The Real Evil Behind the Republicans’ Tax and Budget Plans

Republicans have long dreamed of destroying the social safety net once and for all.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Neal Gabler / BillMoyers.com

Link: https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/gop-long-game-tax-cuts?akid=16463.123424.ZIXTn7&rd=1&src=newsletter1086211&t=17

Emphasis Mine: 

Bloggers additions:

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=   In memory of the late Belle Likover – http://obits.cleveland.com/obituaries/cleveland/obituary.aspx?pid=186268198        =

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It isn’t easy watching the country you love fall down a black hole from which it is not likely to emerge, but that is precisely what happened this past week with the Senate passage of the so-called “tax reform” bill. Bernie Sanders spoke for many when he said it will “go down in history as one of the worst, most unfair pieces of legislation ever passed.”

To which I’d add, not only the worst legislation, but also the most radically transformative passed in our lifetimes. The bill seems to have something to hurt every American, except for the wealthy. It raises taxes on most middle-income wage earners over the long haul, eliminates the individual mandate for health care (which will send insurance premiums soaring) and allows oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The House version removes deductions for large health care expenses and compels graduate students to pay taxes on tuition waivers, though the Senate version retains both. Speaking of the health care provisions alone, former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers predicted millions would die.

But to be perfectly honest, bad as they are — and they are very bad — these aren’t likely to be the worst problems with this patchwork legislation. Though it was seemingly thrown together at the last minute, with senators scribbling changes in the margins even as it was being debated on the floor, and though it was concocted solely to give the Republicans and their monster-in-chief a legislative victory — any legislative victory — it would be misguided to think that there isn’t some grand scheme behind it.

In fact, for all the haphazardness, the tax reform measures passed by the House and Senate, which must be reconciled in conference before final passage, achieve a deliberate and much-cherished GOP goal that supersedes short-term victory. Republicans have long dreamed of destroying the social safety net once and for all. This is the bill that finally threatens to accomplish their plan.

The New Deal, which created that safety net, arose in the Great Depression precisely because the free markets that Republicans insist to this day are the answer to every problem failed Americans miserably. Government was needed to bail them out then and to protect them in the future.

New Dealism was a set of programs — Social Security, public works, fair labor laws, conservation and dozens more — but it was also an attitude about government and the role it could and should play, from actively helping citizens in distress to equalizing an unfair tax structure.

The proof of its success is that Republicans didn’t dare revoke it when they came back to power. Frankly, they couldn’t, because New Dealism was too popular for them to do so. Dwight Eisenhower didn’t even reduce the highest marginal tax rate of the 1950s, which sat at 91 percent. And believe it or not, no one outside of right-wing extremists called him a socialist.

Still, there were elements of the Republican Party that chafed over New Dealism and never gave up hope of rescinding it and returning America to its primordial state — when the wealthy controlled everything and ordinary people were left to fend for themselves. The Republicans, a coalition of big business, farmers and small-town Rotarians, hadn’t been the party of the people for a long time.

The GOP’s two deepest strains may have been personal responsibility and Social Darwinism, and neither was especially hospitable to government intervention of any sort. In combination, these beliefs challenged the very foundations of New Dealism, assuming not that government was a collective instrument to help Americans when they needed it, but that government assistance subverted self-sufficiency and undermined the natural order of things: the poor were poor and the rich were rich because they deserved it.

(N.B.: Social Darwinism was a product of Herbert Spencer – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_Spencer.  The Principle of Natural Selection is Survival of the Fitter, not Survival of the Fittest, as is often misstated.)

This was by no means the entirety of the Republican Party. Though it is impossible to imagine right now, there was a progressive wing of the party with stalwarts like Robert La Follette, George Norris and William Borah. And there were moderates who, while favoring Wall Street, didn’t abhor all government involvement in the economy.

With this concession, New Dealism not only endured the griping against it, but, during Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, grew — with Medicare and Medicaid signal achievements. By necessity, even Richard Nixon was a sort of New Dealer, introducing the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

That’s the way it was throughout the postwar period — until Ronald Reagan.

Of the many ways Reagan changed American politics, among the most important was taking the extreme right-wing factions of conservatism who had been knocking at the party’s door and letting them in. This was a sneaky trick and a cataclysmic one that eventually would lead to Donald Trump.

(N.B.: It is often stated – as in ‘Reagan changed’ , above – that a POTUS was alone responsible for legislation. In Fact – as Donald J. Trump and many of his supporters have learned – a bill becomes law only after it has passed both houses and signed into law by the President: the PPACA  is a example.  I might also observe that when 40 was in office, his mental capacity to comprehend what was happening was always in question.)

Once upon a time, these folks were widely dismissed as kooks and pushed to the margins. Now they were at the heart of the party. All you need to know is that Reagan got his political start delivering speeches about “the ant heap of totalitarianism” and reviling Medicare as inevitably leading to a socialist dictatorship. (We’re still waiting.)

Reagan and his right-wing friends shared one great ambition: to destroy New Dealism. Part of this was to further enrich their rich benefactors and disempower the poor under that old guise of free markets and Social Darwinism. But there’s another possible reason, more psychological than ideological: You hurt people because it makes you feel more powerful and because you think they have it coming. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) admitted as much the other day when he said, in defense of the estate tax repeal, that if you give ordinary Americans tax breaks, they will just waste their money on “booze, women and movies.”

Inevitably, New Dealism and Republicanism cannot coexist, because New Dealism is about helping people and Republicanism is about insisting that people can only help themselves. There is not a shred of empathy in the latter.

And therein lies the real driving force and the grand strategy behind this so-called tax reform. The House and Senate bills will both increase the deficit — the deficit about which Republicans have caterwauled for 50 years — by more than one trillion dollars! But rather than admit such rank hypocrisy, they deny that a trillion dollars will actually be added to be the deficit. The biggest dissemblers say that the resulting economic growth from tax cuts will take care of it, which is utter nonsense. The less egregious liars say that they will raise taxes if the deficit balloons, which is also nonsense. But — and here is the fine print — they say that if necessary they will cut government programs to keep the deficit under control.

That is the basic point. The object of tax reform is to create a gigantic deficit to justify ending the New Deal.

The time will come, and it is not far off, when every New Deal and Great Society program will be on the chopping block. And when they are, Republicans will start their deficit hawk mating call again. And because the deficit will have swelled so much, programs will be slashed. They won’t just nibble away at the edges. They will try to kill the whole thing.

Democrats will protest. They may even be in power. But if they are, they will be handed an untenable situation, having to choose between deficits and programs. In effect, Democrats are being set up. You can already hear Republicans saying we can’t afford Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps or even Social Security. It is government as cruelty.

In the past, when it came to New Dealism, Republicans always had to hide their true intentions because when they dared reveal them, as George W. Bush did when he sought to privatize Social Security, the hue and cry was deafening. In fact, a few weeks ago I wrote about how Americans were wising up, and it’s true that the more they learn about this “tax reform,” the more opposed they are. Right now, the opposition is overwhelming.

But with Donald Trump in charge, Republicans feel no need to conceal. They have been emboldened, I think, to show their true selves because they feel Trump has their back with his supporters — and as long as they have that army behind them, they are willing to take the risk of promoting a “reform” nearly everyone else hates. Those aggrieved white men who form the bulk of rank-and-file Republicanism don’t care if they have to pay more taxes. They don’t care if premitheir health insurance premiums soar. They don’t care if their children can’t afford to go to college. Surveys show that they are more devoted to Trump than to their own welfare, and they will follow Trump wherever he leads, even if he leads them to financial disaster. He voices their hatreds, and hatred trumps policy. Such is modern Republicanism.

In a way, you can’t blame Republican office holders for being fired up. They have the New Deal in their sights, and they are eager to pull the trigger. Yet this country already has suffered grievously from Republicanism and Trumpism. It has lost its moral compass, and is about to put an alleged child molester in the Senate. America is going to suffer a great deal more once the deficit reckoning comes and the great unraveling begins. When the social safety net is gone, what happens to those who fall — which in truth, could be every single one of us?

Neal Gabler is the author of five books and the recipient of two LA TImes Book Prizes, Time magazine’s non-fiction book of the year, and USA Today’s biography of the year. He is a senior fellow at the Lear Center for the Study of Entertainment and Society.

 

Trump Is Going After Health Care. Will Democrats Push Back?

Source:NY Times

Author:

Emphasis Mine

Where should Democrats head after their recent electoral rout? As it happens, coming fights about federally subsidized health insurance offer the party a golden opportunity to engage people far beyond its urban strongholds, in communities that will be hard hit by Republican plans to shrink Medicaid, privatize Medicare and eliminate the taxes that pay for Obamacare subsidies.

Donald J. Trump won the Electoral College, and Republicans maintained congressional majorities, because of overwhelming victories in small cities, outer suburbs and rural counties. Yet the president-elect and the Republicans are poised to deliver blows to the social fabric and economic underpinnings of those very communities. Along with Representative Tom Price, Mr. Trump’s nominee for secretary of health and human services, congressional Republicans say they want to move quickly to revolutionize all types of federal health insurance spending, using special procedures that require only 51 votes in the Senate.

Congress will be asked not only to cut the taxes levied on businesses and the rich to finance Obamacare benefits for 20 to 30 million low and middle-income Americans; Republican leaders also plan to slash federal commitments to Medicaid, giving states the authority to shrink this health care program for the poor and elderly. And Republican House members, led by Speaker Paul D. Ryan, seem determined to abolish traditional Medicare insurance for retirees and replace it with “premium vouchers” that would throw older Americans on the mercies of private insurance markets and require them to pay more for their care.

Trump voters will be especially hard hit if just part of this sweeping agenda comes to fruition.

Conservatives often point to poor blacks and Latinos as the primary beneficiaries of federal health insurance programs. But such rhetoric obscures the enormous importance of Medicaid, Medicare and Obamacare subsidies to economically struggling white Americans living in small cities and rural areas. In Pennsylvania, where Mr. Trump narrowly beat Hillary Clinton with overwhelming support outside big cities, about 17 percent of residents are 65 or older, above the national average. Meanwhile, some 16 percent of Pennsylvanians benefit from Medicare, and 18 percent from Medicaid. With the bulk of Medicaid going to elderly and disabled residents, that program is the single largest federal subsidy flowing into the Keystone State.

Repealing the Affordable Care Act would also hit Pennsylvania hard. Under the act, some 468,000 low-income Pennsylvanians had gained Medicaid coverage by August 2016, and another 439,000 bought private coverage on the Obamacare marketplace, with more than three-fourths of those people getting tax credits averaging $251 per month. Health care is often sparse in nonurban areas, and the providers that do exist depend on federal insurance programs that help many patients pay for care. If radical Republican cutbacks in federal contributions to health insurance are enacted, Pennsylvania hospitals and health care businesses will lose vital revenues, leaving many lower-income and sick Pennsylvanians at risk of losing access to care.

This is the case in other states as well, meaning many rural and small-town Trump supporters may soon see that Make America Great Again means accelerating economic decline and social devastation. Mr. Trump shows little understanding of the intricate interplay of subsidies and rules in the health care system, and probably has no inkling that federal taxes collected from liberal states like California, Massachusetts and New York heavily subsidize vital health services, businesses and family benefits in the very places that voted heavily for him. In delegating plans for huge health care cutbacks to hard-right congressional Republicans, he will be hurting his own base. But will Mr. Trump suffer repercussions if the Republican Congress plows ahead? Its proposed changes are unpopular — including repealing the Affordable Care Act, which only one in four Americans support — and eliminating benefits usually arouses anger in the affected groups. But political punishment will not be automatic, because Democrats currently have little organized presence outside urban areas. Small cities and rural areas are overwhelmingly represented in Congress and state capitols by Republicans, who will do all they can to displace blame.

For the Democratic Party, the coming Republican assault on public health insurance represents a huge political opportunity. But to seize it, the party will have to beef up state committees and place a priority on activating volunteer supporters everywhere — getting people to write messages to local newspapers and social media sites, and reach out to hospitals, health care providers and nonprofits to beat the drums about losses the Republicans are inflicting. Even if Democrats cannot soon win outright majorities beyond their urban base, they must be actively involved in communities damaged by Mr. Trump’s false campaign promises.

Democrats cannot just defend Medicare; they must loudly point out that repealing Obamacare means eliminating the taxes that subsidize health care for low- and middle-income people. That huge and immediate tax cut for the rich would lead to the demise of subsidized health insurance for millions of less privileged Americans in rural, suburban and urban communities. Proclaiming this truth could help Democrats gain a new hearing from many Trump voters. But it remains to be seen whether the party can rise to the challenge of showing up everywhere.

See:http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/21/opinion/trump-is-going-after-health-care-will-democrats-push-back.html?em_pos=large&emc=edit_ty_20161221&nl=opinion-today&nlid=67843644&ref=headline&te=1&_r=0

Moyers ; Winship: The Speech Hillary Should Give Before Trump Takes Office

America needs a watchdog, and Hillary needs to make the sales pitch.

Source: AlterNet

Authors: Moyers/Winship: BillMoyers.com

emphasis mine

Imagine that a day or two before Donald Trump’s inauguration, Hillary Clinton, as the candidate who received the greatest number of votes — and after a period of personal reflection and evaluation — addresses the nation.

My Fellow Americans:

On Friday, January 20th, Donald Trump will be inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States. As mandated by our Constitution, he received a majority of the votes in the Electoral College and thus for the next four years will be given the powers and responsibilities of our nation’s chief executive.

But I believe that I, too, have a mandate, one given to me by the 65 million of you who supported me over Donald Trump in the popular vote, some 2.6 million votes more than he received.

If we are to continue as a democracy, for the next four years and beyond, those voices cannot stay silent.

I urge every one of you who voted for me to help express that mandate and make sure our voices are heard. As each of them comes up for re-election, we will field candidates to run against Donald Trump and his friends in Congress and the statehouses, and we will run against them hard. But until then, let us prepare by joining together as a movement and creating the constituency of what will be, in effect, a shadow government — one that will serve to track and respond to every single bad action undertaken by the Trump administration and its monolithic Congress.

This shadow government will forthrightly express its opposition to such actions and not only call them out as the damaging policy they are, but also offer constructive alternatives that we believe will serve and advance the proper agenda for our nation. No proposal or executive action will go unanswered. We’ll even voice support if it’s warranted — but I fear so far there is little evidence that will be the case.

Historically, this follows the British tradition of a shadow government created by the party in opposition that monitors the ruling party and creates greater transparency, encouraging an honest dialogue based on facts and a thorough knowledge of history and policy. Our shadow government will reflect the experience and knowledge of a core group of men and women who understand how policy is made in Washington, but it will also call on the wisdom and experience of elected mayors, state legislators, public servants, activists and organizers who know the needs of our municipalities, counties and states across the country.

I propose that for every Cabinet officer named by Donald Trump and confirmed by the United States Senate, we in the opposition will have a shadow cabinet member who will monitor the work of that department and comment as needed.

Consider one example: President-elect Trump has named Tom Price, a US Representative from Georgia, to be secretary of health and human services. He wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which now offers health coverage to more than 20 million Americans who have never had it before. Whomever we select as our shadow secretary of health and human services will speak out against repeal — but should Secretary Price recognize reality once he is confirmed and offer changes or alternatives that make sense and do the most good for the people, the shadow secretary will voice support.

What’s more, our opposition will be vocal against any attempt to privatize Medicare, which some leaders of Donald Trump’s party have announced as a major and immediate goal. As a general principle, the shadow secretary would urge that the United States move closer to a single-payer system, a Medicare-for-all health care like those in so many other countries that would be more equitable, save lives and create a healthier, more prosperous society. Does this run contradictory to what I supported during my campaign? Yes, it does. I was on the wrong side of the issue. Most of us are familiar with St. Augustine’s observation that it is human to err; few are aware that he went on to say: “It is devilish to remain willfully in error.”

Our shadow secretary of state and secretary of defense will support America’s interests abroad, remain true to our long-term relationships with NATO members and other allies, and constantly work toward peace. While protecting ourselves from terror, we will continue to be a nation of immigrants that welcomes those who come to us in genuine pursuit of liberty and a fresh start.

Nor will the dog whistles of hatred and prejudice that haunted the campaign and the weeks after go unchallenged. Our shadow department of justice will continue the fight for civil rights and voting rights that the incoming administration threatens to suspend. We will not let discrimination destroy our country.

We will have a shadow secretary of the treasury, a shadow secretary of health and human services, secretary of education and secretary of veterans’ affairs. Each and every Cabinet-level post will have its equivalent, as will the heads of many of the top regulatory agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Communications Commission.

A shadow version of the Securities and Exchange Commission will speak out against attempts to return Wall Street to the reckless days of speculation and behavior that led up to the terrible financial crash of 2007-08 and the recession that followed. President Obama inherited both and worked hard to lead the recovery. Thanks to the policies of the last several years, President-elect Trump will inherit a thriving economy very different from the one the Republicans left behind in 2004 — and very different from the one he described during his presidential campaign. But I have said to my own friends on Wall Street, whom I came to know as constituents and donors when I served two terms in the Senate, that I now firmly believe that “business as usual” will no longer do. A United States of Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase is untenable if prosperity is to reach Main Street instead of hitting a dead end on Wall Street.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal is DOA. As candidates, Donald Trump and I agreed on that. Our shadow US trade representative will favor international agreements that continue the flow of goods and services among nations but preserve jobs while generating new ones and protecting our interests. Further, we will monitor transactions like the recent Trump-Pence deal with Carrier, which keeps several hundred jobs in Indiana while still losing hundreds of others to Mexico in exchange for the kind of tax breaks that Donald Trump denounced during his campaign. We’ll tell the truth behind the propaganda and the optics, and work instead toward a healthy, thriving atmosphere for economic growth.

A shadow Federal Communications Commission will oppose media consolidation and resist attempts by a Trump-era FCC to overturn the net neutrality rulings that protect a free and open internet. And a shadow Environmental Protection Agency will make sure that any attempts to pollute clean air and water, to pay off industry with deregulation, will be unable to hide in the shadows away from the public eye.

You get the idea. In doing all of this, we hope to bolster the system of checks and balances essential to our republic — a system that already is being battered by an onslaught of irrational, authoritarian impulses. In the face of the fake news epidemic that infects social media, we’ll make freely available to the press and the public facts and data essential to the functioning of a representative government in which all viewpoints are fairly heard.

We will call out the continuing scourge of money in politics.  Every one of us in politics knows that even as we seek the votes of everyday Americans during our campaigns, once elected it is the big donors who get our ear. I am especially disturbed that President-elect Trump has named as his White House counsel Donald McGahn, a man who has eviscerated campaign finance reform in our nation. We also note that many of his Cabinet choices, including Secretary of the Treasury-designate Steve Mnuchin and Secretary of Education-designate Betsy DeVos have donated or bundled millions for Donald Trump and the Republican PartyAs the Center for Responsive Politics has noted, Ms. De Vos and her family have  given “at least $20.2 million to Republican candidates, party committees, PACs and super PACs” — some of it to senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who will vote on her confirmation.

Our shadow government will support the reversal of Citizens United and other court decisions that have flooded politics with rich people’s money. During the recent campaign, I called over and again for reversing Citizens United, and I realize now that my own fundraising among the wealthy compromised my position. Again, I was on the wrong side. Sen. Bernie Sanders was on the right side. He showed all of us that you can mount an effective national campaign with small donations from millions of American citizens. That’s the way we must go. Our shadow government will be dedicated to ending the buying of America by the superrich.

The Washington swamp that Donald Trump has pledged to empty obviously will not be “drained,” given his myriad conflicts of interest, the “kitchen cabinet” of corporate CEOs he has chosen to advise him, and his support of the same old revolving door between corporate America and government. Our shadow government will call out those who spin through that door — including members of Congress from both parties, who pass through it at dizzying speeds to join lobby and legal firms that use their influence to line their pockets and swell the profits of the corporations that hire them.

It’s time to end the crony capitalism that backslaps and pays off its pals as it kicks the working class to the curb. No more bribes in the form of tax cuts for big business. No more backdoor deals — or threats — that briefly generate jobs or only temporarily keep them in America.

Again, I know that some of you are saying that Hillary Clinton has been guilty of many of these things, too. And again I say, to a great degree, yes, it’s true. You know the words of the great American poet Walt Whitman: “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself.” But I want to go deeper than that, and say that when you lose a campaign for the presidency, despite receiving millions more votes than your opponent, you ask yourself: “Where did I go wrong? How was I tone deaf? Why couldn’t I reach the people who doubted me and convince them I was on their side?” I see clearly now that I simply didn’t understand or appreciate the full extent of people’s frustration with how lopsided our political system is in favor of privilege, or how the inequality in our economy has devastated their own lives and their children’s futures. It is the greatest mistake of my political career.

I’d like to think I have learned from this last campaign how and why my party and our nation have gone wrong. It’s the painful lesson of my long career in public service, and I now take to heart the words of historian Mark Mazower, who has said: “The political class has a very impoverished historical memory and as a result it has a very limited imagination. It is by and large made up of people who do not see themselves in politics in order to effect sweeping change and so they tend to operate very incrementally and very technocratically. They’re very suspicious of vision and as a result what fills their brains is party calculation – which of course always occupies politicians but in the past coexisted with bigger things.”

This must end. Our shadow government will be devoted to the vision of bigger things and a better America for all. All of you will be able check our progress. And we will regularly hold hearings around the country to listen to what you have to say, especially in the regions where so much economic hardship and personal loss have resulted in millions of voters sending up a cry for change, no matter the messenger.

In the immediate days to come, we will hammer out the details on how best to choose and organize this watchdog government. I hope you will join with me and offer your thoughts as we identify those who carefully will watch the Donald Trump presidency and report to you his missteps, excesses — and when called for, his successes.

Our eyes are upon you, Donald Trump. As we work to protect and better our country, you will hear from us, loud and clear. We will not be complacent and we will not allow the trampling of our republic to go unchallenged.

Thank you. May God bless — and save — America.

(N.B.: no supernatural powers are in play: we must save ourselves!)

Bill Moyers is the managing editor of Moyers & Company and BillMoyers.com.

Michael Winship is the president of the Writers Guild of America, East and senior writer of BillMoyers.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MichaelWinship.

see:http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/hillary-clinton-inaugural-address?akid=14969.123424.EW___0&rd=1&src=newsletter1068417&t=4

Obamacare is helping a lot of people. Not everyone thinks that’s good news.

Source: WAPO

Author: Paul Waldman

Emphasis Mine

In politics there are some issues where liberals and conservatives share the same goal, but disagree about how to achieve it — we all want to have as little crime as possible, for instance, but there are different ideas about how to accomplish that. Then there are issues where the two groups have different goals — liberals want to preserve women’s reproductive rights, and conservatives don’t. And sometimes, there are issues we think fall in the first category, but actually belong in the second.

Health care may just be that kind of issue, where we talk as though we all have the same fundamental goals, but we actually don’t. There’s an interesting article in the New York Times today on a major success of the Affordable Care Act that demonstrates why we’ll never stop arguing about it. Here’s how it begins:

The first full year of the Affordable Care Act brought historic increases in coverage for low-wage workers and others who have long been left out of the health care system, a New York Times analysis has found. Immigrants of all backgrounds — including more than a million legal residents who are not citizens — had the sharpest rise in coverage rates.

Hispanics, a coveted group of voters this election year, accounted for nearly a third of the increase in adults with insurance. That was the single largest share of any racial or ethnic group, far greater than their 17 percent share of the population. Low-wage workers, who did not have enough clout in the labor market to demand insurance, saw sharp increases. Coverage rates jumped for cooks, dishwashers, waiters, as well as for hairdressers and cashiers. Minorities, who disproportionately worked in low-wage jobs, had large gains.

Before we go farther, we should remember that the ACA is a complex piece of legislation that affects every area of American health care, but for now we’re going to talk just about insurance coverage. When liberals see a report like this one, they say, that’s terrific — some of the most vulnerable people in America, and those who had the hardest time getting covered before, now have health insurance. They offer this as practical evidence of the law’s success.

But conservatives (not all conservatives, but many of them) don’t see that as a success at all. If the government is helping an immigrant who washes dishes for a living get health coverage, then to them that means means that government is redistributing tax money from deserving people to undeserving people. The two groups look at the same practical effect, and interpret it in opposite ways.

That isn’t to say that the ACA didn’t give benefits to everyone, because it did. Millions of middle-class and even upper-class people were hurt by the fact that insurance companies used to be able to deny you coverage if you had a pre-existing condition, but the ACA outlawed that. And if the payment reforms in the law bring down overall health spending, we all benefit. But the most visible and dramatic parts of the law relate to the tens of millions of Americans who used to be without health coverage but now have it.

This is why Republicans continue to call the ACA a “disaster” and a “catastrophe” despite the good it has done. Liberals hoped that once the law was implemented and its practical effects became clear, the law would become hugely popular. Instead, views of the law divide closely on ideology and partisanship, and that hasn’t changed and won’t change.

That’s because there’s a fundamental clash of values at work, which means that liberals and conservatives will always judge it according to different standards. Because the law did a large amount to bring coverage to those who couldn’t afford it (through both the expansion of Medicaid and subsidies), and because it included a raft of new regulations meant to solve a variety of problems within the health care system, conservatives will always oppose it, whether it succeeds on its own terms or not. To doctrinaire conservatives, a government regulation that accomplishes what it sets out to isn’t a success at all; it’s a moral failure by definition. That’s why liberals will never convince them to support the ACA by pointing to its practical successes.

That isn’t to say that conservatives don’t make practical arguments against the ACA, because they do. But they’re mostly window dressing placed atop their moral objections to government involvement in health care. So yes, they predicted that Obamacare would destroy the economy, and cost millions of jobs, and lead to fewer people with health coverage, and balloon health care spending, and make premiums skyrocket. When they turned out to be wrong about all these things, conservatives didn’t say, “Well gee, I guess this law was a pretty good idea after all.” Because the fundamental moral objection remains, whatever the practical impact.

You can see it in the decision to accept or reject the law’s expansion of Medicaid. The federal government offered states a huge pot of free money to provide coverage to their poor citizens, and though some conservative governors tried to argue that it would be too expensive, those arguments were laughably weak. As one independent analysis after another has shown — from groups like the Rand Corporation, not exactly a bunch of lefties — taking the expansion leads to healthier state finances and better economic growth, on top of helping your state’s constituents. But for many governors, insuring poor people isn’t a moral good at all; just the opposite, in fact. So they were even willing to incur economic damage in order to avoid it (and to give Barack Obama the finger, of course).

Where this all leaves us is that the ACA will never become something we agree on, no matter what it does or doesn’t do in the real world. But even that’s not the whole story, because there are political factors at work. Smart Republicans understand that with each passing year, the law becomes more and more entrenched and harder to unwind, no matter how much they hate it. It’s one thing to keep people from getting insurance, but it’s something quite different, and far more politically dangerous, to take away insurance people already have — and if they really repealed the law, that’s what they would be doing, not just to a few people but to 20 million or so.

That’s why Republicans have so much trouble coming up with their “repeal and replace” plan. It’s not because there aren’t conservative health care wonks who could give them an outline. It’s because any real repeal would be so spectacularly disruptive to the system that it would a political nightmare. Just today there’s an article in The Hill on the efforts of the Republican task force charged with producing the new repeal-and-replace legislation, under the title, “GOP group promises ObamaCare replacement plan — soon.” If you’ve been following this issue, you know that title is a joke. As the piece says:

Coming up with a plan to replace ObamaCare has been an aim for the Republican Party for so long that it’s become a laugh line even in conservative circles. Despite voting more than 50 times in the House to repeal the law, the GOP has not once voted on legislation to take its place.

But every couple of months, they say that they’ll be releasing their plan any day now.

If Republicans actually took the White House and held Congress, my guess is that they’d pass something they called “repeal and replace” but which would leave the ACA largely intact. Just as they propose to privatize Medicare but rush to tell seniors who love it that their own coverage wouldn’t be affected, it would be some kind of time-delayed change that would avoid kicking people who now have insurance off their coverage. And if Hillary Clinton gets elected in the fall, it’ll be another four or eight years before they could even try this. No matter what happens between now and then, conservatives won’t ever decide that the ACA has worked out well, whether it actually did what it was designed to do or not. As far as they’re concerned, the design itself was the problem. But they may decide, as they did with Medicare, that doing away with it isn’t worth the bother — at least not worth bothering to to try all that hard.

Paul Waldman is a contributor to The Plum Line blog, and a senior writer at The American Prospect.

See:https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2016/04/18/obamacare-is-helping-a-lot-of-people-not-everyone-thinks-thats-good-news/?wpmm=1&wpisrc=nl_popns

How the Wall Street Journal’s Attempt to Take Down Bernie Sanders Backfired

Source: AlterNet

Author: Tom Hartmann

Emphasis Mine

Bernie Sanders is leading Hillary Clinton in early primary states, and he’s gaining on her in national polls. Major media outlets are starting to treat Senator Sanders seriously, but not necessarily with complete honesty. Take for example Laura Meckler’s article in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week. It was provocatively titled “Price Tag of Bernie Sanders’s Proposals: $18 Trillion.”

The article starts off by dismissing Sanders’s campaign as a long-shot, and then goes on to call his proposals “the largest peacetime expansion of government in modern American history.” 

“In all” Meckler writes, “he backs at least $18 trillion in new spending over a decade… a sum that alarms conservatives and gives even many Democrats pause.”

That estimate may give conservatives and corporate Democrats pause, but the whole article should give any reader who can do simple arithmetic pause. One red flag is that the click-bait headline makes it seem like the piece is talking about a one- or maybe two-term estimate of what Bernie’s budgets might look like. Or even more extreme; that just getting his proposals off the ground would take $18 trillion.

But the reality is that we’re only looking at $1.8 trillion a year under Bernie’s sweeping proposals. But that’s just a little editorial sleight of hand to drive traffic to their site right? Well, not quite.

You see, the Wall Street Journal piece cited research by Gerald Friedman, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. And there was just one small problem with their interpretation of his research. They blatantly omitted his conclusion.

But in the age of information, major newspapers are rightfully under more scrutiny than ever. Professor Friedman saw the Wall Street Journal’s piece and responded in the Huffington Post with “An Open Letter to the Wall Street Journal on Its Bernie Sanders Hit Piece.”

He writes that the Journal wasn’t completely wrong: the program would involve spending $15 trillion over a decade. But they left out the key detail: it would actually save the country a total $5 trillion over those 10 years. We’d see those savings in reduced administrative waste, lower pharmaceutical and device prices, and by decreasing the rate of medical inflation.

Because the simple fact is: We, as a people, are going to spend that $15 trillion on health care anyway. The difference is that under the current model, we pay that money to private insurance companies. And those private companies have much higher levels of administrative costs, fraud and general waste than Medicare does. Another difference is that the government would be negotiating drug prices, making drugs more affordable for everyone.

And who would see that $5 trillion in savings? Businesses for one. Along with state and local governments. Because they wouldn’t have to pay for their employees’ insurance — who’d be covered by Medicare for All.

And individuals, like you and me, wouldn’t have to worry about co-payments and deductibles. Or worse, finding that the “affordable plan” that we choose doesn’t cover a necessary procedure.

You see, as Bruh1 points out over at DailyKos, the Wall Street Journal presented government spending in a fundamentally dishonest way. Because what we spend can’t be separated from what we’d save by going with different policies.

Take Bruh1’s example of shopping for a car: “You don’t buy a car by saying ‘well it would cost me 10,000 here, but the same car would cost me 7,000 there, so the price tag on the 7,000 car is too expensive.’ You say ‘it saves me 3,000 to buy from the other guy.”

And that’s the point — it’s not $15 trillion that Bernie’s plan would cost the country, because we as a people will spend that amount, and more, on health-care costs anyway.

It’s $5 trillion that we the people will save with Bernie’s plan — and get back — by adopting an efficient and affordable single-payer health-care for all system. And that would be good for everyone, and the economy as a whole.

Unfortunately the Wall Street Journal’s analysis of Bernie’s proposals isn’t just another routine example of shoddy corporate journalism. It’s an example of how the corporate media tries to discredit and discard anyone who they can’t control. And that’s not just bad news for our political process. It’s also bad news for the Fourth Estate, which really should at least try to be honest in its critique of policy issues.

Thom Hartmann is an author and nationally syndicated daily talk show host. His newest book is “The Crash of 2016: The Plot to Destroy America — and What We Can Do to Stop It.

See:http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/how-wall-street-journals-attempt-take-down-bernie-sanders-backfired?akid=13505.123424.D73aju&rd=1&src=newsletter1042811&t=8

10 Ways to Make The U.S. Economy Work for Everyone, By Bernie Sanders

A forthcoming book compiles Bernie’s words and solutions

source: Chelsea Green  Publishing  via AlterNet

Author:Jonathan Tasini

Emphasis Mine

(This article is excerpted from The Essential Bernie Sanders and His Vision for America by Jonathan Tasini (Chelsea Green Publishing, September 2015) and is published here with permission of the publisher. The book will be available nationwide on September 8th, which is Sanders’ birthday. For more information.)

“What a lot of people are feeling [about Sanders] is that there is somebody speaking to their issues. I think that’s why you’re seeing so many people come out. People are sick and tired of corporate America, both Republican and Democrat.”

—Troy Jackson, a logger from Allagash and former majority leader of the Maine Senate

Everyone cares about how the government spends its money, especially people who embrace the idea that smart, progressive government is a force for good. From the time he was watching taxpayer money as mayor of Burlington right up through his service in the House and Senate, Bernie has always looked for the proper balance between, on the one hand, strong, effective programs that look out for the people and, on the other, financing those programs by asking people who earn more to pay their fair share.

Even before his current campaign for the White House, Bernie thought through, in ten easy steps, a plan to meet human needs by raising hundreds of billions of dollars from the wealthy and corporations, and by reducing wasteful spending. Not a single dime from the list below would come from working people. —J.T.

Ten Fair Ways to Reduce the Deficit and Create Jobs

At a time when we are experiencing more wealth and income inequality than at any time since the 1920s, and when Wall Street and large corporations are enjoying record breaking profits, I believe that we should be asking the very wealthiest people in this country to start paying their fair share of taxes. That way, we will not only lower the deficit but we will bring in enough revenue to invest in our economy and create the millions of new jobs we desperately need.

From both a moral and economic perspective, we must not balance the budget on the elderly, the children, the sick, working families, and the most vulnerable.

Here are 10 examples of how we can raise revenue and reduce spending in a fair way.

1. Stop corporations from using offshore tax havens to avoid U.S. taxes. Each and every year, the United States loses an estimated $100 billion in tax revenues due to offshore tax abuses by the wealthy and large corporations. The situation has become so absurd that one five-story office building in the Cayman Islands is now the “home” to more than 18,000 corporations.

The wealthy and large corporations should not be allowed to avoid paying taxes by setting up tax shelters in Panama, the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, the Bahamas or other tax haven countries. The first bill that I introduced in the Senate (the Corporate Tax Dodging Prevention Act) would raise more than $580 billion over the next decade by eliminating the most egregious corporate offshore tax haven abuses.

2. Establish a Robin Hood tax on Wall Street speculators. Both the economic crisis and the deficit crisis are a direct result of the greed and recklessness on Wall Street. Creating a speculation fee of just 0.03 percent on the sale of credit default swaps, derivatives, options, futures, and large amounts of stock would reduce gambling on Wall Street, encourage the financial sector to invest in the job-creating productive economy, and reduce the deficit by $352 billion over 10 years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

3. End tax breaks and subsidies for big oil, gas and coal companies. If we ended tax breaks and subsidies for big oil, gas, and coal companies, we could reduce the deficit by more than $113 billion over the next ten years. The five largest oil companies in the United States have made over $1 trillion in profits over the past decade. ExxonMobil is now the most profitable corporation in the world. Large, profitable fossil fuel companies do not need a tax break.

4. Establish a Progressive Estate Tax. If we established a progressive estate tax on inherited wealth of more than $3.5 million, we could raise more than $300 billion over 10 years. [I] introduced the Responsible Estate Tax Act that would reduce the deficit in a fair way while ensuring that 99.7 percent of Americans would never pay a penny in estate taxes.

5. Tax capital gains and dividends the same as work. Taxing capital gains and dividends the same way that we tax work would raise more than $500 billion over the next decade. Warren Buffett has often said that he pays a lower effective tax rate than his secretary. The reason for this is that the wealthy obtain most of their income from capital gains and dividends, which is taxed at a much lower rate than work. Right now, the top marginal income tax for working is 39.6%, but the top tax rate on corporate dividends and capital gains is only 23.9%.

6. Repeal all of the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax breaks for the top two percent. In January, Congress finally repealed the Bush tax breaks for the top one percent—households making more than $450,000 a year. But the Bush tax breaks have been continued for the top two percent—households with incomes between $250,000 and $450,000 a year. Repealing the Bush tax breaks for all of the top two percent would reduce the deficit by about $400 billion over the next decade. After President Clinton increased taxes on the top two percent, the economy added over 22 million jobs. After President Bush reduced taxes for the rich, the economy lost over 600,000 private sector jobs.

7. Eliminate the cap on taxable income that goes into the Social Security Trust Fund. If we are serious about making sure that Social Security can pay all of the benefits owed to every eligible American for the next 50 to 75 years, we don’t do that by cutting benefits, we do that by scrapping the cap on taxable income so that a millionaire and a billionaire pay the same percentage of their income into Social Security as someone making $40,000 or $50,000 a year. Right now, someone who earns $113,700 a year pays the same amount of money in Social Security taxes as a billionaire. This makes no sense. Applying the Social Security payroll tax on income above $250,000 would ensure that Social Security remains solvent for the next 50 years. This plan would only impact the wealthiest 1.3 percent of wage earners; 98.7 percent of wage earners in the United States would not see their taxes go up by one dime.

8. Establish a currency manipulation fee on China and other countries. As almost everyone knows, China is manipulating its currency, giving it an unfair trade advantage over the United States and destroying decent paying manufacturing jobs in the process. If we imposed a currency manipulation fee on China and other currency manipulators, the Economic Policy Institute has estimated that we could raise $500 billion over 10 years and create 1 million jobs in the process.

9. Reduce unnecessary and wasteful spending at the Pentagon, which now consumes over half of our discretionary budget. Much of the huge spending at the Pentagon is devoted to spending money on Cold War weapons programs to fight a Soviet Union that no longer exists. Lawrence Korb, an Assistant Secretary of Defense under Ronald Reagan, has estimated that we could achieve significant savings of around $100 billion a year at the Pentagon while still ensuring that the United States has the strongest and most powerful military in the world.

10. Require Medicare to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry. Requiring Medicare to negotiate drug prices, similarly to what the VA currently does, would save more than $240 billion over 10 years.

Bernie Facts:

• Bernie is a longtime critic of wasteful Pentagon spending and is pushing to save taxpayer money by cutting tens of billions of dollars from the military budget.

• Bernie has been perhaps the Senate’s most passionate voice for making sure corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share in taxes. The leading organizational advocate for fair taxes, Citizens for Tax Justice, says that in many cases Bernie “has been the lone voice in the Senate fighting for legislation that would ensure that corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share.”

• As part of his advocacy for a sane health care system, Bernie wants to enable Medicare to negotiate lower prices for drugs—which would save the country tens of billions of dollars.

is the National Writers Union president. For more information about the National Writer’s Union or its collective- licensing agency, Publication Rights Clearinghouse, visit .

See: http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/10-ways-make-us-economy-work-everyone-bernie-sanders?akid=13360.123424.5LRQLA&rd=1&src=newsletter1040491&t=3

Bernie Sanders: We Need Medicare for All, Not Cutbacks That Will Kill Our Seniors

The 50th anniversary of Medicare is a reminder that this program needs to be stronger to meet today’s challenges.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Sarah Burris

Emphasis Mine

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Maryland Representative Donna Edwards joined the rally celebrating the 50th anniversary of Medicare in Washington, D.C. this Thursday with several hundred nurses, health care workers, and labor allies.

Senator Sanders touted the success of the Medicare program and the millions of seniors and disabled patients it has helped. “Before Medicare, If you were poor and old or sick, you had no options, you died or you suffered,” he said.

The familiar Sanders crusade to fix financial inequalities is a key reason Sanders says he supports a single-payer system and promised to announce legislation within the next year. “We need to expand Medicare to cover every man, woman, and child,” he told the cheering crowd. “Every year, thousands die just because they can’t afford to go to the doctor. No one should go into the hospital and have to file for bankruptcy when they come out.” The Sanders plan, he said, will provide healthcare through the most “cost effective way, and that is a Medicare for all.”

Recent suggestions from Republican Party presidential candidate Jeb Bush that Medicare should be phased out has lead to linguistic punches from many progressive thinkers including economist Paul Krugman, who wrote this week “It’s the very idea of the government providing a universal safety net that they hate, and they hate it even more when such programs are successful.”

Senator Sanders told The Hill Bush’s comments are an example of how far right the Republican Party has become when their so-called moderate candidate is advocating “phasing out” Medicare.  

“As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Medicare, it is important that we defend this enormously important program rather than talk about ending it,” Sanders continued. “Medicare provides health care to 51 million American seniors and people with disabilities and has saved the lives of countless Americans. Further, as a result of the Affordable Care Act, the finances of Medicare have been significantly improved and it is now fully funded for the next 15 years through 2030. Our goal as a nation should be to join the rest of the industrialized world and guarantee health care to all Americans, not end a highly-successful program which protects seniors and the disabled.”

Representative Donna Edwards (D-MD) followed Senator Sanders speech with a powerful story about her grandfather who died at an early age forcing her grandmother to scrape together money to cover her healthcare costs.

“My grandmother lived much of her life before Medicare,” Edwards told AlterNet in a statement “I know how much she and our family struggled to pay medical bills. Thanks to Medicare, Americans like my grandmother can see their doctor and not go broke paying medical bills. This is why I continue to fight to protect Medicare and ensure that all Americans can lead healthy and productive lives.”

“After 50 years, we have a lot of experience with Medicare,” National Nurses United co-President Jean Ross, RN, said in a statement. “Enough time to see that it works, has kept tens of millions of Americans out of poverty, and remains enormously popular.”  The coalition of nurses and other health care professionals have organized a day of actions including lobbying legislators in Washington to encourage expanding Medicare for all. Other cities including Boston, Detroit, El Paso, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Oakland, Portland, Maine, St. Paul, and Lakewood, Ohio will be holding rallies, town hall meetings, parties, picnics and barbecues where nurses and other health care workers can celebrate the success of Medicare and talk about ways to expand the program to cover more people. The coalition of nurses and other health care professionals have organized a day of actions including lobbying legislators in Washington to encourage expanding Medicare for all. Other cities including Boston, Detroit, El Paso, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Oakland, Portland, Maine, St. Paul, and Lakewood, Ohio will be holding rallies, town hall meetings, parties, picnics and barbecues where nurses and other health care workers can celebrate the success of Medicare and talk about ways to expand the program to cover more people.

See: http://www.alternet.org/personal-health/bernie-sanders-draws-line-sand-we-need-medicare-all-not-cutbacks-will-kill-our?akid=13344.123424._gla7O&rd=1&src=newsletter1040172&t=3