Monday, August 14, 2017

Trump's foot was on that accelerator

Where was Sebastian Gorka to set us straight?

When a Nazi sympathizer ran down people protesting a "Unite the Right" rally in Virginia, why didn't the Trump administration have Gorka speak for it like he did when a bomb destroyed a mosque in Bloomington, Minn.?

At that time, Gorka, deputy assistant to the president, cautioned us about making assumptions. It might have been a "fake hate crime," one of a "series of hate crimes" that "turned out to actually have been propagated by the left."

You've heard of those fake hate crimes, no doubt. No?

That kind of explanation will be difficult to prosecute in Charlottesville. We know who the killer was.

Driver aside, however. We also know who stomped on the accelerator: President Trump.

He didn't drive the car. He just provided the fuel.

If you consider that an unconscionable claim, his handling of events in Charlottesville say everything.

It was an equal-opportunity abomination, he said, blaming "many sides" for what might emanate when young Nazis, Klan members and white supremacists gather to do – you know – what they do.

Then after two days and a penumbra of surrogates trying to explain away his feckless explanation, he said something that actually sounded condemnatory toward white supremacists and hard-right terrorists.

If he had condemnation in mind, he wasn't just two days late. Why didn't he say something the night before when torch-bearing white supremacists shattered the sanctum of the University of Virginia?

Let's face it. In condemning this flammable hatred, Trump is months in arrears.

Why didn't he send Gorka out to say the events in Charlottesville were concocted by the fake news media?

Then-candidate Trump, who is "very smart" – ask him -- acted dim when asked about being endorsed enthusiastically by former Klan Grand Hoo-Hah David Duke. Trump said he didn't know much about the man.

What's to know except the cone of the man's cap?

Saturday after the incident at Charlottesville, Duke sounded like he wanted Trump to send out the National Guard to protect his fellow salamanders from themselves.

"It was White Americans who put you in office," tweeted Duke to Trump in what sounded like an SOS to a blood brother.

I know that Trump apologists are going to say that "guilt by association" is an unfair slur. But, my goodness, it's not simply a matter of association when an avowed right supremacist like Steve Bannon is one of the president's most trusted advisers.

And then there's Gorka.

At Trump's inaugural ball, Gorka wore something that is stunningly symbolic of the team he was joining.

The Vitezi Rend cross signifies a group to which Gorka's father belonged and which was identified by the State Department as having collaborated with Nazis. Its members have denied or dismissed the dimensions of the Holocaust.

Fake news, you know.

This is the caliber of counsel our president has sought out. The other day when Trump made his reckless and rash statements about "fire and fury" aimed at North Korea, and when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sought to tamp down matters as a diplomat should, Gorka basically said Tillerson should clam and let the war mongers talk.

"The idea that Secretary Tillerson is going to discuss military matters is simply nonsensical," said Gorka.

When Gorka had to explain himself, he blamed the "fake news industry" for putting Tillerson in a position to have to say something. Actually, we should assume Tillerson is in that position because he is secretary of state.

What a gallery of scoundrels our president has assembled, from Bannon, to Gorka, to Stephen Miller, who presumes now to speak for the Statue of Liberty about immigration. And don't forget the segregationist Trump appointed attorney general.

But when it comes to fanning the flames of race-based hatred, understand that Donald Trump can do it all by himself.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

When Trump says 'leaks,' you say 'truth'

Historians will note how Donald Trump used social media to say what he wanted -- unfiltered by media gatekeepers.

Let history note, however, that the tables have turned.

With so many insiders so willing to leak what they know, Americans are getting boatloads of damning information -- unfiltered by Trump.

Right now Trump wants us to be alarmed about leaks, as opposed to – you know, everything else about him. Here's another word for leaks: truth.

Truth about meeting with Russians peddling campaign dirt. Truth about Don Sr. covering up why Don Jr. did it.

Truth about how an oaf conducts business, like telling Russians in the Oval Office exactly why he fired James Comey – to stop an investigation.

And consider the oafishness displayed in leaked transcripts of two calls abroad.

First, and most embarrassing, was the Jan. 28 call where Trump berated Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull about a matter of which our president showed no grasp (a 2016 agreement to resettle some boat-arrival refugees, each to be vetted thoroughly by our government. Trump said they were in "prison." No -- a refugee camp).

Or consider the mortifying Jan. 27 call with the president of Mexico. Despite his bluster about it, he called the border wall "the least important thing we are talking about." Politically, though, "This might be the most important," and he wanted Mexico to pay for it.

When Mexico's Enrique Peña Nieto refused, Trump told him: "But you can't say that to the press. The press is going to go with that and I can't live with that."

It turns out that Trump can't live with the press, period.

After all, the press is in the truth business, and Trump is in the Trump business.

In a gesture clearly meant to regain favor with his boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that in addition to ramping up investigations to find leakers, the government might file charges against reporters who share leaked information.

Sessions framed this as a matter of national security. It sounded a lot like what the Nixon administration was saying when it sought to block publication of the Pentagon Papers, which showed the shady manipulation of truth in prosecuting the Vietnam War.

The Supreme Court sided with truth and the First Amendment in 1971 when it ruled the government could not stop publications from printing information it had obtained lawfully.

Before it's over, Trump will have left Nixon in the dust, both for overall corruption and for antipathy for truth.

Fortunately, with The New York Times and The Washington Post more leading the way, the press has behaved in spectacular fashion in nudging along investigations into collusion with Russia and obstruction of justice by Trump.

Trump so wishes he could clamp down on a free press (maybe have critics terminated?)  as happens in Putinland.

He's talked about changing libel laws to make it easier for public figures to sue. That would take a constitutional amendment to overrule court precedent, but Trump knows not of what he speaks.

He should be satisfied having his own Putin-style media arm, also known as Fox News.

Unfortunately for him, Fox is losing its mojo amid its own scandals, and MSNBC, with truth-seeking superstars Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes, is on the rise.

Oh, and let's not forget Stephen Colbert, whose barbs about Trump are as hilarious as they are informative, and which have boosted him to the top of late-night ratings.

Once upon a time presidents stood for truth. Not this one. Truth is his mortal enemy.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Now playing in Washington: ‘The Unconscionables’

           Where does one begin?

Maybe with a sneeringly political speech – that part of it which was remotely coherent -- to captive Boy Scouts.

(Donald Trump gauged crowd size as a personal tribute. No, Sir. Big numbers can be anticipated at a national jamboree.)

Maybe with a cross-eyed game of darts in the Senate hoping something – anything -- would stick that would give Mitch McConnell, Trump, and Mr. Wallpaper, Mike Pence, a "win" on health care.

(Satirist Andy Borowitz pictured Ted Cruz, in tears, pledging, "The dream of keeping poor people from seeing a doctor must never die.")

Maybe with a tweet banning able-bodied, patriotic, dedicated, transgendered volunteers from our military.

(Trump: ". . .after consultation with my generals." Pentagon: sound of crickets.)

Maybe an admonition to a captive audience of police to "rough up" suspects.

(Trump got applause from some cops in attendance. Then police organizations called the suggestion absurd. In no way will they do their business the Trump way.)

At any other time, any of these would have been the most unconscionable, most venal thing someone had done in years in Washington.

(Sure, it was only a week – Hell Week for The Donald, capped by what some commentators dubbed "Failure Friday.")

But, no, it wasn't the most unconscionable thing. Indeed, you most likely have not heard yet.

The most indefensible action of the week comes with two tea party bills to cripple the Congressional Budget Office by eliminating the CBO's Budget Analysis Division.

Hmmm. What might have motivated this? Might it have been the truth-telling by CBO analysts about how many people would lose health coverage under Republican maneuvers intended to do just that?

Yes, that is what motivates the matter: facts. Or at least educated projections that might give some policymakers pause.

Republicans have assailed the CBO for not saying what they want it to hear. They say, for instance, that CBO projections about coverage under the Affordable Care Act were overly rosy, and projections about the Republican plans would be overly glum.

This is fascinating. What did congressional Republicans want but to "get gummint out of health care" and thereby yank peoples' health coverage? Right, Ted? Right, Mitch?

Even if the result of the "mean, mean, mean" House bill (thanks for the kind depiction, President Trump) were, say, 18 million fewer with health care instead of the CBO's 24 million, so what?

So you'd have a disaster in terms of human needs being abandoned.

The effort to drop the CBO off a pier in concrete ankle weights is just the latest effort to "neutralize the messenger" to justify insanity and institutionalize ignorance.

It's happening with the gag imposed on scientists who tell us what the evidence says about climate change.

The same is happening with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Some conservatives (including Trump) want to defund it because it doesn't deliver to them what "Fox and Friends" might in NPR's "Morning Edition."

And, of course, the same is happening with the news media -- you know, the "enemy."

The fact is that the Washington media have done an astounding job of bringing to the public astounding evidence of goings-on involving Team Collusion and the Russians.

Death by a thousand leaks? The way Trump has besmirched his office, undermined the institutions and treated the people under his watch, the precipitation has just begun.

Yes, blame the media. Blame the messengers. Blame them for what you can see with your own eyes.

In broad terms, not at all limited to the Bamboozler in Chief, we are witnessing the most incompetent, vicious – and -- this is important -- ineffective brand of governing ever foisted upon this nation.

At the soonest opportunity, America must pull the plug on "The Unconscionables."

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Choosing 'Trumpism' over, um, governing?

Newt Gingrich told a gathering the other day that state and local leaders should embrace "Trumpism."

Not surprisingly, he did not define his terms. Racism? Sexism. Infantilism?

Whatever. The former House speaker, whose greatest gift to democracy – correction, to Democrats – was to shut down government in 1996, observes the wreckage Trump wreaks in Washington and sees a movement to emulate locally.

Gingrich, touting his new pamphlet, er, book, "Understanding Trump," calls our president "the most effective conservative – functionally – in our lifetime."

Most effective, perhaps, with his thumbs.

We've come to appreciate his skill at driving his Twitter-mobile and motoring through cable options with his remote. It's how he keeps his finger on the nation's pulse.

TV is how he found his new communications director, Wall Street hedge-funder Anthony Scaramucci. Trump lusted for his charms after many appearances on "Fox & Friends." TV is what Trump tweeted he WASN'T watching the day after he got back from Europe to find Don Jr. ensnared in the Russian Collusion-lollapallooza.

Whatever you call Trumpism, don't call it governing.

Governing, at least in our system, involves more than one person who is all thumbs.

Of all the disgraceful things Trump has done -- and he is to national embarrassment what Barry Bonds was to tape-measure blasts -- the most disgraceful so far came after another failed Senate "repeal, replace" vote:

"We're not going to own it. I'm not going to own it . . .  We'll let Obamacare fail and then the Democrats are going to come to us."

Yeah, the old Gingrich strategy: Just let it all go to hell. We don't care.

As Steve Pearlstein writes in The Washington Post, the Trumpcare debacle reflects the fact that Republicans are good at talking (tweeting?), but they "simply aren't ready to govern."

Here's the thing, though. Some Senate Republicans want to do something else. (Though expect Ted Cruz to hold his breath until he turns indigo.)

Sens. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., have discussed committee hearings to address key deficiencies impeding the Affordable Care Act.

One proposal: a reinsurance program to help insurers with a high percentage of higher-cost members. Another is funding of cost-sharing subsidies crucial to keeping insurers in the state exchanges.

McCaskill champions a plan to let people in rural regions that have lost insurers under ACA to buy policies in the District of Columbia, where lawmakers can get theirs.

Some Democrats have offered the concession of the repeal of some ACA taxes.

Let's say the Republicans work with Democrats to help stabilize the ACA (a very remote chance considering it would have to pass the House) and keep it working for the millions who rely on it today. Would Trump veto it?

If he abides by Gingrich's definition of Trumpism, yes, he would.

He would let millions of Americans go without health care, because what he wants is what he wants, and what they want is not that.

The problem is that Trump doesn't know what he wants except for chaos. This is the message he conveys to lawmakers.

            He held a beer-and-boast photo-op with House Republicans after their passage of a repeal-and-replace measure. Later he told Senate Republicans that bill was "mean, mean, mean."

Since then, the Congressional Budget office has certified that the bill touted by Senate Republicans was every bit as mean. And Trump is angry that it didn't pass?

What does the man want? By review, he's said he'd never cut Medicaid or Medicare. He said "everyone will be covered" and at much less cost under his plan. He said single-payer Australia has a better health system than we do.

This is Trumpism. No wonder Newt needs a book to explain it.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

'The Gang That Couldn't Lie Straight'

"The prosecution calls Rhona Graff."

Rhona -- that's the name. If Robert Mueller knows what he's doing, Rhona will play the role of Rosemary – Rosemary Woods -- in the 2017 remake of that immense thing that toppled a president in 1974, in what HBO's John Oliver has dubbed "Stupid Watergate."

Woods was the White House secretary asked to explain the gap in tapes revealing Richard Nixon's role in activities that led to his departure.

Graff is Donald Trump's long-time secretary. We know about her now because of emails that once again affirm that this administration and this president are to deceit what Edison was to lighting.

Russian collusion? White House chief of staff, Reince Preibus, called it a "nothing burger." From what we now know, if one is to insist on burger terms, former prosecutor and ex-Mueller aide Samuel Buell calls it "more like a Whopper." Stephen Colbert calls it an "all-you-can-prosecute buffet."

We now know about the meeting Donald Trump Jr. arranged with Russians who said they had information courtesy of their government that would hurt Hillary Clinton.

The email from Russia-connected publicist Rob Goldstone setting up the meeting said, "I can also send this info to your father via Rhona, but it is ultra-sensitive so wanted to send to you first."

Trump Jr. said the meeting produced nothing. Regardless, four days after the meeting, his father told a campaign crowd that he'd have a "major speech" that would reveal "all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons."

The amazing thing about Team Trump throughout this scandal is how difficult the lies have been to maintain.

In the Bush-Cheney White House, the institutional discipline to stay consistent with the falsehoods that sold the invasion of Iraq was a thing of beauty.

This White House? In its attempt to deceive, it is a cat burglar in mud-caked galoshes.

Trump fires James Comey. Rationale trotted out: Comey's handling of Hillary and Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's urging. Nothing to do with Russia there. Then Trump tells Lester Holt it was his idea all along -- and indeed it was because of the Russia investigation.

Thanks, Mr. President, for telling us what we knew all along.

The other day Trump tweeted that he and Vlad Putin have agreed to an "impenetrable cyber security unit" to combat hacking – a concession from Putin akin to the family dog's agreeing to be agreeable to squirrels.

Oh, wait. Two days later, Trump tweets that this can't happen and won't. Thanks for telling us, Mr. President, what we knew all along.

Trump Jr. first said that the meeting in Trump Tower was about Russian adoptions. Sure it was. That's why campaign manager Paul Manafort was on hand along with bro-in-law-assigned-to-restructure-the-world, Jared Kushner.

Now from the emails, we find plain affirmation of something of which every Republican official, and every Fox News talking head, has said no evidence exists: collusion.

Thanks, Donald Jr., for telling us what we knew all along.

The problem is that now the focus is on a 30-something trust-fund baby who's in way over his head, his collar too tight, his hair over-lubricated. Just as the focus a few weeks ago was on Mike Flynn, then on Manafort, then on Jeff Sessions, before Kushner. (Unfair. Jared is soooo busy restructuring the world.)

What a joke. It is utterly absurd from all that we know now not to focus on one slimily compromise politician: Donald Trump.

True to form, he'll probably do something shortly to affirm the collusion that's so self-evident. For now we'll ask a variant of the No. 1 question during Watergate:

"What did Rhona know, and when did she know it?"

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

For Trump administration, law of 'The Jungle'

"There was no place in it where a man counted against a dollar. And worse than there being no decency, there was not even honesty."

So wrote Upton Sinclair about the meat-processing industry in his 1906 masterpiece "The Jungle."

The result of Sinclair's undercover work in Chicago plants, the novel sparked changes in the way America processed its food. It would take a while before the nation also addressed the way plants like those depicted ground their employees into sausage.

"The Jungle" is a searing examination of industry's throw-away approach to the working poor, immigrants in particular.

It is also a look at the art of the swindle, the big-fish chain of exploitation in which desperate people are consumed like plankton in a whale's belly.

Half a century removed from slavery, Sinclair observed a new breed of slave – except that "the hounds that hunt him are disease and accident, and the villain who murders him is merely the prevailing rate of wages."

Were Donald Trump a reading man, it would be fascinating to know which figure in "The Jungle" he'd pull for – Jurgis Rudkos, the dirt-poor Lithuanian laboring his life away, or filthy rich "old man Anderson," the packing plant CEO, watching the family fortune compound thanks to  the suffering of so many.

Judging by policies now promoted by the Trump administration, this is no mystery at all.

Team Trump is determined to see that any number of health and safety provisions with lives in the balance are "counted against a dollar."

Consider that the administration has postponed regulations ordered by the Obama administration to limit worker exposure to beryllium, used in making a host of things, like electronics. It is toxic when crushed into powder.

Meanwhile, Trump killed the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule, an Obama initiative to enforce federal wage and safety rules in federal contracts.

"The Jungle" caused gasps nationwide about unsafe food preparation. Well, don't look now, America, but your president has said that today's food safety laws are "overkill."

Despite procedures light years removed from the sensory offenses in "The Jungle," people still die from shoddy food preparation. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 48 million Americans – or one of six – are sickened by food-borne diseases each year, with 3,000 a year dying each year – a 9/11-dimensions toll not to be met with a shrug.

I'm not afraid to eat what I purchase at the store or in restaurants. That is because of heightened, not lessened, diligence by those doing the preparing and producing.

Nonetheless in 2011 an outbreak of listeria emanating from Colorado cantaloupes killed 33 people.

In other words, sometimes it's a cop-out to leave it at, "Buyer beware."

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has set its sights on drug safety. Egads.

The administration has signaled its intent to facilitate a new drug's approval without the long-standing "efficacy standard" – meaning the FDA's certifying that the blasted thing works.

This change is driven by industry concerns that drug approval takes too long. "Go ahead and let people try unproven remedies," goes the medicine-show appeal.

The FDA has done a much better job of expediting new drugs, reports the New York Times. Still, we have situations like arthritis drug Vioxx, withdrawn from the market because it increased risks of heart attacks and strokes.

Sure, our drugs, our food, our worker conditions and their wages are better than anything Upton Sinclair could have imagined.

Are we now seeking to roll back public protections because they are unnecessary, or because "old man Anderson" is now in charge, monitoring the bottom line for himself, his kin, his friends?

Like the moneyed swindlers of Sinclair's horror story, we cannot trust the man in charge.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Mr. Fraud is on the trail of -- voter fraud?

Donald Trump and his apologists have put the "con" in "conservative."

Conservatism? He doesn't stand for anything in particular. What he stands for is the con.

What Senate leaders have hilariously named the Better Care Reconciliation Act is just another con -- just another luxury vessel Trump wants to christen as his own.

"Better Care" – that's some moniker for yanking health coverage from 22 million Americans. Trump couldn't care less about this, though he said his health care plan would "cover everyone" and he praised Australia's single-payer system as being "better than ours."

The extent to which Trump is a fraud, a phony, an ideological jackal, was on display recently in a New York Times editorial that counted down all the falsehoods – one lie a day for his first 40 days, 74 lies for the 113 days thereafter.

There have been the petty ruses, like the phony covers of Time at his golf properties featuring his smirking countenance.

Then there are the major lies, like pulling out of the Paris agreement because "China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants." No, Sir. The treaty doesn't allow or disallow coal plants. But the last thing you're interested in is sharing truth with that freeze-dried political base you hold dear: people with their credulousness reduced to powder.

Trump did a rooster strut over the fact that evil CNN had parted ways with three journalists over an online story about the relationship between Trump officials and a Russian investment firm. CNN officials didn't say the story was false, just that the reporters had violated policy by not sufficiently vetting claims.

More fake news, right?

Well, actually, Mr. President, this is how purveyors of truth act. People who work for news media — real, not fake -- get fired for getting sloppy. Will you be parting with any member of your Lie Brigade on similar terms? How about firing your son-in-law for signing security clearance forms saying he'd had no contact with foreign governments?

Unlike legitimate news organizations, Team Trump never retracts.

Back to that long list of lies that will be the most lasting legacy of this president: Trump asks Americans to return to Lie No. 1, or thereabouts, about those 5 million or so illegal votes he says were cast – each, of course, for Hillary Clinton.

Trump's "Commission on Voter Integrity" wants the nation's voter information, all of it – or at least all that's public record, to keep alive the narrative that the nation is awash in voter fraud.

("Integrity" -- we demand it from voters. But for the Orange Spectacle and congressional leaders, integrity is like anthrax on a snack cracker.)

 "Rampant voter fraud" is a spiel that Republican state officials have sought to prosecute for years, finding almost nothing to back it up.

The fact is, like everything Trump does, this is just a con. It's not about "ballot integrity" but instead about pretenses about making it harder to vote, something that has become a never-ending Republican quest.

The underlying objective of Trump's commission, says University of Kentucky law professor Joshua Douglas, is to repeal the National Voter Registration Act -- the "motor voter law."

Trump wants to show Americans that easier ballot access, like mail-in voting and same-day registration, somehow taint the system. He will not succeed in demonstrating that. Of course, as always, truth is not his objective. His objective is to continue the con, whatever it might be at the moment.

Never mind the costs of this pointless "ballot security" exercise. Never mind the issues raised by the states' refusing to participate.

Just wondering: When will Trump form a commission to investigate why photos showed so few people in his inaugural crowd?

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Now showing: "The Thing From Beyond the Senate Door"

Donald Trump, running for president, said he would not cut Medicaid.

He said that though he would eviscerate the Affordable Care Act with a mighty and swift sword, "Everybody's going to get covered" under his alternative. "I don't care if it costs me votes or not."

So, America, do you think he would veto any bill that would violate these campaign promises?

That would only happen if so much as a single word Trump has uttered can be believed.

This is a means of saying that whatever health-care legislation reaches his desk, if indeed it ever does, don't call it Trumpcare. Trump doesn't care.

Really. He doesn't care if it's "mean, mean, mean," as he described the House bill. He doesn't care if it "transitions" millions of Americans off of Medicaid, and if it cripples the health-care exchanges that have served millions more.

He just wants something he can call his own. Something with which he can advertise his daddy's last name in gold plate.

"Trumpcare"? No. "American Health Care Act"? You kid. For what has oozed from behind closed doors of the Senate GOP caucus, the only suitable name is the Unconscionable Congressional Knock-off. Acronym: UCK.

With UCK, giant tax cuts for people who don't need a break would be financed by giving the boot to people who need a break to maintain basic health care.

UCK would spit in the face of states that boldly have expanded Medicaid. They embraced the spirit of the Affordable Care Act and made the most of a historic law that has provided a measure of security for Americans who had none before.

That's 31 states and the District of Columbia, with 10 million people getting coverage through Medicaid expansion.

My family is a Medicaid family. No, not because we are poor. It's because my state wisely expanded Medicaid under the ACA, meaning that both of my sons had health coverage through Medicaid in between jobs and after college. Now both have employer-provided health coverage.

Medicaid for them didn't cost much. They are young and healthy, and needed very little medical care while on the rolls. But the peace of mind they had in that tender interval was priceless.

Taking this kind of protection away is the kind of betrayal congressional Republicans are proposing for the people of America.

Meanwhile, Republicans have done everything they can to make what they giddily tout as the "collapse of state exchanges" a self-fulfilling event.

The first blow came last year when a budget rider championed by Sen. Marco Rubio dramatically cut subsidies to insurers via so-called "risk corridor" payments. The subsidies are there to encourage insurers to cover high-risk individuals and stay in the game for a broad base of customers.

Count this as the biggest reason why some insurers have pulled out of state health exchanges. Political foes of Obama encouraged the ACA's unsoundness so they could then crow about insurers leaving.

Underhanded measures like this, and the general uncertainty projected by policymakers who really don't want to help as many people as the ACA has helped, are the reasons why so many insurers are balking about participation.

A national survey of insurers just released finds that 42 percent say they would pull out of the state exchanges if the cost-sharing subsidies aren't funded.

That matter, by the way, has been batted back and forth in federal court. Stark uncertainty for insurers, thanks to Republican conspirators.

Meanwhile, measures that would remove the individual and employer mandates would make participation much more risky, as the more participants they have, the more likely that insurers cover all who need it.

With UCK, the Republicans would stick it to those very people. "Cover everybody"? Donald Trump and the millionaires in the Senate mean "everybody in our tax bracket."

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Health policy: Team 'Mean' hands off to 'Coward Caucus'

Donald Trump didn't just say the House-passed bill to replace the Affordable Care Act was mean. He called it "mean, mean, mean."

That's "mean" times three.

Interesting. When he invited the House White Caucus, er, Republican Caucus, over for a celebratory photo op after its passage, he said the bill was "incredibly well-crafted."

But let's give Trump credit here for saying something true – maybe a first. The House bill is well-crafted -- for something so incredibly mean.

What this means is that Senate Republicans have a low bar to scale -- or a high bar to limbo -- as they take their own stab at wrecking health coverage in America.

They can take the cue that "mean" multiplied by just two will do.

That certainly appears to be the case from what we know.

Of course, what we know is minimal, for Senate leadership has been stirring this concoction behind closed doors, with the anticipation of putting it on the floor without a hearing, and with as quick a vote as possible.

One thing we know is that Republican senators are honing their propaganda skills for what emanates.

We know this from a statement from West Virginia Sen. Shelley Capito, who attempted to say that cutting off millions from Medicaid in seven years wouldn't mean cutting them off. It would, said she, mean "transitioning" them from the health coverage on which they were relying.

Yes, one of the tools of the propaganda trade is the art of euphemism: hiding meanings with words, like "collateral damage" for a whole bunch of dead civilians and "enhanced interrogation" for torture.

Capito is considered a GOP moderate, and she is putting a nice spin on the fact that, apparently under this bill, states that expanded Medicaid under the ACA would have seven years to, um, transition all those millions of insured people over to, um, being uninsured.

Once again, we are only guessing at the Senate's designs, because all discussions are being held behind closed doors, with the reported intent to have little to no discussion once the bill hits the Senate floor.

Hence, Washington Post columnist Paul Waldman has called the architects of this maneuver the "Coward Caucus."

As Waldman observed, an aide to a GOP senator involved in the secretive process said, "We aren't stupid." The senators are hiding their cards until they can make their play. They know that the moment Americans find out what's actually at play, they'll burn up the phone lines.

 In fact, they should be doing that right now (Capitol switchboard – 202-224-3121) and demanding that the Senate slow down and allow the public to see what's going into the sausage.

It's been said countless times that the Affordable Care Act was "rammed down Americans' throats." But it took over a year to write and approve, and the process involved hundreds of hearings and meetings, even a speech from President Obama about the legislation.

Additionally, Senate Democrats accepted 160 Republican amendments to the bill. What's the chance that Republicans will accept Democratic amendments to this bill? Zero. Three times zero.

So, yes, this is cowardice, and the American people should not sit by idly as it happens.

We've seen a similar yellow streak from Republicans who have dodged town hall meetings with constituents, knowing they'll get grilled foremost about health care.

You see, governing is not just think-tank slogans and what sounds good coming from Sean Hannity or Grover Norquist. Governing involves people. Governing affects people.

These wall-hugging chameleons offered their services to us, the governed, and part of the deal was to involve us in their decisions, to hear us out.

Call your senator and be heard. However, try not to sound too mean.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

 

Monday, June 12, 2017

One Trump shrug said more than all his lies

Sen. Richard Burr: "Do you have any doubt that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 elections?"

Former FBI director James Comey: "None."

It was the kind of question you'd expect someone concerned about national security and the state of our elections to ask the man who ran the FBI until recently.

It was the kind of question you'd expect most Americans to ask. It was the first question asked last week as Comey faced inquisitors in the Senate.

What did Donald Trump ask Jim Comey when he had the opportunity?

Whatever was discussed – and Comey kept meticulous notes – we can rest assured that Russia's assault on our democracy wasn't it.

Yeah, what's with that?

Whatever the Russians have done, it has never seemed to bother the man. In one of the debates, he shrugged it all off -- said such cyber activities might be the work of "someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds."

Curious -- that Trump would show so little curiosity, make that none whatsoever, about activities by a foreign power that seemingly would alarm anyone who pledges allegiance to our flag.

Unlike Trump and his hear-no-evil, see-no-evil supporters, Burr, a Republican, and Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat, are actually inquisitive.

Reacting to a report by the news organization The Intercept about Russian attempts to hack into state elections systems, Warner, Burr's co-chair on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said, "The extent of the attacks is much broader than has been reported so far."

This includes the reported attempted hacking of elections infrastructure by the Russian cyber espionage group known as Fancy Bear in several states, the threat so serious that the Arizona secretary of state shut down the state's voter registration system for a week.

Not curious about that, President Trump?

It is a very grave matter that Trump would attempt to call off the dogs on Mike Flynn. It's very serious that a private citizen named Jared Kushner would meet with Russians in Trump Tower and attempt to set up a secret back channel to Vladimir Putin. (All, of course, without the direction of his father-in-law.)

That's damn serious, possibly criminal. However, I can't think of anything more incriminating than a man who assumes the presidency and shrugs off facts about the mounting evidence that outside forces tried everything possible to undermine the system of self-governance for which countless Americans fought and died dating back to this nation's inception.

Yes, shrug at that. Dismiss that.

Speaking of lack of curiosity, it's telling that Trump and his supporters respond to this claim by saying: Even if the Russians tried to mess up the elections, there's no evidence that they changed vote totals.

That's beside the point.

What Russia attempted, if the FBI is right, was an assault on the American system that really has no equal this side of bombs and torpedoes.

And Trump has simply shrugged it off.

The severity of the matter is why former national intelligence director James Clapper says that Watergate – the culmination of many underhanded political acts -- "pales compared to what we're confronting now."

Don't shrug, Mr. President. Despite those who last week turned to Fox News for your brand of self-medication, a Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that 61 percent of Americans say you fired Comey for the protection of your hind end "rather than for the good of the country."

Donald Trump is a lie machine. He lies almost every time he speaks. But his biggest act of presidential immorality thus far may have been an act of silence – a conspicuous lack of outrage about what hostile foreigners tried to do to damage the system that elevated him to his present position, a system he is sworn to protect.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

 

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Donald Trump vs. (most of) the planet

It's easy to distill Donald Trump's decision on the Paris Climate Agreement down to the fact that, like a coddled toddler, he ascertained that as president no one could make him do it.

Easy to deduce that, like a smart 3-year-old, he rejected peas and carrots because, yuck.

The thing is, if that was Trump's mindset, he'd have explained it in terms any 3-year-old could understand.

Instead, Trump laid out his decision with a whole bunch of words that amounted to (1) a Gatling gun of lies or (2) a sophomoric attempt to explain something way over his head.

First, the lies (for a full review, Google "Trump" "Paris" and "fact check," but reserve some time):

Even for one who has established himself as the least credible person ever to rise to his position – with only 36 percent of Americans telling Gallup they find him trustworthy – his statement about the Paris agreement was a tour de farce.

Washington Post reporters shredded his factual claims, the biggest being that the agreement tied U.S. hands while giving the Chinese free rein to "do whatever they want."

Not true. "From the start," reports the Post, "the agreement was designed to have the kind of plasticity Trump seemed to be seeking by allowing nations to choose the amount of greenhouse-gas emissions they were willing to cut."

That's "tremendous flexibility with no penalties," explained Columbia University environmental law professor Michael Gerard.

Gerard added, "Trump obviously didn't read the Paris agreement, and his statement was written by people who willfully misrepresented its content – his staff or his lobbyist friends."

Then there's the whole issue at hand: climate change -- an issue on which Trump has had several positions, depending on what his audience wanted to hear, we can presume.

In the mode of one who isn't ready to think big thoughts, Trump appears disinclined to think this whole thing through before embarrassing his country in the eyes of the world.

Yes, truly, this is Donald Trump against the planet on multiple planes. What good company we have found with Nicaragua and Syria. However, let us not forget that the Republican-controlled Senate has refused to ratify the Paris accords.

But, wait. Someone phone Sen. James Inhofe and the "hoax" chorus.

Climate deniers surely rubbed their ears to hear Trump imply in his statement that reducing emissions might actually do something, temperature-wise:

"Even if the Paris Agreement were implemented in full, with total compliance, it is estimated that it would only produce a one degree – think of that, this much – Celsius reduction in global temperatures by the year 2100." (MIT analysis says the agreement, if fully enforced, would reduce the planet's warming by a full degree.)

Ah, so are you saying climate change can be mitigated by emissions cuts, Mr. President? Or are you plying the made-in-China hoax you were telling us about on the campaign trail?

More likely, as Vice President Pence says, it is just part of the "climate change agenda" pushed by liberals because, hey, that's what liberals do. They conspire to get masses of climate experts to agree with them, and they march on Washington to make everyone uncomfortable.

The problem, America, is that we are trying to parse the words of a man who is at a loss for them, and whose command of facts makes words immaterial.

 As David Brooks writes in The New York Times, "At base Trump is an infantalist. . . Immaturity is becoming the dominant note of his presidency."

In other words, we're out of the Paris Accords because, yuck.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

Monday, May 29, 2017

What the family billions bought Betsy DeVos

Betsy DeVos took the Jared Kushner route to a prominent place in America's life. She married into it.

She did it by betrothing billionaire ($5.5 billion net worth) Dick DeVos, whose father founded Amway. Dick got his turn as CEO. It's the American way. So is buying influence with lawmakers.

Over the years, the DeVos family has spent an estimated $200 million ingratiating itself with lawmakers and, of late, at least one orange-haired presidential candidate, who chose Betsy to be on his secretary of education.

It was no great surprise that the Senate (by a one-vote margin that required Vice President Pence's tie-breaking vote) awarded her the tiara she desired. After all, majority Republicans owed her a great sum.

"Great" may understate. The family spent nearly $1 million on current senators alone. Sen. Marco Rubio, for one, received $98,300. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner got $49,800.

In the presidential campaign, Trump supporters heard, "Drain the swamp." Meanwhile, big GOP contributors like Betsy DeVos heard, "Buy this swamp and build condos on it."

So, just what can one buy with a five-year spree of $5.3 million in political contributions? In the case of Betsy DeVos, it's the keys to your public school.

It's all very heady -- quite a trophy for a person who, like many of her ideological kin, doesn't really buy into the whole concept of public schools.

In a hearing process that revealed almost no qualifications to set public education policy, we were told that her chief asset was that she "cares for children."

Now here she comes advising about what's best: $10.6 billion in cuts -- less money for poor districts through Title 1 funding; less for the art education; less for after-school programs; less for preschool programs; less for technical education; less for child nutrition; less for adult basic education.

Ah, but DeVos says we can afford to plug $1 billion into school vouchers for private and church-run schools. School vouchers are advertised as "choice" by the symphonic propagandists of the right. The suggestion that people get to "choose" where to take their voucher money always plays well with those repelled by the germy masses that populate public schools.

Let's understand: School vouchers aren't about education. They are about association, a ticket to flee, a knowing nod to privileged Americans for whom white flight is a defining lifestyle.

No evidence supports the hype about school vouchers as tickets to something better. For one, they can't and don't match the costs of private schools, which set their tuitions as insurance that selectivity will reign.

The most important reason why vouchers are a bogus "solution" is that the central factor in educational excellence is parents. If private schools are better in any way, the claim can only be explained by more homogenous populations and highly engaged (and wealthy) parents.

We hear DeVos mention "failing public schools" in every other sentence, but she dare not say that urban schools (without question the schools to which she refers) deal with challenges that she could barely contemplate in a life of privilege.

Another magic bullet promoted by DeVos and Trump is charter schools.

Ah, charter schools: Some – those not run by flea-bag, fast-buck, for-profit operations that leave town by the weekend – do commendably. And why? Supposedly it's because they have fewer state requirements. If that's the case, why not have fewer requirements for all schools, particularly the clinking, chafing shackles of standardized testing?

            An idea for DeVos: If vouchers to private and church schools are the answer, distribute your family billions that way, rather than in subdividing the swamp.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.