THINKING OUT LOUD (TOL)

Trump and The Art of Bankruptcy: The Market tanks after Trump announces more tariffs on $300 Billion of imported good from China. Most major retailers have already said they will have to raise prices – just in time for the Christmas shopping season.  Make no mistake about it, Tariffs are taxes paid by US importers and passed on to US consumers. Trump's trade temper tantrums are really hurting mid-west farmers and his supporter. That great tax break that the middle class was supposed to get but didn’t, will be completely wiped out if Trump’s tariffs  goes into effect.

But here’s the thing, Trump wants and needs to be popular, and the market crash and his tough tariffs talks make him extremely unpopular. He’s right now hearing all the bad press and thinking of ways to weasel out of his ill-conceived mouth diarrhea over China trade. My guess is that by the end of next week he will announce that he is extending his tariff deadline until after Christmas. Dated 08/05/2019

Socialized health care, hell yah! The Trump administration recently decided to give another $16 billion of tax payer money to farmers in the mid-west impacted by Trump’s self-inflicted trade wars. That’s on top of the $12 billion he already gave last year. It's ironic that farmers, once supporters of Trump, now need a handout because of his protectionist policies and sloppy, incoherent trade negotiations with our trading partners. And yet, not a peep out of republicans -the very same people who vilified food stamp recipients as welfare queens and once preached responsibility and self-reliance; and were once upon a time uncompromising proponents of free trade.  What are these bailouts if not social welfare?!

So you can under the hypocrisy or just plain ignorance of those very same republicans who deride the very idea of the Green New Deal and Universal Health Care as “socialism.” Republicans are hopeful that that word alone will trigger memories of a communist USSR, long ago America’s boogey man, and in the process avoid having to articulate their position. On the topic of health care and the environment, republicans are still spouting crazy Joe McCarthy 1950 cold war rhetoric to scared Americans (but where is Moscow Mitch and his gang on Russian interference in our elections?).

Socialism is a form of economic system, wherein certain services and industries are subsidized, or partly controlled by the government. In truth, there is plenty of room in our democracy for both capitalism and socialism to co-exist and even thrive for the public good. Many examples of socialism already exist in the American economy: Trump’s recent bailout of mid-west farmers, our National Park System, the US Postal System, The US Military, Social Security, Medicare and MediAid, our Transportation System, and even our current employer based health care system. Socialized health care is the primary source of healthcare for citizens in capitalist democracies around the world.

So the next time you hear a politician slam the Green New Deal or Universal health care  as “socialism",  just know that he/she is either ignorant, a hypocrite, a moron, or more likely, all three.

The Challenge of Overcoming the Demise of Our Democracy: In his book Upheaval Jared Diamond identifies several major problems threatening the stability of our democratic way of life: an uncompromising, dysfunctional, polarized government, socio-economic inequality and a lack of investment in human capital, systematic suppression of voting rights compounding a pervasive apathy toward civic participation, and the rise of racism and growing xenophobic behavior.

These are real problems, with real consequences, that have already reached crisis proportions. It is not hyperbola to suggest that unless we find meaningful solutions to these problems, our way of life, our standard of living, and our great representative democracy is at risk and there will be no winners. The solution is not spewing meaningless slogans (Make America Great Again) and divisive rhetoric (Lock Her Up and Send Her Back) - that serves only to make matters worse. The solution is not political gridlock, stacking judges or legislating morality. The solution is not to make the 1% wealthier. The solution is not big tax breaks for Wall Street and Corporate America. In other words, the solution is not the republican agenda.

The solution is a recommitment to our human capital and that solution starts with doing what every other developed nation on earth has already done, provide health care for all its citizens. We must transition out of our for-profit health care system and into socialized health care. As motivation, we have only to look at what our current 100 year old for-profit health care system has brought upon us (see above). It’s just not working. By any metrics, we have the most expensive health care and worse medical outcomes in the developed world. Moreover, democracies around the world with universal health care have much more robust civic participation in their democratic process then the US. Coincidence? I think not. A healthy, educated populous is the keystone to a thriving Democracy. Universal Health Care is the cure to what ails America.

Universal health care endows the right to access quality health care to all Americans, which in turn produces a healthier, smarter, and better educated populous, which is exactly what we need to tackle the many challenges facing America today. It’s not just a matter of the social good; it’s a matter of National Security.

Health before Education: If there is one thing that conservatives hate above all else it’s Universal Health Care. There is a method to their madness. A healthy population is a smarter population and that spells trouble for conservative power brokers. Single minded conservatives embrace and defend the status quo to keep their "proper place" in society. Big business, big money and big lobbies control our government, most often to the detriment of the average citizen (see recent tax cut favoring corporations and the wealthy and climate change deniers). Progressive, on the other hand, are more likely to embrace and advocate for change (free higher education, health care for all, climate change fighters and socio-economic equality).  The better educated the more likely that one is progressive minded. Progressives have been at the forefront of every single significant social and cultural advancement in the history of the United States of America and maybe the world. Health care is the enabler of education, and education births progressives and progressives are the disrupters of the status quo and that is why conservatives are deathly afraid of Universal Health Care.

Republicans are leading the way for Universal Health Care: If a panel of federal judges (two Republicans) rules in favor of a December decision by a conservative Texas  judge (US District Court Judge Reed O’Conner) it could mean the end of Obamacare and put at risk insurance coverage for 20 million people covered by the ACA.

The case against the Affordable Care Act (Aca) was filed by republican governors and attorneys general against the federal government. When the Trump administration refused to defend the ACA, a group of 21 democratic attorneys general step in to appeal the District Court’s decision. It is assumed that if the appeals of this case will go all the way to the Supreme Court.

Republicans hope that this is the silver bullet to finally kill Obamacare. Republicans have been stewing over the ACA since its inception in 2010. They simply hate the idea that low to middle income Americans have finally been able to get affordable health care. They either don’t understand or don’t care that killing the ACA will put 20 million people at risk for losing their health insurance coverage. They have yet to come up with a good replacement plan of their own. Does anyone remember Trump’s campaign pledge to give all Americans a “really terrific health care plan.”

We should all hope that Republicans’ cruel and mindless obsession with killing Obamacare succeeds. Most Americans already support Universal Health Care and by dumping 20 million children and families into the growing ranks of the uninsured and under insured, Republican will surely accelerate the inevitable- Universal Health Care for all Americans.

REPUBLICANS CONTINUE ATTACK ON AFFORDABLE CARE ACT: Tuesday July  9th, 2019. A panel of federal appeals court judges are determining if a decision by a federal judge in Texas was correct in striking down the Affordable Care Act (ACA) last December. The Texas judge ruled that the ACA individual mandate that most people must have health insurance was unconstitutional after Congress eliminated the penalty as part of the tax overhaul that Trump signed in 2017. If the mandate is indeed unconstitutional, then the next question is whether the rest of the ACA can function without it. In December, the Texas judge said it was not and declared the entire law must fall.

The case is likely to be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court.

The Kaiser Foundation, a nonpartisan research organization, has estimated that 52 million adults from 18 to 64, or 27% of that population, would be rejected for individual market coverage under the practice that were in effect in most states before the ACA.

Biggest Loser: Trump is a loser on his two main policy obsessions – immigration and trade. On immigration, he has failed to get a comprehensive immigration policy in place. His policy of taking children away from their parents and locking them up is national nightmare that we won’t soon wake up from. Meanwhile, the humanitarian crisis at the border continues to grow. Of course, he never got his “Wall” (that Mexico was supposed to pay for) and now he wants to put tariffs on good coming from Mexico as a misguided strategy to force Mexico to stop migrants to America. He's about to derail his own USMCA trade agreement! Speaking of Trade, how’s our “stable genius” and deal maker doing with China trade negotiation. From Silicon Valley High-Tech Companies to mid-west soy bean Farmers, Trump’s self-inflicted China tariff trade war is causing economic chaos, and soon big discount stores like Cost-Co, Walmart and Target will be forced to raise prices, hurting US consumers and businesses. Worse of all, the Trump administration has a neither a coherent nor consistent strategy for either trade or immigration, and if it does it has yet to articulate it to the American public. Biggest Loser, I’d say “Big league!”

Our Failing Health Care System: Health problems can destroy wealth. Just in the past year, Americans borrowed an estimated $88 billion to cover health-care costs, according to a recent survey from West Health and Gallup. What’s more, 45% of Americans are concerned that a big health event could cause bankruptcy.

They’re right to be concerned. More than two in three bankruptcies are caused by medical problems, either from bills, income loss due to illness, or both, according to data released this year in the American Journal of Public Health. It looked at more than 900 Americans who filed for personal bankruptcy between 2013 and 2016.

Consider this: In 2018, the average cost of health care for the typical American family of four covered by an average employer-sponsored PPO plan was $28,166, according to the Milliman Medical Index. Every month, this raises roughly $100, the index found.

So imagine how high these costs might go if you had a bad accident or prolonged illness that meant you couldn’t work, resulting in loss of your job and the insurance that came with it. “That’s the triple whammy,” Himmelstein said.

Medical issues are all too common. Indeed, 44% of Americans got hit with a medical expense they didn’t expect in the year prior. And for too many, it’s devastating: 530,000 families go bankrupt each year because of medical issues, the American Journal of Public Health revealed.

The nitwit in the White House speaks: Mexico is going to pay for the wall. China is going to pay for the Tariffs. Republicans are the party of Health Care. Wake up Trump supporters and sycophants – you got conned, what's it going to take for you to finally realize he's a dangerous fraud! War with Iran?

Barr vs Justice: Observers of the Justice Department will spend the rest of our lives talking about Attorney General William Barr’s jaw-dropping and horrifically inappropriate address on Thursday morning, which attempted to spin special counsel Robert Mueller’s report in Donald Trump’s favor—before the public has seen it. In just a few minutes, Barr managed to throw Mueller under the bus, mount a Fox News–style defense of Trump, and further obscure his dubious decision to absolve the president of obstruction of justice. It is hard to convey just how appalling Barr’s performance was, and it will take a while to assess the extent of the damage Barr just inflicted on the Department of Justice and the office of the attorney general. But let me take a first crack: This was Pravda-style propaganda, pure and simple, a grotesque display of spineless fealty to the president, and a confirmation that Barr views the Mueller investigation as fundamentally illegitimate. Washington Post Editorial

MediCare Fraud: Medicare fraud is big business. Sutter Health has agreed to pay $30 million to settle a lawsuit for allegedly manipulating the health status of seniors to reap inflated payments from MediCare. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. One of the biggest challenges facing Universal Health Care, or MediCare-For-All, is the prevalence of cheats in the health care industry. From fake diagnosis, to CYA testing to overselling durable medical equipment, health care providers have found a way to bilk the MediCare out of billions of dollars – taxpayer money! Something needs to be done to put a stop to this abuse. Here’s an idea; start a citizens group of all volunteer whistle blowers to report suspected fraudulent behavior and pay them a percentage of the adjudicated settlement.

Trump’s Terrible Tariff Tizzy: Trump wants to put $11 billion worth of tariffs on European imports – from autos to cheese. I suppose he thinks that by doing so he’s protecting American manufacturers and saving American jobs. When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Tariffs are just another word for taxes.  Tariffs paid by importers (think Walmart and Costco), are passed onto consumers in term of higher prices for consumer goods and services (Importer are not going to eat those higher costs).  Higher cost of goods leads to declining sales, triggering lay-offs of American workers, and  ultimately leading to an economic recession. Yup, great trade strategy from our 5 time bankrupt completely stable genius of a president.

The Trump Stank. If you work with The Donald sooner or later you’re going to get splattered with the trump stank. Take for example ex-Secretary of Homeland Security Kristen Nielsen. She was just doing her job - trying to implement the bizarre and erratic immigration policies of our lunatic president. She didn’t set the policy of taking babies from their mothers, but she will forever be remembered as the witch that locked kids in cages and lied about it to congress. The trump stank claims another victim.

It's about time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is examining the rise of injuries related to shareable electric scooters, according to CNBC. The study was launched at the request of the Public Health and Transportation departments in Austin, Texas, where local health officials are seeing more injuries related to scooters offered by popular ride-sharing companies Bird and Lime. The scooter industry clearly needs a new lobbyist.

Guns don't kill people, scooters do. The N.R.A. pushed Congress in 1995 to stop the CDC from spending taxpayer money on research that advocated gun control. Congress then passed the Dickey Amendment in 1996, and cut funding that effectively ended the CDC’s study of gun violence as a public health issue.

On the Caravans. Trump claims we have a crisis at our southern border. The problem he says - caravans of  people (brown) trying to get into our Country. Republicans fall in line. Their solution: build a $ 5.7B wall and keep people out. I say it’s not a problem when people want to get into the US. That’s a good thing, right. The problem is so that many people (fathers, mothers and children) live in such hopelessness and fear that they are compelled to flee their home country. The solution: 1.) A comprehensive immigration reform policy, and 2.) Spend the wall money on foreign aid to rebuild Central America (a Marshall Plan for the Americas).

February was Black History month, and I just finished Ron Chernow’s Grant. Chernow describes in some detail the “reconstruction era (1865-77)” under Andrew Johnson, and President Grant. It was a tragic time for Black people in America, and the beginning of another 100 years (1865- 1967) of southern racist terror and oppression against the Blackman. If you think about where the Blackman is today, it is evident that never in the history of humanity have a people accomplished so much, against such constant and systematic oppression, in such a short period of time, as the African American.

Green New Deal (GND), a proposal by Democrats to address climate change and economic inequality, has conservatives (Republicans) in hysterics, this not surprising. Republicans repulse new ideas. The mere mention of change is a threat to their world order.  It has them reaching into their pockets to count their pennies – penny wise and pound foolish. Keep the faith Democrats. In all the history of the world every significant social, economic and cultural advancement was (and is) driven by Progressive ideals (with the support of “just enough” forward thinking citizens).

Universal Health Care is topic de jour these days. We have the most expensive medical care in the developed world. Yet, we have an epidemic of unhealthy people in this country. Chronic diseases (obesity, diabetes and cardiac disease to name a just a few) are on the rise and unhealthy behavior is starting at younger and younger ages.  Each subsequent generation of Americans is less healthy than the last. If corporate profits are the measure a Nation’s health, then our health care system is working really well. Can you name one other industry that makes so much money, delivers an unaffordable, failing product and then turns around and blames its customers for its failures?

On the Wall: Trump promised his base a boarder Wall and that Mexico will pay for it. But Mexico won’t pay for it and Congress allotted only a fraction of the $5.7 billion he wanted. The Wall, according to federal agencies, is a misguided waste of money. Yet, two Kentucky senators continue to support Trump and his Wall. Kentucky, as well as West Virginia and Ohio, are currently experiencing rates of opioid overdose deaths that are much higher than the national average. In fact, it is estimated that these rates are at least 1.5 times greater than the rest of the country, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. In Kentucky, 20 out of every 100,000 people die from opioid overdoses. If I was Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, I’d focus more on the opioid threat killing my own people, rather than on a phantom menace 1000 miles away created by a delusional president trying to keep an asinine campaign promise.

On Socialism: Republicans, whenever they want to throw red meat to their base, will resort to labeling progressive programs as “socialism.” As if that, in and of itself, is a very bad thing. Conservatives eat it up. When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. VP Pence recently called the GND a socialist program.   Here is the definition of socialism: An economic system in which the production and distribution of goods are controlled substantially by the government rather than by private enterprise, and in which cooperation rather than competition guides economic activity. By that definition, some of our most cherished institutions are socialist programsThe US Post office, The US Military, Our National Park Service, Medicare and Social Security, etc. So there appears to be room in our economic system for both capitalism and socialism, if only Republicans would put away their hammer.