“The Affordable Care Act”: Isn’t Change Supposed To Make Things Better For Everyone? Not Necessarily, Just Follow the Money

In a civil society, change is often viewed as an opportunity to make things better. It is a chance for self-improvement, is open and transparent and is inclusive. This however does not appear to be the intent of the Trump administration or the republican controlled Congress. This brings us to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). Since President Obama signed this bill into law on March 23, 2010, there have been a minimum of 60 attempts by republicans to repeal it. Had the law not been signed by President Obama, or had been signed by a republican president, rest assured, it would have been accepted by those on both sides of the aisle without the multiple partisan challenges that we have had to endure over the last several years.

Now let’s fast forward to today. We have a President Trump and essentially the same repeal and replace republican majority Congress. They are counting on the alternative fact that the people are not really onto what their actual intents are, their real reasons for wanting to dismantle the ACA. The underlying intent is a continuation of long held conservative economic policy, cutting taxes for the rich. Oh yes, they proclaim that they are concerned about the health and welfare of you and your family, but do not be fooled and sucked into this vacuous and cowardly view. Their goals and intents are much more devious.

These same republicans want you to believe in their alternative facts about the ACA, that it has been an utter failure, that it has not provided health insurance coverage for more than 20 million Americans, that it has not lowered the uninsured rate from 16% pre-ACA to an all-time low of 9.1%. They are hesitant to overtly acknowledge that much of the revenue for funding of the ACA comes from some very rich people. Them! They are acutely aware of this fact, but do not want you to think they are opposed to the ACA or that their opposition is based on their own self- interest and their self-preservation and ability to continue to line their own pockets. For them, greed is what makes the world go around. They could care less about you.

The concept of repeal and not replace for them has two implications. The first of these is deliberately throwing millions of people out in the cold with no health coverage. The second and most important to them is big tax cuts, again for the wealthiest people in the country. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 400 of the richest people in America whose average income is greater than $300 million per year would each receive on average, in the parlance of the greedy, a $7 million “kickback” from the ending of two taxes in the current law; the 3.8% unearned income Medicare tax and the 0.9% Hospital Insurance tax. The basis for these taxes is individuals with incomes greater than $200,000 and couples making more than $250,000 per year.

This means that the 160 million people who live in households with incomes below these levels will receive no tax benefits from the repeal of these taxes. This is the reward that republicans are giving all of those everyday working class voters who either willfully or unwittingly voted for them. Not only are they going to take away your health insurance, they’re going to give the savings to their millionaire and billionaire kindred’s. Don’t expect to see this tax in any replacement plan that they come up with, if they come up with a plan at all. So, thank you for your vote!

It is clear that after 6 long years of attempting to kill the ACA, republicans have only themselves, their corporate lobbyists and their moneyed supporters in mind. President Trump, along with Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and Health and Human Services nominee Tom Price want you to believe that they will repeal and replace the ACA with “something terrific”. That translates into high deductible plans, health savings accounts, block grants for Medicaid and “Premium Support” vouchers for Medicare recipients. These plans will only shift those costs to everyday regular people while millionaires and billionaires laugh all the way to the bank.

So if you believe the republican plan of repeal with no replacement of the ACA is in your best interest, think again. Repeal to republicans is about greed and superiority. There is nothing noble about being superior to another person. The true nobility is in being superior to one’s previous self, especially if you have been living in an alternative universe and now relying on alternative facts.

“Donald J. Trump”: An Unconscious Mind

For some unknown reason, President Trump continues to live in a world of isolated narcissism, His continuous self praise is no endorsement. Most people, during their lifetime, strive to learn before they die. Trump seems to be fighting demons, one on each shoulder, the other in his mind. He needs to figure out what exactly it is that he is running from, what he is running to, and why.He also needs to understand that those who lie for you (Kellyanne Conway), will also lie about you. Reality needs to set in at some point, and fast.

“Alternative Facts”: What You Don’t See With Your Eyes, Don’t Invent With Your Tongue

It hasn’t been a week since Donald Trump took the Oath of Office as the 45th President of the United States. It’s been 3 days, just 3 measly days, for this administration to redefine parts of the English language. Not that anything that Trump has said over the months leading up to the election, nor since winning the election, has made any coherent sense, we now have Senior White House Advisor Kellyanne Conway coming up with a new definition of the word “facts”. To make matters worse, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer essentially endorsed this new terminology. “Alternative Facts”? This one is a doozy. The bar is now so low that the only way to get under it is by taking a shovel and digging a hole to crawl under. Unfortunately, this just might be their plan, keep lowering the bar. The problem however is that any sane person will simply step over this bar.

Before we transcended into this new alternative universe, most of us believed that facts were facts, not to be falsified or rearranged, a thing that is indisputable, something that has actual existence. Even given this long held definition, republicans have always seemed to have their own extended definition of facts: the kind you look up and the kind you make up. For years they have chosen to use the latter interpretation. Looking up actual facts has never been a part of their long range agenda. Over the past several years, they have slowly found themselves to be in a position where their made up facts were becoming more and more scrutinized and fact checked, sometimes by the media, but lately by the people. This scrutiny was on full display this past weekend with the recent massive Women’s March in cities across the country and around the world.

So, what do republicans do? Reset. They pivot, re-design and align their own “alternative facts” to co-inside with their alternative universe. This puts them in an even more precarious position. To say what you mean and mean what you say is to be honest, but not for these guys. They are hell bent on and completely insistent upon sticking with their deceptions by creating their own language to go along with their own reality. This intransigence of falsifying and counterfeiting of reality only serves to continue to undermine and erode what little credibility they had. They have yet to realize that true relationships are built on honest words, spoken aloud, without enlargement or enhancements and without manipulation.

These millionaires and billionaires are unafraid of risking their own destruction rather than conform to the norms under which everyone else must live. There is nothing wrong with making mistakes. For republicans, in their minds, these are not mistakes. If they were, they would not keep responding with encores. No matter how you spin it, facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored. Any other phraseology is a lie. It’s as simple as that.

Women’s March on Maine-What a Remarkable Day!

If you dam a river it stagnates. On the steps of the Maine State House in Augusta on January 21, 2017, the dam was broken and we all witnessed the beautiful flow of running water. Throughout many cities around the country and around the world, the Women’s March on Maine epitomized the fact that 21st Century women are not going back to the 20th Century, no way, no how. Piscataquis County, as well as every county in Maine was well represented with vocal and energetic contingents. It was a glorious and beautiful day with multiple impassioned and inspiring speeches that ignited a movement, a grassroots movement, that boldly and bravely encompassed so many issues that we all should be concerned about. The presence of at least 10,000 women and men on the same page was indeed a sight to behold.

The totality of this event reminded me of several passages spoken by the late Barbara Jordan, the keynote speaker at my high school commencement and the first African American to be elected to the Texas Senate after Reconstruction, and the first Southern African-American woman elected to the United States House of Representatives. Her words resonate with me today: “Life is too large to hang out a sign ‘For Men Only’. I believe that women have a capacity for understanding and compassion which man structurally does not have, does not have it because he cannot have it. He’s just incapable of it. I felt for many years that George Washington and Alexander Hamilton just left me out by mistake. But through the process of amendment, interpretation, and court decision, I have finally been included in ‘We the People’”.

So, this grassroots movement has sprouted its roots, led by the women of Maine and many, many other women around the country. There will be no turning back. My wife and I have a blended family of 2 daughters and 6 grand-daughters. On which side of this equation do you think we fall? For all of those who purport to support equal justice, equal pay, human rights (which are women’s rights), civil rights, voting rights, clean water and clean air and non-discrimination, I suggest that you get on board, heed the voice of the people, and recognize their common sense. This revolutionary movement has taken off, and yes, this one will be televised!

What Constituency Is Senator Susan Collins Representing?

First we have Senator Susan Collins disgracing herself with her overt support of Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General of The United States, despite his 30 year history of racial insensitivity, bias towards immigrants, his lack of respect for the rule of law, women’s rights, civil rights and LGBT rights. Apparently that was not debasing enough for the good Senator. For reasons known only to her, Senator Collins joined her republican colleagues in last evenings Senate “vote-a-rama” to adopt a budget plan that would destroy the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Her vote was cast despite her previous position that republicans should not consider repealing the ACA until they could offer a replacement plan. Despite also the fact that if republicans had been serious about the health of the American people, they would not have repeatedly refused time and time again over the last 7 years to offer any type of plan or make any efforts to improve a much needed program. Never mind still, the fact that the Center for Budget Policy and Priorities estimates that 95,000 Mainers and 20 million Americans who rely on this valuable program could lose their health insurance. Many of these non-privileged people will be thrown into immediate bankruptcy.

Our political system is based on the presumption that political figures are reasonably responsive to their constituents. One cannot show different faces to different constituents, one face to those who elected them during daylight hours, and the other face to those who stroke their ego’s when the sun goes down. Senator Collins, and far too many republican public officials, has allowed their judgments to be befuddled by conflicting pressures with their character eroded by selling out to their party over the best interests of their constituents and the American people. This however, doesn’t seem to bother them in the least.

When representing people who elected you, this granted privilege of power should be neutral at the least, and tilted to those who elected them at its best. It becomes necessary to advance that power towards the moral framework that permits us to judge the purpose of good over bad. Constituents cannot support an elected representative leader who betrays the common good in the interest of personal aggrandizement. Partisanship that reflects no commitment to the common good is partisanship gone berserk.

Unfortunately, a high proportion of political leaders in our society are rewarded for their single minded pursuit of their own group interests. They are rewarded, not for compromising, but for participating in the battle in order not to become inferior in the eyes of their God-like leaders and colleagues. This should not be the role of responsible elected officials. That role should be one of functioning in the framework of our representative institutions to accomplish the mediating and brokering necessary to reconcile the diverse views and needs of the people. The concept of the reality of community should not be so easily cast aside. First-hand contact with reality should remind them of their original purposes.

People want to believe that their lives have meaning. They want reassurance. It is the reckless and uncaring representative who violates these expected cultural norms of their constituents.

As citizens and constituents, we have a sterner duty. The simple rule is: Hold power accountable. The prime instrument of political accountability is the electoral process. Elected officials must be attentive to and responsive to their constituents needs. They must not allow the hopes and dreams of the citizenry to remain dormant volcanoes of distressed emotions. When the eruption of these emotions eventually surfaces and spews its hot lava, Senator Collins and her many vindictive and irresponsible colleagues are sure to get burned.