Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Sen. Bernie Sanders Responds To Pres. Trump

Senator Bernie Sanders recorded a 14-minute long video response to President Trump’s first address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday night.
“Tonight, President Trump once again made it clear he plans on working with Republicans in Congress who want to repeal the Affordable Care Act, throw 20 million Americans off of health insurance, privatize Medicare, make massive cuts in Medicaid, raise the cost of prescription drugs to seniors, eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, while at the same time, he wants to give another massive tax break to the wealthiest Americans,” Sanders said. ...“Let me be very clear in stating that I think those priorities are wrong.”
He also brought up the numerous contentious town halls that took place across the country recently.
“As a result, the Republicans are getting very, very worried,” he said. “They’re not so cocky anymore about simply repealing Obamacare. And they should be worried.”
Sanders also called upon Americans affected by the health care act to “keep showing up, keep calling Congress and continue the fight. The Republicans are now on the defensive, and we have to continue to push them back.”


Senator Bernie Sanders

Watch former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear deliver the "official" response to President Trump's first address to a joint session of Congress for the Democratic Party.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Democrats: Talk To Older Voters About GOP Plan To Repeal Medicare Benefits

The Affordable Care Act (ACA)  not only provides affordable access to health insurance for working-age Americans and their families, it also provides older Americans covered by Medicare and Medicaid a list of additional covered benefits. The ACA, a.k.a.Obamacare, improved Medicare coverage, boosted taxes and reduced program spending. Older Americans on Medicaid also would face a significant loss of benefits, because any effort to repeal Obamacare would affect the law’s major expansion of Medicaid, including how Washington pays states for administering the program.

For starters, the ACA greatly expanded the roster of tests and procedures that Medicare enrollees can get with little if any cost to make sure enrollees are healthy and to help them stay that way. Medicare’s list of so-called wellness provisions includes many items added by the ACA:
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm screening
  • Alcohol misuse screening and counseling
  • Bone mass measurements
  • Breast cancer screening (mammograms)
  • Cardiovascular disease (behavioral therapy)
  • Cardiovascular disease screening
  • Cervical and vaginal cancer screening
  • Colorectal cancer screening
  • Depression screening
  • Diabetes screening and self-management training
  • Glaucoma tests
  • Hepatitis C screening test
  • HIV screening
  • Lung cancer screening
  • Medical nutrition therapy
  • Obesity screening and counseling
  • Prostate cancer screening
  • Sexually transmitted infections screening and counseling
  • Shots (flu, pneumococcal, and Hepatitis B)
  • Tobacco use cessation counseling
  • “Welcome to Medicare” preventive visit
  • Yearly “Wellness” visit
Good health does cost money, of course, but so does having to treat people who have not been taking care of themselves. Perhaps all of these measures would survive the repeal process. However, considering that some of these benefits might disappear, Medicare enrollees ought to work with their doctors right now to make sure they’re taking full advantage of these wellness benefits.

Another main Obamacare feature has been its reduction in out-of-pocket spending in Part D Medicare prescription drug plans. This has been accomplished through the elimination of the so-called “donut hole” by 2020. Medicare says enrollees have saved more than $2,000 per person, on average, because of this single change.

It’s quite possible, of course, that the donut hole will be totally gone by the time the “replace” components of “repeal and replace” actually have taken effect. Given the shouts from both parties about high drug prices, it seems unlikely that Republicans would have much appetite for being tagged with efforts to make people spend more money on prescription medicines.

Obamacare’s other big Medicare impact came via financial improvements it put in place to help the program. It raised a bunch of taxes, including requiring high-income wage earners to pay higher Medicare payroll taxes and stiff premium surcharges for Medicare Part B and D premiums. Health providers and Medicare Advantage insurance plans were also willing to accept lower payment levels from Medicare in exchange for the law’s provisions that would expand their access to more insurance customers.

Before the passage of the ACA, the Medicare trust fund that pays claims for Part A hospital and nursing home expenses had been projected to run short of funds by 2017. The ACA has pushed that date out more than 10 years.

Republicans reportedly want to do away with many of these taxes. Unless other funding streams are created to replace them, the longer-term finances of the program would be at greater risk. Ironically, these actions would “force” Republicans to cut health care spending to curb runaway deficits.

As actual GOP plans come into sharper focus, sharp Medicare battle lines will form for politicians and the public alike.  Expect the proposals to come coated in friendly sounding packages that tout health care improvements. But it will be crucial to look inside the packages to get an understanding of whether the Medicare program that would emerge from their enactment is one you want to have.

READ MORE: How plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act could affect Medicare

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Race For DNC Chair Tightens

New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley announced Saturday he has decided to withdraw his bid to be the Democratic Party's next national chairman and back Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison to lead the party.
"While it was a tremendous honor to run for DNC Chair over the past few months, I am proud to throw my support behind Keith so we can ensure that the next Chair of the DNC is dedicated to investing in and strengthening state parties and ensuring that the DNC is an accountable organization," New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley said in a statement today. "As I've talked to the DNC membership, it's clear Keith has widespread support, and I know as our next DNC Chair Keith will successfully unite and grow our party."

Ellison said he is "proud" to have Buckley's support. He added that he asked Buckley to "lead our effort to provide the support and resources the state parties need in a new and innovative 57 state strategy." (There are 50 state parties and seven in the territories and the District of Columbia.)
Ellison has the backing of many Democratic Party leaders, including U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (MA), Tammy Baldwin (WI), Amy Klobuchar (MN), Al Franken (MN),  and numerous other party leaders including members of Congress and state Democratic Party leaders.

CNN announced Friday it will host a debate next week for the candidates running for chairman of the Democratic National Committee. The event in Atlanta is being called "Debate Night: Democratic Leadership Debate" and is scheduled for Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET, just days before Democratic officials vote on a new chairman at the DNC's meeting in the same city Feb. 23-26.
"CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash and New Day anchor Chris Cuomo will moderate the primetime event live from the CNN Center in Atlanta, Georgia just days before the Democratic Party chooses a new national leader," the network said in a press release. "The candidates will debate their visions and strategies for the 2018 midterm elections, how to rebuild the Democratic Party and the role of the DNC under the Trump administration."
Since mid-January, the DNC chair candidates have participated in four "DNC Future Forums," the last of which was last weekend, as well as several additional forums host by various activist groups.

More:

Monday, February 13, 2017

DNC Chair Candidate Forum In Baltimore

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) held it's fourth and final regional day long 'Future Forum' in Baltimore last Saturday, in advance of its February 23rd-26th meeting to elect new party leadership. As with the first three forums, DNC Chair candidates, DNC members, guest speakers, and other Democrats discussed how the party goes forward after losing to Republicans, over the last 8 years, more than 1,000 state and federal level legislative and executive branch seats held by Democrats.  

Ten candidates for DNC chair lined up on stage for 90 minutes to discuss their views on how the party goes forward:
  • Sally Boynton Brown, Executive Director of the Idaho Democratic Party
  • Ray Buckley, Chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party
  • Pete Buttigieg, Mayor of South Bend, Indiana
  • Keith Ellison, U.S. House of Representatives, Minnesota 5th District
  • Jehmu Greene of Texas, Democratic strategist, Fox News political analyst, and former Rock The Vote president
  • Jaime Harrison, Chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party
  • Tom Perez, 26th United States Secretary of Labor
  • Peter Peckarsky, a Wisconsin attorney and Democratic progressive activist
  • Sam Ronan of Ohio, activist and Air Force veteran
  • Robert Vinson Brannum, Veterans Committee chair of the NAACP’s Washington D.C. branch
When they meet on February 23–26, 2017, the 447 members of the Democratic National Committee will elect a new Chairperson and other party officers.
The DNC chairperson candidates offered opinions during their 90 minute discussion forum on why over 1,000 of the party's incumbent office holders lost elections to Republicans during the 2010 - 2016 election years.

GOP Bill To Repeal ACA - Obamacare

Republicans in the House (Tea Party) Freedom Caucus voted among themselves Monday night to band together and support only a 2017 Affordable Care Act (ACA) "Obamacare" repeal bill that is at least as comprehensive as the repeal bill passed by the Republican controlled House and Senate in 2015.
“If it’s less than the 2015 [bill], we will oppose it,” Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) told a small group of reporters Monday night.
By insisting the 2015 repeal bill effectively be copied as the initial 2017 repeal bill, the GOP again confirmed the party's hard line intent to repeal affordable healthcare for millions of Americans.

The 2015 ACA repeal bill was passed by the Republican controlled House and Senate in late 2015, but was not signed by President Barack Obama when it reached his desk in January 2016.

The 2015 repeal bill rolled back Medicaid expansion funding to pre-2010 levels and ended the mandate for businesses over a certain size to offer group health insurance to employees along with the subsidies that helped pay for the mandated insurance, plus more...

Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) Repeal Bill of 2015 (December 7, 2015 @ healthaffairs.org).


Arctic Sea Ice Volume Collapsing

Polar weather has been far warmer this winter than any winter on record, shocking scientists who are watching sea ice volume decline to record lows for the date. Winds have driven large amounts of the oldest ice out of the Arctic while the weather has been far too warm for months for the ice to thicken like it normally does by February. And now the north pole is fifty degrees F above normal. Again.

Read the full story at Daily Kos:

Saturday, February 11, 2017

8 In 10 Americans Support Social Security

AARP: Fifty-five million working Americans do not have a way to save for retirement out of their regular paycheck. With many American workers anxious about their financial security, there is strong support among conservatives and private sector workers for policies that would make it easier for workers to save for retirement, according to a new AARP survey.

The nationally representative survey of private sector workers ages 18-64 shows that 8 in 10 (80%) support state-facilitated plans designed to help employees save their money for retirement. There is also broad agreement among American workers of all races, ethnicities, and political ideologies that elected officials should help small businesses offer their employees an easy way to save for retirement.

Other key findings from the survey include:
  • Three in four (74%) private sector workers feel very or somewhat anxious about having enough money to live comfortably through their retirement years. Just a quarter say they are not anxious. Anxiety is high among all racial groups, with large majorities of Latinos (77%), whites (74%), African Americans (73%), and Asian Americans (70%) all saying they are anxious they will not be able to financially support a comfortable retirement.
  • Eighty-three percent (83%) agree elected officials should do more to make it easier for workers to save for retirement.
  • Eighty-one percent (81%) of political conservatives agree that elected officials should do more to make it easier for workers to save for retirement, as do eighty-six percent (86%) of moderates, and eighty-nine percent (89%) of liberals.
  • Eighty-four percent (84%) of private sector workers age 18-64 say elected officials should make it easier for small businesses to offer their employees a way to save for retirement.
  • Seventy-six percent (76%) or three in four political conservatives agree that elected officials should make it easier for small businesses to offer retirement plans to their employees, as do about four in five moderates (85%), and liberals (90%).
This survey was conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago with funding from AARP. Data were collected using AmeriSpeak®, NORC’s probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. household population including the 50 states and the District of Columbia, and a supplemental address-based sample from TargetSmart. Interviews for this survey about retirement security were conducted online and via phone between November 1, 2016, and January 16, 2017, with 3,920 adults ages 18-64 employed in private sector industries. Interviews were conducted in English, Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese, and Chinese.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Republicans Looking For Obamacare Replacement Should Work With Democrats


NY Magazine: "The Republican Party, faced with the catastrophic real-world consequences of repealing the Affordable Care Act, is divided over how to proceed. Some nervous Republicans want to figure out what they want to put in place of Obamacare.

Senator Mike Lee insists that Republicans repeal Obamacare first, before they decide on an alternative. And his reason is straightforward: If people saw the Republican alternative, they might not like it! “There is a lot less agreement about what comes next,” he tells Julie Rovner. “If we load down the repeal bill with what comes next, it’s harder to get both of them passed.”

A Republican ad promises, “Health insurance that provides more choices and better care at lower costs, provides peace of mind to people with preexisting conditions … House Republicans have a plan to get there, without disrupting existing coverage.”

But when people find out what Republicans plan to put in place of Obamacare they will see the Republican "Repeal and Replace" ads were less than empty promises. It's time for Democrats to promise their "replacement" for Obamacare - Medicaid for All.


Congressman John Conyers (D-MI) has introduced his bill, The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act," in every Congress since 2003. It is co-sponsored by more than 50 Members of Congress and support continues to grow. If Republicans want to repeal and replace Obamacare, tell them to replace it with Medicare for All.

Rep John Conyers: "Half a century ago, addressing the convention of the Medical Committee for Human Rights, Martin Luther King Jr. declared, "Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane."
"I strongly agree with Dr. King, which is why I have been a firm supporter of President Obama’s landmark Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA has resulted in 17.6 million uninsured people gaining health coverage as the law’s coverage, and minorities have seen the largest increase in insurance coverage: About four million Latino adults gained coverage, an 11.5% drop in the uninsured rate, while nearly three million African-Americans gained insurance, a 10.3% reduction. Another seven million white adults became insured, representing a 6% drop.

But there is still much more to be done to eliminate injustice in health care in the United States, while making our system more cost-efficient. The United States still spends almost twice as much per person on health care as any other country, yet our key outcomes – life expectancy, infant mortality and preventable deaths – too often lag behind our peers. A recent Commonwealth Fund study ranked the U.S. healthcare system dead last among 11 highly developed countries in terms of quality, efficiency and access to health care.

That is why I am leading the charge in the House of Representatives for single-payer, universal healthcare system.  By implementing a “Medicare for All" system – the standard for health care throughout the industrialized world – we can achieve hundreds of billions of dollars in cost savings that can be used to cover the nation's remaining uninsured and upgrade coverage for millions of underinsured citizens. More and more people across the country understand that a single-payer healthcare system is the only way to guarantee quality care and at the same time reduce medical costs. A poll from [date] showed that more than half of Americans -- including 80 percent of Democrats and a quarter of Republicans -- support expanding health reform to "Medicare for All."

That is why I have introduced my bill, The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, in every Congress since 2003. It is co-sponsored by more than 50 Members of Congress and support continues to grow. "

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Sanders And Cruz Debate Healthcare Repeal For American Workers

Senators Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz debated the future of health care in the US Tuesday night. The town hall debate highlighted some of the issues surrounding the GOP's committment to repeal the Affordable Care Act -- a sweeping health care law that diectly covers some 20 million Americans as well as who have health insurance through their employers. The evening began with each lawmaker laying out starkly different views of the controversial law.

"If you are one of 20 million Americans who finally has received health insurance, forget about it -- you're gone," Sanders warned about repealing Obamacare. "That means when you get sick, you ain't gonna be able to go to the doctor. And when you end up in the hospital, you'll be paying those bills for the rest of your life, or maybe you'll go bankrupt."

Cruz, a Texas Republican who made his name in national politics by fiercely opposing the health care law, said former President Barack Obama made a series of promises that were broken.

"If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor ... Millions discovered that was not true," Cruz said.



Related:

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Democrats Framing The Story Of Us?

The Story of Us by David Leonhardt - NYT Op-Ed Columnist

If any number of things had gone the other way — James Comey, Russian interference, a less distrusted nominee — the Democrats might now be starting their third straight term in office. And of course Hillary Clinton did win the popular vote, by no small margin.

So I understand why many sober Democrats have urged the party not to exaggerate the political lessons from the 2016 election. But it would also be a mistake to underreact.

Presidential politics are, by far, the party’s strong suit — and it still couldn’t beat Donald Trump. In addition to the White House, Republicans hold the House, the Senate and about two out of every three governorships and state legislatures.

Monday, February 6, 2017

GOP Use Double-Speak To Hide Gutting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid

LATimes: Politicians aiming to cut Social Security and Medicare use weasel words to hide their plans. Let's call them on it.

In this era in which the Orwellian manipulation of language by politicians to say the opposite of what they mean has reached a fever pitch, we should be especially wary when conservatives hide their plans to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits behind a smokescreen of euphemism.

Jared Bernstein, a fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and a former chief economist to Vice President Joe Biden, has put in a plea to journalists to call out policy makers when they pull this stunt—and not to empower politicians by doing the same thing.

Read the full story at the LATimes.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

DNC Chair Candidate Forum In Detroit

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) held it's third of four 'Future Forums' in Detroit Saturday, giving DNC members and other Democrats a chance to speak about how the party goes forward after losing to Republicans, over the last 8 years, more than 1,000 state and federal level legislative and executive branch seats held by Democrats.

The Detroit forum event began at 9 a.m. Saturday and continue throughout the day, featuring guest speakers and candidates for the several DNC leadership positions, including the candidates for DNC chair:
  • Sally Boynton Brown, Executive Director of the Idaho Democratic Party
  • Ray Buckley, Chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party
  • Pete Buttigieg, Mayor of South Bend, Indiana
  • Keith Ellison, U.S. House of Representatives, Minnesota 5th District|
  • Jehmu Greene, Political Analyst
  • Jaime Harrison, Chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party
  • Tom Perez, 26th United States Secretary of Labor
  • Peter Peckarsky, a Wisconsin attorney and Democratic progressive activist
  • Sam Ronan of Ohio
  • Robert Vinson Brannum, Veterans Committee chair of the NAACP’s Washington D.C. branch
When they meet on February 23–26, 2017, the 447 members of the Democratic National Committee will elect a new chair.

Regional forums with DNC chair candidates have already been held in Phoenix and Houston, and another forum is scheduled for Feb. 11 in Baltimore. Click here to view the recorded live streams of the Detroit, Phoenix and Houston forums.
United Steelworkers Local 1999 President Chuck Jones told attendees of the Detroit Future Forum gathering of Democrats Saturday working class Americans need to be brought back in the fold of the party, arguing that President Donald Trump convinced many likely Democratic voters to switch sides in 2016.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

GOP Agenda To Cut Seniors' Healthcare


Republicans working to repeal the Affordable Care Act are working to stick it to one of the most important voting blocks within the GOP base - Senior Citizens. Based on exit polling, many of the demographics that would be hit hardest by the repeal voted for Trump in the presidential election.

A sizable minority of Americans don’t understand that Obamacare is just another name for the Affordable Care Act, according to a Morning Consult survey. In the survey, 35 percent of respondents said either they thought Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act were different policies (17 percent) or didn’t know if they were the same or different (18 percent). This confusion was more pronounced among people age 18 to 29 and those who earn less than $50,000 — two groups that could be significantly affected by repeal.

Among Republicans, a higher percentage (72 percent) said they knew Obamacare and the A.C.A. were the same, which may reflect the party’s longstanding hostility to the law. Though Republicans were more likely to know that Obamacare is another name for the A.C.A., only 47 percent of them said expanded Medicaid coverage and private insurance subsidies would be eliminated under repeal (compared with 79 percent of Democrats), while 29 percent said Medicaid and subsidies would not be affected and 24 percent said they didn’t know. A large block of Republican voters do not understand repealing Obamacare will affect the popular provisions of the A.C.A. AARP is working to change that political equation.

AARP, the nation’s largest organization of senior citizens, with a membership of 38 million older Americans age 50 and older, announced Monday it was launching a comprehensive campaign to protect Medicare and Medicaid from the GOP's chopping block. Repealing "and replacing" the Affordable Care Act also takes big bites out of Medicare and Medicaid.
“The average senior, with an annual income of under $25,000 and already spending one out of every six dollars on health care, counts on Social Security for the majority of their income and on Medicare for access to affordable health coverage,” wrote AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins in a recent letter to Congress. “We will continue to oppose changes to current law that cut benefits, increase costs, or reduce the ability of these critical programs to deliver on their benefit promises. We urge you to continue to do so as well.”
The GOP's wish list for radical restructuring America's Social Security, Affordable Care, Medicare, and Medicaid benefit programs will literally destroy the quality life earned by America's retired seniors. Here are just two examples of how the GOP's restructuring goals will hit seniors hard with their repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act. One of those proposals would relax or eliminate the ACA’s “age bands” cap. The other would transform Medicaid into a so-called block grant.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Democrats Must Build A 21st Century Party

Robert Reich isn’t the only person to notice that the Democratic Party is in dire straits. All the Democrats in the running to be the Democratic Party's next leader are saying it too.

The former Secretary of Labor and UC Berkeley professor wrote an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle to confront the party with seven hard truths. His conclusion, if they don’t deal with these realities, is harsh: a third party is going to form that will replace them.

Here are those seven realities:

BlogTalkUSA: Eyes Wide Open DemBlogTalk - 01/31/2017

Listen to this week's BlogTalkUSA.com "Eyes Wide Open DemBlogTalk" talk radio program cohosts Rheana Nevitt Piegols and Michael Handley and their guest Bruce Horst discuss affordable healthcare as the moral choice for Christians. With Republicans about to repeal the Affordable Care Act — labled Obamacare by Republicans — Bruce steps forward from the ranks of Christian Evangelicals to say his fellow Evangelicals have driven him from the church over their stance Christians must oppose legislation that extends healthcare to the poor and children and other Americans denied healthcare because of financial barriers or preexisting health conditions.
Bruce Horst, a former Conservative Evangelical Christian from Texas, caught our interest when he took to Facebook about 2 weeks ago to brilliantly call out his former Conservative Evangelical Christian brethren for cheering the idea of 20 million people losing their health insurance! You will not want to miss this interview that starts at the 30 minute time mark of the recorded program!

Dems to David Brock: Stop Helping, You Are Killing Us

As David Brock attempts to position himself as a leader in rebuilding a demoralized Democratic Party in the age of Trump, many leading Democratic organizers and operatives are wishing the man would simply disappear.

Brock’s political evolution is well-known: the former anti-Clinton right-winger who starting in the late 1990s transformed into a relentlessly pro-Clinton Democratic operative who operates Media Matters for America as well as the American Bridge and Correct the Record super-PACS.

Brock's Correct the Record PAC operation coined and pushed the "Bernie Bros" bashes against supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign, trolling them with that meme on social media. Clinton's supporters quickly shared Brock's Bernie Bros memes, virally pushing them into the primary's discourse.

Brock's PAC operation also published opposition articles and ads against Sanders and Donald Trump's GOP opponents during the 2016 primary cycle. Some of the "bad blood" still circulating between Sanders and Clinton supporters tracks back to Brock's less than factual negative attack campaign against Sander and his "Bernie Bros" followers during the primary. Another of Brock's primary goals was to help Trump win the GOP nomination on the theory Trump would be the weakest general election candidate against Clinton.

The friction between Brock and Democrats is widespread among alumni of Senator Bernie Sanders' and President Obama’s campaigns and White House, as well as Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 run. They all say they want Brock to stay far away from the Democrats’ future plans.

“I don’t think David Brock has been helpful to the party to date, and I don’t think he will be a big part of its future,” a former senior Clinton campaign official told The Daily Beast.

Another senior 2016 Clinton aide, who asked not to be named because the ex-staffer did “not want to deal with Brock’s bullshit,” described Brock and his organizations in 2016 as “useless—you might as well have thrown those [tens of] millions of dollars down a well, and then set the well on fire.”

Bottom line, what Democrats across the board seem to be saying about David Brock is, with friends like him, who needs enemies.

Read the full article at the Daily Beast: Dems to David Brock: Stop Helping, You Are Killing Us

Saturday, January 28, 2017

GOP Hit Seniors With Higher Healthcare Costs

NPR: Republican lawmakers meeting in Philadelphia this week say they want their replacement of Obamacare's Affordable Care Act to be done by spring. There is no consensus on a plan yet, but several Republicans in Congress have already circulated proposals that could reduce or eliminate features of the federal health law that have benefited older Americans. Here are some examples:

Prescription drugs

The Affordable Care Act expanded Medicare's prescription drug benefit. Before the ACA, people on Medicare had to deal with a gap in that insurance coverage that came to be known as the doughnut hole. That's the point at which Medicare would stop paying part of the cost of drugs, and beneficiaries would have to buy them at full price. Then, when the patient's out-of-pocket costs reached a level deemed to be "catastrophic," Medicare would start paying most of the cost of the drugs again.

A 2011 study from the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that when patients had to pay full price, they'd skip some of their prescribed medications — and that could, potentially, result in sicker patients and higher costs for Medicare.

Gradually, the ACA has been closing the doughnut hole coverage gap. According to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, beneficiaries have saved more than $23.5 billion in prescription drug costs. It's unknown if this program would be maintained in a Republican plan that replaces the ACA.

Medicaid

Medicaid is commonly thought of as the program that provides health care for the poor. But it also pays for long-term care for a lot of older people, including the majority of nursing home residents.

One idea in some of the Republican proposals for replacing the Affordable Care Act is to turn Medicaid from a guaranteed benefit into a block grant to states. States would get a fixed amount of money from the federal government, and could make their own decisions on how to spend it.

That's an idea that's been popular for some time among conservatives such as House Speaker Paul Ryan. They argue that states know their needs better than Washington does, and the block grant would give states flexibility in meeting those needs.

Critics fear this could do away with many protections that federal law currently provides for vulnerable older people. They also worry about what might happen in an economic downturn, when the demand for Medicaid goes up, but the amount of federal money allocated for it stays the same. For example, would states have to choose between cutting services for poor children versus cutting programs for the frail elderly?

Limiting the cost of insurance premiums for older adults

Before the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies could charge people in their 50s and 60s many times more than they'd charge a younger person for the same policy. The affordable care act put a limit on that. Now Insurance companies can only charge older people three times as much as they charge people a few decades younger. But the various GOP replacement proposals either set higher limits — five or six times higher — or they don't have any limits at all.

A study sponsored by the Rand Corporation and the Commonwealth Fund found that if older Americans were charged five times more for insurance than younger people, about 400,000 would no longer be able to afford to buy health insurance.

Friday, January 27, 2017

GOP Looking For A Healthcare Strategy

The Washington Post has obtained a secret recording of a closed-door meeting between Republican lawmakers – and it reveals them expressing serious doubts about how they are going to live up to their promises to the American people of getting rid of Obamacare, while at the same time initiating a replacement without creating chaos.

In the recording, a number of concerns were raised, but chief among them was how they were going to do this in a way that wouldn’t hurt them when the next election comes up.

What’s most striking about the conversations, however, was that key Republicans admitted that they didn’t know what to do as far as a replacement plan is concerned.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

But Clinton Won By 2.86 Million Votes

Democrats who are having trouble moving on from the first stage of grief — denial — over Hillary Clinton's loss to Donald Trump still defend the loss by saying, "but Clinton won by 2,864,974 votes nationwide, even if she did lose the electoral college vote." But a critical look at the numbers reveals a national problem for Clinton, and Democrats in general.

Clinton’s 2.86 million-vote edge came from but 489 of our 3,144 counties. In 2016, 209 of the 676 counties that cast majorities for Obama in both 2008 and 2012 backed Trump, many in the Midwest. The space between is best measured by economics. The 16 percent of counties supporting Clinton account for 65 percent of our GNP, and their median home price is 60 percent higher than in counties carried by Trump.
It was Obama voters who didn't vote in 2016, or who voted for Trump, who “put Trump over the top in Michigan and possibly Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. If Trump produces, they’ll reward him with a second term. If he doesn’t — and he needs to create lots of high-paying jobs in the face of automation and a global economy moving in other directions — then they’ll be ripe to come home to the Democratic Party — if Democrats give them an appealing nominee.”
The state that gave Trump his largest margin of victory was Texas, where he beat Clinton by only 807,179 votes out of 8,969,226 total votes cast. While Trump won 30 states, his margin of victory ranged from less than 100,000 votes up to just over five hundred thousand votes, state by state, except for Texas and his 642,000 vote margin in Tennessee.

Clinton won 21 states, including DC, but her margin of victory in the states she won was not as good as Trump's victory margin, in the states he won.
Ave. margin of victory in winning states:
Trump: 56%
Clinton: 53.5%
_________________
Trump: + 2.5 points
Clinton's national vote lead comes from seven states where she won very out-sized victories over Trump. These seven states, topped by California, allowed Clinton to run up her popular vote victory by 2,864,974 votes. In fact, Clinton loses by 1.4 million votes when California's vote tallies aren't included as part of the national aggregate of votes.

State Clinton Trump Win
Margin
CA 8,753,788 4,483,810 4,269,978
NY 4,547,218 2,814,346 1,732,872
IL 3,090,729 2,146,015 944,714
MA 1,995,196 1,090,893 904,303
MD 1,677,928 943,169 734,759
NJ 2,148,278 1,601,933 546,345
WA 1,742,718 1,221,747 520,971
California is the only state where Clinton's margin of victory was bigger than President Obama's in 2012 — 61.5% vs. Obama's 60%. Clinton got 6% more votes than Obama did In 2008, but the number of registered Democrats in the state climbed by 13% over those years.

What's more telling is the GOP won almost all of the swing state Senate elections, including a robust showing in the diverse swing state of Florida, and a blowout in crucial Ohio.

In the U.S House distributed national aggregate of votes, Republicans topped Democrats by more than 2.7 million votes, nearly equaling Hillary Clinton's national popular vote total.

Clinton's 2016 loss culminates a trend of losses for Democrats over multiple election cycles. Democrats lost another net 43 seats in legislatures across the country in 2016, after previously losing 910 seats during Obama's administration. Republicans added to their historic 2014 gains in the nation’s state legislatures with the addition of five state House chambers and two state Senate chambers in 2016.


Democratic Decline Down Ballot

The economically ascendant counties Clinton won, largely urban and suburban, are geographically isolated. Democrats occupy archipelagos — islands of the relatively privileged surrounded by what has become, to them, an unknown largely rural land, in which less educated and more aggrieved voters dog paddle to survive. The counties that switched their votes from voting twice for Obama to Trump were far smaller, whiter, and slower-growing than the rest of the Obama coalition. The population of counties that flipped to Trump was 78% white. But individual voters in those counties that flipped didn't switch from Obama to Trump, for the most part they just didn't vote for Clinton or they voted for a third party presidential candidate.

The growing economic disparity among voters aggravates a growing “despair gap” of in equality. A study by the Center for American Progress found a direct correlation between the percentage of “underwater” homes and counties that voted for Trump. Similarly, a sociology professor at Penn State found Trump fared better in counties where the mortality rates caused by drugs, alcohol, and suicide were highest. What issued from Trump’s America was a desperate and angry cry for economic help.

After the 2016 election, Republicans are now in control of a record 67 (68 percent) of the 98 partisan state legislative chambers in the nation, more than twice the number (31) in which Democrats have a majority, according to the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Republicans hold more total state legislative seats in the nation, well over 4,100 of the 7,383, than they have since 1920. Democrats now have total control of just 13 state legislatures.


States With Unified Party Control

Republicans gained 2 more states' governor-ships in 2016, after already gaining 12 over the last 8 years, increasing its total to 33, a record high last seen in 1922. Democrats had also lost 69 US House seats and 13 US Senate seats since 2009 and barely managed to stem further losses in 2016, with only a net two seat gain in the U.S. Senate resulting in a 52-48 Republican majority, and net six seat gain in the U.S. House, resulting in a 241-194 Republican majority.

Number of electoral votes won:
Trump: 306
Clinton: 232
_________________
Trump: + 68

Popular vote total:
Trump: 62,958,211
Clinton: 65,818,318
_________________
Clinton: + 2.8 million

Popular vote total outside California:
Trump: 58,474,401
Clinton: 57,064,530
_________________
Trump: + 1.4 million

More:


Daily Kos Federal and State District Returns by State

Who Put Trump in the White House?

Kim Moody, a co-founder of Labor Notes and author of “In Solidarity: Working-Class Organization and Strategy in the United States,” published a tough critique of Democratic mistakes and misguided strategy, beginning long before 2016, in a Jacobi Magazine article, "Who Put Trump in the White House? The Democratic Party has been collapsing for years, but no one noticed before Trump came along."

“While there was a swing among white, blue-collar and union household voters to Trump, it was significantly smaller than the overall drop in Democratic voters,” writes Moody.  Moody blames a reduction in direct door-to-door human contact campaigning with lower-income voters in favor of purchased media forms of campaigning, including TV ads, for falling turnout for Democrats.

Democrats purport to be the party that champions improved living standards for working people, but they have been unable to deliver in recent years, owing increasingly to the Republican’s strategy of all-out obstruction. Moody explains “centrist liberalism” is a doomed philosophical foundation for Democrats because it is associated with the Party’s failure to produce needed economic reforms.

Many in the Democratic Party are coming to grips with the reality that voters increasingly reject centrist public policies Democrats have been promoting, legislating, and campaign on for two decades.

Democrats lost another net 43 seats in legislatures across the country in 2016, after previously losing 910 seats during Obama's administration. Republicans added to their historic 2014 gains in the nation’s state legislatures with the addition of five state House chambers and two state Senate chambers in 2016.

Republicans are now in control of a record 67 (68 percent) of the 98 partisan state legislative chambers in the nation, more than twice the number (31) in which Democrats have a majority, according to the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Republicans hold more total state legislative seats in the nation, well over 4,100 of the 7,383, than they have since 1920. Democrats now have total control of just 13 state legislatures.

Republicans gained 2 more states' governor-ships in 2016, after already gaining 12 over the last 8 years, increasing its total to 33, a record high last seen in 1922. Democrats had also lost 69 US House seats and 13 US Senate seats since 2009 and barely managed to stem further losses in 2016.

Moody concludes, "Democrats are going to need a much bolder economic strategy that acknowledges the failures of the past and points the way to a more robust advocacy of the kind of economic agenda that empowered the campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders. Democrats should not allow the Trump Administration to claim ownership of a massive investment in infrastructure upgrades and twist it into another corporate raid on the federal treasury. Instead, revitalizing America’s crumbling infrastructure should be the signature project of the Democratic party, and protecting the integrity of it, is the central challenge of the next few years."

Read the full article at Jacobin

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

BlogTalkUSA: Eyes Wide Open DemBlogTalk - 01/24/2017

Listen to BlogTalkUSA.com "Eyes Wide Open DemBlogTalk" talk radio program cohost Rheana Nevitt Piegols and special guest cohost for the evening Texas Young Democrat Michael Messer discuss standardized testing in Texas public schools, charter school vouchers and much more... Program recorded live on Tuesday January 24th, at 8:30 PM CST.

Standardized Testing Overwhelming Texas Public Schools


A standardized test is a test that is administered and scored in a consistent, or "standard", manner. Standardized - one size fits all - tests are theoretically designed in such a way that the questions, conditions for administering, scoring procedures, and interpretations are consistent and are administered and scored in a predetermined, standard manner.

The chief indicator by which most public schools and educators are judged today is student performance on standardized tests. If a school's standardized test scores are low, the school's teachers and staff are judged to be ineffective.

Standardized test scores are what state legislators who allocate public school funding today rely on to evaluate public school performance levels. Test scores determine not just how much funding public school districts and individual schools within districts get, but which public schools are allowed to stay open and which are closed and then turned over to charter school corporations to operate.
Test scores are also used to hire, fire, and compensate teachers. Today, 35 states require teacher evaluations to include these scores as a factor—and many states have introduced new tests just for this purpose. Test scores are also used to determine whether students can move on to middle and high school, be admitted to Honors and AP programs, and graduate from high school.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Republicans Plot Deep Cuts To Seniors' Social Security Retirement Checks

Republican Rep. Sam Johnson (R Tx.), the chairman of the Ways and Means Social Security subcommittee announced in December his "plan to permanently cut save Social Security."

Johnson's Social Security Reform Act of 2016 (H.R. 6489) includes cuts Republicans have been impatient to enact for decades. Johnson bill violates candidate Donald Trump's firm promise to protect the program.  But members of President Trump's new administration are not only on board with the Republican plan to cut Social Security benefit checks, they strongly favor privatizing Social Security.

Johnson has led Republicans on the Social Security subcommittee for a decade, so it’s not surprising that the bill is made up of a lot of ideas they have supported in the past. Johnson's Reform Act proposes 15 changes. Of those, 10 have impacts under 0.10 percent of funding. Many are considered "negligible." The big cuts come in three provisions of Johnson's bill:
  1. Raise the retirement age from 67 to 69 for Americans who are currently 49 or younger
  2. Change the Primary Insurance Amount (PIA) benefit formula that determines the size of a retiree’s initial payments
  3. Change the method for calculating inflation so the program's cost of living adjustments rise according to chained CPI, a far less generous metric than the current law’s inflation index. 
Other cuts come in the form of means-testing requirements, or on limits on what spouses or other auxiliary beneficiaries can receive.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

March Then Act!

Those who participate in protest marches must take the next steps to define actual demands and priorities for candidates to take to voters in 2018-20. They must work every day to help those candidates win their elections. It can be done. If you don't think it can, just remember the tea party did it during the last President's first mid-term in office.

But without a path from protest to power, the Women's March will end up like Occupy. It is exciting when a protest meme leaps from social networks to the streets, capturing the imagination of millions. But it is all too easy to succumb to the false hope that a big splashy protest march is a transformative tsunami that leads to ballot box victory on election day. A big splashy protest march is only the first step on the long and often difficult road to winning elections.

Democrats have about 90 weeks until early voting starts for the Nov 2018 election. Activists at the county and neighborhood levels must work every week to identify every Dem leaning voting age citizen, documenting their contact and demographic info. As Democratic leaning people are identified, county level organizations must plan and execute programs that build relationships with those people to make them an active part of the Democratic base.

Those programs must be designed to invite that disconnected part of the electorate to participate in regular conversations at house and town hall meetings, and on social media. Democrats must do old fashioned base building work, and learn how to combine Internet and mobile communication with those traditional community organizing activities to accomplish that mission.
In the realm of political plays, it does seem that the most important number for Democrats in the near term is Democrats need gain only 24 U.S. House seats to be the majority in that chamber.

As the majority party, Democrats can block legislation, conduct investigations, and more to limit the GOP agenda, and perhaps set the stage for bigger gains in 2020. It's do-able in a wave year - maybe a pro-women wave election year.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

DNC Chair Candidate Forum Live Stream


When they meet on February 23–26, 2017, the 447 members of the Democratic National Committee will elect a new chair. They will signal whether or not the party will boldly begin to transform itself back into the party of New Deals and Great Societies sought by the new generation of Democrats. Those 400-plus voting members of the DNC must take stock of the need to strike a bold new direction to reverse the party's losses.

This group of DNC voting members is dominated by state party chairs and political appointees, and overlaps substantially with the super-delegates from the 2016 Democratic primary. Party insiders estimate that roughly two-thirds of the DNC members supported former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) during that race.

Democrats lost another net 43 seats in legislatures across the country in 2016, after previously losing 910 seats during Obama's administration. Republicans added to their historic 2014 gains in the nation’s state legislatures with the addition of five state House chambers and two state Senate chambers in 2016.

Republicans are now in control of a record 67 (68 percent) of the 98 partisan state legislative chambers in the nation, more than twice the number (31) in which Democrats have a majority, according to the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Republicans hold more total state legislative seats in the nation, well over 4,100 of the 7,383, than they have since 1920. Democrats now have total control of just 13 state legislatures.

Republicans gained 2 more states' governor-ships in 2016, after already gaining 12 over the last 8 years, increasing its total to 33, a record high last seen in 1922. Democrats had also lost 69 US House seats and 13 US Senate seats since 2009 and barely managed to stem further losses in 2016.

And Democrats face a more challenging election map in 2018 than they faced in 2016. Survival of the Democratic Party is literally on the line.

There are now seven declared candidates for the 2017 Democratic National Committee chairmanship election:
  • Sally Boynton Brown, Executive Director of the Idaho Democratic Party
  • Ray Buckley, Chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party
  • Pete Buttigieg, Mayor of South Bend, Indiana
  • Keith Ellison, U.S. House of Representatives, Minnesota 5th District|
  • Jehmu Greene, Political Analyst
  • Jaime Harrison, Chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party
  • Tom Perez, 26th United States Secretary of Labor
All seven DNC Chair candidates will participate in a panel discussion forum on the future of the Democratic Party on Monday, January 23 at 7 p.m. in Washington, DC at George Washington University, hosted by Democracy in Color. You can view the forum via live stream. (View Recorded Live Stream Video.)

Watch FB live stream video of the five candidates already running for DNC Chair address committee persons at the Texas State Democratic Executive Committee (SDEC) meeting on Saturday, December 17, 2016.

Click Here to watch Huffington Post's January 18th DNC candidate forum live stream video.

Guide to the Candidates (Information from candidates’ campaign websites.)


Friday, January 20, 2017

BlogTalkUSA: Eyes Wide Open DemBlogTalk Inauguration Special

Join BlogTalkUSA.com "Eyes Wide Open DemBlogTalk" talk radio program cohosts, Rheana Nevitt Piegols and Michael Handley for an inauguration special program Friday evening at 9:00 PM CST. Together with Texas Young Democrats Kristi Lara and Kevin Numerick, Rheana and Michael will talk about Obama and Trump, Democrats going forward, and the GOP agenda to repeal Affordable Healthcare, gut Social Security, gut Medicare, gut Medicaid, scrap the Paris climate agreement, privatize public education, outlaw contraceptives, privatize our national parks and more...  We invite our listeners to call in and share their thoughts as we say goodbye to President Obama and look ahead to the GOP agenda.

Listen to BlogTalkUSA's special "Eyes Wide Open DemBlogTalk" program with Michael Handley and Rheana Nevitt Piegols at 9:00 PM CST, Friday, January 20th, by phone at (515) 605-9375. Press 1 to ask your question, make a comment, and share your thoughts!

Click this link to listen:
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/blogtalkusa/2017/01/21/eyes-wide-open-demblogtalk-inauguration-special

Download/subscribe to podcasts of our weekly "Eyes Wide Open - DemBlogTalk" program at iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/blogtalkusa/id968994409

Listen to BlogTalkUSA "Eyes Wide Open DemBlogTalk" with Michael Handley and Rheana Nevitt Piegols every Tuesday evening at 8:30 PM CST by phone at (515) 605-9375. Press 1 to ask your question, make a comment, and share your thoughts! Use this link to listen online: BlogTalkUSA.com.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Economics of the Affordable Care Act

Any effort to replace the Affordable Care Act will be confronted by the same structural imbalances in the health care economy that the legislation’s authors faced.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), which President-elect Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress have vowed to repeal, was crafted to overcome two basic problems in the provision of health care in the United States. First, the costs are incredibly skewed, with just 10 percent of patients accounting for almost two thirds of the nation’s healthcare spending. The other problem is asymmetric information: Patients have far more knowledge about the state of their own health than insurers do. This means that the people with the largest costs are the ones most likely to sign up for insurance. These two problems make it impossible to get to universal coverage under a purely market-based system.

The problem with the skewing of health care costs is that while most people’s health spending is relatively limited, it remains very expensive to provide care for the costliest 10 percent. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services projects that per capita spending on health care in the US will average $10,800 in 2017. But the cost for the most expensive 10 percent of patients will average $54,000 per person, compared to an average of just $6,000 for everyone else. The cost for the healthiest 50 percent of patients averages under $700 per person.

Covering the least costly 90 percent of patients is manageable, but the cost of covering the least healthy 10 percent is exorbitant. Very few people could afford to pay $54,000 a year for an individual insurance policy. Furthermore, if insurers were to set their premiums in accordance with overall averages, they could anticipate a skewed patient pool. The more healthy half of the population, with average costs of less than $700 a year, would either limit their insurance to catastrophic plans that only cover very expensive medical care, or go without insurance altogether.

Click here to read the rest of the story:

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Majority Support Paris Climate Agreement

A Washington Post-ABC News poll found Americans, by a 56-31 margin, want the U.S. to stay in the pollution-cutting pact. Another poll found 61 percent, counter to Trump, want the EPA's powers strengthened or preserved.

Donald Trump prepares to take office this week with an overwhelming majority of Americans saying in a new poll they don’t want him to carry out his campaign pledge to “withdraw” the U.S. from the international Paris Climate Agreement.

Fifty-six percent oppose withdrawal from the agreement, which was endorsed by 195 nations in 2015 and aims to shift humanity’s production of energy sharply away from fossil fuels, according to the Washington Post-ABC News poll, published today.

Even Most Republican Voters Say Government Has Responsibility For Healthcare

For Democrats, public policy for using the federal government to make affordable health care available to American workers is an election winner! More than eight-in-ten Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (85%) say the federal government should be responsible for health care coverage, compared with just 32% of Republicans and Republican leaners.

Democrats can win by promising American workers a Medicare-for-all "public option" health care coverage. As the debate continues over repeal of the Affordable Care Act and what might replace it, a growing share of Americans believe the federal government has a responsibility to make sure Americans have health care coverage, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

AARP: GOP Plan To Convert Medicare From “Defined Benefit” To “Defined Contribution” Program

As news of Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s proposed conversion of Medicare from a “Defined Benefit” to a “Defined Contribution” program spreads, it is stirring fears among the 57 million beneficiaries who rely on it to cover prescription drugs, doctor visits and hospitalizations. Democrats and consumer groups, including AARP, have pledged their opposition Ryan's plan.

Ironically, Ryan is proposing to convert Medicare into the very system he is rushing to repeal — the Affordable Care Act (“ACA” or “Obamacare”) — but without its protections, such as the requirement that private insurers cover those with pre-existing conditions.

Ryan claims that the ACA must be killed quickly because “we have to bring relief as fast as possible to people who are struggling under Obamacare.” Out of one side of his mouth, he asserts that young, healthy Americans are struggling to buy private health insurance, even though the government provides them with subsidies to help with the cost and requires that they can’t be turned down because of pre-existing conditions. Out of the other side of his mouth, Ryan claims that seniors and people with disabilities will be just fine with a government provided subsidy in the form of a voucher, and no other protection!

In a special report, AARP details what the state of Medicare is today and provides what you need to know about the upcoming debate in Washington over the nation’s most important health care program:
A Battle Looms by Bill Walsh