Please stop clapping long enough to check your wallet?

The followers of the Orange Agent of Change applaud his “actions” which they take to mean validating their world view informed by Faux News.  If they have a moment, they might want to stop for a moment and check their wallets.

At the next town hall meeting, if in fact your Republican Representative deigns to have one,  there are some pertinent questions you might want to ask because they relate directly to your very own money.

(1)  Why did the Republican House pass HJ Res 67 on February 15, 2017 which rescinded the Labor Department rule requiring financial advisers for retirement accounts to give YOU advice in YOUR best interest, and instead allowing those advisers to revert to giving you advice that could be based on what was profitable for their own firm?

*Nevada note: Representatives Rosen, Titus, and Kihuen voted against this, Representative Amodei voted in favor of it.

The babble you may get from those Representatives in support of this will almost certainly center on the banksters’ argument that the rule impinges on their profitability, and may thereby reduce their ability to provide service to you. Service like this you could do without.  If your financial adviser won’t agree to provide you with retirement investment suggestions based on YOUR best interests, then it’s time for you to reconsider your relationship with that company. You should expect your adviser to act in YOUR best interests and not use you (and your money) to generate fees and revenue for their own company.

(2) Why do House Republicans want to strip the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau of its power to protect average Americans from predatory lenders and other financial scams?

“Legislation in the works would limit the bureau’s enforcement authority, reduce its ability to make rules and repeal its consumer complaint system.

It would also greatly shrink the enforcement tools at the consumer watchdog’s disposal, blocking it from being able to go after businesses engaged in deceptive practices and restricting its oversight of big publicly traded companies that are already regulated by agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission.” [NYT] [The Hill]

This is precisely what H.R. 1031, introduced by Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX4) would do.  Please pay special attention to the part wherein the GOP wants to strip out the consumer complaint system.  Without consumer complaints Wells Fargo could have gleefully, and profitably, carried on opening fraudulent accounts and charging fees. Instead, they’ll be paying a $185 million dollar fine. [NYT]  In fact, the CFPB has caused the restitution of some $11 billion for defrauded Americans. [The Hill] The bill looks to be approved by the House Financial Services Committee.  Remember how Republicans are fond of telling you that you deserve to keep your money?  Well, the CFPB is one good way of helping you to keep your very own money out of the mitts of unscrupulous banksters.

Here’s guessing that removing the relative independence of the CFPB is a way to reward the banksters, the predatory lenders, and others who don’t want any restrictions on their actions – no matter the cost to US consumers – and this should not pass unnoticed.  This isn’t exactly helping you keep your money in your wallet or bank account.

Then perhaps the Congressional representative will be willing to hear what you have to say about stripping 320,000 of their health care insurance coverage in the state of Nevada? [previously on DB]

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Keep Your Hat On

I note with a soupcon of interest that some pundits have picked up the argument that Democrats must be careful to follow their etiquette guides and advice from Miss Manners when dealing with Trumpster voters. All this lest their tender feelings be assaulted and they demure from future liaisons with the Democratic Party.   Perhaps we should note that this question only arises when the Democrats are in the minority in Federal offices, and practically never when Republicans are ascendant.

Democrats are urged to be polite, respectful, and never stoop to holding loud protests, engaging in emotional arguments, and indulging in blatant partisanship.  Republicans can engage in these behaviors and the media pundits describe them as “enthusiastic,” or “active,” or as “representing the grass roots.”  Thus yelling “Lock Her Up,” is rude, but nothing to make the chatterati clutch their pearls.  So, I will be polite to all those Trumpster voters:

(1) By all means, keep your hats on. Let those bright red MAGA hats on your heads remind you that you supported a  candidate who can bellow “Hire American, Buy American” while his brand manufactures his stuff beyond American shores.

(2) Proudly display those Trump/Pence stickers on your vehicle. They serve to remind me that you may be lacking a bit of empathy which I interpret to mean that no matter the number of vehicles at a four way stop, you will consider it your God given right to go first.  I appreciate the warning.

(3) Fly your Trump Flag or a Confederate Flag with all the enthusiasm of a junior high boy with a new leather jacket.  It’s the best indication I can think of that you are a racist, white supremacist, whatever… and that it would be best for me to avoid your company.

(4) Go ahead and tell me you voted for the Trumpster because he was the lesser of two evils.  I’ll be silent in the face of your admission that you could not tell the difference between a candidate with a record of significant public service and a rank amateur with a record of bankruptcies, discriminatory practices, and remarkable misogyny.

(5) Please feel free to be as hypocritical as you wish. I’ll simply smile internally as you demean all those people in town meetings and on the streets as “paid outside agitators.” The charge that the opposition to Republican policies must be “outside agitators” is replete with associations with White Supremacist history.  Again, you are telling me who you are, and I appreciate that heads-up.

Grandma’s ancient wisdom applies:  You are known by the company you keep, and if you don’t wish to be associated with this present company then either apologize or accept the fact that the life long Democrats among you aren’t particularly sorry to see you go.

However, when you can no longer drink the water or breathe the air; when you can no longer eat the fish from polluted streams; when you can no longer find a job that pays a living wage; when you can no longer get health care necessary for yourself or your family; when your small businesses are squeezed out by large corporations; when your tax bill goes up but the millionaire on the hill is banking his or her tax cuts; when your infrastructure crumbles around you because it’s deemed more important to finance new projects than invest in maintenance; when you’ve been unable to vote because you are too old, too young, too dark;  please remember…

The Democrats will still be fighting for you.

 

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Paper Sack Hide The Pea Game, GOP tries a health insurance marketing ploy.

There was a Republican Congressional representative on my television screen holding a paper sack while explaining the outline of the GOP proposal for ACA replacement.  Our first clue should be when a GOP spokesperson says, “We don’t have all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed.”  Translation: They don’t have a comprehensive and complete plan in place, and this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.

  • The happy congressman puts bits of paper into what he is now calling a “personal health care kit.” It’s still a paper bag.

The first piece of paper into the sack is supposed to represent your private health insurance policy.  Before the paper disappears inside the sack there are some questions to raise:

Will those policies be required to cover those medical services currently included under the ACA? For example, will those policies be required to cover maternity expenses? Mental health treatment on par with physical treatment?  Will the policies cover preventative treatment and screenings? All vaccines? Will policies cost the same for women as for men?

The second bit of paper disappears into the bag. Our happy representative announces that another feature of our Personal Health Care Kit will be our health savings accounts.  More questions please before this is out of sight in the sack.

  • Does this mean that everyone should buy one of those high deductible health plans associated with health savings accounts?  What happens to those who can’t afford one of those HDHPs and aren’t in a financial position to carve out more from the family budget for an HSA?

There’s another piece of paper headed into the bag. We’ll be seeing reforms to health care provision through Medicaid…

  • What reforms? Something like a block grant program which doesn’t insure either that there’s enough money in a state program to cover costs in the first place, or that the funding will be easier to cut later?

The little bag has handles on it, the point being that your health care kit is completely portable and goes with you wherever you go.  Pointedly missing is what is actually inside.

  • If insurance policies are completely portable then are all state insurance officials required to accept the least comprehensive, least consumer oriented plans, from a state with little or no regulations for reducing fraud and protecting consumers?

The little sacks are a cute marketing pitch, but very little else.  The bags contain nothing but the same old worn tread ideas the GOP has been peddling since time out of mind. Perhaps a better notion is that the brown paper sacks hide those same tired anti-consumer concepts on which the GOP relies and continues to try unsuccessfully foist on the American public.  The bags are also hiding the essential facts that shout ‘repeal’ though they may, they still don’t have a replacement.

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Is there no limit to their depravity?

I was appalled by the decision of this administration to take down the animal welfare database.  There is, in my opinion, a special place in Hell for those who abuse animals.

Then the Republican controlled House voted to allow coal corporations to pollute rivers and streams, contaminating fish and their habitats.

And now this selfsame group has decided to reverse the rule protecting wolf pups and bear cubs from being killed by human beings who ought to know better.

No wonder they think nothing of dumping 20 million fellow citizens from their health care access.

No wonder they think nothing of cutting off access to health care for infants and children.

No wonder they think nothing of slashing funds that help working families put food on their tables.

The only thing left to wonder about is the ultimate depth of their depravity.

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The Continual Campaign to Avoid the Problems of Governing

Remember when the information came from the 45 Camp that the Trumpster wanted to continue his campaign activities while governing? The Serious People opined that he really couldn’t do that because he’d be entirely too busy with the demands of administration.  No surprise, he’s doing it. Today’s simulation of a press conference wasn’t for the benefit of the Fourth Estate, it was transparently a campaign event for the 45 Base…with the press as foils.

For a press conference it was decidedly devoid of news. An announcement of a Labor Secretary occurred without the guest of honor in attendance, an appointment already in the public domain. The Host denied connections with the Putin Regime, no surprise there either.  What should be the headline is that The Host proclaimed all mention of the Putin Puppetry to be the facilitation of a hoax perpetrated by his enemies and the Nasty Press.

And so it devolved, into a summation of alternative universe talking points:  Anti-Semitic chants at his events were sung out by Our Enemies.  Obnoxious signage was raised by agent provacateurs.   The Host told the questioner to sit down without addressing the fact that hate groups have metastasized since he began campaigning.

The Host made up a story about a member of the Congressional Black Caucus refusing a meeting with him, and treated a respected Black journalist like a receptionist directed to make a special pot of coffee for the Boss.  All that was missing was a demand that she pick up his dry cleaning before 5 pm.

However, the rant was mostly about The Press. How dishonest they are. How biased they are. How inaccurate they are.  So why have a press conference to berate the press?  Because this wasn’t for the benefit of either the reporters or the general public. It was for the hard core GOP base.  We can guess why.

The backlash against the Trumpster Administration has been wider, deeper, and more persistent than his political handlers expected. One big event full of women in pink knitted hats could be dismissed, except it was truly Yuge.  Then came the spontaneous demonstrations at the airports, and the organized opposition to the ICE actions to round up and deport mothers who were hardly the type to be classified as hard core criminals.

An administration which has witnessed the failure of appointees for everything from outright lies to blatant plagiarism wasn’t exactly anyone’s definition of a well tuned machine, unless one was thinking of the Titanic.

So, on Thursday and Saturday the Salesman In Chief will revert to the plays that won him the presidency he can’t seem to manage.  He will appeal to a base, conditioned by decades of hate radio radicals, that will believe everything he tells them.

He will tell them he would have won the popular vote if it hadn’t been for those 3 million illegal voters, an insult to Republican voting officials if there ever was one, and they will cheer “build the wall.”

He will tell them the Muslim ban is a success, even though his own lawyers are asking that previous rulings be vacated so that the botched executive order can be significantly revised. They will cheer, ignoring the fact that not a single refugee has planned on doing a repeat of the Charleston Massacre, as one recently arrested young white man was preparing.  No, they’ll believe, beyond all hope of instruction, that the Bowling Green Massacre was real.

He will tell them about the  Dishonest Media, and some of them may turn to the press area and bellow “Jew S A,” and the flag of slavery will wave freely in the parking areas.

He will tell them, contrary to every economic indicator and measurement we have, that he inherited a horrible mess,  and they will nod and applaud the misinformation that comports with their preconceived biases.

He needs their applause, think of Sally and Whoopi in the shopping mall, and he wants them to mobilize as they did before the election. Every march, every demonstration, every protest is a painful reminder that he lost the popular vote.

If he doesn’t see it himself his handlers surely see that his “mandate” is founded upon the slim margin of diehard devotees who still believe “he tells it like it is,” that is, tells it as they want to hear it is. They are definitely still among us and we ignore them at the peril of our country.

It is up to those inhabitants of the reality based universe to redouble the efforts to rein in the excesses of 45’s radicals.  If last week was the time for one daily contact with a Senator or Representative then next week will be the time for two.

If the last weeks were the time for organizing Indivisible groups, then the next weeks are the time to deploy them. If the last weeks were the time for signing up with Call Them In, then the next week’s are the time for more telephone contacts.

If Republican Congressional representatives want to hide from constituents by holding private sessions with carefully selected invitees, then during the current break let them be invited to appear in truly public forums organized by their own local constituents.

#Resist and #Persist

The current occupant of the Oval Office may not like the process of governance, may not be very good at it, and may want to spend his days happily campaigning among thone inclined to adore him, but avoiding the problems of governing isn’t going to improve his presidency. It certainly isn’t going to improve the prospects of the United States.

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Mobilizing, Organizing, walking and chewing gum

Mobilizing and organizing are mutual elements, neither works alone.  Mobilizing creates feet in the street and lobbying campaigns, while  organizing expands the base. Organizing establishes the structure for increasing political influence. We need to both walk and chew gum now, the 45 administration being a prime example of a failing state.

This isn’t to argue that everyone should be simultaneously doing both at once.  A wise organization will take its membership and affiliates where it finds them, and utilize their talents along a spectrum of mobilization and organizational needs. Case in point, Mobilizing created the Women’s March on Washington, and several participants interviewed mentioned their intention of returning home to run for public offices.  This is helpful,  what’s not helpful is:

Carping. I’ve heard a bit of this lately, and it comes in a variety of forms.  One such form is represented by the ideological purists whose standards are so personal and stringent that they all but preclude support for candidates who aren’t also candidates for social, economic, and political sainthood.  Some of the individuals who were inspired to run for office will have to deal with these purists, and one can only hope the experience isn’t rough enough to  discourage them.

Another format for carping is indulged in by those who disparage whatever form of activism isn’t in their own play book. Again, this violates the precept that it’s always best to take people as you find them.  For example, it really doesn’t do to disparage the activities of those who aren’t interested, or qualified, to run for offices as “click- avism.” Nor does it do to carp at those who are, and have been toiling away at local political tasks without much encouragement for years. It’s all hands on deck time.

 

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Deja Vu all over again

Yes, I’m that old, I wallowed in Watergate.  I watched the hearings, and read the articles.  The difference,  of course, is that it took Tricky Dicky a full term and then some to get into impeachment discussion territory.  This administration has managed it in a matter of weeks.

Unfortunately for us all, the GOP reaction is repetitive.  First came the outright denials.  No, the Committee to Reelect the President  (ironically called CREEP) did not collude with the operatives conducting the Watergate burglary.  When it was obvious this had occurred people were fired.  One of the last to go was Bob Haldeman, a top presidential adviser.  In the current instance a top adviser is already out the door.

The Nixon play book is also evident in the administration’s initial response focusing on the leaks. Once it was verifiable that CREEP money was involved, the Nixon administration bemoaned the leaks of information. We seem to have already reached this phase of the the Nixon revival.

The Republicans will, if running true to form, will drag their heels.  Stonewall, Gish Gallop, Gaslight,  and any other public relations ploys will be on full display.  There is, however, a major difference between then and now.

The Watergate scandal involved internal politics and dirty tricks. There was little if any foreign policy component to it. This round is all about foreign policy,  and not just any topic in that realm — it’s about our dealings with Russia.

More specifically, it’s about dealing with the current Russian autocratic Vladimir Putin.  Yes, the US did try to reset the relationship with Russia, but the crucial difference is that Putin is no Medvedev.  Far from it.

So, in some aspects the Watergate politics do appear to be resurrected, however there’s also a world of difference between internal presidential politics and a situation in which American interests may be compromised by members of an administration who are themselves compromised by influences from Moscow.

And all this to have good relations?  The Bear is not our friend. Witness in the last weeks: Provocative actions in the Black Sea, Increased activity in eastern Ukraine,  a spy ship off the coast of Delaware, the Russian claim that NATO forces are a threat to Russian safety in the Baltic region, and the deployment of a missile in violation of a Reagan era disarmament treaty. The intermittent and in some cases nonexistent reaction to these events by this administration appear to lend credence to collusion charges.

It’s time for a bipartisan, independent, and thorough investigation into the allegations.  Certainly the intelligence committees of the Congress should continue their investigations, but given the seriousness of the situation a broader review of this administration is essential.

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