Wednesday, August 30, 2017

You Call Yourself a Conservative

You don't like government regulations or taxes? Do you call yourself a conservative? So that means you want to eliminate worker protections, discrimination protections, environmental protections, and unemployment benefits. You want bigger banks, bigger tax cuts for the rich (including dropping capital gains taxes to zero), no financial or consumer safeguards, no Pell grants for students, and no minimum wage. You are okay with no heating assistance for the poor, no Head Start for preschoolers, no community block grants, no infrastructure spending bills, no healthcare insurance assistance and insurance protections, no Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid. But you are okay with a budget increase for our ridiculously massive military.

You do not want public libraries or public roads or bridges or dams or well-funded public schools or police or fire departments or national parks. You want a return to child labor, six-and-a-half day work weeks, senior poverty and poorhouses, sawdust in hot dogs, rivers catching fire, workers being fired for not being able to perform their jobs after being injured on those jobs, and wages that are little more than indentured servitude. You want to starve the government of funds so you can have an excuse for eliminating social programs, which means that you are not a fiscal conservative. You want freedom from ethics, oversight, responsibility, justice, fairness, and equality.

All of the above so that you can have your pure capitalist society where the free market is inherently moral and self-correcting and where discrimination is a sacred right. Where being poor is due to laziness and being sick is the result of bad choices and government should not encourage dependency nor deprive people of the self-esteem that comes from earning a living and being individually responsible. Where the wealthy do not give their hard-earned money to the sick and the poor and the lazy, to people who are moochers and less worthy and less moral. Where money making money is valued more than a worker's sweat. Where tax giveaways to the wealthy are called tax relief. Where one in five corporations pay no taxes.

So you can have your utopia where the federal government is kept out of boardrooms and put into bedrooms to enforce your notions of morality. Where you can be kicked off health insurance just when you need it because you didn't disclose that you had acne even though you were asked about your medical history for only the last 10 years. Where treatment for brain cancer is called experimental and treatment is not covered. Where the leading cause of personal bankruptcies is medical bills. Where financial advisors are not required to act in your best interests. Where the Bernie Madoffs of the world are free to steal retirement savings. Where Enron, WorldCom, and Tyco are free to fleece investors and cost consumers billions of dollars. Where commodities brokers can manipulate oil prices and drive up the costs of gasoline. Where laws and regulations and oversight are called job-killing and are eliminated.

So you can have a utopia where poisoning aquifers, clearcutting forests, filling the atmosphere and people's drinking water with lead are all just the price of living in modern times. Where pensions can be sold off and too bad if grandpa's or grandma's retirement income is cut in half. Where vulture capitalists can buy a company, take the cash, sell some assets and then saddle the company with the debt from the purchase of itself. Where billionaires are the job creators, not people who have money in their pockets to buy the things or services that a company sells. Where "Protect and Serve" means shooting people who make you afraid. Where someone carrying Skittles and walking home can legally be shot dead in the name of "stand your ground." Where the mentally ill can purchase machine guns and background checks are violations of constitutional rights, well-regulated militias be damned.

So you can have your country protected from illegal drugs by a border wall that any drone can fly over. A country where a child of two years old can grow up into an adult and be deported to a country they don't remember and where they don't speak the language. A country where a paraplegic awaiting trial for possession of pot can become a quadriplegic by having his neck broken in a "punishment chair" because he insisted on having a catheter so he could urinate and prevent his bladder from rupturing. And where a sheriff awaiting sentencing for proudly violating a court order can be pardoned because he was just "doing his job," as if racism was a legitimate job. A country where parents of a fallen soldier can be publicly and nationally shamed, where protesters against hatred are equated morally with advocates of hatred and perpetrators of deadly violence.

Congratulations. You are a conservative.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Another Attack on Social Security

To Rep. Collin C. Peterson (D-MN7)

Several of your colleagues are attaching a so-called Social Security commission to the routine debt ceiling increase in a blatant attempt to cut our earned benefits.

Social Security is self-funded and by law is separate from the federal budget. Cutting benefits or raising the retirement age does nothing for the federal budget or National Debt; the only change is the date that the Trust Fund zeroes out (2034). Only income up to the salary cap, currently $127,200, is taxed; the wealthy pay a maximum of $15,773 in Social Security payroll taxes on income which is often more than $1 million. Social Security is funded primarily by middle class and poorer workers; for me and many others, Social Security is the only retirement income we will have.

In 2015 you and a handful of other Democrats voted with Republicans to approve the rules which would govern the new Congressional session. Included in those rules was a provision that would prevent a routine reallocation between Social Security's retirement and disability programs unless the House also passed a Social Security "reform" bill.

I don't know what you have against Social Security and I don't care. The arguments against Social Security display an astonishing ignorance of how the program works and who pays for it. I am asking you to cease your hostility and join with those opposing cuts to Social Security. I am asking you to reject H.R. 3423, the Social Security Commission Act of 2017, a measure whose sole purpose is to justify cuts. Do the right thing this time.

Thank you.

Stop Congress from fast-tracking cuts to Social Security

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Charlottesville Counter-protester DeAndre Harris Also Beaten

In a Huffington Post article regarding additional felony charges against the car attack suspect, there is a police twitter post about it. I added the following comment to that article in hopes that Mr. Harris' Charlottesville story gets heard by more people:

Also mentioned in the police twitter post in this article is an investigation into the beating of DeAndre Shakur Harris. Mr. Harris, who was unarmed, attended the counter-protest and was attacked afterward with poles by "the KKK and white supremacists" in a parking garage right next to the police station (no police showed up to help him; it's not clear if they were called or not).

The photo of him bleeding profusely from his head went viral, and he ended up with a broken wrist, a chipped tooth, and wounds which required eight staples in his head and which caused him to lose consciousness during the beating. He was taken to be treated with other victims at the rally but was transferred to the hospital due to the severity of his injuries. Mr. Harris said if it wasn’t for his friends who helped him, after they noticed him under the pile of white supremacists, he probably wouldn’t be alive to tell his story.

I would think that since the beating of a counter-protester was by white supremacist protesters who were part of the rally, and who apparently objected to the non-whiteness of Mr. Harris's skin, that this mayhem would also be prominently mentioned in stories about Charlottesville. The police twitter post mentioning him is the first I've heard about this.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Protect Medicare and reject the House's FY18 Budget

Cutting Medicare? Cutting Medicaid? Is the Medicare payroll tax not enough? Is the Medicaid Extension too expensive? So you don't want to adjust the payroll tax. And you want to cut Medicare/Medicaid because you are having problems with your budget. And your philosophy is to take more money from people who can't afford it instead of taking it from the profits of companies or the pockets of wealthy people who by definition can afford it.

So the thought of grandma or grandpa having to choose between health care and food or car repairs or house repairs or increased rents or dental work or new glasses or hearing aides makes you smile and dance a little jig in your expensive shoes and expensive ties and expensive shirts and suits and perfect teeth and designer glasses that you can replace any time your prescription changes. Try cutting your bloated military spending. Try paying your fair share and stop screwing the workers in this country.

Vision, dental, hearing - not covered by Medicare. 20% copay. Deductibles. Premiums. I got a Medicare Advantage plan because it took me more than a year to pay for my share of physical therapy. My premium for the Medicare Advantage plan went up by $5 per month this year. That's okay, my Social Security monthly benefit went up by $4. My cable bill and my food bill went up, I need the brakes fixed on my car, and my electric bill went up by $50 a month even though I no longer use air conditioning. That's okay, my benefits went up by $4 and I cut out cable TV. I took out a bank loan to fix a tooth because I cannot afford to lose any more, and am paying it back $100 a month for the next 13 months. That's okay, I got a $4 a month raise. I need new prescription glasses. No problem. I get $4 more a month this year.

Sure, cut Medicare and Medicaid while at the same time you are threatening to decrease Social Security benefits or raise the retirement age, as if cutting a self-funded program that is separate by law would help your budget woes by even one thin dime.

I am your constituent and an AARP member, and I am demanding that you reject the House of Representatives' selfish FY18 budget bill. Your budget that would cut billions from programs that seniors count on to survive -- slashing Medicaid, making it harder to get food assistance, and even opening the door to turning Medicare into a voucher system.

It's simply not right that some in Washington want to put at risk the programs that I and other seniors rely on. I expect my legislators to represent our interests and protect the benefits that we worked hard for our whole lives.

I am counting on you to put aside the corruption and greed and take a moral stance.

Monday, August 7, 2017

VA Hospitals as an Argument Against Universal Coverage?

You cannot equate VA facilities with universal health care. VA facilities are government owned and operated. Universal health care is not nationalization and confiscation of private facilities nor is it forcing hospital providers and workers to become civil servants. Single-payer simply means that the federal government pays for health care.

I would much rather have a public servant between me and my doctor than some insurance agent whose primary motive is not my health, but his wallet. I don't like having a company whose driving motive is getting 20% of every health care dollar with a CEO who makes millions. Would you rather go back to insurance for healthy people only and the routine denial of coverage for bogus reasons when healthy people finally get sick? Long lines for a chance at treatment by doctors in animal stalls by people who could not get coverage? Medical bankruptcies even when covered? Finding out your coverage is more like a coupon? Bake sales to raise money to help someone get treatment?

Save your free market profit-driven corrupt health coverage for elective procedures. Relying on the free market for needed treatments is the freedom to go without health care, the freedom to go bankrupt, the freedom to die. Whenever I hear freedom and flexibility by radical conservatives, I hear the subtext of freedom from accountability, oversight, safety standards, wage minimums, competency, integrity, and legality. Keep your greedy hands out of my pockets and tell your health care lies to your Republican base.

"Some of Us Pay Our Own Way for Health Care."

And I suppose that people who can't get coverage only have themselves to blame? Bad lifestyle, bad choices. Less worthy. Lazy. And all the other excuses put out by people who think that greed is a virtue, that everyone must be individually responsible even if they are paid peanuts. If people are not paid well enough to go without government assistance, it is called corporate welfare. Ever hear of the concept of the wealthy paying their fair share? Ever hear of Social Responsibility? Not everyone wants to be a CEO or manager or owner of a business. Some people just want fair wages. And for you radical conservatives to recognize that your concept of freedom means freedom to do without, as in freedom for us to be without living wages, without health care, without a safe retirement income, without clean air and clean water, without maintenance of infrastructure, and without adequately funded agencies.

Every time I hear freedom and flexibility from you jokers, I hear the subtext of freedom from accountability, oversight, safety standards, wage minimums, competency, integrity, and legality. Spare me your version of morality. It's corrupt and selfish and greedy and heartless. Glad you can afford to pay your own way. So sorry you think the rest of us who can't are just lazy and are not worthy of health care. So sorry the wealthy want the profit on the money they send to work to be taxed at a lower rate than the total income from the sweat of someone who does the actual work.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Police Brutality

Police assault a short 115-pound girl who matched the description of a tall 170-pound male.

Police are on the lookout for a 30-year-old 5' 10" 170-pound bald, black man with a goatee and a pink backpack and a machete. It is broad daylight on a Sunday afternoon. They stop a 19-year-old 5' 2" 115-pound female who is not bald, does not have a goatee, and has a black and red backpack. According to their own statement, one of the officers got his feet tangled in her bike, yet they say she pushed the 200-pound officer and he fell. The officer grabs her wrist and wrestles her, but the claim is that she continued to assault the downed officer. The K-9 officer claims he was afraid that she would grab the mythical machete and continue her attack, so he sics the dog on her. It apparently takes two officers with their knees on her along with a K-9 dog chewing on her to subdue the 115-pound suspect. They also claim that she was the one who grabbed the dog's muzzle, yet the officer stated that he commanded the dog to release her hand. Also note that according to the police statement she attacked instead of fleeing on her bike, as if that were the only two choices.

The whole police statement stinks, yet she is arrested on felony charges for not complying, for resisting arrest, and for attacking officers. And the excuse once again is that a police officer was afraid. If you cannot understand how asinine and racist this is, then substitute white for black and ask yourself if their story makes any sense and is in any way consistent with proper procedure. Ask yourself why a short 115-pound girl would attack officers who had guns drawn as well as a police dog (which they threatened her with prior to the "resistance"), all while facing three police cars with lights flashing. Even if they mistook her for a male, nothing else in the suspect's description came close to matching her except that she was black. She was black.

Go ahead and continue to blame the victim. And keep dismissing Black Lives Matter as another way of saying Blue Lives Don't Matter and ignore and excuse the continued slaughter of blacks in this country.

Email to Al Franken on The Nomination of the Wolf of Wall Street

The nomination of Joseph Otting for the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. This was my reply to the news story. "Who are the fools who will confirm his appointment? The GOP - Greed Over People. Aiding and abetting the Conniver in Chief, the Head Thief, the delusional ignorant treasonous idiot who rode into Washington on a Russian Red carpet. Remember this moment in 2018. Remember the values and morals of these criminals, and reward them appropriately. Resist." If you have anything at all to do with the confirmation hearings, remember the anger of your constituents. We are mortified at the continuing nominations of thieves and anarchists and thugs to head the Departments which are supposed to be there to protect America and its citizens. How many decades will it take to repair the damage done? Who is protecting this country and protecting its people and protecting our standing in the world while these carpetbaggers destroy our government?

Huffington Post Article, "Donald Trump’s Pick For Key Bank Regulator Is A Foreclosure Kingpin, Of Course"

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A Response to Someone Who Thinks Trump is Great

If you don't like the ACA, too bad. Millions got insurance that didn't have it before. Insurance before the ACA was primarily for the healthy and when people needed it they found that their insurance was more like a coupon. Ever see bake sales to raise money to help someone with medical expenses? Ever hear of insurance companies denying benefits because the treatment was "experimental"? Or the insured suddenly lost their coverage when they needed it most because they did not disclose treatment for acne which occurred before the time they were asked about on their application? And hello, medical bankruptcies. Ever see hundreds of people lined up for a chance of getting treatment by doctors in animal stalls?

Obamacare was Romneycare, a product of the Heritage Foundation. It was a Republican plan. More than 170 changes were made to the ACA to please Republicans. Even the public option was dropped. In the end, no Republicans voted for their own plan. After passage, Republicans sued to get Expanded Medicaid optional. The expansion was supposed to cover people who did not make enough to qualify for the ACA. So millions in Red states were screwed out of health care coverage.

This is your for-profit health care system. Don't like it? Then do what most other western industrialized nations have done. Single-payer universal health care. Paid for by a flat tax rate. I would rather pay 15% of my income than go bankrupt or go without life-saving treatment. Or are you going to cry American Exceptionalism and tell us all about how those people in other countries have it worse than us and can't get treatment and have long waits and how the lower costs are somehow a bad deal?

Don't like the idea of the wealthy paying their fair share? You think poorer people are moochers, are lazy, are less worthy, and are victims of their own choices? Too bad. We don't think greed is a virtue. We are sick of people at the top sucking up the wealth and forcing workers to get government assistance. A worker on welfare is a company getting welfare. And people who can't get medical treatment are people who can't work.

So don't call the ACA shitty. At least it got millions insured. And if your premiums went up, guess what? That's how insurance is supposed to work. Health insurance is not just for the healthy. And because insurance companies actually had to cover some sick people, their expenses went up. But their administrative expenses also went up, because they wanted their 20% take.

One more thing. With the GOP hell-bent on getting rid of the already weakened Dodd-Frank reforms, it is probably only a matter of time before the toxic mix of commercial banking and investment banking (securities firms) creates another financial crisis. The Glass-Steagall Act was passed in response to the Great Depression to keep them separate. It worked until its repeal in 1999, following which critics predicted a crisis in 10 years. They were wrong. It was 9 years.

Now banks are bigger than ever. Price/earnings ratio for stocks (how much investors are willing to pay for stock earnings) are as high as just before the Great Depression, the internet bubble in the 90's, and the Great Recession. So if you are somehow equating your pension doing great with the rise in the stock market, good luck. And I hope your pension is not being invested by your broker with someone like Madoff.