Friday, April 21, 2017

Rumors of a House compromise on replacing Obamacare is a political figleaf

Rumors of a House compromise on replacing Obamacare. This "compromise" restores the essential benefits and coverage of pre-existing conditions and then allows the states to take them away. It keeps the tax relief for the rich and eliminates medicaid expansion shifting the cost to the states like $15 billion to Colorado. taxpayers... ..and still leaves 24 million (420,000 in Colorado) without insurance...and raises premiums on older Americans. What a crock. It is a political figleaf. It would be DOA in the Sentate.

Their motivations are the problem:
The House only wants to make sure its Freedom Caucus can go back to their constiuents to tell them they kept their campaign promises. The Whiite House only wants a W in their w deficient column. What both should be doing is listening to their middle and lower middle income constuents who only want lower out of pocket expenses and health insurance they can afford. This does enither and takes away insurance from most of them. How about setting a goal that meets the needs of their constiuents?

Monday, April 17, 2017

Trump threatens to blow up Obamacare exchanges. Why?

(This was carried in all editions of the Sky Hi Daily News, 4/19/17)

Have some in Washington DC lost their minds over repealing/replacing Obamacare?  Intervention is seriously needed.  The GOP House leadership and President Trump are so determined  to get their widely and wildly unpopular  health care agenda through Congress,  that  last week Pres. Trump threatened to blow up the Obamacare exchanges  immediately.  The question is why is Trump so desperate to get this particular bill passed now?

Last month GOP attempts  to pass their  repeal/replace bill went down in flames. Their plan endorsed by Trump and written by House leadership, the AHCA, did not have enough support in the House to be voted upon. Public polls put approval as low as 17% once the Congressional Budget Office disclosed 24 million would go without insurance over the next ten years.

This month Pres. Trump threatened to withhold subsidies which make premiums affordable, thereby  wrecking Obamacare insurance policies bought on the exchanges. Why? To force Democrats  and moderate Republicans to cave in.  6.4 million  nationally and 178,000 in Colorado are exchange customers.  Over 850 residents of Grand County (population 15,000)  received their insurance through Obamacare  exchanges thanks to subsidies that average over  $668 per policy. If GOP House members thought they were facing angry townhalls now, just wait until Trump tries to pull  off that stunt.  

In addition to  reducing participants in the exchanges, the AHCA phases out medicaid expansion. Nearly 600,000 in Colorado have benefited from Medicaid eligibility expansion under Obamacare.  As reported in the Colorado Statesman,  the AHCA would result in “  $15 billion in Medicaid costs for Colorado to pay, end the Obamacare Medicaid expansion and likely leave more than 420,000 residents without health care coverage.” Denver Health, which depends upon the ability to be paid for services, would lose $85 million a year. Denver Health also provides services to Grand County through their ski area clinic.

Driving the renewed effort to pass the GOP/Trump’s  AHCA is more than just philosophical,  ideological dedication to arguments that the free market system is always better, or  keeping campaign promises,  or a desire to give consumers more choice of plans with benefits they can cherry pick.   The claim that Obamacare is failing anyway is bogus  because the problems that are real can be fixed.  Consumer choice? The 24 million unfortunates losing insurance would choose between nothing and nada.

The puzzle is why are the GOP and Pres. Trump  trying again  to get their plan passed.The prime suspect  has to do with tax reform  The AHCA  contains nearly a  $300 billion reduction in  Obamacare taxes for the top 2%. Of course, to remove $300 billion in funding would require reducing benefits and the numbers of beneficiaries, and the AHCA would do just that.
 It is a sneaky way to bury a very unpopular tax relief in  health care legislation  before an even more contentious tax reform bill is taken up .The Congressional leaders know that to get tax reform passed, they will need Democratic votes in the Senate, but including  the $300 billion tax relief for the rich would be a poison pill, making that piece of  legislation difficult to pass, risking another loss for Pres. Trump.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

With the Syrian missile strike, another old fashioned American streak trumps isolationism

The whiplash about faces of the Trump administration on recent foreign policy positions is a welcome return from isolationism to the more traditional US view on foreign policy. It was difficult to understand how making America great again or putting America first  could be accomplished by Candidate Donald Trump's withdrawing from the world,  weakening alliances, and turning a blind eye to war crimes being committed before our  very eyes.

 In fact, the history of the US is that we have a streak in the American psyche that wants us  to withdraw from control  of the western world's agenda. We  are  plagued  by fatigue of war and  domestic  priorities.  In spite of that,   eventually we get drawn back into engagement when visual evidence of atrocities and terror  happening to others becomes intolerant. It was moral indignation of ethnic cleansing  that led to US and NATO intervention in the Balkans in the 1990's.  The underlying decency of Americans in our sympathy toward others and  a concern about human rights,  however latent, are some of  of the values that indeed make America  great.

What has changed since the rise World War II  is that  cameras were not in Auschwitz and Dachau to bring  atrocities into American living rooms until after   pictures were published  of the camps' emaciated  liberated  survivors.  That pogroms and persecutions of Jews before World War II  were tolerated because  anti Semitism and racial and religious discrimination were shameful values shared by so many in Europe and the US. Moral outrage and  indignation found its formal outlet  in the Nuremberg trials and the  subsequent  using of  the trials as a template to set up War Crimes Tribunals  in the Hague to prosecute those who committed crimes against humanity  In 2016. former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic was convicted  of genocide for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre and sentenced to 40 years in prison. That may be Bashar al  Assad 's ultimate end,   to face justice in the Tribunals if he survives either a  violent or  a peaceful end to the Syrian conflict. US  Secretary  of State Rex Tillerson yesterday also indicated that Assad should face war crime trials.

 The visual reporting of television and the internet has brought an unprecedented degree of  depiction of pain and suffering into the every day consciousness of human beings, so excessively that gut reaction had been  so numbed by a constant flow of  pictures of dead children and intentionally  targeted and bombed hospitals and schools that wide spread world  indignation was slow to reach a breaking point. It did  reach that point  in Donald Trump 's  TV view one  evening  of a report of a Syrian gas attack. The public support of Trump's missile attack response , whether it was or was not militarily significant, showed that politically the public has his back., that they too had reached the end of any tolerance of atrocities that supported his intervention on moral grounds.  This was a surprise no doubt  to him and others  who had assumed it was .Candidate Trump's outspoken doctrine  against the US ever intervening in conflicts on moral grounds that helped propel him to election victory. .His  core supporters of that policy were  reduced to a whimper in the accolades that followed the missile strike Trump ordered.  The decent streak in America at last  awoke.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Was the missile strike in Syria the right move? Could be.

Version of this appeared in all editions of the Sky Hi Daily News April 12, 2017

History will judge if the missile strike in Syria was the right move. It was a moral action, justifiably  a dramatic way to object and  to deter further  use of chemical weapons,  but will it lead to a resolution of the conflict? There could be some positive outcomes. At least  it did not start World War III. It could induce  Russia and Syria to begin considering a political solution; makes the use of chemical weapons too militarily costly to be used by even the most evil leader; sends a message to North Korea that they should not take comfort that their nuclear threat  to the US west coast, will be ignored. It could motivate  China to put more pressure on the crazy North  Korean leader to cool his ICBM nuclear plans because he will not know what that unpredictable  Trump will do next, especially since a US missile carrying fleet has moved near the Korean peninsula.

US military intervention is not the solution to Syria.  There is real fear that if  Syrian President Assad is taken down, those who fill that vacuum could be worse. There are those who oppose even a threat of military action because they support peace.  Peace is a goal, not a strategy. For those who believe in peace, how we get to peace should be the question. Empty threats and name calling accomplish very little in convincing those to change their ways when they do not  see peace supporting their personal or national interests.

To reach peace, we could take a page from the 1990's in the Balkans. Bosnia had a large Muslim resistance movement which NATO helped with military aid and by taking out the Serbian air force which resulted in the Dayton Accord peace settlement.  Unlike Bosnia, the resistance in Syria is fragmented and contains even those we are fighting, including ISIS. The hope is that the Syrian Sunni population gets assistance from the Saudis, Jordanians, and Gulf States and they become the non ISIS military resistance on the ground, leading to a stalemate or power shift resulting in a diplomatic settlement.

There are other means to force a diplomatic solution such as placing economic sanctions on the offending regime or its allies.  That pressure is already being hinted with threats of more economic sanctions beyond those  already imposed on Russia, the Assad regime’s enabler,  for their stealth invasions of Crimea and Ukraine.  

The risk with threats to  use military force to reach a peaceful resolution  is that if the threat is not backed up , threats in the future lose their effect as a  credible tool later.  President Obama came under extreme criticism for not taking military action when Syria crossed the red line when they  used chemical weapons, Russia negotiated their removal to stop the US threat in 2013. Obviously they failed to get them all removed.

But striking Syrian airfields and taking out the Syrian air force  is risky business, putting us in direct military conflict with Russia’s military presence there.  So serious are such repercussions, that Congress is correct in demanding approval first  to authorize further military action. Relying on a past authorization of the use of force early in the Iraq invasion is not enough because the  risk of war with Russia was not a factor then.