Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Rebellion in the States. Is Single-Payer Healthcare Coming to California?


The rebellion against Trump-led capitalism is just getting started. Could the Obama presidency have brought out this many people to oppose the bipartisan predatory consensus? (source; click to enlarge)

by Gaius Publius

One of the few blessings of the dawn of the Age of Trump (not being sarcastic; "Age of Trump" will turn out to be a turning point in U.S. political history) — one of those few blessings will prove to be the rebellion of the states (or the "Rebellion of the States" if things really get going). Again, not being sarcastic.

In addition to the "rolling civil war" among the people the Trump-led Republicans will enflame and enable, we should see a breakaway from the national government and its toxic rule (literally) by those states with the guts or muscle to do it.

(Side note: As I write this, three hundred marchers just walked past my window, some carrying union signs — the Musicians' Union was represented — chanting "Power to the people. Down with Trump" in a #NotMyPresidentsDay march. "Down with Trump" has a Nixonian directness to it, and we're just a month in. The GOP plan to destroy the last remnant of the social contract in the U.S. will be relentlessly pursued, in my opinion, with predictable and disastrous consequences for everyone. Batten down.)

The rebellion will be joined on many fronts — some, like the courts, more orderly than others, like whatever will happen after Beauregard Sessions-issued testosterone shots are administered to police at the next BLM rally. One of those fronts will be the reaction of state governments, which are even now starting to break away from national, federal policy.

Enter California and SB 562.

Defying the Bipartisan Predatory Consensus

If the federal government is now going to even stop pretending to protect us from the bipartisan predatory regime — for example, how else would you describe the health care system in the U.S.? — the states, some of them anyway, will increasingly step in. California has stepped in with the introduction of SB 562, a bill that aims to enact state-wide single-payer health care. Where Vermont failed (I think for lack of size of population), California may well succeed.

Some of the particulars, from a useful California civic website called Call Your Government:
SB 562 – Single payer healthcare for California
The Basics
  • California state Senators Ricardo Lara and Toni Atkins have introduced a bill, SB 562, which aims to establish a single-payer healthcare system covering all California residents.
  • Full text of the bill is here. It’s sponsored by the California Nurses Association, and the bill as written is not yet complete. Lara and Atkins intend to make changes in the coming months, and I imagine input from constituents and other legislators will be a big part of that.
Who to call
  • Your state legislators. Normally, I would specify your senators specifically, as that’s the house to which this bill has been introduced, but this is such a far-reaching effort, it seems appropriate to call your assemblymembers as well and offer your thoughts. The bill should head next to the Senate’s health and appropriations committees.
News coverage

It’s rare that I get an email press release that feels like actual news. Usually, it’s legislators and lobbyists trying to draw my attention to a photo op or their opinion on something newsworthy, but it’s seldom that the content of the release is in and of itself newsworthy. When I opened this one, I can’t say I was entirely surprised, but it is a doozy: Senators Ricardo Lara and Toni Atkins have introduced legislation to create a single-payer healthcare system in California. [...]
My suspicion is that the presence of Trump in the White House and Paul Ryan's wolves at the door of everyone without the money to finance a political campaign will make this bill quite attractive — even against the inevitable onslaught of "don't you dare" advertising by the drug and insurance industries.

As the writer notes, the country is indeed "bracing itself" — in my view for a great many unpleasant things. Could the Ryan-Trump Plan, whatever it turns out to be, turn out to be the spur that turns the ACA into single-payer, state by state? The writer continues (my emphasis below):
It’s not just the political muscle that progressives are flexing but also the timing that makes this bill newsworthy. With Republicans in control of Congress and the White House, the country is bracing itself for the gutting or likely repeal of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. State legislators in California have promised to shield the state from such a rollback, as its effect would be most significant in the union’s most populous state where lawmakers have leaned into the ACA, engaging in policies like the optional Medicaid expansion and creating a robust healthcare market known as Covered California.

Last year, MediCal, the state’s Medicaid program, celebrated its 50th anniversary, and I attended a panel on it in Sacramento. The general feeling among most of the folks I interviewed was that California is a leader in areas like healthcare. California isn’t the first state to try this, but most efforts have failed due to a lack of public support. Vermont was the only state that ever got to implementation of such a program but discontinued it in 2014.

It will be interesting to see how this one plays out. In the past, the political cost of such a system has been too steep for American politicians to pursue (consider the political capital President Obama spent to pass the modest reforms of the ACA), but Californian progressives seem ready for a fight. The state voted overwhelmingly against Trump and has largely been seen as a bastion of resistance to his policies, having hired former Attorney General Eric Holder in anticipation of legal fights with the administration.
The writer notes, correctly in my view, that a Ryan-Trump assault on the health care system, coupled with the Trumpian assault on every other thread in this loosely stitched-together society, will stiffen many spines among progressives. Note the reference to Obama in the final paragraph above.

Note also the reference to Holder in the final paragraph above. Let's hope Mr. Holder doesn't make this act of resistance less bold than it's otherwise likely to be. After all, if something like this isn't successfully done, people are going to die. This is not academic.

Facing the Fire With a Gale-Force Wind at Our Back

Stay tuned. These are indeed world-historical times, and things are just starting to heat up. We have four years of this ahead of us. We may be looking into a raging fire, but a gale-force popular wind is building behind us. Exactly where you want a fire-facing wind to be.


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A 2018 Battle For A Changing Chicagoland District-- Guest Post By Geoff Petzel


This week, Blue America endorsed Geoff Petzel to represent Illinois' 6th congressional district in Congress, a seat currently held by conservative Republican Peter Roskam. The Chicagoland suburban district, which was Romney territory in 2012, voted for Clinton over Trump, 50.2% to 43.2%. The DCCC has given Roskam a free ride year after year but has finally vowed to prioritize IL-06 for the 2018 cycle. Blue America would like to make sure the Democratic candidate is a progressive, not another right-of-center corporate shill. Geoff fits the bill and we asked him to write a guest post on the issue he has been most associated with: environmental protection. After reading it, please consider contributing to his campaign by tapping on the ActBlue thermometer at the bottom of the page (or by clicking here.)

Clean Water And Air As Essential American Campaign Issues
-by Geoffrey Petzel

The appointment of Scott Pruitt to be the EPA Administrator is a troubling sign of things ahead. Clean air, clean water, endangered species, public lands and climate change solutions are all at risk under the Trump Administration and Republican Congress.

As someone who has been deeply entrenched in environmental policy for the last 20 years as an advocate, activist and professional, the implications of the Trump Administration appointments and statements on the environment are beyond disconcerning. I am the founder of an organization called Public Guardian. We have no website, no advertising and don’t care about media coverage. What we care about is fighting private interests and the government when they fail to protect the public trust. We believe that clean air, clean water and public lands belong equally to all Americans and that government decision makers are responsible to us-- the people-- in protecting those resources. So when the government or private industry tries to take away those public trust resources, we must fight back. In the courts and in our communities.

I started Pubic Guardian after I ran an unsuccessful campaign for Congress in 2012. I ran because I wanted to have a positive impact on society. I wanted to have a voice. I also said I would never run for office again.

It’s amazing how quickly things change. As I begin the campaign to replace my incumbent Congressman in 2018 it makes me wonder how we have gotten to this point-- putting an anti-science climate change denier in charge of the EPA. It makes me wonder how the American people can ignore the needs of clean air, clean water and protecting our public lands.

Take my Congressman, Peter Roskam, as an example. He has voted dozens of times to gut the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, to de-fund Endangered Species protections and exploit oil, gas and mineral resources on public lands. He has one of the worst environmental voting records in Congress. How is this possible? Don’t voters in our District care about the environment? What about Republicans nationally? How can they support Scott Pruitt to be the EPA Administrator?

When I try to make sense of that question, I think back to my race in 2012 where I had a confrontation with a Tea Party member who lived in my neighborhood. He told me he thought my priorities were wrong and that government regulations were killing American jobs and that the EPA should be eliminated. He was my neighbor and I didn’t want to get into a yelling match, but I couldn’t let that one go without a response. I reminded him that he got his drinking water from a well and without the EPA I would be free to dump toxic chemicals in my backyard. His well would be poisoned. I asked him if he would be better off in that situation. I then pointed to his mini-van and asked how he would feel if the gas tank exploded while he was driving his children to school. He was silent. I reminded him that the federal government put in safety standards to make sure his car was safe. And I reminded him that the EPA and clean water laws have ensured that our rivers aren’t so full of chemical waste that they start on fire like the Cuyahoga River did in 1969 (spurring the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972). He ultimately agreed me and tried to duck and cover from any further discussion. He later put my campaign sign in his yard.

I think we have lost sight of what’s important. The mainstream media and politicians don’t talk about Clean Water and Clean Air or the regulation of toxic chemicals. We take for granted the immense progress we have made in environmental protection since the 1960’s. That’s how my Congressman has been allowed to stay in office with an abysmal record that violates the essence of what almost every American values-- environmental protection. We need to remind each other that if we are not careful, history will repeat itself. I’m sure if we eliminate enforceable laws and eliminate consumer protections large companies will be happy to dump their waste in the air, land and waters of this nation. Our health and the health of future generations will be at stake if we allow private corporations to set the priorities. General Electric poisoned the Hudson River, DuPont has destroyed the rivers and streams of West Virginia with the production of Teflon and today Monsanto poisons our land and waters with dangerous pesticides.

In my Congressional District we are facing significant water challenges. The Fox River runs through the western edge of the District. The Fox River originates in Wisconsin and flows south before it enters Illinois. In the summer, in its southern reaches, 1/3 of the flow of the river is treated wastewater from the dozens of sewage treatment plants that discharge the treated water into the river. Over 350,000 people also get their drinking water from the same river. The enforcement of clean water standards is critical to ensure the preservation of the river environment, but also critical to the 350,000 people, manufacturers and businesses that depend on clean water. Imagine the implications if the Clean Water Act were repealed or if EPA stopped enforcing laws. Imagine if Wisconsin decided to increase pollution to spur economic development? These types of issues are why a strong and active EPA is critical to the people in my district.

Already the Trump Administration has overturned a provision of the Clean Water Act that will allow mining companies to dump mining waste into streams and valleys. Rumors are that the Administration has also ordered the EPA to stop enforcement actions. While the US EPA is responsible for over-seeing the Clean Water Act, the enforcement and implementation of the Clean Water Act is traditionally designated to the states. This delegation to the states will provide some protection from the full scale destruction of our nation’s waters in the short term as states have their own set of water quality standards on the books to mirror the Clean Water Act, but the long term implications can be devastating.

I believe in increased funding and stronger enforcement of our existing Clean Air and Clean Water laws. In Illinois for example, last month over 300 companies or government owned wastewater treatment plants violated clean water laws. The State of Illinois lacks funding to increase enforcement. If EPA won’t step in and enforce the laws we will see an increase in fish kills, contaminated drinking water and health problems.

I also believe in science and am very fearful of the climate change impacts that will happen because of a Trump Administration. The Paris Agreement on Climate Change will allow the United States to be a leader in global greenhouse gas reductions. Our policy is aligned with science and it must stay that way for the sake of our future. This is the most important policy fight we should have as a country because it’s more than just domestic policy at stake. A failure to follow the Paris Accord will unravel the global commitment 197 countries have made to fighting climate change.

I decided to run for Congress again because unlike during the 2012 Campaign when no one seemed to be paying attention, the country has awaken to what is at stake in our elections. And now is the time for bold candidates to make bold decisions based on values and not polls.

Through my not-for-profit I am fighting a copper mining project in Arizona that will destroy thousands of acres of National Forest land and sacred Apache cultural sites. The land for the proposed copper mine was transferred to the mining company in a land transfer agreement approval by Congress- kind of. John McCain attached a rider to the defense authorization bill at the last minute that included the land transfer. Congress approved the defense authorization bill with the rider. I’m sure some members knew the rider was attached but didn’t want to explain to their constituents why they voted against a defense spending bill. This is the wrong approach. If I had the opportunity I would have voted against the bill. I would be happy to go back to my congressional district and explain why I voted to protect public lands in Arizona.

My district is well educated and moderate on most issues. They value environmental protection. No one has been paying attention, but now that people are engaged, politicians like my opponent will have a lot of explaining to do. People in my district need a Representative in Congress who shares their values and will stand up for them. And sometimes they need to be reminded of what you, and they really do value.

Goal Thermometer

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Monday, February 20, 2017

We Have An Expensive President!


Did Trump's campaign pay for his election rally in Melbourne, FL Saturday?

-by Tracy B Ann

I was reading last night that it cost $98 million to guard President Obama during his 8 years as President. This weekend they we, are guarding Trump in Florida, his wife and youngest son in Manhattan and I think his older sons are in Dubai with tax payer security. Plus there are staffers at the White House in DC who get security, as does the White House itself.

According to a report from David Choi at Business Insider:
Three trips to Mar-a-Lago since Trump's inauguration may have cost about $10 million, based on a government report from October that analyzed White House travel, according to The Post. The expenses include the cost of US Coast Guard patrol boats on the shoreline.

Palm Beach County officials say they will request reimbursement of tens of thousands of dollars per day from the White House for their deputies who provided security and logistical support around the city.

Police officials estimate that it would cost New York $500,000 a day, or $183 million a year, to guard Trump Tower, where first lady Melania Trump and son Barron Trump live.

Secret Service and US embassy employees paid about $100,000 in hotel room bills during Eric Trump's trip to Uruguay, where he promoted a Trump-branded building.

If the Pentagon secures rental space in Trump Tower-- needed for when the president returns to New York-- it could cost $1.5 million per year, according to the building's website.

Secret Service paid $12,000 for tents, portable toilets, light towers, and golf carts during Trump's Super Bowl weekend trip to Mar-a-Lago.
From his 3 marriages, Trump has 5 kids, ages; 38, 34, 32, 22 and 10. They all get security. Do we pay to guard his grandkids too? It could end up costing a billion to protect Trump and his family.

The parents and siblings of the President are entitled to Secret Service protection but can decline it. Jimmy Carter's mother Lillian and his brother Billy declined it, so did Roger Clinton. Nixon paid for his own private guards though he was entitled to Secret Service. Barbara Bush declined protection when she left the White House.

"Four days before leaving office, President Bush signed a directive authorizing the Secret Service to provide a period of extended protection for his daughters Jenna and Barbara." They were 28 years old at the time.

The Secret Service also investigates fraud, counterfeiting, cyber investigations and other financial crimes. Beats me, why they do that. The history of the Secret Service is here.

The Secret Service, according to their website, protects:
The President of the United States
The Vice President of the United States
The President’s and Vice President’s immediate families
Former Presidents, their spouses and their minor children under the age of 16
Foreign heads of state and their spouses visiting the United States
Major presidential and vice presidential candidates and their spouses
Events designated as National Special Security Events by the Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
I don’t begrudge protecting the office of the President. We actually don’t pay them much, and I think (I’m not certain) that unlike Congress, they have to pay for their health care when they leave office, though they keep their plan.

They also give up their lives and normalcy (most of them) for the time that they serve the country in the office of the President. Their families do as well. So, I want them protected. I want them to have the best protection available.

But I want them to be respectful of their position, and not take advantage of taxpayers. Perhaps they could keep travel to a minimum? Use places like Camp David for meetings, which are easier to secure and cheaper to travel to. And perhaps they could not go to four places at once? Or maybe the Russians could kick in and pay for part of Trumps security.

All of this expense is why elections matter, in case anyone thought they didn’t. A lot of Trump voters may be dismayed to learn that the jobs he is creating right now are 1,000 new Secret Security jobs. To cover his family while they gad about on business adventures. Including Trump at #Mosk-Ow-Lago.

This is why the framers of our Constitution wrote in elections for Congress every 2 years. To give voters a voice. Well, start practicing your scales and warming up your voices so that they can be heard in the 2018 elections.

You don’t even have to wait that long. Several states have elections this year, 2017, for state and local offices. This is where we can make a great start in having our voices heard. Check 90for90 for candidates coming to an area near you.

Don’t forget that we are the UNITED States of America, so what happens in Virginia, New Jersey, Mississippi, and Louisiana matter in Michigan, Tennessee, Oregon and every other state. Let’s make our voices heard, not with a whisper, but with a scream.

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Transcripts-- Are They Academic?


-by Michael Wolkowitz

No not Flynn’s conversations with the Russians. Not Manafort’s with the Russian clients in Ukraine. Or anything else from this century.

Remember, earlier this century, when the current President (hereinafter referred to as “T”) took a side-trip from his crusade to prove that the prior President (hereinafter referred to as “0”) was not an American citizen? The one where T pointed out that O first went to Occidental before going to Columbia, and then on to Harvard Law? The trip that implied, in case after case after case, it proved the perverse privilege that is known as affirmative action? You know, the kind black people get?  If T had been able to learn and pronounce Punahou he would have added High School in Hawaii. Remember how T dared O to release his transcripts from Columbia because they would be a bombshell? OK, maybe you did, certainly you do now.

Let’s flash back to those days in the ‘60s when our T was going to college. He was a mere handful of years ahead of me and I remember. We can skip the part when some would ask: if he went to New York Military Academy and graduated, bone spurs and all, why wasn’t he a ROTC guy in college? Let’s go straight to Freshman and Sophomore Years. At Fordham. Yep, just like O, the current President did not start at an Ivy League school. While a fine university, Fordham was no Occidental. T did not start at the undergraduate program of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School until he was a junior. That Ivy League education of his was only two years long. By the way, the Fordham University of today, unlike Occidental, does not like to be known as a school that was attended by a President of the United States; darn Jesuits!

Back then, the undergraduate school at Wharton was no Columbia. No Columbia? I distinctly remember kids in those days needing more than anything to go to an Ivy, any Ivy. When 100% of the envelopes were rejections, they raced to the guidance counselor’s office (at my privileged public school in a privileged NY suburb). Here was the advice they got and mostly it worked:  there are two other places we can still try to get you into (yes it was April but I told you we were privileged). The School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell-- no it’s not the College of Arts and Sciences but the diploma says “Cornell” or the Wharton School of Economics, no, it’s not the College of Arts and Sciences but the diploma says “University of Pennsylvania.”

Fordham and Wharton. Not Occidental and Columbia let alone Harvard Law and its Review. All the more reason for the biggest genius in the world to:

SHOW US THE TRANSCRIPTS. Will it change anything, no. But it could be fun! And by mistake maybe they will send the tax returns . . .

UPDATE from Howie

Trump planted stories-- I mean #Alt-Facts-- as early as 1973 that he graduated first in his class. Records show that he wasn't even on the honor roll nor the recipient of any graduating honors. He couldn't have graduated "first in his class" when 15 of his classmates graduated cum laude from Wharton (1968), 4 magna cum laude and 2 summa cum laude, unlike Trump who... graduated... from something. What he graduated from was always in question. After left-- possibly flunked out of-- Fordham, his father bribed Wharton into taking his unqualified son into a "special" real estate program that apparently didn't even exist except for him. He made no impression on anyone for anything and has carefully hidden his academic records and prohibited Wharton from allowing anyone to see them after he was repeatedly caught lying about being a top student.

UPDATE II: The Organization Man

A note from a long-time DWT reader included the page from William H. Whyte's 1956 classic, The Organization Man. Whyte quoted a very interesting passage from the Daily Pennsylvanian about the less than salutary effects of Wharton on intellectual life at Penn.

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Fighting Back Against The Trumpist Know Nothing Agenda-- Immigration Made America Great, Not Trump


Continuing to make America great

The dark strain of American Know Nothing hatred towards immigrants is hardly new. German, Irish, Chinese, Jewish, Italian, Polish, Japanese families... have all felt its ugly sting-- and their progeny have then gone on to inflict it on those who came after them. So horrible! Saturday there was a report by Sam Levine in HuffPo about the campaign of one of the GOP sociopaths running for Tom Price's abandoned seat in the Atlanta suburbs, Karen Handel. Handel, best known as an unhinged anti-Choice fanatic sent out a fundraising e-mail promising "to build a wall on the border and end Muslim immigration." David Perdue, another Georgia racist and vicious modern day Know Nothing--joined by Arkansas' bigoted kook Tom Cotton-- have let the GOP anti-immigrant mask slip by authoring a bill to drastically cut back on legal immigration. Perdue, Cotton, Handel have long ugly records as racists and hate mongers and there are plenty of "conservatives" who buy their vitriol.

Did you notice the chart up top? I hope so. And a report last week from ABC News reinforced it by explaining the disaster the U.S. economy would become without immigrants.
"If all immigrants were just to disappear from the U.S. workforce tomorrow, that would have a tremendous negative impact on the economy," said Daniel Costa, the director of immigration law and policy research at the Economic Policy Institute, an economic research think tank based in Washington, D.C.

"Immigrants are overrepresented in a lot of occupations in both low- and high-skilled jobs," he explained. "You'd feel an impact and loss in many, many different occupations and industries, from construction and landscape to finance and IT."

Though some U.S.-born workers could fill some of those jobs, large gaps in several sectors would remain and cause a decline in the economy, Costa said.

Immigrants earned $1.3 trillion and contributed $105 billion in state and local taxes and nearly $224 billion in federal taxes in 2014, according to the Partnership for a New American Economy, based on an analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau's latest American Community Survey. The partnership is a group of 500 Republican, Democratic and independent mayors and business leaders who support immigration reforms that create jobs for Americans, according to its site.

In 2014 immigrants had almost $927 billion in consumer spending power, an analysis of the survey showed.

"Immigrants are a very vital part of what makes the U.S. economy work," said Jeremy Robbins, the executive director of the Partnership for a New American Economy. "They help drive every single sector and industry in this economy."

He added that without immigrants, there would be fewer businesses and inventions.

"If you look at the great companies driving the U.S. as an innovation hub, you'll see that a lot of companies were started by immigrants or the child of immigrants, like Apple and Google," he said. Apple was co-founded by Steve Jobs, whose biological father was a Syrian refugee, and Google (now Alphabet) was co-founded by Sergey Brin, who was born in Moscow.

Though immigrants make up about 13 percent of the U.S. population, they contribute nearly 15 percent of the country's economic output, according to a 2014 report from the Economic Policy Institute. The report contains the institute's latest data on immigration and the U.S. economy.

"Immigrants have an outsized role in U.S. economic output because they are disproportionately likely to be working and are concentrated among prime working ages," the EPI report says. "Moreover, many immigrants are business owners. In fact, the share of immigrant workers who own small businesses is slightly higher than the comparable share among U.S.-born workers."

David Kallick, the director of the Immigration Research Initiative at the Fiscal Policy Institute, said Americans should not be fearful that immigrants are stealing jobs from them.

"It may seem surprising, but study after study has shown that immigration actually improves wages to U.S.-born workers and provides more job opportunities for U.S.-born workers," he told ABC News. "The fact is that immigrants often push U.S.-born workers up in the labor market rather than out of it.

"Kallick added that studies he has done found that "where there's economic growth, there's immigration, and where there's not much economic growth, there's not much immigration."

According to Meg Wiehe, the director of programs for the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, "Undocumented immigrants contributed more than $11.6 billion in state and local taxes each year. And if the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants here were given a pathway to citizenship or legal residential status, those tax contributions could rise by nearly $2 billion."

Despite their status, unauthorized immigrants still contribute "so much in taxes" because they, just like U.S. citizens, have to pay property taxes for their homes or apartments they own or rent, and they also often pay sales taxes for purchases they make, Wiehe explained.

"Researchers have also found that the vast majority of unauthorized immigrants also pay income tax using something called an I-10 income tax return form," she said.

Wiehe added that it is "critical to remember that we are talking about real people here-- mothers, fathers and families who are contributing to our society through their work and the taxes they're paying."
This ugly strain in the American psyche pre-dated Trumpism, of course, but Trump certainly incorporates it as part of his morbid appeal to the worst among us, part of what the NY Times editorial board referred to over the weekend as his regime's "malevolent incompetence." Trump is having a very negative impact on the mental health of Americans. People, wrote the Times editors "lie awake, thinking about losing their families, jobs and homes. They have been vilified by the president as criminals, though they are not. They have tried to build honest lives here and suddenly are as fearful as fugitives. They await the fists pounding on the door, the agents in black, the cuffs, the van ride, the cell. They are terrified that the United States government will find them, or their parents or their children, demand their papers, and take them away."
About 11 million people are living in this country outside the law. Suddenly, by presidential decree, all are deportation priorities, all are supposed criminals, all are threatened with broken lives, along with members of their families. The end could come for them any time.

This is not an abstract or fanciful depiction. It is not fake news. It’s the United States of today, this month, this morning.

In El Paso, a woman is picked up at a courthouse where she had been seeking an order of protection; immigration agents were apparently tipped off by the man she said abused her. Near Seattle, a 23-year-old man who was protected from deportation and allowed to work lawfully under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is picked up anyway, accused of being a gang member. He furiously denies this, and his lawyer presents paperwork suggesting that agents altered his words to falsely implicate him.

Another DACA recipient, Daniela Vargas of Jackson, Miss., barricades herself in her home after agents detain her father and brother. A mother of four, Jeanette Vizguerra, seeks refuge, alone, in a Denver church basement. A group of Latino men leaving a church-run homeless shelter in Alexandria, Va., are surrounded by a dozen immigration agents who question them, scan their fingerprints and arrest at least two of them.

President Trump’s defenders say the arrest numbers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement are comparable to those under President Barack Obama, an energetic deporter-in-chief. That may be true, for the moment, but the context is vastly different. Mr. Trump’s campaign pledges, his flurry of immigration-related executive orders, including his ban on certain travelers from Muslim countries, have a common thread. They reflect his abandonment of discretion, of common sense, his rejection of sound law-enforcement priorities that stress public safety and respect for the Constitution.

They prioritize fear instead.

ICE and the Border Patrol under Mr. Obama were ordered to focus on arresting serious criminals and national-security risks. Mr. Trump has removed those restraints in the name of bolstering his “deportation force.” He wants to triple the number of ICE agents. He wants to revive federal agreements to deputize state and local police officers as immigration officers. He wants to increase the number of detention beds and spur the boom in private prisons.

This vision is the one Donald Trump began outlining at the start of his campaign, when he slandered an entire country, Mexico, as an exporter of rapists and drug criminals, and an entire faith, Islam, as a global nest of murderers. This is the currency of the Trump aides Stephen Bannon and Stephen Miller, who have brought the world of the alt-right, with its white nationalist strain, into the White House.

Where could the demonizing and dehumanizing of the foreign born lead but to a whiter America? You have heard the lies from Mr. Trump: that immigrants pose a threat, when they are a boon. That murders are up, when they are down. That refugees flow unimpeded into the country, when they are the most meticulously vetted people to cross our borders. That immigrants and refugees are terrorists, when they are the ones being terrorized.

For those who would resist the administration, there is much to do, and not a lot of time. Congress is not a check. Democrats there are outnumbered, speaking out but waging symbolic resistance for now. Republicans are mostly split between avoiding the subject and cheering on Mr. Trump.

States and cities are freer to act. Many recognize the dangerously anti-American mood and are striving to protect their immigrant populations. They are refusing to allow their police officers to join deportation dragnets, and are readying legal representation and other aid for immigrants. The Trump administration falsely calls these places “sanctuary city” lawbreakers and threatens to withhold federal funding as punishment. It’s not yet clear what actions the administration can take, or who will win the legal battles that are bound to ensue.

And anti-sanctuary, anti-immigrant, anti-refugee sentiment is hardly confined to the federal executive branch. Governors and legislatures in red states will be blocking money to blue, pro-immigrant cities, rolling back in-state tuition and other immigrant-friendly policies, and jumping onto Mr. Trump’s all-out-enforcement bandwagon. This battle has many fronts.

The other best lever available, besides the courts and the Constitution, is people power. Protesting and public actions will embolden others to join in, and hearten the vulnerable. If senators and representatives can’t show courage, then churches, universities, schools, philanthropies, health systems, corporations, farmers and artists can.

The days of protests at airports over the Muslim ban were a magnificent surprise, a spontaneous uprising of Americans who said: This is not who we are. Think of the power in that. Think of the message sent if the “day without immigrants,” in which foreign-born workers stayed home, became a week or a month.

And remember, a typical Trump voter is far, far more likely to overdose on oxycodone, hydromorphone, codeine, fentanyl or heroin than a typical immigrant to this country. Immigrants come here to make better lives for themselves. Typical Trump voters are here to play the victim and blames everyone else for their failures as human beings and for the inability to function successfully in society.

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Massachusetts ConservaDem Stephen Lynch Draws A Primary Opponent


Safely behind it's paywall last week, Roll Call ran a post by Colin Diersing about Tulsi Gabbard's cloudy political future. DWT readers are already aware that the conservative Fox Democrat masquerading as a progressive can't be trusted, despite having noisily endorsed Bernie-- in a state where he won the 2016 caucuses 70-30% against Clinton. Digressing wrote that she's "gained prominence by her willingness to buck leadership, whether by challenging better-known candidates in her early races, criticizing President Obama’s approach to ISIS, or backing Bernie Sanders and resigning a national party post during the primaries." He forgot to mention that she also led the anti-LGBT campaign in Hawaii's state legislature.
[I]n recent weeks, strategists said speculation that Gabbard could join the Trump administration and a trip in which she met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have raised questions about her political future and aspirations. Hawaii Democrats said voters back home are paying attention.

“Out of all of the issues that have gotten her in the news so far, this is the most coverage she’s ever gotten on any single issue or incident,” said state Sen. Stanley Chang, who like Gabbard was elected to the Honolulu City Council in 2010.

Hawaii news sources echoed the tone of several Democrats who privately discussed the trip with National Journal: confusion and frustration. The Maui News editorial board wrote that it was “baffled” by Gabbard’s actions, and the Honolulu Civil Beat wrote that she had “crossed the line with a secret trip to Syria.” And on Sunday, a Honolulu Star-Advertiser columnist criticized Gabbard for comparing her trip with the late Rep. Patsy Mink’s meetings at the Paris Peace Talks during the Vietnam War. “Things like that can come back and haunt her next year,” said one Hawaii Democratic strategist who requested anonymity to speak candidly.

Chang, whose comments aligned with those of Democratic strategists in the state, said that the unusual circumstances surrounding the trip coincided with Trump’s election and the rise of a progressive activist corps in Hawaii to “create a lot of interest in the community” about the trip.

Even if the controversy over the trip dies down, observers said it raised an important question about Gabbard’s future: Can her go-it-alone approach to politics translate in an era when Democrats around the country seem increasingly united behind an anti-Trump movement?

Though she has remained popular at home while splitting with Obama and national Democrats over a variety of issues, some argued that the fervent anti-Trump energy within the Democratic Party could make it increasingly difficult for Gabbard to continue on her current course without backlash from a deep-blue Hawaii electorate.

“People have a lot less patience for Democrats who are not going to present a united front, particularly people who style themselves as progressive Democrats,” said Colin Moore, a professor of political science at the University of Hawaii and director of the school’s public policy center. “This resonates back home. The cost there is she won’t be considered a trustworthy ally for the national Democratic Party.”
OK now let's skip way across the country to Massachusetts, where another Democrat very much like Gabbard-- conservative Stephen Lynch (both have career-long grades of "F" from ProgressivePunch; Lynch's score is 78.69 and Gabbard's is 73.90)-- is being also being challenged from the left. This one is even more complex than the sordid Gabbard saga.

Do you know about Gamergate? (I'm not talking about the sexually active ant.) I didn't follow it at the time-- but it's become relevant to the 2018 congressional primary in blue collar MA-08. The district includes Boston's North End and West End, as well as Beacon Hill and the Financial District, goes down to South Boston, Milton, Quincy, Braintree, Weymouth and Brockton before swinging west to Walpole, Norwood and Dedham. Obama beat Romney there 58-41% and Hillary beat Trump 60.4-34.4%.

The challenge Lynch faces next year is from, Brianna Wu, who become something of an online celebrity because of the Gamergate controversy, which wikipedia defined as concerning "issues of sexism and progressivism in video game culture, stemming from a harassment campaign conducted primarily through the use of the Twitter hashtag #GamerGate... Beginning in August 2014, Gamergate targeted several women in the video game industry, including game developers Zoë Quinn and Brianna Wu, as well as feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian. After a former boyfriend of Quinn wrote a lengthy disparaging blog post about her, other people falsely accused her of entering a relationship with a journalist in exchange for positive coverage and threatened her with assault and murder. Those endorsing the blog post and spreading such accusations against Quinn organized themselves under the Twitter hashtag #Gamergate, as well as on Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channels and websites such as Reddit, 4chan, and 8chan. Harassment campaigns against Quinn and others were coordinated through these forums and included doxing, threats of rape, and death threats. Many of those organizing under the Gamergate hashtag argue that they are campaigning against political correctness and poor journalistic ethics in the video game industry, while numerous commentators have dismissed Gamergate's purported concerns with ethics and condemned its misogynistic behavior... Many supporters of Gamergate oppose what they view as the increasing influence of feminism on video game culture. As a result, Gamergate is often viewed as a right-wing backlash against progressivism."

And here's how Wu comes into the story-- again, according to wikipedia: "In mid-October Brianna Wu, another independent game developer and co-founder of video game studio Giant Spacekat, saw her home address and other identifying information posted on 8chan as retaliation for mocking Gamergate. Wu then became the target of rape and death threats on Twitter and elsewhere. After contacting police, Wu fled her home with her husband, saying she would not allow the threats to intimidate her into silence. Wu later announced an US$11,000 reward for any information leading to a conviction for those involved in her harassment, and set up a legal fund to help other game developers who have been harassed online. As of April 2016, Wu was still receiving threats in such volume that she employed full-time staff to document them... Wu has expressed her frustration over how law enforcement agencies have responded to the threats that she and other women in the game industry have received. On public release of the FBI's case files on Gamergate, Wu said she was "livid," and that "Only a fraction of information we gave the FBI was looked into. They failed on all levels."

It probably won't surprise you to know that Bill Maher's friend Milo Yiannopoulos, as well as Breitbart of course, jumped right into the controversy-- of course taking the side of the sexists in a typically Republican War Against Women stance. The Alt Right and the shockingly ignorant (and vicious) Gamergate crew has already gone wildly insane over Wu's candidacy. Dozens of crackpot Alt right videos savaging Wu have flooded YouTube since her annoucement in late January.

Her announcement statement interested me before I knew much about Gamergate, primarily because she is another among many progressives who backed Hillary and has since come to understand that Bernie was the right choice. Although there are definitely hard core Bernie supporters who are suspicious and unenthusiastic about people who came later to Bernie than they did, Bernie isn't one of them. He enthusiastically endorsed Hillary backer Nanette Barragan and it was the money he raised for her that paid for her to run a field operation that allowed her to beat a highly-favored, corrupt conservative, establishment Democrat and become a Member of Congress. "On election night," wrote Wu, "I was at Hillary Clinton headquarters, standing not 30 feet from where I expected her to accept the presidency. The next day, I expected to travel back to Boston and return to my work leading my game studio and creating jobs. But then, our worst fears came true and Donald Trump was elected president. If this were just another Republican president, someone like Mitt Romney or John McCain-- I’d take the loss in stride. But we all know the truth, Donald Trump represents a unique threat to the American system. Not only is he temperamentally unfit to be president, but there are unanswered questions about his ties to Russia and business conflicts of interest."

It's statements like that that have driven her Alt Right detractors into a frenzied rage.
I have respect for so many of our leaders in our great Democratic party. But, the contentious primary between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton revealed a deep divide that must be reconciled. There is a disconnect between those marginalized and our party leaders who vote too often as moderate Republicans. I personally supported Hillary Clinton in the primary, but today I see the vision of Bernie Sanders for America is one we must bring to pass.

I believe today’s Democratic party is ill-equipped to fight the Trump administration’s assault on women, on people of color, on the poor, and on the LGBT community. We do have true progressives, but too often they don’t have the support of the party establishment.

I’m announcing my candidacy today for the House of Representatives in Massachusetts district 8 to change that. It’s time for a bolder Democratic party.

I’ll be the first person to tell you, I’m not a politician. I am a software engineer and an entrepreneur. I launched my first startup with a quarter million dollars when I was only 19 years old. I believe my experience in the tech industry is a desperately needed perspective in government. In the startup world, we don’t form a committee to solve a problem. We don’t shake our heads and say that it can’t be done-- we roll up our sleeves and get to work. It’s a deeply American approach to problem solving.

My campaign for district 8 will have two primary objectives-- our national priorities and our local priorities. Let’s start by telling you what I’ll do for the local economy in Massachusetts.

We spend a substantial amount of money on education in Massachusetts, which I very strongly support. I am proud that we lead the nation in educating people for the tech industry and biotech industry. But the truth is, all too often our investment is taken from the taxpayers of Massachusetts and used in San Francisco and Austin. Every day, students with the solutions for climate change and renewable energy are forced to build those businesses in other states.

I want to make Boston the third great city in the United States to build tech and biotech jobs. I want you and your children to be able to proudly work in these high-paying fields. Our current leadership in district 8 doesn’t understand these industries, but I do.

My second mission objective is national. As a software engineer, I am uniquely qualified to help improve our nation’s cybersecurity. There’s no polite way to say this, but our tech policy in the United States leaves us woefully unprepared for a cyberattack.

The wars of tomorrow will not be fought with tanks and submarines, but with electronic warfare against our financial systems and infrastructure. Last year, the Mirai botnet attack showed that we are completely vulnerable-- and our congress did not act strongly. The special interests have a say in our tech policy, it’s time for technology experts to have their say as well.

My campaign is greater than these two issues. We have a bold vision for America that includes repairing our rigged economy, ensuring justice for our most vulnerable citizens and an omnibus privacy bill that I believe will have broad bipartisan support. I look forward to making my case to the people of district 8 one at a time.

Now, I have to say a word about my opponent, Stephen Lynch. This man has been on the wrong side of every fight for over a decade. He voted for the Iraq war, and never really answered for it. He voted against the Affordable Care Act. He’s crusaded against women’s reproductive health care for his entire career. He once introduced an amendment that would give people that committed hate crimes against the LGBT community a “get out of jail free card.” When I think about people that do not represent the Democratic party, I think of Stephen Lynch.

It’s time for Stephen Lynch to answer to the people of district 8 for his incredibly poor record on progressive issues. He’s never had a real primary fight for district 8, but I’m about to give him one.

I know I’ve got a lot of work to do to make the case to the people of district 8. I’ll spend every single day for the next two years shaking your hands, listening to your ideas, and earning your trust. And no matter what, the people of Massachusetts will be better off with a real discussion about our future.

With Donald Trump in the White House, there’s no room in our party for people that don’t stand with the poor, the marginalized and the unheard. I look forward to earning your trust and proving that I will stand for you.


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The Crazy Republican Party War Against Health Care


Yesterday CNN interviewed John Kasich, who was in Munich for a security conference. Among other things, they asked him about Paul Ryan's and the House Republicans' plans to take away health care from millions of Americans by "phasing out" the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. You can listen to Kasich's response in the short video above. In short, he's appalled. "That is a very, very bad idea," he said, "because we cannot turn our back on the most vulnerable." But that's exactly what Ryan's plan, timidly and partially presented last Thursday, does, by forcing the already hard-pressed states to pay more of what the feds were paying towards the health costs. 31 states-- where most Americans live-- would be impacted by the GOP power play. Ryan's plan pits the extremist Republican House against more mainstream Republican senators and governors.

The plan was sent to Republican House members to take home to study it over the break-- and several of them, for a variety of reasons, promptly leaked it to the press. The far right is fuming because they oppose the tax credits that aren't offset in the budget and more mainstream Republicans are unhappy because it will leave poor people out in the cold. The new plan also repeals the mandate, which, according to the Congressional Budget Office, would almost immediately raise insurance premiums by around 20%, something most Republican congressmen don't want to see happen before the 2018 midterm elections, when increases like that would likely cost the GOP at least 35 seats-- and control of the House.

On Saturday, The Atlantic's Vann Newkirk took a stab at explaining what the House Republican leadership is doing. Remember the vast majority of Medicaid recipients are either disabled or low-income seniors, many with serious (i.e., expensive) health care needs. Those costs have been split between the states and the feds. Ryan (and Trump's new Secretary of Health, Tom Price) want to change that now, not just in regard to their Obamacare obsession but also as a as a way to destroy Medicaid entirely. "The plan," he wrote, "is short on specifics, including the mechanics of its implementation, and looks like a watered-down combination of some existing Republican repeal plans, including Ryan’s and Price’s. It would repeal Obamacare’s taxes and mandates, and replace the tax subsidies for purchasing insurance on the exchanges with tax credits and incentives for health-savings accounts. The details of those tax credits are not provided, save that they would be age-rated and refundable but not adjusted by income."

The proposal appears "likely to sharply reduce the number of people covered, since it rolls back funding for the Medicaid expansion, ends subsidies, and eliminates the mandate to purchase insurance. Their tax-credit policy would invert Obamacare’s progressive financing scheme. Under current law, subsidies increase as income decreases, but the Republican plan would flatten that tax advantage, thus no longer proportionally increasing affordability for low-income people. It would age-rate the credits, granting more affordable coverage to older people, who tend to be sicker than younger Americans, but would not control for costs among poorer individuals, who also tend to be sicker and more prone to disability than their middle- and upper-class counterparts."

And it establishes "a per capita cap on federal Medicaid funding for individuals based on state economic and health factors, as well as the category of beneficiary (whether they are aged, blind and disabled, children, or otherwise able adults). That reform erases the open-ended funding of Medicaid and essentially replaces it with a set annual allotment of federal funds to each state. The brief would allow states to receive that funding as a block grant, provided that they 'transition' people covered under the Obamacare Medicaid expansion to other programs. That block grant appears to come with rather significant relaxation on states’ requirements to meet eligibility standards and provide comprehensive services for Medicaid enrollees."
The per capita cap and block-granting scheme would certainly save the federal government money. The main appeal of universal spending caps is not only that they promote thrift among states, but that pegging them to economic factors, at the start of a prescribed “base year,” basically underfunds them in the future. But this scheme might also work against the ability of Medicaid to effectively cover people. A report from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that such a policy could “lock in” funding to states based on their position in the base year, and would create long-term “winners” and “losers” in states. States would no longer be able to react in real time to crises like drug epidemics, disasters, or job crunches, and funding would not respond to demographic changes. In essence, people might be blocked from receiving care simply based on where they live. That this problem recreates the geographic incoherence of the current Obamacare Medicaid expansion-- where people covered under the expansion in some states will lose coverage if they move to non-expansion states-- is no small irony.

The logic behind block grants and per capita caps on federal funding is that they force states to be efficient with Medicaid dollars since they’re on the hook after that money is gone. But there are no guarantees that states wouldn’t simply create that “efficiency” by dropping people from coverage, diminishing the services covered, or reducing payments to providers. In fact, the House plan appears to encourage just that, as it only specifies coverage of mandatory services for disabled and elderly people in its requirements for block grants. The ensuing system, then, would no longer be a safety-net entitlement for all people who need care, but one where many of the riskiest patients with the most pressing issues might simply be forced to do without. That’s a strong departure from the underlying logic of the program, outlined when President Lyndon Johnson railed against “the injustice which denies the miracle of healing to the old and to the poor” when he signed the amendment to the Social Security Act, which gave the country Medicare and Medicaid in 1965.

DWT has heard that Lee Rogers, the progressive doctor who previously ran for Congress in Los Angeles, is being recruited by district supporters to run again in 2018. And we think thats good news because Dr. Rogers knows how to give Republicans a taste of their own bad medicine. Dr. Rogers offered the following diagnosis and prescription on Paul Ryan's plan:

"Republicans are fixated on their belief the healthcare is a privilege. But they use confusing language to hide this unpopular fact. They state that they want everyone to have 'access to healthcare.' We all know that having access to care is in not the same as having care. As Senator Bernie Sanders pointed out, you currently have access to one of Donald Trump's mansions, but without 5 million dollars, you can't afford it. I believe healthcare is a right. There is nothing more precious than your life. Medicaid expansion has helped low-income patients get the care they need and it has also been an economic stimulant for the states. We can't put greedy insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry back in charge of healthcare."

Hopefully demonstrators at Ryan's house Wednesday will remind the rogue-Catholic of this

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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Peter Roskam Draws An Opponent-- Meet Geoff Petzel (IL-06)


IL-06- Peter Roskam (Trumpist) vs Geoff Petzel (progressive)

Illinois' very gerrymandered 6th congressional district-- Peter Roskam's base-- was designed by the Democratic state legislature to be a safe Republican seat in order to suck Republican voters out of neighboring districts, turning IL-10, IL-08 and IL-11 safer for Democrats. It stretches from north of Lake Zurich down to Palatine, avoiiding Carpentersville and Elgin to hit Carol Steam, West Chicago, Wheaton, the east side of Naperville and over to Westmont and Darien. It's an 80% white district that went for Romney 53.3% to 45.1% and the PVI is R+4. Last week ProgressivePunch changed it's own rating to "Leans Democrat." That's because voters in DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties (as well as in suburban Cook County) puked on Trump and gave the district to Hillary 50.2% to 43.2%-- a 10 point drop for Señor Trumpanzee from Romney's 2012 vote.

Roskam retained his seat 205,746 (59.5%) to 140,023 (40.5%), at least in part because the clueless DCCC couldn't imagine 2016 wasn't going too be a good year for Republicans in suburban districts like IL-06. They refused to support the Democratic candidate running against Roskam, Amanda Howland, a middle-of-the-road Democrat who only managed to spend $98,179. Interestingly, Roskam sensed the trouble even if morons like Steve Israel, Ben Ray Lujan, Nancy Pelosi and Kelly Ward didn't. He raised $2,988,266 and then spent far more than that: $3,331,980. A couple of right-wing SuperPACs also spent some money for him. No one spent anything to help Howland.

Looking out of the rearview mirror, as usual, the DCCC is all worked up over IL-06 now, ready to target it. A progressive candidate, Geoffrey Petzel, has already jumped in. He's a single-payer advocate, has been an outspoken opponent of neoliberal trade deals like NAFTA and the TPP and is also outspoken on campaign finance reform and comprehensive immigration reform and, most of all, on the environment and Climate Change issues. He also supported Bernie for president. (Aside: In the primaries IL-06 was Bernie country and he won DuPage, Kane and McHenry counties handily.)

Saturday I spoke at length with Geoff about his campaign-- which he launched Wednesday-- and about the issues that re motivating his decision to run. One, of course, was healthcare. He had just been to the twonhall meeting of a very conservative Democrat, New Dem Brad Schneider who represents an adjoining district. Geoff told me Schneider is a nice person but wasn't comfortable with his responses to the overflowing audiences questions about healthcare. People are concerned because of Republicans-- including, of course Peter Roskam-- intentions to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Schneider basically told his constituents that he wants to "keep it in place; next question."

Like Bernie, Geoff has much more ambitious and detailed plans for healthcare. He's happy with the Affordable Care Act's accomplishments-- 20 million more of is covered by health insurance; no more denial of insurance for pre-existing conditions; the ability of young people to stay on their parents' insurance until the age of 26; and the elimination of lifetime spending caps on insurance policies, to name a few standouts. He acknowledged, though that there are still many problems that need to be addressed from a serious perspective, including rising premiums and the fact that many hospitals and doctors aren't part of the system. He says he'll fight to preserve and improve the the Affordable Care Act but he believes this country needs "a single payer health care system that guarantees health insurance to all Americans. Access to health care should be a right, not a privilege." He outlined a comprehensive health care plan that includes major reforms aimed at:

 1. Controlling the cost of health care for individuals, families and business,

 2. Providing quality care to every American,

 3. Controlling the cost of health care within our state and federal budgets.
1. We will control cost for families and businesses. The average employer pays 14% of its payroll towards health benefits and the average person pays 13% of their pay to cover health insurance premiums. Under this plan, the government would institute a payroll tax of 8.25%. This would actually reduce the amount of money spent by employers and employees.

My plan maintains the existing level of federal spending on Medicare and Medicaid. This current level of spending combined with the new payroll tax revenue would generate enough revenue to cover 100% of the medical costs for every American. Such a plan provides for certainty of cost for businesses and employees, prevents massive increases in future government spending, and provides quality health care to every American. Under my plan, every American would have health insurance.

2. A universal, single payer health care system must include coverage for EVERY HOSPITAL and EVERY DOCTOR. When someone needs medical care they shouldn't need to worry which hospital or doctor is "in-network."

3. We must give the federal government the right to negotiate drug prices for our new healthcare system. Large pharmaceutical companies should not be able to initiate uncontrolled price increases or limit access to life saving drugs for financial gain. We will also need to limit annual cost increases for services to ensure that the revenues collected can cover high quality care for all Americans.
Goal Thermometer The DCCC doesn't encourage-- quite the opposite-- candidates to go into this kind of detail about what they plan to do once they're serving in Congress. The DCCC is what you would call controversy-adverse. But Geoff isn't anyone's cardboard cutout of a candidate. He's an extremely independent minded, grassroots, activist-oriented guy, not a career-politician. You probably heard me the first time-- he was a Bernie-supporter in the presidential primary. Blue America endorsed him this week and we'll have more about his campaign tomorrow. Meanwhile, if you'd like to contribute to his campaign, please tap the ActBlue thermometer on the right and donate what you feel comfortable giving. The sooner Congress is rid of Peter Roskam the better, but, even more important, the sooner we have more men and women serving in that body like Geoff Petzel, the sooner we'll be able to put a stop to all this crackpot Trumpery and get the country moving in the right direction again.

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Republican Congressmembers Are Meeting Their Angry Constituents-- Or Hiding From Them


Friday, the editorial board of the NY Times asserted that "What America has seen so far is an inept White House led by a celebrity apprentice", pointing out that Señor Trumpanzee "did not inherit 'a mess' from Barack Obama, as he likes to say, but a nation recovered from recession and with strong alliances abroad. Mr. Trump is well on his way to creating a mess of his own, weakening national security and even risking the delivery of basic government services. Most of the top thousand jobs in the administration remain vacant. Career public servants are clashing with inexperienced 'beachhead' teams appointed by the White House to run federal agencies until permanent staff members arrive."

That same night, filmmaker Jon Favreau tweeted that he doesn't get angry at Trump when he sees these tweets; "I get angry at Republicans in Congress. Their cowardice is why we're dealing with this." I think there are a lot of people-- an increasing number of people-- feeling that way across the country. Trump isn't up for reelection until 2020-- if he makes it that long-- but Paul Ryan and every single member of the House will face the voters in 2018. Right now there are 5 special elections for open House seats coming up-- starting in about 2 months-- in Los Angeles, Montana, South Carolina, Kansas and the suburbs north of Atlanta. These will be opportunities for American voters to send a message. Trump did worse than Romney in 3 and slightly better than Romney in two.
CA-34- Romney- 14.1%, Trump- 10.7%
GA-06- Romney- 60.8%, Trump- 48.3%
KS-04- Romney- 61.6%, Trump- 60.2%
MT-AL- Romney- 55.4%, Trump- 56.5%
SC-05- Romney- 55.1%, Trump- 57.3%
The potential for the biggest headlines would come from the race in GA-06-- to replace the new Medicare slashing Health Secretary, Tom Price-- a district which Trump barely managed to keep red and where Democrat Jon Ossoff could well displace whichever Republican manages to make it into the June 20th runoff after the April 18th jungle primary. The GOP establishment is praying for ex-state Sen Judson Hill but may get stuck with anti-Choice kook and controversial ex-Secretary of State Karen Handel or one of the two unhinged Trumpists, businessman Bruce LeVell or Johns Creek ex-Councilman Bob Gray. (Price's wife, state Rep. Betty Price, dropped out at the last minute.)

Or, perhaps, Trump and his cohorts in Congress haven't gone far enough yet, haven't convinced enough voters-- including Republican votes, who, after all, dominate 4 of the 5 districts-- that a loud, ringing message is necessary or even desirable. (Polls indicate most Americans are ready though, Trump's approval rating sinking by the day.

Yesterday Lisa Mascaro, in an article picked up by NationalMemo, noted that the relationship between Trump and GOP leaders in Congress started as a marriage of convenience, "thrown together by necessity and sustained on the promise of pushing a Republican agenda into law." Ryan and McConnell "tolerated Trump's turbulent debut because they agreed with the direction the White House was heading-- or were confident they could nudge it in the desired one... But the newfound partnership is showing signs of serious strain. Growing discomfort about the Trump team's ties to Russia, daily dramas at the White House and the increasing unrest at town hall meetings with constituents back home have prompted many in Congress to express second thoughts about the alliance." Mark Sanford (R-SC) went out of his way to savage Trump and separate himself from the White House sociopath the day before and the day after he visited Sanford's district in Charleston, a city (and county) Trump lost in both the primary and against Hillary.
As the first 100 days tick away, and rank-and-file Republicans head home for a weeklong recess, there is a growing worry that Congress will face a drip-drip-drip of new revelations about the Trump White House that will overshadow the rest of the Republican agenda, such as repealing Obamacare, enacting tax reform and cutting government spending.

"That's what the fear is," said one Republican senator, granted anonymity to frankly discuss the outlook. "It's not a good situation. You can't let this go and not look at it."

...One former GOP leadership aide said "there's not a single Republican anywhere" who's not stunned by some of Trump's comments. But they focus instead on the GOP priorities they see taking shape, he said.

"In the end, we're still talking about tax reform, Supreme Court-- all the stuff is getting done," the aide said. "Most of the stuff is sort of within the lines of what Republicans want anyway. People by and large think progress has been made."

Trump has already started signing into law bills sent by Congress to roll back President Barack Obama's regulatory clampdown on coal pollution and overseas corporate bribes. More are on the way to his desk.

Republicans have put their trust in Vice President Mike Pence, the Cabinet secretaries and a legislative team culled from the halls of Congress-- even though it is unclear how much sway those voices ultimately have with the occupant of the Oval Office.

And areas of significant disagreement with Trump lie ahead, such as his $1-trillion infrastructure plan, having Congress pony up funds for the border wall with Mexico, and a massive military buildup.

But the questions about Russia are threatening to overshadow Republican goals. Emboldened Democrats are calling for independent inquiries into alleged contacts between Trump's campaign team and Russian intelligence officials, and demanding the release of a transcript of a wiretapped conversation between Flynn and a Russian diplomat.

The Republican leadership has tried to contain the congressional investigations to the House and Senate intelligence committees, where hearings are often conducted in secret because of the classified nature.

...But a growing number of top Republicans, including Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, are calling for a deeper and more transparent dive into Russia's role in the November election. That could take weeks, or more likely months.

"What the hell went on? That's what's on my mind," McCain said. "We know they tried to affect the outcome of the election... Now we've got all these other issues."

And, with lack of cohesive-- let alone coherent-- leadership from the White House, naturally-fractious House Republicans from the party's various wings have been fighting each other. One top-ranking Republican staffer told me that "the only thing everyone agrees on is dismantling Dodd-Frank... The rest is completely up in the air and the parameters shift with every one of his early morning tweet storms." Sail Kapur, reporting this week for Bloomberg, pointed out that "some conservative House Republicans are objecting to a major part of the Obamacare replacement outline presented to them by party leaders, underscoring the party’s continuing inability to agree on an alternative health plan."
The proposal would allow Americans who lack insurance to buy coverage with refundable tax credits they can receive before the end of a tax year. House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady said he and other leaders presented the idea during Thursday’s private conference of the House GOP.

Some conservatives say they oppose the idea because it could amount to a new government subsidy by allowing people to receive a larger credit than they pay in taxes. They prefer a mechanism that would preclude people from getting any more money than they paid in taxes.

"I don’t like the refundable tax credit," says Representative Ted Yoho of Florida. "I don’t want people getting money back."

"This is Obamacare light," Yoho said, adding that he told Brady about his views.

Representative Trent Franks of Arizona said tax credits "should be predicated on those taxes paid in, not a refundable tax credit, because it can so easily become a major and unstoppable entitlement."

The dispute over tax credits is one of many issues facing Republican leaders as they seek agreement on how to fulfill their promise to repeal and replace Obamacare. Also discussed Thursday were a proposal to cap the tax break for employer-provided health insurance, and efforts to restructure Medicaid. Republicans are set to face their constituents during a week-long congressional recess next week.
Saturday, Tom Reed's town halls in Ashville and Cherry Creek, New York-- he was way too scared to accept an invitation from Mayor Svante Myrick to hold one in Ithaca, the biggest city in NY-23-- drew large raucous crowds. When Reed tried selling the crowds on Ryan's health care replacement (bogus health savings accounts) people were furious and started yelling "We want your health care! We want your health care!" Reed was also peppered with uncomfortable questions about Trump's embrace of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and about Trump's failure to pay income taxes-- Reed was sounded boo-ed for voting in committee against a proposal that would have forced Trump to release his tax returns-- and the crowd wound up chanting "What are you covering up?"

When Reed tried to avoid fighting about Putin, he pivoted back to Medicare, that had his constituents yelling at him that they like it the way it is and weren't going to accept Ryan's tax credits and voucher bullshit instead of actual health care. People in Cherry Creek, where he held his second town hall of the day, were shouting that rather than repeal Obamacare, Congress should turn it into a single-payer system (as Bernie Sanders has been advocating).

In 2012, the DCCC viciously sabotaged progressive Democrat Nate Shinagawa when he ran against Reed. Because of DCCC hostility Reed managed to eke out a 52-48% win and never faced a serious competitor again. In the 2018 cycle it will be the responsibility of Joe Kennedy III, the new DCCC vice-chair for the region to make sure a progressive like Shinagawa is the recruit and that he gets support, not shade.

Next door in Syracuse-based NY-24, where, once again DCCC incompetence and a craving for an inoffensive, unelectable Republican-lite crap-candidate-- and fear and loathing for the Berniecrat-- resulted in the inevitable, reelection of John Katko in a solidly blue district Obama won with 57% and even Hillary managed to win against Trump 48.9% to 45.3%. Katko announced Friday that he won’t attend any town hall meetings with his constituents and won’t let outside groups "hijack service to my district or disrupt meaningful engagement with my constituents." If Joe Kennedy recruits a real Democrat and not another vapid New Dem or Blue Dog, Katko will be wiped off the face of the political map in 2018, along with Reed.

The NY Times also noted how angry grassroots constituents are at Republican members of Congress right now. Regardless of what fools like Katko try to say "national organizers concede they are playing catch-up to a 'dam-bursting level' of grass-roots activism that has bubbled up from street protests and the small groups that have swelled into crowds outside local congressional offices."
Several Republicans, including Mr. Trump, have dismissed the pro-health care act crowds as “paid protesters,” not constituents. Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, without offering evidence, called the protests a “very paid, AstroTurf-type movement,” unlike the Tea Party demonstrations against the drafting of the health care law in 2009, which he characterized as “very organic.”

In fact, some of the most formidable and well-established organizing groups on the left have found themselves scrambling to track all of the local groups sprouting up through social media channels like Facebook and Slack, or in local “huddles” that grew out of the women’s marches across the country the day after the inauguration.

...The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is keeping track of Republican lawmakers who do not hold town-hall-style meetings. Some events have been canceled, and Representative Tom MacArthur of New Jersey said he had done so because the meetings have been “hijacked” by groups hostile to Mr. Trump. The committee plans to run internet ads trying to shame lawmakers for not facing their constituents in public since voting last month on a procedural motion aimed at repealing the health law.

Some of the most creative activity is coming from people who are new to political activism. In Plymouth, Minn., Kelly Guncheon, a financial planner who described himself as an independent, has organized a “With Him or Without Him” meeting for Representative Erik Paulsen, a Republican who has not scheduled any of his own. A volunteer offered to make 400 cupcakes decorated with a “Where’s Waldo?” picture of Mr. Paulsen’s face, and Mr. Guncheon said he planned to project onto screens legislation that Mr. Paulsen had supported. Participants will be asked to write down questions, which will be delivered, along with a recording of the event, to Mr. Paulsen’s congressional office after the recess.

Mr. Guncheon, like other new activists, said he was not looking to traditional political groups for guidance.

“In this new culture, this new era, we have to figure out new ways to do things,” he said. “There’s certainly no leadership at the head of the Democratic Party, or the state party. Not that I’m a Democrat anyway, but that seems to be the opposition party.”

Other new groups organizing on Facebook have arranged similar events, calling them “no-show” or “empty-chair” meetings, for Senators Cory Gardner of Colorado and Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania, as well as for Republican lawmakers from California, New Jersey and New York.

In response to Mr. Gardner’s complaints that the people showing up at his office to request town-hall-style meetings were paid protesters from other states, one group showed up at his office with a banner on which members had written their Colorado ZIP codes.
Crackpot wing nut Dana Rohrabacher-- whose Orange County district Trump lost to Hillary-- claimed that constituents asking for town hall meetings are "enemies" of democracy and political "thugs." He's literally talking about the voters in Huntington Beach, Fountain Valley, Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Laguna Niguel and Aliso Viejo. He's one of scores of aloof, unaccountable Republican congressmembers hiding from their own voters (unlike less dishonest Members like Justin Amash and Jim Sensenbrenner who have scheduled and gone to numerous town halls). Among the shadiest and most dismissive congressmembers have been Peter Roskam (R-IL), Chris Collins (R-NY), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Lamar Smith (R-TX), Ed Royce (R-CA), Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Roger Williams (R-TX), Paul Cook (R-CA), Lee Zeldin (R-NY), Mike McCaul (R-TX), Bill Flores (R-TX), Steve Knight (R-CA), Devin Nunes (R-CA), Duncan Hunter (R-CA), David Valadao (R-CA) and Rodney Davis (R-IL).

Nick Kristoff Times column this weekend dealt with how to get rid of Trump and his Nazi regime before they do some existential damage to America. "[F]or now," he wrote, "it’s hard to imagine a majority of the House voting to impeach, and even less conceivable that two-thirds of the Senate would vote to convict so that Trump would be removed. Moreover, impeachment and trial in the Senate would drag on for months, paralyzing America and leaving Trump in office with his finger on the nuclear trigger... [I]t’ll be up to Republicans to decide whether to force Trump out. And that won’t happen unless they see him as ruining their party as well as the nation."
“The only incentive for Republicans to act-- with or without the cabinet-- is the same incentive Republicans had in 1974 to insist on Nixon’s resignation,” Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia told me. “The incentive is survival.”

Trump does have one weakness, and it’s parallel to Nixon’s. Republicans in Congress were willing to oust Nixon partly because they vastly preferred his vice president, Gerald Ford-- just as congressional Republicans prefer Mike Pence today.

If I were betting, I’d say we’re stuck with Trump for four years. But as Sabato says: “Lots of things about Donald Trump’s election and early presidency have been shocking. Why should it stop now?”

And what does it say about a presidency that, just one month into it, we’re already discussing whether it can be ended early?
Wednesday there'll be a big rally in front of Paul Ryan's house in Janesville, Wisconsin, since he adamantly refuses to meet with his constituents. They'll meet at Parker Park at the corner of Harrison Street and East Court Street (53545) at 10:30 AM.

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