Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Madness Will Last Beyond March

This is what happens when you've hitched your political wagon to a semi that has "Government Sucks" written on the side in patriotic colors. And when the driver of that semi has no political skill, cogent philosophy or sense enough to know that he's being led by the nose by unrelenting, uncompromising, unapologetic  conservative ideologues while his wingman looks like the deer in the headlights, then you are heading for a monumental crash.

And the GOP did. Big time. The Seven Year Obamacare Itch could not be scratched with a made-in-China plastic backscratcher. Or any of the GOP's well-manicured fingernails. It was stunning and messy and terrible for the country, except for the fact that millions will keep their health insurance. And it's only the beginning.

This was supposed to be the easy first step towards a better, Republican-led future, but it exposed the House as a hotbed of contradictions and competing constituencies. You know...the way the framers envisioned government when they created it. They even built in the idea that democratic ideas need to take time, to marinate in the bowl of public consumption, to gain a consensus, to be debated by the populace over the course of months to make sure that the terrible parts are squeezed out. None of that happened with the health care bill. President Know-Nothing, especially about his knowledge of how the constitution works, thought this would be quick, and since he has no attention span to speak of, he approved of the leadership's idea that the bill needed to be introduced one week and voted on in the next.


But the worst was the spectacle of Trump and Ryan throwing the provisions the public approves of overboard with no thought about how a final bill with no protections for those with preexisting conditions, or guaranteed maternity care or no-cost preventive care would play in, well, Peoria and the areas where Trump won the election. There simply was no health and little care in any of it. No wonder only 17% of respondents in the latest poll approved of it.

The other issue with the health care bill, though, is more far-reaching. The money saved in this bill was supposed to fund the giant tax-cut-for-the-wealthy that the GOP was going to tackle next. Now there's no cash in the till, which means that there will need to be more spending cuts because if the ultra-conservatives didn't like government spending for health care, they sure as heck aren't going to vote for a tax cut or a trillion dollar infrastructure bill that might explode the deficit. And fund Planned Parenthood. The ultras have the power now and they are immune to Trump's lame threats and simpering appeals for American greatness.

And, of course, there's the issue of the Republicans actually funding and running a United States that has an Affordable Care Act. If they were smart, they would regroup and find an alternative that would shore up the insurance markets or make sure that elderly people don't have to pay more for less care or to make insurance portable so that no American would have to worry about losing their insurance simply because they lost their job or had to leave a job to move or to take care of a family member. You remember family. The Republicans are the family party. Doing any of this would require Democratic acquiescence, which is doable. The question is whether the GOP will actually ask.

Of course, this won't happen because the president has already said that the law will fail and the insurance markets will tank because...he will make sure that this happens. Then he thinks he's going to blame the Democrats. The GOP owns health care now, and if the law fails it will be because of their actions.

Do keep in mind that it's still only March. But the madness will last far longer.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Reality Sinks In

Really now: What did you expect?

The great know-nothing Donald Trump is president, having run on an incoherent mixture of lies, half-truths, innuendo, sexism, nationalism, xeno- and Islamophobia and promises about jobs that he couldn't possible keep. Add in an ultra right wing Congress that's committed itself to acting first and thinking about consequences later. And what do get get?

Our present reality.

Yes, I know that the Trump budget will never pass as it is currently constructed, but it still does provide a framework from which the Republicans can build their cuts and aggressively apply their ideology, which assumes that the best budget Congress ever passed was in 1790 when the federal government was appropriately small and anyone who wanted a gun could have one (and abortion, by the way, was still legal up to about 15-20 weeks of pregnancy). Many of the programs on the chopping block are ones used by, indeed relied upon, by Trump voters who are struggling economically and need some government support to stay alive or to keep their jobs.

And the proposed cuts to the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting will devastate many state and educational arts programs for people who live outside areas that have museums or universities that promote the arts. Many teachers also use the endowments for educational purposes in K-12 classrooms and for their own academic enrichment throughout the school year and in the summer. To say that there is no place anywhere in the federal budget for these programs is a capitulation to ignorance. The arts and humanities, and public television and radio, provide services that are vital and should be insulated from the ravages of competition because they promote ideas that sometimes aren't prized by the market until they are introduced, viewed or broadcast.

Are there programs that could and should be cut? Yes. Many federal programs overlap or have outlived their usefulness, but many have not and even if they serve a small population, if that population depends on that program, it's up to the government to provide an alternative or a path forward for those people. Otherwise, citizens will lose their jobs, their education, their heat, their health insurance, or their lives. All in the name of increased military spending.

But the true moral bankruptcy of the GOP is their proposed replacement for the Affordable Care Act. Their argument seems to be that it's OK for 24 million fewer people to have health insurance as long as the wealthy get their tax break and we can save over $300 billion over ten years to fund it. And the extra bonus is that by 2026 (!) health insurance premiums will be approximately 10% cheaper.

Where do I sign up?

I can certainly understand an appreciate that there are conservative voters who voted for this, want these cuts, and believe that the federal government has grown too large. Those who voted for Trump based on his promises, though, should be extremely wary at this point. Many of them are going to get much less than they bargained for domestically and in lost international trade because of this budget and his actions.

A shrinking America is not, and never will be, a great America.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, March 12, 2017

To Hell With the Health of the State

I really do try to see the intellectual arguments behind the politicians that utter them and I really do try to keep my judgements closely aligned to the agree/disagree axis, as opposed to the anger/unreasonably mean axis that seems to be in vogue these day.

But on both health care and the environment, I just can't help but think that the Republican Party is using its treasured Second Amendment rights to shoot itself in multiple locations on its body politic. I understand that the voters who installed this regime thought terribly of President Obama and wanted the ACA repealed, and I also understand that many farmers and ranchers and manufacturers detest Environment Protection Agency rules on land use and cleanup, and many more deny the science behind the changing climate, but did these voters truly want what's ambling down the lane? Do they really want to lose health insurance coverage and to make the air and water dirtier? Because that's what's going to happen.

It's no secret that the Trump administration wants to take us back to some mythical past where the country was greater than it is now, but that invariably means that we'll go back to a time when air and water pollution was at its height, lead paint sickened children, DDT killed eagles, sludge in rivers forced any kind of wildlife to flee or die and people died because they did not have adequate health insurance or access to medicine. Is this what people voted for?

On health care, the GOP is so bent on repealing the ACA quickly that they've created a program that will strip away insurance from millions of people, cut taxes for the wealthy, and only the wealthy, cut back on assurances that certain medical procedures, especially those that relate to women and the elderly, would continue, and increase the budget deficit. Their plan will also make insurance cost more for those unable to qualify for Medicaid and to cut money for Medicaid recipients to the point where they won't be able to get the full coverage they would under present rules. And all of this is being done because the GOP believes that insurance companies, who will still have to cover people with pre-existing conditions, will magically cut their premiums in the name of competition.

I certainly appreciate that premiums have risen under the ACA, but at least people still retain their insurance and most are shielded from the cost because they qualify for subsidies. Rather than fixing the problems so people can retain coverage, the GOP plan ensures that many insured citizens will lose their plans. And all in the name of ideology.

As for the environment, EPA Chief Scott Pruitt's statement last week that he doesn't believe that human activity has anything to do with any climate change is beyond ignorant, and is a danger to life on this planet. His position, then, is that we should be able to freely pollute the air and water because, really, who are we hurting? Has someone ever shown him the pictures from the 1960s and 70s that show the haze and pollution over both urban and rural areas? It's astounding.

Fortunately, I live in New Jersey, where the air is clean, the water is crystal clear and fresh, the traffic is minimal and there are, thankfully, no toxic waste sites. None. Because if I lived in a state that had a great deal of pollution or an abundance of carbon monoxide-spewing cars or terrible traffic or long-ago-but-obvious-today violations of industrial laws because let's say chemical and manufacturing companies illegally dumped ungodly amounts of toxins in the water or in leaky rusting drums and left them beside some chain link fenced in area near a stinky, foul river and then claimed that they didn't have to clean it up or vented smelly fumes without cleaning the smokestacks near the, well, let's call it a Turnpike for want of a better word, then I would be outraged that the new head of the governmental agency responsible for ensuring that the country is as clean as can be recently denied that humans have anything to do with why the climate is changing.

So when I take my giant SUV out to drive along this great flat earth of ours, I can do so with a clear conscience and the freedom to pollute at will because not only is carbon monoxide not responsible for climate change, it's also non-polluting. Because if it polluted the air, then it would be a contributing factor in the climate. But it doesn't. So it doesn't. Scott Pruitt told me so. So shut up.

The Republican agenda is danger to the country. A government that purposefully ignores the health of its citizens and actively works to undermine it deserves to be opposed at every turn. 

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Beware the Idiocies of March

Yes, my friends, this is getting frighteningly Shakespearean. And we have a wide variety of dysfunctional, murderous, illegal and psychologically damaged examples to choose from. Is the Trump White House Macbeth? Hamlet (soon to be starring Jared Kushner as the prince)? Othello? Any of the histories? We know there's no Falstaff because this really isn't funny. The field is wide open.

As for reality, we have a mucking mess. President Trump (shudder) gave what many distracted and fooled pundits called a presidential speech last week where he created false realities and set himself up as the only person who could solve them.
  • Mexicans swarming the border? False, but let's build a wall. 
  • Public education failing? False, so let's funnel money to private, religious and charter schools. 
  • Unvetted radical Muslims crashing our shores? False, so let's forget that we vet asylum seekers for two years and claim that our porous borders are swarming with terrorists.
  • Health care law failing? False, so let's make sure that everybody has the freedom to have to pay for their care, whether they can afford it or not.
  •  Foreign policy failures from the Obama Administration? False, so let's cut money to the State Department because, really, the only policy we need is what Trump tweets in the morning.
  • Anti-Semitism? True, though wait 6 months before tepidly denouncing the longest hatred, but only after you dress down an Orthodox Jewish press reporter who's actually on your side at your head-scratching press conference.
Trump might have delivered his speech without devolving into a red-faced, spitting mess, but is that really our expectation from the leader of the free world? He then followed up for a few days with policy-laden tweets and pronouncements that sounded rather...normal. But that's what this presidency is all about, has been all about and will be all about: Vacuous pronouncements and personality-driven drivel. The words of the speech came out well; the words themselves were hateful, deceitful,  and troubling.

And then came Jeff Sessions and the Trump Administration Two-Step: Lie at your hearings and hope the real media doesn't pick up on it or hope that the leakers have taken a public sector job sick day. Looks like that's not going to happen so much. When the Attorney General shades the truth (benefit of the doubt) or baldly lies (probably the truth), then your administration is in trouble. And the Russia stories just keep on coming, like bottomless cups of coffee at the diner. Served with a smile, but hyper-inducing nonetheless.

But the week couldn't end without the president reverting to form, accusing President Obama of tapping his phones. Which is ludicrous. And not based on reality. And even more troubling because if Trump is basing his information on some security briefing, then he's compromising national security. There's always a source for his anger, and in this case it's likely a Breitbart story he read. And now he's calling for a Congressional investigation as part of the Russia probe to show what a fair-minded person he really is. Trump is going to do these types of things for the rest of his term, and they are decidedly not normal. He just can't help himself.

Or the country.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest