Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Friday, March 3, 2017
The latest big buzz is about Jeff Sessions, the attorney general. It turns out that he lied during his confirmation hearings, denying that he had met with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign.In fact, he met twice with the Russian ambassador, who is widely reported to also be a key spymaster.
Not incidentally, if this news hadn’t come to light, forcing Sessions to recuse himself, he would have supervised the investigation into Russian election meddling, possibly in collusion with the Trump campaign.
But let’s not focus too much on Sessions. After all, he is joined in the Cabinet by Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, who lied to Congress about his use of a private email account; Tom Price, the secretary of health and human services, who lied about a sweetheart deal to purchase stock in a biotechnology company at a discount; and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, who falsely told Congress that his financial firm didn’t engage in “robo-signing” of foreclosure documents, seizing homes without proper consideration.
And they would have served with Michael Flynn as national security adviser but for the fact that Flynn was forced out after the press discovered that, like Sessions, he had lied about contacts with the Russian ambassador.
At this point it’s easier to list the Trump officials who haven’t been caught lying under oath than those who have. This is not an accident.
Critics of our political culture used to complain, with justification, about politicians’ addiction to spin — their inveterate habit of playing down awkward facts and presenting their actions in a much better light than they deserved.But all indications are that the age of spin is over. It has been replaced by an era of raw, shameless dishonesty.
In part, of course, the pervasiveness of lies reflects the character of the man at the top: No president, or for that matter major US political figure of any kind, has ever lied as freely and frequently as Donald Trump. But this isn’t just a Trump story. His ability to get away with it, at least so far, requires the support of many enablers: Almost all of his party’s elected officials, a large bloc of voters and, all too often, much of the news media.
Read Professor K's piece in The Times for March 3, 2017.krugman#sthash.aylCubpK.dpuf
Friday, February 24, 2017
As sickened as Paul Krugman is by Trump's presidency, he may be even more disgusted by the so-called principled conservatives scuttling about Trump's party.
In a scalding piece Friday, the New York Times columnist melted what he deems to be America's true "snowflakes": congressmen like Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who can't stand the heat of an angry town hall. "Many prominent Republicans haven't even gotten to the point of trying to respond to criticism," he writes. "They're just whining about how mean their constituents are being, and invoking conspiracy theories."
Despite what Republicans may tell themselves and the public, these protests are not a "paid, astroturf-type movement," as Sean Spicer calls them. Millions of Americans are distraught and enraged over the prospect of losing the health insurance and financial security that the ACA guarantees. "What could be worse than political action by the politically active?" Krugman asks caustically.
And yet the true object of his scorn is neither the indifferent chairman of the United States House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform nor the White House's mendacious press secretary. It's House Majority Leader Paul Ryan, who has had years to produce his own alternative to Obamacare and come up with nothing. All he offers now are flat tax credits, which incidentally will provide a huge windfall to America's wealthiest. Cracks Krugman: "Funny how that seems to happen in every plan Mr. Ryan proposes."
For ideologues like Ryan, freedom is wealth — or at least the exclusive provenance of the wealthy. Here's what the Wisconsin congressman had to say about government healthcare earlier this week:
"They hate Obamacare for two reasons," argues Krugman. "It demonstrates that the government can make people's lives better, and it's paid for in large part with taxes on the wealthy. [Republicans'] overriding goal is to make those taxes go away. And if getting those taxes cut means that quite a few people end up dying, remember: freedom!"
Tuesday, February 7, 2017
Monday, February 6, 2017
A very important article from Steven Rosenfeld appeared in AlterNet. It is titled Five Ways GOP Repeal of Obamacare is Taking From The Poor and Giving to the Rich. A must read piece.
Here are five takeaways showing why the known parts of the GOP’s repeal and (most likely not) replace plan amount to Robinhood in reverse: taking from the poor, working- and middle-class and giving to corporate Americans and Wall Street.
1. Millions will lose coverage. As Obama said, millions of people will be hurt by losing coverage if Republicans eliminate subsidies for households buying policies through the state-based exchanges or federal government. People will go back to not having health coverage because they cannot afford it, especially if they over age 50—which is when insurers really start raising premiums. But vast numbers of people will also lose it when Republicans roll back Medicaid expansion by turning that program into block grants for states, which leaves governors and legislature in the position of having to raise taxes to continue those programs.
2. The transfer of wealth begins. This upward redistribution comes as the GOP starts to repeal the tax penalties associated with the Affordable Care Act. While they will surely argue that removing individual penalties helps the little guy, they will also be letting large employers off the hook for providing coverage for employees, a bottom-line bonanza. It is unclear what the GOP will do with law’s income tax surcharge on the highest earners, as the GOP may seek to retain some revenue for what they will likely advertise as new tax credits to help lower-income people pay for private insurance. The problem, as is always the case with tax credits, is one has to first have enough income to use them.
3. Wall Street gets to cash in. House Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republicans have long-espoused expanding the use of health savings accounts, as a way to build up the sufficient funds needed when sickness or a medical emergency strikes. That is a very big way that financial institutions will get to make big money by skimming off of the top of these accounts under the guise of management fees. This entire approach is based on a false premise that’s akin to the was 401k savings plans were sold by right-wingers as a replacement for employee pensions—they put money aside, but it is a pale shade of what’s needed to cope with real-life living expenses. Nonetheless, Wall St. profits.
4. Cost shifts will hit consumers. Health care economics are not hard to understand. When profit-driven institutions like hospitals, drug makers and insurers lose money from unanticipated costs—such as people flocking to emergency rooms or facing big surgery after being denied access to preventative care—they stick to their profit goals by raising prices wherever they can. That dynamic is what is behind the recent rise in health care premiums, according to a series of recent astute analyses. Paul Krugman has written that what’s behind recent premium increases in states where insurers aren’t regulated, like California, is a temporary consequence of those without insurance catching up on neglected health issues. Obama, speaking Friday, said that insurers also intentionally offered low-cost initial plans to grab as big a market share as possible. There is no evidence that insurers, hospitals and drug companies will cease price-gouging. Thus, taking federal billions out of the system means either less care or higher costs for all.
5. The race to the bottom begins. Republicans have said they will push for allowing people to buy insurance across state lines. That is not the same as allowing states that regulate insurance companies from forming regional compacts to create bigger pools to support more insurance-buying choices. As Dean Baker, co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington told AlterNet, that “means that every insurer gets incorporated in the least regulated state and the other states can't do anything to prevent them from ripping off their customers (e.g. get incorporated in Alabama and collect premiums and don't pay claims in California).” And that’s not all. “Also they will look to end pooling whereby the more healthy subsidize the less healthy, former tend to be richer, latter poorer,” he said.
The Only Replacement Alternative
The Republicans have no intention of replacing Obamacare with anything that will continue or maintain the same level of coverage that is now under the Affordable Care Act. If they did, it would have been presented by congressional sponsors in the 60 or so pieces of legislation that they passed to kill Obamacare—that the president vetoed. Not one Republican has ever seriously proposed anything close to imposing price controls, which Republican President Richard Nixon entertained amid a struggling economy in the early 1970s.
But there is an alternative to the system of private health insurance that is the status quo and Obama discussed that on Friday, when explaining the history of the Affordable Care Act—which he said was based on a place created by a Republican Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney, and intentionally designed to attract Republican support.
Saturday, February 4, 2017
How long witll we be obliged to endure this farse? Lord, be merciful to the citizens of the United States. In an article, Trust Records Show Trump Is Still Closely Tied to His Empire, from The New York Times for Saturday, February 4, 2017 we learn these astonishing facts:
But lawyers who specialize in federal contracts say the trust arrangement simply creates an additional legal step between Mr. Trump and the hotel — meaning he will still profit from it.
Robert H. Sitkoff, a professor at Harvard Law School, said the new details in the trust documents were unlikely to resolve the apparent legal problems with the Old Post Office site.
“Formally he is no longer the owner, but functionally he still is,” he said.
Representative Elijah E. Cummings, Democrat of Maryland, the ranking member on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform . . . said . . . “This is smoke and mirrors,”
While Mr. Trump may have to take additional legal steps to avoid violating the terms of the Old Post Office lease, he is exempt from laws that prohibit federal employees from participating in government matters that will directly affect their own financial interests.
The man knows not even the basics of circumventing the law. So much for "The Art Of The Deal" don't you think?
The man is not just a crook; he's a really, really dumb crook.