Paul Ryan’s flimsy health plan

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) seemed to promise better when he announced that he would roll out an ambitious policy agenda this summer. Instead, last week he released an Obamacare alternative that is less detailed in a variety of crucial ways than previous conservative health reform proposals. The outlines that the speaker did provide suggest that it would be hard on the poor, old and sick.

Mr. Ryan’s plan would replace Obamacare with a tax credit available to people buying insurance plans in markets regulated by the states, not the federal government. The proposal does not say how valuable the credit would be, nor the rate at which it would increase. The document also does not predict how many people it would cover, nor how much the plan would cost. The latter is a major question in part because the plan would waste money offering tax credits to everyone, regardless of income. Republican staffers argue that the proposal is just a starting point for discussion. Yet other Obamacare-replacement proposals have included such numbers. The fact that Mr. Ryan’s does not renders the plan difficult to evaluate or take seriously. This many years on, the GOP has no excuse for blank spaces.

The proposal hints that the credit would be sufficient to cover the cost of plans that existed before the ACA. This is not reassuring: Pre-ACA, individual-market insurance plans were often thin, with limited benefits, extensive cost-sharing and other elements designed to deter anyone who might actually need care. Without strong coverage requirements, insurers would have limited incentive to offer plans that appealed to people who may be — or may become — sick. States would be hampered in responding to these issues: The proposal would allow insurers to sell plans across state lines, so the state with the skimpiest regulations would likely set the national standard.

People with money to put into health savings accounts (which the proposal would expand), could cover gaps in thin insurance coverage with tax-advantaged out-of-pocket spending — but this would not be a realistic option for low-income people. As for the old, the plan would scale up the tax credits with age, but it would also permit insurers to raise premiums with age much more than the ACA currently allows. The proposal gives no sense that the two will come close to matching up; as in other conservative plans, those in late middle age could face much higher costs. For the sick, meanwhile, Mr. Ryan’s plan would offer an ultimate backstop by funding high-risk insurance pools. But health-care experts caution that this approach would cost a massive amount of federal money — a fact that has caused Republican lawmakers to balk at policies like it when fleshed out.

At least, Republicans might argue, Mr. Ryan’s proposal would eliminate the hated individual mandate requiring people to buy insurance. Yet it would replace it with an even more coercive system. Protections for those with preexisting conditions would only apply for those who kept continuous health-care coverage. Under the current system, if you fail to obtain health insurance in a year, you might have to pay a penalty of few hundred dollars. Under Mr. Ryan’s plan, the Urban Institute’s Linda Blumberg explains, “If you slip through the cracks, your penalty is you may never be able to get health-insurance coverage again.”

(Excerpted from Washington Post 6/25/16)

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Donald Trump’s assault on our values

IT HAD not seemed possible, but Donald Trump descended this week to a new low of bigotry, fear-mongering and conspiracy-peddling. Republican leaders who said last week that they expected a change in tone after Mr. Trump’s racist attacks on a California judge quickly received their answer. What can House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) possibly say now? As the country mourned the wanton slaughter of 49 people early Sunday, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee took a victory lap, hinted darkly that President Obama is an enemy of the nation, libeled American Muslims and, in grotesque punctuation, finished up with a vindictive attack on the media .

“Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism,” he tweeted. “I don’t want congrats,” he continued, as though that were not exactly what he wanted, “I want toughness & vigilance.” Mr. Trump may have calculated that a suddenly anxious electorate would be more receptive to his campaign of fear and prejudice, emotions he immediately attempted to inflame.

In a Monday speech, Mr. Trump painted a false picture of a nation infiltrated by waves of unscreened Muslim refugees and immigrants, who, abetted by Democrats, are destroying American values and threatening the public. Among other things, he chillingly accused Muslim Americans of complicity with terrorists: “The Muslims have to work with us,” he said. “They know what’s going on. They know that [the Orlando shooter] was bad. They knew the people in San Bernardino were bad. But you know what? They didn’t turn them in. And you know what? We had death, and destruction.”

To generalize as Mr. Trump does about “the Muslims” is to set the nation down a dangerous road it has trod, to its eventual regret, in the past: banning Chinese immigrants a century ago, rounding up U.S. citizens and noncitizens of Japanese descent in the 1940s, expelling “wetbacks” a decade later.

Mr. Trump also raised suspicion in television interviews that Mr. Obama wants terrorists to strike the United States, or at least looks the other way as they scheme. “We’re led by a man that either is not tough, not smart or has something else in mind. And the something else in mind — people can’t believe it. People cannot believe that President Obama is acting the way he acts and can’t even mention the words ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’ There’s something going on.” He invited poisonous speculations about his Democratic opponent’s motives, as well: Hillary Clinton “wants to allow radical Islamic terrorists to pour into our country,” he said. Informal Trump adviser Roger Stone, meanwhile, claimed that Huma Abedin, a top Clinton aide, might be “a terrorist agent.”

Mr. Trump capped a day of assaulting fundamental liberal democratic values by announcing he would ban Post reporters from covering his campaign events. If this is his inclination now, imagine how he might wield the powers of the presidency.

Before the Orlando shooting, Beltway analysts speculated about how a terrorist attack might affect the presidential election. Now we know at least part of the answer: Mr. Trump would reveal himself more clearly than ever as a man unfit to lead.

(Excerpted from Washington Post 6/13/16)

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Corporate agribusiness gets more sway on Missouri’s Clean Water Comission

Legislation now before Gov. Jay Nixon could give corporate agriculture more input into the state’s water resources. It could lead to more industry representatives, which would mean fewer public voices on the Missouri Clean Water Commission.

Near the end of session, it’s not unusual for controversial amendments to be tacked on to bills. This change, sponsored by Sen. Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown, fits that description.

“Just out of the blue, he offered an amendment that nobody had ever seen,” said Tim Gibbons, communications director for Missouri Rural Crisis Center. “It had never been a stand-alone bill. It had never been vetted by the public or taxpayers.”

The amendment was to a bill that requires the Department of Natural Resources to share information on technology for lagoon-based wastewater system. It changes the wording for members of the Clean Water Commission, the state’s oversight panel for the Clean Water Act. The new language calls for “no more than four” representatives of the public and “at least two” representatives of the agriculture and mining industries. Under existing statute, there must be “at least four” public representatives and “no more than two” with industry ties.

The commission lists two members as “industry or mining” now.

“What that language can and will do is completely take the public out of the Clean Water Commission,” said Gibbons.

One of the main duties of the commission is to approve construction permits for facilities that have the potential to damage Missouri waterways, like concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs.

(Excerpted from Stl. Public Radio 6/09/16)

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You Don’t Really Care about Poverty

Today, Republicans have unveiled a fake poverty program that shows, yet again, they are out of touch with the realities of poverty in America. This is nothing more than a weak attempt by Republicans to make it look as if they really care about the problems they have long ignored. But the American people know the truth. The GOP could care less about ending poverty in America. And this proposal is proof positive of that fact. It is jam-packed with the same old cringe-inducing policies that would only hurt and blame the poor, not help them.

“For example, the plan would place unrealistic time limits and so-called work requirements on families who rely on public or assisted housing. Of course, they completely ignore the high cost of rental housing and how that contributes to not only poverty but also homelessness. They also give no consideration for job training, education, job availability, child care, and the myriad other issues that prevent people from getting ahead. If Republicans were truly concerned about poverty, they would invest in these kinds of critical social services programs instead of trotting out the same old tired rhetoric.

“This plan also takes a potshot at our nation’s seniors. Democrats have worked closely with the Department of Labor to protect seniors from financial advisers who provide conflicted advice about their retirement assets, which has cost our retirees $17 billion each year. The proposal continues Republicans’ unrelenting attack on the Labor Department’s efforts to prohibit such conflicted advice and to help ensure that all Americans can retire with dignity and security.

“But as this plan makes all too clear, Republicans don’t really care about poverty, ending poverty, or people in poverty.”

(Excerpted from Waters House Financial Services Committee )

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What happens when bullies control the state legislature

An editorial writer for the Warrensburg Daily Star Journal succinctly summarized the Republican majority’s responses to each of those three most important needs [crumbling highways, support for public schools, ethics reform]: “Lawmakers did nothing, next to nothing and worse than nothing.” Exactly.

If only they had stopped there. They didn’t, of course.

Instead, the grand finale of the session was the passage of a proposed constitutional amendment to require photo identification for voting. There’s no evidence of any fraud that requires correction, but plenty of evidence that the folks most likely to be turned away from the polls would be poor or minority. Which party would you expect to lose those votes?

The two most popular targets this year were Planned Parenthood and our university. In both cases, the charge was led by Boone County’s own Sen. Kurt Schaefer, who wants very much to be the state’s attorney general (with, I’m guessing, his sights set a good deal higher). In both cases, the senator was a bully.

In the Planned Parenthood case, a federal judge eventually called him on it, ruling that “political pressure” pushed a state agency into revoking the license of the organization’s Columbia abortion clinic. No extra credit for identifying the loudest source of that political pressure.

In the university’s case, Senator Schaefer was more successful. In addition to a fiscal penalty, he sponsored and won partisan support for a special committee with no apparent qualifications for the job to scrutinize the university’s operations before the next session.

Even more troubling was the report a couple of weeks ago in which investigators for the American Association of University Professors concluded that the Board of Curators “violated basic standards of academic due process” in firing faculty member Melissa Click.

The investigators attributed that violation to “legislative intrusion.” The leader of the intrusion? Senator Schaefer.

(Excerpted from George Kennedy Columbia Missourian 5/26/16 )

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THE DANGEROUS ACCEPTANCE OF DONALD TRUMP

“One can argue about whether to call him a fascist or an authoritarian populist or a grotesque joke made in a nightmare shared between Philip K. Dick and Tom Wolfe, but under any label Trump is a declared enemy of the liberal constitutional order of the United States—the order that has made it, in fact, the great and plural country that it already is. He announces his enmity to America by word and action every day. It is articulated in his insistence on the rightness of torture and the acceptable murder of noncombatants. It is self-evident in the threats he makes daily to destroy his political enemies, made only worse by the frivolity and transience of the tone of those threats. He makes his enmity to American values clear when he suggests that the Presidency holds absolute power, through which he will be able to end opposition—whether by questioning the ownership of newspapers or talking about changing libel laws or threatening to take away F.C.C. licenses.”

“To say ‘Well, he would not really have the power to accomplish that’ is to misunderstand the nature of thin-skinned authoritarians in power. They do not arrive in office and discover, as constitutionalists do, that their capabilities are more limited than they imagined. They arrive, and then make their power as large as they can.”

(Excerpted from New Yorker 5/20/16)

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Trump provokes and plays on feelings of resentment and disdain, intermingled with bits of fear, hatred and anger

The Republican Party’s attempt to treat Donald Trump as a normal political candidate would be laughable were it not so perilous to the republic. ….the entire Trump phenomenon has nothing to do with policy or ideology.

We’re supposed to believe that Trump’s support stems from economic stagnation or dislocation. Maybe some of it does. But what Trump offers his followers are not economic remedies — his proposals change daily. What he offers is an attitude, an aura of crude strength and machismo, a boasting disrespect for the niceties of the democratic culture that he claims, and his followers believe, has produced national weakness and incompetence. His incoherent and contradictory utterances have one thing in common: They provoke and play on feelings of resentment and disdain, intermingled with bits of fear, hatred and anger. His public discourse consists of attacking or ridiculing a wide range of “others” — Muslims, Hispanics, women, Chinese, Mexicans, Europeans, Arabs, immigrants, refugees — whom he depicts either as threats or as objects of derision. His program, such as it is, consists chiefly of promises to get tough with foreigners and people of nonwhite complexion. He will deport them, bar them, get them to knuckle under, make them pay up or make them shut up.

That this tough-guy, get-mad-and-get-even approach has gained him an increasingly large and enthusiastic following has probably surprised Trump as much as anyone else. Trump himself is simply and quite literally an egomaniac. But the phenomenon he has created and now leads has become something larger than him, and something far more dangerous.

(Excerpted from Kagan Washington Post 5/17/16)

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Trump’s Bizarre Climate Beliefs Would Jeopardize Meaningful Global Climate Action

Donald Trump’s climate science denial and dubious deal-making skills just raised the stakes of this election to “existential.”
As Reuters reported Tuesday, the presumptive GOP nominee said he would seek to renegotiate the Paris Climate Agreement, “spelling potential doom for an agreement many view as a last chance to turn the tide on global warming.”
For the mainstream media, Trump’s dangerous recklessness on the gravest national security threat the nation faces was mostly lost amid the incessant barrage of jaw-dropping things Trump

Certainly it is uniquely reckless and self-destructive to undermine the world’s best — and, indeed, only — hope for preserving a livable climate for ourselves, our children, and the next 50 generations to walk the Earth. In addition, Trump’s nonsensical explanation eviscerates any notion that he might translate whatever deal-making skills he has in the business world into the world of international politics and negotiations.

Trump told Reuters a bunch of other malarky about the deal: “Not a big fan because other countries don’t adhere to it, and China doesn’t adhere to it, and China’s spewing into the atmosphere.”

At this point, all one can do is take him literally. And this is literally gibberish. First off, the United States is “spewing into the atmosphere.” So are all of the countries who signed Paris. That is the point of making the deal.

Second, this is just gibberish: “Not a big fan because other countries don’t adhere to it.” The Paris agreement hasn’t gone into force yet, so no countries “adhere to it” as of now. If Trump meant other countries haven’t been adhering to previous climate agreements, the main country that actually applies to is the United States which agreed to the Kyoto Protocol CO2 reduction targets in 1997 but never ratified it and never adhered to it. The European Union, however, did adhere to it.

Third, more gibberish: “China doesn’t adhere to it.” Again, it hasn’t gone into force yet. Moreover, despite the fact that it hasn’t gone into force yet, China is already beating its carbon target. China said that by 2030 it would peak in CO2 emissions and double the amount of carbon-free energy it uses. It appears to be plateauing in CO2 emissions already. It has recently redoubled its war on coal and is exceeding all of its pledged targets for clean energy deployment.
Then again, this kind of nonsense on China and global warming should not surprise anyone given the bizarre conspiracy theory he tweeted in 2012:

The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2012

In the end, Trump can’t force the other nations of the world to renegotiate Paris. But he could as President undermine the EPA’s Clean Power Plan which is needed to achieve our target — and he could block the “ratcheting down” of climate targets needed to avoid catastrophic warming. His threat to blow up the only process we have to avoid multiple irreversible catastrophic climate impacts must be taken as seriously as his candidacy.

(Excerpted from Think Progress 5/18/16)

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A Very White Supreme Court – Your Ultimate Guide To The People Donald Trump Will Consider For The Supreme Court

Earlier this year, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump pledged to release a list of potential Supreme Court nominees — all of whom he said would be very conservative — in order to allay fears that he may name someone to the Supreme Court who is insufficiently sympathetic to the GOP’s position on legal interpretation. On Wednesday, Trump released his list, and the list will not disappoint even the more hard-line conservatives.

Trump has, at various times, said that he was working with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank led by former tea party Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), and the Federalist Society, a conservative legal society that morphed into an incubator for lawsuits seeking to dismantle much of the federal government, in order to draw up the list. Five of the names on Trump’s list also appeared on a list of eight potential Supreme Court nominees that Heritage published at the end of March.

The list, which Trump has said will make up the entire universe of potential Supreme Court nominees in a Trump administration, is a testament to the work Republicans have done at both the federal and state level to stock the lower courts with ideologically reliable judges with resumes that make them plausible Supreme Court nominees. About half of the names on Trump’s list are federal judges, while five are state supreme court justices. Many clerked for some of the most conservative individuals to sit on the Supreme Court in their lifetime. Only three are women. All are white.

(Excerpted from Think Progress 5/18/16 )

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REALITY CHECK: Nothing, next to nothing, worse than nothing legacy of 2016 legislative ‘leaders’

Like fan blades revolving furiously against the heat of reality, some leading Republican lawmakers spun their list of “accomplishments” after this year’s General Assembly session ended Friday, but blew only hot air on issues that mattered.

Sometimes at odds with members of their own party, Republicans ended the session on the big issues – highways, campaign finance reform and public education – by being responsible for nothing, next to nothing and worse than nothing.

NOTHING: On highways, Republican Rep. Dean Dohrman in March explained to Warrensburg business leaders the reality of Jefferson City politics.
“We’ve got too many people running for too many offices,” Dohrman said, and deserves kudos for honesty.
In the meantime, road work continues to decline with the lack of revenue. At the same time, highway deaths have increased by more than 10 percent, with 861 people dying on state roads in 2015.

NEXT TO NOTHING: Republican leaders talked about a needed facelift for ethics reforms at the start of the session. Sen. President Pro Tem Ron Richard, R-Joplin, opposed campaign finance reform and throughout the session stayed true to what he told reporters about reform in February: “You all want it, we don’t, so it’s not going to happen.”
Lawmakers talked a good ethics game, but when the gavel fell Friday, they had delivered only a blush of reform – such as not allowing each other to become lobbyists for a whole six months after leaving office. GOP leaders tried to make a big deal out of a change that amounts to next to nothing.

WORSE THAN NOTHING: Under the education Foundation Formula, public schools for several years have gotten less money than needed to reach the measure for adequate funding. Rather than bear the shame of under-funding schools by $456 million this year, lawmakers are playing a shell game. They capped the funding. They dropped the hoped-for, full-funding total for public schools from the present $3.8 billion to about $3.4 billion. This means public schools across Missouri must lower expectations, and Warrensburg schools must lower expectations by about $1.8 million.

“This cheapening of the foundation formula results in a broken promise to our local schools and the students they educate,” Gov. Jay Nixon said.
The hypocrisy to the claim that there is not enough money to fund public schools is found in the fact that Missouri for several years has cut taxes to benefit special interest groups, including cutting the top income tax rate from 6 to 5.5 percent, which means little to nothing in savings for most Missourians, but millionaires will pocket more money, as if they really need that money more than public schools.
What lawmakers did to public schools is worse than nothing.

Lawmakers can spin their “accomplishments” in the legislative session – passing partisan issues, such as disenfranchising poor and elderly Missourians with a voter ID law; advancing anti-gay, anti-business legislation in the Senate that, thanks to two courageous Republicans, later failed to get out of a House committee; and bowing to other special interests – but on the key issues of highway funding, ethics reform and funding public schools, lawmakers did nothing, next to nothing and worse than nothing.

(Excerpted from Daily Star Journal 5/18/16)

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Fighting off evils that barely exist

In the closing hours, the legislature passed two measures related to Voter ID laws. Ballot box fraud has nationally become another popular expedition in search of horrors.

These bills are actually two parts of the same desired outcome; one puts voter identification requirements on the November ballot and the other spells out the specifics if voters approve the measure.

A document frequently called upon to support the Missouri legislation, a report by the Heritage Foundation, showed 17 voter fraud convictions in the state from 2005 to 2015.

Each of those convictions came from offenses of “false registration” … that is, a violation that requiring a photo identification at a polling place would not remedy.

During those years, Missourians voting in statewide general elections, not counting primaries or local contests, cast more than 11 million ballots.

Even one case of voter fraud diminishes the system, but you can’t view 17 convictions out of 11 million votes cast as a blossoming crime wave.

Far more people will be denied their legal right to vote with these new, overwrought requirements.

Limiting the participation of those most likely to lack a photo ID, those people poor or of color, seems the greater ill.

(Excerpted from St. Joseph New-Press 5/17/16)

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Chaos in House after GOP votes down LGBT measure

The House floor devolved into chaos and shouting on Thursday as a measure to ensure protections for members of the LGBT community narrowly failed to pass after Republican leaders urged their members to change their votes.

Initially, it appeared Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney’s (D-N.Y.) amendment had enough votes to pass as “yes” votes piled up to 217 against 206 “no” votes.

But it eventually failed on a 212-213 vote after a number of Republican lawmakers changed their votes from “yes” to “no.”

GOP leaders held the vote open as they pressured members to change sides.

“Shame! Shame! Shame!” Democrats chanted as they watched the vote tally go from passage of Maloney’s amendment to narrow failure.

Twenty-nine Republicans voted for Maloney’s amendment to a spending bill for the Department of Veterans Affairs and military construction projects, along with all Democrats in the final roll call.

“This is one of the ugliest episodes I’ve experienced in my three-plus years as a member of this House,” Maloney, who is openly gay, said while offering his amendment.

The amendment would have effectively nullified a provision in the defense authorization that the House passed late Wednesday night. The language embedded in the defense bill states that religious corporations, associations and institutions that receive federal contracts can’t be discriminated against on the basis of religion.

Democrats warn that such a provision could potentially allow discrimination against the LGBT community in the name of religious freedom. Maloney’s amendment specifically would prohibit funds to implement contracts with any company that doesn’t comply with President Obama’s executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT workers.

When asked about the vote-switching, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) denied knowing whether his leadership team pressured Republicans. “I don’t know the answer. I don’t even know,” Ryan told reporters.

(Excerpted from The Hill 5/19/16)

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Clinton v. Trump: Six months of surprises

One of the most complicated parts of polling in 2016 is going to be gauging turnout among key groups. The Quinnipiac pollsters assumed a higher turnout among whites and a lower turnout among minorities, compared to 2012. So the conflicting results demonstrate how important it will be for each candidate to persuade prospective supporters to vote on Election Day. (It also shows how difficult accurate polling can be, as pollsters seek a turnout model that they believe will reflect on Election Day.) Turnout is always important, but given the polarized nature of the current electorate, it is particularly crucial this year.

The Clinton team anticipates she will need to spend around $1 billion in the campaign. There will be a larger number of states in play in the fall due to Trump’s unusual coalition—a political reality that will cost both candidates more money. Trump’s anti-illegal immigrant stances and sharp rhetoric on building a wall along the Mexican border means that some states such as Arizona, Colorado, and Missouri may be within the reach of Democrats owing to the large Hispanic populations there.

However, Trump’s strong support among white, working class voters suggests that he may be competitive in Rust Belt states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota that have been hard hit by the loss of manufacturing jobs and that Democratic presidential candidates have carried in the last few election cycles. He likely will force Democrats to spend money in states they typically have taken for granted.

The fundraising challenge for Trump as a billionaire is pivoting from his self-funding stance in the primaries, where he consistently touted his independence from special interests and ability to be independent due to his personal wealth.

In the general election, he will need to match Clinton’s fundraising and that will force him to rely on the same financial interests he has been criticizing for months. Look for him to raise money through the Republican National Committee and to have supporters who will set up a super-PAC in his name. He will need about a billion to keep up with Clinton.

The question is how voters will react to that financing shift on his part. Will he be able to turn to special interests or ultra-wealthy individuals without compromising the independent brand that he has carefully cultivated? And can he set up the fundraising organization to raise that much money in a period of six months? Will the traditional moneyed interests in the Republican Party happily donate to his cause or will they exude the same skepticism some in the party establishment have expressed?

Messaging is important in any campaign and the two presumptive nominees already are rolling out their key messages. Trump will remind voters of every past and current Clinton scandal from Whitewater, Monica Lewinsky, and Vince Foster to Benghazi, the Goldman Sachs speeches, and her private email server. He will use these critiques to say she is unfit for office and cannot be trusted with America’s future at this volatile time in world affairs.

What could make this race (somehow) more unpredictable and volatile for each campaign is the possibility of several wildcards in the fall. The economy could weaken, which would cast doubt on Democrats’ stewardship of the issue that most concerns voters. A second wildcard would be an October terrorist attack in the United States or Europe. In fall 2015, Trump’s poll numbers were starting to drop and it looked like he finally would pay for his outrageous comments on many issues. However, after the Paris bombings and attacks in San Bernandino, Trump’s numbers came back and stayed strong on the Republican side. A third source of uncertainty is the Zika virus that has unfolded in South America. If it arrives in the United States and causes political havoc the way the Ebola virus did in 2014, it would be problematic for Democrats. It would be easy for Trump to play on public fears about foreigners and disease, which is the way many past American leaders criticized immigration policy. That kind of development would enable Trump to knit together his anti-immigration, global chaos, and neo-isolationism arguments under one tidy bow. A third source of uncertainty is the Zika virus that has unfolded in South America. If it arrives in the United States and causes political havoc the way the Ebola virus did in 2014, it would be problematic for Democrats. It would be easy for Trump to play on public fears about foreigners and disease, which is the way many past American leaders criticized immigration policy. That kind of development would enable Trump to knit together his anti-immigration, global chaos, and neo-isolationism arguments under one tidy bow.

(Excerpted from Brookings Institute 5/16/16)

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Trump’s bizarre, dangerous neediness

The Post reported that “some reporters found the calls from Miller or Barron disturbing or even creepy; others thought they were just examples of Trump being playful.” Put me firmly in the “creepy” camp.

I do believe that Republican presidential contenders Marco Rubio (who called Trump a con artist), Bobby Jindal (who called him a narcissist) and Ted Cruz (who called him a pathological liar) should feel vindicated. And I believe the nation should be deeply worried about what sort of person the GOP is about to nominate for president.

Does it really matter if Trump had a bit of fun at the expense of some reporters two or three decades ago? It wouldn’t if he were merely asking for another season of “The Apprentice.” He wants us to make him the most powerful man in the world, and the “Miller” and “Barron” episodes — along with the transparently untrue denials that they ever took place — betray a level of ambition and insecurity that voters should find deeply alarming.

In my experience, most successful people could be described as needy in some sense. Trump, however, takes neediness to a bizarre and frightening extreme.

I’m taking this seriously because Trump is asking to be taken seriously — which means he wishes to be taken at his word. Someone should explain to him how this works.

He has built a remarkable career on bluster, branding and relentless self-promotion. Self-regard bordering on self-worship and a willingness to bend the truth may have been assets that helped his rise. Insecurity and a need to be loved could have given him motivation. For a vainglorious mogul who lives to plaster his name across the New York skyline — and whose most consequential decision is whether to use travertine or Carrara marble — these are useful traits.

For a president of the United States, they could be catastrophic.

Excerpted from Washington Post 5/16/16)

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Conservatives make a deal with the devil

A prospective president needs to be morally and intellectually fit for the office. He or she can’t be guilty of demagoguery or mean-spiritedness, or talk nonsense all the time.

We have left the realm of half-a-loaf and you-scratch-my-back. We are dealing with a question of fitness for the highest office in the land. It is not enough for GOP partisans to assert Trump’s superiority to Clinton on this issue or that. They must justify that Trump has the experience, knowledge, temperament, judgment and character to be president of the United States. That is a more difficult task.

Republicans stand accused of disdaining immigrants; their nominee proposes to round up and deport 11 million people. Republicans are accused of religious bigotry; their nominee proposes to stop all Muslims at the border. Republicans are accused of a war on women; the Republican nominee, if a recent New York Times exposé is accurate, is the cave-man candidate.

(Excerpted from Gerson New York Times 5/16/16)

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President Obama makes his most forceful case yet against Trump

President Obama used his commencement address at Rutgers University on Sunday to make his most forceful case yet against the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee. Consider:

Obama took on the premise of Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan:“When you hear someone longing for the ‘good old days,” take it with a grain of salt… [B]y almost every measure, America is better, and the world is better, than it was 50 years ago, or 30 years ago, or even eight years ago.”

He slammed Trump’s call for a border wall: “The world is more interconnected than ever before, and it’s becoming more connected every day. Building walls won’t change that.”

He criticized the presumptive GOP nominee’s Muslim ban: “Isolating or disparaging Muslims … that is not just a betrayal of our values; that’s not just a betrayal of who we are; it would alienate the very communities at home and abroad who are our most important partners in the fight against violent extremism.”

He ripped into Trump’s command of the facts: “Ignorance is not a virtue. It’s not cool to not know what you’re talking about. That’s not keeping it real, or telling it like it is.”

And he highlighted Trump’s lack of political experience in politics: “You know, it’s interesting that if we get sick, we actually want to make sure the doctors have gone to medical school, they know what they’re talking about… And yet, in our public lives, we certainly think, ‘I don’t want somebody who’s done it before.'”

(Excerpted from First Read 5/16/16)

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No bright side to sexual violence against women

As members of the Missouri House debated HJR 98 last week — a bill that would create a ballot initiative to assign fetuses full personhood — we’ve heard some of the most harmful rhetoric about women and rape that we have heard since Todd Akin’s run for Senate.

As practicing obstetrician-gynecologists, and representatives of the Missouri section of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, we feel compelled to speak out about such language. Regardless of personal feeling about abortion, we hope that everyone could agree that violence against women is unacceptable.

However, during a House floor debate last week, Rep. Tila Hubrecht, R-Dexter, suggested that a pregnancy resulting from a rape is a “silver lining.”

We find the notion that good may come of such a violation to be dangerous at best. Rape is one of the most violent attacks against women, and any suggestion that there is a bright side to sexual violence is an offense to all survivors.

First of all, rape has clear medical consequences in addition to risk of pregnancy. Perpetrators of sexual assault may not use condoms, exposing victims to sexually transmitted infection. Acute traumatic injuries may range from scratches, bruises and welts to severe lacerations, fractures, head and facial trauma, and more.

There are also long-term physical consequences, including chronic pelvic pain and sexual dysfunction, which can impact women throughout their lives.

But let’s not forget the extreme, debilitating psychologic and mental health consequences associated with sexual assault. These consequences are very real, and they should not be diminished by the claim that any rape has a silver lining.

Without question, any woman who has survived sexual assault knows full well that there is no silver lining. It is a crushing, massively traumatic experience.

That’s why forcing a pregnancy on a woman who has been a victim is literally adding injury to injury. For many women, a pregnancy is indeed something to celebrate. But this is highly unlikely for survivors of rape, who under this legislation could be forced to carry their assailants’ “silver lining” to term.

(Excerpted from St. Lousi Psot Dispatch 5/10/16 )

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Photo ID an unnecessary, partisan ploy

Requiring voters to present photo identification at the polls — which has more to do with partisan politics than ensuring fair and honest elections — has been sent to Gov. Jay Nixon.

Some variant of the proposal has occupied lawmakers for years, but Republicans on Wednesday advanced a diluted version to the Democratic governor.
We have two problems with the bill — one constitutional, the other political.

Presenting a photo ID at a polling place is not among qualifications outlined in the Missouri Constitution, which says properly registered Missourians are “entitled” to vote. Previous legislative approval of a photo ID bill was struck down by the state Supreme Court in 2006.

This year’s bill is accompanied by a separate proposal, pending in the Legislature, which would require voters to amend the constitution in order for the bill to take effect — but the amendment only says voters “may be required by general law to identify himself or herself with a form of identification, which may include valid government-issued photo identification.”

Remaining hurdles, therefore, include action by Nixon and the outcome of a statewide vote on a constitutional amendment. Our quarrel with the proposal is, its focus is more on political advantage than honest elections.

Supporters of photo ID, largely Republicans, contend the proposal is designed to prevent voter fraud. Opponents, largely Democrats, counter that voter fraud traditionally has not been a problem in Missouri elections. They maintain the motivation for the bill is to impede and/or disenfranchise minority and poor voters who historically have favored Democrats.

The preferred strategy to win elections is developing a platform that gains support from a majority of voters. A devious strategy is to obstruct and/or eliminate voters who support competitors.

Diluted provisions in the measure advanced to the governor are designed to make the bill more palatable but, in reality, they simply muddle the election process.
Missouri’s election process outlined in the constitution has served voters well for many years. We are open to improvements, but the voter ID proposal is an unnecessary partisan ploy.

(Excerpted from New Tribune 5/8/16)

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Donald Trump sets a new record for economic recklessness

AMONG THE many misconceptions fueling Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, one of the most stubborn, and most pernicious, is this: Government should run like a business, ergo Mr. Trump, a businessman, is especially qualified for the White House. As evidence that this is a dangerous fallacy, we would cite Mr. Trump’s CNBC interview Thursday, in which he mused about getting control over nearly $19 trillion in federal debt.

After rambling about how he is a “low-interest-rate person,” in part because cheap interest makes the federal debt manageable, which is true enough, he added that, as president, “I would borrow, knowing that if the economy crashed, you could make a deal.” He separately hypothesized that the United States “can buy back [debt] at discounts. You can do things with discounts.”

If these phrases mean anything, they contemplate at least partial repudiation of the U.S. government’s obligations, sacrosanct since the time of the founding. The “full faith and credit” of the United States, established over centuries and embodied in its debt, is the glue that holds global finances together. The minute the United States tried to reduce its debt load by offering creditors less than 100 percent of principal and interest — i.e., by “discount,” or “making a deal,” like Argentina or Greece — every institution that had taken this country at its word would be instantly destabilized.

To be sure, this is the way Mr. Trump has often operated in the private sector: borrowing to finance a high-risk venture, then aggressively seeking relief from creditors if his plans didn’t pan out, including via bankruptcy court. “I have borrowed knowing you can pay back with discounts,” he told CNBC. Playing that game with bankers, who, as Mr. Trump has repeatedly noted, are not “babies” but sophisticated profit-seekers, is one thing. Doing it with, or to, ordinary savers and investors the world over is quite another.

(Excerpted from Washington Post 5/6/16)

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