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Updated: 2017-03-24T18:40:35Z

 



CBO: GOP Health Care "Plans" May Not Count as "Insurance"

2017-03-24T18:40:35Z

There is total chaos in the House of Representatives today as Speaker Paul Ryan rushes to jam through a version--any version--of his so-called American Health Care Act. The timing and the ever-changing content of the bill have little to do... There is total chaos in the House of Representatives today as Speaker Paul Ryan rushes to jam through a version--any version--of his so-called American Health Care Act. The timing and the ever-changing content of the bill have little to do with health care for the American people and everything to do with political spite. Ryan wants to pass a bill by midnight Thursday in order to humiliate President Obama on the 7th anniversary of his signing of the Affordable Care Act. But in their mad scramble to take health insurance away from 24 million people over the next decade (at last count), Speaker Ryan, President Trump and their GOP allies may have made yet another mistake. By gutting Obamacare's list of "essential health benefits" to win over the extremists of the House Freedom Caucus, Ryan's GOP health care "plans" may no longer meet the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office definition of "insurance." As Vox and The Hill among others have reported, Republicans are trying to reduce premiums by eliminating the ACA's list of 10 mandated benefits insurers must provide. These provisions regarding prescription drug coverage, hospitalization, out-patient treatment, mental health care, pregnancy and maternity care and much more not only set a baseline for insurance offerings under Obamacare, but also help spread the risk for insurers across a much larger pool of policyholders. And that, CBO warned Obamacare repealers in December, is a big problem as far as the agency is concerned: CBO and the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) anticipate that insurers would respond to such legislation by offering new types of insurance products in the nongroup market, which are likely to differ from existing products in their depth and extent of health insurance benefits. If there were no clear definition of what type of insurance product people could use their tax credit to purchase, some of those insurance products would probably not provide enough financial protection against high medical costs to meet the broad definition of coverage that CBO and JCT have typically used in the past--that is, a comprehensive major medical policy that, at a minimum, covers high-cost medical events and various services, including those provided by physicians and hospitals... If there were no clear definition of what type of insurance product people could use their tax credit to purchase, everyone who received the tax credit would have access to some limited set of health care services, at a minimum, but not everyone would have insurance coverage that offered financial protection against a high-cost or catastrophic medical event; CBO and JCT would not count those people with limited health benefits as having coverage. For their part, CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) warned of the challenges they "would face in estimating the number of people who would purchase coverage in the nongroup market, and the scope of that coverage, under such proposals." Larry Leavitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation helped explain why. Under the new GOP rules, insurers would doubtless create new plans under which premiums would come down. But on the flip side, he wrote, insurance plans could become very skimpy, because insurers would be wary of offering generous plans and attracting only sick, costly people who were willing to pay more for them. "With no benefit requirements, insurance policies could get quite skimpy. No insurer wants to be the one most attractive to sick people," he wrote. "With no required benefits, some (like mental health or maternity) would be very expensive because only people who need them would buy them," he added. To predict the results, you only need to go back to the future. Jeanne Lambrew, one of the White House architects of ObamaCare, earlier this year pointed to a Dep[...]



When Paul Ryan Gave the Game Away on Health Care Rationing

2017-03-20T23:59:59Z

House Speaker Paul Ryan has just experienced two weeks from hell. On Monday, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) led by his hand-picked director mauled Ryan's so-called "replacement" for the Affordable Care Act. CBO forecast that over the next decade... House Speaker Paul Ryan has just experienced two weeks from hell. On Monday, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) led by his hand-picked director mauled Ryan's so-called "replacement" for the Affordable Care Act. CBO forecast that over the next decade the "American Health Care Act" will cost 24 million Americans their insurance. The bill, which slashes $880 billion in Medicaid funding even as it delivers a massive tax cut windfall of the same size to the richest Americans, only lowers projected deficits because it continues Obamacare's $1.1 trillion in Medicare savings, something Ryan for years decried as a "raid on Medicare." Even the claim that Ryancare eventually "lowers premiums" is only made possible by forcing the older, sicker and less wealthy from the ranks of the insured altogether. Topping it all off, Congress' budget scorekeeper eviscerated Ryan's go-to talking point that Obamacare is "collapsing." But it wasn't just the severe beating administered by the CBO (also known as the "Conservative Bullshit Obliterator") that left Speaker Ryan politically weakened. Ryan's carefully crafted reputation as a "serious thinker" and "policy wonk" was battered, too, by side-splitting statements that ranged from the comically pathetic to the desperately dissembling. After all, the notion that "the people who are healthy pay for the people who are sick" isn't "the fatal conceit of Obamacare," but instead the very basis of health insurance. Withdrawing coverage from tens of millions doesn't give those people "access" to health care, give them "choice" or enhance their "freedom," but only guarantees the exact opposite. And ushering millions to the brink of financial ruin and thousands annually to needless deaths isn't "an act of mercy." If he succeeds, at worst Paul Ryan's will be an act of murder. At best, Ryan is engaged in brutal exercise in cold-hearted rationing of health care. As he has been all along. In February 2010, Paul Ryan gave the game away. At a time when over 50 million people lacked coverage, Ryan's fatal conceit then as now was to pretend that private insurers weren't the gatekeepers standing between them and their health care. "Rationing happens today! The question is who will do it? The government? Or you, your doctor and your family?" You read that right. A month before President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, insurers were discriminating against millions of people with pre-existing conditions, using the vile practice of "rescission" to drop coverage for hundreds of thousands more when they got sick, and bankrupting families with wholly inadequate caps on annual and lifetime benefits. Meanwhile, thanks to the worst U.S. economic calamity since the Great Depression, employers were shedding insurance coverage, raiding deductibles and shifting costs to their workers. Nevertheless, Paul Ryan began pushing the same doomed formula--insufficient and too-slow growing subsidies, underfunded block grants and toothless consumer protections--that led to his beclowning this week. The context for Paul Ryan's first major foray into health care policy was his proposal to privatize Medicare, the government insurance system for 60 million American seniors. But as he soon learned, the politics of his voucher scheme were even worse than the math. In April 2009, twenty-four months before all but four House Republicans voted for Ryan's plan to ration Medicare, the smaller GOP minority said yea on essentially the same plan. As Steve Benen detailed in the Washington Monthly in the fall of 2009: In April, 137 Republicans voted in support of a GOP alternative budget. It didn't generate a lot of attention, but the plan, drafted by the House Budget Committee's Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) called for "replacing [...]



Paul Ryan's "I Have a Dream" Speech

2017-03-20T23:20:19Z

House Speaker Paul Ryan recently told National Review editor Rich Lowry that the House GOP plan to cap Medicaid and send it back to states represents what "we've been dreaming of this since I've been around -- since you and I were... House Speaker Paul Ryan recently told National Review editor Rich Lowry that the House GOP plan to cap Medicaid and send it back to states represents what "we've been dreaming of this since I've been around -- since you and I were drinking at a keg." So, here's a look back at: Paul Ryan's "I Have a Dream" Speech Paul Ryan University of Miami, Ohio, Class of 1992 Delivered to the National Convention of Kappa Kappa Grandma Washington, DC May 29, 1990 Brother Lowry, Thank you so much for the kind introduction. I would also like to thank you and the brothers of Kappa Kappa Grandma for the keg party last night. Nothing says freedom like shot-gunning PBR from a beer bong made here in the USA. Despite having drained those bad boys, let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." But not all men are endowed by their Creator with equal capabilities and so are not deserving of equal outcomes. I have a dream that one day we the People of the United States will form a more perfect union by understanding that the Constitution's admonition to "promote the General Welfare" is only a suggestion while we need secure the Blessings of Liberty only for ourselves (and no one else). I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that those Makers will enlighten those Takers that they are turning the safety net into a hammock. I have a dream that one day in the crumbling factories of Detroit and the empty streets of Cleveland we will end this nightmare, this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with. I have a dream that one day even the state of California, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. An oasis like Mississippi, where the people are not enslaved by high taxation or Medicaid expansion and so are free to choose not to obtain health care. I have a dream that we will de-federalize and entitlement, and that rationing will happen today. Insurers will be free to exercise their God-given right to jack up premiums, hike deductibles, narrow physician and hospital networks only when the question is: Who will do it? The government? Or you, your doctor and your family? I have a dream that one day we will acknowledge that health care is a need, not a right, that block granting it back to the states and capping its growth rate will empower millions of Americans with the freedom to choose not to get it. I have a dream that our enemies' lips will not drip with words like "interposition" and "nullification," but instead utter--as we do--that ours is an act of mercy. I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. Unless they attend a Trump rally, in which case I will declare "this party does not prey on people's prejudices." I have a dream today! This is our hope, a[...]



CBO Director Slammed Republicans over "Phony Job Numbers" Lies

2017-03-16T18:21:41Z

It's not often that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is a trending topic on Twitter. But with Director Keith Hall's budget scorekeeper about to weigh in on the coverage, cost and deficit impacts of the Republicans' so-called "replacement" of...

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It's not often that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is a trending topic on Twitter. But with Director Keith Hall's budget scorekeeper about to weigh in on the coverage, cost and deficit impacts of the Republicans' so-called "replacement" of the Affordable Care Act, all eyes are on the CBO. And given its consistent record of forecasting that Obamacare will enable health insurance coverage for millions of Americans while reducing the national debt, it's no wonder Hall's team is being accused by the GOP of producing "lies" and "budget gimmickry" which is "meaningless."

But there's another reason the Trump administration and its GOP allies should worry about the CBO boss Congressional Republicans themselves selected. As it turns out, Keith Hall long ago debunked their myth-making about the Obama administration cooking up bogus jobs numbers.

Continue reading at Daily Kos.




GOP Renews Its War on the CBO over Trumpcare

2017-03-14T02:03:50Z

"Reality," Stephen Colbert famously told President Bush in 2006, "has a well-known liberal bias." And right now, President Trump and his GOP allies in Congress are learning that when it comes to their Obamacare "replacement" plan, reality bites. Which is...

"Reality," Stephen Colbert famously told President Bush in 2006, "has a well-known liberal bias." And right now, President Trump and his GOP allies in Congress are learning that when it comes to their Obamacare "replacement" plan, reality bites.

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Which is why Republicans have launched an all-out assault on the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Because their hastily drafted "American Health Care Act" has not yet been officially evaluated by Congress's own budgetary scorekeeper, we have no idea how many people the GOP substitute for the Affordable Care Act will cover, how much it will cost and whether it adds to the national debt. But the early assessments are not good, which is why the AARP, the American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association as well as many healthcare CEOs have already come out in opposition to the House GOP bill.

So as they have since Obamacare (a.k.a. the Affordable Care Act) was first proposed, the Republicans' best and brightest are once again trying to undermine the Congressional Budget Office itself.

Writing in The Federalist a week ago, Christopher Jacobs (certainly no friend of Obamacare) warned that House Republicans were worried about running afoul of the CBO's math:

Based on my conversations with multiple sources close to the effort, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) had indicated to congressional staff that the prior House framework could see at least 10 million, and potentially up to 20 million, individuals losing employer-sponsored health insurance. Further, CBO stated that that House framework, even after including a refundable tax credit for health insurance, would not cover many more people than repealing Obamacare outright.

But even after their final draft was released, the picture was still dire. Initial estimates suggested up to 15 million people could lose coverage, while premiums and out-of-pocket costs would jump for older and lower income Americans. So with committee hearings set to start in advance of the CBO's final word next week, the Trump administration and top House Republicans have unleashed a torrent of slanders to discredit the agency before its report comes out.

Continue reading at Daily Kos.




Trump Breaks Promise to Provide "Insurance for Everybody"

2017-03-08T21:37:28Z

After almost seven years, House Republicans have unveiled their Obamacare "replacement" plan, such as it. But because the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has not yet scored the so-called "American Health Care Act," we don't yet know how many people... After almost seven years, House Republicans have unveiled their Obamacare "replacement" plan, such as it. But because the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has not yet scored the so-called "American Health Care Act," we don't yet know how many people it will cover and how much it will cost. Already, analysts from S&P and Brookings are warning between six and 15 million Americans could lose their health insurance. Those who are older and poorer will see substantial increases in premiums and out of pockets costs, even as the younger, healthier and wealthier pocket new savings and tax cuts. And by eliminating almost $600 billion in tax Obamacare tax revenue, it's not clear how Republicans will pay for it. Nevertheless, President Trump has already tweeted his support for "our wonderful new Healthcare Bill." Tom Price, his Secretary of Health and Human Services, wrote a letter to Congressional leaders praising "your proposals represent a necessary and important first step toward fulfilling our promises to the American people." Unfortunately for the White House, Donald Trump made a lot of promises to the American people on replacing the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. And among them were these his past pledges to promises of "insurance for everybody" and to "take care of everybody." In a January 14th telephone interview with the Washington Post, President-elect Trump described his imminent Obamacare replacement plan this way: "We're going to have insurance for everybody," Trump said. "There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can't pay for it, you don't get it. That's not going to happen with us." People covered under the law "can expect to have great health care. It will be in a much simplified form. Much less expensive and much better." In a September 2015 interview with Scott Pelley of CBS 60 Minutes, Trump guaranteed that "everybody's got to be covered." PELLEY: Universal health care? TRUMP: I am going to take care of everybody. I don't care if it costs me votes or not. Everybody's going to be taken care of much better than they're taken care of now. PELLEY: The uninsured person is going to be taken care of how? TRUMP: They're going to be taken care of. I would make a deal with existing hospitals to take care of people. And, you know what, if this is probably-- PELLEY: Make a deal? Who pays for it? TRUMP: --the government's gonna pay for it. But we're going to save so much money on the other side. But for the most it's going to be a private plan and people are going to be able to go out and negotiate great plans with lots of different competition with lots of competitors with great companies and they can have their doctors, they can have plans, they can have everything. "This is," Trump boasted, "an un-Republican thing for me to say." It was also a false thing for him to say. Of course, by now that should come as no surprise. After all, last August Donald Trump made another commitment to the American people: "One thing I can promise you is this: I will always tell you the truth." Always tell you the truth, that is, about 30 percent of the time. [...]



GOP Obamacare "Replacement" is a 25-Year Old Straw Man

2017-03-08T21:42:59Z

President Donald Trump had an epiphany last week about the seven-year old Republican crusade to "repeal and replace" Obamacare. After his past promises of "insurance for everybody' and "I am going to take care of everybody," Trump had an admission...

President Donald Trump had an epiphany last week about the seven-year old Republican crusade to "repeal and replace" Obamacare. After his past promises of "insurance for everybody' and "I am going to take care of everybody," Trump had an admission to make to the nation's governors on Monday:

"I have to tell you, it's an incredibly complex subject. Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated."

Of course, almost everyone knew that. After all, U.S. health care spending has reached $3.2 trillion a year. That figure doesn't just represent almost 18 percent of the nation's gross domestic product; it's nearly double the investment that America's economic competitors make for health care systems generally rated better than our own. Complicating matters further, the United States has not one but four health care systems: private insurance for individuals and families provided by employers or purchased in the market, Medicaid for low-income Americans and elderly nursing care, Medicare for senior citizens and the disabled, and the VA system for military veterans.

But the evident frustration of the Trump administration and GOP leaders in Congress in fulfilling their pledge to replace the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has two causes of the Republicans' own making. First, "replacing Obamacare" has a very specific meaning. For starters, any GOP alternative must not only enable insurance for over 20 million Americans as the ACA does, but must also prevent millions more from losing coverage during any transition period. Crucially, a true replacement for Obamacare must likewise require coverage for mammograms, colonoscopies, annual check-ups and pre-natal care. Just as important, no plan touted as an alternative can roll back the ACA's extensive protections against the worst practices of the insurance industry, including refusing to insure those with pre-existing conditions, using "rescission" to drop coverage for the newly sick, imposing annual and lifetime benefits caps and barring coverage for adult children under 26 on parents' policies. And no Republican plan is a "better way" if it increases the national debt, something the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has always concluded Obamacare does not.

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That brings us to the Republicans' second self-inflicted wound. President Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have set very high expectations for their Obamacare replacement proposal. Yet almost seven years after McConnell declared his party's slogan for the 2010 midterm would be "'repeal and replace', 'repeal and replace', 'repeal and replace,'" the GOP hasn't come close to a blueprint that can check off all the boxes described above. There's no mystery as to why. For a generation, the GOP has never offered a serious plan to provide universal health care coverage for the American people. Instead, Republicans have only put up straw men as part of their scorched-earth campaign to prevent Democrats from succeeding in doing so.

Continue reading at Daily Kos.




White House and GOP Allies Try to Block Russia Probe, Like 9/11 Commission

2017-03-02T19:28:35Z

When it comes to defending their party against scandals, no one gets in line like Republicans. That's why it's no surprise that GOP leaders in Congress are doing their best to head off any independent probe into President Trump's rapidly... When it comes to defending their party against scandals, no one gets in line like Republicans. That's why it's no surprise that GOP leaders in Congress are doing their best to head off any independent probe into President Trump's rapidly propagating Putin problems. Last week, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus called allegation of Team Trump contacts with Russian officials "complete garbage," a claim he said he was authorized to make "by the top levels of the intelligence community." Meanwhile, White House press secretary Sean Spicer deployed House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) and Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) to make the case that "there's nothing there." It's wonder that former CIA and Pentagon spokesman George Little warned: "It's doubtful that Congress can conduct an objective and independent investigation into ties between this White House and the Russian government if it is collaborating so closely on media pushback with the White House press secretary." If these developments seem hauntingly familiar, they should. After all, after the U.S. suffered a devastating attack on September 11, 2001 from a much less dangerous adversary than Russia, President Bush, Vice President Cheney and the GOP's best and brightest in Congress rejected the call for an independent commission to examine the security disaster that killed 3,000 people on American soil. Fifteen years ago, the Bush administration had its own answer for Sean Spicer's rhetorical question on Monday, "You've got to ask yourself, what are you investigating?" In May 2002, Republicans circled the wagons around President Bush after revelations that the administration had been warned about possible Al Qaeda plans to hijack an aircraft. But when Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle asked "Why did it take eight months for us to receive this information?" and called for a blue-ribbon commission to investigate, the GOP's top brass railed to Bush's defense. Daschle's Republican counterpart Trent Lott denounced the demands for an inquiry: "I really think there's nothing more despicable ... for someone to insinuate that the president of the United States knew there was an attack on our country that was imminent and didn't do anything about it. For us to be talking like our enemy, George W. Bush instead of Osama bin Laden, that's not right." Lott's colleague Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) agreed: "I don't think that anyone should start pointing fingers in a personal way or suggest that people are trying to cover their political backsides. I just think that's ridiculous. I think we need to go forward. We need to be positive. There are failures. We need to get to the root of it and try to make our country more secure." Vice President Dick Cheney and the soon-to-be disgraced Tom DeLay took a different tactic, claiming an investigation into the catastrophe of 9/11 would itself hinder the war against Al Qaeda. As DeLay groused: "A public commission investigating American intelligence in a time of war is ill conceived and, frankly, irresponsible. We need to address America's challenges in intelligence gathering and terrorist prevention. But we don't need to hand the terrorists an after-action report." Cheney, meanwhile, suggested that trying to find out what President Bush knew and when he knew it would provide aid and comfort to the enemy: "An investigation must not interfere with the ongoing efforts to prevent the next attack, because without a doubt a very real threat of another perhaps more devastating attack still exists. The people and agencies responsible for helping us learn a[...]



Trump Fails JFK's Bay of Pigs Test on Yemen Raid

2017-03-02T18:55:07Z

Donald Trump's first military operation as Commander-in-Chief has been a disaster. But January's special forces operation in Yemen wasn't a fiasco just because of the tragic death of Navy SEAL William "Ryan" Owens and the killings of more than 20... Donald Trump's first military operation as Commander-in-Chief has been a disaster. But January's special forces operation in Yemen wasn't a fiasco just because of the tragic death of Navy SEAL William "Ryan" Owens and the killings of more than 20 Yemeni civilians. And it wasn't a failure just because the vicious--and unexpected--firefight with well-prepared Al Qaeda gunmen ultimately yielded little useful intelligence. And bad as it was, the raid, apparently greenlighted by President Trump during a dinner with his son-in-law, didn't just alienate America's allies in Yemen even as it signaled a deeper U.S. commitment to the proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia there. No, the lasting disgrace isn't the outcome of the January 29 operation, but its aftermath. A month after the raid, President Donald Trump is refusing to take ownership of the mission he ordered. Unlike the example the newly inaugurated John F. Kennedy set after his Bay of Pigs calamity in April 1961, Commander-in-Chief Trump is blaming anyone and everyone--but himself. It was bad enough that Trump and his press secretary Sean Spicer insisted the mission was a "success" and declared that "who would suggest it's not a success does disservice to the life of Chief Ryan Owens." As the supposed Commander-in-Chief told Fox and Friends this week: "This was a mission that was started before I got here. This was something they wanted to do," he said. "They came to me, they explained what they wanted to do ― the generals ― who are very respected, my generals are the most respected that we've had in many decades, I believe. And they lost Ryan." The contrast with JFK after a much larger, far more serious catastrophe in Cuba could not be more stark. In April 1961, Kennedy was devastated and embarrassed by the Bay of Pigs fiasco, the tragically abortive exile invasion of Castro's Cuba architected by the Eisenhower CIA. Over a hundred Cuban exile fighters were killed and a thousand taken prisoner. The global blowback was severe from the botched operation to topple Castro obviously orchestrated by the United States. But unlike his successor 46 years later, JFK moved quickly to address the two lessons of the disaster. First, Kennedy took complete responsibility for the calamity, taking to the airwaves the next day for a nationally televised mea culpa. In his April 21 press conference, JFK made it clear that responsibility for the Bay of Pigs was his alone. Kennedy declared, "I am the responsible officer of the government." As he famously put it: "There's an old saying that victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan." Just six days later, JFK addressed the American Newspaper Publishers Association. "I have selected as the title of my remarks tonight 'The President and the Press," Kennedy said, "Some may suggest that this would be more naturally worded 'The President Versus the Press.' But those are not my sentiments tonight." As he explained even as the Bay of Pigs fiasco was still fresh: "I not only could not stifle controversy among your readers--I welcome it. This Administration intends to be candid about its errors; for, as a wise man once said: 'An error doesn't become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.' We intend to accept full responsibility for our errors; and we expect you to point them out when we miss them." Correct it he did. So second, President Kennedy took immediate steps to shake up the national security team and group-think process that had served him so poorly. Complaining about the CIA and Joint Chiefs, JFK admitted in private, "I just took their advice."[...]



Iraq's Mosul Offensive, Mocked by Trump, Has ISIS on the Run

2017-02-25T03:57:02Z

While Americans have been focused on the growing crisis surrounding the Trump administration's tangled web of ties to Russia, the good news coming from Iraq has gone largely unnoticed. After successfully liberating eastern Mosul from ISIS fighters, Iraqi forces have... While Americans have been focused on the growing crisis surrounding the Trump administration's tangled web of ties to Russia, the good news coming from Iraq has gone largely unnoticed. After successfully liberating eastern Mosul from ISIS fighters, Iraqi forces have launched their final offensive to retake the western of the city from the Islamic State. With close support from U.S. advisers and bolstered by Shiite militia units, some 40,000 Iraqi troops hope to eliminate the remaining, well-entrenched ISIS gunmen over the next six months. The progress in freeing the city of some 800,000 people captured by the Islamic State in 2014 has brought a new sense of optimism. As Rukmini Callimachi reported two weeks ago for the New York Times, in eastern Mosul "the streets were busy with civilian traffic" and remarking "what stunned me is quickly life has returned." In Baghdad on Monday, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis promised, "The coalition forces are in support of this operation and we will continue...with the accelerated effort to destroy ISIS." Meanwhile on state run television, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced "a new dawn" while urging his troops "to move bravely forward to liberate what is left of the city." But the one voice that has been silent about the positive developments from Mosul is the one you'd normally least expect. But it should be no surprise that President Donald Trump has nothing to say now. After all, he predicted the attack on Mosul would be a "total disaster." Take, for example, candidate Trump's volley aimed at U.S. and Iraqi leaders during the third presidential debate on October 19, 2016: "About three months ago, I started reading that they want to get the leaders and they're going to attack Mosul. Whatever happened to the element of surprise, OK? We announce we're going after Mosul. I have been reading about going after Mosul now for about -- how long is it, Hillary, three months? These people have all left. They've all left. The element of surprise. Douglas MacArthur, George Patton spinning in their graves when they see the stupidity of our country." Mosul, of course, is the second largest city in Iraq. Its recapture is a strategic necessity if ISIS to be beaten back and crushed. That it must and would be liberated was certainly no secret. Signs of the build-up to encircle the city would be unmistakable. Iraqi forces would need to give civilians time to flee and allow those fighters who would to drop their arms. As U.S. military experts like retired colonel and former dean of the Army War College Jeffrey McClausland made clear, "What this shows is that Trump doesn't know a damned thing about military strategy." Nevertheless, Trump's kept up his withering criticism of the Mosul operation. As the New York Times recounted after that debate: In the debate on Wednesday and on the campaign trail, Mr. Trump has all but accused the military of aiding and abetting the escape of the Islamic State's top leaders from Mosul. "By the time we attack them, all the guys that we want are going to be gone," Mr. Trump told supporters in Charlotte, N.C. last week. "They're very smart. How stupid are the people that run our country?" On October 23, Donald Trump took to Twitter to answer his own question: The attack on Mosul is turning out to be a total disaster. We gave them months of notice. U.S. is looking so dumb. VOTE TRUMP and WIN AGAIN!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 23, 2016 As NPR documented on November 1, Trump wasn't done there: In the [...]



No Trump Tax Returns? No GOP Tax Cuts

2017-02-22T04:34:05Z

Over the past week, the White House has been completely overwhelmed by the Trump administration's mushrooming medley of Moscow outrages. But to what Vox labelled the "3 Trump-Russia Scandals"--potential Trump collusion with Russia against the Hillary Clinton campaign, possible Trump... Over the past week, the White House has been completely overwhelmed by the Trump administration's mushrooming medley of Moscow outrages. But to what Vox labelled the "3 Trump-Russia Scandals"--potential Trump collusion with Russia against the Hillary Clinton campaign, possible Trump lies about Michael Flynn's outreach to the Putin government and purported kompromat Russian intelligence may be holding over the American president--must be added a fourth. What are the conflicts of interest created by the Trump Organization's extensive business ties to Putin's kleptocratic petro-state? With the Trump empire cut off by American banks, the family business has become dependent on Germany's Deutsche Bank and investors from Russia. As Donald Trump, Jr. summed up in 2008: "Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia." That alone provides one powerful reason why President Trump must release his tax returns to the American people. It's not just a matter of following four decades of presidential practice. Simply put, we need to know if our president is being paid in rubles. But there's another reason President Trump must come clean about his finances. In recent days, Trump has promised he will soon unveil a "phenomenal" tax reform plan that calls for "lowering the overall tax burden of American businesses, big league." But that isn't the only promise The Donald has made to American taxpayers about his reform scheme. The self-proclaimed "voice" of "the forgotten men and women of our country"--the same man praised by family and friends as a "blue-collar billionaire"--made this pledge last year: "It reduces or eliminates most of the deductions and loopholes available to special interests and to the very rich. In other words, it's going to cost me a fortune -- which is actually true -- while preserving charitable giving and mortgage interest deductions, very importantly." [Emphasis mine.] To which the only appropriate response to the Pathological Liar-in-Chief is, "Prove it." After all, Donald Trump has yet to demonstrate that he pays Uncle Sam anything at all. As the New York Times discovered in October, thanks to tax code advantages for real estate investors like himself Trump may have owed no federal taxes for almost two decades: The 1995 tax records, never before disclosed, reveal the extraordinary tax benefits that Mr. Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, derived from the financial wreckage he left behind in the early 1990s through mismanagement of three Atlantic City casinos, his ill-fated foray into the airline business and his ill-timed purchase of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan. Tax experts hired by The Times to analyze Mr. Trump's 1995 records said that tax rules especially advantageous to wealthy filers would have allowed Mr. Trump to use his $916 million loss to cancel out an equivalent amount of taxable income over an 18-year period. As Matthew Yglesias explained in Vox, "You don't need 'genius' to pull off Trump's tax avoidance -- you just need to be rich." Rich, that is, and in the real estate business. The key, as tax expert David Cay Johnston documented, is the manipulation of "net operating losses" on top of the "already liberal tax breaks Congress gives big real-estate owners." Trump dumped the real costs of all this on investors who saw gold in his brand name, but who lost everything even as he was paid tens of millions of tax-free dollars... NOLs [...]



Trump Resistance is Similar to Tea Party, But with Truth on its Side

2017-02-13T21:17:06Z

On Feb. 8, 2009, CNBC talking head Rick Santelli helped launched the tea party movement with an epic rant on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. But eight years later, as Republicans are now learning the hard way, the...

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On Feb. 8, 2009, CNBC talking head Rick Santelli helped launched the tea party movement with an epic rant on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. But eight years later, as Republicans are now learning the hard way, the tea bag is on the other cheek.

The signs of sizable, sustained, and seriously angry opposition to President Trump and the Republican agenda are everywhere. Trump's first weekend was marked by the Women's March that brought more than 3 million Americans to streets of cities and towns in states red and blue. His disturbing and dangerous executive order on immigration and travel was met with thousands of protesters in airports across the country, while an army of lawyers mobilized to protect visa holders and legal U.S. residents from Trump's draconian Muslim ban. Meanwhile, massive crowds are greeting GOP Congress members at town hall meetings and public events back in their districts, causing abortion-restricting, Obamacare-repealing, Medicare-privatizing, and climate change-denying hardliners to flee from their own constituents.

All in all, the effect is precisely what the organizers of the Indivisible movement sought to create. Those Democratic congressional staffers who suffered through the tea party onslaught of 2009 and 2010 are turning the tables on their tormenters. And as Sarah Kliff reported in Vox this week, many veteran right-wing foot soldiers from the halcyon days of the tea party are grudgingly acknowledging the turnaround:

"Eight years ago we were in the same boat," says Dean Clancy, who previously ran policy for Freedom Works, a Tea Party-affiliated group that advocated against the health care law. "We were stunned, angry, fearful, besieged, paranoid, but we were also liberated. The feeling was wonderful, like you're the rebels in Star Wars"...

Clancy, the Tea Party activist, sees the appeal of the moment for liberals. "There's nothing more American than protest, and few things more enjoyable," he says. "I suspect Trump must appear to them as Obama appeared to us, as a threat to everything we believe and cherish. You have to respect them for resisting that."

But you have to respect the liberal activists and progressive protesters of 2017 for something else: They have the truth on their side.

Continue reading at Daily Kos.




Trump Joins Long List of Republicans Who Threatened Judges

2017-02-07T05:18:13Z

By now, no one should be surprised that the president of the United States is threatening U.S. district court Judge James Robart. After targeting Judge Gonzalo Curiel in 2016 for his ruling in a Trump University case, our so-called president...

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By now, no one should be surprised that the president of the United States is threatening U.S. district court Judge James Robart. After targeting Judge Gonzalo Curiel in 2016 for his ruling in a Trump University case, our so-called president went after "so-called" Judge James Robart for suspending the White House's draconian anti-Muslim executive order. "Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril," the nominal leader of the Free World tweeted, "If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!"

But if Donald Trump's temper tantrum was completely predictable, so too were the milquetoast responses from the GOP's best and brightest. Vice President Mike Pence rejected the idea that POTUS has put the separation of powers at risk, feebly remarking, "I think the American people are very accustomed to this president speaking his mind, and speaking very straight with them." As for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who last year could muster only "I'm willing to say that Donald Trump is a different kind of candidate" during the Curiel outrage, offered only platitudes Sunday, such as "it is best not to single out judges."

Of course, there's no mystery for the Republican refusal to condemn Trump's not-so-thinly veiled threats toward Judge Robart. As it turns out, judicial intimidation has been a time-tested Republican political tactic for years.

Consider, for example, John Cornyn. In March 2015, the former Texas Supreme Court judge and second highest-ranking Senate Republican promised a bludgeoning for any nominee President Obama might choose to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia. "I think they will bear some resemblance to a piñata," he warned, "Because there is no guarantee, certainly, after that time they're going to look as good as they did going in." But back in 2005, Cornyn was one of the GOP standard bearers in the conservative fight against so-called "judicial activism" in the wake of the Republicans' disastrous intervention in the Terri Schiavo affair. On April 4 that year, Cornyn took to the Senate floor to issue a clear threat to judges opposing his reactionary agenda. Just days after the murders of a judge in Atlanta and another's family members in Chicago, Cornyn offered his endorsement of judicial intimidation:

"I don't know if there is a cause-and-effect connection, but we have seen some recent episodes of courthouse violence in this country. ... And I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters, on some occasions, where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in, engage in violence."

Continue reading at Daily Kos.




Impeach a President for Incompetence? Trump Muslim Ban Adviser Says Yes

2017-02-01T20:01:50Z

As President Trump's thinly veiled Muslim ban caused heartbreak, outrage and chaos around the globe, his Twitter past started to resurface over the weekend. As he presciently asked on June 4, 2014, "Are you allowed to impeach a president for... As President Trump's thinly veiled Muslim ban caused heartbreak, outrage and chaos around the globe, his Twitter past started to resurface over the weekend. As he presciently asked on June 4, 2014, "Are you allowed to impeach a president for gross incompetence?" At least one high-profile attorney has resoundingly--and ironically--answered, "yes." Ironically, that is, because Judge Michael Mukasey was the last attorney general for President George W. Bush. And as it turns out, Mukasey was one of the advisers who helped Trump with his catastrophic executive order. As the New York Post reported on Sunday, it was former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani who spilled the beans on the brain trust behind Trump's travel ban: Rudy Giuliani said Donald Trump asked him to work out how he could legally implement a "Muslim ban." "He called me up, he said, 'Put a commission together, show me the right way to do it legally,'" the former mayor, who has been advising President Trump, said on "Fox News" Saturday. Giuliani then said he put a panel together that included former federal Judge Michael Mukasey, Rep. Peter King and Texas Rep. Michael McCaul to come up with a plan that placed the emphasis on threats not religion. As it has unfolded, Trump's counterproductive decree was worse than a crime, it was a mistake. Delivering a powerful propaganda victory to ISIS, the ham-handed ban left American generals and diplomats warning about the dangerous blowback for U.S. troops and interests. Students and scientists were barred from entering the U.S. Families were separated and American allies like Iraqi translators who saved countless U.S. lives were left at risk as refugees, valid visa holders and green card carriers were blocked. But back in 2014, Michael Mukasey suggested President Obama should rightly be impeached for "the ghastly transaction that freed Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl." Despite America's long history of prisoner exchanges during wartime, Mukasey on June 6 raised the prospect of impeachment, even though it "cannot be seriously undertaken absent a national consensus for it, and none seems now to exist." Two days later on June 8, Bush's former attorney general told Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday that a president can be impeached despite having not committed high crimes or misdemeanors: He has the authority to do so, but the question is under what circumstances he does so? The -- when Lindsey Graham called for impeachment being on the table, I think what he was disclosing and making clear is that whether you impeach somebody doesn't depend on whether they violate the law. The president can stay within his lawful powers and still commit an impeachable offense. He has the power to pardon anybody he wants. If he decided tomorrow to pardon everybody in the U.S. prison system, that would be lawful, but I think it will also raise serious questions about whether he should continue in office. The same is true of the wholesale release of dangerous people. Now, this kind of blighted logic is nothing new for Attorney General Mukasey. President Bush, after all, released hundreds of Gitmo detainees in exchange for, well, nothing. Nominated to replace the bumbling Alberto Gonzales, Judge Michael Mukasey enjoyed the support of both past Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and current Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Despite the warning from former Reagan deputy AG Bruce Fein that Mukasey did not have "the national stature and strength in C[...]



Trump Inherits the Obama Boom

2017-01-30T20:55:49Z

If nothing else, during their eight years in the White House George W. Bush and company became experts at deflecting blame. After all, the likes of Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, and Bush himself all chanted that "nobody could have predicted"... If nothing else, during their eight years in the White House George W. Bush and company became experts at deflecting blame. After all, the likes of Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, and Bush himself all chanted that "nobody could have predicted" the Sept. 11 attacks, the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, and so many other disasters that occurred on his watch. But it was in explaining away his dismal stewardship of the American economy where Team Bush continued to deploy the same talking point even long after Dubya departed the scene: it was all Bill Clinton's fault. Even before Bush took the oath of office, Cheney, Newt Gingrich, Dick Armey, and Sean Hannity all falsely declared that his administration "inherited a recession." Even after Barack Obama was sworn in on Jan. 20, 2009, Bush's first press secretary Ari Fleischer and former Cheney aide Mary Matalin continued to parrot lines like "I was there, we inherited a recession from President Clinton." In his final press conference, President Bush reduced the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression to a rhetorical book-end: "In terms of the economy, look, I inherited a recession, I am ending on a recession. In the meantime there were 52 months of uninterrupted job growth." Eight years later, Donald Trump is trying to reverse Bush's formula by claiming credit where he deserves none. Even before his inauguration last week, President-elect Trump was touting rising consumer confidence, jobs "saved" at Carrier Air Conditioning and Ford, as well as jobs created at GM. This week, he took to Twitter to cheer the Dow Jones breaking through the 20,000 barrier. Unsurprisingly, his water carriers in the media, many of them the same people who proclaimed the "Obama Bear Market" as far back as the summer of 2008, quickly announced the arrival of the "Trump Rally." Now, it's no shock that a politician would try to appropriate someone else's applause--especially a huckster like Trump who after the 2012 presidential election warned America faced "financial ruin" and who spent much of the 2016 campaign decrying "the total failures of the Obama-Clinton economy." But on Jan. 20, President Trump didn't just portray the U.S. economy as a blighted hellscape he deemed "American carnage." Trump also promised 25 million new jobs and 4 percent economic growth, an average no President has hit since LBJ.* Luckily for him, Donald Trump didn't inherit a recession, but instead the Obama boom. By almost every indicator from job creation, GDP growth, income, and the unemployment rate to stock market performance, consumer confidence, health insurance coverage, and so much more, President Barack Obama handed off a far stronger economy than George W. Bush bequeathed to him eight years ago. And Obama produced this record not thanks to cooperation from Republicans in Congress, but despite unprecedented GOP obstruction that stretched across his two terms in the White House. Nevertheless, even in the face of that sabotage Barack Obama became just the latest occupant of the Oval Office to show that the U.S. economy almost always does better under Democratic presidents. Continue reading at Daily Kos. [...]