci’s character.  We will see more people exiting the administration only to be replaced by sycophants and fringe know-nothings whose only qualification is that they’re loyal to, and love Trump.

Of course, the irony of Trump speaking in front of the Boy Scouts and appointing a foul, vile, self-obsessed capo in the same week is rather tasty. Scaramucci threatening to kill leakers adds another merit badge to the mix, yes?

None of this is a real surprise given that I’ve lived in Chris Christie’s New Jersey for the past 8 years. He’s set the tone for Trump and his ilk by demonizing the people and groups who oppose him, and flaunting laws that should apply to everyone but not to him. Beach photos anyone?

At some point, and we might have reached it, the Republican Party will need to make critical decision: Do they keep supporting the president or do they barrel forward on their own. For Democrats, this is not an appealing choice. But for the good of the country Congress will need to make sure basic American institutions survive a man who clearly has not read the Constitution and has no interest in doing so.

For more, go to www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives or Twitter @rigrundfest

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Kill (the Trumpcare) Bill, Part I: And the Magic Number Is…?

I’m curious.

Just how many people have to lose their health insurance before the Republicans in Congress shout, “Eureka! We have done it?”

Obviously 22 million people is too many. But what happens if the Congressional Budget Office comes back this week and says that the new, not-really-improved Trumpcare bill will only result in 19 million or 15 million or 11 million people losing their health insurance? Is that number small enough for the GOP to claim success in their quest to not-really-repeal-but-just-do-something-so-the-base-thinks-that-Obamacare-is-dead?

It speaks volumes about the state of the right wing in this country that they will sacrifice so many Americans in the name of…what? Fiscal prudence, as if saving some money off the deficit will make up for the ruined lives? The promise to repeal the ACA even though the GOP STILL hasn’t quite thought through the ramification of their actions? The misguided, indeed immoral, view that many conservatives have of the poor as undeserving couch potatoes who have no innate responsibility and are addicted to government programs? Never mind that millions of the people who will lose insurance voted for the president (shudder) and/or live in states where the opioid epidemic is raging through both city and farm. Cutting Medicaid would be a disaster for those people.

And if you think it’s just the poor who will lose, then please think again. If you plan on growing old, then you need to read all of the articles by Ron Lieber about how the Medicaid debate will affect you later in life. Medicaid is not just for those we generally think of when we think of the poor. It also pays for elderly people who, oddly enough, don’t believe they will suffer from dementia, or contract a debilitating illness, or fall and break their hip or just plain run out of money because they didn’t save quite enough through a retirement plan.

Add this to the fact that Medicaid also covers millions of children who will lose their coverage if this Senate bill passes. And even without the Trumpcare cuts, the president’s budget proposal would reduce health insurance coverage for CHIP. These are children that we see in our public schools who need far more support than just learning how to read. They come to school without the guarantee that if something happens to them, they’ll be covered. Further cuts to school lunch and nutrition programs will complete this cruel turn the GOP thinks will help the country.

The Republican dream of turning Medicaid into a state grant program is also seriously and fatally misguided. States will likely use the money to shore up finances in other programs since, unlike the federal government, they must balance their budgets. And the GOP plan forces states to make choices that they should not have to make concerning who gets aid and who doesn’t. Medicaid was created to cover all people who qualified for it. Changing that will produce winners and losers, which of course means those who live and those who don’t.

In the end, the Senate and House plans will create lower cost health insurance pl;ans, but what people will get for their money will cost them far more when they actually need care. Sky-high deductibles will negate the low premiums as people will be forced to pay full price until their deductible kicks in. And allowing insurance companies to sell policies that don’t include maternity care, mental health insurance or drug treatment coverage will make the cost of those options go up for those that do need it.

As business savvy as the Republican Party, and the president, think they are, they still haven’t learned that insurance is all about spreading the risk so that those who don’t make many claims pay for those who do, which evens out the cost. Having an a la carte health care system is a recipe for higher costs and lower outcomes as those who can pay will, and those who can’t, won’t get care.

The GOP seems oblivious to this, but they do have a number. This week we’ll learn what that is.

For more, go to www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives or Twitter @rigrundfest

Featured #Health Care

You Think This Is About Health Care? Sucka.

This is not about health care, and as a matter of fact, the Republican self-immolation this past week has never been about health care. Or health insurance. Or health. Or care.

It’s the taxes, stupid.

That’s what the Republicans care about. That’s what they think will make them healthy and insure their political future. Taxes. as in lower taxes. As in lower taxes than Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush would ever consider because as repellent as their political and economic philosophies were, they were rooted in real-world and real-economy assumptions. Those assumptions turned out to be wrong, as is amply evidenced by the deficits they created and the fact that economic growth never reached the heights it would need to pay back the Treasury for their rashness.

And Reagan even raised taxes over the course of his term in office to cover part of the shortfall. W’s dad gave up his political career when he raised taxes and set the stage for the Clinton boom in the 90s that was further fueled by the tax hikes in Bill’s budgets.

But now we have the ultra-right wing sycophants who forget or, my assumption, never learned those lessons. They’ve wanted to cut taxes for the past eight years and now they have the ultimate know-nothing in the White House who’s going to make their dreams come true.

In order to do that, though, they need to claim the money that President Obama used to revolutionize the health care system. To make sure that uninsured Americans can get affordable health insurance, which they are getting thanks to government subsidies, and to make sure that those people who have pre-existing conditions or are women or are elderly and should not be denied or price-gouged, taxes went up for the wealthy. And corporations. That’s obviously too much for the GOP to handle, so repeal became the rallying cry.

Well, when your goal is to repeal instead of making people healthier, then repeal is what you get. Except, the bill the House passed last week is not repeal. It just guts the best parts of the ACA while making the most vulnerable and sick people in this country subject to paying far more for health care.

Like they used to. When America was great. We’re going to make it great again by making health insurance more expensive, less comprehensive, unfairly discriminatory, and less job-friendly.

But at least taxes will go down, way down, for the already wealthy and to pay for the cuts Donald Trump will sell our intellectual and cultural soul. Because in the end, Trump only wants victories. He knows nothing about health insurance, or about how to be president for that matter, and only counts wins and losses. He considers the vote last week a win. It was not.

Let’s hope that the Senate proposes an actual health care bill that benefits real people. Otherwise, 2018 will not be kind to the Republicans.

For more, go to www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives or Twitter @rigrundfest

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Barack Obama Tweets Support to Jimmy Kimmel After Heart-touching Story – Video

Jimmy Kimmel shared a very personal and touching story about his newborn and the first few hours he spent on earth after birth. His son, Billy, was born with a heart disease and Jimmy went through the emotional details of a life saving operation that saved his newborn’s life.

During the tearful explanation, Mr. Kimmel referenced the ongoing Republican’s effort to repeal Obamacare and the fact that pre-existing conditions like that of his son, could mean his son ends up getting no healthcare under the Republican’s plan. It was a heart touching story as the comedian’s voice trembled, tears flowing down his face. But Kimmel still kept his audience laughing.

The story caused former president, Barack Obama to tweet a message to Kimmel, saying, “Well said, Jimmy. That’s exactly why we fought so hard for the ACA, and why we need to protect it for kids like Billy. And congratulations!”

Video

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Republican Congressman Brags – Healthcare Is “A Business”

In an effort to explain why the Republican’s so-called healthcare plan is good for the American people, Republican Representative Mike Kelly of the Ways and Means Committee, said that healthcare is “a business” and must be conducted as such.

During the interview, the congressman also said “the greater the risk the greater the premium,” when explaining why under the Republican’s plan, Americans with pre-existing conditions will apparently pay more for their health care.

And you thought healthcare was a right every American should have. I guess you thought you lived in the greatest nation on earth!

Video

Featured #Healthcare

The Madness Will Last Beyond March

This is what happens when you’ve hitched your political wagon to a semi-trailer that has “Government Sucks” written on the side in patriotic colors. And when the driver of that semi has no political skill, cogent philosophy or enough sense to know that he’s being led by the nose by unrelenting, uncompromising, unapologetic conservative ideologues while his wingman looks like the deer in the headlights. Then you are heading for a monumental crash.

And the GOP did. Big time.

The Seven Year Obamacare Itch could not be scratched with a made-in-China plastic backscratcher or any of the GOP’s well-manicured fingernails. It was stunning and messy and terrible for the country, except for the fact that millions will keep their health insurance. And it’s only the beginning.

This was supposed to be the easy first step towards a better, Republican-led future but it exposed the House of Representatives as a hotbed of contradictions and competing constituencies. You know, the way the framers envisioned government when they created it. They even built in the idea that democratic ideas need to take time, to marinate in the bowl of public consumption, to gain a consensus, to be debated by the populace over the course of months to make sure that the terrible parts are squeezed out. None of that happened with the health care bill. President Know-Nothing thought this would be quick, and since he has no attention span to speak of, he approved of the GOP’s leadership idea that the bill needed to be introduced one week and voted on in the next.

Oopsy.

But the worst was the spectacle of Trump and Ryan throwing publicly approved healthcare provisions overboard with no thought about how a final bill with no protections for those with preexisting conditions, or guaranteed maternity care or no-cost preventive care would play in, well, Peoria and the areas where Trump won the election. There simply was no health or care in the bill. No wonder only 17% of respondents in the latest poll approved of it.

The other issue with the health care bill, though, is more far-reaching. The money saved in this bill was supposed to fund the giant tax-cut-for-the-wealthy that the GOP was going to tackle next. Now there’s no cash in the till, which means that there will need to be more spending cuts. The ultra-conservatives didn’t like government spending for health care, so they sure as heck aren’t going to vote for a tax cut or a trillion dollar infrastructure bill that might explode the deficit and fund Planned Parenthood. The ultras have the power now and they are immune to Trump’s lame threats and simpering appeals for American greatness.

And, of course, there’s the issue of the Republicans actually funding and running a United States that has an Affordable Care Act. If they were smart, they would regroup and find an alternative that would shore up the insurance markets or make sure that elderly people don’t have to pay more for less care or to make insurance portable so that no American would have to worry about losing their insurance simply because they lost their job or move to take care of a family member. You remember family? The Republicans are supposed to be the family party.

Doing any of this would require Democratic acquiescence, which is doable. The question is whether the GOP will actually ask.

Of course, this won’t happen because the president has already said that the healthcare will “explode” and the insurance markets will tank because…he will make sure that this happens. Then he thinks he’s going to blame the Democrats. The GOP owns health care now, and if the law fails it will be because of their actions.

Do keep in mind that it’s still only March. But the madness will last far longer.

Healthcare

To Hell With the Health of the State

I really do try to see the intellectual arguments behind the politicians that utter them and I really do try to keep my judgements closely aligned to the agree/disagree axis, as opposed to the anger/unreasonably mean axis that seems to be in vogue these day.

But on both health care and the environment, I just can’t help but think that the Republican Party is using its treasured Second Amendment rights to shoot itself in multiple locations on its body politic. I understand that the voters who installed this regime thought terribly of President Obama and wanted the ACA repealed, and I also understand that many farmers and ranchers and manufacturers detest Environment Protection Agency rules on land use and cleanup, and many more deny the science behind the changing climate, but did these voters truly want what’s ambling down the lane? Do they really want to lose health insurance coverage and to make the air and water dirtier? Because that’s what’s going to happen.

It’s no secret that the Trump administration wants to take us back to some mythical past where the country was greater than it is now, but that invariably means that we’ll go back to a time when air and water pollution was at its height, lead paint sickened children, DDT killed eagles, sludge in rivers forced any kind of wildlife to flee or die and people died because they did not have adequate health insurance or access to medicine. Is this what people voted for?

On health care, the GOP is so bent on repealing the ACA quickly that they’ve created a program that will strip away insurance from millions of people, cut taxes for the wealthy, and only the wealthy, cut back on assurances that certain medical procedures – especially those that relate to women and the elderly – would continue, and increase the budget deficit. Their plan will also make insurance cost more for those unable to qualify for Medicaid and to cut money for Medicaid recipients to the point where they won’t be able to get the full coverage they would under present rules. And all of this is being done because the GOP believes that insurance companies, who will still have to cover people with pre-existing conditions, will magically cut their premiums in the name of competition.

I certainly appreciate that premiums have risen under the ACA, but at least people still retain their insurance and most are shielded from the cost because they qualify for subsidies. Rather than fixing the problems so people can retain coverage, the GOP plan ensures that many insured citizens will lose their plans. And all in the name of ideology.

As for the environment, EPA Chief Scott Pruitt’s statement last week that he doesn’t believe that human activity has anything to do with any climate change is beyond ignorant, and is a danger to life on this planet. His position, then, is that we should be able to freely pollute the air and water because, really, who are we hurting? Has someone ever shown him the pictures from the 1960s and 70s that show the haze and pollution over both urban and rural areas? It’s astounding.

Fortunately, I live in New Jersey, where the air is clean, the water is crystal clear and fresh, the traffic is minimal and there are, thankfully, no toxic waste sites. None. Because if I lived in a state that had a great deal of pollution or an abundance of carbon monoxide-spewing cars or terrible traffic or long-ago-but-obvious-today violations of industrial laws because let’s say chemical and manufacturing companies illegally dumped ungodly amounts of toxins in the water or in leaky rusting drums and left them beside some chain link fenced in area near a stinky, foul river and then claimed that they didn’t have to clean it up or vented smelly fumes without cleaning the smokestacks near the, well, let’s call it a Turnpike for want of a better word, then I would be outraged that the new head of the governmental agency responsible for ensuring that the country is as clean as can be recently denied that humans have anything to do with why the climate is changing.

So when I take my giant SUV out to drive along this great flat earth of ours, I can do so with a clear conscience and the freedom to pollute at will because not only is carbon monoxide not responsible for climate change, it’s also non-polluting. Because if it polluted the air, then it would be a contributing factor in the climate. But it doesn’t. So it doesn’t. Scott Pruitt told me so. So shut up.

The Republican agenda is danger to the country. A government that purposefully ignores the health of its citizens and actively works to undermine it deserves to be opposed at every turn.

For more, go to www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives or Twitter @rigrundfest