Obamacare Scores Another Win At Supreme Court

So let us tonight come to some factual foundation about the Affordable Care Act.

While I was a supporter of single-payer in 2009, I was also pragmatic in my ability to score a run when it slides across home base. A win is a win. The health care needs of the nation required much assistance in 2009. Obamacare, simply put, was the fix that could pass Congress.

Obamacare is now very much deeply entrenched in America’s health care system. It covers some 31 million Americans directly, and it gives additional protection to people who get their health insurance outside the Obamacare markets — including from their employers. Republicans worked feverishly to derail the bill in 2009, and dismember it thereafter as they feared it would work, and the public would appreciate the benefits. Another social program!! Oh, no!!

My husband, James, runs his own guardianship business, dealing with clients with dementia or Alzheimer’s, and is on Obamacare. In fact, the office of Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius called our home to talk with James about his powerful letter of support for the plan…..and the call came mere minutes after he returned home from foot surgery which was made possible due to ACA.

This program touches on everything from menu calorie labels to the rights of nursing moms to free preventive care to lower drug costs for seniors. It protects people with pre-existing conditions. It helps disabled kids and their families. It has changed payment incentives to try to reward the quality of care, not just the quantity of care.

This program is a win-win no matter where you live, what you like on your pizza, or how you vote. From a policy perspective, the door has been opened and it is time to build on it, and I would suggest there is a clear path to universal coverage. The politics need to get rugged for that to take place, but the end result would be a win for all Americans.

Infrastructure Should Be Bipartisan Issue

If it were not for pure partisanship the national dialogue surrounding infrastructure would be a united one about the need to upgrade airports, power grids, ports, and classrooms. Every single person sees either in their daily life, or through news reports the necessity of applying funds to make bridges safer, water pipes align with health standards, and expressways compatible with 21st century needs.

Add in the robust economic uplift with good-paying jobs along with the cycle of more money in the hands of every sector of the business community and there is not a single convincing reason as to why infrastructure should not be a bipartisan winner.

I come from the decades-long understanding that legislation, such as transportation bills, was a winner for each congressional district. Everyone was able to see and feel the benefit with more road aids and projects so to better allow goods to get to market, rail traffic to run more smoothly, and airports to be more suited for the growing needs of the flying public. Each member of congress could go home and truthfully state they helped their constituents. Because they did.

In more recent times, however, I have often used transportation, and now infrastructure, as examples of how the inability of Congress to act in a united fashion underscores how dysfunctional government has become.

I had hoped that Donald Trump might have entered office in January 2017 and focused attention on the infrastructure needs. By focusing on that issue the nation would have created jobs, united politicians of all stripes, and helped solve one of our staggeringly large national problems.  Needless to say, that did not happen.  

I had also hoped that Republicans in Congress would have supported or worked with President Obama when he proposed a bill in his second term that would have generated jobs and needed internal improvements.  To underscore the great imperative for infrastructure funding I urged Democrats to work with Trump on such a plan.  Trump did, after all, correctly campaign on a $1 trillion dollar infrastructure plan.  But that is as far as it proceeded.

The growing need for such investments has been a decades-long discussion. But sadly, as the list of needs lengthens the share of total spending on infrastructure, research and development has declined.  Fiscal hawks, who now have again found their convictions since the November 2020 election, are trying to make a case that the creation of deeper structural deficits is most problematic. 

Seemingly, there is never a good time to champion the infrastructure needs we see all around us.  

There is ample evidence to show the problems in the nation, but also the desire of citizens for action, along with their understanding such massive projects need to be paid for. I selected the topic of clean water and polling data from April 2020 to make the point.

Americans are worried about the future of our water infrastructure and want investment now before it fails. Eighty-four percent of Americans support (with 47% strongly supporting) increasing federal investment to rebuild our pipes, pumps, reservoirs, treatment plants, and other facilities – to ensure safe, reliable water service for all communities. Three-quarters (73%) of Americans support investment to ensure our drinking water and wastewater systems are resilient, even when climate change is mentioned. This includes both Democrats and Republicans.

There is also a willingness to pay for better water. When informed that ratepayers would bear some costs, 73% continue to support capital investments at the national, state, and local levels.  And – 62% of voters support a proactive program to upgrade water infrastructure, versus fixing problems as they arise, or a pay-as-you-go approach.

We know what happens when we continually deprioritize investment-related expenditures for partisan rhetoric and short-term applause.  But we also know what happens when leaders step up and speak to the future needs of the nation.

In the early 1800s, De Witt Clinton was a mayor of New York City and later the governor. He was instrumental in the first major feat of infrastructure with the building of the Erie Canal.  He pressed for the measure to be passed and worked to overcome the opposition of many others with vested interests.  In the end when the job was done a canal 363 miles long, 4 feet deep, 28 feet wide at the bottom, and 40 at the top, with 83 locks, lifting boats to a height of almost 600 feet, and costing over $7 million dollars was created.   Consider that bold project in the context of a new nation with a rudimentary economic system.  Where there is a will…..however!

The partisan battle lines are already being constructed, regarding the $2 trillion infrastructure bill proposed by President Biden. The danger of such rigid conformity for the benefit of the Republican political base is that the needed infrastructure problems are not being met. Again! We must do better so that our ability to govern meets the needs of the nation.

(Last year I created a 59-second video about the grand day the Erie Canal was opened. It seems timely so I close my post with it.)

Donald Trump To Be Overshadowed by Barack Obama–Bookends To One Term In Office

If Steve Inskeep writes it, I will read it.

I have much respect for his insights and ability with words. Which is why Inskeep’s column Monday in The New York Times was well received at our home. With Donald Trump exiting the White House comes next the decades of work by historians who will place him in the narrative of our nation–a topic I hit upon with some regularity on this blog.

Inskeep allowed for this topic to be well encapsulated on the Opinion page of the paper. I have selected a few paragraphs to make the point that Trump will be not the oversized person he yearns to be, but will likely be overshadowed by the Black president he tried, and utterly failed, to diminish.

President Trump’s critics warn that history will look unkindly on his effort to overturn a democratic election. This forecast, while understandable, may be wrong. History rarely looks on one-term presidents at all.

Few presidents who served four years or less find an enduring place in the popular imagination. One term is not long to influence a country so large and dynamic — and a president’s failure to win a second term can be a sign that he didn’t. If you are not from Indiana, you may not know my state produced Benjamin Harrison, a one-term president who was different from President William Henry Harrison, who died after one month in office. Few people visit the statue of James Buchanan in a lonely corner of a Washington park, and in my life I have met just one enthusiast for Chester A. Arthur.

One-term presidents who escape obscurity often did something beyond the presidency — like John Adams, one of the nation’s founders, or Jimmy Carter, whose much-admired post-presidency has lasted 10 times as long as his term. John F. Kennedy’s legacy rests, in part, on legislative achievements that passed after his assassination. Others are known for their failures while in office: Warren G. Harding for a corruption scandal, Herbert Hoover for economic calamity, Andrew Johnson for being impeached.

We can’t be sure what history will make of Mr. Trump, whose term featured scandal, impeachment and calamity, as well as a pandemic. His story may not be over; he remains at the head of a powerful movement, and reportedly talks of running in 2024. But to judge by information available today, he has a relatively narrow role in the American story: as the reaction to a game-changing president — Barack Obama.

Mr. Trump’s place in history may be overshadowed by Mr. Obama’s. Elected in 2008, Mr. Obama seemed to personify America’s growing diversity as a multiracial republic. His campaign motivated new voters, and he talked at first of transcending old political divisions. He said he wanted Americans to regain trust in institutions battered by 9/11, the war in Iraq and the financial crisis. He raised taxes on the wealthiest Americans, signed the Affordable Care Act, tried to break an impasse over immigration and approved a nuclear agreement to ease a long-running conflict with Iran.

The Obama presidency paved the way for Mr. Trump. He rose by relentlessly attacking Mr. Obama, promoting the racist conspiracy theory about his birthplace and falsely claiming that he favored open borders. Mr. Trump told voters in 2016 that he was their “last chance” to win before they were overwhelmed by immigration and globalism.

It is astonishing to recall how much Mr. Trump devoted his term to re-fighting the battles of the Obama years. Using executive authority as Mr. Obama had, he rolled back housing and environmental regulations, reversed transgender rights in the military, and branded antiracism programs as racist.

But on many issues he only partly succeeded. He withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear agreement, but other nations did their best to maintain it. He abandoned Mr. Obama’s strategy toward China, but he struggled to make his own strategy work. He damaged the Affordable Care Act but never managed to repeal it, even when his party controlled Congress.

It was revealing that he publicly supported the most popular benefits of the health insurance law that he said he despised, such as protections for pre-existing conditions. His predecessor defined what health insurance should cover, and Mr. Trump accepted the definition.

Mr. Trump withdrew from the Paris climate accord, but his successor plans to rejoin it. Mr. Trump ended Mr. Obama’s program giving legal status to some undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children, but the Supreme Court restored it, finding Mr. Trump’s action “arbitrary and capricious.” Though Mr. Trump took other actions to limit immigration, the most permanent symbol of his policy may be an unfinished wall in the desert. He neither erased all of President Obama’s accomplishments nor completed his own.

The epic conflicts he generated seem like perfect material for future history classes. It is easy to imagine a high school history book recounting the monthslong court fight over his effort to ban Muslims from entering the United States, followed by discussion on religious freedom and the Constitution.

But in those same textbooks, President Trump may be a minor player in the larger story of a democracy grappling with demands for a more equal society — an era marked by the election of Mr. Obama, the first Black president.

And Mr. Trump’s tenure already has a fitting bookend: On Jan. 20, he will be replaced by Mr. Obama’s vice president.

How Will Iran Retaliate?

Obviously, Iran will need to retaliate for the assassination of scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the head of the nation’s efforts to construct a nuclear warhead. No viable nation can allow for such an act to take place within their borders, by another nation, and not be expected to deliver a response to show justified anger. No matter what one feels about Iran there are certain steps that will be ‘required’ as a consequence of any nation being so attacked.

The international reporting has left little doubt about who is behind this killing. Armchair readers of news from that region need not be told that Israel was behind the attack on the scientist. While some urge restraint on Iran concerning retaliation there is no doubt what the bold reaction would be should such a dastardly act occur in France, Britain, or the United States. Iran has every right to make their move. But the type of response they deliver is the question to be considered.

This blog has been a proponent of the nuclear accord between Iran and six world powers. I was therefore not in agreement with the reckless move by Donald Trump to undermine the work that was done by so many for so long.

Trump was not aware of what the accord was meant to achieve. Very long ago we all stopped being shocked by his severe lack of knowledge on a vast array of topics. He was never aware we need to make deals with those we have international problems with, knowing those final deals are only as solid as the circumstances allow.

Trump did not understand in his one term in office (hallelujah!) that it would have been a dereliction of duty by the Obama White House not to have strived mightly for a nuclear deal with Iran. To have not pressed hard to get a document that reduced the chances of Iran getting a bomb in the next decade would have been totally unacceptable.

No one ever laid claim to any illusion that Iran was an ally or someone that could be trusted.  That is why safeguards were placed into the accord to make sure that actions that ran counter to the deal could be dealt with in a fashion that left no doubt our international partners would demand accountability.

It was therefore dangerous for Trump to so foolishly toss aside the accord of which he never understood how it was grounded within the international community. It was just one prime example of Trump not knowing the wisdom of working with other nations in a common cause.

Now many in the international community are hoping that the expected retaliation by Iran will be limited in scope so that it does not create a scenario where new efforts at refashioning relations is truly harmed in the years going forward. There is every reason for Iran to be outraged but much can be gained by not over-reacting.

International relations always play out in slow and methodical ways. As such this allows for windows to be opened at certain times which fosters results that secures stability. Iran has been attacked by a foreign power but we must hope their retaliation in the days to come can be measured. Many around the world hope that a new tone from a new president can again establish a working coalition of countries who understand the need for working in concert for the bigger goals.

Internationalism will again be a force in America’s playbook. Thankfully.

And so it goes.

Night 3 Of Democratic Convention: “Trump Hasn’t Grown Into The Job Because He Can’t”

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Every fiber of my being was alert, engaged, applauding, and aligned with the themes and speakers during the third night of the Democratic National Convention.

Starting with gun violence which plagues our nation and with Gabrielle Giffords providing words of hope and courage–which left tears in the eyes of both men in this home.  Calls for humane pleas for justice and empathy with immigrants and those who are covered under DACA.  It was one of those nights when Americans were able to see not only the problems which are piled high in our land but also the ways they can be dealt with through reasoned and logical leadership with Joe Biden.

In my daily life, I love the dead-pan and understated lines that when delivered power-punches in a way that a big build-up and splash could never convey as effectively.  Such was the case when Kamala Harris, our next vice-president, stated matter-of-factly the following with eight words.

I know a predator when I see one.

It was a verbal volley not only over the Trump White House but straight through the front door.  The self-admitted sexual predator who has lived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for the past four years has just been called out.  The relentless repetition of his abuse of women will be a theme for the remaining 75 days of this election.

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I have often asked how our nation fell from having a constitutional law professor in the White House with President Obama to Donald Trump who continuously showcases his ignorance.  During Wednesday night’s convention, I was moved by the lifting words and solid underpinnings of Obama as he used history and our Constitution to show how our present course can be corrected.  Must be corrected.

While listening to his speech I was reminded again how little leadership we have from this White House.  Never once in the past four years could we ever have heard Trump offer any aspect of the lines we heard tonight–the type of words and substance our nation yearns for.

Some years ago, I sat down with John and the few remaining leaders of the early Civil Rights Movement. One of them told me he never imagined he’d walk into the White House and see a president who looked like his grandson. Then he told me that he’d looked it up, and it turned out that on the very day that I was born, he was marching into a jail cell, trying to end Jim Crow segregation in the South.

What we do echoes through the generations.

Whatever our backgrounds, we’re all the children of Americans who fought the good fight. Great grandparents working in firetraps and sweatshops without rights or representation. Farmers losing their dreams to dust. Irish and Italians and Asians and Latinos told to go back where they came from. Jews and Catholics, Muslims and Sikhs, made to feel suspect for the way they worshipped. Black Americans chained and whipped and hanged. Spit on for trying to sit at lunch counters. Beaten for trying to vote.

If anyone had a right to believe that this democracy did not work, and could not work, it was those Americans. Our ancestors. They were on the receiving end of a democracy that had fallen short all their lives. They knew how far the daily reality of America strayed from the myth. And yet, instead of giving up, they joined together and said somehow, some way, we are going to make this work. We are going to bring those words, in our founding documents, to life.

It was a night of tonic for the soul.  Some tears, some smiles, some reflections, some hope building.  It takes nights like this to get us to the place we want to be.

Presidential Powers Checked, Trump Loses Like Nixon At Supreme Court

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In 2016 Mitt Romney said there may be “a bombshell” in Donald Trump’s tax forms, and that was why they had not been released.  For a top Republican to have made such a statement, during an intense and highly bombastic election, was nothing short of startling.

Romney suggested either the tax forms would show Trump is not nearly as wealthy as he claims or that he had paid such a paltry tax rate that it would show he is what all know him to be.

Or as I term it, a grifter.

The continuing saga of Trump’s taxes, and the weaving and dodging that his lawyers take to make sure no one ever sees them, took a dramatic turn at the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court in two 7-2 decisions, with Cheif Justice John Roberts writing both rulings, made the goal of prosecutors in New York easier with their efforts to see Trump’s financial records.  It was a loss of stunning proportions for Trump, but a major victory for the foundations of what our civic books taught us about law and justice in our nation.

In the other ruling, the court decided Congress could not, at least for now, see many of the same records. It said that case should be returned to a lower court to narrow the parameters of the information being sought for their investigations.  I wish the power for congressional oversight and our system of checks and balances had been allowed a firmer hand in today’s ruling.

The last time there was a court case of this magnitude, dealing with presidential power of the scope presented regarding these tax forms, was when President Richard Nixon wanted to further obstruct justice by denying access to the famed Watergate tape recordings.  Then, as we witnessed today, the court sided with restrictions on presidential power.  We all can claim a huge win because the decision said Trump had no absolute right to block the release of the papers.

The words from the ruling were precise and carry the gravitas the nation needs at this time when Trump has foisted illiberal democratic actions upon the republic.

In our judicial system, “the public has a right to every man’s evidence,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote.  “Since the earliest days of the Republic, ‘every man’ has included the president of the United States. Beginning with Jefferson and carrying on through Clinton, presidents have uniformly testified or produced documents in criminal proceedings when called upon by federal courts.”

He added: “(W)e cannot conclude that absolute immunity is necessary or appropriate under Article II or the Supremacy Clause.”

“No citizen, not even the president, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding.”

Trump may still raise objections to the scope and relevance of the subpoena for the papers. Litigation over those new objections will last many months or longer, but we have the grifter on the run.  And that is no small thing.

This blog has long contended many of the answers to Trump’s actions on the international stage would be revealed with the tax forms.  The citizens of this nation have to ask why Trump attempts so vigorously to hide his tax returns?   We should put this matter into historical terms.  No other president in the last 50 years has felt that they needed to keep all their tax returns secret.

Just consider the last election cycles, and it is easy to laugh at Republicans who have cheered Trump on over his had behavior at a time when both President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton,  along with President Obama released decades of tax returns. Yet Trump has fought in court, appeals to ever-higher levels, in a maddening determination to keep his tax returns secret.

It is no small thing to claim that the rule of law is still the guardrails on our republic.  These are trying times, as we all know too well.  While I would have liked to see an even harder knock on the concept of a unitary executive, I know that court cases are made at the margins many times.  I wish the oversight power of Congress had been provided the foundation it deserved in a nation that is to have three separate and powerfully effective branches.

But having said what I wished had happened does not detract from what was won.  A solid win that limited presidential power and a stunning loss for Trump who has done more to undermine our republic than anyone since Andrew Johnson severely botched reconstruction.

And so it goes.

Best Editorial Cartoon Of The week

As we close out another week I want to again state an absurdity of major proportions.

The Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to kill Obamacare completely, eliminating coverage for as many as 23 million Americans and stripping protection from 130 million Americans who have pre-existing conditions. Trump has no alternative plan.

Trump has never offered a workable alternative nor puts an ounce of effort into making the Affordable care Act work better. So with a pandemic in our nation, he has asked the Supreme Court to kill a medical program that’s helping millions of Americans.

Callousness and political stupidity rolled into this action by Trump.   As such, this editorial cartoon is, without doubt, the best creation of the week.

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DACA Victory: Fairness, Checks And Balances Shine

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It was another blockbuster Supreme Court ruling, in a week that has not been good for the legal arguments put forth by the Donald Trump Administration. The majority of the nation is applauding the outcome of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA) ruling, based on past polling which shows overwhelming support for these men and women.

The Court ruled the Trump administration may not immediately proceed with its plan to end a program protecting about 650,000 young immigrants known as Dreamers from deportation.  With those words from the reporter on CNN it was clear, once again, the nation’s checks and balances won a victory over the chaos created from this White House.  It was also clear that fairness had been applied to an issue that impacts many educated, skilled, and talented people living in our nation.

The Court ruled 5-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing the majority opinion, that Trump did not provide adequate justifications for removal of DACA, and rejected administration arguments that the 8-year-old program, is illegal

“We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies,” the chief justice wrote. “We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action.”

The Court used the lack of a proper process of dealing with DACA by the Trump Administration as the basis for their ruling.  It is most ironic, since Trump’s only argument used to before the court was that President Obama did not have the authority to create DACA.

Trump has been harsh and bombastic towards the Dreamers, young people brought to the United States as children by their undocumented parents. He campaigned in 2016 with xenophobic fervor that once elected he would “immediately terminate” his predecessor’s executive order.  President Obama created DACA so these people, if they do not present a risk to national security or public safety, and meet several key criteria will be considered for relief from removal from the country.   It only makes common sense, and is a moral and ethical policy, not to discard or deport Dreamers.  To do so would run counter to every sensible and good-hearted ideal that Americans hold dear. 

What other groups of children are punished for the actions of their parents? We don’t jail the children of convicted felons, so why are the children of undocumented immigrants being punished? They had no choice when their parents brought them here. Minors under the age of 18 are banned from applying for citizenship without parental consent. Most of these people haven’t been back to the countries they were taken from, they don’t speak the language and know nothing of whatever relatives they may have there. Deporting these people would be like taking children from my very neighborhood and deporting them. These kids are in the US through no fault of their own. It is barbaric to punish the children for the actions of their parents.

It is unconscionable to have held Dreamers hostage to Republican power plays.  Many of these Dreamers are more schooled and have higher skill sets than the ones undermining them within the White House. This nation needs to secure the future of these young minds, allow them to become a legal part of our national fabric, and end the shameful antics of those who harbor bigotry. These DACA recipients are Americans in every sense of the word except for birthright.

I am an optimist, even during the past years when it has been hard to see light at the end of this period. But today I am joyous over this ruling and with it can truly write the words I firmly believe.

Dreamers, who have worked hard, paid taxes, and have given to this nation like the rest of us will be provided a path to citizenship with our next president, Joe Biden.  Finally, these individuals will be treated with the full respect they deserve.

Shortly after the ruling was handed down Trump took to Twitter and made the matter all about himself.  “Do you get the impression that the Supreme Court doesn’t like me?,”

Northing surprising with such a tweet, as he has always been self-centered.  But with hundreds of thousands of lives impacted by this ruling Trump’s words are even more narcissistic and egotistical than his usual manner.  They lack any ability to reason or empathize with the Dreamers.

Finally, I want to state how we all need to be thankful to James Madison, who in large part, helped create the checks and balances that played such an important role in the headline we are now strongly approving.  No president can accumulate power and fortify the Executive against the will of the people.  The separation of powers by co-equal branches of government allows for attempts at tyranny to be checked.

In many ways, the checks and balances which have been exercised since January 2017 have protected our nation.  Not with every issue, or to the degree that reasoned men and women would desire.  Reading history has proved that many dark nights confronted the nation and we still found the resolve to write another chapter as a people.

President Lincoln argued at the start of the Civil War that one reason it needed to be fought was to show to the world that our democratic experiment could not be so easily undone.  If democratic principles could not find success here, then where?  Those who would so carelessly undo the fabric of the nation had to be defeated.  And they were.

And so it is today.  When illiberal democracy presents itself with the populist themes used by this current occupant of the White House there is only one way to deal with it, and that is it must not be allowed to continue.

The Supreme Court made that clear today.