Tag Archives: Paul Ryan

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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A Nation In Jeopardy

25 Aug

My husband and I just returned from Iceland — what a sad return. While away from the United States, we tried to be unplugged regarding the ever hastening downward spiral of the American government under Trump. Sadly, we could not escape, as the whole world is watching this “reality show” — this buffoonery. What is profoundly sad is that it is not a reality show. Our journey to another country, visiting with some really lovely people from around the world, only confirmed what I already knew. We are now being led by a fascist government that denies climate change and dismantles every agency created to aid people living in this country — which is further normalizing homophobia, misogyny, transphobia, anti-Semitism, and racism. We are a nation in jeopardy and the whole world is watching our decline.

The first week away we learned that Trump was threatening North Korea. His threats were so scary that the quite undignified Rex Tillerson had to make public statements to assure people not to panic, which was met by Trump declaring his threats “did not go far enough.” A few days later Trump’s defense of Nazis on August 12 and the refusal of nefarious sycophant Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell to censure the President provide a very clear indication that the government of the United States certainly holds a Nazi/White Supremacist world view. I feel the need to note here that the United Nations officially condemned Trump’s response to the white terrorism in Charlottesville.

Trump’s white supremacist defense did not go unnoticed by the global community we were traveling with in Iceland. One of our tour guides, a native Icelander, talked with us over lunch. He casually said: “It seems like your country has some real problems with racism and gay people.” All we could say was, “Yes, yes we do.” I know my face was one of despair and I was grateful that Hilmar felt comfortable talking about politics with us. This government has turned all rational U.S. citizens into ambassadors for the best of our country.

One of the families we were traveling with, and became friends with, was a family from Washington, DC, who came to the U.S. from southeast Asia. Their son attends Virginia Tech. They told us stories of how their son has been repeatedly harassed by police because of the color of his skin. Those personal stories painfully echoed the news from Charlottesville.

It has been particularly alarming to see the Nazi swastikas appearing all over the nation. Trump has blamed the media — his “fake news” — for dividing the nation. I fear I have lost all respect for anyone who believes this horrific lie. Sadly, regardless of how many lies Trump delivers, his base of support will not be swayed. Even more disturbing is that the beliefs held by Nazis are being subscribed to by an increasing population in the United States: it is about to reach double digits.

As if to bring all of this home to us, upon returning to the United States we were met with great hostility and homophobia as we tried to go through Customs. There are signs that let people know you are to go through Customs as a family. My husband and I approached the agent as a family. US Customs Agent Lee looked at us with a look on his face as though he just smelled something painfully acrid. (I imagine he caught a whiff of his own noxious odor.) After a few minutes of silence and us just standing there, Customs Agent Lee (yes, I am using his real last name) pointed a finger at us and said: “So the two of you men live together?” At this point, I had to try very hard not to lose my temper and call this homophobic piece of hell out.

I was painfully aware that he had great power and could refuse our re-entry into the United States, so I kept silent and just affirmed that yes, my husband and I live together. All I could think about was: “Well, we are certainly living in Trump’s America.  Surely, we must be better than this?” My husband and I are U.S. citizens, returning from a vacation. Imagine how people like Agent Lee abuse their power to oppress and reject immigrants, refugees, and other targeted communities!

Sadly, the hits keep coming. Trump’s latest Klan rally in Phoenix included more threats to muzzle the free press. He defended career racist and convicted racial profiler Joe Arpaio, hinting that he would pardon him. He demands that Congress fund his racist boondoggle of a wall, threatening to shut down the whole government if he doesn’t get his way. And still Congressional leaders support him. Paul Ryan refuses to censure Trump’s nasty words in the name of “unity” — this from a man who promised four years of pointless investigations if he had to serve under President Hillary Clinton. For all that the press love to talk about the war between Trump and McConnell, Sen. Turtle continues to make mealy-mouthed assurances about a “shared agenda.” How nice that he wants to share an agenda of hate.

This strife resonates with me every day. I am the Executive Director of EqualityWorks, NW, an agency that works towards global equity for targeted communities. Never have I seen the need for the work I do to be so vital and intense. As the director, I want to invite people struggling to take action and resist this administration and to reflect on how power works, specifically white,male, heteronormative, “Christian”, patriarchal power. Take action and create space for the voices of targeted communities.

I also want to emphatically disavow the hate and venom being spewed by Trump, Pence, Ryan, McConnell, Sessions, and all of those refusing to put this administration in check. I invite us all to resist and to also try to tap into our shared humanity, albeit our shared humanity does not appear very humane at present.

45 Fatigue: The Struggle Is Real

30 Jul

Somehow I thought for sure this alone would have prevented 45 from moving forward, that his mocking a person with a disability would have been enough. Then I thought his bragging about “grabbing a woman by the pussy” would have been enough to stop him. Sadly, this is who we are stuck with currently and who is destroying Democracy on a daily basis. I do wonder how on earth are people able to live with themselves for voting for such a monster.

As I mentioned in my last article, I believe most of the nation is currently experiencing some serious 45 Fatigue — most of us in the nation are currently on edge, pugnacious, unsettled, anxious, depressed, angry, or any combination of the above. And it is not just those of us who identify as progressives who are feeling the pain. I am experiencing people all over the political spectrum who are struggling — as Ru Paul’s Kennedy Davenport said: “The struggle is real.”

I have some friends/family in Georgia who have been lifelong Republicans who are feeling the pain and disappointment. I suspect many Republicans are in mourning, for they are now realizing the party they believed in has been obliterated by 45, Paul Ryan, and Mitch McConnell.

One can’t even keep up with the daily barrage of bizarre goings on and the continued human rights violations that we are kept abreast of via Twitter, because that is now the way the President of the United States communicates with us. First, 45 and his administration came for our Muslim friends and family, then they came for the Latino community, then 45 came after the journalists, and scientists, then he came after the poor and tried to strip away health care for millions, then he came after all of us in the LGBT community. I hardly know how to cope. What’s more, I have daily reminders that my family members who supported and still support 45 are responsible for this destruction.

Apparently, there is and will always be approximately 25% of the population that will always support 45 regardles. This population is implacable and also sadly misinformed and guided by fear, racism, misogyny, and homophobia.  Sadly, 45 and his followers have only proven they are, in fact, deplorable. Of course, this hurts my heart more than I can express. It hurts my heart that the behavior we witness daily could be acceptable to anyone. 45’s appointment of Scaramucci is nothing less than appalling and only helps to normalize a vulgar society. I’m sure Scaramucci is only too happy to be 45’s work wife, or is he the Mini-Me for 45?

As I said, I can’t even recount all of what has happened in just the past week. Do I start with his inappropriate behavior with his speech to the Boy Scouts, whom he apparently thought were his Trumpenjugend? Do I address the transphobia? Do I focus on his encouraging police to increase brutality? How about bullying his loyal attack dog, Jeff Sessions or firing Reince Priebus? Blindsiding military commanders in hateful tweets that led them to believe we might be headed for war? I am having difficulty coping, as I know the rest of the 75% of the nation is right now. It is clear Scaramucci is an echo chamber for 45 and is helping to normalize vulgarity, as though this were some how Presidential? Yes, national television and radio are broadcasting Scaramucci’s speeches: “What I want to do is fucking kill all of the leakers…I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock.”  This from the new Director of Communications, sanctioned by 45. Wow! I have no words.

What is helping me endure this nightmare is watching television shows like: The Good Fight, Daytime Divas, Ru Paul’s Dragrace, and Samantha Bee. What are you doing to cope? How can we support each other? How can we be loving of ourselves, and of each other? I am going to work hard to invite joy into my life. I hope all of you find ways of creating and sustaining joy. Peace, Michael.

Difficulty Feeling Bad For John McCain: The Point Of No Return

26 Jul

Yesterday marks a very sad day in the history of the United States, albeit we have had too many sad days since 45 was elected. Yesterday was particularly unconscionable, in that we witnessed 50 senators and the Vice President actively taking steps to take away health insurance for millions of Americans — a new low, even for the GOP. Yes, the Republicans are moving forward on Trumpcare when it does not even exist yet.

Another exceedingly problematic part to this equation is that Senator John McCain (who has been on the wrong side of history for at least the past two decades) showed up to Washington, DC only to vote the wrong way. The irony is more than just heavy, given his recent diagnosis of a brain tumor while he has the best healthcare plan possible in this country, paid by taxpayer dollars. Yes, while McCain and all of Congress don’t have to worry about healthcare, Mr. Maverick voted to take away health insurance for over 20 million Americans. I am having a very difficult time trying to have compassion for the homophobic, misogynistic, racist, John McCain. While he frothed at the mouth about how ridiculous this whole process has been, he nevertheless decided to participate and is part of the ridiculousness and he is a part of the problem. I’m quite nonplussed as to how this is “Making America Great Again,” a quote by 45 that has always felt like coded racist language to me, for “Making America White Again.” McCain’s hypocrisy is emblematic of the hypocrisy that is the Republican party.

It has been difficult to keep up with the blog in the past six months, as I find it more than a little bit depressing to keep up with how destructive 45 and this administration have been. I seem to get at least two or three new stories from the New York Times every day about how 45 has embarrassed the nation yet again. For those that are holding hope that he will be impeached, it is not going to happen, as much as I would love to get rid of this entire administration. The sociopathic duo known as Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are not going to bring 45 up for impeachment. Let us instead take action and prepare for the 2018 midterm election.

For those experiencing great 45 Fatigue ( a new diagnosis that I am introducing and should be in the DSM), I would offer this: finds ways of taking care. For me, I have to cut off any news after an hour. I am also watching a lot of good television. I highly recommend watching Daytime Divas with Vanessa Williams and Tichina Arnold.

Updated July 28, 2017

While McCain eventually voted the right way, why did he not vote earlier NOT to proceed? Why participate in the drama and waste of tax dollars? I also feel the need to underscore that McCain is NOT a hero here. In fact, I want to applaud Senator Lisa Murkowski, rare that I applaud a Republican. Murkowski was threatened by 45 and his administration and she refused the bribes from McConnell.

Resist: The Downfall of the United States

20 Jan

resistI know I and millions of Americans are in mourning today. We are in mourning for the contempt, disdain, and utter destruction of Trump and  his racist, homophobic cabinet of multi-millionaires. We are mourning the celebration of sociopathy over compassion and love and the idea of paying it forward. We are mourning the day in history when the world will look back and ask: “why and how did people support Trump?” Today I weep for America.

The old rules of any type of civility are now over and we are now navigating a Trump world of sociopathy. Yes, Trump, Kellyanne Conway, Jeff Sessions, Reince Priebus, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and most of the GOP are now engaged in such mendacity and hypocrisy that the world seems upside down.

How do we resist? We keep vigilant, we continue to protest, we continue to call our members of congress and demand to be heard. I realize this is difficult, given that Paul Ryan seems to have disconnected his phone, as I have been calling his office once every day. We must never normalize this. We must never become people who turn their backs on the poor, the targeted, the registered! We all know that Trump will soon turn Americans against each other and ask that we spy on each other and report people. We know from his behavior that soon news outlets will not be invited to the White House; that he will censure journalists that ask questions; or that he will just stop providing news conferences.

I will challenge myself and all of America to take action! We need to organize, support each other, and change this system. Let us make every effort to mitigate the destruction he has laid out, the shredding of rights he has promised. Stay mobilized and passionate! There are anti-Trump rallies taking place all over the country — people are organizing and taking action. Be part of the movement, the resistance.

Basket of Deplorables: The Death of Empathy

19 Sep

deplorable-basketI have been doing a lot of reflecting on Hillary Clinton’s reference to “half of Trump supporters” as a “basket of deplorables.” Initially, I would have preferred she framed it as: I am overwhelmingly concerned with those people supporting Trump, as he stands for all that is deplorable in our country. However, upon further reflection, I must admit, she is simply calling out bad behavior. Note picture of above–peddlers of hate for profit!

When Trump said: “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters,” is that not deplorable? Is it not deplorable that people support and encourage that bullying behavior? When Trump made fun of a reporter with a disability, is that not deplorable? Is that not the worst part of our country? When Trump, referring to Mexican-Americans says, “They’re rapists. And some, I assume are good people.” Is this type of racism not deplorable? Trump’s treatment of Khizr Khan and his family was nothing less than deplorable and is a signature moment for Trump, showing his disdain for veterans and those currently serving in the military.When Trump calls for both a mandated registration of Muslim-Americans and a national ban of Muslim immigrants, is this type of racism and Islamophobia not the worst of our country? How awful must this man prove to be? I am nonplussed to say the least.

For all of those people who support Trump’s brand of misogyny, racism, homophobia, and bullying behavior, is this indeed not deplorable? And while I do find it deplorable, I am also exceedingly disturbed and troubled: how do we then reach a population that seems to have zero capacity for empathy or reflection? How do we reach a population full of so much hate towards women, African-Americans, the Latino Community, the LGBTQ community, and the Muslim community?

Sadly, I am able to provide you a map and numbers of people of color harassed by Trump supporters here. I will also provide more disturbing facts from Public Policy Polling: 65% of Trump supporters believe that President Obama is Muslim — this is so troubling in so many ways, I have not the time to fully unpack how awful it is.  59% of Trump supporters believe that President Obama was not born in the United States. Again, this is so very troubling and tells me that there is a certain population that will not be bothered with facts, rather they are fueled by hate. According to Reuters over half of Trump supporters describe African-Americans as more violent than whites and the same percentage of supporters describe African-Americans as more criminal than whites. I’m not sure how to expose racism more blatantly. All of this should be, legitimately, labelled deplorable.

Trump famously shouted at voters of color, “What have you got to lose?” The media gave him a pass, when the answer is clear. We all stand to lose our dignity, self-respect, and shared humanity. Giving in to that would be deplorable.

While it would be quite easy for me to yield to a misanthropic abyss during this election year, I must work hard to reach people and communities and engage in conversations that demonstrate that our country is so much better than Trump and his supporters — that we have so much more potential — that our strength is in our diversity. There is no strength in the politics of rage and separation that works to oppress women, LGBT people, people of color, people with disabilities, and all of the intersecting identities there in. Calling that out, and asking us to be our better selves, well that’s not deplorable at all. Now is the time for us to stand in solidarity against hate!

Celebrating the Much Despised Labor Day

5 Sep

Labor DaySince the Reagan era, we seem to have surrendered to what I would term an irrational, inexorable disdain for the laborer. Labor Day seems to have become a hollow holiday for some without a sense of history. Let us remember why it is important to celebrate and elevate the laborer. This is a time for us to reflect and look at how we value human beings; how we look at and address income disparities; how we address and look at people who are over-employed!

Yes, over-employed, those who have to work more than one job and still remain in poverty, while CEOs and those who enjoy being in the top echelon of corporations and organizations earn exponentially more than those who actually allow those organizations to sustain themselves. According to the Economic Policy Institute and Fortune, many top executives make over 300 times that of their employees, many of whom live at or below the poverty line. Yes, CEOs earn 20 times more than they did 20 years ago and 30 times more than they did 30 years ago. In fact, according to the Economic Policy Institute, “In between 1978 and 2014, inflation adjusted CEO pay increased by 1000%,” while the typical worker has only seen a possible 11% increase in that same time frame. That 11% means workers are now either earning the same as they earned in 1978 or even less, allowing executives to earn so much money that it is next to impossible to chart.

We saw the architecture of this with Ronald Reagan, who did his best to bust unions. You remember the union, the reason why we have a little something called a “weekend,” and an 8 hour workday, and protections against the exploitation of children workers. Unions: the reason  we hope to never witness another tragedy like the Triangle Shirtwaist Company.

Just a little history about Labor Day. Labor Day was started in 1882 by labor unions, but it would be many more years before it would be recognized as a Federal Holiday. Oregon was the first state to recognize and honor Labor Day in 1887.  Finally in 1894, under the Cleveland administration, it became a national holiday on the first Monday in September.  Congress passed it unanimously, a very rare event indeed. Today we have an opportunity to reflect on why we need to celebrate the laborer and to look at the maldistribution of wealth in the United States. It’s particularly important to note how Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan show nothing but contempt, disdain, and even disgust for the laborer.

Many of us have been working in movements to increase the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour. This would be just a very small move forward and still does not address a living wage. Sadly, the common theme from Trump and Ryan and their ilk — remember, they aren’t as different as they’d like you to believe —  has been nothing less than hostile. They all seem to subscribe to the false notion of a meritocracy. Our current Republican controlled House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted against the equal pay act — the same people who want to throw out the Affordable Care Act and witness millions suddenly going without health care. All the while ALL of those in our congress have Cadillac insurance packages and earn a minimum of $174,000. Yes, you read that number correctly. Please watch this very short video of the maldistribution of wealth in the United States.

Labor Day isn’t just an excuse for a long weekend or a chance to grill an extra burger before autumn sets in. It’s a chance to reflect on the work that is done at all levels of our society and the value of all that labor. It’s a chance to celebrate the collaboration that makes work better and working conditions safer. In the words of the great Joe Hill (as sung by Billy Bragg)

Now I long for the morning that they realise
Brutality and unjust laws can not defeat us
But who’ll defend the workers who cannot organise
When the bosses send their lackeys out to cheat us?

Money speaks for money, the Devil for his own
Who comes to speak for the skin and the bone
What a comfort to the widow, a light to the child

There is power in a Union.

Happy Labor Day to all who have to work today and that have no pension, no health benefits, and are at the poverty line. We must stand in solidarity!

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