Endangering people to win politically is not leadership

One of the sad and scary truths with a president who lies, demeans, denigrates and bullies his critics is his more strident followers believe his rhetoric. A consequence of this stirring up of emotions is it places people who are critical of the president in danger of bodily harm or death.

Let me state this plainly. That is not leadership. It is promoting criminal behavior. It is not becoming of a president or any other legislator or person, for that matter. And, it should not be tolerated regardless of who does it.

Three items of late come to mind. The president stirred up his audience beforehand, but after stretching the truth and taking statements out of context, he had his followers chanting “send her back” in response to his demonizing four elected representatives. And, do not believe a word the president said when he tried to weasel out of responsibility the next day. He knows precisely what he is doing – using racism to divide America to get elected. That is beyond poor form.

It does not stop there. A law enforcement officer in Louisiana said this weekend what Representative Omar needs is a bullet. Really? And, you are in law enforcement. These four Congresswomen are already receiving death threats before the president’s recent racist comments. And, take this to the bank – if there is an attempt to harm any of them, the president will again weasel out of any responsibility.

Finally, we seem to be headed down a path to autocracy. That is scary for our democracy. So, pay attention to what happened in Hong Kong yesterday. Pro-Beijing gangs beat and harmed about 45 pro-democracy demonstrators in a transit center. The police were not used as that would look worse. So, as done on the mainland, gangs of thugs beat dissenters.

Could this happen here? Easily. Has it happened here. Yes, but not on a government sanctioned basis. But, with this “wind-up-the-extremists” president, it only needs Trump to do what he does well  – use lies and half-truths to rile people up.

Finally, to be fair, we do not need Antifa extremists promoting violence either. We do not need people treating others they disagree with like they would not want to be treated. Civil discourse is critical. When people use violence it diminishes their argument and cedes the higher ground. And, legislators please condemn violence, racism, lying and bullying, no matter who does it and that includes the president.

Let me close with the fact multiple global leaders have condemned the US president’s racist remarks – including, but not limited to New Zealand, UK, Ireland, Scotland, EU and Canada. That ireveals Trump’s comments as not exemplary behavior.

A plea for progressive Democrat voters

The following plea is made by an Independent voter who has been a member of both parties. I am fiscally conservative and socially progressive. I am an advocate for the disenfranchised, environment and debt education. What all this means is I believe in helping people climb ladders, equal opportunity and rights, protecting our environment, but recognizing we have to pay for things.

My plea for progressive Democrat voters is as follows: If someone

  • cares about our global reputation and trade,
  • cares about good healthcare options,
  • cares about fighting climate change,
  • cares about protecting the environment and bee pollinators,
  • cares about our growing debt problem made worse by this president,
  • cares about civil rights and liberties for all,
  • cares about common decency,
  • cares about data-driven analysis, and
  • knows that our economy has been growing for over 120 months, only 30 of which have been under this president,

then please vote for Donald Trump’s opponent.

But. you must vote and not phone it in. Trump won in 2016 because he got people who were not crazy about Hillary to stay home or vote for Jill Flynn.

As for the Democrats – beating Trump truly is the major consideration. He is a clear and present danger to our democracy, our planet and even his own party. Please do not nominate a candidate that will not appeal to moderate Dems and Independents. Trump should not win this election if Dems do this. He can win if he continues to resonate with his race baiting and fear mongering of perceived evils of socialism and Dems nominate a George McGovern or Walter Mondale like candidate (please research how they did in the general election).

I am writing this to any progressive readers. We cannot be stupid about this election. Trump is beatable, but he can also win. Watergate was all about making sure Nixon ran against McGovern and not Edmund Muskie and getting dirt on McGovern once they got Muskie to drop out of the race (please research Nixon’s dirty tricks and Muskie’s tears of anger). Trump is more corrupt than Nixon, per conservative writer George Will – I agree. He will do everything in his power to lie, cheat and bully. Take that to the bank.

Finally, a note to all Democrat candidates – get every fact you can correct. Trump uses facts and truth as commodities – sparingly and only when they help him. But, even then he is prone to embellish his own role in good news. Fact-checkers have reported all candidates fudge the truth, but they also show no one comes close to Trump’s rate of lying. Do not be like that. Argue facts, diplomatically and forcefully. And, if anyone or group promotes violence in reaction to the hateful rhetoric, be quick to condemn it. Violence has no place in political discourse.

Please stabilize the Affordable Care Act NOW to help Americans

A February, 2017 Morning Consult Poll noted that 35% did not know the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Obamacare are the same thing. I want you to think of this poll when you see how Americans feel about the ACA. Today, just under half of American approve of the ACA, but that is in part due to the above and the fact more progressive Democrats want a Medicare-for-All replacement.

I wrote the following post a few months back as I am of the opinion Democrats and Republicans need to stabilize the ACA now and explore a few changes on a measured basis. As I wrote this, I call politics on the carpet for causing some of this mess, but everyone needs to check their egos and zero-sum games and fix the problems which are fixable. They also need to drop the BS lawsuits that are asking to rule the ACA unconstitutional again, when the group making the request changed a feature to further this mission. That is like ripping an engine off the plane and blaming the engineer while it is flying.

So for what it is worth, here are my suggestions. I am an Independent voter and retired, but my career included being an actuary, benefits consultant and benefits manager for a Fortune 500 company. I have shared with Senators and Congressional representatives a few thoughts on stabilizing the ACA, something Democrats campaigned on last fall and won in the midterms after the disastrous attempts of the Republicans to clean the slate that fortunately failed.

Medicare-for-All deserves debate, but will require a more elongated and data-driven discussion. We need to have Congress take steps to stabilize the ACA now. To do otherwise, is a disservice to Americans.

Here are my thoughts.
– the GOP sabotaged the ACA in two specific steps which increased premiums even more. They defunded 89% of the risk corridors (for initial adverse selection) driving some insurers out of the market. The other is Trump reneged on reimbursing insurers for copays/ deductibles for people making less than 2 1/2 times the poverty level. My suggestion is to pay insurers what we promised in writing and invite those who left back into the exchanges.*

– I suggest the lowering of the eligibility age for Medicare to age 62 (the age when retirees can first draw Social Security). This could be viewed as a pilot for Medicare-for- All. This action would lower the Medicare premium rate for all and lower the ACA exchange premiums due to the age of those leaving the ACA and joining Medicare. In other words, both the average age of Medicare and the exchanges would be lower, so the actuarial cost per person is less in both.

– Actively encourage the expansion of Medicaid in the remaining states – this will help the economies, healthcare providers and people in those markets. There are now 36 states who have done so. GOP Ohio Governor John Kasich calls Medicaid expansion a “no brainer.” North Carolina is debating this issue, but it needs to move forward with the number of rural hospitals that have closed thus far in the state.

– Finally, where only one option exists in a rural county, offer a Medicare option, again as a pilot. People should have choices.

There are other changes that would help, but this needs a data-driven analysis and not whatever the GOP did in 2017, which was a horrible approach to legislation that resulted in horrible legislation. Had any of the GOP legislation passed to kill the ACA, the GOP would have lost even more seats and we would be talking about a recession coming our way.
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* Please feel free to Google these topics: “Marco Rubio and risk corridors” and Donald “Trump and ACA subsidy decision”. The former caused insurance premiums to increase more than they otherwise would have and some insurance companies left the exchanges with the US government owing them money. The risk corridors were designed to tie insurers over until the initial adverse selection flushed out of the system.

The latter was frustrating because the subsidy helped people in need. Trump untruthfully claimed it will only affect insurer profits, but the carriers committed to the customers to do this under contract. The CBO said this action raised the deficit by $10 billion, since premium subsidies went up to pay for the increased premiums. In my home state of NC, BCBS said before the Trump decision premiums were NOT going to increase. After the decision, the premiums increased 8%.

Saying this in a more succinct way, the GOP screwed American people to win a political argument. Sadly, that is the truth, but very few people know of this. This also is an exemplar of the President’s lying affecting hard-working people. Lying is one thing, but setting policy off lying is another matter altogether.

Note, the ACA is imperfect and complex. Obama was not truthful when he said you could keep your doctor – no new network should make that universal claim. But, it still has not been fully implemented in all the states with those who did not expand Medicaid. But, people need to be fully aware of the sabotaging of the ACA undertaken by the GOP, which I find interesting, as the ACA is largely based on a GOP idea. That is politics for you – you did it, so I must be against it.

Of course, Trump is a racist

Of course, Donald Trump is a racist. The evidence is overwhelming dating well before he was president through today.*  He is the president of our country, so we need him to be one of our better angels, not our worst. He sets the tone, as does any person in a leadership position. So, we must encourage him to act like a leader.

Yet, what his actions say counter his words condemning four women of color telling them to leave the country, a dog whistle racist remark, while saying he “does not have a racist bone in his body.”

His actions say it is OK for a white man to criticize our country, even distort the truth in so doing. Make America Great Again was sold on denigrating the way it was.

His actions say it is OK for a white man to call people names like loser, failure, and ugly who criticize or accuse him rather than push back on the issues.

His actions say it is OK for a white man to be untruthful and bully people including our allies and trading partners at the same time getting cuddly with non-benign autocrats.

His actions say it is OK for a white man to try to obstruct justice or have active and numerous conversations with nefarious foreign sources to help win an election.

His actions say it is OK for a white man to grab any woman by her private parts or walk in on them while they are changing clothes as he has bragged of and been accused of. I won’t even speak of other accusations.

His actions say it is OK for a white man to call Mexicans rapists, ban people coming from Muslim majority countries, equate people wanting to preserve their civil rights with white nationalists who want to take them away and claim we don’t want immigrants from “shithole countries.”

And, his actions say it is OK for a white man to mock disabled people, demean a war hero because he was captured and insult a Gold Star family because they dared to criticize him.

I am not condoning any politician for cursing at another or being unfairly critical of a group of people based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, religion, etc. We must demand civil discourse from our elected officials. But, it is OK to be critical of Israel policies just as it is OK to be critical of America’s just as the current president did when he was a private citizen.

We must call out racism when we see it. And, when someone has to preface that he is not a racist, look further. And, we need our leaders to be our better angels. Yet, that does not let us off the hook – we must be civil in our discourse.

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*Note: A few items to ponder:

  • Trump has settled the same court case twice for discriminatory renting practices to African-Americans, the second time when he was sued for failing to address items he promised to in the first settlement.
  • Trump took out a full page ad to sway public opinion on five black teens and young adults who were convicted and later exonerated by DNA for raping and killing a jogger in Central Park.
  • Trump made his political inroads by saying repeatedly for years that President Obama was not born in America. If this had been a white President, he would not have done such. When he finally said he was wrong years later, he blamed Hillary Clinton (I know the latter is not racist, it just shows that he is not accountable).
  • Trump has said Mexicans are rapists, banned travel from Muslim dominant countries, and noted we do not want immigrants from “shithole countries” naming a few of them along the way.
  • Trump equated people defending their rights to those of white nationalists who were saying the rights of non-whites do not matter during the Charlottesville protests – this led to the eventual resignation of Gary Cohn, his National Economic Advisor, who is Jewish and almost resigned immediately, but stayed onto get the Tax bill passed.
  • Trump treated Puerto Ricans differently and condescendingly after the hurricane disasters than he did people from Florida and Texas.
  • Trump is less concerned how refugees and immigrants trying to enter the US are treated once they are detained. It was thing to have a harder-line policy, but treat people like chattel is not very Christian-like.
  • Trump’s latest efforts are dog whistle comments that have been hurled at people of color or non-WASP ethnicity for multiple decades.

 

Former Judge announces her departure from the GOP due to president’s racist remarks

From today’s The Washington Post, the following are some powerful words from a former Judge who is leaving the Republican Party. This is as succinct as it comes and should be a long overdue clarion call to Republicans regarding the person they continue to rationalize on a weekly basis:

“A former top Texas judge says she has left the Republican Party over President Trump, after his racist tweet telling four congresswomen to ‘go back’ to where they came from.

Elsa Alcala joins a small group of conservatives alienated by Trump’s remarks as most of the Republican Party sticks with the president — including through his latest attacks on Democratic representatives of color, three of whom were born in the United States.

‘Even accepting that Trump has had some successes (and I believe these are few), at his core, his ideology is racism,’ the 55-year-old retired judge wrote Monday in a Facebook post. ‘To me, nothing positive about him could absolve him of his rotten core.'” 

What will it take for others to come to the same conclusion? A poll said while 68% of all Americans do not approve of the president’s remarks toward the “squad,” only 47% disapprove in the Republican Party. Another poll had Trump’s GOP voter approval increase by 5 points, while it fell by 10 points among Independents and two points in Democrats from a lower starting point.

As I ask GOP Senators on a routine basis, “is this the person you want to spend your dear reputation on?” The defenders do not fully know what will come out of the woodwork nor what he might do or say. At some point, the rationalizing will be hard to come by. They should be well past that point by now.

Two quotes of many from abroad on racist remarks

As an Independent and former Republican voter, I applaud the courage of Republican legislators who have pushed back on the US president’s dog whistle racist comments. It takes courage to call your leader on the carpet for his remarks. But, I find of interest the many condemnations from abroad who are calling out the president’s remarks. Here are two: *

“Trump’s racism is sickening. Any European politician who fails to condemn this has questions to answer & should be ashamed of themselves.” – Guy Verhofstadt, Belgian politician and member of the European Parliament.

“The President of the United States telling elected politicians — or any other Americans for that matter — to ‘go back’ to other countries is not OK, and diplomatic politeness should not stop us saying so, loudly and clearly.” – Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland

The dog whistle reference is important as the president refuses to apologize and says his remarks are not racist. This is old school racism where someone can use code words that have racist intent. But, don’t take my word for it, Michael Cohen, the president’s long time attorney and fixer said the following under oath. “Donald Trump is a racist, he is a con artist and he is a cheat.” And, if that were not enough, Trump settled two court cases where he admitted to discriminatory rental practices against African-Americans. Unfortunately, the president has a history of racist comments and practices.

Our leaders must honor our ideals and condemn these racist remarks. Each of us carries that responsibility as well. But, we need our leaders to be our better angels, not our worst. When we are being critical of actions, we need to focus on actions, not traits. One can be critical of actions by Israel without being anti-Semitic, just as people can be critical of actions by America without being anti-American.

* Note: I want to give Jill Dennison a shout out as the source of the two quotes.

 

 

An ostrich pulls his head out of the sand

This story should not be newsworthy as it is long overdue, but unfortunately it is. A headline from a USA Today last week proclaimed “Trump ally Lindsey Graham says president should ‘admit climate change is real’.” Senator Graham went on to say per the article:

“‘I’m tired of playing defense on the environment,’Graham told reporters on Capitol Hill Wednesday as he and other GOP lawmakers announced the formation of the Roosevelt Conservation Caucus, which will ’embrace and promote constructive efforts to resolve conservation and environmental problems.'”

I have written often about addressing climate change. Progress in fighting climate change is happening, but it desperately needs the leverage of the US federal government. Plus, we must alter harmful deregulation to our environment.

Rather than belabor these points, let me say I left the Republican Party about a dozen years ago, in part due to its stance on climate change. My thesis is if the GOP is going to play ostrich-with-its-head-in-the-sand on an existensial threat to our existence, how can I trust its judgment on other issues.

So, thank you Senator Graham for pulling your head out of the sand and asking the US president to join you. As an independent voter and parent, I take seriously the threats to our environment and agree the GOP needs to alter its path on these topics.