Thursday, July 27, 2017

Trump Declares War-- On Transgender Men And Women Serving In The U.S. Armed Forces


Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the above early morning Trumpanzee Adderall-fueled tweet storm was the first time officials in the Pentagon heard of the Regime's bigoted-- and probably unconstitutional--  transgender service ban. Philip Bump, immediately writing for the Washington Post, reminded his readers that Trump’s argument against transgender soldiers echoes one used against gays, women and blacks
The question of costs-- presumably referring to procedures like gender reassignment surgery-- was addressed in a Rand report that estimated a 0.04- to 0.13-percent increase in military health-care expenditures should transgender people be allowed to serve. Trump has proposed a 10 percent bump in overall military spending, which could certainly absorb that increase.

That latter point, though, the “disruption” that integration of transgender troops would spur? That is an argument we’ve heard before. When gay Americans sought the right to serve in the military, that was a central argument against the change. When women sought combat roles, a central argument. When blacks were integrated into the military? Warnings about disruption.

In 1948, President Harry Truman moved toward fully integrating black Americans into the military. At the time, members of his own party spoke out against the plan. The Washington Post reported on the objections in June of that year.

Former Tennessee U.S. senator Tom Stewart proposed “allowing men in the services to choose whether or not they would serve in mixed units” to avoid offending the sensibilities of those determined to maintain segregation. U.S. Sen. Lister Hill of Alabama argued that integration would “seriously impair the morale of the Army at a time when our armed forces should be at their strongest and most efficient.” He called Truman’s move “unfortunate.”
Andrew Duck is primarying right-wing Maryland Democrat John Delaney. He served over 2 decades in the U.S. Army, 4 tours of duty in Bosnia and Iraq. He told us last night that "Trump’s tweet banning transgender personnel from service is wrong, both morally and militarily. Our Army needs to recruit and retain Soldiers who can shoot, move and communicate. It damages our military to reject high quality personnel solely because of their gender identity. Many of these Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines have been serving their country honorably, risking their lives for our Nation. Denying them the right to serve is just wrong." Wherever there is fear and ignorance, bigotry never seems to die... but today it's very much thriving inside the White House and throughout our government's executive branch. As far as I know, no members of the Trump Regime have resigned over this yet. Anger, though, exploded on social media where Trump announced his "policy."

Ted Lieu was an active duty Air Force officer and still serves as an Air Force Reserve Colonel today. He immediately communicated with his Los Angeles constituents about what's wrong with Trump's decision: "The President's exclusion of Americans who happen to be transgender from serving in the military is not based on facts, it is based on naked bigotry. I know because I served on active duty. The military doesn't care what your sexual orientation or identity is, or who you love. It cares about whether you can shoot straight and complete the mission. The President's discriminatory decision harms our military readiness for our volunteer-based military. Thousands of Transgender Americans are already in the military. Why? Because they are qualified, patriotic and willing to die for their country. There is zero evidence a Transgender sniper would be any less qualified than a gay sniper or a straight sniper. Today is a sad day for America."

New Hampshire progressive Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter ousted a Republican incumbent last year despite her district going for Trump over Hillary. She's not afraid of him and, a member of the House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Military Personnel, she was a leader in the successful 2009 effort to overturn the bigoted Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy and still prioritizes fighting for fairness for all American military personnel. Her response to Trump's tweet storm didn't pull any punches: "This morning’s tweets from the President are a disgraceful slap in the face to the thousands of transgender troops who are actively serving our country, and to all transgender Americans who aspire to serve. These troops are patriots who deserve to be appreciated for their service, not used as political props by their Commander in Chief. As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I will fight to prevent President Trump’s ugly rhetoric against our troops from becoming reality, and to make sure these troops know that Americans appreciate their service and sacrifice." BOOM!

Vote Vets, the most active political action committee run by military veterans was out with a letter to their members immediately:
Sixty-nine years ago today, President Harry Truman issued an executive order desegregating the military, declaring "equal treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services." With the same stroke of a pen, he established the President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and opportunity in the Armed Services.

This morning, on the anniversary of that historic step toward equality, our current president, Donald Trump, did the unthinkable: placed a ban on transgender Americans from serving "in any capacity in the U.S. Military."

Here is the truth: right now, there are up to 7,000 openly transgender service members on active duty, with thousands more in the reserves-- all of whom wake up having served with more distinction than Donald Trump could ever dream of. When Trump had the chance to serve, he received multiple deferments because of a "foot thing." He said that avoiding STDs was his own personal Vietnam.

Veterans, military family members, and civilian supporters have an important voice in this fight. Let's make it heard right now.

...This decision by the president puts our national security at risk. There are active units who depend on these decorated service members. But as much as that matters, imagine how it would feel this morning to be a trans service member who volunteered to defender their nation, only to be told that their service wasn't good enough... and to be told that by a man who never had the courage himself to serve.

Kristin Beck, a transgendered woman and former 20 year Navy Seal-- who I'd give odds could knock Trump cold with one hand tied behind her back-- once ran for Congress against corrupt Maryland Democrat Steny Hoyer. Yesterday she was challenging someone else. "Let's meet face to face and you tell me I'm not worthy," she suggested to Señor Trumpanzee, the serial draft-dodger and gross pervert. "Being transgender doesn't affect anyone else. We are liberty's light. If you can't defend that for everyone that's an American citizen, that's not right. Transgender doesn't matter. Do your service." Beck, a decorated former member of the elite Team 6, signed up for over a dozen tours of duty and served in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Iraq, while Trump claimed his version of military serve was an epic decade-long battle against syphilis, gonorrhea, genital herpes and all the other STDs he was spreading around New York in the 1970s.

Goal Thermometer Did you know that Blue America has an ActBlue page dedicated to progressive military veterans running for Congress? You can access it by tapping on the thermometer on the right. We reached out to the vets running for House seats this year in California, Kansas and Wisconsin, an all-star cast we are very proud to be supporting in their races against Darrell Issa, Ron Estes and Paul Ryan. Doug Applegate, a former Marine colonel: "As unusual, President Trump went on a twitter tirade this morning. If you don't use twitter you will be sure to see the tweets on the news. The difference about these bunch of tweets compared to those of recent times is that he attacked U.S. military personnel instead of mainstream media or the left. Today, our draft-dodging President banned the transgender community from serving in the US military. This is discriminatory, stupid, and an absolute disgrace. This makes our country weaker and dismantles some of the progress we have made within the LGBTQ community over the last 8 years. We will continue to fight for our trans brothers and sisters, and I thank you for your bravery and service to our country, one thing our President could never find the courage to do."

Randy Bryce is the progressive iron worker campaigning for the southeast Wisconsin congressional seat held by Paul Ryan. Unlike Ryan and unlike Trump, Bryce is a U.S. Army veteran who seems offended that Trump chose to use transgender service members as a political diversion. "As a veteran, I am offended by the President's insulting actions. He knows nothing about the military or what it means to serve. It's time Donald Trump start focussing on things he does know about-- if that includes anything other than golf and twitter rants-- rather than trying desperately to tear us apart. What makes us different is what makes us special. I was honored to serve in our Military along side some of the most diverse, interesting, hard working people I had ever come across. Donald Trump makes us less safe by today's actions, and he should be ashamed of himself."

Jim Thompson is the Blue America-backed progressive running for the Wichita-based 4th district congressional seat in Kansas-- and a U.S. Army veteran. He was tweeting up his own storm today... and then sent us this:
Wow. In yet another erratic early morning tweet, our draft-dodging President attacked the United States military and the brave men and women that stood up to defend their country. This morning, the President unilaterally decided he would no longer allow transgender servicemen and servicewomen to join or serve in our military. The reason for this sudden announcement remains officially unspoken; however, I think it’s blatantly obvious that, once again, President Trump is trying to distract from his terrible healthcare policies. After attacking Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska for voting against the Trumpcare bill, the President then proceeded to make his indefensible Twitter proclamation. He stated the following:
“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.

“Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you.”
No, thank you Mr. President. Thank you for once again showing us your true colors as a bully with no guiding moral compass. You’ve shown you will attack anyone who falls in your sights in order to distract from your complete lack of legislative accomplishments. We know for a fact President Trump did not consult with the Pentagon, because they stated they never spoke with anyone at the White House about this sudden policy change.

I served in the United States Army Infantry with the understanding the Commander in Chief protected and defended the Constitution of the United States, just like I did. I always felt safe in the knowledge that Presidents Bush and Clinton kept the military’s best interests in mind. I no longer possess this same confidence in our current President given these statements-- and many others-- he issued both on the campaign trail and since his inauguration.

President Trump lacks any idea of what it means to serve anyone other than himself. He used his family's power, money and position to obtain five-- yes, five-- draft deferments during the Vietnam War. This allowed him to avoid serving in the military while others fought and died answering their country's call.

Ultimately, the test for military service is whether or not a person can do the job required of him or her. I side with Sen. John McCain on this issue. Lest we forget, President Trump attacked the Senator on the campaign trail for being a prisoner of war. Sen. McCain’s office released a statement today in response to the President’s tweets that reads as follows:
“The President’s tweet this morning regarding transgender Americans in the military is yet another example of why major policy announcements should not be made via Twitter.

“The statement was unclear. The Department of Defense already decided to allow currently-serving transgender individuals to stay in the military, and many are serving honorably today. Any American who meets current medical and readiness standards should be allowed to continue serving. There is no reason to force service members who are able to fight, train, and deploy to leave the military-- regardless of their gender identity. We should all be guided by the principle that any American who wants to serve our country and is able to meet the standards should have the opportunity to do so-- and should be treated as the patriots they are…” 
Sen. McCain’s words ring true. I cannot understand how the President can justify a policy that saps needed talent from our military based solely on a person’s gender identity. These men and women wrote blank checks to the United States military just like every other person serving. If someone is willing to step up and fight to protect American values and they possess the courage, bravery, and skills necessary to complete the mission, then nothing should stand in the way of them serving their country. Period.

Trump proves time and again that he wants the Presidency to serve his interests those of the rich elite first. This attack on transgender service-members is disgusting, indefensible, and just one more drop in the flood of bullying and bigotry emanating from the White House. He continues to create problems rather than solve them. I’ve grown sick and tired of it and I’m sure you have too. Please, join us in this fight and help us protect the rights of every American-- especially members of our military.
Ms. Foundation president Teresa Younger eloquently voiced the Martin Niemöller sentiments that all decent Americans are thinking today: "We cannot forget that many of the freedoms we hold dear as Americans can be stolen away in a moment by any president. Trump's cowardly decision to reinforce state-sponsored discrimination against transgender Americans is an affront to our country’s values and a tremendous blow to LGBTQ equality. We will not stand idly by as Trump rolls back our rights-- first for our Muslim sisters and brothers, now for our LGBTQ family. One can only wonder-- who will be next? The only American thing to do now is to lock arms against this takeover and systematic dismantling of our democracy and let the administration know that we won’t go back."

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Psychiatrists Are Now Allowed To Talk About Trump's Mental Illness


In her "hot mic" moment with Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) late yesterday afternoon, Maine Senate Republican Susan Collins admitted that Trump is "crazy" and that she's "worried." A prominent psychologist told me this morning that Trump has "many diagnoses, including low IQ with likely some dementia due to neurological involvement and language disorder thrown in. And narcissistic personality disorder, conduct disorder, etc., etc. Quite a conglomeration." Joe Scarborough, looking at Trump, had said it slightly differently on his MSNBC morning show a few hours earlier:
July the 25th... circle it on your calendar. This guy is spinning wildly out of control. He's watching TV. I know... I know you never watch this show, Donald, but whatever show you're watching, it's making you crazy... [I]t's making you act crazy. So you really need to turn to SportsCenter. And you need to stop watching, because these tweets make you look really bad.
No news there. But there is news about Trumpanzee's mental health problems. The executive committee of the American Psychoanalytic Association told its 3,500 members they should not feel bound by a longstanding rule against commenting publicly on the mental state of public figures-- particularly Señor Trumpanzee. They emphasized that psychiatrists need to use their expertise responsibly today "since Trump’s behavior is so different from anything we’ve seen before" in a commander in chief.

The statement, an email this month from the executive committee of the American Psychoanalytic Association to its 3,500 members, represents the first significant crack in the profession’s decades-old united front aimed at preventing experts from discussing the psychiatric aspects of politicians’ behavior. It will likely make many of its members feel more comfortable speaking openly about President Trump’s mental health.

The impetus for the email was “belief in the value of psychoanalytic knowledge in explaining human behavior,” said psychoanalytic association past president Dr. Prudence Gourguechon, a psychiatrist in Chicago. “We don’t want to prohibit our members from using their knowledge responsibly.”

...An increasing number of psychologists and psychiatrists have denounced the restriction as a “gag rule” and flouted it, with some arguing they have a “duty to warn” the public about what they see as Trump’s narcissism, impulsivity, poor attention span, paranoia, and other traits that, they believe, impair his ability to lead.

Reporters, pundits, and government officials “have been stumbling around trying to explain Trump’s unusual behavior,” from his seemingly compulsive tweeting to his grandiosity, said Dr. Leonard Glass, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School. The rule against psychiatrists offering their analysis of the emotions, thought patterns, and beliefs underlying such behaviors, Glass said, robs the public “of our professional judgment and prevents us from communicating our understanding” of the president’s mental state.

Last week, in an essay in Psychiatric Times, Glass called the prohibition on such communication “an unacceptable infringement on my right and duty” to discuss issues “where the perspective of psychiatrists could be very relevant and enlightening.” He ended the essay by announcing his resignation from the American Psychiatric Association, which adopted the rule in 1973. He had been a member for 41 years.

Called the “Goldwater rule,” the prohibition on offering opinions about the mental state of public figures was adopted after some psychiatrists answered a 1964 survey on whether Sen. Barry Goldwater, the Republican presidential candidate that year, was mentally fit for the Oval Office. The rule states that it is unethical to offer a professional opinion about a public figure’s mental health, including the presence or absence of a disorder, without that person’s consent and without doing a standard examination. In March, the psychiatric association reaffirmed the rule.

The group acted despite growing criticism that the Goldwater rule is outdated and even unethical for preventing psychiatrists from pointing out behaviors that raise questions about a government official’s mental state. No other medical specialty has such a rule; cardiologists are not prohibited from offering their views of an official’s fainting spell, for instance, as long as they make clear that they have not examined the person.

Although opposition to the Goldwater rule has existed for years, it intensified with Trump’s candidacy and then election. In October, a book titled The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President will be published.

“When the book comes out, there will be renewed furor about the Goldwater rule, since it is precisely about what is wrong with him,” said psychiatrist Dr. Lance Dodes, a retired professor at Harvard Medical School who is now in private practice in Los Angeles.

A number of psychologists have spoken to reporters about what Trump’s statements and actions might reveal about his emotional and cognitive state. Although the American Psychological Association “prefers” that its members not offer opinions on the psychology of someone they have not examined, it does not have a Goldwater rule and is not considering implementing one, an official told STAT.

The psychoanalytic association went further. In its July 6 email, it explicitly stated for the first time that the organization does not subscribe to the rule. That position had been implicit for years, but the association’s “leadership has been extremely reluctant to make a statement and publicly challenge the American Psychiatric Association,” said one psychoanalytic association member who asked not to be publicly identified criticizing the other group.

And by the way, Rand Paul's straight ACA repeal bill failed today 55-45, with 7 Republicans crossing the aisle to vote with the Democrats. The Republicans who voted no were Lamar Alexander (TN), Shelley Moore Capito (WV), Susan Collins (ME), Dean Heller (NV), John McCain (AZ), Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Rob Portman (OH).

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Is There Any More Wasserman Schultz Can Do To Destroy The Democratic Party? She's Working On It


Yesterday I posed a question to people who follow me on Twitter, asking them to put themselves in the place of a congressional candidate who could pick between 4 surrogates to come in and endorse them. I asked them to pick between Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, the handpicked post-Pelosi/Hoyer next leader Joe Crowley (Wall Street's #1 rep in the House) and a candidate who has never been elected to anything outside of his union, iron-worker Randy Bryce. Do the results surprise you?

Joe Crowley zero. I wish I had included Debbie Wasserman Schultz. I mean, is there any way of expressing less than zero? Yesterday was the anniversary of her being forced to resign as head of the DNC, too late for the party to save itself from the taint of her cheating in the presidential primaries. And she's still a member of Congress-- although perhaps not for long. And it goes beyond the vigorous primary campaign by progressive attorney Tim Canova-- whose campaign you can contribute to here. The FBI is now on to her.

Imran Awan has a top Wasserman Schultz IT aide since 2005. He still works for her in some capacity although she's being very squirrelly about what he does for her now that he's under criminal investigation. Several smashed hard drives, as well as some Wasserman Schultz-releated computer equipment, were seized by the FBI as part of an investigation that looks like it will further tarnish her already rot-gut reputation.
Awan and four other former congressional IT staffers are being investigated by U.S. Capitol Police and the FBI for “wide-ranging equipment and data theft.” Few details have been released since the investigation was first reported in February 2017, but many have speculated that Wasserman Schultz is involved due to a tense exchange between her and the U.S. Capitol police chief over a laptop from her office being held as evidence. Last week, Wasserman Schultz finally cooperated with authorities to grant them access to a laptop, though it’s uncertain if the laptop in question is the same laptop Wasserman Schultz argued with the U.S. Capitol police chief over. Awan clearly went to great lengths to cover his tracks, but it’s unclear what his motives were.

After resigning in disgrace from the DNC, the investigation into Wasserman Schultz’s former IT aide has further tarnished her reputation. Despite her efforts to revive her image by focusing on Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election, the former DNC chair is still seen as a corrupt, out of touch politician who represents the worst of the Democratic Party. Her continued presence in Democratic leadership impedes the party’s reform and ensures that voters’ lack of trust for Democrats-- which stemmed from her leadership at the DNC-- remains.
Imran and his two brothers, Abid and Jamal and their wives, are being investigated for a number of crimes, from overcharging taxpayers for congressional IT equipment to blackmailing members of Congress with secrets captured from emails. The Awans have been paid something like $5 million by Wasserman Schultz and other Democrats who used their services at tax payer expense.

So far there's a lot of smoke-- much of it being generated by partisan Republican trolls-- and no actual proof of any crimes tied Wasserman Schultz. But knowing what a slimy character she's always been, I'm in wait-and-see mode of this one. As for the party brand she tarnished so badly... it's going total a lot of effort to fix that-- beyond the Papa John's Pizza slogan. Oh, and last night Politico reported that Awan was arrested on bank fraud as he was trying to leave the country for his native Pakistan. So... the narrative moves along. (Wassermann Schultz claims she finally fired him on Tuesday... before he was arrested.)

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Maine Republican On The Health Care Hot Seat: Bruce Poliquin


Bruce Poliquin (R-ME) is the only Republican representing a House district in New England. He's a rich guy who began his political campaign by self-fundng a race for governor-- and not just losing to crackpot Paul LePage but coming in 6th out of 7 Republicans in the primary! LePage gave him the job as state treasurer. In 2012 he lost another GOP primary, this one for the U.S. Senate seat given up by Olympia Snowe. in 2014 he finally found an election he could win-- the conservative Maine congressional seat (ME-02) which was being vacated by Blue Dog Mike Michaud. The DCCC nominated a pointless centrist EMILY's List nothing (Emily Cain), allowing the district to flip blue to red-- 133,320 (45.2%) to 118,568 (40.2%). Last year the DCCC came up with one of their typically brilliant strategies for winning back the seat, running the same nothing candidate, Emily Cain, again. She then lost 192,878 (54.8%) to 159,081 (45.2%).

The district includes all of Maine north of Portland and Augusta-- all of Androscoggin, Aroostook, Franklin, Hancock, Oxford, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Somerset, Waldo and Washington counties and part of Kennebec. Trump lost Maine but won ME-02 by over 10 points-- 41.4% to 41.1%. Hillary was the wrong candidate for the district. In fact, she lost every single county in the district to Bernie in the caucuses-- some with less than 30% of the vote. Poliquin voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with TrumpCare, making him extremely vulnerable to defeat next year. Luckily, the DCCC hasn't recruited Cain again for 2018-- at least not yet-- and they seem OK with an excellent progressive who seems about to jump into the race, the Assistant Majority Leader of Maine's House of Representatives, Jared Golden. An ex-Marine who saw active duty in Afghanistan, Golden seems like just the kind of candidate who can defeat Poliquin. His record is pro-Choice, pro-LGTQ equality, pro-Labor and pro-environment. He's the one who wrote Maine's automatic voter registration bill we wrote about in May. His legislative record-- not just votes but leadership-- indicate he'd be an excellent new member of Congress, something the Democrats need badly. When I asked her about him, Shenna Bellows, a big fan, suggested I read this OpEd he wrote for the Bangor Daily News: Asylum-seekers are part of Maine’s turnaround, not political pawns. So... good on the courageousness metric as well. A well-connected friend of mine in Lewiston told me that "As whip in the Democratic-led House, he consistently worked behind the scenes for a more progressive approach on the tough budget issues and some of the other bills we dealt with this year. A progressive marine who has the courage of his convictions is exactly the type of representative we need in these perilous times. Jared was tireless about advocating for a more progressive approach."

Yesterday, just as the Senate was getting ready to vote on proceeding with TrumpCare, Poliquin-- who, remember, voted for the Freedom Caucus version of TrumpCare that would kick 23 million Americans off health insurance-- issued a statement to his constituents opposing the repeal of the Affordable Care Act without a replacement, which tries threading a difficult needle for Republican incumbents, opposing Obamacare without embracing the consequences of repealing it. His political career will depend on whether or not he can persuade Maine voters he's making any sense.
“In light of what we have seen over the last several months, once again, I cannot support the repeal of the ACA without a viable replacement. Changes in insurance markets are complex. Many fellow Mainers are impacted either as policy holders or due to the ACA regulations on their private individual or employer coverage. We shouldn't forget that thousands of Maine families were forced into Obamacare either because of the threat of an IRS penalty, or because their own policies were cancelled under Obamacare's red tape regulations. We simply cannot tell these people they will now have no access to insurance because of inaction by the U.S. Senate.

“Let’s be clear, Obamacare is not working despite what some proponents of the status quo would have us believe. During six years of growing problems, the ACA has cost taxpayers billions and billions of dollars. Its roll-out nearly failed under collapsing taxpayer-funded insurance exchanges. Thousands of Maine families lost their choice of doctors and health plans even though career politicians promised they could keep them. Monthly premiums and annual deductibles under Obamacare have been increasing by double digits year-after-year-after-year. Some ignore or forget these straightforward facts, but the rollout and implementation of Obamacare has not performed as sold.

“Part of the ACA law has been the rapid expansion of the medical welfare program, called Medicaid, or MaineCare in our State, to able-bodies adults with no dependents. We need to be honest about how Medicaid is an open-ended program with no budget which continues to grow beyond the taxpayers' ability to pay for the health care benefits. It's simply not sustainable.

"Medicaid started as a welfare program designed to provide health care to those truly in need—such as children, the disabled, and the elderly who can’t afford to contribute to Medicare. Hard-working Mainers and retirees understand that limited Medicaid, or MaineCare, dollars should be reserved for those who are the most at risk rather than for those who are not disabled, have no dependents, and can purchase their own health insurance. Congress should be working to lower the cost of private insurance so that people can afford it instead of asking the government, our taxpayers, to subsidize more and more medical welfare.

"Medicaid, or MaineCare, should be put on a financially sustainable path so it can continue to provide for those who need it most for generations to come. Continuing to add childless able-bodied adults on welfare only helps trap them in government dependency and poverty while further straining state and federal budgets. Welfare funding is not free. Welfare dollars are paid by hard-working American taxpayers. Not long ago, Maine taxpayers were forced to pay-off a massive $750 million welfare debt to Maine hospitals because of an earlier MaineCare expansion to able-bodied adults with no kids. For years, this accumulating mountain of debt crowded out state government's ability to adequately fund road and bridge repairs, border protection, public safety, and the fight against our devastating opioid and heroin epidemic.

“We also need to be honest about the robust list of essential health care benefits already, and still, required to be included in any insurance policy sold in Maine, no matter what Congress does or does not do. For many years, Maine has required this strong coverage—well before Obamacare became law. Any replacement of the ACA will not change the fact that Maine still will require these same health insurance protections.

“Job-killing taxes and layers of regulations should not be the standard by which health insurance is measured. Government needs to support a sustainable free market system which lowers the cost of health insurance by providing incentives for providers to compete for our business. This will result in more plan choices and lower costs.

"Moving to a complete government takeover of our health care system is a bad idea. The enormous "single-payer" socialist bureaucracy would further drive up costs and ration health care services. The United States leads the world in health care innovation. Stifling that free market success would result in worse health care for all. Health care is more complex now than ever before. Adding additional layers of government bureaucracy and red tape would only make matters worse.

“Maine and America needs to ensure there's a responsible, sustainable health insurance plan in place before Obamacare is repealed. That common sense approach is only fair to our families struggling to afford coverage whether it be an Obamacare policy or not.

“We need to ensure we have a plan in place, a glide path, to a new fiscally responsible and sustainable solution. Repeal without replace does not accomplish that mission.”

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Can You Really Work Up Any Juices To Protest The Firing Of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions?


Mike Allen: "Sessions allies tell us he won’t quit, and will have to be fired: This is his life’s work and dream job. (Yesterday, he took on sanctuary cities.) And in Trumptown, you can be down now, but back in favor after you endure a little humiliation. Ask Steve Bannon."

Odd how right-wing Trumpbots are cheering their president on to fire Jeff Sessions, an icon of racism, xenophobia and... well... everything that is at the rotten core of Trumpism. At least just as odd: liberals are bemoaning the fact that Trump is moving towards firing Sessions, despite the fact that there isn't a liberal in America who believes Sessions is fit for the office. Trump has literally turned the world topsy-turvy. One thing that never does change though-- at least not so far-- is the Uriah Heap Speaker of the House's attitude. The Wisconsin enabler gave Trump the green light to go ahead and fire Sessions, even while other Republicans were trying to discourage him. Maybe Trump yelled at him for defending Bob Mueller in a radio interview on Monday, when he told listeners, “Remember, Bob Mueller is a Republican who was appointed by a Republican who served in a Republican administration and stayed on until his term ended. But I don’t think many people are saying Bob Mueller is a person who is a biased partisan. He’s really sort of anything but."

Ryan's such a slimy, confused guy with such an incoherent tattered brand these days. In some ways he must be looking foward to Randy Bryce putting him out of his misery in 2018.

Despite Ryan's jelly-fish posture, some establishment Republicans seethed and some even went public with their concerns about Trump's scheme to replace Sessions and hire someone to fire Mueller and end the Putin-Gate investigation. Mike Simpson (R-ID): "All hell would break loose."
"If he fired Mueller, that would be a problem. It wouldn't pass the smell test," added a second House Republican, who requested anonymity in order to speak candidly. "The American people would demand we do something."

...Sen. Luther Strange, R-Ala., who is chasing Trump's endorsement in the competitive Aug. 15, special Senate election primary, was compelled to take a veiled shot at the president for the humiliating way he has publicly pondered whether to fire Sessions.

"Jeff Sessions is my mentor, a great friend, and a man of the utmost integrity. His example of leadership inspired me to run for public office in Alabama, and continues to merit the admiration of his team at DOJ, his former colleagues in the Senate, and our great state," Strange, who was appointed to fill Sessions' seat on a temporary basis, said in a statement.

"Jeff and President Trump are trying to make America great again," he continued. "And it's a privilege to work along side both to accomplish the Trump agenda for the American people, and we need to stop letting the media distract us from that agenda."

...It's obvious Republicans have no appetite to rebuke the president, fearing a revolt of their own voters at home-- many who side with Trump on the Russia matter-- and anxious for the turbulence it would cause between now and midterm elections 15 months away. But they conceded in interviews that Mueller's dismissal would necessitate action of some sort, although they were unclear on what form it might take.

It could range from stronger verbal denunciations to more aggressive oversight hearings to passage of laws, like a bill that passed Tuesday, that limit Trump's ability to maneuver without congressional approval.

Impeachment proceedings are off the table unless the president commits a crime, GOP insiders said.

"There would have to be a smoking gun," a former Republican congressional aide said. "If he fires Mueller it would be a big deal and there would oversight hearings but it would be similar to Comey. I don't think it would near impeachment. I think there would have to be proof of collusion or breaking the law."

For conservatives, Sessions is an ideological touchstone in an unpredictable administration. He's an immigration hawk who adopted this position long before they were ascendant in the Republican Party, and he's viewed as insurance against Trump drifting left on border security and illegal immigration.

His circle of friends in Congress reaches beyond these circles, however. Many Republicans disagree with his positions on immigration and trade, but always appreciated his professionalism and honesty. In a chaotic White House, Sessions is a dependable ally.

Trump firing the attorney general could cause a breakdown in relations that area already rocky and highly transactional, Republican senators and congressional aides across Capitol Hill told the Washington Examiner in private conversations.

"Jeff's a good friend of mine. He stuck his neck out early for the president, which I have a lot of respect for, and I think that will pay off for him in the long run," Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., added.
In his NY Times column this morning, A Trump Tower of Absolute Folly, conservative pundit Ross Douthat asserted that "Trump’s campaign against his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, in which he is seemingly attempting to insult and humiliate and tweet-shame Sessions into resignation, is an insanely stupid exercise. It is a multitiered tower of political idiocy, a sublime monument to the moronic, a gaudy, gleaming, Ozymandian folly that leaves many of the president’s prior efforts in its shade... Trump’s war on Sessions is one of the few things short of a recession that could hurt him with his base-- which he needs to hold, since he isn’t doing anything to persuade anyone outside it... This president should not be the president, and the sooner he is not, the better."

Meanwhile a coalition of good government groups such as Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, Common Cause, Protect Democracy and Public Citizen sent a letter to McConnell and Schumer and the chair and ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley and Dianne Feinstein, urging them to delay confirming Christopher Wray as FBI director until Señor Trumpanzee publicly pledges not to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, which is at the heart of his reasons for moving against Sessions.

Nancy Ohanian's Bob Mueller

Dear Senators,

We write to request that the Senate postpone the confirmation of a new Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) until the White House takes concrete steps to insulate the Director and the law enforcement agency he will lead from improper political interference. Recent statements by President Trump indicate that he believes the FBI Director should be politically loyal to him, instead of serving the country and the rule of law. The President’s recent statements further indicate that he is aggressively seeking to undermine, if not eliminate, a specific Department of Justice law enforcement matter-- the Special Counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in our elections. The President’s comments demeaning the Attorney General over his recusal in this matter, as well as his extraordinary reference to him as “beleaguered,” raise deep concerns that the President may be considering a series of personnel changes seeking to terminate the investigation. Under these circumstances, confirming the President’s hand-picked FBI Director-- regardless of that nominee’s individual merits-- would plunge a new Director into an unfair and untenable position, where the stated expectations of the President directly conflict with the Director’s independent law enforcement responsibilities. As such, the Senate should not proceed to confirm a new Director until the President has made specific commitments-- set forth below-- to respect the independence of the Department of Justice, including the FBI Director and the Special Counsel.

The Director of the FBI is an independent position, by its nature as a federal law enforcement leader, its statutory ten year term, and its protection from White House interference under historic policies governing White House communications with law enforcement on specific matters. For over forty years, to prevent even the appearance of political meddling in federal law enforcement, White House policies of Republican and Democratic administrations alike have either forbid, or, vastly minimized any White House contacts with federal law enforcement functions involving specific investigations or prosecutions. These policies, including the current White House policy, designate less than a handful of individuals at the Department of Justice-- excluding the FBI-- which may properly have contact with the White House about any specific investigation or enforcement matter.

Likewise, the decades-long policy of the Department of Justice (DOJ), including the currently operative version, also protects the integrity of particular investigation and enforcement matters by prohibiting communications with the White House about them, other than those involving the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General. Strict enforcement of these policies restricting White House interference with specific law enforcement matters is especially crucial where the investigation at hand may relate to the President, his family, his campaign, and his closest political advisors.

Currently, the White House has a contacts policy, but as it applies only to DOJ, it is vastly inadequate compared to policies of prior administrations, which applied across the federal government to address other law enforcement functions, as well as specific party matters in procurement, grant-making, and regulatory decisions, among others. Recently, internal White House documents, released through FOIA, disclosed that the White House Counsel’s office plans to issue a more complete and robust White House agency contacts policy, which would be in line with the precedent of prior Administrations, and in keeping with the White House’s commitment months ago. This is a critical moment for the White House to publicly commit to avoiding political interference with law enforcement and other independent government functions. The White House should, as it has promised, issue a thorough and comprehensive policy limiting inappropriate White House contacts about specific matters with officials across the Federal agencies.

Unfortunately, recent comments from the President and the White House, consistent with the White House’s prior actions, suggest that the President does seek the ability to interfere with and impede specific investigations. In particular, the President seems intent on thwarting the special counsel’s investigation regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election. The statements from the White House spokesperson on limiting the scope of the special counsel investigation, as well as news reports of the President’s staff working to investigate the Special Counsel staff in order to discredit them, and by extension, the investigation,6 plainly pose improper White House threats against independent law enforcement functions. In addition, just a few days ago, the President stated in an interview with the New York Times that the “F.B.I. person really reports directly to the president of the United States, which is interesting. You know, which is interesting. And I think we’re going to have a great new F.B.I. director.” Even after the outcry following testimony of the President’s demand for “loyalty” from prior FBI Director James Comey, it appears the President still expects political or personal loyalty to him from the next FBI Director. It also suggests that the President does not respect or abide by the contacts policy of his own White House, or of the Department of Justice.

Before moving to confirm a new Trump-selected FBI Director, the Senate should be assured that President Trump and his White House will respect the independence of the FBI’s law enforcement function from White House interference. In particular, the Senate should ensure the following conditions are met:
1) The White House publicly issues a complete and robust agency contacts policy, as it has said it will.
2)  President Trump commits that he and his White House will abide by the White House’s agency contacts policy.
3)  Consistent with the agency contacts policy and importance of protecting specific law enforcement matters from agency interference, the President commits not to fire or otherwise interfere with Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation.

To approve the nomination of any FBI Director without clarification from the President himself that he will not interfere with ongoing law enforcement matters, would be to thrust that nominee into an impossible position, undermining the head of the FBI before he steps in the door. As the nominee, Christopher Wray, has testified, receiving reassurance from the Department of Justice senior leadership that Special Counsel Mueller is continuing his investigation made Wray “comfortable that I would be able to do my job...” To confirm a Director, with widespread criminal and national security responsibilities, under such a cloud could have lasting harmful consequences for the FBI, the Justice Department, and the nation.

Through the confirmation process, Congress serves its role as a check on the executive pursuant to the constitution. Nothing is more important in upholding our constitutional system and rule of law than the President not be allowed to place himself above the law. In fulfilling Congress’s constitutional role, the Senate should demand these assurances before confirming a new FBI Director.

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McCain Wants To Be A Hero Again-- But Not THAT Much


By now you know McConnell's Motion to Proceed into the murky depths of healthcare legislation-- virtually none of the senators voting yesterday knew exactly what bill would be proceeded to-- passed when Mike Pence broke a 50-50 tie. McConnell dragged McCain out of his hospital bed in Phoenix because he knew only Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) planned to stick to their guns about not wrecking healthcare for tens of millions of Americans. Remember when Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) boasted she wouldn't flinch from being the deciding vote to kill the bill. She wasn't lying whence said. McConnell bribed her after she said it. And remember all that drama from lying sacks of shit like Dean Heller (R-NV), who succumbed to Trump's threats and bluster, Rob Portman (R-OH), Rand Paul (R-KY) and the rest of the phonies.

But the weirdest situation was McCain. All he had to do was stay in his hospital room. Instead he chose to take health insurance away from 23-- or 32-- million Americans... and wreck the V.A. And then he read a long, self-aggrandizing speech one of his p.r. aides wrote that is classic McCain-- desperate not to look like the rubber-stamp zombie he's been for his whole political career.
“Mr. President:

“I’ve stood in this place many times and addressed as president many presiding officers. I have been so addressed when I have sat in that chair, as close as I will ever be to a presidency.

“It is an honorific we’re almost indifferent to, isn’t it. In truth, presiding over the Senate can be a nuisance, a bit of a ceremonial bore, and it is usually relegated to the more junior members of the majority.

“But as I stand here today-- looking a little worse for wear I’m sure-- I have a refreshed appreciation for the protocols and customs of this body, and for the other ninety-nine privileged souls who have been elected to this Senate.

“I have been a member of the United States Senate for thirty years. I had another long, if not as long, career before I arrived here, another profession that was profoundly rewarding, and in which I had experiences and friendships that I revere. But make no mistake, my service here is the most important job I have had in my life. And I am so grateful to the people of Arizona for the privilege-- for the honor-- of serving here and the opportunities it gives me to play a small role in the history of the country I love.

“I’ve known and admired men and women in the Senate who played much more than a small role in our history, true statesmen, giants of American politics. They came from both parties, and from various backgrounds. Their ambitions were frequently in conflict. They held different views on the issues of the day. And they often had very serious disagreements about how best to serve the national interest.

“But they knew that however sharp and heartfelt their disputes, however keen their ambitions, they had an obligation to work collaboratively to ensure the Senate discharged its constitutional responsibilities effectively. Our responsibilities are important, vitally important, to the continued success of our Republic. And our arcane rules and customs are deliberately intended to require broad cooperation to function well at all. The most revered members of this institution accepted the necessity of compromise in order to make incremental progress on solving America’s problems and to defend her from her adversaries.

“That principled mindset, and the service of our predecessors who possessed it, come to mind when I hear the Senate referred to as the world’s greatest deliberative body. I’m not sure we can claim that distinction with a straight face today.

“I’m sure it wasn’t always deserved in previous eras either. But I’m sure there have been times when it was, and I was privileged to witness some of those occasions.

“Our deliberations today-- not just our debates, but the exercise of all our responsibilities-- authorizing government policies, appropriating the funds to implement them, exercising our advice and consent role-- are often lively and interesting. They can be sincere and principled. But they are more partisan, more tribal more of the time than any other time I remember. Our deliberations can still be important and useful, but I think we’d all agree they haven’t been overburdened by greatness lately. And right now they aren’t producing much for the American people.

“Both sides have let this happen. Let’s leave the history of who shot first to the historians. I suspect they’ll find we all conspired in our decline-- either by deliberate actions or neglect. We’ve all played some role in it. Certainly I have. Sometimes, I’ve let my passion rule my reason. Sometimes, I made it harder to find common ground because of something harsh I said to a colleague. Sometimes, I wanted to win more for the sake of winning than to achieve a contested policy.

“Incremental progress, compromises that each side criticize but also accept, just plain muddling through to chip away at problems and keep our enemies from doing their worst isn’t glamorous or exciting. It doesn’t feel like a political triumph. But it’s usually the most we can expect from our system of government, operating in a country as diverse and quarrelsome and free as ours.

“Considering the injustice and cruelties inflicted by autocratic governments, and how corruptible human nature can be, the problem solving our system does make possible, the fitful progress it produces, and the liberty and justice it preserves, is a magnificent achievement.

“Our system doesn’t depend on our nobility. It accounts for our imperfections, and gives an order to our individual strivings that has helped make ours the most powerful and prosperous society on earth. It is our responsibility to preserve that, even when it requires us to do something less satisfying than ‘winning.’ Even when we must give a little to get a little. Even when our efforts manage just three yards and a cloud of dust, while critics on both sides denounce us for timidity, for our failure to ‘triumph.’

 “I hope we can again rely on humility, on our need to cooperate, on our dependence on each other to learn how to trust each other again and by so doing better serve the people who elected us. Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and television and the Internet. To hell with them. They don’t want anything done for the public good. Our incapacity is their livelihood.

“Let’s trust each other. Let’s return to regular order. We’ve been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle. That’s an approach that’s been employed by both sides, mandating legislation from the top down, without any support from the other side, with all the parliamentary maneuvers that requires.

“We’re getting nothing done. All we’ve really done this year is confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Our healthcare insurance system is a mess. We all know it, those who support Obamacare and those who oppose it. Something has to be done. We Republicans have looked for a way to end it and replace it with something else without paying a terrible political price. We haven’t found it yet, and I’m not sure we will. All we’ve managed to do is make more popular a policy that wasn’t very popular when we started trying to get rid of it.

“I voted for the motion to proceed to allow debate to continue and amendments to be offered. I will not vote for the bill as it is today. It’s a shell of a bill right now. We all know that. I have changes urged by my state’s governor that will have to be included to earn my support for final passage of any bill. I know many of you will have to see the bill changed substantially for you to support it.

“We’ve tried to do this by coming up with a proposal behind closed doors in consultation with the administration, then springing it on skeptical members, trying to convince them it’s better than nothing, asking us to swallow our doubts and force it past a unified opposition. I don’t think that is going to work in the end. And it probably shouldn’t.

“The Obama administration and congressional Democrats shouldn’t have forced through Congress without any opposition support a social and economic change as massive as Obamacare. And we shouldn’t do the same with ours.

“Why don’t we try the old way of legislating in the Senate, the way our rules and customs encourage us to act. If this process ends in failure, which seem likely, then let’s return to regular order.

“Let the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee under Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray hold hearings, try to report a bill out of committee with contributions from both sides. Then bring it to the floor for amendment and debate, and see if we can pass something that will be imperfect, full of compromises, and not very pleasing to implacable partisans on either side, but that might provide workable solutions to problems Americans are struggling with today.

“What have we to lose by trying to work together to find those solutions? We’re not getting much done apart. I don’t think any of us feels very proud of our incapacity. Merely preventing your political opponents from doing what they want isn’t the most inspiring work. There’s greater satisfaction in respecting our differences, but not letting them prevent agreements that don’t require abandonment of core principles, agreements made in good faith that help improve lives and protect the American people.

“The Senate is capable of that. We know that. We’ve seen it before. I’ve seen it happen many times. And the times when I was involved even in a modest way with working out a bipartisan response to a national problem or threat are the proudest moments of my career, and by far the most satisfying.

“This place is important. The work we do is important. Our strange rules and seemingly eccentric practices that slow our proceedings and insist on our cooperation are important. Our founders envisioned the Senate as the more deliberative, careful body that operates at a greater distance than the other body from the public passions of the hour.

“We are an important check on the powers of the Executive. Our consent is necessary for the President to appoint jurists and powerful government officials and in many respects to conduct foreign policy. Whether or not we are of the same party, we are not the President’s subordinates. We are his equal!

“As his responsibilities are onerous, many and powerful, so are ours. And we play a vital role in shaping and directing the judiciary, the military, and the cabinet, in planning and supporting foreign and domestic policies. Our success in meeting all these awesome constitutional obligations depends on cooperation among ourselves.

“The success of the Senate is important to the continued success of America. This country-- this big, boisterous, brawling, intemperate, restless, striving, daring, beautiful, bountiful, brave, good and magnificent country-- needs us to help it thrive. That responsibility is more important than any of our personal interests or political affiliations.

“We are the servants of a great nation, ‘a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.’ More people have lived free and prosperous lives here than in any other nation. We have acquired unprecedented wealth and power because of our governing principles, and because our government defended those principles.

“America has made a greater contribution than any other nation to an international order that has liberated more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history. We have been the greatest example, the greatest supporter and the greatest defender of that order. We aren’t afraid. “We don’t covet other people’s land and wealth. We don’t hide behind walls. We breach them. We are a blessing to humanity.

“What greater cause could we hope to serve than helping keep America the strong, aspiring, inspirational beacon of liberty and defender of the dignity of all human beings and their right to freedom and equal justice? That is the cause that binds us and is so much more powerful and worthy than the small differences that divide us.

“What a great honor and extraordinary opportunity it is to serve in this body.

“It’s a privilege to serve with all of you. I mean it. Many of you have reached out in the last few days with your concern and your prayers, and it means a lot to me. It really does. I’ve had so many people say such nice things about me recently that I think some of you must have me confused with someone else. I appreciate it though, every word, even if much of it isn’t deserved.

“I’ll be here for a few days, I hope managing the floor debate on the defense authorization bill, which, I’m proud to say is again a product of bipartisan cooperation and trust among the members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“After that, I’m going home for a while to treat my illness. I have every intention of returning here and giving many of you cause to regret all the nice things you said about me. And, I hope, to impress on you again that it is an honor to serve the American people in your company.

“Thank you, fellow senators."

It may be his last Senate speech ever. Maybe not. But you think there's any chance at all he'll make as brave a move as Susan Collins or Lisa Murkowski did yesterday? I don't. It's not in him-- even at this late stage. He probably feels his legacy has withstood a full frontal attack from Trump and it'll withstand his ugly, cowardly vote yesterday as well. Because, despite the hopeful throwaway line someone wrote and he read-- "I will not vote for the bill as it is today"-- just a couple of hours after saying it, he did just that: voted for TrumpCare with no changes, same as Shelley Moore "I didn't comes to Washington to makes peoples' lives worse" Capito did. Apparently she reconsidered and realized she did come to Washington to make 32 million Americans lives worse. The Republicans who voted with the Democrats against the first repeal and replace TrumpCare bill last night were Susan Collins (ME), Bob Corker (TN), Tom Cotton (AR), Lindsey Graham (SC), Dean Heller (NV), Mike Lee (UT), Jerry Moran (KS), Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Rand Paul (KY). It needed 60 votes and it only got 43.

Just after the Senate vote, Congressmembers Keith Ellison, Raul Grijalva, Pramila Jayapal, Our Revolution leader Nina Turner and other progressive leaders introduced the People’s Platform-- a progressive agenda to move the country forward. This is what Schumer and Pelosi should have announced this week instead of recycling the Papa John's Pizza slogan. Pramila: "If Democrats want to win in 2018 and take our country back, we can’t just be an opposition party: we must be a proposition party." The People’s Platform includes legislation that addresses the real issues Americans face every day, including universal health care for ALL Americans. More from Pramila:
"I’m proud to be a progressive, and I wear that label with pride. [The ideas in the People’s Platform] are ideas that serve working people across America. These ideas have been tested in every other developed country, and they work-- so why not here in America?

The People’s Platform recognizes that economic, racial and gender justice are deeply intertwined, and will empower working people across our country to stand up to the wealthiest corporations and top 1% and invest instead in working families across our country.

In addition to universal health care, the People’s Platform calls for free college education, automatic voter registration, taxes on Wall Street, raising the federal minimum wage to $15, protecting women’s reproductive rights and ending private prisons.

Together, we need to build an America that will provide every person-- regardless of their age, race, gender or economic status-- access to health care, free college tuition, a livable planet, and a job that pays a living wage.

Pramila has always believed that there is no problem in our country that we can’t solve or challenges that we can’t overcome-- if we do it together.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Who Thinks Subsidizing Rich Sports Team Owners Is A Good Use Of Public Funds?


I was elected freshman class president at college and the first vote I remember taking on the student council was to oppose spending student funds on moleskin-- a cotton fabric some sports team wanted because it's resistant to wind and abrasion. Let them get their own moleskins; I had Fugs, Doors, Country Joe & the Fish, Who and Otis Redding concerts in mind, not to mention lectures by Timothy Leary and Julian Bond. Conservatives on the council didn't agree with me-- not on that vote, nor on any others... not ever. But I find myself on the same team with conservatives today when it comes to sports stadium funding. I haven't changed my ideas about public money going into sports. But wasn't I surprised to see this OpEd the other day by the New Jersey and Oklahoma state directors of the Koch Brothers' Americans For Prosperity opposing public funds for sports stadiums! It's also a story about two senators, Cory Booker (D-NJ) and James Lankford (R-OK), both reliably pro-corporate... until this issue came up. The idea is that "Maybe bringing together two senators from vastly different states and from widely different ideologies-- U.S. Sen. James Lankford, an Oklahoma Republican, and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat-- will help inspire a fractious Congress to work together on a bipartisan bill to cut federal subsidies for sports stadiums."
The bill would end the federal tax giveaway for municipal bonds used to fund sports stadiums. It's a practice that has been going on for decades because shrewd team owners know that local politicians are under extreme political pressure from fans to make sure their beloved local teams don't move to greener pastures unless they get a handout.

Even if we ignore for a moment that such picking of winners and losers is a flagrant foul by the government, it's also a questionable use of federal tax dollars. "The federal government is responsible for a lot of important functions, but financing sports stadiums for multi-million dollar franchises is definitely not one of them," Sen. Lankford said in a statement.

Exempting the interest on municipal bonds from federal income taxes is a legitimate tool to lower the borrowing costs for cities to pay for public projects that serve to carry out core functions of government such as roads, sewer systems, and schools. Subsidizing ballparks for billionaire owners and millionaire players, however, shouldn't be part of the equation.

The carve-out hasn't been cheap. According to the Brookings Institution, the stadium loophole has cost federal taxpayers $3.2 billion for 36 professional sports facilities since 2000.

With the federal government $20 trillion in debt, excising this kind of pointless waste would seem to be the legislative equivalent of a slam dunk. But as with so much else in the federal tax code, it pays to be well-connected.

In 1986, when major tax reform was last enacted, there was a push to do away with federal welfare for stadiums. "We thought we shut down public financing to private sports stadiums in 1986," then-Sen. Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat told the New York Times a decade later, in reference to a similar measure introduced at that time.

But the subsidy lives on, like the hope that springs eternal in the fans of a team that gets to the championship game, only to see its dreams dashed yet again. (Sorry, Cleveland.)

So, here we are again, decades and billions of dollars later, and Congress is still trying to figure out a way to end this expensive handout.

It's a matter of simple fairness, according to Sen. Booker, whose home state lost the NBA's Nets to Brooklyn, where a new stadium was built with $161 million in federal subsidies. "It's not fair to finance these expensive projects on the backs of taxpayers, especially when wealthy teams end up reaping most of the benefits." The senator is right. Taxpayer subsidies mean that there are fewer state dollars to go around to address areas of true government need.

Congress should act to remove this misguided incentivizing of federal subsidies for stadium financing. If Washington gets out of the ballpark business, taxpayers will be the big winners.
These are the 10 current members of the Senate who have taken the biggest bribes from professional sports teams since 1990:
John McCain (R-AZ)- $583,380
Rob Portman (R-OH)- $225,083
Chuck Schumer (D-NY)- $219,100
Bitch McConnell (R-KY)- $174,200
Bill Nelson (D-FL)- $167,700
Marco Rubio (R-FL)- $135,865
Todd Young (R-IN)- $128,900
John Cornyn (R-TX)- $128,000
Mike Lee (R-UT)- $109,900
Richard Burr (R-NC)- $109,500
And here are the 10 current members of the House who have taken the biggest bribes from professional sports teams since 1990:
Charlie Crist (Blue Dog-FL)- $143,350
Tom Rooney (R-FL)- $107,985
Ron DeSantis (R-FL)- $104,502
Steve Chabot (R-OH)- $101,450
Paul Ryan (R-WI)- $88,214
Richard Hudson (R-NC)- $85,800
Debbie Wasserman Schultz (New Dem-FL)- $74,625
Steny Hoyer (D-MD)- $71,250
Fred Upton (R-MI)- $69,700
Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)- $68,900
Mostly corrupt Republicans with a sprinkling of 2 of the very worst of the corrupt conservative House Democrats, Hoyer and Wasserman Schultz. What else is new?

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