Healthcare without the Care.

Republicans are mean. And by Republicans, I’m talking about the elected civil servants in the House and Senate.

They keep flailing and failing on the healthcare front. Good.

Not one of their proposed healthcare laws increased the number of Americans who would be covered with reasonable health care insurance. Not one moved us towards what Trump had promised during the campaign – coverage for everybody. Not one would have realistically reduced premiums.

Instead, each cold-hearted attempt at repeal-and-replace would have thrown millions onto the uninsured lists, creating massive burdens for society as a whole and specifically for the healthcare industry. Thank God they failed.

None of this should be a surprise to anyone. Republicans can’t come up with a “conservative” alternative to the ACA because the ACA already is a conservative plan. It’s based on an approach drawn up by the conservative Heritage Foundation; it was meant to get the freeloaders who didn’t buy insurance, but who burdened the system when they were sick or injured, to pay their fair share. Conservatives hate freeloaders!

So now they are spinning their wheels trying to replace Obamacare with something, anything, even more conservative. Why? Simply because they promised they would. We now know they had no plan of their own and nothing they come up with makes sense.

And most cold-hearted of all, now Trump wants to let Obamacare implode. (And he can do that.) Where is the pushback from Republicans? Do they not realize that Trump’s threat will imperil millions of Americans, including a huge faction of their own supporters?  Republicans would rather score political points than protect their fellow citizens. Even now, with Trump threatening to hold back insurance payments, GOP leaders in the Congress remain strangely silent.

Trump, for his part, badgered and belittled his fellow Republicans for their healthcare failures. What, however, has he done for the cause? Other than lip service, nothing. It’s painfully obvious that’s because he is astonishingly clueless on the issue. We all cringed when our president said “No one knew healthcare was so complicated.” No, clueless leader, everyone knew.

In 2010 when Obama was promoting his ACA plan – which had been hammered out over many months and with many public hearings — he went to a Republican caucus and stood before them, alone on live TV for over an hour, answering their toughest questions. That’s what a leader does.

A real leader, a real Chief Executive versus a carnival barker. Obama cared. Democrats care. Republicans apparently don’t.


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DO Trust the Polls.

Starting almost immediately after the inauguration the polls have been delivering bad news for Donald Trump. Does that concern his hard-core fans? Of course not. They scoff at poll numbers, saying, “Yeah, you mean the same polls that showed Hillary winning in a landslide?!” I’ve read and heard that response too many times.

But it’s nonsense.

Look at what actually happened in the 2016 presidential race. On the eve of the election most polls showed Hillary up by around three percentage points nationally. She ended up winning the popular vote by 2.1%, which translated into nearly 3 million votes. Every poll cautions about its built-in margin-of-error which in most cases is 2 or 3 points. So the polls were, in fact, correct! They said more Americans were going to vote for Hillary than Trump, and that happened.

And more to the current situation, recent polls show that Americans are waking up to the disaster the Trump administration has become:

(Trump’s) overall disapproval among Americans has reached record highs…Just 37 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing just over five months into his tenure, while 51 percent disapprove.

The polling agencies compete hard against each other. Each wants to, needs to, deliver reliable figures.

So, dear Trumpsters, feel free to add or subtract one or two percentage points to any particular poll, but know that it’s certain your guy is deeply unloved. And know that when they say less than 20% of Americans approve of the new healthcare plans, it’s truly a warning sign of deep dissatisfaction.

And here’s the juiciest finding:

In addition, by a 24-point margin, Americans believe former President Barack Obama was, by far, a more effective leader in comparison to Trump, 58 percent to 34 percent.

HA! Poor Donny. That’s gonna leave a big fat bruise on his delicate ego.

And finally, let’s look at one aspect of the only “poll” that counts, the actual election. The most embarrassing loss that can happen to any presidential candidate is to lose his or her home state. Well, Trump lost New York State by 21 percentage points. That’s bad. Very bad. Probably unprecedented in U.S. history. Far worse, however, is what happened in his home county, Manhattan. Those folks have had Trump in their faces for decades. They know him better than anyone. Do you know how Trump did in his hometown?

He won a pathetic 9.7% of the vote! Hillary got 86.6%.

Too bad NYC didn’t do a good enough job of telling America what we’ve all known for years – that “The Donald” is, was, and always will be a narcissistic scam artist. And we didn’t need a poll for that.

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Colbert Should Apologize…

A couple of nights ago late night TV host Stephen Colbert went on a particularly venomous – and hilarious – rant against Trump. The trigger for his outrage was Trump’s interview on CBS’s Face The Nation during which the president insulted the host, John Dickerson, a highly respected journalist.

“I call your show Deface the Nation” our leader said with a smirk. And later on Trump turned and walked out, mid-sentence, on Dickerson when the questions made him uncomfortable.

So Colbert forcefully shot back, defending his CBS colleague, and now some folks say he must apologize for one or two things that were, frankly, raunchy and probably over the line.

Should Stephen Colbert apologize? Only under certain conditions.

Colbert should say, “Mr. President, I’ll apologize when you apologize to President Obama for falsely accusing him, without any credible evidence, of illegally wiretapping you.

“I’ll apologize when you apologize to the thousands of dedicated poll workers whom you defamed by claiming, falsely, that Hillary Clinton received millions of illegal votes.

“I’ll apologize when you apologize to the patriotic members of the Intelligence community whom you repeatedly slandered with false accusations.

“I’ll apologize when you apologize to the American people for the five years of lying about the citizenship of the first black President, and your lies about having investigators in Hawaii (“you won’t believe what they are finding”) when there were no such investigators.

“I’ll apologize when you apologize to the American people for lying about your tax returns, your involvement with Russia, your charitable donations, and your promise to divest yourself from your businesses.

“And finally, I’ll apologize when you apologize to John Dickerson, the staff at Face the Nation and CBS News, and the thousands of hard-working, loyal American journalists whom you slander daily with your lies about ‘fake news’ and who are doing their job by trying to bring truth to the American people. The First Amendment was written precisely to counter would-be tyrants like you who seek to demean and diminish the vital importance of a free and vigorous press corps.”

And then, and only then, should Stephen Colbert apologize.

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The Russian Connection

You see it on social media every day: Trumpsters question why Congress and others are looking into, as Trump likes to say, “what the hell is going on?” between Russia and Trump’s inner circle.

OK, Trumpkins. Let’s look at what we know for sure.

  1. FBI director James Comey announced on March 20th that his agency is actively investigating Russian meddling in the presidential election. We can assume evidence had already been discovered by his team or else he would not have gone public with that disturbing news.
  1. The Russians wanted to tip the scales in Trump’s favor. Fake news stories about Hillary were sent out by the hundreds from Russia and its neighbors. As Hillary kept pointing out in the debates, 17 U.S. intelligence agencies confirmed that Russia interfered in our presidential election—and every bit of it was against Hillary and therefore pro-Trump. Why? What were they expecting for their efforts?
  1. Over the past few years Trump has criticized seemingly every person and entity except Russia and Vladimir Putin. Why?
  1. His hidden tax returns. Lots of smoke there…

We know Trump lied about his tax returns when he said, “I’ll be happy to release them once the audit is over.”  But we now know that an audit (if there really is an audit!) has nothing to do with the ability to release returns. Plus he could have released tax returns from other years. By being the only presidential candidate in decades to hide his returns we can say with certainty that he has something he doesn’t want you to see. For just one worrying concern: To whom does he owe money?  If it’s Russia, as many suggest, we need to know that. (Check my earlier column on what he’s likely hiding.)

  1. The list of people close to Trump who have questionable connections to Russia keeps growing. And those folks – including new Attorney General Jeff Sessions, former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort, new Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, senior advisor and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and others – lied or tried to mislead about those connections.  Why?

Those are the facts.  And every one of these points is A BIG STORY.  New evidence pops up daily.

So please don’t say “this is a witch hunt.”  It’s not.  In this case, there is a thick layer of smoke, and where there’s smoke, there’s liars.

Spread the word. We have to keep the pressure on. Our democratic values and America’s reputation as a trusted world leader are at stake.

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Trumpcare’s Pre-Existing Condition

Winston Churchill said democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others. It may turn out that Obamacare will be seen in a similar light.

Democrats readily acknowledge that the Affordable Care Act needs revision. This is a massive program and we knew going in that it would take years to work out the kinks. It is certainly not in a “death spiral” as some say. The uninsured rate is low and millions of folks have health care insurance for the first time in their lives. (For a quick reminder of what Obamacare really is and why it was needed, check out this column.)

But Republicans are twisting themselves into pretzels trying to come up with something better. Right now CNN is reporting that 21 GOP members of Congress are leaning towards a NO vote on Trumpcare. That puts it on the cusp of failing to pass. Politically, they’re stuck; if they make the plan more lenient the conservative wing will bolt, and if they make it even more stringent (the CBO says 14 million people will lose insurance in the first year!) more “moderates” will defect.

Here’s the GOP’s problem in a nutshell. Insurance is pure numbers. The insurance companies need to balance X expected income against Y expected outflows. When Obama said those firms could no longer discriminate against those with a pre-existing condition, and that they could no longer set life-time caps, it was based on having large numbers of younger, healthier folks sign up for health insurance. Hence the mandate; it forced those younger people to buy the insurance.

But now President “Nobody knew health care was so complicated!” (um, everyone knew) has promised to keep all of Obamacare’s good parts. Heck, he went further and promised to deliver health care for all Americans. Great.  Now go figure out how to do it. Without Medicare for everyone, or some sort of mandate to increase the pool of insured people, you can’t make the numbers work. Period. Thus the Republicans have boxed themselves into a corner.

The great irony is that if any form of Trumpcare passes a vast swath of Trump voters will be the ones hurt most by the new plan. Then again, they are the ones polls show are most likely to not know that Obamacare is the Affordable Care Act. Which would be funny … were it not a matter of life and death.

Thank You, President Obama!

Bracketed by the disastrous George W. Bush and the unstable Donald Trump, it’s clear that future historians will look kindly at Barack Obama’s presidency. On December 16, he held what was expected to be his final press conference. (He decided to have one more on 1/18/17.)  Below is a section of the opening remarks from that 12/16 session. I’ve reformatted some of the transcript to enhance the clarity and impact of his accomplishments. Nothing was changed, added or deleted from his words.

Typically, I use this year end press conference to review how far we’ve come over the course of the year.  Today, understandably, I’m going to talk a little bit about how far we’ve come over the past eight years.

  • As I was preparing to take office, the unemployment rate was on its way to 10 percent.  Today, it’s at 4.6 percent — the lowest in nearly a decade.
  • We’ve seen the longest streak of job growth on record, and wages have grown faster over the past few years than at any time in the past 40.
  • When I came into office, 44 million people were uninsured. Today, we’ve covered more than 20 million of them.
  • For the first time in our history, more than 90 percent of Americans are insured.  In fact, yesterday was the biggest day ever for  More than 670,000 Americans signed up to get covered, and more are signing up by the day.
  • We’ve cut our dependence on foreign oil by more than half,
  • doubled production of renewable energy,
  • enacted the most sweeping reforms since FDR to protect consumers and prevent a crisis on Wall Street from punishing Main Street ever again.

None of these actions stifled growth, as critics predicted.  Instead, the stock market has nearly tripled.

Since I signed Obamacare into law, our businesses have added more than 15 million new jobs.  And the economy is undoubtedly more durable than it was in the days when we relied on oil from unstable nations and banks took risky bets with your money.

Add it all up, and last year, the poverty rate fell at the fastest rate in almost 50 years, while the median household income grew at the fastest rate on record.

In fact, income gains were actually larger for households at the bottom and the middle than for those at the top.

And we’ve done all this while cutting our deficits by nearly two-thirds and protecting vital investments that grow the middle class.

In foreign policy, when I came into office, we were in the midst of two wars.  Now, nearly 180,000 troops are down to 15,000.  Bin Laden, rather than being at large, has been taken off the battlefield, along with thousands of other terrorists.

Over the past eight years, no foreign terrorist organization has successfully executed an attack on our homeland that was directed from overseas.

Through diplomacy,

  • we’ve ensured that Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon — without going to war with Iran.
  • We opened up a new chapter with the people of Cuba.
  • And we brought nearly 200 nations together around a climate agreement that could very well save this planet for our kids.

And almost every country on Earth sees America as stronger and more respected today than they did eight years ago.

In other words, by so many measures, our country is stronger and more prosperous than it was when we started.  That’s a situation that I’m proud to leave for my successor.  And it’s thanks to the American people — to the hard work that you’ve put in, the sacrifices you’ve made for your families and your communities, the businesses that you started or invested in, the way you looked out for one another.  And I could not be prouder to be your President.

And we, Mr. President, are proud we elected you twice to lead us. Your quiet grace and dignity in the face of unprecedented and unrelenting opposition, your deep and wide-ranging intelligence, coupled with your unbridled enthusiasm for America and Americans, have guided us through eight difficult years.

Thank you. Thank you so very much.

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Vive la Resistance!

A dear cousin of mine, a bright, left-leaning and highly spiritual fellow, slightly chastised me for an anti-Trump posting on my Facebook page. My message was a compelling quote from an essay by Garrison Keillor, the writer and former host of NPR’s popular Prairie Home Companion:

He will never be my president because he doesn’t read books, can’t write more than a sentence or two at a time, has no strong loyalties beyond himself, is more insular than any New Yorker I ever knew, and because I don’t see anything admirable or honorable about him. This sets him apart from other politicians. The disaffected white blue-collar workers elected a Fifth Avenue tycoon to rescue them from the elitists — fine, I get that — but they could’ve chosen a better tycoon. One who served in the military or attends church or reads history, loves opera, sails a boat — something — anything — raises llamas, plays the oboe, runs a 5K race now and then, has close friends from childhood. I look at him and there’s nothing there.

My cousin replied (in part):

But he IS our president. I think we harm ourselves by continuing to wish him away. And as long as we continue to say “he’s not my president,” we’re no better than the people who spent the last 8 years pretending Obama wasn’t THEIR president.

And my response:

Intellectually we all know that he is (will be) our president. But as Keillor points out, this man is singularly apart from all other presidents, and, in fact, all other American leaders in any major position. What I, and so many others are doing, is to continually re-stoke the fires of anger — not to be blind obstructionists, but to forestall a sense of normalcy from creeping into the Zeitgeist of our nation.

Trump is not normal and reminding ourselves of that fact is, in my view, the patriotic thing to do.

The back and forth has stuck in my mind because I recognize that my cousin’s views are similar to those of many Democrats.  And that’s why in this blog post I want to amplify my sentiments.

We can’t sit back and return to business as normal because when we accept, when we “normalize” Trump, we…

  1. Accept that future presidential candidates no longer must release their tax returns. Business entanglements and potential conflicts of interest thus will remain hidden from public scrutiny,
  1. Accept the vilest, crudest forms of behavior from our candidates,
  1. Give away our demand that candidates adhere to facts, and that they never promulgate conspiracy theories, or other unproven statements,
  1. No longer insist that chief advisors and Cabinet appointments are recognized experts in their fields and not merely acquaintances or cheerleaders for the president. (Ben Carson at HUD?!)

Each of the above requests, bizarre in every other previous presidential campaign, are minimum standards!

That’s why, while we can hope that some of Trump’s plans do in fact help our country be “greater,” we do ourselves and our country’s future a disservice by passively accepting the results of the Electoral College victory.

Donald Trump will be OUR president, but because he is so strange in so many ways, I don’t have to accept him as MY president.

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