Tag Archives: Republican

More Republican Legislating in Secrecy

The Republican “tax reform” plan is now public. The details, such as they are, appear throughout the media, so I won’t repeat them here.

My point isn’t so much about the terrible concepts underlying the plan as it is about the way, yet again, that the Republicans have chosen to go about the business of legislating. They created this “plan” on their own and intend, it seems, to mark it up and force it through the Congress without hearings or other meaningful opportunities for input, except, or course by the lobbyists for the large corporations and the very rich.

That is not to say that reductions in the corporate tax rate are a bad idea; frankly, I am not sure about that, except to say that the claims of massive economic growth and production of new jobs are ludicrously overstated.

No, the point I struggle to make is that this is a really bad way to legislate on any matter of great public importance, of which the country’s revenue-raising system surely is a classic example. It seems that the Republican leadership is more concerned with delivering a “victory” to their failing president than they are about anything else. In doing so, they are turning their backs on Republican fiscal responsibility doctrine, thereby making complete their surrender to the chaos politics of their chosen leader.

Here is a relevant portion of the 2016 Republican Platform on which Donald Trump was ostensibly elected:

Our Tax Principles

To ensure that past abuses will not be repeated, we assert these fundamental principles. We oppose retroactive taxation. We condemn attempts by activist judges at any level of government to seize the power of the purse from the people’s elected representatives by ordering higher taxes. [???]

We oppose tax policies that deliberately divide Americans or promote class warfare. Because of the vital role of religious organizations, charities, and fraternal benevolent societies in fostering generosity and patriotism, they should not be subject to taxation and donations to them should remain deductible. To guard against hypertaxation of the American people in any restructuring of the federal tax system, any value added tax or national sales tax must be tied to the simultaneous repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment, which established the federal income tax….

The huge increase in the national debt demanded by and incurred during the current Administration has placed a significant burden on future generations. We must impose firm caps on future debt, accelerate the repayment of the trillions we now owe in order to reaffirm our principles of responsible and limited government, and remove the burdens we are placing on future generations.

You don’t need a PhD in the dismal science [economics, for the blessedly unacquainted] to see that those principles are going to be sacrificed by a tax regime that increases the deficit by something in the neighborhood of $1.5 trillion.

Someone once said that desperate times require desperate measures. However, the economy is growing robustly and there is no known rationale for a massive deficit-based stimulus.

In any case, I digress. All these arguments can be debated but not without actually having a debate. The Republicans are set upon a course that replicates their multiple failed attempts to eviscerate the health care insurance marketplace. No hearings, no public input, just an ideologically driven attempt to remake the country in the image of Donald Trump. The Republican tax plan is not going to do much, if anything, for the vast majority of Trump’s acolytes, but they seem unaware and uncaring. The cult of personality trumps (sorry) everything for them.

There is, however, an opportunity coming up in 2018 for the country to save itself from the demagoguery of this administration and its congressional enablers by returning control of the House of Representatives to the Democrats. That chance depends upon, among other things, whether the Democrats can stop bickering long enough to vote. And, of course, there is the slow burning fuse of investigations by Special Prosecutor Mueller, drawing ever closer to the center. The only question is whether it will be in time. Tick tick tick ….

What Is the Democratic Alternative to the American Health Care Act?

We are about an hour and a half from the House vote on the ludicrously named American Health Care Act, which brings to mind the famous phrase from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness: “The horror! The horror!” In typical fashion, Not-My-President Trump is threatening recalcitrant Republicans in the House that he will “come after you” if they don’t support the AHCA. Changes are being made to make the legislation more palatable to extreme right-wing Congressmen in the so-called Freedom Caucus. It’s hard to tell what is going on because most of the action is behind closed doors, but it seems clear that major reductions in benefits for low-income people have been incorporated into the legislation to buy votes of the ultra-conservative far right wing of the Republican Party. Those Republicans coldly and calmly stand before media cameras and boast about removing health care benefits from the AHCA package.

Given the inhumane indifference with which the AHCA treats most health-challenged people and given that it includes a large tax break for the wealthiest Americans, there is nothing good to say about the legislation. Most Democrats have railed against it since its details were released after much secret negotiating among its Republican sponsors.

What has begun to stand out to me is that while Democrats have rightly and righteously opposed the AHCA, they, including former President Obama himself, have acknowledged that there are issues with the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) that need to be addressed. Instead of producing an alternative to the AHCA that would make repairs where needed, however, the Democratic leadership has focused entirely on the multitude of negative features of the “repeal and replace” legislation.

This may be a political attempt to make the Republicans “own” the AHCA and its inevitably horrific consequences, but it strikes me, late in the game (I admit), that this is not the best strategy. Rather than simply counting on a handful of Republican legislators to block the legislation in the House or Senate, it would have been better, I think, to offer a realistic alternative to the current Obamacare.

Perhaps most interesting are the observations of Jennifer Rubin, described by the Washington Post as a person who “writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective. She covers a range of domestic and foreign policy issues and provides insight into the conservative movement and the Republican Party.” http://wapo.st/2nSfAyQ. Rubin said this:

“… the legislation is a dog’s breakfast. It’s a bill that does not repeal Obamacare and does not address the most acute issue, namely rising premiums. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) keeps promising that will be addressed in the third prong of legislation, but as Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) points out that is never happening (since there are not eight Democratic votes). If the GOP passes this, it will be stuck with the worst of all worlds — a highly regulated insurance market with skimpier tax credits than were available under Obamacare. That, plus the roll back on Medicaid expansion, explains why so many conservatives and moderates oppose it.

The bill was so unworkable Ryan had to come up with a last minute “manager’s amendment” to, for example, try to improve support for rural, older voters who are badly hurt. But there is no legislative language laying that out. Those who vote for this literally won’t know what is in the bill. In short, it’s bad legislation that will hurt people, many of whom voted for President Trump. If it passes, the problems with the bill and the hard luck cases will be on the heads of Republicans.

As for the politics, it has already split the party and pitted Republicans against one another. It gets a pitiful level of support. Voters, as opposed to politicians and political insiders, rank health care relatively low on their priority list. Voters really are not clamoring for this. Rather than get mired down in an endless negotiation back and forth with the Senate and be responsible for a lousy outcome, Republicans would be wise to move on to jobs, just as the president said he wanted to do.”

Further:

“Obamacare’s faults don’t make the case for this particular bill. Significant numbers of Freedom Caucus members are saying the bill does not do what it is supposed to. Perhaps they have internalized the real lesson of Obamacare: Don’t pass a bad bill, take responsibility for people’s health care and hope it gets fixed later. Right now, Sen. Cruz won’t vote for the bill. And he’s right. It should die in the House.”

http://wapo.st/2nnIh93.

It is not the case that some of the fixes to Obamacare have not been identified. For example, Nalini Pande, Sappho Health Strategies, LLC’s Managing Director, who has significant health care policy credentials and experience, has identified three “repairs” worth consideration:

“(1) Increasing subsidies for the poor so that the Exchange plans are more affordable; (2) Encouraging state insurance commissioners to conduct stronger rate reviews/rate regulation to prevent unreasonably high rate increases … and … to ensure that for-profit insurers are not increasing rates at a dramatically high rate to ensure more profits for shareholders at the expense of their customers – this goes for employer plans, not just plans on the Exchange under ACA; (3) stronger evaluations on plan performance, premium increases and surplus and reserves, especially for-profit insurers/health plans.”

As I stated in my previous post, I claim no expertise in health care or insurance policy, but Pande’s prescriptions make sense. There are likely many others. Hopefully for the country, the Democratic strategy will work out in the end and the AHCA will be defeated. If not, the failure to offer an effective alternative may be seen as a very serious error.

Notes From The Field

My wife and I arrived in Cleveland, Ohio on October 26, to join with other union staff and members from California, Texas, Chicago, Washington DC area and locally in the “ground game” to elect pro-labor candidates. The mission is to visit hundreds of thousands of homes personally to urge prospective voters to adopt a plan to vote on Election Day and to identify supporters of Hillary Clinton and Senate candidate Ted Strickland. My role has been to provide transportation for two-man teams who do the actual walking in neighborhoods in and around Cleveland.

The teams are armed with some data about the voters they are trying to contact face-to-face. Data has shown that these types of contacts result in a significant increase in actual voting. Since early voting is legal in Ohio, the teams also urged prospective voters to take advantage of that opportunity and avoid the likely crowds on Election Day.

Ohio is considered a “swing state, having produced Democratic majorities for President in 2008 and 2012 (Obama) and Republican wins in 2000 and 2004 (Bush), preceded by victories for Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996. It is generally believed to be “in play” in the current election. Stimulating maximum turnout is thus the key to assuring victory for either side. Tomorrow the issue will be decided.

It is likely too late to influence how individuals will vote, but not to late to motivate them to go to the polls. Thus, the “walker” campaign” has been out every day, rain (plenty of it) or shine, working until sunset today and starting again tomorrow, continuing until it is too late for anyone to get to the polls.

The reactions among the population have been varied and interesting. I write now to simply share some of the stories that have emerged from this effort of 15 committed walkers knocking on door after door. One or two people greeted the walkers with “get the f_____ off my lawn” or “don’t come around here with that stuff.” But the vast majority was at least polite and most said they were going to vote, or had already voted, for Hillary Clinton. One young Muslim couple was approached as they mowed their lawn. They said, somewhat timidly, that this was the first time they were voting in the United States. Their reticence to talk was understandable since in their former homeland speaking about voting to the wrong person could get you hurt. Not here.

A couple of people in cars stopped to ask what we were doing and, upon hearing the explanation, responded with “thank you, thank you for what you are doing.” One even made the sign of the cross. One young man came out onto his porch to listen, then said “I’m voting for Clinton, man. I’m Mexican.” At another house an elderly man, who seemed puzzled at first, proclaimed proudly “I’m a union man. I’m for Hillary!” Numerous talks ended with “good luck with what you’re doing.”

Some people, especially in the poorer neighborhoods, were suspicious at first, perhaps because strangers at their doors usually mean trouble. Some had limited English but would call someone, usually younger, to the door to translate. One inquired about me, following slowly along behind my walkers. “Is that guy with you? There are drug dealers in this neighborhood.”

Very few houses visited responded with “I’m not going to vote,” but one who did say that added, “I will vote for Jesus; he’s going to take care of everything. He’s going to eliminate all the evil people.”

There were a few instances of hostile men answering the doorbell when the walker was actually looking for the lady of the house and refusing to call the woman to the door. Hopefully those women will enjoy the privacy of the polling station to cast their ballot the way they want.

Tomorrow it’s over. There is much anxiety about the Ohio vote and overall outcome of the election. But the walkers will not give up until it is too late to get anyone out to the polls, which close here at 7:30. Many other groups are also working the multitude of neighborhoods that comprise Cleveland and its suburbs. Our team of 15 will then gather at a local restaurant to watch the election returns together. All told, in just the Cleveland area, hundreds of thousands of homes will have been visited. For the walkers there have been moments of rejection and moments of joy that will likely never be forgotten. Stories were shared during daily meetings and occasional group meals. There is nothing left to do but wrap up, clean out the staffing headquarters and await the outcome. On November 9, the volunteers will return to their homes. They will hold their heads high because they did everything they could do.

I conclude with a request that, if you are undecided about who should be the next president, look at these two stories before you vote: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2016/11/07/a-disabled-boy-was-booted-from-a-trump-rally-the-next-day-he-got-to-meet-president-obama/ and https://youtu.be/cgkgMtVv1g4.

A TRIPLE THREAT TO DEMOCRACY

The Washington Post ran three editorials today that should have the rapt attention of all thinking Americans.

The first editorial observes that Donald Trump represents an existential threat to American democracy by his raising the specter that his victory will lead to criminal prosecution of his opponent, Hillary Clinton, because, as President, Trump will be able to order the government to prosecute and jail any enemies of his choosing. I am confident that Ms. Clinton is not intimidated by these threats. She is well-schooled in the tripartite legal system that divides power among three branches of government and thereby restrains the unlimited use of power by any one branch, including the Executive.

These threats should nevertheless give pause to anyone who remains undecided at this late stage of the campaign. As the Post notes, this type of threat conflicts with the peaceful transition of power in a democratic society governed by a Constitution and not by a dictator. I suspect that Trump made these extreme statements mainly to pander to his core constituency who seem to be obsessed with thoroughly examined but unproven claims of email malfeasance while Clinton was Secretary of State, enhanced now by Trump’s repeated claims that the only way he can lose the election is if the voting is rigged. There are, of course, many other reasons that Trump could, and should, lose the election but from his “rat in the corner” position, striking out at the “rigged system” is probably the only strategy left to him.

I suspect that his defeat, which seems more likely every day, will lead to the vast majority of his core supporters just going home unhappy but equipped with new “evil forces” and conspiracies to complain about. They can take some solace in their moral certainty, removed from any connection to reality, that the “system” was against them and they never had a chance.

On the other hand, if Trump loses, will he, as the Post editorial implies, call on his “movement” to rise up against the United States in rejection of the outcome? This group of Americans appears to be impervious to facts, motivated by anger and fear and heavily armed. Mr. Trump should be very careful how he proceeds, lest he trigger events that will escalate beyond his control. ­­­By his own admission, he is not much interested in book learning, but he should at least scan Title 18, section 2381, wherein the definition of Treason is set out. Then he can start a new “reality” TV show, as some have speculated is his real objective.

The second editorial addresses the issues that the Post thinks should be covered in the final debate Wednesday night. It’s a really good list that includes many of the hugely important issues that will face the next president. It includes the nuclear threat from North Korea, Pacific Rim expansion by China, the failure of democratic movements around the world, cyber warfare, the endless dispute between India and Pakistan and others of similar gravity. It would be refreshing, though perhaps too much to expect even from a veteran like moderator Chris Wallace, that the debate will stay on track on the issues. For once, just once, the moderator should, I suggest, act aggressively to stop the personal attacks, evasions and mis-directions that have characterized the prior “debates.” Wallace should absolutely demand that the candidates not talk over each other, not interrupt and respond to the questions asked. Unless he does that, we likely will get just another harangue by Trump of his campaign talking points, which to date have precious little to do with substantive issues.

Finally, and equally disturbing, the Post editorial board has called out Sen. John McCain for his recent statement that “I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up.” This promise, from a man who claims his word is his bond, is essentially a reprise of the Republican congressional leadership’s oath that during Barack Obama’s first term in office, the main Republican goal was to defeat his agenda and to prevent him from gaining a second term. The Republican Party thus became the “party of no” and resisted almost all efforts to achieve bipartisan compromises on anything of substance, thereby, among other things, shutting down the federal government for a period of time.

­­­It appears that for the Republican Party, ideology trumps (forgive me) all other considerations. Sen. McCain is sending the message that more congressional deadlock lies ahead if a majority of the American people elect a president not of that Party’s choosing. This is a different form of political blackmail than Donald Trump’s normal fare, but it is blackmail nonetheless and Sen. McCain’s legendary deeds on behalf of his country cannot excuse it.

Time grows short. The army of Trump supporters has consistently shown that it not only has no objection to Trump’s constant lies, misogyny and other crimes against human dignity, but they in fact approve of them. They don’t care what the facts are – they just want to bring the house down. If we are not careful, they may succeed. This is the most important national election in modern times. If you agree with me, urge everyone you know to vote for Hillary Clinton. If some of them have to hold their noses, so be it. That will be the least of their worries if Trump succeeds.