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Updated: 2017-08-16T19:53:46Z

 



The Confederate Statues Speak for Themselves

2017-08-16T19:53:46Z

Defending the indefensible on Tuesday, President Donald Trump traveled back in time to deploy the "both sides do it" talking point to explain the Civil War. Providing air cover for white supremacists, Trump declared "you had some very fine people... Defending the indefensible on Tuesday, President Donald Trump traveled back in time to deploy the "both sides do it" talking point to explain the Civil War. Providing air cover for white supremacists, Trump declared "you had some very fine people on both sides," apparently including "many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee." But as I first documented after Dylann Roof slaughtered 9 innocents at Mother Emanuel AME Church in that cradle of secession Charleston, South Carolina, the leaders of the Confederacy were not "fine people." And we know this, because they told us so. The 54th Massachusetts or Davis, Lee and Jackson? For patriotic Americans, there's only one choice. There's no mystery as to why we're not discussing whether a banner of slavery, secession, treason and racial supremacy should ever be displayed over public buildings, parks, cemeteries and other sites. The Southern whitewashing of American history--aided by dubious text books and an army of Confederate monuments built at an accelerating pace during the civil rights movement of the 1950's and 1960's--has been sadly successful in transforming their fight to own humans into a noble "heritage." To remove the Confederate flag, its supporters still argue, would be a "Stalinist purge" and an act of "cultural genocide" because, after all, that banner simply represents "a heritage thing, and we're all proud of our heritage." If so, what better way to understand the Confederate heritage than consulting with some of the people who created it? South Carolina Senator John C. Calhoun, defending the "positive good" of slavery, 1837: "If we do not defend ourselves none will defend us; if we yield we will be more and more pressed as we recede; and if we submit we will be trampled under foot. Be assured that emancipation itself would not satisfy these fanatics: -that gained, the next step would be to raise the negroes to a social and political equality with the whites; and that being effected, we would soon find the present condition of the two races reversed." Resolution of separation by North Carolina delegates to the 1844 General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church: "We believe an immediate division of the Methodist Episcopal Church is indispensable to the peace, prosperity, and honor of the Southern portion thereof, if not essential to her continued existence we regard the officious, and unwarranted interference of the Northern portion of the Church with the subject of slavery alone, a sufficient cause for a division of our Church." Southern Baptist Convention, explaining its separation from the American Baptist church, May 1845: An evil hour has arrived...In December last, the acting Board of Convention, at Boston, adopted a new qualification for missionaries, a new rule viz, that: "If anyone who shall offer himself for a missionary, having slaves, should insist on retaining them as his property, they could not appoint him." "One thing is certain," they continue, "we could never be a party to any arrangement which applies approbation of slavery." Mississippi Declaration of Causes for Secession, 1861: Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left u[...]



"Freedmen" Is An Alternative to HBO's Alternative History, "Confederate"

2017-08-16T19:51:25Z

What if the South had won the Civil War? Hardly a new question, and it's doubtless one of the most common counterfactual thought exercises in American history. It's also already been recently asked--though not answered seriously--in the 2004 mockumentary, CSA:...

What if the South had won the Civil War? Hardly a new question, and it's doubtless one of the most common counterfactual thought exercises in American history. It's also already been recently asked--though not answered seriously--in the 2004 mockumentary, CSA: The Confederate States of America.

Nevertheless, HBO is turning to some of the folks who brought you Game of Thrones to develop a new series titled Confederate. The show imagines "an alternative timeline," the network's press release explained, "where the Southern states have successfully seceded from the Union, giving rise to a nation in which slavery remains legal and has evolved into a modern institution." And that's not all:

The story follows a broad swath of characters on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Demilitarized Zone -- freedom fighters, slave hunters, politicians, abolitionists, journalists, the executives of a slave-holding conglomerate and the families of people in their thrall.

HBO has chosen a particularly infelicitous time to unveil this project. After all, in the wake of the bitterly contested 2016 presidential election in large part waged and won on racial resentment and xenophobia, feelings are still raw over Americans' ideological and partisan divide. Donald Trump's triumph is not an aberration but the culmination of 50 years of Republican politics. So while some have called on HBO to abandon the series, one Trump supporter joked "they're afraid that maybe the Confederacy will be shown in a good light."

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Depending how you change the outcome of the Battle of Antietam in September 1862, you get a different HBO series.

Yet the biggest problem with the hypothetical question behind Confederate is that it's not so hypothetical at all. By all indications the show, as Ta-Nehisi Coates explained, "takes as its premise an ugly truth that black Americans are forced to live every day." In a very real sense, the North won the war, but the South won the peace. Southern "Redemption" swamped national Reconstruction as an ivory curtain of white supremacy, intimidation, and violence soon enveloped the states of the former Confederacy. Northern exhaustion, complicity in the Johnson White House, and the entrenchment of a racist, conservative Supreme Court undermined the clear meaning and intent of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution. In less than a generation, the institutionalization of segregation was complete. As W.E.B. Dubois lamented, "The slave went free; stood a brief moment in the sun; then moved back again toward slavery." It took 100 years after Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox for the civil rights movement to begin the demolition of the edifice of Jim Crow and with it, make possible the liberation of all Americans for all time.

All of which is why a far more powerful question for HBO to explore might be this: What if the North had won the Civil War much faster--and more completely?

Continue reading at Daily Kos.




Why "America First" Really Means America Last

2017-08-08T22:22:53Z

To say that the slogan "America First" has a checkered past in the United States is an understatement of epic proportions. Launched in the spring of 1940 on the eve of Hitler's conquest of France, Belgium and Holland, the America... To say that the slogan "America First" has a checkered past in the United States is an understatement of epic proportions. Launched in the spring of 1940 on the eve of Hitler's conquest of France, Belgium and Holland, the America First Committee was an isolationist crusade which grew to 800,000 members who sought the keep the U.S. out of any war with Germany. But that's not all. After the trauma of the Great Depression, its leadership was rife with anti-Semites and Nazi sympathizers like Olympic Committee Chairman Avery Brundage, auto magnate Henry Ford and the world-famous pilot Charles Lindbergh who saw European fascism--and not American democracy--as the wave of the future. In September 1941, just three months before Pearl Harbor and Adolf Hitler's declaration of war on the United States, Lindbergh proclaimed, "The British and the Jewish races for reasons which are not American, wish to involve us in the war." The greatest of the dangers Jews posed to the United States, he warned, "lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio, and our government." At a time when the United States faced a monumental choice between good and evil, human rights and barbarous slaughter, freedom and enslavement, the America Firsters were on the wrong side of history. Ultimately and at great cost, the forces of light prevailed in Europe and the Pacific, but not before vanquishing the forces of darkness here at home. Now, as Americans confront a new crossroads in history, Donald Trump's 21st century incarnation of the America First movement threatens to once again take the nation down a dangerously mistaken--and irreversible--path. After 25 years, America's unipolar moment of unrivaled military dominance is coming to a close, as rising Chinese power around the world, resurgent Russian expansionism in Eastern Europe and a nuclear North Korea means the United States can no longer strike at the times and places of its choosing without painful consequences. Never again will the U.S. account for half of world GDP, as it did after the destruction of its economic competitors in World War II. Globalization, the seamless flow of capital (and capitalists) across national boundaries, the transformational impact of climate change, and, above all, China's ever-increasing role in the worldwide economy require Washington to think anew and act anew. And more and more, the United States will be less and less able to act alone. That's why the world Donald Trump and his die-hard followers scorn is not the one they, or any of us, actually inhabit. A year ago at the Republican National Convention, Trump declared "our plan will put America First. Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo." Nothing about the first six months of the Trump administration supports the May 30 op-ed penned by national security adviser H.R. McMaster and National Economic Council director Gary D. Cohn that "America First" is also "a commitment to protecting and advancing our vital interests while also fostering cooperation and strengthening relationships with our allies and partners." As Trump put it in his Inaugural Address on January 20, 2017: From this moment on, it's going to be America First. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families. As it turns out, not so much. Continue reading at Daily Kos. [...]



Lies, Damn Lies and Fake News

2017-07-31T18:18:04Z

In his 2007 book The Assault on Reason, former Vice President Al Gore warned about what he saw as a dire threat to American democracy. "The 'well-informed citizenry,'" Gore fretted, "is in danger of becoming the 'well-amused audience.'" In a...

In his 2007 book The Assault on Reason, former Vice President Al Gore warned about what he saw as a dire threat to American democracy. "The 'well-informed citizenry,'" Gore fretted, "is in danger of becoming the 'well-amused audience.'" In a presentation on Super Tuesday 2008 ("That's Entertainment: Politics as Theater in Campaign '08"), I elaborated on Gore's alert.

When politics is entertainment, the first thing that suffers is the truth.

More than nine years later, the American people have a professional entertainer in the Oval Office. And as recent headlines have shown, the truth is suffering indeed. Despite the unified assessment of the U.S. intelligence community that Vladimir Putin's Russia interfered in the 2016 election, only one-third of Republicans polled believe it. Other surveys found that 72 percent of Trump voters said stories about Russia are "fake news," with 32 percent even rejecting the claim that Donald Jr. met with Russians in June 2016, a fact the president's son had already admitted. The self-delusion also applies to the 2016 popular vote, which half of Trump supporters believe he won despite falling 3 million ballots short of Hillary Clinton in yet another election free of vote fraud.

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And on Wednesday, a YouGov/Economist poll revealed that 55 percent of the #MAGA crowd "believe 'the courts' should be allowed to 'fine news media outlets for publishing or broadcasting stories that are biased or inaccurate' -- while 45 percent say that the judiciary should have the power to 'shut down' biased media organizations." Meanwhile, the Trump administration and some of its allies in the House responded to the GOP's latest humiliation at the hands of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office by seeking to slash its staffing or abolish the neutral scorekeeper altogether.

As horrifying as these numbers are, they shouldn't come as a surprise. After all, with the Trump White House elevating "alternative facts" over supposed "fake news," slandering the press as an "enemy of the people," brushing off allegations of collusion and business conflicts with Russian interests as a "Democratic hoax," and so much more, the Trump faithful are getting their talking points straight from the elephant's mouth. But while the frequency and magnitude of Trump's lies far exceed any American major party politician, his strategic deceptions and tactical duplicity are nothing new under the Republican sun.

On matters of war and peace, health care and taxes, the economy and the environment, the GOP has been a myth-making machine for years. And when the government's own experts and nonpartisan watchdogs debunked the Republicans' fact-free frauds, the GOP directed its fire at them.

Just ask the people who work at the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA)--or, more accurately, worked at the Office of Technology Assessment.

Continue reading at Daily Kos.




Unprecedented Spite: The American Carnage of the GOP Health Care Bill

2017-07-05T19:06:31Z

In December 2003, Democrats in Congress overwhelmingly opposed President Bush's Medicare Part D prescription drug program. With good reason. The new benefit included the infamous "donut hole," a gap in coverage which still saddled many seniors with out-of-pocket costs for...

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In December 2003, Democrats in Congress overwhelmingly opposed President Bush's Medicare Part D prescription drug program. With good reason. The new benefit included the infamous "donut hole," a gap in coverage which still saddled many seniors with out-of-pocket costs for their prescriptions. Making matters worse for 45 million elderly and the United States Treasury alike, the law crafted by then representative and future PhRMA president Billy Tauzin (R-LA) prohibited Uncle Sam from negotiating drug prices directly with pharmaceutical companies as the VA and most industrialized economies have long done. Adding insult to injury, the Republicans' new government program was completely unfunded, adding a projected $400 billion to the national debt over a decade because, as Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) later explained, "it was standard practice not to pay for things."

But when its disastrous launch in January 2006 left "Bushcare" teetering on the brink of catastrophe, Democrats in Congress and in the states moved quickly to help the administration and American seniors. Computer systems failed. The web-based comparison shopping "exchange" experienced serious glitches. Some six million Medicare/Medicaid "dual eligibles" found themselves unable to get their prescriptions filled. As future House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) put it, "The implementation of the Medicare plan has been horrendous." Nevertheless, as the New York Times reported on January 16, 2006, 20 states--most of them Democratic--"announced that they will help low-income people by paying drug claims that should have been paid by the federal Medicare program." As a freshman Senator named Hillary Clinton explained her party's response to the Republican fiasco:

"I voted against it, but once it passed I certainly determined that I would try to do everything I could to make sure that New Yorkers understood it, could access it, and make the best of it."

To put it another way, both sides don't do it.

As the unveiling of the Senate GOP health care bill this week once again showed, the subterfuge, sabotage and sheer cruelty of the 8-year Republican effort to abort the Affordable Care Act know no limits. A calamity a wiser Donald Trump might call "American carnage"--22 million more uninsured Americans, millions more facing financial ruin, gutted essential health protections, skyrocketing premiums to maintain comparable coverage, jacked-up deductibles, spiraling out of pockets costs and over 200,000 needless deaths by 2026, all to fund an $600 billion tax cut windfall for the wealthy--Mitch McConnell's "Better Care Reconciliation Act" has nothing to do with "replacing" Obamacare. For 25 years, Republicans have never wanted to enable universal health care coverage for the American people, but only to prevent the Democratic Party from doing so.

We know this--that is, that Republicans feared not Obamacare's failure, but its success--because they told us so.

Continue reading at Daily Kos.




Commander in Chief Trump Goes AWOL

2017-06-21T04:44:08Z

"The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States." With that phrase, Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution of the United States ensures civilian control over--and accountability for--the American military. While the...

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"The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States." With that phrase, Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution of the United States ensures civilian control over--and accountability for--the American military. While the power to declare war rests with Congress, responsibility for America's global vision, its foreign policy and national security objectives, the military strategies to achieve them, the operational plans they entail and, most solemn of all, putting the lives of servicemen and women in harm's way, rest with the president alone.

But what if the occupant of the White House fails to fulfill his constitutionally-mandated role as commander in chief? How would U.S. allies and enemies alike react to the strategic confusion and policy-making void left by the president's abdication of his or her most important job? What should the American people believe--what should their 1.5 million soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines do--when the Pentagon's mission is a mystery?

Sadly, these questions are not hypothetical. As his decision this week to delegate Afghanistan strategy and force levels to the secretary of defense once again showed, commander in chief Donald Trump is absent without leave.

As the New York Times and the Washington Post reported this week, President Trump announced this week that when it comes to America's 16-year-old war in Afghanistan, the buck stops at the Pentagon.

President Trump's decision to delegate authority to the Pentagon to set troop levels in Afghanistan has raised concerns that a few thousand additional troops expected to deploy soon could be just the beginning of a new surge in the country after 15 years of war.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis assured lawmakers Wednesday that a large increase in deployed forced will not happen, but some experts and former battlefield commanders warned the White House and Congress should be careful not to give the Pentagon a blank check.

Those experts are right to be worried.

Continue reading at Daily Kos.




Ask Your Senator if Trumpcara™ is Right for You

2017-06-20T01:00:50Z

Are you ashamed to be seen with your health care bill? Do you fear facing your own constituents? Are you plagued by feelings of dread and mild nausea at the thought of disappointing your seething supporters, angry activists and demanding... Are you ashamed to be seen with your health care bill? Do you fear facing your own constituents? Are you plagued by feelings of dread and mild nausea at the thought of disappointing your seething supporters, angry activists and demanding donors? If you answered "yes" to all these questions, you might be a Republican member of Congress suffering from moderate to severe Irritable Base Syndrome (IBS). That's where Trumpcara comes in. Brought to you by the good people of GOPLabs®, Trumpcara keeps your IBS at bay. With one simple vote, you calm the outbreak of red rage and make your pain and discomfort--and insurance for 23 million Americans--disappear! As for everyone else, ask your Senator if Trumpcara is right for you. Trumpcara (appallinghealthcareinamerica) legislation isn't recommended for anyone under the age of 65. Trumpcara can cause serious side effects, including: The loss of coverage for three million children under the age of 18, 6.4 million young adults ages 18 to 29, 8.2 million people ages 30 to 49 and 5.1 million older Americans in the reliably Republican 50 to 64-year-old age range. Between 21,000 and 50,000 needless deaths due to uninsurance very year. Mild to severe cashectomies and even financial ruin, as insufficient, age-based tax credits that grow too slowly make insurance premiums unaffordable for older, sicker and less affluent Americans. Conditions like "empty pocket disorder" and deductitis, as the end of the Affordable Care Act's cost-sharing reductions and essential health benefits along with new surcharges or disqualification to do preexisting conditions saddle families with massive new expenses. "Collateral closures" of rural hospitals and clinics as the gutting of Medicaid puts the onus for covering 51 million uninsured on cash-strapped states. Degenerative employer-provided insurance, as terminated Obamacare health care benefits bring back the worst excesses of the insurance industry including annual and lifetime caps on benefits. "Red state blowback," a tragically ironic affliction of voters in states carried by Donald Trump, states with higher percentages of people of preexisting conditions and fewer choices of insurers. Upward income redistribution caused by an $800 billion transfusion administered by the U.S. Treasury to the wealthiest people in America, a process doctors call "enrichening." Women should not handle copies of the legislative text. Nine out of 10 women who read the bill suffered from the immediate onset of severe depression due to the likely loss of coverage for contraception and maternity care. Women who are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant shouldn't take Trumpcara. In fact, in many states they won't be able to, as waivers from required "essential health benefits" will allow insurers to drop coverage for maternity care. So, if you're a GOP incumbent and want to make it to November 2018 without being primaried, take Trumpcara. It's not health care. And in the Senate, it's not even a bill. Trumpcara is trademark and GOPLabs is a registered trademarked of GOPLabs, Inc. [...]



Republicans Betray Their Gray-Haired Base with Trumpcare

2017-06-15T19:26:21Z

Ever since Donald Trump's shocking victory on Election Day, press, pundits, and pollsters have engaged in a furious debate about which voters propelled him to the White House. Was Trump's win the revenge of the "guns and bitter crowd" in...

Ever since Donald Trump's shocking victory on Election Day, press, pundits, and pollsters have engaged in a furious debate about which voters propelled him to the White House. Was Trump's win the revenge of the "guns and bitter crowd" in the Rust Belt, the white working-class voters whose racism, xenophobia and/or "economic anxiety" led them to pull the lever in 2016 for the reality TV star? Or was the Republican's core support throughout the primaries and the general election made up of more affluent and suburban backers? And as Trump's approval ratings continue to spiral downward to levels not seen since George W. Bush ambled out of the Oval Office, can he continue to count on an unshakeable "floor" of 35 to 40 percent support?

While these are all interesting questions, one thing is certain. Donald Trump, like Republicans nationwide over the past decade, has enjoyed the steadfast support of older voters. Since 2008, Americans (especially white Americans) over the age of 50 have reliably rallied behind GOP candidates. But under the American Health Care Act (AHCA) Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is now trying to sneak through the Senate, it will be the gray and the graying who suffer the most.

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To fully measure the magnitude of the coming Republican betrayal of older voters with the AHCA (a.k.a. Trumpcare), it helps to first appreciate their recent loyalty to the GOP. As the charts of exit poll data since 2008 above show, Americans over age 50 show up to vote and vote for Republicans. During presidential election years, voters ages 50 to 64 and over 64 combined have represented between 42 and 46 percent of the electorate. But in the 2010 and 2014 midterm balloting, their share reached a staggering 53 and 55 percent. While John McCain narrowly lost 50- to 64-year-olds by one point in 2008, Mitt Romney and Donald Trump had no difficulty winning voters over age 50 in 2012 and 2016.

The American Health Care Act is their reward for their loyalty. It's a loyalty expected by the GOP and (as we've learned) demanded by Donald Trump.

Continue reading at Daily Kos.




CBO: Conservative Bulls**t Obliterator

2017-06-05T03:18:02Z

This past two weeks have been big ones for some very big promises from Republicans in Washington. It didn't go well for them. Three weeks after House Republicans voted to pass a new version of their "American Health Care Act,"...

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This past two weeks have been big ones for some very big promises from Republicans in Washington. It didn't go well for them.

Three weeks after House Republicans voted to pass a new version of their "American Health Care Act," the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) weighed in on high-profile pledges from President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan. While Trump guaranteed "insurance for everybody" that is "much less expensive and much better," Ryan insisted the revised AHCA "protects people with pre-existing conditions." Not content to rest there, HHS Secretary Tom Price boasted that Trumpcare's $880 billion in cuts to Medicaid will "absolutely not" result in millions losing coverage.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration also unveiled its fiscal year 2018 budget proposal. With its draconian spending cuts to the social safety net programs, the White House blueprint was proclaimed "dead on arrival" even by some Republicans. But more embarrassing to Donald Trump was its double-counting of $2 trillion in revenue for Uncle Sam magically generated by "sustained, 3 percent economic growth." As Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin declared a month ago, "the plan will pay for itself with growth."

Unfortunately for the White House and GOP leaders on Capitol Hill, the CBO demolished all of those Republican myths. Again. That's because whether the issue is health care, taxes, job numbers, or the impact of the President Obama's 2009 economic stimulus, the acronym "CBO" doesn't just stand for "Congressional Budget Office." It's also shorthand for "Conservative Bulls**t Obliterator."

As it turns out, in recent years that's been true even when Republicans have their hand-picked choice running the agency.

Continue reading at Daily Kos,




In Praise of Donald Trump

2017-05-22T21:42:38Z

From the moment Donald Trump won his surprising victory on Election Day, a new cottage industry sprung up to offer sympathetic profiles of the supposedly long-overlooked and long-suffering voters who rallied to him. The New York Times has been at... From the moment Donald Trump won his surprising victory on Election Day, a new cottage industry sprung up to offer sympathetic profiles of the supposedly long-overlooked and long-suffering voters who rallied to him. The New York Times has been at the forefront, delivering on-the-ground stories from Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan within days of the balloting. But as President Trump's ever-growing cascade of calamities drove down his approval rating to just above Ebola and just below Chlamydia, the Times responded with tales of his undeterred supporters for whom no sin could shake their faith in his ability to Make America Great Again. He is the enemy of their enemies; if liberals are angry, then Trump must be doing something right. The nation's paper of record wasn't content to rest there. As if to codify the right-wing stereotype of effete coastal elites out of touch with salt-of-the-earth "Heartland" Americans, the Times added climate change denier Bret Stephens to its growing stable of conservative columnists. Further concluding "it's not them, it's us," Michael Kinsley introduced a feature to "point out positive things Mr. Trump has said or done from the viewpoint of The New York Times and its readers." But by Week 3, Kinsley had to ask, "Is it possible there is nothing nice to say?" But if you and everyone you know passionately believe one thing while half the country believes the opposite, it may be time for a reality test. That is the purpose of this feature: not to persuade people that President Trump is any kind of good guy, but to ask whether it's possible that he has done or said anything good during his campaign and the first months of his presidency. Well, of course it's possible to say something nice about Donald Trump. You just have to know how to say it. For example, Donald Trump has helped us see the all too human side of our presidents. They are not supermen or gods, but flesh and blood mortals trying to do their very best for the nation. America's presidents aim high; they usually fall short. Trump is no exception. In a major address on August 18, 2016, candidate Trump made this pledge: Sometimes, in the heat of debate and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don't choose the right words or you say the wrong thing. I have done that, and I regret it, particularly where it may have caused personal pain. Too much is at stake for us to be consumed with these issues. But one thing I can promise you is this: I will always tell you the truth. [Emphasis mine.] As it turns out, according to Politifact Trump has always told the truth about 32 percent of time. That could happen to anyone who flew too high with borrowed wings, but just a little too close to the sun. Trump has shown that our presidents are sensitive, too. They don't just feel our pain, they feel their own, too. That's why the 45th President shared his personal life lessons this week with the graduates of the United States Coast Guard Academy. They, too, could overcome their lives of want and doubt to achieve great things: "Look at the way I have been treated lately, especially by the media. No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly. You can't let them get you down, you can't let the critics and the naysayers get in the way of your dreams." Our new guardsmen and women, many of whom doubtless overcame receiving $2 million from their parents, couldn't help but relate. And Trump had given them much to think about. Lincoln merely faced the secession of seven states by time [...]



How Trumpcare Ends Health Insurance As We Know It

2017-05-09T22:41:47Z

When the Supreme Court struck down the Affordable Care Act's mandatory expansion of Medicaid by the states back in 2012, observers quickly began focusing on who would "opt in" or "opt out." But from a purely budgetary standpoint, there was...

When the Supreme Court struck down the Affordable Care Act's mandatory expansion of Medicaid by the states back in 2012, observers quickly began focusing on who would "opt in" or "opt out." But from a purely budgetary standpoint, there was never any question that accepting federal dollars to fund 100 percent of that expansion and 90 percent thereafter was a no-brainer.

Studies from the Rand Corporation and others concluded that just saying yes to Medicaid expansion would add coverage for millions of previously uninsured, prevent thousands of needless deaths annually, help rescue financially-troubled hospitals in rural and poorer areas, and ultimately more than pay for itself as state costs for uncompensated care plummeted. (As the Kaiser Family Foundation and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear among others later reported, events transpired exactly as we foretold.) As Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas summed up the obvious opt-in case in June 2013:

So then, the math works out like this: States rejecting the expansion will spend much more, get much, much less, and leave millions of their residents uninsured. That's a lot of self-inflicted pain to make a political point.

Now, President Trump and Republicans in the House (if not the Senate) are pleased to perpetrate what might be the greatest act of political spite in modern American history. Replacing Obamacare with the latest incarnation of the so-called "American Health Care Act" (AHCA) wouldn't just leave 24 million more Americans uninsured, 14 million from Medicaid alone. Trumpcare would simply shift about $880 billion in funding for lower-income and elderly health care to giving tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans. With its smaller, slower-growing tax credits, penalties on those failing to maintain "continuous" coverage, comically under-funded "high-risk pools," and its green-light to insurers to charge older Americans much more than under Obamacare, Trumpcare guarantees poorer, sicker, and older people will pay higher premiums for insurance--if they can obtain it at all. And by letting states determine which--if any--of Obamacare's mandatory essential health benefits (EHB's) they will require, what Trumpcare calls "coverage" may no longer look like "insurance" in any meaningful sense of the word.

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Not, at least, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. For the CBO, many Trumpcare plans won't count as insurance at all.

Continue reading at Daily Kos.




Republicans Chanted Goodbye After Democrats' 1993 Vote for Clinton Tax Increase

2017-05-07T22:48:45Z

It only takes about 31 seconds of this week's health care coverage to show why people hate what passes for mainstream media reporting. After Democrats sang "goodbye" to 217 Republicans who voted to take health insurance away from 24 million... It only takes about 31 seconds of this week's health care coverage to show why people hate what passes for mainstream media reporting. After Democrats sang "goodbye" to 217 Republicans who voted to take health insurance away from 24 million Americans and strip essential protections from millions more, conventional wisdom regurgitators like Katie Couric and CNN's Chris Cillizza were shocked--SHOCKED--by the performance. While Couric asked "was it appropriate for Dems to chant 'nah nah' on the House floor," Cillizza headed to the fainting couch with a piece titled, "31 seconds of the healthcare vote that shows why people hate politics." Of course, long before Cillizza proclaimed, "And the DC political class wonders why people hate them," Republicans were shattering all norms of decorum on Capitol Hill. Before South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson shouted "you lie" at President Obama and GOP legislators displayed "Kill the Bill" signs outside the second floor of the Capitol Hill during the Obamacare battle, House Republicans chanted "Goodbye, Marjorie" to the woman who cast the deciding vote to pass the 1993 Clinton tax cut plan. As you might recall, Republicans predicted economic and political disaster for that budget. Instead, it ushered in an era of 22 million new jobs and the longest economic expansion since World War II. Twenty-four years before the New York Times reported "Democrats Taunt Republicans with 'Hey, Hey, Goodbye' During Health Vote," the nation's paper of record described "cheers and jeers" for Rep. Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky's tie-breaking vote for President Clinton's upper-income tax hikes. Before she became famous as Chelsea Clinton's mother-in-law, Ms. Margolies-Mezvinsky put her party before political pragmatism in her traditionally Republican district: The first-term Congresswoman had come out against the plan, having won election last November in her Main Line district, a group of mythically prosperous Philadelphia suburbs where winning candidates usually wear striped ties, by only 1,373 votes. A former television newscaster in Washington, she was one of the surprises of 1992, and thousands of her constituents will now be paying higher taxes next year as she seeks re-election... At the last moment the whips gave her the word that she was needed, and she walked down the aisle. One Democrat after another hugged her, patted her on the back and touched her as if she were Joan of Arc. As she finally voted aye, her Democratic colleagues cheered as the Republicans jeered, "Goodbye Marjorie." As turned out, the Republicans were right about Marjorie's fate. She lost in the 1994 midterms, along with 53 other House Democrats. But on the fates of Bill Clinton and the U.S. economy, the GOP had it all wrong. As Republicans continue their campaign to gut the American health care system, that history is worth revisiting. If Barack Obama's experience with record-setting Republican obstructionism was shocking, Bill Clinton's was unprecedented at the time. . When Clinton's 1993 economic program scraped by without capturing the support of even one GOP lawmaker, the New York Times remarked: Historians believe that no other important legislation, at least since World War II, has been enacted without at least one vote in either house from each major party. Inheriting massive budget deficits and stubborn unemployment from Bush the Elder, Clinton's $496 billion program was nonetheless opposed by every single member of the GOP, as well as defectors from his own party. As [...]



Trump's Tax Plan is a Laffer

2017-05-03T04:30:16Z

Long before it mastered the mass production of "fake news," the Republican Party propagated its Ur-lie that "tax cuts pay for themselves." Almost from the moment that Arthur Laffer first sketched his now-famous curve on a napkin in 1974, right-wing...

Long before it mastered the mass production of "fake news," the Republican Party propagated its Ur-lie that "tax cuts pay for themselves." Almost from the moment that Arthur Laffer first sketched his now-famous curve on a napkin in 1974, right-wing pundits, politicians, and propagandists have declared as an article of faith the belief that tax cuts incentivize so much economic growth that revenues to Uncle Sam will be at least as high as they would have been without the reduction in rates.

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Unfortunately for the American people, four decades of supply-side snake oil have produced only mushrooming national debt and record-high income inequality. Far from paying for themselves, the Reagan and Bush tax cuts delivered a windfall only for the wealthy while unleashing oceans of red ink from the United States Treasury. (Of course, the other objective of draining Washington's coffers in order to add to the bulging bank accounts of the rich was to get government "down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.") It's no wonder that by 2015 even Keith Hall, the man hand-picked by the Republican majority on Capitol Hill to head the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), acknowledged the obvious:

"No, the evidence is that tax cuts do not pay for themselves. And our models that we're doing, our macroeconomic effects, show that."

Nevertheless, last week Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin unveiled the Trump administration's tax plan by proclaiming the fiscal equivalent of saying the sun rises in the west and sets in the east. Six days after first announcing "the plan will pay for itself with growth," Mnuchin told the White House press corps:

"This will pay for itself with growth and with the reduction of different deductions and closing loopholes."

In reality, it won't even be close.

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Only Trump Can Save ISIS Now

2017-04-28T03:12:54Z

The end is nigh for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. To be sure, ISIS affiliates in Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan and elsewhere will remain dangerous. And its fighters and sympathizers will continue to launch terror attacks in Europe and... The end is nigh for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. To be sure, ISIS affiliates in Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan and elsewhere will remain dangerous. And its fighters and sympathizers will continue to launch terror attacks in Europe and the United States for years to come. But the writing is on the wall for the supposed caliphate itself. In Iraq, Kurdish fighters, government forces and allied Shiite militias have nearly retaken Mosul and have ejected the Sunni extremist forces from most of the territory they occupied in 2014. Across the border in Syria, Kurdish forces and anti-Assad rebels backed by the United States have the ISIS "capital" of Raqqa nearly surrounded. With its oil revenues plummeting, its finances in tatters, and the influx of new foreign fighters reduced by as much as 90 percent over the past year, nothing can save ISIS now. Well, almost nothing. That's because President Donald Trump could yet snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. His ham-handed Muslim ban has already provided a propaganda windfall for ISIS, while alienating American allies on the ground in the region. Trump's incendiary rhetoric towards Iran, expanded military operations in Yemen and possible further U.S. strikes against the Assad regime in Damascus are occurring even as American troops find themselves on the same side as Tehran-backed militias in Iraq. Meanwhile, the Trump administration's apparent unwillingness to cross the Erdogan government in Turkey over American support for Kurdish forces for the final push on Raqqa means more U.S. servicemen and women will be fighting and dying instead. That Donald Trump would be the beneficiary of the Obama administration's progress against ISIS was clear within days of his assuming the presidency. As Andrew Exum, who served in the Pentagon's Middle East shop in 2015 and 2016 put it in mid-February, "Donald Trump will defeat ISIS and it will be mostly due to the work of his predecessor." The dysfunction at the highest levels of the American government right now obscures a dramatic reality: Donald Trump is going to defeat the Islamic State, and Americans need to be fine with that. Even the grudging Exum certainly had little problem with giving credit where it isn't due because "defeating the Islamic State is a national good that should be bigger than politics." Reflecting on the dire situation in early 2015, he wrote that "if we could figure out a way to apply pressure to the group from multiple directions and cut off its key supply routes, that would create real dilemmas for them. And so that's what we did." Two years later, Exum concluded: One by one, cities and towns under the control of the Islamic State started falling. Because we were fighting with local partners, it was messier than if we had done it ourselves. The destruction to Ramadi and Fallujah, in particular, was breathtaking. And it took longer than it would have taken if U.S. forces had been in the lead. But it was also a lot less expensive, and only five U.S. servicemen were killed in the process --compared with almost 5,000 over the course of the earlier war in Iraq. And the success of the campaign was going to be more sustainable than that of our earlier efforts, we told ourselves, because Iraqis and Syrians were owning the fight--at tremendous human cost, I must add--and thus owning the victory. This was the war President Trump inherited from President Obama. The fall of the Islamic State is going to happen on thi[...]



Eight Years After Bogus Tea Party Rallies, Tax Marches Target Trump Returns

2017-04-28T02:01:56Z

On Saturday, April 15, thousands of Americans will take part in Tax Day Tax Marches in cities and towns across the country. Their objective? To pressure President Donald Trump to release his hidden tax returns. The concerns are certainly legitimate....

On Saturday, April 15, thousands of Americans will take part in Tax Day Tax Marches in cities and towns across the country. Their objective? To pressure President Donald Trump to release his hidden tax returns. The concerns are certainly legitimate. After all, Trump isn't merely the first occupant of the Oval Office in over 40 years to refuse to do so. The Donald also pledged he would publish his returns, just as he promised his tax cut windfall for the wealthy would "cost me a fortune." Americans deserve to know, as Richard Nixon explained his disclosure of his own returns, "if their President is a crook." And even if President Trump isn't a crook, the nation more than ever needs to do know who he is doing business with and whether he's getting paid in rubles.

The contrast with the Tax Day Tea Parties on April 15, 2009, could not be more stark. On that day, thousands of people took to the streets chanting "Taxed Enough Already" despite having just received the largest two-year tax cut in modern American history, all courtesy of President Obama and Democrats in Congress.

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Eight years ago, thousands of the furious faithful rallied at those Tax Day Tea Parties lovingly promoted by Fox News and bankrolled by the right-wing sugar daddies including the Koch brothers and DickArmey's FreedomWorks. In addition to carrying signs like "Sieg Heil Herr Obama" and "No Taxation without Representation," many displayed buttons, hats, and posters announcing "T.E.A." or "Taxed Enough Already." As future House Speaker John Boehner summed up their complaint:

"Across our nation, thousands of Americans are participating in taxpayer tea parties today for one simple reason: overtaxed families and small businesses have had enough."

Now, there was a big problem with this claim at the heart of the Tea Party movement: it simply wasn't true.

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