Jul 13

The Government in Crisis

The Government is still “broken.” Evidence is mounting that the leaders of the Republican Party have been bought and paid for by powerful interests such as the Koch Brothers and other groups who are willing to spend millions of dollars to influence governmental policy.

Healthcare – The efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act show a total lack of understanding of the plight of the average American Citizen. As of today, the Senate Healthcare bill still has gigantic cuts to Medicaid and other such programs. Efforts to appease the radically conservative members of the party will penalize all people in the lower income brackets. Smoke and mirrors are used to effectively hide just what the “new” healthcare bill will do. Party leadership still insists on extreme secrecy in preparing the plan. Of course, only the “elite” of the Grand Ole Party’s membership are allowed to participate. Leadership is desperately trying to achieve “something” that will gain them the 50 votes (plus Vice-President Pence’s tie-breaker,) needed to pass the plan. The “Party” is the supreme guide… promise and propose a plan (any plan???) to repeal Obamacare. Their efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act show a total lack of understanding of the plight of the average American Citizen. As of today, the Senate Healthcare bill still has gigantic cuts to Medicaid and other such programs. McConnell sticks to the pledge he made years ago to stop and or undo anything that could give the previous administration any credit. If it succeeds, the Party will claim that it has fulfilled its campaign promise to repeal and replace the healthcare plan. It does not matter that the plan they are passing is a joke and the paper it is printed on isn’t even suitable for use in bathrooms.

Net Neutrality – Killing Net Neutrality will give companies such as Comcast, AT&T, and other cable companies the ability to block or slow down access by individuals in favor of corporate interests (who pay more.) Individuals could lose access to Video Streaming and many of the other features which most internet users love. It is also interesting that the proposals seek to give more control to the very companies that have the worst customer satisfaction records in the USA.

Republicans have often claimed that they are the voice of the Silent Majority. Actions speak louder than words. Their actions prove themselves to be the voice of the rich and powerful corporations and individuals. The elected officials avoid town hall meetings and any other situation which could challenge what they are doing in Washington. It would seem that they are listening to the people they represent. They are always available to lobbyists, PACs, wealthy families and individuals and corporate interests.

Democrats have also fallen victim to the influence of PACs, Lobbyists and powerful corporations. They lack concrete policies and proposals to stem the influence of the rich and powerful interests. Their focus seems to be on what they can do in the next elections rather than on concrete proposals on what to do now.

Party co-operation is a dead issue. Gone are the days when members of both parties could disagree on policy but still treat each other with honor and respect. Name-calling, branding, rumor-mongering, even hatred, have undermined any chance of having the leadership of both parties working together to produce a compromised solution with the best of both worlds. The Rigid idealism and fanaticism of extreme groups destroy any such cooperation. These extremes and even a religious fanaticism even continue to cause warring within the Republican Party.

It is past time for the true Silent Majority to speak up. How can believing Christians continue to persecute the least of Christ’s brethren? How can believers in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution continue to deny and crush one of their core beliefs that all are created equal? How can they act to suppress God-given, unalienable rights?

Present policies continue to reinforce our governmental structures as those not of a democracy, but of an oligarchy… a government by the rich and powerful. Only this 1% of the population is governing the USA. The rest of us are but members of the “lower class,” and often, nothing more than slaves of the rich and powerful.

Jul 09

Back to work on Healthcare

Congress returns to Washington, DC on Monday with the Senate scheduled to resume debate on a health care program that will repeal and replace The Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare.)

While The Affordable Care Act is far from perfect, it has provided or improved insurance coverage for millions of Americans, especially those who could not previously afford it. Under this program, people with pre-existing conditions cannot be turned down FOR THAT REASON if and when they have to apply for a different insurance. The Affordable Care Act could use some definite reforms to eliminate the problems caused by parts of its establishment law. The so-called “Death Spin” or “Crashing” of Obamacare is as much due to actions taken by the administration and by Congress that threaten the funding of the program rather than the program itself.

Many Americans are just becoming aware that the attacks on Obamacare will deprive them of the health insurance that they need and have come to depend on. They had no idea that the Affordable Care Act (which they love) and Obamacare (which they HATE,) are one and the same thing. The presently proposed programs will deprive them of health insurance.

With that in mind, we need to remember the following information:

Almost all ultra-conservative Members of Congress do not believe the Government should be in the business of providing health care insurance or any Social Benefits for all Americans, especially for the lower economic classes. To gain their support for ANY program, serious cuts must be made to the spending involved.

Many other Republicans also share a belief that the Government should not be involved in Social Programs. Republican House and Senate Leadership wants serious changes, cuts and possible abolition of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Some Congress Members and members of the Administration only want to get rid of anything that might give some credit to former President Obama. This is just a fact that will have to be dealt with if any real progress is to be made. For that matter, rename the program but don’t add insult to injury by naming it after any current leadership.

Members of both parties should put aside partisan politics and work together for a program that will provide the most benefits for all Americans at a reasonable cost. Substituting tax “credits” for tax “subsidies” will also cut a large number of people from the insurance program. Not many lower and middle-class individuals or families can afford to pay the monthly difference now covered by subsidies and wait until they get their ANNUAL tax refund to see their savings realized.

Whatever program is finally adopted should also apply to all members of the House, Senate, the Administration and their staffs. These elected and appointed representatives are not members of a special social class entitled to their own benefits. If it is good enough for the average American, it should be good enough for Congress.

Congress should forget about using health care reform as both an occasion and a reason for a tax break for the highest earners in the US. While powerful and wealthy corporations, families and individuals do support members of Congress in their work and in their election campaigns, these people should not expect special consideration or tax breaks because of their generosity. The Republican party leadership needs to recognize that “trickle-down economics” has not worked for decades. There is no logical reason to expect it to work today.

Social Security and Medicare are NOT primarily entitlement programs. It was intended to be an insurance program to provide for elderly and sick citizens. Social Security would probably be more than solvent if past representatives had not raided the funds for other purposes. These were never tax funds to be used at the whim and fancy of Congress and/or administrations. There was at least an implied contract between the citizen and the government.

The government of the United States spends the highest percentage of its GDP on the support of the military and its needs. The Military-Industrial complex has vastly benefited from cost overruns, privatization programs and other so-called reforms. Rather than simply allocating additional funds which continue the present abuses, serious efforts should be made to make their operation much more efficient and economical. Serious consideration should also be made to take care of those who have served their country and are in need of care and/or economic opportunity. Our veterans have definitely earned these benefits by giving of life and limb to carry out their mission.

Last, but not least, something drastic has to be done to control the greed of the pharmaceutical companies and their leaders. No corporation should be allowed to reap exorbitant profits from the sale of medicines, etc. that have been funded to a great extent by Government Grants, Tax Exemptions and other benefits. Their price raises have contributed enormously to the rise in the cost of medical care. No corporation or individual should be rewarded for their greed and dishonesty.

Any serious American needs to insist on proper behavior from their elected representative. Anyone basing their political outlook on their Christian faith needs to remember the “whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do to Me,” teaching which is at its core. Years ago in typing class, one of the sentences we had to type over and over again is: “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.” The meaning of this statement is more important now than it has been for many years.

Jun 28

HEALTHCARE FALLACIES

FALLACIES OF PRESENT PROPOSALS

1. OBAMACARE IS EXPLODING. While it is true that the ACA is far from perfect, it has reached out to millions of people who were not able to afford Health Insurance. The quandary that is being experienced at this time is due to the constantly changing positions of both the Congress and the Executive Office about covering the subsidies provided. Insurance companies are extremely hesitant to enter or remain in a market that will not be properly funded.

2. The Republican doubletalk about “freeing the American People” of the “burden” of required insurance in order to allow the American People a “choice” regarding the purchase of Health Insurance. What the House and Senate programs actually do is to effectively prohibit the purchase of Health |nsurance by a large percentage of people because of inability to pay the required premiums.

3. The Republican proposals have both eliminated the subsidies paid for the the insurance premiums and substituting “tax credits” which they claim will enable less fortunate people to purchase the insurance. The problem with this line of reasoning is that the individuals will first have to pay the full monthly costs from their own pockets. The relief would only be available when people file their tax returns and claim the credit. While this “could” result in a refund, the vast majority of people would not be able to afford the monthly premiums, effectively eliminating another entire group from the possibility of having Heath Insurance.

4. Tax relief. While “Tax Reform” is stated to be on the agenda for both the Administration and the Republican Congress, the exact form of the reform is not known. The so-called tax-relief from the repeal and replacement of Obamacare only comes from eliminating the Taxes and health care spending cuts from the Obamacare program. This relief will only come to corporations and individuals whose income exceeds approximately $200,000 to $250,000.

Finally, the proposed Repeal and Replacement Bills do not in any way provide adequate possibilities for the average American individual and family. The proposals benefit insurance companies since they will be able to selectively decide who they shall insure. The pharmaceutical companies will be able to continue their ever increasing prices and profits despite the fact that their efforts have been continually subsidized by the American Taxpayers.

Apr 27

Are the members of Congress truly representatives of the people?

There have been quite a few reports that showed members of Congress refusing to hold “town hall meetings” with their constituents. Some of the others who have held such meetings were not really answering the asked questions and often just parroted answers filled with cliches and the party line.
Members of Congress are elected to represent their constituents in deliberations about proposed laws and policies affecting the people of the United States. The very title of one of the Houses of Congress proclaims that they are the “House of Representatives.” We often hear that these members are duty-bound to carry out what they promised as candidates. They have to carry out those objectives.
The concept of having these members of Congress truly represent the people who elected them seems to have died some time ago. Perhaps the advent of “professional politicians” contributed to the loss of this concept which was basic to the founders of our country. Members of Congress were elected to serve a term or two and then return to their homes and families while a new representative was chosen to replace them. Term limits have been suggested as a possible remedy for this situation but the discussion doesn’t seem to go very far. Their response is that we already have possible term limits because we have frequent elections. They overlook the fact that it is not easy to unseat an incumbent House or Senate Member who has vast financial and other assets backing them in their campaigns for re-election.
The present system causes them to spend a high percentage of their time and energy raising money and preparing for their next election campaign. This pre-occupation actually hinders true representation because the candidates do not truly listen to their constituents but merely preach to them of the success of their job performance and what they are promising to do in their next term. With the advent of the professional politician, the temporary position has become a “career.” It also has given rise to special benefits which have tended to form these people into members of a special class with powers and privileges which many (most???) of their constituents do not have. Specialized health care, retirement, and other benefits give them security and opportunities that are not easy to come by.
Many politicians have come from groups which claim to firmly believe and follow the “true values of the silent majority of the country.” Because of this background and a belief that they are “divinely missioned” to restore what they believe were the core values of the founders, they rigidly adopt certain positions and say that they are carrying out the mandate of the people who elected them. They completely ignore the fact that the very rationale for our form of government was to provide insights from multiple viewpoints and to work together to find the best solution to the problems using a wide spectrum of possibilities. They focus in on their “values” and refuse to compromise with any other viewpoint.
These factors have all contributed to a certain arrogance among our politicians that removes them from the very purpose of their elected offices. They consider their own beliefs are the “mandate” provided for their election. The lack of flexibility contributes to governing bodies that are constantly squabbling among themselves and the fact of a do-nothing, ineffective government. Instead of truly listening to the views of all of their constituents they are constantly holding meetings and gatherings which merely support and reinforce what they proclaim as their core values.

Mar 27

Mandate to Govern

After the 2016 Presidential and Congressional Elections, we often heard comments about “the election representing a mandate from the people” that the respective group would follow. The problem with these statements is that they were applied to groups with widely varying understandings of what that mandate involved.

The Freedom Caucus believes they have a mandate to force the government into very rigid, conservative positions on just about everything from taxes to Health Care.

The followers of Donald Trump (and even Trump himself) believe they have a mandate to implement the messages that Mr. Trump proclaimed throughout the campaign.

The “old Guard” Republicans believe that they should continue to push for the type of government that was envisioned by Reagan in the 1980’s. They keep insisting that this message has not had sufficient time and emphasis to bring about the desired results.

Running through each of the above groups is a sub-group of “War Hawks” who keep insisting that the US needs a stronger military and that we need to develop new weapons and materials to build that stronger military. Of course, these are also pushed by the Military/Industrial Complex Lobbyists who are very powerful. The greed of the owners and executives of this particular element has no limits to what it would propose and cost the American people. Their programs will push for the development and purchase of expensive equipment while continuing to neglect the needs of members of the military, their families, and Veterans. They ignore these latter needs because that will not enrich the coffers of the Military Industrial Complex.

With such divergent opinions guiding its membership, it will be very difficult to unite the members of the Republican Party behind almost any kind of program that will be successful in achieving its goals. The Trump Administration lacks the vision and clarity of purpose that should come from its leadership. Mr. Trump was an excellent campaigner. He knows how to work an audience, to alter the tone of his message so as to convince his listeners that he (and only he) can solve the problems facing our government. He convinced his listeners that he was on THEIR side. But with the campaign being over, he seems to be moving in different directions than he sold while running for office. His switch from “saving social security, medicare and providing health care for all” to the chaos of the American Healthcare Act (Ryancare) allowed many of his former supporters to begin to realize they had been “conned.” That proposal changed from “adequate, affordable healtchare for everyone” to another attempt to provide a MASSIVE tax break to the richest 2% of the country, leaving the poor and middle class with a program that provided insurance that covered nothing.

The Freedom Caucus will continue to to only appeal to a small, extremely conservative, almost religiously fanatical group. It’s rigidity and extremism will only appeal to a certain decreasing portion of the population.

The Old Guard” has been fractioned by the political ambitions of so many of its so-called leaders. People like Cruz, Rubio, McConnell, Ryan, etc, have alienated many members of the Republican Party by setting their own ambitions above any need to develop a true concensus that would appeal to Republicans as a whole.

There is much more that could be said about the problems but little that comes up as an adequate solution. The rigidity of these groups prevents any real attempt at effective compromise yet it is only through such compromise that the best and most effective solutions can be found.

Mar 26

Republicans Learning to “Govern???”

Since the disaster of the American Healthcare Act, there have been several prominent Republicans talking about the difficulties that the Republican Party seems to have with being the governing party rather than the opposition party. It would seem to me that in our country’s form of Government, both parties are supposed to be “governing” rather than merely an “opposition” party. I would think that the founding fathers wanted both parties to work together to find workable solutions that represent the best each party can contribute.

It is true that for the years of the Obama Administration, the Republican Party mainly focused on opposing anything and everything proposed by the Administration. The Party Leadership seemed determined to block every move by President Obama and the Democrats. From repeated efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act to the refusal to process his last Supreme Court Nominee, the Republicans did function as an opposition party. Now that this party controls the White House and both Houses of Congress, the party has to face the reality that they are NOT a unified party. They have at least three (3) factions within the Republican umbrella that have conflicting ideals and Goals.
1) The former “Tea Party” which is now called “The Freedom Caucus” represents an ultra-conservative, so-called “Christian,” and rigid outlook. They are extremely anti Big Government and are reluctant to approve anything that does not measure up to their standards. The Freedom Caucus, like the Tea Party before it, seems to consider itself Divinely Missioned to “restore” the American Government to what they see as it’s primitive, pure state. Any Divinely Missioned Group is usually very inflexible and extremely difficult to work with.
2) The “Old Guard” which claims to be the embodiment of the Principles proposed by President Ronald Reagan. Trickle-down economics, smaller Federal Government, strictly conservative financial programs are some of their ideals. Within this group there are extreme conservatives and moderates
3) The “Trump” element. The unexpected election of Donald J Trump introduced another faction within the party. This group tends to exaggerate the “mandate” provided by the election of Donald Trump. Members of this group have their own ideals which often conflict with the other factions within the party.

With these severe divisions within the party itself, it will be extremely difficult to accomplish anything. Even though each group considers itself “conservative,” the gaps in interpretation of that concept will continue to make it difficult, if not impossible, to come up with unified laws, programs and legislative packages that will be acceptable with all. Unless some radical steps are taken, this Congress will continue to be, like its predecessor, a “Do-Nothing Congress.” Our Congressional System expects that taking the best viewpoints from the positions of both political parties will produce the best results. Compromise between the parties would provide workable programs and laws that would be acceptable to both sides Long before they try to bridge the gap between the Political Parties, the Republicans will have to SOLIDLY bridge the gaps among its own members. The Party Leaders have their work cut out for them. Will they be able to unite these extremely diverse factions?