Martin Luther King Jr Day, Trump style

Today we honor Martin Luther King Jr, yesterday we had this:

President Trump, on the defensive in the wake of recent disparaging comments about Haiti and African nations that have revived questions about whether the leader of the world’s melting pot is a racist, declared Sunday that he is not one.
‘‘No, No. I’m not a racist,’’ Trump told reporters who asked for his response to those who think he is a racist. ‘‘I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed. That I can tell you.’’

But today is not the day to remember that we have a racist, sexist, xenophobe for a President. It’s a day to remember MLK and not only the warm fuzzy King of “I have a dream” but the one who agitated, the one who campaigned against the Vietnam war, the one whose last campaign was on behalf of a union. So some quotes:

  • We are coming to ask America to be true to the huge promissory note that it signed years ago. And we are coming to engage in dramatic nonviolent action, to call attention to the gulf between promise and fulfillment; to make the invisible visible.
    Why do we do it this way? We do it this way because it is our experience that the nation doesn’t move around questions of genuine equality for the poor and for black people until it is confronted massively, dramatically in terms of direct action.
  • In 1863 the Negro was told that he was free as a result of the Emancipation Proclamation being signed by Abraham Lincoln. But he was not given any land to make that freedom meaningful. It was something like keeping a person in prison for a number of years and suddenly discovering that that person is not guilty of the crime for which he was convicted. And you just go up to him and say, “Now you are free,” but you don’t give him any bus fare to get to town. You don’t give him any money to get some clothes to put on his back or to get on his feet again in life.
    Every court of jurisprudence would rise up against this, and yet this is the very thing that our nation did to the black man. It simply said, “You’re free,” and it left him there penniless, illiterate, not knowing what to do. And the irony of it all is that at the same time the nation failed to do anything for the black man, though an act of Congress was giving away millions of acres of land in the West and the Midwest. Which meant that it was willing to undergird its white peasants from Europe with an economic floor.
    But not only did it give the land, it built land-grant colleges to teach them how to farm. Not only that, it provided county agents to further their expertise in farming; not only that, as the years unfolded it provided low interest rates so that they could mechanize their farms. And to this day thousands of these very persons are receiving millions of dollars in federal subsidies every years not to farm. And these are so often the very people who tell Negroes that they must lift themselves by their own bootstraps. It’s all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is a cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.
    We must come to see that the roots of racism are very deep in our country, and there must be something positive and massive in order to get rid of all the effects of racism and the tragedies of racial injustice.
  • A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.
  • Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.
  • You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.

Punish the poor

Hmm, should there be work requirements for Medicaid?

Conservatives like to assert that Medicaid somehow suppresses the desire to work, but that appears to be a fantasy. Studies have found no evidence for it. For example, a study published in the journal Health Affairs in 2016 found that “Medicaid expansion did not result in significant changes in employment, job switching, or full- versus part-time status.”

What the evidence does show, however, is that work requirements attached to social programs are ineffective. The best research involves TANF, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which replaced traditional welfare and added a work mandate. Several studies have shown that TANF recipients who are able to work do so whether or not they’re subject to the requirement, which suggests that it’s not necessary. Those who find employment end up in low-wage jobs, typically earning about as much as the TANF and food stamp benefits their earnings replaced.

Work had not lifted them out of poverty or increased their income relative to what they had received from TANF and food stamps,” one study found, contrary to Verma’s aspirational language. The work requirements failed to reflect that many of the program enrollees faced social, educational or physical barriers to employment, conditions that are likely to be replicated among unemployed Medicaid recipients.

Moreover, the work requirements added bureaucratic burdens that affected program administrators as well as enrollees, sometimes severe enough to discourage enrollment.

Those studies aren’t politically correct so the Trump administration ignores them and says:

Verma tried to put an uplifting spin on the new policy on work requirements: “We owe beneficiaries more than a Medicaid card,” she tweeted; “We owe them the opportunity and resources to connect with job skills, training and employment so they can rise out of poverty.”

Now that’s something the Republicans can believe (but they won’t actually increase funding for job training). Really they just want to punish the poor but they can’t say that so they make stuff up.

Who needs evidence?

Well, this is surprising if by surprising you mean completely expected:

The Trump administration has abruptly halted work on a highly regarded program to help physicians, families, state and local government agencies, and others separate effective “evidence-based” treatments for substance abuse and behavioral health problems from worthless interventions.

The program, called the National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices, was launched in 1997 and is run by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Its website lists 453 programs in behavioral health — aimed at everything from addiction and parenting to HIV prevention, teen depression, and suicide-hotline training — that have been shown, by rigorous outcomes measures, to be effective and not quackery. The most recent were added last September.

It seems there were problems with registry:

In fact, a recent paper in the International Journal of Drug Policy found the registry contained programs with limited studies evaluating them or studies with very small sample sizes to accurately measure their success.

So there was a good reason to look at it and try to make it better, but this is the Trump administration:

However, no specific details regarding when the new program will begin and when results will be made public were provided. The current registry will remain online as of now, but will not be updated.

SAMHSA’s statement was the first public response it had provided since the email it sent out two weeks ago announcing the registry would be frozen. That announcement took mental health advocates by surprise. “It came with such a blinding speed,” said Richard Yep, CEO of the American Counseling Association. “People were initially really shocked by the whole thing.”
Without any additional information from SAMSHA, Yep said mental health professionals were left to speculate what was next and why the registry had stopped.
Yep admits that the program wasn’t flawless but said “it has stood the test of time.” He questioned why a replacement wasn’t up and running to take over the work and called the decision to freeze the registry short-sighted. “Why didn’t you start that system up and compare it side-by-side? Instead, to just cut it off, it makes no sense professionally.”
The Trump administration is, by its nature, sloppy and that’s what you get here.

Children’s Health

Ok, this is stupid:

CBO and the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) have completed a preliminary estimate of the budgetary effects of extending funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for 10 years using specifications provided by your staff. Under those specifications, the provisions of S. 1827, the Keep Kids’ Insurance Dependable and Secure Act of 2017 (KIDS Act), would be extended. In particular, all of the provisions that would be in place in 2022, the final year of funding under that Act, would continue unchanged for the remainder of the 2023-2027 period. The agencies estimate that enacting such legislation would decrease the deficit by $6.0 billion over the 2018-2027 period.

And yet:

Some states will run out of money by February 1 if an agreement is not made, according to estimates from Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute based in Washington, D.C., but more conservative estimates from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) suggest several states risk burning through the federal funds by January 19.

What’s the problem?

In December, Congress provided short-term finances for CHIP, but lawmakers have not moved to give the program another five-year allotment because Democrats and Republicans disagree on how to finance it. Republicans wanted to pull money from public health programs—like Medicare—and Democrats refused. The minority party’s votes will be necessary for Republicans to pass a solution, and some politicians have predicted a deal will be struck next week before the January 19 deadline.

Now that the CBO says it will save the government money, will Republicans actually pass it? Who knows–it’s not like they care about people.

Fuck Trump

This has been a week that shows President Trump’s priorities. He doesn’t care about the environment:

The Trump administration Thursday moved to vastly expand offshore drilling from the Atlantic to the Arctic oceans with a plan that would open up federal waters off the California coast for the first time in more than three decades.
The new five-year drilling plan also could open new areas of oil and gas exploration in areas off the East Coast from Georgia to Maine, where drilling has been blocked for decades.

The proposal comes less than a week after the Trump administration proposed to rewrite or kill rules on offshore oil and gas drilling imposed after the deadly 2010 rig explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

He doesn’t care about the Dreamers:

“We want the wall,” Trump said at a press conference at Camp David in Maryland. “The wall is going to happen, or we’re not going to have DACA,” he said, referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which Democrats are fighting to restore.

He doesn’t care about people who fled war-torn countries:

The Trump administration said Monday it is ending special protections for Salvadoran immigrants, an action that could force nearly 200,000 to leave the US by September 2019 or face deportation.

He wants a return to the war on drugs:

“This is a straightforward rule of law issue,” Lelling responded. “Congress has unambiguously made it a federal crime to cultivate, distribute, and/or possess marijuana. As a law enforcement officer in the executive branch, it is my sworn responsibility to enforce that law.”

A congressional budget rider bars the Department of Justice from spending money on most prosecutions of state-licensed medical marijuana operations, meaning the state’s currently operating dispensaries should be safe for now.
However, that amendment is due to expire later this month along with the current federal budget. Sessions previously called on Congress to drop the language.

And to compound this, Trump has shown himself to be a coward.

He says he supports DACA but had to get rid of it because there were legal problems (there really weren’t any).  Then he said that Congress needed to do something and he supported that. Now he says he only supports it if he gets what he wants. Don’t be surprised if he adds more requirements.

The same is true for the people from El Salvador, he says Congress should actually pass a law instead of relying on extensions to the Temporary Protection. And anyway:

The months before then “will provide time with individuals with TPS [temporary protected status] to arrange for their departure, or if eligible, to do the necessary paperwork to remain in the United States,” a senior administration official told reporters on a call previewing the announcement.

Of course they don’t say how this will happen and they want to make it harder to legally immigrate to the US.

It isn’t that Trump doesn’t support ending DACA or sending people back who have been in the country for 20 years or cracking down on marijuana, he does. It’s just that he doesn’t want to be blamed if these turn out to be unpopular.

Trump political correctness, being pettyedition

Donald Trump is so petty:

On Wednesday, journalists from CNN said they were stopped from seeing the president’s round at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach.

As photographers set up a new shot, while remaining on public property, a large white truck moved between the camera and the golf course, CNN reported.

The White House often won’t confirm whether or not the commander-in-chief is on the course, refusing to provide details on his recreational activities. In November, a pool report said that Trump was going to have a “low-key day.” The White House communications staff later asked for a correction to clarify that Trump would not be having a quiet day, but would instead have a schedule full of calls and meetings, according to a pool report. Later that morning and a couple of tweets later, Trump’s motorcade was spotted at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach.

People aren’t supposed to talk about Trump playing golf since it makes him look bad. And he golfs a lot:

Wednesday’s outing marked the 87th day Trump has spent at one of his golf properties since taking office.

Trump’s EPA

Here’s how the EPA works under President Trump:

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt in May announced the creation of a Superfund Task Force that he said would reprioritize and streamline procedures for remediating more than 1,300 sites. Pruitt, the former attorney general of Oklahoma, appointed a political supporter from his home state with no experience in pollution cleanups to lead the group.
The task force in June issued a nearly three dozen-page report containing 42 detailed recommendations, all of which Pruitt immediately adopted.

Now, nearly six months after the task force released its report, a lawyer for EPA has written PEER to say that the task force had no agenda for its meetings, kept no minutes and used no reference materials.
Further, there were no written criteria for selecting the 107 EPA employees the agency says served on the task force or background materials distributed to them during the deliberative process for creating the recommendations.
According to EPA, the task force also created no work product other than its final report.

In some ways I can believe this, Pruitt has a history of having industry write stuff for him:

The letter to the Environmental Protection Agency from Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma carried a blunt accusation: Federal regulators were grossly overestimating the amount of air pollution caused by energy companies drilling new natural gas wells in his state.

But Mr. Pruitt left out one critical point. The three-page letter was written by lawyers for Devon Energy, one of Oklahoma’s biggest oil and gas companies, and was delivered to him by Devon’s chief of lobbying.

“Outstanding!” William F. Whitsitt, who at the time directed government relations at the company, said in a note to Mr. Pruitt’s office. The attorney general’s staff had taken Devon’s draft, copied it onto state government stationery with only a few word changes, and sent it to Washington with the attorney general’s signature.

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