Trumpcare. A Post-Mortem.

What a week it’s been!  How do you pick a topic?  We had the hearings on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, a new office in the White House and security clearance for Ivanka Trump (even though Trump denied he was seeking security clearances for his kids), more bombshells about Paul Manafort’s undisclosed ties to Russia (he was being paid $10 million dollars by Putin), Trump’s unbelievable interview with Time magazine on “the truth” where highlights include:

  • He still insists he was wiretapped.
  • He still thinks 3-5 million illegal votes were counted
  • He still think job statistics are phony (until he re-tweeted that they weren’t)
  • He said several times that he got 306 electoral college votes (he got 304)
  • He boasted of his ability to predict terrorist attacks (apparently including the one in Sweden that never happened)
  • And, the strangest of all: “I can’t be doing so badly, because I’m president, and you’re not.”

But I’m going to pick on a topic that hits everyone.  Health care.  Specifically, the now-failed “Trumpcare” bill.

What it was supposed to be:

In 2000, Donald Trump released a book “The America We Deserve“.  In it, he said the following:

We must not allow citizens with medical problems to go untreated because of financial problems or red tape.  It is an unacceptable but accurate fact that the number of uninsured Americans has risen to forty-two million.

Working out detailed plans will take time.  But the goal should be clear: Our people are our greatest asset.  We must take care of our own.  We must have universal healthcare.

Just imagine the improved quality of life for our society as a whole if the issue of access to healthcare were dealt with imaginatively.  With more than forty million Americans living day to day in the fear that an illness or injury will wipe out their savings or drag them into bankruptcy, how can we truly engage in the “pursuit of happiness” as our Founders intended?

Ok, that was a long time ago.  What about more recently?

In 2015, Trump said he would not cut Social Security and Medicare.  However, right after the election , Tom Price (R-GA) said Medicare cuts would come in 2017 – and now he’s the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

On 60 Minutes, in September 2015, he said “I am going to take care of everybody. I don’t care if it costs me votes or not. Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now.” – but the CBO report on the bill shows a drastic difference – millions of people to be left behind.

What about after the inauguration?  In February, he said it was going to immediately fix Obamacare.

What it became:

On March 7, we got our look at “Trumpcare”.  What was in it?  The list of broken promises is extensive.

  • 7 of the 66 pages were devoted to keeping lottery winners from getting Medicare
  • $300 BILLION tax cut for the wealthy.
  • $800 BILLION stripped from Medicaid.
  • Medicaid / Medicare expansion rolled back so as to deny over 10 million people coverage.
  • Tax break for corporate executive making over $500,000/year.  (Totalling $2.8 BILLION for the 400 wealthiest families)
  • Tax credit eliminated for million of working families.

Sounds bad, right?  Well, Trump didn’t have the votes to pass it.  There is this group in the House call the “Freedom Caucus” and they didn’t like the things that were still in the bill.  Among the things they wanted to get rid of:

  • The prohibition on annual and lifetime coverage limits.
  • Prohibition on out-of-pocket expenses for preventative care and mammograms.
  • Requirements to standardize documentation (which makes it easier to compare plans)
  • Ratios that require insurance companies to pay out at least 85% of premiums in benefits.

And apparently 80% of the caucus wanted to lift the ban on refusing coverage of pre-existing conditions.  More wanted to eliminate things like maternity procedures, emergency rooms, and the list goes on and on.

What happened:

The response was predictable.  At town halls, they almost came with torches and pitchforks to support Obamacare provisions.  Representative Mike Coffman (R-CO) had to sneak out a back door to avoid angry voters.

So the Republicans caught flak from their constituents, the old “Tea Party” became the “Freedom Caucus” and took enough votes away from the Republicans so as to lose their majority in the House.  The vote on the bill was withdrawn.

So.  Once it was dead.  Who got the blame?  Well, first Trump blamed the Democrats.  Then he blamed House Republicans for not getting the votes and said that he was waiting for Obamacare to ‘explode’.  This is a lot of blaming other people for someone who said that HE *alone* could fix it.  Then, to top it all off, he told his fans on Twitter to watch Jeanine Pirro that night on Fox News where she called for Paul Ryan’s resignation. And when it came to his efforts, well, the White House said Trump did ‘all he could’ to pass the bill.  Apparently, in the Trump White House, a complete effort is 17 days, versus the 13 months of negotiations that went on to pass the ACA (Obamacare).

And now what?  Trump says that, next up on his list is tax reform.  Well, his budget proposal cuts everyone except the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security .  In fact, there are 62 agencies and programs he wants to eliminate entirely.  But his tax plan tries to give money to everyone but especially the rich (I’m guessing he’s trying to give a bone to the poor and middle class so they won’t realize that whole herds of cattle are being given to the rich).  This should add about 5.3 *trillion* dollars to the debt.

This’ll be the next exciting chapter…

The Gaslighting of America

We, as a country, are the girlfriend that Trump is trying to convince that black is white, up is down, and he is the only source of truth.

In the past week there’s been so much going on in several different topics, it’s hard to concentrate on just one.  So today I’m going to go a bit “meta” and go with a common theme that seems to pervade the Trump administration.  Specifically – how so many different political subjects seem to be handled by the administration by a technique called “gaslighting”

If you’re not familiar with the term you can look it up here.  It comes from the plot of a 1938 play and 1944 film “Gas Light”.  The short version is when someone tries to convince someone else that reality is something other than what it is.  In the movie, the husband tries to mentally destabilize his wife by turning down the gas lights and insisting that only she is the one seeing less light.  An example I once heard from a comedian is a husband caught cheating by his wife because she saw him coming out of another woman’s apartment and his defense is “It wasn’t me”.   It doesn’t matter that she saw him, recognized him and in every way caught him red-handed.  He’ll try to “gaslight” his wife into believing it wasn’t him.

I’ve noticed this gaslighting of the country by Trump and his supporters on a scale I’ve never seen before.  This list will be, by no means, complete.  It would take an incredible amount of time to catalog the stuff he said on the campaign trail, so I’ll skip that for now.  But what about after the election?

 

Think about that last one there.  That’s how shooting wars are started.  That’s how we upped our involvement in Vietnam – the Gulf of Tonkin incident.  And for those of you who think that Trump is particularly fascist, World War Two started with Operation Himmler – where the Nazis staged false raids and made fake claims over the radio to make it look like Poland was mistreating or attacking ethnic Germans.  This is how they justified their blitzkrieg.

This is just a short list.  This is by NO means comprehensive.  There’s a lot more out there, but it gets depressing to document lie after lie after lie.

So why is this all happening?  One can only speculate.  But why would someone put out such easily provable lies?  Well, the source of “The Big Lie” is none other than Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Propaganda Minister.  If you get enough people believing it – because it’s too outlandish to NOT be true, you can convince people to do horrible things.

So today they tell us our cities are hellholes, despite all evidence to the contrary.  They tell us we’re being inundate with dangerous immigrants, despite all evidence to the contrary.  They even want us to be scared of refugees from bombed out countries.  But we’ve heard this before – we turned away Jewish refugees during WWII for fear they were spies.  This is one of our nation’s great shames.

I just can’t let this stuff go without stating my opposition to it….

Sovereignty and the Environment

When will we stop trampling over everything and everyone in fealty to the God of Oil? Now we’re back to screwing the Native Americans.

I’ve had a hard time keeping up with the news.  It seems that bad news keeps coming as fast as I can read it.  Trying to decide what to write about is like a bad version of going into a Baskin-Robbins ice cream shop – only there are WAY more than 31 flavors and each one wants to kill you.

I’m going to take a topic that combines several subjects.  Pipelines.  Specifically, the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) but this also goes for the Keystone XL pipeline.

If you look at their website, the pipeline folks will tell you that this is the safest, most economical way to transport the crude oil.  And they might be right – when comparing it to other methods of moving the oil.  However..  There are a few things they won’t tell you.

The question I ask in all this is – where are the 2nd Amendment ammosexuals?  These are the people like Ted Cruz who says the 2nd Amendment is the last bastion of defense against a rampaging government.  Where are you when “police” show up looking like they’re from the Army?  Where are you when cops start shooting at people praying while North Dakota introduces legislation legalizing vehicular manslaughter?  And while I’m at it – look at that last link,  People being shot at while PRAYING!  Where are the folks complaining about religious freedom being trampled on?

Fact is, because of railroads, we don’t need this pipeline.  And that’s assuming we have a need for the oil.  Remember the Keystone XL?  Remember Trump promising that he’ll put Americans first?  These pipelines are to take oil from North Dakota and Canada and get them to the Gulf (DAPL hooks up with other pipelines in Illinois) so they can sell overseas.  The argument about “energy independence” is bogus (thanks to the natural gas boom).  The real reason is for exporting oil – which was illegal until the law preventing it was rescinded in December 2016.

Sure, there are temporary jobs – but those will be gone when it’s built and there will be only 35 jobs for the Keystone XL pipeline and just 40 full time jobs for the DAPL despite Trump’s claim of 28,000.

Meanwhile, these pipeline would further endanger the Gulf of Mexico with more oil more risk.  But you don’t even have to go that far.  Remember earlier with the website that claimed how safe pipelines were?

By the time of this article in October 2016 there were 220 “significant” spills in the US.

We don’t need this.

Trumpistan and Immigration

From the very start of his campaign – literally, right after he descended the escalator to the gilded lobby of his eponymous building, being surrounded by actors paid to act like fans, Trump made clear what his priorities were when he announced his candidacy.

His now-famous announcement speech hit the same theme several times.  “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best.” and “They’re bringing drugs.  They’re bringing crime.  They’re rapists.  And some, I assume, are good people.”

It didn’t matter immigrants are less likely to commit crime than native-born Americans. The fact that, from 1990 to 2013, illegal immigrants rose from 3.5 million to 11.2 million yet violent crime rates dropped 48% nationwide.

Well, he certainly didn’t take too long to action.  On Friday, the President signed an executive order that had the following points:

  • Blocked Syrian refugee families indefinitely
  • “Temporarily” suspended immigration from 7 mostly Muslim countries
  • Christians and members of other minority religions would be given preference over Muslims.
  • Curiously, did not include Saudi Arabia (where most of the 9/11 hijackers came from), Egypt (very unstable), Lebanon (crawling with Hezbollah) or Turkey (in the aftermath of a coup).  Coincidentally, Trump has business interests in these countries.

This created chaos at airports that the administration tried to downplay saying that “only 109” people were detained and that the delays were caused by a Delta computer outage.

A short while after those stories broke, a federal judge blocked the order, saying that you can’t deport people who are legally here – like green-card holders.

We haven’t even gotten to the unconstitutional part.  You know, where it says “Congress shall pass no law respecting an establishment of religion”.  This means that Trump’s favoritism towards Christians is illegal.

Now, if they got to that, I wonder what effect it might have because Trump seems not to care.  It seems the DHS in some airports doesn’t care and is detaining and removing people anyway.  Trump insists that it’s not a Muslim ban – but any cursory reading shows that Trump seems to be gaslighting again, trying to convince people that the sky is a color other than blue.

This all happened in the middle of what seemed like a screw-up.  The administration released a statement on “Remembrance Day” – honoring the Holocaust and failed to actually mention the Jews.  Was it a mistake?  Apparently not.  When asked about it, the administration doubled down.

As I write this, we’ve just had the shooting in a Quebec mosque where at least 5 were killed and many more injured.  Conservatives seized on the reports of the shooter yelling “Allahu akbar” (God is great).  Turns out that the guy is a white, ultra-right wing nationalist who loves Trump and hates immigrants.

So here we have Trump on immigration…

He proposes a wall that:

  • Won’t work.  Most illegals come here legally, driving through a border station or flying into an airport and simply overstay their visas.
  • Was supposed to be paid for by Mexico
  • Will now be paid for by Americans as Trump has requested funds from Congress
  • …but then would be paid for by a 20% import tax on Mexican goods..
  • …until people realized (in 10 seconds) that it would be American taxpayers paying that tax
  • …and it would fight drug smugglers by being 7 feet deep. (Because nobody digs a tunnel 8 feet deep)
  • Is proposed while Mexican immigration is at a 40-year-low.

He signs an executive order banning immigrants that is

  • Unconstitutional (religious preference)
  • Excluding countries where he has business interests
  • Excluding the actual countries where terrorists came from (overlaps with the above).
  • Ignoring the fact that, over 10 years, an average of 2 Americans are killed per year by Islamic jihadist immigrants, 5 by right-wing terrorists, 9 by all jihadists (including American jihadists), 21 by ARMED TODDLERS, 69 by lawnmowers, 737 by falling out of bed and 11,737 by being shot by another American.

I can’t make this stuff up…

The First Week in “Trumpland”

What a week it’s been!

As the 2016 campaigns went along, performing their roadshow antics all across the country, I felt a lot of frustration.  When the conventions were over, I thought the circus would ‘leave town’.  Of course it didn’t – it just shifted into high gear.

I increasingly needed to get my thoughts out on what I was seeing.  Every 4 years we say it can’t possibly get worse and every 4 years, it seems, we’re proven wrong.

It’s now been one week since Donald Trump was inaugurates as our 45th President.  I can’t even pick on something he’s done that I don’t like because there has been so much…  The circus may have ended it’s road show, but it’s put down roots and is being run form the Oval Office.

This is a summary of this past, crazy, hard-to-believe week…

Thursday, January 19

It started even before it started.  The night before his inauguration, Trump said he was going to cut funding for seventeen federal agencies.  The link takes you to a list of those agencies, what they do, and what they cost the average American.

Friday, January 20

Who knew the Big Story coming out of today would NOT be THAT we swore in a new President, but that the size of the crowd would be the issue?  The National Parks Service re-tweeted pictures comparing Trump’s crowd to Obama’s and they ended up being deleted with gag orders apparently being issued.  That might not have been so bad had it not been for Press Secretary Sean Spicer insisting that Trump’s inauguration was the most ‘seen’ ever – despite all the hard evidence to the contrary.  Spicer seemed to start his job off by doing his best Baghdad Bob impression.

Tucked away behind that noise were some more important items that have already been almost forgotten.  Trump’s inauguration speech said that he was going to be for American’s first and that power was returning to the people.  His first executive order, however, was to start targeting the ACA (Affordable Care Act – aka Obamacare) for elimination, therein taking away health insurance from up to 30 million people (between the mandates and the Medicare/Medicaid expansion).

His second act didn’t deviate from that path.  He cancelled a planned rate reduction in mortgage insurance on FHA mortgages that will affect some 750,000 homeowners, costing them more money each month.  It’s estimated that up to 40,000 buyers will now fail to qualify for their mortgages.

Saturday, January 21

Today was the Women’s March.  The crowds dwarfed those from the previous day’s inauguration.  One of my daughters made the trip from Philadelphia.  I was quite proud of her.  Trump, on the other hand, seemed a bit miffed as he sent Sean Spicer out to complain about media coverage.

Trump also went to Langley to give a self-congratulatory speech to the CIA (which he compared to Nazi Germany) and, just for good measure, brought his own people to applaud for him.  The actual people IN the CIA, however, might not feel like applauding.

Sunday, January 22

Sundays should be quiet, right?  Well, Trump’s senior counselor, Kelly Anne Conway, introduced us to the concept of “alternative facts”.  Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up.

Monday, January 23

Trump actually did something I liked.  He signed an executive order withdrawing us from the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership – a trade agreement that appeared to be a corporate sellout).  So that was something good, right?  Maybe the last couple of days were an aberration?

Not so fast…

He signed another executive order reinstating the ‘Mexico City’ rule which basically cuts funding to any foreign organization that so much as TALK about abortion.  This may be more Mike Pence talking than Donald Trump.

Another executive order instituted a federal hiring freeze.  …but hired his son-in-law.  Oh, and it freezes wages for federal employees as well.  …again.  This is the fourth or fifth freeze in my memory.

And, just for good measure, later in the day, he repeated his voter-fraud lie when he met with Republicans.  Who was it who coined the term about repeating a lie to make it seem like the truth? …called it “The Big Lie”

Umm..  How long ago was it when the Republicans were complaining about executive orders being ‘overreach’?

Tuesday, January 24

If you thought yesterday was bad, today would be even worse.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer doubled-down on the claim that Trump’s inauguration was the most-watched.  This, right after he claimed he would never knowingly lie.

Then word leaked out that Trump declared his inauguration as a “National Day of Patriotic Devotion”.  The mind just boggles at that.  But, then, this is the guy who redecorated the Oval Office in gold.  When I looked up information about that, I was rather surprised.  A pro-Trump website said the office was decorated with brand new curtains.  Shortly thereafter, TMZ discovered they were Clinton’s.  Me?  I think they look like Obama’s “Muslim Prayer Curtain” that turned out to be another bogus meme.

That wasn’t the only executive order he signed.  He signed five, altogether that covered clearing the way for progress on the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, making sure they’re built with American materials.  In addition, it appears that proper public review of infrastructure projects may be in danger with two orders signed – one to reduce the ‘burden’ of regulations and expedite energy and infrastructure projects , the other to cut environmental reviews and speed up approval of ‘High Priority” infrastructure projects.

It started to sound even more like 1984 when a net-neutrality foe was named FCC chairman,  the EPA was hit with a gag order and journalists got hit with felony charges for covering protests!

The ripples from Trump being in power continued to be felt – because it’s not just Trump, but what he inspires in others and how they now feel emboldened to act…  South Dakota’s GOP will declare a State of Emergency so as to repeal a voter-approved ethics bill, Minnesota’s House just passed a bill that allows insurance to skip covering common procedures – and look at the list – #1 is maternity benefits!  They can refuse to cover your pregnancy – and if they do cover it, they can refuse it if you’re unmarried!!!

Wednesday, January 25

By the end of this day, Slate seems to have had the same idea I have about trying to summarize events as they unfold in Trumpistan.  This article contains details on the following:

  • Trump calling for a major investigation into nonexistent voter fraud.
  • Trump directing the DHS to build ‘the wall’.
  • Trump will have us start publishing a weekly list of aliens who commit crimes.
  • A start to referring to human beings as “removable aliens” because of the creation of the “Office for Victims of Crimes Committed by Removable Aliens”
  • Trump is preparing a draft of “Auditing and Reducing U.S. Funding of International Organizations” – meaning cutting aid to refugees through the United Nations.
  • Trump signed an executive order specifying a “Moratorium on New Multilateral Treaties”.  In their mind, treaties are between two nations and that’s it.
  • Trump announced that refugees aren’t welcome – especially Muslims and woe be to any city that believes otherwise.
  • Trump plans to let a law lapse that allows illegal immigrants who were brought here as children to stay.  No “DREAM” for you.
  • Oh, and not for nothing, Trump signed an executive order authorizing torture and reopening CIA “black sites”.

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, how about this blast from the (not so distant) past?  It turns out that Reince Priebus, Kellyanne Conway, Jared Kushner, Sean Spicer and Steve Bannon are all using a private email server (rnchq.org).  This is the same organization that “lost” 22 million emails but got NO investigations from the House of Representatives.

We also learned that Lamar Smith (R-TX) said we should get our ‘unvarnished’ news from Trump himself.  This dovetails with Spicer’s “alternative facts” quite well.

President Trump also want to enlist local law enforcement for immigration duties.  Can anyone say “Your papers, please?”

…and, because, what’s a news day without government censorship, the White House directed the USDA and EPA to shut up.  All communications will now be vetted through the White House.

Thursday, January 26

We start off with a swath of senior management resigning en mass from the State Department.  It’s not like there’s any analog in the private sector form which you can draw upon to replace the experience that just took a hike.

Then we go on to the proposed 20% import duty on Mexican goods.  This is supposed to pay for the wall.  Then there’s some backpedaling because people start to notice that it would be AMERICANS paying the tax – just like how Trump asked Congress for tax money to build the wall…

But, most incredulous of all, Trump’s chief strategist, Steven Bannon (the guy from Breitbart) says the media should just ‘shut up and listen’.  I wonder how he would have reacted if Obama said that to Breitbart…

And, in a measure that should surprise nobody by now, we were downgraded from a ‘Full Democracy’ to a ‘Flawed Democracy’.  What with gerrymandering, a President who lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million and a House of Representatives having a party with a commanding lead that also got fewer votes – it’s no surprise…

….and that’s just the first week.