To the point

The petulant acting president has told his people to not share COVID-19 data with the staff appointed by the president-elect. We are talking about people’s lives and the president is still throwing a tantrum with unfounded claims of wide-spread fraud, claims which he has orchestrated and staged for several months.

Let me come right to the point. This is the first president to not put country first to facilitate an orderly transition. It matters not if the president is still contending the election with or without merit. You still plan ahead to help people. It is that simple.

But, let me be brutally frank. Watching this president over the years, during his first campaign, and during his presidency, his interests have invariably superseded those of the country’s. He cannot help himself as it is in his narcissistic nature. So, doing what is necessary to help people is not in his thought pattern.

As conservative pundit David Brooks said the past year, “the president does not have any empathy or sense of decency.” There are many negative metaphors to draw from, but to me, having pep rallies with his most ardent fans in February without warning them of the risk (after admitting to knowing of the dangers of the coronavirus), is beyond the pale. He put his most loyal followers in danger without their knowledge.

Yet, if that is too subtle, picture Trump tossing paper towels to Puerto Ricans ravaged by a hurricane following his relative disdain to helping them. It was condescending as if it were a king throwing food scraps to hungry people.

The AMA calls out Trump on malicious and misguided statements

It came as no surprise when the president attacked more doctors referencing they were falsifying claims of COVID-19 to make money. This is after over nine months of continual misinformation and mishandling of the pandemic by the president. The presidents touts his efforts, but the few successes that have been achieved are in spite of the president, not because of him.

Trump keeps saying we are turning the corner, but that simply is not true. North Dakota now leads the nation in the rate of COVID-19 infections because of lack of adherence to the simple guidelines. This state is not alone.

From the attached article from The Washington Post called “Doctors, hospitals blast Trump’s baseless claims they inflate coronavirus deaths for money,” this paragraph speaks loudly.

“Without naming the president, the American Medical Association called Trump’s statement a ‘malicious, outrageous and completely misguided charge’ and defended front-line health care workers. ‘They did it because duty called and because of the sacred oath they took,’ said AMA President Susan Bailey.”

Mind you, this is the president of the United States who continues to denigrate people on a daily basis as if it is some kind of national sport. People have been too cavalier with the pandemic because of this president. If they had gotten the truth and the president’s sycophants did not fall in line behind their untruthful leader, we may have not been the shame of the world in how poorly the US has handled this.

Trump may win, but he should not. Setting aside his corrupt, bullying, unempathetic and deceitful behavior, this president has endangered Americans. Folks, please do not take the president at his word – wear a mask, socially distance, wash you hands. It is not that hard.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/the-health-202-doctors-hospitals-blast-trump-s-baseless-claims-they-inflate-coronavirus-deaths-for-money/ar-BB1aEusb?ocid=msedgdhp

When a known untruthful person endorses a message, what does that mean?

Sometimes the TV campaign commercials slip through the mute button. Usually it occurs when my wife or I leave the den and the remote is on the other end table. So, we get to hear the spiel from various Trump commercials, whether we want to or not.

Yet, when I hear him say at the end “I am Donald Trump and I endorse this message,” what does that mean? Trump is well-documented to be the most deceitful president in my lifetime. Plus, he laps the field of other politicians on lying, as his nature is to embellish every favorable truth and lie about the many unfavorable truths.

So, if Trump supports or endorses a commercial, that does not enhance its veracity. To me, it means it is likely very untrue or largely so. Just to state a few obvious points.

1.We have not turned the corner on COVID-19, it is getting worse. The president has not made it better; any achievements have largely been in spite of his mishandling.

2. Trump did not create the economy before the pandemic pushed us into a recession; he inherited the third longest growth economy in our country’s history.

3. Our economy before the recession was not the best ever, it is not even close. It was the longest growth period in US history, but 91 months of the growth occurred under Obama, with only 36 under Trump. But, the rate of growth was just pretty good.

4. He is not tough on China, he just appears to be such. I would argue with the ill-fated tariffs, pulling out of the TPP and the Iran nuclear deal, and picking on our EU allies, he has made China’s ascendency to the number one economy easier, not harder.

5. Biden’s healthcare plan will not close hospitals. He is talking about adding a public option to the ACA; that is not national health coverage; it is like Medicare. Hospitals will like getting paid. By the way, it is a fact the GOP led states that did not expand Medicaid under the ACA saw some rural hospitals close.

6. Biden is not a socialist, nor is Harris. They are both moderates and have the endorsement of several Republican groups. Biden will have a diverse cabinet, that will include all types of people – he even said he would include a few Republicans.

A final point that needs to be said. It is highly offensive and bothersome that the president of the United States is sowing seeds of racial unrest, division, conspiracies and doubt on the election process. Call me crazy, but the president is supposed to make things better, not worse. Donald Trump is making things worse with his rhetoric.

Four little windows

There is ad nauseum evidence of the corrupt, bullying, unempathetic and deceitful words and actions of the president. Yet, sometimes little windows offer clear insight into the nature of the president.

On the day interim FBI Andrew McCabe was packing up his office to retire, he was fired by the president to deny McCabe his pension. This may be  worse than firing people without telling them, which he has done several times. Who does that?

After informing two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Bob Woodard in early February he was aware of the coronavirus risk and how it could be transmitted, the president chose not to inform Americans and had several rallies later in the month. He did not tell his ardent base they were being exposed and further downplayed the virus as a hoax. Who does that?

On a day which will be remembered as “sh**hole country” day, the president agreed to a deal in the morning with Senators Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham for money for the infamous border wall (his main campaign theme) in trade for making DACA into law to help about 800,000 children born in America to illegal immigrants. By the time Durbin and Graham got there, the president had been talked out of the deal by hard line Senator Tom Cotton among others. The two Senators were none to happy with the president for reneging on the agreed upon deal. To top it off, Trump offended several countries by referring to immigrants therefrom as coming from “sh**hole countries.”

Finally, with his current pep rallies, setting aside the COVID-19 exposure, he insulted his base in Pennsylvania and Iowa regarding not wanting to come there, telling Iowans he hoped he would never be back. But, he saved his worst for Nebraskans who he made wait in the cold weather and trudge back to their cars afterwards. Again, these are his most ardent fans. Yet, we should not be surprised, as radio host Howard Stern noted after fifteen hours of interviews with Trump over the years, Trump does not give a hoot about those folks.

There are many other examples to draw from – the poorly planned travel ban which was so botched it was pulled after two days, the vindictive firings or transfers of Inspectors General and public servants who testified under oath, or the horrible separation of children from asylum seekers et al. This is the person who represents the United States.

After the failed travel ban, conservative David Brooks said the Trump White House is “equal parts chaos and incompetence.” About a year or so later, Brooks noted “Trump does not have empathy or sense of decency.” Agreed on all counts.

In a land not so far away, in a time not so long ago

January 25, 2020 – from the Oval Office of the White House

My fellow Americans. Today, our country faces a pandemic risk, that only has begun to hit our shores. I have been briefed on multiple occasions by the Directors of Intelligence, Defense and CDC regarding the coronavirus risk to our country. The virus appears to easily spread and can be deadly to some who have other medical issues they are dealing with.

Since, mission #1 in a pandemic is to tell the truth, I want to shoot straight with you. If this hits our shores like anticipated, then we need to be prepared to act. I have been told masks are important, and we may have a shortage.

In fact, Mike Bowen, owner of the largest surgical face mask producer in the US — Prestige Ameritech in Texas — contacted our officials in the Department of Health and Human Services on January 22, the day after the first US coronavirus cases were identified. He asked the US government to provide the funds needed to dust off four dormant manufacturing lines, and his firm would produce 1.7 million N95 masks every week. I have authorized emergency funds to Prestige Ameritech to start these dormant lines effective immediately.

Masks will only get us so far, but are a key part of the plan. So, I am asking the Vice President to head a task force to work with the CDC, both chambers of Congress, governors, major health care systems and facilities, and supply manufacturers to identify concerns, needs and develop a national and state level plans.

I have learned a new term called social distancing, which suggest people to remain six feet or more away from each other. I am told washing hands after some contact would also be wise. So, I would suggest people to start doing more of these things until we know more.

Since the coronavirus appears to have originated in China, I want this task force to advise me by the end of the month on whether travel restrictions to and from China, and other areas of Asia and around the world, are needed. In the interim, I would ask business leaders to reduce the amount of travel in their companies until we determine next steps. Private citizens should do the same. People returning to our country should self-quarantine for at least a week, I am told, but that time may need to be longer.

There is obviously a lot we don’t know about the coronavirus. As we learn more and develop plans and suggestions, we will conduct briefing sessions led by the Vice President and head of the CDC and other important scientific voices. I ask that you be diligent and do what is needed to protect yourself, families and friends.

Let me emphasize. This is not a hoax and it is not something we can just blow past. We need a concerted effort and take this seriously. There may be a time when we need to make more than suggestions requiring certain behaviors. Let’s hope it does not come to that. But, if it does, we will need your help to comply.

Thank you all and may God bless America, as well as our friends around the globe.

The President of the United States

Note: This speech did not occur. However, Prestige Ameritech offered twice to the White House to restart the idled lines in January. Because of the mask shortage, the initial emphasis was on masks for medical practitioners, which increased risk to other citizens. The US president did enact a travel ban to and from China on January 31, but would have been better served with more staging (and less blaming) beforehand about the risk. Democrats (and others) who were critical of the travel ban due to how it was communicated, should have been more supportive. Frustratingly, the president’s references to the virus being a hoax and downplaying the impact occurred throughout February at major pep rallies, placing many folks in attendance at risk. The misinformation continues until this day, which is amazing in its own right.

Conservative pundit David Brooks – How Democrats Won the War of Ideas

As an independent and former Republican (and Democrat), David Brooks is one of my favorite conservative pundits and authors. He is a regular participant on PBS Newhour’s Friday recap show with the more liberal Mark Shields. Like other key conservative pundits, MIchael Gerson, George Will, Ross Douthat, Eric Erickson and Max Boot, he is hoping that America votes out the incumbent president.

In his usual articulate and even-handed fashion, Brooks penned the following editorial last week called “How Democrats Won the War of Ideas.” The link is below, but I will highlight a few paragraphs for your review and comment.

“Over the last 100 years, Americans have engaged in a long debate about the role of markets and the welfare state. Republicans favored a limited government, fearing that a large nanny state would sap American dynamism and erode personal freedom. Democrats favored a larger state, arguing that giving people a basic economic security would enable them to take more risks and lead dignified lives.

That debate ebbed and flowed over the years, but 2020 has turned out to be a pivotal year in the struggle, and it looks now as if we can declare a winner. The Democrats won the big argument of the 20th century. It’s not that everybody has become a Democrat, but even Republicans are now embracing basic Democratic assumptions. Americans across the board fear economic and physical insecurity more than an overweening state. The era of big government is here.”

Brooks cites a few survey facts from last week’s New York Times/ Siena poll.

2/3 of Americans support allowing people to buy health insurance through the federal government

2/3 support Joe Biden’s $2 trillion plan to increase renewable energy and build efficient infrastructure

72% of likely voters and 56% of Republican voters favor another COVID-19 relief package

59% of Americans think government should do more to solve problems

2/3 think government should do more to fight climate change

60% support increasing the minimum wage and providing tax credits to low income workers

82% of voters and 70% of Republicans would like to expand requirements for paid family medical leave

Brooks also cites a study by the Mercatus Center which notes that Republicans are also moving left, just not at the pace of Democrats. This is contrary to what is believed by the media.

I have long said that more than 1/2 of the Republican voters are voting against their economic interests and do not know it. This survey indicates many do favor policies that would help them, but are sold a bill of goods packaged to woo their votes, but mask the purposeful deterioration of rights and opportunities.

A great example is the Affordable Care Act. When people are surveyed about the features of the act, the features receive high marks from all, including Republicans. The only feature that did not was eliminated – the mandate to buy coverage. Ironically, this elimination is the basis for 25 Republican Attorney Generals who have case to declare the ACA unconstitutional in front of the Supreme Court after the election, which should not occur as the case is not solid, but one never knows with these things. Sadly, the White House chose not to defend the law, which affects expanded Medicaid, exchange and employer-provided benefits.

Please read Brooks article below. It is very well done, as per usual.

Two articles speak volumes

Two articles are worth noting as we head into the election. The first is “Trump’s handling of coronavirus pandemic hits record low approval: Reuters/Ipsos poll’ by John Whitesides of Reuters. Here are a few paragraphs.

“Americans are steadily losing confidence in President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, with his net approval on the issue that has dominated the U.S. election hitting a record low in a new Reuters/Ipsos poll.

The poll taken Tuesday through Thursday, after Trump’s COVID-19 infection and weekend hospitalization, found 37% of American adults approved of the president’s handling of the pandemic and 59% disapproved.

The net approval rating of negative 22 percentage points is the lowest in the poll dating back to March 2 and has steadily declined over the last 10 days, as Trump’s illness and his return to work in the White House dominated news headlines.”

The second article was reported by Randy Tucker in the Cincinnati Enquirer is called “Mitch McConnell says White House’s lax COVID rules are why he hasn’t visited since August.”

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Thursday said he hasn’t visited the White House in two months because of what he saw as lax coronavirus practices. “‘ haven’t actually been to the White House since Aug. 6 because my impression was their approach to how to handle this (pandemic) was different from mine and what I insisted we do in the Senate, which was to wear a mask and practice social distancing,” McConnell said during an appearance in Northern Kentucky.

These excerpts and articles speak for themselves. To be frank, while bad, I am surprised the disapproval rating of Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 response is not higher. We are just shy of 218,000 deaths in America, yet that does not seem to be a problem or a debate question worth answering. It just shows how little news actually gets to people that need to see it. That is what this independent voter thinks.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/trump-s-handling-of-coronavirus-pandemic-hits-record-low-approval-reuters-ipsos-poll/ar-BB19Q8zM?ocid=msedgdhp

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/mitch-mcconnell-i-havent-visited-white-house-recently-because-of-lax-covid-rules/ar-BB19PyTp?ocid=uxbndlbing

Social distancing and masking up are musts, even for presidents

With US approaching 210,000 COVID-19 deaths, we learned the president and his wife have tested positive for COVID-19. I wish them well in their recovery. Their testing positive follows a day after Hope Hicks, a key White House staff member who traveled with the president tested positive.

Today, more announcements of public figures testing positive occurred. Republican Senators Mike Lee from Utah, Thom Tillis from North Carolina and Ron Johnson from Wisconsin all tested positive. Also testing positive are former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former White House staff member Kellyanne Conway, Republican Party chair Ronna McDaniel, campaign manager Bill Stepien, the president of the University of Notre Dame, and three White House reporters.

In terms of tracing, I heard the tail end of a report that some of these folks may have all been together at the announcement of SCOTUS candidate Amy Coney Barrett. The NPR report noted there was a White House lawn ceremony followed by an event indoors, neither of which followed all of the protocols needed.

This may or may not be the link, but it reminds us that we must be careful. We must avoid large gatherings, especially indoor ones, and follow social distancing and mask wearing protocols. Also, hand washing is essential.

While I am saddened that public people or any one, for that matter, gets COVID-19, what is happening to the president and people who have been near him is not a surprise. Flouting all of the requirements and choosing to not only not wear mask, but being flippant with those who do, is not conducive to cautious behavior.

To be frank, pandemics are not to be trifled with. While those who have to work in jobs that cannot be done from home are most at risk, pandemics truly know no zip code or income status. And, those who are the most fragile have the greater risk, if tested positive.

Let’s wish everyone, including the president and first lady well, but let’s also be smart and following social distancing and mask wearing protocols. Maybe, those who have not, will start to take notice. If we do not have universal compliance, the risk remains, especially as the colder weather force us more indoors.

Just a quick refresher on the ACA animosity in the Republican Party

Our friend Scottie asked me why the Republican Party detests the Affordable Care Act (ACA) so much and wants to kill it. I have written many posts about this, but here is quick refresher.

The Republican party has spent about ten years nay-saying the ACA. This is in addition to actual efforts to sabotage it by Senator Marco Rubio and President Donald Trump and the fourteen states who still have not expanded Medicaid. Rubio and Trump’s actions caused premiums to increase. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBS of NC) said it was geared to have a 0% increase in 2018, but after Trump de-funded reimbursing insurers for co-pays/ deductibles for people making less than 2 1/2 times the poverty rate, BCBS of NC said it would have a 6.6% increase. Not only did Rubio’s action cause premiums to go up, it drove some insurers out of the exchanges lessening competition which also hurt consumers. *

So, to me the Republicans are so far down the path of killing something that is working pretty good (it still needs improvements), they cannot stop. And, it is apparent that Trump has an Obama obsession that he must kill everything that Obama did regardless of its level of efficacy. As a retired benefits consultant and former actuary, what the GOP came up with in 2017 to replace the ACA was god-awful. It was throw-against-the-wall planning. The fact the Republicans did not follow due process was a key reason Senator John McCain voted it down. Mind you, I fault Obama for the terrible roll out of the exchanges in 2013, but he at least involved Republicans in the planning process in very public sessions (although they were told not to vote for it).

And, here is the rub. The reason the GOP does not have a plan is the ACA is largely based on a Republican idea set in motion by Mitt Romney for Massachusetts, when he was governor. It worked so well, that Senator Jim DeMint, the leader of the Tea Party, advocated its national use in writing to President George W. Bush. And, DeMint politicked with Romney on stage in 2008, Romney’s first run for president. I recognize the ACA is not exactly the same as Romneycare, but there are a number of similar constructs.

Everything I mention above, including the DeMint piece can be found by Googling. But, here is the major concern I have. Employers have been going to more part-time and contract work forces even before the pandemic. Why? – to avoid providing subsidized health care benefits. So, to survive in this gig and part-time employment world, the ACA is essential.

Plus, the ACA imposes requirements on employer based plans as well that may go away if SCOTUS rules unwisely with the court case. Those include pre-existing condition protection, guaranteed renewability, no deductibles on wellness visits, and limitations on insurer margins in pricing, e.g. So, a bad SCOTUS ruling could impact over 200 million Americans not just those in the exchanges and Medicaid.

* Note: The reason for the premium increases are complex, so I will mention them here. Rubio led a Republican move to defund 89% of the payments to insurers for adverse selection (pent up demand for new policy holders) for the first few years, a process used when Medicare Part D was rolled out. Insurers were forced to increase premiums and some left the market with the US owing them money that was promised. The Trump change is more complex. By stopping the reimbursement to insurers for this extra benefit for low paid policyholders, the insurers still honored their commitment to the policyholders. This drove up premiums. Trump said this would only impact insurer profits, but that was not true. The CBO said it increased the annual deficit by $10 billion because the premium subsidies went up as well. The people who ultimately got screwed were those who did not get a full subsidy.

Letter to editor – health care actions speak loudly

I have written longer posts on the actions of Donald Trump, Marco Rubio and Republicans to sabotage the Affordable Care Act. What many do not know, after the election, a court case will decide its fate, brazenly brought forward by several Republican state AGs after Congress stripped away the coverage mandate during a budget vote. The following is a brief letter I sent to my newspaper.

The truth matters. Actions matter. Four years ago, Trump said we had to wait and see his healthcare plan. None existed and still does not. Three years ago Trump cut payments to insurers to fund their payment of co-pays and deductibles for ACA members making less than 2 1/2 x the poverty rate and then lied about its impact – it actually increased premiums and the deficit per the CBO.

After the election, SCOTUS will be hearing a case to rule on the constitutionality of the ACA premium subsidy after Republicans stripped away the coverage mandate, which would severely hamper the law and may lead to its end. The White House chose not to defend the law. The ACA impacts both exchange and employer benefits, three key provisions of which are allowing pre-existing conditions, requiring guaranteed renewability and requiring wellness doctor visits not be subject to deductibles.

Sadly, beyond the nay-saying, there has been more sabotage of the ACA which increased premiums (Google Marco Rubio and risk corridors), repeal and replace efforts which were fortunately defeated, and fourteen states (including NC and SC) who still have not expanded Medicaid, a key part to help people in poverty. Health care coverage access is a major issue this coming election so says this retired benefits consultant, benefits manager and former actuary.

Eliminating the ACA which which may impact over 200 million Americans  (including the ACA requirements on employer plans) is unwise in my view, in general. But, doing so in the middle of a poorly handled pandemic by the White House with over 200,000 and growing American deaths, is plain asinine and mean-spirited.

Please feel free to adapt and use. Actions speak louder than words and my former party, the GOP, has purposefully sabotaged the right for Americans to have access to health care coverage. This is why your vote matters.