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.

Year-end Kudos

As we near the end of 2015, let me look back and offer kudos to select folks for their efforts. This is not meant to be a complete list, so please do share your kudos for those I may not have mentioned.

Angela Merkel deserves kudos for being the most effective global leader who sees the key role her country and Europe play in helping the many refugees in need or to share her concerns with Vladimir Putin for his transgressions in the Ukraine.

Pope Francis deserves kudos for taking his wonderful message of outreach to those in need to North and South America and Africa. He also deserves kudos for writing about the very real concerns of climate change and the need to act. He is the most respected leader on the planet.

Francois Hollande deserves huge credit for his handing of the terrorist attack in Paris and keeping France’s ideals and openness alive. He has shown how important it is to continue to live and exercise your freedoms, a lesson lost on too many here in the US.

Justin Trudeau deserves similar credit along these same lines by openly welcoming Syrian refugees into Canada. Seeing families reunited is a joy to see and he emphasized its importance by being there in person.

Barack Obama deserves credit for his continued stewardship of the US economy as evidenced by 70 consecutive months of job growth and decline in unemployment to 5%. Given where other global economies are at this point, he should be commended for providing the necessary tail winds over the past few years. He also deserves kudos for moving the ball forward in the US on addressing climate change.

John Boehner and Paul Ryan deserve kudos for navigating an unwieldy ship in the Republican led Congress to get some key agreements done. Boehner greased the skids for Ryan by getting the framework for the budget and debt ceiling increase passed and Ryan has been able to push through a long overdue transportation bill and education bill. It was good to see some bipartisan success and work accomplished.

Delegates to the Paris Climate Change Conference deserve kudos for accomplishing an agreement that was lacking from the last conference in Copenhagen. While no agreement is perfect, this one seems to have more in its favor than not and will help move the ball forward. The move down the path of renewable energy has passed the tipping point and this agreement with business leader backing will help us address our climate change challenge, but also help speak to our number one problem, a global water crisis.

Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos for the formulation of The Breakthrough Energy Coalition, which may be the biggest news out of Paris. This coalition will match government funding to accomplish better technologies and renewable energy solutions to combat climate change. The government funding is supported by the US, France and 18 other countries through a joint effort called Mission Innovation.

Conservatives for Clean Energy is a group that shows the movement to renewable energy is not just a progressive movement. Their efforts show that the need to move more quickly is universal and renewable energy is a viable industry for future jobs. Their existence supports the ClearPath survey results that 75% of conservative voters believe we need to move further down the path of renewable energy.

Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy deserves kudos for doing what the US Senate failed to do and what terrorism consultants said could help to some degree. He performed an executive order to ban the sale of guns to people on the government no fly watch lists. This common sense change was voted down in the US Senate by party affiliation, including three presidential candidates, who have openly chastised the president for not doing more to combat terror. So, to his credit Malloy made it happen.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley and the Families of the Emanuel AME Church of Charleston for the courage, forgiveness, leadership and love in showing how a community can galvanize around a tragedy. Seeing these people of faith forgive the man who killed their nine loved ones was as great a testimony as I have ever witnessed. Haley and Riley deserve kudos for the huge role in bringing the community together and for Haley to deftly use the opportunity to finally bring down the sign of hate represented in the Confederate flag.

Former President Jimmy Carter deserves kudos to showing us all how to handle the news of his mortality with grace and the conviction of faith. Between Carter and the church members of the Emanuel Church in Charleston, we saw two beautiful acts of faith that are lessons for us all, regardless of religion. It should be noted that Carter recently received great news that his cancer is gone after some unique treatments. With his humanitarian efforts, maybe God still has a purpose here for him.

Again, please feel free to share your thoughts on who I may have missed or if you find fault with my choices. Happy Holidays.

Two Republicans who need to be heeded by the GOP

Two Republicans have stood out in my mind as people who represent more than what the Grand Old Party has become – Senator Susan Collins of Maine and Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey. They stand out as they both have reputations of being bipartisan in their thoughts and deeds and for recognizing one overarching truth – they represent all of their constituents. Of course, they have a more conservative bent, but being a Republican should not overshadow that they represent folks from Maine and New Jersey. Yet, while they would both be great Presidential/ Vice Presidential candidates, the sad truth is they get demonized in their own party for their actions, beliefs and behaviors.

Why is this so? Quite simply, they are not strident enough in their conservative beliefs. Those who are on the extreme side of their party do not recognize Collins and Christie’s mainstream virtues for what they are. The extreme side views them as weak and giving in. In a nutshell, that is what is wrong with the GOP as people who would govern with a conscious and work collaboratively with others are demonized. Christie continues to be vilified for not only working with the President, but thanking him for his help for New Jersey citizens after Hurricane Sandy. He was also viewed poorly for telling Mitt Romney he did not have time for a photo shoot as he was working to help people who lost everything. His vintage Christie comment was, unless the candidate is going to help me help these people, tell Romney not to waste my time.

Collins was the leader behind the women senators who helped make the debt ceiling/ government shutdown deal to reopen the government and let America pay its bills. They worked with a bipartisan group of senators to make it happen. Attached is a link to a post I wrote a few weeks ago.

https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2013/10/16/three-women-gop-senators-who-bring-needed-reason/

She also will be submitting a bill in the Senate which will received bipartisan support to help end discrimination toward gays in the workplace. It should have over 60 senators vote in its favor, over the objections of the Heritage Foundation’s political activist arm. When you read her bio on her website, she uses the word bipartisan often. What I also like about her is she shows up and goes to work. In July of last year, she registered her 5,000th straight roll call vote, never having missed one while in the Senate.

Let me state a few obvious things from this Independent, former Republican’s view. Note, I am former Democrat, as well, describing myself as fiscally conservative and socially progressive. The GOP will not climb out of its abyss “tripling down” on extreme conservatism. The party double downed after last year’s election, which was a huge mistake. By limiting their sources of information and data to those who are telling them what they want to hear, the party is not understanding the problems, addressing the demographic changes or listening to what mainstream America is saying. For example, there was genuine surprise by conservative news sources that Romney lost, even though the survey data said he would.

I have written before how the last slate of GOP Presidential candidates was very weak. If the party puts up any of the following candidates – Senator Ted Cruz, Senator Rand Paul, former Governor Sarah Palin, Senator Marco Rubio, Congressman Paul Ryan in 2016 – they will likely get trounced in the general election. Rubio showed some hopeful signs when he was on the bipartisan immigration group of senators, but now he has kowtowed to the strident view in his own party and is against the Senate plan he helped pass. There are some flip-flops that are more noteworthy than others and being against something you helped pass is akin to Romney being against his previous version of Obamacare that is working well in Massachusetts.

The better GOP candidates would be Christie or Collins, or if the GOP leadership could woo former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels away from Purdue University, he would also be an excellent choice. Daniels chose not to run in 2012, my guess is he knew Obama would win. The key to all of them is they are fiscal conservatives, yet they also represent all constituents. The GOP needs to move back toward the center. The business community and funders are giving the party strong signals to get more collaborative and govern. The funders want a ROI on their investment. That is the key reason the Koch Brothers fund the Tea Party around the country. Yet, if that party cannot deliver an ROI to the Koch’s, they will stop funding it and move to another set of representation who can. They have already distanced themselves some, when the defunding Obamacare strategy was not working.

So, GOP please do not triple down on extreme conservatism. Bring the party back to being a reasonable voice at the table. America needs reasonable voices from both sides. Stop standing against everything and stand for something. Starting with Collins and Christie would be a very good move.