Friday, July 28, 2017

Profile in Courage awards go to Senators McCain and Graham

My profile in courage awards go to Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham who lived up to JFK's beloved book highlighting the bios of eight political leaders who voted their consciences and principles in spite of political and popular pressure to the contrary. McCain's no vote on the "skinny" repeal/replace bill and his urging to return to regular order to create legislation was dramatic..Graham's defense of AG Sessions was based upon his concern about the damage to rule of law that would turn democracy upside down. I am posting a link to his remarks in full. Pay attention to the last part of his reasoning. It is profound regarding his concern about democracy and the rule of law and the damage Trump is contemplating doing to it.

Sen.Cory Gardner owes Sen. John McCain thanks for his vote against GOP health bill

A version of this appeared in all editions of the Sky Hi News, August 2, 2017

Colorado Senator Cory Gardner owes Sen. John McCain  thanks for McCain’s  deciding vote against the Senate “skinny” bill to repeal/replace Obamacare. A Magellan poll of Colorado voters showed 60% wanted Obamacare repaired, not repealed or replaced.  By the time of Gardner’s re-election  campaign in 2020,  it  is now more likely that Colorado voters will  have forgotten  how badly the GOP bill would have hurt Colorado citizens. The full impact on Colorado of the bills he supported would have been felt in the middle of his re-election campaign, but by 2020 the issue will have been relegated to memories of what could have happened.

Voters may forget that not only did he vote in favor of all GOP Senate repeal/replace bills, he was a leader in designing the GOP’s preferred version of repeal/replace legislation. Gardner was one of the committee of GOP senators who crafted that  original version of the bill. The CBO score on that bill  would have resulted in 22 million losing  access to affordable health insurance among other hurtful impacts.  

Gardner will be facing re-election in 2020 in  a state that turned blue in 2016 with Hillary Clinton winning the state with a 5%  plus margin. Had the Senate voted in favor of the parliamentary ruse  to send their “skinny” legislation to a conference committee, no one knows what would have come out of negotiations with the House version, but it would not have been skinny  since the GOP’s Senate original version differed little from the House version. Even the skinny bill  itself would have left 16 million without insurance and cause a 20% increase in premiums, per the Senate Budget Office score and Gardner voted for that, too.

Here is how Colorado would have been hurt if Gardner had had his preferred way. Over  400,000 in Colorado alone could have lost  their health insurance over the next ten years . Rural hospitals and urban charity hospitals would  have lost many paying customers, causing some to close. Medicaid expansion under Obamacare could have been eliminated.    Colorado  could  have voted to restore the loss of Medicaid expansion  at the cost to taxpayers of $15 billion over ten years.

22% of Colorado adults  with  pre-existing conditions could have been dumped into a “high risk” pool in which the premiums could have to be raised to the point of being unaffordable . Seniors between 50 and 65 could have seen premiums increase by $2 thousand a year. Women could be charged more than men again for  coverage of their special services, from prenatal to maternity care, cancer screenings, mammograms, birth control pills,  assuming those benefits would even  be offered . However. all guarantees  of benefit inclusions were removed in both House and Senate versions. GOP versions removed medicaid funded coverage of 60% of elderly in nursing homes.

If Gardner is banking on  many voters forgetting how much he did not care  about their health insurance, count on his opponents to try to remind them.  Gardner’s worst nightmare might be if Colorado governor John Hickenlooper (D) is his  opponent.  Hickenlooper  will be the most effective and credible  reminder  of Gardner’s votes, since Hickenlooper led the bipartisan committee of governors to  urge a no vote on the GOP dominated  Senate’s repeal/replace attempts. 60% in Colorado in April wanted Obamacare to be fixed, not repealed

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

What we need is a dose of old fashioned populism

This version of old fashioned populism was edited published in the print and e-edition of the Sky Hi News July 26, 2017

Populism is a term we often hear these days to tag politicians we want to promote as caring about the middle class. The issues we used to call populism back years ago  do not resemble the ones today. When you drive through Denver, much of what Denver has become is the result of old-fashioned populism that cared about  considering the needs of ordinary people.  Now, consideration seems to mean loyalty to an ideology or a fixation on restoring either free market or single payer in health care insurance, getting a check in the win column of keeping campaign promises, or sticking finger in the eyes of the “establishment”. How about returning to the days of  just making life easier for ordinary people?

Ironically,  the one often tagged as the greatest promoter of populist issues, Donald Trump, seems bent on sabotaging  his own self-defined populist campaign promises by supporting and celebrating GOP's  Congress' health insurance bills that takes 15 to  22 million out of the insured ranks  to give tax relief to the rich and insurance companies , and makes it harder re to repay student loans or  for consumers  to complain about unfair financial services practices. .

Populism  in Denver beginning in the 1970’s was not just a revolt against the establishment, it was trying to reshape priorities and values that identified and addressed the needs of ordinary, everyday people.  Government was not seen as a de facto enemy,  but  it was viewed as a potential ally.  But government  needed to change its ways, and so populists put pressure on  changing  government policies and demanding government get more involved, not less active.

Much of  Denver's populism then was shaped by consumer  and neighborhood activists Among them were conducting surveys of grocery prices to show the poor paid more for lower quality food  and were trapped in segregated neighborhoods because of lack of public transportation to be able to shop elsewhere.  The tearing down of historic structures were fought and  resulted in saving Union Station for future use as a multi modal  transit system and a charming lower downtown.Mountain views, an asset unique to Denver, were protected by ordinance. Power companies switched from coal to gas and   wind, and solar to help reduce the infamous choking brown cloud of air pollution.

New concepts of design, setbacks, streetscaping, store front  openings to sidewalks , encouraging  apartment living,   were part of the “city is for people” movement in urban planning . Bike lanes and paths were developed..   A park and ride transit  bus system, and eventually our light rail system, was promoted and supported.  Rail yards were turned into parks, and the former  blighted area  became a new baseball park, the Pepsi Center, an amusement park with a cleaned up and  landscaped Cherry Creek and Platte River running through it.    The airport was moved away from Park Hill neighborhoods and  Denver International became the  key  economic generator. Denver Health became financially self sufficient thanks to the ability to get paid for their services via Medicaid and now Obamacare.  

Did populism hurt economic growth? Thanks to a succession of mayors beginning with Federico Pena who supported the populist concepts, Denver  is  a thriving place, often listed as one of the best cities in which to live. Unemployment statewide is  one of the lowest in the nation.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Would you buy a used car from Donald Trump? Repeal without replacement, a terrible deal.for the GOP

Trump's  newest deal he does not want you to refuse is to have Congress vote for repeal of Obamacare with a promise to give Congress a year to come to a solution.   This idea is a trust buster. He reversed himself from a prior promise to do both simultaneously. The plan he endorsed resulted in 22 million uninsured, hardly his pledge to replace Obamacare with something better. The GOP has not come up with a replacement in 7 years and 6 months  of trying and this  repeal without replace is  a gift to Democrats.  First, a year for now is the mid terms and it would be the best ammo Democrats could have to defeat vulnerable GOP House candidates. (All House members are up for re-election in 2018).

Delaying the replacement for a year would destroy Obamacare at once  since this guarantees no insurer would participate in the exchanges because insurers have to set prices based upon risk a year in advance and it is even  a program may not even exist after 2018. Either they would pull out or they would raise premium  rates so high, it would make Obamacare financially unsustainable or affordable.   Not coming up with a replacement  during this coming 12 months in a year would mean an end of  insurance   for 32 million who have benefited by the affordability of health insurance Obamacare provided, not just the 22 million who their proposed legislation would leave without insurance in the next ten years.

What the GOP is weighing is that by a repeal without replacement vote now  is  it would protect their core who swore to vote for repeal and protect them from attacks  in their primaries from their right who would consider anything resembling Obamacare too far to the left because it continued the outline of a federal program. Only 30% of the GOP wants repeal without replacement, per a USA today poll.

What it would  also do is give opposition to GOP plans to cut Medicaid and exchange subsidies to grow even more to the current type of House and Senate versions that are polling between support of 10 to 30% and even are upside down among  their own GOP affiliated  voters. Do they really think opposition will cool in the middle of an election year? If the GOP thinks that the sabotage of  Obamacare will be blamed on the Democrats because they think it would  be  a  successful strategy be  to force Democrats to the table out of desperation, the fact is the public is not so stupid. They know that the GOP can fix it if they want and have the power to do so since they control both houses of Congress and the White House. Moderate Democrats have always expressed desire to work with the GOP on a repair fix without a need to sabotage Obamacare as a motivation to get them to the table.  The China Shop rule: The GOP broke it; they own it.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Trump's commission's wild goose chase to find 3 million illegals voting in 2016 is dangerous

The attempt by this commission to justify an off the cuff tweet by Trump that he lost the popular vote because 3 million illegals voted is not only a wild goose chase, it is dangerous. One of the real protections against Russian interference in our elections by misusing voter registration lists is the fragmentation of that data each of the 50 states maintain. It is harder to hack 50 than one so now this commission wants control over all in one federal data bank? And give the Trump administration the ultimate control over 50 states voter lists? Williams is right: just give them something that is already public information, but not the vital statistics a power could use to control an elections. whether that power is domestic or foreign. Those public registration lists are available to anyone, but they do not contain the personal data the Commission requested that Williams is refusing to supply.

What is astounding is that the public as a whole is not outraged nor do they seem concerned that the Russians have the ability to manipulate which candidate for President or even Senate could win a US political race. That is an attack on democracy and only a few seem to see the danger or even care. What is also puzzling is that those who ardently support states' rights, the GOP, are the ones least concerned.

Protecting the integrity of the registration data base is a sacred duty of local and state elections officials.
(Felicia Muftic is a former Denver, Colorado, Election Commissioner.)

Saturday, July 1, 2017

What Democrats need to do to win the House in 2018: first, avoid a civil war

Scheduled for Sky Hi News July 17-19, 2017
Regardless of how the repeal/replace Obamacare Congressional action plays out, the Democrats will have to be on the same page and not divided by an ideological split of whether to go for their hearts desire of Medicare for All or to repair the damage done by the Trump administration to anything resembling Obamacare.   Democrats have an opportunity to take more House seats in 2018 by running against the on the record of Republicans who voted  to take 23 million off the insured ranks. To have a civil war within the  Democratic party in 2018 and 2020 between the partisans for Medicare and fixes to Obamacare  means both Medicare for All or fixing Obamacare  would be the road to failure for both.

The Sanders and Clinton wings must  make peace and unite on  a short term goal. If they fail to do this, Democrats will remain powerless to influence any repairs to the health care system.  It is a dilemma that could be reconciled by seeing fixes to Obamacare as a short term goal while not giving up on Medicare for All down the line. The Democratic Party ‘s unified , winning goal should be best for consumers and achievable in the short term, not what is best for the ideologues. Most consumers are not ideologues; they just want good health care coverage  they can afford.

I personally support Medicare for All as the long term solution to covering as many people as possible with comprehensive health insurance. It also makes the most sense extending affordable comprehensive health insurance to the most people at the lowest cost, if experience in other countries indicate. It is a proven, popular method easy for the public to understand. I am on Medicare and I wish those under 65 could be, too. I have a choice of a private physician and while Medicare covers 80% of certain costs, I also pay about $45 more a month for a supplemental.  It works well.

I also realize that patching Obamacare type insurance would delay increasing public support of Medicare for All, but to let Obamacare type insurance fail  as a strategy to bring us closer to the time of Medicare for All  could gain enough  public support would cause much suffering in the transition time.  Putting  consumers close to desperation by opposing fixes  in order  to expedite  bi-partisan public acceptance of Medicare for All is doing harm to the very persons about whom liberals  profess to care.  It is not a way to make friends and influence voters in 2018 or 2020.

What about a Democratic Party alternative plan? Fixes to Obamacare type of insurance such as providing more subsidies for insurers  and stabilizing  the market to   cover rural areas would address a major failure of Obamacare. To lower premiums and out of pocket expenses without destroying the benefit package of essentials would address other major concerns of consumers who want lower lower premiums and less out of pocket costs.  Requiring drug companies to compete for the right to be providers could lower prescription costs.   To stop  undermining  the financing system needed to make private insurance affordable  on the exchanges or through Medicaid  is another. This means reducing or eliminating the tax relief to the rich as the original GOP plans  provided. These  proposals could make  a platform that would have appeal to all but the hard core libertarians and Trump loyalists.

Post note: in the Senate debate on repeal/replace, the GOP will attempt to troll and divide the Democrats by proposing a single payer system. Sanders will not fall for the tactic, per Vox, and will vote "no" because he, too, believes for now the ACA/Obmacare must be preserved.