Thursday, June 29, 2017

ACTION ALERT - New GOP rallying cry is Revise and Repeal

The Daily Kos reports that McConnell wants Trumpcare revision by Friday, so keep the pressure on to stop him.

All we need is 3 Republican senators to block Trumpcare. If you have a GOP senator, we need you to call their office at (202) 224–3121. Demand that they put their constituents above their party. Here’s why.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s henchman, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) says that the postponed Trumpcare bill which leaderships wants to have revised by Friday just needs some minor adjustments. Just a nip there and a tuck here and it will all be fine. And really, they’re just little things.

“We’re going to take the bill we have and try to, there are always little things, dials you can twist to try to attract support,” he said Wednesday, appearing on “Fox and Friends.”

He said there are “a couple of issues” conservatives want to address and “a couple of issues” moderates want to address, likely referring to the fact that several GOP Senators in Medicaid-expansion states have said they can’t support the plan because of its rollback of the expansion.

That’s not out of the realm of possibility because if the last election proved anything, it’s that the unthinkable is always possible. It just doesn’t seem very likely. Because if you ask Sens. Dean Heller (NV), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Susan Collins (ME) if their issues are limited to a couple and are small, they’ll probably laugh at you. Then there’s the other side, represented by Rand Paul (KY) who is being very vocal about all his problems, starting with the fact that he thinks he and his pals have been ignored. “I think the moderates have gotten everything they want … so now it’s time for conservatives to get something.” The moderates would clearly disagree.

He [Sen. Paul] continues to say that this bill isn’t really a repeal, and has also issued his list of demands which includes getting rid of all the regulations from the Affordable Care Act on the private insurance market that provides all the consumer protections and makes health insurance both worthwhile and affordable for everyone, the cost-sharing reduction payments that insurance companies have been receiving to help lower income people meet deductibles and copays, and the continuous coverage provision—added at the last minute—that replaces the individual mandate that everyone who can afford to buy insurance by telling them they have to go without coverage for six months if they ever let their policies lapse. The last two things the insurance companies pretty much demand be there. The first one is the promise that people with pre-existing conditions would still be protected (an already exceedingly flimsy promise).

He says an agreement by Friday isn’t happening, though it’s unclear whether it’s an actual threat or just hot air because he does that when there’s a microphone in front of him. Nevertheless, meeting those demands wouldn’t just be a minor tweak. Meeting those demands would also drive a deeper wedge with the moderates. Probably.

But we know the propensity of the moderates to cave. That’s why they need to keep feeling our heat.

The lack of support for their health legislation should make Republicans sick. The remedy is a single payer system.

We should rebrand the House AHCA and Senate counterpart (“Better Care”) as the Make America Sick Act (MASA). The public, at least most of them, understand why that brand would be appropriate. Some senators finally are catching on too. The Republicans don’t like the idea of a single payer system but their own legislation makes a compelling argument for it.

Vox Populi: We do not like these bills!

Chris Cillizza (CNN/Politics/The Point) says This poll number on health care should make Senate Republicans queasy.

Here’s an indisputable fact: The health care legislation Senate Republicans were forced to delay a vote on Tuesday is very, very unpopular with the public.

Less than 1 in 5 people (17%) approve of the Senate bill, according to a new NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist poll released Wednesday morning. A majority – 55% – disapprove. The numbers are disastrous among Democrats (8% approve) and independents (13%) but perhaps most surprisingly bad among Republicans – just 1 in 3 (35%) of whom approve of the Senate legislation. More self-identified conservatives disapprove of the bill (34%) than approve of it (31%).

Worse (for the Republican Senators), a poll by USA Today has the approval of the Senate Bill at only 12% of those Americans surveyed.

More Senators come out against Senate health bill

And here’s more bad news, also from CNN: Senate punts, then 3 new Republicans oppose health care bill.

Three Republican senators announced their opposition to the current draft of the Senate health care bill Tuesday afternoon, shortly after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell decided to delay a vote on the plan until after the July 4 recess.

Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, and West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito are the latest Republicans to say that they oppose the bill.

The senators had not explicitly stated their opposition prior to McConnell’s decision to delay the bill.

In a joint statement Tuesday, Capito and Portman said they opposed the bill in part because of concerns they have about the affect its Medicaid policies would have on the opioid epidemics in their states.

However, do not go dancing in the streets just quite yet. Those three opposing senators are not nails in the “Better Care” coffin. Their opposition may be squishy: “All three senators remained optimistic in their statements that the Senate will eventually be able to draft a better bill for the people in their states.”

And one Senator who had committed to voting against even having a vote on the Senate bill, Dean Heller from Nevada, may be caving in to pressure from a super PAC’s ads.

Just how realistic a vote is after July 4 remains unclear. At least one senator who had publicly opposed the procedural vote McConnell had hoped to take Tuesday — Dean Heller (Nev.) — indicated that he was willing to reconsider his initial opposition, if the bill was going to be reworked.

At the White House, Heller playfully but pointedly complained about a Trump-allied super PAC that was airing ads against him in Nevada. By Tuesday night, the group had decided to pull the ads, and Heller had signaled to McConnell that he would continue to engage — far from a “yes” vote, but open to discussing his concerns. Heller’s willingness to deal prompted the super PAC to back down, said two Republicans familiar with the deliberations, although a Republican familiar with Heller said he had never closed the door on talks.

Relief for the Rich

On PBS News Hour (via Daily Beast) Billionaire Warren Buffet weighed in on, as he put it, the “Relief for the Rich Act.”

Warren Buffett is not happy with the Affordable Care Act repeal bill.

In a recent interview with PBS NewsHour, Buffett spoke with Judy Woodruff about the proposed bill.

He even brought his tax return.

Buffett told Woodruff, “If the bill that passed the House with 217 votes had been in effect this year, I would have saved $679,999, or over 17 percent of my tax bill.”

“There’s nothing ambiguous about that. I will be given a 17 percent tax cut. And the people it’s directed at are couples with $250,000 or more of income,” he added. “I have got friends where it would have saved them as much as—it gets to the $10-million-and-up figure.”

Buffett went as far as to say, “You could entitle this the ‘Relief for the Rich Act.’”

“I think members of the Senate and the House get $174,000 a year. But most of them have — if you look at the disclosures, they have substantial other income. If they get to higher than $250,000, as a married couple, or $200,000 as a single person, they have given themselves a big, big tax cut if they voted for this.”

Buffett has been an advocate for tax increases on the wealthy for many years.

Given all that hoopla, haranguing, and political hell, there must be a better way to move ahead on health care in America, right?

Medicare for All

Robert Reich offers just such a direction in It’s Time for Medicare for All.

Mitch McConnell is delaying a vote on the Senate Republican version of Trumpcare because he doesn’t yet have a majority.

Some Senate Republicans think the bill doesn’t go get rid of enough of the Affordable Care Act. Others worry that it goes too far – especially in light of the Congressional Budget Office’s finding that it would eliminate coverage for 22 million Americans.

What should be the Democrats’ response? Over the next weeks or months, Democrats must continue to defend the Affordable Care Act. It’s not perfect, but it’s a major step in the right direction. Over 20 million Americans have gained coverage because of it.

But Democrats also need to go further and offer Americans a positive vision of where the nation should be headed over the long term. That’s toward Medicare for all.

Reich then lists all the reasons why that - a single payer system - is the way forward.

Reich argues that we as a nation spend more on health care but yet are sicker than other developed countries. Check out his post for details (that you probably already know).

Medicare for all would avoid all these problems, and get lower prices and better care.

It would be financed the same way Medicare and Social Security are financed, through the payroll tax. Wealthy Americans would pay a higher payroll tax rate and contribute more than lower-income people. But everyone would win because total healthcare costs would be far lower, and outcomes far better.

A Gallup poll conducted in May found that a majority of Americans would support such a system. Another poll by the Pew Research Center shows that such support is growing, with 60 percent of Americans now saying government should be responsible for ensuring health care coverage for all Americans – up from 51 percent last year.

Democrats would be wise to seize the moment. They shouldn’t merely defend the Affordable Care Act. They should also go on the offensive – with Medicare for all.

If Dems do that, they might score a big win. We are closer to a single payer system than you might think because Whatever happens, the GOP is bringing us a whole lot closer to single-payer, explains Paul Waldman (Washington Post/Plum Line).

The Republican health-care bill is not dead yet, but it’s in rough shape. Whether it passes or not, it has been an utter debacle for the GOP, making the Affordable Care Act they’re trying to undo more popular than ever, energizing the Democratic base, complicating the relationship between President Trump and Congress and sowing justified distrust of Republican motives among the broader public.

It has also done something else: moved the debate on health care in America to the left and made single-payer much more likely.

Even if the Senate bill fails, Republicans give up and move on to tax reform, and the status quo remains in place, this debate will have had profound effects on our politics. While the Democratic Party may have been moving to the left on health care anyway, its momentum in that direction may now be unstoppable. And the entire country will be more receptive than ever to the arguments Democrats will make. This, by the way, will also be the case if the GOP repeal effort succeeds, because it will make so much that people hate about our health-care system a lot worse.

Waldman talks about the politics that lead to his conclusion citing, for example, Senator Elizabeth Warren’s bold statement in support of single payer. He then suggests a path from where we are now to a credible and sustainable single payer system that would satisfy most members on both sides of the political aisle.

It’s important to keep in mind that “single-payer” isn’t one thing — if you look around the world at highly developed countries, there is a spectrum of health systems with various levels of public and private involvement. But what they have in common is that they achieve universal coverage while working better and costing less than ours. We could well have 15 Democratic presidential candidates proposing 15 different kinds of single-payer. Some may be highly socialized systems — what Bernie Sanders would likely advocate if he runs again — but the ones that are most appealing could be hybrid systems of the kind that have been successful in countries such as France. The way it works is that there’s a government plan that covers everyone’s basic needs, but you can also buy supplemental private insurance to get as many more benefits as you want.

Among the advantages of a hybrid system is that one can actually see a path from where we are now to there. That path runs through Medicaid, which now covers nearly 75 million Americans. What if we auto-enrolled everyone under 65 in Medicaid — it’s there if you need it, but if you have different insurance you’d prefer, go ahead and use that instead. No one would be without coverage. Private insurance would evolve into something you buy to fill in the gaps and get perks that Medicaid wouldn’t provide. Instead of covering all your health care, employers could provide the supplemental private insurance.

As a political matter, you could sell this as something that we could transition to over an extended period, and as a system that satisfies the goals of both liberals and conservatives. Liberals get the universal coverage and security they want, and conservatives get the freedom they want — if you’re rich enough to buy a supplemental plan that includes deliveries of Dom Perignon during any hospitalization, go right ahead.

That isn’t to say that Republicans wouldn’t resist and there won’t be more intense arguments about health care, because they would and there will be. But by handling this debate so terribly and proposing something so monstrous, Republicans have opened up the space for Democrats to go much further than they’ve been willing to before. It’s not impossible to foresee Democrats winning the House in 2018, then taking the presidency and the Senate in 2020 — and then taking the first steps toward making single-payer health care in America a reality.

It comes down to this - Reich’s conclusion:

If Republicans succeed in gutting the Affordable Care Act or subverting it, the American public will be presented with a particularly stark choice: Expensive health care for the few, or affordable health care for the many.

Even if they don’t gut ACA, it still comes down to that.

Russian bride makes cover of Time magazine

Trump as Russian bride
One of many inspired by Trump's
fake Time magazine cover.

The Washington Post reports on the results of graphic artists’ field day with Trump’s bogus Time cover — the fake news that launched an army of memes.

It didn’t take long for real news about President Trump’s fake news, in the form of a sham Time magazine cover, to light up the Internet.

The Washington Post’s David A. Fahrenthold reported Tuesday that copies of a phony Time magazine cover dated March 1, 2009, have adorned the walls in several of the president’s golf clubs. The headline reads: “Donald Trump: The ‘Apprentice’ is a television smash!” A second headline above the Time nameplate states: “TRUMP IS HITTING ON ALL FRONTS . . . EVEN TV!”

Time has since asked the Trump Organization to take them down.

Still, the Internet will always remember them.

It also memorialized them, with the fake magazine covers it created in kind.

Several deserve mention but here’s my fave.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Trump appears on fake cover of Time magazine in Trump golf resorts

Fake photo on wall
Magazine covers hang on a wall at the
Trump National Doral golf shop.
(Angel Valentin for The Washington Post)
The fake is at far left, top row.

FiveThirtyEight’s Significant Digits email has this gem:

5 golf clubs
The Washington Post found that a fake cover of TIME Magazine with President Trump — literal fake news — had been hanging in prominent locations in at least five of the real estate magnate’s 17 golf clubs. [The Washington Post]

David Fahrenthold (Washington Post) wrote the referenced report A Time magazine with Trump on the cover hangs in his golf clubs. It’s fake..

Here is an example of the fake photo hanging on the wall of one of Trump’s golf clubs compared to a real cover. (Check out Fahrenthold’s report for the differences.)

Trump's fake photo
Trump's fake photo on right.
Real Time cover on left.

One thing that is clear, from the president’s past statements, is that he views the cover of Time as a significant honor.

Trump has bragged that he’s been on more Time covers than anyone. “I think we have the all-time record in the history of Time magazine,” he said during a January speech at CIA headquarters.

That is wrong. Richard Nixon has appeared on far more than Trump.

In a 2016 interview, when Trump was a candidate, he offered a mental tally of how many times he had appeared on the magazine’s cover.

“I think I was on the cover of Time magazine twice in my life and like six times in the last number of months. So you tell me, which is more important, real estate or politics, okay?” Trump said. “I have six for politics, and I have two for real estate or whatever they put me on for.”

But that count was wrong.

According to Time magazine’s tally, Trump had been on the cover only once before he got into politics. That was in January 1989.

Clearly, as Fahrenthold says, Trump cherishes being on the cover of Time. Sure he does: it’s emblematic of the narcism that is part of Trump’s syndrome. So we should not be surprised by his false statements about the Time magazine covers. And we should not be surprised if the fake photo was hung in more golf clubs than those found by Fahrenthold.

I am going to predict that there were fake photos hung in at least six more of Trump’s clubs. Here’s why. Take this in a larger context of Trump’s habitual lying as I posted yesterday in A Full Page of “Trump’s Lies”. The percentage of Trump’s published statements that were false I computed as 70%. The percentage of lies during his time in office I computed as 65.8%. Averaging these estimates of the rate of lies I get 67.9% - about two thirds. Trump owns 17 clubs, so based on my estimate of the rate of lies, I predict 2/3 x 17 = 11.

It may be impossible to test my prediction. Someone, Fahrenthold reports, has been busy taking down the fake photos. Perhaps someone is embarrassed by them. That someone, I suspect, is not Donald Trump.

28,600 excess deaths due to lost health care coverage

Here’s another item from Sarah Kliff’s VoxCare email.

“The hard-to-answer question at the core of the health-care fight: How many more people might die?”: “It’s certainly the case that a hard number on the tally of deaths from loss of insurance is tough (and perhaps not even possible) to determine. In broad strokes, [Sen. Bernie] Sanders’s assessment that thousands more would die annually appears to be supported by the data: If some 800,000 people lack insurance in a given year, about 1,000 would be expected to die. Under the Senate bill, 15 million more people would be uninsured next year alone, according to the CBO.” —Phillip Bump, Washington Post

Bump provides some supporting evidence in the Post’s story.

This month, the Annals of Internal Medicine published a meta-analysis of recent studies aimed at determining how a lack of insurance coverage affects mortality. Some of the studies, like the one in Oregon, yielded statistically insignificant results. Overall, though, the researchers found that “[t]he evidence strengthens confidence in the Institute of Medicine’s conclusion that health insurance saves lives: The odds of dying among the insured relative to the uninsured is 0.71 to 0.97.”

What does that mean in practical terms? “Roughly between a 3 percent and a 29 percent higher risk of dying for the uninsured than for comparable insured people,” David Himmelstein, one of the study’s co-authors, explained to us on Tuesday. “The majority of the evidence clusters roughly in the middle of that, so something like a 17 percent, 16 percent increase in risk of dying.”

For every 800 people who are uninsured for a year, existing studies suggest that there would be one death, Himmelstein said. For those 22 million the CBO estimates would lose coverage under the Senate bill — 28,600 excess deaths. And that, Himmelstein said, is the middle of the range of estimates.

Health apocalypse
Dead Americans: The real cost of
tax cuts for the rich

“The thing that was most striking to us was the strength of scientific consensus on this issue,” Himmelstein said. “The medical scientific literature is really quite clear at this point and quite in agreement that there is a significant mortality effect. Exactly how big? There’s still considerable uncertainty around that.”

But, he said, “it’s quite clear that there are deaths from people being uninsured — and a substantial number.”

Gov. John Kasich had scathing words for his fellow Republicans:

Appearing in Washington, Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio cited the 22 million projection and expressed bewilderment that fellow Republicans would be on board with the bill.

“And they think that’s great?” he asked. “That’s good public policy? What, are you kidding me?”

Actually, I suspect that congressional Republicans deep down know that the House and Senate bills are not good public policy. But they have convinced a large part of the public that Obamacare must go. And they have promised for the last seven years to repeal it. Now they have to deliver - even if it means increasing the number of deaths among the uninsured.

When it comes to health care, who has the right stuff?

There is a right side on the health care debate. Who is on that side? Who is on the other side?

Who’s on the right side?

Consumers Union has entered the health care fracas with Six-Figure Ad Buy Targets 5 GOP Senators to Oppose ACA Repeal. This is from the MorningConsult.com via Sarah Kliff (Vox.com) in her VoxCare email.

Consumers Union, the political arm of product ratings organization Consumer Reports, announced Monday that it’s expanding a six-figure radio ad campaign against Senate Republicans’ health care bill to a total of five states.

The $100,000 ad buy targets vulnerable and centrist Republicans who are seen as most likely to buck their party and oppose the bill, which Senate GOP leaders aim to pass this week. The ads highlight the bill’s cuts to Medicaid and possible coverage losses. The House version of the bill would lead to 23 million more uninsured Americans in a decade, according to a cost estimate by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

The ads, which will run this week, target Republican Sens. *Lisa Murkowskiof Alaska, Jeff Flakeof Arizona, Susan Collins*of Maine, Dean Heller of Nevada and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia. The group already ran ads earlier this month in Arizona and Nevada, which is represented by Heller, who announced on Friday he opposes the bill because of the adverse affect it could have on his constituents who are on Medicaid. Both Arizona and Nevada opted to expand Medicaid, and both Heller and Flake are expected to face close re-election fights in 2018.

Put a bookmark right here. And then search to the end of the MorningConsult snippets for “Jeff Flake.”

“The consequences of the Senate’s legislation are just as dangerous and misguided as the House version: millions of Americans could lose coverage, consumers would pay more out-of-pocket for care and higher premiums for plans that cover far less, and millions of people that depend on Medicaid could be cut off completely,” Betsy Imholz, who directs special projects at the Consumers Union, said in a statement.

Senate Republicans can only afford to lose two GOP senators and still pass the bill this week, assuming all Democrats oppose the legislation. Currently, five senators — Heller and four conservatives who say the bill doesn’t go far enough in undoing Obamacare — have said they couldn’t vote for the bill in its current form.

The three other senators being targeted by Consumers Union — Murkowski, Collins and Capito — are also wary of cutting federal spending on Medicaid, but haven’t taken a final position on the measure. Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion is one of the 2010 law’s most popular provisions. A Morning Consult poll conducted in May showed 46 percent of voters want Republicans to leave the expansion intact.

The three Republicans have also raised other concerns, including funding for opioid addiction treatment. A provision eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood for one year is also opposed by Murkowski and Collins. In a television interview with ABC News on Sunday, Collins said she would wait to take a position on the overall bill until after the CBO releases its cost estimate of the Senate measure, which could come as soon as Monday.

You didn’t find “Jeff Flake” did you? It’s time for LTEs, tweets, FB posts, op-eds, all directed at Flake. There is a right thing here and he needs some nudging, apparently, to commit to it.

Greg Sargent (Washington Post/Plum Line) has relevant comments on that in Will GOP moderates fold and give Trump a win? If so, they lied to you.

The Senate’s health-care bill is on the verge of collapse, multiple reports tell us this morning, with numerous GOP senators balking at the brutal new Congressional Budget Office analysis, which found that the bill would leave 22 million more uninsured by 2026, 15 million of them in the next year alone.

But the bill is far from dead. The big question now is whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) can buy off a few moderate senators with “side deals.” Politico reports that such discussions are well underway as we speak.

But what the CBO report really tells us is this: No side deal can actually rescue the bill in any meaningful sense from the moral criticism that these moderate Republicans themselves have lodged against it. A few moderates may end up backing the bill — and it may even pass — but if so, they will be largely embracing priorities that they basically asked us to believe they reject as unacceptable.

Let’s get Flake to take a stand and commit to voting NO.

The latest whip count shows that at least six moderate Republicans — Susan Collins (Maine), Dean Heller (Nev.), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Rob Portman (Ohio), and Bill Cassidy (La.) — oppose or have serious concerns about the bill. Collins has balked at the Medicaid cuts harming the “vulnerable.” Heller has decried tens of millions losing insurance. Capito, Murkowski and Portman have all expressed varying concerns about their states’ Medicaid expansion population losing coverage. (Four conservatives also are leaning against the bill; a total of three “no” votes would sink it.)

Again, where’s Flake?

Who’s on the other side?

The Senate health care bill is the political equivalent of a hot potato laced with sarin nerve gas. That’s why the NY Times reports the Vote Delayed as Republicans Struggle to Marshal Support for Health Care Bill

Doctors, hospitals and other health care provider groups came out strongly against the Senate bill, as did patient advocacy groups like the American Heart Association. But business groups were ramping up their support. In a letter on Tuesday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce endorsed the Senate bill and urged senators to vote for it.

The Senate bill “will repeal the most egregious taxes and mandates” of the Affordable Care Act, allowing employers to create more jobs, said Jack Howard, a senior vice president of the group. The bill, he noted, would repeal a tax on medical devices and eliminate penalties on large employers that do not offer coverage to employees.

A separate letter expressing general support for the Senate’s efforts was sent by a coalition of 28 business and employer groups including the National Association of Home Builders, the National Restaurant Association and the National Retail Federation.

But Senate conservatives found themselves squeezed between business sentiment and their conservative base. Club for Growth, an ardently conservative political action committee, came out strongly against the Senate measure on Tuesday.

“The Club for Growth and the American people took Republicans in Congress at their word when they promised to repeal every word – ‘root and branch’ – of Obamacare and replace it with a patient-centered approach to health care,” the group’s president, David McIntosh, said in a statement. “Only in Washington does repeal translate to restore. Because that’s exactly what the Senate GOP healthcare bill does: it restores Obamacare.”

Why is Club for Growth listed here as supporting the Senate bill? Because they want an even worse version that will transfer even more wealth from the bottom 50% to the top 1%.

Aesop’s Moral: A man is known by the company he keeps. Is this the company that defines Jeff Flake?

Appearing in Washington, Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio cited the 22 million projection and expressed bewilderment that fellow Republicans would be on board with the bill.

“And they think that’s great?” he asked. “That’s good public policy? What, are you kidding me?”

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Morning Joe: All that is wrong with Republican health bills

Everything mean, immoral, and down-right evil about the Senate “Better Care” bill is captured in the 12½ minutes of this episode of MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

A Full Page of "Trump's Lies"

The New York Times used a full page to print ‘Trump’s lies’ since taking office, a summary being reported by BusinessInsider.com. Here’s a photo of what that looks like tweeted by one of the authors of the Times page. And here is the Times’ interactive graphic version of Trump’s Lies by the authors, David Leonhardt and Stuart A. Thompson. They say: “Many Americans have become accustomed to President Trump’s lies. But as regular as they have become, the country should not allow itself to become numb to them. So we have catalogued nearly every outright lie he has told publicly since taking the oath of office.

The [full page] list above uses the conservative standard of demonstrably false statements. By that standard, Trump told a public lie on at least 20 of his first 40 days as president. But based on a broader standard — one that includes his many misleading statements (like exaggerating military spending in the Middle East) — Trump achieved something remarkable: He said something untrue, in public, every day for the first 40 days of his presidency. The streak didn’t end until March 1.

Since then, he has said something untrue on at least 74 of 113 days. On days without an untrue statement, he is often absent from Twitter, vacationing at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, or busy golfing.

By my count, the Times report documents 100 lies (and there are probably more given the conservative criteria) during the 152 days in office covered in the Times’ analysis. So at a minimum the chance of Trump telling a lie on any given day is 65.8%.

That percentage comes very close to the 70% chance of any of Trump’s assertions being false. (See my posts here and here from last August on the relative honesty of Hillary Clinton - 71% true statements -vs. the relative dishonesty of Trump - 70% false statements.)

There is simply no precedent for an American president to spend so much time telling untruths. Every president has shaded the truth or told occasional whoppers. No other president — of either party — has behaved as Trump is behaving. He is trying to create an atmosphere in which reality is irrelevant.

What could possibly be more egregious than becoming numb to Trump’s lies? It may be that many of his supporters simply do not care about - or are incapable of - distinguishing what is true from what is not.

Senate health bill: The CBO exposes its cruelty, the public hates it, but senators are at risk if they vote against it

The Congressional Budget Office released its (scathing, I think) report on the Senate’s version of the House AHCS bill rebranded as “Better Care.” Here are two items from the FiveThirtyEight’s Significant Digits email this morning along with followup reporting.

$772 billion
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released its analysis of the GOP’s Senate health care bill on Monday. The Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 would cut $772 billion from Medicaid over the next decade, and 15 million fewer people would be on the program’s rolls. Overall, 28 million Americans are projected to be without insurance in 2026 under current law; the CBO says it would be 49 million people under the Senate bill. [FiveThirtyEight]

The Daily Star has two articles with decidedly negative views of the House’s AHCA and the Senate’s “Better Care” bills. One is from former representative Henry A. Waxman: GOP Senate plan would end health care for the poor. The other reports on a Tucson forum, TMC’s forum on federal heath reform draws big crowd, mostly of opponents. “Here are five takeaways from the event:”

  1. The sentiment at the forum was against both the Senate and House bills.
  2. The opposition was not solely partisan.
  3. The Senate bill is not too different from the House bill.
  4. Arizona’s economy could be affected.
  5. Some audience members had moral concerns.

On this last point:

TMC’s Rich took written questions from the audience. When one asked about the possibility of a single-payer, universal system in the U.S., the audience cheered.

Audience member and retired pastor David Wilkinson said that from his faith-based perspective, the Senate and House bills are immoral because they don’t take care of the poor. He said health care should be a right for all Americans, regardless of their income.

“The most vital thing I learned tonight is that we’re in crisis,” Wilkinson said. “There’s very little hope for the poor if either of these bills passes.”

93 percent
GOP Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada could be the deciding vote on the Senate bill to roll back the Affordable Care Act. He’s voted in line with President Trump’s stated position on legislation 93 percent of the time thus far. [FiveThirtyEight]

Yes, according to the FiveThirtyEight tracking of voting records Heller voted 93% with Trump. Just to show you how bad the Senate is, that puts him at 45th out of all senators and 45th out of all senate Republicans. Our own Jeff Flake ranks 43rd with a 95% Trump agreement score.

These guys are hardly “moderates” but Heller has staked out a politically risky position. I wish Flake would have the same gumption. Judging from the forum (see above) the locals will probably back him.

NPR reports on the flak Heller is taking for his stance: Senate Health Care Bill Hangs In The Balance As 5 Lawmakers Waver.

Nevada Sen. Dean Heller on Friday became the latest GOP lawmaker to voice concerns about the Senate health care bill — a development that further complicates Republican efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

“I cannot support a piece of legislation that takes away insurance from tens of millions of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Nevadans,” Heller said at a news conference back in Nevada.

It was a stunning indictment of his own party’s crucial legislation from Heller, who also said that it was a “lie” that the bill would lower insurance premiums.

Heller is the most vulnerable Republican senator up for re-election in 2018, and he represents a state that accepted the Medicaid expansion under the ACA, more commonly known as Obamacare.

Political pressure from the White House was already mounting against Heller, with the outside group America First Policies, which supports President Trump, was preparing a major ad buy targeting the Nevada senator.

“Obamacare is collapsing. This is a crisis for the American people. There is no excuse for any Republican or Democrat to oppose the Senate health care bill outright,” Brian O. Walsh, the group’s president, said in a statement. “Senator Heller, who once claimed he would focus on ‘repealing and replacing Obamacare with a willing partner in the White House,’ appears to be heading down a path with Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and the radical left. We sure hope he changes his mind as he learns more about the bill. We at America First Policies will make certain that citizens know who stood in the way of repealing and replacing Obamacare, and we will ensure the people’s voices are heard.”

So the right wing will run attack ads but you gotta hope that the people who have most to lose under the House and Senate bills will support Heller’s position.

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Ugly American redux in the era of Trump and the GOP

We are coming up on the 60th anniversary of a book, The Ugly American , about flawed American diplomacy in Southeast Asia during the cold war. In the book published in 1958 a Burmese journalist observes “A mysterious change seems to come over Americans when they go to a foreign land. They isolate themselves socially. They live pretentiously. They are loud and ostentatious.”

There is another way in which Americans are “ugly” and that is by refusing to engage in developing countries leaving economic assistance to other global players.

Those thoughts this morning were prompted by two items in the FiveThirtyEight Significant Digits email. The first item concerns the death toll likely to be caused by American withdrawal of medical aid in sub-Saharan Africa.

1 million deaths
A White House budget proposal cuts $1.1 billion from a George W. Bush-era program that funds antiretroviral drugs for people with H.I.V. in sub-Saharan Africa. That kind of cut could lead to an estimated 1 million additional deaths in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere, according to researchers. [The New York Times]

There is a feast-or-famine kind of cycle in U. S. spending on foreign aid, but Trump’s cut seems to go beyond that and reflects an isolationist thinking in the White House. If the people in the affected countries did not hate us then, they soon will.

The second item concerns the harm inflicted on nursing home residents by the Republican bills, both House and Senate, that drastically cut Medicaid on the way to phasing it out completely.

1.4 million people
That’s the number of Americans who live in nursing homes, and Medicaid pays for most of their costs. In the U.S., 64 percent of people in nursing homes rely on Medicaid, so the Medicaid cuts in the Republican health care law could have far-reaching consequences for them. [The New York Times]

“We have a very good plan,” Trump said in an interview aired Sunday. I completely fail to understand the thinking that leads Trump to that conclusion and the reasoning that leads the Senate Republicans to brand their mean-spirited bill as “Better Care.” Better for whom?

There’s a common thread that connects these two items. Think about it.

Here is a concluding observation in the form of a paraphrasing of the Burmese journalist’s comment in The Ugly American.

A mysterious change seems to come over Donald Trump when he goes to the foreign land known as America . He isolates himself socially, communicating via computer messages. He lives pretentiously in a Florida mansion. He is loud and ostentatious as he bullies journalists and attacks bringers of facts.

Your Monday Morning Illustrated News Briefing

Health apocalypse
The Republican plan for America:
Ignorance, Poverty, Pestilence, Death

AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona breaks into Senate closed health care hearings with a barrage of toons. Mitch McConnell, defends the increasingly Grotesque Other Party and hands Death a seat at the table in the secret GOP chamber of horrors.

The AP reports (via Daily Star) that Trump scrambles for GOP health votes; budget score looms. As usual, Trump delivers memorable (albeit nauseating) quotes in 140 characters or less.

“We have a very good plan,” Trump said in an interview aired Sunday. Referring to Republican senators opposed to the bill, he added: “They want to get some points, I think they’ll get some points.” [Scriber: But he’s talking about the conservative right-wing Senators. Those “points” will just make the Senate bill even less humane.]

Health negotiations
4th horseman, Death,
joins senate health care negotiations

“I want to see a bill with heart” [Scriber: It’s called Obamacare.]

“honestly, nobody can be totally happy” [Scriber: Other than Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell?]

“Health care’s a very complicated subject” [Scriber: That’s why Trump should not be let anywhere near it.]

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Why America is divided about health care for all

The first topic below contains information now readily available in many news sources. But please bear with me because I want to set a context for my comments that follow.

Likely effect of House and Senate bills cutting Medicaid on Arizona

Howard Fischer reports on an analysis of how Arizona will fare if the Senate “Better Care” bill passes in AZ dilemma on Medicaid: Pay or drop coverage. The report is from the Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required, but reprinted in the Daily Star.

The new Senate health-care plan would cost Arizona at least $2.9 billion between next year and 2026 — and perhaps as much as $7.1 billion — according to a new analysis by the Ducey administration.

Or the state could avoid most of those costs simply by cutting off health care for more than 400,000 who got coverage in 2013 when Arizona took advantage of a provision in the Affordable Care Act — the law Congress is working to repeal.

There is a way for the state to avoid close to $4.9 billion of those costs: Scale back its Medicaid program.

“If you’re willing to give up coverage on the 400,000 people, most of that (cost) goes away,” said AHCCCS Director Tom Betlach. …

So are lawmakers and the governor willing to make those coverage cuts?

Not likely.

Health apocalypse
The Republican plan for America:
Ignorance, Poverty, Pestilence, Death

“Everybody knew this day was coming,” said House Majority Leader John Allen, who opposed the 2013 legislation that both restored coverage for single adults who had been cut from the program two years earlier to balance the budget and expanded eligibility beyond the federal poverty level. He said it’s “an open question” whether the Republican-controlled legislature will choose to find the billions needed or simply repeal the 2013 law

“There are two very well-established sides on this,” Allen said of the issue. “The side that will probably win the day is the one that is able to convince the public that there is no other choice.”

And where does Allen stand?

“I fall on the ‘you should never have done this and we should back away from it.,’ ” he said.’

So that is an “open question”?

AZBlueMeanie (Blog for Arizona) has harsh words for Allen’s position in How the Senate health care bill would affect Arizona.

In other words, “Perhaps they should die and decrease the surplus population.”

See the Blue Meanie’s post for more comprehensive coverage of the likely state-level legislative reactions to a cut in the federal Medicaid funding.

Medicaid battle highlights more fundamental health care issue

There are occasional calls for both political parties to come together and negotiate a settlement which would result in fixing Obamacare or tinkering with the Senate’s “Better Care” bill to make it more palatable to moderates or making the Senate’s bill even more radically right-wing to appeal to the GOPlins.

I have a visual image of a table of Senators from both parties negotiating haggling over bits and pieces of health care plans - tweeking here and twerking there. “I’ll give you this if you give me that.”

All these things skirt the fundamental divide in this country - as a matter of fact a divide that is unique to the United States.

On the one hand, you have the view that America is alone in not providing health care coverage for all its citizens. Senator Bernie Sanders made that point again on this morning’s _Meet the Press_: Medicare for all. On the other hand, you have the view that we cannot afford an open-ended entitlement program like Medicaid.

Everything you read about the intense political warring over health care follows from that divide. Obamacare was an attempt to come as close as allowed by the politics to a universal health care system. Ryancare (or Trumpcare) is an attempt to preserve our health care system as a privilege for those who can afford it, a commodity subject to the vagaries of the free market.

Another part of the conservative (so-called) approach is to push responsibility for national health care to the individual states. All that does is replicate the fundamental divide and its consequences 50 times over.

Sometime, probably as soon as this week, the Senate will vote on its markup of the House’s AHCA bill. Then, if all goes according to (Mitch McConnell’s) plan, the Senate and House will rapidly agree on a final bill and it will go to the president for signature. In that process, senators will have to get very serious about which side of the divide they are on. Do we as a nation opt to care for all our people? Or will the congress regress 174 years to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and say to our neighbors, to paraphrase Dickens, "Perhaps you should die and decrease the cost of health care.”

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Senate health bill: Rich get richer, poor get sicker, and children take it in the chops

Here are some items from New Yorker writer John Cassidy’s email yesterday (Saturday, June 24) morning, all concerning the unhealthy “Better Care” bill making its way through the Senate (that is, being rammed through by Mitch McConnell).

The first thing to understand (IMnotsoHO) is that the whole motivation behind the repeal bills in the House and Senate is to effect a reverse robin-hood transfer of wealth - away from those needing Medicaid and to those least needy, wealthiest families in America. Follow the money! As Molly Ivins once noted, “You Got to Dance With Them What Brung You.”

Shifting Dollars from Poor to Rich Is a Key Part of the Senate Health Bill — The New York Times
For some reason, much of the media coverage of the House bill focussed almost exclusively on the measures affecting the individual insurance market, which are certainly important but affect fewer people than the changes to Medicaid would. Thankfully, the coverage of the Senate bill is already more balanced, with virtually every major publication pointing out that the legislation is an exercise in reverse redistribution. “The bill’s largest benefits go to the wealthiest Americans, who have the most comfortable health care arrangements, and its biggest losses fall to poorer Americans who rely on government support,” the Times reporter Margot Sanger-Katz wrote in a front-page piece on Friday.

Just when you thought the GOPlins could not be meaner …

It Really Is Meaner — Slate
In terms of the human effect of these changes, the cuts to Medicaid are undoubtedly the most consequential part of the bill. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the House bill would reduce enrollment in Medicaid by about fourteen million over ten years. The C.B.O. has yet to score the Senate bill, but the expectation is that the numbers will be similar. Unless the states stepped in to fill the funding gap, many of those affected would be children from low-income families, who are covered by the Children’s Health Insurance Plan (chip), which is Medicaid’s sibling. Over the long term, the Senate bill would restrict federal spending on Medicaid and chip even more than the House bill. From 2025 onward, spending would be tied to the rise in the overall Consumer Price Index, which for decades has risen a lot more slowly than the cost of medical goods and services. “Over time, this approach could easily drain hundreds of billions more from Medicaid,” Slate’s Jordan Weissmann noted in a clear explainer, “leaving the program a shadow of its former self as its budget fails to keep up with ever-climbing costs.”

As Forrest Gump once said: Shit Happens. What are the chances of this shit happening?

Will the Senate Pass Its Health Care Bill? — FiveThirtyEight
How the politics of all this will play out remains to be seen. With the Republicans having fifty-two votes in the Senate, McConnell can afford to lose just two votes. (On a fifty-fifty vote, Vice-President Mike Pence could be the tiebreaker.) This means that McConnell needs to win over at least two of the four conservative naysayers—Ted Cruz, of Texas; Ron Johnson, of Wisconsin; Mike Lee, of Utah; and Rand Paul, of Kentucky—who don’t think the bill goes far enough in dismantling Obamacare. The Majority Leader also has to worry about potential dissidents from the less extreme wing of the Party. On Friday, Dean Heller, the Nevada senator who faces a tough reĆ«lection fight next year, said publicly that he wouldn’t vote for the bill in its current form. Other moderate Republicans—including Shelley Moore Capito, of West Virginia; Susan Collins, of Maine; Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska; and Ron Portman, of Ohio—have also registered concerns about particular aspects of the bill. Many Washington insiders, who tend to be a cynical lot, believe that enough of these Republicans will ultimately support the bill to insure its passage, even if McConnell has to delay the vote a bit. But, as FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver pointed out on Friday, there are a lot of different variables in play, including the fact that the House bill and President Trump, who is backing the bill, have such low approval ratings.

You will observe, without surprise but with dismay nevertheless, that our two AZ senators seem to be sitting this one out. Email, fax, phone, all of these now! Tell our two boys to get off their behinds and vote against the senate version of the House’s AHCA (American Horrible Care Act).

Is anyone in the Trump administration immune to the contagious corruption?

Earlier this week the NY Times reported that Despite Concerns About Blackmail, Flynn Heard C.I.A. Secrets. He heard them from none other than CIA Director Mike Pompeo in briefings of President Trump. Knowing that Flynn was compromised, why would Pompeo continue to keep Flynn in that loop? Could it be because he learned from the Sally Yates ugliness? Yates was fired, I presume, because she brought the bad news to the White House about Flynn – and we all know that Flynn was regarded as a “good guy.” Was Pompeo avoiding the same fate?

Rachel Maddow covers that story.

I keep trying to connect those dots - to come up with some coherent story about why Flynn was kept on for so long in a very sensitive position hearing (highly classified?) information. I just can’t come up with a better story than what I offered above.

Corruption seems contagious. Or it attracts more corruption. Or it just invites suspicion and sows doubt.

Corruption runs broad and deep
Into your life it will creep

With apologies to Stephen Stills and Buffalo Springfield; lyrics are at genius.com.

Putin's assault on our election, Obama's secret responses, and Trump administration missing in action on preventing future election hacks

Yesterday evening (Friday, June 23rd), Rachel Maddow reported on a stunning Washington Post story about Obama’s secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin’s election assault. I am not in the least ashamed to admit that I cannot do justice to the Post’s story with a few - or even many - snippets. It’s a long article but if you want to understand what the Russians did to our election, and what serious threat remains, you must read this story.

Here are my take-away messages from the Washington Post report.

  • Putin ordered and directed the Russian effort to help Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton.
  • Political push-back from Republican politicians, nationally and locally, prevented effective counter-measures.
  • American response was tempered by the fear that Russia would take additional cyber-action to disrupt the 2016 election.
  • Russia still has the means to disrupt future elections - 2016 was practice for a larger-scale intervention.
  • Obama initiated a U. S. program to develop cyber “implants” that could be triggered remotely as part of retaliation for any Russian aggression against our election system or power grid.
  • Trump has not interfered with that program but neither has he pushed for bolstering the security of our election infrastructure.

That last one based on an article by NBC News, Trump White House Has Taken Little Action To Stop Next Election Hack that appeared this morning (June 24).

The Trump administration has taken little meaningful action to prevent Russian hacking, leaking and disruption in the next national election in 2018, despite warnings from intelligence officials that it will happen again, officials and experts told NBC News.

“This attack is really the political equivalent of 9/11 — it is deadly, deadly serious,” said Michael Vickers, a career intelligence official who was the Pentagon’s top intelligence official in the Obama administration. “The Russians will definitely be back, given the success they had…I don’t see much evidence of a response.”

According to recent Congressional testimony, Trump has shown no interest in the question of how to prevent future election interference by Russia or another foreign power. …

Dozens of state officials told NBC News they have received little direction from Washington about election security.

That apparent top-level indifference, coupled with a failure to fill key jobs at the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies, has resulted in a government paralyzed by inaction when it comes to protecting the next election, experts and government officials told NBC News.

“The Trump administration is woefully missing in action,” said Gregory Miller, co-founder of the Silicon Valley based Open Source Election Technology Institute, a non-profit research group.

“It isn’t happening,” said David Jefferson, a voter security expert and computer scientist in the Center for Applied Scientific Computing, when asked whether he saw a U.S. government effort to address the problem.

What is the Trump administration doing? Apparently, they are pursuing a different agenda.

The White House says it’s sending letters to states and municipalities next week asking them to send data to an election fraud commission. It also points to the signing of a cybersecurity executive order as a step toward protecting elections.

WTF? They’re chasing a bogeyman down a rat hole while the clock is running out on time to strengthen our cyber defenses.

In interviews, dozens of state officials told NBC News they have had limited interaction with the Department of Homeland Security, which is tasked with helping them guard against cyber intrusions. They have seen no major initiative from the Trump administration, they added. …

And the threat remains.

… experts say Russia and other nation-states have shown themselves fully capable of manipulating actual votes.

“It was and is within the technical capacity of Russia and other nation states to interfere with our elections and to change votes, ” said Edward Felton, a Princeton computer scientist who served as deputy chief technology officer in the Obama administration. “We’re fortunate that they chose not to do it.”

J. Alex Halderman, professor of computer science at the University of Michigan, told a Senate hearing this week that he and his team demonstrated the ability to reprogram voting machines “to invisibly cause any candidate to win. We also created malicious software — vote-stealing code — that could spread from machine to machine like a computer virus, and silently change the election outcome.”

… U.S. intelligence officials say, it has to be made clear to the Russians or any other nation that there is a price to be paid for hacking an American election.

John McLaughlin, a former acting CIA director, said he had seen no indication that President Trump and his team have “weighed in with Russians or made clear to the Russians our determination to stop this.”

Links to clips from Rachel’s Friday show

Russian election hacks took US to brink of cyberwar: Rachel Maddow reviews some of the highlights of a lengthy, eye-opening report from The Washington Post about the reaction of the Obama administration to the news that Vladimir Putin was directing a cyberattack on the U.S. election.

Russia 2016 cyberattacks seen as dry run for future elections: Ellen Nakashima, national security reporter for The Washington Post, talks with Rachel Maddow about her reporting on Russia’s cyberattack on the U.S. election and the Obama administration’s deliberations on retaliation.

Uptick in Russian visa requests ahead of 2016 election: Ned Price, former NSC spokesman and senior director, shares with Rachel Maddow insights on the reporting by the Washington Post of an uptick in visa applications from Russia ahead of the 2016 election.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Governors want to protect Medicaid for vulnerable Americans

The Nevada Independent reported last week that Sandoval, other governors say ACA repeal bill ‘calls into question’ health care coverage for vulnerable Americans. They were responding to the House AHCA bill that is intended to dismantle Obamacare in their letter addressed to Senators McConnell and Schumer. I can safely speculate that they are even less pleased after their letter had no effect at all on McConnell’s role-out of an even meaner bill yesterday (Thursday, June 22).

Here is some of the Independent’s story.

Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval and a group of bipartisan governors said the AHCA health care bill proposed by Congressional Republicans could jeopardize coverage for the most vulnerable citizens and puts the burden of health care costs on the states in a letter to Senate leadership Friday.

The seven governors wrote a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., stressing that they believe Congress should prioritize improving health care in the United States, including controlling costs and stabilizing the market for millions of Americans who grapple with mental illness, chronic health problems and drug addiction. But they said the plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act passed by the House in May “does not meet these challenges.”

“It calls into question coverage for the vulnerable and fails to provide the necessary resources to ensure that no one is left out, while shifting significant costs to the states,” the governors wrote. “Medicaid provisions included in this bill are particularly problematic. Instead, we recommend Congress address factors we can all agree need fixing.”

Sandoval was the first Republican governor to embrace Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act and has said that he won’t support a plan that doesn’t cover the more than 300,000 low-income Nevadans who benefitted from it.

The letter was also signed by Republican Govs. John Kasich of Ohio and Charles Baker of Massachusetts and Democratic Govs. John Hickenlooper from Colorado, Steve Bullock from Montana, Tom Wolf from Pennsylvania and John Bel Edwards from Louisiana.

Notice that another Republican Governor , Doug Ducey of Arizona, did not sign the letter. Was he given an opportunity to do so? Or was he not interested in protecting over 400,000 Arizonans who would be affected by drastic cuts to Medicaid.

Nationally the picture is very bleak for millions who benefited from the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, that is, if the Senate votes for the GOP bill. Familiesusa.org reported that 32 states had joined that expansion with 14,409,400 people covered by that expansion.

"No cuts to Medicaid" say disabled protesters at McConnell office

Disabling the disabled
Disabled protester hauled away
in zip-tie handcuffs

Rachel Maddow has the story of a protest movement by disabled Americans. The most recent action was a die-in at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office. By exacting draconian cuts in Medicaid, the Senate “Better Care” bill threatens millions of people including those with disabilities that, without Medicaid, would curtail their liberty.

The action was organized by ADAPT. From adapt.org: “ADAPT is a national grass-roots community that organizes disability rights activists to engage in nonviolent direct action, including civil disobedience, to assure the civil and human rights of people with disabilities to live in freedom.”

Here is the link to Rachel’s report from last night’s show. The protest at McConnell’s office starts about 15:00 into Rachel’s clip and the zip-tied woman is shown starting at 17:00.

How symbolic: zip-tied persons with disabilities. With liberty and justice for all? Really?

Kirkpatrick to form exploratory committee for CD2 run

It has been rumored for weeks that Ann Kirkpatrick is considering a run in CD2 for 2018. Now it’s more than a rumor. Joe Ferguson at the Daily Star reports Kirkpatrick considers CD2 run, forms exploratory committee. It’s shaping up to be a crowded field of Dems seeking to challenge Martha McSally, the current Republican Rep for CD2.

Kirkpatrick, who recently moved to Tucson, told the Arizona Daily Star on Wednesday she will form an exploratory committee ahead of a run for the Democratic nomination next year.

In November [2018], the Democratic winner will face Republican U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, who is in her second term as the CD2 representative. The district is expected to draw the national spotlight in the 2018 midterms since the election will likely be a close race that both national parties think they can win.

If Kirkpatrick opts to get in the race, she faces a crowded primary field. There are eight Democrats who have either announced they are running or are testing the waters for a primary run.

Protesters ripped from wheelchairs and zip-tied: A symbol of what Medicaid cuts will do

Disabled protests
Disabled protester hauled away
in zip-tie handcuffs

Thursday evening Rachel Maddow reported on a die-in outside of Mitch McConnell’s Senate office by ADAPT, a disabilities rights organization. Here’s a short description from Wiki.

ADAPT is a grassroots United States disability rights organization with chapters in 30 states. It had once been part of the militant wing of the disability rights movement due to its history of nonviolent direct action in order to bring attention and awareness to the lack of civil rights the disability community has. ADAPT strategies included using civil disobedience if necessary as a tool to gain public attention, so that they can change laws, policies, and services affecting persons with disabilities. …

The protest and the subsequent police action went viral. Just Google “disabled protesters removed by police” for more videos and photos. Here’s an example.

What you don’t see in the photo here at the upper right, because her hands were behind the wheel chair, is that the disabled (!) protesters were being handcuffed with zip ties. I guess the authorities were worried about being harmed by this nonviolent group.

Senate releases Better Care for the Rich Act: What's in it, How the Senate will try to get it passed, and What you can do to stop it

Health apocalypse
The Republican plan for America:
Ignorance, Poverty, Pestilence, Death

The Senate (McConnell, really) released the draft of the “Better Care” act on Thursday. In this post I cover three questions. (1) What’s in the Senate’s “Better Care Reconciliation Act”? (2) How will the TrumpCare fight play out? (3) What can you do?

What’s in the Senate’s “Better Care Reconciliation Act”?

The Better Care Reconciliation Act: the Senate bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, explained by Sarah Kliff, a vox.com contributor on health care. (h/t Mrs. Scriber)

The bill asks low- and middle-income Americans to spend significantly more for less coverage.

The bill would roll back the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of the Medicaid program, which currently covers millions of low-income Americans, and include additional cuts to Medicaid. It would rework the individual market so that enrollees get less financial help to purchase less generous health insurance with higher deductibles.

Here is how the Senate bill works:

The Senate bill begins to phase out the Medicaid expansion in 2021 — and cuts the rest of the program’s budget too. The Senate bill would end the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid to millions of low-income Americans. This program has provided coverage to more Americans than the private marketplaces

It would also cut the rest of the public insurance program. Better Care would also limit government spending on the rest of the Medicaid program, giving states a set amount to spend per person rather than the insurance program’s currently open-ended funding commitment.

The Senate bill provides smaller subsidies for less generous health insurance plans with higher deductibles. The Affordable Care Act provides government help to anyone who earns less than 400 percent of the federal poverty line ($47,550 for an individual or $97,200 for a family of four). The people who earn the least get the most help. The Senate bill would make those subsidies much smaller for many people, and only provide the money to those earning less than 350 percent of the poverty line ($41,580 for individuals and $85,050 for a family of four). The Senate bill will tether the size of its tax credits to what it takes to purchase a skimpier health insurance plan than the type of plans Affordable Care Act subsidies were meant to buy. Essentially, these tax credits buy less health insurance.

The Senate bill seems to allow states to opt out of Obamacare’s marketplaces and essential health benefits requirement. A new waiver process would allow states to overhaul their insurance markets, including ending the essential health benefit requirement and specific subsidies that benefit low income Americans, so long as those changes do not increase the deficit.

The Senate bill repeals the individual mandate — and replaces it with nothing. The bill gets rid of the Affordable Care Act’s unpopular requirement that nearly all Americans carry health coverage or pay a fine. This could cause significant disruption in the individual market because it takes away a key incentive healthy people have to buy coverage, meaning only sick people may sign up.

The bill would cut taxes for the wealthy. Obamacare included tax increases that hit wealthy Americans hardest in order to pay for its coverage expansion. The AHCA would get rid of those taxes. Obamacare was one of the biggest redistributions of wealth from the rich to the poor; the AHCA would reverse that.

The Senate bill defunds Planned Parenthood for one year. This would mean Medicaid patients could no longer seek treatment at Planned Parenthood clinics. Experts expect this would result in low-income Americans getting less medical care and having more unintended pregnancies, as access to contraceptives would decline.

All in all, the replacement plan benefits people who are healthy and high-income, and disadvantages those who are sicker and lower-income. The replacement plan would make several changes to what health insurers can charge enrollees who purchase insurance on the individual market, as well as changing what benefits their plans must cover. In aggregate, these changes could be advantageous to younger and healthier enrollees who want skimpier (and cheaper) benefit packages. But they could be costly for older and sicker Obamacare enrollees who rely on the law’s current requirements, and would be asked to pay more for less generous coverage.

Kliff has lots of detail backing up her analysis in her vox.com report.

How will the TrumpCare fight play out?

This is part of an email message from Ezra Levin, Co-Executive Director, Indivisible. (Indivisible was founded by a group of former congressional staffers who want to turn the tables on the Tea Party types in service of resisting Trump.) (h/t Laurie Jurs via Miriam Lindmeier.)

Senate Republicans have promised a vote by the end of next week. But there are still several steps between now and passage of TrumpCare. Here’s how the former congressional staff at Indivisible Team think the fight will unfurl:

  • Tomorrow, we’ll get a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score, which will quantify exactly how many millions of Americans will be screwed by this bill and in what ways.
  • On Monday or Tuesday, Republicans will officially announce the vote is happening by the end of the week and start debate on “the bill,” which is just a draft bill intended to make it look like they’re being transparent but in reality is a trick to hide just how awful their finished product will be.
  • Over the next couple days, Senators will submit amendments, most of which will fail and none of which would make this bill redeemable.
  • On Thursday, the Senate will plan to vote on the legislation, but first they will vote on all submitted amendments (known as “vote-a-rama”).
  • At the last possible minute, Senate Republicans will replace the entire bill they just got finished “debating” with an alternative TrumpCare bill secretly crafted behind closed doors.
  • By the end of Thursday, there will be a final vote in the Senate.
  • As soon as that same Thursday, the House may then pass the legislation and send it to Trump to sign. This could take longer, but this is the worst case scenario and quite possible.
  • Next weekend, one week of congressional recess begins. They’ll either have the bill done by then, or they’ll have to wait another week.

Throughout this process there will be precisely zero public hearings in the Senate. Make no mistake, this is a historically partisan, secretive, and undemocratic process for one of the most consequential pieces of legislation of our generation. This is atrocious.

What can you do?

From Indivisible:

So let’s fight it. All you need to pressure your Republican Senators, including DAILY scripts and new materials, is on our TrumpCareTen.org website. Need more background materials? We’ve got ‘em for you here. It’s critical that you’re showing up and that when you’re not showing up, you’re calling your Senators every single day.

Here is Scriber’s post on an alliance4action call to action from a few days ago.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

McConnell set to drop health care bomb today

McConnell headshot
This is the guy who is about
to screw over your health care.

This morning (Thursday) we should see the draft of the Senate version of the health-apocalypse previously passed by the House, the now infamous AHCA (or “Trumpcare”). The defense of Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s secret-speed strategy is that “the Dems did it”. Let’s say what that is: bullshit. Period.

The Huffington Post reports on The Big Lie Republicans Are Using To Defend Their Secret Health Care Bill

Republican leaders in Washington have come under withering assault for the way they are putting together their bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act ― specifically, for writing the legislation almost entirely behind closed doors, with zero Democratic input, and with plans to hold a vote mere days and maybe mere hours after finalizing the language.

Some Republican senators say they, too, are frustrated by the process. But so far none has seen fit to demand slower, more open deliberations. They say they are inclined to cut their leadership some slack, because ― supposedly ― Democrats acted the exact same way when they first wrote the Affordable Care Act in 2009 and 2010.

This is nonsense, as historians and the reporters who covered the 2009 and 2010 debate keep pointing out.

Yes, Democrats cut plenty of backroom deals and pulled plenty of legislative tricks to get their bill through Congress. That’s how complicated legislation always comes together. And, yes, Democrats ultimately passed the Affordable Care Act on a party-line vote.

But what Republicans are doing now is fundamentally different and truly unprecedented for legislation of this consequence.

Keep putting pressure on our senators, Flake and McCain. Both the House AHCA and the senate version are widely and wildly unpopular and our senators should step up and protect their constituents.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

6-28-17: Another Guns of August?

We are coming up on the 103rd anniversary of the opening of World War I. Here is a summary of the early chapters of Barbara Tuchman’s book The Guns of August - from Wikipedia. It was a matter of miscalculation and alliances that ultimately consumed Europe and dragged the US into the war.

“Outbreak” starts with a short introduction, which briefly mentions the event that triggered World War I. On June 28, 1914, in Sarajevo, Gavrilo Princip, a Serbian nationalist and patriot, assassinated the heir apparent to the throne of Austria-Hungary, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, at 50, and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg (the former Sophie Chotek), at 46, a mother of three. European-wide diplomacy and military preparations during July are then referenced.

Chapters 6 to 9 commence with August 1914. Discussed and probed are maneuvers by leading politicians, diplomatic affairs, and actions undertaken by various armies, during the opening days of the war, August 1 to August 4. Covered are the Kaiser’s hesitation, the struggle by Russia to ensure that its ally, France, would join in the war, France’s attempts to win a guarantee from Britain of her involvement, and Germany’s ultimatum to Belgium.

Required reading for this morning is AZBlueMeanie’s summary of the situation in Syria, One miscalculation or mistake away from war. We are stumbling toward another world war.

Wars often begin with a miscalculation or mistake after prolonged periods of posturing and saber rattling. We will be told that we have to save face or appear weak, especially by people like Sen. John McCain. So we will stumble into war.

Two events in recent days — the shooting down by a US F–18 of a Syrian Su–22 and the use of ballistic missiles by Iran against ISIS targets — are evidence of a scramble in eastern Syria that’s been gathering pace since the beginning of the year.

The Blue Meanie quotes from CNN reports, the first noting that the Syrian conflict moves into new and dangerous territory. In short:

For now at least the main contest lines up the regime of Bashar al Assad with its allies in Moscow and Tehran against the United States and the few remaining non-jihadist groups still on the Syrian battlefield.

Today a Russian fighter jet flies within five feet from US spy plane

And that after we shot down a Syrian fighter.

The Syrian army and its allies (largely Iranian, Iraqi and Lebanese Shia militia), however, are also closing in on Raqqa. Last week the Syrian military reached areas controlled by the SDF. It was almost inevitable that at some point these opposing alliances would butt heads. So when the Syrian air force bombed SDF positions Sunday, the US came to the aid of its partners on the ground — and the Syrians have one fewer Su–22.

The Pentagon said the action was “in accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defense of coalition partnered forces,” but that was not the view in Moscow.

Russia announced Monday that for the second time this year it was suspending its military cooperation agreement with the United States in Syria — an agreement designed to prevent unintended accidents in the skies over this crowded neighborhood. But it went a step further, warning that anything in the air west of the Euphrates River — including coalition aircraft — would be considered a target.

On Tuesday, Australia — a US coalition partner — announced that it was suspending all air operations over Syria.

We are one miscalculation or mistake, one shot down plane over Syria, one nuclear test or ballistic missile launch in North Korea, from stumbling into a major conflict. And we are saddled with an erratic and impulsive man-child for president. Tbis is a dangerous confluence of circumstances.

You see, we are not that far from this generation’s Guns of August.

Update on the Senate stealth-health bill

The Washington Post reports on The Health 202: Here’s what we know about the Senate health-care bill.

Mitch McConnell is still pushing for a vote before July 4th.

There will likely be legislation for Republicans to view this week. Much of its largest outlines will mimic the House version passed in May. Parts of it will be different. It’s almost certain to result in millions fewer Americans having insurance. It will also enact big savings for Medicaid. Here’s what we know so far – and what we don’t – about the emerging bill:

  1. The bill’s 50-vote pathway to passage is most likely to circumvent Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), the two senators at each end of their party’s spectrum.
  2. The Senate measure seems poised to enact deeper Medicaid cuts than the House bill.
  3. The Senate legislation is likely to gradually phase down the Affordable Care Act’s higher federal payments for the expanded Medicaid population.
  4. The measure seems ready to repeal or delay some or all of the ACA’s taxes.
  5. The Senate bill is likely to include a more generous version of insurance subsidies, tying them not just to age as in the House bill, but also to income.
  6. The measure will likely exclude language banning federally subsidized health plans from covering abortions.

See the Post’s report for more on each of the above items.

However:

The House Republicans can still shape the final bill

The Obamacare overhaul situation is in the hands of Senate Republicans at the moment. But it’s still important to pay attention to what House Republicans say about it because the House will have to put a stamp of approval on whatever a final bill looks like, if it’s ever going to Trump’s desk.

All signs in the Senate bill point to a longer phaseout for the ACA’s Medicaid expansion. A group of House conservatives is trying to tug the bill in the opposite direction. The Republican Study Committee laid out four demands in a letter it’s planning to send to McConnell later this week. Their asks include:

  1. Clamping down on Medicaid expansion more quickly and in 2020 completely cutting off the extra federal dollars for enrollees.
  2. Allowing states to opt out of the ban against charging more to those with preexisting conditions and essential health benefits.
  3. Repealing all of the ACA taxes.
  4. Defunding Planned Parenthood for one year and banning federally subsidized plans from covering abortions.

You think that is bad news? Check out Greg Sargent’s assessment of the time course of McConnell’s secret-speed push to get a vote before the 4th. Sorry, folks. The GOP’s devious strategy for ramming Trumpcare through is working.

We already knew that Senate Republicans were going to try to ram through their health-care bill by resorting to a scandalously secretive, absurdly compressed process. But now we have the details: According to the Wall Street Journal, the text of the bill will be released this Thursday; the Congressional Budget Office will release a score of the bill next Monday or Tuesday; and the Senate may well vote on it next Thursday.

Unfortunately, there are signs this morning that the Republican strategy is already working precisely as intended.

First, let’s note that the secrecy adopted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is explicitly designed to shield the Senate GOP health-care bill from as much debate and public scrutiny as possible. The text of the bill will be available for all of one week before it is likely to be voted upon, after having been drafted in such secrecy that even Republican senators complained that they were being kept in the dark. There have not been, and apparently will not be, any hearings before the vote.

… This compressed schedule is not only designed to limit debate on the bill. As the [Wall Street] Journal reports, the vote is being rushed for the express purpose of getting it done before the July 4 recess, because the failure to do so “could open Republican lawmakers up to pressure from constituents,” some of whom might be “concerned about losing their health coverage.” Thus, the schedule is also explicitly designed to shield lawmakers from public exposure and questioning about the immense human toll the measure they are considering could have — before they vote on it.

Sargent cites a new CBS poll in which about 75% of Americans want the Senate Republicans to open up and make the deliberations on their health bill public. Independents sort out about the same way. But! The same percentages of Americans overall and independents say that they do not know enough about the Republican’s bill to have a good understanding of it.

The juxtaposition of these findings neatly underscores the profound cynicism at the core of the GOP approach. As Brian Beutler has argued, GOP leaders are not merely lying about what is in the bill. They are also lying about the process itself, because copping to what they are actually doing would implicitly admit that their bill — which is very likely to be almost as cruel in its broad strokes as the House bill — cannot survive genuine public debate. This new polling illuminates the point: Republican leaders are willing to endure the public’s disapproval of their efforts to hide the bill from the public (to the degree that they care about that disapproval at all), precisely because those efforts are keeping the public ignorant about what they actually intend to do to our health-care system.

It is possible, of course, that public disapproval of the secrecy of the process and of the bill itself — once we see it — could combine to dissuade a few moderate GOP senators from voting for the bill, perhaps dooming it. But nonetheless, right now, the Republicans’ blanket of secrecy is working. By keeping the public in the dark about Republicans’ true designs, it is having precisely its desired effect.

-=-=-=-=-=–=-=-=-=-=-= UPDATE =-=-=-=–=-=-=-==-=-

From The Guardian’s report on Tuesday afternoon: Republicans say they will release draft of health bill amid pressure over secrecy.

Senate leaders announce plan to reveal draft language on Thursday morning, with a finalized version to be released after budget office analysis

Senate Republican leaders said they would release draft language of their healthcare bill on Thursday amid mounting frustration among lawmakers in both parties over the way the party is assembling their bill – behind closed doors and without a single public hearing scheduled. A vote is expected next week.

The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, confirmed that the draft bill would be made public on Thursday during a press conference with reporters on Tuesday.

Ducey names new higher ed regent

This will be of interest to supporters of higher education and residents of the Saddlebrooke and Quail Creek developments. What’s the conjunction? Read on.

The Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) reports that Ducey moves swiftly to replace regent who resigned. Snippets follow.

Gov. Doug Ducey swiftly appointed a replacement to the Arizona Board of Regents after a member resigned because of insulting comments he made to a lawmaker.

Karrin Taylor Robson, who heads real estate development company Arizona Strategies, was appointed today by Ducey to serve on the board that oversees the state’s public universities.

Taylor Robson donated $1,600 to Ducey’s campaign efforts in 2015 and $1,000 in 2014, among various other donations to Arizona officials.

Taylor Robson’s husband, Ed Robson, is a real estate developer responsible for creating dozens of planned communities throughout Arizona and a longtime donor to Republicans. Ed Robson gave $5,000 to Ducey’s campaign in December 2016. He also gave $25,000 to Proposition 123, an effort championed by Ducey to settle a school funding lawsuit. And he donated $6,000 to the Arizona Republican Party in 2015.

She holds degrees from Arizona State University and ASU’s law school, according to her LinkedIn profile. Ducey praised her prowess in running large economic development projects and said she is a “well-respected voice” in business who has a “passion for higher education and our public universities.”

Taylor Robson said that, as a regent, she will “provide accountability and oversight for Arizona taxpayers and citizens, and to continue to support the enhancement of these nationally recognized institutions for the betterment of students and their families.”

About that conjunction? Ed Robson is the developer of the Saddlebrooke and Quail Creek communities.