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.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
We are nearing the 16th year of the Afghan War, which began on October 7, 2001, with the US military invasion of the country. The assault was jingoistically dubbed Operation Enduring Freedom. Today, the longest war in US history still has no end in sight.
Alarmingly, according to the New York Times, Defense Secretary James Mattis and National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster are urging President Trump to initiate a new surge of troops. This would add thousands more soldiers to the 8,400 who are still currently serving there, should Trump approve the plan.
In a commentary in Consortium News, James W. Carden writes:
In his 2014 book Restraint: A New Foundation for US Strategy, [Barry] Posen correctly observes that U.S. objectives in Afghanistan are "probably unachievable." After all, "despite much US and NATO instruction" Afghanistan’s "military, and police remain poorly trained, inadequately armed, sometimes corrupt, and only intermittently motivated."
What to do? Send in more troops, as per Mattis and McMaster? No: the wisest course of action would be for the U.S. to moderate its goals, which, according to Posen, "means ratcheting down the US counterinsurgency, nation-building project in Afghanistan at the earliest possible time."
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.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The Trump administration budget proposal would put large numbers of people at risk by reducing funds for Tsunami warnings, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) -- an advocacy group representing staff members of government agencies that are responsible for preserving the environment. A recent PEER news release states:
Proposed budget cuts by President Trump would compromise the timeliness and accuracy of tsunami forecasting and warnings, thereby putting thousands of coastal residents at needless risk.... The budgetary reductions unveiled last week would also negate key provisions of the Tsunami Warning, Education, and Research Act which Trump signed into law on April 18th.
According to National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration experts, the cuts will significantly reduce warning time of an incoming tsunami to coastal populations, especially in Alaska and Hawaii. In addition to eliminating over 60% of the staff for the NOAA Tsunami Warning Center (from 40 positions to only 15), the Trump budget would terminate funding for three separate tsunami detection systems:
Land-based seismic sensors;
Coastal water level sensors; and
Deep-ocean buoys (the Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis or DARTs).
A PEER fact sheet details the impact of the proposed reduction in tsunami forecasting and advance alert funds. In particular, it warns against the termination in funding for seismic sensors, noting, "Eliminating these seismic sensors will dramatically decrease the lead time (from about 25minutes on average, to 0) for the most vulnerable Hawaiian, and Alaskan coastal populations,because over 90% of the casual ties occur on the closest coasts to a Tsunamigenic Earthquake."
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.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Resistance is an imperative response to "Trumpism." However, in addition to pushing back, it is important for individuals, ad hoc advocacy groups, activist organizations and local governments to advance progressive goals in innovative ways.
This week brought us Trump's decision to remove the United States from the Paris Accord. This makes the United States one of only three nations that did not sign the Accord. (The others are Nicaragua, which did not sign it because the political leaders of that country felt it was not strong enough, and Syria, which was in the midst of civil war and whose leaders were hardly in a position to engage in international talks.) Beyond the wholly understandable outrage, can there be positive progressive action to counter Trump's pernicious abandonment of the people of the planet?
The answer that California, New York and Washington have offered is "yes." Yesterday, the three states announced the formation of the United States Climate Alliance, which will be composed of states that want to commit to the Paris Accord, bypassing Trump's withdrawal. The alliance was described on the website of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo:
In response to President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., and Washington State Governor Jay R. Inslee today announced the formation of the United States Climate Alliance, a coalition that will convene U.S. states committed to upholding the Paris Climate Agreement and taking aggressive action on climate change.
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.