The Fascists Are Coming for Your Social Security and Medicare

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The billionaire fascists are coming for your Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. And they’re openly bragging about it.

Right after Trump’s election, back in December of 2016, Newt Gingrich openly bragged at the Heritage Foundation that the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress were going to “break out of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt model.” That “model,” of course, created what we today refer to as “the middle class.”

This week Mitch McConnell confirmed Gingrich’s prophecy, using the huge deficits created by Trump’s billionaire tax cuts as an excuse to destroy “entitlement” programs.

“I think it would be safe to say that the single biggest disappointment of my time in Congress has been our failure to address the entitlement issue, and it’s a shame, because now the Democrats are promising Medicare for All,” McConnell told Bloomberg. He added, “[W]e’re talking about Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid.”

These programs, along with free public education and progressive taxation, are the core drivers and maintainers of the American middle class. History shows that without a strong middle class, democracy itself collapses, and fascism is the next step down a long and terrible road.

Ever since the election of Ronald Reagan, Republicans have been working overtime to kneecap institutions that support the American middle class. And, as any working-class family can tell you, the GOP has had some substantial successes, particularly in shifting both income and political power away from voters and toward billionaires and transnational corporations.

More from Thom Hartmann @ Common Dreams

Posted by Libergirl

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Louisiana warns 37,000 Medicaid recipients they may face loss of care over budget cuts

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Louisiana lawmakers made deep cuts to the proposed budget to make up for a $650 million shortfall, which could end a temporary tax funding Medicaid benefits. The governor also warned that both of the state’s medical schools might have to close and that several big hospitals may have to lay off staffers.

For Jamie Duplechine, a quadriplegic who has spent more than half of her 38 years in a wheelchair, it’s an endless source of amusement that three of the caregivers who watch her around the clock in her Louisiana apartment just happen to be named Shonda, Shamanda and Sherry.

Image: Shonta Faulk uses a harness to get Jamie Duplechine into bed

Image: NBC News

Karen Scallan is also on a first name basis with the caregivers who come to her suburban New Orleans home to help her take care of her 17-year-old son, who has Down syndrome — and free her up so she can work and take care of her 63-year-old husband, who suffers from diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

So when the letter arrived this week warning them that they were at risk of losing their health care services starting on July 1 because of their state’s budget crisis, they reacted the same way — with dread.

“I have staff with me throughout the day and night,” Duplechine, who was paralyzed at age 15 in a car accident, told NBC News. “They do my hygiene, my catheter care, my bowel care. They cook my meals, they bathe me, they drive me everywhere. Without them, I’m in a devastating state.”

 

More sadness at NBC News

Posted by Libergirl

Plunder Capitalism

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I deplore the tax cut that has passed Congress.  It is not an economic policy tax cut, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with supply-side economics.  The entire purpose is to raise equity prices by providing equity owners with more capital gains and dividends. In other words, it is legislation that makes equity owners richer, thus further polarizing society into a vast arena of poverty and near-poverty and the One Percent, or more precisely a fraction of the One Percent wallowing in billions of dollars.  Unless our rulers can continue to control the explanations, the tax cut edges us closer to revolution resulting from complete distrust of government.

The current tax legislation drops the corporate tax rate to 20%.  This means that global corporations registered in the US will be taxed at a lower income tax rate than a licensed practical nurse making $50,000 per year.  The nurse, if single, faces in 2017 a 25% marginal tax rate on all income over $37,950.

A single person is taxed at a rate of 33% on all income above $191,651.  33% was the top tax rate extracted from medieval serfs, and approaches the tax rate on US 19th century slaves. Such an upper middle class income as $191,651 sounds extraordinary to most Americans, but it is so far from the multi-million dollar annual incomes of the rich as to be invisible.  In America, it is the shrinking middle and upper middle class incomes that bear the burden of income taxation.  The rich with their capital gains from their equity holdings are taxed at 15%.

Even single individuals who earn between $1 and $9,325 are taxed at 10% on their pittance.

The neoliberal economists who are the shills for the rich, Wall Street, and the Banks-Too-Big-Too-Fail claim, erroneously, that by cutting the corporate income tax rate to 20% all sorts of offshored profits will be brought back to the US and lead to a booming economy and higher wages.  This is absolute total nonsense.  The money won’t come back, because it is invested abroad where labor costs are lower, if invested at all instead of buying back the corporation’s stock or buying other existing companies.  After 20 years of offshoring US manufacturing and professional tradable skills and the incomes associated with the jobs, who is going to invest in America?  The American population has no income with which to purchase the goods and services from new investment, and the American population’s credit cards are maxed out.

All that is going to happen is that Wall Street will calculate the lower tax rate  into a higher equity price.  Wall Street can do this without any of the offshored earnings coming home.  Suddenly, everyone who owns equities will experience a boost in wealth, or the boost has already occurred in anticipation of the handout.

The deficit-conscious Republicans have put into the Bill for Enhancement of the Rich’s Wealth, cuts in social services in order to “save workers from higher interest rates from budget deficits.”  This is more dishonesty.  If the Fed lets real interest rates rise to any meaningful amount, derivatives will unwind, and the Fed will have to create trillions more in new dollars to keep its Ponzi scheme in place. The deficit that results from the tax cut will be covered by the Fed purchasing the Treasuries, not by a rise in interest rates.

What we are witnessing in the US and indeed throughout the western world is the total failure of capitalism.  Capitalism is now merely a looting machine. The financial sector no longer supplies capital for production.  What the financial sector does is to turn discretionary consumer income into interest and fee payments to banks.  Aggregate demand can only grow through debt expansion, and the consumers reach a point where they cannot expand their debt.

Capitalism, hiding behind “globalism,” which is misrepresented as a good thing when it is death itself, locates production where labor is cheapest, thus depriving First World labor of good wages and work opportunities and putting First World countries  on the path to becoming Third World countries.  Short-term profits and executive and board bonuses and stock options are maximized at the cost of the destruction of the domestic consumer market.

Plunder Capitalism also privatizes as much of the public sector, such as the military, as possible, thus driving up the cost of the Pentagon’s budget.  Jobs that the soldiers themselves formerly did are given to politically-connected firms.  What was once KP (kitchen patrol) is now provided by an ouside private service. Private mercenaries hired by the Pentagon collect as much in a month as troops in the line of fire earn in a year.  I don’t know that the army any longer has  a supply organization other than the private business that has the contract.

Medicare and Medicaid are the next to be privatized, along with Social Security.  The tax cut will result in deficit and high interest rate hype, and these lies will be used to save the workers from high interest rates on their mortgage, credit card, and student loan debt by scaling back or privatizing Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

The environment and public lands will be sacrificed to the private profits of timber, mining, and energy companies.  Grizzly bears and wolves are losing their protection under the endangered species act so that states can sell trophy hunting licenses to men who have to prove their manhood by killing an animal with a high-powerful rifle at a safe distance.

What we are witnessing is the complete looting of America and the entirety of the West.  While the Western World collapses, the insouciant, submissive people sit there sucking their thumbs while they are being ruined.

Nothing is left of the West except looters at work.

This tax bill is an abomination, an act of brutal plunder.  Its sponsors should be tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail, if not hung from a lamp post.

by PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS/CounterPunch

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Veterans Day Passes and Not a Peep From GOP Congress About Helping Low-Income Vets Raising the minimum wage would help one in five vets; instead, the GOP eyes Medicaid cuts affecting one in 10.

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As Veterans Day recedes and Republicans in Congress take up tax reform purportedly to help everyday Americans, it is worth noting that one in five veterans would benefit by raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

While that is not on the table in Congress, the GOP’s bill-writing legislators envision funding their tax cuts by cutting $1 trillion from state-run Medicaid over the next decade. Medicaid is the public health program used by about 10 percent of the nation’s vets, helping those who are poor or don’t live near Veterans Administration facilities. The Republican-led Congress is yet again showing its preference to do little to help poor Americans, including former soldiers who served in the military and are at the low end of the income spectrum for veterans.

“Of the 9 million veterans in payroll jobs across the country, approximately 1.8 million would get a raise if Congress raised the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2024, as was proposed earlier this year in the Raise the Wage Act of 2017,” wrote the Economic Policy Institute’s David Cooper and Dan Essrow. “This means that despite their service to the country, the intensive training that they have received, and the access to additional education provided to veterans through the GI Bill, 1 out of every 5 veterans is still being paid so little that they stand to benefit from raising the minimum wage.”

The veterans who would benefit from raising the minimum wage are in their 30s, approaching middle age, EPI’s experts noted.

“The stereotype that only middle-class teens working after school would benefit from raising the minimum wage is false. Yet this stereotype breaks down even more dramatically when considering the veterans who stand to benefit from a higher minimum wage,” they wrote. “Of the veterans who would get a raise, nearly two-thirds are age 40 or older, over 60 percent have some college experience, and nearly 70 percent work full time.”

Other studies of veterans’ post-service work have found women veterans tend to earn less than their male counterparts. The factors that account for these wage disparities include gender, educational attainment, work experience, length of military service, race, marital status, number of offspring, work history and region of the country where they live. Other studies, such as a VetVotes.org report on eroding prevailing wage standards in construction, have found changes in state law “disproportionately hurt veterans.”

These various studies suggest the federal government is not doing all it can to help ex-service members lead fiscally stable lives—even as one-third of veterans end up in government or public service jobs.

“The fact that so many former servicemen and women would benefit from raising the minimum wage is a reminder that labor standards like the minimum wage protect all workers—even those whose courage, training, and sacrifice should guarantee them a good job,” EPI’s experts said. “Unfortunately, Congress has let the federal minimum wage erode to the point where, adjusted for inflation, workers at the federal minimum wage are paid less today than during the Vietnam War. There is no reason why the federal minimum wage could not be significantly higher than it is today; Congress simply needs to act.”

By Steven Rosenfeld / AlterNet

Posted by The NON-Conformist

The Republican Attack on the American Dream

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The GOP speaker of the House says social mobility for the poor is a core American value. His plans to cut Medicaid would almost certainly achieve the opposite.

In an age of political polarization, one of the few values with near-universal bipartisan support is upward mobility—the idea that poor young Americans should have a chance to escape poverty and become middle-class or even rich adults. Most people simply call it the American Dream. But to understand how Donald Trump’s presidency might help or hurt people’s chances of achieving that dream, the best place to look might not be inside the White House, but rather inside that other large, white, marble building a few blocks away.

In Congress, House Speaker Paul Ryan has put upward mobility front and center in his new conservative reform plan. Ryan’s thesis sounds simple, moral, and intelligent: Work is the surest path out of poverty, and government programs should encourage low-income workers to find jobs, develop skills, and work their way off government support.

But unlike many liberal reformers, Ryan pushes a kind of minimalist-design-aesthetic approach to social policy—to add, one must first take away. With a deep belief that government support for the poor often hurts them in the long run, Ryan has repeatedly proposed to cut welfare programs by trillions of dollars in the next decade. More than two-thirds of the cuts in Ryan’s last budget came to programs for low-income people, like Medicaid or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as food stamps.

There are two problems with Ryan’s approach. First, to build support for his anti-welfare agenda, he exaggerates the failures of America’s fight against poverty. “Americans are no better off today than they were before the War on Poverty began in 1964” is the first line of Ryan’s latest reform plan. This claim is the keystone to his thesis that anti-poverty efforts are actually pro-poverty traps. But Ryan’s statement relies on a nonsense measure of poverty that doesn’t account for tax credits or adjust for the spending habits of a modern family. By more reasonable measures, which account for the growth of tax credits and the falling cost of food, the poverty rate has fallen significantly since the 1960s, particularly among the elderly, thanks to many of the very government programs that Ryan has insisted on reforming, like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

But there is a second, more consequential downside of Ryan’s approach: It will undermine his larger stated goal to help poor children achieve upward mobility.

Take, for example, his goal to cut Medicaid, which provides insurance to the poor and long-term care for the old and sick. The most recent Republican budget would cut $2.1 trillion from Medicaid in the next ten years, including the repeal of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. As a result, more than 20 million people would lose health insurance, and in ten years, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) would be cut by about one-third.

What effect might these cuts have on the upward mobility of poor children? Academic researchers already have an answer. Since Medicaid expansions occur state by state, rather than among all states at once, this provides an ideal dataset for comparing outcomes of similar children with different Medicaid eligibility from several states. Their conclusions suggest that Medicaid cuts could have a devastating cost on the future health, education achievement, and future income of today’s poor children.

In a 2015 paper “The Long-Term Effects of Early Life Medicaid Coverage,” the economists Sarah Miller and Laura R. Wherry found that poor children whose mothers had access to prenatal coverage under Medicaid later had lower obesity rates, higher high-school graduation rates, and higher incomes in adulthood. The authors even found that children of new mothers on Medicaid showed “less reliance on public assistance” as adults. Another 2015 paper by the economists David W. Brown, Amanda E. Kowalski, and Ithai Z. Lurie found that children who benefitted from Medicaid expansions earned higher wages as adults and collected less welfare from the government.

In other words, Medicaid and CHIP don’t seem to trap families in poverty, as conservatives often suggest. To the contrary, they help poor children escape poverty, so that as adults they are less reliant on government support.

Conservatives’ “less-is-more” approach to upward mobility is alluring to some for its unsentimental logic: If poverty is extremely uncomfortable, the poor will have no choice but to work their way out of it. But the research on Medicaid’s benefits for poor children suggests that Ryan and his acolytes have things perfectly backward. In fact, more government support for poor working families might be the most cost-effective way to fight poverty, not only because it makes poverty slightly easier to escape, but also because early investments in poor young children pay dividends later in their lives.

Among other things, Trump’s victory was about the American Dream and its perceived evaporation for many middle-class families. Counties with less upward mobility were more likely to support Trump, according to a widely circulated Gallup study. But as Republicans are poised to enact an undiluted conservative agenda, they should consider another intuitive frame for fighting poverty at a discount: Early money is like yeast. Investments in poor young children’s lives improve their adulthood outcomes, thus reducing government anti-poverty spending in the future. Slashing these investments to make room for large tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans is a strategy to help rich families hoard opportunity for their own children, while poorer kids merely inherit their parents’ poverty.

Derek Thompson/TheAtlantic

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Yep, Medicaid expansion is working, where it’s allowed

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 21: Protestors carry signs as they demonstrate against proposed cuts to Medical and Medicare outside San Francisco city hall on September 21, 2011 in San Francisco, California. Dozens of disabled people staged a protest aga

Image: Daily Kos

It’s not a big secret that Obamacare is working to reduce the uninsured in the states that fully embraced the law, particularly those that expanded Medicaid. That’s still true, according to two new studies which show that low-income patients have better access to care and hospitals are doing better financially in those states.

Fewer low-income residents of Kentucky and Arkansas, two poor states that expanded Medicaid in 2014, reported problems paying medical bills after the coverage expansions, especially compared with residents of Texas, which has rejected the health law.

More from The Daily Kos

Posted by Libergirl

238,000 US veterans died waiting for health care – leaked document

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A leaked document shows nearly one-third of the 847,000 veterans in the Department of Veteran Affairs’ backlog died while waiting for treatment, amounting to more than 238,000 patients, according to documents obtained by the Huffington Post.

The VA maintains that the number is so large because it has no mechanism to purge the list of dead applicants, and that some of the veterans may have died years ago. VA spokeswoman Walinda West told the Huffington Post that some people on the list may never have completed an application, or could be using other insurance.

She said 81 percent of the veterans who come to the VA “have either Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare or some other private insurance,” West said. “Consequently, some in pending stays may have to use other options instead of completing their eligibility application.”

The documents came from a VA program specialist, Scott Davis, who has been a whistleblower on the department’s failings in the past. He disputed West’s answers, saying an incomplete application would not have made it onto the VA’s pending list. He added that the department only began electronic health care enrollment in 1998, and that this was when the backlog began. As for the point about veterans using other insurance, he said that was “immaterial and a farce.”

“VA wants you to believe, by virtue of people being able to get health care elsewhere, it’s not a big deal. But VA is turning away tens of thousands of veterans eligible for health care,” Davis told the Huffington Post. “VA is making it cumbersome, and then saying, ‘See? They didn’t want it anyway.’”

The documents also show poor record keeping at the agency. In one instance, 2.35 million veterans, whose records amounted to about 13.5 percent of the 17.4 million records total, died but did not have their date of death recorded in the enrollment system. Yet dates of death were recorded in a different information database.

Copies of the document have been sent to the House and Senate committees that oversee the VA, as well as the White House.

The VA provides $95 billion worth of entitlements to veterans each year. However, according to the agency’s own figures from 2008, only 36 percent of the 23.4 million military veterans from all wars were receiving benefits and services – about 8.5 million. The benefits and services include healthcare, education and training, disability payments, military pensions to veterans and their surviving spouses, and burial benefits.

The disclosure is the latest controversy to engulf the VA since last summer’s scandal at a Phoenix VA hospital that led to congressional hearings. Then-Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki resigned when it was revealed that about 40 veterans had died waiting for timely access to healthcare.

The VA’s Office of Accountability Review, which was established in 2014 to promote leadership accountability within the department, is currently handling 80 cases, of which 15 involve whistleblower retaliation.

From RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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