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Archive for the ‘Taxes’ 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 128. 

Republicans claim they want “school choice” which is really a way for the government to subsidize private schools of their choice.  However, there is a case before the Supreme Court that shows just how limited they really want “school choice” to be in the case of disabled children.  And, believe it or not, Gorsuch is at the heart of that case.

The case is Endrew F v. Douglas County School District.  This case will determine the standards under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA).  According to what took place during the hearing, Gorsuch’s potential colleagues are mystified about a term that was used in a lower court ruling against the plaintiff.  That term is “minimally more than de minimis”.

Judge Ruth Ginsberg asked “who invented it”?  Well the answer is Neil Gorsuch.  Here s a little breakdown of the case.

The family of an autistic child (Luke) sued the school district about 10 years ago.  The case came about because the school district refused to reimburse the family due to their having to send their child to a specialized residential school for autistic children.  Such private school placements, paid for by the public school district, are allowable under the IDEA in limited circumstances.

It’s not that the school district wasn’t doing what it could to meet Luke’s educational needs. As Gorsuch put it, his “life away from school during the same time paints a much different picture.” Berthoud Elementary, where Luke attended second grade, didn’t seem equipped to prepare him for home life.

“Luke was unevenly tempered, often displaying inappropriate and sometimes violent behavior at home and in public places such as grocery stores and restaurants,” Gorsuch wrote. “He developed various sleep problems ― going to bed at odd hours, waking up frequently at night, and refusing to sleep in a bed. Luke also developed a habit of intentionally spreading his nighttime bowel movements around his bedroom. In addition, although Luke became toilet trained at school by the time he was in first grade, he was not able to transfer this skill to the home and other settings away from school.”

Based on this record, a hearing officer, an administrative judge and a federal district judge agreed in three separate decisions that the school district needed to reimburse Luke’s parents for a private school placement ― which the family’s lawyer Robinson and the family Perkins both said made a world of difference for Luke.

This is all in line with IDEA so disabled children get the specialized education they need.  In most cases, the school district just pays the fees.  But in this case, the school district in Colorado decided it needn’t pay the parents for their expenses.

The case wound up with a three judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals and Gorsuch was one of those judges.  Despite the rulings of the three different hearings that said the a school district must pay the parents, Gorsuch didn’t see it that way.

The fact is that in a very short period of time, this specialized residential school made a world of difference to Luke and his life.  Despite this, Gorsuch led the court in overturning the three previous decisions by claiming that the IDEA benefits available to children like Luke were “limited in scope.”

“We sympathize with Luke’s family and do not question the enormous burdens they face,” he wrote in the decision, which effectively forced the Perkins family to pay for their son’s education out-of-pocket. “Our job, however, is to apply the law as Congress has written it and the Supreme Court has interpreted it.”

Gorsuch added that the statute only requires schools to create an individual educational plan that allows a student to achieve “some progress” toward the goals identified in that plan. Or in the judge’s more telling phrase, “merely more than de minimis” progress.

This is an example of just how Gorsuch looks at people with disabilities.  How could any law passed by Congress would have such a trivial standard?  That is the question that faces the Supreme Court.  The case from 1982 Board of Education v. Rowley, there is no mention of the term “merely more than de minimis”.  The word “merely” was pulled out of thin air by Gorsuch in his ruling in this case.

As a matter of fact, it was the same court that embraced the term “more than de minimis in a case in 1996.  It was Gorsuch that added the word “merely” in 2008.

This case goes way beyond just this one case.  We have a Secretary of Education that has no idea what the IDEA law entails.  Now, we have a nominee to the Supreme Court that doesn’t think the school district should help disabled children beyond “merely more than de minimis”.

You can also see that all of the fight over “school choice” does not include children with disabilities.  It only covers those who want to destroy public schools and have the government pay for their tuition at private schools.

Luke is now doing very well.  He is currently 22 and had aged out of the IDEA program.  He still lives in Massachusetts. He participates in a work program, goes shopping, eats at restaurants and engages in other activities that likely wouldn’t have been possible without the special school.  Basically, he has a good life that would not have been available without proper education.

What would have happened to him if his parents did not have the means to send him to this specialized school?  What if he had been born to poor people?  He would not have gotten this education and would not have developed.  Gorsuch thinks that the dollars are more important than this education and wants to deny people like Luke a chance.

Before I say this, I must confess that I am a grandfather of an autistic grandson.  However, this goes beyond just that.  So, to me, it is a great example of why Neil Gorsuch is not qualified to sit on the Supreme Court.  I have very easy standard for the Supreme Court.  The Constitution is designed to protect people.  So, any Judge who puts dollars ahead of people does not deserve to be on the court.  Gorsuch’s ruling in this case clearly puts dollars ahead of this person.

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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 119. 

With all of the hoopla going on about the Russian connections between trump’s administration a Russian officials, the Republicans in Congress have fired off several rounds in their war on the people of this country.  And, it is going to get much worse before it gets better.

There has been one battle cry from Republicans since the income tax was first introduced.  They say this is what has been going on.  Rich people are being “unfairly” taxed and the money is given to the rest of the lazy worthless people who live in the country for free.

You really have to understand where Republican priorities are.  According to their mantra, if you are rich, you are blessed and worked hard to get your money.  If you are not rich, you should be “thankful” that some rich guy has been nice enough to let you work at the factories that make him rich.  Even if the wages he pays you don’t let you support your family.

You are looking at everything the wrong way.  These rich people are our saviors.  If not for them, we would all be even poorer than we are.  They have all the power.  They have all the money,.  They have all the land.  We should be thankful that we are fortunate enough to live among such great people.

The way things are supposed to work in our country is that the rich, who are marvelous caring people, should pay little or no taxes.  Instead the rest of us should pay all of the taxes the country needs and just shut up.

The rest of us do not deserve the things that we already have.  We don’t deserve a secure retirement through Social Security even though we have paid taxes all of our lives to get it.  We don’t deserve health care when we are old through Medicare even though we paid taxes all through our lives to get it.  We don’t deserve health care at all.  If we can’t afford to pay ridiculous premiums so Insurance Company CEOs can get a bigger tax break, that is our problem.

We don’t deserve proper housing.  We don’t deserve food that has been inspected to make sure it isn’t bad and make us sick.  We don’t deserve clean water to drink or clean air to breathe.  We don’t deserve to have our children receive a good public education.  No, we don’t deserve any of that because we are just slime that is allowed to labor for the rich to get richer.

According to the Republican worldview, there are two kinds of people. The marvelous, wonderful rich people and everyone else.  Everyone else must be fully dependent on the rich letting us work for low wages and we should be very thankful for their generosity.

When it comes to the nation we live in, our rights are all dependent upon their view as well.  They say the government cannot get between a doctor and his patient, but it is okay for the government to get between the doctor and patient if that patient is a woman.  See, women are stupid ignorant forms of life that need a man to tell her what is right and wrong.  She needs that man to tell her how to live.  And she needs that man to tell her how to behave.

I know you think I am being facetious.  I am not, this is exactly the current Republican view of the world.  What Congress has been doing behind the curtain is very showing of this view they have.

Let’s examine what they have been up to.  The very first thing that they got their brainless hand to sign hurts first time home buyers.  Under President Obama, the rates for the Mortgage Insurance that is usually required for first time home buyers was to be reduced.  NO shouted Republicans.  They killed that decrease and instead raised it so people buying their first home will have to pay $500 more per year in home mortgage insurance costs.  Even if that is the drinking water for their workers.

The second thing they did was kill a clean water provision.  Mines have for hundreds of years polluted the water around the mines.  There was a rule that said that mines could no longer dump their byproducts into streams and rivers thus polluting the water.  The Republicans again shouted NO, and passed a law killing that rule.  So, now mine owners can pollute the water anytime they desire just to save a few bucks.

Then there was the rule that made it so brokers handling your retirement plan had to serve you and not his commissions.  They were required to let you know the disadvantages of buying a new stock, and get your permission.  Again a loud NO came screeching from the right.  So, now they passed another law that allows these brokers to simply change your portfolio without your consent even if that change will increase their commissions and hurts you.

Then we come to the proposed budget from the trump administration.  You can see there what the Republicans worldview really is.  This budget targets the vulnerable people in our country, as well as the middle-class with massive cuts while giving our best equipped, strongest, and best military in the world a $54 billion increase in their budget.  Plus, they need another $21 billion to build the Berlin Wall on the southern border.

How are these massive unnecessary increases gong to be paid for?  Well, you guessed it.  Out of your pocket.

The administration has decided that we don’t need a State Department anymore, or at least not one that works.  They are planning to slash at least 30 percent from the State Department’s budget including from USAID.  These programs that are being targeted are the very ones that help us maintain our leadership throughout the world, but since trump appears to be wanting to partner with Putin, we don’t need to hold on to that leadership role anymore.

The budget also calls for a 35 percent cut in the budget for the EPA.  Who the hell needs a department called the Environmental Protection Agency if you don’t care if the people get clear air and drinking water?  That is obviously an unnecessary agency.

We will also see a $6 billion cut to HUD.  These cuts will be made to cut back on major repairs to buildings.  Why should we fix buildings that people live in?  They are just poor schmucks and should be happy they have a roof over their heads.  Quality of life means nothing to them.  Hell, this works nicely for the wealthy.  Our own president made millions doing just this type of ignoring properties in private business.  The biggest cuts will hit the community planning and development grants, which have been used to clean up struggling neighborhoods.  That area will see a $4 billion cut.  Who needs to clean up struggling neighborhoods.  Rich people don’t go there.

Other cuts will include direct rental assistance payments — including Section 8 Housing and housing vouchers for homeless veterans — would be cut by at least $300 million, to $19.3 billion. Additionally, housing for the elderly — known as the Section 202 program — would be cut by $42 million, nearly 10 percent. Section 811 housing for people with disabilities would be cut by $29 million, nearly 20 percent. Money available for Native American housing block grants would fall by $150 million, more than 20 percent.

But, what is the problem here?  These are worthless people who don’t really contribute to the rich people’s pockets.  They merely take up space and breathe some of that clear air we won’t have very much longer anyway.

In addition, we are looking at deep cuts to the Coast Guard and TSA.  Two vital organizations that are part of our vital national security to keep us safe.  We are going to se massive cuts to FEMA.  We only need FEMA if there is a natural disaster or some major large-scale terrorist attack relief responses.  But, since there is no climate change, natural disasters won’t happen.  And, since the military will get a massive increase in their budget and we will have our marvelous Berlin Wall on the southern border, there won’t be any terrorist attacks either.

We are going to see huge cuts to the Department of Education, Health and Human services and much more.  The only things that won’t be cut are defense and ICE.  They will increase “hugely”.

Finally we have the Americans Without Health Care Act that is currently being rammed through Congress.  Under this plan, the likelihood of you losing your health care coverage is better than 50/50.  If you are one of those “takers” who get subsidies so you can afford to get health insurance, you will lose those subsides.  Instead you will get a smaller amount in “tax credits””, which you won’t be able to use either.

If you are someone who got coverage under expanded Medicaid, you can forget about having any coverage after 2020.  If you have pre-existing conditions, you can look forward to higher premiums and higher deductibles in those nice fancy “high risk pools” they want to set up.

If you are someone who is between age 55 and 65, you can expect a doubling of your premiums since the company will be able to charge you five times more than a younger person for the same coverage.  Plus, if you are making less than $75,000 per year your subsidies will decrease up to about $10,000 per year to purchase your health coverage.

If you live in a rural community and have less access to health insurance on the open market, you will get even fewer choices and the chances are your hospital will close down due to lack of funds.  With fewer people with health insurance, hospitals will have to go back to giving out free treatment thus losing money forcing them to shut the door for good, just like before the ACA was enacted and saved many of these hospitals.

And, if you are wondering, everyone loves this new plan.  Well except the American Medical Association, The American Hospital Association, and AARP.  But, so what, the Republicans didn’t ask their opinion to begin with so who cares what they think.  They are just the professionals and who knows more rich tax cut friendly Republicans or health care professionals?

Besides, what is most important in this bill is that the CEOs of the companies about to be allowed to rip you off will get a tax cut.  And, those nasty taxes that made the ACA possible without hurting the deficit will all go away too.  Meaning those who make over $250,000 will also get a tax cut.

We all know that tax cuts for those people are far more important than the average American scumbags having health care coverage.  How dare anyone think that their health is more important than the rich’s tax cuts?  You must be on some illegal drug to think that.

Paul Ryan said two things yesterday about the Americans Without Health Care Act.  First he said this was “sound, good conservative plan”.  Then he said “this plan is an act of mercy”.

And, according to the Republican worldview, he is absolutely correct.  This plan is a “good conservative” plan because it throws overboard everyone who isn’t rich.  And, it is “an act of mercy” because it ensures that more rich people get more tax cuts.  That is exactly what Republicans think their job is.

As you can see, you have been looking at the real world upside down.  The only people who matter are the rich.  You and me and the rest of America who slave away trying to make ends meet are just in the way of the rich.

We are all just supposed to fall in line and do what we are told by the rich.  If we dare to ask questions, or we dare to expect fair wages for our labor, or if we dare to consider ourselves equal to them, we need to be put back in our place.

So far, everything that the Republicans in Congress and what has been done by our beloved leader are intended to put us back in our place.  If you are willing to go along with this, I feel sorry for you.  If you are willing to allow this dehumanizing of our people to continue, then you need help.

All of this is just the tip if the iceberg that is heading towards our Titanic.  Soon you will hear about how Medicare should be voucherized and how Social Security should be prioritized.  The vouchers for Medicare won’t be nearly enough to purchase proper insurance for seniors, and the privatization of Social Security will only be set up to allow bigger commissions to crooked brokers.

Remember, these cuts are not just aimed at the poor. They are aimed at everyone who is not rich.  The massive tax cuts on the horizon are not intended to help your, they are aimed at the rich and corporations.

In the current Republican worldview, there are two classes of people.  The rich and everyone else.  Everyone else are on their own.  If they can’t make ends meet, it is their fault.  If they can’t get a good education it is their fault.  If they can’t afford health care coverage for themselves and their families, it is their fault.

We are all supposed to bow down to the oligarchs and thank their golden idol for their existence and great generosity for allowing us to work for slave wages.  That is what the Republican Party is giving us.  That is the world they want for themselves and us.

And, the shirts keep marching along.

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