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The Ideologues Who Want to Destroy Democracy to Save Capitalism

Mon, 2017-07-24 00:03

July 20, 2017

This post first appeared on BillMoyers.com.

Last week we presented you with historian Nancy MacLean's fascinating story of James McGill Buchanan — the father of "public choice economics" whose writing was influential to a number of ideologues on the far right. Some of his ideas are popular among the very monied (including Charles Koch) of the libertarian wing of the Republican Party and are frightening in their sheer calculation and callousness. As MacLean said: "His theory of the motives of public actors was so cynical as to be utterly corrosive of the norms of a democratic society, as people pointed out along the way, but he would not listen."

George Monbiot, a columnist for The Guardian, has more on the history of Buchanan and his twisted ideas:

He aimed, in short, to save capitalism from democracy.

In 1980, he was able to put the program into action. He was invited to Chile, where he helped the Pinochet dictatorship write a new constitution, which, partly through the clever devices Buchanan proposed, has proved impossible to reverse entirely. Amid the torture and killings, he advised the government to extend programs of privatization, austerity, monetary restraint, deregulation and the destruction of trade unions: a package that helped trigger economic collapse in 1982.

None of this troubled the Swedish Academy, which through his devotee at Stockholm University Assar Lindbeck in 1986 awarded James Buchanan the Nobel memorial prize for economics. It is one of several decisions that have turned this prize toxic.

But his power really began to be felt when Koch, currently the seventh richest man in the US, decided that Buchanan held the key to the transformation he sought. Koch saw even such ideologues as Milton Friedman and Alan Greenspan as 'sellouts', as they sought to improve the efficiency of government rather than destroy it altogether. But Buchanan took it all the way.

...The papers Nancy MacLean discovered show that Buchanan saw stealth as crucial. He told his collaborators that 'conspiratorial secrecy is at all times essential.' Instead of revealing their ultimate destination, they would proceed by incremental steps. For example, in seeking to destroy the social security system, they would claim to be saving it, arguing that it would fail without a series of radical 'reforms.' (The same argument is used by those attacking the NHS). Gradually they would build a 'counter-intelligentsia,' allied to a 'vast network of political power' that would become the new establishment.

Through the network of think tanks that Koch and other billionaires have sponsored, through their transformation of the Republican party, and the hundreds of millions they have poured into state congressional and judicial races, through the mass colonization of Trump’s administration by members of this network and lethally effective campaigns against everything from public health to action on climate change, it would be fair to say that Buchanan’s vision is maturing in the US.

Read more from Monbiot in The Guardian and read an excerpt from Nancy MacLean's Democracy in Chains.

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Complete Democratic Party leadership change now lest next generation lost

Sun, 2017-07-23 00:41

The 2016 Democratic Party Platform is second to none. The Democratic Party's moral and economic values codified in that document is supported by the vast majority of Americans whether Democrat, Republican or otherwise. Accepting those two statements as true at the same time that Democrats are losing on both a state level and nationally in the aggregate must be attributed directly to the leadership of the Democratic Party, its inability to connect its platform to enough Americans.

To be clear, most of these leaders are not bad or even ill-intentioned. They have just become comfortable with a status quo. They continue to live in a reality that no longer exists. Many are oblivious to the success of the project to systematically hold the masses in check just when the liberalization of America was beginning to bear fruit.

Many in the current crop of the Democratic leadership did not understand, did not know, or was willfully ignorant of the Powell Manifesto. This memo, written by the then Democratic lawyer, and future Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, created the structures and path to decimate the middle-class to ensure the supremacy and constancy of the class of Americans that wielded the most capital.

Many millennials and younger Democrats who are living in a society progressively devoid of economic security are not sitting still. They are asking questions. As they see it, the government, we the people instituted policies that elevated many into the middle-class and beyond. The country justifiably rewarded veterans with a generous G.I. Bill. States invested in schools, colleges, and Universities which made an education attainable and affordable for all.

The Democratic Leadership that emanated from the crop of baby boomers and Gen-Xers fell for one of the biggest cons in American history as the realization of a more equitable society was taking hold. Ronald Reagan won by making promises that were virtually unfulfilled. He allowed the codification of selfishness and short term thinking that glorified a false individualism that merited the spoils of their labor even though it was the society that provided the wherewithal for their successes. Many supported the tax cuts that starved schools, infrastructure spending and much more. Because the bulk of the tax cuts went to those with an over supply of means, their low marginal propensity to consume created a less robust economy than had these cuts remain for immediate circulation. These reductions were partially responsible for the decimation of the middle-class and the exacerbation of the poor's misery.

Bill Clinton's move rightward with his method of triangulation, the cauterization of Democrats as Republican Lite, all but sealed the deal. Democrats and Republicans alike resisted Obama's attempt to turn the juggernaut.  One expected that from Republicans but not from a party in full control of the government. This reality ensured legislation would continue its rightward bias. In other words, the only passable legislations are those that ensured the corporatist class could make ever increasing profits by the wealth transfer from the masses. Even Obamacare was based on policies dictated by the Heritage Foundation, based on a failed market model used by no country in the industrialized world.

Young Progressives decided to do something about it. They attempted to create a movement with Occupy but for various reasons, some out of inexperience and some directly attributed to sabotage by the state, it was only marginally successful in the long run. The Our Revolution Movement, which had the genesis in the Bernie Sanders campaign once again invigorated the youth and a substantial portion of Progressives of all stripes. Unfortunately, roadblocks to these Progressives continue by the old guard. Many don't admit it. In fact, they get defensive or sometimes belligerent of that accusation. In fact, they react to the understandable frustration of these Progressives who sometimes behave with less than civil behavior, as justification for their attacks. One should note that irrespective of culture, creed, religion, race, ideology, or anything in between, the suppressed have similar reactions.

A dear friend of mine, Cody Pogue, wrote a Facebook post that should incense every true Progressive. It is something that I have heard occurring throughout the country, but this one touched home. It affects my county, Harris County directly.

I blogged his entire Facebook post here. Please read it in its entirety. But in short, Cody Pogue has been a community activist for some time. He is a professor. Cody makes sure his young students are civically and politically engaged. He knows Texas and American history like few know it. But most importantly he is an organizer.

Pogue encourages young people to run for office, from county offices to state and federal positions. But he leads by example. Cody ran for state representative, using his campaign as the perfect example of political engagement. He block walked, phone banked, and worked many a campaign, not just his own. He was a lead organizer for the Bernie Sanders campaign.

Cody applied to take over his precinct chair which was empty for years. The application is usually a simple deal. It is unheard of that a former Democratic candidate would get denied the opportunity to serve as a precinct chair. Cody, however, did not fit the profile. He is a Progressive who wants material change, not incremental change that is failing most Americans and is causing a loss of faith in the Democratic Party. Moreover, he built a successful movement for real Progressive values locally as he supported Bernie Sanders.

While Cody Pogue intends to continue working aggressively for the Democratic Party, the sour taste is neither forgotten nor gone unnoticed by thousands locally. This fiasco is a dereliction of duty in the Harris County Democratic Leadership. But it isn't just a local failure. This behavior permeates the party.

The Democratic Party is not an owned entity. It is a democratically organized group of people with shared Progressive values to support the middle-class, to support families, to support working people. When the current leadership fails in that mission, then the party will die a slow painful death, or it will be reborn from the direction of young Progressive activist Democrats like Cody Pogue and many others who are fighting for the party's survival.

If you believe in the mission of the Democratic Party, if you are a Progressive or think it is time for a change, if you want to win again, then we must not continue the insanity. Remember doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is insane. How many more years of frustration are you willing to endure? It is time for a complete leadership change throughout the Democratic Party. Those in power should cede it by being mentors to new blood instead of their attempt to remain in power at all cost. It is not about the individual. It is all about us all. It is all about making America what it can be for us all. We must have a complete Democratic Party leadership change now lest we lose subsequent generations.

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2016 Democratic Party Platform

Sat, 2017-07-22 22:30

The 2016 Democratic Party Platform is likely the most progressive platform ever by the Democratic Party. This is partly the result of very hard work by the Bernie Sanders Campaign and its devoted followers. They sense the need for a new compact with the American people

2016 Democratic Party Platform

It is important that as Democrats campaign in subsequent elections that they point out the differences between the 2016 Democratic Platform and that of the GOP. The Democratic platform supports policies designed to elevate the poor and the middle-class. It ensures that all Americans have the ability to succeed as ordained in the Constitution of the United States.

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A Harris County Democratic Party leader’s callous act against a dedicated Democrat

Sat, 2017-07-22 20:44

Cody Pogue, a devoted Democrat, a team player, an organizer, a former Democratic candidate, and much more, wrote the following post on Facebook that details a callous injustice instantiated by leaders in the Harris County Democratic Party. Cody does not describe it in the stark terms I did. He is too kind to call out this injustice for what it is. I hope those reading his words will ensure that around election time, those who played a part in this injustice are held accountable. I know Cody personally. There is no better Democrat and none that is either a better organizer or advocate.

Cody Pogue's story.

Several months ago I posted on here that I became a precinct chair. I honestly thought I had at the time. I got sworn in and everything. Unfortunately, that turned out not to be true.

In mid-January, I applied to be the precinct chair for 0045. On February 8, I received an email from a Harris County Democratic Party staffer stating "Since we currently do not have a Precinct 0045 Chair, Your Senate District Vacancy Committee can consider you for a ‘vacancy appointment’. I am copying SD6 Chair and Vacancy Chair. They will be in touch with you regarding your potential appointment."

On March 2, nearly a month without hearing from either of them, I sent them an email telling them a little about myself and my excitement to become a precinct chair here in my home community. On March 5, which was also the date of the CEC meeting, I received a reply from the district chair saying that she would like to meet with me before accepting me as a chair.

As a faithful Democrat, I went to the CEC meeting anyway. I spoke briefly with the vacancy chair but did not get a chance to speak with the district chair before the meeting. I did, however, notice that my name was on the agenda as a potential precinct chair. I sat through the meeting and when the potential precinct chairs were read by the district chairs, my district chair failed to mention my name.

On my way out, a friend stopped me to congratulate me on becoming a new precinct chair. When I told him what had happened, he rushed me to the front and showed the person running the meeting my name on the potential precinct chair list. He had the lady next to him write my name in a book and the judge swore me in as my friend witnessed.

From that moment until May 4, I thought I was a precinct chair. On that night, however, I got a phone call from the district chair saying that she was denying my request to be a precinct chair because she questions whether I am really a faithful member of the Democratic Party and because I did not follow the correct procedure.

I feel that the true reason for this rejection lies in the politics of the 2016 Democratic Primary. I was the organizer for the Bernie Sanders delegation to my Senate District and the leadership of my Senate District was made up mostly of very vocal Clinton supporters. There was a great deal of conflict at our Senate District meeting at the state convention. I can’t prove it, but my personal belief is that they purposely blocked my nomination as a precinct chair in order to punish me for supporting Senator Sanders in the Democratic Primary.

I have been a loyal Democrat since I started graduate school in 2007. I voted for President Obama in 2008. I volunteered so much time for the Bill White campaign in 2010 that they gave me a house district (HD142) and made me the field organizer for that district even though I was a volunteer. I ran as a Democrat for Texas House of Representatives in 2012 and worked as hard as I could to boost turnout in a very red area of Harris County. In 2014, I volunteered so much for the Wendy Davis campaign that the Battle Ground organizers called me one of their "super volunteers". When I bought my house in 2014, Wendy Davis campaign organizers moved in before I did and while I was moving my furniture into my house, it was already functioning as the Wendy David Campaign Headquarters for this side of town. In 2016, I ran phone banks and canvasses from my house for the Bernie Sanders campaign and had sometimes up to 20 people (mostly under the age of 35) scattered around my house working for a Democratic candidate on almost a weekly basis. I was a member of the Harris County Young Democrats for a while back in 2009-2010. I was a paid member of the Kingwood Area Democrats for several years. I was a founding member and the interim President, and later the Parliamentarian of the Humble Area Democrats. I am currently the Vice President of the East Houston Democrats. I have been a sustaining member of the Harris County Democratic Party most years between 2010 and now. I have been a sustaining member of the Texas Democratic Party several of those years. I have voted in 4 democratic primaries, attended 3 democratic conventions, and never voted in the primary of any other party. Anyone who has any doubt about my loyalty to the party can just take a moment and scroll down my Facebook page, read my blog, or google my name and see years-worth of commitment to this party.

That commitment to the Democratic Party has come at great opportunity cost. I am not retired or self-employed. I work between 40 and 70 hours most weeks. When I knock on doors for Democratic candidates, hold phone banks in my home, or go to Democratic meetings, I use my limited free time to do that. I sacrifice time that I could be sleeping or hanging out with friends. Every time I go to a democratic meeting, my dog doesn’t get to go on his normal walk that night, which is important to me. Every time I have donated to the Democratic Party, to a democratic cause, or to a democratic candidate, it has been a sacrifice. The help that I have given this party over the past 8 years has not come out of an abundance of time and money, but out of scarcity and at great opportunity cost.

For this reason, I was always skeptical about becoming a precinct chair. For years, I passed up the opportunity because I had too much on my plate already and didn’t want to add one more thing. After Trump got elected as president, however, I felt that I had a duty to step up and do all I could to protect political equality, economic opportunity, the advancement of the sciences, arts, and humanities, public education, and all of the other things that were suddenly coming under attack. I didn’t apply as a precinct chair because I was hungry for a position. I applied because the seat had been sitting vacant for years and nobody was organizing the area for the Democratic party, and I knew that I could do a good job at it. I grew up in this community, I have a lot of connections in this community, I am on the board for my HOA, I attend local MUD meetings when I can, I am the VP of the local Democratic club, and I have experience in field organizing.

I applied to be a precinct chair not out of entitlement, but out of duty, which is why I was so surprised when I got the call saying they would rather keep the position vacant and have nobody organizing this precinct than to have me do it. After all, I had sacrificed for this party, not only was I not wanted, but I was so despised that they would rather have nobody at all getting out the vote in my community than to have me doing it.

I sent my district chair an email asking for the specific reason why I was denied, but I never received a reply. From the best I could understand over our phone conversation, and I could be off on the details, it sounds like they went way back into my facebook and found a post during a heated time during the 2016 primary. I was frustrated with some things going on in the party and I felt like the party establishment was doing all it could to stack the decks in favor of Clinton. I am not a public figure with a professional running my Facebook page. I am just a regular 34-year-old guy who is human. In that moment of exasperation, I said something about how if the democratic party doesn’t clean up its act, I may have to go join the green party. I shouldn’t have said it. I was frustrated and I am human. I didn’t join the green party. I voted for Hillary Clinton for president in the general election. I encouraged others to vote for Hillary Clinton in the general election. Those who were determined not to vote for Clinton, I encouraged them to vote for Democrats in the local elections.

To end my long rambling post, I do not like conflict, so I chose to fight this decision through back channels instead of fighting it publicly. I told a few people who I trusted who were officers in the Democratic Party about the situation and asked them if they would fight for me. They did, but there was little they could do.

About a month ago, I heard that there was a guy who was new to this area who wanted to get involved and was thinking about trying to become the precinct chair for this precinct. I added him as a friend on facebook and encouraged him to do it. As I said before, I never really wanted the added responsibility. I just wanted to make sure the seat got filled and the job got done. About two weeks ago, he was sworn in as the precinct chair. Many of my friends were outraged. They were mad because it wasn’t right, but what could be done? I met him in person last night and he seems to be a great guy. I told him that I look forward to helping him in any way that I can. I have no intention of running against him or challenging him. I want to help him organize phone banks, print out block walking lists, register voters, and all of the other things precinct chairs do. With our without my help, I am confident that he will do a great job.

I write all of this not to complain. I am not one for complaining. I knew when I supported Bernie in the primary that I was going against a lot of powerful people. I can accept my losses and keep fighting. I write because a lot of people do not know that this sort of thing is happening in our party, and we need to make sure that it stops. I am fine. I am glad I don’t have to take the extra responsibility. It gives me more time to go on walks with my dog, go on hikes through the mountains of west Texas, and finally get busy on writing a book on the history of my home community that I have been putting off mostly because I have been so busy with political stuff.

What I do care about is those kids who supported Bernie with such idealism and youthfulness, who are now trying to get involved in the Democratic Party. I was lucky to have a base of people who welcomed me in the Harris County Young Democrats, the Bill White Campaign, and the Kingwood Area Democrats when I started getting involved in politics back in 2009. These kids are getting the opposite experience. Instead of having the party welcome them, many people in the party are actively trying to stop them. If the people in the party establishment can successfully remove me from any position in the party, after all, that I have done, how much easier will it be to totally kick an idealistic 22-year-old out of the party? It's not right, and this sort of thing has to stop.

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College Educated, Working in Tech and Still Struggling to Achieve the American Dream

Sat, 2017-07-22 14:34

July 21, 2017

This post first appeared on BillMoyers.com.

Back in 2009 at Bill Moyers Journal, we asked all our guests to share with us their vision of the future of the American dream. We've followed up with some of those guests and they've shared their thoughts with us on where the American dream stands today. Now we've heard from some readers and want to share their stories with you. Our first story is from C. Anderson in Oregon.

I am a college-educated professional in high tech, so I make more than the average for salary. I live in a modest two-bedroom townhouse outside of Portland, Oregon. I chose my home for the school district.

My American dream has changed a lot. It used to be the house on the hill, new cars every few years and traveling on vacations in retirement. Now it's a steady job and enough money to save for retirement and not saddle my son with tons of student loan debt. I don't see any of these three dreams happening.

With the gig economy, I have had problems getting full-time work. With full-time works comes health and retirement benefits subsidized by your employer. Every time I change jobs and health care plans, I have to start my deductible again. I also pay the full cost of health care, and I don't get the employer-subsidized one.

I was just laid off from a full-time job I had for three years. Now I pay almost $600 a month for COBRA and nothing is going into retirement. I am currently job hunting.

Most contract gigs don't give retirement and they don't help pay for health insurance. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has helped with getting good health insurance. Several times I had to turn down work before the ACA because the health insurance was so bad. One topped you out at $25,000 a year. Period. It was sham insurance, not real health insurance.

I am 56 years old and I feel I should be so much further along to my retirement goals and my son's college costs. I feel like I am going to work till the day I die.

I am frugal. I drive a 17-year-old car, I use coupons to purchase groceries, I don't shop till I drop and I don't purchase anything I can't pay cash for. I don't eat out often and don't get designer coffee every day or even every week. I try not to purchase anything that is not on sale or that I don't have a coupon for.

I have no debt except my mortgage, and have a good FICO score. I have done all of the things I am supposed to do financially. Yet one bad illness for myself or my son will topple my house of cards.

Health care costs (or the potential of them) keep me up at night. I am healthy and so is my son... now. But at 3 1/2 he came down with a rare kidney disease. He responded great to medication and was only hospitalized once. I have had dental issues that will cost tens of thousands of dollars to fix. Yet dental programs top you out at $1,500 a year. The rest is out-of-pocket, or you do without.

I know that one illness could wipe out my entire life's work and savings and leave me destitute. I have no real protection because in the gig economy, long-term disability is not offered to gig workers.

I know that because of my income, my 15-year-old son will not be offered need-based scholarships for college. I make too much for him to qualify, but not enough for me to shell out $20,000 every year for four years of college. If I could afford that, I would not be driving a 17-year-old car.

I know that I am more fortunate than others. I can pay all my bills and afford food for my table. I do put into retirement when it's offered. I am not living paycheck to paycheck.

I just get sad sometimes knowing that I will not be able to retire. I will not be able to travel like I had hoped to. I will not have retirement years to volunteer. I do volunteer now, but I would love to do it more.

This is how my American dream changed, and I fear none of my dreams will every come true.

— C. Anderson, Oregon

Tell us what is your vision for the American dream on Facebook, Twitter, email at yourturn@billmoyers.com or at (347) 974-4181.

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America in Crisis: Both Parties Have Forgotten the Lesson of the Great Depression

Fri, 2017-07-21 11:27

Richard Striner, a professor of history at Washington College, is the author of many books including Father Abraham: Lincoln’s Relentless Struggle to End Slavery and Lincoln’s Way: How Six Great Presidents Created American Power.

Fifth in a series: America in Crisis

If people believe they are getting along fairly well in their quest for the good things in life, they may be far less susceptible to movements that threaten democracy. But when nations fall into economic distress, public life can turn into a nightmare. And that is what has happened to America.

Were it not for the Great Recession that started in 2008 — and the “jobless recovery” that followed — the magnitude of our nation’s current crisis would be far less urgent than it is.

The problem of maintaining full employment in recessions and depressions preoccupied the people who lived through the Great Depression, World War II, and the postwar aftermath. The New Deal ameliorated some of the bitterness and suffering of the Depression, but only wartime conditions brought America full-fledged recovery. By 1943, the economic consequences of the military effort were impossible to ignore. Government spending was so colossal that America actually suffered from a labor shortage — at least on the home front. Anyone who wanted a job during World War II had a job.

And so it was that in election year 1944, the Republican nominee, Thomas Dewey, proclaimed that “if at any time there are not sufficient jobs in private employment . . . then government can and must create additional job opportunities because there must be jobs for all in this country of ours.” The Employment Act of 1946 vested the federal government with permanent responsibility for maintaining high levels of employment. Americans in general had come to the conclusion that if market contractions were sufficiently severe, the economy would sink to a very low level and stay there until massive purchasing power was restored through the action of the public sector.

It was in light of this policy verdict that Dwight D. Eisenhower called a cabinet meeting in response to a recession in 1954. Ike told his cabinet to generate proposals for big and expensive public works projects designed to be either speeded up or slowed down in order to even out the level of employment. The result was the Interstate Highway System, and American prosperity surged in the 1950s. The prosperity continued in the Kennedy era when Project Apollo served not only to inspire the American people but also to deliver a continuing economic stimulus.

But both of our parties are incapable of generating policies like those anymore.

By the 1970s, the method of fiscal stimulation (for a number of reasons) fell into disrepute and the force of the 1946 Employment Act was gutted in the Humphrey-Hawkins Act that was passed by Congress in 1978 and signed by Jimmy Carter.

After that, both the Democrats and Republicans forgot the generational lesson of the Great Depression and World War II and they found themselves incapable of supporting either middle class or working class prosperity. Even in the so-called “boom” of the Reagan era, the middle class and working class standards of living were declining.

Though Bill Clinton’s strategist James Carville used the slogan “it’s the economy, stupid” to focus the energies of Democrats in 1992, the recession that toppled the elder George Bush ran its course without much effective remedial action by Clinton, who proposed a rather puny stimulus package in 1993 that the Republicans filibustered to death. The recession at last gave way to the “dot-com boom” by the end of the nineties and Bill Clinton breathed a sigh of relief. But the “Great Recession” that began in 2008 did not run its course in the eight years that followed, notwithstanding a substantial package of stimulus spending that Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress pushed through in 2009.

This was the largest economic contraction since the 1930s and Obama’s package was insufficient, as events would unhappily prove and as the economist, journalist, and Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman kept pointing out, again and again, to no avail. The “recovery” — such as it was — was the “jobless recovery” that cost the Democrats dearly in the mid-term elections of 2010. Indeed it cost the Democrats so dearly that it nullified the rest of Obama’s presidency in most respects. The justly enraged but unjustifiably irrational Tea Party movement gave Republicans the power to block almost everything else that Obama would propose for the balance of his two-term presidency, except for Obamacare and some executive orders that are currently being rescinded.

The recovery program of Obama was insufficient, indirect, and too subtle by half. It remains to be see whether “progressive” or neo-populistic followers of Bernie Sanders will get very far in the age of Donald Trump. The radical right has been able to convince a great many of the “Red State” voters that government action in the Great Recession went too far — that it worsened economic conditions.

In most respects, the right clings tenaciously to the dogma of “pure” free enterprise — as applied through the doctrines of deregulation and supply-side tax reduction — impervious to the way in which our corporate sector, if left to itself, just goes right on doing the sorts of things it seems to do best these days: shipping jobs overseas, investing in bubble assets, and pushing the salaries of CEOs ever-higher as the blue-collar workers scrape and struggle. The gap between our wealthy elite and the blue collar class is now as bad as it was in the 1920s. But this is still not enough for certain billionaires — like the Koch Brothers — who fund the radical right and egg it on.

Back in 1980, David Koch — as the vice presidential nominee of the Libertarian Party — condemned both Social Security and Medicare.He accused Ronald Reagan of supporting the nanny state. Now he and his brother call the shots in congressional elections around the country by channeling massive campaign contributions to extremists. They want to see Obamacare wiped off the books, and they do not want to see it replaced.

They oppose the very idea of a social safety net, regardless of why it was created. But do they really want to bring back the bad old days in which the destitute would die in the gutter? Perhaps so. They keep trying to destroy the kinds of federal protections that millions of people depend on.And they feel self-righteous as they do it. Indeed, they see this as a work of philanthropy.

They believe that we should thank them for their efforts.

And Donald Trump? He used to brag that he would punish the companies that export jobs: he would hit them with some stiff new taxes. But aside from a few token gestures here and there, that promise has remained unfulfilled. He has also promised a trillion-dollar infrastructure program, but it seems as if this program will actually cut the federal role in favor of some half-baked incentives to encourage the building of toll roads and the like. All the while, he convinces his followers that their economic troubles have been caused by the “blue state” elitists — and it appears that he is getting away with it.

The Democrats were given a window of opportunity in 2009 to reverse the Great Recession with some projects that would put the unemployed to work and do it quickly. They blew it and they paid a heavy price.

And so if Trump neglects his promises, will the same thing happen to him? Will his followers rebel and conclude that he was nothing but a con man? Or will they be content to just chortle at his hate-filled tweets and take out their legitimate frustrations on people who are worse off than they are? We shall see.

The memories of the faraway times when the policies of Eisenhower and Kennedy gave us broad-based prosperity that shielded us from extremism appear to be too distant now to help America. And so we drift, attacking one another when we ought to be joining together in a mighty work of rebuilding. Unless some way can be found to approximate the economic achievement of the mid-twentieth century — a time when the public sector and the private sector enhanced one another in the mission of providing full employment — we are doomed to keep spiraling downward.

We are pelting one another with our economic wreckage as the super-wealthy grin from ear to ear. And Donald Trump is becoming more bloated than ever by investing in whatever turns a buck.

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What Trump’s Putin Love Reveals About Conservatives

Thu, 2017-07-20 11:20

July 19, 2017 by

This post first appeared on BillMoyers.com.

One of the most astonishing turnabouts in the history of American politics is the big bear hug with which so many conservatives and Republicans are embracing former KGB operative and current Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. This, after 50 years of lacerating the former Soviet Union as what Ronald Reagan called the “evil empire.”

Nothing may better certify the chaos into which our world has descended after Donald Trump’s election than the fact that Republicans now seem perfectly content with the Russians having attempted to subvert our democratic process, something that not all that long ago would have sent them into a rage.

This isn’t necessarily because these Republicans think no such interference occurred, despite the proof that it did. It is because they revere what Putin represents more than they revere their own democracy.

You can call this rank hypocrisy. You can attribute it to Trump and his own Putin love and say that Republicans zealously follow their leader. But the truth is far more frightening: conservatives have a deep affinity for authoritarianism and an even deeper distrust of modern Western culture. When it comes down to it, their lament, as captured in surveys, is that America isn’t more like Russia.

I don’t have to tell you how chilling this is or what it portends. It means that many of your fellow Americans subscribe to the philosophy of a ruthless, murderous, lying, kleptocratic, illiberal potentate who runs the largest criminal organization in the history of the world. And if that doesn’t scare you, this will: These same people, although thankfully still a minority, run the country now.

That’s why Russia love matters.

Back in 1984, writer-director Paul Mazursky made a wonderfully funny and moving film starring Robin Williams as a Russian defector trying to find his way in New York. It was called Moscow on the Hudson, and though it wasn’t rah-rah or sappily patriotic — the hero goes through many travails — it was nevertheless a sweet valentine to this country of ours where so much is good in spite of ourselves.

In its own way, it set out the terms of engagement with the then-Soviet Union, which was an economic and moral disaster. None of that was terribly surprising — then. Alas, I suspect this charming movie would have little resonance today. In fact, a reboot might be titled America on the Volga.

Though Trump seems the black hole from which all evil emanates, and though he certainly gave license for his followers to embrace Putin — polls show a rapid change of heart about Putin in the GOP base over the last few years — Russia love among conservatives long preceded him. A seminal article in American Conservative by its founder Pat Buchanan in 2013 already was hailing America’s one-time enemy-in-chief as a possible savior of Western civilization. Buchanan approvingly quoted a Putin speech on moral depravity:

With America clearly in mind, Putin declared, "In many countries today, moral and ethical norms are being reconsidered."

“They’re now requiring not only the proper acknowledgment of freedom of conscience, political views and private life, but also the mandatory acknowledgment of the equality of good and evil."

Translation: While privacy and freedom of thought, religion and speech are cherished rights, to equate traditional marriage and same-sex marriage is to equate good with evil.

No moral confusion here, this is moral clarity, agree or disagree.

Then Buchanan added, “President Reagan once called the old Soviet Empire 'the focus of evil in the modern world.’ President Putin is implying that Barack Obama’s America may deserve the title in the 21st century.”

Not to be left behind, Matt Drudge called Putin “the leader of the free world.” And in the comments section of a 2014 piece on Putin by Ishaan Tharoor in The Washington Post, worshippers called the Russian dictator a “man’s man who makes his own decisions and loves his country and its citizens,” “a world leader,” “a professional and a very talented one” and “the West’s (and the world’s) last great hope.” One commenter proudly declared that he was naming his son Vladimir.

In an instructive and terrifying four-part series on Russia reported by the irreplaceable Nick Schifrin on the PBS NewsHour last week, you could easily see the conservative affinity for the authoritarian Russian state. A popular Russian commentator named Alexander Dugin told Schifrin that America and Russia are really mirror images of one another now, and the Russian state does appear to be the conservative paradigm: white, highly nationalistic, militaristic, oligarchic, nostalgic for a lost past (the Cossacks, who murdered Jews in pogroms, are back in vogue), moralistically religious (as one Russian Orthodox patriarch tells Schifrin, tradition supersedes law), highly suspicious of change and with a propagandistic state media system that closely resembles Fox News but without the countervailing forces of an objective, nonstate press. (No shocker here: Trump and Putin share hostile views of an independent press.)

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that, however it comes packaged, authoritarians like authoritarianism, or even that they find greater common cause with Russians dedicated to turning back the clock than with their fellow Americans determined to advance it. But what accounts for the pivot among these hard-boiled anti-communist conservatives, the turn from ostracizing Russia to extolling it? After all, under Stalin, Russia had virtually all the same characteristics as Putin’s, save for religiosity.

Here’s how I account for it: Republican anti-communism was always a hoax — an insincere political ploy to woo Americans fearful of Russian hegemony in an anxious postwar world and get them to turn on Democrats. After all, conservatives were nowhere near as exercised over Hitler’s threatened hegemony in prewar America, and some of them — including Republican congressmen Hamilton Fish, Jacob Thorkelson, Steven Day and George Tinkham — actually gave Hitler the kiss-kiss Putin treatment.

But anti-communism was different. When Sen. Joseph McCarthy demonstrated how much political advantage there was to gain from linking Rooseveltian liberalism to communism, the conservative wing of the Republican Party decided to go all in. To be sure, the GOP establishment didn’t much care for a crackpot like McCarthy (sound familiar?), but, as David Oshinsky points out in his McCarthy biography, A Conspiracy So Immense, Senate GOP leader Robert Taft — “Mr. Conservative” — recognized McCarthy’s usefulness and how the party could ride his Red-baiting to electoral victory, so he held his nose and let McCarthy rip.

It was never anti-communism that made those Republican hearts palpitate. It was the hatred of liberalism. McCarthy wasn’t attacking Russians. He was attacking Americans supposedly in league with Russians. (Talk about irony.) The party subsisted on that conflation for a long, long time, right up through Reagan. If you want to understand conservative Putin love now — if you want to understand conservatives — you can look to the same source. Putin hates liberal democracy. So do most Republicans now. It’s the old, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” And Putin really is the enemy of their enemy — the very antithesis of liberal values.

During that 2013 speech that Patrick Buchanan loved so much, when Putin railed against Western decadence, he was launching an attack on liberal democracy that any American conservative could have delivered. He berated “so-called tolerance, neutered and barren,” (translated by some as “genderless and infertile”) and the “destruction of traditional values from above.” He explicitly called his vision “conservative,” saying, “the point of conservatism is not that it prevents movement forward and upward, but that it prevents movement backward and downward, into chaotic darkness and a return to a primitive state.” Of course, some might see it as exactly the opposite.

Perhaps the best way of understanding what Putin means by values is his rabid homophobia, which seems to occupy a central place in his contempt for the West, much as it does with conservatives generally and evangelicals especially. Only Russia voted against a UN Security Council resolution to support the LBGQT community, and a Russian law preventing homosexuals from “propagandizing” teenagers was found homophobic by the European Court of Human Rights, although the law didn’t go anywhere near far enough for the popular anchorman of Russian state news. “They should be banned from donating blood, sperm,” he said of homosexuals. “And their hearts, in case of the automobile accident, should be buried in the ground or burned as unsuitable for the continuation of life.”

Everyone knows what Russia is. The media have been doing their job to keep us apprised. (See Richard Engel’s MSNBC special report on Russia and the murder of the Putin regime’s opponents.) Everyone knows that it violates every value Americans once held sacred.

We now know that an all-too-large segment of Americans believe in the Russian way and seem eager to force its “traditionalism” down the country’s throat a la Putin. I think Breitbart News founder and Steve Bannon mentor Andrew Breitbart was correct when he was quoted as saying that politics is downstream from culture, which accounts for the fact that conservatives are alright with Putin subverting our democracy so long as the autocrat reviles liberal values.

But think of this: If it is all about destroying liberalism, there is another force that is also deeply religious, white, transnationalistic, gun-loving, autocratic, traditional, homophobic, women-hating, ruthless in achieving its ends, and hates liberal values even more than Putin does. Talk about conservative!

It’s called ISIS. When might we get that conservative pivot?

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Analysis: GOP Failure To Replace The ACA Was Years In The Making

Thu, 2017-07-20 10:48

By Julie Rovner

Seven years of Republican vows to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act came to a crashing halt Tuesday, when it became clear that the Senate could not muster the necessary votes for any of three separate proposals that have been under consideration.

The failure, at least for now, breaks one of the key promises Republicans have made to their voters since 2010, when the ACA first became law.

“This has been a very challenging experience for all of us,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters Tuesday afternoon. “It’s pretty clear that there are not 50 Republicans at the moment to vote for a replacement for Obamacare.”

Monday night’s declaration of opposition by conservative Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) effectively scotched even the chance to start debate on the version of a bill unveiled last week.

McConnell added that the Senate would vote early next week on a plan, originally approved in 2015 and vetoed by President Barack Obama, that would repeal parts of the health law. That approach would delay the effective date for two years to give lawmakers time to come up with a replacement.

However, the opposition of moderate Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) ensures that vote would fail, too.

“To just say ‘repeal and trust us, we’re going to fix it in a couple of years,’ that’s not going to provide comfort to the anxiety a lot of Alaskan families are feeling right now,” Murkowski told reporters.

In retrospect, Republicans’ inability to overhaul the health law should not come as much of a surprise. Here are some of the reasons:

1. It’s hard to take things away from people.

Once launched, federal programs that provide people with benefits they find important and valuable are very difficult to rescind. In the case of health care, people’s lives can be at stake. In the current debate, patients who feared what would happen to their health coverage made their concerns known — loudly — to lawmakers.

2. Republicans have long been divided on health care.

Republicans’ dirty little secret the past seven years is that the only thing they fundamentally agreed on when it comes to health care was the slogan “repeal and replace.” There’s a reason they failed to have a plan ready when Donald Trump was elected president — all efforts to reach a consensus had thus far failed.

“I did not come to Washington to hurt people,” said Capito in a statement. “I have serious concerns about how we continue to provide affordable care to those who have benefited from West Virginia’s decision to expand Medicaid.”

But the more conservative members, notably Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), have other priorities. “All of us promised we would repeal Obamacare,” Paul told reporters Tuesday. “If you’re not willing to vote the way you voted in 2015, then you need to go back home and you need to explain to Republicans why you’re no longer for repealing Obamacare.”

3. Presidential leadership on hard issues is important.

President Trump has been all over the place in what he said he wanted from a health bill. It was his original insistence that “repeal and replace” happen simultaneously that moved Congress away from its 2015 strategy of repealing first and replacing later. He hosted a celebration in the White House Rose Garden when the House passed its bill, then subsequently called the measure “mean” during a strategy meeting with senators.

When it became clear Monday night that the Senate effort was foundering, Trump tweeted: “Republicans should just REPEAL failing ObamaCare now & work on a new Healthcare Plan that will start from a clean slate.” But within hours he instead suggested, “As I have always said, let ObamaCare fail and then come together and do a great healthcare plan.”

The president “gave them an impossible assignment with his promises (more, better, cheaper for all) and neither policy nor bully pulpit help at crunch time,” said Len Nichols, a professor of health policy at George Mason University. “And now he’ll blame them for failing.”

Added Thomas Miller, of the conservative American Enterprise Institute: “We now have a randomized clinical trial that proves one cannot lead and govern via Twitter.”

4. Health care is complicated. Really.

Health care has not traditionally been a major voting issue for Republicans, and thus it has been a low priority — compared with issues like taxes and trade — for the officials they elect.

Adding to the complexity is that the Republicans’ bench is nowhere near as deep as the Democrats’ when it comes to health policy expertise. Democrats have toiled on these issues for years. Even before the Affordable Care Act, many had served in Congress for decades and learned from the mistakes that were made on efforts like the failed health bill under President Bill Clinton.

5. Some parts of the ACA really are popular, even among Republicans.

The requirement for most people to have insurance or else pay a fine — the individual mandate — has consistently been unpopular among voters of all political stripes. But many other major provisions of the health law, such as guaranteeing coverage for people with preexisting conditions, remain broadly popular.

In fact, in recent months, the Affordable Care Act has been growing in popularity. Most polls show it’s more than twice as popular as GOP efforts to overhaul it.

“Republicans have to admit that some of the things in the ACA we actually liked,” said Murkowski.

That left a huge gap between Republicans who wanted to maintain the popular benefits and those who wanted to repeal the law entirely. A gap that, so far, Republicans have been unable to bridge.

Rachel Bluth contributed to this story.

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Democrats, be careful, Trump may beat you to single-payer Medicare for all

Thu, 2017-07-20 09:55

Democrats should not be playing defense now. A defensive stance does not give the impression to constituents that one's fighting for them. With the demise of Trumpcare and Obamacare under stress in many parts of the country, this is the time for Democrats to come out in full support of a transition to single-payer Medicare for all.

Donald Trump is an out of the box politicians who may surprise Democrats and pull victory out of the defeat of the current iteration of Trumpcare. It would not be surprising if Trump made the following calculus. Obamacare is expensive. Republicans have failed to come up with a viable plan. I (Trump) will now send to Congress my single-payer Medicare for all schemeDo not for one moment believe this is an impossibility.

First, single-payer Medicare for all is polling very well. President Trump needs to boost his overall poll numbers. Donald Trump voters have a tendency to twist themselves into pretzels to justify whatever change in position he presents. His core voters will be with him.

In an attempt to get a win at any cost Trump recently claimed that single-payer would bankrupt the country. But he has been all over the place on single-payer. As recent as May, he pointed out to the Australian Prime Minister that his single payer health care system was better than America's health care system.

Single-payer Medicare for All is America's only health care option

The American punditry is starting to talk about it seriously. Matthew Dowd, a down-the-middle pundit, could not be clearer about seriously considering single-payer.

"The health care system has been broken for more than 20 years, and it was broke before ACA," Matthew Dowd said. "And it's broke after ACA. And this fix, it's is like going to a sick patient and giving them experimental treatment, and many experimental treatments hurt the patient. AHCA is going to hurt the patient. To me, no side is fundamentally addressing, and we need to actually ask the questions should we go to a single-payer system, because affordability hasn't been fixed by this or ACA and accessibility..."

Conservative pundit, Fox New's Charles Krauthammer is even more explicit. He believes America will have single-payer sooner than later.  As reported in the Hill,

Fox News political commentator Charles Krauthammer predicted Thursday that healthcare in the U.S. is headed toward a single-payer system. “The terms of [the health care debate are entirely on the grounds of the liberal argument that everybody ought to [have insurance]. Once that happens, you're going to end up with a single-payer,” Krauthammer said on Fox News’s “Special Report with Bret Baier.”

“Republicans are not arguing the free market anymore,” he said. “They have sort of accepted the any commodity. It's not like purchasing a steak or a car. It is something people now have a sense that government ought to guarantee. "I would predict that in less than seven years we'll be in a single-payer system. I think that's the great irony of this."

It is as if many who would never have taken single-payer seriously are coming to the conclusion that market-baed health insurance is untenable. Only a sect within the Republican Party remains who believe their Ayn Randian beliefs should make up the core of our health care system.

In recent interviews on several cable news channels, anchors and hosts asked Democrat after Democrat if they would support a single-payer Medicare for all health care system. Except for those decidedly on the very Progressive side, they all refused to back it.

Trump has no core. And he can boldly change and re-change his stances on a dime. After the current version of Trumpcare fails, the Donald may start weighing his options. He may figure out that in fact, he can get a health care bill. It is evident most of his voters will likely stick with him no matter what he does.

If Trump decided to get behind single-payer, it would probably force enough Democrats and enough Republicans to come together to pass such a bill guaranteeing Donald Trump a second term and the savior of the United States health care system.

In other words, just like Donald Trump triangulated Americans in mixing Progressive populist ideas as he campaigned, even though he had no intentions of fulfilling them, he may do the same with health care. Democrats must stop playing defense and present a plan Americans want. Provide a narrative that starts the process of immediately improving Obamacare's flaws in the short term. Then create a credible transition plan with the proper narrative of removing an unnecessary middleperson that skims portions of our premiums to enrich a few without adding any value to Americans. And one must repeat, that system is single-payer Medicare for all.

 

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A Lesson From My Hospital Bed: For-Profit Health Care Is a Merciless Sham

Wed, 2017-07-19 23:12

By William Rivers Pitt, Truthout | Op-Ed

I came out of it for the first time in near darkness, couldn't lift my arms, couldn't lift my legs, couldn't rise to a sitting position, and there was a breathing mask over my nose and mouth methodically forcing air down my throat. I quickly learned to inhale with its rhythm. I had no idea where or when I was. Suddenly there was a bright light in my eyes and then faces, faces, barely visible, hands touching and voices murmuring too low to comprehend. Someone fiddled with the IV in my left hand and I floated away again.

I had been sick for weeks -- months, actually, if you include the pernicious insomnia -- and had finally grown tired of waiting for the thing to clear itself up. My respiration sounded like a gravel truck in low gear, I had no wind, and I was falling asleep standing up multiple times a day. You know the old joke about passing out at your keyboard and typing "qqqqqqqqqqqqq" with your face? I did that twice. I took myself to the emergency room, waited the requisite number of hours, was checked out in preliminary fashion, and was finally given an IV bag of orange fluid, basically Pedialyte for adults taken intravenously. That is the last thing I remember before waking up in that delirious near-dark last month.

When I came out of it again, it was daytime and my head was slightly less muddy. I was in the ICU wing of my local hospital and had been there for several days. The doctors told me I had acute pneumonia in both lungs which had spawned an infection that had raced through my body like a wildfire. My legs had swelled up like tree trunks until the skin split and started seeping yellow fluid. The morning after I showed up, I went into full respiratory failure and they had to put a tube down my throat to help me breathe. Apparently, I fought them to keep the tube out and wound up doped to the gills and tied to the table so I wouldn't rip the tube out and maybe kill myself in the process.

That was Wednesday. It was now Monday. I would remain in the ICU for another five days wired up to every machine in the world. The blood pressure cuff on my left arm was a permanent fixture that would tighten and release every four hours; I came to call it "The Midnight Rambler" because it always woke me up in the middle of the night. I drank warm chicken broth and cold water, ate chocolate pudding and Jello before finally transitioning back to solid food, and marveled at how these simple things could bring such a rushed return of vigor and strength. One grilled cheese sandwich literally made the difference between being bedridden and having the strength to sit up and swing my feet to the floor.

They took blood by the ounce, fed me medicine via IV, mouth and nebulizer, and very slowly got me back on my feet. My lungs, which had been filled with pus only days earlier, began to clear. I did absolutely everything I was told, yes ma'am, yes sir, and was walking very gingerly by Wednesday. I knocked the socks off the physical therapy nurses on Thursday when they came to look me over, my oxygen level was nice and high, and on Friday I got to punch my ticket out. After 11 days in a room with no view, they wheeled me out the front door. It was pouring rain, but I couldn't have cared less. The leaves that had only been a fuzzy rumor when I went in had become a lush green explosion, the air was honeydew melon, and I was going home to see my wife and little girl.

… and all of it, from that first emergency room IV to that last wheelchair ride out the door, was unbelievably expensive. Astonishingly expensive. Expensive in a way that destroys lives forever. In this, I am among the fortunate ones. My wife works full time for a very large company, and the health insurance they offer is probably as good as what my senators enjoy. My daughter and I are on that insurance plan thanks to my wife's job, and we are covered six ways from Sunday. The full tally for my 11-day ICU adventure hasn't come in yet, but what would have been enough to financially annihilate my family is instead going to be entirely manageable, thanks to the little card in my wallet.

That, right there, is some towering bullshit.

During that week in the hospital, I would lie in my bed and listen as they wheeled in new patients, some moaning, some screaming, some vomiting helplessly, some coughing so hard it sounded like their ribs might shatter. There was the soft swishing of many feet as the ICU nurses swarmed in to treat and to soothe, the beeping of machines newly tasked. I lay there swaddled in the warm embrace of my health insurance and wondered if the sound of distress and agony bouncing off the tiled walls like rocks was also the sound of insolvency, bankruptcy, financial catastrophe. Does that man have the little card in his wallet like I do? Is it enough? Should someone staring death in the face have to think about such things?

That brings us to the current moment, when the GOP is attempting in total secrecy to push some form of its "health care plan" -- basically a giant tax heist for the wealthy -- through the Senate.

The Affordable Care Act has a number of excellent aspects to it, including protection for people with pre-existing conditions and support for Medicaid without which many, many more people would be sick or dead today. The ACA is under attack, and we need to save it in the immediate term.

Still, while we fight as hard as we can to preserve the ACA, we must remember it is not the solution; we can and must do better.

Before my wife secured our insurance through her job, our family was on the ACA for a little less than a thousand dollars a month. I had the option of getting insurance through my own employer, Truthout, but the available plans were not sufficient to meet my needs. Despite the best efforts of the Truthout crew and our union, the United Media Guild, the fact of the matter is almost no insurance agencies will provide coverage to a small organization with employees spread out over multiple states, which is exactly what we are. The one company that does offer such a plan can get away with charging a lot for less-than-ideal coverage. Call it another fly in the ointment of the current system. Given that I have a young daughter and a wife with multiple sclerosis, I was in need of a pretty stout plan. I had to look elsewhere.

The Republican governor of my state had refused to set up the ACA insurance exchange because he, like most of his comrades, wanted the legislation to fail. When the new Democratic governor came into office, she rushed to set the exchange up, but was only able to get one insurance company to join before the program went live, and that company is among the most atrocious organizations to stain the skin of this world. They took my money and lied to my face about providing coverage for my wife's MS medication, even with the aggravated intervention of her neurologist, but I had to stay with them because they were all I could afford, and were the only game in town.

The health insurance industry, for the most part, is the Mob painted over with a veneer of legitimacy. They're a protection racket. The Mob got people to pay by offering "protection" for your restaurant or store, and would burn it down if you didn't pay up. With the insurance industry, your body is the store, and as all flesh is inevitably weak, your store will eventually burn down, taking your financial stability with it unless you pay the insurance middleman in full. Nice health you got there, be a shame if something happened to it.  That's only if they don't turn down your claim because of a typo on your claim form, which is hardly rare. I had ICU nurses telling me insurance horror stories that made one wistful for the ringing sound of guillotines in the town square.

The problem is the fact that health care in the United States is a for-profit industry, like petroleum speculation or automobile manufacture. It's a few people making a lot of money off of sick people, and after so many years of this being the status quo, they have the political system wired to keep it that way.

The core issue, as usual, is the loot. They're after the loot, period, end of file, and if your health suffers as a consequence, well, that's what they call in Wisconsin "hard cheese."

Of course, a justification for genuine change and true reform is not difficult to find. You probably heard it first while in grammar school, right there in the Declaration of Independence, the hood ornament of our national idea. "We hold these truths to be self-evident," it reads, "that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Life. Liberty. The pursuit of happiness.

There is no life without health.

There is no liberty without health.

There is no pursuit of happiness without health.

Health care is an unalienable right, up there with freedom of speech, and it is front and center in our founding document. Treating it as anything else, and especially treating it as a cash machine fed by illness and injury, should be considered a criminal act. Ultimately, the solution is not to be found by expanding the reach of the insurance industry, or by any other "reform" that keeps health care a for-profit phenomenon. The solution, as it turns out, is simplicity itself, and has been adopted by a vast majority of the world's developed nations to excellent effect.

According to the organization Physicians for a National Health Care Program:

Single-payer national health insurance, also known as "Medicare for all," is a system in which a single public or quasi-public agency organizes health care financing, but the delivery of care remains largely in private hands. Under a single-payer system, all residents of the US would be covered for all medically necessary services, including doctor, hospital, preventive, long-term care, mental health, reproductive health care, dental, vision, prescription drug and medical supply costs.

The program would be funded by the savings obtained from replacing today's inefficient, profit-oriented, multiple insurance payers with a single streamlined, nonprofit, public payer, and by modest new taxes based on ability to pay. Premiums would disappear; 95 percent of all households would save money. Patients would no longer face financial barriers to care such as co-pays and deductibles, and would regain free choice of doctor and hospital. Doctors would regain autonomy over patient care.

The main ingredient that is required to see this happen is courage. Courage to face down the insurance industry and their formidable lobby. Courage to convince, or vote out, politicians who are financially invested in the current system by way of campaign contributions from the industry they have spent so long protecting. Courage to embark upon a sea change that would alter the very face of the nation forever, and for the better.

Politicians trying to sell you on the idea that ours is the greatest health care system in the world have at least one part right: Our doctors, nurses and hospitals rank with the best on the planet. If you want to see the very face of compassionate determination and professional excellence, find an ICU nurse and thank them for me, because ICU nurses did nothing less than save my life. Our health care system is a tangled, inefficient, hyper-expensive mess, but many of our health professionals are stars. To free us from the for-profit system is to turn them loose, and believe me, we will all be the better for it.

Do you have that little card in your wallet? Will you have it tomorrow, or next year? You will get sick, as I did, if you have not already. It will likely be amazingly expensive. We are all breathing pre-existing conditions who will get sick or hurt at some point; there is no avoiding this axiomatic truth. Health care is a right, not a privilege, and it is time to claim it as such. Let us relegate the for-profit health care industry to the dustbin of history and seize our right to health -- without which we can never wholly claim our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Let's make it a reality for everyone.

Copyright, Truthout.org. Reprinted with permission

Article originally posted here.

William Rivers Pitt is a senior editor and lead columnist at Truthout. He is also a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of three books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to KnowThe Greatest Sedition Is Silence and House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation. His fourth book, The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Why It Is Happening, and Who Is Responsible, co-written with Dahr Jamail, is available now on Amazon. He lives and works in New Hampshire.

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BREAKING: Senator John McCain has brain cancer

Wed, 2017-07-19 20:35

John McCain is very ill. After surgery for a blood clot that was removed, it was discovered that McCain has brain cancer.

 

The New York Times is reporting the following:

WASHINGTON — Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona and the Republican Party’s presidential nominee in 2008, has brain cancer, according to a statement his office released on Wednesday.

Mr. McCain was treated at the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix last Friday to remove a blood clot above his left eye. The brain tumor — known as a glioblastoma — was discovered during that procedure, the statement said.

The senator’s doctors say he is recovering from his surgery ‘amazingly well’ and his underlying health is excellent,” the statement said.

He may undergo chemotherapy and radiation for treatment, the statement said.

CNN reports the following:

(CNN)Sen. John McCain, 80, has been diagnosed with a primary glioblastoma, a type of brain tumor, Mayo Clinic doctors directly involved in the senator's care told CNN exclusively. The doctors spoke directly to CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

The senator underwent surgery to remove a blood clot on Friday at Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix. Lab results from that surgery confirmed the presence of glioblastoma associated with the blood clot.
Glioblastoma is a particularly aggressive tumor that forms in the tissue of the brain and spinal cord, according to the American Brain Tumor Association.

A pathologist was in the operating room during the procedure, a minimally invasive craniotomy with an eyebrow incision, said his doctor, who added that the surgery lasted about three to four hours. Post-surgical brain scans show the tissue causing concern has been completely removed.

This story is being updated.

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Single-Payer Is Within Reach: What You Need to Know About the Bill for Improved Medicare for All

Wed, 2017-07-19 00:57

By Margaret Flowers, Truthout | Op-Ed

As Republicans come under pressure from the White House to complete the process of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) so they can move on to other priorities, they are finding that this is one campaign promise that is very difficult to keep. The House version of their American Health Care Act (AHCA) has been so heavily criticized that even President Trump says it is too harsh. Republican Senators are currently negotiating their version in secret to avoid too much scrutiny. So far, the Republicans are far from reaching consensus on how to proceed. The people of the United States, on the other hand, are clear on the solution to the health care crisis that they support and are organizing from coast to coast to make it a reality.

The public demand for a National Improved Medicare for All single-payer health care system in the United States is stronger than it has been in decades. The failures of the ACA to cover everyone and control rising health care costs, combined with the threat of the AHCA, which would add at least 23 million more people to the 29 million currently uninsured and further erode the quality of health insurance, have made it clear that we can't continue with the current health care system. This brings to mind a quote by Winston Churchill: "You can always count on Americans to do the right thing -- after they've tried everything else."

All other industrialized nations have some form of publicly funded universal health care system. Many of them are national insurance systems like our Medicare. Some, like the systems in Canada and Taiwan, are actually modeled on US Medicare. Most of them spend half as much on health care (per person per year) as the United States, and they have better health outcomes. No country has adopted a universal health care system and then gone back to its previous system. They have learned that when a system is universal, it is of higher quality precisely because every person has a stake in making it the best it can be.

People from across the political spectrum are expressing support for a single-payer health care system in the US, from conservatives like Charles Krauthammer to business leaders, such as Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger, to Senator Bernie Sanders. Given the failure of commercial media to cover single payer fairly, if at all, and given many Democrats' attempts to obfuscate it with a public option, there is confusion about exactly what a national improved Medicare for All system is and what it isn't. So, here is a primer on the basics of the single-payer health care system envisioned in Rep. John Conyers' bill, HR 676: The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, which now has more cosponsors than ever before.

National Improved Medicare for All

National Improved Medicare for All (NIMA) is a universal publicly financed health care system. Here are the core elements:

1.      National: Every person living in the United States and its territories -- including every health professional -- is in the system. No matter where people travel domestically, they are in the system. No one has to worry about going "out of network" because it is one giant network. This also means that if there is a medical center that specializes in a particular condition, patients can go there if they need to -- no matter where they live.

Including everyone in one giant risk pool spreads the risk widely so that no particular state is burdened more heavily than others with covering the cost of care for its residents. In the US, 20 percent of the population has high health needs, using 80 percent of our health care dollars. Fifty percent of the population is healthy, using only 3 percent of our health care dollars. However, any of us can become one of those in the top 20 percent if we have a serious accident or illness. Having a national system gives us the security of knowing that it is there for us when and if we need it. And including everyone increases the likelihood of preventing and controlling epidemics of infectious diseases.

2.      Improved: This plan is an improvement over Medicare -- not simply an expansion of our current Medicare system. First, it is more comprehensive than current Medicare and includes all medically necessary care, such as mental health, dental, vision, hearing, rehabilitative and long-term care, medications and medical devices. Current Medicare excludes long-term care, so seniors are forced to spend down their assets before they qualify under Medicaid for long-term care. That would no longer be the case under National Improved Medicare for All. Moreover, the question of what is "medically necessary care" would be answered by patients and their health professionals without interference from health insurers who are more concerned with profits than the health of their enrollees.

Second, because the improved Medicare for All plan is comprehensive, supplemental health insurance would not be necessary, and would not be permitted to duplicate what is covered by the health care system. This is important for maintaining a high standard of quality: There should not be a private system for the wealthy and a public system for the rest of us.

One of the reasons that our current health care system is so expensive is because there are hundreds of different insurance plans with different rules and networks. This makes our current system heavily bureaucratic. Some hospitals have more billing agents than nurses, and physician offices spend more than 10 percent of their overhead dealing with our complex system. The US spends a third of its health care dollars on administration while other countries spend less than half of that, and traditional Medicare spends less than 5 percent on administration. Those dollars that are being wasted on paperwork could go to health care instead.

Moreover, our heavily bureaucratic system also takes our physicians' time and attention away from patient care. A Harvard study published last fall in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that for every hour of direct patient care, physicians spend two hours on paperwork. NIMA means there would be one system with one set of transparent rules, making it simpler for patients and health professionals alike.

Third, because of the savings inherent in a National Improved Medicare for All health system, out-of-pocket costs, such as co-pays and deductibles, would not be necessary. When people need health care, it would no longer be a financial decision; they would be able to seek care. Currently, more than half of insured people with moderate to low incomes are unable to afford their deductibles, and 2 out of 5 report delaying necessary care because of the cost. Every year hundreds of thousands of families declare personal bankruptcy because of medical illness; almost 80 percent of them had some form of health insurance.

There is an idea promoted by people who believe that health care belongs in the market that patients need to pay out of pocket before receiving health care. They call it "skin in the game" and say that it makes patients better "consumers" of health care. In reality, studies have demonstrated that out-of-pocket costs cause people to delay or avoid medically necessary care, leading their ailments to worsen and require more expensive treatment. Most people, no matter what their educational background, are not able to reliably determine which symptoms are important and which aren't; therefore, they are as likely to delay necessary care as they are to delay unnecessary care.

3.      Medicare for All: NIMA is similar to traditional Medicare in that it is financed up front through taxes. Supporters strongly recommend a progressive tax because the US has a low ranking globally when it comes to fairness in health care financing. People at the lower end of the income spectrum pay a larger proportion of their income on health care than those at the top. Paying for health care through a tax makes the cost more predictable for families and businesses. It would replace the cost of health insurance premiums, co-pays and deductibles, saving money for 95 percent of the population.

However, instead of being only for people who are 65 years of age and older or for people who have disabilities, National Improved Medicare for All would cover everyone from birth to death. Under NIMA, when people enter a health facility, the first question they're asked is not, "What insurance do you have?" It is "Why are you here?" Those who do not have a national insurance card are presumed to be covered. Care is given first, and registration in the system comes later.

A single-payer system operates on the assumption that all people should be able to easily access the care they need, regardless of their wealth or income.

We Don't Have a Health Care System

One of the first concerns that people have when they hear about National Improved Medicare for All is that it would be too expensive to cover everyone with comprehensive benefits. The reality is that it is too expensive to continue with the system we have now.

The current system was never designed to be an actual health system; it is an accident of history. After World War II, employers were not allowed to raise wages, so they offered benefits, including health insurance, to employees instead. Tying health insurance to employment has proved problematic because when employees become very sick and can't work, they risk losing their job and health insurance. This connection also prevents people from retiring before they reach Medicare age. And the cost of health insurance is the number one concern of small and medium-sized businesses.

Another significant point in history was the Health Maintenance Organization Act of 1973 signed into law by President Nixon. This allowed entities to profit from health care and it unleashed a predatory industry. Private health insurers in the US are financial tools designed to make profits for their investors, making them very different from health insurers in many other nations, which are instead designed to pay for health care. Private insurers in the US make profits by charging the highest premiums they can get away with, shifting as much of the cost of care onto individuals as they can and restricting and denying payment for care. This approach is not compatible with providing high-quality care. In fact, private insurance companies are often obstacles that prevent patients from receiving medically necessary care.

It isn't only the patients who suffer in this system. Health professionals do, too. Physician burnout was one of the top two concerns identified by the Surgeon General last year.

The US's current hodgepodge of a system is the most expensive in the world, with the highest prices for health services and pharmaceuticals. The US isn't even the best, not by far. A recent global health study compared nations on 31 conditions. The US came in 35th with 14 Ds and Fs in critical areas, such as maternal and infant health, certain cancers, chronic conditions, such as Diabetes Mellitus, high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, kidney disease and adverse reactions to medical treatment. The US has also been found to have high numbers of preventable deaths, estimated at over 100,000 per year, and a decreasing life expectancy.

One of the major strengths of National Improved Medicare for All is that it creates a coherent health care system that sets health for everyone -- not profits for a few -- as the bottom line. In addition to significant administrative savings, estimated at $400 to $700 billion a year, the system can negotiate for fair prices for health services and pharmaceuticals. The system can also engage in better health planning. Instead of rationing people's care based on ability to pay, the system can prioritize and truly address health needs.

No system is perfect. Ask people in countries with universal systems and you will always hear some complaints. But you won't hear about millions of people left without access to care, or families going bankrupt because of an accident or illness, or people delaying necessary care because of the cost. Once the US achieves National Improved Medicare for All, there will still be constant work to do to improve it.

Imagine for a moment the profound meaning of the US adopting a universal health care system. Public policies of the past few decades have overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy. NIMA would put forth a different set of values. It would prioritize people's well-being over corporate profits. It would also communicate that all people deserve the same access to high-quality health care. Previous efforts at universal health care in the US were stymied by racism and classism. A single-payer system would create a sense of social solidarity that has not been experienced in the US. Other countries have figured out that welfare systems are poor systems and universal systems are higher-quality systems, because each person has a stake in making them the best that they can be.

Achieving National Improved Medicare for All will be a profound transformation for the United States. It will empower us to fight for other necessities, such as education, a clean environment, a living income and more. And it is within reach.

Copyright, Truthout.org. Reprinted with permission

Dr. Margaret Flowers practiced pediatrics for 17 years. She is currently co-director of Popular Resistance and coordinator of its Health Over Profit for Everyone campaign, adviser to the board of Physicians for a National Health Program and on the leadership council of the Maryland Health Care is a Human Right campaign.

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MSNBC Ali Velshi describes the horror of repealing without replacing ACA (VIDEO)

Tue, 2017-07-18 17:54

Once again Ali Velshi is doing what journalist and media are supposed to be doing, explaining the results of policies implemented by politicians based on facts. Repealing the ACA has grave consequences that Republicans do not want you to know.

Ali Velshi explains what repealing Obamacare means

After the failure of the new version of Trumpcare in the Senate, McConnell has reverted to solely repealing the ACA. Ali Velshi points out the dangers.

"I do want to address Garrett this one issue that some people have brought up Stephanie about completely repealing or what would happen if you repealed and you didn't replace," Ali Velshi said. "I think it's important for viewers to see this, so they understand it. It's actually a very dangerous road to go down for a Congress that has not been able to make a deal."

Velshi then went to his big screen in the role of truth teller in chief. He starts by explaining the explosion in the number of the uninsured.

"Before Obamacare, before the ACA there were 57 million uninsured people in America," Velshi said. "We now have 27 million uninsured. We have taken more than half of the people who had no insurance off the rolls. If you were to, sorry 26 million uninsured. If you were to remove Obamacare now and not replace it, one year later 44 million people would be uninsured because the penalties that are tied to the individual mandate will be eliminated and insurers will then leave the exchanges. Within two years we will be at 53 million uninsured. This is the Congressional Budget Office by the way. They put this out in January because this was being discussed. Medicaid expansion and the subsidies to Medicaid expansion would be eliminated, and by 2026 because we always look out to ten years we would have more uninsured Americans than there were before Obamacare."

Velshi then discussed what would happen to health insurance premiums.

"Let's take a look at the next slide and tell you the effect that it's going to have on premiums," Ali Velshi said. "Again, if you just took out Obamacare, didn't replace replace it, within a year you would see premiums go up in the individual market, that's people who don't get their insurance through Medicaid or through work, 20% to 25% up 50% year two and would nearly double within ten years by 2026.

Velshi then explained what repealing without replacing would do to the Marketplace.

"Let's take a look at the third screen, and I'll tell you the effect that it's going to have on the marketplace fifty percent of all Americans in year one would live in areas that had no insurer participation. Remember we do not have a public option under Obamacare. It was something it was discussed. It didn't happen. So half of all Americans would live in places with no insurer participation, and by 2026 seventy-five percent of all Americans would live in areas with no insurance participation in the public market."

He ends with the effects repealing the ACA would have on the Federal Deficit.

"And finally this is a big one that you need to talk to your members of Congress about if they are conservatives and if you are conservatives. The effect on the federal deficit of replacing, of repealing Obamacare without replacing it, is an increase to the federal deficit of one hundred and thirty-seven billion dollars over the course of the next ten years. It's an increase. So Stephanie all right you look at that you tell me what good comes of repealing without replacing.

It is imperative that Americans not buy the rhetoric that Republicans are spewing. They believe that if they eventually make a move to repeal the ACA without replacing it that somehow Democrats would work with them. That is unlikely as no party can work with the other with a gun to their head.

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Obamacare is doing just fine but guess where it is struggling

Tue, 2017-07-18 16:28

As usual, it turns out that the states with the most boisterous Obamacare opposition, are the ones where Obamacare is struggling.

It is time for Red State politicians to stop their ideological fight against Obamacare and work in the best interest of their constituents. There is an article in the Charlotte Observer titled "Obamacare isn’t collapsing, but guess where it’s struggling" that analyzed a recent Kaiser Foundation report, which everyone should read. It reads as follows.

A report out this week shows once again that despite what Republicans have claimed for months, the Affordable Care Act isn’t in a death spiral. It’s not collapsing. It’s not imploding. In fact, according to the Kaiser Foundation, Obamacare is stabilizing. Insurers earned more revenue per person on the exchanges last quarter than ever. Insurers are set to make profits on those exchanges in 2017 across the country. But not all of the country. In some places, Obamacare has legitimately struggled, with insurers fleeing and leaving consumers with little or nothing to choose from on the ACA exchanges.

Those places have something in common, however: Almost all of them are in Republican states. Let’s dig into Kaiser’s numbers a little more. According to the Foundation’s interactive map, in the 974 U.S. counties with only one insurer, only 23 are in states in which Democrats control the legislature.  ...

The takeaway: In Republican-controlled states, where lawmakers have railed against the ACA and refused to expand Medicaid, consumers are largely facing fewer insurance options. In Democratic-controlled states, lawmakers have expanded Medicaid and worked to make Obamacare healthy. And it is, in those states.

So as you hear Republicans screaming about the ACA being in a death spiral. Remember that it is only in trouble in areas the GOP is in charge of because of their dereliction of duty.

MSNBC Ali Velshi has been doing excellent reporting on the fallacies from the Republicans as fast as they are letting them out. He did this great piece where he thoroughly debunked the Republican lie about Obamacare being in a death spiral.

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Inept media allows Paul Ryan to lie to Americans after Trumpcare Senate defeat (VIDEO)

Tue, 2017-07-18 14:20

Every time it seems the media makes strides in its pushback against Trump and the Republican's lies and misinformation, it appears that they backslide into the normalcy of GOP appeasement.

Inept media allows Paul Ryan to lie unchallenged

 

Paul Ryan did what does best, lie to the American people. The media did what it does best, let GOP misinformation to go unchallenged, more often than not.

A reporter asked Paul Ryan if repealing Obamacare before replacing it was responsible. One had to expect the answer he gave.

"Well we'd like to see the Senate move on something," Paul Ryan said. "We are proud of the bill that we passed. We passed a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare to replace it with a better system. But as you well know the legislative process for it to work, [the] House has to pass a bill. We've done that the Senate's got to pass a bill for us to even move the process forward. That's the next step. So we're hoping that they can achieve that next step so that we can bring real relief. Here's the problem. Obamacare is in the middle of a tailspin. This law is collapsing. So we've got a promise to keep and also we need to step in ahead of the problem that this law is collapsing. More and more people don't even have any choices left or even one choice. Forty-one percent of the counties in America have no competition and health insurance. They have one health insurer left. Premiums have doubled. Options are disappearing. Many counties in America now have no health insurers left. So that is just the stark reality of the moment, and so we're hopeful that the Senate can take the pause that they need to take and move forward on this issue so we can get something done."

Paul Ryan made sure to use phrases like "failed system" and "failure of Obamacare" as he answered other questions.

Unfortunately, reporters allowed the plethora of lies in that response to go unchallenged. The reality is that Obamacare is not in a death spiral. In fact, the CBO said as much. MSNBC Ali Velshi has been doing excellent reporting on the fallacies from the Republicans as fast as they are letting them out. He did this great piece where he thoroughly debunked the Republican lie about Obamacare being in a death spiral.

The media did not challenge Ryan when he claimed Obamacare was a failure. How does one define failure? If Obamacare added more than 20 million to the uninsured and Trumpcare would cause over 23 million to lose health insurance, which program is or would be a failure? The answer is clear.

Obamacare does not have major problems everywhere. It is important to note where Obamacare is struggling. It is struggling in Red State. Were we speaking about failure?

 

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MSNBC host slams Trumps Made-In-America fraud as his family’s companies don’t (VIDEO)

Tue, 2017-07-18 12:32

Donald Trump's theme of the week is Made-In-America. This MSNBC host lays waste to his plan as she exposes the fraud that is the president's words versus the actions of his family's companies. The panel explained the reality of America's manufacturing problem and Trumps inability to propose real policies.

Stephanie Ruhle exposes Trump's Made-In-America fraud

Stephanie Ruhle, one of the few journalists challenging Trump lies in real time,  told Americans about Trump's hypocrisy in his Made-In-America theme week.

Stephanie Ruhle started the segment pointing out that they shopped at Trump Tower three different times to see if Trump was practicing what he is preaching. She probably figured that after the first and second reports, they would do something about selling mostly imported products. That was to no avail. They found the same results in January, April, and just 24 hours ago.

Of course, they did not attempt to find U.S. manufacturers. They knew that after the stories ran, they would take hell for a while and it would be all forgotten if the media did not stay on top of it. Ruhle continues to hammer the truth.

Stephanie Ruhle asked why didn't the Trump family do something about what she pointed out.

"It has largely been a do as I say not as I do administration thus far," Ron Insana said. "This is not that surprising."

He went on to say that low margin goods have been leaving the United States for some time and that some of that manufacturing is coming back albeit with automation. That means fewer jobs than would otherwise be with old technologies. What he did not say is that these products that are sold in gift shops usually have such a high markup that the Trump family and others selling these types of products could forego a marginally diminished profit to make them in America. But their greed supersedes their patriotism.

Rhule went on to show that Ivanka Trump's products are made in many other countries and not America.

Ivanka Trump's products, not Made-In-America

Senior Editor at the Atlantic Derek Thompson said it is an easy layup to point out Trump's hypocrisy. After all, the very same week Trump is singing Made-In-America, he was expanding work visas for foreigners who do the kind of work his hotels need, Hiring-Not-American. In other words, his anti-immigrant xenophobic stance ends where it hurts his pocketbook.

Thompson then made it clear that Trump's themes are just a facade for non-existent policies of substance.

"It is so unbelievably hollow, these themes weeks," Derek Thompson said. "Infrastructure week, for example, had no infrastructure plan. Workforce development week had no new workforce development plan. Made-In-America week is from an administration that doesn't, in fact, make their stuff in America."

Later, Ruhle would point out that the vice-president is addressing the National Retail Federation while retailers are getting smoked as most of their products are produced overseas. Many more retail jobs are being lost than coal jobs.

Exasperatedly Ruhle asked, when will the those who voted for Trump understand the con. She said it not in those words but definitely in intent.

 

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Conservative Texas Newspapers slams Trump’s first six months listing failures

Tue, 2017-07-18 00:46

Never has a Conservative Texas newspaper so destroyed a sitting Republican president as did the states major rag. It is an article that completely lays waste to everything Donald Trump has done or stands for entirely.

The Dallas News did not pull any punches as they completely itemized Trump's policy failures and his downright embarrassing behavior. The article is titled "Let's outline Trump's achievements during his first six months in office" and begins on an attacking note.

President Donald Trump's first six months have been defined by his often angry and tasteless tweets, his ham-handed efforts to denigrate and undercut the multiple investigations into Russian influence in the 2016 election and the stalemated legislative battle to repeal and replace Obamacare. But Trump is right in saying he has significantly influenced government and the nation's image -- though much of his impact has been negative.

Here are a few of Trump's foreign policy failures.

  • Embraced autocrats in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Philippines, Egypt and abandoned longtime U.S leadership in seeking to enhance democracy and human rights.Insulted U.S. allies in Europe, especially Germany, and undercut
  • Insulted U.S. allies in Europe, especially Germany, and undercut long-standing U.S. treaty commitments.
  • Compromised Israel's intelligence sources.
  • Spurred more divisiveness in an already divided Middle East by setting off a squabble between Saudi Arabia, a major U.S. ally, and Qatar, home of the region's biggest U.S. military base.
  • Undermined U.S. global leadership on climate change by withdrawing from the Paris agreement, joining only Syria and Nicaragua as nonparticipants.

And here is a subset of domestic failures they enumerated.

  • Proposed a budget with massive cuts that would shred the social safety net and cripple long-standing governmental functions.
  • Created uncertainty in the nation's health care system by sending inconsistent administrative signals and supporting legislation that could deprive millions of people health insurance coverage, undermine Medicaid health support for lower income Americans and give wealthy taxpayers a massive tax cut.
  • Mismanaged the federal government by failing to fill many top spots and installing an inexperienced, dysfunctional White House staff.
  • Expanded the policy of deporting dangerous illegal aliens by including many people with minimal records, stable jobs, and American families.
  • Hired foxes to watch the chicken coops by filling his administration with arch-conservatives, many with records opposing the very agencies in which they work, and curbing civil rights and environmental enforcement.

And some of the institutional damage he inflicted on America.

  • Committed potentially impeachable offenses of obstructing justice that prompted appointment of a Special Counsel by firing FBI Director James Comey, because of his probe into possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia, and urging other intelligence officials to pressure Comey to halt the probe.
  • Repeatedly misrepresented his administration's policies and trashed officials with whom he has disagreements, calling the ousted Comey "a nut job," Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer the "head clown" and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi an "incompetent."
  • Intensified racial and other divisions by reducing governmental civil rights guarantees and reversing protections for sexual and racial minorities.Violated his own self-proclaimed ethics laws by allowing officials to deal with issues affecting their former
  • Violated his own self-proclaimed ethics laws by allowing officials to deal with issues affecting their former
  • Waged a vendetta against news outlets subjecting his administration to scrutiny, calling the mainstream media the "enemy of the American people" and denouncing unfavorable stories as "fake news." Undercut White House press institutions intended to facilitate dialogue between the presidency and the public.
  • Trump has failed so far to enact promised measures to increase economic growth, resulting in reduced long-term forecasts. Many economic numbers he touts exaggerate his impact and denigrate the carryover effect of positive Obama policies. Military progress against ISIS has not eased its terrorist threat.

The author then pointed out that the results of this president's failure caused the lowest poll numbers for any modern president, exacerbated domestic division, and created global disdain and embarrassment. For an author to be granted such a platform to this truthful about the failure that is Donald Trump may indicate that the Republican Party may be testing waters to throw the president overboard.

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Australian Woman killed by Minneapolis police after calling 911 (VIDEO)

Mon, 2017-07-17 19:05

Once again our trigger happy police in America has apparently murdered another human being, this time an Australian woman.

An engaged-to-be-married Australian woman called 911 to report a disturbance in an alley by her home and ended up shot to death by Minneapolis police.

Justine Ruszczyk, left, and her fiancé were set to marry next month.

CNN reported the following.

(CNN)The family of a woman who was shot and killed by Minneapolis police made a desperate plea Monday for information regarding the last moments of her life.

Justine Ruszczyk called 911 on Saturday night because she thought a sexual assault was taking place in a back alley near her home, her fiancé, Don Damond, said in a news conference Monday.
After Minneapolis police arrived, an officer shot and killed Ruszczyk. That's all the family knows, Damond said. Police still haven't explained how, or why the shooting occurred.

"Sadly, her family and I have been provided with almost no additional information from law enforcement regarding what happened after police arrived," Damond said.
"We've lost the dearest of people and we are desperate for information. Piecing together Justine's last moments before the homicide would be a small comfort as we grieve this tragedy."

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety is handling the case. The shooting happened as two Minneapolis police officers responded to a 911 call reporting a possible assault shortly before 11 p.m., Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges said.

The officers were wearing body cameras, but they were not turned on during the incident, the mayor said. Per department policy, body cameras are supposed to be turned on prior to use of force "as soon as it is safe to do so" or during "any contact involving criminal activity."

"As mayor of our city, a wife, and a grandmother, I am heartsick and deeply disturbed by what occurred last night," Hodges said Sunday. "There are still many questions about what took place, and while the investigation is still in its early stages, I am asking the BCA to release as much information, as quickly as they are able to."
Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau echoed the mayor's concerns. She said the department has requested an expedited external, independent investigation to ensure transparency.

One wonders if this time the police officer will get convicted, unlike the Philando Castile's killer. After all. she does not fit the profile.

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Texas Hospital Association Statement on Revised Health Care Legislation

Mon, 2017-07-17 18:04

AUSTIN (July 14, 2017) – The Texas Hospital Association released the following statement by Ted Shaw, THA president/ CEO, on the release of the revised Better Care Reconciliation Act.

“The Senate’s revisions to its original legislation could be significant for Texas. However, the Texas Hospital Association remains deeply concerned with the limits on federal Medicaid funding as they will force the state to make harmful policy choices related to enrollment, benefits and provider payment.

THA is exploring the details of the nearly 200-page bill. While some aspects appear more advantageous for Texas than were originally proposed, providing valuable insight on the potential impact to our hospitals and patients requires a diligent analysis. Too often over the last decade, public discourse around health care issues has been stunted by a rancorous information culture, and we look forward to providing the kind of thoughtful insight that congressional leaders can depend on to determine if they are making the right moves to improve health care for everyone.

We continue to urge our Senate and House leaders to examine the work Texas hospitals have done to improve the Medicaid program despite limited reimbursement. At the same time, we continue to highlight the importance of providing coverage solutions that will evolve as dynamics in Texas evolve."

About the Texas Hospital Association
Founded in 1930, the Texas Hospital Association is the leadership organization and principal advocate for the state’s hospitals and health care systems. Based in Austin, THA enhances its members’ abilities to improve accessibility, quality and cost-effectiveness of health care for all Texans. One of the largest hospital associations in the country, THA represents more than 85 percent of the state’s acute-care hospitals and health care systems, which employ some 365,000 health care professionals statewide. Learn more about THA at www.tha.org or follow THA on Twitter at http://twitter.com/texashospitals.

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MSNBC Ali Velshi debunks Republican lie that Obamacare is in a death spiral (VIDEO)

Mon, 2017-07-17 15:50

MSNBC's Ali Velshi continues to do what journalists should have done in 2009 and throughout out the inception and execution of the Affordable Care Act aka ACA aka Obamacare. If they had done their jobs, health insurance would be less expensive as the obstruction from Republicans and Corporatist Democrats would have been mitigated.

Velshi continues to be a stalwart of a news anchor and journalist as he lay waste Republican Obamacare lies and many others. Ali Velshi, over the last several months, has been methodically debunking Republicans on his several programs, making them seem like the inexcusable misinformers that they are.

In some of the above videos, Ali Velshi made it clear that the market just does not work in health insurance. I explained that reality in my article titled "Stop treating health insurance as a product lest nothing changes" that every one should read.

Republicans are claiming that Obamacare is in a death spiral. Their intent is to scrap it and return to the health insurance days of yesteryears, pre-Obamacare, where insurance companies could rescind one's policies when they started using it on pretenses, cap policies leaving customers in bankruptcy, charging women more than men, denying coverage for mental and drug problems, and much more.

The attempt to fit health insurance into a market system caused the failure points within Obamacare.  It is utterly inefficient for all the reasons I explain in the piece above. Velshi in the excerpted video below debunks the Republican lie that Obamacare is in a death spiral. Even the CBO has debunked the death spiral lie they continue to tell.

Ali Velshi Debunks Obamacare Death Spiral Lie

"Republicans are wrong," Ali Velshi said. "Obamacare is not in a death spiral. The health law's signal achievement has been to reduce the number of Americans who don't have health insurance. America's uninsured went from forty-nine million in 2010 to twenty-eight-million in 2016 in large part because of the individual mandate requiring all to get health coverage. Millions of America's poor who couldn't afford coverage and millions more with illnesses who couldn't find an insurer to cover them benefited. The vast majority of Americans whether they're in employer plans or Medicaid expanded roles are doing just fine or are better off under Obamacare. But a significant few are worse off."

Velshi explains the real reasons premiums have shot up.

"Health premiums have shot up more than expected especially in the individual market affecting twenty-one million people which by the way represents just seven percent of Americans with health insurance," Velshi said. "An even smaller segment within the individual market, lower to middle-income Americans who aren't poor enough to qualify for Medicaid but make too much to receive insurance subsidies and aren't old enough for Medicare have been crushed by Obama care premiums. That doesn't make for a death spiral. But it's clear that Obama cares insurance mandate isn't robust enough. The incentive for America's young and healthy to sign up and stay covered has been weak because of ever rising premiums. An estimated two million Americans have already dropped their coverage this year alone. They've decided it's cheaper to pay the six hundred and ninety-five dollar penalty for an individual or 2.5 percent of income for a household than to purchase health coverage. That means the risk pool meant to share costs across the population has been skewed by a higher proportion of older and sick patients. Add to that the secondary problem of insurers pulling out of medical exchanges in some states and you can see why Republicans harp on Obamacare."

Ali Velshi points out that it is the Republicans through their sabotage who would cause a death spiral.

"But what Republicans don't talk about is the uncertainty they're creating trying to repeal the law and the threats to cut funding and hold back subsidy payments," Ali Velshi said. "Those subsidies were promised to insurance companies to ease the pain to their bottom line as they insure less profitable people. Now cutting those would create a death spiral."

It is important that as Republicans continue to lie to Americans that we get this information to them. Please share. Educate and resist my friends.

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