Trumpcare fixes nothing

Yahoo News

Trumpcare fixes nothing

Rick Newman     June 22, 2017 

There are a lot of big problems with the US healthcare system. Costs and spending are way too high, with Americans shelling out far more per person on healthcare than other advanced nations and generally less for their money. Employers that provide insurance bear a huge cost burden their competitors in other countries don’t. The difficulty getting insurance outside an employer leads many workers to stay in jobs they’re not well-suited for, depressing economic dynamism and entrepreneurship. All told, an outdated and inefficient healthcare system is one reason economic growth in the US is chronically weak.

Congress is hard at work on sweeping healthcare legislation—that addresses none of these issues. Instead of aiming at the biggest problems affecting the most people, Republicans and Democrats are waging legislative war over a part of the system that affects only about 8% of everybody with healthcare. As for everybody else, well, if there are problems with cost or coverage, Congress doesn’t seem to be aware of that.

The battle over the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans are now trying to repeal, is, of course, a proxy war for bigger questions of government: Should Uncle Sam solve all big problems? Or have we gone too far in doling out benefits funded by wealthier taxpayers?

The latest move is a new Senate plan similar to one that passed the House in May, which President Trump praised. In general, Trumpcare, as the Republican approach is known, would rescind tax cuts passed in 2010 that help finance coverage for lower-income people who don’t get insurance from an employer. Trumpcare would also reduce the number of people who qualify for Medicaid, while killing the unpopular ACA requirement for nearly all Americans to have coverage. In general, fewer people would end up with health insurance and the government would be less involved in America’s healthcare system. If you’re a small-government conservative who won’t lose benefits under the GOP plan, you’re probably pleased.

Less popular than Obamacare

But the majority of Americans are not. The House bill introduced earlier this year is considerably less popular than Obamacare, which it is meant to replace, and the Senate version seems unlikely to win any new converts. The GOP approach is even less popular than the Wall Street bailouts of 2008 and 2009. AARP opposes Trumpcare because it would raise costs and reduce coverage for some people over 50. The American Medical Association is against it. The American Cancer Society is against it. Three Republican governors oppose it and none has come out in favor of it. It’s hard to think of another instance in which Congress pushed legislation opposed by so many constituents.

If Trumpcare passes and becomes law, America will still have an antiquated, dysfunctional healthcare system—with more uninsured people. The US spends about $9,450 per person each year on healthcare—150% more than the median for advanced nations. Yet the United States ranks 28th in life expectancy and infant mortality. Thirty-eight percent of adult Americans are obese, the highest rate by far among 36 advanced nations. There’s nothing in either the House or Senate bill meant to improve any of this.

If Trumpcare fails to pass in the Senate, and simply dies…. America will still have an antiquated, dysfunctional healthcare system, with no other plans on the books in Congress to do anything about it. In addition to lousy health outcomes, the American healthcare system distorts economic decisions affecting millions of ordinary families. Economists would like to see the “portability” of healthcare benefits, which means workers would get the same benefits for the same price, more or less, regardless of where they work. This would eliminate “job lock,” or the decision to stay in a job simply for the benefits, and allow more workers to start businesses or do something they’re more enthused about. Data is patchy on how widespread job lock is, but some estimates suggest it could affect 25% of the 156 million people who get healthcare through an employer. That’s 34 million Americans who might be more productive and more satisfied in a different job.

The enormous cost to employers

Another growing problem is age discrimination in the workplace, which has a lot to do with the higher cost of healthcare for older workers. Data on this is also incomplete, but many older workers who get laid off and can’t find work insist employers don’t want to hire them because of medical costs. Famed investors Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger addressed the burden healthcare costs put on companies at this year’s Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting. “Our manufacturers have a huge competitive disadvantage caused by the health system, because the manufacturers are providing medical care for all the employees,” Munger told Yahoo Finance editor-in-chief Andy Serwer at this year’s event.

With healthcare costs rising much faster than ordinary inflation, companies that provide healthcare benefits have an enormous cost problem to manage. But don’t worry, they’re handling that by cutting back on the raises everybody gets. While basic wages have barely risen since 1970, when adjusted for inflation, real compensation—which includes healthcare and other benefits—has jumped by 60%. So if you’re wondering where your raise went, it went toward healthcare.

The Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, was a flawed attempt to deal with some of these problems, by first extending coverage to more people. Over time, in theory, that ought to improve healthcare outcomes, as more people get better care. Obamacare critics are correct to point out that the law did nothing to lower healthcare costs for most people, and it actually hiked costs for many who buy individual plans and suddenly had to pay for new tiers of mandated care.

But killing the ACA isn’t going to make anything about the US healthcare system better, and it would probably lead to worse healthcare outcomes as more people lose coverage. There’s a chance it won’t pass, since even some Republicans are squeamish about bouncing people off insurance. That may be the best possible outcome, for now. But all the other problems will still be there. Somebody should tell Congress.

The National Memo

Smart, Sharp, Funny, Fearless

Like House Bill, Senate Trumpcare Version Would Deprive Millions Of Coverage

Steven Rosenfeld, June 22, 2017    Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released a summary of the latest Obamacare repeal legislation late Wednesday, ending a Washington waiting game after secret drafting sessions, but depicting a bill that will have dire consequences for much of America.

McConnell’s summary tries to put a softer spin on the Republicans’ most strident attack on health safety nets in decades. It preserves most of the features of the House-passed bill, which repeals Obamacare, shrinks future Medicaid funding by a quarter and rewards the rich with tax cuts. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said the House bill would leave 24 million Americans without health care while increasing insurance costs and reducing coverage for almost everyone apart from healthy young adults.

Unlike the House, the Senate bill phases in the cuts to federal health spending over the next few years, instead of immediately pulling the carpet out from millions of Americans who were resting a little easier because they had some measure of health security. It will “rejigger” Obamacare subsidies for lower-income people buying private insurance, while gradually limiting their eligibility.

That’s the takeaway as first reported by the Washington Post. On Thursday morning, McConnell is to meet with “wary senators,” the Post reported, adding he will likely tinker with the bill’s details to try to get to 51 votes to pass it.

“The bill largely mirrors the House measure that narrowly passed last month but with some significant changes,” the Post said. “While the House legislation pegged federal insurance subsidies to age, the Senate bill would link them to income as the ACA [Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare] does. The Senate proposal cuts off Medicaid expansion more gradually than the House bill, but would enact deeper long-term cuts to the health-care program for low-income Americans. It also removes language restricting federally subsidized health plans from covering abortions, which may have run afoul of complex budget rules.”

It’s likely many nasty details will come to light as interest groups, health policy experts, Senate Democrats and their staff parse the legislative language, as opposed to McConnell’s talking points.

In many respects, McConnell’s revisions are not a surprise. They resemble the anti-Obamacare bill he shepherded in late 2015, which included closing government health care exchanges, scrapping subsidies for premiums, repealing Medicaid expansion in 30 states, ending tax penalties for people who don’t buy insurance and employers who don’t offer it, repealing its taxes on businesses, individuals and medications, and eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood. Variations of those features have been resurrected in the new Senate bill, although there is new language giving states some flexibility in how they will draw down their Medicaid spending. The brunt of that may not take effect until 2020. But the end result is the same: Republicans have used the rallying cry of repealing Obamacare not just to gut the law, but to structurally change and shrink Medicaid and give wealthy people a tax cut.

‘What they’re basically saying is, in America it is officially reasonable to be afraid of a person just because we are black,’ said Noah of the newly released dashcam video.

Daily Beast, Horrifying

‘It Broke Me’: ‘The Daily Show’ Host Trevor Noah’s Emotional Reaction to Philando Castile Dashcam Video

‘What they’re basically saying is, in America it is officially reasonable to be afraid of a person just because we are black,’ said Noah of the newly released dashcam video.

Marlow Stern    June 22, 2017

On Friday, Officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted of second-degree manslaughter charges and two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm in the shooting death of Philando Castile back on July 6, 2016, in St. Anthony, Minnesota.

Castile, a black man who was beloved by the children at J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School in nearby St. Paul, where he worked as a cafeteria supervisor—“He remembered their names. He remembered who couldn’t have milk. He knew what they could have to eat and what they couldn’t,” a teacher at the school told Time—was in the car with his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her 4-year-old daughter when he was shot down by Yanez. Reynolds captured the aftermath on Facebook Live, in a streaming video in which she pleaded with police as Castile lay dying in the vehicle.

Yanez was acquitted in the shooting death of Castile despite the existence of audio and a dashcam video in which Castile can be heard calmly informing the officer that he had a firearm on his person—which he had a license to carry—and that he was “not pulling it out,” a plea echoed by Reynolds, only to have Yanez scream “DON’T PULL IT OUT!” before firing seven shots at Castile, with five of them hitting him, and two of the bullets entering his heart. On Wednesday, the dashcam video of Castile’s death was released.

“Honestly, I thought that I felt all that I could feel about this story—until I got home, and I watched a newly released video,” said host Trevor Noah on The Daily Show Wednesday night. “And if you’ve already watched this video, you don’t have to watch it again. I wouldn’t say anyone has to watch this video. But if you haven’t seen it, it is graphic, and you probably should watch it. And we’re going to play it for you now.”

Noah then played the highly disturbing dashcam video, in which you can see Officer Yanez at the side of Castile’s vehicle along with their exchange—which, at least from an audio standpoint, appeared to align with Reynolds’ testimony. After Castile informs Yanez that he has a weapon on his person and is not reaching for it, you see the policeman scream “DON’T PULL IT OUT!” before firing seven bullets at Castile. Reynolds has claimed that Castile was reaching for his ID.

“I wont lie to you. When I watched this video, it broke me. It just… it broke me,” said Noah, clearly distraught. “You see so many of these videos and you start to get numb, but this one? Seeing the child—that little girl—getting out of the car after watching a man get killed, it broke my heart into little pieces. I thought of every joke people make about, ‘Oh, the most confusing day in the ’hood is Father’s Day. People don’t know where their parents are. Haha. Black dads.’ That’s a black dad that’s gone. That’s a child that grows up not knowing what it’s like to have somebody in their life.”

“You know what’s the most painful thing? For years, people said that there’s a simple solution to a police shooting: Just give the police body cameras, film everything, and then there will be no question about what happened,” Noah continued. “Black people have been saying for years: Just give us an indictment. Just an indictment. Just get us in front of a jury of our peers—of our follow citizens. We’ll show them the video, the evidence, and they will see it, and then justice will be served. And black people finally get there, and it’s like… what? Nothing?”

“You hear the stories but you watch that and—forget race, are we all watching the same video? The video where a law-abiding man followed the officer’s instructions to the letter of the law, and then was killed regardless? People watched that video and then voted to acquit?”

“It’s one thing to have the system against you—the district attorneys, the police unions, the courts—that’s one thing. But when a jury of your peers—your community—sees this evidence and then decides that even this is self-defense? That is truly depressing. Because what they’re basically saying is in America, it is officially reasonable to be afraid of a person just because we are black. And that’s the truth of what we saw with this verdict.”

Senate Republicans set to release health-care bill, but divisions remain

Washington Post, Power Post

Senate Republicans set to release health-care bill, but divisions remain

By Paige Winfield Cunningham, Juliet Eilperin and Sean Sullivan, June 21, 2017

Senate Republicans on Thursday plan to release a health-care bill that would curtail federal Medicaid funding, repeal taxes on the wealthy and eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood as part of an effort to fulfill a years-long promise to undo Barack Obama’s signature health-care law.

The bill is an attempt to strike a compromise between existing law and a bill passed by the House in May as Republicans struggle to advance their vision for the country’s health-care system even though they now control both chambers of Congress and the White House.

The Senate proposal largely mirrors the House measure with significant differences, according to a discussion draft circulating Wednesday among aides and lobbyists. While the House legislation would peg federal insurance subsidies to age, the Senate bill would link them to income, as the Affordable Care Act does. The Senate proposal would cut off expanded Medicaid funding for states more gradually than the House bill but would enact deeper long-term cuts to the health-care program for low-income Americans. It also would eliminate House language aimed at prohibiting federally subsidized health plans from covering abortions, a provision that may run afoul of complex Senate budget rules.

But on the eve of the bill’s release, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) faced the prospect of an open revolt from key conservative and moderate GOP senators, whose concerns he has struggled to balance in recent weeks. Republicans familiar with the effort said Senate leaders have more work to do to secure the 50 votes needed to pass the measure, with Vice President Pence set to cast the tiebreaking vote, from the pool of 52 GOP senators. No Democrats are expected to support the bill.

Republican aides stressed that the plan is likely to undergo more changes to secure the votes needed for passage, but there were major concerns Wednesday from senators on opposite ends of the GOP spectrum.

“My main concern is I promised voters that I would repeal — vote to repeal Obamacare. And everything I hear sounds like Obamacare-lite,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), whose state expanded Medicaid and has been pushing for a more gradual unwinding of that initiative than many conservatives prefer, said she is waiting to scrutinize what is released but has not seen anything yet that would make her drop her concerns with the proposal.

“Up to this point, I don’t have any new news — tomorrow we will see it definitively — that would cause me to change that sentiment,” she said.

Like the House bill, the Senate measure is expected to make big changes to Medicaid, the program that insures about 74 million elderly and lower-income Americans and was expanded in most states under the ACA. In effect, the revisions would reduce federal spending on the program.

The Senate measure would transform Medicaid from an open-ended entitlement to one in which federal funding would be distributed to states on a per-capita basis. The Senate measure would also seek to phase out the program’s expansion — although at a more gradual rate than the House version.

Yet the Senate bill is expected go further than the House version in its approach to cutting Medicaid funding in the future. In 2025, the measure would tie federal spending on the program to an even slower growth index than the one used in the House bill. That move could prompt states to reduce the size of their Medicaid programs.

That provision, a nod to conservative lawmakers led by Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.), risks alienating moderates, including Capito and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who also represents a state that expanded Medicaid under the ACA. Some Republicans worry that such a move would force states to cut services or coverage, potentially leaving millions of low-income people without sufficient health care.

The growth rate that is applied to Medicaid spending going forward has major implications, said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). “That inflater is critical, because it translates into billions of dollars over time,” she said.

Portman and Capito have also been pushing for the inclusion of a $45 billion fund to treat and prevent opioid addiction. As of early Wednesday afternoon, the opioid money was not included in McConnell’s proposal, according to a top GOP senator and Senate aide familiar with the discussions.

“I don’t think there is right now,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) said when asked whether the legislation includes a distinct opioid fund. “It might have to be considered separately.”

But Portman and Capito, like all senators, will have a chance to introduce amendments to the bill when it heads to the Senate floor, which McConnell said is likely to happen next week. This process will allow senators to draw attention to the causes they have championed and potentially change the final bill.

Moderates who are on the fence about whether to support the Obamacare overhaul are likely to be pleased at the bill’s approach to insurance subsidies because they would be based on financial need, potentially preserving coverage for more people who got insurance under the ACA.

Subsidies are currently available to Americans earning between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level. Starting in 2020, that threshold would be lowered to 350 percent under the Senate bill — but anyone below that line could get the subsidies if they’re not eligible for Medicaid.

That provision, said Larry Levitt, senior vice president for special initiatives at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, would be “a real benefit to poor people in states that don’t expand Medicaid.”

In a move that will please the health-care industry, the draft also proposes repealing all of the ACA taxes except for its “Cadillac tax” on high-cost health plans in language similar to the House version. Senators had previously toyed with the idea of keeping some of the ACA’s taxes.

It would also eliminate Medicaid reimbursements for Planned Parenthood for one year. Federal law already prevents taxpayer funding to pay for abortions except to save the life of the woman or in the case of rape or incest. But some Republicans want to ban all federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which also provides health services such as birth control, because their clinics provide abortion services.

Like the House measure, the Senate bill would eliminate two central requirements of the current health-care law: that individuals provide proof of insurance when filing their annual tax returns and that companies with 50 or more employees provide health coverage for their workers.

In a move that is critical to insurers, the Senate measure would continue to fund for two years cost-sharing subsidies that help 7 million Americans with ACA plans. House Republicans have challenged the legality of the $7 billion in subsidies — which help cover consumers’ deductibles and copays — in court, and insurers have warned that they will have to increase premiums dramatically next year unless the federal government commits to continuing the payments.

McConnell has told Republican senators that he wants to maintain protections for people with preexisting conditions under the law. But it was not clear to some lawmakers Wednesday what that would entail.

“I haven’t seen the draft yet. I like the idea of preexisting conditions being more firmly clarified,” Portman said.

Paul criticized GOP leaders for potentially keeping some of the ACA’s “most expensive regulations,” which he says are the primary drivers of higher premiums.

“It may well be that prices don’t come down at all,” he said.

But the Senate proposal may change rules for waivers that states can file with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that could allow them to potentially scale back some of these federal mandates.

While the details of McConnell’s proposal are expected to be made public Thursday, much of focus in recent weeks has been on the process used to draft the bill.

Democrats and even some Republicans have been critical of Senate GOP leaders for crafting the proposal behind closed doors without hearings and consideration of the legislation by the relevant committees.

Several GOP senators have expressed concern about moving quickly to a vote before they fully understand how it would impact health insurance markets and their constituents.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said that in addition to reading the bill, “I’ll also want to get full input from constituencies in Wisconsin.”

Given that there may be just a week between the bill being posted and a final vote, he added, “I find it hard to believe we’ll have enough time.”

Amy Goldstein and Kelsey Snell contributed to this report.

Paige Winfield Cunningham covers health policy and authors PowerPost’s daily tipsheet The Health 202. A St. Louis native, she graduated from Wheaton College in Illinois and started her journalism career as a county board reporter at the Naperville Sun.

Juliet Eilperin is The Washington Post’s senior national affairs correspondent, covering how the new administration is transforming a range of U.S. policies and the federal government itself. She is the author of two books—one on sharks, and another on Congress, not to be confused with each other—and has worked for the Post since 1998. 

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.

We finally know what’s going to be in the Senate version of Trumpcare — and it’s not pretty

ThinkProgress

We finally know what’s going to be in the Senate version of Trumpcare — and it’s not pretty

An ugly process begets an ugly bill.

Judd Legum, Editor-in-Chief, ThinkProgress       June 21, 2017

For weeks, Senate Republicans have negotiated their version of Trumpcare in near total secrecy. There have been no public hearings — just private meetings among a select group of Republicans about a bill that could reshape one-sixth of the American economy. For many Americans, the contours of the bill could be a matter of life and death.

Text of the bill was released on Thursday, but key details began to leak Wednesday night (some from lobbyists who learned about the bill before the American people). Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is insisting on a vote before the July 4th holiday, which means everyone has a week to learn about this bill — including many of the senators who will be voting on it.

So let’s get started. Here are the most important things you need to know.

The bill would strip health care coverage from millions of low income Americans by rolling back the expansion of Medicaid — and then making even deeper cuts.

The core of the Senate bill, like the House version, is a massive cut to Medicaid, which millions of low income Americans rely on for health care coverage. The Senate bill will reportedly phase out the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare, although the process won’t start until 2021. In the end, the impact is the same. The Congressional Budget Office found that rolling back Medicaid expansion would cost 14 million people their health insurance.

But the Senate bill makes even deeper, more dramatic cuts to Medicaid that, over time, would leave more low income Americans without health coverage. Instead of a program that pays for health coverage for people who need it, the House and Senate versions of the Republican health care bill place per capita caps on the program. In other words, the federal government will only send states, who administer the program, a certain amount of money no matter what the actual cost of care may be.

The Senate version, according to a report in Bloomberg, makes even deeper cuts than the House.

The House bill ties these per capita caps to the “growth rate of medical inflation (CPI-M) plus 1 percentage point.” The Senate version, however, ties caps to the general rate of inflation (CPI-U). Since medical costs consistently grow at a much faster rate than overall costs, this means states would receive a smaller and smaller percentage of the actual cost of care each year.

The bill would follow the Obamacare subsidy model, but help fewer people.

In the House version of the Republican health care bill, people receive premium subsidies based on their age. The Senate bill retains the Obamacare model where subsidies increase as incomes go down.

But while Obamacare provided subsidies to anyone making up to 400 percent of the poverty line, the Senate bill ends subsidies at 350 percent of the poverty line. This means fewer people will get help. For some people, the impact of this change could be dramatic.

The Senate bill is a massive tax cut for the rich.

At it’s heart, Trumpcare is less a health care bill than a tax cut bill. There was speculation that the Senate bill would leave more taxes in place, but it will largely mirror the House version, according to the Washington Post.

The Senate bill will repeal hundreds of million of dollars in taxes that Obamacare used to help more people afford health care providing a massive transfer of wealth to people with incomes over $200,000.

The bill will mean higher out-of-pocket medical costs for many people with insurance.

Republicans would like to reduce health care premiums. But the only mechanism to do so in the Senate bill is to allow insurers to provide fewer benefits. That means, for some people, premiums may be slightly lower. But those same people will end up with far greater costs if they do get sick.

The Senate bill will reportedly give “states more leeway in opting out of the ACA’s insurance regulations through expanding the use of so-called ‘1332’ waivers already embedded within the law.” (The House bill creates a new waiver program.) The waivers are not expected to allow states to let insurers reject or charge more to people with pre-existing conditions. But the waivers will let states allow insurers to offer skimpier plans, potentially leaving consumers with huge medical bills.

The bill also reportedly changes what percentage of costs, on average, an insurance plan must cover from 75 percent to 58 percent. This means more deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses. The Senate plan could increase these costs by 68 percent.

The bill will seek to limit the ability of insurers to provide coverage for abortions.

Senate rules may prevent the Republican health care bill from including explicit restrictions on coverage for abortion. The Senate is exploring an arcane way to limit abortion coverage anyway, according to Axios. The Senate may create a “stabilization fund” that insurance companies can tap into through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Most insurers will want to take advantage of this fund. But CHIP already has a restriction on abortion coverage. So insurers that take advantage of the stabilization fund will not be able to include coverage for abortion.

The bill will hit older Americans especially hard.

Across the board, older Americans who use the exchanges will be expected to pay a larger share of their income for health insurance. Those who make over 350 percent of the poverty line will now be expected pay full price.

Trumpcare’s passage is far from certain, with a number of moderate and conservative Republicans raising objections. Conservatives are likely to balk at keeping the basic Obamacare subsidy structure. Moderates are likely to object to the aggressive Medicaid cuts, particularly in states that have expanded Medicaid.

This is a developing story and will be update as we learn more details about the Senate bill.

Senate Republicans set to release health-care bill, but divisions remain

Washington Post, Power Post

Senate Republicans set to release health-care bill, but divisions remain

By Paige Winfield Cunningham, Juliet Eilperin and Sean Sullivan, June 21, 2017

Senate Republicans on Thursday plan to release a health-care bill that would curtail federal Medicaid funding, repeal taxes on the wealthy and eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood as part of an effort to fulfill a years-long promise to undo Barack Obama’s signature health-care law.

The bill is an attempt to strike a compromise between existing law and a bill passed by the House in May as Republicans struggle to advance their vision for the country’s health-care system even though they now control both chambers of Congress and the White House.

The Senate proposal largely mirrors the House measure with significant differences, according to a discussion draft circulating Wednesday among aides and lobbyists. While the House legislation would peg federal insurance subsidies to age, the Senate bill would link them to income, as the Affordable Care Act does. The Senate proposal would cut off expanded Medicaid funding for states more gradually than the House bill but would enact deeper long-term cuts to the health-care program for low-income Americans. It also would eliminate House language aimed at prohibiting federally subsidized health plans from covering abortions, a provision that may run afoul of complex Senate budget rules.

But on the eve of the bill’s release, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) faced the prospect of an open revolt from key conservative and moderate GOP senators, whose concerns he has struggled to balance in recent weeks. Republicans familiar with the effort said Senate leaders have more work to do to secure the 50 votes needed to pass the measure, with Vice President Pence set to cast the tie-breaking vote, from the pool of 52 GOP senators. No Democrats are expected to support the bill.

Republican aides stressed that the plan is likely to undergo more changes to secure the votes needed for passage, but there were major concerns Wednesday from senators on opposite ends of the GOP spectrum.

“My main concern is I promised voters that I would repeal — vote to repeal Obamacare. And everything I hear sounds like Obamacare-lite,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), whose state expanded Medicaid and has been pushing for a more gradual unwinding of that initiative than many conservatives prefer, said she is waiting to scrutinize what is released but has not seen anything yet that would make her drop her concerns with the proposal.

“Up to this point, I don’t have any new news — tomorrow we will see it definitively — that would cause me to change that sentiment,” she said.

Like the House bill, the Senate measure is expected to make big changes to Medicaid, the program that insures about 74 million elderly and lower-income Americans and was expanded in most states under the ACA. In effect, the revisions would reduce federal spending on the program.

The Senate measure would transform Medicaid from an open-ended entitlement to one in which federal funding would be distributed to states on a per-capita basis. The Senate measure would also seek to phase out the program’s expansion — although at a more gradual rate than the House version.

Yet the Senate bill is expected go further than the House version in its approach to cutting Medicaid funding in the future. In 2025, the measure would tie federal spending on the program to an even slower growth index than the one used in the House bill. That move could prompt states to reduce the size of their Medicaid programs.

That provision, a nod to conservative lawmakers led by Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.), risks alienating moderates, including Capito and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who also represents a state that expanded Medicaid under the ACA. Some Republicans worry that such a move would force states to cut services or coverage, potentially leaving millions of low-income people without sufficient health care.

The growth rate that is applied to Medicaid spending going forward has major implications, said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). “That inflater is critical, because it translates into billions of dollars over time,” she said.

Portman and Capito have also been pushing for the inclusion of a $45 billion fund to treat and prevent opioid addiction. As of early Wednesday afternoon, the opioid money was not included in McConnell’s proposal, according to a top GOP senator and Senate aide familiar with the discussions.

“I don’t think there is right now,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) said when asked whether the legislation includes a distinct opioid fund. “It might have to be considered separately.”

But Portman and Capito, like all senators, will have a chance to introduce amendments to the bill when it heads to the Senate floor, which McConnell said is likely to happen next week. This process will allow senators to draw attention to the causes they have championed and potentially change the final bill.

Moderates who are on the fence about whether to support the Obamacare overhaul are likely to be pleased at the bill’s approach to insurance subsidies because they would be based on financial need, potentially preserving coverage for more people who got insurance under the ACA.

Subsidies are currently available to Americans earning between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level. Starting in 2020, that threshold would be lowered to 350 percent under the Senate bill — but anyone below that line could get the subsidies if they’re not eligible for Medicaid.

That provision, said Larry Levitt, senior vice president for special initiatives at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, would be “a real benefit to poor people in states that don’t expand Medicaid.”

In a move that will please the health-care industry, the draft also proposes repealing all of the ACA taxes except for its “Cadillac tax” on high-cost health plans in language similar to the House version. Senators had previously toyed with the idea of keeping some of the ACA’s taxes.

It would also eliminate Medicaid reimbursements for Planned Parenthood for one year. Federal law already prevents taxpayer funding to pay for abortions except to save the life of the woman or in the case of rape or incest. But some Republicans want to ban all federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which also provides health services such as birth control, because their clinics provide abortion services.

Like the House measure, the Senate bill would eliminate two central requirements of the current health-care law: that individuals provide proof of insurance when filing their annual tax returns and that companies with 50 or more employees provide health coverage for their workers.

In a move that is critical to insurers, the Senate measure would continue to fund for two years cost-sharing subsidies that help 7 million Americans with ACA plans. House Republicans have challenged the legality of the $7 billion in subsidies — which help cover consumers’ deductibles and co-pays — in court, and insurers have warned that they will have to increase premiums dramatically next year unless the federal government commits to continuing the payments.

McConnell has told Republican senators that he wants to maintain protections for people with preexisting conditions under the law. But it was not clear to some lawmakers Wednesday what that would entail.

“I haven’t seen the draft yet. I like the idea of preexisting conditions being more firmly clarified,” Portman said.

Paul criticized GOP leaders for potentially keeping some of the ACA’s “most expensive regulations,” which he says are the primary drivers of higher premiums.

“It may well be that prices don’t come down at all,” he said.

But the Senate proposal may change rules for waivers that states can file with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that could allow them to potentially scale back some of these federal mandates.

While the details of McConnell’s proposal are expected to be made public Thursday, much of focus in recent weeks has been on the process used to draft the bill.

Democrats and even some Republicans have been critical of Senate GOP leaders for crafting the proposal behind closed doors without hearings and consideration of the legislation by the relevant committees.

Several GOP senators have expressed concern about moving quickly to a vote before they fully understand how it would impact health insurance markets and their constituents.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said that in addition to reading the bill, “I’ll also want to get full input from constituencies in Wisconsin.”

Given that there may be just a week between the bill being posted and a final vote, he added, “I find it hard to believe we’ll have enough time.”

Amy Goldstein and Kelsey Snell contributed to this report.

Paige Winfield Cunningham covers health policy and authors PowerPost’s daily tipsheet The Health 202. A St. Louis native, she graduated from Wheaton College in Illinois and started her journalism career as a county board reporter at the Naperville Sun.

Juliet Eilperin is The Washington Post’s senior national affairs correspondent, covering how the new administration is transforming a range of U.S. policies and the federal government itself. She is the author of two books—one on sharks, and another on Congress, not to be confused with each other—and has worked for the Post since 1998.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.

How Fox News dealt with CBO saying 23 million would lose coverage under the AHCA

Vox

How Fox News dealt with CBO saying 23 million would lose coverage under the AHCA

We watched every instance in which Fox News had to confront the number.

Updated by Alvin Chang    May 31, 2017

The morning after a nonpartisan analysts reported that the Republican replacement for Obamacare would cause 23 million people to lose their health insurance — many of them in the reddest states — Fox & Friends invited President Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, onto the show.

The exchange went like this:

BRIAN KILMEADE (host): 23 million will lose insurance. True or false?

MULVANEY: False. If you look at the methodology, they assume that folks who were on Medicaid, which is free, will choose to get off Medicaid when the mandate goes away. Now you tell me if this sounds like the real world.

STEVE DOOCY (host): Sure. And I know the [Congressional Budget Office] looked at it. Millions of Americans are not going to buy insurance if they don’t have to because they don’t want to.

It was one of the rare instances Fox & Friends mentioned the “23 million” number, but a quintessential example of how the Fox News Channel has often covered the devastating CBO analysis — by obscuring details and blaming the source, which is similar to how right-wing news sites cover this administration.

Mulvaney does both, saying CBO erred in saying people would voluntarily leave Medicaid. He (and the hosts) fails to mention that the bill kicks low-income adults without children off Medicaid and makes it easier for states to kick people off the program.

It’s part of a pattern on Fox News, which often framed the CBO score in two ways. The first was that the CBO analysis is wrong, or that CBO has been unreliable in the past. The second is that Obamacare is failing and this bill gives people the freedom to escape that failure.

Not thinking too hard about the human cost

As my colleague Jeff Stein writes, this bill is a bigger liability for Republicans than Trump’s scandals. It’s what Democrats are campaigning on and what seems to have the most resonance, perhaps because people don’t want to be in the traumatic situation of having to choose between financial ruin and medical treatment.

Many of those who stand to lose insurance live in states that voted heavily for Trump. The bill hurts a host of demographic groups that support Trump — including older Americans, those who live in more rural areas, and areas suffering most from the opioid crisis.

The CBO scores get at the heart of these fears.

So the injection of these numbers into the AHCA debate caused a dissonance on several Fox News shows. When Fox & Friends had to confront these numbers, the reaction was to minimize the CBO analysis. For example, in March, after the first CBO report, Kilmeade acknowledged that Trump voters would be hurt but assured them this was part of a larger plan:

They say the people that are going to be hurt most under the current plan, the way the calculus is done by the CBO, are Americans between the age of 50 and 64. Right before Medicare, the older part and last leg of their career. That translates into mostly Trump voters.

But then you factor in the fact that this is a three-phase plan. The second phase is when [Health and Human Services Secretary] Tom Price is supposed to theoretically sit there and put in regulations that’ll make this more of a conservative project.

Host Ainsley Earhardt questioned the CBO, saying:

Here’s the thing. Donald Trump says the Democrats are the ones that put us in this mess. They are complaining about this.

Can you really trust the CBO? Can you trust the report?

Jonathan Gruber, the architect of Obamacare, he said blatantly — we played the sound bites for you yesterday — he said we can trick the CBO, call them mandates and not taxes, and they will pass this thing through.

Then on May 4, the House prepared to vote on the second version of the AHCA without a CBO score showing the policy’s impact. That morning, Doocy confronted the “24 million” number by saying it’s better because it “reduces taxes and stuff like that”:

When you saw that figure a month or two ago, where something like 24 million would wind up losing their health care: That is a great political ad for the Democrats, whoever is going to run against any of the Republicans coming up in 2018.

But here’s the thing: What if it’s — the hope for everybody is this is actually better. Reduces taxes and stuff like that.

And ultimately, when it comes to politics, this is going to redeem Speaker Paul Ryan. Plus, it’s going to give President Trump his first big — and it is big — legislative win.

I’m largely focusing on Fox & Friends because it has one very important viewer — President Trump — who has praised the show multiple times, and even thanked them for helping him win the presidency. It is the inner monologue of a president who has aggressively criticized most other media outlets for their reporting of his presidency.

Some shows on the network were slightly more nuanced, saying that people will choose to be uninsured because Obamacare will no longer mandate people to have insurance.

The bottom third also suggests the new version of the bill protects people with preexisting conditions. It does not.

There was little talk of why the mandate existed in the first place, and the mechanism the AHCA uses in its place: a penalty for people who want to buy insurance on the marketplace after a lapse in coverage.

Painting the CBO — and subsequently the media — as biased

Occasionally a guest would be on a Fox News show to represent the opposing viewpoint, and they would defend the 24 million number, though almost immediately a conservative guest or the host would reframe the discussion around CBO’s credibility or Obamacare’s failure. But it was this inherent conflict — between left and right, between “them” and “us” — that framed the coverage around the CBO report.

After watching the nearly 100 times people on Fox News confronted these numbers, the CBO report stopped feeling like a number describing humans. Rather, it felt like a political concoction — a number whipped up to make Obamacare repeal harder.

In fact, media outlets and experts who cited the CBO score were also treated with contempt. Below is a screenshot of a segment on how unfairly the mainstream media is treating the AHCA after the CBO score:

It’s cruel to disorient people like this

American health care is complicated. This AHCA debate is complicated. Yet it’s these complicated details that determine the cost and quality of care for our bodies.

So when nonpartisan analysts say that a bill will cause 23 million to lose insurance in 10 years and make costs skyrocket for older and poorer Americans, it should clarify our political opinions.

But Fox News has taken advantage of television as a medium to try to convince its viewers that “23 million” is a partisan tool, not an evidence-based projection. It’s basing its rhetoric on personality, on partisanship, on tribalism, and insisting that people trust them, not the mainstream media or the nonpartisan analysts who are desperate to take down Donald Trump.

Let’s put it this way: When our satellites tell us a powerful hurricane is headed toward us, it’s irresponsible not to tell everyone to get out of the way. But convincing the people that the tools are malfunctioning, that the hurricane isn’t coming their way, that the rest of the news reports are wrong? That’s cruel.

To many Americans, Memorial Day has lost its meaning

ABC News

To many Americans, Memorial Day has lost its meaning

By Michael Rubinkam, Associated Press  May 28, 2017

ANNVILLE, Pa. — While millions of Americans celebrate the long Memorial Day weekend as the unofficial start of summer, some veterans and loved ones of fallen military members wish the holiday that honors the nation’s war dead would command more respect. Allison Jaslow heard it more than once as the long holiday weekend approached — a cheerful “Happy Memorial Day!” from oblivious well-wishers.

The former Army captain and Iraq War veteran had a ready reply, telling them, matter-of-factly, that she considered it a work weekend. Jaslow will be at Arlington National Cemetery on Monday to take part in the annual wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. She’ll then visit Section 60, the final resting place of many service members who died in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“You can see it in people’s faces that they’re a little horrified that they forget this is what the day’s about,” said Jaslow, 34, who wears a bracelet bearing the name of a fallen comrade. “Culturally, we’ve kind of lost sight of what the day’s supposed to mean.”

While millions of Americans celebrate the long Memorial Day weekend as the unofficial start of summer — think beaches and backyard barbecues, mattress sales and sporting events — some veterans and loved ones of fallen military members wish the holiday that honors more than 1 million people who died serving their country would command more respect.

Or at least awareness.

“It’s a fun holiday for people: ‘Let’s party.’ It’s an extra day off from work,” said Carol Resh, 61, whose son, Army Capt. Mark Resh, was killed in Iraq a decade ago. “It’s not that they’re doing it out of malice. It just hasn’t affected them.”

Veterans groups say a growing military-civilian disconnect contributes to a feeling that Memorial Day has been overshadowed. More than 12 percent of the U.S. population served in the armed forces during World War II. That’s down to less than one-half of a percent today, guaranteeing more Americans aren’t personally acquainted with a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine.

With an all-voluntary military, shared sacrifice is largely a thing of the past — even as U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan and Iraq nearly 16 years after 9/11.

“There are a lot of things working against this particular holiday,” said Brian Duffy, commander in chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

“It hurts,” Duffy said. For combat veterans and Gold Star families especially, “it hurts that, as a society, we don’t truly understand and appreciate what the true meaning of Memorial Day is.”

Jaslow’s group, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, is trying to raise awareness with its #GoSilent campaign, which encourages Americans to pause for a moment of silence at 3 p.m. Monday to remember the nation’s war dead.

Of course, plenty of Americans already observe the holiday. At Indiantown Gap National Cemetery in Annville, about 100 miles northwest of Philadelphia, fresh flowers mark hundreds of graves, and fields of newly erected American flags flap in the breeze. Hundreds of motorcyclists thundered in for a Saturday service. By the end of the weekend, thousands of people will have come to the cemetery to pay their respects.

“This is our Super Bowl,” said Randy Plummer, the cemetery’s administrative officer.

Jim Segletes, 65, a Vietnam-era Marine visiting the grave of his father-in-law, a World War II veteran who died in 2000, said he thinks Americans became more patriotic and aware of military sacrifice after 9/11.

“Everyone is more in tune with veterans, more so than when I was in the service,” he said.

Douglas and Rene Kicklighter, Iraq veterans at the cemetery with their 10- and 12-year-old sons, said they believe most people understand what the holiday’s about. But they, too, cringe when they hear: “Happy Memorial Day.”

“It’s not happy,” said Rene Kicklighter, 37, who retired from the Army National Guard. “It’s somber. I try to flip the lens on the conversation a bit and gently remind them what it’s really about.”

Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day, was conceived after the Civil War as a way to honor the Union’s war dead, with Southern states setting aside separate days to honor fallen Confederate soldiers. By the early 20th century, the holiday had evolved to honor all military members who died in service.

Some veterans say Memorial Day began to be watered down more than four decades ago when Congress changed the date from its traditional May 30 to the last Monday in May to give people a three-day weekend. Arguing that transformed a solemn day of remembrance into one associated with leisure and recreation, veterans groups have long advocated a return to May 30. For years, the late Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye, a World War II veteran and Medal of Honor recipient, asked Congress to change it back, to no avail.

That leaves it to people like Resh, the Gold Star mother, to spread the message.

Invited to speak to high school students in Allentown, Pennsylvania, she said she told them, “What is the true meaning of Memorial Day? Ask any Gold Star family and they’ll tell you what it means. It’s not about the picnics. It’s about the men and women who have given their lives for this country.

“Every day is Memorial Day for us.”

Associated Press

Dems view vets as strong candidates in bid to retake House

Bill Barrow,  Associated Press

Atlanta (AP) — Democrats hope to enlist military veterans in another type of fight — for majority control of the House.

Looking ahead to next year’s elections, Democrats are trying to recruit at least two dozen military veterans to challenge Republican incumbents, arguing that candidates with a military background on their resumes appeal to independent voters and can help the party break the GOP grip on Washington.

“Veterans have had the experience of putting the country first, before personal politics” and party dictates, said Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass, who did four tours of duty in Iraq, left the Marines as a captain and was elected to Congress in 2014. That tends “to attract the kind of independent voters who are looking for a good leader,” Moulton added.

Several veterans already have announced their bids in some of the 79 Republican-held House districts that national Democratic Party leaders have identified as top targets.

Decades ago, veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam were mainstays in Congress. In 1969-71, 398 veterans served in the House and 69 in the Senate, according to the Congressional Research Service. But the change to an all-volunteer force in 1973 sent those numbers plummeting.

The extended post-Sept. 11 conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq helped reverse the trend, and now there are 80 veterans in the 435-seat House and 20 veterans in the 100-member Senate.

For Democrats, struggling to return to the majority, military veterans provide potential candidates as the party deals with an electoral wipeout during Barack Obama’s presidency, with the loss of more than 1,030 seats in state legislatures, governor’s mansions and Congress.

Moulton and Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., who lost both legs and partial use of an arm in a rocket-propelled grenade attack in Iraq, have spoken to veterans in districts ranging from obvious Democratic targets to places where the path to victory isn’t as obvious.

The party needs to pick up 24 seats to reclaim a House majority next November.

In the Philadelphia suburbs, former Air Force officer Chrissy Houlahan is challenging two-term Republican Rep. Ryan Costello in one of 23 districts where Democrat Hillary Clinton topped Trump in November. Outside Denver, former Army Ranger and combat veteran Jason Crow, a onetime campaign adviser to Obama, is running for the seat held by another veteran, five-term GOP congressman, Mike Coffman.

Both mentioned President Donald Trump as factors in their campaign.

“All the bravado and the wailing and gnashing of teeth isn’t the way we conduct ourselves as professional service members,” Houlahan said of Trump’s rhetoric.

Said Crow: “I’m deeply troubled by President Trump and what he’s trying to do to country and our democracy.”

Dan McCready, a former Marine who attended Harvard Business School alongside Moulton, steered clear of Trump as he announced his bid to win the more Republican-leaning North Carolina district of three-term Republican Rep. Robert Pittenger.

But all three candidates, along with Moulton, agreed that veterans offer voters an approach rarely taken on Capitol Hill.

“We know what it’s like to serve the country in non-political ways, and we’re standing up to say that the system is broken,” said Crow. He added that any military unit brings together “Republicans, Democrats, unaffiliated, every different background, every part of the country, urban rural, every rung of the economic ladder, and they have to come together very quickly … or the mission fails.”

Democratic veterans have run notable campaigns in recent years.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a West Point graduate and former Ranger, emphasized his record to attract enough voters in a conservative state. In Missouri last year, former Army intelligence officer Jason Kander drew national attention for his U.S. Senate campaign ad in which he assembled an AR-15 rifle while blindfolded. He lost by 3 percentage points, but got 230,000 more votes than Clinton, who lost the state by 18 points.

Seth Lynn, who runs the nonpartisan Veterans Campaign, an organization that trains veterans running for office, says research suggests veterans running against a non-veteran get “about a 2-point bump” on average.

Lynn isn’t yet tracking exact numbers of veteran candidates, but says he’s seen a “noticeable uptick” among Democrats.

Some of that, Lynn says, is the usual clamoring by the party out of power: Republican veterans arose in 2010, the first midterm under Obama, and Democrats’ boasted a large slate in 2006, amid opposition to the Iraq war during President George W. Bush’s second term.

Those veteran candidates did not all win, of course. But those midterm years marked the last two times voters tossed out the House majority in favor of the other party.

 

HuffPost, THE BLOG  

May 27, 2014, Updated June 2, 2015

41 Republican Senators Voted Against a Landmark Veterans Bill in February, Today They Blame the VA

By H.A. Goodman 

Earlier this year, the GOP had a chance to prove that it could fund veterans’ health care as eagerly as it borrowed for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Long before the current VA crisis, an event described as “a gift from God” by Dr. Ben Carson, Senate Republicans had a chance to vote on a landmark bill. Before the Senate vote, organizations devoted to the needs of veterans and their families offered widespread support to the Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014.

On January 21, 2014 the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) wrote a letter to Sen. Bernie Sanders endorsing the legislation. The IAVA believed, “This legislation would accomplish many of the goals for which veterans and military service organizations have been advocating for years, including strengthening the Post-9-11 GI Bill, expanding advance appropriations for more of the VA’s budget…and much more.” The Veterans of Foreign Wars was just as enthusiastic in its support, and wrote a similar letter explaining how S. 1982 would help veterans:

If signed into law, this sweeping legislation would expand and improve health care and benefit services to all generations of veterans and their families. Most notably, it would expand the current caregiver law to include all generations of veterans and provide advance appropriations to ensure monthly compensation and pension as well as education payments are protected from future budget battles. The bill also offers in-state tuition protection for recently transitioned veterans, improves access to mental health and treatment for victims of sexual assault in the military, and authorizes construction of more than 20 Community Bases Outpatient Clinics to serve veterans in rural and remote communities.

Echoing the IAVA and VFW, The Paralyzed Veterans of America stated that “This legislation marks one of the most comprehensive bills to ever be considered in the Senate or House.” The PVA went on to state that, “If enacted, S. 1982 would accomplish some of the highest priorities for Paralyzed Veterans and its members.” VetsFirst, another group devoted to disabled veterans, also explained “this legislation goes a long way toward fulfilling many of the current and future needs of our disabled veterans.”

Furthermore, The American Legion lent “its full support” to the bill since it “addresses several high priority issues for The American Legion, like repealing the 1 percent retiree COLA provision, funding the stalled CBOCs for the VA, increasing access to health care for veterans at VA, employment and education fixes, and other programs that are important to us.” In addition, The American Legion explained that the Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014 was essential to veterans in other ways:

The American Legion also appreciates the many areas in which this bill addresses needed attention regarding Military Sexual Trauma counseling, additional training and assistance for Traumatic Brain Injury victims, improvements and much-needed updates to the Dependency and Indemnification Compensation program, VA’s Work-Study program, and its On-the-Job Training program.

Therefore, with so much positive feedback from veterans groups about the bill, it’s only logical to assume that Senate Republicans would do everything possible to ensure it became law.

Unfortunately, S.1982 was killed by Senate Republicans, with a vote of 56-41 — only Republicans Senators voting nay and with only two Republicans voting for the bill. The logic behind every vote against the bill being Republican rests in the following statement from North Carolina Senator Richard M. Burr:

With $17 trillion in debt and massive annual deficits, our country faces a fiscal crisis of unparalleled scope. Now is not the time, in any federal department, to spend money we don’t have. To be sure, there’s much to like in the Sanders bill. And if those components were presented as separate, smaller bills, as part of a carefully considered long-term strategy to reform the VA, hold leadership accountable and improve services to veterans, we would have no problem extending enthusiastic support.

Also, Republicans called for sanctions on Iran to be included within the veterans’ bill, and since it wasn’t included within the bill, they voted against the landmark legislation. As stated by Republican Leader Mitch McConnell regarding the Iran sanctions, “There is no excuse for muzzling the Congress on an issue of this importance to our own national security.”

So how did veterans feel about the February 26, 2014 vote where 41 Republicans voted against a sweeping bill to help veterans? American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger expressed his frustration with the outcome by stating, “There was a right way to vote and a wrong way to vote today, and 41 senators chose the wrong way. That’s inexcusable.”

As for Senator Richard Burr, he recently received a scathing letter from the Veterans of Foreign Wars pertaining to his open letter to veterans groups about the VA crisis. In addition, Burr received another response letter from the Paralyzed Veterans of America stating that, “Rest assured, you do not speak for or represent the interests of Paralyzed Veterans’ members-veterans with spinal cord injury or dysfunction or any other VSO.”

It should not be overlooked that veterans have been committing suicide, enduring long wait times for disability benefits, and dealing with a wide array of others issues ignored by Congress for the past decade. Also, the most indignant Republicans like Sen. Burr of North Carolina have also voted against S.1982 and now blame bureaucratic issues, rather than funding problems, as the cause of the VA crisis. Therefore, it’s safe to say that the latest VA crisis and the deaths of veterans in Arizona served as convenient opportunity for the GOP to feign indignation over issues veterans have faced for years.

What better way to circumvent responsibility for underfunding the VA and voting against veteran’s legislation than blaming big government? Somebody should tell Sen. Burr and the GOP that we funded both wars with “money we didn’t have” and we should fund veterans health care as enthusiastically as we paid (borrowed) for two war.

H.A. Goodman Columnist published in The Cleveland Plain Dealer, The Baltimore Sun, The Hill, Salon, The Jerusalem Post www.hagoodman.com

King Donald Just Can’t Understand Why Most of America Would Not Vote For Him Under Any Circumstances and Why They Can’t Trust Him”

January 27, 2017    John Hanno  

 

“King Donald Just Can’t Understand Why Most of America Would Not Vote For Him Under Any Circumstances and Why They Can’t Trust Him”

“King Donald” sat down for a January 25th interview with ABC’s David Muir and doubled down on his belief that if he had simply focused on winning the popular vote, he would have easily won that too. He said he lost the popular vote because the Democrats had cheated in California and New York.

KD said, “I would’ve won the popular vote if I was campaigning for the popular vote,” he said. “I would’ve gone to California where I didn’t go at all. I would’ve gone to New York where I didn’t campaign at all. I would’ve gone to a couple of places that I didn’t go to.”

“And I would’ve won that much easier than winning the electoral college,” he added. “But as you know, the electoral college is all that matters. It doesn’t make any difference. So, I would’ve won very, very easily. But it’s a different form of winning. You would campaign much differently. You would have a totally different campaign.”

Philip Bump’s Washington Post article: “Why did Trump lose the Popular vote? Because he didn’t care about it. And because they cheated,” totally debunks King Donald’s “alternative facts.” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/news/politics/wp/2017/01/26/why-did-trump-lose-the-popular-vote-because-he-didnt-care-about-it-and-because-they-cheated/)

We know that the Un-Democratic Republi-cons have been stealing federal and state elections for too many election cycles, going back even before the 2000 presidential election. Voter “Suppression” has been their modus operandi and number one goal. Frightened by America’s changing demographics, and especially since President Obama sailed into office in 2008 with an almost 10 million vote margin, these un-patriotic Republi-cons in red and purple states, have pushed all sorts of legislation to disenfranchise Democratic leaning voters, people of color, women, seniors, students, millennials, ex-felons, folks with common names that appear to be of black or brown ethnicity, all sorts of immigrants, and actually anyone who isn’t white and identifiably Christian. President Obama received 69.5 million votes in 2008, the highest vote total in American history, and won the electoral college 365 to 173. In 2012, he beat Mitt Romney by 5 million votes and won the electoral college 332 to 206. But in the meantime, the Republi-cons have been busy gerrymandering and plotting suppression.

During the interview, King Donald again pushed debunked lies about millions of fraudulent Hillary voters. “With that being said,” he said, “if you look at voter registration, you look at the dead people that are registered to vote who vote, you look at people that are registered in two states, you look at all of these different things that are happening with registration. … They don’t wanna talk about registration. You have people that are registered who are dead, who are illegals, who are in two states. You have people registered in two states. They’re registered in a New York and a New Jersey. They vote twice. There are millions of votes, in my opinion.”

We know, and pray it will eventually be clearly proven, that the Russians had a firm hand in undermining HC and our most visible Democratic process, free and fair elections. Putin has already kidnapped and imprisoned four Russian intelligence operatives who he believes spilled the beans to the ex MI5 spy who prepared the 30 page dossier, developed to compromise Putin’s choice for president. Hopefully truth will out!

But how can we, in good conscience, criticize other countries elections? We have in the past, sent election monitors throughout the third world, hoping to spread free and fair Democratic voting. But these U.S. Constitution thumping Republi-cons, shame and devalue America’s highest values. You can’t help but blame the Democrats also. After the 2000 election debacle, and especially after they had a mandate in 2009 and control of both the house and senate, they failed to once and forever, insure that every vote is counted.

No matter what happens with the investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 election, both sides should finally put in place laws that will absolutely guarantee that our elections, beyond all doubt, are beacons for democracies everywhere. I hope the minority Democrats will call King Donald’s bluff of a full investigation, and present such legislation, and thoroughly embarrass the GOP if they oppose it. Please stand up for the American voter!

It’s not surprising that King Donald has the lowest approval rating (between 32 to 34%) in recorded history. When you enact ideas and programs that a majority, and sometimes an overwhelming majority of Americans don’t favor, there will and must be push back. Ten times as many folks here and abroad took to the streets protesting KD’s policies, as attended the inauguration. And on top of that, as many as 40% of those attendees were non-Trump supporters. The list of early wreckage is incredibly long:

Returning 25 or 30 million folks, who finally have life saving health care insurance, another 15 or 20 million additional uninsured, and another 125 plus million health care insurance covered policy holders, back to the mercy of insatiable insurance companies without a credible alternative plan, is not a winning proposition. All particular issues of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, except for the mandate, are favored by a large majority of Americans. And the Kings proclamation that all these folks will have much better coverage at lower cost has kneecapped the Republi-cons plans to repeal but not actually replace.

Hiring a shocking list of fossil fuel panderers to run America’s State Department and foreign service and our Environmental Protection Agencies, giving carte blanche to oil, gas and pipeline companies to cover the earth in risky, potentially leaking pipelines and infrastructure, cutting regulations for all air, water and soil polluters, and muzzling the scientists and regulators who swear an oath to protect its citizens, will only marshal 10’s of million’s of concerned and responsible earth protectors. Fully 60% of Americans in a recent Reuters poll want the EPA to be strengthened or maintained.

Rounding up 11 million immigrants, who took advantage of America’s welcome mat for cheap labor, and building a $20 or $30 billion unnecessary wall that’s a boondoggle for those connected to Trump Inc., will energize immigrants new and old and millions more sympathizers.

Attacking women who wish to preserve their right to chose, Planned Parenthood, the LGBTQ community and other vulnerable citizens, will anger those who believe in Constitutional and civil rights for all Americans. King Donald and his court pandered to pro-life proponents by reinstating and expanding the Mexico City Policy or “Global Gag Rule,” which prevents foreign NGO’s that get U.S. aid from using any of the money to “perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning.” They lose all funding if they don’t comply. The rule originally applied only to the $600 million family planning fund but now also applies to all of the $9.5 billion global health funds. Policy experts think this will cause 6.5 million additional unintended pregnancies. 2.2 million more abortions, 2.1 million unsafe abortions and the death of almost 22,000 pregnant women. What pro-life proponents just can’t understand, is that all women hate abortions, but most want to reserve the right to chose. And the incidence of abortion always goes up under Republican administrations and drops under Democratic administrations. The reason abortions dropped under pro-choice President Clinton, was because the economy during his terms greatly improved and women felt secure enough to take on another mouth to feed. And for the same reasons, no matter the Republican protestations, abortions increase under typical Republican recessions and failing economies.

Mr. Trump tried to place a hiring freeze on Veterans Administration employees. Certainly not because of the budget (Hello $30 billion phony Mexico wall). Could it be that King Donald wants to reward his corporate supporters by privatizing the V.A. News flash to the Donald from Sgt Hanno; do not screw over Vets. They love their public, dedicated V.A. services. And by the way, if you attempt to put your favorite pipeline upstream from Standing Rock Sioux Rez, those Vets and I will be back in force.

What scares folks around the world almost as much as the fact King Donald has the nuclear codes, is that the Trump Inc. family business conflicts of interest around the globe clearly compromises his pledge to protect and serve us all fairly and honorably.

Favoring Vladimir Putin and the Russian fossil fuel oligarchs, over longstanding treaties with NATO and Europe and against America’s best interests should jolt all Americans, and especially true conservative constitutionalists in Trumps own party. By Already contemplating ending sanctions against the Russians, who invaded another country and engaged in a cyber act of war against the U.S., in the very first week of the Trump administration, can’t help but confirm that millions of progressives believe Putin is holding compromising information over King Donald’s head.

King Donald stated that Putin was a much more effective leader than President Obama, even though he served two full terms without a hint of scandal. Donald admires despots, dictators and kleptocrats like Putin without reservation. Putin’s list of violations against his fellow countrymen and women is long and frightening. He has a bad habit of disappearing his opposition. Some believe he’s the richest person in the world, having pillaged Russian natural resources to the tune of $85 billion. King Donald believes that if someone was able to accumulate enormous wealth, they- like Trump himself, must be smart and should be admired. That’s apparently why he’s hired only multi-millionaires and billionaires to turn a blind eye to the pillaging of America’s public and private fortunes.

Russian American journalist Masha Gessen, author of “The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin.” Penned this post election article in NYR: “Autocracy. Rules For Survival.” She thinks Hillary should have said something like this for her concession speech:

“Thank you, my friends. Thank you. Thank you. We have lost. We have lost, and this is the last day of my political career, so I will say what must be said. We are standing at the edge of the abyss. Our political system, our society, our country itself are in greater danger than at any time in the last century and a half. The president-elect has made his intentions clear, and it would be immoral to pretend otherwise. We must band together right now to defend the laws, the institutions, and the ideals on which our country is based.”

Masha suffers, and believes most Americans do also, from a “constant low level dread.” Truer words were never said. She’s justifiably worried that the comparisons between King Putin and King Donald can’t be underestimated. King Donald’s strategy is no different than Autocrats of yore. Banish the peace makers (fire career foreign service state department employees, even before the new Secretary of State is confirmed; some of whom served American presidents from both parties going back 4 decades) and defang the opposition (place reporting restrictions on the career employees he can’t banish). Muzzle the truth tellers; King Donald’s unrelenting attack on his media demons. Trump said that the “media are the worst people, the most dishonest humans,”  the “opposition party in many ways.” Putin merely throws them in jail or magically makes them disappear. But American and any true Democracy requires an informed citizenry and a healthy, critical and vocal media. That’s the reason it’s ensconced in our constitution. What a stark contrast to President Obama’s respect for journalism and the critical written word and which was on full display during his final news conference, where he thanked and praised the White House press corp.

We know the Donald hates to read. Believe me, he picked the wrong job for that. He unflinchingly values tweets and retweets, no matter the veracity. He favors fake Fox News over credible print journalists who double and triple check their sources. He hires a top intelligence advisor who promotes conspiracy theories and who’s son does the same and almost got someone killed at a New York pizza restaurant.

KD seriously believes in his banal “alternative facts” theory. He’s lied so much and for so many years, that he believes his own lies are more real than actual facts. He even lies when he doesn’t have to lie. He lies about his own lies. He lies two or three times in the same sentence, on the same subject; which is hard to do. He lies to peoples faces when they call him out on the lie and then makes up a lie to prove his challenged lie. And now he’s almost convinced everyone he’s hired to go all in on this alternative reality. They’ve grabbed onto Tarbaby Lying King Donald and probably won’t let go until and unless he self destructs.

I could go on and on but I have to save some energy for KD’s second week. But while we’re at it, I can’t help but blame the corporate media for this state of affairs. They tried their best to normalize King Donald. They turned a blind eye and ear to his alternative facts. The fact checkers were busy but their efforts somehow escaped accountability through the crazy noise. Cable news presented his Kool-aid gulping apologists alongside credible reporters and journalists and allowed them to somehow balance legitimate credibilities. They allowed billions in free and unfettered airtime because it was highly profitable, and at the same time they put debating and airing scores of vital issues on the back burner. They’re finally shaking off the corporate complaisance and dusting off their integrity. We hope it’s not too late. It’s theirs and our job to push aside all this King Donald nonsense and focus on the important issues the King and his court are trying to obscure. When the social safety net cuts begin and middle America starts to bleed, we must unmask the King.

Washington Post

Why did Trump lose the popular vote? Because he didn’t care about it. And because they cheated.

By Philip Bump

January 26, 2017 at 10:38 AM

When it comes to explaining why he lost the popular vote, President Trump has a simple explanation. He lost the popular vote because he wasn’t interested in winning the popular vote, focusing instead on the electoral college — and if he’d focused on the popular vote, he would have won that even more easily, and also he lost the popular vote because his opponents cheated in some of the deepest-blue states in the country.

Done and done.

In his first major interview since moving into the White House, Trump took ABC’s David Muir on a tour of the gilded, expansive recesses of both his new residence and his mind. Thanks to Trump’s tweets on the subject, Muir quickly turned the questioning to the subject of voter fraud, which Trump insists was a huge factor in November’s election and which reality suggests was not.

In his first interview at the White House on Jan. 25, President Trump discussed his past issues with the media, his executive actions this week and debunked claims of voter fraud and inaugural crowd size with ABC’s David Muir. (The Washington Post)

Trump used the subject to reiterate a defense of his popularity.

“I would’ve won the popular vote if I was campaigning for the popular vote,” he said. “I would’ve gone to California where I didn’t go at all. I would’ve gone to New York where I didn’t campaign at all. I would’ve gone to a couple of places that I didn’t go to.”

“And I would’ve won that much easier than winning the electoral college,” he added. “But as you know, the electoral college is all that matters. It doesn’t make any difference. So, I would’ve won very, very easily. But it’s a different form of winning. You would campaign much differently. You would have a totally different campaign.”

It’s true that the need to win the electoral college meant that Trump’s focus during the campaign was different from what it would have been had the contest come down to vote totals. But that’s not the same thing as saying that Trump would have won the popular vote, much less “much easier” than he won the electoral college. (To be fair, if he had won the popular vote by any margin, it would likely have been an easier victory than his skin-of-his-teeth electoral college win, which came down to about 78,000 votes in three states.)

Trump would have needed to do 10 percentage points better in California to close the 2.9-million vote deficit he faced nationally. His argument that he could have made progress to that end if he’d campaigned in the state has only one critical drawback: Hillary Clinton would have campaigned there, too. (Had Clinton campaigned more in the Midwest, many people have pointed out, Muir would have been sitting down with her.)

Trump says he didn’t go to either California or New York at all, which isn’t entirely true. Trump made four stops in New York after that state’s primary, according to the National Journal’s candidate travel tracker, excluding a debate and the announcement of his vice presidential pick. (He visited California only before that state’s primary.) Clinton had campaign events there even less frequently, though she did run ads in California over the last few weeks of the campaign. Trump’s team did campaign in both states, though not at any real scale.

That said, it’s not surprising that Trump did poorly in the two states (despite his assurances on the campaign trail that they would be in play). California and New York have given the Democrat at least 1 million more votes than the Republican in every election since 1992. In California, that figure has been creeping upward, with Barack Obama winning by a 3 million vote margin in 2008 and 2012, and Clinton by 4.3 million this year. In New York, the Democrat has won by at least 1.5 million votes in five of the past seven contests. Trump might have eaten into those margins had he campaigned harder — but Clinton might also have widened her lead in those friendly territories.

Which brings us to part two of Trump’s excuse-making to Muir.

“With that being said,” he said, “if you look at voter registration, you look at the dead people that are registered to vote who vote, you look at people that are registered in two states, you look at all of these different things that are happening with registration. … They don’t wanna talk about registration. You have people that are registered who are dead, who are illegals, who are in two states. You have people registered in two states. They’re registered in a New York and a New Jersey. They vote twice. There are millions of votes, in my opinion.”

The wonderful part of this exchange is the directness with which Trump tries to have his cake and eat it, too. He defends his claims that millions of people voted illegally by noting that there are problems with the voter registration system at that scale. That’s a fair defense, with some caveats. But then he immediately re-conflates registration with voting (“there are millions of votes”). That’s a neat trick: You criticize me for saying there are millions of illegal votes when I’m just noting that there are millions of questionable registrations. Just registrations! (And also votes.)

The now-infamous report from Pew Trusts in 2012 does point out that there were millions of outdated registrations at that point because our voting systems do a bad job of weeding out people who have died or moved. (Like Trumps daughter.) Pew’s point was that the systems should be improved, not that fraud results from these problems; in fact, Pew’s researchers explicitly pointed out then and now that there was no rampant fraud. (This, Trump told Muir, was because the researchers wanted a positive response from the anti-Trump media — even way back in 2012, apparently.)

At a news conference on Thursday, Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer pointed to  California and New York as potential epicenters of this nonexistent fraud. “I think there’s a lot of states that we didn’t compete in where that’s not necessarily the case,” Spicer said about the campaign’s admitting in a legal filing that there was no rampant fraud in the election. “You look at California and New York, I’m not sure that those statements were — we didn’t look at those two states, in particular.”

Our colleague Dave Weigel noted the sheer ridiculousness of this idea from a political standpoint: If you’re going to orchestrate a massive, illegal effort to cast millions of ballots for Hillary Clinton, why on Earth would you do it in two states you knew she was going to win easily anyway? Whether or not the Clinton team thought they’d win Michigan and Pennsylvania, why not stack the deck in those places regardless, since they were always going to be more competitive than the deepest-blue parts of the country?

For a lot of Trump supporters, this overlaps with perceptions of California as a haven of undocumented immigrants, people encouraged by some all-powerful Democratic machine to commit a federal crime by illegally giving their names and contact information to the state government. We looked at the number of newly registered voters who were born outside the country; only 148,000 people fit that description from Latin American countries. There’s no indication at all that any significant number of them were voting illegally.

This has been another 1,000 words or so on Trump’s ongoing insecurity about having lost the popular vote. His arguments for why the popular vote results don’t suggest that he’s unpopular haven’t gotten any more effective, but they have gotten more numerous. It will be simpler moving forward, I suppose, to simply note that Trump continues to claim that he could have and did win the popular vote even though he didn’t and probably wouldn’t have. And to note that what Trump says on this subject, if not others, should not necessarily be taken at face value.

Philip Bump is a correspondent for The Post based in New York City.

America’s Military: One of The Largest Socialist Organizations in The World

Daily Kos 

Message to my Trump Supporting Facebook Friends

By Mommadoc       December 27, 2016

OK Facebook friends, time to block my news-feed. Or unfriend me.

If you’ve ever posted anything remotely racist or misogynistic or promoted gun violence or made fun of political correctness or promulgated lies about President Obama or former Secretary of State Clinton, then I blocked your news feed long ago.

I am one of those “elite liberals” that you got back at when you voted for Donald Trump.

Yes, I think that a person who is running for President should be able to clearly explain his or her policies.  And should actually have some policies.  And know how the government works.  And care how the government works.

And have a working knowledge of world geography and foreign policy.

I think that the person who runs the most powerful country on the planet should take that job very fucking seriously.

I think that “supporting our military” should mean that we do not send our brave young men and women to needless and endless wars.  Do you realize that we’ve been in Afghanistan for 16 years now?  And for what?

I think that our country has an imperialistic foreign policy and that often times we reap what we sow.  I think that the architects of the Iraq War (Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice) committed war crimes and have the blood of all of our slain and maimed soldiers and innocent civilians on their hands.

I think that Guantanamo Bay is a bloody stain on our national character.

That “People kill people, guns don’t kill people” line is most back-ass-ward bullshit that I’ve ever heard.  People with guns kill people.   And not everyone should have a gun. And certainly not an arsenal.  And no I am not naïve enough to think that restrictions on gun access will prevent all violent gun deaths.   But for fuck’s sake, can we start somewhere?

I think that words matter.  Perhaps you were happier in a world where kids were called “retards” and some boys were called “faggots,” but I would rather live in a civilized and polite world.

Maybe you will blast “Merry Christmas” as loud as you can, but I will keep saying “Happy Holidays,” because that is more inclusive.  As in not purposefully leaving anyone out.  As in being kind.  As in just fucking acknowledging that your reality is not everyone’s reality.  And that by acknowledging someone else’s reality, that yours is not in jeopardy.  What are you all afraid of anyway?  Is a mass of Muslim immigrants going to take your Christmas away?

I’m more afraid of the mass of Christians that are trying to teach kids in Texas that creationism is real.

I think that those of you who put “Blue Lives Matter” signs on your lawn ought to be ashamed of yourselves for thinking for one minute that there is no racism in this country and that young black men being gunned down in the street by police is not a problem.

And for those of you who were worried that life as we knew it was coming to an end when Bernie Sanders suggested universal health care and free college education, look to yourselves first.  Guess what?  Those state universities that you send your kids to?  They are subsidized by taxpayers.  Why do you think they are so much cheaper that private colleges?  That is SOCIALISM!

Are your parents on Medicare?  SOCIALISM!

Do your parents collect Social Security?  SOCIALISM!

Do your police officers, firefighters, prison guards have benefits and a pension? SOCIALISM!

Why is it that when it benefits you, it’s not socialism?

I think that everyone, from birth to death, should have access to basic health care.That means I believe in a single payer system.  I think that the wealthiest country in the history of the world can afford this.

The Affordable Care Act, the compromise between leaving 20 million people with no care and a single payer plan, is flawed,  but it is morally bereft to overturn it.  Those members of the House who voted to repeal it so many times should have been spending that time coming up with a better system.

And do any of you understand corporate welfare?  Here’s an example: You shop at Wal-Mart because it’s cheap. Wal-Mart is the biggest employer in the country.  It does not pay its employees enough for them to live on.  So some of them go on welfare.  And many of them have to use the Affordable Care Act to get health insurance.   Who funds welfare?  Taxpayers.  Who funds the ACA?  Taxpayers.

So Wal-Mart makes a huge profit but doesn’t pay its employees a living wage so taxpayers pay to support them.  Still want to buy your goods at Wal-Mart?

And yes, there should be a minimum wage that is livable.   How could you be against that?

So yes, I’m an elite liberal.  I buy organic foods when I can because I know that pesticides are harmful to the earth and I care about preserving the planet for the next generation.  I think that clean water and clean air is worth preserving and that there have to be strong laws to protect them. I recycle.  I reuse plastic bags because the thought of all of the plastic trash I’ve personally created in my 55 years on earth makes me sick. I try to use polite and inclusive language because I care about others.  I don’t believe in war.  I believe we should do everything we can to prevent violence.  I believe that health care is a basic human right.  And that women’s rights are human rights.

I even listen to NPR.

I thought George Bush was a really horrible president.

But, you really got me this time.

You elected Trump.  Look up the DSM-IV criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder and you will find that he meets all the criteria. Look up the criteria for ADD as well and you have your man. He does not read about issues because he lacks the attention span.   He speaks at a third grade level.

He brags about his crimes against women.   He founded the fake Trump University. He has innumerable conflicts of interest.  He is so overwhelmed he has to have his kids help him.

His education secretary nominee doesn’t believe in public education.  The EPA nominee has sued the EPA before.  His VP believes that gays should have conversion therapy.  The Labor Secretary nominee is anti-labor. The nominee for Ambassador to Israel has views which are guaranteed to inflame the situation in the Middle East.  And who knows who he’ll nominate to the Supreme Court. He is the President Elect of the FUCKING UNITED STATES OF AMERICA but he is watching Saturday Night Live and tweeting about it.

HE DOESN’T KNOW ANYTHING.

In what way could the pussy-grabbing President elect with untreated ADD and a personality disorder who tells more lies than any politician in modern history possibly make this country better?  Yes, hatred and stupidity reign, thanks to you.

Good job.  You showed me this time.

America’s Military: One of The Largest Socialist Organizations in The World

December 27, 2016, John Hanno, www.tarbabys.com

Couldn’t have said it any better Mommadoc. The only small thing I would add, is that our military, yes that same military that Trump repeatedly trashed during the campaign and also refused to support by not paying federal taxes for decades, is one of the largest and most respected socialist organizations in the world. I spent 3 years in the Army serving my country. After we got up in the morning and attended reveille, we went to the mess hall to eat a free home cooked breakfast. You then assembled for work, unless you were sick or had a toothache, and instead went to a fully paid sick call clinic or dentist. You ate as much home cooked food as you wanted for lunch at the same mess hall. After work you ate another home cooked meal for dinner and took some back to the barracks for a snack. If you needed something at the PX, you paid subsidized prices for everything. If you needed your clothes laundered or cleaned, you put them in your laundry bag, and someone from the quartermaster service battery picked them up. A few days later you picked them up all cleaned, washed, starched and pressed. If you wanted entertainment, you went to the EM or NCO club and listened to free live musical groups and drank subsidized alcoholic beverages or went to the subsidized movie theater. You then went to sleep in a nice clean bed paid for by the generous American taxpayers. You then started all over the next day. If you were an NCO like myself and you had a automobile, you enjoyed subsidized auto insurance. You also had paid life insurance and 30 days of paid vacation a year. You could go to school during service, if you had time, or you could wait until you got out to enjoy fully paid college education at a state university. Some military personal also get a stipend while they’re attending school. You don’t make a lot of money compared to civilian life but that’s the contract you make to serve your country. And you’re on call 24/7 if necessary. But you also have paid medical care for life if your income is low enough. You serve your country and your country serves you in return. Our Federal government contracts with medical providers, drug companies and other companies for reduced costs for military personal, their families and the Veterans Administration. Socialism at it’s best. Something these Republi-cons just can’t understand; the American government and it’s citizens working together for a common goal.       John Hanno, www.tarbabys.com

Thanks to All the Veterans Who Stood With Standing Rock

As a Veteran, I’m proud of my thousands of brother and sister Vets who stood with the  Standing Rock Sioux. I believe it was the final nail The Obama Administration needed to temporarily close up the Dakota Access coffin. No one wants to mess with Veterans who are damn serious about their oath to defend America and it’s Democratic ethos. We all hope the environmental impact will delay the DAPL enough that the Uber Banks will decide to pull their credit lines. The pipeline claims it’s losing a million dollars a day. And if oil isn’t pumping on January 1st. Some of the pipeline contracts will have to be renegotiated. I know if Trump tries an end round President Obama’s and the Corp’s decision, the Vets will be there standing strong. I have a change.org petition asking the President to cede the land back to the Standing Rock Sioux or designate the land a National Park or National Monument. Please sign on if you can.

John Hanno, Oak Forest, Illinois change.org petition