While we are asking questions

There will be a great deal written about Former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony under oath. I emphasize the last two words of the preceding sentence. The President and his advocates’ rebuttals will not be under oath, at least at this time, so we should remember this fact.

Yet, it got me to thinking about asking various people a question under oath to see how they would fare. In no particular order:

Senator Marco Rubio, you have bragged on playing a heavy role in the federal government stiffing insurance companies for taking on adverse risk under the ACA. Can you explain to Americans why they must suffer with higher insurance premiums for you to score political points?

Senator Mitch McConnell, The New York Times reported that just before the 2012 election, you had a report by the Congressional Research Service buried that concluded trickle down economics does not work. In light of the recent failures of that approach in Kansas, where tax rates have just been increased to pay for services, does that seem dishonest to hide such information from Americans, especially since the President’s tax plan had some of Kansas’ ideas?

Former President Barack Obama, do you feel remorse about not pushing the Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction plan back when it might have gotten some footing and we could have done more with our debt?

Former Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, while you may have reason to raise issues about the election, would you say that you ran a poor campaign, not focusing on states that you took for granted such as Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania while you tried to win states like Arizona? Do you feel you let your opponent speak to the disenfranchised voter more than you did?

Senator Ted Cruz, you single handedly shut down the government in October 2013, almost causing us to default on our debts until ten female senators broke the impasse. Do you feel that showed you as part of the problem with Washington? Why should we trust your judgment?

President Donald Trump, since you have been shown to lie about 70% of the time as a candidate and incumbent and your five biographers all note you have a problem with the truth, why should we believe what you say just about anything?

There are more folks I would like to ask questions of. Let me know some of yours.

 

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Voting on something important not knowing the cost is malfeasance

Allow me to come right to the point. Voting on a repeal and replacement healthcare law without it being measured by the CBO for its financial impact is malfeasance. My old party has waited seven years for this, they can at least know what it costs, who is helped and harmed by it and its impact on the debt. Trying to ram something this complicated through is about as poor stewardship as can be found.

This especially true with at least two hospital groups and two doctor groups coming out against it, not to mention the largest lobbying group for retired persons, the AARP. This is especially true with the numbers of people impacted, in particular, the lower paid and older people. As a retired benefit actuary, consultant and manager, I am also troubled by the naysaying of the imperfect ACA in the first place.

The ACA is not in death spiral so says the American Academy of Actuaries. It could be improved, but it is not a disaster as spouted by Messrs. Trump, Ryan and McConnell. It frustrates me that a law that is working pretty good expanding coverage, is being beaten on to support a change that appears to be ill-conceived. It also frustrates me we are not using data driven analysis to decide what to do.

Medicaid expansion is a “no brainer” said Ohio Governor John Kasich, the most reasonable Presidential candidate in my view. This is also the view of The Commonwealth Fund, Economic Policy Institute, RAND Corporation, Kaiser Family Foundation and a study by George Washington University. We have data to contrast the results in the 19 states that did not expand to those of 31 states that did. What I have read is the states that did are seeing fewer personal bankruptcies than before and improved hospital accounts receivable rates.

But, a huge factor should be the following. The ACA administration is already built. As a former benefits manager and consultant, I have witnessed far too many mistakes in administration by reputable insurers and state and federal governments. While the ACA exchange roll out fits this bill, it has now stabilized and is working. My strong advice is to improve the ACA and not throw the baby out with the bath water. To be frank, there is so much in fighting in the Republican Party, that may be the only course of action achievable.

Could your emails stand up to scrutiny?

As there continues to be a leak of emails from Hillary Clinton’s staffers and previously the Democratic National Convention as supplied by WikiLeaks, it begs the question could your emails stand up to scrutiny? Irrespective of the source of the hack, with the Russians being accused as the perpetrators, we are learning of various internal machinations of a political marketing engine.

These emails are on top of the emails she released to the FBI from her personal servers while Secretary of State. From the folks who have taken the time to go through the emails, they have found them to be monotonous, as most emails are. There is quite a bit of pedestrian stuff. In fact, one reporter who was not a fan of Hillary Clinton’s, said she became one by witnessing how organized she was and how much she devoted to planning.

Yet, with any mountain of emails, there are various things that come out, which range from sales messaging to, in the case, of her state emails, emails she should have noted and handled differently. She has admitted she has made a mistake in using your own servers, and has compounded them by not being transparent from the get go. That is due to an Achilles Heel of hers which is to be close-vested. I am sure a large part is due to being protective, as she has been vilified over time, in part because she is a strong woman.

But, back to my question. Would your emails stand up to scrutiny? If you were shown an old email or several that showed you at your worst, where you sent an email you should not have, would that make you a bad person? I once asked “who told someone years ago that it was OK to do something that turned out later to be unwise?” It turns out I was that someone, but had no recollection whatsoever.

Further, what if we saw the emails of a few more contentious legislators? What would Senator Ted Cruz, who is not known for collaboration, have to say in his emails? What about those of former Speaker John Boehner, who had to herd cats on the majority side to keep things from falling apart in Congress and could only get major things through when he involved enough moderate Republicans with the Democrats? What about Senators Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid, the poster children for how Washington cannot get things done?

But, what about those of Presidential candidate Donald Trump or RNC Chairman Reince Priebus? Now, those would have some quite interesting exchanges about the candidates and his campaign tactics. Priebus would have several on “what do we do about what Trump said?” What bothers me about WikiLeaks, is the emails are one-sided. Clinton is far from perfect, but is it fair to pour through her sausage making and not her opponent’s? I find this interesting as he is the one saying the election is rigged.

Just think about this as we see more stories from her emails. I am sure there are more less than flattering emails therein, but maybe we should just set them aside, unless and until we can see others from her opponent. I am open to comments.

A few paraphrased quotes for fun

Politicians, pundits and so-called experts say the darnedest things. And, they tend to forget that they have been recorded. The sad truth is some do not care, as they have “evolved their opinion” or “changed their mind.” Nonetheless, these quotes provide nice vignettes into the absurd world of our leaders and so-called thought leaders. It is a reminder that every thing you see and hear should be taken with a grain of salt.

– In 2008, both current Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell said these statements on camera. “Climate change is real and man-influenced and we need to do something about it.”

– Roughly in 2007, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and then current Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi did a television commercial together. Newt said “I was wrong about global warming. It is a problem and both Nancy and I agree we need to do something about it.”

– In 2014, both Boehner and McConnell said roughly “The science is not clear on climate change.”

– In his 2012 Presidential election run, Gingrich said, “I was wrong to say I was wrong about climate change.”

– Last month, Presidential candidate Rick Santorum in response to a question about Pope Francis’ paper on the Catholic Church’s concern over doing something about climate change, “We need to leave this to the scientists.” The Pope not only is supporting what governing scientific bodies are saying, but he also has a Masters in Chemistry, so technically he has some science qualifications.

– A public relations person who is well-compensated by the fossil fuel industry portrays himself as a scientific expert and argues on the split screen shots with scientists on talk shows. In the documentary movie “Merchants of Doubt,” he made fun of scientists saying they were “boring” and took pride in selling a story of climate change being a hoax. These scientists have spent a life studying the problem, but sometimes find it hard to articulate a complex argument into sound bites. When he was asked by Glenn Beck if he was an independent, unbiased expert, he lied and said he was.

– Former Congressman Bob Inglis of South Carolina, who was a climate change skeptic, traveled to Antarctica to see for himself. He came away convinced that the science was real and climate change is the problem as advertised. On the floor of Congress, he made a speech about his findings and that we need to do something about it. He was trounced in the next election by a fossil-fuel backed candidate. He now travels around telling his story as a Republican supporting the need to act on climate change and faces uphill battles everywhere he goes.

Man-influenced climate change is here and is causing problems around the world from Ecuador to Bangladesh to the Cartaret Islands to Miami to the Everglades to Norfolk to Texas to California. The drought areas will become worse and they are. Forest fires will become worse and they are. Sea-level rise will encroach into low-lying areas and it is. Hurricanes will hit shore from an elevated water level and be worse like Hurricane Sandy. And, chemicals in the ground will heat up like a crock pot.

The world can ill-afford a President or politicians to not recognize climate change for the problem it is. Please ask questions of politicians why they believe the way they do and what framed their opinion.

A Clueless Congress blocks progress

While our President remains imperfect, several good things have happened on his watch, some with his impetus and some where he is given more credit than the office of the President is warranted. The economy has largely recovered, but more work is needed to make it be felt more equitably. The Affordable Care Act is actually working reasonably well and most Americans want it improved upon, but not replaced. And, he is at least taking some strides on addressing climate change. He is also showing judicious restraint working with Mideast and other countries to combat terrorists. Yet, we greatly need better governance over the NSA spying and use of drones and he could be more LBJ like in getting things done with Congress.

On the flip side, we have a Congress that is building off two years of being labeled as one of the most ineffective ones in our history. The current Congress has not shown any indication of changing that downward trend in effectiveness. In fact, the Department of Defense has rated our Congress’ lack of governance as a threat to national security. And, the Wall Street Journal has noted how horribly this current Congress has started out, even before the fiasco of last week’s inability to fund Homeland Security beyond one week. We will have more of the same dysfunction this week, plus it will be compounded by bypassing the White House to have a foreign leader come to speak to Congress on Tuesday. This is poor form.

The big tiff over the Homeland Security is around the President’s executive orders to improve our immigration problems. This is mainly due to the ire over the President acting when the House decided to punt after eighteen months of no action. The Senate passed a bipartisan bill that was formulated by one of the GOP presidential candidates, but it was not good enough for the extreme members of that party. And, that is representative of the problem. We must start governing from the middle where the more rational, collaborative heads reside and not placate extremists. That is why they are called extremists as their vision of America is narrow-minded and exclusive.

Until which time the Speaker wises up and starts looking to pass legislation that has a snowball’s chance, he is wasting American’s time and energy. Yes, he will tick off those extremists in his party, but that is OK. He held a vote so that we could have new people vote to repeal Obamacare. Americans have said they do not want that. And, as noted above, it is working reasonably well and that is from a variety of measures. The additional irony it is based on a Republican idea that was advocated by the Tea Party leadership before it was passed (Google Senator Jim DeMint and Romneycare and read until your heart’s content).

I would also suggest we start working off real facts and not someone’s version of the facts dressed up and misused on pseudo-news sources. When we start governing again off the real information and not campaign rhetoric, we stand a better chance of getting to better solutions for our country. Climate change is real and man-influenced; solar energy jobs are growing rapidly along with the decline in solar costs; Obamacare is actually growing in receptivity while the number of uninsured decline and cost increases are dampened; and our infrastructure needs are significant and jobs will come with those investments to improve them.

Congress we need for you to gain a clue. The President, while imperfect, at least has one. Help make what he proposes better and start doing your job. Otherwise, the best jobs plan would be to get rid of all of you blockers under the Capital dome. You deserve the poor ratings you are getting.

Not being from Kentucky, I would love to see this upset

I have written several times before that I find Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as two of the main culprits in our gridlock in Washington. I would add about 30 conservative members of House to the mix along with Speaker John Boehner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senator Ted Cruz who have held America as hostage. Yet, while Boehner’s seat is likely safe, McConnell is getting all that he could want from Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.

She is a very formidable candidate and McConnell’s ratings are poor. But, McConnell is running against the President and not Grimes in his campaigning. As I noted in earlier posts, while the President is not perfect, he is not getting a fair shake with the GOP painting him with a negative brush more than he deserves. Given where the rest of the world is and the obstinance with the GOP in Congress, including McConnell, Obama has steered the economy pretty well and has nothing of which to be ashamed. Plus, while Obamacare polls poorly in Kentucky, the state health plan called Kynect is polling well. The irony is they are the same thing. Obama and Obamacare names are wielded as weapons without people looking beneath the hood to see that Obamacare is Kynect.

I have seen Grimes speak several times and she is her own person. She is pro Kentucky, while McConnell has shown his stripes as being a blocker. I would love to see Kentucky citizens send a strong message to the establishment and send another formidable woman to the Senate. To be frank, we need more voices of reason and it should not be lost on anyone that it took a group of women senators last fall to break the government shutdown started by these obstinant members of Congress.

Go get him, Secretary Grimes. You can do it and it would be wonderful if you did. The Senator is long over due to be shown the door.