Tag Archives: legislation

103. Republicans Hate ObamaCare: Why?

28 Apr

“Insurance companies must use more of the premiums they receive for patient care rather than administrative costs…” (see reference below)

As I watched a number of news programs, it became apparent that commentators were not fully aware of the ACA (ObamaCare) provisions, or for whatever reason, ignored some of the most important points.

I am already familiar with most of the significant features, but I decided to search for a good summary. Here is one that is very useful and authoritative by Norma Goodwin, MD:
12 Simply Stated Features of the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare
The above (beginning) quotation is from this very useful summary (search Internet for this title). This feature alone, can explain why the GOP wants to abolish the ACA rather than just improve it. Rich insurance company owners don’t want to be limited in their lust for profits.

There are a few additional points that I would like to emphasize. There is much discussion about “pre-existing conditions.” But often overlooked are many other features that are critical (life-and-death) for good heath care. These include:

1. Eliminates annual and lifetime insurance policy limits.  Many people have died because their insurance money ran out.
2. Parent insurance coverage for offspring up to the age 26.
3. Medicaid is supported, but some states have refused to accept the free financial support.
4. Medicare is protected and now many preventive screenings are included.
5. Costs for vital medications are reduced.
6. Other provisions of the ACA are designed to lower the general cost of health care, and improve the quality of care.

The ACA is not perfect, but includes many great ideas. Keeping it will insure that the people will be well taken care of. New plans by the GOP will eliminate many more citizens from insurance coverage, decrease the quality of care, and will insure that rich insurance company owners will become even richer. Hopefully, some day we will have a “single payer” system, a Medicare for all.

99. Change Yes, Trump No

4 Mar

I think our country needs some radical changes to preserve it, and make it exemplary again. Forget Trump’s “great  again”, let’s make it admirable, honorable, and respectable. This blog is “BasicCauses” and I want to look at some of the fundamentals of our system.

I am going to make some major criticisms so I want to make it clear in advance, that I am happy to be an American, vote every election, served in the U.S. Army, and enjoy free enterprise, having created two successful businesses. I generally support the fundamental features of our current governmental system, but believe we need some significant basic changes. The arrival of Donald Trump as our country’s leader, emphasizes the need for  re-thinking.   Please consider the following:

1. The Primary Process and Voting does not yield the best leaders. This is hard to fix, and probably the best solution, better education, may not be effective for a long time. Many poorly educated voters do not have the reasoning and research skills to make the best judgments. Long held and obsolete beliefs are barriers to better choices.

2. Congress is organized so as to promote gridlock. Our current system has too many barriers to completing legislation. There are many different changes that could speed up law making. One thought that I have had is to have one large legislative body and require 52% of votes to pass a bill. Filibustering would not be allowed, but short speeches from many would be allowed.  The quality of legislation could be improved by adding to this body,  various specialists such as University representatives. A major reorganization will not occur in my lifetime, but starting to think about it is important and I may discuss it more in future blogs.

3. The “fourth branch of government”, the press, is being oppressed. It appears now that we need to pass laws or find other means of protecting the press and allowing them to criticize without recrimination. Also, the citizens should clearly support freedom of the press.

4. Rich donors should not have powerful control of our government. I suggest a maximum donation of $100 for all citizens and no donations allowed from corporations or other organizations. Let’s abolish the super pacs and have a true democracy.

5. Our middle-class is not benefiting enough from our nation’s success. We need to abolish tax-loopholes and increase rates for the very rich.  Many wealthy corporations and individuals pay no tax at all because of loopholes.  Even the Pope has criticized “trickle-down” approaches, which rarely work, but are advocated by the GOP.  (“Trickle-down” means: give lots of money to wealthy businesses and simply hope that some will trickle-down to the rest of us.)

6. Congress should not police and regulate itself. An independent body should do this. (The same goes for all Healthcare organizations and many other service areas.) Unfortunately, with today’s polarization, it is not easy to find truly independent persons.

7. A potential problem is “privatizing.” This means moving a function run by the government, to a private, for profit company. A consequence is that some rich person (and staff) will make huge amounts of money and emphasize profits over proper services. In most cases, the benefits of competition do not make up for all the money lost to over-paid executives. For example, privatizing prisons was a failure and was abolished. Politicians sometimes threaten Social Security and Medicare with privatization, which would decrease benefits.  I have said more about this in previous blogs.

89. Some Tweet-like World Observations

2 Feb

1. Privatizing means creating a system that has a private owner as opposed to a government-run institution. Examples are schools and prisons. The latter has been tried but is now diminishing. In privately run systems a concern for profit can cause neglect in providing required services. Often, civic-minded people working as a public governmental body can be more effective, and with less expenditure. There is a fixed budget so that workers can focus on quality work.  Some would argue that privatizing creates beneficial competition, but in fact there is little competition in areas where privatizing is being promoted.

2. Do we need insurance companies that develop extreme wealth for their executives, paid for by you and me, while benefits are diminished. Why should our world be configured so that a few can become very rich at the expense of the rest of us? Our more advanced civilization has been around for 150 years or so. In that time, the “royalty class” has become entrenched in our system — robbing many ordinary people of their means of survival. I am not against the concept that hard-work and intelligence should be financially rewarded, it is the extremes and abuses that concern me.extreme we Being rich is OK, wealth is not. I also want to make clear that I owned two businesses and believe in our form of regulated capitalism.

3. The arrival of Trump marks the creation of a new entity resulting from social/business evolution. The new creation is what I shall call the extended governing family unit. The Trump version consists of himself, his offspring and their spouses; each having a specialized function. But to clarify, effective and powerful family units are not really “new”, but a unit this large, with necessary distributed functionality, has never before been our “president.” My next blog (no. 90) will explain this further.

4. Diagnosis of all types should be separate from treatment. The fees for various treatments can be very different, and the Dx could be biased towards better income. For example, the exact diagnosis for a cancer could lead to expensive and profitable surgery or a much less expensive radiation or drug treatment.  Dentists have tough decisions in deciding what is actually a cavity that require a filling.  Any healthcare, other service, or repair company can be jaded by this factor. How to fix this is a real dilemma.

5. Our U.S. government may be doomed to failure, because of powerful relationships between very rich folks (donors) and governmental leaders. The best cure would be a great improvement in education so that we can break the donor influence. Remember that our current leaders arose to power under this system and, as you would expect, want to preserve it. Many of those at the top have little interest in teaching logic, reasoning, and correct history to our students and potential voters. We are caught in a powerful loop and will need to be coordinated and industrious to have a chance of breaking it. The current massive demonstrations in many cities is on the right track and encouraging.

6. Ironically, a thousand years from now, the invention of email may be identified by witty history professors, as the cause of the downfall of our Earth civilization. Take away email, and there would have been much less abuse of Hillary Clinton, and she could have been elected. If that had happened, a strong NATO, great international relations, better climate change efforts, fair treatment of the middle-class, control of nuclear weapons, careful communications, and other factors could have saved the world from numerous disasters.  Trump has already alienated some of our closest allies.

7. Governmental officials generally set their own salaries and rules of operation. They are only people, after all, so how can we expect them to be fair. It seems that most people in power long enough will eventually become corrupted (at least somewhat). We need a better system, but change is difficult. The press should help us, but are often limited by some very real vulnerabilities. A tough leader with violent supporters can be an awesome force that discourages needed criticism and modification.

8. I suspect that most of Trump’s early supporters voted for him for various reasons, including: his power, likability (for many), promises of jobs, identification of scapegoats, prejudices, anti-terrorism statements, etc.  What probably was overlooked, was a good estimation of what he would actually DO and SAY after taking office.  Many of us had hoped that he would change after a couple of weeks as POTUS, but he has not.

88. Ask Trump: Which Regulations?

31 Jan

Donald Trump has said it is urgent to abolish as many federal government regulations as possible (subject to certain limitations). This may sound OK to ordinary citizens, but if you study the details, you will quickly see why Trump is not more specific. The one specific law that he would terminate is the “Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act”. He never uses the full name, because this act provides Wall Street reform and consumer (you and me) protection. Abolishing the act takes away our protections and allows banks and investment houses leeway to make more profits at our expense. When major banks and other corporations failed in 2008, you and me (the taxpayers) spent our money in saving them. And, to add insult to injury, many of the offending executives got bonuses that year. So it is the old story, rich Mr. Trump is recklessly increasing profits for his wealthy friends, and you and I will, in some way, pay for it; just like we will have to pay for his “Mexican Wall”.

The reason why all this is possible, is that corporations protect individuals from losses due to reckless actions. A corporation can go bankrupt and take the blame, while the executives escape unharmed. And, rich donors lobby congressmen to provide laws that help them financially. Note that Hillary Clinton supported this protective act.

We can only speculate as to what other regulations Trump wants to remove. He has created a rule that is absurd and harmful: that for every new regulation, two must be abolished. Good government is not a game where you ignore the consequences of what you do — it is serious business that affects people’s lives. Historically, thousands (even millions) have died for improper regulation of pesticides (like DDT), improper testing of drugs (like Thalidomide that harmed babies) and various kinds of pollution and toxins (like lead in the water).

Regulations also protect us from financial trickery designed to increase profits for corporate executives. Currently, when you get a mortgage, other type of loan, credit card, annuity, etc., you can be reasonably certain that you are safe. If the regulation of financial transactions is abolished you might have to hire a lawyer to deal with these, or risk major losses. Our world has become more and more complicated and the citizens will need more protections, not less.

Trump and most Republicans would argue that abolishing regulations, lowering taxes for corporations and wealthy people, etc., will improve our economy and the positive results will “trickle down” and help us ordinary citizens.  Why is it that every such plan starts with making rich people richer, and the middle class can only hope for some trickle down. Don’t be fooled. For many years the royalty class has prospered, but the promised middle-class benefits have not been received.

86. Common Current Conceptions Corrected

23 Jan

When I watch the news talk shows and listen to commentators, there is a great effort to understand Trump’s ideals, Putin’s motivation, Hillary’s loss, etc. in terms of abstract political and historical principles. I think the obvious basic interpretations are often lost in a sea of overly-complex irrelevant theories. Here are some specifics:

1. Trump has no lofty ideals. If you listen carefully to what he says, you can see that his overwhelming interest is in making himself feel good and he is not embarrassed to talk about it. He wants adoration, flattery, winning, and hero worship. He constantly compares himself to others, putting them down, and lifting himself up. Of secondary interest is the promotion of his own financial interests and to a lesser extent the success of his extremely wealthy friends. Like all Republicans, his financial plans involve making rich people richer and the rest of us will receive a few token benefits. He will try to give the impression of saving jobs, like bribing Carrier Corp. to keep 800 workers in the U.S., ignoring the millions already gone and in the process of leaving. His motto “America First” really means hero Trump first.

2. Why does Trump paint a terrible (carnage) picture of the current USA? Most news people ignore or don’t understand the obvious. If everything is wonderful at the beginning of his term, how can he show any accomplishments? Four years from now he wants to say what a great job he did, so the beginning must be a low point. In all likelihood he will re-write history to tell his version of events. He hates the fact that the offiial unemployment rate is now 4.7%. His press secretary tries to hide this fact by quoting anecdotes and non-standard numbers. Even more absurd, he says that the numbers do not matter, stories tell the whole thing.

3. What does Putin really want? If you listen to what he says, it is obvious that his main goal is to restore the “Soviet Union” of Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Georgia, the Baltic States, and others; a total of 15 republics. Like Trump, he wants to be the hero by making Russia great again. He works on achieving this goal by overt aggressive actions like annexing Crimea, and also covert actions like cyber attacks. He is influencing Trump for his ends, through flattery, release of hacked embarrassing emails, and perhaps even blackmail (unsubstantiated).

4. Why does Trump support Russia? See the discussion above. The clearest factors are flattery (saying Trump is brilliant) and refuting Russian election hacking, which calls into question the validity of his election.  The following are other possibilities: business marketing considerations, financial help through loans, and blackmail.

5. There are a lot of theories as to why Hillary Clinton lost the election. Most news people want to focus on one cause, and critics of the one-cause idea are probably right. People that search for causes (such as scientists and doctors) know that complicated conditions often have multiple causes. But I have yet to hear anyone say that it was a combination of small factors that led to her loss. Briefly (see previous blogs) these include: Russian hacking, FBI director Comey electioneering, suppression of voters, numerous unjustified congressional investigations, and bogus Internet “news” sites (which may have been created by Russians). I could add that Hillary was a good candidate, not a great one, but I voted for her and most important, she would have done a great job as president.

6. It disturbs me that certain misconceptions are repeated over and over, without correction or even argument. For example, Joe Scarborough just said that President Obama did nothing in response to Syria crossing the chemical- weapon red-line. Obama was reluctant to further participate in the hopeless Syrian conflict and bombing would kill many civilians. He asked Congress for approval of U.S. bombing and (as he suspected) they rejected that. Secretary of State Kerry urged Syria to dispose of the chemical weapons. Shortly thereafter, Russia volunteered to take charge of the weapon disposal. The problem was solved and everyone benefited. How can anyone complain about Obama’s thoughtful and cautious resolution to this difficult problem. Just like the ridiculous Benghazi political issues, detractors have distorted the red-line incident and used it for an attack. Republicans even used the red-line issue to attack Hillary Clinton, who held no governmental office at the time and only gave opinions as a friend.

7. Kellyanne Conway said in effect: ignore what Trump says and look instead “at what’s in his heart”. Others have said in many variations, that we need to ignore the words. Personally, I would prefer a president that truthfully says what is in his heart. When Trump gives orders to the military, should they obey the orders or have an abstract discussion for a while on what he really means. “You said attack the enemy landing on our shores, but in your heart you really meant be kind to the them, maybe?”

8. Hillary Clinton is often blamed by Republicans for everything negative that took place in the last 30 years. Do I really have to say that major national decisions are made by presidents and Congress and not by first-ladies, individual Senators, or Secretaries of State.

9. A common misconception is that simplifying tax code and reducing taxation categories will benefit ordinary citizens. Just the opposite is true: it only helps very rich people. For the non-rich working man/woman, tax code is already simple. By removing all of the details applicable to the very rich, you make it easier for them to take unfair advantage and reduce their tax payment. If you actually read the tax proposals written by Trump and Republicans in general, you will see that all of them benefit the rich. And if rich people pay less tax, then the rest of us will pay more and/or have decreased benefits.

10. ExPres. Obama did not lie about “ObamaCare.” This legislation is very complicated and new systems almost always have unforeseen problems. To think that an honorable person like Barack Obama purposely lied to the public is absurd. Unanticipated problems led to some mistakes in some small areas representing about one-half of one percent of the U.S. population. Obama has always recognized that there would be problems, and that these could be corrected by Congress. But the Republican Congress put forth nothing that could help.

I could add many more “corrections”, but these I think, are most important.

82. Result of Abysmal Trend: Trump

28 Dec

Does the election of Donald Trump represent a continuing trend towards a crude, simplistic, and tyrannical U.S. government? After observing Trump post-election, I see a dismal continuation of all his bad habits, talk, and actions. How did a person like Donald Trump achieve his success? Not a total success, of course, because Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by almost three million.

If you study global and USA political trends, there is a common dangerous pattern for many nations. Very rich people become skilled at manipulation of government and corrupt the system to make themselves more powerful and even richer. There is a flagrant disregard for ordinary citizens except for callous brainwashing and meaningless promises of: compassion, America greater, trickle-down benefits, etc. This trend also has a crude factor which emphasizes simple and often violent solutions to complex problems that should be solved by careful planning and negotiation. Examples of this crude approach is: “bomb the hell out of  ISIS”,  “ban all Muslims from the U.S.”, and torture presumed terrorists.”                                                                                                                               .
Although some Democratic leaders are imperfect, it is the Republicans that have led the growth of the billionaire conspiracy. In my previous blog, “Dirty Tricks win Election (blog 80)”, I have discussed some recent examples of this conspiracy, which includes election interference by a Republican FBI director, Russian hacking of DNC email , and suppression of voting by minorities.

I have thought a lot about how and when this trend started. I could note that after the election of Ronald Reagan (1980), there was a significant rise in income for the top one-percent, while after 1970, income for the bottom 90% remained essentially constant. So 1980 could be considered the beginning of our abysmal trend. But if you study history, you can see similar trends going way back to ancient days. I should also note, that some countries, such as those in Scandinavia, have done better in this respect, and they should be used as an example.

Here are some key events that have contributed to this erosion, distortion and inequality of the USA democratic system:

Large corporations, like railroad companies formed unfair mergers that led to anti-trust laws in 1890 and 1914. Rich businessmen often team up covertly to raise prices, increasing their wealth and taking money from the middle class.

Reduction of bank regulations like the Glass-Steagall Act (1933) led to major financial failures.  We also need more laws like the Dodd-Frank Act (2010) and better enforcement.

After the election of Pres. Obama in 2008, major Republican leaders, in a meeting, pledged to destroy his presidency, by ignoring everything he proposed or supported, including legislation and judicial appointments. Never in U.S. history has the obstruction of legislation been so blatant. In spite of this, he did a remarkably great job.

                GOP unpatriotically pledged to destroy Obama presidency

Formation of the Tea-Party branch of Republican Party in 2009 was a major negative influence. This was an angry group that supported rich leaders and worked against the middle class. In efforts to reduce federal spending, they caused serious problems, such as holding up important budgetary legislation, which resulted in a disastrous lowering of the USA credit rating and higher USA-debt interest rates that affects us all.

In 2010 there were two court cases brought by Republicans that allowed almost unlimited contributions to political candidates. These rules let the very rich dominate our election system and were implemented with “super PACs”. Previously, there were severe limitations, like a $2500 maximum donation for individuals and no corporate donations. The best known case was brought by “Citizens United”, and another by Speechnow.org.

The end effect of all these events was the election of Trump. He won with various “dirty-tricks” (see above) and a campaign based on lies, re-writing history, impossible proposals, and a policy of lowering taxes for very rich people. He ran on the principle that he could not be influenced by rich donors, but, ironically, much of his current cabinet is composed of extremely wealthy businessmen. Some will be directors for agencies that they had vowed to eliminate when running for office.

The success of Trump was based on a faulty fundamental “belief”, that only Republicans should be considered for office, and that a non-politician must be selected for president. Only Trump matched these considerations. People were correct in feeling that Congress was grid-locked, but failed to realize that it was the GOP that blocked progress. Search the record and you will see that Republican leaders blocked many court nominations (including Supreme Court) and blocked almost every bill proposed by Pres. Obama, even if it was based on GOP ideas.

The corrosive trend that I have discussed will be difficult to defeat. We can try to promote more general and political education. States can develop beneficial laws, such as raising minimum wage, that the Federal government will not consider. In general, we must all work harder to explain our ideas, to educate, and to support better approaches. And in the future, we must try to get the most charismatic, scandal-free, and articulate people to be candidates.

78. Science Forges Ahead of Citizens

2 Dec

Scientific knowledge and achievement is moving so fast that it is leaving the average citizen behind and a little confused.  Most ordinary people have a poor understanding of scientific principles.  So when important functions like voting arise, the lack of understanding can lead to serious consequences.  Here are three relevant issues, and there are many more:
.
1.  Clean Coal.  Some dangerous toxins can be removed while burning coal, but coal-burning is NOT free from producing dangerous levels of CO2  (carbon dioxide).  CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere reflect heat back to the surface of the earth and cause a general heating effect (climate change).  The key factor is that the history of burning fossil fuels is closely related to CO2 levels and to a small degree (so far) of general warming.  It is clearly man-made because the changes are much too fast to be a natural earth cycle.
.
2. Understanding Climate Change.  Please see above, and also my blog-34 that gives more detail on this topic.
.
3.  Nuclear Power.  This is a valuable source of clean energy that is under-used because people really do not understand it.  It does take a certain amount of scientific knowledge to assess safeguards and other progress in this field.  Industrial use of nuclear reactors has been around for at least 50 years and has developed into a very safe system.  It is only scary because humans cannot detect dangerous radiation.
.
Understanding science also plays a major role in such areas as: abortion legislation, stem cell research questions, different types of pollution, and funding for research projects.  The world could function better if government leaders (such as congressmen) and citizens were better educated.  I would venture to guess that education will gradually improve and reach a good level at about the same time that Florida is submerged by warm and rising oceans.
.
And even if people were not required to learn a lot of science, at least there could be more emphasis on learning to evaluate and use reliable sources of scientific facts and other information.  A good start in this endeavor is to consult scientists about science and not politicians.