ACA Is NOT Unconstitutional!!!

I would really like to know just how much Donald Trump paid to U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor of Texas.  Or perhaps it wasn’t money, but the promise of a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.  Whatever the enticement, Judge Reed O’Connor has just thrown the citizens of the United States under the proverbial bus.  What, you ask, did he do?  Last night, Judge O’Connor ruled that ACA in its totality is unconstitutional.  Not just part of ACA … the entire bloomin’ Affordable Care Act!Judge O'ConnorJudge O’Connor isn’t new to controversial rulings.  Let’s take a look at just a few he’s made in the past decade …

  • Halted implementation of ACA Section 1557 that prohibited discrimination against transgender people by federally funded health programs. Why?  Because the judge felt it violated religious rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. – December 2016
  • Ruled against the Title IX law that required that schools receiving federal funding not discriminate against students on the basis of sex or gender identification – October 2016
  • Ruled that the Indian Child Welfare Act was unconstitutional. The act halted the forcible removal of as many as 25% – 30% of Native American children from their homes for no reason other than their heritage, and then being put up for adoption, placed in non-Indian homes with a deliberate absence of American Indian cultures – October 2018

So, we have here a judge in the southern state of Texas who is a proven bigot and racist, and he has decided that the entirety of ACA, the program that was intended to ensure that every man, woman and child in the U.S. would have at least basic healthcare insurance, goes against the Constitution.  And Trump’s own ‘surprised’ reaction?

“Wow, but not surprisingly, ObamaCare was just ruled UNCONSTITUTIONAL by a highly respected judge in Texas. Great news for America!”

No, you fat, pimple-faced, fake-hair jerk!  It is the worst possible news for America!  Only wait … that’s right, you don’t give a damn about America, do you, for your allegiance lies elsewhere … in Russia … in Saudi Arabia.

And later …

“As I predicted all along, Obamacare has been struck down as an UNCONSTITUTIONAL disaster! Now Congress must pass a STRONG law that provides GREAT healthcare and protects pre-existing conditions.”

Yeah, sure, right … and I believe that the Easter Bunny lays chocolate eggs, too …

Judge O’Connor has been sitting on the case that prompted his ruling for several months now, but it was decided to wait until the end of the open enrollment period and, more importantly, after the mid-term elections, where health care was a major deciding factor for many voters.  Clever, aren’t these damn republicans?

The judge’s ruling will no doubt be appealed all the way up the line until finally it lands on the docket of the U.S. Supreme Court, so for the time being, nothing changes.  What happens when it reaches the Supreme Court?  Good question.  Remember how just this week, Kavanaugh sided with liberal and moderate judges in a refusal to hear a case that could have ended in defunding Planned Parenthood?  People were scratching their heads, wondering if perhaps Kavanaugh was a decent guy after all.  I said he was biding his time, picking his battles.  What do you want to bet this is one of those battles he was saving up for?

The basic difference in ideologies between democrats and republicans boils down to whether the government’s focus should be on people or industry.  Prior to ACA, health insurance was so expensive that a large portion of Americans took their chances without insurance.  ACA sought to remedy that, sought to ensure that no child would have to die because his parents could not afford to take him to the doctor.  But the republicans believed that their tax dollars should not be wasted on the lives of those of us they view as second-class citizens because we haven’t had the same opportunities for enrichment they have had.

And now a bigoted judge in Texas has decided all by himself that healthcare should only be accessible to those who earn over a certain amount of money.  ACA is not unconstitutional.  ACA is about helping people live their lives.  Nowhere in the Constitution does it state that people should not be allowed to live if they are poor.  Unlike Donald Trump, I have actually read the Constitution … many times.  We The People are sick and tired of having to fight battle after battle to be treated with a bit of respect in our own country, the country that our hard-earned tax dollars support.  We are paying a high price for the follies of the current administration and it is past time for people to realize it.

As for Judge Reed O’Connor … I’m betting that next time Trump has an opportunity to nominate a Supreme Court justice, O’Connor’s name will be on the short list.

A Most Appropriate Choice …

In 2012, Trump said that Time Magazine had “lost all credibility” because he, Donald Trump, was not included in Time’s “100 Most Influential People”.  Last year, he claimed that Time told him he “probably” would be chosen for “Person of the Year”, but that he opted out because “probably” wasn’t good enough.  Time disputed that claim.  Just last month, when asked by a reporter who he thought would be this year’s “Person of the Year”, he had this to say …

“I can’t imagine anybody else other than Trump. Can you imagine anybody else other than Trump?”

What an egomaniac!  Anyway … I was very pleased to see that Time had better sense, although I understand he was somewhere on their short list.  Instead, Time quite appropriately chose “The Guardians”, four individuals and one group — all journalists — who this year helped expose “the manipulation and the abuse of truth” around the world.

They are the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post contributing columnist who was killed inside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul in October; the staff of the Capital Gazette newspaper in Maryland; journalist Maria Ressa, the chief executive of the Rappler news website, who has been made a legal target for the outlet’s coverage of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte; and journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who have been jailed in Myanmar for nearly a year for their work exposing the mass killing of Rohingya Muslims.  Each of these people are far more deserving of “Person of the Year” than the madman in the Oval Office.

Trump himself actually helped make the decision, albeit unwittingly, with his attacks on the press.  According to Time …

This is the world of the strong leaders who hate the free press and truth. That world is led, in some ways, by a U.S. President whose embrace of despots and attacks on the press has set a troubling tone.

“I think the biggest problem that we face right now is that the beacon of democracy, the one that stood up for both human rights and press freedom—the United States—now is very confused,” says Ressa, the Rappler editor. “What are the values of the United States?”

The question no longer seems strange, for the same reason a close look at where we get our news no longer sounds like civics-class homework. In normal times, the U.S. news media is so much a part of public life that, like air, it’s almost impossible to make it out. But it has been made conspicuous—by the attacks and routine falsehoods of the President, by social-media behemoths that distribute news but do not produce it and by the emerging reality of what’s at stake.

Efforts to undermine factual truth, and those who honestly seek it out, call into doubt the functioning of democracy. Freedom of speech, after all, was purposefully placed first in the Bill of Rights.

For a certain kind of politician, there is an almost liberating genius to framing independent journalists as the enemy. Stray from the truth, and whoever corrects you can be dismissed as “the other side.” The strategy runs on a dangerous assumption—that we’re not all in this together.

A month after taking office, President Trump sat for an interview with Breitbart, the right-wing online news site that had been run by his then chief strategist, Steve Bannon. “The fake media is the opposition party,” the President declared. “The fake media is the enemy of the American people.”

For taking great risks in pursuit of greater truths, for the imperfect but essential quest for facts that are central to civil discourse, for speaking up and for speaking out, the Guardians—Jamal Khashoggi, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, Maria Ressa and the Capital Gazette of Annapolis, Md.—are TIME’s Person of the Year.

A most appropriate choice.

Sickening …

I did not realize I was feeling ill until the following “breaking news” came popping up on my phone last evening …

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows is no longer under consideration to be Donald Trump’s chief of staff.

“Congressman Mark Meadows is a great friend to President Trump and is doing an incredible job in Congress. The President told him we need him in Congress so he can continue the great work he is doing there,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.

Meadows, a staunch Trump ally, had been a top contender for the position, and he had signaled his interest in recent days. But ultimately, aides said the president thought it best for him to remain in Congress, where he can continue to be a strong defender of the administration.

Now, first off, I am glad that Meadows, who is a grade-A, bigoted, radical right-wing jerk, is not going to be the new chief of staff.  But when I read that he is doing “an incredible job”, my stomach churns, and when I read that he is to stay in Congress “so he can continue the great work …” I am full on sick to my stomach.

For those who may be unfamiliar with Mr. Meadows, let me summarize …

  • Meadows voted against relief for Hurricane Sandy in 2013
  • He is anti-abortion and anti-birth control
  • Oddly, he claims to support a balanced budget, though he has largely contributed to the highest deficit we have seen in six years
  • He demanded that Trump get rid of all federal funding to study climate change
  • He also requested Trump repeal environmental regulations including the Renewable Fuel Standard, stop the prohibition of drilling oil on federal lands, and pull the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement
  • Meadows voted against renewing the Violence Against Women Act
  • He has proposed that the United States should tap into oil and gas reserves to keep energy prices low, and to develop energy independence. He supports tapping into off-shore oil and gas supplies
  • Meadows opposes same-sex marriage
  • Meadows opposes any restrictions on gun purchases and opposes a national gun registry that would list detailed information about firearm ownership
  • He has voted numerous times to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
  • He supports tax cuts for the wealthy and large corporations, and is against net neutrality

House Freedom CaucusWell, you get the picture.  Mark Meadows, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, and member of the U.S. House of Representatives from North Carolina is the worst of the worst of the republican party.  In essence, if it is good for the wealthy and bad for the rest of us, he is for it.  If it helps the average Joe, he will fight against it.  And he is considered one of Trump’s closest allies in Congress.  That tell you something?  This is a man whose conscience is measured in dollar signs.

And so now you might understand why, when I hear Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Don Trump refer to him as “doing an incredible job”, I feel ill.  An incredible job at what???  Destroying the nation and the global environment?  Sending women’s rights back two centuries? Mark Meadows-1You might ask just what the good people of North Carolina were thinking when they elected him for a fourth term last month, but the reality is that his district is so heavily gerrymandered that almost all minorities have been excluded.  He campaigned for the 2018 elections by touting his support of the madman Trump, while claiming that any republicans who didn’t support Trump should be removed from office.

Mark Meadows is, contrary to Ms. Sanders and Mr. Trump’s opinion, not doing a great job at anything.  He is the poster boy for why we need to have all district maps re-drawn to appropriately represent the voters.

So, we are left with the question … who will be the next chief of staff?  Nick Ayers and Rick Santorum have thus far turned down the job, Mark Meadows is out of the running … who’s left?  The three leading contenders appear to be acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, a former campaign manager David Bossie, and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.  But then, who knows … by tomorrow it could be Daffy Duck!  Whoever it is, I’m sure he or she will make a lovely addition to this circus of clowns.circus-1

Your Tax Dollars … Hard At Work

A blogging friend posted something yesterday that caused my jaw to literally hit the floor.  I will not share her post, for it is personal, but I will share the situation, for it is one that potentially affects all of us.  Her husband recently signed up for Social Security on the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) website.  They checked the website each day, only to see the message “Your application is in process”.  After three weeks, unable to contact the SSA through the website, they paid a visit to the nearest Social Security office. SSA-Logo-and-TaglineA young lady took them into her office almost immediately, asked one or two questions and told them it would be processed ‘now’.  My friend asked her why it wasn’t already processed, as it had been ‘in process’ for three weeks.  Now comes the jaw-dropping part, so I advise you to sit down before reading further …

“The new Administration has cut jobs and there is no one monitoring the website applications.”

My friend asked what would have happened if they hadn’t paid a visit in person, and the answer was “absolutely nothing”, as in, their application would have remained in limbo for all eternity, presumably, or at least until we get a responsible government. The young staffer at the SSA ended by saying, “I really wish someone would take charge in Washington. That idiot is gonna screw us all before too long.”

skeleton-at-computerI want you to stop and think about this one for a few minutes, folks.  The Social Security Administration, the agency tasked with collecting 7.65% of our gross wages every pay period and then seeing that we receive a certain amount each month upon our retirement or disability, has a website but nobody is monitoring it.  How many people are, right this very minute, checking the website, hoping to see that their application to receive their own money, has moved from “in process” to “approved” status?  Hundreds?  Thousands?

What other government agencies have websites where “the lights are on, but nobody’s home”?  What about the Veteran’s Administration?  HUD offices?  What the Sam Hell are we paying taxes for?  Oh yeah … so Trump can keep going to his golf games accompanied by an obscene number of Secret Service agents, wasting fuel on Air Force One, and eating more food in one day than I can put away in a month!

And hey … republicans, listen up … guess what?  This affects YOU every bit as much as it affects anybody else.  You might want to use a bit of your ‘insider’ influence to let your members of Congress know that this is totally irresponsible and unacceptable!

SSA question markThis administration has committed many atrocities, and this is only one more in the ever-growing stack of ‘WTF’ items, but it is a crucial one.  Be advised that in all likelihood, not a single one of the government’s websites are being administered in the manner they should be, and by all means, if you need something from the Social Security Administration, your best bet is to show up on their doorstep.

Just another example of “your tax dollars hard at work”.

Good faith dealings

Last week saw the funeral of the 41st President of the United States, George H.W. Bush. While he was certainly not perfect – who is? – the contrast between him and the current occupant of the White House is stunning. It makes me long for the day when character and integrity were expected and admired. Our friend Keith has done a terrific job pointing out some of the finer traits of President Bush, Sr., and leaves us to draw our own comparisons. Thank you, Keith, for an excellent post and for your permission to share it.

musingsofanoldfart

The passing of former President George H.W. Bush has highlighted the many positive attributes of the imperfect 41st President. Of course, we are all “fixer uppers,” and our willingness to know this about ourselves keeps us humble and in a constant state of self-improvement.

Many positive things have been highlighted about the elder Bush this past week, with many of us nostalgic to how we all should conduct ourselves, especially our leaders. Here are a few things I took away:

– a communication advisor to an early campaign noted he made a big mistake from which he could not hide. Thinking he would be fired, he recalled Bush telling him “I know you will knock the next opportunity out of the park.”

– a friend noted he played golf often with Bush when he was President. He noted the clubs Bush played would invariably try to “comp” his green and…

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Dear Senators …

For quite some time now, even for years before the current administration invaded the White House, we have seen a Congress so divided that it almost makes a mockery of the words “democratic process”.  We have seen a Congress that pays little, if any, heed to the will of the people, the betterment of the nation, but rather are acting in their own best interests.  It speaks volumes when even former members of Congress are speaking out against the uber-partisanship and asking Congress to step up to the plate and do what they were elected to do.

A group of 44 former senators has penned a letter to the current and future senators, asking them to set aside their partisanship and self-interest for the sake of guarding our democratic principles.  Will they listen?

Dear Senate colleagues,

As former members of the U.S. Senate, Democrats and Republicans, it is our shared view that we are entering a dangerous period, and we feel an obligation to speak up about serious challenges to the rule of law, the Constitution, our governing institutions and our national security.

We are on the eve of the conclusion of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation and the House’s commencement of investigations of the president and his administration. The likely convergence of these two events will occur at a time when simmering regional conflicts and global power confrontations continue to threaten our security, economy and geopolitical stability.

It is a time, like other critical junctures in our history, when our nation must engage at every level with strategic precision and the hand of both the president and the Senate.

We are at an inflection point in which the foundational principles of our democracy and our national security interests are at stake, and the rule of law and the ability of our institutions to function freely and independently must be upheld.

During our service in the Senate, at times we were allies and at other times opponents, but never enemies. We all took an oath swearing allegiance to the Constitution. Whatever united or divided us, we did not veer from our unwavering and shared commitment to placing our country, democracy and national interest above all else.

At other critical moments in our history, when constitutional crises have threatened our foundations, it has been the Senate that has stood in defense of our democracy. Today is once again such a time.

Regardless of party affiliation, ideological leanings or geography, as former members of this great body, we urge current and future senators to be steadfast and zealous guardians of our democracy by ensuring that partisanship or self-interest not replace national interest.

Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Bill Bradley (D-N.J.), Richard Bryan (D-Nev.), Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), Max Cleland (D-Ga.), William Cohen (R-Maine), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Al D’Amato (R-N.Y.), John C. Danforth (R-Mo.), Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.), Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), David Durenberger (R-Minn.), Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), Wyche Fowler (D-Ga.), Bob Graham (D-Fla.), Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Gary Hart (D-Colo.), Bennett Johnston (D-La.), Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Paul Kirk (D-Mass.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), Larry Pressler (R-S.D.), David Pryor (D-Ark.), Don Riegle (D-Mich.), Chuck Robb (D-Va.), Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Jim Sasser (D-Tenn.), Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), John W. Warner (R-Va.), Lowell Weicker (I-Conn.), Tim Wirth (D-Colo.)

Clueless

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman’s column from yesterday is astute, to-the-point, and well worth the few minutes it takes to read it.  He hits the nail on the head regarding Trump’s trade ‘negotiations’ with China.

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The Art of the Imaginary Deal

On trade, Trump is a rebel without a clue

Are we going to have a full-blown trade war with China, and maybe the rest of the world? Nobody knows — because it all depends on the whims of one man. And Tariff Man is ignorant, volatile and delusional.

Why do I say that it’s all about one man? After all, after the 2016 U.S. election and the Brexit vote in Britain, there was a lot of talk about a broad popular backlash against globalization. Over the past two years, however, it has become clear that this backlash was both smaller and shallower than advertised.

Where, after all, is the major constituency supporting Donald Trump’s tariffs and threats to exit international agreements? Big business hates the prospect of a trade war, and stocks plunge whenever that prospect becomes more likely. Labor hasn’t rallied behind Trumpist protectionism either.

Meanwhile, the percentage of Americans believing that foreign trade is good for the economy is near a record high. Even those who criticize trade seem to be motivated by loyalty to Trump, not by deep policy convictions: During the 2016 campaign self-identified Republicans swung wildly from the view that trade agreements are good to the view that they’re bad, then swung back again once Trump seemed to be negotiating agreements of his own. (We have always been in a trade war with Eastasia.)

But if there’s no strong constituency for protectionism, why are we teetering on the brink of a trade war? Blame U.S. trade law.

Once upon a time, Congress used to write detailed tariff bills that were stuffed full of giveaways to special interests, with destructive effects on both the economy and American diplomacy. So in the 1930s F.D.R. established a new system in which the executive branch negotiates trade deals with other countries, and Congress simply votes these deals up or down. The U.S. system then became the template for global negotiations that culminated in the creation of the World Trade Organization.

The creators of the U.S. trade policy system realized, however, that it couldn’t be too rigid or it would shatter in times of stress; there had to be ways to relieve pressure when necessary. So trade law gives the executive the right to impose tariffs without new legislation under certain circumstances, mainly to protect national security, to retaliate against unfair foreign practices, or to give industries facing sudden surges in foreign competition time to adjust.

In other words, U.S. trade law gives the president a lot of discretionary power over trade, as part of a system that curbs the destructive influence of corrupt, irresponsible members of Congress. And that setup worked very well for more than 80 years.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t intended to handle the problem of a corrupt, irresponsible president. Trump is pretty much all alone in lusting for a trade war, but he has virtually dictatorial authority over trade.

What’s he doing with that power? He’s trying to negotiate deals. Unfortunately, he really, really doesn’t know what he’s doing. On trade, he’s a rebel without a clue.

Even as he declared himself Tariff Man, Trump revealed that he doesn’t understand how tariffs work. No, they aren’t taxes on foreigners, they’re taxes on our own consumers.

When trying to make deals, he seems to care only about whether he can claim a “win,” not about substance. He has been touting the “U.S. Mexico Canada Trade Agreement” as a repudiation of NAFTA, when it’s actually just a fairly minor modification. (Nancy Pelosi calls it “the trade agreement formerly known as Prince.”)

Most important, his inability to do international diplomacy, which we’ve seen on many fronts, carries over to trade talks. Remember, he claimed to have “solved” the North Korean nuclear crisis, but Kim Jong-un is still expanding his ballistic missile capacity. Well, last weekend he claimed to have reached a major trade understanding with China; but as J.P. Morgan soon reported in a note to its clients, his claims “seem if not completely fabricated then grossly exaggerated.”

Markets plunged earlier this week as investors realized that they’d been had. As I said, business really doesn’t want a trade war.

Let’s be clear: China is not a good actor in the world economy. It engages in real misbehavior, especially with regard to intellectual property: The Chinese essentially rip off technology. So there is a case for toughening our stance on trade.

But that toughening should be undertaken in concert with other nations that also suffer from Chinese misbehavior, and it should have clear objectives. The last person you want to play hardball here is someone who doesn’t grasp the basics of trade policy, who directs his aggressiveness at everyone — tariffs on Canadian aluminum to protect our national security? Really? — and who can’t even give an honest account of what went down in a meeting.

Unfortunately, that’s the person who’s now in charge, and it’s hard to see how he can be restrained. So the future of world trade, with all it implies for the world economy, now hinges largely on Donald Trump’s mental processes. That is not a comforting thought.Text dividers