Wise Words And A Question

ACBAlways a voice of reason, Nicholas Kristof has written yet another introspective and timely column in yesterday’s New York Times.  Whereas I tend to rant, Kristof is the calm voice of reason, yet even he admits that the United States may be on a backward-facing treadmill.  He concludes his column with an important question for us all.  I urge you to read what he says …


Will We Choose the Right Side of History?

In Amy Coney Barrett, Republicans are once again backing a Supreme Court nominee who could take us backward.

nicholas-kristof-thumblargeBy Nicholas Kristof

Opinion Columnist

Amy Coney Barrett has been following recent precedent in her confirmation hearing before the Senate, pretending that she has never had an interesting thought in her life.

Is it illegal to intimidate voters at the polls? She didn’t want to weigh in. A president postponing an election? Hmm. She’d have to think about that.

What about climate change? “I have read things about climate change,” she acknowledged, warily emphasizing that she is not a scientist. “I would not say I have firm views on it.”

If she had been asked about astronomy, she might have explained: “I have read things about the Earth being round. I would not say I have firm views on it.”

But for all the obfuscation, which nominees of Democratic presidents have engaged in as well, there is no hiding the essential truths that Barrett: A) is very bright; and B) would solidify a conservative Supreme Court majority whose judicial philosophy has been on the wrong side of many of the great issues of my lifetime.

We sometimes distinguish between “liberal judges” and “conservative judges.” Perhaps the divide instead is between forward-thinking judges and backward-thinking judges.

Partly because of paralysis by legislators, partly because of racist political systems, forward-thinking judges sometimes had to step up over the last 70 years to tug the United States ahead. Those judges chipped away at Jim Crow and overturned laws against interracial marriage, against contraception, and fought racial and sexual discrimination.

Just this week, Bernard Cohen, the lawyer who won the interracial marriage case in the Supreme Court in 1967, died — a reminder of how recent such progress is. In that case, Richard and Mildred Loving, a white man and Black woman who married in Washington, D.C., had moved to Virginia, where the police barged into their home at 2 a.m. and arrested them in bed for violating an anti-miscegenation law. Forward-thinking justices struck down such laws — and that wasn’t about “activist judges” but about decency, humanity and the 14th Amendment.

It was as recent as 2003 that enlightened Supreme Court judges struck down state sodomy laws that could be used to prosecute same-sex lovers. Three backward-thinking justices, including Antonin Scalia, Barrett’s mentor, would have allowed Taliban-style prosecutions of gay people for intimacy in the bedroom. (Barrett refused in the hearing Wednesday to say whether the case was rightly decided.)

It is true, as some conservatives argue, that this path toward social progress would ideally have been blazed by legislators, not judges. But it is difficult for people who are denied voting rights to protect their voting rights, and judicial passivism in these cases would have buttressed discrimination, racism, sexism and bigotry.

That brings us to another historical area where conservatives, Barrett included, have also been on the wrong side of history — access to health care.

Over the last hundred years, advanced countries have, one by one, adopted universal health care systems, with one notable exception: the United States. That’s one reason next month’s election is such a milestone, for one political party in America is trying to join the rest of the civilized world and provide universal health care, and the other is doing its best to take away what we have.

The G.O.P. is succeeding. Census data show that even before the Covid-19 pandemic the number of uninsured Americans had risen by 2.3 million under Trump — and another 2.9 million have lost insurance since the pandemic hit. Most troubling of all, about one million children have lost insurance under Trump over all, according to a new Georgetown study.

I’m not trying to scare readers about Barrett joining a conservative majority to overturn the Affordable Care Act. My take is that Democrats are exaggerating that risk; the Republican argument in the case, to be heard next month, is such a legal stretch that it’s unlikely to succeed fully, even if Barrett is on the court.

But it is possible, and that would be such a cataclysm — perhaps 20 million Americans losing insurance during a pandemic — that it’s worth a shudder. It should also remind us of the importance of renewing the imperfect, on-again-off-again march of civilization in America, away from bigotry and toward empowerment of all citizens.

Barrett is not a horrible person; on the contrary, she seems to be a smart lawyer with an admirable personal story. Yet she’s working with a gang of Republican senators to steal a seat on the Supreme Court. This grand larceny may well succeed. But for voters, this hearing should underscore the larger battle over the direction of the country.

Voters can’t weigh in on the Barrett nomination, but they can correct this country’s course.

Here’s the fundamental question: Will voters reward the party that is working to provide more health care, or the party that has painstakingly robbed one million children of insurance? Will voters help tug the United States forward, or will they support the backward thinkers who have been on the side of discrimination, racism, bigotry and voter suppression?

At the polls, which side of history will you stand on?

S-s-snarky S-s-snippets

I am in rather a dark mood tonight … I even yelled at an animated character, a cute li’l octopus, on television and called her a … well, you get the picture.  Two things in particular stirred my angst tonight, and both, I think, are well deserving of venting a bit of snarky steam.


Pathetic

“Suburban women: Will you please like me? Please. Please. I saved your damn neighborhood, okay? The other thing: I don’t have that much time to be that nice. You know, I can do it, but I gotta go quickly. They want me to be politically correct. I got rid of a regulation that was a disaster and it was really unfair, and you’ve been reading about it for a long time and it’s gotten a lot worse under Obama and Biden. We’re going to see that the women really like Trump a lot. Remember four years ago, they said women will never vote, then I got 52 percent. … You damn well better vote for me Pennsylvania, you better vote.”

These are the words of the incumbent in the Oval Office, spoken during a rally in Johnstown, Pennsylvania on Tuesday night.  First he begs and cajoles, then he threatens.  And this is the person who has ‘led’ this nation into chaos for the past nearly four years and hopes to be given another four years to complete the destruction.

Joe Biden, by the way, is leading in the polls in Pennsylvania by an average of 6 points.


Pointless

I have not paid particular attention to, nor written about, the hearings taking place in the Senate to determine whether or not to confirm Trump’s nominee to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the U.S. Supreme Court.  It’s not that I’m not interested – I am.  It’s not that I don’t think it’s important – I do.  It’s just that from what I have read it is just another … yawn … Republican dog-and-pony show with the outcome predetermined.  I truly have better things to do with my time than watch the Republicans preen and Ms. Barrett deflect.

To date, apparently Ms. Amy Coney Barrett has refused to answer all relevant questions, so … what is there to write about?  Ms. Barrett is 48 years old, so We the People are likely to be saddled with her religious views becoming the law of the land for the next three decades or so.

The burning questions that she has refused to answer are on the topics of the Affordable Healthcare Act (whether the majority of us will be able to afford medical care when and if we need it), Roe v Wade (whether women will retain control of their own bodies, or be subject to a misogynistic rule), and Obergefell v Hodges (whether a significant portion of the population will be allowed to marry the person they love, or whether that, too, will be dictated by a bigoted Supreme Court).  Ms. Barrett has refused to answer how she would rule on any of these topics.  In my book, that removes her from consideration, for we have a right to know who will be deciding how we must live.  And would somebody please tell me WHY Ms. Barrett’s children are front and center in the hearings???  They have no role in this, they have no place here!  Best I can figure, it’s another ‘photo op’ moment like Trump having citizens forcibly removed from the streets of Washington so he could hold a bloody book in front of a damn church!  Send the children home to do their online learning, Amy!  Better yet … go home with them, since you have proven yourself useless.BarrettIn the Republican’s book however, it is a little different.

Here are some of the questions Ted Cruz, a republican senator from Texas asked of Ms. Barrett:

  • Do you speak any foreign languages? (French)
  • Do you play any musical instruments? (Piano)
  • What was it like staying at home during the pandemic with seven children? (Challenging)
  • Why did she and her husband adopt two children from Haiti? (A long story)

Ooooohhh … what relevant questions for a potential Supreme Court Justice who will be expected to make decisions that may mean life or death for us all!  Way to go, Teddy!

Now, one thing I didn’t mention above was Ms. Barrett’s take on climate change, arguably the single most important issue of the day.

“I’m certainly not a scientist. I have read things about climate change. I would not say I have firm views on it.”

Say WHAT?  You have “read things”???  What things?  Details, woman!  How … HOW can anybody in this, the year 2020 with wildfires consuming much of the West Coast, with devastating hurricanes costing lives and untold property damages, and with the average temperature this past summer 92° in an area that usually has a summertime average of 85° … how can any sane person look at the statistics, step outside and attempt to breathe the air, and still have “no firm views”???  This woman is either very, very stupid, else she is already in the pockets of the corporate donors such as Koch Brothers and the fossil fuel industry!

I’m not a scientist, either, but I still possess some parts that Ms. Barrett may be missing:  a brain, eyes, ears, and lungs … all of which tell me that humans, in their greedy quest for more useless money, have begun and continue the destruction of the environment here on planet Earth.

So, in conclusion, Ms. Barrett refuses to voice an opinion on women’s rights, LGBT rights, the right to medical care, and worst yet, she is stupid about the environment.  GET. HER. OUT.

But no, the boot-lickers in the Senate have a majority, albeit a narrow one, and there doesn’t seem to be a single one with the cojones to “just say ‘no’” to Donald Trump.  On top of that, the unconscionably powerful Koch Brothers have thrown their support behind her nomination.  And thus began the beginning of the end of civilization in what was once known as the United States.


And I shall end on that note, for my temper is about to take me where I ought not to go.  Let me just say, though, that if Donald Trump is elected for and seated for another term, I shall renounce my citizenship from the U.S., if not from the entire world.  I can see nothing good in the future of this nation if the people continue to elect and applaud bloody fools and to put corporate profits ahead of people.

On Throwing Out The Baby With The Bathwater

In a post yesterday, I quoted an age-old expression, “Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater”. Today, I find it appropriate to use again.  Today I am ruminating on the Affordable Care Act ACA) and the 115th Congress’ and incoming president’s determination to throw out that particular “baby”.

Throughout his campaign last year, Trump has claimed that he will “dismantle” ACA on his first day in office, and replace it with something better.  In fact, he claimed that he would replace it with something “great” that everybody would love and that would cost the government far less than ACA.  But every time an interviewer asked him for specifics, he reverted back to criticism of ACA without offering so much as a glimpse into what his “great plan” might be. Now, as he is just two weeks away from taking office, he is still intent on dismantling ACA immediately, and still has offered no alternative plan.  Republicans in Congress, however, have taken up the call and are busily working on a plan to dismantle ACA.

Congress’ plan to repeal ACA is a four-step process:

  1. Pass a resolution that would cut ACA provisions from the budget, while also disallowing a filibuster by Democrats in protest of the resolution.
  2. Draft legislation that would:
    1. ■ Eliminate the tax penalties imposed on people who go without insurance and on larger employers who do not offer coverage to employees.
    2. ■ Eliminate tens of billions of dollars provided each year to states that have expanded eligibility for Medicaid.
    3. ■ Repeal subsidies for private health insurance coverage obtained through the public marketplaces known as exchanges.
  3. Draft a series of executive orders that Trump will put into effect to ensure that there is an orderly transition, during the period after we repeal Obamacare, to a market-based health care economy
  4. Find a replacement for ACA (thus far there is no consensus … no plan)

With two weeks to go until Trump’s inauguration, Congress has a definite plan for gutting the current healthcare law, but not so much as an inkling of what Trumps “great” replacement plan would look like, nor any idea how it would be funded or implemented.

I am insurance-illiterate, so I will not even attempt to discuss the various sections of ACA and the ability of Congress or Trump to repeal them, but I have read a few articles that claim it could be difficult for Congress to repeal the entire act, although there are parts that they can repeal with a simple majority.  And other parts Trump himself can repeal with the stroke of a pen.  Many experts have said that repealing the health law without a clear plan to replace it could create havoc in insurance markets.

What does this mean for the 20 million people who have health insurance through the individual Obamacare exchanges or Medicaid expansion?  It seems uncertain to predict, without knowing what, if any, replacement plan will be put in place.  My best guess is there will be no replacement plan in the immediate future, since the rough draft of said plan does not yet exist.  That means that those 20 million people will be left without insurance and without the means to obtain medical treatment.  It may also mean that people with pre-existing conditions will be unable to obtain insurance.

But the damage goes well beyond those 20 million people.  According to an article by CNN Money, “The ACA made changes in every part of the health care system,” said Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, of the Affordable Care Act. “Virtually everyone has been touched by the ACA.”

Some of the effects of repealing ACA would be:

  • Dismantling Obamacare would likely mean higher premiums, deductibles and cost-sharing for the 57 million senior citizens and disabled Americans enrolled in the program. Medicare beneficiaries would pay more because premiums and deductibles are tied to the growth of federal outlays. So seniors would face higher deductibles and co-payments for their Part A, which covers hospital stays, and higher premiums and deductibles for Part B, which pays for doctor visits and other services. Higher-income enrollees, however, would see some financial benefit from repeal. Obamacare froze the threshold for the Medicare premium surcharge at $85,000 for individuals and $170,000 for couples, so more people have become subject to it. The law also added a premium surcharge on drug coverage for wealthier beneficiaries.
  • Companies with at least 50 employees would no longer be required to provide affordable insurance to their staffers who work more than 30 hours a week. Also, companies would no longer have to keep children on their parents’ plans until they turn 26. Insurers would once again be able to ban workers with pre-existing conditions, or require them to pay significantly higher premiums.
  • Insurance companies will once again be able to place annual or lifetime caps on both benefits and out-of-pocket costs. Insurers will also once again be able to charge women more.

Ever since the Affordable Care Act passed in March 2010, complaints have been widespread and annoyingly loud.  Granted, there are problems with ACA, commonly known as Obamacare.  Some of the legitimate complaints include rate increases, employers altering the plans they offer, inconsistency among states in Medicaid expansion, and others.  The middle class claims it is unfair, that it benefits mostly low-income, poverty-level, and unemployed people.  All of which are legitimate concerns and need to be addressed.  I would argue, however, that fixing the problems while leaving the foundation in place makes more sense than tossing the entire plan out while pondering and bickering over what the new plan might be. An analogy might be if you have a car that needs a new radiator, do you replace the radiator, or scrap the entire car?  Personally, I would rather invest in a new radiator than a new car.

kaiser

Despite the grumbling and complaining from the public, the nation is actually quite divided over ACA.  According to the Kaiser Family Foundatio (KFF), a reputable non-profit organization that focuses on healthcare issues, almost 50% of the nation favours either expanding ACA or maintaining the current law or maintaining the status quo.  Of the other 50%, only 26% favour repealing the law entirely.  So, that said, it would appear that Trump and the Republicans in Congress are completely oblivious and uncaring about the wishes of their constituents!

While I promised a few days ago to try to cut back on my snarkiness and be less critical, at this point I must emit one small rant, else I shall burst into a thousand pieces.

“To everyone who voted for Donald Trump on or before November 8th: On behalf of every man, woman and child in the United States … THANKS A WHOLE HELL OF A LOT!

Whew.  I feel better now.  Thank you, dear readers, for allowing me a slight rant.

I highly recommend a visit to the Kaiser Family Foundation website, as I found much valuable information there.  This is an issue that affects us all, and we need to stay abreast of the situation and understand what is happening that concerns our ability to be healthy and, let’s face it, to stay alive.

Those who are retired, like myself, and dependent on Medicare for their basic healthcare needs, will suffer.  Those who cannot afford to spend $200+ per month to purchase health insurance will suffer.  Women will suffer.  The only people who will not suffer are members of Congress, Donald Trump, and those whose net worth is six digits or more.  The rest of us will likely end up worse off than we were prior to 2010.  Every single member of the House of Representatives was elected on November 8th by people who expected their representative to act in their best interest.  One-third of the senators were elected on November 8th by citizens who thought the person they were voting for would act in their best interest.  And Donald Trump was elected on November 8th by people who were lied to and who fell for the lies that he would improve their lives.  We now understand that instead, Trump and the Republicans in Congress have no interest in our lives, but rather care only for improving the net worth of their wealthy friends.  Shame on them all.