The Senate voted largely along partisan lines (10/19) to make the massive cuts in Medicaid and Medicare that they need to pay for a massive tax for millionaires, billionaires and corporations.

“At a time of massive income inequality, this budget provides $1.9 trillion in tax breaks for the top 1%,” argued Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). “This is not a bad budget bill, it is a horrific budget bill.”

The budget cuts include $1 trillion from Medicaid and $473 billion from Medicare over the next decade.

Sanders was not alone in his assessment, John Nichols noted at TheNation.com (10/20). The budget bill — which allows for the implementation of sweeping tax cuts for the rich without bipartisan support and without controls on the use of deficits to fund those tax cuts—won only the votes of Republicans.

Forty-six Democrats, two independents who caucus with the Democrats (Sanders and Maine Sen. Angus King), and one Republican (Kentucky’s Rand Paul, who has objected to Pentagon-spending hikes), voted no.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), argues that “This budget resolution paves the way for a partisan tax proposal that favors big corporations and gives a majority of the tax breaks to the wealthiest 1%. I just don’t think it’s right to make Wisconsin’s hardworking middle class families pay for it by blowing a hole in the deficit and cutting Medicare and Medicaid.”

Sanders and Baldwin exposed the true agenda of the Trump administration and congressional Republicans with a pair of amendments that clarified the tax and deficit issues.

The Sanders amendment sought to prevent tax cuts for the top 1% of Americans, including billionaire campaign donors such as David and Charles Koch, whose enthusiasm for the Trump administration’s “tax reform” schemes was summed up by a Boston Globe headline that read: “The Koch brothers (and their friends) want President Trump’s tax cut. Very badly.” Tim Phillips, the president of the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity cabal, announced that the push for the tax cut is “the most significant federal effort we’ve ever taken on.”

That significance is measured not just in benefits to the Koch brothers and their billionaire friends but also in cuts to programs that serve the great mass of Americans. To avert the shift of money to the Kochs, Sanders proposed a simple standard that would have directed tax cuts that are outlined in any reform package to the 99% of Americans who are neither mega-millionaires nor billionaires.

Sanders’ amendment got support from 44 Dems, King and Sanders. It was blocked by 51 Republicans and one Dem: Heidi Heitkamp (ND). (Though Heitkamp opposed the overall budget measure, her vote on the amendment broke faith not merely with her fellow Senate Democrats but also with of the Nonpartisan League that gave its name to her home state’s Democratic-Nonpartisan League Party.), Nichols noted.

Baldwin proposed to reinstate a Senate rule that would effectively prevent Republicans from increasing the deficit in order to fund tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. Fiscal common sense won the votes of 47 Dems and both independents. But 51 Republicans blocked the Baldwin amendment.

“This is, as Sanders says ‘Robin Hood in reverse’ budgeting. But it does not stop there. If the Trump-GOP plan is enacted, generations of working families will continue to be robbed, year and year, in order to keep taxes low for the Koch brothers and the billionaire class,” Nichols wrote.

The Senate budget resolution will have to be reconciled with a similar House version that was approved (10/5).

“The Senate budget plan would cut health care from the most vulnerable in order to fund further tax cuts for the richest and most privileged Americans. By threatening the health of all Americans, such cuts endanger our future health and productivity. Worse, enriching the rich at the expense of the poor, sick, and disabled violates common decency,” said Gerald Friedman, a Professor of Economics and Program Director at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who advises the Business Initiative for Health Policy.

RIGGED: HOW VOTER SUPPRESSION THREW WISCONSIN TO TRUMP. Ari Berman took a deep dive in the November/December issue of Mother Jones into the dark arts of voter suppression in Wisconsin, which is largely responsible for throwing the state’s electoral votes to Donald Trump by a margin of 23,000 votes. Wisconsin had ranked second in the nation in voter participation in 2008 and 2012, when Barack Obama carried the state, but in 2016, thanks to stringent enforcement of voter ID requirements, which required voters—even those who were already registered—to present a current driver’s license, passport or state or military ID to cast a ballot. the state saw its turnout drop to the lowest level since 2000.

“More than half the state’s decline in turnout occurred in Milwaukee, which Clinton carried by a 77-18 margin, but where almost 41,000 fewer people voted in 2016 than in 2012. Turnout fell only slightly in white middle-class areas of the city but plunged in black ones. In Anthony’s old district, where aging houses on quiet tree-lined streets are interspersed with boarded-up buildings and vacant lots, turnout dropped by 23 percent from 2012. This is where Clinton lost the state and, with it, the larger narrative about the election.”

Clinton’s stunning loss in Wisconsin was blamed on her failure to campaign in the state, and the depressed turnout was attributed to a lack of enthusiasm for either candidate. “Perhaps the biggest drags on voter turnout in Milwaukee, as in the rest of the country, were the candidates themselves,” Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times wrote in a post-election dispatch that typified this line of analysis. “To some, it was like having to choose between broccoli and liver.”

The impact of Wisconsin’s voter ID law received almost no attention, Berman noted. When it did, it was often dismissive.

Republicans said the ID law was necessary to stop voter fraud, blaming alleged improprieties at the polls in Milwaukee for narrow losses in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. But when the measure was challenged in court, the state couldn’t present a single case of voter impersonation that the law would have stopped. “It is absolutely clear that [the law] will prevent more legitimate votes from being cast than fraudulent votes,” US District Judge Lynn Adelman wrote in a 2014 decision striking down the law. Adelman’s ruling was overturned by a conservative appeals court panel, which called Wisconsin’s law “materially identical” to a voter ID law in Indiana upheld by the Supreme Court in 2008, even though Wisconsin’s law was much stricter. The panel said the state had “revised the procedures” to make it easier for voters to obtain a voter ID, which reduced “the likelihood of irreparable injury.” Many more rounds of legal challenges ensued, but the law was allowed to stand for the 2016 election.

On the night of Wisconsin’s 2016 primary, Berman noted, US Rep. Glenn Grothman (R), a backer of the law when he was in the state Senate, predicted that a Republican would carry the state in November, even though Wisconsin had gone for Barack Obama by 7 points in 2012. “I think Hillary Clinton is about the weakest candidate the Democrats have ever put up,” he told a local TV news reporter, “and now we have photo ID, and I think photo ID is going to make a little bit of a difference as well.”

After the election, registered voters in Milwaukee County and Madison’s Dane County were surveyed about why they didn’t cast a ballot. Eleven percent cited the voter ID law and said they didn’t have an acceptable ID; of those, more than half said the law was the “main reason” they didn’t vote. According to the study’s author, University of Wisconsin-Madison political scientist Kenneth Mayer, that finding implies that between 12,000 and 23,000 registered voters in Madison and Milwaukee—and as many as 45,000 statewide—were deterred from voting by the ID law. “We have hard evidence there were tens of thousands of people who were unable to vote because of the voter ID law,” he said.

A post-election study by Priorities USA, a Democratic super-PAC that supported Clinton, found that in 2016, turnout decreased by 1.7% in the three states that adopted stricter voter ID laws but increased by 1.3% in states where ID laws did not change. Wisconsin’s turnout dropped 3.3%. If Wisconsin had seen the same turnout increase as states whose laws stayed the same, “we estimate that over 200,000 more voters would have voted in Wisconsin in 2016,” the study said. These “lost voters”—those who voted in 2012 and 2014 but not 2016—”skewed more African American and more Democrat” than the overall voting population. Some academics criticized the study’s methodology, but its conclusions were consistent with a report from the Government Accountability Office, which found that strict voter ID laws in Kansas and Tennessee had decreased turnout by roughly 2 to 3 percent, with the largest drops among black, young, and new voters.

According to a comprehensive study by MIT political scientist Charles Stewart, an estimated 16 million people—12% of all voters—encountered at least one problem voting in 2016. There were more than 1 million lost votes, Stewart estimates, because people ran into things like ID laws, long lines at the polls, and difficulty registering. Trump won the election by a total of 78,000 votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Charles P. Pierce noted at Esquire.com (10/20), “You would think that the one thing that could unite the squabbling Democratic factions is a strong effort to rescue the franchise from its avowed enemies. That, of course, would require some people to give up on the idea that HRC was absolutely the evilest evil that ever evil-ed. I make that a 50-50 shot at best.”

UNINSURED RATE RISING AS TRUMP SABOTAGES OBAMACARE. The Trump administration has managed to reverse the decline in the uninsurance rate since the Affordable Care Act took effect, Tara Culp-Ressler noted at ThinkProgress.org (10/21).

According to Gallup, which has been tracking the uninsurance rate since 2008, the percentage of Americans without health care has been gradually ticking up since Trump was elected.

The uninsured rate had been on a steady downward trajectory since the Affordable Care Act was implemented, hitting historic lows over the past several years. But Gallup’s most recent report, released 10/20, found the uninsured rate has risen 1.4 percentage points since the end of 2016. That works out to be almost 3.5 million more Americans going without insurance this year.

As the Associated Press reports, “the increase in the number of uninsured is more striking because it comes at a time of economic growth and low unemployment.”

Gallup points to several reasons for the rising uninsured rate. For one, declining competition in Obamacare marketplaces has driven up premiums in some areas, making purchasing health care less attractive for Americans who worry they can’t afford the monthly rates.

But Gallup also cites increased uncertainty over the future of the health care law — which Trump has taken multiple executive actions to sabotage, and which Congress has tried dozens of times to repeal — that may have left American consumers confused about where Obamacare stands.

Open enrollment to purchase health insurance at begins 11/1 and runs through 12/15 in most states (and later in some state-run marketplaces), but most Americans aren’t aware of their options because the Trump administration hasn’t worked to advertise the upcoming enrollment period.

Maintaining competition and affordable premiums in the marketplaces is a challenge that predates the Trump administration. But there’s evidence that Trump’s actions are directly contributing to these issues, allowing Obamacare to become more unstable rather than taking any steps to improve it. After Trump announced the federal government will stop making payments to insurers that help offset the cost of subsidies, insurance regulators in several announced they will need to raise premiums as a result of the president’s decision.

TRUMP’S NUMBERS ARE REALLY, REALLY BAD. Donald Trump’s approval ratings, after a brief rise in September to 39.7% (9/25), have retreated to the lowest level of any president at this number of days after being sworn in, according to FiveThirtyEight’s estimates, Jonathan Bernstein noted at Bloomberg.com (10/16).

Trump’s “net” approval (subtracting disapproval) has been the worst among those 13 presidents every day of his presidency, and it’s never been particularly close. Currently he’s within a single percentage point of same-day Gerald Ford in approval, but at -18.3, his net approval is 9 percentage points worse than Ford’s, and every other president was in positive territory at this point.

“All of that with the more-or-less peace and something very close to prosperity — the two things that generally drive whether US citizens like their presidents or not,” Bernstein wrote.

“To get this unpopular, this fast, and to do it in an era of relatively good times, is just breathtaking,” he wrote. “… I’ve seen people claim he’s winning his fight against the NFL, for example, but the numbers certainly don’t suggest that’s the case. ... In fact, Harry Enten at FiveThirtyEight estimates that Trump’s net approval is a whopping 30 percentage points below where the economy suggests it should be. ...

“And yes, I think as a whole Trump’s unpopularity has been massively underplayed in the media throughout his administration so far.”

Kerry Eleveld also noted at DailyKos.com (10/16) that Trump’s net approval rating among rural voters has fallen from +16 percentage points to zero since the beginning of his presidency, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling.

According to the Reuters/Ipsos daily tracking poll, the Republican president’s popularity is eroding in small towns and rural communities where 15% of the country’s population lives. The poll of more than 15,000 adults in “non-metro” areas shows that they are now as likely to disapprove of Trump as they are to approve of him.

In September, 47% of people in non-metro areas approved of Trump while 47% disapproved. That is down from Trump’s first four weeks in office, when 55% said they approved of the president while 39% disapproved.

The poll found that Trump has lost support in rural areas among men, whites and people who never went to college. He lost support with rural Republicans and rural voters who supported him on Election Day.

And while Trump still gets relatively high marks in the poll for his handling of the economy and national security, rural Americans are increasingly unhappy with Trump’s record on immigration, a central part of his presidential campaign.

Additionally, Morning Consult found that Trump’s approval rating has fallen in all 50 states since the beginning of his presidency.

According to the poll, a majority of voters in 25 states said in September they disapproved of Trump’s job performance.

Some of those states include those Trump carried during the 2016 election, such as Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Pennsylvania.

And 51% of voters in Nevada and Arizona disapproved of Trump’s job performance.

“So the next time you hear some journalist say that Trump’s approval ratings among Republicans just won’t budge—forget about it. Despite what you’ve been told, the popular vote loser’s approval ratings are strictly bottom of the barrel and he continues to gain detractors,” Eleveld concluded.

OBAMA KICKS OFF CAMPAIGN TO FIGHT GOP GERRYMANDERING. As president, Barack Obama did not always put the most effort into building the Democratic Party, Laura Clawson noted at DailyKos.com (10/23). As a former president, he’s working to undo some of the losses the party has suffered at the state level in recent years. Organizing for Action, which came out of his campaign, is joining with the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, headed by former Atty. Gen. Eric Holder, to do exactly the long-game, state-level organizing at which Republicans so often trounce Democrats. The effort is kicking off with Obama’s direct participation, as Edward-Isaac Dovere reports at Politico.com (10/23):

“OFA volunteers and supporters will provide the grassroots organizing capacity and mobilization that we’ll need to win state-level elections and move other initiatives forward ahead of the 2021 redistricting process, making sure that states are in the best position possible to draw fair maps,” Obama writes in an email set to go out to the OFA list that he’ll call “Our Next Fight.”

Obama and Holder have both campaigned in New Jersey and Virginia, and the NDRC put $750,000 into the Virginia governor’s race [in September].

OFA will start holding house parties, community meetings and conference calls geared to helping their organizers understand what gerrymandering is, and what the processes are for changing district maps in each state.

Clawson concluded, “We have a lot of catching up to do, people. For Democrats to do as well at electing lawmakers as in the popular vote, it’ll take years of effort, thanks to Republican gerrymandering.”

TILLERSON TELLS SHIA FIGHTERS IN IRAQ TO ‘GO HOME’ TO IRAQ. After several slow, excruciatingly bloody victories in Iraq and Syria against the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS), US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has evidently decided that the foreign fighters helping in those battles were there at the pleasure of the US and are now to “go home.”

The Associated Press reported that in an attempt to get US ally Saudi Arabia to play a greater role in Iraq post-ISIS, Tillerson took aim at Iran and the Hashd al-Shaabi (also knows as the Popular Mobilization Forces) militia it supports in Iraq, which has been instrumental in pushing ISIS out of Mosul, Tal Afar, and other territories in Iraq.

“Those fighters need to go home. Any foreign fighters need to go home,” Tillerson said (10/22), which, as the AP pointed out, was problematic because, “History, religion and lots of politics stand in Tillerson’s way.”

To start with, D. Parvaz noted at ThinkProgress (10/23), the majority of the Hashd al-Shabi fighters are Iraqi, and Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif wasted no time in pointing that out on Twitter while taking a shot at cozy US-Saudi relations: “Exactly what country is it that Iraqis who rose up to defend their homes against ISIS return to? Shameful US [foreign policy], dictated by petrodollars.”

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s office also released a statement rejecting US interference in Iraqi affairs, adding that, “Popular Mobilization are Iraqi patriots.”

“It was a very unrealistic comment,” said Marina Ottaway, Middle East Fellow The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. She’s not sure if Tillerson meant the Iranians should go home or if the Shia fighters should go back to their own Shia territory in the south.

“I think that might have been very clumsy phrasing,” she said. Either way, Ottaway described Tillerson’s statement as “absurd,” adding that he just “embarrassed himself,” and that his statement was “so detached from reality that it makes no sense.”

ABORTION RATES ARE DOWN, SO GOP IS COMING AFTER BIRTH CONTROL. Abortion rates in the US are down a whopping 25% from 2008 to 2014, according to a study published in the *American Journal of Public Health*. Researchers Rachel Jones and Jenna Jerman of the Guttmacher Institute credit the widespread use of contraception, to which the Obama administration did significant work to expand through the Affordable Care Act, Amanda Marcotte reported at Salon (10/22).

So why is the Trump administration ramping up the war on contraception? A leaked White House budget memo, published Thursday by Brian Beutler of Crooked Media, exposed the far-reaching anti-birth-control agenda of the Trump administration.

It seems the administration would prefer a world where the primary and perhaps sole method of preventing pregnancy is the no-kissy, no-touchy method that has been proven throughout history to be an utter failure, Marcotte wrote. News flash: People like having sex.

The anti-choice movement wants people to believe that the drop in the abortion rate is strictly due to its nonstop shaming campaign and relentless war on abortion access. “Abortion Rate Drops 25% Over Last 6 Years as More Babies Saved From Abortions,” blares a headline on LifeNews.com.

That’s pure nonsense. If the abortion rate were declining because women were giving birth more, then wouldn’t there be more births overall in the United States? But births have been declining, too. Women simply are getting pregnant less, and how and why that’s happening is not much of a mystery.

“Abortion rates went down across the board, in states that are supportive of abortion rights and states that aren’t,” Jones, one of the study’s authors, told Salon.

She agreed that some women who wanted abortions were unable to get one legally because of new restrictions, but believes the larger part of the drop in the abortion rate was because people are choosing to use more and better forms of contraception.

This also helps explain why, even though the abortion rate dropped across the board, low-income women are drastically overrepresented in the abortion statistics. Nearly half of women getting abortions have incomes below the federal poverty line, up from 30% in 1987.

“We do know that among abortion patients, especially those that are economically disadvantaged, they just have more disruptive life events,” she added. “Having to focus on getting your Depo shot or getting your Pill refill is second priority to putting food on the table.”

“I see every day how access to contraception improves my patients’ lives,” Dr. Kristyn Brandi, a Los Angeles doctor who works with Physicians for Reproductive Health, told Salon. “Contraception plays a huge role in how women control their lives and help plan their pregnancies, and that helps improve their economic status, as well as their overall satisfaction with their lives.”

Instead, the Trump administration has spent an inordinate amount of energy trying to reduce access to contraception, both by limiting health care access more generally and by way of specific attacks on contraception access through insurance plans and government programs. In the memo leaked to Crooked Media, it becomes clear that these attacks aren’t about “small government” or “religious liberty” but an ideological opposition to contraception.

The memo recommends cuts to family planning programs and suggests requiring “equal​ ​funding​ ​for​ ​fertility​ ​awareness​ ​methods” in foreign aid programs. “Fertility awareness” is pseudo-scientific jargon for the rhythm method, beloved by anti-choicers both because it doesn’t really work and because its mechanism requires refraining from sex at certain times. If they can’t make you celibate, they’ll settle for reducing the amount of sex you can have.

From The Progressive Populist, November 15, 2017


Blog | Current Issue | Back Issues | Essays | Links

About the Progressive Populist | How to Subscribe | How to Contact Us

Copyright © 2017 The Progressive Populist

PO Box 819, Manchaca TX 78652