Listen up, Congress: Americans hate the health care ‘reform’

Dear Members of Congress,

Y’all are going home for a couple of weeks. Some of y’all are going to conduct town hall meetings with your constituents, your “bosses,” the folks who decide whether to vote for you — and whose money pays your salary.

I just got word of a new poll. It says that just 17 percent of Americans favor the Republican Senate version of a health care insurance overhaul. That’s about the same level of (non)support that the House of Representatives version got when the GOP caucus decided to send the issue over to the Senate.

At least one of your House colleagues, by the way, is declining to meet face to face with his bosses. That would be Republican Mac Thornberry. He’s my congressman. He decided a while back that he didn’t need to hear from just plain folks. The last so-called “town hall meeting” he had was with local business leaders, tycoons, pillars of the community. He wanted to inform them of his desire to see Congress shed some of the Obama administration’s regulations. I reckon he got a friendly reception.

But back to the point here.

That poll doesn’t bode well for the future of the GOP plan to rewrite the Affordable Care Act — if House members and senators are going to heed its findings. If you truly are going to “represent” your constituents, then you need to rethink your approach. It cannot be a Republican-only effort. There appears to be a need to include Democrats in this process. Hey, I’ve heard some Democrats say in public that they want to work with their Republican “friends.” But the GOP leadership — so far — is having none of it.

The president calls the House health care plan “mean.” He said he could support a plan with “heart.” The Senate version appears to many of us to be as heartless as the House plan. It takes too much money from Medicaid and according to the Congressional Budget Office — I am sure you are now aware — the plan will cost 22 million Americans their health coverage over the next decade.

That’s not a plan with “heart,” you lawmakers.

Enjoy your time away from D.C. Have a good time over the Fourth of July. Celebrate this great nation’s birthday.

While you’re at home, though, listen carefully to what your constituents — your bosses — are telling you. You’ll learn something.

Highways getting some attention?

Welcome aboard, Amarillo City Councilman Eddy Sauer, in the campaign to dress up our public rights-of-way.

Sauer recent went to Waco and then posted this item on social media: “I’m committed to cleaning up our highways and making our city more inviting. The I-40 and I-27 corridors are great marketing tools for Amarillo. We have a great city and a great opportunity and we need to take advantage.”

He was struck, apparently, by the appearance of a sign greeting motorists entering the city.

I drive through the I-40/27 interchange roughly once a week and my hair still bristles when I notice its shabby appearance. A former Texas Department of Transportation actually told me once that the state opted to let “natural” flora grow rather than spend money to dress it up and make it more visually appealing. I believe I laughed out loud when he told me that; he took offense at my reaction.

Mayor Ginger Nelson has vowed to work out an agreement between the city and the state for a joint maintenance project that dresses up these rights-of-way.

The mayor now appears to have at least one ally on the City Council. Maybe more of them will emerge. One can hope.

Why let ’em squawk? Here’s why

I received this inquiry today from a longtime friend and former colleague; I figure I’ve known this fellow for just shy of 30 years. He asks:

Why do you let these crazed Trump troglodytes comment on your blog? You know you can set up your blog to screen that stuff. This … dingbat and her dingbat Trumpster pals are mucking up what is otherwise a thoughtful message. They hate the free press. Let ’em go somewhere else and make their ridiculous, baseless comments. Let ’em tell it to Hannity. He loves that sort of crap. (She)  is obviously an elitist ne’er-do-well snob who, for lack of real work, spends her waking hours trolling progressive sites like yours, looking to pick fights with folks like me, thinking her silly and childish retorts will somehow make her seem like a real force to be reckoned with, when, in fact, she comes off merely reaffirming to the world that she really is the jerk she appears to be. Why, John, why?

He asks “why?” The answer is pretty straightforward.

I consider this blog to be a forum for the free expression of ideas. I distribute it along a number of social media platforms; Facebook gives High Plains Blogger its greatest exposure. I long have followed the policy of declining to block anyone simply because I disagree with their view. I’ll admit, though, to some trouble with Facebook becoming so political. I like it as a sort of social media gathering place where people at varying levels of “friendship” can talk among themselves about their lives, or about life in general.

Politics at times poisons that interaction. Indeed, my blog has cost me some friendships over the years. We’ve gotten entangled in some angry discussions about this and/or that. One fellow “unfriended” me from Facebook over a snit, which tells me he didn’t regard our friendship as greatly as I did. I regret it, but as they saying goes: It is what it is.

Thus, I don’t intend to block individuals from expression themselves. After all, I use social media to distribute my own world view to the world. Doesn’t it seem more than a little presumptuous to block someone simply on the basis of a political disagreement?

It’s a big ol’ world out there. Let ’em squawk.

Donald J. Trump: RINO or real thing?

Republican In Name Only.

That’s intended to be a pejorative term for politicians who portray themselves as Republicans but who in the eyes of the true believers aren’t the real thing.

I bring it up as I ponder the relationship that Donald J. Trump has within the ranks of the Republican Party, under whose banner he was elected president of the United States.

The president has embraced the Republican congressional leadership’s version of health care overhaul — that is, if you can figure precisely what it is about it that appeals to him.

The true believers within the GOP might argue that Trump doesn’t believe in anything. In today’s world, the term “true believer” seems to apply only to those on the far right. They are the likes of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, tax reform activist Grover Norquist, radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh … those types.

The president doesn’t fit into that category of Republican, from what I can discern. He campaigned for his office promising to leave Medicaid alone and to provide health insurance for every American at a cost they can afford; he says he wants to spend $1 trillion-plus to rebuild the nation’s highways and airports; he formerly gave lots of money to Democrats and once considered Bill and Hillary Clinton to be his friends.

I have many Republican friends who do not consider any of those examples to be of their liking.

I’ll clear the air for a moment on one point. My own distaste for Trump as president lies simply in the notion that his lengthy and successful business history didn’t translate into the kind of man I want to be president. His reputation and public persona are anathema — in my view — to the kind of person I want representing the country I love so deeply. Trump’s absolute ignorance of politics, public policy, and the mechanics of governance — and his seeming unwillingness to admit to what he doesn’t know — is frightening in the extreme. Then there’s his view of this nation as it relates to the rest of the world; enough said on that.

Trump’s entire adult life has been focused on one thing only: personal enrichment. You can throw in self-aggrandizement, too, if you wish.

Donald Trump is a RINO according to what I believe is the definition of the term.

That makes it so very hard for me to grasp what this guy intends to do with the nation — with my nation  — he took an oath to protect.

Obamas’ vacation now a matter to criticize? Wow!

I thought this was a satirical item when I first saw it, but apparently it’s for real.

Fox News Channel contributors are criticizing the vacation destinations of Barack and Michelle Obama. Yes, that would be the former president and former first lady of the United States, two individuals who now are private citizens … more or less.

According to The Hill: Citing “travel experts,” it said that “the level of luxury the Obamas enjoy on their vacations is unprecedented for a modern-day president.”

Here is how The Hill reported it.

Fox asked Patrick Caddell, former pollster and policy adviser to President Carter, about his view of it. Caddell described the Obamas’ vacation destinations as being like the “lifestyles of the rich and famous.” They’ve been to Bali and to luxury resorts in Hawaii, which I guess doesn’t go down well with those who work at Fox.

I won’t belabor this point, but Fox News is quite friendly to Donald J. Trump. Since I don’t routinely watch Fox News, I am reluctant to draw conclusions about its coverage of the president’s pricey excursions to his own resort in Florida. Is the network as hard-nosed in its examination of the current president as it appears to be of his immediate predecessor? You decide.

The difference is that the Obamas are footing their own bill for their vacation; the Trumps are vacationing on our dime.

Therefore, I believe Barack and Michelle Obama are entitled to vacation wherever they damn well please.

Who’s telling the truth, GOP or Democratic Senate leader?

I am certain today that I heard two diametrically opposed statements come from the mouths of the U.S. Senate’s top partisan leaders.

The Senate was going to vote this week on a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act; then Senate Republicans said “no.” There won’t be a vote just yet. They balked because they don’t have the votes to approve it. They might not get the votes, either.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican, said categorically that Democrats “aren’t interested” in working with Republicans to craft a new health care insurance bill.

There. We have that statement.

Less than an hour later, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat, told reporters that Democrats “want to work” with Republicans.

OK. Who’s telling the truth? McConnell said Democrats aren’t interested. Schumer said the exact opposite.

I guess it depends on the partisan bias of those who heard the statements. McConnell said it in front of fellow Republicans; Schumer made his declaration in front of fellow Democrats.

I tend to believe Schumer. I would be my hope that Democrats would be willing to huddle with their GOP “friends” in the hope of finding some common ground with regard to what McConnell called a “complicated” piece of legislation.

The Senate will take up this matter after the Fourth of July recess.

As Lyndon Johnson would say, “Let us reason together.”

Trumpcare in trouble … put on hold

Trumpcare is in trouble. There’s no way to spin this any differently.

Nine Senate Republicans are now on the record that they oppose their party leadership’s version of the alternative to the Affordable Care Act. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is as adept at tea-leaf reading as anyone in Washington, delayed the vote on the GOP plan until after the Fourth of July recess.

I live out here in Flyover Country, in the heart of Trump Land, where the president polled something like 80 percent over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

But my gut tells me that rank-and-file Trumpkins are none too happy about what the GOP Senate leadership has come up with.

We’ve got a lot of folks out here who depend on Medicaid to cover the cost of medical care. The GOP plan guts Medicaid. A lot of those same folks voted for Donald J. Trump on his promise that he wouldn’t touch Medicaid, or Medicare, and would ensure a better, cheaper, more efficient health insurance plan than the one provided by the ACA. He isn’t delivering the goods, based on what the House of Representatives has approved and what’s on the table in the Senate.

Republicans can afford to lose just two votes in order to approve a Senate version of Trumpcare. They hold a 52-48 majority in the Senate; two “no” votes means Vice President Pence casts the tie-breaking vote to approve Trumpcare.

McConnell said today that Democrats have no intention of working with Republicans to craft an ACA replacement. Really!

How about this, Mr. Majority Leader? How about agreeing to preserve the good aspects of the ACA and work to improve those elements that need work? I’ve heard Democrats say they would be willing to with Republicans to mend the ACA. One of them happened to be the former president, Barack H. Obama, who has said repeatedly that if Republicans can improve the ACA he’d be willing to work with them.

Obama is out of office now. Republicans are in complete charge. They control Congress and the White House. They had eight years to come up with a reasonable alternative to the ACA. They dickered, dawdled and dissed the Democrats for that entire time and then came up with a plan that cannot please enough Republicans to make it law.

Cue music. The dance goes on.

Tex Randall gets a plaque

Tex Randall has joined a lengthy list of roadside attractions that now have the imprimatur of the Texas Historical Commission.

I’ll refer to him as “Tex,” given his size.

Tex happens to be a statue that looms over U.S. Highway 60 in Canyon, Texas. The Historical Commission has unveiled a historical plaque that takes particular note of Tex’s significance to the Texas Panhandle.

Tex stands 47 feet tall. He weighs about 7 tons. He’s been standing alongside the highway since the 1950s. He recently received an extreme makeover. He got whitewashed and his limbs were strengthened. Then he got a fresh coat of paint depicting some new duds.

I certainly like the idea of putting a historical marker next to Tex.

I had the pleasure of writing a series of stories for KFDA NewsChannel 10 about these historical markers. Texas has tens of thousands of them along many thousands of miles of highway. I was able to learn about the Battle of Adobe Walls, Charles Goodnight, Woody Guthrie and a whole host of other events and colorful characters who helped shape the Panhandle’s history.

OK, so Tex isn’t a real guy. He’s just a gangly statue. However, he’s seen by a lot of people every day as they pass through Canyon. According to KVII-ABC7: “Texas has the largest historic recognition program in the country,” said Richard Bowers, Chairman of Randall County Historic Commission. “They’re to recognize important historical sites or where events occurred within the state and to be an arm of education for those outside and for our own people.”

Here’s the story.

I’m going to make a point of stopping at the marker next time I pass through Canyon to learn about Tex Randall’s historical significance to the region.

Stand tall, Tex!

Housing allowance? Don’t think so, Rep. Chaffetz

Jason Chaffetz is about to walk away from his public service job as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Before he goes, he is leaving with a parting gift in the form of an idea that fellow House members ought to reject out of hand. Chaffetz thinks Congress should enact a $2,500 monthly housing allowance for its members. It would give members of the House and Senate a little bit of financial cushion to enable them to live like normal human beings.

I don’t think so, young man.

Chaffetz earns $175,000 annually to serve his Utah congressional district constituents. It’s a handsome salary to be sure. However, during his time in office, Chaffetz decided to perform a bit of a publicity stunt by sleeping on a couch in his office, rather than renting an apartment/condo/flat somewhere like many other members of Congress.

As The Hill reports: “A $2,500 monthly allowance would cost taxpayers about $30,000 a year per lawmaker, or roughly $16 million a year for all 535 members.”

That’s a lot of money

I’ll stipulate that $16 million doesn’t measure up when compared to the size of the federal government budget. It’s not even significant compared to the size of the annual budget deficit, let alone the national debt. It’s still 16 million bucks. Boil that down to terms as they relate to me — and perhaps most of you who are reading this post — then we’re talking about some real money.

Again, according to The Hill: (His idea) “would allow the non-millionaires to participate and you would be able to have your spouse join you here,” said Chaffetz, 50, who’s spent 1,500 nights away from his wife and children during his eight-plus years in Congress. “If I wasn’t buying as many airline tickets, it would ultimately be less expensive.”

I wish the Utah Republican well as he embarks on a new career and life, reportedly as a “contributor” to the Fox News Channel. He represents a political party, though, that prides itself on personal responsibility and fiscal prudence.

Tossing potentially another $16 million a year at Congress to create what amounts to a public housing fund for well-compensated lawmakers, though, strays a bit too far from the GOP’s long-standing tradition.

CNN does that rare deed: retracts a story

CNN officials don’t need me to take up the cudgel for them, but I’ll do so anyway.

The news outlet has just done something quite rare in journalism. It has retracted a story it broadcast. There was no mere “correction” or “clarification.” CNN took it all back. Moreover, the principals involved in the bogus story have resigned; they well likely would have been fired by the network.

I mention this because of the Twitter tirade that Donald John Trump has launched against the network. The president calls CNN “fake news”; he says the network’s ratings are plummeting; he is castigating CNN for the story that was broadcast.

Trump unloads on CNN

The president is an angry man! Then again, he’s always angry when the media are involved. Am I right?

The CNN story alleged that a close Trump ally was tied to a Russian investment fund that the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee is investigating. The story is false. CNN admitted its mistake, took it off its website, accepted the resignations of the reporter, editor and producer involved in the story.

My experience in journalism — which totaled nearly four decades — tells me that CNN acted responsibly in reaction to the mistake it made. Do I know whether the story was published with a willful intent to do harm to the president? No I don’t.

I do know, though, that for a media organization to retract a story means that it has acknowledged an egregious error. And, yes, by golly, journalists — those fallible human beings — do make mistakes.

That won’t stop conservatives, though, from unloading on the “mainstream media,” a term that has become a four-letter word among those who detest the media.

The simple truth, though, is that CNN acted responsibly and with integrity in taking back a report it learned to be untrue.

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