Somehow, 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.
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’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.And 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.
To 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.
What 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).
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.
Now, 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.
It 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
Traditional 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.
Old 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.
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.
Over 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.
These 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.
There 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.
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.
The 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.
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.
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.
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 TimesEPA is major Target
The Democrats are in flux. They have a very real set of issues.
First, the wealth divide, which can also be seen as a generational issue. The democrats moved away over time from their working class roots towards looking to the liberal elites who have made their fortunes in finance and tech in order to raise the kind of money it takes to run modern campaigns.
The Bernie Sanders progressives are far to the left of the bulk of the Democratic voters who are still part of the baby boom generation and while they are extremely supportive of civil rights and diversity issues, they are a bit gun shy of what the right wing propaganda depicts as socialism. That’s why we haven’t been able to get to single payer before now.
If we can get the big money out of the electoral process, the party can place more focus on the young voters who are quite a bit to the left of their parents. Studies have shown that millennials are actually fine with describing their political positions as some variation of socialism. My generation, which was born at the time of the Red Scare and McCarthy stayed far away from that term.
But as long as it takes such huge sums to mount an effective campaign, it’s hard for the Dems to shift direction towards an agenda that their big bucks liberal supporters might find to be a bit much. Bill Clinton, Barrack Obama, and Hillary Clinton were all quite successful with their centrist focus, at least in terms of having the kind of fund raising machines it takes to win. The Dems may have lost the heartland but it wasn’t for lack of money, it was more where and how they spent it.
Bernie Sanders showed that a Presidential candidate can raise enough money from a real grass roots fund raising effort made up of small contributors. But the fact is that there is no state and local network of progressive candidates or a progressive party organization to mount down ticket races that requires the support of a national organization. What Kind of Money It Takes to Run for President
Bernie’s fund raising supported his campaign but progressives have yet to demonstrate any staying power. They have not yet shown they can create the structure of a national movement. Bernie’s Movement was in some ways a “cult of personality”. It was all about making Bernie into the Great White Progressive Hope.
Anyway, clearly the future belongs to the young. However there are probably more young, non-college educated, working class folks out there as there are nice educated liberal / progressive millennials. They will not be able to carry elections on their own for a number of years. The Baby Boomers, like myself, are more moderate and centrist. And They look to be around as a voting block for another three or four election cycles.|
The second is race. Like it or not, the developing progressive movement has not connected with minorities very well. Hillary Clinton did far better with Black voters than Bernie did, despite the endorsement of Bernie by a number of famous Black activists. In many ways, the Bernie Progressives were as much a white phenomenon as Trump’s Tea Party supporters. In the actual election Clinton got 88% of the Black vote cast but the numbers of Black voters who stayed home was in the millions. How Bernie Sanders Lost the Black Vote
After eight years of Barrack Obama, the Black community is disillusioned with the whole system, They have consistently supported the Democrats with no measurable change in economic status, without changing the war on drugs, unequal imprisonment, unequal justice in the courts, grossly unequal violence at the hands of law enforcement. The white, college educated professionals who flocked to Bernie Sanders have not connected with minority voters to any large degree. This has to be figured out before we are going to see anything but cynical apathy on the part of minority voters.
So, the Democrats absolutely need to find candidates going forward that can appeal to minority voters and white liberal elites at the same time, as Barack Obama did. And they have to develop a platform which they strongly push at the local, state and national level that addresses the wealth divide. They are not going to win any support away from Trump, heartland supporters, on the social issues that liberals and progressives consider non-negotiable.
These issues represent a culture divide that will not be breached until the income and educational chasm is addressed. But, if, over time they can show they actually have a real plan that would benefit the poor and working class folks in this country without scaring the liberal elites with the money too badly, over time they should be able to get back that old Democratic identity as the party that represents the working and middle classes. The Progressives will have to stop assuming that success and money equal corruption or they will drive away the very support they will need to shift the Dem Party towards a more progressive agenda with progressive candidates.
The issue of health insurance in America should be a lot simpler than it’s made out to be. All the way back in the 1930’s our country made the decision to go a different way that every other major democratic nation by opting for an employer based health insurance system. This decision was entirely ideological in nature. Right wing opposition to anything that even hinted at the great bugaboo “Socialism” made it impossible for us to have a national health care system like every other major nation.
This decision made major problems with our health care in the US inevitable right from that moment. Our system virtually ensures that millions of citizens have no insurance whatever. First of all, there are the unemployed. No job, no insurance. Add to that, our massive number of “underemployed”. Congress rightly decided that small businesses couldn’t afford to provide insurance to their employees so they were exempted. Additionally, only full time workers generally received benefits so larger corp[orations used as many part time workers as was feasible to avoid paying benefits. The chronically “|underemployed” could be working two, even three part time jobs, just to pay the bills and receive zero benefits.
Eventually a patchwork system of work-arounds brought the number of uninsured down. Medicare covered the citizens over retirement age. Medicaid was set up at the state level to cover the poor who otherwise couldn’t afford to be covered. Of course this left large disparities between the states as to how well they took care of their poor.
So, even with the additional programs filling in some of the gaps, as many as 48 million citizens were still uninsured (a 2012 figure). These many millions tended to end up using the emergency care infrastructure for their basic health care which was, by far, the most expensive way to provide health care services. Additionally, we got to the point at which even for those who had coverage of some sort, many had plans that denied coverage for existing conditions, had huge deductibles which made it impossible for the unwell to afford to get care. The result was that under our system, the number one cause for personal bankruptcies in the US is medical costs.
So now, the Republicans are in power. They have steadfastly opposed the provisions of the ACA, also known as Obamacare, since it was passed. But the effort to repeal and replace the ACA is revealing an ideological divide on the right. The Trump / Ryan plan does a massive tax cut that goes mostly to the wealthiest Americans, puts up to 26 million people back into the ranks of the unemployed, pushes more costs onto the consumer and also places a heavier burden on the states, which probably do not have the tax base to fill in the void.
But, the repeal is running into problems, not from the outnumbered Democrats who appear to be 100% against the repeal on principle, but from the ultra right wing of the party. These folks are the radical “libertarian” wing known as the Freedom Caucus in the House. These people, if left completely to their own devices, would have almost no government role in health care at all.
So, what the Republicans are struggling with is a choice between two plans, one of which screws the poor, the elderly, disadvantaged women, and so on and reduces the share the wealthiest pay to support the system and a complete devastation of the health care system that would pretty much screw everyone not able to afford his own insurance at free market rates. This is a fight that totally leaves out GOP moderates… It is between far right Congressional representatives who wish to shrink the government role in providing health care but are mindful of voter back lash and are worried about pushing the effort so far that they get demolished in the 2018 mid-terms and the ultra right libertarian fanatics who simply do not care about the voters at all and see themselves as fighting for small government and maximum privatization, screw the folks who can’t afford it. These are the folks that see any and all government benefits as removing the incentives of the poor to get jobs and get to work.
In other words, Democrats may rejoice that the GOP is divided and this temporarily is delaying the repeal of the ACA, but the negotiations about how to compromise on the Trump / Ryan plan and get the Freedom Caucus people on board will not result in any improvement but rather result in a compromise plan that is even worse, if possible, than the original. It will result in tens of millions losing coverage, sky high deductibles, more excluded conditions, the middle class covering more of the costs relative to the super rich, and so on. It is an unmitigated disaster for health care in the US and will result in far higher medical costs for the country in the end.
Once again we see the Republican commitment to take from the poor and give to the rich fully revealed. It is a morally bankrupt effort and we as a country should be ashamed that this is the direction we are choosing to go.
Check out: How We Ended Up with Employer Based Healthy Care