Saturday, August 12, 2017

Editorial: Keep the Heat on GOP

Now that Republicans have failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act — albeit by a one-vote margin in the Senate — Donald Trump wants to hurry the collapse of the nation’s health care program by shortchanging insurance companies who were promised subsidies for keeping costs low. Trump also has sent mixed signals on whether penalties will be enforced on people who don’t buy health insurance, as the law requires.

If enough insurance companies withdraw from the program and/or premiums soar because of sabotage, Trump thinks, ObamaCare will fail, and then Democrats will be forced to accept his terms on a replacement. But some Republican senators, looking at polls that show Americans are blaming Trump and the GOP for the cracks in the ACA, are in the mood to try to fix the program and Democrats should be ready with progressive options.

While we think Medicare for All is the ultimate solution, bills by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) to implement that are unlikely to get a serious hearing in the Republican-controlled House or Senate this year. Democrats might be able to build a groundswell of support for a proposal to let people buy Medicare and/or Medicaid coverage if private insurance companies fail to offer adequate coverage.

Toward that end, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) on Aug. 3 introduced the Medicare at 55 Act, which would allow people 55 and older to buy in to Medicare. Co-sponsors include Democratic Sens. Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Jack Reed (R.I.) and Al Franken (Minn.).

Stabenow’s office suggests the new bill would likely generate cost savings for those between the ages of 55 and 64, since private insurers are permitted to charge that cohort three times the rates of their younger people due to the generally higher cost of providing them coverage. Americans aged 55 to 64, on average, pay more than $1,200 a year in out-of-pocket medical costs that Medicare would alleviate, according to the Health Care Cost Institute, Daniel Marans reported at

House Democrats, including Reps. Jon Larson (Conn.), Brian Higgins (N.Y.) and Joe Courtney (Conn.) plan to introduce a similar Medicare Buy-In and Health Care Stabilization Act. The bill would let Americans aged 50 or older buy into Medicare for as little as $8,212 a year — a significant savings for a 60-year-old currently purchasing a high-ranking “gold” plan on the exchange for an estimated $13,308, according to the congressmen’s offices.

Republican Sens. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and John McCain get full credit for voting against Mitch McConnell’s repeal of the Affordable Care Act — but so do the 48 senators in the Democratic Caucus (including independent Sens. Angus King of Maine and Sanders) who stuck together in defense of the ACA. And the progressive Resistance made sure the Democrats stayed in the corral as well as rounding up the three maverick Republicans who were willing to vote for the interests of their constituents, instead of the billionaire funders of the GOP who were demanding repeal of the capital gains surcharge and other taxes that pay for much of the ACA.

That leaves flaky Republican senators such as Dean Heller of Nevada, who pledged at the end of June that not only would be oppose the Republican plan to repeal and replace the ACA, he would oppose the procedural motion that would allow the Senate to proceed to debate on the bill. A month later, he voted for the “motion to proceed” and he also voted for the “skinny repeal” bill, which would cause an estimated 328,000 Nevadans to lose health care. Heller also voted with 49 other Republicans in March for a bill that would allow states to block more than $200 million in Title X funding from going to Planned Parenthood or any other organization that provides abortions — even if the medical service had nothing to do with abortions. Four million Americans rely on Title X family planning services, but many might have trouble finding a family planning clinic.

In the Senate, where Republicans have a 52-48 majority, Democrats face a daunting challenge in the 2018 election, as 23 Dems and two independents who caucus with them are up for re-election. Republicans have eight seats up for re-election.

The conventional wisdom is that Democrats might be able to pick up two seats — those now held by Dean Heller in Nevada and Jeff Flake in Arizona. But if Democrats win those races and hold onto the 25 seats already in the Democratic Caucus, the GOP would still control the Senate with Vice President Pence casting the tie-breaking vote. That’s why Democrats also need to target Ted Cruz in Texas, where US Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) is challenging Cruz in a Bernie Sanders-style insurgent campaign. Otherwise, Dems can take on Roger Wicker in Mississippi, Deb Fischer in Nebraska, Bob Corker in Tennessee, Orrin Hatch in Utah or John Barrasso in Wyoming, at even longer odds.

Republicans are expected to target Democratic senators in Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia, all of which states voted for Mitt Romney in 2012 and Trump in 2016. The GOP also covet seats from Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, states which voted for Trump in 2016. Republicans also might target Democrats in New Mexico, Virginia, Maine and New Jersey. And they likely will fund a challenger for Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts in an attempt to take her down a peg.

If Democrats manage to gain control of the Senate, they could jam the plutocrats’ hopes to pack the federal judiciary with right-wing judges appointed to lifetime terms. There are currently 138 vacancies, including 19 on appeals courts. Trump is getting his nominees directly from the right-wing Heritage Foundation and, frankly, they’re not sending America’s best lawyers. The oligarchs also hope to steal another Supreme Court seat that might solidify a right-wing majority on the high court for the foreseeable future.

To gain three seats and the Senate majority for the Dems will require a “wave” election, and with Trump’s approval ratings at record lows (36.6% at 200 days into Trump’s Administration) and congressional approval even lower (20% in a July Gallup poll), it is time for Democrats to go on the offensive with a populist economic agenda that promises Democrats will look out for the working Americans who are targeted by Trump’s proposed budget cuts and administrative policy betrayals.

Congressional Democratic leaders have taken a good first step with their “Better Deal” agenda, which promises a crackdown on corporate monopolies, infrastructure projects to create 10 million jobs, an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour, guaranteeing paid sick and family leave and lowering the costs of prescription drugs by allowing Medicare to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies.

Even better is the “People’s Budget: A Roadmap for the Resistance,” drafted by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which revives Franklin Roosevelt’s promise of an economic bill of rights—to decent work, affordable housing, world-class public education, guaranteed health care and retirement security. The People’s Budget lays out an ambitious jobs and public-investment agenda — $2 trillion to rebuild America over 10 years, debt-free college, seeding a green industrial revolution and more — and pays for it by increasing taxes on the wealthy and corporations to make them pay their fair share.

If Republicans hold onto their Senate majority, and perhaps even add a few next year, they can take another swipe at replacing the Affordable Care Act with one of those monstrosities that were narrowly defeated in the Senate. That means the health care of millions of working families is still threatened. Make every Republican candidate defend their support for Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell’s craven health deforms in the next election year. — JMC

From The Progressive Populist, September 1, 2017

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Selections from the September 1, 2017 issue

COVER/Amanda Marcotte
Trump’s pileup of fake conspiracies conceals the real one

Keep the heat on the GOP


Donald Trump and Captain Ahab

RURAL ROUTES/Margot McMillen
Republicans inaction leaves rural hospitals endangered

Trump failing rural Americans by erasing climate change from USDA;
Union promises to fight defeat at Nissan Mississippi plant;
Senate confirms anti-labor pick to labor board;
Trump’s new appeals court judge compared abortion to slavery;
Trump may shut down government over border wall;
Trump urged Fox News to air bogus story;
Trolls celebrate mosque bombing while Trump stays silent;
Vatican shot across the bow for hard-line US Catholics ...

The noise machine never quiets down

A tale of two beaches

Trump: Bring back the 1950s

Saving America from the wrongs of the right: A six point plan

Now playing in Washington: ‘The Unconscionables’

Give me something new

Progressive health care advances in the Golden State

HEALTH CARE/Joan Retsinas
Willie Sutton for a new age

Trump’s pox Americana

Distractions keep Congress from addressing infrastructure

The single-payer imperative

Moving beyond resistance

Trump administration fails to buy American

What if Trump did that?

SATIRE/Rosie Sorenson
The complete idiot’s guide to pardoning a turkey

Terry Gross still sets the standard on interviews

MOVIES/Ed Rampell
‘An Inconvenient Sequel’ raises some inconvenient truths about Gore

and more ...