Let Obamacare fail?

It could have been different ...

After Donald Trump won the presidency, many Americans despondently wondered whether facts mattered anymore.

Trump, after all, won the presidency despite a constant stream of falsehoods. He launched his political career with a lie about Barack Obama’s birthplace and just kept on lying, about almost every imaginable subject. He also admitted to being a sexual molester. He refused to release his tax returns, unlike every other modern nominee. And yet he was elected president of the United States. There was, and still is, ample reason for despondence.

But the events of the past few months, and especially the last few days, offer some reason for encouragement. They have demonstrated that facts still matter and that truth has some inherent advantages over falsehood. That’s the No. 1 lesson to take from the collapse of the Republican health care bills.

You can read more of David Leonhardt’s excellent commentary here.

Is this it then? Has the GOP effort to deprive millions of Americans access to affordable health care in order to fund a tax increase for the rich and powerful reached the end of the line?

Who knows.

If we have, however, it’s ironic that the final death knell was dealt by three female GOP Senators: Shelley Moore Capito (R-West Virginia), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

After the House passed its healthcare proposal earlier this year, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, put together a group of Senators to come up with the Senate’s response.

Not surprisingly, Democrats were frozen out. Only Republicans would be allowed to decide. But McConnell also chose to ignore the Republican women; and now, apparently, they’re ready to veto his last ditch effort, one that involves repealing Obamacare without replacing it with anything at all.

Of the many GOP proposals put forward this year, this is the cruelest one of all as the Congressional Budget Office has already documented. Talk about cynical. But then cynical and cruel is what so-called GOP leaders specialize in.

“Let Obamacare fail,” President Trump tweeted Tuesday morning, then reiterated still later in the day, putting his own ego above the pain and suffering millions of Americans would experience if Obamacare fails.

Has there ever been a more cynical abdication of Presidential responsibility?

What Trump demonstrated once again is that he is completely indifferent to the consequences that will result from sabotaging the individual health insurance market.

But here’s the rub. Trump and his Health and Human Services Secretary, Tom Price, have broad discretionary authority that can be used to deliberately sabotage the program if they decide to do so.

And they may very well do that.

The truth is, Trump has never cared one iota about what was in any of the GOP healthcare bills. He just wanted a victory.

What a sad, pathetic and disgusting specimen this man is!

But Trump’s tweet should also remind us that nothing is ever final in Washington. There is a lot the GOP can do to sabotage the Affordable Care Act. So the answer is no; as much as we might like the debate about healthcare to be over and done, it isn’t.

The question is whether there are enough responsible members of the GOP to work with the Democrats to produce a healthcare proposal that would actually improve healthcare for ordinary Americans?

Let’s hope so.

Otherwise things could get very bad in the months ahead if Trump and Price do what they say they plan to do.

Weekly Toon …

The truth ... finally :-)

It’s easy to see why Sarah Huckabee Sanders wants the TV cameras off during her White House news briefings.

There is, for one, the matter of her boss constantly proclaiming things that range from the inexplicable to the patently wrong. There’s also the metastasizing Russia scandal, which keeps rendering previous Trump … statements inoperative, as Richard Nixon press secretary Ron Ziegler used to say.

But above all is a more simple explanation: Sanders has no earthly idea what’s going on in the White House she purports to represent.

Even though they’re hard to beat if you love buffoons and grifters, it gets a little tiresome and repetitive running cartoons every week aimed at Donald Trump and his immediate family. That’s especially true when you realize just how many clowns have actually degraded themselves to work for Trump.

That certainly includes the sock puppet otherwise known as Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who some people allege is an actual human being. One wonders if they’ve ever had to sit through one of her robotic performances.

Whether they have or not, her knowledge of what’s actually going on in the White House was discussed earlier this week by Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank in that column excerpted above. You can read the entire column here if you want.

The column pairs nicely with our toon of the week from Ann Telnaes, whose editorial animations and cartoons are featured in a variety of different newspapers. You can also visit her web site here.

Our runner-up for the week comes from Chip Bok. Just remember, folks, it’s not going to happen because Donald Trump promised it wouldn’t in one of those tweets of his.

Lock him up …

A chip off the old blockhead ...

There is no statute against helping a foreign hostile power meddle in an American election. What Donald Jr. — and Kushner and Manafort — did may not be criminal. But it is not merely stupid. It is also deeply wrong, a fundamental violation of any code of civic honor.

I leave it to the lawyers to adjudicate the legalities of unconsummated collusion. But you don’t need a lawyer to see that the Trump defense — collusion as a desperate Democratic fiction designed to explain away a lost election — is now officially dead.

I can’t recall ever agreeing with Charles Krauthammer about anything. The man is about as far right as they come. So when even Krauthammer recognizes that what mini-Don, Kushner and Manafort did was fundamentally wrong, you know hell has frozen over. You can read more of his op-ed piece here.

Trump’s supporters will never acknowledge that, of course. They live in an alternative dimension, one completely divorced from reality. But it’s pretty clear that the Trump campaign was all too willing to accept help from the Russian government.

That crosses a line; and if you’re incapable of recognizing that, you’re as hopeless as the Trumps.

Weekly Toon …

“Donald Trump is a crude buffoon who spends his days picking Twitter fights with people he sees on TV. He displays no skill, sophistication or capacity for subtle nuance in foreign or domestic policy. But Trump’s personal ineffectualness has not kept his administration from rapidly reversing the direction of the federal government in key areas, thanks to a few deft players who are implementing an aggressive ideological agenda.”

“Perhaps the most disturbingly effective person on the Trump team is Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. In the few months since Trump’s inauguration, Pruitt, has transformed the EPA into a supine lap dog for the oil, gas and coal industries and is well on his way to erasing years of environmental policy built on scientific research.”

Those are the opening paragraphs of a thoughtful article by Los Angeles Times cartoonist David Horsey. Horsey details much better than I can the enormous damage EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is doing to the environment.

If you like the cartoon featured above you’ll be a lot better informed by reading the rest of his article here. And you can enjoy more of his cartoons by following this link.

Our runner-up for the week is kind of an inside joke, but people who follow New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s career will surely appreciate it.

Weekly Toon …

But the rub is it's only thanks to the media that this fraud was exposed ...

Seriously?

We’re supposed to take a guy who manufactures testimonials to himself seriously when he complains about fake news? Pathetic!

Matt Davies, the Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist for Newsday, doesn’t think so and neither do I. Catch more of Davies’ work here.

Our runner-up for the week comes from Pat Bagley and is probably even more on target. It’s a commentary on Trump for his vulgar and demeaning attack against Mika Brzezinski.

Though personally I think the cartoon insults sewers. Unlike Trump, sewers actually perform a useful function in life.

Pride …

You don't have to be a certain age to be proud ...

I’ve been talking a lot in this blog lately about national issues that affect all Americans, not just the LGBTQ community. I’ve focused particularly on health care because I believe it’s a disgrace a country as rich as ours refuses to provide healthcare to all those who need it; indeed, if anything, that we seem to be going in the wrong direction.

But I don’t want to let this last night of June pass without noting that June is a month that has always been special for the LGBTQ community in the United States. It’s the month when the Stonewall riots took place back in 1969 and it’s that uprising gay people celebrated at the Pride festivals held in so many communities across the nation this month.

In recent years it’s also a month that has traditionally been designated Gay Pride Month. President Bill Clinton was the first American President to do so back in 2000; and President Obama designated it as such every year he was President.

Unlike his predecessor, however, Donald Trump refused to do so this year. No Republican President ever has. Neither they nor other GOP leaders seem to have any interest in offending the conservative and religious bigots who hate us and continue to do everything in their power to strip of us rights other Americans take for granted.

Two years ago the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that marriage equality is the law of the land. But earlier this week the same Court confirmed that the fight for same-sex equality is hardly over. You can read more about that here, but especially troubling was the voting behavior of the Supreme Court’s newest Justice, Neil Gorsuch – a man who shouldn’t be on the Court at all.

It’s not just at the national level we have to worry, however. According to USA Today, the Washington Post, and other reputable organizations scores of anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in state legislatures around the country since the beginning of this year.

Some have already passed. Others are poised to do so in the coming months. The point is that gay people are under attack all around the country today – and throughout the world as well.

Personally I’m glad Donald Trump refused to toss us a crumb by designating June as Gay Pride Month. For one thing, we don’t need Donald Trump to be proud. We were proud before he became President and we’ll still be proud once he’s consigned to the ash heap of history where he belongs.

But pride is not enough.

You have to actually stand up to the bullies and bigots who have nothing but contempt for us and will do whatever they can to undermine our fight for equality.

If you’re reading this post I hope you’ll consider joining us in that fight even if you’re not gay. We need friends to help us in our struggle for eqaulity. Here is a good resource for tracking state legislation that would discriminate against the LGBTQ community (and a few bills that would help our cause as well).

If you believe in justice as something to strive for, not something given, check to see what’s happening in your state and then take a stand for equality. That’s what being proud is all about.

Weekly Toon …

and trying to fool you into thinking we were improving the House bill ...

June 28, 2017, Update

It’s not over, people. I wish it was, but Mitch McConnell is not easily deterred. He wants to win and he and his leadership team will be seeing what they can do to bribe or threaten their GOP colleagues into supporting their bill over the course of the next several weeks; and once they have the votes, they’ll bring it to the floor quickly.

In other words, if you care about this issue, you need to keep pressuring your GOP Senators not to backtrack in the coming weeks.

June 25, 2017, Original Post

Last Thursday Mitch McConnell finally released the Senate GOP’s version of healthcare reform. Of course, it’s not really a healthcare reform bill at all. As the New York Times noted: “It is, plain and simple, a plan to cut taxes for the wealthy by destroying critical federal programs that help provide health care to tens of millions of people.”

The Senate GOP bill throws the old, the sick, and the poor under the bus – and a lot of kids as well! It will deprive millions of Americans of health insurance entirely and raise premiums for many others who are older and sicker. It will also reduce benefits and raise costs as well as deductibles for still millions of others.

Think you may be one of those who benefits substantially from the tax cuts? Think again! You’ll save a pittance if you make between $200,000 and $500,000 a year and somewhat more if you make more than $500,000.

But the biggest benefits accrue to those making more than $1 million annually, people like Donald Trump and his family.

Some, like cartoonist Drew Sheneman (more of whose work is featured here), have pointed out that the Senate GOP proposal is not all that different from the version passed by the GOP-controlled House of Representatives.

But the truth is that the Senate GOP bill is worse than its House counterpart in at least one critical respect. It will do far more damage to the Medicaid program over the long term; and that’s really the key to the shell game Senate Republicans are playing.

The Senate GOP proposal immediately gets rid of all the taxes the Affordable Care Act imposed on higher income Americans to help subsidize insurance for those less well off. But the benefit reductions will take place much more gradually; and they will hit the Medicaid program especially hard.

Why should I care you may wonder? I’m not on Medicaid. That may be true, but someone you know may very well be.

Nearly one in five Americans, 74 million people, are on Medicaid, including a third of the nation’s children. Medicaid pays for half of all births and covers almost two-thirds of nursing home residents, including many who are middle class and spent all their savings on care before becoming eligible.

You can learn more about Medicaid here.

Congressional Republicans, who originally supported the program, have turned against it. They think it costs too much even though the Federal government spends hundreds of billions less on it annually than it does on the defense budget.

That’s why, starting in 2021, they want to change Medicaid from a Federal-state financing partnership that expands with need to a block grant program that doesn’t.

Funding would be capped at a set amount per Medicaid recipient. Of still more importance, starting in 2025 the Senate bill will begin to cut Medicaid deeper than the House bill as the cap on Medicaid payments would grow at a much slower rate than the inflation rate for medical costs.

Why 2025 you may ask?

First, McConnell and his Republican colleagues are counting on you to forget who was responsible for wrecking the healthcare system by phasing in the benefit reductions more slowly.

But with regard to Medicare specifically, pushing the timeline for the full effect of benefit reductions out to 2025 and beyond also has the effect of concealing the full damage being done to Medicaid by the GOP.

Because of the way the Congressional Budget Office typically scores bills it may not pick up some of the most devastating damage the Senate GOP proposal does down the road as inflation starts eating away at the program

This is a point discussed in far more detail by Jared Bernstein in an article well worth reading.

Of course, it isn’t just those on Medicaid who are harmed by the Senate proposal. For those who get insurance through a healthcare exchange, the Senate bill provides smaller subsidies to pay for less generous health insurance plans that will also feature higher deductibles.

Both GOP bills also defund Planned Parenthood for one year (the idea being to permanently defund it in separate legislation less constrained by the rules the Senate is operating under to consider this proposal; rules that prevent Senate Democrats from filibustering the bill).

Experts expect this would result in low-income Americans getting less medical care and having more unintended pregnancies as access to contraceptives decline.

In the end, the Senate GOP proposal is a $800 billion plus transfer of wealth to the rich and powerful, one of the biggest redistributions of wealth from less well-off Americans to the rich.

In fairness, of course, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) paid for its expansion of health care coverage by increasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans. And why not? To whom much is given much is expected.

In the end, when push comes to shove, it all comes down to what kind of a person you are. If you’re someone who believes more Americans should have access to healthcare, this is very bad bill indeed. If you are among those much better off and don’t care what happens to others, this is the bill for you.

The bottom line is clear. Millions of Americans will lose insurance coverage over time if this bill or its House counterpart are enacted. Many others will pay a lot more for coverage worth much less and with higher out-of-pocket deductibles. States will be given more flexibility to scale back essential health services.

That’s why these GOP proposals are opposed by AARP and virtually all of the organizations representing health care professionals.

“There has never been a rollback of basic services to Americans like this ever in U.S. history,” said Bruce Siegel, president of America’s Essential Hospitals, a coalition of about 300 hospitals that treat a large share of low-income patients.

“Let’s not mince words. This bill will close hospitals. It will hammer rural hospitals, it will close nursing homes. It will lead to disabled children not getting services …. People will die.”

Will it pass? Don’t bet against Mitch McConnell. Yes, some GOP Senators are saying they cannot support the bill in its current form. Much of this is just an elaborate charade to allow certain GOP Senators to offer amendments they will then claim improved the bill and justified voting for it.

But if the bill passes the game is over. We will have taken a colossal step back in time and become a much more mean-spirited nation when it comes to taking care of our own.

Meanwhile, the defense budget to support unwinnable wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East will continue to rise; and still another tax cut to benefit the rich and powerful will be the next order of business for Donald Trump and congressional Republicans.

One bite at the tax cut apple isn’t enough for them; and if that means wrecking our healthcare system in the process and becoming a meaner nation, so be it.