Op-Eds

Welcome to the ‘Second Tier’: US Failing Big League on Social Progress

by Jon Queally – Given its immense wealth, the United States is seriously underperforming. And its citizens are paying the price. Contrary to the mythological story known as “American Exceptionalism,” the United States does a poor job, according to a fresh analysis, of meeting even “the basic human needs of its citizens” and should now be considered a “second tier” country in terms of promoting social progress.   Released by the Social Progressive Imperative (SPI), the 2017 Global Social Progress Index reveals that the U.S. ranks 17th in the world when it comes to promoting the general welfare, coming in behind its Canadian neighbor to the north and far behind Scandinavian countries and the other social democracies of Europe. Of all countries, Denmark comes in first when it comes to providing for its citizens and fostering progress on various fronts. The Index, designed to offer “holistic” measurements of a country’s social...

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Senate’s Opioid Fund Cannot Substitute for Health Coverage

by Emily Gee and Richard G. Frank – The concerns of some Senate Republicans about making the opioid epidemic worse have spilled out of their secretive negotiations for repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), in the form of a fund to combat opioid addiction. A $45 billion fund in the Senate bill would reportedly be aimed at helping people with dependence on prescription opioids and illicit forms of the drug, but it would provide scant resources to address the epidemic. The fund also would not be able to undo the true costs of the repeal bill, would result in millions of Americans losing health insurance coverage, and could cause those still insured to lose access to substance use disorder treatment. There were 2.66 million people in the United States with an opioid use disorder (OUD) as of 2015. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 33,091 people died from an opioid overdose in 2015....

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Why Heller Matters

by acadia – I wasn’t expecting Nevada Senator Dean Heller to be the first senator to express real opposition to the Wealthcare bill.  While some think this is a ploy, Jon Ralston disagrees and says it is real. Ralston knows Nevada politics like no one else, and pretty much always gets it right. What adds weight to Ralston’s view is the way Heller presented his position — in Nevada at a press conference, with the governor at his side. This wasn’t some mealy-mouthed “I have concerns” mumble while sprinting down a hallway. Could he be flipped? Sure, but he’s given his opposition in 2018 a great big pile of video clips to use against him if he does back out. Honestly, what Heller did was genius. He really doesn’t want to be the deciding vote against the bill, and by being the first real vote in opposition, he won’t be. It’s the third real no...

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The Secret Republican Plan to Unravel Medicaid

by Robert Reich – Bad enough that the Republican Senate bill would repeal much of the Affordable Care Act. Even worse, it unravels the Medicaid Act of 1965 – which, even before Obamacare, provided health insurance to millions of poor households and elderly. It’s done with a sleight-of-hand intended to elude not only the public but also the Congressional Budget Office. Here’s how the Senate Republican bill does it. The bill sets a per-person cap on Medicaid spending in each state. That cap looks innocent enough because it rises every year with inflation. But there’s a catch. Starting 8 years from now, in 2025, the Senate bill switches its measure of inflation – from how rapidly medical costs are rising, to how rapidly overall costs in the economy are rising. Yet medical costs are rising faster than overall costs. They’ll almost surely continue to do so – as America’s elderly population grows, and as new...

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Wunderkind Jared Kushner Busy Blowing Up Israeli/Palestinian Talks

by durrati – Jerusalem Post A Palestinian official claims Abbas is furious at American demands, accuses the US of taking sides. “US President Donald Trump is reportedly weighing whether to pull out of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations following a “tense” meeting with White House senior staff and officials in Ramallah, according to London-based Arabic daily al-Hayat on Saturday.  The al-Hayat report came just days after a meeting between the administration’s senior adviser Jared Kushner and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, which was described as “tense” by an Abbas advisor present at the talks.  Abbas was supposedly furious with the president’s son-in-law after Kushner relayed Israeli demands to the 81-year-old Palestinian leader which included the immediate halt of payments to terrorists and their families.” Well, that’s a good start, Jared, blowing up the meeting with Abbas by presenting Israeli demands before the Maqluba can even be served. San Diego Jewish World has more details. “A meeting between Palestinian Authority President...

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Big Pharma Gets $28 Billion Tax Break in GOP Health Plan

by Will Rice – One of the few winners if this bill passes would be the nation’s pharmaceutical industry. There will be a lot of losers if the House GOP’s disastrous plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act ever becomes law: people with preexisting medical conditions, working families, older folks, kids. One of the few winners would be the nation’s pharmaceutical industry: $28 billion richer thanks to a big tax cut. The Senate is likely to keep this tax break in its version of the legislation. Do America’s drug makers deserve a $28 billion tax cut over 10 years, when the profits of the top 10 companies topped $83 billion last year alone, with the top 5 pocketing nearly $58 billion? Hardly. In fact, they need to start paying their fair share. The Republican plan passed by the House and endorsed by President Trump this spring would cost 23 million Americans their...

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I Spent 14 Months in Jail Because I Couldn’t Pay My Way Out

by Lavette Mayes and Matthew McLoughlin, Truthout | Op-Ed – This story is the eighth piece in the Truthout series, Severed Ties: The Human Toll of Prisons. This series dives deeply into the impact of incarceration on families, loved ones and communities, demonstrating how the United States’ incarceration of more than 2 million people also harms many millions more — including 2.7 million children. On any given day, more than 7,000 people are incarcerated at Chicago’s Cook County Jail. Stretching over 11 city blocks, Cook County Jail is the largest single-site jail in the United States. Ninety-five percent of the people locked up in Cook County Jail have not been convicted of a crime. They are incarcerated pretrial — and 62 percent of them are there only because they cannot afford to pay a monetary bond. In Cook County, bond court hearings last a mere 37 seconds on average. In that time, a judge makes bail...

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The Rise and Fall of ISIL Explained

Three years after Mosul takeover, here is a breakdown of ISIL’s path from its very beginnings to its current decline. Pushed out from many of its strongholds in Syria and besieged on all sides in the Iraqi city of Mosul, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIL, also known as ISIS) is losing its territorial base in the very region that once incubated its growth. In May, the US Defense Intelligence Agency estimated that ISIL has lost 65 percent of its land in Iraq and 45 percent in Syria since 2014. With the group’s presence in the region greatly diminished, questions arise over who will fill the vacuum left by its retreat. ISIL’s rapid expansion has irrevocably changed the political dynamics governing the region – but in order to know how, one must first understand the conditions that contributed to the group’s rise. Below, Al Jazeera charts ISIL’s path from its very beginnings to the slow rot of...

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Mueller v. Trump: The Ultimate Lawsuit

by STEVEN HARPER – Odds are that Trump will eventually fire special counsel Robert Mueller. Lawyer Steven Harper games out what would happen next. Eventually, Trump is likely to fire special counsel Robert Mueller. Trump’s repeated statements about the Russia “hoax” — along with his apparent attempts to influence the FBI’s investigation — warrant a close look at the process by which he could do so. Equally important are the limited ways to stop him. Whether by design, inadvertence or a combination of both, Trump and his minions — including Newt Gingrich and Trump’s lawyers — have been laying the groundwork for what could become America’s defining moment.   The Rules and the Players To stop the investigation, Trump’s cleanest path requires that one of his loyalists occupy a Senate-confirmed position in the Justice Department’s chain of command. With Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal, the power to end the inquiry has now landed in Deputy Attorney General...

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Trump’s Carrier Deal Falls Apart; Hundreds of Jobs Ship Off to Mexico, 600 to be Fired Next Month

by Jameson Parker – It was supposed to be Trump’s one, big win. Now it’s completely falling apart. The much-publicized deal to save American manufacturing jobs at the Carrier plant in Indianapolis is looking less like a feather in Trump’s cap and more like a black eye. The latest details out of the plant paint a grim picture for the employees who were told just months ago that they had been saved by Trump. According to a report by CNBC: More than 600 employees at a Carrier plant in Indianapolis are bracing for layoffs beginning next month, despite being told by President Trump that nearly all the jobs at the plant had been saved. The deal, announced with great fanfare before Trump took office, was billed not only as a heroic move to keep jobs from going to Mexico but also as a seismic shift in the economic development landscape. Nearly seven months later the...

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We Finally Know What’s Going to be in the Senate Version of Trumpcare — and it’s not Pretty

by Judd Legum – An ugly process begets an ugly bill. For weeks, Senate Republicans have negotiated their version of Trumpcare in near total secrecy. There have been no public hearings — just private meetings among a select group of Republicans about a bill that could reshape one-sixth of the American economy. For many Americans, the contours of the bill could be a matter of life and death. Text of the bill was released on Thursday, but key details began to leak Wednesday night (some from lobbyists who learned about the bill before the American people). Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is insisting on a vote before the July 4th holiday, which means everyone has a week to learn about this bill — including many of the senators who will be voting on it. So let’s get started. Here are the most important things you need to know. The bill would strip health care coverage from millions of low...

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Ossoff Moved the Bar 19.6% Toward the Blue, Here are the Republican Seats Within That Range

by pollwatcher – Price won GA06 by 23.4%, Handel won by 3.8%.  Ossoff moved the bar 19.6% toward the blue. Sure it hurts, but keep in mind the following Republican house seats that were won last Nov. and are within that 19.6% range. Florida District 16 Republican Party Vern Buchanan 19.5 Washington District 5 Republican Party Cathy McMorris Rodgers 19.3 Texas District 6 Republican Party Joe Barton 19.3 Illinois District 13 Republican Party Rodney Davis 19.3 New Jersey District 11 Republican Party Rodney Frelinghuysen 19.1 Texas District 22 Republican Party Pete Olson 19 Texas District 10 Republican Party Michael McCaul 18.9 Pennsylvania District 7 Republican Party Patrick Meehan 18.9 Illinois District 14 Republican Party Randy Hultgren 18.6 North Carolina District 6 Republican Party Mark Walker 18.5 Illinois District 6 Republican Party Peter Roskam 18.4 Ohio District 1 Republican Party Steve Chabot 18.4 California District 1 Republican Party Doug LaMalfa 18.1...

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Trump’s Trade Rhetoric Was Key to His Campaign. Now it’s Totally Incoherent

by Casey Quinlan – Trump has walked back most of his comments on trade. Trump appears to be ready to take major steps toward safeguarding the American steel industry, which has been threatened by foreign-made steel. But before your praise him for his trade policies, it’s important to look at the bigger picture. During his campaign, President Donald Trump focused on renegotiating NAFTA, labeling China a currency manipulator, and bringing back lost manufacturing jobs. Instead, Trump has backed away from some of his promises on China and NAFTA, and is taking on smaller efforts. If Trump moves ahead with protecting the domestic steel industry, it will be one of the few trade moves that would correspond with his campaign promises. But on the whole, Trump’s trade policy is completely incoherent. The Commerce Department has been considering whether steel imports are an economic security and national security threat. On Monday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur...

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GOP Cuts Critical Services to Pay for Wealthy Tax Cuts

by Frank Clemente – At a recent press conference at the U.S. Capitol, Marta Conner told reporters, “My daughter Caroline is alive because of Medicaid.” Caroline suffers from Rett Syndrome, a rare, debilitating neurodevelopmental disease that prevents her from using her hands, talking, and walking. Marta says that Caroline has roughly 90 seizures a year and relies on 10 medications. Without her medication, Caroline would have seizures every day. Caroline’s care requires hospital-grade equipment including a cough assist machine, a nebulizer, oxygen supplies, and help from nurses. Marta relies on Medicaid to pay for the substantial costs that her insurance doesn’t cover. So why would President Trump so cruelly threaten Caroline’s care and the care of millions of other Americans by drastically cutting Medicaid in his recently released budget? Sadly, there’s a simple explanation: he wants to give huge tax cuts to big corporations and billionaires like himself. It’s been widely reported...

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The Swift, Shocking Collapse of Theresa May and the Tories

by m2c4  – It is hard to believe but it was just two months ago that Theresa May called a snap election in the UK. With polls showing around a 20 point lead for Conservatives, the expectation was that May would solidify her “strong” leadership position for the difficult Brexit negotiations ahead, the Tories would get a 75 to 100 seat majority in the House of Common, and the resulting Labour party losses would put them into minority status for a generation to come. It didn’t quite work out that way. The election resulted in a hung Parliament. May and the Conservatives actually lost their 17 seat working majority and were forced to join with the anti-abortion, climate change denying Northern Irish DUP party in order to try and actually form a government. May, who had run as a “strong leader” that the UK needed to move forward for the next...

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Study Explores Democratic Party Divisions

by brooklynbadboy – Interesting new study comes to a few conclusions about the 2016 Democratic Party and its divisions. Essentially, the concludes that on values and policy, there is much overlap and cohesion. Democrats largely agree with an activist role for the federal government to intervene in both economic and social life in America. The one, glaring, massive division between the two wings of the party is on the issue of America itself. Clinton voters have much more confidence in the nation’s institutions, believe in its system of self-government, think opportunities exist for people like them. Sanders voters have little confidence in the economic and political system, believe it is fundamentally corrupt and rigged against people like them, and believe it beyond reform, requiring a sweeping political revolution: Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders had very different records over the years on economic policy, and their best-informed surrogates reflect that division. But a massive...

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ACLU Sues DC Police for Attempts to ‘Chill’ Dissent on Inauguration Day

by Jake Johnson – The suit claims D.C. police unlawfully arrested peaceful demonstrators and indiscriminately deployed tear gas and flash-bang grenades against journalists, legal observers, and crowds of protesters. Amid a nationwide crackdown on dissent by President Donald Trump and the Republican Party, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on Wednesday filed a lawsuit (pdf) against the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department alleging officers violated the rights of protestors and journalists attending Trump’s inauguration in January. “It is clear to me that the Metropolitan police came out on Inauguration Day intent on teaching demonstrators a lesson and chilling political speech in the nation’s capital.” —Scott Michelman, ACLU senior attorney The suit claims D.C. police unlawfully arrested peaceful demonstrators and indiscriminately deployed tear gas and flash-bang grenades against journalists, legal observers, and crowds of protesters. “In the course of the roundup and subsequent processing of demonstrators,” the organization claims, “police held detainees for hours without...

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Trump’s Ongoing Legal Troubles are Scaring Off Potential Candidates for Top Posts

by Yvette Cabrera – And those vacancies are becoming a serious safety and security concern. President Donald Trump’s volatile temperament, an intensifying investigation into his aides’ possible collusion with Russia, and his firing of FBI Director James Comey, have made it a challenge to recruit and fill top leadership posts across the government, according to the Washington Post. The cloud of uncertainty hanging over the Trump administration has complicated what the Post described as an “already slow pace” in filling the government’s top ranks. “Republicans say they are turning down job offers to work for a chief executive whose volatile temperament makes them nervous,” according to the Post, which interviewed 27 people — including federal officials, Republican party activists, lobbyists, as well as candidates who Trump officials have tried to recruit — as part of its investigation. The White House told the Post it doesn’t have a hiring problem, and blamed the slow pace on the vetting...

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Jon Ossoff Fails to Flip Georgia’s Sixth District

by Kira Lerner – But his supporters say the energy in his campaign isn’t going anywhere. As it became clear that Jon Ossoff would not flip the sixth, pave it blue, make Trump angry, or do any of what Democrats here have worked for in recent months, supporters at his election night party were still not ready to call it a loss. “This is what democracy looks like,” they chanted together. “In democracies, sometimes you lose,” one supporter said. Despite the outpouring of money (making this the most expensive House race in U.S. history), the national attention, and the tens of thousands of doors knocked, Ossoff was unable to flip the seat in the historically conservative district. When CNN projected Republican Karen Handel’s face onto the TV screen, the room fell silent. Some booed. Others headed for their cars. But mostly, supporters said they felt like they’d found a new, likeminded...

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Trump “Simply Doesn’t Care”: Six Members of HIV/AIDS Advisory Panel Resign

by Andrea Germanos – Final straw, they say, was president’s pushing of healthcare legislation that would deal devastating blow to HIV community.   Six members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS have resigned in protest saying that Donald Trump “simply does not care,” and that he is not only unaware of the continuing impact the epidemic has on communities but is supporting legislation that threatens to reverse recent gains. In a blistering op-ed published at Newsweek, Scott A. Schoettes, counsel and HIV Project Director at Lambda Legal, outlines the motivations that led him and five of his colleagues—Lucy Bradley-Springer, Gina Brown, Ulysses W. Burley III, Michelle Ogle, and Grissel Granados—to resign on June 13. The resignations come as Senate Republicans secretly hammer out their Affordable Care Act repeal legislation—a measure healthcare advocates fear will gut Medicaid, bringing drastic harm to people living with HIV. The council was established under the Clinton administration and is tasked with...

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