Tag Archives: Medicare

GOP Tax Plan: A Complete Social Restructuring of the United States

4 Dec

Welcome to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, 500 pages of far-right dreams smashed together in two weeks and rushed to a vote in the middle of the night. While there is an enormous amount of this plan that we should all be mortified about — specifically how it hoards wealth for the top 20% of Americans and steals money from the poor and middle class — there is far more going on here, much of which has little to do with tax “reform.”  I worry that most people are not paying attention to everything it does over time, as evidenced by the fact that most of the people who voted to rush this through have not even read the whole plan, nor have there been any substantive hearings or analysis provided. This massive document is also difficult to read because much of the marginalia is hand written scribbles, eliminating even concerned senators’ ability to read and understand the implication of the entire document before voting on it.

In addition to the sociopathic maldistribution of wealth this plan secures, the social ramifications are profound and are antithetical to what we have worked so hard to accomplish in the ways of equity in the past 100 years.  For example, this plan includes Medicare reductions that will end cancer treatment for people on Medicare. Yes, you read that correctly. This sounds like a death panel to me, and it should not come as a surprise, given that Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have been working to dismantle Medicare for years now. Oh, and as an added bonus it eliminates the Individual Mandate from the Affordable Care Act, basically robbing 13 MILLION Americans of coverage.

As outlined in the Chronicle of Higher Education, this bill creates even more barriers for people who are not in the top 20% of Americans to afford a college education. For example, this bill puts additional taxes on charitable donations to colleges that allow for financial aid. Small liberal arts colleges are heavily dependent on charitable gifts to survive. The message is quite clear, the GOP does not value education, as further evidence that Betsy DeVos is the secretary of Education. People do your homework here! Obviously, the lack of access to eduction benefits the GOP, as it encourages ignorance and precludes critical thinking skills: skills that would allow people to ask questions of the government, the people that are supposed to be public servants.

Another alarming part of this bill — so alarming I needed to get my smelling salts just to be able to write this — is the reversal of The Johnson Amendment. Yes, this is part of the Religious Freedom Act (specifically Christian agenda freedom) coming from the far right wing, which now controls our government. The Johnson Amendment, created by LBJ in 1954, prohibits all non-profits, or what is called a 501 (c) (3) from making any type of political endorsement or stand to lose their tax exempt status. Trump and his henchmen are now about to reverse this in this tax plan, but ONLY for churches, allowing them to become tax-free lobbying organizations. So much for separation of church and state.

The bill slashes the corporate tax rate, eliminates the bulk of the estate tax, and changes “pass-through” business taxation in a way that benefits only the wealthiest of business owners. These changes are PERMANENT. The tweaks that MIGHT make a small change for poor and middle class taxpayers expire within the first three years. At the end of ten years, the vast majority of households making $75,000 or less will see their taxes rise, often by 20% or more.

Many deductions are eliminated or severely curtailed including bike-to-work incentives, moving expenses, most mortgage and home sale deductions, tax preparation deductions, and disaster relief deductions. State and local tax deductions are greatly reduced, penalizing blue states that fund federal programs for red states.

The bill will increase the deficit by at LEAST $1 TRILLION. So much for the party of fiscal responsibility. Deficit hawks like Sen. Flake and Sen McCain (the Arizona Stooges) believe that wealth will trickle down as businesses have more revenue, even though EVERY major corporation interviewed has indicated that the vast majority of this revenue will be used to pay bonuses and reward stockholders, giving no benefit to the average American. Sen. Murkowski sold out her constituents in exchange for getting drilling rights in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Yeah, that’s a tax issue… Sen. Collins accepted a fig leaf promise for a vote someday on an ACA bill that won’t come close to solving the problems caused by the loss of the individual mandate. Sens. Johnson and Daines pretended that minor changes to the pass-through rules would help small business owners. Overall, over 20% of Republican Senators had major objections to the bill but voted for it with vague changes and vaguer promises.

The most nefarious impact is yet to come. As that big deficit hole comes into reality, Republicans will certainly use it to insist on austerity measures. This is a feature, not a bug. As the deficit grows, they will insist that Social Security, medicaid, and medicare be slashed to balance the budget.

Our only hope for derailing this monstrosity is putting pressure on the conference process that will reconcile the House bill (awful in many different ways) with the Senate abomination. Getting the House to accept all the little tweaks and odditities may be difficult, and losing them may make the final bill impossible to pass again in the Senate.

TAKE ACTION: Contact your Representative and Senators and demand that they stop this horrible bill. It’s not tax “reform”, it won’t serve the middle class, it crushes the poor, and it includes elements that will reshape the social network and basic protections that we rely on today into something mean, nasty, and unrecognizable.

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Paul Ryan: Beware

2 Nov

Paul RyanI’m not even sure how to begin to unpack this colossal lying, hypocritical,  racist, misogynistic, ignorant, self-serving piece of hell whom we now call the Speaker of the House. I think I will start with the miseducation of Paul Ryan. I heard him say that this is not a national position. What? Did you really just say that out loud? Where did you go to school Speaker Ryan? The Speaker of the House is second in line to become the President of the United States, should something untoward happen to the President and Vice-President. How is that not a national position?

I think it would behoove all of us living in the United States to fully understand what we have with Ryan as he now holds such emormous power.  This is the man who said in his acceptance speech that:

I never thought I’d be the speaker. But early in my life, I wanted to serve in the House. I thought the place was exhilarating—because here, you could make a difference. If you had a good idea and worked hard, you could make it happen. You could improve people’s lives. To me, the House represented the best of America: the boundless opportunity to do good.

But let’s be frank: The House is broken. We are not solving problems. We are adding to them. And I am not interested in laying blame. We are not settling scores. We are wiping the slate clean. Neither the members nor the people are satisfied with how things are going. We need to make some changes, starting with how the House does business.

We need to let every member contribute…

Wow! Clearly, this is a man who has zero capacity for self-reflection. When he said, “improve people’s lives,” about whom was he talking? His career is built on keeping many targeted populations from having better lives. For example, Ryan proposed to cut social programs such as Medicare and Food Stamps and gutting Planned Parenthood. I will use his own words here: “I support the rights of the unborn child. Personally, I believe that life begins at conception, and it is for that reason that I feel we need to protect that life as we would protect other children.”  Sadly, he does not support family leave for women or families to take care of children — more than ironic given he demanded he be allowed time to spend time with his family before accepting the job of Speaker of the House. What a perfect example of “I want mine and I don’t care if you get  yours.”

Yes, Mr. Ryan, the House is broken. When were you planning an apology here? Let us remember that you are one of the architects who helped to break the House with your obstructionist agenda.  Of course you are not “interested in laying blame,” because that would mean you would have to apologize to the people of the United States, specifically all targeted populations and all people experiencing poverty. Perhaps we could “wipe the slate clean” by putting you and the other tea party members in check.

You continue to obstruct the Affordable Health Care Act and offer to repeal it. How does that “improve people’s lives”?  Easy for you to propose because you have a Cadillac health insurance policy paid for by the citizens you are working against.  In fact, you continue to work AGAINST women, people of color, the poor, and the LGBTQ community. (You champion promoting workplace discrimination against the LGBT community.)  From my perspective, you seem to be only concerned with white, heterosexual, Christian, wealthy men.

You also seem to be a big fan of wars, having supported going to war in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Have you been to war? What do you propose to do to support veterans after they serve? You have consistently voted to cut veterans’s benefits, which seems both ironic and hypocritical if you are sending troops to war.

I can only hope your tenure as Speaker of the House is exceedingly short lived and that more intelligent voices will prevail and replace you with due speed.  I do wonder what your mentor Ayn Rand would think of your current position, or the fact that even former Speaker Bohener (not a friend to anyone) thought your budget proposal was too harsh.

Sadly, I am not encouraged or excited to see how you will perform in what is most certainly a national role.  Let us hope you prove me wrong.

Carolina In My Mind…

8 Apr
NC Minds

…or out of theirs?

First, I need to thank my friend Hal for inspiring me to write this story.  When I think of North Carolina, I usually think of James Taylor singing: “In my mind I’m goin to Carolina, Can’t you see the sunshine, Can’t you just feel the moonshine ,  Ain’t it just like a friend of mine,”  how sad that is about the only way I can visit North Carolina right now is in my mind.  I fear the Teahaddists have taken over, and the tea they have brewed looks like the Kool Aid the KKK have been drinking all these years.

It would appear that the North Carolina GOP either cannot read, or has never bothered to read the actual Constitution of the United States.  Just last week, 14 House Republicans in North Carolina “signed onto a resolution that calls for creating an official state religion, declares that people in North Carolina are not subject to decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court and proclaims that the state can decide on its own  what is constitutional and what is not.”  Oh my!  We need to get some Haldol for these fellows, because they got some serious crazy going on right now. But wait, the crazy does not stop here.  During the last session, Rep. Glen Bradley introduced a bill that would have established a separate currency for the state of North Carolina.

This story would have no traction, save that these are not lone voices.  House Majority Leader, Edgar Starnes, is wielding his power here with fellow Republicans to establish a state religion.  Wait! It gets worse:

Lawmakers approved Governor Pat McCrory’s appointment of a man to the State Board of Education who not only favors voucher schemes but doesn’t seem to think that gay and lesbian students deserve protection from bullying.

McCrory himself held a press conference to announce he was turning over the state Medicaid program that takes care of the most vulnerable people in the state to the profiteers on Wall Street.

Yes, sadly North Carolina is waving its big bigoted banner of hate, sending us all the message that this is not a state safe for LGBT folk, African Americans, the poor, women, or anyone who is not a wealthy white heterosexual man.  My husband and I may have to start an underground railroad to rescue our friends that live there.  Let us hope that soon, people will fight back and stop this type of institutional discrimination/racism/homophobia. Send these GOP Bigots packing.

Distribution of Wealth in the United States: A Scary Picture of Money

1 Apr

bag_of_moneyI have been rather astonished and disappointed with all of the hullabaloo being made over the record highs achieved with the Dow, as though it were an accurate instrument measuring the financial success and stability of ALL Americans. This continued subscription to “trickle down economics” is part of the dark legacy of Ronald Reagan.  This distorted view of economics does hold true…if you are standing in front of a Fun House mirror.  Regardless of my own philosophy and my own political convictions, the unbiased truth is that the recent record highs of the Dow only demonstrate the exponentially increasing wealth of the top 10% of Americans.

I admit to having my own very conflicted feelings around money and about capitalism, so I will try to contain all of this article to just facts regarding wealth in the United States.  I have to thank my friend Steve Joiner for inspiring me to write this.

First, let us divide the country into five sections of wealth: The Bottom 20%, The Second 20%, The Middle 20%, The Fourth 20%, and finally the top 20%.  92% of all Americans believe the distribution of wealth needs to be more equitable and distributed more fairly.  Sadly, this same 92% of Americans’ perception of the actual distribution of wealth is far removed from the reality.  The reality is that the bottom 40% of Americans have an infinitesimal portion of the distribution of wealth, while the top 1 % have more than the entire wealth that 9 out of 10 Americans believe the top 20% should have.

I will try to make this a bit more simple and understandable.  Let us say the entire country has 100 people total.  Of that 100 people, 60% of those people are either destitute, or struggling to make ends meet. Another 20% are doing well financially.  The final 20% can be split up as follows: 18% are doing exceedingly well and controlling a great amount of wealth, but then the top 1% control so much wealth that it cannot be pictured on a simple bar graph of wealth due to its disproportionate size.  For greater detail and so you can see the actual graphs, click here.

What can be done?  We know that 92% of Americans want this inequality to change, so where do we begin?  Here I have to thank my friend Bruce Kestelman for inspiring me to address Paul Ryan’s budget redux.  Here is where the disparities in wealth have to become political and I have to call out bad behavior.  Paul Ryan continues to offer a budget for the United States that only  benefits the top 2% of Americans.  Yes, he continues to beat the tired old drum of ending Medicare and gutting Medicaid and of course, lowering taxes on the very wealthy.  Am I the only one nonplussed here?  While claiming to be in alignment with “Catholic Values,” see what Catholics say in response to Ryan.  How on earth does Ryan’s budget honor the social contract or social justice in any way?  We can change the inequitable distribution of wealth with our votes.  We can take power away from Paul Ryan and John Boehner by not voting for them!

I realize today is April Fool’s Day, but I regret to say this is not an April Fools joke.  Well, sadly the joke is at the expense of the American people.

I Hate Old People, Women, and Gays!

15 Aug

I can dream, can’t i?

Yes, you probably thought this was a story about Michelle Bachmann, but actually it is about her evil twin, Paul Ryan. I don’t think it came as a surprise that Ryan was told to steer clear of Florida.  Even rabidly right wing seniors disapprove of Ryan’s plans by a comfortable 20% margin.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain: Kevin Madden, Romney’s campaign manager.  Madden wants us to believe that sending Ryan to the Iowa State fair (Iowa was where Romney signed a pledge to discriminate against the LGBT community) rather than joining Romney in Florida had nothing to do with Ryan wanting to gut Medicare.  Sure, I believe that.  I also believe that it is safe to say the word Bain around Romney and that it is just a simple oversight that George W. was asked not to attend the Republican National Convention.

One might ask, why the heck did Romney pick this fascist as a running mate.  My greatest fear, given how homophobic both men are and how much they hate women, one conclusion one might draw is that they are secret lovers—-okay, ewwwww that even made me spit up.  The big question is, why on earth would any minority in the United States vote for such a duo of hate?

Rational Republicans: Faint Praise Indeed

13 Jul

The New Republican Party?

Well, “Mussolini did keep the trains on time,” a very common defense of the fascist dictator of Italy during WWII.  How tragically sad it is when we as humans have to find some miniscule form of praise for “leaders” behaving rationally.  Today we will look at three Republicans who are often treated as heroes for demonstrating inconsistent rational behavior.

Mitt Romney has announced that he will not sign the Iowa Anti- Gay Pledge, which he called “undignified and inappropriate.”  The Iowa Anti-Gay Pledge says that, “the presidential candidates must back a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and have affirmed their belief that gay men are a public health risk, that gay parents are inferior to straight parents, and that homosexuality is a choice.”  Big surprise, Ms. Prick Santorum and Ms. Bat Shi_ Bachmann have both signed the pledge.  (Basically, Bachmann has declared her own husband a public health risk–Oh please, TSM audience! You know he is a big closet queen). Has the Tea Party taken over the Republican Party?

What makes me particularly angry here is that we have to praise Romney for being rational here.  “Gee, at least he did not burn any of those fags and send them to concentration camps–what a good guy.”  If not being a complete bigot, of the George Wallace camp is the new standard for hero worship, we are in HUGE trouble as a nation. Click here to see the full article on the “Pledge” and Romney.

Moving on to two others that we have to praise for being rational.  Shall we look at the Siamese Republican Twins of Maine? We have talked about Snowe before.  Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins have agreed NOT to beat up a bunch of senior citizens, steal their money, and leave them homeless:

There are solvency problems with both programs,” Sen. Olympia Snowe said in an interview on Friday, “They have to be addressed but not as part of the debt reduction talks.

Thank you, Senator Snowe for being a rational person.  Forgive me if I don’t throw a parade to celebrate your humanity. Collins agreed with Snow and proposed to end the tax subsidy for ethanol production and that would save close to $6 billion a year.

Let me clear, I really do appreciate all three of these Republicans doing the right thing.  However, have our standards for leadership from our elected officials plummeted so low that showing a glimpse of humanity for those they are charged with protecting makes them look like heros? While I am painfully aware of the puritanical strain that runs deep through our country’s history, am I completely  naive to think we will learn from our mistakes? My hope is that we will soon see more Republicans like the late Betty Ford. Click here to see the full article.

Wiener Steps Down: Real Issues (?)

16 Jun

News Worthy?

By now, anyone who is paying attention to the “news” knows that Anthony Weiner is stepping down.  I don’t know that this is the right move, but it is what it is.  I do know that his “wiener” occupied a great deal of air time and certainly shifted the focus from the Republicans trying to gut Medicare, the wars in the Middle East, and the continued assault on women’s reproductive rights.  I was able to laugh and be reminded of greater issues with Mark Fiore’s post on Daily Kos today.  Click here to see the post and watch the video.

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