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6289639278 e6336deb12 zConvert Obamacare enrollees to Medicare? (Photo: Michael Fleshman)

As Republicans continue to push for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, it's crucial that we discuss progressive alternatives that would ensure access to insurance for as many people as possible. In an opinion piece in The Hill, Robert Hockett, Edward Cornell professor of law and public policy at Cornell University, proposes that those committed to repealing Obamacare need not look far for a replacement. Just let Obamacare enrollees and eligible individuals enroll in Medicare:

[Republican] Congressional leaders have said that their first order of business upon reconvening this week is to repeal and, at some point, replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — the 2010 legislation that President Obama often is said to regard as his signature achievement....

The impediment...which the leadership and the president-elect alike have noted, is that as yet there is no agreement on what should replace the ACA. Simply throwing millions of newly insured Americans off of their plans would cause hardship among working Americans on a nearly unprecedented scale....

Why not, in the very same legislation that repeals Obamacare, instantly entitle all who lose their insurance coverage under the ACA immediately to enroll in Medicare?

Medicare is probably the most popular health insurance in the United States. Even Tea Party senior citizens have issued a definitive demand at rallies: "Don't touch my Medicare!"

In June of 2016, CNBC predicted -- based on an Urban Institute study -- that 24 million people would lose health insurance coverage if Obamacare were repealed and not replaced.


3622561994 322baa7a0a zThere are 24 states whose governments are controlled by Republicans as compared to only 6 such Democratic states. (Photo: Jimmy Emerson, DVM)

BuzzFlash recently reported on how the reactionary threat in many statehouses is growing.

We noted the fact that 24 states have both Republican-dominated legislatures and GOP governors. Meanwhile, only 17 states have Democratic governors and only 13 statehouses are controlled by Democrats.

These numbers provide an indicator of the right-wing tidal wave -- largely in Southern and small states -- that continues to advance Republican control of states, in part due to state-level gerrymandering after the 2010 election. After the 2016 elections, the Republicans reached a percentage of representation at the state level that is the highest since its founding as a political party.

This high water mark for Republicans on the state level has serious implications. A January 5 article in The Hill reveals the continued efforts of GOP-controlled states to prohibit various progressive laws at the local level, particularly in cities. This is an accelerating strategy to stifle grassroots progressive victories:

After consolidating power in Washington, D.C., and state capitals under President-elect Donald Trump, Republicans are moving to prevent large cities dominated by Democrats from enacting sweeping liberal agendas.


Us south censusSouthern states lead the red states in social safety net hypocrisy. (Map: Wikipedia )

A recent article in Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) scathingly debunks the "racialized rural mythology" that conservative white rural voters subsidize urban residents. In fact, in general, the opposite is true. FAIR rebuts this fiction, which is embedded in rural culture and politics, with the revealing raw facts:

On an individual level, too, rural residents are more likely to receive government benefits than urban or suburban residents; a Pew survey (12/18/12) found that 62 percent of rural residents had received Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, welfare or unemployment benefits, vs. 54 percent of urban dwellers and 53 percent of suburbanites.

In a 2012 BuzzFlash commentary, I noted that Mitt Romney received his greatest support from a significant portion of Americans he referred to as "moochers," who reside in the rural South. The Tax Foundation found that the Southern states have the largest percentage of people who don't pay income taxes, in general, due to low income or tax avoidance:

Nine of the ten states with the largest percentage of nonpayers are in the South and Southwest. In Mississippi, 45 percent of federal tax returns remit nothing or receive money with their federal tax returns; that is the highest percentage nationally. Georgia is next at 41 percent, followed by Arkansas at 41 percent, and Alabama, South Carolina, and New Mexico at 40 percent.

These high percentages of income tax non-filing are indicative of blue states being much more likely to subsidize red states than the other way around. Yet, every election, the myth that white rural voters are paying to prop up poor people of color in cities is trotted out. In fact, as I noted in 2012, the state of Mississippi received $2.73 in federal support for every dollar state residents paid to the IRS. The net flow of tax dollars into Mississippi is fairly typical of Southern states, as a map in a Mother Jones article reveals. Meanwhile, solid blue states  -- such as California, Illinois and New York -- receive less money back from the federal government than the state residents pay to the IRS.


23038207819 26b0b6d170 zThe rotunda of the Texas capitol, where Republicans are in full control of the legislature and governorship, as is the case in 24 states.  (Photo: Adam Simmons)

We are all aware that after the 2016 elections, the Republicans have majorities in the US Congress, and they will shortly have a GOP president in the White House. However, the national election results have overshadowed the continued loss of Democratic Party ground on the state level. For example, only 17 states will have Democratic governors in 2017.

What is more worrisome is that Democrats only control 13 statehouses. According to The Hill, as a result of the November elections, the Democrats have hit a "new low in state legislatures":

The Democratic Party will hit a new nadir in state legislative seats after suffering more losses in November’s elections, highlighting the devastation up and down the party across the nation.

Republicans will control 4,170 state legislative seats after last week’s elections, while Democrats will control 3,129 seats in the nation’s 98 partisan legislative chambers. Republicans picked up a net gain of 46 seats in Tuesday’s elections, while Democrats lost 46 seats, according to the latest vote counts from The Associated Press. Beginning next year, Republicans will control 67 of the 98 partisan legislative chambers, after winning new majorities in the Kentucky House, the Iowa Senate and the Minnesota Senate. Democrats picked up control of both the state Assembly and Senate in Nevada, and the New Mexico state House. 

Since Obama took office, Republicans have captured control of 27 state legislative chambers Democrats held after the 2008 elections. The GOP now controls the most legislative seats it has held since the founding of the party.


3025762169 fb7909b6b1 zBill Clinton launched his presidential run on the shoulders of the Democratic Leadership Council. (Photo: Timothy K Hamilton)

Al From was a co-founder in the '80s of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), which was Bill Clinton's ideological launching pad to the presidency. The DLC, in turn, "inspired" other DC centrist Democratic Party think tanks such as the Third Way, which champions ideas like increasing nuclear power and supporting charter schools. In a January 4 Guardian US commentary, From argues that the Democratic Party needs to return to "the principles" of the DLC.

Perhaps the best rejoinder to From's exhortation is that the DLC went bankrupt and closed its doors in 2011. As Ben Smith wrote in a Politico article that year:

The centrist Democratic Leadership Council, which fought and largely won a battle for the soul of the Democratic party in the 1990s, is on the verge of bankruptcy and is closing its doors, its founder, Al From, confirmed Monday.

The group’s decision to “suspend operations” marks the conclusion of a long slide from its peak of relevance in the Clinton era, and perhaps the beginning a battle over its legacy, as the organization’s founders and allies argue that it has been a victim of its own success – and its liberal critics are already dancing on its grave.

In his Guardian US essay, From tries to resurrect DLC centrism at a time when the heir to the DLC legacy -- Hillary Clinton -- just lost the White House. She ran a campaign based on DLC-style neoliberalism, while incorporating some left-leaning populist positions in her struggle to fend off Bernie Sanders in the primaries.


2016december economicinjustice copy2The canyon of economic injustice is widening. (David Shankbone)

Throughout the ups and downs of 2016, Truthout and BuzzFlash have been there to bring you reliable news and analysis. Click here to support us with a donation before the year ends!

As 2017 approaches, a recent study indicates that the income gap in the US is growing. According to a December 22 CNNMoney article,

The gap between the "haves" and "have nots" is widening, according to the latest data out this week.

The rich are money-making machines. Today, the top mega wealthy -- the top 1% -- earn an average of $1.3 million a year. It's more than three times as much as the 1980s, when the rich "only" made $428,000, on average, according to economists Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman. Meanwhile, the bottom 50% of the American population earned an average of $16,000 in pre-tax income in 1980. That hasn't changed in over three decades.

In the past decade, there has only been a brief period when the chasm narrowed, the report indicates:

Around 2009 and 2010, inequality narrowed slightly because the rich had lost a lot of wealth.

But since then, inequality has grown and is on track to widen further. The wealthy have recovered far faster as the stock market has surged over 230% since bottoming out in March 2009 and property values have shot back up to pre-recession levels.


2016silenceTrumpism demands activism, not silence. (Photo: Jemma D )

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The election of Donald Trump has seen the religious right gearing up to fight against abortion rights, defund Planned Parenthood, target transsexual rights, and re-litigate same sex marriage; economic conservatives dusting off plans to eliminate as many government regulations (and possibly departments) as possible, support school choice, the privatization of social security, Medicare, and craft a new tax code; and white supremacists and nationalists –operating under the media-friendly banner of the “alt-right” -- are looking to mainstream their anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic vision of a white America, and broaden their constituency.

As reports of hate incidents and harassment soar, people are responding: Petitions are being circulated; websites are setting up mechanisms for reporting incidents of hate; demonstrations are being held in cities across the country; and, fight-back organizations are crafting plans and soliciting donations.

So how best to cope with and combat what many see as a coming maelstrom of hate attacks?

Information is key to any struggle. Naming the attackers, decoding their messages, and speaking out against hate groups, and incidents of hate and harassment is essential, and, finally, taking the long view regarding political engagement is crucial.


4187193883 eb94c5f123 zInstead of falsely claiming that there is a "war on Christmas," why not support peace? (Photo: John)

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The longstanding right-wing propaganda crusade against a nonexistent "war on Christmas" has gained new steam during the campaign and election of Donald Trump. According to a December 20 Christian Science Monitor article, FOX News began promoting the false meme about secular liberals attacking Christmas (and, more broadly, Christians) about a decade ago.  The embedding of the "truthy" notion that there are hostile forces attacking Christmas got an extra boost when Bill O'Reilly took it on as a cause, hammering the accusation home in his TV show and writing.

According to the The Christian Science Monitor report, Donald Trump's adoption of the call to end the "war on Christmas" accusation has boosted it substantially:

But while discourse surrounding the "war on Christmas" has taken place primarily on Fox News and conservative talk radio shows in the past, this year the pro-"Merry Christmas" faction gained a voice on the national political stage thanks to a powerful ally: President-elect Donald Trump. Mr. Trump's adoption of the cause speaks to the concerns of conservative supporters who see a broader persecution of Christians in America and political correctness run amok. But once he takes office, Trump's explicit support of the holiday has the potential to expand beyond rhetoric into concrete political action.

"The 'war on Christmas' discourse sounds similar notes each season, so it's less the discourse that has changed than the context and the stakes," says Kevin Coe, an associate professor of communication at the University of Utah, in an email to The Christian Science Monitor. "More so than in the past, the 'war on Christmas' is connected to perceptions of a broader 'war on Christianity.'"

In essence, evoking a phony "war" against a religious holiday allows Christians who feel besieged by a multicultural world to feel that they are victims -- that their religion and personal beliefs are being belittled and censored. It is very consistent with Trump's appeal to the sense of white Christian victimhood that he manipulated to his advantage throughout the election, and continues to manipulate in the transitional period before he assumes the office of president.


4361541526 60f37e976b z 1Will 2017 be the year of rebel journalism? (Photo: Kevin Harber )

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In the Nieman Lab newsletter, a project of the Harvard Nieman Foundation to foster best-journalistic practices, media diversity specialist Andrew Ramsammy finds a positive side to the 2016 election: He says it will ignite the spread of "rebel journalism" in 2017. He predicts that out of the ashes of the election will come a new form of journalism -- indeed, a "rebellion" against the mainstream media that contributed to the rise of Donald Trump. According to Ramsammy, "rebel journalists" will use their platforms boldly to advance truth and pursue justice.

Three examples illustrate Ramsammy's rebel journalist's manifesto:

  • "The rebel will rise against all forms of prejudice and hate, including racism, homophobia, sexism, bigotry, misogyny, nativism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, ignorance, intolerance, politicism, monolithic ideology, self-righteousness, and venality."

  • "The rebel will also rebel against the owned voice, the public media/NPR/PBS sound, the Ron Burgundys, the-colder-than-Siberia-studio-based-three-camera-airbrushed-skin-detail-minus-seven-Best Buy-flat-panel-topias-of-three-point-lighting, the saccharin-tonedeafness of poorly written, culturally anemic headlines, the copy-and-paste of audio scripts for the web, the host banter, awful segues, throws to live-dead newscasts of stereotyped crime scenes from hours, days, and years ago, and the billboarding of any news as 'the most-trusted source.' These are all examples of rusty hooks and relics of the lingua franca of ancient Mesopotamia, lost on audiences who no longer watch and/or listen and perhaps never have and don’t care. Rebels get the best stories without the bells and whistles of sterility. Rebels like keeping it pure."

  • "Rebels must rebel against journalism’s institutional and structural racism. We must fight against the platitudes of diversity; all of its exoticness and pornographic otherness. Diversity is neither abstract nor finite; it is complex and infinite. One cannot act upon diversity without inclusion, or inclusion without diversity. They are not mutually exclusive. Rebels understand the value of diverse opinions and will not shunt themselves from difference, or become a patsy to conformity. The rebel will champion mentorship and ceaselessly foster the next generation of voices, journalists, and storytellers."


A Tale of Two Story Social Media latino(Image: Institute for Policy Studies)

 On Thursday evening, the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) released a report that concluded that just 100 of the wealthiest CEOs have amassed retirement funds equal to a little more than 40 percent of the US population's retirement savings.

The analysis concluded: "Just 100 CEOs have company retirement funds worth $4.7 billion — a sum equal to the entire retirement savings of the 41 percent of U.S. families with the smallest nest eggs." Furthermore:

This $4.7 billion total is also equal to the entire retirement savings of the bottom:

  • 59 percent of African-American families

  • 75 percent of Latino families

  • 55 percent of female-headed households

  • 44 percent of white working class households

To put this in perspective, the IPS found that "the top 100 CEO nest eggs are large enough to generate for each of these executives a $253,088 monthly retirement check for the rest of their lives."

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