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Archive for the ‘Congress’ Category

House Republicans will not concede they broke a fundamental health-care promise

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House Republicans are, so far as I can tell, fundamentally dishonest and lie more or less constantly, mainly about their actions and their words. Mike DeBonis reports in the Washington Post:

The Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the Republican health-care bill had just been made public Wednesday, and Rep. Mark Meadows was standing off the House floor, 15 minutes into a sparring session with reporters over its significance when he suddenly paused.

“Listen,” Meadows (R-N.C.) said, his voice cracking. “I lost my sister to breast cancer. I lost my dad to lung cancer. If anybody is sensitive to preexisting conditions, it’s me. And I’m not going to make a political decision today that affects somebody’s sister or father because I wouldn’t do it to myself. So I tell you that in the most earnest of ways that we’re going to get this right.”

The burst of emotion from the House Freedom Caucus chairman, a man who played a crucial role in shepherding the American Health Care Act to passage, was a poignant reaction to an uncomfortable fact: According to the nonpartisan CBO, the GOP bill broke a fundamental promise GOP leaders made to the public.

Repeatedly, top Republicans said, people with preexisting medical conditions would still be able to purchase affordable insurance under the AHCA. They downplayed concerns from independent analysts that the protections they included would not be sufficient to protect the sickest patients from drastic price hikes — touting a last-minute fix to beef up subsidies without waiting for the CBO to judge whether it would work.

“Preexisting conditions are in the bill,” President Trump said last month. “I mandate it. I said, ‘Has to be.’ ”

“Under this bill, no matter what, you cannot be denied coverage if you have a preexisting condition,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said earlier this month, after his office issued a release saying the bill “protects people with preexisting conditions.”

“We need to protect the most vulnerable people,” Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.), who worked with Meadows to craft a viable bill, told CNN. “These are people with preexisting conditions. We want to make sure they are protected.”

The CBO found that while insurers could not deny coverage to sick Americans, they would be far from being “protected.”

In states that choose to waive certain insurance coverage mandates as allowed under the GOP bill, the report stated, “people who are less healthy (including those with preexisting or newly acquired medical conditions) would ultimately be unable to purchase comprehensive nongroup health insurance at premiums comparable to those under current law, if they could purchase it at all.”

The scorekeepers added: “[L]ess healthy people would face extremely high premiums, despite the additional funding that would be available under [the AHCA] to help reduce premiums. Over time, it would become more difficult for less healthy people (including people with preexisting medical conditions) in those states to purchase insurance because their premiums would continue to increase rapidly.”

The analysis undermines not only the claims made by GOP leaders, but also shows that their bill could, by undoing what is perhaps the Affordable Care Act’s single most popular provision, throw consumers back into insurance markets where their ability to purchase affordable insurance would depend on their health.

The CBO report prompted a variety of explanations and evasions this week. Many House Republicans simply cast doubt on the CBO’s ability to analyze health-insurance markets. . .

Continue reading.

I have to say that the US political situation looks increasingly bad. Seriously bad.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 May 2017 at 10:15 am

CBO Agrees: Trumpcare Wipes Out Protections for Pre-Existing Conditions

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Kevin Drum explains: the GOP’s healthcare plan ACHA eliminates protections for pre-existing conditions if you don’t have a policy through some organization (a group policy). Individual policy holders will be screwed just as they were before Obamacare.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 May 2017 at 12:34 pm

Another Trump scam: Despite promise, Trump’s business offers little information about foreign profits

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Drew Harwell and Tom Hamburger report in the Washington Post:

Despite President Trump’s promise to donate all profits from foreign-government sources at his Washington hotel and other businesses, recently released internal documents reveal that Trump’s private company has made only a limited effort at identifying foreign funds.

An undated document sent throughout the Trump Organization, called “Donations of Profits from Foreign Government Patronage,” says asking guests to identify whether they are connected to a foreign government would be “impractical” and “impede upon personal privacy and diminish the guest experience of our brand.”

“It is not the intention nor design of this policy for our properties to attempt to identify individual travelers who have not specifically identified themselves as being a representative of a foreign government entity,” the document says.

The company pamphlet shows the ease with which foreign money could be paid into the president’s business interests. Ethics advisers have warned for months that such foreign payments could be used to curry favor with the president and could run afoul of a constitutional ban.

The Trump Organization said it would track foreign-state money by reviewing three sources: direct billings to foreign governments; group, banquet and catering business with foreign governments; and payments from a “reasonably identifiable foreign government entity.”

But that description was similarly loose. The company said state-owned and state-controlled entities in industries such as banking and defense “may not be reasonably identifiable” and would not be included in profit donations.

Lawyers and ethics experts have said foreign-government payments to the Trump International Hotel Washington, a few blocks from the White House, would violate the Constitution’s rarely litigated emoluments clause, which forbids foreign gifts or payments to the president. Trump’s attorneys have said the constitutional ban should not apply to fair-market transactions such as stays at the president’s hotel.

The White House on Wednesday referred questions to the Trump Organization. The company said through a spokeswoman: “We take these matters seriously and are fully committed to complying with all of our legal and ethical obligations.”

In a letter Wednesday to Trump company executives, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, said the pamphlet showed the company had little interest in identifying foreign funds.

“Complying with the United States Constitution is not an optional exercise, but a requirement for serving as our nation’s President,” Cummings said. “If President Trump believes that identifying all of the prohibited foreign emoluments he is currently receiving would be too challenging or would harm his business ventures, his options are to divest his ownership or submit a proposal to Congress to ask for our consent.”

Trump has refused to divest his assets and instead placed much of his real estate empire into a trust managed by his sons and a longtime employee. The president can pull money from that trust whenever he likes, trust documents show. . .

Continue reading. There’s quite a bit more.

A lot of people who liked Trump said that they didn’t like Hillary because she lies. She’s not even in the same league as Trump.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 May 2017 at 3:11 pm

Brennan: CIA Was Original Source of Trump-Russia Investigation

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My God. Please just read this Kevin Drum post. I think it may be “Game over” for the U.S.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 May 2017 at 1:05 pm

The Bondage of American Workers

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Paul Krugman writes in the NY Times:

American conservatives love to talk about freedom. Milton Friedman’s famous pro-capitalist book and TV series were titled “Free to Choose.” And the hard-liners in the House pushing for a complete dismantling of Obamacare call themselves the Freedom Caucus.

Well, why not? After all, America is an open society, in which everyone is free to make his or her own choices about where to work and how to live.

Everyone, that is, except the 30 million workers now covered by noncompete agreements, who may find themselves all but unemployable if they quit their current jobs; the 52 million Americans with pre-existing conditions who will be effectively unable to buy individual health insurance, and hence stuck with their current employers, if the Freedom Caucus gets its way; and the millions of Americans burdened down by heavy student and other debt.

The reality is that Americans, especially American workers, don’t feel all that free. The Gallup World Survey asks residents of many countries whether they feel that they have “freedom to make life choices”; the U.S. doesn’t come out looking too good, especially compared with the high freedom grades of European nations with strong social safety nets.

And you can make a strong case that we’re getting less free as time goes by.

Let’s talk first about those noncompete agreements, which were recently the subject of a stunning article in The Times (the latest in a series), plus a report from the Obama administration pushing for limits to the practice.

Noncompete agreements were originally supposed to be about protecting trade secrets, and therefore helping to promote innovation and investment in job training. Suppose that a company trying to build a better mousetrap hires a new mousetrap engineer. Her employment contract might very well include a clause preventing her from leaving a few months later for a job with a rival pest-control firm, since she could be taking crucial in-house information with her. And that’s perfectly reasonable.

At this point, however, almost one in five American employees is subject to some kind of noncompete clause. There can’t be that many workers in possession of valuable trade secrets, especially when many of these workers are in relatively low-paying jobs. For example, one prominent case involved Jimmy John’s, a sandwich chain, basically trying to ban its former franchisees from working for other sandwich makers.

Furthermore, the terms of the clauses are often defined ridiculously widely. It’s as if our hypothetical mousetrap engineer were prohibited from seeking employment with any other manufacturing firm, or in any occupation that makes use of her engineering skills.

At this point, in other words, noncompete clauses are in many cases less about protecting trade secrets than they are about tying workers to their current employers, unable to bargain for better wages or quit to take better jobs.

This shouldn’t be happening in America, and to be fair some politicians in both parties have been speaking up about the need for change (although few expect the Trump administration to follow up on the Obama administration’s reform push). But there’s another aspect of declining worker freedom that is very much a partisan issue: health care.

Until 2014, there was basically only one way Americans under 65 with pre-existing conditions could get health insurance: by finding an employer willing to offer coverage. Some employers were in fact willing to do so. Why? Because there were major tax advantages — premiums aren’t counted as taxable income — but to get those advantages employer plans must offer the same coverage to every employee, regardless of medical history.

But what if you wanted to change jobs, or start your own business? Too bad: you were basically stuck (and I knew quite a few people in that position).

Then Obamacare went into effect, guaranteeing affordable care even to those with pre-existing medical conditions. This was a hugely liberating change for millions. Even if you didn’t immediately take advantage of the new program to strike out on your own, the fact was that now you could.

But maybe not for much longer. . .

Continue reading.

See also “How Noncompete Clauses Keep Workers Locked In,” by Charles Dougherty, which begins:

Keith Bollinger’s paycheck as a factory manager had shriveled after the 2008 financial crisis, but then he got a chance to pull himself out of recession’s hole. A rival textile company offered him a better job — and a big raise.

When he said yes, it set off a three-year legal battle that concluded this past week but wiped out his savings along the way.

“I tried to get a better life for my wife and my son, and it backfired,” said Mr. Bollinger, who is 53. “Now I’m in my mid-50s, and I’m ruined.”

Mr. Bollinger had signed a noncompete agreement, designed to prevent him from leaving his previous employer for a competitor. These contracts have long been routine among senior executives. But they are rapidly spreading to employees like Mr. Bollinger, who do the kind of blue-collar work that President Trump has promised to create more of.

The growth of noncompete agreements is part of a broad shift in which companies assert ownership over work experience as well as work. A recent survey by economists including Evan Starr, a management professor at the University of Maryland, showed that about one in five employees was bound by a noncompete clause in 2014.

Employment lawyers say their use has exploded. Russell Beck, a partner at the Boston law firm Beck Reed Riden who does an annual survey of noncompete litigation, said the most recent data showed that noncompete and trade-secret lawsuits had roughly tripled since 2000.

“Companies of all sorts use them for people at all levels,” he said. “That’s a change.”

Employment lawyers know this, but workers are often astonished to learn that they’ve signed away their right to leave for a competitor. Timothy Gonzalez, an hourly laborer who shoveled dirt for a fast-food-level wage, was sued after leaving one environmental drilling company for another. Phillip Barone, a midlevel salesman and Air Force veteran, was let go from his job after his old company sent a cease-and-desist letter saying he had signed a noncompete.

Then there is Mr. Bollinger, whose long-running legal battle is full of twists and turns that include clandestine photography, a private investigator, a mysterious phone call and courthouse victories later undone by losses in appeals court.

Read the whole thing.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 May 2017 at 10:44 am

The GOP has no principles whatsoever: Latest rule change to benefit themselves

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And it’s purely to benefit themselves. If the Democrats become a majority in the Senate, the GOP will immediately whine about this rule and say it is unfair to them. The GOP places high value on loyalty, no value at all on fairness. See this interesting chart. And read this brief explanation of why.

GOP talks of narrowing ‘blue-slip’ rule for judges, in The Hill, by Lydia Wheeler.

And please read this great post by Kevin Drum.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 May 2017 at 1:50 pm

Posted in Congress, GOP, Politics

Comey may have gotten his man

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Jennifer Rubin has a very good column, well worth reading. In the column she quotes Chuck Schumer::

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) was somber on the floor of the Senate. “In a week full of revelation after revelation, on a day when we thought things couldn’t get any worse, they have.” He continued, “I was shaken by the report in the New York Times that alleged that the president tried to shut down an active FBI investigation into a close political associate. And we are only one day removed from stunning allegations that the president may have divulged classified information to a known adversary.” He warned, “Concerns about our national security, the rule of law, the independence of our nation’s highest law enforcement agencies are mounting. The country is being tested in unprecedented ways. I say to all of my colleagues in the Senate: History is watching.”

Earlier in the column Rubin writes:

One is tempted to marvel at the sheer stupidity of Trump, who somehow thought he could not only fire but humiliate the FBI director who was investigating him and his administration with no consequence. But Trump has always been Trump’s greatest liability — the hubris, the ignorance, the impulsiveness.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 May 2017 at 4:38 pm

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