Showing posts with label Benefit Cuts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Benefit Cuts. Show all posts

Monday, July 24, 2017

GOP trashes Trump’s plan to end dozens of government programs

President Donald Trump’s plan to eliminate dozens of federal agencies and programs has collapsed, as a conservative Republican Congress refuses to go along.

Among the programs spared are agencies promoting rural business development and the arts, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Community Development Block Grants and the National Wildlife Refuge Fund. Those and many others are getting money in bills approved by the GOP-run House appropriations committee. The House plans to vote on spending bills throughout next week, and the Senate is expected to consider spending plans shortly.

Trump unveiled his $4.1 trillion budget plan in March, pledging to “reduce the federal government to redefine its proper role and promote efficiency.”

But in the House, where all 435 members face voters next fall, budget legislation has far more money than Trump had sought for a host of programs. The spending bill for agriculture contains $4.64 billion beyond what Trump requested, an increase of about 30 percent. For interior and the environment, the bump was $4.3 billion or 16 percent. For transportation, housing and urban development, the committee approved $8.6 billion, about 18 percent, more than the budget request.

"There’s that old saying in Washington that the president proposes and Congress disposes," said Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan fiscal watchdog.

Indeed, after many House and Senate Republicans complained to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney in hearings about the impact of some of Trump’s cuts, congressional budget-writers quickly made sure they don’t happen.

For example, instead of slashing the Appalachian Regional Commission, the House Appropriations Committee last week approved $130 million for the independent agency, created 52 years ago, that helps fund infrastructure and job-training projects in Ohio, North Carolina, South Carolina, Missouri, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and other Appalachian states that Trump won in 2016.

Lawmakers including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., vowed that doing away with the ARC wasn’t going to happen.

"I am very proud that the House Appropriations Committee approved a bill that includes important funding for the ARC, an organization that does a great deal of good in East Tennessee and rural Appalachia," Roe said.

Even agencies and programs conservative Republicans purport to dislike are avoiding the Capitol ax.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting has been on the list of programs many conservatives and Republicans have wanted to defund since Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., was House Speaker in the 1990's.

Trump wants it off the federal books, too, but House appropriators instead included $445 million for the agency.

The National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities have also been favorite conservative targets, and got a death sentence in Trump’s budget plan. That didn’t stop the House Appropriations Committee from approving $145 million for each endowment last week with plenty of Republican help.

"Throughout this year, we’ve seen some of the Republican members of that committee saying that they were working hard to make sure that the NEA would be receiving significant funding and certainly rejecting the administration’s termination proposal," said Narric Rome, vice president for government affairs for the Americans for the Arts, an advocacy group.

All this still enrages plenty of conservatives.

"The problem with the Republicans is that so many of them aren’t team players," said Chris Edwards, director of tax policies studies at the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute and editor of "They’re parochial or, with appropriators, it’s just a single-minded devotion to increase spending on the programs that they fund."

Edwards said he was stunned when leading Republicans railed against Trump’s budget plan to eliminate the Community Block Grant Development program, which allocates funds initiatives from affordable housing to after school programs.

House appropriators approved $2.9 billion for CDBG, $100 million less than its Fiscal 2017 funding level.

"Appropriators and other Republican congressmen, they love to give speeches about fiscal responsibility, they love to complain how Obama was a big spender, but now’s the real test," he said.

"Trump has given them the way forward here with some reasonable cuts. Can they rise above their parochial interests and do something that’s good for the overall budget here?."

Other budget-watchers note that the real money issues aren’t even being addressed. Marc Goldwein, senior vice president and senior policy director for the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, said that even Trump’s cuts ignore the fastest growing parts of the federal budget, entitlements like Social Security and Medicare.

"To me, it just doesn’t seem to make much sense to be focusing all our energy on cutting the slowest growing part of the budget," he said.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Trump Whines On Twitter About Healthcare Bill Failure, Vows “We Will Return!”

Donald Trump took to Twitter to blame Democrats and “a few Republicans” for the failure of the GOP healthcare bill in the Senate.  He then ended his infantile rant with an ominous threat that “we will return.”  Does he not understand that people don’t want the GOP’s healthcare “fix” and that the entire Republican Party needs to simply move on? Ring of Fire’s Farron Cousins discusses this.

Link –

The Republican Party Is Hilariously Incompetent

With the recent collapse of their healthcare bill in the Senate, the Republican Party has shown us that they are incapable of leading this country.  Obviously, the death of their healthcare bill is a good thing, but you have to wonder how these people can control so much of this country without any clue how to lead. Ring of Fire’s Farron Cousins discusses this.

Link –

Friday, July 14, 2017

Unlike Most of the GOP, the Trumps Are Shitty Liars

Posted by Rude One

Let's be clear here: The Republican Party holds the power it does because it is unafraid to lie. From the overhyped fear of Communism to the overhyped fear of crime to the overhyped fear of terrorism, the GOP has jumped from lie to lie to lie in order to maintain power, often pivoting back to ones that work so well, like welfare fraud and, time and again, crime. They recovered from their near dismantling in 2006 and 2008, after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 washed away the Bush bullshit, by going big with the lies about Barack Obama and, especially, about the Affordable Care Act. And as Republican leaders in the Senate desperately try to come up with a way to squeeze out one more turd of a Trumpcare bill, they are lying with abandon, and not just about what's in the aforementioned turd.

Obamacare markets aren't "collapsing." They're stabilizing. People on the Medicaid expansion aren't desperate to get rid of it. They are satisfied with the care they are getting. Over two-thirds of the country, including a majority of Republicans, support the birth control mandate in Obamacare, the subject of another fake controversy just to appeal to yahoo religious nutzoids.

And the reason that they've gotten away with lying is that they are so fucking good at it. They are so fucking good at playing the media, playing their constituents, playing the Democrats, playing everyone. They are master bullshitters. They get away with it because conservative ideas in a political context are so fucking simple to understand. What's easier on the brain? "We should provide decent education, housing, job-training, and anti-poverty programs to help combat crime"? Or "Lock 'em up"? Democrats can't compete until they come up with a better story than the lies that have worked so well for so long.

It was going along so well for the GOP until the Trumps, this family of outsiders, came along and fucked it all up. Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, and Junior have lived on a privileged plane of existence, where having a cadre of brutish dickhead attorneys on retainer is enough of a deterrent for anyone who would dare question them or try to get paid fairly. They could intimidate people into silence or, if that fails, settle any lawsuits with the handy provisions that they admit no guilt and the plaintiffs can't talk about it. They could be bumblefuck corrupt business shitheels and get away with it.

The biggest problem in getting into the public arena is that, all of a sudden, the Trumps have to deal with the federal government, an entity that doesn't just have lawyers but entire goddamned bureaus devoted to investigating just the kind of fuckery that the Trumps have regularly been involved in. Throw in a media that realizes it had better make itself relevant again or just fucking give up, and a group of people as boisterously, unashamedly moronic as the Trumps don't stand a chance. You don't want to be probed and pilloried? Then either don't be corrupt (except in the usual way of sucking up to Wall Street and other rich fucks - that's just sadly acceptable now), like Obama, who could take all the shit and toss it back, or don't fucking run for office.

We'll never know what toxic combination of hubris, narcissism, and lickspittlism got Donald Trump to run for president to win. But we do know that another toxic combination got him elected, and one of the primary ingredients in that poison was the interference of the Russian government. We also know that we are learning all this because the Trump family was too fucking dumb to cover it up well. They're shitty liars as well as being shitty human beings.

You can imagine Karl Rove slapping his bloated forehead when he saw the emails between cartoon louche Richie Gallstone or whatever the fuck that guy's name is and Donald Trump, Jr. You can imagine Rove getting on the phone with John Boehner and the two of them, liars of the first order, screaming with laughter, "The subject line...the subject line is 'Russia-Clinton.'" You can imagine them both calling Mitch McConnell and taunting him about having to deal with this shit. You can imagine McConnell slowly cursing the fact that he worked so hard to get all these lies working, all the cocksucking and ratfucking that went into them, and now they're being brought down by these Trump assholes.

You can be corrupt. You can be stupid. You can't be stupid and corrupt. Otherwise, you don't know when to shut the fuck up. You don't know when to keep your head down. You don't know when to not fucking tweet out the evidence that, at the very least, reveals the very thing everyone has been trying to pin on you.

So now it falls to the professional liars, the liars with experience, to try to unfuck this fucked up situation. You are going to see a hard-press from the right-wing attack dogs about how this is nothing, how the Democrats are more corrupt and destructive, how it was just a Washington naif's error. It's happening already, and they're saying that it's essentially treasonous to not support the president, a hypocrisy that they have no problem with. They'll say it's about bringing down the great man Trump, it's about sour grapes over the failure in the election, and it's about the mighty flag-waving patriots who don't want to see the country dragged down by what they don't even see as a scandal.

Which brings us back to the top of this here post. The Trump lies and power-at-any-cost actions are part and parcel of what the Republican Party does. The GOP is filthy with masterful sleaze merchants. They can fuck your ears and tell you it was God's blessing. It's going to be up to the Democrats to come up with a simple, straightforward narrative here that can slap the Republicans down until they scurry back to the gutter.

How this turns out will reveal who gives a shit about the nation. Who is enraged that this has happened. Who the real patriots are.

(Note: Sure, Democrats went along some of the time with GOP lies because they can get swept up in a lie as much as anyone, but they rarely have been the originators of a big lie in the last 50 years. And, yeah, the country ain't perfect. No shit. Patriots work to make it better.)

Sunday, June 25, 2017

New poll shows majority of Americans are unaware Trumpcare slashes Medicaid

Just 38 percent of people polled knew the Republican health care bill makes major cuts to Medicaid.

As Senate Republicans aim to force a vote on their version of Trumpcare — a bill that was written in secret, without public hearings, despite the fact that it will reshape one-sixth of the U.S. economy and impact the lives of millions of Americans — most people have been left in the dark.

Last month, the House passed their version of the bill, which would strip health care from 24 million people, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The bill also makes major cuts and structural changes to Medicaid, a health insurance program relied upon by nearly 75 million Americans — primarily low-income, disabled, and elderly.

The Senate version of Trumpcare goes even further, according to the draft released by Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Thursday, effectively phasing out Medicaid entirely.

But according to a new poll released by the Kaiser Family Foundation on Friday, only 38 percent of Americans are aware of the significant cuts to Medicaid that would be delivered by the House-passed bill (the poll was conducted before the details of the Senate bill were made public). Seventy-four percent of those polled, meanwhile, said they have a favorable opinion of Medicaid.

The KFF poll notes that “proposed Medicaid changes were not initially a major point of discussion surrounding consideration of the House bill… which may partly explain why many respondents were unaware of its effect.”

The Senate’s harsher Medicaid cuts were immediately met with fierce objections, however. Roughly 60 members of ADAPT, a U.S. disability rights organization that strongly opposes the Republican health care bill, staged a die-in outside of McConnell’s office on Thursday. Wheelchair users were arrested and dragged from the Capitol by police.

Moderate Republicans have also expressed their discomfort with the severe cuts to Medicaid, with the strongest objection thus far coming from Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) on Friday. “I cannot support a piece of legislation that takes away insurance from tens of millions of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Nevadans,” the senator said at a press conference in Las Vegas.

Hours later, America First Policies — a pro-Trump group run by several of the president’s top campaign advisers — announced it was launching a seven-figure advertising campaign against Heller, Politico reported. Heller is widely viewed as one of the most vulnerable incumbents up for reelection in 2018.

Ironically, President Donald Trump made protecting Medicaid a key component of his campaign, vowing to “save Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security without cuts” in the speech announcing his candidacy.

Trump told the Washington Post’s Abby Phillip that the Senate version of Trumpcare needed “a little negotiation, but it’s going to be very good.” The president reportedly made calls to Senate Republicans on Friday to try to gin up support for the measure. Trump acknowledged there is a “very, very narrow path” to passage, but that “I think we’re going to get there,” Reuters reported.

Don't Let The Bastards Murder The Affordable Care Act

Posted by Rude One

Let us say, and why not, that you've got a car you've had for a few years. It was given to you by a boyfriend you broke up with a while back. The car's nothing fancy, but it gets you where you need to go and it's only given you a few minor problems here and there. Maintenance kind of stuff - new tires, a brake job - the stuff you expect to need to do to take good care of the car so it takes good care of you.

Now, let us say, and, indeed, why not, that you start dating a new guy who takes a look at your car and says, "Man, what a piece of shit. I'm gonna get you a new car. A better car. One that won't cost you nearly as much. Better gas mileage. Less repairs. Shiny damn paint job. And you can just trash that thing. That guy you were with before me didn't know shit about cars. I know better." It sounds good. I mean, who doesn't want a new car? But then he drives up in a rusted out hulk that looks like it's been beaten with a sledgehammer in a sand storm. You know it's gonna need a major overhaul, possibly a new engine or transmission. It's gonna be a pain in the ass and cost you a ton.

"The fuck is this?" you ask.

"I promised you a new car," he said. "I got you a new car. Now you can get rid of that car of yours I hate."

You would break up with that shitheel as soon as you could speak the words.

This morning, on NPR's Morning Edition, Tommy Binion, the congressional liaison for the Heritage Foundation (motto: "We came up with Obamacare but now we're too fucking crazy conservative to acknowledge that"), was asked why he thought Senate Republicans were moving forward with their version of the "mean" American Health Care Act, despite it having incredibly high negatives in polling. Binion was frank, saying, "I think what's happening here is [Republicans are] trying desperately to keep their promise to vote for anything that they can call Obamacare repeal. So in this case, yes, they've picked a very unpopular bill. That's part of what the process has thrust upon them. But they're determined to keep their promise."

That's the kind of fuckery we're dealing with. Not only is the bill being written by a shitty star chamber of white dudes who represent less than a quarter of the population of the country, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch "One Day, Children Will Say My Name in the Same Breath as Benedict Arnold" McConnell is determined to get a vote in the next two weeks, with at most 10 hours for senators not locked in a room and forced to breathe in Orrin Hatch's old man farts to read it, debate it, and amend it. That is fucked beyond fucked. That is contorting yourself into a pretzel to suck your own dick kind of fucked. Even the senators themselves can't justify the bill beyond the idea of repealing the ACA.

Here's a handy, one paragraph review of what happened when the Affordable Care Act went to the Senate in 2009: President Obama actively courted Republicans to get on board, especially Maine's Olympia Snowe. Hell, snarky asshole bloggers were pissed about his outreach. The bill was debated in the Senate Finance Committee before it passed from there to the Senate floor. That was after three House committees and the Senate health committee had vetted it, with Republicans able to debate it the whole time. This was followed by weeks of more debate and amendment votes. So if any dumbfuck conservative tries to ejaculate stupidly about how Democrats rushed through the ACA, shove that list from Congress up their idiot asses.

Look, it's time to stick a pin in the left's Russia hard-on right now in order to get all hands, voices, and boots on deck to stop the American Health Care Act from passage. It's a terrible bill filled with terrible ideas, concocted by terrible human beings. So it's time for Hayes/Maddow/O'Donnell/Reid and whoever else to knock off the financial conflict and espionage stories for a while and go whole hog on this. Right now, Democrats are doing something by denying unanimous consent to proceed on any votes in the Senate, and they are holding the floor in a "talkathon," speeches about the unfair process.

But these delay tactics need to be followed by even more. The "filibuster by amendment" is one approach, where Democrats keep proposing amendments that need to be voted on until Republicans agree to hold hearings on the bill. Pressure needs to brought to bear on the seemingly wavering Republican senators, who need to be reminded who will be blamed when the AHCA doesn't do any of the shit voters were promised.

One last thing needs to happen, and I'm frankly stunned that it hasn't happened yet. The Affordable Care Act is the signature achievement of the Obama presidency. Where the fuck is he? Why the fuck isn't Barack Obama barnstorming the country, riling people up? He gets to protect his legacy. Enough of being above the fray. Fuck that. Lives are on the line, man, and a bunch of vicious assholes are shitting all over him.

Obama, Biden, get 'em all out there, giving interviews, tearing into the cruelty of those who want to turn back the clock. This is life and death, motherfuckers. Let's all act like it is.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Trump seeks sharp cuts to housing aid, except for program that brings him millions

Trump’s budget calls for sharply reducing funding for programs that shelter the poor and combat homelessness — with a notable exception: It leaves intact a type of federal housing subsidy that is paid directly to private landlords.

One of those landlords is Trump himself, who earns millions of dollars each year as a part-owner of Starrett City, the nation’s largest subsidized housing complex. Trump’s 4 percent stake in the Brooklyn complex earned him at least $5 million between January of last year and April 15, according to his recent financial disclosure.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

10 Ways Mitch McConnell's Secret, Evil Senate Operation To Destroy The Affordable Health Care Act Will Make Life Hell For Many Americans

Mitch McConnell's politics have always been abysmal. But now he's playing with people's lives.

Photo Credit:

As details emerge from Senate Republicans’ backroom deliberations to write a single bill repealing Obamacare, defunding Medicaid and deregulating health insurance, it's clear that virtually no American household—apart from the very rich—would be immune from fiscally painful and medically harsh consequences if the GOP gets a bill to the president’s desk.

For the past month, an 11 man committee appointed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, has been meeting in secret to fine-tune the House-passed Obamacare repeal legislation. They are not starting anew, but are polishing a bill that will leave 15-20 million people without health care, prompt higher insurance and medical costs for all but the youngest adults, freeze and shrink state-run Medicaid (which now covers 45 percent of the children in rural America), and defund Planned Parenthood. This is according to analyses by the Congressional Budget Office, Kaiser Family Foundation and others.

Even the pro-corporate Washington Post editorial board has called out the GOP for its chaos-creating prescriptions, writing that they are “motivated to solve a problem that does not exist—saving a health-care system supposedly on the path to inevitable collapse by repealing and replacing Obamacare.” None of that seems to matter to McConnell, who wants to pass the as-yet-unreleased bill before the Senate’s July 4 recess. While defections from the GOP’s far right or few moderates could thwart any Senate bill’s passage, the White House has made it clear it wants McConnell to pass something the president can sign.

What’s unfolding in Washington right now is appalling. Beyond the cowardly political tactics, the GOP is literally playing with the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of Americans.

Everyone ages, and many will get sick and develop chronic illness and disease. The consequences can be devastating if the GOP shreds medical safety nets for the poor and allows the insurance industry to charge more yet deliver less health security in myriad ways.

What follows are 10 takeaways from the Senate’s Obamacare repeal process.

1. McConnell’s skullduggery is back. As Andy Slavitt, the acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services from 2015 to 2017, wrote in a Washington Post column Saturday, only 8 percent of the public supported passage of the House’s Obamacare repeal bill (which also slashed Medicaid and included major tax cuts for the rich). He could have told senators to fix Obamacare’s problems, such as allowing small states to form insurance pools.

“Instead, McConnell put a plan in place to pass something close to the House bill using three simple tools: sabotage, speed and secrecy,” Slavitt wrote. “He formed a committee to meet secretly, hold no hearings, create a fast-track process and pressure Senate skeptics with backroom deals.” Trump just wants it done, reported. “He’s definitely leaving it to Mitch to lead. But he very much wants it to happen,” Sen. Bob Corker, R-TN, told Politico.

2. Congressional chaos is having its desired effect—2018 premiums to rise. The GOP is not just sending mixed signals about what they may do to one-sixth of the U.S. economy. They are intentionally provoking insurers to raise their prices for 2018 as a pretext to pass their legislation.

This was cited in a Washington Post editorial, “The GOP’s Obamacare Sabotage Continues,” in which the editorial board was unusually clear-eyed. “‘Insurers have made clear the lack of certainty is causing 2018 proposed premiums to rise significantly,’ House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Tex.) said Thursday, arguing that Congress should step in.” That’s creating a problem to fit a solution.

3. Meanwhile Trump’s team is also embracing more chaos. The Trump team is doing everything it can not to enforce Obamacare, such as “lax enforcement of the individual mandate to purchase health insurance, inadequate efforts to enroll more people in coverage and other gratuitous subversions of the finely tuned system Obamacare sought to create,” the same Post editorial said. As significant, the White House is refusing to commit to paying 2018 Obamacare subsidies for millions, according to, which reported that Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price wouldn’t even tell a U.S. Senate committee what the administration’s plans were.

4. Against this backdrop, the Senate is 'making progress.' That’s the word from a handful of center-right Republicans who have been shown glimpses of what’s going on behind closed doors—as if reversing one or two planks of the House bill is supposed to be a sign of moderation. That is absurd. Moreover, what the Senate is said to be doing is terrible.

For example, restoring Obamacare’s pre-existing condition rule—which requires insurers to sell people policies—but without cost controls or coverage requirements. Last month’s Congressional Budget Office analysis of the House-passed bill said a wide swath of the public “would be unable to purchase comprehensive coverage with premiums close to those under current law and might not be able to purchase coverage at all.” Moreover, many policies are likely to cover less once minimum coverage standards are deregulated.

5. The young will pay less, but everyone else won’t. The only people who stand to benefit, the New York Times reported, are those least likely to get sick. “The budget office [CBO] did note that the House bill would potentially lead to lower prices, especially for younger and healthier people,” it said. “But the budget office also warned that markets in states that allowed insurers to charge higher premiums for people with pre-existing conditions—whether high blood pressure, a one-time visit to a specialist or cancer.” This is what deregulation of the insurance industry will bring. The industry will go back to creating more barriers between patients and doctors.

6. Many policies will only be used for hospitalization. Other analyses include scenarios where people will see deductibles rise to levels where they will pay for most care until a serious emergency requiring hospital care arises. As the Times wrote, that can amount to a major fiscal burden.

“Millions of people could also wind up with little choice but to buy cheap plans that provided minimal coverage in states that opted out of requiring insurers to cover maternity care, mental health and addiction treatment or rehabilitation services, among other services required under the Affordable Care Act. Consumers who could not afford high premiums would wind up with enormous out-of-pocket medical expenses.”

7. Medicaid is going to be frozen, justified by big lies. Another detail that’s leaked out of the Senate drafting sessions is that it’s not a question whether Medicaid will see $800 billion in reduced spending and 14 million fewer recipients during the next decade, as the House bill laid out. Rather it is a question of how fast the Medicaid rollback will be. The Hill reports there’s been debate whether it will be three years or seven years. also reports that the Senate wants to institute an approach that could lead to sharper funding cuts than the House: more frequent revisions to Medicaid reimbursement rates.

The White House and GOP talking points on this are a series of lies. HHS Secretary Price told a Senate committee, “We are trying to decrease the number of uninsured,” after the CBO estimated that 23 million people would lose insurance. Trump has said he will not touch Medicare—even though Medicaid pays for nursing home care in that program. And Republicans keep saying this is not spending cuts, but slower spending increases. “What the defenders of this claim—ranging from Karl Rove to Sally Pipes—have insisted is that this is a cut to the growth rate, not cuts to the existing program,” wrote health policy blogger Emma Sandoe. “The reality is that states will have to reduce the number of services they provide or reduce the types of people that can enroll as inflation and increased costs in medical services rise.”

8. This is a war on government and on the poor. What the GOP is trying to do is not just go after Obamacare, but dismantle safety nets dating back to the 1960s. As Sandoe noted, “The GOP has campaigned for decades on the idea that the social welfare state is bloated and that the oversized growth of the welfare state needs to be trimmed. The GOP should embrace the idea of calling per-capita caps and block grants cuts. From a policy perspective, the goal of the per-capita caps and block grants is to reduce the size and scope of the program.”

9. Republicans are pursuing this despite vast opposition. Recent polls show safety nets are incredibly popular while the GOP’s American Health Care Act is not. On Medicaid alone, a Kaiser Family Foundation poll by Democrats and Republicans opposed cutting its expansion and changing its financing structure. “Many other polls show that the majority of voters have favorable views of Medicaid, coming close to the level of support for Medicare,” Sandoe wrote. “Telling is that a Quinnipiac poll found that Republicans oppose cuts to Medicaid. This is one possible reason that the latest [GOP] messaging appears to be focused on reframing the cuts as minimal. Meanwhile, the AHCA has polled from 1721 percent by Quinnipiac and only 8 percent think that the Senate should pass these reforms without changes.”

10. If this passes, a colossal downward spiral will ensue. The impact of the AHCA, if passed, is not just going to be fiscal—in terms of increased out-of-pocket costs for those with insurance policies. As the Times reported, people age 50 and older, and “millions of middle- and working-class Americans” will once again be trapped in their jobs because they will be unable to pay for coverage. “The Affordable Care Act has enabled many of those workers to get transitional coverage that provides a bridge to the next phase of their lives—a stopgap to get health insurance if they leave a job, are laid off, start a business or retire early.”

For those too poor to buy insurance, Medicaid will contract and likely be forced to focus on emergency and crisis care, rather than prevention. Rationing care will likely ensue, unless states step in with raising revenues to offset federal cutbacks. Safety nets are likely to roll backwards, landing somewhere between where they are now and where they were before Obamacare’s reforms took effect.

McConnell’s Fast Track
As reported, McConnell is hoping to finalize the Senate’s legislation this week, because the Congressional Budget Office will need two weeks to “score” it—the Washington term for assessing its financial and programmatic impacts—if it is to come up for a Senate floor vote before the July 4 break. While it's possible that McConnell could present a bill without that analysis, it is likely that more details will emerge in coming days.

At that point, Republicans will surely feel the full wrath of voters who aren’t going to have anything positive to say if their health care is trashed, or if the GOP tries to blame Obama and the Democrats for market chaos they have worsened, not diminished.

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America's democracy and voting rights. He is the author of several books on elections and the co-author of Who Controls Our Schools: How Billionaire-Sponsored Privatization Is Destroying Democracy and the Charter School Industry (AlterNet eBook, 2016).

Monday, May 15, 2017

Republicans plan massive cuts to programs for the poor

Under pressure to balance the budget and align with Trump, the House GOP has its eye on food stamps, welfare and perhaps even veterans’ benefits.
House Republicans just voted to slash hundreds of billions of dollars in health care for the poor as part of their Obamacare replacement. Now, they’re weighing a plan to take the scalpel to programs that provide meals to needy kids and housing and education assistance for low-income families.

Donald Trump’s refusal to overhaul Social Security and Medicare — and his pricey wish-list for infrastructure, a border wall and tax cuts — is sending House budget writers scouring for pennies in politically sensitive places: safety-net programs for the most vulnerable.

Under enormous internal pressure to quickly balance the budget, Republicans are considering slashing more than $400 billion in spending through a process to evade Democratic filibusters in the Senate, multiple sources told POLITICO.

The proposal, which would be part of the House Budget Committee's fiscal 2018 budget, won't specify which programs would get the ax; instead it will instruct committees to figure out what to cut to reach the savings. But among the programs most likely on the chopping block, the sources say, are food stamps, welfare, income assistance for the disabled and perhaps even veterans benefits.

If enacted, such a plan to curb safety-net programs — all while juicing the Pentagon’s budget and slicing corporate tax rates — would amount to the biggest shift in federal spending priorities in decades.

Atop that, GOP budget writers will also likely include Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) proposal to essentially privatize Medicare in their fiscal 2018 budget, despite Trump’s unwavering rejection of the idea. While that proposal is more symbolic and won’t become law under this budget, it’s just another thorny issue that will have Democrats again accusing Republicans of “pushing Granny off the cliff.”
“The Budget Committee is trying to force the entire conference and committees of jurisdiction to focus on ways to bring down this deficit,” said senior budget panel member Rep. Tom Cole.

Republicans have long sought to tackle the nearly $20 trillion debt, but Trump has tied their hands by ruling out cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

The Oklahoma Republican, however, acknowledged that mandatory spending reductions could become “very tough issues” — though he declined to name which programs would see major cuts:

“These are hard for anybody, no matter where you’re at on the political spectrum.”

While budget writers are well aware of the sensitive nature of their proposal, they feel they have no choice if they want to balance the budget in a decade, which they’ve proposed for years, and give Trump what he wants.

Enraged by Democrats claiming victory after last month’s government funding agreement, White House officials in recent weeks have pressed Hill Republicans to include more Trump priorities in the fiscal 2018 blueprint.

House Budget Republicans hope to incorporate those wishes and are expected, for example, to budget for Trump’s infrastructure plan. Tax reform instructions will also be included in the budget, paving the way for both chambers to use the powerful budget reconciliation process to push a partisan tax bill through Congress on simple majority votes, as well as the $400 billion in mandatory cuts.
“The critique last time was that we didn’t embed enough Trump agenda items into our budget,” said Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.), a budget panel member. Trump has "made it clear it will be embedded in this budget. … And so people will see a process much more aligned with President Trump’s agenda in this forthcoming budget.”

New spending, however, makes already tough math even trickier for a party whose mantra is “balance the budget in 10 years.” Lawmakers need to cut roughly $8 trillion to meet that goal, budget experts say. And while a quarter of their savings in previous budgets came from repealing Obamacare and slicing $1 trillion from Medicaid, Republicans cannot count on those savings anymore because their health care bill sucked up all but $150 billion of that stash — relatively speaking, mere pocket change to play with.

Republicans’ first reflex would be to turn to entitlement reform to find savings. Medicare and Social Security, after all, account for the lion’s share of government spending and more than 70 percent of all mandatory spending.
But while former Freedom Caucus conservative-turned-White House budget director Mick Mulvaney has tried to convince the president of the merits of such reforms, Trump has refused to back down on his campaign pledge to leave Medicare and Social Security alone. (He’s reversed himself on a vow not to touch Medicaid, which would see $880 billion in cuts under the Obamacare repeal bill passed by the House.)

Mulvaney, sources say, has been huddling on a weekly basis with House Budget Chairwoman Diane Black (R-Tenn.) and Senate Budget Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) to plot a path forward. There appears to be some common ground to consider cuts to other smaller entitlement programs: While the Office of Management and Budget would not respond to a request for comment, CQ reported Tuesday that the White House was also considering hundreds of billions in cuts to the same programs being eyed by House budget writers.

“I’ve already started to socialize the discussion around here in the West Wing about how important the mandatory spending is to the drivers of our debt,” Mulvaney told radio host Hugh Hewitt in March. “There are ways that we cannot only allow the president to keep his promise, but to help him keep his promise by fixing some of these mandatory programs.”

Final details of the GOP’s budget plan aren’t expected until June, and specific language mandating the mandatory cuts still hasn’t been written, according to one aide familiar with the process.

Committees would then have several months to put together the department-by-department details on what exactly to cut, proposals that probably won’t land until the fall at the earliest, given the legislative calendar.

The idea could run into problems: It is unclear whether such cuts would be acceptable in the more moderate Senate. In order for the proposal to actually move, Senate Republicans would need to include the same instructions in their own budget.

In the House, Republican leaders hope the moves toward deficit reduction will buy them some good will with conservatives going into September, when the party’s right flank will have to swallow difficult votes to raise the debt ceiling and fund the government.

Cole argued the deficit-trimming push will appeal to the House Freedom Caucus, which blocked the House GOP’s budget on the floor last year in protest of spending levels its members considered too high.

But pleasing conservatives this time around will fuel anxiety on the other end of the conference. Endorsing cuts to programs for the poor will certainly make centrist House Republicans — many of whom were uncomfortable voting to slice Medicaid just weeks ago in the Obamacare repeal bill — very uncomfortable.

Rep. Charlie Dent, a centrist and senior Appropriations Committee member, said budget reconciliation instructions should center solely on tax reform, which “is complex enough on its own,” he said.

“All I can say is: Tax reform by itself is very complex and controversial,” Dent (R-Pa.) said. “Adding some of these other changes will only make the tax reform more difficult.”

Asked about mandatory programs that might be cut, he added: “This will create challenges, no question about it. When so many of the entitlement programs are taken off the table for discussion … that limits our ability to fund the non-defense discretionary programs and other mandatory programs that affect a lot of people.”

GOP backers of the idea will argue in the coming weeks and months that moderates have voted for GOP budgets that included similar cuts in the past — so they should be able to support them again.

But if House GOP leadership has learned anything from the Obamacare repeal debacle, it should be that voting for something that has no chance of becoming law and makes for great campaign fodder is much easier than backing a bill that could be enacted.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Kurt Eichenwald: 'and they smiled and high-fived'

In 1986, I left a job I loved for one I hated. I had been desperately sick for seven years, with medical bills no one could possibly cover. But I was approaching the dreaded age of 25, when I would be forced off of my parent’s insurance policy. Everyone knew, without insurance, I would die. I was frequently hospitalized. My treatments were very expensive. But the job I loved offered no insurance. The one I hated did.

This was the second time insurance chose the direction of my life. I applied for the job of my dreams a year before. The boss told me he wanted to hire me, but theirs was a small company. They already had a person with high medical costs on salary. If they hired me, he said, their insurer would drop them. Insurance companies could do that back then.

But with the job I hated, I thought I was safe. Then I found out, even the group policy had a preexisting condition clause: I would not be insured for nine months. I could not stay. I would go bankrupt. And so, I went to find another job. All I wanted was insurance. It didn’t matter the job. Insurance would decide my career.
I had been a political writer at CBS, an associate editor at National Journal. Very successful at my age. But I only had a few weeks until I was uninsured. I begged a friend at the New York Times to help me. He offered to help me land a position as a copy boy. It was a terrible job, he knew, but it had insurance. At first, I was turned down for the job – I was way too overqualified, the HR person said. But my friend intervened and, after years of personal success, I agreed to take a job fetching people’s coffee.

There was a two-week period before I began my job when I was completely uncovered. I ended up hospitalized. By the time I was conscious, I had rung up a bill in excess of $10,000. That was almost half my expected full-year salary. I called my parents, in tears. I didn’t know what to do. They told me they would take care of it.

Nothing was more depressing than having to have given up everything for insurance, to take a job where everyone was younger than me, everyone was far less experienced than me. And I knew, if I lost my job, I would lose my insurance. And if I lost my insurance, I could die. So I worked – seven days a week, 12-18 hours a day. If nothing else, that helped me believe I would not be fired from my lousy job. But it also gave me the chance to write for various sections of the paper. I would do my copy boy job eight hours a day, then start reporting and writing. This went on for two years – no vacations, no break, terrified every day.

Then, I was offered a junior reporter’s job at the Times. One-year tryout. I worked almost every day. I rarely left the office. I knew the stakes. For me, this wasn’t about being a reporter. This was about keeping my insurance.

In my late 20's, I married. My wife is a doctor. At that point, I had greater freedom. Even if I lost my job, I could be on her insurance. Because of that freedom, I began to write books. If the Times got mad at me for it, it would be ok. But still, I could never shake the belief that I could never say no. I took every assignment. I did not take book leaves. We rarely vacationed.

I finally started to relax around 2008. I had never lost insurance for 12 years. Then, a miracle: the rules keeping people with preexisting conditions from being insured were ended under ACA. I listened to blowhards like Rush Limbaugh rage that people like me – and people with asthma and cancer and cystic fibrosis – were leeches, demanding charity. It amazed me how stupid he and his followers were, not understanding that, without private insurance, people like me would all be on government disability. We would have to stop working in order to survive. People were instilled with rage about a topic they didn’t even understand.

No matter. I knew I would never have to face that problem again. More important, I knew the millions and millions of others like me – young kids, middle aged, whatever – would never again be forced to make decisions about their lives giving up their dreams solely for the insurance. I would hear every day from my wife about people who came to her office in horrible medical shape, people who had gone without treatment or sought their medical care at emergency rooms. People who could only get care in the ER rang up giant medical bills, so expensive no one could pay them. And so the taxpayers picked up the cost. Now, those same people were getting care from my wife with insurance they purchased. Opponents raged about their taxes paying for the subsidies, so ignorant they had no idea their taxes had been paying for the far more expensive emergency room care before.

Last week, the House passed a bill that would push everyone with preexisting conditions back into the same situation. The representatives billowed and cooed that high-risk pools would protect us, fooling the same uneducated ones who didn’t know they paid for the uninsured. High risk pools had been tried before. They failed. But these members of congress probably didn’t even know that. They didn’t care enough to hold hearings to find out whether high-risk pools would work. They didn’t wait to find out how many people would lose their insurance. They had to rush it through. Then they cheered for themselves.

Meanwhile, those of us with preexisting conditions were plunged back into fear. Foundations for people with chronic diseases began receiving phone calls from panicked people. My wife and I reviewed our options if this bill became law. We are middle aged now, which presented new issues. She is four years older than me. She hits retirement age in five years. If she retired and was on Medicare, I would be clinging to a slender thread to keep my insurance. I could never write another book. It would be too dangerous. My wife said she would work until she was almost 70 to keep me safe. Guilt overwhelmed me. She was born in Britain, and we discussed her citizenship and, if necessary, we could move there if I lost my coverage. We would have to burn through our savings for a long time, but eventually I might be able to get onto national health insurance.

But I don’t want to leave America. I don’t want my wife to work until she’s almost 70. I don’t want to be guilty. And most important, I don’t want all the other people with preexisting conditions to be forced to make their life decisions based on where they can get group insurance. Or worse, to not be able to obtain group insurance, be denied private insurance and die.

I watched Fox News. They giggled and laughed that people were being hysterical about preexisting conditions. There were high-risk pools, they sneered, that states could participate in unless they didn’t want to. I watched the clip, over and over, of those self-congratulatory members of Congress, high-fiving and smiling, as I knew the situation at my house was playing out at millions of houses where talking points and rationalizations didn’t change the realities of what we would face. I commented about how terrible this was. And then I saw comments from people deriding those with preexisting conditions as wanting charity.

I thought of members of Congress who wanted prisons as brutal as possible, until they themselves were jailed; then, they became advocates for prison reform. I thought of the ones who screamed about gays until their child came out, then they became tolerant. I thought about the members of Congress who happily sent other people’s children off to fight in Vietnam, while getting their own kids deferments and spots in the National Guard or reserves, making sure they wouldn’t see battle. And then I thought of the child whose parents home I visited, who told me of their boy dying of suffocation in his mother’s arms as they rushed to the hospital. They hadn’t been able to afford his inhaler that week. They had no insurance. They planned to buy it the week that followed. Their son died two days after they decided to take the risk.

And the members of Congress smiled and high-fived.

More people’s children would die. And the members of Congress smiled and high-fived. People would be forced to take jobs they did not want or marry people they did not love. And the members of Congress smiled and high-fived. For millions, every day would be terrifying as they wondered if they would they run up bills that day that would bankrupt them or would they be unable to get treatment? Would they live through the week? And the members of Congress smiled and high-fived.

My anger exploded. I wanted them to feel the consequences of what they thought was so wonderful. Why should they be exempt from the damage they would inflict on others from their vote, votes they cast with so little concern about others that they didn’t hold hearings to find out what damage they might cause?

And so I tweeted, “As one with a preexisting condition, I hope every GOPr who voted for Trumpcare get a long-term condition, loses their insurance, and die.”

Harsh? You bet. I wanted the words to be blunt, to lay out the reality of what real people would face, people who didn’t have the ability of members of Congress to avoid the consequences they voted to inflict on real people.

Conservatives broke out the fainting couches. I was wishing Republicans to die, they moaned. I forgot we live in an era where fools will interpret it the way they are told. One of the propagandists at the Daily Caller, after emailing me for comment at 3:00 in the morning, posted a story proclaiming I wanted my political opponents to die. And the conservative trolls descended, screaming for my death.

I remain angry. I remember the tears of that woman whose son died in her arms. I remember my struggles. I remembered my fears. I remembered the fears of so many others I have spoken to over the years who struggled with preexisting conditions.

I deleted the tweet. Apparently, confronting people with the reality of what they have chosen is just too inappropriate. Voting to let people die is fine, rubbing the fact that they voted to do that is just wrong.

Do I regret what I said? No. I want those words to sink in. My tweet won’t kill anyone. But the vote from those members of Congress will.

And if they are not forced to confront what they are doing, they will just keep smiling and high-fiving.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Social Security safe? Here's the double-talking regime's plan to gut it

By Meteor Blades
Heather Digby Parton at Salon writes—Donald Trump is coming for your Social Security: How the GOP plans a bait and switch to cut taxes — and pensions:
It seems like a lifetime ago that Republican National Committee chief Reince Priebus brokered a meeting between the unexpected presidential nominee Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan to try iron out their differences. But it was just a little less than a year ago in a world that seems more and more distant by the minute. They spoke of many things, with Ryan desperately trying to convince Trump that he needed to adopt the GOP agenda and Trump telling him he didn’t know what he was talking about.
Bloomberg reported one particular exchange in the meeting that stuck in my mind:
According to a source in the room, Trump criticized Ryan’s proposed entitlement cuts as unfair and politically foolish. “From a moral standpoint, I believe in it,” Trump told Ryan. “But you also have to get elected. And there’s no way a Republican is going to beat a Democrat when the Republican is saying, ‘We’re going to cut your Social Security’ and the Democrat is saying, ‘We’re going to keep it and give you more.’”

Trump may not have realized it, but Republicans have never won the presidency by explicitly saying they were going to make cuts to Social Security. They have always used euphemisms, saying they were going to “privatize it” or promising to “save it” from itself. The reason Democrats continually win the day (if not the office they are vying for) is because people don’t trust Republican double-talk on the subject and for good reason. They have been trying to destroy Social Security since it was enacted.
Historian Arthur Schlesinger wrote in “The Coming of the New Deal” that President Franklin Roosevelt knew that creating a dedicated funding stream gave workers the “legal, moral, and political right to collect their pensions.” He said, “With those taxes in there, no damn politician can ever scrap my social security program.” Schlesinger also noted that Republicans and business leaders at the time were appalled, with one warning that the program would “undermine our national life by destroying initiative, discouraging thrift, and stifling individual responsibility.”
Donald Trump’s comment in that meeting last year that he agreed with Ryan on a “moral basis” indicated that he was on the same page as those earlier plutocrats even if he sings a different tune in public. [...]

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Yes, Paul Ryan Actually Did Bend The Knee.

The Washington Post detailed the House GOP’s fight over the ObamaCare repeal and replacement plan this week, rounding up the dramatic details of leadership’s fight to win support for the measure.

At one point, the paper said, House Speaker Paul Ryan (Wis.) got down on one knee to plead with Rep. Don Young of Alaska – the longest-serving Republican in Congress -- to support the bill.  (He was unsuccessful.)

The moments highlighted by the Post during the Republican conference negotiations show what a tough battle Ryan and his deputies faced in whipping the vote.

But they also show the fierce support some offered to leadership - like freshman Rep. Brian Mast of Florida, who lost both legs in 2010 in Afghanistan and called on colleagues to unite behind the bill as he and his Army colleagues had done on the battlefield.

At another point, a Republican shouted, “Burn the ships” to Majority Whip Steve Scalise, invoking the command a 16th century Spanish conquistador gave his crew when they landed in Mexico.

The message was clear, the Post said –- the Republicans felt there was no turning back.

The GOP was ultimately unable to coalesce around the party’s plan and Ryan pulled the bill from the floor Friday, when it was clear it did not have the votes to pass.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Trump: Trump Care Failed Because Of Democrats!

The American Health Care Act Of 2017 (Trumpcare)

The Best Single Statement Ever On GOP "Healthcare" - Devastating

Dear Mom,

You won't comprehend this because you have Stage 6 Dementia, but things need to change. The nice congressmen in Washington want to free us from government dependency so we can make better healthcare choices without the stigma of taking handouts from society.

So, Mom, about your Medicaid Aged and Disabled Waiver that pays me a 40 hr/week pittance to care for you at home 24/7: the new HHS Secretary and Medicaid Chief sent our Governor a letter that says people on Medicaid should seek employment if they want to keep those benefits. This may sound unfair considering you're 89, bladder and bowel incontinent, unable to walk unassisted, and often lapse into episodes of uncontrollable whimpering, but if the government decides it's for the best, we'll all need to buck up and contribute our fair share. After all, your 50 year nursing career doesn't necessarily entitle you to a free ride.

I'll probably need to get a "real" job too, because I exploit the system. Never mind that your care would cost the state $78,000 annually in a nursing home versus the $16,000 it pays me; leave the math to those smart fellas in Washington who understand that big government should stop controlling our lives. The important thing is we'll have freedom to choose, and not impose an unfair tax burden on millionaires and the medical industrial complex.

Once I stop taking handouts, I won't be home with you. We should bolster the economy by hiring attendant care, but it costs more than I can earn, and Medicare won't cover it because those warmhearted legislators support family values like looking after our own. You'll enjoy being home alone all day, Mom. You don't really need regular meals or clean Depends, and when you have one of your falls, you can rest quietly on the floor in a puddle of urine until I get off work. Those dear congressmen give us other options, too, such as permanently placing you in a facility to die more quickly and efficiently. Here's another choice: I could stay home and attend you for free! We'll do fine on your Social Security income by sacrificing a few luxuries like groceries, property taxes, electricity, and the car.

There's a bonus, Mom. I won't be forced to maintain health insurance! Remember “Obamacare” that saved my life through early cancer screening? The Republicans devised a better plan. Because I'm over 50 and earn $150 per year above the Medicaid cutoff, my annual premium will increase by roughly $6,000, but I can choose to opt out! I'll still have "access” but not be victimized by the enslaving tax subsidy that let me afford coverage for the first time in 25 years. I'm excited about returning to indigent emergency room treatment and boosting insurance industry profits while taxpayers shoulder the cost instead.

With so many great options it's hard to decide, but here's our new plan, Mom. Under Trumpcare, I'll "choose" to lose health coverage, seek a minimum wage job, and dump you in a nursing home. Between the cost of facility care, a couple of ER visits and perhaps one minor surgery for me per year, and the food stamps and heating assistance I'll need once you and your Social Security income leave the household, I estimate we will save the government roughly NEGATIVE $350,000 over the next 5 years! Multiply that by the millions of people who will lose coverage, and you can appreciate what a sensible and economical plan the Republicans have devised.

You'll be proud to receive depersonalized institutional care instead of burdening society in comfort with your family. The facility gets your Social Security check, and Medicare/Medicaid will cover the balance until you hit the newly proposed block grant funding cap. If you're still alive then, we're unsure what will happen, but we can trust Congress to do what's right. I hear they're formulating a plan to ship the poor, elderly, and chronically ill to arctic ice floes. It's called “Trump Tower North: the Last Resort.” You might even get to see polar bears before they become extinct! Won't that be fun?

I'm so happy that the government wants to stop interfering in our lives.

Your Freeloading Daughter

P.S. Mom, if you do need a job to keep that Medicaid, I thought of a placement for someone who can't function productively, has no grasp of reality, and relies on government entitlements. 435 congressional seats will open up next year. You appear to be perfectly qualified.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Paul Ryan dreamed about screwing over poor people back in college

"So, the health care entitlements are the big, big, big drivers of our debt. There are three. Obamacare, Medicaid, and Medicare. Two out of three are going through Congress right now. So, Medicaid—sending it back to the states, capping its growth rate. We’ve been dreaming of this since you and I were drinking out of a keg."