POTUS trashes Medicare


Staff & Wire Reports

President Donald Trump waves upon arrival at the White House in Washington, early Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018, from a trip to Omaha, Neb. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

President Donald Trump waves upon arrival at the White House in Washington, early Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018, from a trip to Omaha, Neb. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Trump trashes Democrats’ Medicare for All plan in op-ed


Associated Press

Wednesday, October 10

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is stepping up his attack on Democrats over a health care proposal called Medicare for All, claiming it “would end Medicare as we know it and take away benefits that seniors have paid for their entire lives.”

Trump, omitting any mention of improved benefits for seniors that Democrats promise, writes in an op-ed published Wednesday in USA Today, “The Democrats’ plan means that after a life of hard work and sacrifice, seniors would no longer be able to depend on the benefits they were promised.”

But Medicare for All means different things to different Democrats. The plan pushed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who challenged Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, would expand Medicare to cover almost everyone in the country, and current Medicare recipients would get improved benefits. Other Democratic plans would allow people to buy into a new government system modeled on Medicare, moving toward the goal of coverage for all while leaving private insurance in place.

Trump’s column comes as he is looking to paint Democratic candidates as extreme ahead of next month’s midterm elections. A White House official speaking to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity to describe internal plans said that Trump’s health care attack will be echoed by the Republican National Committee and other GOP groups and that the president will continue to raise the attack during his campaign rallies.

Sanders responded Wednesday in a statement, saying Trump “is lying about the Medicare for All proposal” that he introduced.

“No, Mr. President. Our proposal would not cut benefits for seniors on Medicare. In fact, we expand benefits,” Sanders said.

As Trump escalates his efforts on behalf of fellow Republicans, he is casting health care as one of an expanding list of choices for the electorate this year while seeking to raise the alarm about the consequences of Democratic control of the House or the Senate.

Medicare for All, also called single-payer over the years, was until fairly recently outside the mainstream of Democratic politics, but this year it has become a key litmus test in many party primaries and a rallying cry for progressive candidates. Under the plan by Sanders, all Americans would gain access to government insurance with no copays or deductibles for medical services.

Republicans contend that the proposal would be cost-prohibitive and argue it marks government overreach.

Trump has already sought to paint Democrats as extremists after the bitter confirmation battle over Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and internal GOP polling obtained last month by the AP shows that the party believes the message will help galvanize Republican voters to the polls.

At a rally in Iowa on Tuesday, Trump argued that the only reason to vote for Democrats “is if you are tired of winning.” He will be holding a rally in Pennsylvania on Wednesday evening.


Traumatizing Kids Out of Sight Is Just As Bad

We no longer see the images on TV every night, but it’s still happening.

By Jim Hightower | October 10, 2018

In June, our immigrant-bashing president ordered an end to his own warped policy of forcibly tearing terrified migrant children from the arms of their asylum-seeking parents. “I didn’t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated,” Trump declared

Yeah. It’s “bad optics,” as PR consultants call scenes of such thuggishness.

So the president — and the rest of us — no longer have to witness nightly TV coverage of shrieking toddlers being taken from their parents and hauled off to federal warehouses. But putting it out-of-sight doesn’t mean the depravity has ended.

Some 500 of the 2,900 children who were snatched last spring are still in government custody, scared that they’ll never see their parents again and traumatized by the uncertainty of what’ll happen to them.

Worse, more refugee children are being incarcerated every day as they seek asylum from the horrors of rapacious gang wars and abject poverty in their Central American homelands. More than 12,000 migrant children are now out-of-sight and out-of-mind in our government’s warehouses, military bases, and sprawling “tent cities.” And Trump is requesting money to lock up another 20,000 children.

All this trauma and cost is the result of the Trumpeteers’ inhumane and failed “zero-tolerance” policy of jailing children — even babies — in hopes of scaring other refugees from seeking asylum in our land of opportunity.

They created this humanitarian crisis. And rather than ending it by rushing in hundreds of lawyers and judges to process the asylum requests, Trump and his rabidly anti-immigrant ideologues are taxing us by building more jails for refugees, while also openly violating the law that says immigrant children can’t be locked up for more than 20 days.

For more about Trump’s sick and sickening policy, contact Kids in Need of Defense: www.SupportKind.org.

Jim Hightower, an OtherWords columnist, is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown. Distributed by OtherWords.org.

The Conversation

Resistance is a long game

October 10, 2018


Paul Steege

Associate professor of history, Villanova University

Disclosure statement

Paul Steege does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

What does resistance really look like?

In the United States, at least since November 2016, the idea of resistance seems to reflect a broadly imagined popular opposition to the presidency of Donald Trump.

At best that sentiment shows up in thousands of grassroots organizations that have taken to the streets or organized on behalf of local political candidates. At worst it functions as little more than the latest lifestyle brand.

Since The New York Times published an op-ed by an anonymous author declaring “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration,” many commentators have weighed in about the extent to which the actions described in the piece rise to the level of “resistance.”

The anonymous op-ed writer, who claims membership in the resistance, projects an expectation, or perhaps a hope, that he will be able to claim, after the political “wars” over Trump have ended, a position of admirable rectitude.

Once the Trump administration comes to an end, this “quiet resistance” will no longer be necessary, since, as the op-ed writer asserts, these actions will have “preserved America’s democratic institutions.” Politics will be back to normal. Resistance, in this formulation, rights what is wrong.

As a historian of everyday life in 20th-century Germany, I approach the question of resistance with a rather different perspective, one that sees collaboration and resistance as two sides of the same coin. Even ardent anti-Nazis could act in ways that abetted the exercise of Nazi power.

Resistance or complicity – or both?

The writer Sebastian Haffner, who fled Germany for England in 1938, described how Nazi stormtroopers confronted him in a Berlin library in March 1933.

When they asked him if he was an Aryan, Haffner answered, “Yes.” In retrospect, he believed his reply indirectly validated their question and thus facilitated Nazi efforts to eject Jews from the library.

Even if Haffner’s complicity was unintentional, his failure to speak out publicly on behalf of those whose humanity the Nazis denied helped that argument carry the day.

Nazi Germany was hardly a hotbed of resistance. Unlike Haffner, most Germans accommodated themselves to the Nazi regime and fought on its behalf until the bitter end of World War II.

Ordinary people may have pushed back against the regime in small ways, whether by telling political jokes or surreptitiously listening to foreign radio broadcasts. But they only rarely challenged the legal and political structures on which the regime’s genocidal violence depended.

It is hard to distill people’s actions down to their moral or political essence, because those actions take place within a social, economic and political context of which these individual actors are also an integral part.

Was the decision by a socialist politician in Berlin to purchase a shop owned by a Jewish acquaintance an act of humanity that helped that person escape Nazi tyranny or an act of complicity that facilitated Nazi efforts to “Aryanize” the German economy? The fact that it was probably both helps to explain why it proved politically contentious in Berlin’s city assembly after World War II.

Resistance as alibi

Following the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945, German politicians could point to examples of German resistance to repudiate international assertions of German “collective guilt.” It took the combined forces of the Soviet Red Army and the Western Allies to bring down the Nazi regime. But the existence of a few heroic resisters gave credence to the idea of another Germany, one that could safely play a role in postwar socioeconomic and political reconstruction.

Although the July 20, 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler has become the iconic example of heroic German resistance against the Nazi regime, it was not always a comfortable reference point. Well into the 1950s, many citizens of the new West German democracy still found these officers’ wartime repudiation of their oath to Hitler to have been an act of treason.

Now, the German Resistance Memorial Center is housed in the former offices of the Army High Command. In the building’s courtyard, a memorial statue and plaque mark the spot where Claus von Stauffenberg, the officer who placed the bomb that failed to kill Hitler, was summarily executed.

Yet this resistance story is complicated, too. Many of the plotters were German nationalists, skeptical of democracy and initially enthusiastic about Germany’s military successes.

Musical echoes

While in Berlin in the mid-1990s, I attended one of the annual commemorations of the failed 1944 assassination attempt. When a German military band played the German national anthem in the courtyard where von Stauffenberg was shot, I couldn’t help but hear the text of the original (and now banned) first stanza: “Deutschland, Deutschland über alles,” a 19th-century fantasy of national expansion that subsequently provided a soundtrack for Nazi imperial visions.

In my mind’s ear, “Germany, Germany over everything” overwhelmed the replacement text celebrating unity, justice and freedom.

And that’s really the point. The modern German army, the Bundeswehr, may now celebrate the July 20 plotters who turned on Hitler. But that celebration nonetheless sounds the strains of military complicity that made that sort of resistance necessary in the first place.

Ultimately, the Nazi regime depended on Germans’ willingness to deny the humanity of those it deemed outside the German “national community.”

To the extent that people inside and outside of Germany openly acknowledged and defended that humanity – often at fatal cost to themselves – they resisted the Nazi state’s fundamental aims.

Those resisters nonetheless failed to bring down Hitler or halt his genocidal project. So those who long for a heroic resistance should remain cautious about the possibility that such a project will produce short term political transformation. But they did save individual lives, and the ongoing effort to master the German past has provided vital means to interrogate the present.

From my perspective as a historian, I believe a contemporary call to resist the long-running practices of dehumanization in American politics and society should strive to hold the Trump administration and its enablers accountable.

But, as the example of Nazi Germany suggests, it is also important to recognize that resistance is not about declaring victory following a return to political normalcy. Germany’s effort to wrestle with the sources and aftermath of the Nazi regime, including Germans’ role in abetting or resisting its crimes has lasted more than 70 years.

In the United States, too, resistance can define itself as an ongoing project, not something that comes to an end with the Trump presidency.

Before the hashtag #Resist, the campaigns for “Black Lives Matter” and “Me Too” bore public witness to what those movements recognized as the systematic inhumanity in American society. That’s a historical legacy that goes far beyond the Trump administration.

If would-be resisters confront the historical sources and contemporary legacies of American inequality and exploitation, they can create an enduring legacy.

McConnell to AP: Gender gap hurts GOP but Kavanaugh helps


Associated Press

Wednesday, October 10

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged Wednesday that Republicans have a longstanding gender gap when it comes to American women, but he stood by one key Senate woman, saying “nobody’s going to beat” Lisa Murkowski of Alaska despite her opposition to Brett Kavanaugh.

In an Associated Press interview, McConnell took issue with President Donald Trump, who has said Alaska voters “will never forgive” Murkowski and that she’ll “never recover” politically after bucking her party on Kavanaugh last week.

The GOP leader told the AP he doesn’t think the acrimonious battle over confirming Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court amid sexual misconduct allegations made the gap in which Republicans trail Democrats in support among women any worse. But he didn’t say that was such great news.

“I don’t see how it could be much wider than it already was,” he said. “We’ve always had that,” though in general “it clearly is wider than it used to be.”

On a positive note for his party, he said he expects the Kavanaugh confirmation fight and approval to provide an “adrenaline shot” of GOP enthusiasm at the polls. Heading into the November midterms, the party is defending its House and Senate majorities. Only six of the 51 Republicans in the Senate are women.

The GOP leader said it’s not that there aren’t enough Republican women running, but that they don’t win their elections the way Democratic women do.

“It’s a great frustration,” he said.

The 76-year-old McConnell, who’s been in the Senate since 1985 and majority leader since 2015, said one change he’s hoping to see is on the Senate’s Judiciary Committee.

The all-male line-up on the Republican side drew attention during the confirmation hearings for Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual misconduct in high school and college. He has denied the allegations.

McConnell said he’s hoping to persuade more Republican women to join the committee but hasn’t had much success in the past because “they just haven’t been interested.”

As for the accusations against Kavanaugh, he said he found Christine Blasey Ford’s account of her sexual assault “convincing” but noted that there had been no corroboration.

Alaska Sen. Murkowski was the only Republican who voted against advancing Kavanaugh’s nomination to a full roll call, and she voted “present” on the final tally. Trump has said Alaskans will make her pay.

However, “Nobody’s going to beat her,” McConnell said. He noted that Murkowski won election on write-in votes in 2010 and said, “She’s about as strong as you can possibly be in Alaska.”

The GOP leader also split from Trump to defend Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, whom the president accused of leaking a private letter from Ford, the California professor who accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault when they were teens.

“I haven’t criticized Dianne,” McConnell said.

When Trump made his case against Feinstein at a rally Tuesday night, the crowd in Iowa chanted “lock her up.” Feinstein has denied that she or her staff released the private letter.

However, McConnell has been highly critical of what he calls the “mob” of protesters who swarmed the Capitol confronting senators over the Kavanaugh vote.

Asked if he considered the crowd at Trump’s rally also a mob, McConnell said: “I’m not interested in talking about tweets or what people may say at rallies.”

Facing the prospect of a tough midterm election that could sway control of the House, McConnell warned that Democrats will pay a political price if they win and then use their majority to dig into investigating Trump next year. He says it would backfire and help Trump in 2020 the way President Bill Clinton’s impeachment cost Republicans two decades ago.

“I think it’ll help the president get re-elected,” he said. “This business of presidential harassment may or may not be quite the winner they think it is.”

If control of Congress does split, he envisions a Republican Senate majority keeping full-throttle on confirming the president’s nominees — including another Supreme Court pick if there’s a vacancy on the high court. He bemoaned what he considered Democrats tying the Senate in knots with procedural votes on less controversial executive branch nominations.

“Far be it from me to complain about obstruction, I’ve done my share of it. But never just kind of mindless obstruction,” he said.

One key nomination could be for a new attorney general if the president fires Jeff Sessions, as has been hinted, after the midterm elections.

McConnell declined to weigh in on a possible replacement except to say he or she would not be coming from the ranks of his slim 51-seat Senate majority. Republicans Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John Cornyn of Texas have been among those mentioned.

“It’s not going to be from our caucus, I can tell you that,” he said.

He also said he had little information about special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, but hopes it wraps up soon. “I don’t know a thing,” he said.

Questioned if the Senate leader should play a bigger role pushing back against Trump’s more combative rhetoric on minorities and other groups at a time of steep polarization, McConnell dismissed the need for such interventions.

“It’s not my job to do a routine sort of daily critique of the president’s observations,” he said. “I speak up when I think it’s necessary.”

The GOP leader downplayed the notion of a Senate that has become broken by deep partisanship and touted the accomplishments of this Congress as some of the most substantial ever.

He’s expecting a “relatively lively” lame duck session after the election and did not shy away from a possible federal government shutdown over funding for Trump’s border wall. He suggested it would be modest since Congress has already provided year-long funding for some 75% of federal operations.

“That episode, if it occurs, would be in the portion of the government we haven’t funded,” he said. “We’re committed to helping the president try to get the wall funding.”

McConnell is also preparing for his own re-election in 2020 and, if he is successful, staying on as GOP leader.

He said his approval rating has almost doubled since the Kavanaugh confirmation.

Associated Press writers Matthew Daly, Mary Clare Jalonick and Padmananda Rama contributed to this report.


Virginians Show the Real Face of Poverty

Over 40 percent of Virginians struggle to get by — a problem made worse by voter suppression and military-first spending priorities.

By Saurav Sarkar | October 9, 2018

On a recent night in Richmond, Virginia, speaker after speaker came forward to talk about the multidimensional reality of poverty. The setting was a hearing held by the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.

“I’ve been working for years as a professional and I don’t earn a living wage,” said Joyce Barnes, a home health care worker based in Richmond. “It hurts. It hurts so much.”

She described how she gets no sick days or vacation days, and can’t take a day off to spend with her grandchildren. She owes a hospital thousands of dollars for medical bills even though she now has insurance.

“Don’t be fooled by a false narrative about us,” added Abbie Arevalo-Herrera, an undocumented immigrant who fled life-threatening circumstances to come to Virginia. “We are families surviving and struggling to make a decent life with many fears and hardships — economic, racial, language, health, transportation, housing, among others.”

Other speakers spoke about imposition of a fracking pipeline in their neighborhood, the murders of black people by police officers, and the impact of military spending on Virginia’s population.

These stories were not isolated examples. Together, they tell a complex story of how poverty operates in Virginia and beyond.

An analysis of Census data by the Institute for Policy Studies shows that a stunning 43 percent of people in the state are poor or low income — that’s 3.5 million residents. This includes more than half of all children in the state and almost 60 percent of Virginians of color.

Over 6,000 people are homeless in Virginia, according to the federal government, and more than 800,000 people lack health insurance by the Kaiser Family Foundation’s count. Medical expenses are a leading cause of poverty according to most data.

Tied to the lack of economic power is the suppression of political power of marginalized populations.

As the Brennan Center notes, Virginia is one of numerous states that’s implemented voter suppression measures. Virginia requires a photo ID to vote, which can put voting out of reach for many poor people, students, elderly people, or people of color.

And according to the Sentencing Project, black residents are incarcerated — and therefore denied their right to vote — at five times the rate of white residents of Virginia. There’s been some progress made in restoring the right to vote of Virginians with criminal convictions, though the disparities in incarceration remain.

Because so many Virginians don’t have a voice at the table, tax dollars — both state and federal — consistently address the wrong problems.

Instead of promoting green jobs and measures to improve the well-being of low-income residents like the 114,000 veterans living under $35,000 a year, more money is spent on the defense industry in Virginia by the federal government — $42.7 billion — than in any other state except California.

According to the National Priorities Project, Virginia’s contribution to the country’s endless wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and beyond totals $137.2 billion since 2001. That money could instead have created 1.85 million new jobs in clean energy, or placed every Virginian child in Head Start early childhood education programs.

By drawing attention to these issues, the Poor People’s Campaign did a public service. Without swift and direct action to correct course, Virginia — and every other state facing similar problems — risks leaving even more residents like Barnes and Arevalo-Herrera behind.

It’s time for the Old Dominion, and the United States, to chart a new course.

Saurav Sarkar is the research coordinator of the Poor People’s Campaign at the Institute for Policy Studies. Distributed by OtherWords.org.

The Conversation

Being born in the wrong ZIP code can shorten your life

October 10, 2018


Jessica Young

Assistant Professor of Health Studies, American University

Disclosure statement

Jessica Young does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Newly released data on life expectancy across the U.S. shows that where we live matters for how long we live.

A person in the U.S. can expect to live an average of 78.8 years, according to the most recent numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

However, life expectancy varies widely across geography. A child born in Mississippi today could expect to never reach his or her 75th birthday. But a child born in California, Hawaii or New York could expect to reach their expect to live into the early 80s.

At the neighborhood level, these differences are sometimes even more drastic, appearing even when communities are only a few miles apart. In Washington, D.C., for example, people living in the Barry Farms neighborhood face a life expectancy of 63.2 years. Yet, less than 10 miles away, a baby born in Friendship Heights and Friendship Village can expect to live 96.1 year, according to CDC data.

Just 10 miles represent a life expectancy difference of almost 33 years, a generation lost due to premature deaths. Overall, any two census tracts in the U.S. can differ in expected life expectancy by 41.2 years, a staggering range. These missing lives have important social and economic costs, for families, communities and workplaces.

The opioid epidemic and increases in suicide rates are partially responsible for premature deaths and a decline in life expectancy, especially among working-class, middle-age whites. But these causes fail to explain long-standing differences in life expectancy across place, race and class.

Neighborhoods with large black populations tend to have lower life expectancies than communities that are majority white, Hispanic or Asian. Such racial differences reflect the places in which different races live, not the individual characteristics of people themselves. Research shows that black communities are less likely to have access to resources that promote health, like grocery stores with fresh foods, places to exercise and quality health care facilities. This is true even in middle-class neighborhoods.

These communities also have less opportunities for economic prosperity, with higher unemployment rates and fewer opportunities to work and quality education, all of which shape health outcomes across a lifespan.

How well a place is doing economically affects how long people who live there can expect to live. Places that are economically distressed, for example, tend to have the lowest life expectancies. As new research from the Census Bureau and researchers at Harvard and Brown universities shows, children from places that are economically disadvantaged tend to have worse outcomes as adults.

People who earn less also tend to die sooner. One study from Raj Chetty, a leading researcher on economic opportunity and health, and colleagues suggests that lower incomes are associated with shorter lifespans in the U.S. Income is not distributed evenly across the country. Uneven income patterns may reflect unequal public investments in social programs that help people earn more, like education.

Place, race and class shape how well, and how long, people live. But state and local governments could play a role in increasing life expectancies. Research shows that where local government spending is higher, life expectancies increase among those with lower incomes.

From my perspective of a public health researcher, investments that could improve health behaviors – such as building grocery stores, increasing exercise opportunities and discouraging smoking – could also increase life expectancy. Policies that promote economic prosperity and address the impacts of racial segregation – such as investments in quality education, safe and affordable housing, and improved public transportation – could also help.

Life expectancy is not the only or the best way to measure health and well-being in the U.S. But it is a good way to measure the country’s progress toward good health for all populations, regardless of where they live.

President Donald Trump waves upon arrival at the White House in Washington, early Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018, from a trip to Omaha, Neb. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/10/web1_121541232-f3582279e39d45b4ba140fa1e1f800b2.jpgPresident Donald Trump waves upon arrival at the White House in Washington, early Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018, from a trip to Omaha, Neb. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Staff & Wire Reports