Author: gsledyard

Russia, Putin, and the American Right

George S LedyardHow did a party, that still pays lip service to Ronald Reagan is the father of modern conservatism end up as the tool of Vladimir Putin’s Russia? Reagan spent his entire career fighting against Russian influence globally. In just a few years, his beloved party is now an apologist for Russian efforts in their own country domestically and around the world globally.

To understand all of this, one needs to see just how brilliant Vladimir Putin and his intelligence service have been. Historically, the old Soviet Union would launch covert ops designed to co-opt the left. Socialist groups, anti-Vietnam War groups, progressive journalists, pretty much anyone on the left that was anti-establishment could be targeted. They looked for sympathetic political allies.

In those days it was simply assumed that guys like Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, who had gotten a start in their political careers crafting their foreign polices with countering Russian influence around the globe as the central goal, were not easily influenced. So it was the lefties that got targeted for manipulation by Russian intelligence.

This was true all the way back to the very beginning of the Soviet state when the Comintern infiltrated every Russian emigre group, used lefty socialist student groups at universities to recruit spies, and so on.

The brilliance of Putin’s intelligence effort to influence US policy towards Russia is that he made the decision to target American Conservatives. Russians have a very sophisticated understanding of individual and political psychology. During their entire history since the Revolution, the field of psychology has been treated as a tool for maintaining state control.

Russian intelligence has realized that the main objection to Russia as a nation on the part of the US was it’s adherence to Godless Communism. Now, that any pretense of being a Communist country has been dropped, they have realized that as an autocratic, totalitarian state, there are many areas on confluence with the American right. Now that Putin’s Russia has embraced its Orthodox heritage and dropped notions of socialism and communism in favor of oligarchy in which a small group of fabulously wealthy individuals run the country, the American right has realized just how much they have in common with their former enemies.
 

Russian intelligence understands this. They know their history. Back in the 1930’s, it was the American right that toyed with Fascism as a perceived defense against the popular revolt of the unemployed working class. The American oligarchs, the Bushes, the Morgans, Duponts, Fords etc actually initiated a coup to overthrow President Roosevelt which never coalesced. Up until Pearl Harbor these people openly admired the Fascist leaders like Hitler in Europe in just the same way we see Donald Trump openly expressing admiration for Vladimir Putin.

Putin’s intelligence service recognized that Putin’s narrative of Russia as the Christian bulwark against the Asiatic menace of the Islamic hordes, their draconian anti-LGBT policies, even Putin’s strong man ability to crush media opposition all appeal to the American right and represented points of entry for targeting Russian influence efforts.

Really, what it comes down to is that the American right has a built in bias towards authoritarianism. Donald Trump is openly admiring of various strong men around the world. The GOP has been praising Vladimir Putin’s leadership.  All of this is the result of a twenty year campaign on the part of Russian intelligence to influence the American right.

They still do work the left. It’s fairly clear that the Russians used Jill Stein as a tool to split voters off of the Democratic Party and prevent at least a portion of progressive voters from unifying with the Clinton campaign after Bernie Sanders lost the nomination. This continues… `It is quite revealing to see that the pro-Russia narrative being pushed by many members of the far right is virtually identical to that of the far left radical progressives. But the Russians understand that the far left in the US is politically marginalized and has no actual political power.


As voters, we need to look at administration and Republican policy from the stand point of how it serves Russian policy objectives. Despite Putin’s courting of Donald Trump and other right wing figures, he is not a “friend” of America but a savvy adversary whose real interest in in creating division between the US and its European allies, damaging political unity on the US, and even damaging our essential confidence in our democratic institutions. We need to be very careful to see what is happening through this filter or we risk being manipulated into policies that damage the country in the long run.

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“Clean Repeal” / “Repeal & Replace” Proof the GOP Can’t Govern

George S LedyardOK, everyone. Here is the bottom line. We really don’t need any more information than this.
The ACA never managed to cover everyone. The uninsured number of citizens peaked in 2010 at 18.2%. Today, due to the ACA, it is at 10.3%, the lowest rate ever since tracking began 45 years ago. But that is still 28 million uninsured.
The GOP is now considering two options:
1) The clean repeal – according to the CBO, this option would throw an additional 32 million out of coverage. Essentially this option would take us back to a worse situation than our worst rate back in 2010. That’s on top of our existing uninsured. So, we’d go to 60 million uninsured with the “clean repeal”. Who thinks that ‘s an acceptable option, besides Donald Trump?
2) Replace the ACA with the GOP plan – this plan, again according to the CBO, would throw 22 million out of coverage over ten years. That takes us to 50 million uninsured. That’s a couple of million worse than the record in 2010. The reason that the GOP hasn’t been able to pass this option so far, is that a significant segment of the GOP Senate believes that the bill does not go far enough in repealing the ACA. That’s just insane.
The GOP is proving itself to be wedded to ideology rather than reality. Their 7 year propaganda and outright disinformation campaign against the ACA, convinced their base that the ACA is a horrible disaster. Now that they actually have to create a program that works, they find that most of the ACA is working and it’s most important provisions are elements that the voters do not wish to do without.
The tiny group of GOP moderates in the Senate that are also refusing to support their party’s bill, may end up being willing to work with the Democrats to fix the elements of the ACA that are not working. But the rest of the party is facing the harsh reality of either damaging the interests of their own constituents by following through on their promise to repeal the ACA or admitting that their claims about the ACA were pretty much anti-Obama propaganda and retain and repair it.
The GOP is now reaping their harvest of lying to their followers for years. Now that they are responsible for creating a real plan that is sustainable, they can’t and still live up to their promises. So, congratulations to the GOP. They have figured out how to use
propaganda to get elected and have made themselves incapable of actually governing.

Why Republicans Cannot Replace the ACA, Or Accomplish Anything Else

The Truth about the Uninsured Rate in America

 

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Election Cyber Security Going Forward

George S LedyardSheila Kennedy has blogged about our election security situation in her article Smoke and Fire and Vote Suppression
As usual she is thoughtful and articulate and brings up some points that we really need to be considering and under the Trump administration, for reason that are really not justifiable, we are not.
Donald Trump’s obsession with trying to prove that he really didn’t lose the popular vote, that the three million more votes for Hillary Clinton were fraudulent, has caused him to set up a Federal probe to investigate this so-called “fraud” for which there is ZERO evidence.
At the same time, Trump is adamant in his attempts to minimize the Russian interference in the 2016 election, for which there is massive evidence. Furthermore, given what we know of the Russian penetration of state voting systems, it would seem to be crucial that we take a look at the electronic voting machines, the security of the voter data bases, and so on because that’s where the really significant vulnerabilities lie.
But Trump’s Dept of Homeland Security has nixed that effort. So, the bottom line here is that the Trump administration wishes to spend many millions of dollars investigating a problem that doesn’t exist but will not do anything about a problem that is potentially REALLY serious. Many see this as a stealth effort to set up Federal level voter suppression measures and 40 states so far have refused to cooperate wit the probe’s request for records.
Putin - Russian hacking- 2016 electionThe Russians have managed to interfere with our 2016 election. We know that much. The extent to which their cyber penetration, their vast social media propaganda effort and other tactics, tipped the scales in 2016 has not been quantified and may not ever be. Their intelligence operation against Hilary Clinton and for Donald Trump was so complex that we may find it impossible to separate out what effect the Russian interference and from other elements that would have happened anyway.
But one thing is certain. The Russians have incurred almost no negative consequences for their cyber attack on our system. I suspect that the 2016 election interference op will go down in history as one of the most successful covert ops in intelligence history. Espionage professionals will be studying this operation in spook school for many years.
election security, cvyber attacks, election hackingGiven its success and the negligible price that Russia has paid, it’s virtually certain that they will continue this effort going forward. The Russians look at our democratic system as our big vulnerability. With a public that is polarized to the point at which elections at the national level are won by a mere percentage point or two we are uniquely vulnerable to fake news, disinformation campaigns designed to sway just enough votes to change the outcome. Tipping the scales is quite possible when elections are this close.
We desperately need to address the security of this process at the state level and this will require Federal coordination and financial support. Because it isn’t just he Russians we have to worry about. Other nations have cyber units that regularly hack our business and government systems. And now that they’ve seen how successful the Russian covert op was, we can expect other players to try the same thing.

The Russian Scandal Is Not Just a Distraction

George S LedyardCatherine Rampell in the Washington Post (link below) writes that the Russian Scandal distract us from the REALLY important issues with Donald Trump’s Presidency.
 
“Focusing on the terrible things Team Trump did during the campaign and transition conveniently distracts you from all the terrible things Team Trump is doing during the presidency.”
I happen to think she’s dead wrong. Not because so many of the Trump actions aren’t really important. Not because they, in the long run, won’t effect each of us more than the Russian scandal.
It’s because no matter how disastrous his climate change denial is, the dismantlement of the EPA, the GOP Health Care atrocity, the dismantling of the Federal regulatory capacity, etc, NONE of these things is illegal.
The GOP has the Presidency and both Houses of Congress. If they can agree among themselves, the Democrats are helpless to do anything but watch them destroy everything we’ve built since the New Deal.
Our first chance of even slowing things down, under normal circumstances, would be 2018 and possibly taking back the Senate.
But we have the Russian Hacking and / Election Interference scandal. The sheer scope and scale of this scandal is possibly historic. The great scandals like the Teapot Dome Scandal, Watergate, Iran Contra, all may end up dwarfed by this one.
While yes, we as voters may find that we are being “distracted” by the daily revelations, more importantly it is the President, the administration, and the GOP Congress who are getting distracted to the point of being ineffective. The GOP Congress has passed almost no landmark legislation since the election. Almost all of Trump’s destructive actions have been done via executive order.
Frankly, the more time and attention that the President and the administration officials have to put on legal defense, testifying in the various investigations, defending themselves in the media, simply doing damage control, the less time they have to pushing through their disastrous agenda.
The strength of the GOP position in Congress only makes a difference if they are unified. As the Trump associated scandals deepens, they will lose their central focus, the one who provides a unifying leadership for their efforts. GOP representatives will find themselves needing to distance themselves from the sinking Trump ship and GOP party discipline in Congress will almost assuredly suffer.
Finally, criminal charges against administration officials with the consequent specter of impeachment for President Trump provide our best chance of stopping the Trump agenda even before the mid-terms, and certainly before 2020. Impeachment proceedings would almost certainly bring other Congressional business to a full halt. And, this scandal could well be the motivating factor in producing a record turnout at the mid-terms.
No matter how destructive and disastrous the various Trump initiatives are, none, with the possible exception of the health care issue, are likely to fire the base, get people involved politically, and turn out the vote the way the Russian collusion issue may. The extent to which we can hammer the administration over the scandal and let the GOP Congress know that we hold them responsible for being “enablers” of this dysfunction, is directly related to our ability to slow down or prevent destructive legislative initiatives from being pushed through.

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“Billionaire Class” Controlled Media Functioning as a Propaganda Machine

George S LedyardFOX News has essentially become the Trump administration’s main propaganda outlet with Sean Hannity, practically acting as the administration Minister of Propaganda. The difference is that we all know this to be true now. No one watching FOX thinks it isn’t representing conservative interests, that they aren’t watching a pro-Trump news outlet.

But local news channels are not normally seen that way. Most people do not know who actually owns these channels, which are actually still the main way that most Americans consume news. Local viewers would be completely unsuspecting that their local stations were simultaneously putting out centrally scripted right wing disinformation that was identical all over the country designed to manufacture a point of view. Nor would they suspect that these propaganda stories are what are called “must-runs” which local stations are required to work into their programming.

Much of the Sinclair produced material is actually more of the quality of InfoWars than it is like FOX. It isn’t just conservatively slanted news reporting. It is more in the vein of ultra right fake news conspiracy laden material of the type we saw used as a campaign weapon by bot driven social media fake news purveyors.

While we do not have a state run media outlet as they do in many countries like Russia. What we do have is a developing right wing “billionaire class” controlled media that is functioning as a propaganda machine, not as real news outlets.

This is an attempt to further consolidate the sources of information available to our citizens. There is a specific goal in mind with a specific agenda. It is a blatant expansion of a billionaire, right wing controlled, propaganda network and with Donald Trump as President, it will essentially function with as much integrity as Russian State media does in relation to the Putin regime.

Sinclair Requires TV Stations to Air Segments That Tilt to the Right

 
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“Identity Politics” and the Struggle to Realize the Promise of July 4th

George S Ledyard“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

One of the things for which conservatives have criticized liberals and Democrats is what they call “identity politics”. Some maintain that “identity politics” rather than a focus on the economic realities of the heartland is what cost the Dems the election.

But the fact is,”identity politics” is the on-going struggle for our nation to realize in reality what the Declaration of Independence stated in principles. When the document was written, it didn’t cover women, it didn’t include blacks or native peoples. Over time we have as a society recognized that other groups were not included. LGBT communities weren’t even acknowledged to exist when that document was written. Hispanics didn’t factor in. Large numbers of indentured servants were not equal participants.

When this document was authored, its provisions largely meant white men of property. In the next almost 250 years we have steadily enlarged our notions of who is included in “all men” to actually mean “all people”. At every step, some portion of the previously “included groups’ resisted the addition of other new groups as belonging to “all men”. The have, at every step, have tried to keep the club small and exclusive.

The fact that we, in 2017 are still grappling with women’s issues, racism on a large scale, an anti-LGBT backlash, anti-immigrant hysteria, and so on simply makes “identity politics” inevitable and essential. It is the on-going battle to realize the promise of that original document.

What does the unalienable right to liberty mean in a society which imprisons a higher percentage of its population than any other nation in the world?

What does the right to the pursuit of happiness mean when economic class division condemns a significant proportion of our society to stultifying poverty with little or no opportunity to move up the economic ladder?

The Declaration of Independence set out the ideals of the nation, however imperfectly realized at the time. Later, the Constitution of the United States delineated the legal framework upon which this dream would be based. The provision for amendments recognized that this was a living document, that the future would require that we update the document to deal with realities not envisioned by the framers.

But the dream remains the same. And it is an unrealized dream. The unalienable rights defined in the Declaration of Independence are unequally available to our citizens. Vast economic inequality simply makes anything like an “even playing field” that affords equal opportunity a bad joke in our society.

So while conservatives try to pretend that we are in a post racist society, that no special protections should be afforded vulnerable groups within the larger society, “identity politics” will continue to be an essential part of the on-going fight to realize the original promise of our formation as a nation.

The conservative point of view:

The Declaration of Independence and the case for a polity based on universal principles

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GOP Control of Congress May Be the Great the Opportunity for the Democrats

George S LedyardFrom the Article:
“In the past year, 7 in 10 low-income families experienced at least one civil legal problem, according to a recent University of Chicago NORC survey done for the Legal Services Corporation. Such problems include foreclosures, domestic violence (getting a restraining order, for example), custody disputes, debt repayment or neglectful landlords. The elderly, rural residents and veterans — all core components of the Republican base — are especially well-represented in this population.”
It’s not only Medicaid that’s in danger from the GOP cuts being proposed. Legal Aid is in danger as well.
What is interesting about these budget cuts is the way they reveal a real fault line that runs through the Republican base. It turns out that while socially the base may be very “Republican” i.e. anti-foreigner & Anti-immigration, anti-LGBT & anti-gay marriage, hard core Christian & anti-Muslim, and bigoted against people of color, those very same people, often without realizing it, are very Democratic in their economic / policy attitudes.
The hard core Red States in the heartland are some of the largest recipients of Federal aid in the form social safety net support (often known as welfare). As was the case with so-called Obamacare, often these people, who are not the most sophisticated folks, don’t even understand the details of the support they get. When the find out what’s involved with cutting these GOP vilified programs they are often horrified.
In the case of Obamacare the GOP seven year propaganda effort had the majority of Americans convinced that program was the cause of all of their health care ills. But now that the GOP repeal and replace effort has people looking at the details, it turns out that almost every single element of what they say should be essential in their health care coverage was a part of he ACA and they simply didn’t understand that fact.
The nation’s poor have been relying on Federal assistance in myriad ways. Legal assistance is just another program that benefits low income people who no other means of navigating the legal environment in which all of us live. When faced with losing this support due to GOP budget cuts, the poor and working class folks who have relied on them are not happy.
In most cases these programs exist because Democrats created them and pushed them through the legislative process, sometimes with moderate GOP support and sometimes with no GOP support at all. Now that the GOP is in control of Congress and the Presidency all of these programs are in danger of being either eliminated or drastically cut. And it is the core voter base that is waking up to the fact that they’ve elected leaders who are ideologically committed to destroying the safety net upon which they depend.
This points out  a glaring reality. The Democrats have been and continue to be the political party that has consistently, since the Great Depression, championed the programs that provide a floor to poverty. Programs designed to keep our poor and working class citizens from sinking below the waves and drowning in poverty. And they have been doing an abysmal job of reminding people of that fact.
Why is it that the GOP has such a strong base of support precisely among the folks that depend on these essentially Democratic programs for their survival? One must arrive at he conclusion that, in its championing of the rights of our vulnerable minorities, women’s rights, workers rights, civil rights for minorities, LGBT rights, and diversity as a positive value, the Democrats have done a very poor job of reminding the American public that the programs upon which our nations poor and working class depend for survival, are Democratic programs.
The GOP has mastered the art of playing upon the social biases of the American heartland to convince them to vote against their own economic interests. As long as power seemed to lie in some part with the Democrats, the GOP could blame all sorts of issues on those terrible Liberals in Washington. But now, the GOP is in the position of having to own the whole thing. They control the whole government. And that is starting to wake people up. Voters in the heartland are starting to look at the proposed cuts in the GOP budget & health care bills on an item by item basis.
GOP legislators trying to create the ACA replacement are finding that, in order to keep the elements of health care coverage that the voters feel are essential, they are ending up with something that looks suspiciously like Obamacare 2.0. This is revealing a major fault line in the GOP between those who hesitate to risk losing the support of their base by seriously damaging their economic survival and the hard core ideologues who put their radical libertarian philosophy ahead of the welfare of their constituents.
It is clear that the Democratic Party must figure out how to craft a message that makes this clear to the poor and working class folks who seem to have not understood or have forgotten just what it is that the party does for them. We need to get back to the old Democratic party alliance with organized labor, develop programs designed to deal with the widening wealth / income divide, think forward by working out programs designed to help the work force transition to the jobs of the future as the robotics revolution  destroys traditional work models.
But more importantly, the Democrats need a better understanding of how to sell their program. They need a “ministry of propaganda” that understands the current  neuroscience of how voters make their decisions, how to craft a message the resonates. We  clearly are the party which has the agenda that benefits the poor and working classes economically coupled with an idealistic civil rights agenda of diversity that appeals to the educated liberal elites.
How we develop a sophisticated messaging program to “sell” that fact will determine the survival of the party in the future. The GOP control of the entire legislative process is going to create the opportunity to create a huge backlash against the GOP programs which are now transparently for the benefit of the richest oligarchs at he expense of the common man. But the Democrats have to craft the message and hammer it home. They also need some candidates that are inspiring and charismatic that can get the voters excited about the Dem agenda.
Article on the Threat to Legal Aid in the GOP Budget

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Will the GOP Be Forced to Work with the Democrats on Health Care?

George S LedyardFrom the article –
Second, McConnell will press the argument that if this bill does not pass, Republicans will have no choice but to negotiate over the future of the Affordable Care Act with Democrats. Multiple reports have said that McConnell has privately warned Republicans that failure would mean they must enter into talks with Democrats on ways to shore up the individual markets, which would effectively mean that a chance to pass a partisan repeal bill is gone.”
It is abundantly clear that the GOP has not wanted to work with Democrats on health care. They have seen this chance to dismantle big government programs and cut taxes as a unique opportunity. The battle has revealed fault lines in the GOP between the real ultra right libertarian extremists, who fundamentally don’t really believe that government should have any role at all in providing benefits and protections to private citizens and more traditional style Republican moderates who are willing to support some level of Federal involvement in health care.
While in theory, the GOP has total control of both houses of Congress, the ideological divide between the Tea Party, Koch brothers sponsored extremists, whose goal is to roll back government to pre-New Deal levels and the more traditional moderates is wider than that between the moderates and establishment Democrats.
The ACA, better known as Obama Care, was really a Heritage Foundation, conservative plan created in order to head off Liberal efforts to establish a single payer system. It was successfully put into place in Massachusetts under Governor Mitt Romney. In other words, this was a conservative plan, not some Liberal creation.
President Obama went with is plan, as did the Dems at the time, because they felt it was the best they could do. Anything closer to single payer seemed to be a non-starter at the time. So the ACA was passed with its supporters fully knowing that it had issues that they expected to address as they revealed themselves over time.
What they had not anticipated was the unrelenting, concerted, disinformation attack on the ACA by the GOP. Conservatives made opposition to the ACA the single most important element in their opposition to the entire Obama administration. Republicans met and determined that their strategy would be to block any and all efforts by the Obama administration to do anything. They wished to deny Obama anything that could be considered to be a win and to force him out of office after one term.
Of course that backfired completely and Obama successfully completed two terms. But GOP obstructionism made any tinkering with the ACA to fix apparent issues impossible. Instead, the GOP repeatedly and unsuccessfully tried to repeal the legislation as a way to play to their base. So they publicly excoriated Obama and the ACA while refusing to do anything that might improve it. Their hope was that it would implode and they could replace it with their own legislation.
But now those same Republicans are faced with putting their money where their mouths have been. It is abundantly clear that while they were great at criticizing the ACA for eight years, they didn’t actually have a plan in place that they could agree on to replace it. Their replacement plan floundered in the House and they finally were forced to kick the can down the line by passing a version they knew wouldn’t fly, hoping that the Senate would be able to fix it.
Mitch McConnell decided to minimize public outrage over their developing plan by appointing thirteen GOP Senators, all white males, to meet in closed session to draft the bill. No public hearings, no input from the opposition party, no input from women, no input from the minority community, and no input from the health care provider community.
Even many GOP Senators have been offended by this process, rightly feeling that they had been left out of the process and were being rushed to approve the plan that emerged without really understanding its implications.
Now that the Congressional Budget Office has released its analysis of the draft legislation, it has become apparent that the extremist libertarians in the Senate, the so-called Freedom Caucus, feel it does not go far enough to dismantle Federally supported health care. And the moderates, looking at benefit cuts, rising deductibles, drastic cuts to Medicaid, etc. which will devastate health care for the poor and raise costs dramatically for everyone else, in order to give a tax break to the top 1% are finding that they just can’t go there.
This is REALLY not about health care at all. It is the result on a 35+ year effort on the part of a group of extreme right wing billionaires, like the Koch brothers, to dismantle the Federal government. It’s not just health care they wish to dismantle. It is the entire Federal regulatory structure and involvement on providing the social safety net. Like the Democrats with the ACA, they see this legislation as just the first round. Their eventual goal isn’t just cutting Medicaid. It is dismantling both Medicaid and Medicare. It is the privatization of almost everything we currently view as public goods.
While these extremists have a serious power base within the GOP and have largely, through excellent organization and vast financial support from the radical point one percenter billionaires, like the Koch brothers and Robert Mercer, been able to drive the GOP agenda, they are not the majority. Most of the GOP are not the extreme ideologues that these people are. They are more opportunists. They’ve gone along with the extremists when it seemed politically expedient but now that they are seeing the public reaction to the health bill for instance, they are wavering in their support. And the true moderates, of whom there are still a few, are not willing to follow the extremists in their desire to dismantle government at the expense of their constituents.
The moderates concede that there is a legitimate role for Government in administering areas deemed public goods as well as providing some sort of regulation to protect clean air, clean water, the environment in general, etc. This places them closer to establishment Democrats than it does to the more right wing members of their party. This is a serious culture war in our country and it is reflected within the GOP itself.  Mitch McConnell was barely able to restrain a pro-Trump super pac from running attack ads on one of their own GOP Senators who was refusing to vote for the health care bill as it stands.
So, given the impasse that may result from this ideological battle which may just result in the inability of Mitch McConnell to enforce party discipline and pass the legislation, he has informed his GOP comrades that their failure will force them to do the unthinkable and reach across the aisle and work with the Democrats to keep the current system functioning. It would mean the defeat of the GOP promised efforts to repeal Obama Care and require them to do what they have refused to do, fix the broken elements of the current system.
And the Democratic Party they will be forced to deal with will be a newly energized group. The resistance effort that has been mobilized within the Dem community has actually reinvigorated talk of single payer, Medicare for all proposals. If the GOP is forced to accept a colossal fail on their repeal and replace effort, the reaction from the public may just push health care reform farther in the other direction than it has been. If the GOP is forced to deal with the Democrats, they will be negotiating with a Democratic party newly energized to go farther in expanding Federal coverage than has been the case to date.

George LedyardIf you like what we are doing here, please know that we would be extremely grateful for any support you might provide. We have three levels of on-going support which we have purposely kept extremely affordable. Thanks for helping us keep this effort going.


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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.