Trump’s Broken Promises. (Part Nine – Draining The Swamp)

The Trump White House is fond of sending out emails and Tweets stating “Promises Made. Promises Kept.” But, on many issues, he has either done nothing or made matters worse.

Swamp Creatures: Trump said he’s drain the swamp. But his administration includes more corrupt billionaires, CEOs, and Wall Street moguls than in any administration in history. These new swamp monsters have gutted regulations and signed orders that will enrich their own businesses and those of the president. At the same time, Trump has filled departments and agencies with former lobbyists, lawyers and consultants who are crafting new policies for the same industries in which they recently worked.

Lobbyists: Trump promised to re-institute a five-year ban on all executive branch officials lobbying the government for five years after they leave government. He did. But the ban he signed applies only to lobbying one’s former agency. Not the government as a whole. Moreover, he has churned through advisors and assistants like no other. So the revolving door between government and lobbying firms has actually accelerated.

Only The Best People: Trump promised he’d use his business experience to fill the White House with “great people, the very best people.” But many of the people he hired are unqualified ideologues, political hacks and white nationalists. These people have dismissed science, defied the rule of law and ignored common sense. As a result, he has created the most dysfunctional, back-stabbing White House in modern history. Those who do not prostrate at his feet and show complete loyalty are summarily fired by tweet. By far, the worst of his loyalists is Attorney General William Barr who has politicized the Department of Justice as never before in order to please his master.

Foreign Interference: Trump promised he’d “stop foreign lobbyists from raising money for American elections.” But foreign lobbyists are still raising money for his re-election and those of his spineless congressmen. And, of course, he was impeached for trying to extort a foreign leader into finding dirt on a political opponent just months after the Mueller investigation enumerated the many ways he had solicited and used election help from Russia then tried to cover it up.

We recently learned that Russia is again trying to intervene in the 2020 election. But Trump refuses to condemn Putin and Moscow Mitch refuses to allow a vote on House-passed bills that would secure our elections. And Trump is still soliciting foreign support. As I write this, he’s holding what amounts to a political rally in India.

Trump’s Broken Promises. (Part Eight – Violence and Gun Safety)

The Trump White House is fond of sending out emails and Tweets stating “Promises Made. Promises Kept.” But, though promising to end gun violence, he has done nothing to help. After all, he wouldn’t want to turn off the spigot of NRA campaign money.

Age Limits: After the Parkland school shooting, Trump promised that he would push to increase the age for buying a gun to 21. He hasn’t.

Universal Background Checks: Trump promised to look at legislation requiring universal background checks. Instead, he refused to support the bi-partisan Toomey-Manchin bill or any other gun safety legislation.

School Shootings: Trump promised to address school shootings. Yet he has ignored the parents of victims. Indeed, one parent was escorted from the gallery during Trump’s recent SOTU address for responding to a Trump statement by shouting, “Victims of gun violence like my daughter.” So far, Trump’s only action is to embrace the NRA position of arming teachers with guns.

Red Flag Laws: When asked about disarming gun-owners who have been convicted of domestic violence, Trump said, “…take the guns first, go through due process second.” Yet he refused to even comment on legislation proposed by Senators Blumenthal and Graham. And, when he revealed his gun policy in 2018, there was no mention of legislation regarding domestic violence.

Mass Shootings: In 2018, when asked about ending mass shootings, Trump said, “We’re going to get it done.” But mass shootings keep rising, and, instead of pushing for gun safety legislation, Trump has chosen to focus on mental health even though experts say that mental illness isn’t the issue. The availability of guns is. Indeed, the only action he has taken is to issue an order banning bump stocks following the slaughter of concert-goers in Las Vegas.

Trump’s Broken Promises. (Part Seven – Race)

The Trump White House is fond of sending out emails and Tweets stating “Promises Made. Promises Kept.” He promised to bring people together; to improve the lives of blacks and minorities. But the promises broken far outnumber those kept.

African-Americans: Trump promised a New Deal for black Americans saying he would be better for African-Americans than any previous president. “What have you got to lose?” he asked. Then he immediately went about suppressing the black vote. Upon entering the Oval Office, he hired the White Nationalist Stephen Miller as one of his closest advisors. Not surprisingly, Trump’s policies have negatively affected blacks. For example, despite the growth of the stock market, the pay gap between whites and blacks has grown under Trump.

White Supremacists: The Trump administration has reportedly stopped tracking White Supremacist violence as a separate category of domestic terrorism despite a growing number of incidents and hate crimes. While the FBI used to track 11 different categories for domestic terrorism, the administration now uses a system with only 4 categories. One of those is the overly broad ‘racially-motivated violent extremism,’ which combines incidents involving White Supremacists and so-called ‘Black identity extremists.’ This is almost certainly intended to diminish the violence of White Supremacists.

Charlottesville: Rather than condemn the violent and murderous acts of White Supremacists who rallied in Charlottesville, Trump stated: “There were good people on both sides.” It appears that he didn’t want to alienate his base. After all, he was endorsed by David Duke, the KKK, violent militias and other White Supremacists.

Muslims: After taking office, Trump tried to enact a ban on all Muslims entering the US, except those from a few favored nations like Saudi Arabia. After the ban was overturned by the courts, he expanded it to include a couple of non-Muslim countries and it was eventually upheld by the Supreme Court. Now, after being acquitted by the GOP-majority Senate, he has expanded the ban again.

Jews: Though Trump has given Netanyahu and Israel virtually everything they’ve wanted, he has been no friend of Jews in the US. There’s no better example than the mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue by a neo-Nazi. Afterwards, Trump blamed the victims by stating, “If they had protection inside, the results would have been far better.” He has also attacked Jews for not supporting him saying, “I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”

LGBTQ: Throughout his term, Trump has escalated attacks on the LGBTQ community by using his “justice” department to make it legal to fire people for being gay or transgender under the auspices of “religious freedom.” He has moved to reverse healthcare protections for transgender people. And he has pushed to ban transgenders from serving in the military.

Latinos: From the moment Trump came down the escalator to announce his presidential campaign, it has been obvious that he has never cared to be their president. He began by calling Mexicans murderers and rapists. He has refused asylum to Central American refugees, sending many of them back to their home countries where they were murdered or abused. He placed thousands of would-be immigrants in camps under deplorable conditions. And he ordered immigrant children to be separated from their parents.

Trump’s Broken Promises. (Part Six – The Environment)

The promises broken by the Trump White House far outnumber those kept. One of the most notable is Trump’s promise that he would make our air and water cleaner than ever: “Nobody cares more about clean air and water than I do.” Following are just some of the many ways he’s broken that promise:

Clean Water Act: Trump repealed the Obama-era rule regulating fracking under the 1972 Clean Water Act s, which gave the federal government broad authority to limit pollution in major bodies of water, as well as streams and wetlands that drain into those larger waters.

National Monuments: Trump’s administration has shrunk several national monuments and began auctioning off oil and mineral leases on the land, some of which is sacred to Native Americans and contains priceless archeological treasures.

Vehicle Fuel Economy Standards: Trump ordered the EPA to reopen a mid-term review of Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standards that would require the industry to deliver a fleet average of at least 54.5 mpg by 2025 claiming that it would save jobs. Nevertheless, California and other states voted to maintain the standards. And at least four major manufacturers signed a deal with California to increase the fuel economy of their vehicles through 2026. The deal roughly matches the Obama-era plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3.7 percent each year through 2026.
Renewable Fuels: Trump has removed many of the incentives to convert from fossil fuels to renewables. He falsely claims that solar is a scam, because the sun doesn’t always shine. And he makes ridiculous claims about wind generation, saying it causes cancer and kills thousands of birds.

Forests: The Trump administration has not only proposed clear-cutting as a way to prevent wildfires. It has even proposed clear-cutting portions of the Tongass National Forest, the world’s largest temperate rain forest, which is critical habitat for a large variety of wildlife and a key element to heading off the worst aspects of climate change.

ANWR: Despite having witnessed the catastrophic damage done by the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Trump administration has proposed drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. ANWR is home to a rich, indigenous culture and wildlife found nowhere else on Earth. Oil drilling in this unique wilderness could be especially devastating in this region since clean up technology is inadequate to clean up an oil spill in such a harsh environment.

Offshore Drilling: The Trump administration has not only rolled back safety measures for offshore oil drilling. It intends to expand offshore drilling off both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, the west coast of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico, and Alaska. If successful, we’re almost certain to see another Deepwater Horizon-like disaster.

Coal Ash & Coal Plants: Trump not only rolled back limits on carbon emissions from coal generating plants. He relaxed the rules for disposal of toxic coal ash which could, once again, end up in streams and drinking water.

Mining: The Trump administration has streamlined the process of obtaining mining leases for public lands. It’s even considering a proposal to again permit uranium mining in the Grand Canyon, which once polluted the canyon with radioactive waste.

Wildlife: The Trump administration weakened the Endangered Species Act – the law that brought many species, including the Bald Eagle, back from extinction. The new rules will reduce the amount of critical habitat and remove some of the tools needed to protect endangered species.

Climate Change: Trump promised he’d negotiate a far better deal for the environment than the Paris Climate Accord. But after pulling the US out of the Paris agreement, he has done nothing to address the climate crisis. Indeed, he claims climate change is a con, a hoax created by China and Democrats. He even refused to accept a report created by his own government on the devastating effects of climate change.

This Isn’t A Political Campaign. It’s A Street Fight.

It seems that many of the Democratic candidates for president are approaching the electoral campaign as if 2016 never happened. They are focused on policy and change. What they fail to understand is that 2016 changed everything. The Democratic nominee won’t be running against a mere candidate. They will be running against an unprincipled crime boss with the most powerful position in the world. A man who is willing to lie, cheat, bully, threaten, steal, and do whatever it takes to win.

We saw, in 2016, that Trump was willing to solicit and use help from Russia. We saw him file campaign papers for his re-election just hours after his inauguration on January 20, 2017. He has used virtually every presidential appearance as a campaign event. He has launched the largest disinformation campaign in history on social media. And he was impeached for trying to use congressionally-approved aid to Ukraine to extort its leaders into announcing an investigation into phantom “wrongdoing” by Joe Biden.

Since his impeachment, in an act of retribution, he has fired two of those who testified under subpoena and fired another for the crime of being a twin brother of one of the witnesses. He has used the pretense of national security to block the book of his former National Security Advisor. He has threatened a Senator in his own party for voting for his removal. He has sent his capos – Bill Barr and Rudy Giuliani – on a mission to find dirt on his Democratic opponents. And he has undermined the Department of Justice by calling for Barr to intervene in court cases against his criminal friends.

In addition, Trump’s GOP supporters have vigorously set about trying to find new ways to rig the upcoming election. They have widely spread disinformation about Democratic candidates and the Democratic Party. In GOP-controlled states, they have Gerrymandered districts and passed laws to suppress the votes of blacks, students, and the poor – those who traditionally vote Democratic. They have even refused to change voting machines and procedures to secure the election results.

Given all this, it should be obvious that Trump is no ordinary candidate. And this will be no ordinary election. The Democratic nominee might as well be running against an angry and emboldened Don Corleone on steroids. But, unlike the Godfather, this crime boss has all of the mechanisms of the government, including the “justice” system at his disposal.

Far from being embarrassed by Trump’s lack of moral and ethical character, his supporters are energized by it, seeming to care only about sticking it to the libs, blacks, gays and “illegals.”

And, thus far, the only Democratic candidate who seems to fully recognize the kind of fight the party is facing is Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg has used his billions to troll Trump with ads designed to expose him for what he really is: A fraud and a crook. Maybe it’s because Bloomberg is another New Yorker. Maybe it’s because Bloomberg’s wealth has made him unafraid to take on Trump. Maybe it’s because Bloomberg, as New York’s former mayor, has experience putting mobsters in their place.

Don’t get me wrong. I like ALL of the Democratic candidates. I want someone who will be transformative – to undo all of the harm done by the mobster-in-chief; to take power away from the plutocrats and give it back to the people; to re-establish our democracy. But I will vote for whichever Democratic candidate wins the nomination. (In fact, I’d vote for anyone with half a pulse over Trump.) But I believe, in order to win, the nominee will have to be prepared to roll in the muck and shield themselves from the feces that The Don and his Trumpanzees are certain to fling their way.

So far, only Michael Bloomberg seems to understand that.

Taking The Profits Out Of Health Care.

In the US, health care organizations were once required to be nonprofit. Then President Nixon signed into law the Health Maintenance Organization Act of 1973, which permitted medical insurance companies, hospitals, clinics and doctors to begin functioning as for-profit business entities.

The inevitable consequence of that act was to dramatically increase the cost of health care, making it unaffordable for an ever-growing number of Americans. And though the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) has helped, the cost of health care rose from an average of $355 per person in 1970 to $11,172 in 2019. Accounting for inflation, that’s an increase of roughly 6-fold!

Indeed, according to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), US spending on health care reached $3.6 trillion in 2018 (the most recent year for which data is available) 17.7 percent of our GDP. And the earnings of health insurance companies exceeded $236 billion in 2018.

Perhaps the biggest winner in the health care industry is big Pharma. According to Statista, Americans spent $360.3 billion on pharmaceuticals in 2019 – up $15.8 billion from the previous year. And up a whopping $239.3 billion from 2000. That increase is reflected in the cost of most medications. A case in point: For asthma patients like me (of which there are nearly 20 million in the US), the annual cost of preventative medication is roughly $2,500 per year – almost double what it cost less than 10 years ago. Has the drug changed or improved over that period? No, only the price has changed. And, of course, the profits for the manufacturer and their distributors.

The increase in the cost of many other pharmaceuticals is even more dramatic.

Pharmaceutical companies justify the increases by claiming that the money is needed for research and development. Yet, you, the taxpayer, contribute roughly 30 percent of the cost of development of pharmaceuticals. Despite the increased costs and your contributions, there has been little increase in FDA approvals for drugs in recent years. That’s mostly due to the companies’ focus on acquisition and mergers. In other words, the companies are investing their profits in stock buyouts rather than research and development.

Since 1996, there have been 46 mergers and acquisitions of the world’s pharmaceutical giants. Over that same period, big Pharma has spent billions to lobby the US government. According to Statista, the industry spent $281.4 billion to lobby our government in 2019. And big Pharma is not alone. Organizations representing doctors, nurses, hospitals, clinics, medical equipment manufacturers and health insurers all spent billions on lobbying.

In total, the health care industry spent $711.3 billion on lobbying for 2019.

Is it any wonder then that our health care costs keep rising at rates far greater than inflation? Is it any wonder that we pay 4 times more per person for health care in the US than any other country in the world while experiencing steadily declining results?

Far too much of your health care expenditures are going to support the multi-million dollar salaries of executives, lobbyists and the profits of shareholders.

So, when political candidates are asked how they expect to pay for the cost of single-payer health care such as Medicare For All, the answer is simple. You’re already paying for it. But, instead of the money being used for medical care and the development of new technologies and treatments. It’s being used to line the pockets of executives and investors.

By moving to a single-payer health care system like most of the world’s advanced nations, you will pay more in taxes. Nevertheless, your savings should be significant. You and your employer will no longer have to pay for health insurance, deductibles, and co-pays. You will not be billed for seeing your doctor, for laboratory tests, for visiting the Emergency Room, for treatments or for needed stays in a hospital. As the single-payer, the government will also be able to negotiate the cost of pharmaceuticals saving you even more money. So your savings will continue to add up over your lifetime.

And no American will ever be denied health care again.

There’s yet another benefit that’s seldom mentioned: By removing the responsibility for providing health insurance from employers, there will be less incentive for employers to move jobs offshore. (Currently, the cost of an employee’s benefits is roughly equal to the cost of an employee’s salary.) Indeed, employers could use the savings to increase salaries and pay a more livable wage. That would not only provide a substantial boost to our economy. It would result in greater tax revenue that could be used to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and create even more high-paying jobs.

Trump’s Broken Promises. (Part Five – Defense and Foreign Relations)

The Trump White House is fond of sending out emails and Tweets stating “Promises Made. Promises Kept.” And certainly Trump has kept a few of his campaign promises. But the promises broken far outnumber those kept. Following are but a few examples:

North Korea: Trump promised to bring an end to North Korea’s nuclear program. In fact, after emboldening Kim Jong-Un with two meetings, North Korea has not only accelerated its program. It has developed long range missiles capable of reaching North America.

Afghanistan and Iraq: Trump promised he would bring our troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq. Instead, after his ill-conceived assassination of Iran’s General Soleimani, we now have 14,000 more troops in the Middle East than before he took office.

ISIS: Trump promised he’d defeat ISIS. But it was the Kurds, Iran and Russia who did the most to defeat ISIS. And after they helped defeat ISIS, Trump abandoned the Kurds to be slaughtered by Turkey. He then provoked Iran by assassinating its leading general.

Palestine: Candidate Trump said that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be easy. Apparently, what he really meant was that it would be easy to pander to Israel while completely ignoring Palestinian issues. His actions have been completely one-sided: Recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capitol, legitimizing the Israeli development of the West Bank, legitimizing Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, and “negotiating” an Israeli-Palestinian “peace plan” without Palestinian participation.

China: Trump promised that he’d declare China a currency manipulator on day one. But, since the election, his administration announced that China is not a currency manipulator.

Syria: Trump promised he wouldn’t bomb Syria before ordering the bombing of Syria.

Russia: Trump promised that “nobody would be tougher on Russia than me.” But his election was aided by Russia and he kowtowed to Vladimir Putin at a summit meeting in Finland. Then he delayed congressional-imposed sanctions intended as punishment for interfering in our elections and took the word of Vladimir Putin over our own intelligence agencies.

On top of his broken promises, Trump has undermined our relations with allies, weakened NATO, and withheld nearly $40 billion in military aid to help Ukraine in an attempt to collect dirt on a political rival.

The March Toward Autocracy.

Ever watch a kindergarten class out for a walk in the city? They are all hooked to a rope connected to two teachers so that no child can step out of line. Such is the case with our Republican Congress. Led by DonTheCon, they follow along through oncoming traffic toward the edge of a cliff where they’re expected to take a giant leap of faith. If they do step out of line, there’s Moscow Mitch to herd them back into place.

I believe there’s no better description of today’s GOP under Donald J. Trump.

Trump clearly conspired with a foreign rival to attain office. Once in power, he has set about destroying the United States of America as we know it. He has intentionally divided the nation as we have not seen since the Civil War. He has undermined our institutions – the press, the judicial system, the national security apparatus, the military. He has used the machinery of government and the power of his office to attack and investigate political opponents. He has obstructed justice and any form of congressional oversight.

He has changed our tax codes to further benefit the rich and the powerful. He has demeaned and estranged our closest allies. Though having broken nearly all of the Ten Commandments, he has pandered to evangelical “Christians” while banning the followers of Islam from entering our country. He has turned aside refugees – the victims of violence and economic collapse – and re-victimized them by locking them in cages to endure horrific conditions. He has pandered to white nationalists and embraced the world’s worst dictators as though they are members of the same club.

Indeed they are.

He has carved up our national monuments and auctioned off the mineral rights to the highest bidder. He has eliminated environmental regulations allowing oligarchs to despoil our air and water. He has cheated on his taxes, refusing to reveal the depths of his cheating by hiding them from the public. He has used the national treasure as his piggy bank to enrich himself and his family while ordering the Treasury Secretary to shield the numbers from accountability.

As he neared re-election, he chose to enlist the help of a foreign government yet again, using taxpayer funds to extort its help in damaging a political opponent. And, when he was caught, he gathered those Republican congressmen and senators – those obedient toddlers – around him for protection.

Though impeached, his followers refuse to remove him from office…even refusing to examine the evidence. So now it’s up to the voters to do what the Senate should have done.

That will be difficult. Though Trump’s support represents a minority of the electorate – mostly an angry mob of white supremacists, religious zealots, the uninformed, the misinformed and aggrieved losers – his party has spent years preparing for this moment. The GOP has aggressively Gerrymandered congressional districts. It has set about removing the names of millions of voters from the rolls, forcing them to re-register to vote – that’s assuming they’re even aware that their names have been excluded. The GOP has reduced the number of polling places and voting hours in Democratic-leaning districts. It has blocked voting rights for felons who have served their sentences. It has intimidated opposition voters. And, in many states, it has forced voters to leave work and drive many miles in order to purchase a voter ID, often making them choose between obtaining the ID or earning enough to feed their children.

Even without all of their voter suppression tactics, the GOP has a distinct advantage. It controls a large majority of the nation’s geography, if not its voters. Half of the nation’s population resides in 9 largely blue states. But the remaining 41 mostly red states hold a majority of the electoral votes. So it’s possible that Trump – the president with the lowest approval ratings in modern times – will, once again, lose the popular vote this November by overwhelming numbers and still win a majority of electoral votes.

The only sure way to stop him is for decent, caring Americans to turn out to vote as never before.

And, if Trump is defeated, the winning candidate should quickly set about nullifying the Trump presidency. Every presidential order should be immediately overturned. Every appointment, every administration decision should be scrutinized and rectified, as quickly as possible. And, if Democrats are fortunate enough to gain majorities in both houses of Congress, they should pass legislation designed to protect our elections, to restore voting rights, to eliminate the Electoral College and to protect our environment.

As important, Trump should be prosecuted for his many crimes – for his tax evasion, for violating the emoluments clause, for conspiring with enemies of state, for abuse of power, for obstruction. He and his family should be forced to repay the millions they have stolen from taxpayers. And Trump should be locked up as a warning to any like-minded individuals who would consider undermining our democracy ever again.