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Daley Weekly: Crazy Daze of Summer

President Stuff, Democrat

It is beginning to look like Joe Biden may be headed into the fray. The trends have to be tempting.  Many hope that Hillary will be the first woman President – she clearly has the values, experience, and ability to serve with distinction.  But she’s not lighting up the place, she’s dogged by the email glitch, and lacks her husband’s flair for this stuff.  Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren made juicy rumors over the weekend, via a two-hour meeting at the VP’s residence in D.C.

Bernie Sanders is doing really well. He actually has the corner on an understanding of the deepening inequality and corporate corruption that are savaging the national economy. Great crowds and exciting articulation. But there are questions about his ultimate electability when they start painting that name Socialist on him.

Martin O’Malley is not gaining any traction and candidates Chafee and what’s-his-name from Virginia are just hoping for the others to evaporate so that attention might turn to them. Run across any campaign workers for any of these folks lately?

So it’s got to be real tempting for Biden. Bloggers report he is talking with donors and sizing things up. My guess was expressed a couple of issues back when I heard that his dying son Beau had urged him to run. Pretty tough stuff for an emotional guy like Biden to resist.

And the R’s? This is Crazzazie

My friend Margarida has improved my vocabulary by exposing me to the critical literature about the Zombie Apocalypse and by describing the fringes as crazzazie and wackadoodle. I am reaching into this lexicon because I am at a loss for more traditional words to describe the Republican campaigns for the American Presidency.

I look at the R’s and roll my eyes. For their sake and for the sake of the Nation I don’t want them to nominate Trump. Even the R’s deserve better than this racist, sexist gasbag. But their candidates are so weak – none of them seem have an original thought. Their whole approach has been defined by Trump and they are stumped – they are captives of a bankrupt ideology and when Trump out-demagogues them, they are like deer in the headlights.

It is my deeply held predisposition that if the R’s nominate Trump they will prove beyond all possible debate that they haven’t got the guile God gave a Grape-Nut flake. But if the R’s are determined to nominate him, let’s get it on. The last century taught us how to look at racists with funny hair – we will not do it again.

Nice to See Paul

Sitting in my little corner of Serafina, a favorite restaurant in Seattle, I saw a man pass on the way out who I remembered with affection. Paul Kraabel was a Republican legislator when I first got into the political world of Washington state. I was sent to see him for some reason and, though my normal old leftish Democrat self, I was greeted with respect and he listened.

Tonight, his friends were helping him navigate his way out, he used a cane – but I caught him on the sidewalk and he knew who I was we were able to share a couple of recollections.

Back in the ‘60s and ‘70s I knew many Republicans like Paul who were open to talking, and solving problems, and being decent to others.

Oh how I miss them when I watch folks like Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee, who act as though they came from the Seraphim, armed with the voice of God and equipped with the instrument of prejudice and the malice of the fanatic.

Oak Flat

Remember our depressing report a few weeks back about how the Senatorial aristocrats slipped a little provision into the Defense Reauthorization that gave over a sacred Apache place to mining? The billion tons of copper that apparently have deposited themselves under Arizona’s Oak Flat proved an irresistible attraction – Arizona Republican Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake slipped a little provision into the Defense Authorization bill and handed it over to foreign mining interests.

Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva (D), has introduced a bill to reverse this and to return the land to public ownership where it can be protected for the Apache. If you want to read more, start with H.R.  2811. You can help reverse this tragedy by writing your Congress people and asking them to help pass this bill.

Drug Costs

I cannot bear to have you miss the news about how your fellow Americans feel about the cost of prescription drugs.  Recent polling shows that this issue just jumped ahead of concerns about the Affordable Care Act.  Eighty-three percent favor allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices and seventy- three percent believe that drug companies make too much profit. 

This news comes as reports filter out of negotiations over the Transpacific Partnership trade pact suggesting that the insistence of U. S. bargaining team on protections for the big drug companies is a main issue stymieing progress in the negotiations. We can only hope that our crack negotiating team loses this one.

El Niño

Looks like a hot, wet wind may be about to blow in from the sea. Meteorologists are predicting that the El Niño effect will be the warmest in decades, maybe a record. The California drought will become the California monsoon.

Marriage

Iowa Representative Steve King (R), the leader of the Congressional Xenophobia Caucus, apparently believes that the Supreme Court decision on same sex marriage enables American’s to marry inanimate objects. Some wedded folks long ago realized that a court decision on this was unnecessary – their spouses already are inanimate objects.

ACA and Declines in the Uninsured

According to the latest Gallup Poll on the subject the rates of the uninsured continue to drop post-ACA.  The national uninsured rate fell from 17.3 percent in 2013 to 11.7 percent 2015. A bunch of states did even better than this, particularly those that both expanded Medicaid and instituted exchanges.

Latina Income Inequality

This should come as a surprise to few, but the wage gap for Hispanic women is way wider than it is for all women.  Researchers with the University of Massachusetts Boston’s Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy, have done the math so those like me, who struggle with numbers, just have to glance across a series of simple charts to get the idea.

The gap between all women and men is bad enough – women get 78% of what the men get for the same work. Only in nursing and home health care are Hispanic women equally discriminated against when compared to all women – both get 75 percent of what men get.  But in retail and public service jobs pay for all women runs at 88 percent of the pay for men, while Hispanic women get only 50 percent. Other job categories do not show such extreme differences, but are troubling.

Amigas, something is up here and it is not good. ¿Is anyone else wondering what the figures might be for Somali or Samoan women, por ejemplo?

Sen͂or Presidente, tiar abaje este mura

Oozing xenophobia and narcissism from every pore, Donald Trump has oiled his way into an apparent lead in the Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire Primary among Republicans.

Just to seal the deal, details of his plan for immigration reform have been announced. First, every undocumented immigrant gets sent home – deported at a cost of some $400 to $600 billion. A 2,000-mile long fence will be erected along the entire U.S./ Mexico border – built at the expense of the Mexican government. Then there is the proposal to amend the Constitution in order to remove the provision that makes all babies born on U.S. soil citizens automatically.

Anyone else feel a tremor of slavery revulsion when they hear the proposal to change the citizenship of babies born here? Is it possible that the 14th Amendment had to do with making former slaves and their children into citizens? Now the immigration loonies are talking about these children as “anchor babies” – children born here in order to anchor the prospects for future citizenship for their parents.

Not only is there no legal connection to citizenship for their parents, but they also are talking about folks like Bobby Jindal and Marco Rubio whose citizenship is established by their birth.  Wow.

While we are in the process of un-anchoring the babies, we are also going to round up and deport all the 11 million-plus undocumented in the country. I don’t know how to be constrained about this stuff. This idea has eerie historical echoes. One has to hear the thud of the jackboots reverberating in the night streets.

And the great fence? Great fence projects have a way of turning into real big failures. I do not know if this edifice to idiocy will be visible from the moon, but one can see the Great Wall of China from there. The Mongols took over China, wall or not. Remember the Berlin Wall? How did that go? There recurs in my sleep a dream (or perhaps a nightmare) in which the ghost of Ronald Regan, a supporter of immigration reform, stands in Nogales or Mexicali, and says: “Mr. President, tear down this wall.”

Medicaid Politics

Asa Hutchinson, Governor of Arkansas, wants to change the wildly successful decision of his state to expand Medicaid. His state has seen the most dramatic decline on rates of the uninsured of any state in the nation. Not satisfied with success, Hutchinson has decided to try to get the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to permit Arkansas to imitate the successful negotiations of other wackadoodle governors and make the program worse by privatizing stuff and making the poor pay more.

Dear Governor Hutchinson:  The thing is working. Just walk away.

Apparently Pennsylvania’s John Kasich has been banned by the Koch boys from their events because of his support for expanding Medicaid.

Scott Walker and the ACA

Whenever I hear the anti-Affordable Care Act crowd explain its alternative, to “Obamacare,” I remember the presentation that my friend David West once made to a legislative committee. He was describing a plan offered by an insurance company that had a surgery benefit – but not anesthesia. David suggested that perhaps they might at least offer a bullet to bite and a bottle of bourbon.

Desperate to put a little passion into his campaign as poll numbers fall, Scott Walker has decided to lay out some specifics about what he would offer for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Turns out to be the usual tax cut gibberish that will force the needy back into the ranks of the uninsured. But there are specifics.

Perhaps the worst of the specifics is the idea that anyone could buy any health insurance product from any state. This passes and the insurance gang will soon be regulated by the domestic equivalent of the Cayman Island—i.e., no standards at all.

Conflict of Interest

So there is a big debate going on in D.C. over whether or not investment counselors should be required to act in the interest of the investors they counsel. Apparently some Republicans in Congress believe that steering you to waste a lot of time in a thinly veiled pyramid scheme is the sort of advice that your investment counselor should be able to give without concern or penalty.

Musical Chairs

Former Ohio Congressman Louis Stokes died last week. Stokes did many really fine things, but what I, the hopeless wonk, remember the most was the Heckler Report. Margaret Heckler was the Secretary of the then Department of Health Education and Welfare in 1984 and she directed an analysis of health disparities based on race. This was the first big national analysis of this important issue and it outlined patterns that persist into today.

Louis Stokes was the behind-the-scenes inspiration that caused this report to be written. Maybe we have not gotten much done as a response?  Maybe, with the news of Stokes’ death, how important it is to keep working on this issue?

Schedule

You are going to have to wait a couple of more weeks for the return of the Congress.  Summers can be so relaxing.

Daley Weekly: Lame Duck Session More Reaction Than Action

Lame Duck
The Congress returned December 1 for two weeks. What are they doing with all this time?

The House is setting its collective hair on fire over the President’s Executive Order on Immigration. There are hearings in at least two committees to hammer away against the Obama “Kingship.”  There is a bill in the works to repeal all the President’s deferred prosecution, including for Dreamers. On Thursday the House voted to pass this legislation, known as the Yoho bill, by a vote of 219 to 197, an almost totally party line vote.

They may have reached a deal on appropriations that has them passing and omnibus appropriations bill to fund the government for a whole fiscal year.

Apparently the Republican Leadership may want to get this out of the way. The Homeland Security appropriations will run only until March in order to give the anti-immigrant bunch an opportunity to take another shot at the Administration. No government shutdown.

In case you were wondering, the term “lame duck” does not refer to the session but to the people conducting the session – elected officials whose terms are about to expire and who are not going to be back. Apparently the term originated in the 18th century as an allusion to stockbrokers who were unable to pay their debts.

Tax “Extenders”

After playing around with this for the better part of a year, the “extenders” apparently will pass in some form making a bunch of loopholes available for another year. House and Senate lists differ on which to include but they should close these differences quickly. This follows an attempt to pass a “compromise” that included not only an expanded list of “extenders,” but tried to make a number of them permanent. Progressive tax groups made their displeasure known and the President threatened a veto.

So it looks like they have settled on a short term fix. The Democrats in the Senate had apparently agreed to the now ignored “compromise.” If this is the Democrat’s strategy, be prepared for hard times ahead.

Police Body Cameras

The police officer who choked to death an unarmed black man on Staten Island was exonerated by a grand jury. The coroner had called it a homicide.

The President did take a stronger personal role in the matter of blacks and the cops by calling for cameras on police flack vests.

The problem is that the persistent poverty, discrimination, unemployment, poor health, bad schools, and hopelessness in people of color communities will not be solved by cameras on cops. It needs something like a domestic Marshall Plan and the politicians who have been in the ascendency are more interested in feeding cash to the corporations and the wealthy than they are in dealing with the quality of domestic society.

Economy

The U.S. economy added 321,000 jobs in November and there is evidence of regional improvements in consumer spending. The unemployment rate held at 5.8 percent. It remains to be seen whether or not the Democrats will be emboldened to resist another round of Congressional efforts to cut taxes, reduce critical spending, fight immigrants, and perpetuate inequality – the long list of discredited austerity programs that the Republican majority is sure to try to enact.

Medicaid

A committee appointed by Texas Governor Rick Perry has recommended that Texas join in the Medicaid Expansion. It looks like the state of Wyoming is coming to its senses, too, and is trying to figure out how to participate in expansion. Rumors abound that deals also are in the works in Montana and Idaho.

Pretty soon we will look at the map of non-expansion states and see the modern manifestation of a racist, slave-owning South.

Ebola

The mad scramble to contain Ebola may finally be showing some hopeful signs. There now are empty treatment beds in Liberia, which was hardest hit. Efforts to prevent its spread into Europe and the U.S. also appear to be holding. Sierra Leone has now become the new hot-bed of Ebola infection.

The appropriations bill now working its way through the U.S. Congress includes $5.3 billion to fight the Ebola epidemic.

Health Care Cost Slows

One of the big causes of the push for austerity economics has been the inexorable cost push in the health care sector of the economy. Austerity freaks should be cheering and dancing. In 2013 spending on health care grew at the lowest rate since 1960, the lowest on record.

You can read all about it in Health Affairs: http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/early/2014/11/25/hlthaff.2014.1107.full.pdf+html.

Tax Reform – the Myth

One of the things that the pundits suggest as a potential point of agreement between Obama and the coming Republican Congress is something they call “tax reform.” Here are two myths to watch out for:

Revenue Neutral. Even though it is patently obvious that the great give-away of tax loopholes to the rich and corporations has caused an enormous drain from the national treasury, the mantra is that reform should be “revenue neutral.”  That means that every cut that they make for the corporations needs to be balanced by some increase somewhere else.

In order to make it easier to do this, the House Republicans have tried to maximize the cuts being provided in the “extender” package they are pushing in the lame duck session. The more they permanently reduce taxes for the corporations on the extender bill, the less it costs them when they try to produce “revenue neutral” tax reform that cuts the rates for the corporations. Cut a bunch of rates now, without paying for them, and we will not have to account for them in the score for tax reform next year.

The other thing that they are proposing to use to find a “revenue neutral” plan is a little thing called “dynamic scoring.”   This is a purely ideological theory that says tax cuts actually produce tax revenue. Yep – cut those taxes and the economy will grow and more money will roll in and everything will be rosy. The trouble is that it doesn’t work and the experts at the Congressional Budget Office have refused to use it.

But next year the voodoo economics gang will be in charge and they are preparing to rattle a few beads over the national economy and, presto, we can cut the hell out of corporate taxes. Deficit hawks should be shuddering.

The U.S. Has the Highest Corporate Tax Rate in the World. This little myth is a media favorite. It says that, because the law sets a 35 percent top corporate tax rate, we have the highest corporate taxes. The problem here is that corporations simply do not pay this rate.

Here are some key findings from a study done by Citizens for Tax Justice:

  • “As a group, the 288 corporations examined paid an effective federal income tax rate of just 19.4 percent over the five-year period — far less than the statutory 35 percent tax rate.
  • Twenty-six of the corporations, including Boeing, General Electric, Priceline.com and Verizon, paid no federal income tax at all over the five-year period. A third of the corporations (93) paid an effective tax rate of less than ten percent over that period.
  • Of those corporations in our sample with significant offshore profits, two thirds paid higher corporate tax rates to foreign governments where they operate than they paid in the U.S. on their U.S. profits.
  • These findings refute the prevailing view inside the Washington, D.C. Beltway that America’s corporate income tax is more burdensome than the corporate income taxes levied by other countries, and that this purported (but false) excess burden somehow makes the U.S. “uncompetitive.”

Check it out: http://www.ctj.org/corporatetaxdodgers/sorrystateofcorptaxes.php.

Musical Chairs

In addition to having to get a new Attorney General confirmed by the Senate, Obama now has to get a new Defense Secretary. Every time the President needs something out of the Senate he is made more vulnerable to the extortionists. Obama apparently will nominate former Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter to Defense. John McCain likes him, so maybe everything will be O.K.

Schedule

The Congress is supposed to end its lame duck session next week and re-convene with its shiny new majorities on January 6.  

One of the Sorriest Episodes in Recent Memory

Screen shot 2014-08-04 at 6.27.42 PMIt is clear that there are those among us who are having trouble adjusting to the new reality of race in America. Their old world of white majority domination in political and economic life is slipping away.

The changes started back several decades ago when it became clear through the 1980 U.S. Census that a racial and ethnic transformation was occurring in the population.

I used to have a bit of fun back then going to Rotary Club meetings and talking about this transformation. I would suggest that those who get the yips about such things needed to recognize that there was a better than 50/50 chance that their grandchildren were going to have brown eyes.

Now the transformation that began back then is playing out and it is bringing out the worst in us. Read more