Archive for the ‘Congress’ Category
Sometimes when presented with esoteric information I find myself thinking, “Why would I ever need to know that?” Without being psychic, there’s a better than even chance you are about to have that exact same thought, because…
This post is about budget reconciliation, the Senate Byrd Rule, and tax cuts.
Stick with me for about 400 more words and I promise everything will come together.
First, a quick story. Let’s say you are an enterprising high school student who, on occasion, visits your parent’s liquor cabinet. The parents, just as enterprising, mark the level of happy juice remaining after they partake. Therefore, fun is calibrated by hash marks running down the spine of the bottle indicating how much happy juice remains to be imbibed.
How does the enterprising teenager cover his surreptitious “borrowing” of fun juice? A “C” student would use water to fill the bottle back to the hash mark. An “A” student would find the pen used to make the hash mark and just make a new, lower one.
Folks, that’s a synopsis of the federal budget reconciliation act for purposes of tax cuts. I’ll explain.
Being discerning Widdershinners, the velocity with which the Republican American Health Care Atrocity Act (AHCA) moved was worrisome. Why the breakneck speed to alter almost one-fifth of the economy? The reason: Paul Ryan didn’t want anyone to notice the tax cut hash marks were being changed.
What the AHCA did was to lower the liquor bottle hash marks for tax cuts. It changed the tax baseline. The reason this is important is that the Senate rules require any tax cut to end after ten-years unless it is “paid-for” – ergo, the lower the hash mark, the less you have to replace. That’s the Byrd Rule.
The Republicans wanted to eliminate $1.0 Trillion in taxes over the next ten years by repealing the A.C.A. That meant $1.0 Trillion less they would have to replace in “pay-fors” in the next round of tax cuts, which they euphemistically call “tax reform”.
Paul Ryan doesn’t care about health care policy. He cares about tax cuts. The AHCA was merely a means to an end. Ryan, with a complicit White House, was merely figuring out a way to make the coming tax cuts larger and permanent. He was lowering the hash mark on the liquor bottle so he and his overlords could swill more of that sweet, delicious juice of the tax cut. The repeal of the A.C.A. taxes make the next tax cuts coming through “tax reform” look more affordable.
The chart below demonstrates what a massive redistributive tax cut the AHCA represented. It was redistribution from those least able to pay to the wealthiest collective in the country – the One Percenters.
Why am I taking your time with this? The quest for larger and permanent tax cuts isn’t over.
Ryan and his tax cut swilling cohort aren’t quitting – just like drinkers, nobody likes a quitter. Yesterday, a purloined recording of Ryan cooing to Republican donors surfaced. He promised:
We’re not going to just all of a sudden abandon health care and move on to the rest. We are going to move on with rest of our agenda, keep that on track, while we work the health-care problem. . . . It’s just that valuable, that important.
The anime-eyed granny-starver isn’t giving up. He might announce his grand plan as early as Thursday or Friday. Hell hath no fury like a Republican denied tax cuts. Who would have thought Republicans would seek to cut taxes, end regulation, rollback civil rights, and then for good measure, cut some more taxes? Who’d a’thunk it?
This class on budget reconciliation is now adjourned.
What’s on your mind today?
Indeed, a bold move, let’s see if it pays off for them. So bold, the logic is nonexistent or exists in a parallel bizarro universe. Originally, I was going to post about a political science study, but it is too egg-headed and stuffy for a day like today.
Today we get to watch a bunch of Congressional one-eyed lemmings follow one another off the cliff because they’ve been told they can learn to fly on the way down.
These lemmings were tricked into trying to “midair Kitty Hawk” by King Don Dumb, the author of Schart of the Zeal. That’s a book about living a goony-eyed life of believing your own sh!t so much you get all excited and poop yourself, but not before toot farting, thereby signaling your unbridled zeal.
Here’s the upside for King Don Dumb if it passes – 24 million lose their health insurance, premiums go up, deductibles go up, coverage goes down, but the really rich get millions in tax cuts.
Overnight, there was another ransom note from the freaky Freedom Caucus. Not only does it cut essential benefits like maternity care, newborn care, pediatric care, mental health, drug treatment, rehabilitation, prescription drug coverage, preventative care, wellness care, chronic disease, laboratory services, hospitalization, and outpatient services, there’s more – even though that list looks like pretty much everything insurance is supposed to do.
To the things listed as essential services, add about eight other technical things that must have been written down during especially unctuous nocturnal emissions of insurance lobbyists. They include eliminating the “single risk pool” allowing insurers to cull the cheap healthy from the expensive sick, reinstating lifetime and annual coverage limits, eliminating the requirement for no-cost preventative care like mammograms, and undoing the Medical Loss Ratio standards, which is a fancy term for forcing large insurers to pay out at least 85% of premiums on claims and rebating the rest.
And here’s what I can’t believe hasn’t been covered: This travesty – this atrocity increases the deficit. It’s only slightly cheaper than the ACA, but it still increases the deficit because of the tax cuts. These heartless, amoral, hell-bound morons are borrowing money to heap suffering on 24 million people. It’s like an arsonist taking a mortgage on a house before torching it.
For seven years we’ve heard that selling insurance across state lines is the magical elixir to reduce premiums. That tired story is just another hornless unicorn, but it is what “wonkinator” Paul Ryan has sworn will work. States already allow interstate insurance sales, but insurance companies don’t do it because it doesn’t make economic sense. As health care expert Austin Frakt, told the Los Angeles Times, “I never understood the appeal of this idea. It only makes sense if you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Here in one chart is all you need to know. The chart depicts the percentage of income paid for premiums of a 60-year old making $20,000.00 a year. Under the ACA, she pays about 5% of her income no matter where she lives. Under this “Death Care” (© Fredster), in some parts of the country the same 60-year old pays 100% of her income for coverage. No one is going to do that. No one can do that.
No idea how this will turn out in the morning, but I’m sure of these things: The legislative language is still being worked out, there is no CBO score so no one knows how much these changes will cost, and oh yeah, this Death Care is polling at 17%.
One other thing, even if it does pass, it is DOA in the Senate. King Don Dumb has tooted and schart his pants declaring, “Take it or leave it, I’m done with health care.” At about 11:00 p.m., he blamed the anime-eyed granny-starver for this fiasco. As if that is a surprise.
The bold strategy is whether or not they can hide the fact this “wealth care” is only about the rich and Republican swamp dwellers. Hell of a thing. If someone had only warned us.
The first procedural vote is scheduled for 8:00 a.m. EDT this morning.
What’s on your mind today?
When I’m cooking, I’ve learned if you have the luxury of time, low and slow is the way to go. Earlier in my scotch-addled life, my friends told me of limbo contests where I physically went low and slow. And speaking of my scotch-addled life, low and slow pretty much described my dating habits.
Low and slow is neither the way to run the government nor is it the way to run the economy. It is inconceivable to imagine a budget lower in basic human services than what we saw this week.
Yesterday in watching Dick Prick Mick Mulvaney, the dust ruffle of crazy town, claim that cutting Meals on Wheels is the compassionate thing to do, I’m pretty much convinced we can’t go much lower. As we say around here, we are “next to the belly of a snake in a wagon rut.”
Obviously, Dolt 45 is as dumb as a box of hair mated with some orange zest and Adderall. He could care less what these crazy ideologues do as long as he can continue belching his lies in front of half-empty venues.
So why should he care? He’s got Mulvaney and anime-eyed granny-starver Paul Ryan to shovel the steaming dump Jim DeMint and the Heritage Foundation just took on the country. This budget, which will never pass, is nothing but the greatest hits from 1980s Heritage Foundation. Not even Reagan dared going this low.
When someone has no shame, there just is no limit to the depths they will sink. Given this first fifty days, it won’t be long before we are plumbing the depths of the Mariana Trench.
When it comes to slow things, the economy is troubling. About a year ago, I started paying attention to certain economic indicators believing Hillary was about to inherit a lethargic economy. There are disturbing indicators.
Here is a truism: Economic expansions never die from old age. The current expansion is seven and half-years old. That is long in the tooth.
Gallup surveys economic confidence and says it is at a historic high. The stock market is at a record high. The economy is still adding jobs. So why am I spending your time on the subject?
We are in a bubble. The confidence and stock market are anticipatory highs. It is not based in value. The highs are based upon a belief in massive Trumpanzee promised corporate tax cuts and the repatriation of $2.1 Trillion in offshore profits. Neither will be invested in expansion, but will be paid out in dividends or in stock buybacks. It will make the 1% even more one-percentier.
Unrelated to this economic giddiness, there are indicators screaming we are heading into another slowdown if not outright recession. Not to bore you, but just a few indicators:
- Employers are cutting back hours. We are seeing the highest percentage in the decline of hours since the 2008 recession.
- Tax receipts are down.
- Retailers are missing their earnings projections.
- Lending standards have tightened.
- Job growth at the S&P companies has gone negative.
All of these are warning signs of a slowing economy or impending recession. Any external event could hasten an economic retreat. Perhaps even monkeying around with one-sixth of the economy with an ill-conceived health care plan or a federal budget that would decimate hundreds of thousands of employees could precipitate it. Who knows?
I do know this: There are very few tricks left in the wheelhouse to combat recession. We will hear tax cuts from this bunch of Neanderthal MAGAbators, but as we have seen time and time again, sloganeering is not economic policy.
We are still paying for the last time we allowed this knuckle-dragging crowd to raid the Treasury with tax cuts, two wars, and unfunded benefit programs. Half of the national deficit is due to giving them the credit card and hoping for the best. Well, we know how that turned out.
Why do I think this is important enough to take your time this morning? From what I saw in the proposed budget, these people are unimaginative at best and stone-cold ignorant at worst. They are uncaring and vindictive. They are politically deaf. Power is a means to an end for them.
The choices represented in their budget were callous and heartless. If the worst happens, their response to an economic downturn will be likewise – callous, heartless, low, and slow. Human suffering will be but a minor inconvenience for a $2.1 Trillion payday. Daddy needs a new Gulfstream 650.
What’s on your mind today?
Good Monday, Widdershins. I hope you had a good International Women’s Day. I saw quite a few women wearing red at my client site last week in honor of “A Day without a Woman.” It was inspirational. I think there are several more actions planned from the organizers of the Women’s March, so stay tuned!
Now to the title of my post. This comes from some research I’ve been doing on the human brain, and the way it works to keep us alive and protect us from threats. This won’t be a super-science-y piece – more of a meditation on the state our country is in, and how it’s possible for sub-human cretins like Drumpf, Bannon and their minions to win even one vote, much less 60-odd million.
As I’m sure many of you know better than I, there are older, more primitive parts of our brains that only exist to make sure we quickly and instinctively respond to threats. From an evolutionary perspective, these parts of the brains are extremely important. They initiate the “fight or flight” response, which actually also includes a “freeze” as well, giving us microseconds to decide either to go to war, or to retreat.
After millions of years of evolution, we actually developed the capability to process these responses and evaluate them. Ah, the frontal lobe! Human beings develop this part of the brain in young adulthood. At least, some human beings do.
…It organizes responses to complex problems, plans steps to an objective, searches memory for relevant experience, adapts strategies to accommodate new data, guides behavior with verbal skills and houses working memory. Its orbitofrontal circuit manages emotional impulses in socially appropriate ways for productive behaviors including empathy, altruism, interpretation of facial expressions. Stroke in this area typically releases foul language and fatuous behavior patterns [bolding mine].
My argument today is that Drumpf and his supporters have either not developed their frontal lobes, or they have developed them, but are unable to use them. Their amygdalae are in charge, causing them to respond unthinkingly to perceived threats without the calming influence of the orbitofrontal circuit. This inability to counter the constant screaming of “Danger, Will Robinson!” makes them extremely susceptible to manipulation by other like-minded people, who deeply understand the constant state of anxiety in which these primitive brains exist.
In other words…they are stupid. And because they’re stupid, they’re evil.
Noted scholar and transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.” So to begin my self-allotted 800 words, what do I do? I quote a smart man explaining his utter disdain for quotes.
True story. I love quotes. Collect them I do. I’m always looking for smart words from those who have journeyed before. Their wisdom is manifest and unmistakable. I find comfort in that.
So this week while thinking about this post, I began looking for a quote about shame. There weren’t that many shame quotes and the few I found were all wrong. They talked about shame as a regulator of behavior – as something to be “ashamed of”. There weren’t any quotes about the lack of shame.
Given the lack of quotes about shamelessness, it might indicate we are regressing along the evolutionary continuum. I imagine shamelessness requires less higher reasoning and a greater reliance on the lower brain stem – which brings me to Supreme Commander Monkey Butt (hereinafter “His Redness” or sometimes “Dolt 45” or “His High Assholiness”).
When I’ve described Dolt 45’s personality traits, I’ve been quite reticent about his mental health. With a high degree of probability I can surmise his behavior patterns, but his mental condition I will leave to others.
This brings me to his shamelessness. The only shame he fears is being labeled a fraud which is his primary and paramount behavioral avoidance priority. For all other types of normal, human shame – he has none. The shame a normal human would suffer does not faze him.
Within the last forty-eight hours, he told Tea Party groups not to worry if the Trump/RyanCare plan failed because he would make sure the ACA failed so he could blame the Democrats. Or telling the same groups he was fine with accelerating the human suffering by speeding up the Medicaid cutbacks by two years if that’s what it takes to win. Sociopathic behavior for sure, but no evidence of shame.
My point is this: While His High Assholiness’ behavior is abhorrent, it is the new Republican Trumpism. He is near the perfect Republican or so says at least 89% of self-described Republicans. Again, my feeble mind is called to a quote from H.L. Mencken:
As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.
The great and glorious day has arrived and the White House is now resplendently adorned by the consummate “downright moron” who happens to be unburdened by shame. He was the apple-eyed desire of the plain folks or at least 70,000 under-educated white men in three states. That desire still burns white-hot in nine out of ten Republican hearts.
These Trumpian sycophants know no shame. Just consider: Passing legislation affecting one-sixth of the economy without a hearing in the dead of night. Or ending life-sustaining medical care for maybe 15,000,000 people. Or ending opioid therapy or mental health treatment for millions. Or ending health clinics and outreach for the poorest and most under-served populations. Or doing all of this without an estimate of the costs.
All of this to give the wealthiest, most secure, and most powerful a massive tax cut. And on top of that giving insurance companies and medical device manufacturers a tax cut. And on top of that making sure the inadequate tax credits are as regressive as possible without regard to need or ability to pay. And on top of that, and this is where the shamelessness is extraordinary, financing the whole damn thing by draconian cuts to Medicaid – cuts to the poorest, weakest, and most vulnerable among us.
This bill isn’t a health care plan, it is a massive tax cut disguised as a political slogan to repeal the ACA. It is a WealthCare plan. It is a risible act of ignominy so outrageous it wouldn’t even make the SNL trashcan.
As discerning Widdershins, you are asking, “Why isn’t he mentioning the hypocrisy?” The answer is simple – without shame there is no hypocrisy. Talking to these people about hypocrisy is like talking to a cobra about venom or a skunk about stink. It is what makes them who they are.
The inimitable Mr. Emerson was a transcendentalist meaning he believed in the inherent goodness of individuals. I want to believe that too since there’s no shame in that – at least not yet.
I’m going to leave you with a musical interlude then I’ll list some links for interesting stories I couldn’t work into my self-indulgent rant/therapy. As always, take the safety off, comment at will, and thanks for listening.
Speaking of clowns, here’s one, and he’s a substitute for the Presidential Daily Briefing:
A wonderfully researched study of 1.25 million stories by the Columbia Journalism Review indicating Breitbart to be the right-wing media anchor hub of a distinct and insulated media system that appears to have set the agenda and overall tone for Hillary’s negative coverage.
An interactive demonstration that the “higher premium” lamentation by the shameless Republicans is, like so many things, made of whole cloth.
The lackadaisical use of military force is troubling and a bad omen of things to come. One week of bombing is equal to one year of missions under Obama.
Watch Paul Ryan’s Adam’s Apple when he’s asked about his “good, best friends” the rich.
On March 4th, The Thing in the White House sent out a bunch of angry tweets blasting the previous President for wiretapping Isengard Trump Tower. “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” Then 30 mins later: “How long has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process? This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!” When asked to clarify this insanity, The Thing’s minions really could do nothing but heee and hawww. The Thing read it somewhere, they said. NY Times! Louise Mensch! BBC! Naturally once reporters dug deeper, they found that NO, none of those reports talked about wiretapping. Mensch broke the story on her right-wing blog HeatStreet on November 7th about the FISA warrant, but all she said was that a FISC court granted permission to “examine the activities of ‘U.S. persons’ in Donald Trump’s campaign with ties to Russia.” In question was a mysterious communication between two Russian banks and a server in Trump Tower. (David Corn of Mother Jones broke the story of the two banks and Trump Tower, but all media dismissed it as a bizarre conspiracy theory a couple of weeks earlier.) In the follow-up reports to Mensch’s story, BBC and the failing NY Times confirmed a FISA warrant, but nobody mentioned wiretaps… except Breitbart and then The Thing in its Tweets. Ahhhhh, the plot thickens. Where did Breitbart get the information about wiretaps at Trump Tower and did The Thing just leak top secret information in a series of Tweets? Sure seems that way. Will anybody hold him accountable? LOL.
There are fleeing moments when it feels like Lady Lindsey Graham and Hero John McCain might hold The Thing accountable for the numerous impeachable offenses it has committed. Earlier today Graham tweeted: “An attack on one political party should be considered an attack on all. We must push back on Russian election interference at home & abroad.” That sounds great! However it should also be noted that Graham had lunch with The Thing earlier in the day.
“Great lunch meeting with @POTUS today. President Trump is strongly committed to rebuilding our military which is music to my ears. (1/3)
President Trump is in deal-making mode and I hope Congress is like-minded. (2/3)”
“How good was the meeting with @POTUS?
I gave him my NEW cell phone number.”
Somebody responded: “1-800-DOOR-MAT?” And then “You, sir, are a profile in courage.”
And that, folks, is Lindsey Graham summarized in a handful of tweets. We have to get used to the notion that no, Graham and McCain won’t hold The Thing accountable for anything until they’ve gotten what they want from him: tax cuts for the rich, bigger military, gutting ACA, etc. etc. etc. Then maybe, possibly, once that’s all done, they’ll throw The Thing overboard.
Speaking of handing out cell numbers, can anybody afford a new cell phone after Republicans pass Trumpcare? Jason Chaffetz, the man who investigated Benghazi and Hillary Clinton’s e-mails to death, and who doesn’t think there is any reason to look into Trump’s connections to Russia, went on CNN to start selling Trumpcare to America.
Americans have choices. And they’ve got to make a choice. And so, maybe rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to go spend hundreds of dollars on, maybe they should invest it in their own health care. They’ve got to make those decisions for themselves.
This is, of course, patently absurd. An iPhone unsubsidized by a phone company might cover one month’s premium for a single person. How many iPhones does Chaffetz think people buy? Of course, Chaffetz himself doesn’t have to buy his own phone. He gets one from work. His cell bill gets covered too. “How much does an iPhone cost” is the new “How much is a gallon of milk?” and Chaffetz doesn’t know the cost of either.
Overall Trumpcare is going to gut poor people into oblivion. It gives tax breaks to the rich, provides insurance companies with tax deductions on CEO salaries, will raise costs of premium, reinstate caps, gut preexisting conditions. Millions of people will lose their insurance. Many of them were Trump voters. Sadly many of them were not. But they will suffer also.
Why do Republicans hate poor people? It’s a question that has been asked often and there are many answers. As it came up again in the current Trumpcare discussion, I was reminded of a scene in E.M. Forster’s great novel “Howards End.” In the 1910 novel Forster explored 3 groups of people from 3 different classes: the extremely wealthy and conservative Wilcoxes, upper middle class but liberal Schlegels, and poor but aspiring for something bigger Basts. The Schlegel sisters, Margaret and Helen, try to help poor Leonard Bast, but their well-meaning interventions in his life, as well as not-well meaning interventions from the Wilcoxes, prove disastrous. He loses his job as a clerk in an insurance company after following bad advice from patriarch Henry Wilcox. When the impetuous Helen (played by Helena Bonham Carter in the magnificent film, with Emma Thompson as Margaret) tries to make her case for helping the poor to the condescending 1%-er Henry Wilcox (Anthony Hopkins in the film), the following exchange takes place. Written in 1910, “Howards End”is still relevant in 2017.
From Chapter 22
He [Henry Wilcox] raised his finger. “Now, a word of advice.”
“I require no more advice.” [said Helen]
“A word of advice. Don’t take up that sentimental attitude over the poor. See that she doesn’t, Margaret. The poor are poor, and one’s sorry for them, but there it is. As civilisation moves forward, the shoe is bound to pinch in places, and it’s absurd to pretend that any one is responsible personally. Neither you, nor I, nor my informant, nor the man who informed him, nor the directors of the Porphyrion, are to blame for this clerk’s loss of salary. It’s just the shoe pinching–no one can help it; and it might easily have been worse.”
Helen quivered with indignation.
“By all means subscribe to charities–subscribe to them largely– but don’t get carried away by absurd schemes of Social Reform. I see a good deal behind the scenes, and you can take it from me that there is no Social Question–except for a few journalists who try to get a living out of the phrase. There are just rich and poor, as there always have been and always will be. Point me out a time when men have been equal–”
“I didn’t say–”
“Point me out a time when desire for equality has made them happier. No, no. You can’t. There always have been rich and poor. I’m no fatalist. Heaven forbid! But our civilisation is moulded by great impersonal forces” (his voice grew complacent; it always did when he eliminated the personal), “and there always will be rich and poor. You can’t deny it” (and now it was a respectful voice)–“and you can’t deny that, in spite of all, the tendency of civilisation has on the whole been upward.”
“Owing to God, I suppose,” flashed Helen.
He stared at her.
“You grab the dollars. God does the rest.”
It was no good instructing the girl if she was going to talk about God in that neurotic modern way. Fraternal to the last, he left her for the quieter company of Mrs. Munt.
“Don’t ever discuss political economy with Henry,” advised her sister. “It’ll only end in a cry.”
“But he must be one of those men who have reconciled science with religion,” said Helen slowly. “I don’t like those men. They are scientific themselves, and talk of the survival of the fittest, and cut down the salaries of their clerks, and stunt the independence of all who may menace their comfort, but yet they believe that somehow good–it is always that sloppy ‘somehow’ will be the outcome, and that in some mystical way the Mr. Basts of the future will benefit because the Mr. Brits of today are in pain.”
Also, in brief: Richard Steele, the British spy who wrote the infamous “pee pee” dossier, has resurfaced. While American Senators want to hear him testify about what he knows.
WikiLeaks is dumping top secret CIA documents.
And contrary to earlier denials that he’s never met the Russian Ambassador (a man nobody has ever met), a newly unearthed article in the Wall Street Journal from last April says that Trump met with the Russian Ambassador and greeted him warmly.
What’s on your mind Widdershins? This is an open thread.
Good Sunday Widdershins!
Happy Sunday to you Widdershins. Alas, I believe the muse has left me. She has flown the coop. Said adios. She left no farewell note nor a forwarding address. SAD!
After umpteen “light” posts I believe I have gone through the gamut, when considering politics and since November the election of the Orange one. I have done music or movie posts on:
- Outrage – done that
- Rage – been there
- Anger – way too much
- Vengeance – is nice to think about but not too often
- Revenge – See vengence
- And so forth
I feel as if I’ve gone to the well and it’s a duster this time. Sooo, I’ve gathered a collection of political cartoons for us to take a gander at and perhaps get a sad chuckle at them. Enjoy.***
*** I saw this statement in a Charles Pierce article and maybe I’m getting there too:
At some point, I guess, you just have to walk away. Not forever, and not for long. But, sooner or later, you have to arrange one morning where you wake up and deliberately decide not to find out how the country has lost its mind overnight. I’m getting to that point, I have to tell you
* * *
* * *
* * *
* * *
* * *
* * *
* * *
* * *
* * *
Of course this is a totally open thread.