The GOP Health Care Scam – All Smoke and Mirrors

George S LedyardGOP Fiction:
The AHCA will reduce premiums.
It will not reduce premiums. Not really. This is a smoke screen. It is a cynical attempt to dupe the public by shifting costs to where they are less obvious.
First, the plan will push tens of millions of people out of coverage. These would be the most expensive consumers of health care, those with chronic condition and the poor. This would result in a return to the pre-ACA days of millions simply using the emergency medical system, as their primary care providers. This is massively expensive and those costs get passed on to consumers one way or another, just less obviously.
Second, the plan ends the very unpopular “individual mandate”. This allows people to forego health insurance entirely if they wish. The GOP justification is that it is wrong to force people to buy insurance if they do not feel they need it. Young people especially fall into the very low risk category and often would rather use their hard earned dollars elsewhere. Sound reasonable?
The cold hard fact is that insurance is about spreading the risk. Period. That’s how it works. If we allow those that are least at risk to opt out, there is only one possible result for those that are still in the system… higher premiums. That was the whole reason that we had the “individual mandate” in the first place. The mandate was essentially about “paying it forward”. You buy insurance when you are young when you need the least care. You are supporting the system for all the others who are older, less fortunate, or have chronic conditions. And then, at some point, you get old yourself. At that point your likelihood of incurring medical costs goes way up. So, it will be the young and healthy who are supporting your own care.
If we allow the young and healthy to opt out of the risk pool. Then the ONLY ALTERNATIVE is vastly higher premiums for the older, higher risk folks. This will be true at precisely the time in their lives when they can least afford it, at retirement when they are on fixed incomes. This is how insurance works. It isn’t magic. It’s a numbers game.
If we decide that we do not want to allow insurers to exclude people with pre-existing conditions (on which American seem to be united), then we have to have some form of broad, blanket coverage requirement. Otherwise people will simply forego buying insurance until they are sick and need it. Then they join the system without having paid into it when they were still low risk. That simply raises costs for everyone else. It has to.
Now, the obvious solution to this is to not “require” people to buy insurance but to “provide” insurance to everyone. A Medicare for all system in which heath care is treated as a public good and would be administered on behalf of our citizenry by our own government. But at this moment in time, with the GOP in control of Congress, that is a non-starter. So, instead, we are talking about trying to stop a plan that takes the country in precisely the opposite direction from where it should be going. It’s tragic but there it is.
The other deceptive piece of the AHCA is the idea that by reducing premiums, we have automatically provided health care to our citizens. But this is just another shill game. For profit insurance companies create lower cost premiums two ways. First, is simply by excluding conditions they do not wish to cover. Things like mental health coverage, prenatal care and maternity services, etc. The GOP bill, which purports to be a free market solution, does not prevent this cynical tactic. People believe they have affordable coverage only to discover that the services they need the most are not included. This was the basis of the substandard policies that the ACA did away with but the GOP plan would once again allow.
The second way is to create lower premium plans by jacking up the deductibles to the point at which the consumer cannot afford to actually use their coverage to get services because by the time they cover the deductible and then add in the percentage of the service not covered by the insurer, it is not affordable any more. In a nation in which half the country exists on the edge financially, with little or no cushion, policies like this mean that they forego routine care, live with conditions that markedly interfere with the quality of their lives, and end up being more likely to have serious and expensive conditions that could have been prevented. It is just another way to kick the costs down the road while creating the illusion that people have coverage. But it is coverage they can’t afford to use.
GOP Fiction:
The Plan Doesn’t Cut Health Care for the Poor and Lower Incomes
It does, and by a lot. It is simply a fact that both the House version of the bill and the Senate versions of this bill will push as many as 23 million Medicaid recipients off the rolls.  These would be the most vulnerable of our citizens, the poor who have little or no other means of getting health care. We know that failure to receive adequate health care costs lives. It’s as simple as that. The GOP plan is a death sentence for tens of thousands of Americans, period. For a party that once screamed about “death panels” it is inconceivable that they now support such a draconian attack on our nation’s poor and low income citizens.
The GOP has come up with a complex set of “tax-free health savings accounts and targeted tax credits” which supposedly help the poor defray the costs of coverage. But wait… think about it. Remember Romney’s 47% of the public that doesn’t earn enough money to pay Federal taxes? What good are tax free savings accounts to someone already poor enough not to be paying taxes? What good are tax credits for someone who will pay zero taxes even before the credit? This is nothing but a cynical sham, a ploy to make it look like the GOP cares about health care for the poor while pushing them out of coverage over time.
Since we as a nation long ago decided that we will not allow bodies in the streets, that we don’t turn away people at the emergency room when they need help, cutting Medicaid is just another way to shift the costs of health care to areas that are less obvious so the GOP can pretend they brought down premiums. Yes, premiums might be less for that smaller group can afford coverage but this is done at the expense of everyone else, and in the end, those people will be for the added costs elsewhere anyway.
The GOP plan either imposes lifetime limits of Medicaid benefits or allows the states to do so. Allowing the states to cap benefits is a sneaky way to allow the poor to get screwed without Congress appearing to be the villains… after all, it was the states.
So, once again, what happens to folks when they hit their lifetime benefit cap? Do they suddenly not require medical care any more? Of course not. The lifetime cap simply pushes people into bankruptcy, period.  Even under our current ACA, medical costs are the number one cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States, one of the richest nations in the world. The Republican plan would magnify this problem by many times. In order to get a short term political win, it kicks the can down the road for tens of millions of Americans who would hit their benefit caps after the political racketeers currently in Congress will be out of office and retired.
Bankruptcies are the number one way that we hide the true cost of our health care.
We allow our citizens to descend into impoverishment due to astronomical care and drug costs. Then we write that off when they declare bankruptcy. It’s a slick way of seemingly making those costs seem to disappear. But of course they do not really disappear. Those losses inevitably get passed on to consumers in other areas where they are less obvious as due to medical costs. And the folks that were wiped out of everything they had are left in poverty and seldom recover financially. Whole families are pushed to the edge of survival this way.
The United States has the highest per capita health care costs in the world. The GOP plan does absolutely nothing to address these costs. It is an attempt to use free market forces to deliver care. Well, free market forces are about profit. If we as a nation decide that the health of our citizens is a commodity meant to be bought and sold for the benefit of the investor class, then we have to accept that the price of profits is crushing poverty, debilitating illness,  and even death for the many millions of Americans that do not have the means to be profitable as consumers of the free market health care product.
And all of this is to allow the GOP to deliver a massive tax cut to the wealthiest Americans. Eight men own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity, and six of them are Americans. The top one tenth of one percent in America own as much as the bottom 90% of our citizens. This massive and widening wealth and income divide is an obscenity. And to create a health care system that is largely about not providing health care to many millions in order to protect this unprecedented, grotesque, level of inequality is criminal, immoral, unconscionable, and totally unjustifiable.
If any issue were to provide a reason for millions of Americans to take to the streets in protest, it should be the health care issue. This is the single most important issue facing our political system today. Not a single American isn’t effected on some level by this issue. It defines what our nation is to stand for, it is the moral underpinning of our society since it determines how we care for each other as Americans. The first step for us now is to stop this travesty of a plan in its tracks. It cannot be allowed to become the law of the land. It is a national disgrace that one of our two major political parties thinks that this is how we should approach health care.
Then, we have to get serious about real reform. The ACA has been crashing because we didn’t allow it to do what it should have done in the first place. A Medicare for all system is the only solution that would provide coverage for all Americans, remove the burden of insurance costs from our businesses, bring down premiums and give the government leverage to negotiate lower costs for the people. All the alternatives are band aids that will not accomplish what is really needed. Let’s get rid of the incomprehensibly complex insurance system, the hidden costs, the bankruptcies, and go to a straight forward expansion of our existing Medicare system to all Americans. Medicaid can continue to fill in the gaps for the poorest Americans who do not even have the means to contribute to the system.
No caps, no coverage gaps, no pre-existing conditions, just good health care for everyone. Health care should be a public good. It should be seen as a right that everyone in a society supports for the benefit of the whole. It should be the starting point for that level playing field that allows equal opportunity for all Americans. We have to get this right and we need to do it sooner rather than later.

Hiding the True Costs of Health Care – the GOP Approach

George S LedyardFirst of all, the GOP health care bill is about hiding the true costs of health care. Whatever costs it will appear to cut will simply be shifted to areas in which they will be less apparent to the folks who can afford insurance.
By removing the requirement contained in the ACA that everyone be required to participate in the risk pool, this plan will allow people to opt out. That essentially takes us back to the days where millions of Americans simply used the hugely expensive emergency room system for their primary care. The ACA had brought those costs down substantially and now they are likely to rise back up.
The other way that costs for Americans who do have insurance will “appear” to go down is due to the fact that it will push tens of millions of Americans covered under Medicaid off the rolls. The Senate version does this more slowly than the House version, but it still does so. It does so to the tune of nearly one trillion dollars.
So, we allow people to not carry insurance. We push tens of millions of the poor and under employed off the rolls. Now, add to that removing the requirement for larger companies to offer insurance benefits at all. Potentially more people with no benefits. even if they are gainfully employed.
Then the insidious elements that can go below the radar. Remove the essential requirements for policies. That allows companies to go back to offering sub standard policies that appear to cover people that do not in fact cover many of the most important areas like maternity care, mental health coverage etc.
Additionally, think higher deductible policies that simply make receiving basic care, even preventive care, un-affordable for most people.  In the short run, this appears to reduce costs but the reality is that when people do not get the regular preventive and maintenance care they should be receiving. They simply wait until more serious medical catastrophe to access care. That ends up being far more expensive in the longer run.
The bill sneakily shifts many of these considerations to the states. Effectively what that will do is allow the states with the poorest populations, which incidentally tend to be Red States that support the GOP, to push even more people out of adequate coverage. The wealthier states will most likely find ways to work around these issues, thereby going even farther than we are towards two Americas. The haves and the have nots.
The bill contains a bit of money for the opioid epidemic but many billions less than what the experts say is required. Emergency medical services are currently at their limit handling the crisis and the numbers are still on the upswing. So, precisely at the moment when the nation is experiencing a health crisis, this bill is giving tax breaks to the rich, penalizing the poor and working class folks, exactly the people most effected.
This bill is nothing less than a denial that the essential right to health care is a “right” at all. The right wing, Libertarian approach that the GOP seems committed to is quite simply about the rich being cared for and the less well off being either denied access to coverage or receiving inadequate coverage. It really is that simple. Precisely at a time when the income / wealth divide is widening, the GOP is attempting to reduce assistance to the poor in order to reduce costs for the elites and grant the richest Americans a massive tax cut.
This approach is unconscionable, immoral, and unjustifiable. It is a travesty and moves the country in a direction backwards and in exactly the opposite direction that we need to go.

Trump Thinks It’s All OK Now

George S LedyardYou will notice, that from the very start of the Russian hacking intrusion, the number one concern of the President has been on trying to tell us all that he wasn’t involved and he wasn’t being investigated.

Trump is acting like his exoneration, which of course hasn’t actually happened yet, no matter how the GOP wishes to spin it, will make everything all right.

The fact that half of his associates, including family members, are still being investigated or the fact that, even if none of his people did collude with the Russians, it is still a fact the Russians, a foreign power, interfered with the electoral process of the United States seems to be of little interest to him.

Trump’s only concern, as usual is Trump. The Russian hacking investigation casts a pall on the legitimacy of his win. Trump as shown all along a disproportionate investment in misrepresenting his win. He claimed that Clinton didn’t really win the popular vote. He claimed his win in the electoral college was a by a record margin whereas it was one of the closest wins ever.

TrumpI believe that Trump is such a colossal narcissist that he’s willing to let he Russians get completely away with their massive and unprecedented cyber attack on this country rather than have it taint his win, the win of which he is most proud, the win where he showed Clinton and Obama up. He simply doesn’t want to hear about Russian hacking.

In many ways, what is even more troubling however, is the number of GOP representatives and party leaders who would rather let the Russians slide than allow Trump to be damaged or give the Dems ANYTHING to use against them. Their unwillingness to protect this country from the intrusions of a hostile power borders on treason. For a bunch of people who wrap themselves in the flag at ever turn, this is greatest show of hypocrisy I think I have seen in my lifetime.

Ronald Reagan, the man they all seem to idolize, spent his life fighting the Russians. He felt his greatest achievement was in defeating the evil empire. Now Putin, like Sauron, has risen from the ashes, and Morder is once again a threat. If there is indeed a heaven, can you imagine Reagan looking down and seeing his Party, the one he devoted his life to, looking the other way when the country was attacked by the Russians.

Ronald-ReaganReagan would be in a full sail rage over this. I think he would find what the GOP has become, totally incomprehensible.

The Trump / GOP Budget – Compassion is Nowhere to Be Found

George S LedyardSomehow, in a country in which corporate profits are at an all time high, and wealth accumulation at the very top is greater than at ANY TIME IN HISTORY, Trump and the GOP are trying to sell a budget plan that essentially penalizes the poor.
Remember LBJ’s “war on poverty”? Well, this should be characterized as Donald Trump’s “war on the poor“. The obscenely wealthy, for some reason, seem to deserve getting vast sums cut from what they are paying while the poorest Americans lose some or all of the various programs on which they depend to get by.
Donald Trump war on the poor
Donald Trump’s War on the Poor
The wealthiest corporations maintain that they can’t compete. Well, they seem to have been able to do so just fine. Profits are at record levels. Executive compensation is at record levels and is drastically higher than in any other country, including an economic powerhouse like Germany.
The narrative being put fort by the GOP is that our businesses need to pay fewer taxes so that they can be EVEN MORE PROFITABLE. But none of this profit trickles down to the folks in the middle class. For twenty years, as the rich have become richer and richer, the middle class has essentially been in a recession. And forget the poor. They just sit there, year after year, generation after generation.
How did we as a nation get to the point at which we stand out among all of the most affluent countries in the world as the most hard-hearted, least compassionate? Being poor anywhere is really hard. But among developed countries, the US stands out as the country with the greatest resources that devotes the least to the citizens on the lower end of the scale.
We already imprison a larger proportion of our population that ANY other nation in the world. We have produced a system in which certain segments of the citizenry have been condemned to multi-generational poverty with little or no chance of escape.
Mitt Romney, 47%Mitt Romney’s famous 47% of the public that doesn’t pay Federal income taxes was initially put forward as an example of those folks sponging off the rest of us. But the fact is that they do not pay income tax because they do not earn enough money to do so. That’s almost one half of the country that is underemployed. They work but can’t make a real living wage. If you aren’t paying Federal income tax, you simply aren’t making enough to even cover the essentials.
Think about it. 47% of the populace isn’t making enough to pay income tax. Then we have the fact that over 20%, 50+ million citizens, are actually receiving some sort of public assistance. So, a fifth of the country needs help to just survive. Almost the bottom half of the country is making so little that they are right on the edge. The number one cause for personal bankruptcy in the United States is due to medical costs, something that doesn’t exist in ANY other nation.Poverty in AmericaAnd now, the GOP is proposing a budget that drastically cuts programs for the poor, increases their medical costs by cutting Medicaid, while cutting taxes dis-proportionally for the wealthiest Americans. This is based on the totally discredited notion of the trickle down theory.  If we just give the wealthy individuals and corporations back more money, economic growth will trickle down to the middle class and poor. BUT IT DOESN’T. It’s a myth, yet the GOP still bases it’s entire approach towards tax policy on an unfounded faith in this fiction.
Jeff Sessions, war on drugsTo top it all off, Jeff Sessions, is calling for a return to the draconian war on drugs that has filled our prisons. It has been shown, over and over, that once you put someone in to the criminal justice system, the chances of them ever moving out of poverty are about zero, unless you are Martha Stewart and started rich before you went in. Given the fact that in may states, the right to vote is lost with with a felony conviction, it’s east to see that this push for law and order is a thinly veiled form of voter suppression, especially since it effects people of color even more than anyone else. But it’s disastrous for the poor as a whole.
It is embarrassing and disheartening to see how much of our country has bought into a narrative that so completely lacks any compassion. It actively penalizes being poor while creating circumstances that guarantee that a huge segment of the country remains so. This is an unacceptable and appalling situation. And it can’t possible be sustainable. Something is going to give, probably sooner rather than later.
Poverty in America

The Jeff Sessions War on Drugs Revisited

George S LedyardWhat we now know as the “war on drugs” was begun back in the Nixon days as a means of quashing political opposition. His advisers agreed that they couldn’t make being a hippie or being Black illegal. But they could use the war on drugs to go after the anti-war and civil rights movement leaders and get them in jail.  CNN Article

Going on fifty years, the US incarcerates more of its citizens than any other nation in the world. The incarceration rates fall dis-proportionally on people of color (as predicted by the Nixon team).

Richard Nixon and advisers - war on drugs
The war on drugs is now a multi billion dollar industry. Huge anti-drug government institutions, private prisons, etc have created an inertia that makes the system resistant to change. But slowly we had started making moves towards changing things.
Under President Obama there had been a de-emphasis on drug enforcement against a minor drug like marijuana. The government even looked the other way as several states legalized the use of marijuana. The President had also moved to start closing the private prison structure, and many states had begun to look at our substance abuse problem more as a public health / mental health issue rather than a criminal issue.
Jeff Sessions war on drugsNow, we have an Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, about whom many had concerns based on a past history of racism. And what is the very first initiative this man attempts? Going back to the bad old days of the war on drugs, an effort that even conservative thinkers have declared to be ineffective at achieving it’s stated goals and has created more negative consequences to our society than benefits. Washington Post Article
Whether or not you think there is a connection between Sessions alleged racism, and his support for escalating the war on drugs, the single fact is that the war on drugs has been a disaster. It plays a major part on our inability to solve our wealth divide problem. It has condemned a substantial segment of our society to multi-generational poverty and the hidden costs to our nation are many times the overt costs.
We have to do what we can to resist the Jeff Sessions effort to reverse our progress in this are.

We Put These People in DC, It’s on Us

George S LedyardIt has become fashionable lately to talk about corruption in government and the need to “throw them all out”. While Donald Trump ran on a right wing “drain the swamp” promise, the folks on the progressive left often talk in much the same way. They refer to the “establishment” Democrats as embodied by the DNC as irredeemably corrupt and advocate forming a new party with fresh faces to rework our government.

It is also the case that a good portion of the public has to a large degree lost respect for expertise and professionalism. Of course we see this in the tendency to discount scientific evidence that goes against right wing agenda on climate change and environmental protection. But nowhere is the disconnect greater than between the average citizen and the professionals who run our government, largely anonymously behind the scenes.
Washington, DC and its suburbs, is probably one of the most highly educated cities in the country. Certainly, it has more lawyers per square inch than any other city. But it is also full of folks with advanced degrees in government, political science, international studies, public policy, defense studies and so on. These are the professionals who typically spend their careers in intelligence, government, etc. They represent the institutional memory of the various agencies in DC. They provide the continuity that keeps things functioning as each administration comes and goes according to the whims of the voters at any given time.
These people are not elected by the voters. They are hired in much the same way anyone gets a job. They build resumes by working internships, the get advanced degrees, they start at the bottom and work their way up. They seldom make the news, that’s for their appointed bosses. But they are the ones that do the work and keep things functioning.

I bring this up because it occurred to me that Donald Trump is showing us just what it looks like when we decided to simply “throw the bums out” and bring in people who have absolutely no experience in government. Not only is Trump a government neophyte but he has surrounded himself with people whose entire experience has been in corporate America and have no backgrounds whatever in government.
Enough of the voters were persuaded by the propaganda that assassinated the character of Hillary Clinton that we brought in a man with no government experience at all. The theory was that we should run the US government more like a business. But Trump’s business experience is in real estate development, an area in which wheeling and dealing is standard operating procedure and the reputation for ethical behavior is exceedingly low.

One can see the same dysfunction in Congress. The Tea Party far right outsiders who came into Congress during the previous elections are the ones who have created legislative grid lock. They are ideologically driven and have no experience running a country or desire to compromise with even the moderates in their own party. And the lack of intellectual credentials among them is frightening.
I think that voters, from the left and the right, should look at the resulting chaos and understand that experience does actually matter. Bringing in a whole group of outsiders with no experience as a recipe for disaster. Only two groups of people are happy with the dysfunction of having amateurs at the helm and that is the Russians, who helped bring this on, and the super right wing libertarians who think government paralysis is a good thing.
In the future, it would be a good idea to look at a candidate’s resume rather than his ability to tell you what you want to hear. And we need to understand that success in one area does not necessarily transfer to success in another. While we do wish to have a government that is responsive to our citizenry, we really want people running the government who are experts at doing so. Populism and electing candidates because they remind you of yourself is not a good way to achieve good governance.

Trump and Afghanistan an Exercise in Hubris

George S LedyardEver been through a corporate reorganization? The new management comes in, inevitably a bunch of “type A” personalities, and absolutely believes that they will do a better job than the folks that came before them.
Employees from the old regime find their experience discounted and their influence marginalized. If one points out that some new proposal was tried before and didn’t work, the response is always, “Well, you guys just didn’t execute it properly”.

The GOP spent years criticizing Democratic administrations for what they saw as “nation building”. But after 9/11, George Bush not only committed the US to a full scale invasion of Afghanistan, but immediately set out to do nation building. This despite the reputation for Afghanistan as the “graveyard of empires”. It wasn’t that the dangers weren’t known… But the Bush team put out the word that no one was allowed to even utter the word “quagmire”. Yet quagmire it has become.

Afghanistan military invasion
A US soldier in front of the remains of ancient invaders, long gone.

No one in history has ever successfully invaded and occupied Afghanistan. Afghans could be seen as one of the most ornery cultures in the world. Historically, the only thing that unites this culture is a foreign enemy on its soil.
Barrack Obama inherited the Afghanistan war. Despite our best efforts, it has become clear that despite this being the longest war in US history, we are no closer to the goals we set down when we invaded then we were.
Now, with all the incredible arrogance we would expect from the Trump administration, we are reversing Obama’s attempts to disentangle us from this disaster. We are, in effect, jumping back into the “quagmire”. The fundamental assumption behind this effort is that the previous administration didn’t “do it right”.

MOAB Mother of all Bombs
Trump’s latest “bigger hammer”

Trump’s default setting is the “use a bigger hammer” approach to just about everything. He uses threats liberally and then, in order top not appear as a paper tiger, needs to back these threats up militarily. A man who used to wield economic leverage as a weapon to win in business now has the most powerful military in the world at his disposal. And the newly appointed gurus of national defense are certainly not inclined to tell their new boss that they can’t accomplish the “mission”.
Trump’s obsession with showing that he is a better leader than Barrack Obama is going to cost this nation dearly. He is simply incapable of following any direction his predecessor took unless pressured strongly by his advisers and fellow Republicans.

US military in Afghanistan
US forces in Afghanistan

So, it’s back into Afghanistan we go with increased boots on the ground. There is absolutely no evidence that this will accomplish anything over time. It didn’t work for the Maurya Empire of ancient India, Alexander the Great of Greece, Umar, an Arab Caliphate, Genghis Khan of Mongolia, Timur of Persia and Central Asia, the Mughal Empire of India, various Persian Empires, the British Empire, the Sikh Empire, the Soviet Union, or the United States to date.. The idea that Donald Trump is going to succeed when everyone else has failed is pure hubris.
Washington Post: U.S. poised to expand military effort against Taliban in Afghanistan

The GOP Just Doesn’t Understand Health Care

George S LedyardIt is so abundantly clear that the GOP lawmakers in charge of health care reform simply do not understand the concept of risk sharing or spreading the risk. Asking that people with pre-existing conditions pay more is precisely one of the contributing factors that produced so many people with no insurance that the ACA was designed to fix.
Essentially, what the insurance companies wish to do is sell policies to people that they won’t actually use. Healthy people pay into the system month after month, year after year, and, because they are healthy, they do not use the services. It’s a highly profitable business.
However, folks with chronic health issues use health care services regularly. They require frequent doctors visits, use more expensive services, have much higher expense for meds.
The ENTIRE point of insurance is to spread the risk and the expense. If we had no insurance at all, healthy people would pay virtually nothing and then later in life or with unexpected illness would suddenly be faced with crippling medical expense. Young people would typically need little health care but without exception, they will need those services eventually. So, we are in a situation in which the Baby Boom generation, my generation, are now getting old. In May first I was enrolled in Medicare. After a very active life, I have a number of injuries which need to be addressed. Forty years of martial arts training have made me a “high mileage vehicle” so to speak.
My wife and I have paid a fortune for health insurance every month for years. Yet I have not been able to afford to have my various injuries treated due to high deductibles coupled with insufficient coverage (50% to 80% depending on the condition). And our income as a family is quite a bit greater than that of the average American.
The whole point of national health insurance policy is to have young folks and healthy people “pay it forward”. The younger, healthier segment of the population pays more for coverage than they use thereby subsidizing the folks that have reached the stage in their lives at which they will inevitably need more services. It is precisely at old age, at the retirement stage of life that people end up on fixed incomes and have the least resources to pay for their health care needs.
The right wing of the GOP seems to not understand this concept at all. They keep asking why anyone should be paying for services that they do not use? Why should men pay for women’s health services? Why should the young pay for the old? Why should folks who are healthy pay for the folks that require health care services?
This is a totally “classist” approach. It is a fact that the poor, as a direct result of their own poverty, require more health care support. Since they do not get it under our current system, their general health outcomes are far worse than the general population. GOP proposals would only make this worse.
This is quite simply an application of that Ayn Rand, radical free market, extreme individual responsibility which questions why anyone would do anything that would help anyone else? It’s a sort of radical application of extreme property rights philosophy in which asking anyone to pay anything for something they don’t themselves need is theft and a form of government interference in the rights of the individual.
In reality this is an extreme form of radical libertarian thinking that would love to see health care left 100% in the hands of the market place. Everyone would pay his own way. This would be a return to a Dickensian world in which the poor are not only denied any assistance in health care, housing, food, whatever, but they are actively penalized for being poor. Getting in debt resulted in imprisonment in the work house. It is a world in which any health crisis would simply bring ruination to a whole family. Even with the current system we have, the number one cause of personal bankruptcy is medical costs.
In this world the rich have whatever they need and everyone else is left to their own devices. This is the direction that the Freedom Caucus and the radical right of the GOP wants to take us on health care. We absolutely depend on our Democrats to remain united and hopefully join with the few non-insane, moderate Republicans left in Congress to come up with a fix for some of the issues with the ACA, rather than trashing the whole thing and setting up some libertarian free market program which will throw millions out of coverage and provide substandard coverage for most of the rest of us while the 1% gets the finest health care in the world.
Article: Republican: People With Preexisting Conditions Should Pay More

The Death of the GOP as a Functional Conservative Party

George S LedyardTraditional conservatives, the non-insane ones that aren’t racist Neo-Fascists, continue to be dismayed, not just about Trump and company but the lack of experienced leadership in the GOP in general.
This is still democratic system. The ability to negotiate, to compromise, to horse trade is how government of such a diverse population must work.
The Tea Party has sent a number of people to Congress who are religiously and ideologically motivated extremists who have no such ability.
Add to that a So-called President whose personal style would be better suited to a dictatorship. Trump and his minions seem to labor under the misconception that all that is required is for the Great Leader to publicly pronounce his support for a measure and Congress, at least the GOP portion should simply use their majority to pass it.
There is a difference between “conservatism” as a type of governing philosophy and what conservatism as an extreme right wing movement that is anti-government, isolationist, xenophobic and radically socially reactionary.
William F BuckleyBarry GoldwaterOld style conservatives were influenced by conservative “thinkers” like William F Buckley. They were represented in government by highly experienced men like Barry Goldwater and George H W Bush. These men represented a governing philosophy yes, but they also deeply believed in the democratic process. They knew how to work with the people on the other side of the aisle move the business of government forward.
LBJ and Sam Rayburn
LBJ and Sam Rayburn legendary legislators

There was a time when all politicians seemed to recognize that they really did represent all of their constituents. They had their agendas, the policies that they wished to put forward, but they knew that the end result would inevitably be a compromise and that was actually the way the system had been designed by the founding fathers. Skill in governance involved the ability to push ones agenda through the legislative process, to use ones experience, ones connections, ones negotiating skills to succeed in getting legislation passed.
The Freedom CaucusOver the course of the last eight years, we have seen a steady loss of both actual government experience with extremist Tea Party outsiders replacing establishment GOP candidates in Congress. One could see the result over the past eight years in which the GOP simply became the Party of “No”. Their philosophy of government has been to simply oppose anything and everything the other party supports.
Trump AdministrationThese same voters sent the least qualified and experienced President in US history to the Presidency. Trump is a President who has surrounded himself with advisers who have no government or legislative experience. Some are political extremists and some are merely billionaires whose interest is only in helping the wealth be wealthier. None are terribly interested in compromising with the other side.
So, the loss of real statesmen and the overall lack of real experience in the GOP has virtually destroyed the party as a party able to govern. With both the Presidency and the control of Congress, they are still unable to unite in order to pass important legislation. The administration’s radical agenda offends the fiscal conservatives and those moderates still left in the party. The move to compromise on issues offends the extremists in groups like the Freedom Caucus who refuse to budge on attempts to make extremist legislation more moderate.
The result is a party that was unified enough to put a President in the white house but has shown itself to be quite dis-unified and unable to functionally govern. We see traditional Conservatives like George F Will publicly leaving the party. We see the Trump administration governing through executive order, something for which Trump strongly criticized President Obama. The administration is becoming increasingly frustrated with Congressional inability to deliver and is showing more sympathy for totalitarian style leadership.
This blog from Sheila Kennedy is another take on this issue from a former Republican supporter who wonders where her party went.

Libertarian-ism and the Corporate State

George S LedyardThere are two kinds of Libertarians on the political scene today; the actual members of the Libertarian Party and the members of the Republican Party with strong Libertarian views.
The Libertarian Party folks are where you find the true believers, the ones who are radically anti-government and pro individual freedoms. The one thing that you can say about these folks is that they are consistent in their application of these principles. They are fine with just about any behavior as long as it’s in the privacy of your own home between consenting adults. You don’t get the socially conservative tendency to legislate morality with these guys. But the party is also where you find the true nut cases, the ones who are so Libertarian that they are pretty much anarchists. At the Libertarian Convention in 2016 one candidate actually suggested that drivers licenses were an imposition by the government on our personal liberty. It’s pretty clear that the official Libertarians are not where you look for people to govern your country.
Most people with Libertarian leanings are to be found in the Republican Party. And they are far less concerned with being consistent. They favor small government and maximum personal freedom, or so they say, but are often the first in line to legislate morality that fits with Christian fundamentalist values, which hold a lot of sway in the GOP. Really, they mostly skip the personal freedom aspect and focus on the property rights side of things.
People shouldn’t be told what to do with their property by some central government. In fact Federal government ownership and management of public lands is suspect. Corporations are people, so all the rights of the individual are extended to the corporations and a overwhelming trait of the philosophy held by these people is an almost religious faith in the market place as the most efficient force in managing an economy.
These folks are the Über Capitalists. The current Republican crusader for Capitalism sees his personal mission as undoing virtually every piece of regulatory legislation passed since the New Deal and dismantling the Federal regulatory structures that performed this oversight.
These people have waited for years and years for the Holy Grail of a Republican Congress and Presidency full of truly radical right wing conservatives. With Donald Trump, they may not have found the guy who will pursue the radical social conservative agenda he seemed to promise in his campaign, but they definitely have a champion of the billionaire corporate class willing to destroy virtually all of the protections offered by our government against corporate malfeasance.

Donald Trump has asked Corporate representatives to make their recommendations as to what regulatory legislation they would like to see undone. This is asking the fox to guard the hen house. This is giving a group of folks whose sole interest is in delivering short term profits to their share holders free rein to pollute, to discriminate, to have unsafe working conditions, and so on.
If you look at the America proposed by Republican libertarian / Tea Party advocates, it is an America in which business is free to pursue its own course as dictated by the market place. The problem with all of this is that we have already been here before. From an historic point of view there is absolutely zero evidence that a corporation will ever choose to forego possible financial gain when it conflicts with maximizing profits.

Smog
LA smog in the 70s

When business did have pretty much free rein we had our nations rivers full of undrinkable carcinogenic waters. In the most famous case, the Passaic River in New Jersey actually caught fire. The air on our major urban areas was toxic and in the worst cities, like Los Angeles, toxic smog clouds hovered over the city, virtually obscuring the city from the view in the mountains. Our national bird, the bald eagle, was on the edge of extinction dues to the use of the pesticide DDT, lung cancer due to smoking killed tens of thousands of Americans every single year, and so on.
Child LaborThe fact is that when our US government was run on a more libertarian model we had unsafe air, unsafe water, unsafe food, unsafe working conditions, child labor, no social safety net, rampant sexual harassment, housing discrimination, racial discrimination,  massive economic fluctuation due to unrelated speculation in the stock market and so on. The economy would crash and serious economic depressions happened with some regularity.
This is the world of the US in the late 1800s and early 1900s. We had it already and we chose to change it. Now, people with absolutely no historical perspective, who derive their political philosophy from the works of Ayn Rand, are ready to take our country backwards in time to a world that will look more like Charles Dickens than anything we’ve see for 150 years.

asbestos is toxic
Removing asbestos from a home

The idea that the market place and unrestrained capitalism with voluntary self regulation by the corporations would do anything but open us up to the predations of corporate pirates is laughable. These are the same people who for decades denied that asbestos was terribly dangerous and was killing people. They sponsored studies that faked research and they lied through their teeth in order to preserve their profits.
These are the same people who for decades knew, from their own research, that tobacco caused cancer but fought all attempts to acknowledge that fact in court while simultaneously working to develop a product that was even more addictive than it was naturally.

Unsafe at any speed
Ralph Nader exposes the auto industry and the Corvair

These are the same people who produced an automobile that they knew was unsafe but chose to not correct the problem because it was cheaper to settle the law suits than it was to correct the problem.
It is simply an observable fact that every single instance of attempts to institute clean water standards, clean air standards, work place safety standards, equal rights, the list goes on and on, was resisted tooth and nail by the industries concerned. It’s history. You can read it and verify it.

The fact is that the only thing that stands between our citizenry and total corporate control of our nation like something out of a science fiction novel, is the Federal Government. No other entity in our society has the power to stand up to the power of the corporations derived from the vast wealth concentrated under their control. That’s why the wealthy and the corporations spend so much money trying to subvert it.  Every single positive step this nation has taken on the environment, worker’s rights and safety, auto safety, child labor, every single instance was IMPOSED on unwilling industry by the government.

desegregation of the schools
Women resisting school desegregation

This is also true on the equal rights front. Without the power of the Federal Government and the forcible imposition of civil rights legislation on the Southern States, we would still have segregation. Without the Fair Housing Act we would still have redlining and rampant discrimination in all areas of real estate.
LGBT rights, Women’s rights, the rights of the disabled, none were voluntarily enacted by most of the country. Supreme Court decisions backed by the enforcement power of the Federal Government were what forced the nation to start living up to its stated values. It was not voluntary. People did not voluntarily decide to act better, As society began to evolve, it needed to reach a tipping point at which it was ready to change. But it was the government that made that change happen in the larger society. It has been both the mechanism for making positive change happen and the guardian of those changes once they did.
So, we are now looking at the dismantlement of the only agency in our society that effectively stands up for our rights, for our environment etc. The right has hijacked the Supreme Court and they wish to cripple enforcement. Donald Trump’s invitation to private industry to suggest what legislation it wishes to repeal is just the start. It’s just one step away from total corporate control of our nation. The wall that has protected us from the self serving, profit before the public good, predations of the industrial pirates is slated for demolition. We must do what we can to ensure that this effort does not succeed.
From the New York Times EPA is major Target