Trump Admin is Misusing Funds for ObamaCare on Efforts to Sabotage It

For much his still nascent administration, Donald Trump has sought to portray the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare) as dead. It is more of a negative branding campaign than anything connected to facts or reality. The American people have expressed their support for ObamaCare in numerous polls. But Trump is determined to destroy it while promoting his extraordinarily unpopular attempt at repeal and replace.

Donald Trump

The Daily Beast is now reporting that the Trump administration has been misdirecting funds intended to encourage enrollment in ObamaCare. Instead, they have been using it in “a public relations campaign aimed at methodically strangling it.” That violates both the ACA’s legal mandate and the President’s constitutional duty to “faithfully execute the laws of the land.” According to The Daily Beast:

“The strategy has caught the eye of legal experts and Democrats in Congress, who have asked government agencies to investigate whether the administration has misused funds and engaged in covert propaganda in its efforts to damage and overturn the seven-year-old health care law. It’s also roiled Obama administration veterans, who argue that the current White House is not only abdicating its responsibilities to administer the law but sabotaging it in an effort to facilitate its undoing by Congress.”

The Health and Human Services department, under healthcare opposing Trump appointee Tom Price, has been busily producing anti-ObamaCare videos. The videos feature alleged “victims” of ObamaCare. It’s a blatantly one-sided propaganda venture that ignores the millions of people the ACA has helped. And the taxpayer funds diverted to it are substantial, despite its twisted purpose and ineffectiveness:

“Under Secretary Tom Price’s stewardship, HHS has filmed and produced a series of testimonial videos featuring individuals claiming to have been harmed by Obamacare. Those ”viral’ videos have had decidedly limited reach, often gathering somewhere between 100 and 200 views each. But the Department has made a heavy investment in them nonetheless. To date, it has released 23 videos. A source familiar with the video production says that there have been nearly 30 interviews conducted in total, from which more than 130 videos have been produced.”

The funds for this project are coming from the HHS’s Consumer Information and Outreach budget. It’s appalling that the administration would divert money intended to help people get insurance to a campaign of deliberate sabotage. They are taking money allocated to advance a healthy populace, and using it to steer people away from healthcare choices that are legally available to them. In effect, they may be guiding people away from necessary medical attention that could result in tragedy.

This isn’t the first attempt by the Trump administration to make America sick again. Trump has been making thinly veiled threats about discontinuing the cost-sharing reductions (subsidies) that make insurance affordable for millions. That would also throw the insurance markets into a state of instability that could threatened future participation. And they have made changes to the websites for HHS and Healthcare.gov that are unambiguously hostile to consumers seeking information about ObamaCare. Earlier this year the White House halted all advertising and promotions to encourage last minute enrollments for 2017 coverage. That was a sinister attempt to keep the public uninformed and enrollment numbers down.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

In the end, all of this is nothing more than the fulfillment of the Republican dream: deprive Americans of healthcare and reward the wealthy with tax cuts. Although they obviously don’t like ObamaCare, it is the current law of the land. And the agency tasked with administering it ought not be working to kill it. If they could pass their repeal (which it appears they cannot), things might be different. In the meantime, all they are doing is cynically and selfishly playing politics with people’s lives.

A Republican Appeal for ‘ObamaCare Horror Stories’ Backfires Spectacularly

Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress are continuing their efforts to kill ObamaCare. Never mind that that their proposed replacement is overwhelmingly opposed by the American people. In recent polls its support has languished in the teens. You have to wonder why a party would fight so hard for something so unpopular. Well, actually, you don’t have to wonder. It’s because they are committed to giving millionaires tax cuts, denying hard-working Americans basic human rights, and erasing President Obama’s legacy.

Medicare For All

Republicans have been unable to pass their TrumpCare legislation despite having majorities in both houses. The Senate Republican Leader, Mitch McConnell promised to bring it to the floor for a vote before July fourth. However, he couldn’t get his own party to support the bill so he postponed the vote indefinitely. Now he is engaged in backroom horse-trading (i.e. bribery) to try to get some members to flip.

In the meantime, the GOP PR machine is reaching out to improve the awful perception of their healthcare agenda. In Indiana, the home state of Vice-President Mike Pence, the party posted a request on Facebook for public feedback. Here is what they asked in a brazenly leading question:

“We were promised Obamacare would make healthcare cheaper, better, and more available, but in reality it’s turned out to be the opposite. What’s your Obamacare horror story? Let us know.”

Unfortunately for them, what they got was surely not what they hoped for. Hoosiers were appalled at the prospect of losing the Affordable Care Act. They were equally disturbed by the GOP bills currently circulating around Congress. And more than 7,000 of them made their opinions abundantly clear. Here are some select examples of the replies:

  • I saved over $100/month on individual coverage through the marketplace, for the exact same coverage from the exact same insurer! The horror!
  • Being able to afford to buy insurance through a market rather than having to rely on employer-provided insurance allowed my best friend to leave her job and start her own business.
  • My kids have a genetic illness. After the ACA was passed, we felt relieved that they would never be denied coverage. And there is no worry of a lifetime cap on their care. Thanks Obamacare!
  • I lost my job and found out I had skin cancer 2 weeks later. If it weren’t for Obamacare, I wouldn’t have been eligible for another insurance plan because I would have had a major preexisting condition. I was able to go on to the open market place and select an affordable option that covered the bulk of my treatments. I’m now cancer-free and didn’t have to lose everything to pay for chemo. Thanks Obamacare for being there exactly when I needed it!
  • The “horror” is that Republicans would take it away without a decent replacement. Or replace it with a giant tax cut to the wealthy instead of actual…ya know…health care.
  • No horror story about ACA. The real horror is a bunch of white guys making decisions about women’s health and bodies.
  • I am a single mom of two young children. Before IN joined the ACA, I was denied health coverage. Thanks to Obamacare my children and I both have healthcare while I’m back in school pursuing my nursing degree. Thank you Obama!
  • Prior to the ACA (Obamacare) I was denied coverage for my pregnancy because it was considered a pre-existing condition. I then went on state funded Medicaid because it was he only available option, besides going bankrupt.
  • Obamacare makes my dad able to obtain insurance with a preexisting and covers his $15k/month medication. Thank you, Obama, for giving my dad years on his life!
  • I’m a pastor here in Indiana, and Obamacare has been wonderful for some of the people in my congregation. Thanks to Obamacare, they now have affordable health insurance for the first time.
  • My premiums went down in 2017 under the ACA. My daughter had her gall bladder removed in January that left a bill totaling $93,000.00 but under the ACA my bill was $ 2000. I love my ACA. Stop lying.
  • My son was dx with leukemia at 5 months old. Thanks to ACA he can not be denied health coverage. The horror
  • My mom is fighting cancer because of the ACA. So your party of “pro life” and “family values” can shut the hell up. You don’t care about us. You care about tax cuts for the billionaires.

Will the Republicans pushing for their cruel and greedy alternative to ObamaCare be moved by these comments? It’s impossible to tell from this Facebook post. The party has not responded to any of the comments. But there are some diehard, Fox News infected, Trump disciples out there making irrational contributions to the debate. One found it “Interesting reading all the Soros-hired leftwing shills and their fake posts.” Right. George Soros hired more than 7,000 people to post unique and moving appeals to retain and improve ObamaCare.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

That’s the sort of lunacy that we have to contend with in order to preserve the first national healthcare plan the United States ever had. It’s indicative of a deeply deranged segment of the population that regards anything they don’t like as “fake.” The good news is that mental health care is covered under ObamaCare. So these poor souls may be able to get the help they desperately need. That’s is, if they don’t succeed in killing it.

Warren Buffett Blasts GOP Healthcare Bill as the ‘Relief for the Rich Act’

On Tuesday the Republican Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, was forced to make an embarrassing announcement. After insisting that the Senate would vote on the GOP’s ObamaCare repeal bill before the July fourth recess, he has now removed it from the schedule. He had a good reason. There was no way it pass. At least nine Republican senators had indicated that they would vote no.

Warren Buffet

The so-called “Better Care Reconciliation Act” is not only unpopular with some senate Republicans. Recent polling shows that the American people are overwhelmingly opposed to it. The USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll puts its approval at only twelve percent. The NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll is only slightly better with seventeen percent of Americans approving. That includes support from only thirty-five percent of Republicans. [And this just in: Even the latest poll from Fox News shows approval at only twenty-seven percent. Twice as many oppose]

These are disastrous numbers for any public policy. It’s startling that the GOP would even be interested in pursuing this farce. And yet, McConnell continues to be optimistic about its prospects for passage. So does Donald Trump, who just met with the GOP senate caucus and celebrated their non-achievement.

Among the skeptics of the Republican plan to make twenty-two million more people uninsured is billionaire investor Warren Buffett. In an interview with PBS’s Judy Woodruff (video below), Buffett made his opinion crystal clear. He expressed his support for a more inclusive healthcare plan saying that single-payer “probably is the best system.” Then he outlined what is one of the most troubling and unfair aspects in the GOP bill in the following exchange:

Woodruff: “One of the things the Republicans are looking at, as you know very well, is doing away with the so-called Obamacare surcharge on people earning a higher income. So, Republicans are looking at taking that away, or doing away with that, which would mean a tax cut, you have said, for people like you.”

Buffett: “Well, I brought my tax return along for the last year. I filed this on April 15. And if the Republican — well, if the bill that passed the House with 217 votes had been in effect this year, I would have saved — I can give you the exact figure. I would have saved $679,999, or over 17 percent of my tax bill.

“There’s nothing ambiguous about that. I will be given a 17 percent tax cut. And the people it’s directed at are couples with $250,000 or more of income. You could entitle this, you know, Relief for the Rich Act or something, because it — I have got friends where it would have saved them as much as — it gets into the $10-million-and-up figure.

Bringing in his tax return to provide a tangible example of how the wealthy would benefit was a nice touch. It was an effective method to drive the point home. But it was also subtle dig at Trump, who still refuses to release any of his tax returns. And Buffett had something to say on the subject of politicians feathering their own nests as well:

“I might point out — it might be an interesting question. I think members of the Senate and the House get $174,000 a year. But most of them have — if you look at the disclosures, they have substantial other income. If they get to higher than $250,000, as a married couple, or $200,000 as a single person, they have given themselves a big, big tax cut, if they — if they voted for this.”

Indeed. The median net worth of members of Congress is slightly more a million dollars. Fifty-one percent are millionaires. Obviously, they would personally profit from the changes proposed in the Republican bill. And that profit comes at the expense of millions of Americans being thrown off of their insurance plans. Millions more would suffer higher premiums and deductibles, fewer services, and denial of coverage for preexisting conditions.

Buffett has long been an advocate for average Americans, despite his great good fortune. His critical observation that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary became known as the “Buffett Rule.” He’s a shining example of a Patriotic Millionaire (billionaire) who puts the welfare of his country and fellow citizens above his own personal interests. It’s the sort of compassion that Republicans ought to exercise when crafting their healthcare bill. But then, why would they start now? They have never done it before.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

HUH? Kellyanne Conway Says Trump’s Medicaid Cuts Are Not Medicaid Cuts

Sunday morning the inventor of “alternative facts” was at it again. Donald Trump staffer Kellyanne Conway made an appearance on This Week with George Stephanopoulos to discuss the Republican effort to repeal ObamaCare. TrumpCare, as it is known, has been widely criticized by a bipartisan array of politicians and pundits. Even Trump tagged the House version of the bill as “mean.”

Kellyanne Conway

Among the complaints are that it would result in higher deductibles and premiums, eliminate protection for preexisting conditions, and throw more than twenty million people off of their health insurance plans. What’s more, it would be paid for by giving billions of dollars in tax cuts to the wealthy.

It’s issues like those that have caused at least five GOP senators to announce their opposition to the bill. If those numbers hold the bill cannot pass. Republicans have a two-vote margin and can expect no help from Democrats. Adding to its problems is that TrumpCare would impose severe cuts to Medicaid. Despite repeatedly promising to never cut the program, Trump is nevertheless enthusiastically supporting the bill. This support comes even though the senate version is even meaner than the one the House passed:

“The much more drastic changes in the Senate bill as compared to the House bill come in the realm of Medicaid. The House bill immediately ended enhanced funding for the Medicaid expansion to able-bodied low-income adults under the ACA, while the Senate bill would slowly phase that funding out. This, in theory, would put millions fewer people immediately in the ranks of the uninsured and increase government spending over the House plan.”

Undeterred by reality, Conway addressed the issue in her interview with Stephanopoulos. She was asked directly about the how the bill cuts 800 billion dollars from Medicaid and asked why Trump is going back on his promise. Her lie-riddled, word salad reply was that:

“These are not cuts to Medicaid. This slows the rate for the future and it allows governors more flexibility for the future with Medicaid dollars because they’re closer to the people in need. […] If you are currently in Medicaid, if you became a Medicaid recipient through the Obamacare expansion, you are grandfathered in. We’re talking about in the future.

“You know, ObamaCare took Medicaid, which was designed to help the poor, the needy, the elderly, the sick, the disabled. Also children and pregnant women. It took it and went way above the poverty line. Opened it up to many able-bodied Americans who should probably see if there are other options for them.”

Stephanopoulos deserves some credit for not allowing Conway to advance the falsehood that the bill doesn’t cut Medicaid. He also challenged her baseless assertion that no one on Medicaid now would be affected. He pressed Conway to address the matter of the 800 billion dollars in cuts, to which she replied, “You keep calling them cuts. But we don’t see them as cuts.”

And therein lies the heart of the problem. Trump and his shills have created their own language that ignores the reality of any situation. They will feverishly spin until the rhetoric is hopelessly removed from anything resembling the truth. It’s a strategy that is ultimately aimed at creating confusion and muddying the waters so that a coherent dialog is impossible. And no one is better at that than Conway.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Maddow Blog: GOP Senate is Secretly Destroying ObamaCare While Trump Scandals Dominate Headlines

There has never been a presidency before like the one America is suffering through now. In less than five months Donald Trump has scored record low approval ratings. There are credible calls for impeachment swirling around Washington and the nation. And no wonder. He is being investigated by a special prosecutor for scandalous allegations involving his unsavory connections to Russia. His efforts to implement an unconstitutional Muslim ban have been repeatedly struck down by federal courts. The tax reform he advocates (for the wealthy) has gone nowhere in Congress. His anti-media fetish continues to drill deeper into the realm of pathological paranoia. And all the while he exalts himself as the Second Coming of a political Messiah.

Donald Trump Mitch McConnell

Among his many failures is the callous attempt to deny healthcare for tens of millions of Americans. Trump and his Republican colleagues in Congress continue to pursue their efforts to repeal ObamaCare despite the public’s disapproval. The GOP plan is languishing with support of only twenty-one percent, with fifty-six percent opposed. Meanwhile, support for ObamaCare is growing.

That may explain why Republicans are now engaged in a clandestine scheme to kill ObamaCare while they think no one is watching. This brazenly overt legislative deception is an insult to voters. When asked why they are withholding the plan from public view, a senate aide replied “We aren’t stupid.” That’s an admission that they know their plan sucks and would be met with stiff resistance from the American people. But it’s even worse than that. According to Steve Benen of the Maddow Blog:

“The word ‘un-American’ is probably used a bit too often, usually to impugn others’ patriotism, but in the case of Republicans overhauling the nation’s health care system, the process is un-American in a rather literal sense. In the United States, we have a legislative system elected officials are supposed to use to pursue their goals and policy priorities. In 2017, however, Congress’ GOP majority has decided to abandon the American policymaking model, without defense or explanation, while pushing life-or-death legislation affecting one-sixth of the world’s largest economy.

“There is nothing like this in the American tradition. Republican leaders are being so secretive about their health care overhaul that even other GOP senators have no idea what they’ll soon be asked to pass.”

Benen goes on to note the “breathtaking hypocrisy” of the GOP who complained bitterly when ObamaCare was before the Congress. They falsely asserted that the Democratic bill lacked transparency. That’s despite the fact that there were dozens of public hearings and hundreds of hours debate before ObamaCare was passed. Neither of which have occurred during the Republican effort to undo it.

Trump has been throwing one of his trademarked tantrums over what he calls “obstruction” from Democrats. “If we had the greatest bill in the history of the world on healthcare,” he said, “we wouldn’t get one vote from the Democrats.” First, of, as noted above, he doesn’t have the greatest bill in history. Secondly, he must have forgotten that ObamaCare didn’t get one vote from Republicans. But at least Democrats allowed them to discuss and amend the bill before passage.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

The media is justifiably transfixed by the current crises in the White House. The possibility that the President could be prosecuted and/or impeached is the story of the century. However, they should not be so consumed by that that they fail to inform the public about what Republicans are trying to do under the radar. It is a perversion of democracy and a disservice to all Americans. The GOP must not be allowed to get away with shoving their monstrous mutation of healthcare down the nation’s throat. We need to pay attention and pull the curtain aside to reveal and resist the Republicans’ appalling agenda.

Donald Trump On Passing Healthcare Bill: ‘It’s Going to be Republicans or Bust’ (VIDEO)

Donald Trump traveled to Cincinnati today to campaign on behalf of his infrastructure initiative.He delivered a typical misrepresentation of reality and offered no details about his own phantom proposal. But what stood out in his speech had nothing whatsoever to do with the topic he came to discuss.

ObamaCare Trump

Taking a diversion far from infrastructure, Trump launched into a tirade against ObamaCare and Democrats in Congress (video below). It was mostly a rehash of his past criticisms that he has never managed to document. His familiar antagonistic posture was full of bluster and hyperbole, but lacking substance or logic. He railed in part:

ObamaCare is dead. I’ve been saying it for a long time. Everybody knows it. Everybody that wants to report fairly about it knows. The House of Representatives has done its job. They sent a plan to the Senate and the Senate is working it over. We spent a lot of time yesterday with Mitch McConnell and a lot of the great senators. They happen to be Republican cause we’re having no help, it’s only obstruction from the Democrats.

The Democrats are destroying health care in this country. We’re having no help. It’s only obstruction from the Democrats. We have had no help, we will get no votes. If we gave you the greatest plan in the history of the world, we would have no Democratic vote. It’s going to be Republicans or bust.

The first point that needs to be made is that ObamaCare is most definitely not dead. Despite Trump’s relentless proclamations of the service being in a “death spiral,” the facts stubbornly disagree. This charge has been reviewed by PolitFact and ruled to be “False.” And the dishonesty of Trump’s ranting that “everybody knows it” doesn’t make it any less a lie. To the extent that ObamaCare is struggling at all, it’s due to the Trump administration’s purposeful sabotage.

Secondly, Trump claims that the Senate is working on the bill that was passed in the House. That’s also untrue. Republican leaders of the Senate have even refused to bring up the House bill. Some of them have publicly stated that there will be no healthcare bill this year at all. Then Trump noted that he spent some time with senators who just happened to be Republican. That may be because he just happened to meet exclusively with the Republican caucus.

Finally, Trump was mightily disturbed that he was getting no help from the Democrats that he was deliberately excluding. From that he surmised that they were obstructing his initiative out of petty partisanship. And he demonstrated his openness to dialog by accusing Democrats of “destroying health care in this country.” He was outraged at the prospect of getting no votes from across the aisle for a bill intended to cast twenty-three million people off of their health insurance plans. Therefore he declared that “It’s going to be Republicans or bust.” Never mind the irony that it was Republicans who actually did withhold votes when ObamaCare was before Congress.

In his campaign-style presentation, Trump trotted out some folks that he described as ObamaCare victims. It was a self-serving photo-op that proved nothing. If he’s really interested in a fair discussion of the issue, there are some other Americans he might like to meet. Vox Media recently interviewed a group of Trump voters who are grateful for ObamaCare and regret their support for Trump. And poll after poll shows that the nation favors ObamaCare over the GOP efforts to repeal and/or replace it. But somehow, that never makes it into Trump’s speeches or Twitter feed.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Trump’s Efforts to Sabotage ObamaCare Now Include Bribing Health Insurance Companies

Donald Trump made repealing the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare) a key plank in his campaign platform. It became the first legislative project of his administration. But after four months of his presidency he has failed to deliver on his promises. Consequently, he is seeking other routes to force his anti-healthcare policies onto a nation that wants to keep and improve ObamaCare.

Donald Trump

Trump has repeatedly claimed that ObamaCare is dead. It isn’t. However, Trump is doing everything in his power to murder it. Just his false characterizations of it being in a “death spiral” makes insurance carriers nervous and unwilling to expose themselves to that artificially created risk.

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Trump has approached health insurance providers with an offer to put more money in their pockets. The proposal involves the funds paid by the government for the premium subsidies that make health insurance affordable for low-income Americans. These are called “cost-sharing reductions,” or CSRs. Trump has been threatening to cut off this funding in his quest to cripple ObamaCare. But his offer comes with a caveat. In exchange for continuing the CSRs, the providers must support his wildly unpopular bill to kill ObamaCare. That’s the bill that recently passed in the House of Representatives. The Senate is not expected to take it up. So offering to retain the CSRs in exchange for political support amounts to a bribe.

What’s more, Trump is effectively admitting that he is lying about ObamaCare being dead. His threat to ax CSRs undercuts the claim that insurance marketplaces are collapsing on their own. The Times notes that the more likely cause of chaos in the industry is Trump himself:

“Health insurers across the country are making plans to dramatically raise Obamacare premiums or exit marketplaces amid growing exasperation with the Trump administration’s erratic management, inconsistent guidance and seeming lack of understanding of basic healthcare issues.

“At the same time, state insurance regulators — both Democrat and Republican — have increasingly concluded they cannot count on the Trump administration to help them ensure that consumers will have access to a health plan next year. […]

“Instead, according to many officials, it is the Trump administration that is driving much of the current instability by refusing to commit to steps to keep markets running, such as funding aid for low-income consumers or enforcing penalties for people who go without insurance.”

Trump’s Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator, Seema Verma, made the politically motivated bribe in a recent meeting with providers. According to the Times she told them that Trump “would fund the CSRs if insurers supported the House Republican bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act.” But the providers were less than receptive. In fact, they later signed on to a letter sent to the Senate spelling out their concerns. The signatories include a broad array on health industry players. They include: America’s Health Insurance Plans, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Benefits Council, American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Federation of American Hospitals, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The preamble to their letter says that:

“[W]e are writing again to you as leaders in Congress to express our serious concerns about the continued uncertainty around funding for cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments. There now is clear evidence that this uncertainty is undermining the individual insurance market for 2018 and stands to negatively impact millions of people.”

In addition to using the CSRs to bribe insurance companies, Trump has used them to blackmail Congress. Politico reports that he is employing a tactic aimed at forcing Democrats to negotiate. Even though “Many advisers oppose the move because they worry it would backfire politically if people lose their insurance or see huge premium spikes and blame the White House.”

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

In any case, it’s a cynical move where the potential victims are not members of Congress, but average Americans. Trump is holding a virtual gun to the heads of citizens and telling Congress he’ll shoot if they don’t pass his bill. Between that threat and his bribery of insurance carriers, Trump’s proving that he couldn’t care less about the American people. They are merely hostages in his quest to give the wealthy tens of thousands of dollars in tax cuts. And if 24 million people lose their health insurance, that isn’t his problem.

UPDATE 5/22/17: Democrats in Congress are requesting information and documents pertaining to this attempted bribe/hostage taking by the Trump administration.

Trump’s Executive Order on Religious Liberty Gives Bigots a Free Pass to Discriminate

Much of the media today is over-indulging the White House’s short-term success in crippling ObamaCare. Never mind that the American people support it and today’s House vote is not expected to be repeated in the Senate. It’s a “W” in Donald Trump’s column that they are exploiting to the max.

Donald Trump

What is not being talked about is the executive order Trump signed earlier on Thursday. The purpose of yet another Trump executive order is being sold as an attempt to promote “Free Speech and Religious Liberty.” In reality it does neither. The language in the order itself betrays its true intent. It says that it:

“…protects the freedom of Americans and their organizations to exercise religion and participate fully in civic life without undue interference by the Federal Government.”

“…[mandates that] the Department of the Treasury does not take any adverse action against any individual, house of worship, or other religious organization on the basis that such individual or organization speaks or has spoken about moral or political issues.”

“…address[es] conscience-based objections to the preventive-care mandate.”

Taking a closer look at these objectives reveals something far more ominous than what the Trump administration suggests. The actual impact of the order is to allow religious institutions to use their tax-exempt status to advocate for political campaigns and policies. It attempts to reverse the “Johnson Amendment” which many faith leaders support. It also permits businesses to discriminate against individuals they regard as incompatible with their religious beliefs.

For the most part, the executive order is merely window dressing on the right’s Christian supremacy. It doesn’t alter existing law at all, which would require an act of Congress. Instead, it directs federal legal authorities to refrain from enforcing statutes that actually protect equal treatment under the law. In other words, businesses that refuse to service gays (or Muslims, or whoever) will get a free pass for prejudice. Churches that openly engage in political activity will not have their tax-exempt status reviewed by the IRS. Employers will be able to force their religious beliefs on employees (such as refusing contraceptive healthcare coverage) with impunity.

It should be noted that current law does not prohibit anyone from exercising their right to religious expression. Any business owner is free to express their beliefs so long as doing so does not infringe on the constitutional rights of others. Any representative of a religious institution can speak out on politics so long as it is not done in a facility that receives federal tax exemptions. If pastors want to turn sermons into political speeches they can simply decline tax-exempt status. Many people believe that the policy that grants religious organizations freedom from taxation should be revisited as an historical anachronism. But no one argues that political organizations should conduct their business tax-free.

Trump’s statements at the signing of the executive order (video below) were vaguely patriotic while disguising overtly prejudicial intent. “No American,” he said, “should be forced to choose between the dictates of the American government and the tenets of their faith.” He continued:

“We will not allow people of faith to be bullied, targeted, or silenced any more. And we will never ever stand for religious discrimination. Never ever.”

That coming from the same man who issued an executive order banning all Muslims from entering the country. Trump’s idea of religious freedom is limited to those who practice the American brand of Christianity. He supports business owners who seek to discriminate against gays. But he would oppose any business that insisted that all female patrons cover their heads. He also said that:

“For too long the federal government has used the power of the state as a weapon against people of faith, bullying, and even punishing Americans for following their religious beliefs.”

In reality, the federal government generally tries to insure that the practice of religious beliefs don’t infringe on anyone else’s liberties. The only bullying evident was by radical Christians who tried to prevent the construction of Mosques in their communities. What Trump is bothered by is the free exercise of beliefs by people who don’t subscribe to his faith.

This point was made clear in an open letter by more than 1,000 faith leaders who oppose Trump’s executive order. Their letter said in part that:

“Although it purports to strengthen religious freedom, what this order would actually do is misuse this freedom, turning it into a weapon to discriminate against broad swath[e]s of our nation, including LGBTQ people, women, and children in foster care.” […]

“The religious freedom upon which our nation was founded has allowed our country’s diverse religious landscape to flourish. The draft executive order flies in the face of that rich diversity by enshrining one religious perspective – on marriage, gender identity, health care, and the role of houses of worship in partisan politics – into law, above all others. This is neither what religious freedom means in the eyes of the law, nor what religion itself means to millions of Americans of faith.”

Trump’s attempt to govern by executive order, something he lambasted President Obama for, is typical of the authoritarian tendencies he has long exhibited. And in this case he is going beyond conventional authoritarianism to full fledged theological tyranny. Expect this executive order to suffer the same fate as his others that were overturned in court. The ACLU has already announced a court challenge.

[Update: The ACLU released a statement saying that they are declining to bring a suit at this time because Trump’s EO is “an elaborate photo-op with no discernible policy outcome” and is “fake news.” I don’t entirely agree, because a threat of non-enforcement still constitutes unequal treatment under the law. However it’s fun to see the ACLU essentially call Trump an impotent doofus]

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Sean Spicer: It’s ‘Literally Impossible’ to Analyze Trump Care’s Costs, But We’ll Vote on it Anyway

Word on the street is that Congress will vote on Donald Trump’s proposal to repeal ObamaCare on Thursday. The Republicans are claiming that they have enough votes for passage, which they’ve claimed, wrongly, before. But what makes this vote so extraordinary is that no one – not Congress, not Trump, no one – knows precisely what this bill will cost, or even what’s in it.

Fibby Spice Sean Spicer

On Wednesday Press Secretary Sean Spicer took questions from reporters about the bill (video below). His confession that the bill’s costs and contents are unknowable make a mockery of the GOP’s legislative process. When asked whether the funding in the bill would be sufficient to cover people with preexisting conditions, Spicer said that:

“There are so many variables that are unknown that to make an analysis of that level of precision seems almost impossible … For someone to know how many people that is, what number of states are going to receive a waiver, ask for it and receive a waiver, is literally impossible at this point. So to do an analysis of any level of factual basis would be literally not possible.”

In one respect, it’s commendable that Spicer was honest enough to admit that he had no idea what the bill’s financial impact would be. However, the fact that neither he, nor the White House, nor Congress could do an analysis, but they still insisted on voting, is the height of political absurdity. Spicer actually “guaranteed” that everyone with preexisting conditions would “be fine.” But by his own admission he has no way of determining whether or not that’s true.

While the White House may be unable to analyze the financial impact of TrumpCare, other more reputable organizations seem capable of doing so. As reported by Talking Points Memo:

“The AARP’s Public Policy Institute wrote Thursday that ‘We project that if states return to pre-ACA high-risk pools in 2019, as proposed, high-risk pool premiums for people with pre-existing conditions could be as high as $25,700 annually.’

“An amendment to the American Health Care Act would allow states to eliminate Obamacare’s price protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions, if the states establish high-risk pools for those individuals in their place. Critics say those pools make insurance unsustainably expensive for sick people.”

So it isn’t really impossible to analyze TrumpCare after all. It’s just inconvenient. That’s because most independent analyses confirm that it would raise premiums to record highs. The result would be that tens of millions of people who are currently insured would lose their coverage. That’s why the GOP-run Congress is rushing to vote before the Congressional Budget Office can issue a report. And they expect their members to comply and vote as instructed. Despite not knowing what the hell they’re voting on. That, America, is your Republican Congress at work.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Right-Wingers Display Their Perverse Family Values By Attacking Jimmy Kimmel

On Monday night Jimmy Kimmel devoted a portion of his monologue to explaining why he was not on the air last week. Shortly after the birth of his son it was discovered that the child had a serious heart defect that required emergency surgery. A clearly emotional Kimmel told the story (video below) of how the problem was discovered and fixed. Thankfully, the child is expected to make a full recovery.

Jimmy Kimmel

Sadly, it seems that nothing will fix the heart defects in conservatives who wasted no time in attacking Kimmel. Their outrage was incited by Kimmel’s audacity to advocate for all Americans to have access to the life-saving healthcare that his family had. What follows are some examples of what Republicans consider family values:

In addition to these sick wingnuts, Media Matters found several other repulsive characters who believe that only kids whose parents have money should be allowed to live. It’s an ideology that is right in line with a party that opposes food and shelter for underprivileged children as well. It’s aligned with the policies of GOP representatives like Robert Pittenger (R-NC). He thinks that families with sick kids can just move to states with more compassionate healthcare. That, of course would mean selling their home, leaving family and friends, and hoping they could find a new job. His colleague Mo Brooks of Alabama is no better. He offered a ludicrous defense of TrumpCare by saying that…

“It will allow insurance companies to require people who have higher health care costs to contribute more to the insurance pool that helps offset all these costs, thereby reducing the cost to those people who lead good lives.”

Huh? So in Brooks’ view, Kimmel’s infant son was not living a good life. That evil urchin. Serves him right. And what does Kimmel’s sad story have to with healthcare anyway? That, at least, is the position of Fox News who managed to do a segment on the monologue without ever mentioning ObamaCare or Kimmel’s plea to support it. Maybe Fox should ask President Obama about that:

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.