Tag Archives: ACA

Unity remains a distant goal

Donald Trump vowed to deliver a speech this past week that would “unify” the nation.

It didn’t happen. He didn’t deliver. His State of the Union speech was met with disdain from roughly half of the room in which he spoke and about the same percentage from Americans at large, those of us who watched the speech from far away, on our TV screens.

It now begs the question: How are we ever going to be unified?

I believe it starts with the president of the United States.

We have one individual with a political constituency comprising the entire nation: it’s the president (and yes, you can include the vice president, too, given that these individuals run as a ticket).

But the president stands behind the bully pulpit. He is the one we listen to. He is the one with the message, the policy, the principles we look for. The president also is the one who is capable of delivering the message of unity.

It’s been one year and about two weeks since Donald Trump took the oath as president. How much has he done to unify the nation?

Practically nothing!

He blasts congressional Democrats for failing to cast any votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The president ignores — he didn’t forget — that not a single Republican cast any votes to approve the ACA back in 2010.

Trump continues to pound away at the media, calling journalists the “enemy of the American people.” He undermines the media for reporting what he calls “fake news.” He plays directly to the base of supporters that continues to support him — no matter what!

The president uttered that hideous assertion that white supremacists/Nazis/Klansmen comprise “fine people.” Who in the world actually believes that utter crap — other than the president?

At his State of the Union speech, the president uttered a remarkably divisive comment, declaring that “Americans are dreamers, too.” How does someone who proposes to unify the country poke his proverbial finger in the eye of those U.S. residents who were brought here illegally as children but who want to forge a path toward legal residency and even U.S. citizenship?

How can we reach a unified state? It must begin with the president. It’s the president who must set the tone.

It is not enough to declare your intention to unify a badly divided nation. It is incumbent on the head of state to deliver unity in the form of rhetoric that seeks to calm the storm.

The unity that Donald Trump proclaims he wants remains far in the distance. My fear is that this president is incapable of getting us to that point. He cannot function in such an environment.

Didn’t hear much ‘unity,’ Mr. President

I awoke this morning during a lunar eclipse. But the sun rose in the east — just as it has done since the beginning of time.

However, I don’t believe I awoke to a country more “unified” after last night’s presidential State of the Union speech, which I watched from start to finish.

The president said his speech would “unify” the nation. Judging from what I witnessed on my TV screen, I didn’t see a unified joint congressional session. Republicans stood repeatedly. Democrats sat on their hands.

Is that somehow different? Is it unique to this president in this time? Not at all! Republicans sat on their hands when Presidents Clinton and Obama spoke to them, just as Democrats did during President Bush’s two terms (the president’s post-9/11 speech notwithstanding, when everyone was cheering his rallying cry to a grieving nation).

Donald Trump’s urging of unity was supplanted by mentioning tax cuts, the repealing of the mandates required by the Affordable Care Act, the battle over immigration and construction of “the wall,” the appointment of a new Supreme Court justice. Divisiveness, anyone?

The president took office in the aftermath of arguably the most contentious, bitter campaigns in the past century. He took charge of a nation divided sharply over his election — and it hasn’t gotten any less divided in the year since he took office.

If the congressional response we witnessed Tuesday night on Capitol Hill is indicative of the nation those men and women represent, well, the president has a lot more work ahead of him.

Dear Mr. (Former) President …

We’ve entered the month that will mark the first year of the start of Donald John Trump’s term as president.

That day will occur on the 20th of January.

I thought I would mark that event a bit early with an open letter to the man he succeeded as president of the United States.

It goes like this:

***

Dear Barack:

I hope it’s OK if I call you by your first name, now that you’re no longer president.

As you know, it’s been a rough and rowdy year since you, your wife and daughters lifted off the White House lawn and took up status as private citizens.

I just wanted you to know a few things.

First, I wish you were still on the job. Yes, I know that you were anxious to leave. I also know you and your lovely wife chafed at times at being under the world’s microscope 24/7. But that’s what you signed on for when you took the oath twice. Still, I don’t begrudge you for being glad to be sleeping in, going where you want when you want and not being held to airtight scheduling.

I was proud to vote twice for you. You inspired me, even though I’m a good bit older than you are. You made me almost as proud of those two votes as I was the first time I voted for president in 1972. I cast that vote for George McGovern. It didn’t work out well that year for my guy. In 2008 and again in 2012, I was proud to count my votes among the 135 million ballots you collected in your two winning campaigns.

I know you get lots of these kinds of notes. I hope you see this one.

It’s been tough to watch your successor struggle just learning how to act presidential. To your immense credit, you had none of that kind of on-the-job  training. Then again, you at least brought some knowledge of government when you took the oath the first time.

I can’t let this opportunity pass without acknowledging that you weren’t the perfect president. You made some mistakes. I am particularly chagrined that you drew the “red line” in Syria, but then didn’t act on it when the Syrian military crossed the line and used chemical weapons on their citizens.

The Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect. It needs fixing. At least you had the guts to say as much and offered to work with congressional Republicans to improve it. They weren’t having any of that. Shame on them.

That’s all water over the dam. You’re now in private life. I am glad for you. But damn, I sure wish there was a way we could get you back.

With that, young man, I’ll offer this final thought.

Yes, we did! Well done, Mr. President.

Mend, don’t end the Affordable Care Act

Donald Trump believes congressional Republicans and Democrats are going to find a way to craft a new national health care insurance plan.

That’s a bold prediction, Mr. President, given the record so far.

GOP and Democratic lawmakers couldn’t agree on the time of day, let alone a fix to the Affordable Care Act. The president didn’t help any search for common ground, mainly because he couldn’t articulate any reasonable alternatives to the ACA. Congress tried twice to “repeal and replace” the ACA, but face-planted over arguments over the cost — and the impact any replacement would have on Americans’ future health insurance availability.

I continue to believe that a total repeal of the ACA is unnecessary and draconian. Millions of Americans now have health insurance who couldn’t afford it before. Every alleged alternative to the ACA has been deemed too harsh and too punitive.

I share the thoughts of many analysts who say that if Medicare and Social Security — to other landmark legislative achievements — can be tinkered and tweaked to make them necessary to Americans’ way of life, so can the ACA.

Whether the president’s prediction comes true will depend on whether Republicans — who want desperately to remove Barack Obama’s name from this achievement — are willing to improve the ACA, rather than destroy it.

Mend it. Don’t end the Affordable Care Act.

Federal government is broken

Take a look at this picture. It shows the president of the United States declaring victory in the effort to enact a significant tax cut.

The men and women behind him? They’re all Republican lawmakers. You won’t see a Democrat in the bunch. Congressional Democrats opposed the tax cut. They say it favors the rich and hurts the middle class. Republicans see the cuts as spurring business growth, creating more jobs, giving the economy a necessary kick in the rear end.

The picture also — to me, at least — depicts a government that does not work. We’re being governed by the party in power. They are shoving legislation down our throats. They are suggesting that since they can grip the gavel, there’s no need to heed the wishes of those Democrats who just are crybabies still bemoaning the loss of a presidential election they thought was in the bag for their candidate.

Fairness requires me to say this: Democrats did much the same thing in 2010 when they were in control of Congress and the White House. They passed the Affordable Care Act with zero Republican votes in either chamber of Congress.

My point is this: Good government requires both parties to search for common ground. I much prefer to see photo ops with presidents signing legislation into law with leaders of both parties surrounding them. The president hands out pens as he signs the bill to individuals who were instrumental in enacting the law. They go to members of both major parties who are sharing in the president’s reflected glory.

President Lyndon Johnson had many political allies among Republicans; President Richard Nixon could say the same about Democrats — until he got into serious political trouble; Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush could rely on pols from the opposing parties when the chips were down.

We didn’t see bipartisan joy when Barack H. Obama signed the ACA into law. We won’t see it when Donald J. Trump signs the tax cut bill.

This is not how government should work.

Sad.

What? They haven’t read the tax cut bill? Shocking!

Congressional Republicans got all over congressional Democrats for their alleged failure to “read the Affordable Care Act” before enacting it into law in 2010.

So, what’s been the GOP response? They’ve done precisely the same thing with regard to the tax cut that’s about to become law.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who famously said he didn’t want to blow up the budget deficit with the tax cut, now says he favors it. He also admits to not yet reading the bill before changing his mind.

How is it that it’s OK for one side to do the thing they castigate the other side of doing?

Democrats, to be fair, need to be mindful of their criticism of Republicans’ failure to know the nitty-gritty details of the bill they’re about to approve.

Politics ain’t pretty, man. Neither is legislating. Someone once compared legislating to sausage-making. It’s messy, a bit grimy and greasy at times and it requires those we elect to legislate to do their homework.

Democrats and Republicans are afflicted with the same malady: laziness that gives way to political expediency.

Does the GOP serve the public … or itself?

First it was the Republican-led initiative to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with an unknown alternative.

Americans weren’t having any part of that cluster-flip. The ACA repeal/replace effort fizzled and failed.

Now the GOP leadership in Congress is trying to enact a massive tax cut. How is that plan faring in the world of public opinion? Not much better than the ACA repeal effort.

So now congressional Republicans are poised to send a tax cut to Donald J. Trump’s desk. The president will sign it. It’ll become law before the end of the year. Every Republican in Congress will declare victory.

But is this what Americans really want? Some critical analysis is reporting that middle-class Americans won’t get a permanent tax break, while corporations and gazillionaires will get longterm tax relief. It’s also going to add more than a trillion dollars to the budget deficit over the next decade. Aren’t Republicans supposed to be “deficit hawks”?

Thus, public opinion appears to be lined up against this tax overhaul.

So … why do the men and women in command of the legislative and executive branches of government insist that this tax cut is going to answer all our prayers?

I keep wondering if these political leaders represent the interests of all Americans or just those who have sway over the policies being enacted.

Mitch McConnell: partisan powerhouse

Oh, how I wanted to give U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell the benefit of the doubt.

I didn’t like the way he stonewalled Barack Obama’s choice for the Supreme Court after Antonin Scalia died in 2016. Then he turned around and said all the right things about Roy Moore, the religious zealot — who also has been accused of sexually abusing girls; McConnell said Moore is unfit to serve in the Senate and he wanted him to end his candidacy.

Now the Republican from Kentucky is showing who he really is: a partisan powerhouse hack.

He doesn’t want to wait for Alabama U.S. Sen.-elect Doug Jones — the Democrat who beat Moore this week in that special election — to take his seat before voting on the GOP-authored tax cut bill. Moore is a certain “no” vote on the bill.

But wait! Seven years ago, a Republican was elected to the Senate from Massachusetts and McConnell insisted that the Senate wait for Scott Brown to take his seat before voting on whether to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Which is it, Mr. Majority Leader? Is it right for one party to gum up the works, but not for the other party?

I refer to McConnell’s successful obstruction of President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the high court for a reason as well. McConnell wanted to hold off on confirming a Supreme Court pick until after the 2016 election. He was hoping Donald Trump would defeat Hillary Clinton, even though almost no one thought he would. His gamble paid off.

However, while obstructing the president, he accused Democrats of “playing politics” with the nomination by insisting that Judge Garland get a hearing and a vote. I trust you see the irony in that statement, as McConnell was “playing politics” like the master politician he has proven to be.

Now the Senate Republican majority is poised to foist a tax cut that will explode the federal budget deficit on Americans; analyses suggest it will benefit the wealthiest Americans while burdening the rest of us. But that’s OK, says Mitch. Bring it on!

Don’t wait for a duly elected Democrat to take his seat. We gotta get this bill to the president’s desk because we’re desperate for a win.

Oh, and never mind what he said before about Sen.-elect Brown. Hey, if Americans can ignore what the president says about his political foes, surely they’ll give McConnell a pass on his brazen duplicity.

GOP repays Democrats with ham-handed strategy

Do you remember the days when congressional Republicans accused congressional Democrats of ramming legislation through without consulting them?

They were angry, man! Barack H. Obama wanted to enact sweeping health care insurance reform. He reached out to Republicans. They were having none of it. So the Democratic president turned to his allies in Capitol Hill.

Why, that just infuriated Republicans.

The GOP’s response once they took control of Capitol Hill? How did the Republicans decide to legislate when one of their guys, Donald Trump, was elected president?

They chose to do the same thing. They sought to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with something else. They had no Democrats on board with that fight. The ACA repeal-and-replace effort failed.

Donald Trump just had to have a legislative victory. So he turned to tax overhaul.

Here we are. Both legislative chambers have approved versions of a tax overhaul bill, except that it was done with a Republican-only majority. The debate has been joined, with both sides arguing from across the room at each other. It’s going to blow up the federal budget deficit, which Republicans used to hate; Democrats say the rich will get a break, while middle-class Americans get the shaft.

Thus, we have more of precisely the same kind of ham-handed bullying that Republicans alleged against Democrats.

As the fictional philosopher Tonto once told The Lone Ranger: Two wrongs don’t make a right.

Senate GOP makes yet another run at the ACA

Here we go … again!

U.S. Senate Republicans have come up with a scheme to pay for the big tax cut they’re trying to enact that involves the Affordable Care Act. They want to repeal the individual mandate portion of the ACA, which they say will save more than $300 billion over the next decade.

The savings would be used to pay for the tax cuts being pitched for many wealthy Americans.

This is so very maddening, in my ever-so-humble view.

Congress trying again to repeal ACA

Congress has been unable to repeal the ACA and replace it. The president has been unable push his Republican pals across the finish line. They have tried and failed since long before Donald Trump took office as president of the United States.

Now comes this bit of Senate trickery: attach the individual mandate repeal to a tax cut they say would jumpstart the economy. Moreover, is anyone on Capitol Hill or the White House worried any longer about the national debt and our annual budget deficit, which economists say are going to explode under the GOP tax cut?

I want to make a couple of points.

One is that the economy is rocking along just fine. The U.S. Labor Department announced earlier this month that non-farm payrolls jumped by 260,000 jobs in October; the unemployment rate is at its lowest rate in 17 years. Not bad, man!

Two, enrollment for the ACA is moving along at a brisk pace. Hundreds of thousands more Americans signed up for insurance when open enrollment began at the beginning of the month, despite the president’s efforts to undermine the ACA.

I remain totally opposed to any wholesale repeal of the ACA. I continue to insist that it can be improved. It can be made more affordable. 

Removing the individual mandate — which requires Americans to purchase health insurance or face a penalty — is certain to do one thing: It will toss millions of Americans off the rolls of the insured.

How is that supposed to help?