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Archive for the ‘Economics’ Category

Day 133. 

Later today the House is scheduled to hold its vote on the Americans Without Health Care Act.  There are a lot of things to take into consideration as you watch this vote and what appears to be a defeat for trump and Ryan.  The hypocrisy on the right is getting very loud and everyone should pay attention to that.

You have heard that the Republicans are claiming that the ACA is crumbling under its own weight.  You have heard about insurance companies pulling out of the program and that premiums are rising.  What they are not telling you is that all of that is their fault.

In 2015, Marco Rubio got a little measure put into a budget bill which is what is really killing the ACA in some states.  Here is what happened.  The ACA promised insurance companies to help make up for losses in coverage in the first decade of the law.  It was understood that there would be losses because getting some people to purchase insurance would be tough, and it would take some time for those without insurance at the time who were sick to get healthy and let everything balance out.

In 2015, it was estimated that this part of the bill would cost $2.9 billion.  However, Rubio and the Republicans decided to cut that amount of money down to about $440 million.  That meant that insurance companies did not get their help to stay in the market.  As a result, most started to pull out, especially in Red States that were fighting the law in the first place.  And, the ones that stayed in the program were forced to raise premiums.

If that little budget line item was not there, we wouldn’t see the problems in some states that we see.  It should also be pointed out that very recently, the courts ruled that the federal government reneged on the law’s deal and now owes these insurance companies $80 billion.  It won’t help in the short-term because you know it will be appealed.  Plus, insurance mergers have been going crazy and many non-profit companies that provided health insurance through the ACA were forced to go bankrupt due to this change in the law.

If the ACA is really failing, it is the fault of the Marco Rubio and his Republican cronies, not the fault of the ACA itself.  They sabotaged the law in order to help kill it.

Then we have the so-called Freedom Caucus in the House.  These wackos claim to be all for freedom.  Yet, their only agenda is to ruin the social safety nets and cut taxes.  Their goal is to get rid of the ACA, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.  They are opposed to the Americans Without Health Care Bill, because they call it “Obamacare light”.  They argue that it won’t cut the deficit enough because of the tax credits to help people get insurance.

What they really want is to repeal the ACA and they don’t care if anything replaces it at all.  In fact, they would prefer that no replacement bill even be introduced.  But, they are negotiating to get some changes they “might be able to accept”.  Only, those changes will make getting real insurance even harder than it already is.

The thing they have latched onto is the requirement that companies cover essential health benefits.  They want to cut that requirement from any health law.  Those essential health benefits number 10 and they are:

  • Ambulatory patient services (outpatient care you get without being admitted to a hospital)
  • Emergency services
  • Hospitalization (like surgery and overnight stays)
  • Pregnancy, maternity, and newborn care (both before and after birth)
  • Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment (this includes counseling and psychotherapy)
  • Prescription drugs
  • Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices (services and devices to help people with injuries, disabilities, or chronic conditions gain or recover mental and physical skills)
  • Laboratory services
  • Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management
  • Pediatric services, including oral and vision care (but adult dental and vision coverage aren’t essential health benefits)

These are now all required to be covered in health care coverage.  The Freedom Caucus wants them to go away.  So, for example if you work for someone who believes that they don’t need to cover pregnancy, they can get health coverage that drops that protection.  It currently costs roughly $15,000 just to have a baby.  That doesn’t even touch pre-natal and post-natal care.  The states that have an opioid epidemic right now won’t be too happy about dropping substance use coverage either.

The Freedom Caucus has only been negotiating with trump.  The Republican House leadership wants him to placate this wacko group.  In other words, they are reeling him in to take ownership of the bill, especially if it goes down.

The irony of the so-called Freedom Caucus is that they claim to be “fiscal conservatives” who are only interested in the deficit.  Yet, they are not disappointed with the huge tax cuts in this bill for the rich.  They are not opposed to increasing defense spending or in spending 21 billion dollars to build our Berlin Wall.  And, you can bet you bottom dollar that they will be all for huge tax cuts that trump wants down the line for the rich and companies.  Naturally, according to them, if you reduce revenue and let the rich keep more money, the deficit will magically go down.

Ryan and his group have been negotiating with moderates who also hate the bill.  Their reason is that it will cut off their constituents from health care.  But, in order to placate them, the tax credits will need to be increased, especially for older people.  That won’t go over well with the Freedom Caucus.  As a result, it is difficult to see how this bill can get past the House.  Though anything is possible.

Over in the Senate, the bill will face much tougher opposition.  Especially if the Freedom Caucus gets trump to include the changes to the essential benefits part.  See, they are trying to get the bill passed through reconciliation.  That only works in the Senate if it only affects the budget.  The changes to the essential benefits part will not affect the budget, and it could cause it to go through normal procedures which includes the 60 vote threshold.

The Republican Party has made their living crying about the ACA.  They have undermined the bill wherever they could in order to cause it to fail.  They have promised over and over to “repeal and replace” the ACA.  They have had seven years to come up with a workable, viable plan that the American People could get behind.

In all of those years, they did absolutely nothing to craft a replacement.  They did nothing to make the ACA better.  They passed laws that made the ACA harder to enforce and do what it had promised.

Now, they have control of both the House and Senate, and trump is sitting in the White House.  And, the Americans Without Health Care Act is the best they could come up with?  Oh, Ryan says this is only part one of a three-pronged plan.  First is this horrible bill.  Then, they will let Price make administrative decisions on doing more.  Then, they will pass another law to fully replace the ACA and it will be much better.  Yeah, that sounds like one of the three great lies like the check is in the mail.  Hell, even Ted Cruz says the third part is a “bucket for suckers”.

The simple fact is that once Americans saw this bill, they lost their minds.  They realized that their own health care coverage lies in the balance, and it doesn’t look good for them.  They flooded “town hall meetings” and expressed their dissatisfaction about his horrible bill.

I guess the real problem the Republicans have right now, is that they are having a hard time explaining why they need to repeal the ACA since it was their bill to begin with.  Almost every line in the ACA came from the Heritage Foundation’s plan to help defeat universal health care in the 1990s.

They claim that the ACA was passed too fast.  That the Democrats went with reckless speed to pass it.  It took the Democrats nine months to get the law written and passed.  They tried to include Republicans, but they didn’t want to talk about their own bill.  Democrats also talked to health organizations and insurance companies to get their input.  They at least made an effort to pass a good bill.

This bill was kept secret until about a week ago.  The Republicans held no hearings on the bill.  They called no witnesses to testify about the bill.  They never spoke to Democrats to get their input.  They never talked to health organizations or to health insurance companies to get their input.   And now, they are trying to ram this bill through both Houses of Congress in less than 10 weeks!  If nine months of work is reckless speed, what do you call 10 weeks?

The Americans Without Health Care Act is nothing more than a tax cut bill for the rich.  It has nothing to do with your health care simply because Republicans don’t give a damn about hour health care.  It has brought to light the terrible “management” skills of Ryan and Republican leadership.  And, it has brought to light the terrible “deal making skills” of our beloved leader.

If this bill fails to even pass the House, both Ryan and trump will have a huge black eye.  It will call into question everything that they want to pass, even their tax reform bill.  It will especially call into question their ability to actually govern.

In the two plus months of the trump administration nothing has been done that will help bring down premiums for health care.  Nothing had been done to increase jobs.  Nothing has been done except help trump’s own companies and pollute our water and air.

This bill was supposed to show us how “great trump really is”.  It doesn’t look like very promising on that front.  If this bill passes we know that up to 24 million people will lose their health coverage.  Medicaid will be cut so badly that old people will be thrown out of nursing homes.  Premiums will go up even more.  And, deductibles will go up as well.  The Kaiser Foundation said yesterday that deductibles will increase an average of about $1400.

The good news of this bill is that the upper 2 percent of income earners will gain about $250 million in tax cuts over the next 10 years.  If you are not one of them, you lose.

If this bill does not pass, and it is looking like it won’t.  The health care industry will be thrown into a tizzy.  It is even doubtful if it will survive.  Since Republicans have done everything they could to kill the ACA over the last six years, and with no replacement, uncertainty will rule the health care industry.  Uncertainty is never good for any business.

If I were in the Democrat caucus right now, I would be writing a Universal Health Care bill to walk down to the White House after this disaster plays out.  I would put it on the desk of trump and say:  “You promised health coverage for all.  Here is the bill that will make your promise come true.  Support it and force your party to pass it with us and you will look good”.

You may be thinking that is crazy.  Why would I want trump to look good.  I don’t.  But, I would rather take care of the American People as I was sworn to do and worry about things later.  If you think about it, it could be a win-win for Democrats.  At least they would have a real plan to run against the Republican do-nothings.

Especially when you consider that the majority of the public favors keeping the ACA.  Just think of the political capital you could earn by doing even better.  As it is, all we can do is watch, wait, and hold our breath.  That is no way to run a government.

 

 

 

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Day 131. 

There is an awful lot to watch this week.  There was the open session of the House Intelligence Committee on the Russia Hack and we got some news that everyone kind of knew but didn’t expect to hear.  Neil Gorsuch began his hearing to become part of the Supreme Court.  And, the Republicans are pushing very hard to remove tens of millions of people from their health care coverage.

As I watched the hearing yesterday, I began to wonder if I was watching two different hearings.  The Democrats were hammering away at the real purpose of the hacking by Russia while a lot of Republicans were hammering away at the leaks that basically led to these investigations.  That is somewhat understandable.  Republicans have wanted to deflect away from trump’s administration’s behavior so going after the leakers is their plan.

However, when Comey said that there was an active investigation not only into the Russian hacks, but also about whether or not trump campaign team members actually helped in that hacking scheme, the air seemed to go out of the room.  When he said also there was no information to back-up trump’s claim of wire tapping of his tower, there was a moment of relief in the room.  Everyone in the room had already expressed that was not true for a couple of weeks now.

The one thing I believe this hearing did prove is that we really do need an independent commission, complete with a special prosecutor, to investigate this matter.  I don’t say that easily either.  But, this matter is way too important for any appearance of politics interfering with the investigations.  And, holding the investigation in Congress allows that to take place too easily.

An independent commission, with a special prosecutor, would be able to get to the real truth, regardless of what that truth is.  The circumstantial evidence does not look good for trump, but it is circumstantial and I am not making any decisions on the guilt or innocence of him or his team.  I want the truth.

Hopefully, the investigation at the FBI will go along smoothly, but since it is part of the executive branch, there is no guaranty of that either.  Watergate proved that point very well in the past.

Just as importantly, the White House started distancing itself from some of the players in this investigation.  Spicer even went so far as to say the Paul Manafort “played a very minor role for a very short period of time”.  He also said that Mike Flynn “was just a campaign volunteer”.

Does the White House really believe the American People are that stupid?  Paul Manafort ran the campaign from March through August.  He was brought into the campaign to have a professional actually run it for them.  He did not play a “very minor role”.

Mike Flynn was not just “a campaign volunteer”.  He was the security advisor to the campaign.  He even went onto become the National Security Advisor in the administration.  That is quite a leap from just being a “campaign volunteer”.

Sometimes when I watch this administration I am dumbfounded by their ease in lying to the American People.  On the other hand, that has been their way of doing business ever since trump began his campaign.  But, now when it appears they just might have gotten caught with the whopper, they are hunkering down even more.

The problem is that I believe they are actually circling the wagons in a minefield.  How many times have you heard that if the moron would just come out and say he made a mistake, even with a flimsy excuse, about the wiretapping claim he could get around it.  But, trump never admits he is wrong about anything.  And, this is no different.

Then, out of the blue, it was reported last night that our empty suit of a Secretary of State is going to skip the NATO meeting in April.  They claim he is skipping the meeting to stay around for the Chinese Foreign Minister’s visit to Washington.  However, later in the month, he is going to visit Moscow.

That is a very bad message to send to our allies.  Instead of trying to change either the NATO meeting date or the Chinese visit date, they are just going to skip NATO but still visit Russia.  If trump had not been hammering away at NATO and trying to make it appear as a protection racket, maybe NATO members wouldn’t get nervous about this situation.  But, since trump cannot stop calling NATO “obsolete”, I am guessing they are very nervous about this situation.  And, I don’t blame them.

The Gorsuch hearings are ongoing and I will have more as this week goes on.  But, this hearing is very important.  I already pointed out one case that I believe should exclude him from serving on the Court.  I want to hear what he says, and I really want to hear what questions the Democrats are going to ask.  I already know the Republicans will just showcase their ideology rather than vet this candidate.

Now we come to the Americans Without Health Care Act.  Republicans are trying very hard to placate other Republicans to get them to vote for this bill.  They announced some changes to the bill and are touting that it will help older Americans better.  That is nice, but it is also gutting more parts that will hurt many more Americans.

Some of the amendments geared towards conservatives include Medicaid and what is being called the Buffalo Bailout.  One thing they want to add is a “work requirement” to receive Medicaid.  That may sound nice, but it will hurt a whole lot of poor people and people with disabilities.  There has been no clear definition of just who must follow this “work requirement”.  They want to take a program that is intended to assist out-of-work people and poor people to have health care and put “requirements” on them.

About one-third of people on Medicaid are in nursing homes.  Are they supposed to follow the “work requirement”?  That may sound like a crazy question, but it is a very real possibility if there aren’t any definitions about who must obey this requirement.

This is just another example of the conservative viewpoint that anyone who needs help only needs help because they are lazy slugs who don’t want to work and support their families.

They are also going to “speed up” the tax cuts from the ACA, the repeal of expanded Medicaid and “block grants” to states for Medicaid.  And, this small government party wants to dictate just how states do their Medicaid.  Hence the Buffalo Bailout.

In New York State, and many others, the state requires counties to contribute to Medicaid costs.  The Upstate counties complain that it means they must charge higher property taxes.  So, conservatives in Congress have decided that they will step into each state’s operation and state that counties no longer need to contribute to Medicaid costs.

To show they mean business, they have even said that this applies to any county that has a population of less that 5 million people.  They are not only interfering with a state’s operations, they are saying which counties are involved.  So much for “small government” actions.

As far as the Americans Without Health Care Act goes, in order to help older Americans purchase insurance they have decided to include 75 billion dollars to increase tax credits for people between 50 and 64.  Only, the cowardly House won’t say how that money should be used, they are leaving it to the Senate.  In other words, they want the House to pass a bill that gives 75 billion dollars to it, but won’t say how it should be spent.

Additionally, they won’t say how they were going to pay for that 75 billion dollars.  This is the party that says everything must be paid for before it is passed.  Yet, here is 75 billion dollars that isn’t being paid for and still is expected to be passed.

None of these changes are going to do anything to lower health care costs.  None of these changes are going to do anything to keep people from losing their health car coverage.  The only thing this bill will do is give the rich massive tax cuts.

We don’t know if it will even get out of the House.  The so-called Freedom Caucus is still against it, but there are serious cracks in their front.  They need 21 votes to kill the bill in the House.  If it gets to the Senate, it only needs 3 votes to kill the bill.  So far, there are a lot more than 3 Republicans who are against it.  So, this may not reach the president’s desk.

But, that is nothing to cheer about.  If this bill does not pass, you can bet the next one, if there is a next one, will be far more conservative than this one is and many more people will lose their health care coverage.  Or, Republicans will do nothing except cut the ACA even more through executive actions, and hurt even more people just for ideology’s sake and tax cuts.

Then there is the budget that trump wants to pass that will hurt the poor even more.  It will gut the EPA and destroy our State Department.  We have heard some really stupid things to justify this draconian budget like Meals On Wheels isn’t effective.  Then over the weekend, one GOP congressman in Pennsylvania said that “god was guilty in helping pollute the Chesapeake Bay”.  He came up with this brilliant answer when it was demanded in his town hall that he vote against gutting the EPA.

There are a lot of things to watch this week in Washington.  But, with an FBI investigation hanging over the White House, things could get very interesting in the coming months.  What was it that trump said during the campaign?  Oh yeah, “you cannot elect someone who is being investigated by the FBI”.

I wonder if that means you cannot pass an agenda by an administration that is “being investigated by the FBI”?  I guess you have to answer that question for yourself.

We keep hearing from Republicans to look at “what the president has done in such a short time”.  Only, when you look at what he has done you discover he really hasn’t done a damn thing.  Except for business owners.  He has done nothing for the people who voted for him.

And, the shirts keep marching along.

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Day 127. 

All I can say is this has been one week from hell.  First we have the Americans Without Health Insurance Act, then we have the budget for the rich, and then we have trump still claiming “my wires were tapped” by the former President even though everyone including the heads of two congressional committees have said there is no evidence that it happened.  But, don’t worry, the reason is because Obama apparently had the British tap his wires so there won’t be any evidence.  Something the British claim is patently false.

One of the beneficiaries of the massive cuts to federal agencies, Rex Tillerson from the State Department, said that the cuts were okay with him because “we won’t be in as many shooting wars” anymore.  What?  The very next day he told North Korea that “we aren’t taking any options off the table, including military options, if they don’t comply” and denuclearize.

Does this clown have ant idea what his job is supposed to be?  It is the job of the Secretary of State to help keep us out of shooting wars, not get us into them.  He is supposed get our allies to support us and to even get our adversaries to help stop North Korea.  In other words, he should be talking to China to help us get rid of the nuclear weapons in North Korea rather than threatening war that China will not look favorably on since they border North Korea.

China is the only real ally North Korea has.  If we can get them to do something, then we won’t have to go to war.  But, trump administration is more interested in flexing muscle than in keeping the peace.  Remember Seoul, the capital of South Korea is only 30 miles from the border.  And, North Korea has it lined up in their sights of artillery.  There are only 20 million people living in Seoul, but what the hell, they are just “foreigners” and not white ones either.

Then we have trump’s budget director Mick Mulveney trying to justify all of the budget cuts with absolute stupidity.  For instance he claims cutting off all funds to Meals on Wheels is justified because, “it hasn’t shown it has worked”.  In other words, “do those old farts really need to eat?”

He also claimed that the wipe-out of the Public Broadcasting Corporation is “good for the single mom who has two kids.  She shouldn’t pay for that program anymore”.  Only, that is the best place for her children to get educational television that is also entertaining.

On the other hand, it is perfectly fine for that single mom who has two kids to lose her health insurance so Mulveney and his kind can get a huge tax cut.  It is perfectly fine for her to pay more in taxes so the rich get even deeper cuts.

You can see where this is taking us.  The rich matter.  Everyone else does not.  It is okay to take people off their health care if the rich get the benefit.  It is wrong to pay for good educational television since the rich needs to kick in also.  Just so long as you claim that you are being “nice to that single mom”.

There is not a singe item in the budget cuts proposed that will have a negative affect on the rich.  But, every proposed cut will have a negative affect on everyone else.

That single mom must pay for the Berlin Wall on the southern border that won’t do anything to secure our borders.  But she is being saved from paying for something that she actually uses and probably needs.  See how wonderful and nice this administration is to this poor lady?

As far as Meals on Wheels go, it is reported that the programs helps keep people out of nursing homes.  What is the benefit of that?  Only about one-third of the Medicaid budget for each state.  But, we apparently don’t have to worry about that either.  With the proposed Medicaid cuts, there won’t be any money to put these old people into nursing homes either.

This is what the administration wants to do.  Health Care, cut it.  Workplace Safety, cut it.  Diplomacy, cut it.  Meals on Wheels, eliminate it.  Public educational television, eliminate it.  Environmental Protection, cut it.  Climate change research, eliminate it.  Health Science research, cut it.  Weather forecasting, cut it.

You can see the pattern.  When trump said he wanted to “drain the swamp” what he really meant was that he would bring in a bunch of billionaires to pass budgets and laws that make life better for themselves.  Screw the rest of us.  What he has done so far proves that he is keeping his campaign promise.  He is screwing us really good.  Hope you like it.

Maybe he is beginning a new phase of eugenics.  Maybe he is making a mockery of the old adage of “only the strong survive” and making it “only the rich survive”.  Maybe he is just trying to cull the surplus population.

I am sorry, but our beloved leader is on a definite mission.  That mission has nothing with America being exceptional or even normal.  That mission is to make sure the rich get richer, non-whites are kept out, and the rest of us struggle to survive.

Today our beloved leader will meet with the Leader of the Free World, Angela Merkel.  Doesn’t is sound weird that we will meet with the leader of the free world instead of the way it used to be?  But, that is what trump has given us.

But don’t worry.  Things will definitely get better.  Congress just passed a law that will allow veterans who suffer mental health problems to buy guns easier.  Since only 20 vets commit suicide per day, so let’s give people who should not have guns because they are a danger to themselves to add to the numbers.  How’s that for culling the surplus population and helping our vets with their health problems?

And, the shirts keep marching along!

 

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Day 126. 

As a nation we need to ask one question.  What type of country are we willing to become?  Ever since trump won the election, that question has been at the top of everything he has proposed.  And, in my opinion, he is looking for something that has not been America.

He has pitted race against race, religion against religion, and rich against poor.  We have always had problems in these areas, but he has ramped them up to a point where your race, your religion, and your wealth is the determining factor of whether you are a winner or a loser in his America.

He has tried to place a limited Muslim Ban on travel to the U.S. twice now, and he was rejected by the courts twice.  He claims that is all in the name of “keeping Americans safe” but he always runs his mouth and shows that it is really based on religion, which is unconstitutional.  His administration doesn’t help either with their rants about how Muslims are the root of all of our problems.

Then we have the so-called “Obamacare Repeal and Replace” legislation trying to get out of the house.  The CBO scored it and there are some good things and some bad thing for both sides.  The good for Republicans is it says that it will reduce the budget by $337 billion over ten years.  The bad for everybody is that 24 million people will lose their health care over the same 10 years.  The White House memo says that 26 million people will lose their health care over that 10 year period.

It is also becoming apparent even to Paul Ryan that the bill as written cannot get out of the House.  His problem is that in order to get out of the house he needs to take it even further right.  But, in order to get it through the Senate it needs to go further left.  It would seem that he has painted himself into a corner, and trump seems willing to let him blow in the wind over it as well.

Now we are seeing trump’s first budget.  This budget shows us just what kind of country trump wants us to have.  A country with no culture, no heritage, no sympathy, no decency, just more military and more bullets.

Naturally, there is the huge increase in defense spending and a huge increase in DHS budget for mass deportations and his Berlin Wall.  But there are still huge cuts for the Coast Guard, the TSA, and FEMA.

The Coast Guard is really our front line defense for our borders in terms of drug trafficking and people trafficking, as well as our port security.  The TSA is supposed to make us safe while flying  FEMA is the agency that responds to natural disasters, and in case you didn’t know, they are responsible to coordinate relief work in case of a wide-scale terrorist attack.  Who needs these agencies?  Apparently not trump.

But it gets even worse.  HUD will lose $3 Billion in its budget.  Number one on the hit parade from HUD will be a small program called “Meals on Wheels”.  All funding will go away to help old and disabled people get food delivered to them.  There will also be the elimination of the heating help funding for poor and older Americans.

The State Department will lose 28 percent of its budget.  The EPA will be hit hardest with a 31.4 percent cut to its budget.  What will be taken away is 3200 jobs and eliminate a new plan for tighter regulations on power plants, and “zero out” programs to clean up the Great Lakes and the Chesapeake Bay.

Health and Human Services is facing a 16.2 percent cut.  These include cuts of $5.8 billion from the nearly $32 billion National Institutes of Health, the nation’s premier medical research agency.  The NIH’s budget has not kept up with inflation as it is, and now trump wants to cut it even more.  This is the agency the does research on diseases to help us defeat things like cancer or stop pandemics before they get going too bad.  But then, since fewer people will have health insurance, who needs research?

The Department of Labor is facing a 20 percent cut.  These cuts include eliminating a federal program designed to help people 55 and older get new jobs.  The Labor Department is also supposed to protect your safety at work.  OSHA will see a huge cut in its budge meaning fewer inspections of workplace safety.

The Commerce Department is facing a 12 percent cut.  One of the biggest will be at NOAA.  These cuts would eliminate more than $250 million in National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grants, including a program that helps coastal communities adapt to climate change, deal with invasive species and maintain healthy water and fisheries. Also on the chopping block: the Economic Development Administration, which provides federal dollars to foster job creation and attract private investment; and the Minority Business Development Agency, which is dedicated to helping minority-owned business get off the ground and grow.

Other independent agencies will be cut off completely and be forced to shut down.  These include the Public Broadcasting Corporation, the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Chemical Safety Board, the United States Institute of Peace, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for National Community Service and the African Development Foundation. That foundation was established by Congress and provides seed money and other support to enterprises in some 20 countries on that continent.

I guess Big Bird is on the chopping block, again.  We really need to do away with things like education for young children and eliminating the arts for everyone else.  What kind of country needs those things?  And, chemical safety is definitely not needed since we can trust the Koch Brothers to protect us from harmful chemicals.

These are just some of the cuts that trump wants to make to the budget.  Of course, Republicans will tell you how much this budget will save money, but they will leave out their upcoming massive cut taxes, especially on the rich.  That means, even with these cuts, the deficit will grow even more than it is.

However, this also brings us back to the question I asked at the beginning.  What type of country are we willing to become?  All of these cuts affect the average person.  All of these cuts will have a negative impact on just about every American who is not in the top 2 percent of income brackets.

The Department of Education is also facing cuts and the biggest target is support for before and after school programs.  How is that helping the middle-class and the working poor?  It doesn’t and it will affect you directly.

There has always been a kind of pride in Americans and their willingness to help those in need.  Are we going to let that one trait of ours go away?  Are we going to stand by and let the unfortunate become poorer while the rich get richer?

Just how are the poor, the working poor, and the middle-class going to get ahead if they need to spend more income on things like expensive child care that will only keep them back?  As silly as some of you think, the Public Broadcasting Corporation helps educate children before they start school.  Are we going to handicap poor people’s children just to save a few dollars?

Before and after school programs allow parents to keep working to support their families and help keep kids off of the streets thus getting into trouble.  Should we really eliminate that funding as well?

The same people who want these cuts to take effect are the same people who claim that America was founded on “Christian Principles”.  Really?  These cuts to the social fabric of our nation are examples of “Christian Principles”?  If it is I am glad I am not Christian.

The health insurance argument really sums it up best.  The real question isn’t about liberalism v. conservatism.  It isn’t about right v. left.  It is about one simple question.  Is health care a right or a privilege?  If you believe it is a right that everyone deserves health care, then you must support universal health care because that is the only way people will actually have affordable health care coverage.

If you believe that it is a privilege then you fully support the Republican plan.  You are saying openly and defiantly that health care only belongs to those who can pay for it out-of-pocket.  If you cannot afford it out-of-pocket, you don’t deserve it.

If you believe that health care is a privilege, then you are surely in favor of all of these social cuts to the budget as well.  If health care is a privilege then so is clean air and water.  So is workplace safety.  So is being warned about weather events that may hurt or kill us.  So is medical research.

Those are some areas where these cuts are most felt.  The disadvantaged are being targeted so trump can have a massive military buildup.  They are being targeted so the rich can get more massive tax cuts.  Trump is telling his supporters who will be hardest hit, “screw you, I won”.

Of course it still needs to get through Congress.  We know that Democrats will be against most of these cuts, if not all of them.  We can only hope they are able to kill this budget before it kills too many of us.

If you believe that the disadvantaged should be abandoned and left to die, then trump is your president and the Republicans are your party.  But, I would suggest you stop your “Christian Principles” argument because you are not only lying to us, you are lying to yourself.  “What you do unto the least of you, you also do unto me”.

So far, I believe that this administration and Republican Controlled Congress want to abandon the disadvantaged.  They are only interested in the wealthy.  To me, that lacks all decency.  This budget is a snap shot of that lack of decency and moral fiber.  It is a perfect example of greed and a “me first” attitude.

So much for Christian Principles.

And, the shirts keep marching along.

 

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Day 124. 

The awaited CBO scoring of the Americans Without Health Care Act is in.  As expected, you lose.  The CBO score has one good news story for Republicans, it says that the bill will reduce the deficit by $337 billion over 10 years.  But, it also says that up to 24 million people will lose their insurance in the same 10 years.

The administration and Republicans are already calling the report false.  And, according to a memo that Politico saw from the White House, they are right.  According to that memo, the White House says that up to 26 million people will lose their insurance in the next 10 years.  See, the CBO is low on their numbers!

Here is an example of the plan.  Under this plan, if you are 55 to 64 years old, and you make about 30,000 per year, your premium will increase 700 percent and your coverage will go down from 87 percent to 65 percent.

It works this way.  Under the ACA a person in this group now pays $1,740 in premiums including the subsidies that they receive from the government.  Those subsidies will go away and instead that person will receive $4,000 in tax credits to purchase their insurance.  That means this person will be responsible to pay $14,640 in premiums.  So, if you are that person, half of you income will go to your health insurance, if you keep it.

The CBO report says that about 14 million people will lose their health insurance in the first year.  Again, that is because of the removal of the subsidies in helping to get insurance.  In the future, at the end of 2019 to be precise, Medicaid will be slashed big time.  In addition, growth in Medicaid will be capped and the money will be given to states in “block grants”.

The block grants will be based on the number of people on Medicaid, not the costs of health insurance needed for coverage.  And, with the caps on growth, that means more people will be tossed off of Medicaid.  You know, the program that trump said would not be cut.

There are a lot of other problems with this plan.  Planed Parenthood, which is the largest provider of birth control and pre-natal care for poor women will be cut from the Medicaid funding altogether.  Meaning they won’t be able to provide those services to poor women.

The CBO report says we can expect thousands of unwanted pregnancies due to these cuts.  It also means that people who need pre-natal care the most and can’t afford it won’t get it.  Meaning many more birth defects can be expected as well.  Plus, it will probably also result in more abortions.  Abortion rates are at 30 year lows because of the birth control that places like Planned Parenthood offer.  More birth control results in fewer unwanted pregnancies and fewer abortions.

The only reason that Republicans have targeted Planned Parenthood is that they offer abortion services.  They do not allow abortion services that are paid for through Medicaid since that would be against the law.  But, since they offer the services, Republicans say they can’t get any money from the government.

So, more unwanted pregnancies will result.  Fewer cancer screenings will result.  More women will be hurt by not receiving these services, just because Republicans simply don’t care about women’s health care needs.

Paul Ryan is actually happy as a lark over the report.  He naturally is claiming the deficit reduction is all that matters.  But, then, that is the whole purpose of this Americans Without Health Care Act.  To cut the deficit and to cut your health care coverage and to give the rich a bigger tax break.  As far as Ryan is concerned, mission accomplished.

It isn’t just the old who are going to get slammed by this bill either.  The middle-class will also get hurt.  It is estimated that the average increase in premiums will be over $1200.  So, unless you are making over 75,000 per year, you can expect your insurance coverage to go up.  Plus, it will cover less than the current law does.  That 87 percent is cut to 65 percent across the board.

There is also the very real possibility that if you are currently covered by an employer sponsored health insurance plan, you could lose it.  The new law takes away the employer mandate.  Under the ACA, if a company employed 50 people or more, they were required to provide health care coverage.  If this law passes, they will no longer be mandated to provide that coverage.

That means that any company who currently provides health insurance as part of their employment package can opt out and leave you hanging.  I really don’t expect a lot of companies to do that, but the possibility is there which means the numbers of people without insurance could be much higher than the CBO or even the White House currently expects.

Rural areas are going to be especially hard hit.  Whether or not you know this, it is in rural areas where opioid addiction is at its worse.  Just to give you a hint, there is a small town in West Virginia that has a total population of 400 people.  Three pharmaceutical companies sent over 4 million doses of opioid pills in just one year to that town.  A former State Senator is suing the companies over this abuse.

Some of the things that are being cut in the Americans Without Health Care Act is treatment for addiction.  Without Medicaid, people in rural areas won’t be able to afford treatment for their addiction.  And, addiction requires constant treatment, it doesn’t go away with one or two visits.

The result will be that poor people in rural areas will continue to die from opioid addiction and this plan will do nothing to help them.  Instead, it will make the problem even worse.

Here is another simple fact.  These poor rural people are the very people that voted for trump.  He promised them he would take care of them, and now he is backing a bill that will ultimately kill them.  That is not hyperbole either.  Without health care, people will die.

You also need to know something that will couple with this bill.  There is another bill going through the House that deals with so-called “wellness programs”.  These programs were designed to help keep costs of health care down by helping people live better healthier lives.

Under these plans in the ACA the program is voluntary.  They offer screening for things like cholesterol, high blood pressure, body fat, etc.  If you agree to the program, you can receive a lower rate on your premiums or other incentive awards.  Those awards are capped on dollar values.

The new bill that is sponsored by Virginia Foxx from the Soviet Socialist State of North Carolina goes even further.  It says that an employer can ask you to give them a DNA test.  She claims it is “voluntary” but if you refuse, the company will be allowed to charge you a basically unlimited amount of money for your premiums.  That is not “voluntary” it is “mandatory” unless you want to pay much more for your insurance.

Forget the idea that this program would be a violation of your privacy.  The bill strips that privacy right away from you when it comes to your health coverage.  If your DNA shows a genetic trait, what is going to keep the company from dropping you from the health plan?

As far as I am concerned, the covers have been thrown back to show what the Americans Without Health Care Act is all about.  It is a simple tax cut for the rich at the expense of the working poor and the old.  It is estimated that the top 2 percent of income earners will receive a whopping $250 billion tax cut over ten years from this bill alone.

The fact that their tax cut is being paid for by you losing your health care does not matter to Republicans or to trump.  The only thing that matters is that the rest of us be kept in our place.  The only thing that matters is that income inequality is to grow and grow.  If you die, so be it.  You don’t matter.

This especially comes true when you look at the cuts that the trump administration wants to make in the budget.  They want to cut research funds for the CDC.  They are rolling back environmental protections that will result in more illnesses.  They are cutting back on FEMA funds.  They are basically abandoning the American People.

And, the shirts keep marching along.

 

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Day 123. 

According to the Republicans in Congress and our beloved leader and his administration we will all be better off with our health coverage because they will let the “free market” be the driver for our coverage.  The problem is they are selling a myth.

Do you know just how many “free market” insurance systems are out there?  Do you know how many of them are actually working and keeping the costs down?  The answer to both questions is zero.  There are no “free market” insurance systems in existence anywhere in the world.

There is a reason for that.  The simple reason is that a “free market” system just won’t work to cover everyone.  The simple fact is that if you believe that everyone deserves access to inexpensive health care coverage, the free market is incapable of providing it.

The Republicans claim that their “free market” insurance system will be different.  They claim it will work, and they offer a lot of examples as to why it will work.  And, their arguments are all over the board.

For one, Ryan claims that the free market is the only way to go because “then a healthy young person won’t have to pay for the insurance of a sick older person”.  He basically doesn’t understand how insurance works.  Or more importantly, he doesn’t care how insurance works as long as his words sound good.

We all know that the only way to keep costs down for everyone is to have everyone purchase insurance.  That way, the younger healthy people get insurance and the costs they pay help keep down the costs for older people.  Then, when the healthy younger person becomes older and sicker, they also get lower costs from the younger healthy young people.

That is the only way that insurance can work.  Without the healthy young people in the insurance market, the insurance companies cannot afford to protect the older people who may have more coverage needs.  This is the same formula for car insurance also.

One of the main reasons that states require you to have car insurance is to help keep the costs down because safe drivers help pay for poor drivers.  That is a simple fact of life.

Another argument for this so-called repeal and replace from Republicans is that it “doesn’t matter how many people have coverage, but rather how many have access to their doctors”.  That is a perfect example of double-talk.  Everyone who has been without health coverage knows that you don’t have access to any doctor unless you have health insurance.

The costs of just seeing a doctor are astronomical for anyone without insurance.  Then, we have the case that hospitals are required by law to treat uninsured people who enter the emergency room.  Only, when they can’t pay for those services, the rest of us pay for it through higher health insurance premiums.  And, if the hospital has too many patients that cannot pay, they lose money and shut their doors.

Additionally they claim that young people who want to should be able to just purchase “catastrophic” insurance.  That means they will not have access to health care by visiting a doctor.  Preventative health care is not part of catastrophic insurance, only hospital stays.

Republicans also say that the reason that insurance premiums are so high is because they cannot sell insurance across state lines.  That is lie.  There is nothing to keep insurance companies from selling across lines right now.  Except, they must be in line with each states regulations regarding health insurance.

If they are going to pass laws that supersede state laws, aren’t they violating their highly touted “states rights” argument?  Wouldn’t they be interfering with each states’ right to determine health insurance requirements for their citizens?

Finally, you have the very real problem of people with pre-existing conditions.  Both Republicans and the administration says they won’t lose their health care.  They are going to be protected.  But how?  If young healthy people don’t have to purchase insurance, how can health insurance companies afford to cover those with pre-existing conditions.

The Republican idea is that they will be placed in high risk pools.  That on top of the plan to charge older people up to five times as much as they charge younger people.  If you place pre-existing condition people in high risk pools, the costs of their premiums will explode.  That isn’t making insurance cheaper, it is making it more expensive.

Republicans claim that the “free market” is the way to go.  By using the free market, they claim that premiums will go down and everyone will be able to afford health insurance.  That is a total fantasy.

We have seen the same “free market” and “more competition” argument used in other areas that was supposed to keep prices down.  The result was just the opposite.  When companies are given a free hand, they reduce their competition by merging with it.  Then, when they cut the competition down, they raise rates even higher.

We have seen it with phone companies, cable companies, and even health companies.  Remember the only reason that Aetna pulled out of the exchanges is because the government denied it permission to merge with Cigna.  The government said it would reduce competition and cause prices to go up.

Aetna threw a hissy fit and pulled out of the exchanges to “punish” the government.  That is the only reason they pulled out, not because they were losing money.  That is what the “free market” gives us.

Before the ACA was implemented, we probably had the closest thing to “free market” insurance in the world.  And, costs were high, and going up, and about 40 million people had no coverage.  Plus, hospitals in rural areas were shutting their doors at such an alarming rate that many areas of the country don’t have a hospital within 200 miles of people.

On the other hand, countries that have a one-payer system pay less for health costs.  We pay twice as much in health care costs than people in a single-payer system.  Why?  Because under such a system, everyone has health insurance.  The covered pool is much larger, and it makes it cheaper for everyone.

And, don’t swallow the lie that everyone in those countries are trying to get here for better coverage.  They aren’t.  I know a lot of Canadians for example, and none of them are willing to come here because of our “wonderful” health care coverage.  They are perfectly happy with their health coverage.

Additionally, people who live under single-payer coverage live longer than we do.  Their life expectancy is higher than our life expectancy.  That is because they have proper health coverage that helps prevent problems and/or catch serious problems earlier allowing proper treatment before it is too late.

It doesn’t matter if you are talking about health insurance or anything else.  The free market scheme simply does not work the way Republicans want you to think it does.  A total free market takes away all regulations that keep companies in line and keep them from forming monopolies that will hurt the consumers.  That is why we have anti-monopoly laws.  That is why we have laws regulating the financial markets and banking markets.

The old Robber Barons of the late 19th century and the early 20th century were able to create monopolies to make themselves rich.  Only, they didn’t take the rest of us along by raising wages or lowering prices.  The opposite happened.  They cut wages and raised prices.

That is what the Republicans want to happen to our health care insurance.  They want to let the insurance companies loose to do as they see fit.  If you lose your coverage, Republicans just don’t care.  If your premiums go way up, they simply don’t care.

The Americans Without Health Insurance Act is simply a tax cut for the rich and corporations.  The ACA relied on these taxes to pay for the health coverage of poor people and used these taxes to pay for the subsidies you may get.  Republicans want to eliminate those taxes so only the rich and health care companies see the positive results.

Ryan was even bragging on television the other day that he was cutting Medicaid massively with the biggest cuts in history.  How is that allowing poor people to have health insurance?  It doesn’t, it takes it away.  And, Paul Ryan is perfectly fine with that fact.

There is a huge difference between capitalism and a free market.  Capitalism works well, as it has in this country, but only if there are reins on it to keep it from going wild.  The free market on the other hand has no reins on it and they go wild to the detriment of everyone who isn’t rich already.

If you have been wondering why there isn’t a single “free market” health insurance system in the entire world, the answer is simple.  It won’t work!  Republicans know this simple fact, too.  That is why they want to keep “tax subsidies” in their plan to make you think they are helping.  That is why they want to keep pre-existing conditions covered.  They know that the “free market” system they are touting won’t work and will leave these people behind.

But, they are going to leave them behind anyway.  The poor will lose their health care because Medicaid expansion will be revoked.  Those with pre-existing conditions will be left behind because they won’t be able to afford the premiums in those “high risk pools’.  Everyone else will be left behind because in the first year, it is estimated that premiums will increase almost $1500.  And, by 2020 those premiums will increase another $2400.

In the meantime, companies like Aetna will be allowed to swallow up more and more of their competition and that means less competition not more that Republicans promise.  Meaning, premiums will go up even more than expected.  Less competition means higher prices.

Have you looked at your cable bill recently?  It keeps going up because of the “mergers” of cable companies reducing the competition.  That is what Republicans want to do to your health insurance.

The bottom line is that a total “free market” does not exist simply because it cannot work.  At least not for the average person.  The only way to reduce health care costs is to go to a system like Medicare for all.  Otherwise we will take the Republicans word and just piss into the wind as we get sicker and sicker because we can’t afford health insurance.

And, the shirts keep marching along.

 

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Day 120. 

To paraphrase Jim McKay what in the wide world of sports is going on around here?  The whole problem of trump’s Russia connections keeps growing and growing.  We don’t know what exactly what those connections really are, but the circumstantial evidence is showing more and more that it isn’t very good for our country.

In all of this we are also learning that trump is not the great leader or business man he has claimed to be.  His people, according to him, are running around without his knowledge getting involved with lots of things that are proving troublesome for trump.  Either he is really stupid, or he really knows what is going on and covering it all up.

I don’t believe in conspiracy theories.  But, I do believe in reasoned deductions and logic.  Maybe it is time we really look at this somewhat logically and see what happens.

As you know, the only “plank” in the Republican Party Platform that was changed at the Republican Convention was one that dealt with Ukraine.  The original plank said something along the lines that we should support the Ukraine in their fight against Russia and Russian insurgents in Ukraine up to providing lethal weapons.

That plank was softened to remove the part about providing Ukraine lethal weapons.  People who were at the meeting said that it was the trump campaign that lobbied and fought for the change.  “Not so” said the trump campaign.  Paul Manafort, who was campaign manager at the time said that the campaign had no input on that change.

Now, there is a problem with that denial.  Seems Manafort had a protégé named Liminik.  He is a duel Russian/Ukraine citizen who worked with Manafort when he was leading the campaigns for Putin’s puppet dictator in Ukraine who was thrown over.  It is also known that Liminik was a GRU agent.  GRU is the Russian Military Intelligence Agency.

Shortly before the convention, Carter Page, one of trump’s advisors was granted permission to travel to Russia to give a speech.  Right after that speech and Page returned to the U.S. and Liminik turned up in Cleveland and has since bragged to Russian News that he lobbied the trump campaign for the change.

And, Gordon, a trump campaign advisor, has recently admitted that he was the campaign spokesperson who lobbied an fought to get the change made.  He even said that he was acting on orders from trump himself.

We also remember the WikiLeaks dumping of emails from the DNC the day before the Democrats started their convention.  It also mysteriously leaked more information every time trump put his foot in his mouth and those leaks helped deflate trump’s errors.

Then we have the case when Roger Stone, a trump confidant, tweeted that Podesta was the next to be on the WikiLeaks hot seat.  Two days later at 8:06 AM RT, the Russian propaganda media outlet, announced that WikiLeaks released Podesta emails.  Only, at 8:27 AM the same morning, WikiLeaks did finally release Podesta emails.  How did RT know before hand that the dump was coming?

Our beloved leader bragged about how much “he loved WikiLeaks” and how marvelous these criminals were.  This love affair was because they were attacking his opponent.

During the campaign all 17 Intelligence Agencies for the U.S. said that they had proof that Russia was behind the hacking and leaks that WikiLeaks were giving out.  Only trump would not accept that analysis.  He claimed that is was probably some 400 lb. guy sitting on his bed in his mother’s basement that hacked the DNC.

Since the election, we have heard all of the lies from his people that no one had any contact with Russian officials during the campaign or during the transition period.  Those lies were exposed big time as trump would say.  Mike Flynn was fired over his lies.  Sessions has not resigned or been fired over his lies under oath to Congress.

Since Rex Tillerson became Secretary of State, there have been mass firings at the State Department.  These firings have included the most senior career members of the Department that have the most knowledge about Russia.  Tillerson has remained silent about the cuts in staff, and about the proposed 37 percent cut to his budget.  As a matter of fact, Tillerson has been invisible since he became Secretary of State.

No one from the State Department have been invited to attend meetings with heads of state from other countries.  To show just how bad things are, the spokesperson for the State Department was asked the other day if anyone from State would be involved in talks with a high-ranking official from Mexico this week.  He said he didn’t even know the official was even in town.  Sorry, but isn’t it the job of the State Department to deal with foreign governments in the interests of the United States?  Here is a person in the country and State doesn’t even know he is here?  Really?

Then, right after trump made unsubstantiated claims that President Obama “tapped my wires” and the heat got higher on him, we have WikiLeaks claiming to have hacked the CIA and releasing lots of classified material.  What have we heard from the trump administration of this huge problem?  Nothing!  Why is that?  Why hasn’t trump made any condemnation about this criminal hack from his favorite criminal organization?  Does he hate the intelligence community so much he doesn’t care of we are placed in danger from our enemies over such a hack?  What the hell is going on here?

About the same time, his former National Security Advisor, Mike Flynn, submitted paperwork that says he is a foreign agent, which is fancy talk for lobbyist,  working for Turkey.  He also claimed in the paperwork that his job period was retroactive to before the election when he was working for the trump campaign.  Which means that while he was advising trump on intelligence issues during the campaign, and during the transition, and during his time as National Security Advisor, he was working for a foreign country.

The trump administration claims that trump had no idea that Flynn was working for Turkey.  Hmmm.

Yesterday, Comey met with the “gang of eight”, the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee.  When asked if the wire taps trump claimed Obama put on his tower were discussed, Comey said nothing.  When a Republican Senator at the meeting was asked about the wire taps, he said “there is no evidence that I have seen that says it happened.”

We really need to ask some very hard questions of trump.  Logical deduction is saying that there is something not quite right with all of this.  Especially when you take into account that unverified dossier created by the former MI6 agent.  If you compare that dossier to what is coming out, a lot of what is in that document is being proved to be correct.

We all know that there are two agencies that Putin hates the most.  The first is the Department of State and the second is the CIA.  We also know that Putin is a former KGB agent and former head of the FSB which replaced the KGB.  The CIA was his opponent all of the time, and he really hates them.

He also hates the State Department because they have the audacity to call him on the carpet for his murders of opposition leaders and reporters who write scathing articles against him.  Additionally, when protesters hit the streets in large numbers in Moscow, Putin blamed Hillary Clinton for “antagonizing the situation”.  He claimed that State was “helping and stirring up” the protesters against him.

Then, during the election, he interfered with our election.  I don’t know if he loved trump that much or if he hated Clinton that much.  But the interference was certainly designed to hurt Clinton whether or not she won.  Now that trump is president, the Department of State is being gutted of anyone who is better equipped to fight back against Putin and Russia.

It appears that trump is side lining the Department of State and not allowing it to do their job.  How can that be?  Why would a president hamstring the diplomatic agency responsible to work with our allies?  It doesn’t make sense unless you don’t want to work with our allies.

Since trump is so twitter happy, why hasn’t he said a word about the CIA hacking?  What is he hiding about that incident, if anything?  It doesn’t make any sense.  It seems like he is happy about the hack.  You got that feeling when asked about it yesterday, all he did was smile.

What is even worse in all of this is the silence from Republicans in Congress.  With the exception of very few Republicans, no one wants to question beloved leader.  No one wants to properly investigate what is going on.  No one wants to be the target of one of trump’s famous tweets, apparently.

This is madness.  Remember when Bill Clinton was running for office and it was discovered that someone from China donated to his campaign?  There was an outcry from the right that brought down mountains.  Now, when evidence is showing that trump or members of his staff just might have colluded with Russia to influence the election, we hear nothing from the right.

There simply are too many questions and way too many lies floating around for this to continue.  It is now the time for Republicans to get off of their asses and set up an independent commission, complete with a Special Prosecutor, to find out the truth behind all of this.

The American People deserve to know the truth.  We deserve to know the facts.  Our democracy, our freedoms and our very country is on the line.  I don’t know if trump and/or his minions were involved in colluding with Russia.  But, I want to know the truth.  I hope trump was not involved.  That would be a crisis that we really don’t need right now.

I served my country for 20 years under five different Presidents of both parties.  I don’t give a shit about party affiliation.  I do give a shit about my country.  If Republicans do not establish that independent commission with a special prosecutor, and any of this turns out to be true, they would be just as guilty as trump and/or his minions.

This is really the time to put country ahead of politics.  It is time we learn the truth.  This is not Russia.  Congress is not supposed to be trump’s rubber stamp for anything he wants to do.

It is time for Mitch McConnell to show he s a real patriot interested in the well-being of our country and not just a politician trying to cover for his president.  So, I say to McConnell, “from one old fart to another, show some guts and do what is right for a change”.

If he doesn’t act, the shirts will keep marching along!

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