Originally Published: 5/6/2017
Trumpcare: Despite Trump’s belief that the new American Health Care Act (AHCA) (TWW, Repeal and Replace, 4/22/17) has protections for people with pre-existing conditions (NY Times), an analysis by the Center for American Progress, found that the AHCA “would allow insurance companies in the small-group and individual markets to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions if they experience a gap in coverage. People with severe health conditions would face premiums so high that they would be priced out of the market.” The proposal suggests that states can create high-risk pools to cover people priced out of the market but these pools have consistently failed in the past (Washington Post) and aren’t a serious alternative to the Affordable Care Act. (ACA). And the proposal for funding such high-risk pools falls short by about $200 billion over 10 years, which means wait lists, sky-high deductibles, and unaffordable premiums. The Washington Post pointed out that the states with the most people with pre-existing conditions are the ones that voted for Trump. Given all the stink about the issue, Trump agreed to a policy change that could provide $8 billion to some states for the high-risk pool. $8 billion when it needs $200 billion? Not even close. (CNBC) Several House members then decided to switch their position (Roll Call) - even though most admitted that they had not read it (Rewire) and the CBO has not yet scored it. (Politico) A little-noticed provision will effect people who get insurance through their employers by eliminating protections that limit out-of-pocket costs for catastrophic illnesses. (Wall Street Journal) Another thing you’re hearing little about is how the AHCA’s cuts to Medicaid and insurance subsidies will put a drag on the economy. The Economic Policy Institute (EPA) estimated it will result in the loss of 1.8 million jobs and they broke it down by state. Check out the chart and see how many jobs your state will lose. The House passed the bill 217 to 213 on Thursday, with all Democrats and 20 Republicans voting “No.” (NY Times) Before that vote, however, they unanimously passed the exemption for Congress from the waiver provisions. (TWW, Repeal and Replace, 4/29/17) Unanimously. That means the Democrats voted to save their own skins, too. (Rep. Martha McSally) Trump delayed his trip to New York to throw a party. Buses were sent to take Republicans to the White House to celebrate in a Rose Garden ceremony. (Talking Points Memo) I’ve never heard of a Rose Garden ceremony when a bill has only been passed in 1 house. No one thinks this thing will get through the Senate, at least not in its current form.
Lobbying: Remember Trump promised to “drain the swamp” by barring people working on his transition team from lobbying for 6 months afterward? Well, only 3 months after, at least 9 people who worked on his transition have registered as lobbyists. (Politico)
Church & State: Trump signed another Executive Order directing the IRS to relax enforcement of rules barring tax-exempt churches from participating in politics. The Order also has unspecified “regulatory relief” for religious objectors to Obama’s mandate scaled back by the courts that requires contraception services as part of health plans. It does not, however, include the provision that allows federal contractors to discriminate against LGBT employees or single mothers on the basis of faith. (Washington Post)
Iraq and Syria: The Pentagon reported that at least 352 civilians have been killed in U.S. strikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syrian since 2014. But the monitoring group Airways estimated that 3,164 civilians have been killed by coalition air strikes. (Guardian)
Japan: For more than 50 years Japan has helped the National Security Agency (NSA) spy on targets by collecting signals from Russia and China and vacuuming up phone calls and Internet data from the region. Japan even paid to build the NSA a surveillance factory and a base. An in-depth report from The Intercept and Japanese broadcaster NHK, let the secret out.
Iowa: Governor Terry Branstad (R) signed a bill banning abortions at 20 weeks and requiring a 3-day waiting period before a women can get an abortion. There are no exceptions for rape or incest but it does allow abortions if the mother’s life or health is at risk. Just hours later, the state supreme court granted an emergency temporary injunction halting the law. (Reuters)
Michigan: Western Michigan University is lowering tuition for out-of-state students beginning with this summer’s session. Currently tuition is set at 2.3 times the rate of in-state tuition. It’s being lowered to 1.25 times. (Michigan Live)
Montana: The state legislature passed a bill known as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act which bans abortion at 20 weeks “except in cases of serious physical health risk or life endangerment.” Governor Steve Bullock (D) said he’ll veto the bill. (Rewire)
New Jersey: The ban on stun guns was officially declared unconstitutional. Such bans have also been invalidated or repealed in Michigan; Wisconsin; D.C.; the Virgin Islands; Overland Park, Kansas; and in Maryland in Annapolis, Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, Harford County, and Howard County. Baltimore is currently working on a repeal. (Washington Post)
Pennsylvania: Huntingdon County Common Pleas Court Judge George Zanic signed an order that people protesting Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 pipeline across their land can now be arrested on their own property due to a rarely imposed court order known as a “writ of possession.” Sunoco is owned by Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the Dakota Access pipeline. (NPR)
Texas: The Justice Department (DOJ) filed a motion in a suit regarding the federal nondiscrimination provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor had granted a temporary injunction blocking the regulation. (TWW, Texas, 1/7/17) Filing this motion will pause the litigation and send the regulations back to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), presumably to gut them. (Rewire)
Housing Bubble: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5 to 3 that cities may sue big banks over discriminatory lending practices that led to urban blight but that “they must meet higher standards to prove a direct relationship.” Dissenting were Justices Anthony Kennedy, Samuel Alito, and Clarence Thomas. (Washington Post)
Venezuela: The Supremes threw out a lower court’s ruling that had allowed Helmerich & Payne, an American oil drilling company, “to sue Venezuela over the seizure of 11 drilling rigs in 2010.” However, they left open the possibility to pursue further claims. The decision was 8 to 0. They remanded the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. (Reuters)
Conversion Therapy: The Supreme Court declined to take the case opposing California’s law banning conversion therapy. This leaves the lower court decision upholding the ban in place. (Bloomberg)
New Budget: Congress critters reached an agreement on a budget, an actual budget, so it will run to the end of the 2017 fiscal year, which is September 30th. The Democrats appear to be the big winners in the battle. There is no money for a Border Wall, but there is an additional $1.5 billion for more border security. Defense spending was increased by $12.5 billion “with the possibility of $2.5 billion more contingent on the White House presenting an anti-ISIS plan to Congress.” Remember, Trump had requested an additional $30 billion. Dems succeeded in getting protections for Planned Parenthood and additional money for Medicaid for Puerto Rico. And the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) appropriation was 99% of its current level, where Trump asked for a 24% cut. (CNN) There is also permanent funding for health care and retirement benefits for coal miners. (Guardian) The agreement also includes the extension of the policy that prohibits the Justice Department (DOJ) from using federal money to interfere with states’ marijuana laws. (Roll Call) There are some other details that are contrary to Trump’s agenda. He had promised not to increase domestic spending, calling for $18 billion in cuts. One interesting increase is $61 million to reimburse law enforcement agencies for protecting Trump and his entourage when going home to New York and to the Winter White House in Florida. (Yeah, folks. That means we’re paying for all his vacations.) And the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is getting an additional $2 billion, rather than the $1.2 billion cut Trump wanted. Trump also wanted to cut money for all kinds of scientific research including defunding the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. Instead it’s getting a $15 million increase. The EPA is guaranteed no staff cuts while Trump wanted to cut staff by 20%. (CNN) Obamacare subsidies will continue to be paid. And there were 160 riders, like doing away with the fiduciary rule and watering down environmental regulations, that the Democrats succeeded in getting withdrawn. (Washington Post) Also included is a doubling of the visas for low-wage, seasonal workers “such as those in the landscaping, forestry, and hospitality industries.” (Washington Post) The total amount, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), is almost $1.2 trillion. Check out this short list from CBO. Of the $1.2 trillion, $598 billion is for defense. This list also shows that $104 billion is just for wars. The House passed the bill on Wednesday. (Washington Post) The Senate passed the bill on Thursday. (Washington Post) Trump signed it on Friday. (PBS)
People’s Budget: The Progressive Caucus has released its annual People’s Budget. They do this every year but you never hear anything about it in the mainstream media. This year it includes a $2 trillion infrastructure investment, closes corporate tax loopholes, and ensures that families don’t pay more than 10% of their income for childcare. It supports a minimum wage increase, clean energy expansion, and debt-free college.
Estate Tax: Trump’s proposal to revamp the tax code includes eliminating the estate tax. (TWW, Personal Tax Cut, 4/29/17) The Washington Post estimated estate taxes at the current rate for Trump and his Cabinet. They found that 13 out of the 24 officials in his Cabinet currently have estates greater than $5.5 million, estates that are subject to the tax. “Collectively, they could owe as much as $1.5 billion.” Check out the list and especially look at the wealthiest.
Saving Money: Every year since 2011 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) puts out a report that looks at federal programs that overlap, are fragmented, or are duplicative. The 2017 report is out. According to Gene Dodaro, the U.S. comptroller general who heads the GAO, this year’s report adds 79 new actions in 29 different areas that range across the federal government.
Neoliberalism: The Nation looked at the death of neoliberalism and what could replace it. The authors wrote: “This ideology has result in pushing the widespread deregulation of key industries, attempting to solve most social and economic problems through market competition, and privatizing public functions like the operation of prisons and institutions of higher education.” And it’s neoliberalism that has provoked populist responses, like the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump. The authors have a roundtable discussion with 5 “great minds.” This is a fascinating and informative piece. I highly suggest you read it. And watch this short video by Kate Raworth describing how neoliberalism started and what it’s all about. (You Tube)
Net Neutrality: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has denied the request to rehear the argument challenging the Net Neutrality rule. (TWW, Net Neutrality, 6/18/16) It looks like the case will be going to the Supreme Court. (Washington Post)
Unroll.Me: Have you seen this handy little app? It’s “a popular service that aims to rescue your email inbox from unwanted newsletters and promotional messages with an easy automated unsubscribe service.” Sounds good, right? Don’t use it. The company is selling your email address to Uber. And, I suppose, Uber can then sell it to others. (The Intercept)
Missile Testing: We test-fired a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles twice this week. “The unarmed Minuteman 3 missile has a range of around 8,000 miles, putting it within striking distance of Pyongyang.” (Independent)
Unemployment: We added 211,000 jobs in April. The unemployment rate is now 4.4%. Job gains came primarily in the fields of leisure and hospitality, health care, and finance. (Washington Post)
Overtime: The House passed a bill 229 to 197 along party lines that will allow private sector employees to exchange overtime pay for compensatory time off. The bill was touted as providing flexibility to workers. (Washington Post) I worked in a place that did that. There was no “choice.” We couldn’t ask for the money. We were required to take compensatory time off. Of course, there was never time to take the time off.
Financial Choice Act: While everyone was busy watching the House destroy the Affordable Care Act, the House Financial Services Committee was gutting the Dodd-Frank Act. It passed the Financial Choice Act, a bill that removes protections against taxpayer-funded bailouts, erodes consumer protections, and undercuts necessary tools to hold Wall Street accountable. (Center for American Progress) The Hill reported that the “intense, exhaustive markup included hours of lawmakers fighting over the true cause of the 2008 crisis, the Federalist Papers, the founding of the United States, Russia’s influence on the 2016 presidential election, President Trump’s potential conflicts of interest, and the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.” Why did this thing pass? According to Allied Progress, Republican members of the committee have received at least $32,211,535 from the financial industry.