Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Disunity, Election Losses Dim Prospects for GOP Tax Reform

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump.
Scott Applewhite/The Associated Press

For those who accept that the best way to cut the federal deficit is to cut federal spending, congressional delays in rolling out tax reform legislation that would actually do either make it clear Republicans simply don’t have the ways or the means. As CNBC’s analysis puts the latest delays in presenting a Senate version of tax legislation, “You don't need a crystal ball to predict that whether the GOP tax reform bill passes or not, these policies will doom many Republican candidates in the 2018 elections and perhaps beyond. Ignoring a conservative base that has for decades demanded lower taxes and spending cuts is disastrous.”
Results of Nov 7 Midterm elections in general suggest dissatisfaction with the GOP “establishment” only added to a mounting consensus that the Republican-led Congress in both houses is already proving itself unable to agree on any significant legislation, even discounting Democrat involvement. The conservative Breitbart Website, whose godfather, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, hopes to undo the mainstream GOP, summarized, “Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie’s loss to Ralph Northam represents a repudiation of the Republican establishment; Gillespie lost by more points than Donald Trump and Ken Cuccinelli.” Trump lost Virginia to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election by 5.4 points, with 44.4 percent of the vote. In the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial election, Republican nominee Ken Cuccinelli lost to Democrat Terry McAuliffe by a 2.5 percent margin.”
Gillespie, long a party loyalist, declined Trump’s support, while campaigning on some standard Trump themes. He defended Confederate memorials, vilified Central American gangs in ads that looked like horror movies and even denounced the kneeling protests of professional football players. At the polls, however, Republicans lost all the way down the ticket. A Democratic transgender candidate unseated a conservative in Prince William County. The Republican whip in the House of Delegates lost to a self-identified democratic socialist. And Republicans found themselves shut out of the top statewide offices, again.
Such an upset, pundits say, does not bode well for congressional Republicans looking to the 2018 midterms, nor does it make prospects brighter for unity on what would once have been a familiar GOP formula on taxing and spending. One reason for the pessimism is that once-predictable wealthy donors to the party are impatient with the GOP-led government’s failure to post a single significant legislative victory in the year since President Trump was elected.
Dan Eberhart, CEO of Canary LLC, an oilfield services company, is among donors who have stopped writing checks to the National Republican Senate Committee – the main fundraising campaign for Senate Republicans. Instead, according to the New York Post, he’s been meeting with Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist, who is courting GOP primary challengers to blow up the establishment of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Disunity is already making it unlikely McConnell and mainstream followers can keep a promised Christmas deadline for tax reform, even though another bill they’ve had years to work on is being unveiled this week as a work in progress. There are numerous reasons why tax reform could. There’s the two-seat GOP majority in the Senate, a president whose focus, according to tweets, lies wedged between the Robert Mueller Russia investigation and multiple Hillary Clinton outrages. There are policy differences on tax preferences and deductions that bedevil the bill writers, and there are divisions between Republicans bending to the populist will of the new Party of Trump versus old-school conservatives still vowing to shrink the government, cut spending, and reduce the debt.
Yet the reason a bill of some kind still could become law is that failure would present an existential threat to the GOP. “If we don’t pass tax reform, the image voters will have next November is of a Republican Party in disarray and a federal government that’s a mess,” said Al Cardenas, former chairman of the American Conservative Union. Some Republicans are trying to warn Trump that failure on tax reform will lead not only to the loss of their governing majority but to his own impeachment.

Even before the bill was rolled out, an NBC/Wall Street Journal survey at the end of October found broad disfavor with its proposals.
The fundamental problem with the GOP proposals so far is simply the math of seeking to spend more while cutting the taxation resources of revenue to pay for the increased spending. That has been tried before, and the current federal budget is still burdened by the failed attempt. Here are some highlights of the proposals so far:
Seven individual tax brackets would be reduced to four brackets — 12 percent, 25 percent, 35 percent, and the current top rate of 39.6 percent remaining in place for the very wealthy.
Corporate taxes would drop from 35 percent to 20 percent permanently.
Standard deduction would increase from $6,350 to $12,000 for individuals and from $12,700 to $24,000 for married couples.
Child tax credit would expand from $1,000 to $1,600.
Federal deductions for state and local income and sales taxes would be eliminated, but local property taxes would be deductible up to $10,000.
No changes to limits on 401(k) pretax contributions.
Alternative minimum tax would be repealed.
Estate tax would kick in at $11.2 million, up from $5.49 million, but it would be fully repealed as of 2024.
Corporate profits from overseas would no longer be taxed, but there would be a minimum 10 percent tax on foreign subsidiaries.
The plan leaves intact a top individual tax rate of 39.6 percent to address criticism that the cuts are unduly favorable to the rich. The bill would raise the income threshold at which the top tax rate would apply to $500,000 for singles and $1 million for couples. In a boost for the wealthy, the plan also eliminates the alternative minimum tax and phases out the estate tax over a period of six years.
Polling shows the tax reform push is not as popular with voters as it is at the White House and the Capitol. A new NBC/Wall Street Journal survey found only 25 percent of respondents think the GOP plan is a good idea, while 35 percent think it's a bad idea and 40 percent have no opinion. Hardly a groundswell.

CNBC’s summation of Senate GOP tax reform legislation being stalled is here.
Conservative political Web resource Breitbart’s election analysis is here.
The Washington Posts’ report on the Virginia election outcome is here.
The New York Post’s report on frustration of wealthy GOP donors is here.
The NPR report on what’s actually in the GOP’s tax proposals is here.
The Washington Post’s report on an influential think tank pulling it’s analysis of the GOP’s tax proposals is here.
NBC’s report on public opinion of the GOP’s tax proposals is here.
Results of the NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey on tax reform, in PDF format, are here.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

America's Political Divide Wider Than Ever, Pew Finds

Demonstrators clash outside a Donald Trump rally during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Chris Detrick/The Salt Lake Tribune

Americans have never been more divided along partisan lines as they are now, according to the most recent Pew Research Center study, which found the divergence on most issues has widened even more during the first year of the Donald Trump presidency.
Democrats and Republicans disagree most sharply on questions of race, immigration, and the role of government in helping poor and needy Americans. At the same time, the two parties have grown more ideologically homogenous and more hostile toward the positions of people supporting the opposing party.
This particular Pew study has been conducted since 1994, asking 10 questions on “political values” — such things as government regulations, racial discrimination, and attitudes about government benefits for the poor. The average gap between self-identified Democrats and Republicans on these questions was 15 points in the initial survey. In the latest, conducted in June and July this year, the gap grew to 36 points, up from 33 percent in 2014.
“Partisan divides across political values … [are] wider than at any point in the past,” said Jocelyn Kiley, the associate director for research at the Pew Research Center.
As pointed out in The Atlantic’s report on the survey findings, the widening of the partisan opinion gap is a continuation of a trend, Trump’s presidency hasn’t ushered in a new era of intense political polarization so much as it has opened a new chapter in an increasingly polarized political time, showing public opinion remains more divided along partisan lines than along the lines of race, religion, age, gender, and educational background.

Results of the Pew Research surveys upon which the summary is based are here.
Pew Research’s synopsis of the key points in its survey findings is here.
The Atlantic’s story on the Pew Research findings is here.
The NPR story on the survey is here.
The Politico report on the Pew survey is here.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Trump’s Dumps Likely To Backfire

A protester confronts a line of riot police who had
earlier used tear gas to disperse a crowd outside an
Aug. 22 Trump campaign-style rally in Phoenix.

Matthew Lively, The Republic |

President Keeps Taunting Lawmakers He Should Be Courting

Donald Trump, the most unpopular president in American history, helicoptered off to Camp David for the weekend leaving behind a fresh array of divisive, distracting “news dumps,” perhaps in hope they would fade into the background of the potentially more important concern over the impact of Hurricane Harvey on the Gulf Coast in Texas and Louisiana. Although hardly a day has passed since Jan. 20 that Trump has not controlled headlines, the need for clearheaded focus on the fate of the nation becomes more urgent within the coming week, ahead of the post-Labor Day return of Congress on Sept. 5.
As Category 4 Harvey, the first hurricane to make landfall in more than a decade zeroed in on Texas (before being downgraded overnight to a tropical storm), Trump's White House applied what has become a classic Washington tradition: the Friday news dump:
An executive order to the Department of Defense to implement a ban on transgender servicemembers.
An official pardon of 85-year-old convicted serial human rights abuser Joe Arpaio of Arizona.
Firing discredited and utterly unqualified anti-Muslim “adviser” and former Fox News talking head Sebastian Gorka.
There were also reports that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and his team have issued subpoenas for officials with ties to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to testify to a grand jury, and North Korea apparently resumed firing long-range missiles. If the president hoped the storylines he personally created would be swallowed up in the storm, he didn’t count on the quick response from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York), who slammed the news dump as "so sad, so weak."
"As millions of people in TX and LA are prepping for the hurricane, the President is using the cover of the storm to pardon a man who violated a court's order to stop discriminating against Latinos and ban courageous transgender men and women from serving our nation's Armed Forces," Schumer wrote in a series of tweets. "The only reason to do these right now is to use the cover of Hurricane Harvey to avoid scrutiny."
Even before the latest hits, Trump had set the stage for what is expected to be a rough time on Capitol Hill after a flurry of insulting tweets and comments about key members of his own party, threatening a government shutdown over funding for his “great wall” along the border with Mexico at a campaign-style rally in Phoenix, and in random tweets, in which he took potshots at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc). Trump accused both of botching efforts so far to increase the debt ceiling and avoid a government shutdown that could lead to a federal default on government obligations this fall. The president also is tangling with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who has expressed doubt about Trump's competence and stability. Trump crowded still more lies into his Arizona rally ramblings, including a threefold exaggeration of the size of his audience.
So far, Trump has avoided any real involvement in spelling out his legislative wishes regarding healthcare, tax reform, the federal budget and the imminent prospect of federal default. Nor has he defined how he expects Congress to pay for his long-promised wall, which members on both sides of the aisle insist is a nonstarter issue. Top White House aides are pushing Trump to protect “dreamers,” young people brought into the country illegally as children – and then use the issue as a bargaining chip for a larger immigration deal in exchange for legislation that pays for a border wall and more detention facilities, curbs legal immigration and implements E-verify, an online system that allows businesses to check immigration status, according to a half-dozen people familiar with the situation. Congressional Democrats flatly insist there will be no such deal.
Since 2015, the Treasury Department has used emergency measures to delay a default. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said he will run out of options on Sept. 29, meaning the Treasury Department could miss a payment if Congress doesn’t raise the debt ceiling in time. Although McConnell and Ryan have pledged there will be no default, they haven’t detailed how they intend to fulfill that promise.
Trump is also vocal about frustrations over the failure of Congress to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, which he calls a disaster, and continues to tweet complaints that Republicans in Congress haven’t worked hard enough to protect him from various investigations into possible collusion between his 2016 campaign and Russia to influence the election. He has threatened to support GOP primary challengers against Republican legislators who defy or criticize him, among them Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona).
Trump also remains deeply frustrated that legislators from both parties say he still has not been strong and clear enough in his condemnation of white supremacists following the deadly rally in Charlottesville, VA, earlier this month. After business executives resigned from two White House advisory councils because of Trump’s tepid response to the violence in Charlottesville, Trump disbanded both.

Most Disliked President Ever

In the Saturday, Aug. 26, edition of Newsweek, Tim Marcin wrote, “No president in the history of modern polling had an approval rating so poor at this point in his tenure, according to FiveThirtyEight's tracker, though Gerald Ford was quite close. His approval rating was 37.4 percent on day 218 of his presidency, just 0.2 percentage points better than Trump's on Friday. It's worth noting that Ford's popularity plummeted after he pardoned his predecessor, Richard Nixon, who resigned in disgrace following the Watergate scandal. It was a widely condemned move at the time, but perceptions have since shifted and it is now largely seen as a brave decision that helped the country heal.”

The CNN report on Trump’s “Friday news dump” is here.
The NBC News report of federal grand jury subpoenas for Trump-related officials is here.
The NPR report on renewed North Korean missile launches is here.
The U.S. News & World Report summary of Trump’s feud with members of Congress is here.
The Washington Post report on legislative priorities looming in September is here.
The MSNBC report on a sought-after trade of protection for qualified children of undocumented immigrants for funding for a border wall and other immigration reform is here.

Newsweek reports “Polls Show Trump, the Least Popular President Ever, Is Seeing His Approval Rating Sink to an All-Time Low,” here.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Trump Seeks To Undo Social Contract

Mass military demonstration in Pyongyang, North Korea’s capitol. North Korea, with a population just over 21 million, claims a 10-million member army, including reservists, and a rapidly advancing nuclear missile capability, already tested several times this year.
KCNA via The Sun (London)

A beaming Kim Jong-un receives a congratulatory hug from a North Korean Army senior general following a successful ICBM test in March.
KCNA via The Sun (London)

Trump Escalates Rhetoric Amid Multiple Distractions
Donald Trump’s escalation on Thursday, Aug. 10, of his ad lib threat to rain down “fire and fury” on North Korea have suddenly and dramatically devalued American diplomacy, especially in U.S. dealings with dictator Kim Jon-un. As concerning as an actual military confrontation between the United States and North Korea may be, however, it is, as with many things under this president, a distraction from the awful, rapid, systematic dismantling of a bipartisan framework of federal rules and regulations underpinning America’s social contract – the most fundamental concept of our government.
As The Los Angeles Times pointed out, “Trump’s threats against North Korea have highlighted as never before the tension between the president’s duties as chief executive and the role he often seems to prefer as the country’s highest-profile TV and Internet commentator.
Despite Trump’s blustery warning of “fire and fury,” warships are not known to be moving toward the Korean peninsula, a tactic deliberately publicized during previous tense times to signal U.S. resolve. Meanwhile, however, Trump is intent upon pursuing another kind of conflict, continuing the avowed conservative war on what it calls the “nanny state,” in a process accelerated decades ago, in the administration of President Ronald Reagan. But Trump, apparently laser-focused upon erasing any trace of the progress made by the Barack Obama presidency to strengthen the social safety net for millions of disadvantaged Americans, and to secure equal justice under law during the Barack Obama presidency, is doubling down on that agenda, vowing to eliminate or at least freeze enforcement of as many as 80 percent of Obama-era regulations affecting, as Politico described it, “… everything from student loans and restaurant menus to internet privacy, workplace injuries and climate change.” Many of these changes, notably in immigration, civil rights, workplace safety, and environmental protection, if carried out, will reshape American life for decades.
Already, the government faces legal challenges from two LGBTQ legal groups, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the Boston-based GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), seeking to block Trump’s tweeted ban on "transgender" service in the U.S. Armed Forces. And the ACLU has filed several document requests in the first stages of Trump administration efforts to block reversal of Obama’s previously pledged protections of “dreamers,” children of undocumented immigrants, under DACA, in what promises to be a drawn-out fight over immigration policy.

Demonstrators against President Trump's military transgender ban gather in New York's Times Square, Wednesday, Aug. 9.

On Jan. 30, Trump wielded his favorite tool of office -- an executive order -- to require federal agencies to offset the cost of every significant new regulation by eliminating existing regulations or making them less onerous. The order declares that “the total incremental cost of all new regulations” issued this year “shall be no more than zero.” Some of the effects have been immediate and obvious, such as the transgender rights policy shift Trump tweeted out in late July, “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming … victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.” Blowback was immediate, and included the Pentagon disavowing any intention of carrying out the change without a detailed and specific order from the commander-in-chief.

Trump tweeted the ban as leverage with Congress over whether taxpayer money should pay for gender transition and hormone therapy for transgender service members. The dispute had threatened to kill a $790 billion defense and security spending bill.
Another, reinforced by legislation enacted in February, was a rule reversal that now allows coal-mining operations to dump waste directly into nearby waterways. Separately, Idaho was spared in a July Interior Department review of 27 national monuments under consideration for removal or reduction of their status. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said the 460,000-acre Craters of the Moon National Monument in southern Idaho “is no longer under review.”
Public reaction is just beginning to a somewhat more obscure reversal of limits on monopoly ownership of broadcast media, is just beginning to be felt in the form of an overt pro-Trump propaganda effort by the nation’s largest broadcast conglomerate, Maryland-based Sinclair Media Group. Outlets will be required to air right-wing opinion pieces by Boris Epshteyn, “chief political analyst,” the former spokesman for Trump’s presidential campaign.
In April this year, the Federal Communications Commission eliminated restrictions on the number of local TV and radio stations individual companies can own, thereby encouraging even more consolidation of an industry dominated by a half-dozen telecom giants. Within weeks of legislative approval, Sinclair announced a $3.9 billion deal to purchase the Tribune Media Company, increasing its broadcast holdings to 233 stations in 108 U.S. markets, including several in Idaho. The merger is currently under review.
These are just some of the challenges we face. None of them could have been anticipated a year ago, but this is the hand we have been dealt since Nov. 9, 2016. We can’t expect a new deal, and we can’t leave the table. In short, we are enmeshed in the very real potential for military conflict in the Pacific, an FBI criminal investigation of Donald Trump’s family members and associates regarding possible collusion with Russia, and an unrelenting stream of attempts to destroy the American social contract – represents an unprecedented challenge to democracy. While it is practically impossible to follow all these diverse hateful and destructive activities, we encourage you to keep faith in the democratic process, to keep up regular contact with elected officials at all levels, and to encourage friends and neighbors to do the same.
For contact information, visit the United Vision for Idaho Website resources at
The Los Angeles Times report on the disconnect between Donald Trump as president and the rest of the U.S. process of governing is here.
Global Firepower’s breakout of North Korean military capabilities is here.
The Washington Post's report on cancelation of hundreds of federal rules and regulations is here.
The Vox report on Trump’s tweeted undoing of Obama Administration transgender rights is here. The New York Times report on concerns about conflicts of interest and secrecy within Trump’s chosen deregulators is here.
The authority under which Trump and his Republican enablers in Congress dismantle regulations is outlined in this Washington Post report.
The NPR story on Sinclair Broadcast Group’s acquisition of Trubine Broadcasting is .
ProPublica’s report on the Justice Department’s policy shift regarding civil rights law enforcement is here.
NPR reports on outstanding questions regarding the ongoing FBI investigation of possible Trump and Trump associates’ involvement in criminal activities in relation to Russia and Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election campaign here.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

GOP Bid for 'Skinny Repeal' Fails

A Capitol employee pushes a bed past the Senate chamber toward Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s offices in the Capitol on Thursday.
Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

UPDATE: Obamacare Repeal Fails: Three GOP Senators Rebel in 49-51 Vote
By Leigh Ann Caldwell
WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans failed to pass a pared-down Obamacare repeal bill early Friday on a vote of 49-51 that saw three of their own dramatically break ranks.
Three Republican senators — John McCain, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski — and all Democrats voted against the bill, dealing a stinging defeat to Republicans and President Donald Trump who made repeal of Obamacare a cornerstone their campaigns.
The late-night debate capped the GOP's months-long effort to fulfill a seven-year promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
NBC News

Leadership in both chambers of Congress seemed hell-bent Thursday, July 27, upon repealing and/or replacing the Affordable Care Act within the next few days. It is impossible to predict with any accuracy just what the “replacement” might be, because several options from awful to even worse than awful are being discussed.


United Vision for Idaho and our partners and affiliated organizations hope you will be actively calling elected officials to urge them not to do anything that would destroy healthcare protection for millions (estimates range from 22 million to 34 million, to “God only knows,” depending upon which idea is being discussed).
Keep this contact information handy to reach Idaho senators:
Mike Crapo
(202) 224-6142

Jim Risch
(202) 224-2752

In addition, we offer the links below to resources through which you can keep track of the processes in the Senate and, possibly, the House of Representatives. So far, Republicans in the Senate have been unable to get the votes needed to pursue any avenue of “replacement” of the ACA. If that should change, however, the House has been advised their planned month-long August recess may be cut short, and members and staffers in both the Senate and the House have been urged to stay “flexible” in travel plans this weekend.

Here are some ways to track the votes
The Guardian's live updates on the Senate vote-a-rama healthcare marathon is here.
The New York Times record of voting on Affordable Care Act measures is here.
Reuters reports on the so-called skinny healthcare bill here.
The official Senate record on roll call votes (on everything) is here.
The Congressional Quarterly/Roll Call explanation of what’s at stake in the “skinny healthcare bill” is here. The Five Thirty-Eight Live Blog on the Senate’s healthcare deliberations is here.
Business Insider comparative analysis of relative costs of healthcare proposals under discussion in the Senate is here.
The Indivisible Guide to calls to members of the Senate, complete with script suggestions, is here.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

With Healthcare 3.0 Dead, GOP Turns to Budget

President Donald Trump says let Obamacare fail.

As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) admitted defeat on a half-baked outline for healthcare reform his own party rejects, and with little chance of winning even highly touted repeal of the Affordable Care Act with a two-year window for replacement legislation, Republicans in the House of Representatives returned Tuesday, July 18, to draconian budget cuts for federal spending in the next decade to accompany deregulation and other proposals by President Donald J. Trump’s administration. The Congressional Budget Office has already declared the stated GOP objectives unobtainable, even though they ignore some of the White House notions.
Republican Senators Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.) and Susan Collins (Maine) said on Tuesday that they would not support moving forward on McConnell’s plan to repeal Obamacare now with a two-year window for replacement. The Republican Senate majority is widely divided, with some supporting stronger and better coverage, paid for by broader-based revenues from tax restructuring, while some insist on no-frills coverage with more responsibility thrown onto states while reducing the federal tax burden to pay for it. Having already tried and failed to overturn the program for more than eight years with nothing to put in its place, prospects of doing that now, even with a Republican majority in Congress and a Republican president remain out of reach.
The CBO projected that the sweeping spending reductions on anti-poverty programs, housing, environmental protection and other cuts proposed by the White House would still not be enough to eliminate the deficit by 2027. By then, the office says, there would still be a $720 billion deficit under the White House's plan, rather than the surplus proponents have claimed would result from revenue growth. The Washington Post says the difference represents a gap of more than $700 billion in just one year between the CBO assessment and White House projections. Even if House and Senate Republicans agreed to back Trump’s cuts, they would meet universal opposition from Democrats. And while the budget measure could be adopted with a simple majority, using only Republican votes, a separate funding bill needs 60 votes in a Senate where the GOP holds 52 seats out of 100.


Even apart from the cuts in Medicaid spending proposed under failed House and Senate attempts to redraw healthcare legislation, the Trump Administration’s budget cuts would mean major reductions in spending for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, as well as cuts in subsidies to the states to conduct those programs, also cutting the number of people who qualify for them. The budget seeks to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides food stamps, by $190 billion and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grants by $15.6 billion. It also proposes $40 billion in savings by barring undocumented immigrants from collecting the child care tax credit or the earned-income tax credit. It would also cut $72 billion from the budget for Social Security disability recipients.
Despite optimism voiced by some Republican representatives, the budget as submitted is considered unlikely to get very far, even if it gets out of committee. This is primarily because the White House scheme includes an unlikely estimate for revenue growth from “economic feedback” that have been touted as yielding $2 trillion more than otherwise forecast in revenue growth. To make that happen, the economy would need to grow at least 3 percent annually – a pace most economists say is unrealistic. Trump himself had previously boasted of a 4 percent GDP growth prospect. More pragmatic estimates refute both possibilities.

Congress turns to huge cuts in the federal budget, reported by the Washington Post here. And amplified by The New York Times report on failure of the GOP healthcare plan here.
House-proposed budget cuts largely ignore Administration plans to gut social programs, Bloomberg reports.
GOP Senate opponents of plans to repeal Obamacare and work on replacement over two years effectively kill McConnell’s “grand plan,” The Hill reports.
Key spending cuts proposed are listed here.
The Congressional Budget Office scoring of House budget proposals is here.
Most realistic GDP growth estimates, including the widely respected Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s “GDP Now, “predict growth of less than 2 percent over the next decade, The New York Times reports.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Marchers in Boise Support Stronger Healthcare For All

Idaho Rep. Ilana Rubel (D-18, Boise) urges those at the March and Rally for Healthcare in Boise to prevent America’s healthcare from reflecting the cynical dystopian notions of “Planet Raul.

They came by the hundreds, despite the heat, marching, in wheelchairs, on bikes, taking to the steps of the Capital, to the streets of Boise, and to the relatively cooler surroundings at the Ann Frank Memorial Saturday, July 15, to tell their stories and encourage the continuing effort to thwart the cynical political attempt to destroy what limited healthcare protections Americans have, while making things better for themselves and providing huge tax breaks to the very wealthy.
As the Senate struggles to pass off Trumpcare 3.0, it is increasingly important that we keep up the pressure on our elected officials, at the state level, as well as in Congress, to resist cynical partisanship and false political loyalties and stand up for the fundamental right that healthcare represents.
There is no rational excuse for pushing America backward as the only advanced nation on Earth without national healthcare insurance protections. Rather than make things worse, as the latest Senate effort does, our elected representatives should be working to strengthen and improve the system.
Add your voice: Contact your elected officials and keep pressing them to do the right thing for healthcare. Contact information is here.

For more information about the healthcare challenge, click here.

The impact of inadequate healthcare policies is bad for everyone, as Rep. Ilana Rubel (D-18, Boise) explained to those who rallied for healthcare Saturday, July 15, at the Ann Frank Memorial in Boise.
Idaho Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee/Facebook

Thursday, July 13, 2017

GOP Senators Skirmish Over Yet Another Healthcare Plan

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz tells reporters on Thursday he will now back the latest version of a Senate bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, after an amendment he's been pushing was accepted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Cruz proposal, modified from an earlier version endorsed by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), would create a fund that would help insurance providers cover people with higher medical costs, but to qualify, insurers would have to offer at least one plan that fully complies with all of Obamacare's regulations. Once they do that, they would be able to offer other "bare bones" policies that do not meet all of Obamacare's requirements, thus providing cheaper options to younger and healthier individuals.

Senate Republicans have offered yet another sketchy notion of how to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The most recent outline, pushed out Thursday, July 13, by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and not yet reviewed and “scored” by the Congressional Budget Office, was promptly challenged by Sen. Lindsey Graham, (R-South Carolina), and Sen. Bill Cassidy, (R-Louisiana), who are promoting an alternative approach that would leave much of the actual work of determining what kinds of health insurance would be offered and how it would be paid for up to individual states.
None of the proposals address the steep cuts in Medicaid funding proposed in the bill offered before the Senate’s July 4 break, making it unlikely that any of the latest ideas will make it to a vote without considerable revision and development into bill form. Conflicting proposals and objections by other senators, notably Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), make a vote on anything even less likely. With two no votes, Vice President Mike Pence could provide the 51st vote needed for passage. But if three Republican senators defect, as seems increasingly likely, the bill cannot pass as proposed.
One alternative idea floated immediately was the prospect of making “no-frills” health insurance coverage available to hold down premiums. Doing so, however, would again raise the prospect of no coverage or insufficient coverage for pre-existing conditions. Such plans do not meet minimum standards of the current ACA, and insurers currently can’t force customers with serious illnesses to pay higher premiums. A current obligation to cover specific “essential health benefits” could also be lost in the new GOP proposals. The Congressional Budget Office assessment of the previous Senate “wish list” for healthcare funding would throw at least 22 million people off health insurance, cut $770 billion from Medicaid and greatly increase premiums and deductibles for those who can afford to stay in the health insurance market. The new plan restores $45 billion to fund programs to fight opioid abuse, but the fiscal impact of other notions released Thursday probably won’t be known before Monday, July 17, at the earliest.


Changes in the Senate’s attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act are outlined here.
Strong opposition could kill any prospect of a vote on the new proposal, Politico reports.
The latest healthcare proposals could mean much higher premiums for people who need more thorough coverage for preexisting conditions, the Kaiser Family Foundation says. A New York Times graphic outlining what’s dividing senators on healthcare proposals is here.
Winning support from Republican governors will be key to adoption of insurance law changed that would leave much of the actual work to the individual states, the Washington Post reports.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Healthcare Bill Not Ready for Prime Time

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tells reporters his plan to kill the Affordable Care Act isn’t ready for a vote.

If Americans have learned anything about politics since the advent of the Donald Trump presidency and Republican dominance of Congress, it is that campaign promises do not equate to progress, especially when it comes to healthcare. Republican leadership in both houses – in particular Mitch McConnell in the Senate, Paul Ryan in the House, and President Trump himself, have given America the most unpopular piece of major legislation Congress has considered in decades.
The first fact to keep in mind is that legislation presented so far in both chambers is not about healthcare. It is about spending, and more specifically about reductions in spending for established federal programs including Medicaid and CHIP that provide healthcare and related services to a degree that would affect one in five Americans. Medicaid alone, for example, covers most of the 1.4 million Americans in nursing homes. The Senate version of “repeal and replace” of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is nothing more than a set of changes in the House version that was rammed through approval May 24. McConnell was unable to muster the necessary support to assure passage, and has thus put off a vote until after the July 4 recess. Even if the bill is approved, however, it would then go back to the House, where additional amendments would almost certainly be needed to win majority acceptance.

The New York Times

CNBC reported results of an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released June 27 showing only 17 percent of Americans support the Senate proposal, while 55 percent disapprove. Even President Trump “appeared confused” about the reality that the bill is not about healthcare, but about tax cuts for the very rich and less spending on actual health programs that are already in place. About 24 percent of those surveyed said they did not know enough about the plan to give an opinion.
Only 17 percent of Americans approve of the Senate GOP's Better Care Reconciliation Act, versus 55 percent who disapprove, according to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released Tuesday. Some 24 percent of respondents said they had not heard enough about it to have an opinion.
A significant “black hole” in the 142-page bill is uncertainty over what individual states would do with a new ability to drop many of the benefits assured under the Affordable Care Act, such as mental health treatment, maternity care, and emergency services. The Senate version does provide somewhat more help for some lower-income people to offset the rapidly rising cost of private health insurance. But the subsidies for insurance help are far less than the current program, and would involve a lower annual income limit for subsidy eligibility, to 350 percent of the poverty level, or about $42,000 for an individual, from 400 percent.
To learn more about how you can help protect your healthcare, click here.

Listen to the NPR interview with Kaiser Family Foundation President Drew Altman on the impact of the Senate’s healthcare proposal here.
The Washington Post report on the Senate healthcare proposal’s prospects being even worse than first thought is here.
The Washington Post “live” report on the initial Senate healthcare bill announcement is here.
The draft released by the Senate, in PDF format, is here.
The Congressional Budget Office “scoring” of the Senate’s proposal is here.
The New York Times report on the Senate bill’s impact on elderly Medicaid recipients is here.
l The CNBC report on an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll taken from June 21 to 25 is here.
The Kaiser Foundation’s state-impact assessment of American health care protection is here.
The New York Times video summary of the selling of the Senate healthcare plan, shown above, is here.

Help us continue helping make a better Idaho for all of us. To Donate, click here.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Former FBI Director Comey Testifies on Trump-Russia Investigation

Former FBI Director James Comey is sworn in before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Capitol Hill on June 8.

James Comey, former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee Thursday (June 8) on his interactions with President Donald Trump and other issues relating to investigation of Russia’s efforts to disrupt the U.S. presidential election campaign and its outcome. In nearly three hours of testimony, including a closed-door "classified" session, Comey confirmed points made in a statement he had made a day earlier and released by the committee. During his appearance, Comey said reasons given for his firing in May “lies, plain and simple,” and while he had never previously documented his meetings with presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, he became concerned Trump would lie about their meetings and interactions, and thus wrote them down as a matter of record.
Here are highlights:
1. Comey said he was fired because of the Russia probe.
“It’s my judgment that I was fired because of the Russia investigation,” Comey said. “I was fired in some way to change, or the endeavor was to change, the way the Russia investigation was being conducted.”
2. Comey took notes because he thought Trump might lie.
Comey had served for more than three years as FBI director under President Barack Obama. During that time, he and Obama talked privately twice, but Comey never took notes on those interactions. In his brief time as head of the FBI under Trump, however, Comey said he had nine interactions that concerned him to the point he felt it necessary to make detailed memos.
“I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting,” Comey said.
3. Comey says he was ‘defamed’ by Trump and White House.
Comey began his testimony with a statement refuting claims from the White House that he was fired because of poor morale or turmoil at the FBI.
“The administration then chose to defame me and more importantly the FBI by saying that the organization was in disarray, that it was poorly led,” Comey said. “Those were lies, plain and simple. And I’m so sorry that the FBI workforce had to hear them, and I’m so sorry the American people were told them.’”
4. Comey says he helped leak accounts of his talks with Trump to get a special counsel appointed.
Soon after Comey was fired, news articles began to appear with details of his discussions with Trump; some stories, including a May 16 New York Times account that cited two people who had seen Comey’s notes. The accounts reported on Trump pressing Comey to “drop” the investigation of Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser.
In testimony Thursday, Comey admitted he had stories cited notes the former FBI director kept of those interactions.
“As a private citizen, I felt free to share that,” Comey said. “I thought it was very important to get it out.” Comey said his decision to release the memo was aimed at getting a special prosecutor appointed. Comey said he has since provided his memos to Robert S. Mueller III, the former FBI director appointed as special counsel not long after Comey was fired.
5. Comey said the FBI knew Attorney General Jeff Sessions would recuse himself in the Russia-related investigation— but wouldn’t say why in public testimony.
When asked about this Thursday by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Comey suggested that there were reasons Sessions could not remain involved in the probe but that those reasons involved classified information.

The Washington Post timeline report of James Comey’s testimony and the response from Marc Kasowitz, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, is here.
The New York Times thumbnail profiles of members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence are here. The Guardian’s report on the “chilling effect” Trump conversations had on the FBI investigation is here.
The New York Times running account of Comey’s testimony, with background, is here.
The text of Comey’s prepared statement for the Senate Intelligence Committee, provided and released a day before the testimony, is here.
The May 16 New York Times report of Comey’s notes on being pressed by Trump is here.
The transcript of Comey’s testimony, from Politico, is here.
The NPR Video record, with a running account, of the Comey hearing is here.
The Twitter record of tweets relating to the Comey testimony and reaction from Trump’s personal lawyer is here.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Trump's 2018 Budget Slashes Safety Net for One-Fifth of America

The People's Action/United Vision for Idaho alternative budget proposal

Flashback to May 2015, when Donald J. Trump promised, “"I'm not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican, and I'm not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid.” It is now May 2017, and Trump’s first two key policy proposals as president break that promise. The House-passed abomination called the American Health Care Act, and his 2018 budget proposal, labeled “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” would cut Medicaid spending by nearly half and slashing safety net programs that affect nearly one-fifth of all Americans over the next decade.
The budget represents a dramatic change in the role of government in America. On releasing the proposal Monday night (May 23), Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney called it a "taxpayer-first budget,"cutting total spending by roughly $3.6 trillion over those 10 years.
"We are no longer going to measure compassion by the number of programs or the number of people on those programs," he told reporters. "We will measure compassion and success by the number of people who get off those programs."

Among the cuts weighing on about 64 million Americans:
• All $880 billion in Medicaid cuts included in the Republican health plan that has passed the House, plus $610 billion in additional cuts by rolling back Medicaid spending increases year upon year, which would represent a total cut to Medicaid of more than 47 percent. • $191 billion in cuts from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, over 10 years. That's about a 25 percent cut. The administration claims it will achieve this by adding new requirements that recipients work to receive assistance, but it would boul down to kicking many people off the program or dramatically cutting benefit amounts.
• $40.4 billion in cuts to the federal earned income tax credit and child tax credit over 10 years, programs that, along with SNAP, make up much of the nation’s social safety net for poor people. Trump would require parents receiving benefits to submit a Social Security number to weed out unauthorized immigrants — even those whose children are American citizens.
• $21.6 billion in cuts to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or welfare, over 10 years. That’s a nearly 13 percent cut to the program, which has already been cut dramatically since the 1990s.
• Huge cuts to most federal agencies: a 31.4 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency budget, 29.1 percent cut to the State Department, 20.5 percent to Agriculture, 19.8 percent to Labor, 16.2 percent to Health and Human Services, 15.8 percent to Commerce, 13.2 percent to Housing and Urban Development, 12.7 percent to Transportation, and 10.9 percent to Interior.

Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, briefs reporters on the Trump administration's 2018 budget. White House/YouTube

Mulvaney said the deep spending cuts, coupled with faster growth, will reduce the deficit as a percentage of GDP starting next year. He said the budget will balance by 2027. Democrats, and many economists, threw cold water on that rosy prediction. The breadth of the cuts has rattled lawmakers from both parties who have warned that the reductions go too far.
"It's a budget that takes a meat cleaver to the middle class by gutting the programs that help them the most, including many that help create jobs and power the economy," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) said. The budget assumes an extremely unrealistic 3 percent economic growth rate — the current projection is 1.9 percent, apparently assuming an as yet nonexistent tax cut and the even more nonexistent growth would pay for the budget, which rational economists say doesn’t even make sense. Larry Summers, the former Treasury secretary and National Economic Council director, calls it “a logical error of the kind that would justify failing a student in an introductory economics course.”
Kentucky Congressman John Yarmuth, Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee, a Democrat, issued this response: “President Trump’s budget is shockingly extreme and the antithesis of what the American people have said they want from their government. It leaves no question of what this administration values: greater gains for millionaires, corporations and special interests, at the expense of American families, economic progress and our national security. It savagely cuts health care and nutrition assistance for families with nowhere else to turn, and relies on absurd economic projections and pretend revenues that no credible economist would validate. This budget does not reflect the values of the American people and should be resoundingly rejected.”

In response to the budget release, United Vision for Idaho, a coalition of 30 statewide member organizations throughout the state, in conjunction with national partner People’s Action, with affiliates in 29 states, declared opposition to the administration proposal and outlined an alternative budget plan that addresses the needs of ordinary Americans and lifts families out of poverty.
“The Trump administration budget proposal is cruel to the point of absurdity,” said Liz Ryan-Murray, policy director for People’s Action. “Under the guise of ‘personal responsibility,’ this budget is a naked grab for every cent the wealthy can hoard for themselves and their uber-rich friends.”
“Our vision is clear, we will not accept this budget or be fooled by a bait-and-switch down the road when we are offered ‘compromise’ congressional budgets that promise a ‘kinder, gentler’ gutting of our families and communities,” said Ryan Murray.
“Were we to lose funding and reprioritization for these programs it will be too late for many, and there will be irreparable harm done to our planet and those who inhabit it. The good news is that we don’t have to go down this disastrous path. No amount of cutting and gutting will get us where we need to be. Every member of Congress needs to have the political courage to stand up to the President and to the dangerous and inhumane path he continues to roll out,” said Adrienne Evans, United Vision for Idaho’s executive director.
The alternative budget proposal is outlined here.
With the Memorial Day weekend approaching, Congress will take yet another holiday, from Friday, May 26, taking a week off, while the president will be in Italy to attend the G-7 meeting. This presents an opportunity to add pressure on Congress. With the fate of tax reform, healthcare reform, and the new budget proposal all on the line, this promises to be a long, hot summer. We must start now to turn up the heat. Use every means of communication, phone calls, e-mail messages, post cards, even facsimile messages (Yes, some members of Congress do still have fax machines.) Press for town hall meetings. Visit regional offices. Make noise. Let them know the damage these shortsighted proposals would cause if adopted.

Now it’s your turn. Contact our congressional delegation:
First District Sen. Jim Risch:
Risch doesn’t have an official Facebook page, but follow him on Twitter at @SenatorRisch.
Washington office phone (202) 224-2752
Fax: 202-224-2573

Second District Sen. Mike Crapo:
Follow him on Facebook.
Follow him on Twitter at @Mike Crapo .
Washington office phone (202) 224-6142
Fax: (202) 228-1375

Second District Rep. Mike Simpson:
Follow him on Facebook.
Follow him on Twitter at @CongMikeSimpson.
Washington office phone (202) 225-5531
Fax: (202) 225-8216

First District Rep. Raul Labrador:
Follow him on Facebook.
Follow him on Twitter@Raul_Labrador.
Washington office phone (202) 225 – 6611
Fax: (202) 225 - 3029

Visit their offices around the state
Sen. James E. Risch
• Boise: 350 N. 9th St., Suite 302
• Coeur d’Alene: Harbor Plaza, 610 Hubbard St., Suite 213
• Idaho Falls: 901 Pier View Drive, Suite 202A
• Lewiston: 313 D St., Suite 106
• Pocatello: 275 South 5th Ave., Suite 290
• Twin Falls: 1411 Falls Avenue East, Suite 201

Sen. Mike Crapo
• Boise: 251 East Front St.
• Coeur d’Alene: 610 Hubbard St., Suite 209
• Idaho Falls: 410 Memorial Drive, Suite 204
• Lewiston: 313 D St., Suite 105
• Pocatello: 275 South 5th Ave., Suite 225
• Twin Falls: 202 Falls Ave., Suite 2

Rep. Mike Simpson
• Boise: 802 W. Bannock St. , Suite 600
• Idaho Falls: 410 Memorial Dr., Suite 203
• Twin Falls: 1341 Fillmore St., Suite 202
• Pocatello: 275 S. 5th Ave. , Suite 275

Rep. Raul Labrador
• Coeur d'Alene: 1250 Ironwood Drive, Suite 241
• Lewiston: 313 D St., Suite 107
• Meridian: 33 E. Broadway Ave., Suite 251

The official version of the 2018 budget proposal, in PDF format, is here.
To build your own graphic comparisons of federal budgets over time in chart formats, go here.
The Daily Signal 2015 report, in which Donald Trump promised not to cut Social Security and Medicaid, is here.
The draconian Medicaid cut explanation is here.
A Vox rundown of social safety net cuts in the budget proposal is here.
The Washington Post analysis of cuts that affect up to one-fifth of Americans is here.
Another Vox report, “The dumb accounting error at the heart of Trump’s budget,” is here.
The House Budget Committee’s Democrat members react to the proposal here.

The 2013 government shutdown, triggered by failure to agree on a budget, is outlined here.

Help United Vision for Idaho continue our outreach to everyone in the Gem State. Donate here.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Demonstrators Assure Simpson 'Healthcare Is a Right."

Adrienne Evans, executive director of United Vision for Idaho, in upper photo, leads demonstrators supporting comprehensive healthcare coverage at The Grove May 15. Inside the Convention Center, Rep. Mike Simpson was addressing the third annual Idaho Healthcare Conference.

About 100 demonstrators outside Boise’s Convention Centre on Monday sought to confront Idaho’s Rep. Mike Simpson with the message we do not accept the insult that we don’t deserve affordable healthcare. United Vision for Idaho Executive Director Adrienne Evans led the protesters in what has become a universal call-and-response challenge:
What is health care?" she asked through the bullhorn.
"A human right!" the crowd replied.
They were there to confront Simpson, who spoke at the opening of the third-annual Idaho Healthcare Conference. Simpson, who presided in the May 4 House of Representatives session that narrowly (217-213) endorsed a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Simpson, who voted for the bill, has refused to meet openly with constituents since the vote. His somewhat more available chamber colleague, Rep. Raul Labrador, says he believes healthcare is not a right, and has told his town hall audiences nobody dies from lack of health insurance.

Demonstrators carried their healthcare message to the Boise Airport, hoping to give Rep. Simpson a pointed sendoff for his return to Washington, on how important Idaho constituents regard adequate, affordable health insurance.

Although the House bill is expected to go nowhere, with the Senate yet to take up the issue, the threat its language poses has become one of the most significant political issues of the Republican-led administration of Donald J. Trump.
Concerned citizens worry they will be thrown off health insurance coverage, or will be unable to afford treatment for preexisting conditions under a “state option” clause in the House bill. At the Monday demonstration, Lori Burelle told of being diagnosed with uterine cancer in 2015 but, because she had health insurance, being able to receive surgery and other treatments that have left her cancer-free. The disease, however, could recur any time, and Burelle said passage of the AHCA may affect her access to affordable care. "The cost for insurance could be prohibitive," she said.
Donna Yule, another demonstrator, agreed with Burelle, saying that because she has just one kidney, provisions of the House “replacement” healthcare bill would leave her and many others unable to afford their insurance “right out of the get-go. I get tired of having a theoretical debate about health care being a right," she said. "It's personal to me."

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Help Confront Rep. Mike Simpson Monday, May 15 on Healthcare

Demonstrators rally outside the Capitol in Washington, D.C., against a GOP bill to gut the Affordable Care Act. The bill passed 217-213 for the Senate to take up.

Across the country during this congressional recess, people are holding elected officials for their support for legislation that would strip millions of Americans of health insurance. In Lewiston, Idaho, District Rep. Raul Labrador insisted yet again, "Health care is not a human right," and " Nobody dies from not having access to health care." His comment was promptly fact-checked, labeled a “Pants on Fire” lie, and subject to late-night comedy show jibes and globally viral attention.
(Labrador has since filed as a GOP candidate to succeed Butch Otter as governor of Idaho in 2018.)

>First District Rep. Raul Labrador challenges angry voters at a Lewiston Town Hall, telling them "Health care is not a human right," and " Nobody dies from not having access to health care."

Idaho’s Second District Rep. Mike Simpson presided in the House chamber May 4 during the 217-213 vote to deny Americans health insurance, impose tremendous obstacles to people seeking health care, and grant huge tax breaks to the very rich. When the Republican-sponsored proposal brought forth the first time, in March, then pulled back before a vote, Simpson put party loyalties before the expectations of his Idaho constituents when he famously declared his support for House Speaker Paul Ryan, "One of the reasons I don't want this bill to fail is I don't want Paul to fail," he said.
The House bill is now in the hands of the Senate. If it should be adopted there as submitted, between 5 million and 24 million* Americans could lose health insurance coverage, out-of-pocket costs for people diagnosed with pre-existing conditions would be unable to afford insurance, and tens of thousands who do not earn enough to purchase affordable health insurance would be forced out of the market.
In Idaho, impact of cuts in Medicaid funding would be harshest for our most vulnerable citizens, children, who account for 73 percent of all Medicaid and CHIP program participants, in addition to the elderly and people with disabilities.
Let’s rise up in opposition to members of Congress who willfully and defiantly insist on subjecting their constituents to cuts in vital health care access, preferring instead to give more tax breaks to the rich while exposing more vulnerable people to preventable diseases, illnesses, and death.
Be with us Monday, May 15, as Rep. Simpson opens the two-day Idaho Healthcare Summit at 10 a.m. at the Convention Center on the Grove (Eighth Street and Grove). And help us give him a proper sendoff at the Boise Airport for his return to Washington following the speech.
The Battle Plan:
• 9:30 a.m. Be at The Grove outside the Convention Center by 9:30. The Healthcare Summit itself begins with Simpson’s speech at 10 a.m. and is not open to the general public, but we can make sure the congressman knows we’re there.
• 10:30 a.m. Move to the Boise Airport (off I-84 or Vista at 3201 W. Airport Way) to the departure level to give him a proper sendoff.

Recommended Reading

Rep. Simpson’s official position on health care is here.
The Washington Post report on how the House health care bill was passed May 4 is here.
Definitive data on the specific ways the House bill (HR 1628) would affect Americans with health insurance is difficult to provide, since many of the provisions of the bill would depend upon state-level actions that would become available after full congressional approval, such as alternative ways to address needs of Medicaid recipients and others with low incomes. The bill is under review by the Congressional Budget Office, which will publish its findings before the Senate takes up the bill or alternatives to it. The CBO “scoring” report will be published on line when available here.
The bill as approved May 4 in the House (217-213) is called the American Health Care Act of 2017. The full official text of the bill and actions relating to it in the House are available here.
The most urgent health care protection priority in Idaho is still that of closing the coverage gap for people whose earnings are too high to meet Medicaid criteria. Learn more here.
Background on the Idaho Healthcare Summit is here.

Friday, May 5, 2017

House Narrowly Obliterates Affordable Care Act

President Donald Trump spoke Thursday following the House passage of the Americana Health Care Act.
PBS NewsHour/YouTube

President Donald Trump and House Republicans staged an unseemly and premature celebration in the White House Rose Garden yesterday following a narrow 217-230 vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which enabled 20 million Americans to get health insurance, and replace it with a patchwork that would take health insurance away from 24 million by 2026 and basically do nothing more than give the very wealthy another tax break.
The House action, which came after a false start in late March in which Speaker of the House Paul Ryan made a last-minute decision to pull an earlier, even more badly flawed bill, because he could not muster the votes needed for passage. The May 4 vote, however, was being hailed by the president and his most ardent congressional supporters as Trump’s most significant legislative victory since he took office in January and fulfillment of his second-most repeated campaign promise (the “wall” being the biggest issue as measured by speech references).
Both Idaho’s Republican representatives voted for the House bill. Rep. Mike Simpson presided over the process in the House chamber. “I voted against the passage of Obamacare and I have voted to repeal it over 60 times,” said Simpson. “Many members promised the American public that they would repeal and replace Obamacare and this vote is the first step to fulfilling that promise. I believe in keeping my promises.” Rep. Raul Labrador had opposed an earlier version of the bill, but voted yes Thursday. He said the latest version removes prohibitions against less expensive insurance plans and “the knot of insurance regulations that are making health coverage so unaffordable.”
No Democratic House members voted for the bill. Democrats say it would make insurance unaffordable for those who need it most and leave millions more uninsured. They accuse Republicans of seeking tax cuts for the rich, partly paid for by cutting health benefits. The bill moved to the Senate, where Republicans hold a slim 52-48 majority, and where leadership basically declared it a nonstarter, with the chamber’s most prominent members vowing to take the time to “get it right,” suggesting the president may need to wait a long time before having a health insurance bill he can sign.
That will take time, many senators said, declaring that, there will be no floor action until the Congressional Budget Office has issued its formal scoring of the House bill to determine its actual cost and the extent of its impact on the uninsured – and those with preexisting conditions, who would be at risk of having no insurance at all in states that take advantage of an “opt-out” provision in the House version. The review could take at least two weeks, senators say. Other changes could extend the process well into the summer.
Senator Lindsey Graham agreed that from a "civics" standpoint it wasn't great that the House bill had not been officially scored by the CBO nor gone through a formal amendment process but he expressed confidence the Senate will handle it right.
Among the biggest concerns senators must address are these: • The House bill’s $800 billion-plus cut to Medicaid goes too far for some Senate Republicans, particularly for states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
• The House bill’s move to let insurers charge people age 50-64 five times what they charge young people -- up from a 3-to-1 ratio now -- would dramatically increase their premiums, even as poorer people would see diminished tax credits under the new system.
• The Congressional Budget Office predicted as much as a 759 percent increase in premiums for low-income seniors whose premiums are now capped as a percentage of their income.

The Reuters report on what happens next in the health insurance battle is here.
The Spokesman-Review report of how Idaho’s representatives voted is here.
The New York Times summary of how the House vote went is here.
The Bloomberg report on Senate response to the House action is here. The CNN update on what the House bill would and wouldn’t do is here.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

New Pressure For a $15 Minimum Wage

41 Million Americans Await a Long Overdue Pay Boost
If $7.25 doesn’t seem like much, it’s because it isn’t.
It is, in fact, barely enough to buy a Big Mac and a drink at McDonald’s, where the hourly wage averages barely $8.50 an hour.
Yet Idaho’s minimum wage, last adjusted in 2008, has been stuck at $7.25 an hour for seven years, matching the federal minimum wage, and legislators both here and in Washington have done nothing. Nothing in Idaho means nothing – zilch, nada, zero -- to the point of not even having the prospect of a modest increase brought up for discussion in the last legislative session. That means nothing, despite the fact the buying power of a minimum-wage paycheck has actually fallen about 10 percent because of inflation, and this erosion doesn’t account for even half the decline in value that has taken place since the late 1960s, and despite the reality of an economy much richer, better educated, and more productive on average. There is nowhere in the United States that people can afford to live on minimum wage. The bottom line is minimum-wage workers receive about 25 percent less in spending power than their counterparts of a half-century ago.
That hourly wage of $7.25 looks even worse as an annual wage of $15,080 a year, or a weekly budget of $240 to buy basic food, shelter, and clothing, plus transportation. In Idaho, the minimum wage is applicable to employers of four or more employees, excluding family members. Employees under 20 years old can be paid $4.25 an hour for up to 90 days, and children under 16 working part-time jobs are fully exempt from any pay standard. About 30 percent of minimum wage workers are single parents. The average age of a person on minimum wage is 35. Moreover, 88 percent of people on minimum wage are over the age of 20. These aren't just teenagers who still live at home -- these are adults working full-time who ought to be able to afford housing.
There are new signs this could change. As LeeAnn Hall, co-director of People’s Action Institute, a United Vision for Idaho national partner, said in support of legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2024, “Our research shows that a $15 an hour minimum wage is a modest demand – the minimum wage in every state falls far short of an actual living wage. In Alabama, the $7.25 minimum wage is 47 percent of the $15.49 needed to make ends meet. In California, the $10 minimum wage is just half of the $19.90 it takes for a single adult to get by.”
Making matters worse, the minimal minimum wage is also a significant factor in pay disparity, placing Idaho eighth-worst in the nation. A recent study of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Department of Education, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics by the American Association of University Women found the average white woman in Idaho makes 74 percent of male earnings in comparable jobs. The gap is wider for black women, paid 63 cents, and Hispanic women, paid 54 cents, for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men in the same jobs.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) announce a new effort to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.
TYT Politics/YouTube

With a majority of Senate Democrats now behind them, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wa.) are introducing revamped legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15 and index it to inflation.The Raise the Wage Act of 2017 would raise the federal minimum for the first time in a decade, to $9.25 immediately, rising gradually to $15 by 2024, while simultaneously raising the minimum wage for tipped workers.
Since the Fight for $15 action campaign was begun in 2012 by striking fast-food workers, three states representing approximately 18 percent of the U.S. workforce—California, New York, and the District of Columbia — have approved raising their minimum wages to $15 an hour, and other states, including Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Arizona, and Maine, have approved minimum wages ranging from $12 to $14.75 an hour. In fact, raising the minimum wage was a significant issue in the 2016 election, with local ballot support for increases bringing to 19 million the total number of workers receiving minimum wage increases, and adding to momentum for further action at the federal, state and local levels.
David Cooper, senior policy analyst for the Economic Policy Institute outlined the impact of the Raise the Wage Act of 2017, which would gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2024, link it to changes in the median wage thereafter, and gradually eliminate the separate, lower minimum wage for tipped workers.
“Targeting $15 by 2024 is a bold proposal, but it is absolutely necessary—otherwise the minimum wage will never provide a decent wage and overcome the many decades where it rose modestly or not at all.” said EPI President Lawrence Mishel. “Raising the minimum wage to $15 will directly help nearly a third of the workforce, promote robust wage growth, and boost the economy.”
“The proposal would directly lift the wages of 22.5 million workers. On average, these low-wage workers would receive a $3.10 increase in their hourly wage, in today’s dollars. For a directly affected worker who works all year, this equals a $5,100 increase in annual wage income, a raise of 31.3 percent. Meanwhile, another 19.0 million workers earning more than $15 would also see their wages increase from a spillover impact as employers adjusted their pay scales to the increase. A total of 41.5 million workers would benefit from this proposal, 29.2 percent of the wage and salary workforce.

The Washington Post report on introduction of the Raise the Wage Act is here.
Newsweek’s report on Sen. Sanders’ new wage-hike bill is here.
Bureau of Labor Statistics data on minimum wage workers in Idaho is here.
Data that shows nobody can live anywhere in the United States on the minimum wage are here.
A Spokesman-Review report on wage disparity in Idaho and the nation is here.
The Peoples Action statement on raising the minimum wage is here.
The Raise the Wage Act explanation from Sen. Bernie Sanders, in PDF format, is here.
The Economic Policy Institute’s paper on the wage increase is here.
The National Employment Law Project report on support for wage initiatives in the 2016 election is here.
The Portland Press Herald report, from the Washington Post, on inability to pay for housing on the minimum wage is here.
Data from the National Low-Income Housing Coalition are here.
The 2017 Big Mac Index is here.
Highlights of the current minimum wage law coverage in Idaho and other states are here.