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: https://www.crapo.senate.gov/
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.