Father, son who disagree on Trump running against each other
By MICHELLE R. SMITH
Friday, June 29
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A father and son in Rhode Island who disagree about President Donald Trump are running for the same office, one as a Republican, the other as an independent.
David Quiroa Sr., 47, and David Quiroa Jr., 22, both filed Tuesday to run for a state House seat currently held by a Democrat. Both live at the same address in Newport.
“It’ll be interesting for sure. What better way to argue with my father than on the political level?” Quiroa Jr. told The Associated Press. “He definitely is a very good motivator. Even if it’s to motivate to stop him.”
The father and son said they frequently talk about politics and have since the son was little. Quiroa Sr. ran for the same seat 14 years ago as a Republican and brought his son, the oldest of five children, along to gather signatures and knock on doors, they said. He didn’t win, but the experience left an impression on both of them.
When 2016 rolled around, Quiroa Jr. was finally old enough to vote for president. His candidate was Hillary Clinton. His father became an early and avid supporter of Trump.
Quiroa Sr. said he and his wife are “all the way for Trump,” but the rest of the family are “not happy.” Quiroa Jr., who’s running as an independent because of Trump’s affiliation with the Republican Party, points out the discussions in their family are not all that unusual.
“Unfortunately, most of our country is divided right now,” he said.
When the son heard his father was considering running for the seat, currently held by Democratic state Rep. Marvin Abney, he says he began thinking how important it is for young people to get involved in politics. Otherwise, things are not going to change.
His father didn’t take him seriously at first, he said.
“He thought I was kidding initially. He thought it was an empty threat. When he said he was going to go, I said I was going to go,” Quiroa Jr. said.
When the time came to drive to city hall to file papers, they went together.
“We definitely had a lot of surprised faces,” Quiroa Jr. said. “Everyone was smiling and laughing and saying ‘Oh, that’s so funny.’ They were all flabbergasted.”
Quiroa Jr. said his candidacy is not about Abney’s record, and he decided to be a candidate mostly because he wants to learn what it takes to run for office. Abney did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Quiroa Sr., who works in the Department of Senior Services in Cranston, was born in New York City but lived in Guatemala for several years as a child. Quiroa Jr. works as a bartender and food runner at a restaurant in Newport, where he has lived his whole life. In the coming days, they’ll both be working separately to get 50 signatures to qualify for the ballot.
Asked who he thinks his mother, Iris, is going to vote for, Quiroa Jr. called her a wild card.
“I would say maybe my father, but at this point since I’m in the mix, I don’t know,” he said. “She could surprise us all and vote for Abney.”
Reaching and listening across the divide
By Richie Davis
When 18 Leverett, Mass. residents launched their grassroots effort just after the 2016 election, they were struggling to understand how the political opposites of their town — where Donald Trump had gotten just 14.5 percent of the vote — could have chosen him for president.
Yet as a contingent from Letcher County, Ky. pulled into the western Massachusetts town for a four-day visit last October, “It was love at first sight,” one member of the Hands Across the Hills project recalled, although several of the 15 Kentucky visitors were among the 80 percent of Trump voters in their coal-mining county.
This Leverett-Letcher project has tried in a holistic, organic way to understand not just political motivations, but the Appalachian culture that seems at odds with that of the Northeastern liberals. There was a square dance, a quilting project, potluck meals and plenty of heart-to-heart conversation.
Led by Paula Green, who’s led “conflict transformation” efforts for decades in Bosnia, Rwanda and other trouble spots around the world, Hands Across the Hills has included more than a dozen hours of direct dialogue — last October in Leverett and then in April in Whitesburg, Ky. The exchange included home stays with participants and a “show and tell” of the cultural treasures of each group — like a visit to a Hazard County coal mine and a bakery to rehabilitate former inmates in the community.
The dialogues, deeply personal and direct, featured one Kentucky woman’s emotional sharing regret over an abortion she’d experienced and stories of family members who’d died in mining accidents, while some Leverett members recounted stories of relatives who’d died in or fled the European Holocaust — the first immigrant stories some Kentucky guests had encountered.
There were also stark differences, such as those over guns, and, of course, disagreements about Trump.
“I had always said if there’s a woman who runs for president, I don’t care who she is, I’m voting for her,” said one Letcher County woman. But Hillary Clinton “shot herself in the foot” with her comment on the campaign trail promising to “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.”
What seemed to matter more, though, were bonds over the opioid crisis in both regions, over the hopelessness among young people and the future of a nation where even observable facts themselves are contested.
Their ongoing cultural exchange is trying to reach understanding rather than allowing pundits and politicians to define who we are. By dropping into deeper listening and communicating from the heart, the groups haven’t changed each others’ minds. That was never the point.
Yet, despite participants sometimes speaking what seemed different languages— or at least clashing truths — by the end of April’s visit, some attitudes had softened.
Their dialogue continues online, with monthly calls on follow-up projects: a conversation over guns, a discussion with two African-American communities, and even working to nudge their diametrically opposed senators toward dialogue as well.
What began as trying to build understanding continues evolving into new territory: a theater collaboration and a youth exchange, plus a new initiative in Massachusetts itself to bring together divided groups.
The continuing conversation across the divide is slow, painstaking work requiring plenty of listening, and time to build trust — even as some media and politicians work to undermine cohesion and exploit fissures.
Critics and cynics may see this work as starry-eyed futility. Yet in the long run, there’s really no alternative if we’re to heal deepening divisions and weave together a United States again.
Richie Davis, distributed by PeaceVoice, is an award-winning journalist with 45 years experience whose reporting from Kentucky was supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
One-Third of Americans Don’t Believe 6 Million Jews Were Murdered During the Holocaust
Point: Chicken Little Meets the Welfare Queen — a Fairy Tale for 2018
January 16, 2018 by Rebecca Vallas
Remember the old story about Chicken Little, the perpetually terrified little chicken convinced the sky was falling, and that life as we know it (for us chickens, anyway) was coming to an end?
Republicans in Congress certainly do, because it’s long been their playbook on deficits.
Except in their version of the story, Chicken Little throws huge millionaire and corporate tax cuts at the sky to make it fall, thus manufacturing the “deficit crisis” he wants as cover for the next phase of the GOP’s Robin Hood-in-reverse agenda: slashing vital programs that help everyday Americans make ends meet.
Their deficit-exploding tax bill hadn’t even been signed into law before Republicans’ amnesiac cries about the deficit (that they suddenly remembered they’re supposed to hate) hit a fever pitch.
“We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit,” said Speaker Paul Ryan on a talk radio show in early December, as he was shepherding a tax bill that will add at least $1.5 trillion to the deficit toward final passage. The hypocrisy is so brazen, it would almost be admirable if it weren’t so nefarious.
It’s no mystery why Republicans adopted Chicken Little as their party’s mascot long ago. They know their best chance at cutting popular programs is to convince the public — and their counterparts across the aisle — that cuts are “unavoidable” in the name of deficit reduction.
Meanwhile, in a time-honored linguistic sleight of hand, they’re trying to smear everything from Medicaid to nutrition assistance to affordable housing programs as “welfare” in need of “reform.”
Make no mistake: Slashing Medicaid, Medicare, nutrition assistance, affordable housing, disability benefits and other programs that help families afford the basics isn’t “welfare reform” any more than giving huge tax cuts to billionaires and wealthy corporations is “tax reform.”
Rather, it’s part of a carefully calculated strategy to reinforce myths about who these programs help, complete with a trusty racist dog-whistle.
That’s also what’s behind their focus on work requirements — which have nothing to do with helping anyone work. (Spoiler: Taking away jobless workers’ health care, housing or food isn’t going to help them find work any faster.) It’s about making people who turn to public programs to make ends meet into modern-day welfare queens who “just don’t want to work.”
Ditto the GOP’s obsession with drug testing. (Spoiler: Public assistance recipients actually use illegal drugs at lower rates than their more well-to-do counterparts.) But hey, no better way to stigmatize people who turn to assistance than to make them all out to be “addicts.”
As with their deficit-scaremongering, they know their best chance of cutting popular programs is to reinforce ugly myths about the people they help — when in reality it’s most of us at some point in our lives. When wages aren’t enough. When we lose a job. When we can’t get enough hours at work. When we need to care for a sick loved one.
Case in point: Fully 70 percent of Americans will turn to a means-tested assistance program to make ends meet at some point during their lives.
If Republicans really wanted to see fewer people needing to turn to public programs to make ends meet, they’d embrace raising the poverty-level minimum wage, which has remained stuck at $7.25 an hour since 2009. In fact, raising the federal minimum wage just to $12 per hour would save a whopping $52 billion over the next decade, just in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly called Food Stamps) — because more low-wage workers would earn enough to be able to feed their families without food assistance.
But slashing critical programs has no more to do with “welfare reform” than it does with addressing the deficit Republicans claim to hate (when it serves them). Rather, it’s the latest chapter in the GOP’s quest to funnel money upward to themselves and their donor class — paid for on the backs of everyday Americans.
What they aren’t counting on this time around is the American people connecting the dots and seeing their craven hypocrisy for what it is — just in time for November’s midterm elections.
About the Author
Rebecca Vallas is the managing director of the poverty to prosperity program at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Counterpoint: It’s Long Past Time to Deal With Entitlements
January 16, 2018 by Charles Blahous
2018 is an election year, which means there are long odds against comprehensive entitlement spending reforms being enacted anytime soon. After all, there is a long, regrettable history of irresponsible campaign rhetoric on this subject, and it’s simply too easy to misattribute any near-term initiative to causes ranging from mean-spiritedness to ideological fervor to tax cuts. However, if one puts politics aside and looks only at the policy substance, there is no avoiding one clear conclusion: federal entitlement programs require reform, the sooner the better.
This need for entitlement reform has nothing to do with ideology and everything to do with simple math. Entitlement program finances are on an unsustainable path due to exploding cost growth. Lawmakers will have to correct this at some point, and the sooner they do, so the less painful the corrections will be.
The Congressional Budget Office projects that the largest single entitlement program, Social Security, will spend $988 billion this year, by itself far more than all non-military discretionary spending combined (and far more than all military spending as well). Social Security requires reforms to avert insolvency separate and apart from any effect it has on the larger federal budget. Each of the last two trustees’ reports, issued during different presidential administrations, has warned of this necessity in identical language: “Lawmakers should address these financial challenges as soon as possible.” The need to repair Social Security’s finances exists irrespective of any party’s political agenda.
The next-largest entitlement, Medicare — like Social Security — faces projected insolvency in its Hospital Insurance trust fund, a situation its trustees describe as a “substantial financial shortfall that will need to be addressed with further legislation,” best enacted “sooner rather than later to minimize the impact on beneficiaries, providers and taxpayers.”
Moreover, Hospital Insurance isn’t even the fastest-growing part of Medicare: its Supplementary Medical Insurance costs are greater and growing even faster, straining the federal budget and subjecting beneficiaries to rising premiums.
CBO has repeatedly found that runaway entitlement spending is at the root of worsening federal fiscal problems. The difficulty doesn’t originate on the discretionary (i.e., annually appropriated) spending side: such spending, including everything we spend on the military, has steadily receded from 13 percent of our GDP a half-century ago to just over 6 percent today. Nor does it have much to do with taxes, recent debates notwithstanding: revenue collections have fluctuated between 16 percent and 19 percent of GDP in most years.
The problem is with entitlements, which continually absorb an escalating share of economic output: roughly 5 percent of GDP 50 years ago, up to 13 percent today, and projected to hit 18 percent by mid-century — by itself, then spending more than 90 percent of projected federal revenue collections.
CBO projects deficits will reach catastrophic levels because spending growth will outstrip growth in federal revenues and in the underlying economy. CBO notes that non-interest spending growth is driven by “outlays for Social Security” and “the major health care programs,” which it defines as “Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, as well as subsidies for the health insurance bought through the marketplaces under the Affordable Care Act.”
The math is clear and unavoidable: Until spending growth in these programs is moderated, no other fix to our budget woes will hold.
CBO is by no means an outlier in attributing our fiscal problems to entitlement spending. In 2013 I published a comprehensive study of federal fiscal policy, finding that over three-quarters of projected budget deficits were attributable to legislation enacted between 1965 and 1972 to establish and expand various entitlement programs.
Not only has there been no legislative fix to these problems, we’ve moved in the wrong direction the last several years. The ACA, originally advertised as essential to moderating federal health cost growth, instead added to health spending. It also included a dramatic expansion of Medicaid in which the federal government is to pay 90 percent of the costs of care for the expansion population — not only an unsustainable but a grossly inequitable preferential treatment, relative to the 57 percent matching rate historically provided for Medicaid’s needier, previously eligible beneficiaries.
We also now know that the flawed design of various income security programs including the ACA is driving millions of individuals out of the workforce. Clearly, fiscal considerations aren’t the only reasons to reform entitlements.
Only a very wise politician knows when is the right time going forward to pursue entitlement program reforms. Economic policy experts, however, know it should have been done a long time ago.
About the Author
Charles Blahous holds the J. Fish and Lillian F. Smith Chair at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.