The GOP Tax Scam.

For weeks, the GOP Congress has been working behind closed doors to craft a tax “reform” bill. They promise that their bill will “give everybody a raise.” They claim that it will simplify tax codes so much that you will be able to “file your income taxes on a postcard.” And they claim that the tax cuts will accelerate the economy so much that they will pay for themselves.

We’ve heard all of this before. Remember Ronald Reagan’s trickle-down economics? Or how about George W. Bush’s tax cuts?

Instead of stimulating the economy, those plans merely stimulated the bank accounts of the very wealthy while ballooning deficits and our national debt. And though we haven’t yet begun to pay for those tax cuts, the GOP is back with more cuts and more empty promises.

Indeed, most economists who have looked at the GOP plans have concluded that they will result in adding at least $1.5 trillion to the federal deficit over the next 10 years. Further, the nonpartisan Tax Foundation concluded that the impact on economic growth would only pay for about a third of the costs. In other words, in a best case scenario, the tax cuts will add more than $1 trillion to the deficit. And some economists worry that the tax cuts could actually slow economic growth based on increased debt and government borrowing which will result in higher interest rates!

Undeterred, the GOP responded by saying, “We don’t expect the plan to pay for itself. The only way to reduce the deficit is through spending cuts.” What they’re really saying is, “We don’t care about the consequences, the billionaires who fund our campaigns demand tax cuts.” Indeed, the GOP has admitted as much. Both the Mercers and the Kochs have threatened to stop funding GOP candidates unless they get what they want.

And fear of the sponsors is only part of the reason the GOP is in such a hurry to pass the tax cut bills. The temporary spending bill that is funding our government expires on December 8, and the GOP has made tax reform mandatory for a budget deal.

Moreover, by rushing a bill through Congress with little debate, the GOP can bury some unsavory items in the bill. For example, the Senate is considering repealing the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, which would for all intents and purposes repeal Obamacare.

The House tax bill would also repeal the Johnson Amendment which prohibits churches and other nonprofits from endorsing or opposing candidates for public office. Though the amendment is seldom enforced – pastors, especially evangelicals and conservative Catholics have been politicking from the pulpit for years without consequences thanks to GOP. This provision could impact our elections as negatively as the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that opened the floodgates for campaign donations by nonprofits – all of which can be made anonymously through money laundering from one nonprofit to another.

The House tax bill even includes an abortion poison pill. It has a provision that would, for tax purposes, give a fetus “personhood.” That would make any abortion, for any reason, murder.

However, the most disingenuous claim made by the GOP is that their tax plan will give most working Americans a $4,000 raise – a claim refuted by most economists. But let’s, for a moment, assume that it’s true. Who wouldn’t be in favor of giving less money to the government and having more money to spend on themselves? But what if getting that money meant that there would be a cut to most government services combined with increases in fees?

What if they told you that $4,000 tax cut would be offset by eliminating tax deductions for home mortgage interest, and for state and local tax payments – deductions that could total far more than $4,000. What if they told you that there wouldn’t be enough federal revenue to rebuild our infrastructure and that the result would be toll roads? What if they told you that cutting taxes would result in less money for medical research, less money to help with natural disasters, less money for environmental clean-ups, and less money for food safety inspections?

What if they told you that the tax cuts would mean that the cost of your health care and prescriptions would, once again, skyrocket? What if they told you that, as part of the tax cut, your Social Security savings would be given to millionaires and billionaires? What if they told you that you would be asked to subsidize big bonuses for the executives of multinational corporations? What if they told you that you might have to pay for your parents’ medical costs because their Medicare would be gutted? What if they told you it would mean the end of veteran’s benefits? What if they told you there would be no more money for food stamps and welfare, so millions of Americans would have to beg for food or die? What if they told you that that their tax cut would result in trillions more in debt for your children and grandchildren?

All of those things are likely under the GOP tax plans.

If that doesn’t give you pause, ask yourself this: Since the people writing the bills are millionaires who were put into office with the help of billionaires, do you really think they have your best interests at heart? And, if the GOP ideas for tax reform are so good, why are they being crafted in back rooms out of the view of the public? Why have they not included Democrats in the discussions?

Perhaps the best question of all is one posed by Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post in a recent editorial: “If the tax bill is so great, why does the GOP keep lying about it?”

Where Will This Nonsense End?

This week, the United States House of Representatives voted along party lines to sue the President of the United States for the first time in history. The basis for the lawsuit? Teapublicans claim that President Obama overstepped his legal authority by extending the deadline for the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate for another year – yes, that Affordable Care Act – the one congressional Teapublicans have voted to repeal more than 50 times. Never mind that every Chief Executive before President Obama has made such decisions. They were not Kenyan-born, black Muslims who were overwhelmingly elected with the help of African-Americans and Latinos.

In fact, President Obama has signed fewer executive orders than any president since World War II. He has signed 183 to George W. Bush’s 291 and Reagan’s 381.

But in order to truly understand the reason for the lawsuit, we must look at how we got here. In 1974, Democrats called for impeachment of President Richard Nixon over the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate office complex. Despite the fact that, by ordering the break-in and the ensuing cover-up, Nixon had committed “high crimes and misdemeanors,” Republicans were spoiling for payback. They spent $70 million of taxpayers’ money on a witch hunt in order to find cause for impeaching President Clinton, ultimately impeaching Clinton for lying about an extra-marital affair – a “crime” likely committed by more than half of the presidents that served before him.

The impeachment backfired, making Clinton more popular than ever and further enraging Republicans. Then, when the George W. Bush administration tanked our economy, Republicans were determined to make the newly-elected Obama look worse. It’s as if they were saying, “Sure, our party made a mess of the country, but we’re going to block any attempt to fix it. We’re going to pin this mess on you.”

Even before Obama’s inauguration, Republican leaders announced that they intended to do everything within their power to make his presidency fail and to make him a one-term president. In attempting to do so, Republicans set a new standard for obstruction through filibusters, a refusal to put forward names for nomination to fill court vacancies, and investigations of manufactured “scandals.” Even worse was the deceit of pretending to work with Democrats to craft the Affordable Care Act (a Republican idea) by adding a variety of amendments in committee, then refusing to vote for it. In his second term, matters have only grown worse, with the 113th Congress doing even less than Harry Truman’s “Do Nothing” Congress and many Teapublicans calling for Obama’s impeachment.

All of this begs the question, what next?

I believe that the next time a Republican is elected president, Democrats will have little choice but to return the favor in kind. Indeed, they will have to raise the stakes. They will have to filibuster every bill and appointment. They will have to sue the president and threaten impeachment. Anything less would be seen as weak and cowardly. It won’t be easy. After all, how can you top the 113th Congress for obstruction?

Unless things change, we may as well just close Congress and declare a permanent recess.

Obamacare “Failure” Is Looking More And More Like A Success.

On Thursday, April 17, 2014 President Obama announced that more than 8 million people have signed up for Obamacare through the federal exchange. Another 1.9 million have signed up through state-run exchanges. Those numbers don’t even include the 3 million young adults who were able to stay on their parents’ plans and the 3 million additional people who have been able to enroll in the expanded Medicaid program.

All of this means that more than 16 million people have been able to take advantage of Obamacare.

Further, states that embraced the bill have seen their uninsured rates decline 3 times faster than states that didn’t. For example, New York’s enrollment has exceeded projections by 60 percent and its insurance premiums have been cut in half! Imagine how many more people would have access to insurance if Teapublican governors and Teapublican legislatures had voted to expand Medicaid in their states and operate their own state health care exchanges. If every state would have embraced the law, we would be well on our way to joining the rest of the industrialized world with near universal access to health care.

It has also been proven that the Affordable Care Act has lowered the cost of health care. Yet Teapublicans refuse to admit that the program has been a success. They call it a “massive failure.” They falsely claim that it is costing jobs. They claim that it is unaffordable, despite studies by the Congressional Budget Office that show it is saving money. Nevertheless, most Teapublican candidates are basing their 2014 election campaigns on their opposition to the ACA. They are promising to repeal the ACA. And, backed by billions of Koch brothers’ money, shadowy front groups are running commercials that repeat lies and attack incumbent Democrats. Yet, according to polls by Gallup, even the resistance to the bill by rank and file Republicans is rapidly disappearing. In February, 72 percent of Republicans said the bill would make them worse off. In April, that number has dropped to just 51 percent!

So go ahead, Teapublicans, base all of your election campaigns on promising to repeal Obamacare. Let the approximately 16 million additional Americans who have gained access to health care know that you want to take that away from them.

Shoddy…er…Hobby Lobby.

As you may know, the Supreme Court of the United States recently heard Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Inc., a case brought against the Department of Health and Human Services by a few Christian zealots led by the founders of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood. In their lawsuit, they are challenging the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that for-profit corporations must include contraceptives as part of their employee health plans. They based their argument on their religious objection to paying for many types of contraceptives that they believe, despite scientific evidence to the contrary, are forms of abortion.

Apparently, Hobby Lobby has no such concerns about breaking one of the Ten Commandments…”You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

You see, in an astonishing example of hypocrisy, Hobby Lobby has long invested in companies that make the very contraceptives to which they claim to object. According to an article by Mother Jones, “Documents filed with the Department of Labor and dated December 2012—three months after the company’s owners filed their lawsuit—show that the Hobby Lobby 401(k) employee retirement plan held more than $73 million in mutual funds with investments in companies that produce emergency contraceptive pills, intrauterine devices, and drugs commonly used in abortions. Hobby Lobby makes large matching contributions to this company-sponsored 401(k).”

In fact, it appears that the court case was not even started by Hobby Lobby. It seems The Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty, a right wing Washington, DC stink tank, dreamed up the lawsuit then went in search of a plaintiff. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood are merely willing participants.

In other words, Hobby Lobby shouldn’t be able to object to paying for contraceptives on religious or any other grounds. It’s difficult to argue a case on principle if you apparently have none.

Why “Obamacare” Won’t Be Repealed.

As of last week, more than 6 million people have signed up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges and that number is expected to grow to as many as 7 million by the end of today. Roughly one-third of those people were previously uninsured. Another 4.5 million people have gained health insurance as the result of the expansion of Medicaid (tens of millions more would be eligible if Republican governors had not blocked Medicaid expansion in 24 states). 3 million young adults under age 26 have been added to their parents’ health insurance plans. And millions more have benefited from the ACA provision that prevents insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions.

Meanwhile, there have been few negatives.

Contrary to GOP claims, millions of Americans did not lose insurance when their insurance companies chose to cancel their policies rather than make them comply with the ACA. Indeed, many more Americans now have insurance as a result of the law. According to a survey by the Rand Corporation, the number of adults aged 18 to 64 without health insurance has declined from nearly 21 percent in late 2013 to 16.6 percent as of March 22. And contrary to the GOP, “Obamacare” is not a job-killer. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that it will actually create jobs.

In reality, millions of Americans have already benefited from the law and millions more will. Thanks to the ACA, there are fewer Americans who will have to rely on the Emergency Room for basic health care services and pass the costs along to those who do have insurance. Thanks to the ACA, there are no lifetime caps on the amount insurance companies will pay for an individual’s care. Thanks to the ACA, millions of Americans will no longer be facing financial ruin as the result of catastrophic illness.

Yet Teapublicans are still trying to stop “Obamacare.” The GOP-led House has voted to repeal or change the ACA more than 50 times. And Teapublican candidates are making “Obamacare” the central issue of their campaigns. They claim that the law will bankrupt the nation despite a CBO analysis that found the law will save billions of dollars. They claim that, if elected, they will repeal and replace the law. Yet they offer no replacement. They simply want us to trust them that they will come up with something better – better than the idea that they once promoted before President Obama embraced it.

The only thing the GOP has to offer is going back to what we had – a broken system that left more than 50 million Americans uninsured; a system that was the primary cause of personal bankruptcies in America; a system that led to double-digit inflation of health care costs; a system that encouraged US companies to send American jobs offshore.

But, trust me, no matter what happens in this Fall’s elections, we’re not going back. The millions of Americans who have already benefited from the ACA simply won’t permit it.

Do Religious Beliefs Trump Scientific Facts And The Common Good?

Can a for-profit corporation have religious beliefs? If so, who defines the corporation’s beliefs? Is it the CEO? The Board of Directors? The shareholders? Do the corporation’s religious beliefs out-weigh those of its employees? If so, are there any limits on those beliefs? May the corporation cite those beliefs in denying service to customers? What constitutes a religion? What constitutes a sincerely held religious belief?

These are just a few of the questions at stake in the case now being considered by the Supreme Court of the United States.

As you most certainly know, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood have filed suit claiming that their religious beliefs should exempt them from complying with the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that employer-provided insurance policies provide access to contraceptives. Both corporations claim that, despite scientific evidence to the contrary, IUDs, Plan B and several other types of female contraceptives are not mere preventatives. They consider them forms of abortion, which is forbidden by their religions.

The purpose of government – any government – is to solve conflicts of individual rights. When these rights are in conflict, it is left to the government and its courts to decide where one’s rights stop and another’s begin. For example, I enjoy the peace and quiet of the forest. You enjoy driving your loud ATV in the forest. We both have a right to our happiness, so whose rights prevail? It is precisely because of such conflicts that we have laws and regulations.

But, what if, instead of conflicting rights, we have conflicting beliefs? For example, I believe that science can prove our world and all its creatures are the products of evolution taking place over millions of years. Others believe that God created the world in six days. We can each hold to our beliefs without causing harm to the other. To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, in this case, your beliefs neither break my arm nor pick my pocket.

But in the Hobby Lobby case, the female employees can legitimately claim damages if the corporation refuses to include contraceptives as part of the health insurance plan. The women’s health needs will be treated differently than other employees’. They will have to pay out of pocket to purchase contraceptives, even if those pharmaceuticals are needed for medical purposes, not pregnancy prevention. Does the application of the drug and the need factor into the religious beliefs of the corporation? If so, does the corporation get to decide when it will and won’t pay for the pharmaceuticals? Can the corporation demand a review of its employees’ medical records?

And what if a corporation founded by Christian Scientists decides that none of its employees should have health care at all…that they should simply pray, instead? What if that corporation considers the resulting tax is an infringement on its beliefs? What if a corporation cites religious beliefs in order to deny employment or service to women, gays, Jews, African-Americans, Latinos, tall people, short people, or fat people? What if a hospital or clinic decides to subject patients to a religious test before acting to save their lives? It has taken centuries for our nation to extend the rights guaranteed by our Founders in the Constitution to all of our citizens, and there are still many inequities.

If the Court allows people and corporations to treat others differently based on mere beliefs, the disparities and conflicts will never end.

The Sovereign State Of Arizona?

The State of Arizona has always been home to a somewhat contentious sort of people. Settled by prospectors and ranchers, many of whom were escaping the rules of civilization, it has never had a warm relationship with Washington. Yet, it has long sought to benefit from federal largess.

Prior to 1912, the people of Arizona Territory begged the US for statehood in order to receive the benefits and protection that would come with it. However, they didn’t want to give up any power to the nation they hoped to join. The territory wanted to claim sovereignty over all of the land within its borders, despite the fact that the Grand Canyon and surrounding lands had been named a National Park by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. The Territory also wanted to maintain control over federal judges.

At the time, most Americans were opposed to Arizona statehood. It was felt that the Territory was a lawless frontier. But, eventually, Americans were convinced to offer Arizona statehood based on its deposits of valuable minerals. So in 1912, Arizona became the 48th state in the Union.

Two conditions of statehood were that the federal government would control the National Parks and National Forests and that Arizona would give up the recall of judges. Almost immediately after its statehood was ratified, Arizona reasserted its authority to recall judges. More recently, the Republican and Tea Party-dominated State Legislature has been trying to undo the other condition for statehood by repeatedly calling for sovereignty over all the lands within Arizona’s borders, and calling for nullification of any federal laws or orders the Arizona Legislature considers unconstitutional.

In other words, Arizona wants to be a state, but only on its own terms. Indeed, this attitude was clearly on display when Governor Brewer wagged her finger in the face of President Obama.

Yet, despite its distaste for the federal government, the state relies heavily on federal funds. The state receives nearly $2,000 more per citizen in federal funds than it pays in taxes. It receives subsidies for its roads and its schools, as well as supplemental food and other economic assistance for much of its population.

Recently, Arizona went cowboy hat in hand seeking billions more in federal expenditures for Luke Air Force Base to receive a new F-35 fighter wing. The state also requested (more accurately, demanded) billions more in federal aid for a costly border fence and thousands of US Border Patrol agents.

More than 100 years after receiving statehood, the State of Arizona is still relatively lawless thanks to the nation’s most lax gun laws. Much of it is still a wasteland…only now it’s home to millions living in denial that they can continue to drain the rivers and aquifers in order to golf on lush, green fairways without consequences. And its Tea Party Parasites and politicians still think they should be able to dictate terms to the federal government while enjoying all the benefits of federal taxpayer money.

There is, however, a glimmer of hope that the state may eventually embrace its statehood. The few moderate Republicans in the Arizona Legislature actually voted with Democrats to expand the state’s Medicaid program as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. That’s great for Arizona’s poor and uninsured. On the other hand, it means that Arizona will soon receive billions more in federal funds.

What a state…er…nation…whatever…

From Obstruction To Subversion.

By now, we all know the incredible lengths to which Teapublicans have gone in order to repeal, defund and obstruct “Obamacare.” But now, it seems, Teapublicans have taken a step over the cliff to outright subversion.

It appears one of the reasons for the difficulties of the HealthCare.gov website is a cyber attack tool named “Destroy Obama Care!”

The acting assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Cybersecurity and Communications testified that there have been at least 16 confirmed cyber attacks on the website. The most serious of these is a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack designed to make the website unavailable to intended users by bombarding the site with more traffic than it’s designed to handle.

According to a story by Examiner.com, right wingers have been distributing the DDoS through social networking. You know, one “patriot” to another.

Does anyone not see the problem with such tactics? In order to get their way, a minority of political extremists intentionally and willfully disrupt a legitimate function of our federal government thereby denying the majority an opportunity to take advantage of a legal, constitutionally-approved law. This is not typical political campaigning. It’s not merely a conflict of ideals and ideas. It’s not the equivalent of civil disobedience. Such an act is not only illegal, it’s immoral. It is nothing less than cyber terrorism.

If another government committed such an act, it might be construed as an act of war.

Where does the opposition to the Affordable Care Act stop? When is enough enough? Do the extremists need a list of those who are suffering from the lack of access to affordable health insurance? Do they need a list of those who die from their obstruction to understand the injustice of their actions? Do they need a body count?

Such extremists do not deserve their self-proclaimed title of patriots. They do not deserve to be called Americans. Indeed, they do not deserve to be called human.

Extremists And Cowards.

Bullies and weaklings; a**holes and chickensh*ts; Teapublicans and Democrats.  Whatever you want to call them, many of the people who now take up seats in Congress generally fall into one of these two categories. Never has the distinction been more obvious than following the latest vote on “Obamacare.” 39 cowards chose to join the right wing extremists by voting for a bill to “fix” the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by requiring insurance companies to continue to sell junk insurance policies.

The cowards are Democrats who have revealed themselves to be far more concerned about being re-elected and doing what’s best for themselves than doing what’s right for their constituents and their country. Indeed, they are Democrats who have sold out their constituents, their campaign contributors, their congressional caucus and the president. Instead of standing up for health care reform, they stood up for the status quo. They stood up for insurance company profits. They stood up for lobbyists. They stood up with their hands out looking for large campaign contributions from the insurance industry and Big Pharma.

Certainly, many of these weaklings have been targeted by the Republican National Committee and its billionaire sponsors. I have a certain amount of sympathy for these people since right wing Super PACs have already spent millions to attack them more than a year before the mid-term elections. But, if you’re a progressive voter, what’s the point of supporting a representative who refuses to support you on something as important as the ACA? These cowards are forcing their supporters to hold their noses and choose the lesser of the two evils.

For the record, I don’t believe in so-called litmus tests for politicians. I believe in compromise and bipartisanship, but not at the expense of betraying those they are elected to represent. Voting to undermine the ACA by eliminating insurance standards is just such a betrayal.

From the beginning, the ACA has been a difficult undertaking. Everyone knew that its implementation would not be smooth, even in the best of circumstances. (We all know that the roll-out of Social Security, Medicare and Part D did not go smoothly.) In order to get the bill passed, the administration was forced to drop the public option that was intended to keep insurance companies honest by providing more competition. Congressmen and senators spent months and months adding amendments that would weaken the bill. Then many of those same people voted against it anyway.

The ACA faced unparalleled opposition from both inside and outside the beltway; from lobbyists; from the insurance industry; from the pharmaceutical industry; from the medical supply industry and more. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent in very public attempts to block it. Teapublicans have spent years bad-mouthing it and predicting that it would be a “train wreck.” They mischaracterized it as a “government takeover” of medicine. They said it would result in “government death panels.” The right wing media has called it “an end to liberty,” “socialism,” “fascism” and worse. The mainstream media has thrived on the controversy, reporting it as though it was some sporting event, trumpeting every setback and glitch. Now they are scoring the ACA by the numbers of people who have registered and purchased insurance policies.

Teapublicans made their opposition to the ACA the centerpiece of two election cycles. They have attempted to repeal the ACA or defund it more than 40 times. They even shut down the government in an attempt to defund the ACA.

Many Teapublican-controlled states refused to expand Medicaid leaving millions of their citizens without health insurance. Many of those same states refused to create insurance exchanges, forcing the federal government to pick up the slack and directing millions more Americans to the healthcare.gov website. At the same time, they cut funding for the website. They funded cyber attacks to disrupt the website. Then they held congressional “investigations” in order to call attention to the glitches.

And now, NOW, 39 so-called Democrats add to the headwinds by voting for a bill that would undermine the ACA? I can think of only two words to describe such a vote…cowardice and treachery! I spent the last election cycle supporting some of these people. I donated to their campaign funds. I can hardly wait until I receive another email from them asking for my support.

They won’t like the answer any more than I like their vote.

Exactly What Are Teapublicans Trying To Protect Us From?

In shutting down the federal government, GOP congressional leaders said they wanted to save us from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, (aka “Obamacare”). In other words, they want to save Americans from an idea that they, themselves, proposed in 1996 and successfully implemented in Massachusetts as an alternative to universal health care.

So what great evils are they trying to keep at bay on our behalf?

They are trying to block our access to online marketplaces that will allow hundreds of thousands of Americans to choose more affordable options for health insurance. (Yes, HealthCare.gov will soon be fixed and, if the experience of Massachusetts is any indication, customers will wait until the last few weeks to sign up.) They are trying to overturn a new government rule that prevents insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions. They are trying to overturn a new rule that prevents insurance companies from terminating policies rather than pay the costs of medical treatments. They are trying to save us from the tax credits we’ll receive for purchasing health insurance.

The GOP and their wealthy contributors are trying to save up to 50 million Americans from being able to afford private health insurance for the first time. They are trying to keep parents from adding adult children up to age 26 to their own insurance policies. They are trying to save us from subsidized preventative care that will help identify medical conditions before they become more serious (and expensive) diseases.

They are trying to make sure that those who already have health insurance will continue to bear the costs of the uninsured who use the Emergency Room for routine health care visits. They are trying to preserve Washington’s largest group of lobbyists. Teapublicans are trying to ensure that the cost of health care benefits continue to encourage large corporations to ship middle class jobs overseas. Finally, they are trying to ensure that increases in health care costs continue to outpace inflation and that the cost of prescriptions will continue to skyrocket.

It’s obvious we need someone to rescue us for these self-proclaimed rescuers!