Guest Commentary (4947)
JOHN GEYMAN, MD FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The just-released Trump fiscal-2018 budget proposal is devastating news for 77 million poor and lower-income Americans. As the third largest domestic program in federal spending (behind Social Security and Medicare), it has been on the chopping block of the Republican agenda for some time. Enacted in 1965, this joint federal-state program has been a crucial part of a safety net for health care over its 52-year history for eligible children and adults, the blind and disabled, seniors, and about 16 million adults who have gained eligibility since 2010 through Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The Trump budget would cut Medicaid spending by $834 billion and cover 14 million fewer people by 2026, while giving the wealthiest Americans a $600 billion tax cut, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Federal spending on Medicaid would be phased out through block grants to states, with the expectation that states pick up the slack for their vulnerable populations. The current federal-state share of Medicaid funding varies considerably by state—from 74 percent federal in Mississippi to 50 percent in California and New York.
The recently passed House bill, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), would implement per-capita caps on federal spending on Medicaid in 2020. As an alternative to caps, states could opt to accept block grants any time after 2019, which would give states more flexibility on who would be covered, what services would be provided, and how providers would be compensated. Four Republican governors—from Arkansas, Michigan, Nevada and Ohio—immediately wrote to House and Senate leaders that “the House bill provides almost no new flexibility for states, does not ensure the resources necessary to make sure no one is left out, and shifts significant new costs to states.
The AHCA has moved on to the Senate, where many call it dead on arrival. A 13-man working group—no women, despite the AHCA’s one-year cut in funding for Planned Parenthood—has been tasked with crafting the Senate’s own bill. Major controversies will surround such issues as reversal of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion (supported by many Republican governors), possible higher premiums for older Americans, waivers that allow states to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions or for such essential benefits as hospital care, contraceptive services and maternity care, work requirements for eligibility, and time limits on coverage.
ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTMICHAEL BRUNE OF
Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch
Scott Pruitt took to the Sunday shows today in a troubled attempt to spin the Trump administration's decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement, amid a firestorm of international and domestic criticism.
In his appearances this morning, Pruitt was hammered for admitting that he and Trump never discussed climate change, criticized for his support of the declining coal industry and slammed for dodging questions about Trump's acceptance of climate science. The Trump administration has misrepresented academic studies, the reality of the Green Climate Fund, India and China's commitments, and much more. Distorting everything from climate science to the Sierra Club's own strong support of the Paris agreement, Pruitt's appearances are littered with the same kind of deceit that marked his Senate testimony, where he lied about everything from using personal email for government business to climate science.
DANA DRUGMAND FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
President Trump's decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord is decisively a mistake, but it is should not be characterized as the end of the world or as an indication that climate action in the US is dead. If anything, it may catalyze a surge of grassroots, sub-national resolve to tackle the greatest challenge of our time. We've already seen seeds of resistance sprouting in the era of Trump, from the Women's March to the backlash against the Muslim ban, and we can expect the same response to the new administration's hostility towards climate action and clean energy. Here are five reasons we should not despair over the Paris announcement:
1) Clean Energy Is Unstoppable
In the US and around the world, the clean energy economy is accelerating, creating millions of jobs while slashing consumer energy bills. This is the next industrial revolution. Although Trump's decision gives other nations an edge in this revolution, it won't stop the clean energy boom here. That train has already left the station. Solar power now employs more Americans than coal, oil and gas, with solar adding jobs at a rate 17 times faster than the economy as a whole. Solar is also the cheapest form of new electricity, and energy efficiency is the most cost-effective investment overall. No presidential proclamation can reverse this trend.
JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The vast inequality that's rending our society is not a natural, inevitable or accidental phenomenon — it's caused intentionally by policy-decisions that corporate and political officials make, often in tandem.
Every now and then, we commoners get a glimpse of inequality in the making, as we did recently when the GOP Boss of the House, Rep. Paul Ryan rammed the awful Trumpcare bill through that chamber. Without allowing any public testimony or even getting an analysis of its cost, Ryan browbeat and cajoled the Republican majority to hold their noses and pass this gob of plutocratic wretchedness. Their bill was so bad that, at most, a mere 17 percent of Americans support it.
The public's distaste for Trumpcare is well-deserved, for it's an inequality machine: It strips at least 23 million people of health coverage; it lets insurance corporations either refuse to cover people with pre-existing conditions or to gouge them with extreme price increases; and it lets states eliminate the requirement that insurance policies must at least cover such essential health needs as cancer treatment and maternity care.
And, in a flagrant example of directly widening inequality in America, the Republicans' bill slashes $880 billion out of the Medicaid budget, which provides health care for the poor, the elderly and the disabled. That's not just a cut in dollars, but in people — 14 million needy families would lose their access to healthcare.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The violent actions of resentful, bitter and hate-filled white men are more than isolated incidents; they are a trend. The rise of white supremacist groups, alt-right groups staging provocative demonstrations, white men stockpiling weapons, hate speech spewed on social media, white nationalist materials spread about college campuses in the dead of night, and unprovoked deadly attacks on Muslims and African Americans are all part of a coming out party for White Supremacists in the age of Trump.
According to a new report by the Anti-Defamation League titled "A Dark & Constant Rage: 25 Years of Right-Wing Terrorism in the United States," there has been "150 right-wing terrorist acts, attempted acts, and plots and conspiracies that took place in the United States during the past 25 years (1993-2017)."
"In March 2017, a white supremacist from Maryland, James Harris Jackson, traveled to New York City with the alleged intention of launching a series of violent attacks on black men to discourage white women from having relationships with black men," the report documented. "After several days, Jackson chose his first victim, a 66-year old black homeless man, Timothy Caughman. Jackson later allegedly admitted that he had stabbed Caughman with a small sword he had brought with him, describing the murder as a 'practice run.'"
Richard Collins III, a student at Bowie State University and a recently commissioned U.S. Army second lieutenant, was stabbed to death just days before his graduation during a recent visit to the University of Maryland at its College Park campus. According to insidehighered.com, "Sean Christopher Urbanski, a University of Maryland student, was … arrested nearby and charged with first-degree murder. ... Urbanski was a member of a Facebook group called 'Alt-Reich Nation,' where people shared racist memes."
And, last week in Portland, a racist white man stabbed to death two men, and wounded a third, when those men intervened on behalf of two young women -- one of whom was wearing a hijab -- being unmercifully harassed.
DR. LAWRENCE WITTNER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
State University of New York (SUNY)―the largest university in the United States, with nearly 600,000 students located in 64 publicly-funded higher education institutions―has served an important educational function for the people of New York and of the United States. But its recent "partnerships" with private businesses have been far less productive.The
In the spring of 2013, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, joined by businessmen, politicians, and top SUNY administrators, embarked upon a widely-publicized barnstorming campaign to get the state legislature to adopt a plan he called Tax-Free NY. Under its provisions, most of the SUNY campuses, portions of the City University of New York, and zones adjacent to SUNY campuses would be thrown open to private, profit-making companies that would be exempt from state and local taxes on sales, property, the income of their owners, and the income of their employees for a period of 10 years.
Tax-Free NY, Cuomo announced, was "a game-changing initiative" that would "transform SUNY campuses and university communities across the state." According to the governor, this program would "supercharge" the state's economy and bring job creation to an unprecedented level. Conceding that these tax-free zones wouldn't work without a dramatic "culture shift" in the SUNY system, Cuomo argued that the faculty should "get interested and participate in entrepreneurial activities."
Despite criticism of the program by educators, unions, and even some conservatives, SUNY administrators and local officials fell into line. Reluctant to challenge the governor and oppose this widely-touted jobs creation measure, the state legislature established the program, renamed Start-Up NY and including some private colleges, in June 2013.
ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTHARVEY WASSERMAN OF
Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch
That future is rising in Buffalo, and comes in the form of Tesla's massive job-producing solar shingle factory which will create hundreds of jobs and operate for decades to come.
Three Mile Island, by contrast, joins a wave of commercially dead reactors whose owners are begging state legislatures for huge bailouts. Exelon, the nation's largest nuke owner, recently got nearly $2.5 billion from the Illinois legislature to keep three uncompetitive nukes there on line.
In Ohio, FirstEnergy is begging the legislature for $300 million per year for the money-losing Perry and Davis-Besse reactors, plagued with serious structural problems. That bailout faces an uphill battle in a surprisingly skeptical legislature. FirstEnergy is at the brink of bankruptcy, and says it will sell the reactors anyway.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The wound burst open in November. History, suddenly, could no longer be avoided. Reality could no longer be avoided. American democracy is flawed, polluted, gamed by the oligarchs. It always has been.
But not until the election process whelped Donald Trump did it become so unbearably obvious.
Welcome to The Strip and Flip Disaster of America's Stolen Elections, by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, which was released last year and has been newly updated. What I find invaluable about the book is that, while it meticulously pries open the current election process with all its warts and flaws -- the voter suppression games those in power continue to play, the unverifiability of electronic voting machines -- it also delves deep into this country's history and illuminates the present-day relevance of the worst of it: the history we haven't yet faced.
Whatever else delivered Trump to our doorstep, the most undeniable element in his "victory" was the Electoral College. It's hardly adequate to call this institution obsolete; its existence is the manifestation of racist hell.
JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
These are hard times for America's gold miners. They're struggling to haul wealth out of the land, but seeing their pay dropping further and further down.
Take Bob Mercer, who's been a top miner for years, but last year, (which has been described as somewhere between lackluster and catastrophic) even Bob was down. He pulled in only $125 million in pay. Can you feel Bob's pain?
No, these are not your normal miners. They are hedge fund managers, digging for gold in the Wonderland of Wall Street. If you divided Bob Mercer's pay in his "bad year" among 1,000 real miners doing honest work, they'd consider it a fabulous year. Hedge funds are almost literally gold mines, though they require no heavy lifting by the soft-handed, Gucci-wearing managers who work them. These gold diggers are basically nothing but speculators, drawing billions of dollars from the uber-rich by promising that they are investment geniuses who will deliver fabulous profits for them. But the scam is that Mercer and his fellow diggers get paid regardless of whether they deliver or not.
Their cushy setup, known as 2-and-20, works like this: Right off the top, they take two percent of the money put up by each wealthy client, which the hedge fund whizzes like Mercer keep, even if the investments they make are losers; if their speculative bets do pay off, they pocket 20 percent of all profits; hedge fund lobbyists have rigged our nation's tax code so these Wall Street miners pay a fraction of the tax rate that real mine workers pay.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Since its founding in the early 1940s, the Milwaukee-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation has been a mainstay in funding and building conservative institutions, and supporting right-wing projects. A new report by The Center for Media and Democracy’s “Exposed” project, dives into a new “national effort funded by the … foundation to assess and expand right-wing ‘infrastructure’ [in order] to influence policies and politicians in statehouses nationwide.”
According to CMD’s Mary Bottari, documents “linked to one of the Russian hackers alleged to have breached the Democratic National Committee,” were made public in October 2016. They “open a window to the behind-the-scenes workings” of the foundation, which as of June 2016, had $835 million in assets.
For the better part of its existence since its founding in 1942 by the Bradley brothers, Lynde and Harry, the foundation -- a tax-exempt “charitable” foundation under 501(c)(3) of the tax code – has, unlike the Koch Family Foundations and the Scaife Foundations family foundations, operated out of the spotlight Nevertheless, it has been one of the most influential right-wing foundations in the country.
In the late 1980s, after the brother’s Allen-Bradley Company in Milwaukee, which developed early resistors for electrical products, was sold to Rockwell International for $1.65 billion, the foundation’s coffers grew immensely, and it hired Michael S. Joyce to run its operations.
JOHN GEYMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
In this time of bitter partisan debate over the future of US health care, the Republican Party is deeply split within its ranks while the Trump administration gives mixed signals as to its goals. On the one hand, President Trump says that the ACA, or Obamacare, is already a dead duck while his selected Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Tom Price, plans to use whatever administrative means are available to kill it altogether. The GOP's American Health Care Act (AHCA), narrowly passed in the House, has little support in the Senate, where secret discussions, likely to take months, are proceeding to develop its own plan to replace the ACA.
Within this confusing debate, there are three basic options to finance our health care system: (1) continue the ACA, with some possible revisions; (2) replace it with the AHCA, as modified within Congress; or (3) adopt a single-payer Medicare for All plan for national health insurance (NHI).
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Donald Trump wants to cut what some call the "highest corporate tax rate in the world." The tax cut will, according to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, "pay for itself with economic growth."
Two delusions in one. The realities are far different for anyone who actually considers the facts. And some of the facts about 2016 tax avoidance are shocking and depressing. For example, two of the big banks (JP Morgan and Bank of America) together underpaid their taxes by more than Trump's proposed $10.6 billion education cuts, which would eliminate or reduce after-school programs, work-study programs, state grants, teacher training, arts programs, and physical education. The two banks combined to DEFER nearly $10 billion.
BRIAN TRAUTMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The United States is the most militarized and jingoistic nation on earth. Its foreign policy is guided by imperialist militarism, neoliberal capitalism and racial xenophobia. For more than sixteen years now, three presidential administrations have carried out a so-called “War on Terror” (GWOT), a perpetual state of war that is waged globally, under the depraved reasoning that “the world is a battlefield,” to quote investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill. As demonstrated by the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the GWOT is conducted through conventional warfare. More often, however, it is executed through covert or “dirty” wars, against groups and individuals in many other nations.
The U.S. has the financial and logistical capacity to wage these illegal wars. Its bloated military budget is larger than the next seven countries combined. It is by far the largest operator of military installations abroad, maintaining nearly 800 bases in around 70 countries. The ever-growing military-industrial complex, which President Eisenhower warned about in his farewell address, permeates every facet of our society – from an economy largely dependent on the war industry, to military recruiting in our public schools, to police militarization. This toxic culture of war is underscored on different national holidays, particularly Memorial Day.
Memorial Day – a day originating in 1868 (Decoration Day), on which the gravesites of the Civil War dead were decorated with flowers – has morphed into a day that conflates the memorialization of killed soldiers with the glorification of war. The perennial flag-waving, ultra-nationalist speeches, garish street parades and hyper-consumerism of Memorial Day do not honor these soldiers. What might, however, is working to prevent future war and nurture peace – honoring their memory by not sending more men and women into harm’s way and to kill and maim in wars based on lies. To have any chance at being effective, however, this work must include efforts aimed at increasing public awareness about the many causes and costs of war.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
When President Donald Trump arrived in Israel on Monday, he was greeted by billboards, proclaiming: "Trump is a Friend of Zion," and requesting "Trump Make Israel Great." In a Haaretz story titled "Who's Behind the Dozens of pro-Trump Billboards Around Jerusalem?" Judy Maltz pointed out that the "42 billboards featuring intertwined Israeli and American flags" are sponsored by Friends of Zion Museum in Jerusalem, an enterprise founded by Christian Zionist Mike Evans.
The Friends of Zion Museum honors the Jewish people and those Gentiles who protected them from persecution.
In a November Jerusalem Post story, Jeremy Sharon called Evans "one of the most prominent Christian Zionist leaders in the world today." He is a well connected, if not-so-well-known Christian Zionist, who has written numerous books, produced more than a dozen documentaries and one of the entities he heads up is called the Jerusalem Prayer Team. According to Right Web, which maintains at its website that it is "an independent online publishing project that assesses the work of prominent organizations and individuals—both in and out of government—who promote aggressive or militaristic U.S. foreign and defense policies, with a special focus on the 'war on terror' and the Middle East," the Jerusalem Prayer Team aims to "enlist one million people in America to pray daily and 100,000 houses of worship praying weekly for the peace of Jerusalem."