Monday, December 11, 2017

Designer deficits for Christmas

The man didn't look like he was from Mar-a-Lago – very gaunt, sort of green, parts of him having fallen off.

But, of course, Marley the accountant had returned from the grave.

"How did you get in here?" asked Donald Trump.

"How did you become president?" asked Marley. "Some things have no earthly explanation."

"Ah, but you're wrong. I can explain it. I staged a historic landslide."

"And I'm Twiggy," said Marley.

"I'm calling security," said Trump. "Ivanka!"

"Don't bother," said Marley. "This is between you and me."

"State your business," said the president, quivering in pink satin.

"I'm here to show you the error of your ways," said Marley.

"No collusion."

"And I'm Audrey Hepburn. But Russia is not why I've come. I'm here to tell you the stupidity of cutting taxes on people like yourself and on multinational corporations, and boosting the deficit by more than a trillion dollars."

"Believe me, it's not going to benefit me at all."

"Yes, and I'm Tippi Hedren."

"And besides that, tremendous economic growth will pay for it. Believe me."

"I believe you. And I'm Rosemary Clooney."

Marley extended a pale, elongated finger at something over the president's shoulder. Trump turned, and suddenly he and Marley were in a misty graveyard.

A grotesque corpse was doing the zombie crawl in their direction.

"I'm the ghost of tax cuts past in Kansas," said the specter. "Gov. Brownback signed me with great fanfare in 2012. It was a disaster. The touted economic boost didn't happen. Neither did the jobs. And lost revenue crippled state services. Lawmakers rolled me back this year."

"Unfair comparison," said Trump dismissively, shivering in pink.

"That's right," said Marley. "Unfair. The tax cuts you propose at the federal level are considerably more draconian than what Kansas did."

With an icy cold "whoosh," Kansas was supplanted by another moldy specter.

"I'm the ghost of tax cuts past in North Carolina," it said.

"North Carolina. Crooked Hillary said she'd win North Carolina."

"Silence."

Trump was silent.

"North Carolina faces a $1.2 billion budget shortfall in 2019, with schools on the chopping block."

"Happened here in Texas, too," said another mildewed corpse. "Schools especially suffered when the national economy went in the crapper -- and that was after the Bush tax cuts in Washington. Yes, we shared W. and his tax policies with everyone. Apologies."

Suddenly, Trump flinched to see a ghost that towered over the others.

"I am the ghost of Reaganomics," it said. "I am the architect of the deficits that have haunted this nation for decades. We knew the math didn't make sense. 'Voodoo' it was. It was as much about asphyxiating the federal government as about making things add up. It was our mission, our strategy. It was cynical. It verged on criminal. It was deficits by design.

"Like you, I convinced enough people that all this black magic would pay for itself. I trotted out 'rosy scenarios' and sprinkled my budget with 'magic asterisks' that left this nation in red ink up to our elbows."

"This is what I wanted you to see," said Marley the accountant. "You said you'd never cut Medicare or Social Security. But just last week Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio said new tax policies will necessitate exactly that."

"Enough," said Trump. "Take me home. I've got work to do – tee time with Tiger.

"You are wrong about my tax policies. They're going to be tremendous, so tremendous. They're going to benefit everyone -- everyone except me. They're going to create jobs -- so, so many jobs. And they're going to pay for themselves. No added debt. Believe me. I hate debt."

"And I'm Gina Lollobrigida."

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

 

Monday, December 4, 2017

Deposing the Lyin' King

"President Donald Trump's rally in Missouri was a set-piece of distortion about taxes and the economy" that "compounded his growing legacy of false tales on Twitter . . ."

Those weren't the opening lines from some loser liberal commentator. They were from the Associated Press.

The editors at AP at some point realized that their job wasn't just to report what newsmakers say but also whether what they say is false.

In the speech in question, AP reported, Trump said a whole bunch of things that weren't true: like the fact that he wouldn't benefit from the moist and scaly tax monster slithering through Congress.

"This is going to cost me a fortune, this thing, believe me," he told the crowd.

Oh, yeah. In fact, Trump could benefit by more than $1 billion, according to an NBC News analysis.

The alternative minimum tax, abolished in this bill, is the only reason Trump paid anything at all in the only year we know anything about if or what he paid in taxes. Then there's the break he and his heirs would get from an end to the estate tax.

Yes, the Republican tax plan borrows a trillion against America's future to give billionaires and multinational corporations big tax breaks. At the same time, one-third of Americans would see no benefit whatsoever or even pay more. What a deal.

As satirist Andy Borowitz wrote, "Jubilant Trump voters celebrated the prospect of a gigantic tax cut that will benefit everyone but them."

Yes, with the tax bill, the Lyin' King finally has a triumph to announce from Pride Rock. Hear him roar.

Unfortunately for him, some lies are catching up with His Majesty.

Consider one trivial falsehood told by Mike Flynn to the FBI, one which neatly dovetails with lies Trump repeatedly has told Americans about canoodling with Russians.

Team Trump is doing its best to diminish the fact that the man Trump hired to be his go-to man on national security is a felon.

We will hear now that the Logan Act, which prohibits civilians (then-citizens Trump, Flynn, Kushner, Sessions) from conducting foreign policy, is no biggie. Never been prosecuted. Mountain out of molehill.

That may be true, but that's not the real crime being investigated here, aside from the crime of obstructing the investigation into the real crime.

The real crime is Russia's providing assistance to the Trump campaign through in-kind services, like stealing information from the opposing party and sharing it with the Trump campaign, seeding social media with fake news and ads, and attempting to cripple or otherwise compromise state elections operations.

When Richard Nixon was impeached, lies were the reason – the cover-up. But the crime was far more than one iddy, biddy burglary.

The Nixon campaign had sponsored a massive program of dirty tricks aimed at undermining his political opponents.

What Robert Mueller is investigating is whether Team Trump contracted out – yes, outsourced – the dirty tricks business to foreign friends.

We found out years after his departure that Nixon had violated the Logan Act by seeking, before he became president, to slow down peace negotiations in Vietnam so he could take credit for any breakthrough.

Richard Nixon said, "I am not a crook." Donald Trump said, "Russia is a ruse."

He may yet enjoy his tax cut, but the lies are catching up to the king of falsehoods.

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

Monday, November 27, 2017

The youth vote: from apathetic to angry

Whether he acknowledges it or not, in large part Donald Trump owes his presidency to the youth vote -- or the lack of it.

More precisely, he owes a lot to youth apathy or a general malaise regarding ballot choices. (Any progressives now seeking a Mulligan for that Jill Stein vote?)

Things have changed. Observe the surge of young voters turning out for Democrats in Virginia, New Jersey and Washington State Nov. 7.

Trump and the Republicans are digging a hole among those voters that could leave them on the outs for a generation.

Consider the tax bill that will award the wealthiest richly and raise taxes for up to 30 percent of middle-class taxpayers. Young voters are straining hard just to project themselves into that middle class. They don't see these tax cuts helping them whatsoever.

Consider how these tax cuts will harm college students. For instance, the House-passed bill would treat tuition waivers for graduate students as income.

Meanwhile, the Republicans would repeal the Lifetime Learning Credit and the Hope Scholarship Credit, both of which allow students to deduct some educational expenses from taxes, while ending deductions for interest on student loans.

While the Republicans pose and preen for big donors, the 1 percent, and big business, they are making young voters furious.

Maybe the biggest issue that has stirred young voters across the board is net neutrality. It's something that's mostly off the radar for most of the over-50 set. Most assuredly that's not the case with those in the 30-and-under set, who see an attempt to control this public resource, the internet, as an attack on their neighborhood.

It's about enabling internet giants like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast to discriminate regarding the speed of data and the preferential treatment of content.

The Trump administration's move to lift net-neutrality rules alarms young voters. They see internet service providers exploiting their monopolies to charge more for the higher speeds that enable entertainment staples like Netflix and Hulu.

FCC chairman and Trump appointee Ajit Pai says that freeing internet service providers from federal rules will result in more innovation (and of course, profits for internet titans). Opponents fear more expensive internet service, which only makes sense. That's what "profit" implies, yes?

Pai takes the standard Republican line that deregulation will save consumers. Of course, that's rarely the way deregulation works. What it typically means is a harvest for monopolies.

Not only are the Republicans digging a hole with young voters, but with Trump as their bell cow, they are deepening and calcifying hatred among minorities for what they represent.

It's more than disgrace when a chief executive would lower himself to engage in a petty dispute like what Trump has had with Lavar Ball, who likes the sound of his voice every bit as much as President Orange Helmet.

For the Republicans, it's a more serious matter than that, writes Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent.

Sargent called Trump's "rage-tweets" part of a pattern of regular attacks on "high-profile African-Americans to feed his supporters' belief that the system is rigged for minorities."

All of the above demonstrates one thing: Trump is not as smart as he thinks he is.

This is a man who lost the popular vote by 3 million but comports himself as if he's Reagan or Roosevelt, with the most massive mandate and broad-based support in political history.

Trump and fellow Republicans need the youth vote. They need the non-white vote, or at least a sliver of each. To so blindly alienate potential allies is simply stupid.

In 2018, and then in 2020, the Republicans will reap the whirlwind of what they sow today with policies that no smart politician would advise.

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

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Tuber with the evil eye

The first thing one sees when entering my local grocery store is the produce – fruits and vegetables of every kind.

Biomass for the masses -- these are not just things to be eaten. They are things to behold.

The leafy greens pose in the spritz. The peppers primp in green, crimson and gold. The tomatoes, the avocados, even the rutabagas, all shine under artisan lights.

Whoever designed my grocery store knew what he or she was doing with this, a literal feast for the eyes.

And then . . .

This week something blocks my path on the Road to Cornucopia.

That would be a bin of sweet potatoes.

Have you ever looked closely at a pile of sweet potatoes? More appropriately, have you ever felt sweet potatoes looking at you?

A sweet potato in a bin is pure confrontation. Either it points a ruddy finger at you in accusation, or it turns a bare rump at you.

Its eyes are angular and beady, right out of "Spy vs. Spy" comics.

Who would trust a sweet potato with a nation's holiday? Apparently many, despite my best efforts.

For many years, each Thanksgiving I have sought to inform readers that sweet potatoes shouldn't be treated as food. You can do all sorts of things with them, but you can't eat them.

I base this assertion on exhaustive research. I ate sweet potatoes once. Once.

Yes, that one time was 50-plus years ago. It feels like 50 minutes.

It's amazing how tastes can linger. I haven't had turnips since the Gerald Ford presidency. I still stumble over the thought.

Liver is very, very bad. Brussels sprouts taste like a mistake. But I didn't need to tell you that.

Apparently I need to tell many of you every year that you have seriously mischaracterized the sweet potato as edible.

This is not a matter of opinion. This is fact. My tongue affirms it.

What further affirms it is the attempts to mask the essence of sweet potato meat with a lot of unsuspecting marshmallows.

Every year I encounter scandalous efforts to foist sweet potatoes onto innocent palates. Recently Parade magazine feted the versatile cranberry, something I can salute. Then it rained on its parade with a recipe for "Cranberry, pecan and goat cheese sweet potato bites."

By the way, I ate goat cheese once. Once.

As said earlier, and as pointed out many times in my decades-long effort to inform: Sweet potatoes have many legitimate purposes – to be made into ethanol and plastic; to be made into ink, dyes and shoe polish, and so much more.

George Washington Carver demonstrated long ago that we need not eat sweet potatoes for them to be productive members of society.

So in that great man's honor this holiday season:

When sweet potatoes look your way, look away.

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

Monday, November 20, 2017

Your basic, average, ordinary, garden-variety cult

Clive Doyle, one of the very few Branch Davidians to escape the 1993 inferno that killed David Koresh and many of his followers, told CNN years later why he surrendered his young daughter to Koresh's appetites.

Doyle said he asked himself, "Is this God or is this horny old David?"

Then he consented.

"I couldn't argue, because he'd show you where it was in the Bible."

The comment comes to mind thinking about Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, of whom followers have said, "Horrifying evidence be damned; he's a man of God. We support him all the way."

Yes, just like your basic, average, ordinary, garden-variety cult.

We'll not compare Moore to Koresh point by point, atrocity by atrocity, except to say that Koresh made it with little girls. Moore aspired to.

Sexual depravity often fits into the cult leader profile, from Jim Jones to Warren Jeffs, and now to this guy. And, yes, like Mitch McConnell, I believe the women, and the Washington Post.

But, honestly, one needn't have a sex scandal involving this individual to make the case against Roy Moore. He has no business serving in higher office.

He was removed twice from the Alabama Supreme Court. The first time was for refusing to abide by a federal court order and the First Amendment in commissioning a Ten Commandments monument at the courthouse.

The second time was for refusing to abide by the law granting marriage equality to same-sex couples.

By review, in each of these instances, Moore deemed the law of the land not to be the U.S. Constitution. He deemed the law of the land to be Roy Moore.

That's not all.

Moore founded a tax-exempt non-profit called the Foundation for Moral Law, which was supposed to do charitable work. It's not clear what those charitable works were. What is clear: Moore made a bundle off it.

With his wife as its president, the foundation paid Moore $180,000 a year. From 2007 to 2012, he collected more than $1 million, "a number that far surpasses what the nonprofit declared in its public tax filings," reports the Post.

One of the contributors to the nonprofit (from which Moore profited so mightily) was a neo-Nazi organization founded by Willis Carto, a well-known Holocaust denier.

These things were known to the voting public before Moore's poll numbers crashed in the wake of the allegations by women who, as teens, said he either assaulted them or attempted to.

But Moore is popular with many in the so-called evangelical crowd for calling homosexuality an "act so heinous that it defies one's ability to describe it."

He also said, "There are some communities under Sharia law right now in our country" without being able to name any. (Of course, there aren't any.)

Basically, Moore is your average, ordinary, garden-variety demagogue who, until recently, could hide behind a shield of piety, like so many demagogues do.

Randall Balmer just calls Moore a con man. In a Washington Post commentary, the Dartmouth religion professor, who has had extensive dealings with the GOP Senate nominee, says Moore has made a career (and a legend?) out of "subterfuge and misrepresentation – as a constitutional authority, as a Baptist and as a spokesman for evangelical values."

Knowing what we know now, it doesn't take a religious scholar to detect the flim-flam in this man.

Watch his fans stick with him as they hope to stick it to gays, to Muslims and other brown-skinned people.

After all, they're sticking with the bankruptcy specialist in the White House despite all we know about him -- including his own self-proclaimed fleshy appetites. Cults are like that.

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

Monday, November 13, 2017

To err always on the side of the maniac

We are told by the gun lobby's echo chamber (the Republican Party) that great numbers of armed civilians make this world a safer place. Tell that to police in Thornton, Colo.

They had responded to the scene of yet another mass shooting – three people dead in a Walmart check-out line. When it all came down, a few shoppers pulled their guns, though the shooter walked calmly out of the store and drove away.

Police said that the presence of people wielding firearms "absolutely" slowed their ascertaining, via surveillance video, who the assailant was. In fact, it took five hours.

Ah, but . . . Ack, ack.

Days later, President Trump got to parrot the NRA "good guy with a gun" line when a civilian wounded the Sutherland Springs, Texas, mass killer, who ultimately killed himself.

As much as one would applaud the "good guy," Trump's advice is irresponsible -- a trait that is frightfully par for his course.

We don't want civilians pursuing gunmen, no more so than we would want them poking around crime scenes. That's why we hire police.

What people – the vast majority of us – urge is that everything possible be done to keep firearms out of maniacs' hands. They also urge that the man on the street, whatever his state of sanity, not have the killing capacity of, say, your average Marine storming a bunker.

Meanwhile, the Siamese Trigger Twins – the NRA and GOP -- do everything possible to prevent any sane response to gun carnage.

They are absolutely content to let sick people kill in bunches. Their approach to guns is consumerist alone. It's all about convenience for customers. They tell the targets to "get small," while ducking and dodging, and sending "thoughts and prayers" via Twitter.

They are the ones who have gotten small.

This is a recording: "Now is not the time to talk gun issues when so many have just died." So thoughtful. So reverent. Such a dodge.

The military didn't do its job of alerting the FBI about Devin Kelley's domestic violence. But the FBI is in no position to do its job regardless. Reports since the Sutherland Springs massacre indicate how the background check process is so hopelessly underfunded and understaffed. It's a joke, and it's exactly what we get when the NRA serves as our shadow government.

Understand, if a licensed gun dealer had denied Kelley his firearms, he would have purchased the same online or from a garage dealer or a gun show, and the gun-lobby puppets on Capitol Hill wouldn't do a thing about it.

Notice how little has transpired since even the NRA and its lawmaking marionettes called for a ban of the bump stocks that made it so effortless for a shooter to mow down waves of victims in Las Vegas.

Notice that one of the first pieces of legislation signed by President Bump Stock was one that made it easier for people with severe mental illness to buy guns.

Notice also that the NRA is pushing legislation to ease restrictions on gun silencers and the purchase of armor-piercing bullets, all necessary to defend the home and to plunk cans and sage grouse.

 We can see now why the man who shot up the church in Texas had a massive military-style arsenal and magazines capable of holding more than 400 rounds of ammo.

The NRA expects results, because in Congress' customer-friendly approach to instruments of death, the maniac is always right.

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

 

Monday, November 6, 2017

Shameless merchants of debt

Boasting of his supposed business wizardry, in 2016 Donald Trump told CNN's Wolf Blitzer, "I'm the king of debt. I love debt." He didn't mention also being a connoisseur of bankruptcy.

Ah, debt, sweet as wine. Love it, don't you?

You may not, in fact. However the affaire d'amour pulses and throbs this week in our Republican-controlled Congress.

If Congress follows through on Trump's urgings -- and the House seems quite inclined, the Republican tax plan would saddle the nation with $2.5 trillion in new debt over the next decade.

Hey, tea party people. You kept telling us additional debt was a bad thing.

Wasn't it the original sin to borrow, under Barack Obama, to rescue the nation from the worst economic moment since the Depression? Yes it was. I heard you say so.

Now? It would appear you love debt. You want it in gobs, especially that debt means tax breaks for people who don't need them.

Actually, this is not new, and not a news. It's not even a change of heart.

Ronald Reagan's budgets employed a "magic asterisk" that basically meant he – and we -- would look the other way when things didn't add up.

Dick Cheney famously said, "Deficits don't matter." He and George W. Bush turned a deaf ear to John McCain's denunciations of funding two wars at once off the books.

When Reagan used his immense popularity to restructure the tax system, closing loopholes and reducing tax brackets, he could have insisted on harvesting some revenue to help curb the red ink that had been accumulating under his leadership.

Instead, the tax plan he signed was revenue-neutral.

The Republicans at the time showed they were more interested in trickle-down schemes than in paying for the government they had bought. That included the largest peacetime military buildup in the history of the world.

Now, "revenue neutral" seems the height of responsibility. What Trump and the House Republicans are doing is constructing a fiscal hole that will require future generations to account for the largesse of the moment.

Yes, the taxpayers of tomorrow would have to find revenue that this tax plan shut off by way of corporate tax cuts to enrich CEOs and stockholders.

They would have to find revenue lost when this tax plan abolished the alternative minimum tax (AMT) to benefit people like Trump. Oh, yes; the only tax return we've seen from Trump, from 2005, showed him paying $31 million via the AMT.

Ah, but he assured us that the tax changes he's promoting wouldn't help himself. The only way to know this would be to see his tax returns and if he's been paying any tax at all those years since.

As it is, we can trust one thing only – that this is one more lie in a sandstorm of them.

The House tax bill stands to enrich the rich further, and for what? I'll tell you what: to aid designs to strangle the federal government by artificial means.

Sen. Chuck Schumer has it right when he says that the ultimate objective of these tax plans is to make it harder to justify spending for things we need – infrastructure, health care, aid to the poorest of the poor.

The thing about those magic asterisks of the Reagan years: The bad math was wholly intentional. The deficits were the design. That red ink made it easier for so-called fiscal conservatives to say we couldn't afford so much government.

For this Congress, that red ink would be sign that they could pass one, just one, policy. Something they have not done in the 10 months that Republicans have controlled the House, the Senate and the White House.

If this monstrosity passes, Trump who got where he is via the "debt and dodge" approach to business, would be there with pen in hand. To sign in red?

Yes, let's run the United States just like he would – into bankruptcy.

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

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A prediction built on a tower of lies

Light reading for a crisp autumn day: "The Case for Impeachment" by Allan Lichtman.

It might be better called "The Impeachment Prophecy." We shall see.

Lichtman, a professor and historian at American University in Washington, D.C., offers himself as a political savant.

He predicted Donald Trump's victory last November, disastrous though he admitted it would be. He had to swallow hard when he got a personal days later from Trump: "Professor – Congrats -- good call."

Now? He predicts Trump will have more note-writing time on his hands and far fewer Twitter followers.

"A Russian sword of Damacles hangs over Trump's head," writes Lichtman, "and it's suspended by a slowly unraveling thread."

The amazing thing about this is how out-front Lichtman's prediction is. The book came out in April before -- yes, before –James Comey's firing, and before the appointment of Robert Mueller.

Indeed, when his book went to press, all Lichtman could do was divine the future by looking at a deceit-filled, corrupt past:

"Trump's penchant for lying, disregard for the law, and conflicts of interest are lifelong habits that will permeate his entire presidency." That presidency will be short, he writes.

I'm not one to jump on the book-maker's wagon regarding this prediction, for one reason alone: We have a Congress led by partisan rubes who will look the other way, whatever Trump may do.

If one-thousandth of what's already been affirmed as truth about President Trump – disregard all well-grounded allegations -- had been affirmed about President Obama, he, Michelle and their daughters would have been hounded out of town, the literal emphasis on "hounds."

With this Congress, the only way Trump will go away is in a paddy wagon. The only way he'll be impeached is if the criminal justice system takes Congress by the nose -- or if voters flip houses for more discerning congressional leadership.

"The Case for Impeachment" is a flight of fancy that only criminal investigators can make real.

So how can Lichtman make his prediction? By employing Shakespeare's, "What's past is prologue."

Lichtman sees Trump's removal in world-record time as the logical extension of his track record as a conniving dealmaker-breaker.

It takes a book to describe all the ways Citizen Trump end-ran federal labor laws, tax laws, and the hiring of undocumented workers. Yes, Mr. Build-a-Wall built his high-rise and casino empire thusly. Lichtman gives it a chapter.

Then there are all the lawsuits. Trump has been involved in more than 3,500 of them, 1,900 as plaintiff. A USA Today study found that he has been involved in more litigation than the next five leading real estate executives combined.

Then there are the conflicts of interest, foreign and domestic, that Trump pooh-poohs as his family continues to "build the brand." Writes Lichtman, Trump's clear and unrepentant conflicts of interest have "no precedent" in American history.

The amazing thing about Lichtman's impeachment prediction is how little he mentions, and how little he knew at the book's release, about how much would come down about Russia, collusion, and the obstruction of justice that really fuels Mueller's probe.

What he knows, and what we know – and this applies even to Trump supporters if they will be honest with themselves for a nanosecond -- is that the president's inability to tell the truth could prove to be his Nixonian downfall.

This is a man who as candidate had more "Pants on Fire" ratings for falsehoods by Politifact than all 21 campaign rivals combined.

The bottom line in this tale is a pattern of lying, writes Lichtman, that makes Trump "more vulnerable to impeachment and removal than any president since President Nixon."

It's prophetic that Lichtman wrote this before Trump sent his PR stooges out to explain to the nation that he fired James Comey for mistreating Hillary Clinton.

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

Monday, October 23, 2017

Treating the Trumpite infestation

Termites did not destroy my house. Neither will Trumpites destroy your democracy.

But they will do damage, and it will be costly.

Termites, and other wood or plant borers like the mountain pine beetle, leave a trail of dust.

The Trumpites who have infested government leave jet trails as they engage their carnal pleasures on our dime, even occasionally doing their jobs. Unfortunately, in almost all cases what they consider their job is to destroy the structural sector of government to which each is assigned.

Consider a new top-level hire to the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. Nancy Beck qualified for that position, based on Trumpite intentions, by having been a lobbyist for the American Chemistry Council, an industry arm that fights regulations of chemicals.

This fits perfectly with the philosophy of EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, who rose to his position via the Trumpite virtue of suing the EPA on behalf of polluters as Oklahoma attorney general.

Former Georgia congressman Tom Price, the Trumpite choice as secretary of Health and Human Services, appeared to be the man who would eviscerate each and every one of those services, starting with the Affordable Care Act.

Unfortunately for him, he was mostly interested in taxpayer-funded jetting to and from family functions.

With Price gone, and with Congress failing to gnaw through legislation to abolish ACA, Trump has announced to those who benefit, "Eat my dust."

We'll see what happens as affected states take Trump to court over the end of subsidies that have kept insurers in the game and have lowered copays and deductibles.

One thing for sure is that Trump's tunnel assault on ACA is wreaking the requisite havoc.

For instance, cutting back on the marketing funds that inform people that Dec. 15 is the deadline for signing up for health coverage or changing one's your policy under ACA.  Another destructive act was to cut the enrollment period in half, from three months to 45 days. More about that shortly.

Meanwhile, though we've been assured that Donald Trump is the smartest man to ever ride an escalator into history:

The Law of Unintended Consequences is playing out with his designs, because he doesn't know what he's doing.

Associated Press reports that yanking the subsidies could trigger the bizarro result of making free basic coverage available to more low-income people -- yes, hundreds of thousands of them --  while costing taxpayers more.

It takes a lot of explaining, but the bottom line: Higher insurer costs caused by the yanked subsidies mean more spent on those tax credits and the reshuffling of what qualifies for the low-income of "bronze" coverage, meaning free.

If so, we could see more people insured, having signed up for free coverage even as the Evil Weevil declares the ACA "dead."

At the same time, The Washington Post reports that millions of Americans may get locked into coverage plans they don't want. That's because after Dec. 15, those who have coverage are auto-enrolled.

Health industry analysts predict that with the much-shorter season, and with less notice about their options, and with auto-enrollment, many may not make the necessary call regarding a policy that is not suiting their needs.

Whatever happens, Trump will not be able to blame "Obamacare." He is the death-wish engineer of this runaway train.

So, what do we do about this matter? Anyone who has termites knows that they can't be shooed out the door. If they are not treated, the structure they inhabit will be reduced to dust.

However, I've never known any homeowner to allow that to happen. I didn't. We fought. We won. The termites had a feast at our expense, but they could not eat us out of our home.

Neither will the Evil Weevil.

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

Monday, October 16, 2017

Bed sheet flapping from the Oval Office

While you're at it, Mr. President, burn the furniture.

You've shoved the sofa up against the door. You've cut the phone lines. You've hung a bed sheet out the window. You've stripped off that dress shirt, donning that red tie as a head band.

"Attica. Attica."

Donald Trump can't tell Congress what to do, doesn't trust anybody or anything. Doesn't trust the process. Doesn't trust Kelly or Tillerson.

But he has Twitter. He has the White House intercom. Now hear this: The inmate-in-chief has taken over the asylum.

Trump's announcement that he will cease subsidies built into the Affordable Care Act, and his decertifying the Iran nuclear agreement, show an individual who 10 months on has tired of deliberative governing. He will hold us all hostage as long as he can hold out.

Robert Mueller, you are now on the clock.

What Trump did last week in cutting the subsidies for the ACA will hurt millions of Americans? It will drive up insurance costs for many. It will cause more insurers to exit the health exchanges.

Trump said that we'd have a "great health care system" that "covers everyone" under his leadership.

This doesn't sound like that.

It sounds a little like someone prone to pick a fight with a streetlight.

If he wants a fight, a whole bunch of state attorneys general are game. Those states are going to fight tooth and nail to prevent Trump from doing this, and so are insurers, and so are medical professionals.

When Congress was considering this option, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that enough insurers would leave the market that about 5 percent of the nation would have no insurer from which to choose in the individual market.

This is outrageous, and seemingly illegal, since the ACA requires individuals to have coverage or pay a fine.

However, this is not just about the people who will be harmed.

This is about federal stewardship. The CBO says Trump's edict will drive up the deficit by $194 billion by the end of the decade, as the government will spend more on tax credits without the subsidies.

Speaking of stewardship, Trump's action on the Iran deal leaves in limbo something that many nations labored to bring about.

Trump and Republican opponents of the agreement say that it allows Iran to continue its nuclear program. That depends on what "nuclear program" means. Nuclear energy? There's a big difference between power plants and bombs.

As for nuclear weapons, the agreement forbids Iran from ever acquiring them, and subjects Iran to indefinite monitoring.

Did Iran benefit from the agreement? Of course it did, in the unfreezing of stranded assets and the lifting of crushing sanctions. Having international eyes fixed on its nuclear designs was absolutely worth it to Iran. The deal was a carefully negotiated give and take, so everyone got something in in the bargain.

Imagine if we had been able to get ahead of the curve relative to North Korea's nuclear program by lifting its pariah status a generation to avert the arms race that again threatens the planet. This is what President Obama and international allies accomplished with the Iran agreement.

Speaking of intercom hijinks: Just as Trump's second-grade taunts of Kim Jong-Un do not make this a safer planet (Right, Secretary Tillerson?), neither can his ditching of a painstakingly crafted agreement to halt Iran's nuclear program.

But a safer world, or a better health-care system, don't appear to be Trump's objectives. His main objective is to show that he's in charge and Obama.

While you're at it, Mr. President, burn every other presidential portrait, particularly of you-know-who.

"Unable or unwilling to completely erase his predecessor's signature initiatives," writes the Associated Press, Trump has "turned to another approach, wreaking havoc."

A new Kaiser Family Foundation poll finds that 71 percent of Americans want Trump to improve the ACA, not disable it. But of course, Trump has cut the phone lines. How should he know?

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

Monday, October 9, 2017

The NRA's prostitution ring

The Denver Post's top headline after one of the gun lobby's very best customers killed 59 people from above read thusly: "NRA supports restriction."

Yes, the top story was what the NRA might do after all that killing.

It wasn't, "Congress admits cowardice in the face of carnage." It wasn't, "President lifts thumb to avert next slaughter."

It wasn't even, "Thoughts and prayers waft over Las Vegas."

It was, "What does the NRA think about this?"

Understand: The NRA's deigning to consider any restrictions at all on a hyper-killing device called a bump stock is headline news. It's: "China calls for safer toys." It's "Medellin Cartel urges: 'Just say no.'"

That "NRA supports (fill in the blank)" is Page 1 fodder may be the greatest indictment of our political system, next to Donald Trump's ascendancy.

The NRA is a group of hobbyists -- people with time and gun powder residue on their hands.

What a group of hobbyists says should be of no interest to anyone except to fellow hobbyists – say, if the next NRA convention opts for cold cuts over cutlets.

To make NRA an adviser for public policy on anything involving firearms is akin to the Fraternal Order of Vespa Riders dictating traffic policy.

What actual people think about gun policies – and solid majorities support stricter gun laws such as universal background checks – is immaterial.

The same applies, for instance, to environmental protection. But when the Trump administration wants advice on that matter, it turns to the special interests affected.

Recent news coverage has flagged Environmental Protection Administration director Scott Pruitt as one of the profligate offenders in the Trump administration's jetting around on taxpayers' dollars for spurious reasons.

What is more significant, though, is what the New York Times reports: that Pruitt's itinerary as EPA director reveals almost non-stop canoodling with corporations that have vested concerns in his decisions.

These include meeting with major campaign donors like coal mining behemoth Alliance Resource Partners, which is now thinking the $2 million it gave the Trump campaign was one heck of an investment.

Well, back to the NRA. Public disclosures reveal that it spent more on lobbying in the first two quarters of this year -- $3.2 million just through June -- than it did in all of last year.

You wonder where all those dollars went.

No mystery as to what those dollars have wrought. One of the first things Trump did as president was sign a Republican bill to roll back an Obama administration rule adding people deemed mentally incompetent to the national background check database.

Yes, this was Job 1 for a new president. Those gun hobbyists have clout.

Because the man who killed so many in Las Vegas passed a background check doesn't mean we should throw up our hands on the rightness of such checks for all gun purchases, including online purchases like the Aurora theater gunman used to amass his arsenal.

However, when President Obama sought to impose such a restriction after the massacre of innocents at Sandy Hook, the "thoughts and prayers" bravehearts in Congress shot it down.

No doubt the hobbyists' lobbyists helped steady the aim for the GOP.

This week conservative media are making a big production of the fact that some Democrats received campaign contributions from now-certifiably sleazy, if not criminal, movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

This might concern us if Weinstein were, like Big Coal and the gun lobby, helping formulate public policy. He's not. It's hardly a concern at all.

We seem resolved to ignore what vested industries have done to steal our democracy.

In other news, the president of the Brazil Olympic Committee was arrested for buying votes to bring the 2016 games to Rio de Janeiro.

It's a criminal offense to buy a sports spectacle. But you'll never see gun merchants or big polluters doing a perp walk for buying our government.

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

Monday, October 2, 2017

No wall, but Trump does have his foxhole

What a tremendous statue this will make:

Donald Trump aboard his golf cart, his polo shirt overstuffed, his ball cap pulled down to his brow, observing the world from his secure tee box.

An image for the ages, like Washington in the rowboat and MacArthur in the surf. Let us start carving the man for posterity.

He is a self-portrait in insularity: While Puerto Rico strangled on muck and cried out for clean water, Trump struck a pose behind a plastic windshield -- and picked maybe the most pointlessly venal fight imaginable.

You might say Carmin Yulin Cruz, mayor of San Juan, picked it. After all, she was in the midst of death and despair when she reacted to Trump's "really good news story" line about her Puerto Rico with, no, it's a "people are dying story."

Trump could have said, "Pardon me for being flippant. This is serious." Instead, he was flippant.

Trump's two-tweet response was that Cruz had "been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump . . . Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help. They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort."

Yes, that's our president: not interested in serving the people of this nation – and that includes Puerto Ricans. He's solely about self-service. The viceroy has been offended.

The mark of a great leader is the ability to see beyond the fray and lead where necessity lies. Trump sees what's on his TV cluster and gets a cramp in his Twitter hand.

What a glorious battle he waged against silent football players who might take a knee, exhorting crowds to boo and owners to fire the SOBs. History will remember this.

He said he wasn't criticizing black players. Of course, he knows what the whole matter is about; it's about being black.

He's not black. Why should he care?

Now, if difficulties arise for rust-haired, overly tan bankruptcy masters, you've got a fight from the man.

The racial divisions that are carving up this nation are getting more acute by the day, and Trump is happy to oblige.

As with his interchange with Mayor Cruz, he's not going to back down. He's not going to concede.

Stop that "come together" nonsense, people. The Trump presidency is going to be about trench warfare.

The man has dug his foxhole and spends every day fortifying it, digging deeper. These will be four years of poison gas and hand grenades. Right, Steve Bannon?

Every day and in every way, Trump and the Republican Party are making it known that they are determined to hold and administer power without the help of black and brown people.

Over and over, the courts have admonished the GOP for redistricting and vote-suppression shenanigans aimed at marginalizing people of color. The Republicans couldn't care less. That's how they plan to hold and administer power.

The Electoral College gives inordinate power to white-flight districts and white-dominated states. We get it. We got it. We got President Trump from it.

Yes, a lot of Americans needed to be reminded that Puerto Rico was, is, one of us. Of course, if you consider "us" to be human beings, that applies everywhere, say where desperate people seek refugee status.

The Trumpite response to Black Lives Matter is, "All lives matter." You really couldn't tell that after nine months of this presidency.

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