Confusion has its cost

My wife and I were listening to a favorite CD on a day trip by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young called “So far.” It is the first album recorded after Neil Young joined the band. One of the songs is called “Helplessly Hoping.”

The song title is an excellent metaphor for what many feel about the tenure of the US president. A key line of the song echoes a concern that I have – “Confusion has its cost.”

Going into this administration, I expected a heavy dose of untruthfulness, bullying and name calling from the president. I expected concerns over policy decisions he might make, pulling out of the Paris Climate Change Accord, being an example. Sadly, I have not been surprised on these fronts.

What has surprised me is the level of chaos and incompetence present in the White House. And, I am not alone in this assessment. Conservative pundit David Brooks uses the term “equal parts chaos and incompetence.” Together, they cause confusion.

There is confusion around inconsistent messaging, unstable decision-making, overshadowing or derailing emissaries, being swayed by biased or misinformed sources, and a disdain for study or receptivity to input counter the president’s set notions.

This confusion has a cost. Other leaders have lamented they do not know who speaks for America. Republican leaders feel the same, but can only grumble under their breath. Perhaps, the best metaphor for the Trump presidency is his communication people hiding in the bushes to discuss what to say about Jim Comey being fired. Not only did the regal-minded Trump not tell Comey he was fired, he failed to tell his communication staff.

Ron Christie, a former Bush communication official noted that well run White Houses have monthly, weekly and daily talking points. I think one reason the daily press briefings went away, is the lack of such.

Confusion has its cost. Our reputation, our word, our commitment, our governance require clarity. Another measuring rod is White House turnover, which is much higher than previous administrations.

Letter from a Republican candidate in 2000

In The Charlotte Observer today, a letter from a former Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor in 2000 was printed. Andy Nillson wrote a letter entitled “Trump’s power must be checked by GOP.”

Nillson’s letter echoes what non-Republicans and a handful of Republicans are saying. Below is his letter, which speaks for itself:

“Lately, the truth that many Republicans like me are realizing is that the our president is not upholding the ideals of our party and our country.

His administration violates duties of office with callous indifference. And President Trump expects Republicans to fall in line behind him, regardless.

I have been most appalled by the president’s mishandling of foreign policy matters – especially the Ukraine situation – and his conduct during the Mueller investigation.

His power must be checked by other Republicans. Congress must do its duty to bring forth all of the evidence so the country can move forward. We cannot repeat Watergate. It will set Republicans back 50 years.”

These letters from courageous Republicans need to be highlighted. Please feel free to share this letter with Republican legislators and others.

I know Trump followers will dismiss Mr. Nillson as a RINO (Republican in Name Only), so his opinion can be discounted. Sadly, Trump’s party does not bear much resemblance to the Republican Party.

This is not Democrat witchhunt. I agree with Nillson’s comments. Republicans must remember their oaths to the US constition and think more of protecting it than the incumbent president. Nillson, like Nebraska GOP State Senator John McCollister, should be applauded for their political courage.

Puzzlement

I am puzzled. I have been concerned for a long time about actions and behavior of the current occupant in the White House. Why am I puzzled?

We have a national security risk in the White House and his actions are being explained away by his sycophants as just Trump being Trump. That may be true as he has been an untruthful bully who strong armed people for many years. He now thinks he is a king, when he is only president.

While three expert witnesses said the president committed an impeachable offense, we have a one expert witness say he needs to see more evidence to confirm impeachment. I respect his opinion, so the president needs to stop obstructing justice and let people who heard him abuse power to testify. More on the cover-up would be nice, as well.

It apparently is not enough for a higher up to order you to work with the president’s attorney to exploit Ukraine. Who else would have that authority, that attorney relationship and something to gain from the exploitation?

This abuse of power fits into a larger narrative of a president who is taking a wrecking ball to our global reputation and relationships, while cozying up to autocratic leaders. There is a reason so many leaders talk about ways to deal with this impetuous person as do US GOP leaders.

The NATO meeting is yet one more example of the chaos he is causing. While asking for NATO countries to pay their share is a fair request, denigrating people does not serve us well. Seemingly every issue he involves himself in is contentious.

I am puzzled why this is not more obvious to his followers. Part of the reason is they are asked to look the other way with a sophistry by talking heads on a favored news station. What I see is abuse of power, corrupt behavior, obstruction of justice, and an active cover up.

It is a puzzlement, but here is one more. You know the sycophants are worried about other shoes that will drop. That has to keep them up at night. It should.

Not a witch hunt

The following is an updated brief letter I sent to the editor of my newspaper. It has a 150 word limit. Please feel free to adapt and use.
**********

This independent and former GOP voter is troubled by members of my former party ignoring an obvious national security risk who resides in the White House. I watched a parade of honorable, dutiful and courageous public servants testify under oath at great risk. We must be concerned by a president seeking personal gain at the expense of national security.

We are already less trusted because our president is untrustworthy, but looking for personal gain with shadow diplomacy is wrong on so many levels. I support the impeachment hearings. So, should Republicans.
***********

If someone tells you the impeachment is a witch hunt, a funny response is if it is, then then president needs to get off his broom.

These Alaskans moved their village due to climate change

Climate change is no longer a futuristic concern. People, governments and businesses are responding to issues today whether it is sunny day flooding in coastal cities, increased magnitude and frequency of forest fires or stalled weather patterns causing more flooding or droughts.

Venice is an important face of rising sea levels, but Miami is the most at risk major city in the world say climate scientists. Yet, a town in Alaska has been forced to plan and move their town inland today.

An NPR story by Greg Kim earlier this month was entitled, “Residents Of An Eroded Alaskan Village Are Pioneering A New One, In Phases.”

“It’s finally moving day in Newtok, Alaska, the village where erosion has already claimed several homes and the river is banging on more doors. Newtok is sending a third of its residents across the Ninglick River this year, to its replacement village, Mertarvik. Decades of planning have built up to this moment.”

An earlier story from September noted, “In mid-October, Newtok will move one-third of its roughly 350 residents to a new village currently under construction on higher ground 9 miles away. The move will mark a sober milestone: Newtok residents will be the first Americans to be relocated because of the effects of climate change.”

Two things stand out. The Newtok citizens have been planning this move for over 25 years. While that may surprise some folks, we have known about climate change and rising sea levels for some time. Exxon Mobil is in court for misepresenting the impact of climate change to shareholders, but much of the prosecutor’s data comes from suppressed data from Exxon Mobil scientists. These scientists used to speak to groups about climate change concerns until management told them to stop. Shell Oil even produced an educational video on climate change concerns in the 1990s.

While these firms have moved to a naysaying strategy fueled by a Public Relations firm, they know the hard truths. And, if they forget, their shareholders voted that management tell them.

Newtok will not be the last US town or city which may need to move. Please remember the term sunny day flooding, as it represents days when sea water leave standing water in the streets of these cities.

Former Arkansas surgeon general brags on Medicaid expansion

I have written often about the Affordable Care Act not being fully implemented since 15 states have not expanded Medicaid. Rather than repeat my arguments, let me reference the attached editorial written by Dr. Joe Thompson, the former Surgeon General of Arkansas, which I read in Friday’s The Charlotte Observer. The reason for their interest is North Carolina has a Democrat governor working with a Republican majority General Assembly and the issue of Medicaid expansion is of importance. The editorial is entitled “Medicaid expansion works in deep red Arkansas. It would work in North Carolina too.”

“My home state of Arkansas is unusual among Southern states in having adopted Medicaid expansion early and in our own fashion.

I was Arkansas’ surgeon general in 2013 when the state first faced the question of whether to expand Medicaid. Like North Carolina now, Arkansas then had a Democratic governor and a Republican-controlled legislature. Fortunately, we avoided an impasse; lawmakers on both sides of the aisle came together to approve an innovative alternative to traditional Medicaid expansion that provides private health insurance coverage to about 250,000 people earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level.

The effect on Arkansas’ uninsured rate was swift and dramatic. A 2015 Gallup report showed that since Arkansas’ Medicaid expansion program took effect in January 2014, the state’s uninsured rate had been cut roughly in half, dropping from 22.5% to 11.4% ― the biggest reduction in the nation.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Arkansas’ uninsured rate was 8.2% in 2018. North Carolina’s was 10.7%, the ninth-highest rate in the nation. Arkansas’ reduced uninsured rate led to a 55% reduction in uncompensated-care losses at hospitals. This has been especially important for rural hospitals, which treat many low-income patients.

Since January 2010, only one rural Arkansas hospital has closed for financial reasons. In the five neighboring states that have not expanded Medicaid, more than 50 rural hospitals have closed, according to the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Expanding Medicaid also has helped stabilize Arkansas’ health insurance market, improve competition and control premiums. Since 2014, at least three insurers have offered plans through the Health Insurance Marketplace in each county in the state. The competition encourages low rates: In 2014, 38 states had marketplace premiums lower than Arkansas’; today, only six states have lower premiums.Medicaid expansion has brought billions of new federal dollars into Arkansas’ economy: $1.7 billion between January 2014 and June 2015 alone, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Arkansas also is saving money because some individuals previously covered under traditional Medicaid, which in Arkansas is 30% state and 70% federally funded, are now covered under Medicaid expansion.

The federal government currently is paying 93% of Medicaid expansion costs and will pay 90% in 2020 and thereafter. A consultant told a legislative task force in 2016 that Medicaid expansion would save Arkansas $757 million between 2017 and 2021.Thirty-six states have now decided to accept Medicaid expansion.

Arkansas has become a firmly red state, but it has reauthorized its Medicaid expansion program with a supermajority vote every year because of the demonstrated benefits to the working poor, the economy and the health care infrastructure. Last year, Arkansas added a work and community engagement requirement that currently is blocked by a federal judge’s order, but however that issue ultimately is resolved, it is clear that Medicaid expansion has had tangible, positive results. There’s a reason the number of states rejecting it continues to shrink each year.

Joe Thompson, MD, MPH, is president and CEO of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement. He was Arkansas’ surgeon general under Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee and Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe.”

In spite of efforts to naysay it, hobble it and kill it, the Affordable Care Act is stabilizing some. It needs more stability and Medicaid expansion would help in the remaining 15 states. I have also advocated the US government paying back the money they withheld from insurers causing some to leave the market, inviting those companies back to the market. I have also advocated the reduction of the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to age 62 or even 60. And, where options don’t exist, Medicare could be offered as an option for younger adults.

What frustrates this retired benefits manager, consultant and actuary is the fact people getting harmed by decisions to harm the ACA is not a major factor. There is too much focus on winning an argument that people getting screwed does not seem to matter. Please help make it matter. Even as we speak, the eating away at the edges of the ACA could lead the Supreme Court to rule it unconstitutional. If this occurs it would be a damn shame.

Letter to editor – as a Republican, I won’t follow blindly

A letter to the editor in my paper today was entitled “As a Republican, I won’t follow blindly.” The following are his first two paragraphs:

“Why are American citizens turning a deaf ear to the obvious wrongdoings of the president of the United States.

As a registered Republican, I am appalled that my fellow American citizens aren’t ashamed of the total disregard for the truth that is being emitted from Washington.”

This emperor has no clothes. He is also a national security risk as he belittles and embarasses an ally in need of our help for personal gain.