THINKING OUT LOUD (TOL)

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 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, if the Trump administration has a coherent, consistent strategy for either trade or immigration, 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.