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.

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.

Trump wants credit

The tax bill that gives the vast majority of its benefits to the rich and corporations has passed and President Trump is worried he won’t get the credit:

President Trump signed the most consequential tax legislation in three decades on Friday, even as he complained that he has not been given credit for his administration’s accomplishments during a turbulent first year.

In typical Trump fashion, he cared more about appearances than the actual thing:

There was some discussion in Congress and at the White House that Trump should consider delaying the signing until early 2018 as a way to delay automatic spending cuts that could have been triggered by the tax cuts.

In addition, some companies said that delay would give them more time to adjust to the major changes that the new tax code will mean for their businesses.
However, once Congress reached a deal this week to avoid the possibility of the spending cuts, White House officials signaled that Trump wanted to sign the bill into law as soon as possible.

Also in typical Trump fashion he only wants the credit for the good stuff:

Gary D. Cohn, the director of the White House’s National Economic Council, said Wednesday the administration tried more than two dozen times to eliminate the carried interest loophole and that, as recently as this week, Trump asked why it was not gone.
Cohn, a former top Goldman Sachs executive, said opposition from lobbyists and lawmakers on Capitol Hill was intense and that the best that could be done was to extend the “holding period” for investments that qualify for the tax break to three years from one.
“The president strongly believes, and he ran on this, that carried interest is a loophole,” Cohn said at an event sponsored by Axios.

He was powerless to do anything, but he should get credit for the bill anyway.

The bill contains many things that have been shown to be bad for the economy, such as:

Kansas eliminated state taxes on pass-through income in 2012, and the outcome was not what backers had expected.
In the three years after the law took effect in Kansas, the number of residents claiming pass-through income jumped 20 percent. As a result, the state lost $200 million to $300 million in tax revenue a year, according to estimates by The Tax Foundation, with most of the gains going to wealthy business owners, some of whom simply restructured existing companies to take advantage of the lower rates. Facing a budget crisis, Kansas lawmakers repealed the tax cut earlier this year.

So, no problem Mr. Trump, we will give you all the credit for this awful bill.

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.

More Trump political correctness

The latest:

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke brought the leader of a California park to his office last month to reprimand him for climate change-related tweets the park had sent via Twitter, two sources close to the situation said.

Zinke did not take any formal disciplinary action against David Smith, superintendent of Joshua Tree National Park. And the tweets at issue weren’t deleted, because they didn’t violate National Park Service or Interior Department policies.

But Zinke made it clear to Smith that the Trump administration doesn’t want national parks to put out official communications on climate change.

And by bringing Smith from California to Washington, D.C., to deliver the tongue-lashing, he also sent a message to the park service at large.

Sure the tweets were scientifically correct and relevant to the park, but the Trump administration doesn’t like it so it shouldn’t be mentioned and if it is trouble will follow.

Trump administration talks tough on crime, unless

Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions like to talk about getting tough on crime (while lying about the actual crime statistics), so let’s look at a big crime:

After two years of painstaking investigation, David Schiller and the rest of the Drug Enforcement Administration team he supervised were ready to move on the biggest opioid distribution case in US history.

The team, based at the DEA’s Denver field division, had been examining the operations of the nation’s largest drug company, McKesson Corp. By 2014, investigators said they could show that the company had failed to report suspicious orders involving millions of highly addictive painkillers sent to drugstores from Sacramento, Calif., to Lakeland, Fla.

and what happened?

Instead, top attorneys at the DEA and the Justice Department struck a deal earlier this year with the corporation and its powerful lawyers, an agreement that was far more lenient than the field division wanted, according to interviews and internal government documents.

Although the agents and investigators said they had plenty of evidence and wanted criminal charges, they were unable to convince the US attorney in Denver that they had enough to bring a case.

Discussions about charges never became part of the negotiations between the government lawyers in Washington and the company.

And this is the way of things: there’s the law for the rich and powerful and the law for the rest of us. The actions of McKesson Corp. might have lead to thousands of deaths but no one will go to jail. Try that if you’re not rich or powerful.

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